Castle Leslie, Glaslough, County Monaghan

Contact: Samantha Leslie Tel: 047-88091

www.castleleslie.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid-19 restrictions): all year, National Heritage Week events August 15-23

Fee: Free

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“A brooding pile of rock faced limestone and russet sandstone, the exterior blends the irregular massing and elongated proportions typical of the High Victorian era with details inspired by the Renaissance and Tudor periods.” [1]

As a treat for Stephen’s birthday we booked ourselves in to Castle Leslie for two nights at the end of November. What luxury! I assumed we could not afford it as I only heard of it when Paul McCartney married there in 2002. But it is amazingly reasonable! In Christmas regalia, its beauty and opulence took my breath away, as did the generosity of the owners, allowing us to wander every nook and cranny and to sleep in a bed that was made in the year 1617!

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The Drawing Room: “Among the suite of lavish reception rooms, each one a showcase for the skill of the carpenter and stuccadore, is the Italian Renaissance-style drawing room where polygonal bay windows give unsurpassed views overlooking manicured terraces and the wooded Glaslough Lake.” (see [1])

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Above, our bed from 1617.

DAY 1: Our Castle Tour and the history of the Leslies

We had to make sure we left Dublin in time for the tour at 1pm, which does not run every day but several days a week. Our tour guide, Enda, shared only the tip of the iceberg of his knowledge of the castle and family in a tour that lasted an hour. We were able to mine him for even more tidbits later and still I felt we only scratched the surface!

The castle is a relative youngster at just 130 years old, a “grey stone Victorian pile” as Mark Bence-Jones calls it [2], or in Scottish Baronial style, according to Maurice Curtis and Desmond Fitzgerald [3]. It was designed by Sir Charles Lanyon and William Henry Lynn, built ca. 1870 for John Leslie, MP, incorporating part of an earlier house. William Henry Lynn (1821-71) was a Belfast based architect and the Castle is considered to be his masterpiece. It is set in a 1000 acre estate (much reduced from its original size) overlooking a lake, and the castle is near another residence, the Lodge (formerly the Hunting Lodge), which houses the bar and restaurant. The Lodge was designed by one of the Leslies, Charles Powell Leslie II and was built before the present castle. The hotel includes an excellent Equestrian centre on its grounds – a perfect way to explore the huge estate of lakes, forest, parkland and streams. The Estate has three lakes, Glaslough (Green Lake), Kilvey Lake and Dream Lake. [4] There is more accommodation in the restored Old Stable Mews, or in holiday cottages in the village.

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the Lodge

We drove through the picturesque village of Glaslough to reach the “crow stepped gabled gate lodges” marking the entrance to the Castle Leslie estate. (see [1])

Our tour began in the front hall of the Castle, soon after we arrived, so we left our suitcases at the front desk, to check into our room afterwards. The front hall contained arms from the Leslie family.

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The bust is of Charles Powell Leslie III. The animal heads, which you can barely see at the top of the photograph, were shot by Norman Leslie, whose bedroom we slept in!

Originally Hungarian, the first of the family moved to Ireland in 1633. They have lived at Castle Leslie since 1665. Our guide traced the family back to 1040. Their genealogy reaches even further back to Attila the Hun (he died in the year 453).

According to the Castle Leslie website, Bartholomew Leslie, a Hungarian nobleman, was the chamberlain and protector of Margaret Queen of Scotland, who was wife of King Malcolm III (he lived 1031-1093). One day, fleeing from enemies, Queen Margaret rode behind Bartholomew on his horse. When fording a river, the queen fell off and Bartholomew threw her the end of his belt and told her to “grip fast” the buckle. He saved the Queen’s life and from that day onwards she bestowed the motto “Grip Fast” on the Leslies. [5]

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Our guide told us that King Malcolm’s sister Beatrice married Bartholomew Leslie. They moved to Aberdeenshire in Scotland.

Five hundred or so years later a descendent John Leslie was born in 1571 in Aberdeenshire. He received his Doctorate of Divinity from Cambridge and was Privy Councillor to Kings James I and Charles I. He was promoted to become Bishop of the Scottish Isles, and in 1633 transferred to Donegal to the Bishopric of Raphoe.

When Oliver Cromwell came to Ireland, John Leslie, friend of the monarchy, raised a private army to battle against Cromwell, as so he earned the moniker “The Fighting Bishop.” His troops beat Cromwell in the Battle of Raphoe. When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, he rewarded the Bishop with £2000 – note that the Bishop was ninety years old by this time! Despite his age, he became Bishop of the Diocese of Clogher in 1661.

With the £2000, in 1665 Bishop Leslie bought the estate at Glaslough with an existing castle which had been built in 1608 by Sir Thomas Ridgeway. Bishop Leslie died at the age of one hundred, and left the estate to his wife, Catherine Cunningham (or Conyngham) of Mount Charles in Donegal (an ancestor of the present Lord Henry Mount Charles of Slane Castle), and children. He had married at the age of 67 the 18 year old Catherine and sired five (according to our guide) or 10 (according to Wikipedia, [6]) children! Only two of his children survived to adulthood and only one has descendants.

Due to the limitation of the tour’s length our guide jumped forward to the 1880s. I am guessing that it was he who wrote the history of the Leslies on the Castle’s website, so I will defer to that to fill in the gaps. We moved from the front hall into the hallway of the grand staircase, where our guide told us about the people in the various portraits. We then moved through a room with a large table, to the drawing room and the dining room, where the guide spoke about more of the family and their portraits.

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the Drawing Room

Below is the throne of Bishop John Leslie, the “fighting Bishop.” He also built the church on the estate, in 1670.

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the Drawing Room, with the throne of Bishop John Leslie, the “fighting Bishop.”
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the Dining Room

The Bishop’s son John, another cleric, the Dean of Dromore, inherited the estate. He never married so when he died, the estate passed to his brother, Charles, at 71 years of age. Charles was a theologian and defended the Catholics, opposing the penal laws which prevented Catholics from participating in political life. King William III had him arrested for high treason, but he escaped to France. The next king, George I, pardoned him, saying “Let the old man go home to Glaslough to die.” (see [5], which provides most of my narrative)

Charles married Jane Griffith, daughter of the Very Reverend Richard Griffith, Dean of Ross [7] had three children: Robert, Henry, and the unusually named “Vinegar” Jane. Robert and Henry were friends with Jonathan Swift, who wrote the following about the family:

“Here I am in Castle Leslie

With rows and rows of books upon the shelves

Written by The Leslies

All about themselves.”

I’m not sure what was written at that stage, but certainly when we stayed, there were plenty of books by the Leslies! I had a good browse through them – more on them later.

Robert wedded, in 1730, Frances, daughter of Stephen Ludlow. Their son Charles Powell Leslie (c. 1738-1800), took over the Estate in 1743. He devoted himself to the improvement of farming methods in the district. He was elected MP for Hillsborough in 1771 and MP for Monaghan in 1776. Like his grandfather, he supported the Catholics. At the time, due to Poynings Law, all Irish legislation had to be approved by the British Privy Council. Henry Grattan and others, including Charles Powell Leslie, sought legislative independence. Once this was achieved, Grattan fought in parliament for Catholic Emancipation from the Penal Laws, so that Catholics could be treated as equal citizens of Ireland. In his election speech of 1783, Charles Powell Leslie stated ”I desire a more equal representation of the people and a tax upon our Absentee Landlords”.

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portrait of Charles Powell Leslie I

In 1765 Charles Powell married Prudence Penelope Hill-Trevor, daughter of Arthur Hill-Trevor, 1st Viscount Dungannon. They had two sons, Charles Powell II and John. After his first wife died, Charles Powell Leslie I married, in 1785, Mary Anne Tench, and had a third son. The heir, Charles Powell II, also represented Monaghan in parliament.

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Charles Powell Leslie II

Arthur Hill-Trevor’s elder daughter, Anne, married Garret Wesley, the 1st Earl of Mornington, of Dangan Castle County Meath, and their son grew up to be the Duke of Wellington who defeated Napolean at Waterloo. According to the website, Charles Powell Leslie gave his impoverished brother-in-law, Lord Mornington, the money to educate his son Arthur, in Eton and then military school in France (Stephen and I found it ironic that the Duke of Wellington, who beat Napoleon, hence France, received his military training in France!). Arthur, the Duke of Wellington, married Kitty Pakenham of Tullynally, County Westmeath.

Charles Powell Leslie II, an amateur architect, designed the present farm buildings and the gate lodge. (see [8] for more about Charles Powell Leslie II). He died in 1831 and his wife Christiana took over the running of the estate. She managed to feed the needy during the great famine of 1845, setting up soup kitchens, and gave employment by having a wall built around the estate. The population of County Monaghan was 208,000 before the Famine. It went down to 51,000 during and after the Famine and is now only 61,000 – still far less than its pre-Famine population. It is said that nobody perished on the Leslie estate. As well as the soup kitchen, Christiana suspended rents.

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Farm buildings: perhaps these are ones designed by Charles Powell Leslie II.

Her son Charles Powell III (1821-71) also enjoyed architecture, and had flamboyant taste. He designed the entrance lodges at the main gates of the estate. He had many other grand building plans but died, choking on a fishbone, and it was his brother John (1822-1916) who built the new castle – to a much more modest design than Charles’s. Charles never married so John succeeded to the estate, in 1871.

John Leslie married Constance Dawson Damer, the daughter of Mary Seymour who was allegedly George IV’s daughter by Mrs. Fitzherbert.

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a portrait of Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert, which Stephen and I discovered upstairs on our way to the cinema room in the castle!

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Maria, born Smythe, was a Catholic. She married a wealthy Catholic landowner when she was just 18 years old. He died tragically, and she married a second time, but her second husband died when she was just 24! Her uncle decided to bring her out into society, and brought her to the opera. There, she met King George IV. He pursued her, and a marriage between them is recognised by the Catholic church, but not by the Monarchy. He moved her to Brighton and the Royal family took care of her, although George was married off to European Royalty, Princess Caroline.

Maria had two children, reputedly, with George IV. The daughter was adopted by a friend of George IV, Hugh Seymour. It was this Mary Seymour who married George Dawson Damer, and her daughter Constance married John Leslie. Constance burned all the evidence of her background, as it was not approved by the Royal Family. It is therefore not a definitive history, just, shall we say, rumour. Her descendant Shane Leslie wrote a biography of Mrs. Fitzherbert.

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a portrait of Lady Constance in later life.

It was the portrait above, of Lady Constance, which a nurse, who had been attending the dying Leonie (wife of Constance and John’s heir, John), recognised as the lady who had visited Leonie’s deathbed – despite Constance having been dead for nearly twenty years!

Before his brother died, John brought Constance to live in the old castle. Constance must have wanted a place of her own so in 1860, they moved into the Hunting Lodge in order to live separately from Charles Powell III and his mother.

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a room inside the Lodge
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front hall and welcoming room of the Lodge
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a small private dining room in the Lodge

However, once they inherited the old castle, not content with her Lodge or the old castle, it was Constance who insisted that John build the new castle. While it was being built she and her husband went on a Grand Tour and collected much of the present furniture in the house including the blue and white Della Robbia chimneypiece in the drawing room, and a mosaic floor in the hall which is a replica of a two thousand year old Roman villa floor. Constance was a connoisseur of fine art and antiques.

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Della Robbia chimneypiece in Drawing Room, purchased by Constance and John Leslie

Their travels influenced the style of the Castle, built by Sir Charles Lanyon and William Henry Lynn. An Italian Renaissance cloister (said to have been copied from Michaelangelo’s cloister at Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome, according to Mark Bence Jones (see [2]) joins the main block of the castle to a single-storey wing containing the library and former billiard-room.

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The Italian Renaissance style Cloister

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Behind the cloister runs a long top-lit gallery divided by many arches, with pre-Raphaelite style frescoes of angels and other figures, including portraits of members of the family, painted by John Leslie, a talented artist. One of his paintings was hung in the Royal Academy in the same year. He later become 1st Baronet of Glaslough.

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Frescoes painted by Sir John Leslie.

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I think it was this painting that hung in the Royal Academy

The next to inherit the estate was the 2nd Baronet, Sir John Leslie (1857–1944). He married Leonie Jerome, one of the three beautiful daughters of Leonard Jerome of New York. Her sister Jenny married Lord Randolph Churchill and was the mother of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Winston did not get on well with his mother but was very close to his aunt Leonie. The young Winston Churchill paid visits here to his uncle and aunt, except when he was temporarily banished by his uncle on account of his espousal of Home Rule! Leonie’s correspondence with Winston is in Blenheim Castle in England, the estate of the Churchills. When his beloved aunt died in August 1943, Winston couldn’t attend the funeral due to the war, but he telephoned Eamon de Valera to request permission for the flyover of an Royal Air Force Spitfire plane. It was her son, Desmond Leslie, who was in the RAF, who flew the Spitfire and dropped a huge wreath from Winston Churchill to the funeral.

I was touched by the presence of Winston Churchill’s christening robe in the drawing room:

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Sir John Leslie died in 1944 and was succeeded by his son Sir Shane Leslie (1885–1971). Shane was one of four brothers: he was christened John, and changed his name to Shane in 1921 when he embraced Irish nationalism; the other brothers were Lionel, Norman and Seymour. Shane grew up to be an ardent nationalist (he joined the Irish Volunteers, a group founded in response to the Ulster Volunteers in Northern Ireland who opposed Home Rule – he thus rejected the support his father gave to the Ulster Volunteers!) and Irish speaker, and converted to Catholicism, under the influence of Cardinal Henry Newman, when he was in Cambridge. He hoped to retreat to a Monastery but instead married another American beauty, Majorie Ide of Vermont. According to the history of the Leslie family recounted on the website, Majorie’s father, Henry Clay Ide, was Chief Justice of Samoa, a tropical paradise where he and his daughters became great friends of fellow islander Robert Louis Stevenson. He was also Governor General of the Philippines. Later in our stay, our guide told us that before she married, Majorie and her sister accompanied U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter on a trade mission to China. The President considered the women to be suitable ambassadors because the current monarch of China was an Empress (the last Empress of China). There are many Chinese objects in Castle Leslie which Majorie brought with her.

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Sir Shane, as a poet and Nationalist, was not fond of running the estate so transferred it to his son John Norman Leslie (1916-2016), who became 4th Baronet. Shane Leslie travelled to London when Michael Collins was negotiating the Treaty granting Ireland its independence from the United Kingdom. Shane’s brother Norman on the other hand fought in the British army, and was killed by a sniper. The bedrooms in the Castle are now named after the family, and Stephen and I stayed in “Norman’s Room”!

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Shane had three children: Anita, John (Jack) and Desmond. Jack transferred the estate over to his sister Anita, owing to ill health after five years in a prisoner of war camp. He had been Captain in the Irish Life Guards in WWII. He moved to Rome where he lived for forty years, finally returning to Castle Leslie in 1994. He died only a few years ago, at 99 years old, inheriting the hardy genes of the Fighting Bishop, and is obviously much missed in the castle which houses many of his mementos and memorabilia.

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“Jack’s bed,” in which he used to sleep, now in pride of place on the upper landing, although the bed would have been a squeeze for his over six foot frame!
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portraits of the family including several of Jack. Jack wrote of his life in Never a Dull Moment.

Later in our stay, Enda the guide told us more about Anita, as we were admiring the paintings of Anita, Jack and Desmond at the bottom of the grand staircase (see the staircase in the photograph below).

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Anita married Pavel Rodzianko, a dashing soldier from Russia, Equerry to Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra. Anita was just 23 years old but bowled over by the 47 year old Pavel. The marriage lasted only three years. This marriage explains the presence of the paintings of Nicholas and Alexandra which Stephen and I had noticed in the bar area.

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Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra
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a poignant picture of Alexandra and her children, all of whom were assassinated only two days before Pavel Rodzianko was able to rescue them.

Pavel tried to rescue the Tsar and his family. He followed with other soldiers loyal to the Tsar, as the Royal family was moved from place to place by those who had overthrown the Tsar. When they caught up with the family Pavel and his companions were too late: the family had been shot in the basement and their bodies burned. Pavel found little Alexi’s dog Joy still alive. Pavel saved the dog and brought her to his home next to Windsor Castle in England, where Pavel lived after leaving Castle Leslie, where Joy lived the rest of her life. Pavel went on to train the Irish show-jumping team, who won the Agha Khan trophy in the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) Horse Show.

During World War II Anita joined the French army as an ambulance driver and married Bill King, a submarine commander. In the 1960s she moved to Oranmore in Galway (Oranmore Castle is a Section 482 property so I hope to visit it!) and transferred Glaslough to her younger brother Desmond (the Spitfire pilot). In 1991 he handed the Estate over to his five children and Castle Leslie Estate is now run by his daughter Samantha Leslie.

I mentioned earlier that many Leslies have written books. I browsed through books by Shane Leslie and Jack. Anita Leslie wrote about her time in the army in The Train to Nowhere. Desmond’s wife Agnes Bernaur is also a published writer. I copied the family tree from Shane Leslie’s book, and notice that the sister of John Leslie 2nd Baronet, Theodisia, married a Bagot! She married Josceline Fitzroy Bagot, of Levens Hall. I may be distantly related to this Bagot, as we are rumoured to be descended from the Bagots of Staffordshire! I confess I have not found the link.

After our tour, we were shown to our room. We were thrilled with it, and especially with our 1617 four poster oak bed. The bed was so high that it required steps to get up to it:

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We had a table and chair, and a lovely wardrobe and chaise longue! I started writing this entry on the chaise longue.

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According to the website, Sammy started her ambition of bringing the Estate back to life by establishing tea rooms in the old conservatory. This had been a painting studio for John Leslie, as it was created to have lots of light.

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The website continues:

Between 1995 and 1997, Sammy refurbished fourteen of the Castle bedrooms and bathrooms, each in its own unique style, in an effort to maintain the individuality and uniqueness of the property. Dinners were served by candlelight in the original dining room, just as it had been in the old days, with pre-dinner drinks served in the Drawing Room or Fountain Garden. The Castle at Castle Leslie Estate was soon rewarded with The Good Hotel Guide Caesar Award for being ‘utterly enjoyable and mildly eccentric’.” [9]

Perhaps one of the mildly eccentric details referred to are the beautiful old fashioned porcelain toilets such as the one in our en suite:

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After the tour, we still had so much of the castle to explore! The tour had only taken in a few of the rooms! We were tired after the tour and lay on our wonderful bed for a nap before dinner. While we were reading, we heard a knock on our door. The staff had brought us a much appreciated, delicious strong cup of coffee! Perfect!

We emerged for dinner. We chose to eat in the bistro rather than the fancier restaurant. The reception staff offered us a lift over to the Lodge, but we chose to walk the short distance up the drive, as it was a beautiful crisp night.

We did a little exploring back at the castle after dinner. We discovered more beautiful rooms to sit in, and a lovely library, and it was only now that we found the bar and the long painted gallery!

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Many new features have been added to the estate, including a spa, a bar and restaurant, and a cookery school.

A new pavilion, adjacent to the long gallery of the main house, facilitates conferences, weddings and other large events – see the pathway leading to the pavilion in the photograph below.

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The website tells us that five new sub-ground floor bedrooms were added to the castle in 2005: the Desmond Leslie room, the Agnes Bernelle Room, the Helen Strong Room, Sir Jack’s Room and the only room in the castle not named after a family member, The Calm Room.

DAY 2: Horse riding! And exploring the Lodge

Stephen and I only saw the castle in daylight the next day, as we had been too tired to explore outside after the tour. It was only then that we saw the cloisters, and the lake! We wandered outside in the evening. Earlier in the day, we decided to avail of the Equestrian Centre, since Stephen confided that he had never sat on a horse!

We booked a one hour walking session, a gentle wander through woods on the estate, hand-led by a guide. I felt safe enough walking without a guide at the reins, as I endured two years of weekly riding lessons when I was young! I say “endured” as I was scared of the horses and fell often! The horses we rode during my lessons in Australia were a more cantankerous brood than those that bless Castle Leslie!

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Below shows me in Australia at my horse riding lessons with my sister when I was young!

Caballo Stables, Jen and Siobhan riding

Jen and Siobhan ready for riding lesson
me and my sister Siobhan in Perth, Western Australia, ready for our riding lesson

And now:

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Our guide, Chris, told us a bit more about the estate as we relaxed onto the hip swinging gait of our horses, and we passed one of the lodges. I knew Stephen would be imagining himself back in the 1700s, familiarising himself with the atmosphere of the former mode of transportation. We both lost our balance as we slid off our horses, Stephen doing the full topple onto the sand, but we were elated! You can see a map of the estate on the castle website. [10]

After lunch in the Lodge, we explored. I took some photographs inside the lodge.

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Dusk fell by the time I took photographs outside behind the castle.

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Sammy’s most recent project (begun in 2015) is renovating the walled garden. I’m sorry I reached it so late in the day, compromising my photographs. These were built in 1860 by Charles Powell Leslie III.

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According to information posted in the walled garden, they cover about four acres, and contain two forty metre greenhouses heated by individual underground boilers fed by rainwater collected from the glass roofs. The flues were built originally under the paths to chimneys hidden in the surrounding garden wall! Ingenious ancestors! Charles Leslie consulted with Joseph Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire’s head gardener, who created the “Crystal Palace” of the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in London for Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Alfred.

Outside the Walled Garden was a third large greenhouse, a Tropical House. Charles Powell Leslie III, according to the information boards in the garden, wooed an opera singer with weekly hampers of bananas, melons and mangoes sent from Castle Leslie to her dressing room in Covent Gardens in London!

The Pump House, built from approximately 1848, was one of the first water systems to be constructed for a village and estate. One can still see the ornate cast iron fountains in the village, along with the statue of Charles Powell Leslie III.

Day Three: A walk to the stables and goodbye to Castle Leslie!

The next day dawned bright, a crisp November day. We followed our map of the estate to see the Stable Mews, for a bit of exercise before we had to depart.

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[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/places-to-visit/monaghan/glaslough-castle-leslie/

[2] Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses.[originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978; Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.]

[3] Curtis, Maurice and Knight of Glin, Ireland Observed. Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork 1970.

[4] http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Monaghan/Castle-Leslie.html

[5] https://www.castleleslie.com/life-the-way-its-supposed-to-be-2/historical-castle-ireland/

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Leslie_(bishop_of_Clogher)

[7] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Monaghan%20Landowners

Note that this website states that Charles and his wife had only one child whereas the Castle Leslie website claims that they had three children.

[8] see [7]. CHARLES POWELL LESLIE II, JP (c1767-1831), Colonel, County Monaghan Militia, High Sheriff of County Monaghan, 1788, MP for County Monaghan, 1801-26, New Ross, 1830-1, who espoused firstly, Anne, daughter of the Rev Dudley Charles Ryder, and had issue, three daughters.

He married secondly, in 1819, Christiana, daughter of George Fosbery, and had further issue,

Charles Powell (1821-71);
 JOHN, his heir;
 Thomas Slingsby;
 Prudentia Penelope; Christiana; Julia; Emily.

[9] https://zs35w2fzekug05wf2mckg53k-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Regeneration-History.pdf

[10] https://zs35w2fzekug05wf2mckg53k-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/E-Map-Only-2017.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Rectory, Killedmond, Borris, Co Carlow

contact: Mary White

Tel: 087-2707189

www.blackstairsecotrails@gmail.com

Open dates in 2020 [check due to Covid 19 restrictions]: July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €6, child free

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five bay two storey Tudor-Gothic Revival house with three dormer windows, and a loggia

 

This is such a pretty house, a “cottage ornée,” a little like a gingerbread house! According to the Irish Historic Houses website, the Old Rectory in Killedmond, near Borris in County Carlow, is:

“a mid-19th century house in a restrained Tudor-Revival style, which looks out over the valley of the River Barrow to the Blackstairs Mountains beyond. Designed by the architect Frederick Darley for the Kavanagh family of nearby Mount Leinster Lodge, the house is an accomplished and dramatic arrangement that uses gables, dormer windows, bargeboards and finials to produce a symmetrical five-bay façade. The three central bays on the ground floor are recessed behind a glazed loggia, flanked by the end bays, which break forward and terminate in wide gables.” [1] [2]

I arranged with Mary White to visit in the first week that the Covid 19 lockdown lifted. Mary and her husband Robert run a business, the Blackstairs Eco Centre, from their home, as can be seen on the lovely wooden sign outside their gates. They have four sweet “shepherds huts” for overnight stays, and hold tree trail walks and wild food courses on the property. [3]

In the article in the Irish Times which first prompted me to embark on the project of visiting Section 482 houses, there was a picture of Mary swimming in her own lake. That to me looked like heaven. We had a few minutes to wander in the gardens around the house before we met Mary so I was delighted to find and photograph the small lake, which is fed by mountain streams. It lies in front of the house.

 

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One can walk all around the lake, and cross the stream on one of the several small granite bridges.

We were greeted warmly by Mary. We walked around the gardens before entering the house.

Mary and her husband moved into the property about forty years ago, and have done massive amounts of work on the garden (and on the house). On the left, when facing the house, through a lovely old arch, is a fruit garden.

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On the right hand side, facing the house, toward the front of the property, is a vegetable growing area complete with a wonderful large polytunnel.

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I envied the White’s long, productive asparagus patch

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the greenhouse, with a herb garden to one side

I have an allotment so Mary and I bonded swapping notes on our vegetable production.  Their production is all organic and they even use a “vegan” manure! I had to think hard to picture what that must be – no animals involved of course!

The trees near the vegetable growing area can be identified by the time they were planted. In forty years, the Whites have built up an interesting tale in their trees. One was a wedding present. One was planted when their daughter was born. Another is the “election tree” when Mary was elected to be a Green TD in government.

Beyond the vegetable garden, the shepherds huts sit dotted carefully around a lawn, each positioned in such a way that their windows don’t look into another hut so each is supremely peaceful and private.

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The website describes the huts:

“The Shepherds Huts are centrally heated and very cozy with a double bed in each – suitable for two. Each Hut has three windows including a half door to look out onto a completely natural wooded area set beneath the Blackstairs Mountains. All you will hear is the soft cooing of wood pigeons!”

We peered into one, which was prepared to receive guests at the weekend, and it looked lovely. You can see photographs of the interior of the huts on the website. [see 3] It is a short distance to the barn, which is also a protected historic structure but which has been fully adapted for use as a kitchen, toilets, sitting room and demonstration area for wild food preparation. It has been carefully refurbished maintaining historic structure, with recycled materials, natural wooden furniture, cedar doors and ecological heating and electricity, which also provide the house.

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wildflower meadow next to barn
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inside the barn: the kitchen and demonstration area, with large tables for gatherings including hen parties, which can be fully catered. The kitchen can be used by those renting the shepherds huts, as well as the relaxation and reading areas.
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inside the barn
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upstairs in the barn, a place for visitors to relax

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The Barn is separated from the house by a cobble courtyard. The guests also have use of an outdoor eating and barbeque area:

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I had to stop to have a go on the swing, hanging from a large beech tree.

We definitely want to return to stay in one of the huts, and to walk the Celtic tree trail. The property has an example of each of the 21 trees native to Ireland. The sculpture of an ogham stone, by sculptor Martin Lyttle [4], has the cut line lettering representing each type of native Irish tree. As part of the Tree Trail we will get to see the sixteen minute film that has been made about the trees on the property.

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Ogham is the earliest form of writing in Ireland and dates to the fourth century A.D. The alphabet is made up of a series of strokes along or across a line. The letters each relate, also, to a species of tree. The letters were carved on standing stones often as a memorial to a person, using the edge of the stone as a central line. The letters are read from the bottom up. [5]

We noticed the electric car charger near the barn when wandering the gardens:

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I was also thrilled to see a solar panel array in a field:

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Mary and her husband cultivated a rose garden, surrounded by a small canal, forming a “parterre” or patterned garden.

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canal by rose garden. See the granite bridges, and the barn in the background

In the rose garden, we admired the sculpture of Dionysus, sculpted by her friend in college, Alice Greene, and presented to Mary as a birthday gift. [6]

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The property contains wooded area with walking trails, which we didn’t explore as it was rainy and we were heading to my cousin’s house nearby for lunch!

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According to the Irish Historic Houses website:

“Two other fronts are virtually identical, with the exception of a half-octagonal bay window on the Eastern side, while the vertically paired windows, culminating in a series of matching gables, create an illusion of symmetry that is greatly enhanced by a profusion of plants and creepers on the walls. Their openings all have simple chamfered granite dressings while the sash windows retain their heavy mullions and delicate marginal glazing bars.” [note: “chamfered” means an edge between two faces, usually at a 45 degree angle.] [2]

The Whites carried out extensive repairs on the house over the years. The wooden bargeboards and finials were rotting and had to be repaired. The house was completely reroofed with expensive blue Bangor slates. The windows have thirty six panes, and when windows were repaired the original glass was retained. Mary pointed out where someone has scratched their name onto the window pane – there was a tradition of scratching names into glass in the past, and Mary dates this scratch to about 1905. It reads “W. Pennyfeather” and “Nicholas Pennyfeather.” Nicholas was rector of the parish from 1900 and lived in the house. I have come across several occasions of scratching names on window panes in my reading, and saw a short film that refers to the tradition, “Words on a Window Pane,” by Mary McGuckian, made in 1994, an adaptation of a play by W.B. Yeats about Dublin spiritualists visited by the ghosts of Jonathan Swift and the two women associated with him, Vanessa (Esther Vanhomrigh) and Stella (Esther Johnson).

There is a more unusual scratched illustration on the glass in a bedroom upstairs. Someone has used a diamond to carve the profile of a girl into the window, but has written “Sidney is a very ugly girl”! The girl in the portrait is not ugly though! I suspect some sister came along to mar the effect, out of jealousy, or maybe Sidney herself was feeling extremely fed-up and self-deprecating one day.

We walked back around to the front of the house, past the herbaceous border, to have a tour inside.

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the herbaceous border
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the herbaceous border and to the left of the photograph, the “flower tower” or Echium plant

The Irish Historic Houses (IHH) website mentions the “loggia” at the front of the house. This is a conservatory-like structure, a Victorian sort of folly. Wikipedia describes a loggia as a covered exterior gallery or corridor, where the outer wall is open to the elements and is usually supported by a series of columns or arches. This one does not have a wall open to the elements but as described, it is not meant for an entrance but as an out-of-door sitting room. A loggia differs from a veranda in that it is more architectural in form and is part of the main edifice of the house.

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According to the IHH website, the loggia is supported by cast-iron brackets on slender granite columns while the upper level of the central section is treated as an attic storey with tall, gabled dormer windows in the steeply sloping roof. The loggia, Mary told us, is wonderfully warm, and a lovely place to sit.

The house was designed by Frederick Darley (1798-1872), whose father was also an architect and builder. Frederick Darley built many buildings in Trinity College Dublin, as well as many civic and church buildings (including Lorum church, nearby [7]). He built New Square in Trinity, where my husband Stephen lived for a year! His father served as Alderman in Dublin and as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1808-09. His mother Elizabeth Guinness was the eldest daughter of Arthur Guinness (1725-1803), founder of the Guinness brewery, of Beaumont House, Drumcondra (now the Beaumont Convalescent Home behind Beaumont Hospital). In 1843 Frederick Darley Junior was the Ecclesiastical Commission architect for the Church of Ireland diocese of Dublin. He was a pupil of Francis Johnston, and lived on Lower Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin. [8]

The house a hunting lodge for the Kavanagh family who owned nearby Mount Leinster Lodge. I haven’t been able to find out more about James Kavanagh who owned the house. In Victorian times the house became the rectory for nearby Killedmond Church but was sold in the early twentieth century. Subsequently it passed through a succession of different families. Mary told us that a former owner was a Captain Temple Bayliss, who was a Captain in the Royal Navy, with his wife Patricia and daughter, Philippa, both of whom are accomplished artists. [8]

The historic houses website tells us that the interior is largely original, with good joinery, chimneypieces and plasterwork, and stained glass panels in the original front door. I took a photograph of the beautiful stained glass in the door:

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The front hall is floored with beautiful tiles original to the house:

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The rooms are a nice size with high ceilings and the sitting room with a bay window, and plaster ceiling decoration in the form of a border with decorative rondelles. The chimneypieces are indeed lovely and as Mary pointed out, they have the traditional white for the drawing room and black for the dining room. I had never heard of that before!

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The bay window of the Drawing room

The current owners have two lovely studies, with built-in bookcases and a display of books that Stephen and I admired – Mary and her husband are also book-lovers, and I admired a lovely bound set of Virginia Woolf essays.

The flagstones in the back hallway are also original, and had to be lifted to install geothermal heating.

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Mary makes great use of her larder, which was a place formerly used for storing milk and butter, the flagstones keep it cool. Large saucepans hang from original hooks in the ceiling, ready for making jams and chutneys from the garden produce.
I like the style of the kitchen with repurposed cupboards discarded from a local school, and an old Aga cooker. Mary told us that the Aga company contacted her as they keep records of where they installed their cookers, and hers is rather rare. The feature that distinguishes it from less rare versions is, wonderfully, a “full stop” at the end of the warning on its lower door: “Keep tightly closed.”

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We got on so well with Mary and had so much to talk about that our tour lasted for two hours! I look forward to a return visit.

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[1] http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Killedmond

[2] architectural definitions

[3] https://www.blackstairsecotrails.ie/

[4] https://lithicworks.com/

The fact that Martin Lyttle’s sculpture stands on the property is perfect, as Martin’s family lived in the Old Rectory for seven years before Mary White acquired it!

[5] http://www.megalithicireland.com/Ogham%20Stones%20Page%201.htm

[6] https://www.dralicegreene.com/phdi/p1.nsf/supppages/greene?opendocument&part=7

[7] Record of Protected Structures, County Carlow

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Darley_(architect)

[9] https://philippabayliss.art/

Tankardstown Estate & Demesne, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath

Contact: Manager, Tadhg Carolan, Tel: 087-7512871

www.tankardstown.ie

Opening dates in 2020 (check in advance due to Covid restrictions): All year including National Heritage Week, 9am-1pm

Fee: Free

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Stephen and I went to Tankardstown on the way to Monaghan in 2019, where we were staying a night on our drive to Donegal to visit his Mum.

Tankardstown is now a boutique hotel, although the manager Tadhg who showed us around prefers it not to be called a hotel, as it is more like an opulent modernized seventeenth century home. Unfortunately we were not staying the night!

In his Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988) Mark Bence-Jones describes Tankardstown as a two storey late-Georgian house. According to wickipedia, the Georgian period is 1740-1837.

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He writes that the entrance front consists of three bays and an end bay breaking forward, as you can see in the photograph above. The entrance doorway has a pediment on consoles, not in line with the window above. [1] There are steps up to the front door.

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It has a three bay side elevation, with ground floor windows set in arched recesses with blocking (the use of alternating large and small blocks of stone, or of intermittent large blocks, in a doorcase, window surround or similar feature. Also known as rustication), with blocking around the first floor windows also. Bence-Jones also mentions its parapeted roof (“a low protective wall along the edge of a roof, bridge, or balcony”).

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DSC_0948 (1)Tankardstown Estate was formed from land confiscated by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century from Irish or Hiberno-Norman families, principally the Teelings. Teelings were an Anglo-Norman family associated with Meath since the 13th century. In 1686 it formed part of a grant of land to John Osborne. It passed into the hands of the Coddington family in 1710, by marriage, when John Coddington married Frances Osborne, daughter of Captain John Osborne of Drogheda [2].

John Coddington purchased nearby Oldbridge Estate from the Earl of Drogheda in 1729 (Oldbridge is now the Battle of the Boyne museum). It looks as though a nephew of John’s, Dixie Coddington, Sheriff, lived in Tankardstown at some point, perhaps with his wife Catherine de Burgh and seven daughters.

Coincidentally, a brother of Dixie, Henry Coddington of Oldbridge (1728 – 1816) had a daughter, Elizabeth Coddington, who married Edward Winder of Bellview in 1798. This Edward Winder is an ancestor of Stephen’s! So our relatives, by marriage, owned Tankardstown!

 

 

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The house, as you can see from the photographs, is incredibly opulent with many period features which I assume are original. Above, one can see the unusual black rose patterned wall panels in the inner doorway of the hall, with an arch of alternate black panelling and stuccowork. The drawing room has painted stuccowork on the ceiling and a carved marble fireplace.

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DSC_0954 (1)The plush furnishings and decor are so overwhelming that the place that touched me most, in terms of feeling a link with the former residents, feeling the house’s history,  were some worn stone stairs:

 

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The Coddingtons sold the house to Brabazon Morris. According to Ireland’s Blue Book [5], Brabazon Morris built a neo-Classical villa on the land in 1789, in part on the foundations of a tenth century castle, close to pre-existing stone yards which were built in 1745. The present Tankardstown house must be his neo-Classical villa so the house the Coddingtons inhabited was probably incorporated into this house.

Brabazon Morris married Anne Hamlin (she died before 1800 aged just 52) [3] and had a daughter Anne, who married Reverend Frederick Cavendish (1803-1875) in 1834, son of Frederick Cavendish and Eleanor Gore, sixth daughter of Arthur Gore the Second Earl of Arran [4].

Brabazon Morris mortgaged the house in 1791 until it was bought by Francis Blackburne in 1815, as his country residence.

According to an article in the Irish Independent newspaper by Anthony Smith, Francis Blackburne was born in 1782 and lived to be 84 years old [6]. He married Jane Martley of Ballyfallen, County Meath. [7] He was called to the bar in 1805 and became Attorney General of Ireland in 1831. He was a devout Protestant and Unionist and prosecuted Daniel O’Connell. In 1852 he was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

With his new position, Francis Blackburne must have felt he needed something more grand, and purchased Rathfarnham Castle in Dublin. However his position as Lord Chancellor ended later the same year. He obtained the position again in 1866 shortly before his death. He gave Tankardstown to his second son, Judge Francis William Blackburne (d. 1921). His older son inherited Rathfarnham Castle.

Judge Francis Blackburne married Olivia Beatrice Louisa Anstruther-Thomson, and had a son Jack and two daughters, Elena and Amable. The Blackburnes carried out extensive additions, refurbishment and redecoration in the 1880s. Jack Blackburne inherited the estate and worked the farm though his first love was racing cars. (see [6])

Judge Blackburne’s daughter Elena married Charles Maurice Waddington Loftus Townshend (called Maurice) (1899-1966) of Castle Townshend, County Cork, in 1928. They moved to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) for a while, where two of his brothers as ex-British officers were granted free land, but returned to Ireland when WWII broke out. They lived in Tankardstown after Jack died in the 1940s. They had two children, Francis b. 1930 and Maurice born 1932 [8]. C. Maurice Townshend sounds to have been a little eccentric as he believed he had a sort of second sight – he was able to point to a place on a map where his sister’s missing friend was located. He also pursued the art of water divination. [9]

When Maurice Townsend died in 1966, Judge Blackburne’s other daughter, Amable, moved back to Tankardstown, and she and her sister ran the farm as best they could. Anthony Smith, writer of the Irish Times article, remembers the two elderly ladies giving him treats in the kitchen while his father serviced Jack’s Aston Martin racing car. The article does not mention Elena’s sons but one moved to Australia and the other studied agriculture and farmed in Meath.

Eventually in the 1970s the sisters Elena and Amable sold the house and moved into a smaller house built at the rear entrance to the estate. I am not sure who owned the house directly after the Blackburnes. Both sisters died in 1996. Brian Conroy bought the estate when it came on the market in 2002. [2]

Brian and his wife Patricia spent four years restoring the mansion from complete disrepair. It was to be their dream home.

In the lead up to the Ryder Cup golf tournament which was being held in Ireland that year, a scout contacted Trish and asked if they could rent her property for the duration of the tournament. When the scout visited Tankardstown, she noticed the stable block next to the house and proposed that if it could be refurbished in time, they would rent that out for the tournament as well! The stable block now holds self-contained accommodation.

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Tankardstown has a café for lunch and afternoon tea and a dining room, supplied by their own fresh farm produce.

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The restaurant, the Brabazon, which was originally the milking parlour, retains the old walls and arches.

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the tea rooms

It has a large function room, formerly the Orangerie, for weddings and events.

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The house is situated on an 80 acre estate with woodland, rolling parkland and walled gardens. There is also a pampering treatment room in a “hide-out” beside the walled garden.

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Brian Conroy is an entrepreneur with a successful track record in property development, restoration of heritage buildings and operation of hospitality venues. Having grown up in Monkstown, Co Dublin, he moved to the UK and built an engineering and property business before returning with his family to Tankardstown, Co Meath. He also owns another property on the section 482 register in 2019 which is also now a hotel, Boyne House, Slane (formerly known as Cillghrian Glebe). [10]

[1] architectural definitions

[2] https://www.tankardstown.ie

[3] https://historicgraves.com/kilberry/me-klby-0037/grave

[4] http://www.thepeerage.com/p25513.htm#i255125

[5] https://www.irelands-blue-book.ie/itinerary-detail.html/hotels-history-html

[6] https://www.independent.ie/regionals/droghedaindependent/news/pink-floyd-drummer-and-the-old-aston-martin-38038851.html

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Blackburne

[8] http://www.thepeerage.com/p35219.htm#i352181

[9] http://www.astro.wisc.edu/~townsend/tree/record.php?ref=5C17

[10] https://www.boynehouseslane.ie

 

 

County Cavan, historic houses to see and stay

I set out today to do a write up of County Cavan the way I did of Dublin, of all the big houses to visit or that offer accommodation. There are only two listings in Section 482  for County Cavan and one is a hotel. It turns out that, despite multiple beautiful historic houses, there are not many to visit. I researched places to stay in Cavan as Stephen and I travel through there regularly on our way to Donegal where his mum lives.

The 482 listing includes:

1. Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan

This is a hotel but unlike some heritage house or castle hotels, they do allow visitors to view the building: the website states that they are open between 11am to 4pm for visitors for viewing all year round, except at Christmastime. I am not sure if this applies currently, however, due to Covid restrictions. I have written to them to enquire.

contact: Howard Corscadden.

Tel: 042-9667030

www.cabracastle.com

Listed Open dates in 2020 (but check due to Covid): all year, except Dec 24, 25, 26, 11am-12 midnight

Fee: Free

2. Corravahan House & Gardens

Corravahan, Drung, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan

Ian Elliott

Tel: 087-9772224

www.corravahan.com

Listed Open dates in 2020 (but check due to Covid): Jan 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, Feb 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, Mar 2-3, 9-10, May 24-31, June 1-18, 2pm-6pm, Aug 15-28, 9am-1pm, Sunday 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €7, OAP/student/child/concessions €5.

I will be travelling through Cavan this month so wrote to them to ask if I can visit, although it will not be on a listed date, and they replied and will probably be there to give us a tour!

 

From my research I have a list of forty historic houses in County Cavan. Of those, at least eleven no longer exist or are in ruins, and most of the rest are private. Ballyhaise House is now an agricultural college. Farnham Estate and Virginia Park’s hunting lodge are now hotels. Owendoon House is now the Jampa Ling Buddhist Centre and Dromkeen is a Loreto College. Kilnacrott House also appears to belong to a religious order.

Places to Stay:

  1. Cabra Castle, on section 482 in 2019 – hotel
  2. Cranaghan House, Ballyconnell, Co Cavan – now the Slieve Russell hotel
  3. Farnham House, Farnham Estate, Cavan – hotel https://www.farnhamestate.ie
  4. Lismore House, Co Cavan – restored house (believed to have been the agent’s house) and a place to stay, Peacock House, available on airbnb https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/27674042?source_impression_id=p3_1588842442_J5wx6zVMXojWzclL&guests=1&adults=1
  5. Ross Castle, Co Cavan – whole house accommodation http://www.enchantingireland.com/Ireland-Accommodations/Castle-Rental-19-Ross-Castle-Sleeps-10-People-With-5-Baths.aspx
  6. Virginia Park, Co Cavan – hunting lodge on estate now a hotel WWW.VIRGINIAPARKLODGE.COM

Places to Visit:

1. Clough Oughter Castle, Co Cavan – ruin, can visit, if you rent a canoe!

http://www.discoverbelturbet.ie/unesco-geopark/clough-oughter/

2. Castle Saunderson, Co. Cavan – a spectacular ruin, can visit

https://www.thisiscavan.ie/fun/article/luanch-of-new-heritage-trail-at-castle-saunderson

Moone Abbey House and Tower, Moone, County Kildare

 

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Moone Abbey House

contact: Jenifer Matuschka. Tel: 087-6900138

Listed Opening Dates in 2020 but check due to Covid 19 restrictions: May 1-31, Aug 15-23, Sept 1-30, 12 noon-4pm

Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

 

We visited Moone Abbey House on Saturday May 11th, 2019.

We had a 3pm appointment with the owner, Jenifer Matuschka. We visited Charleville House in Wicklow earlier in the day. Moone Abbey is at the far end of Kildare, approximately an hour away from Charleville. We arrived nearly an hour early, however, having given ourselves plenty of driving time in case we got lost on the way.

This gave us time to see the Abbey itself. The Abbey predates the house by centuries, so the house is named after the Abbey that was on its lands. Access from the road to the Abbey is a narrow gap in the stone wall. The Abbey contains the impressive Moone Cross, one of the two tallest Celtic Crosses in Ireland, and certainly the tallest that either Stephen or I had ever seen (we think – certainly none made such an impression, since we were able to stand right next to it). The Abbey is a ruin but a roof has been constructed to protect the cross, which originally stood outside the Abbey.

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The High Cross of Moone Abbey, looking inside the Abbey from the front
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inside the Abbey

 

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back of the Abbey

 

According to the Irish Historic Houses website [1]:

Behind the mid-18th century Palladian house are the remains of Moone Abbey, a monastery originally founded in the 6th century by St. Columkille and rebuilt almost 700 years later. The abbey contains the splendid High Cross of Moone, rediscovered amidst the ruins during the nineteenth century, while the house’s mediaeval predecessor stands a little way off; a ‘Ten Pound’ tower house in remarkably fine condition.

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Stephen and the south side of the cross

A panel describes the finding of the cross – and in fact there is a second cross displayed in parts, behind where Stephen stands in the photo above.

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The panel says:

The two remarkable High Crosses displayed here – one complete except for its cap, and the other surviving only in fragments – were probably both carved in the ninth century, and are the earliest surviving testimony to the existence of an early Christian monastery on this site. Yet its old Irish name, Moen or Moin Cholm-cille, the “walled enclosure” or “bog” of St. Colmcille, better known as Columba, suggests that the abbey may have been founded by the great Celtic churchman who lived in the sixth century. His connection with the site is supported by a twelfth century literary source, and a nearby well dedicated to him was a popular place of annual pilgrimage until the last century. The O’Flanagan family certainly provided hereditary abbots during the eleventh century but, by 1225, the archbishop of Dublin was in a position to give the monastery’s lands and mill to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

The Franciscans were said to have had a house in Moone, and this church with its long rectangular shape so typical of Irish medieval friary architecture, may well have been built by them, possibly around 1300, but abandoned when the English king Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1536-40. Outside, to the south-east, there was once a four-story tower in which the friars may have lived, but it was demolished in the early 1800’s, along with a Lady Chapel adjoining the north-east wall of the church.

Before 1850 a mason in search of good building stones discovered the base and head of the tall cross “deeply buried under a heap of fallen masonry” where the tower had once stood, and these were mounted together by the fourth Duke of Leinster and Mr Yeates, the then owner of the adjoining mansion. One Michael O’Shaughnessy later discovered a shaft portion which then lay loose around the churchyard for years until it was inserted between the other two parts in 1893, with assistance from the Kildare Achaeological Society. this helped to raise the height to over seven metres, and thereby made Moone of the two tallest High Crosses in Ireland.

The granite for the cross must originally have been brought from some miles away, and the slightly differing hues of the stones has led to doubts as to whether all three parts belong together, but no evidence to the contrary was found when the cross was temporarily dismantled in 1994, before being brought inside and displayed here in 1996.

 

Further panels explain the carvings on the cross.

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This picture explains the south side of the cross, from top to bottom:

human figure
human figure
human figure turned to left
angel
heart-shaped feature (enclosing human head?)
roaring lion
long eared animal sniffing the ground
Saints Paul and Anthony breaking bread in the desert – the hermit saints, seated on their high backed chairs in the middle of the desert, break the bread which the rather plump raven above them had brought for their nourishment.
The Temptation of (probably) St. Anthony the Hermit. A central figure, probably St. Anthony, tempted by the devil who, half human and half animal, appears in the guise of a goat and cock.
Six headed monster. There is a head at each end of this six-legged monster, from whose twin body-spirals four fabulous animals uncoil themselves, two with their heads in profile and the other pair with a head seen from above. The significance of this curious beast is uncertain (apocalyptic?).

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The Temptation of St. Anthony, Anthony in the middle with a goat on one side and cock on the other, representing the devil. Below is the six-headed monster.

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The Twelve Apostles. I had an apostle like this made of old bog turf – it was my mother’s, a gift from me or my sister, I’m not sure.
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my Moone Abbey Apostle. I never realised until I saw the cross at Moone that this statue’s design was based on the Cross of Moone. Statue is made by Owen Crafts, Ballyshannon, Ireland.

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Above, the west face: Adam and Eve being tempted by the snake, Adam about to sacrifice his son Isaac (with the ram in the thicket nearby which the Lord tells him to offer instead of his son), and below, Daniel in the lions’ den (he is saved by an angel). You can see the North side in this picture also, just about. This is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, to the side of Adam and Eve. King Nebuchadnezzar had thrown them in the furnace for refusing to worship a golden image he had set up, but they did not burn. I used to know a song about this, that I was taught along with my classmates in Australia by Mrs. Firth. It went “Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, lived in Judah a long time ago, they had funny names and they lived far away but they knew what was right and they knew what to say. This is a story that you ought to know about Shadrach, what kind of name is that? Meshach, who had a name like that? Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego-ooooh!” Below them on the cross is the Flight into Egypt of Mary and Jesus on the donkey and Joseph alongside, as they’d been warned of the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod. The final picture, on bottom, is the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.

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The west face of the cross: Jesus, with an animal above, and below, two human heads each in the claws of two serpents

We were still early when we drove up to the house. Someone passed by in jodphurs and said Jenny, the owner, would be out to us in a minute.

Jenny greeted us warmly. She told us first about the impressive tower. It is a “ten pound tower” – landowners were paid ten pounds in the 1400s to build a fortified tower for protection of the inhabitants to defend from Irish marauders: in this area, the O’Tooles were the marauders. (In Irish Castles and Historic Houses by Brendan O’Neill, he writes “In the early fifteenth century, government subsidies were offered to those able to construct castles or towers in the counties of Dublin, Kildare, Louth and Meath, but these “ten-pound” castles were fairly basic.”). 

The Irish Historic Houses website adds: “In return for building a defensive castle or tower, 20’ long, 16’ wide and at least 40’ high, dimensions that were smaller than those of a typical Irish tower house, landowners received a subsidy of £10 to help defray their expenses, perhaps the earliest instance of that much-loved Irish institution, the building grant.”

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The website also states that “the monastery was duly suppressed and dissolved in the sixteenth century, and its lands ultimately passed to the Jacobite O’Dempsey family who lived in the nearby tower house.”

The Jacobites were supporters of King James II. However, when James II fled from Ireland to France, and William of Orange was crowned king, Jacobites in Ireland lost their land. The estate was granted to a Cromwellian soldier, Thomas Ashe, who was buried in the nearby Rath of Moone. The Irish Aesthete writes in his blog entry on 30th Sept 2019 that Thomas Ashe was a Dublin alderman, who died in 1741. [2]

The property was subsequently leased for 999 years to Samuel Yates (or Yeats, the spellings have been used interchangeably), who built the current house in about 1750. Yates, according to the Irish Aesthete, was from Colganstown, in County Dublin, another property listed in Section 482! Colganstown is said to have been designed by Nathanial Clements, so Moone Abbey House may also have been designed by Clements although it is not known. Robert O’Byrne the Irish Aesthete also mentions the Dublin-based architect John Ensor as the possible architect of Moone Abbey House.

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Yates’s new house consisted of a central block, five bays wide and two of storeys over a basement, with wings on either side joined to the central block by curved walls. The stretch of the house, with the wings, make it “Palladian” style. Originally there was a single bay central breakfront surmounted by a pediment with a Diocletian window (a Diocletian or thermal window, according to Maurice Craig and Desmond Guinness in Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities, is a large semi-circular window with two vertical mullions dividing it into three. This styles derives from Roman baths!) [3]  After a fire in around 1800, the central block was rebuilt and given an extra storey, and the Diocletian window seems to have disappeared.

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the curved two storey wall, concealing a courtyard, that join the wings of the house to the main house

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Buildings of Ireland website describes the frontal aspect of the house [4]:

The ‘modern’ house is a fine example of a pseudo Palladian structure that is composed of a central residential block, linked by curved walls or wings to attendant ‘outbuildings’ and at Moone this arrangement has been little altered since first constructed. The house is composed of graceful Classical proportions and is without superfluous detailing – the porch to centre of the main (south-east) front, the bow to the rear (north-west), the curved walls and Dutch-style gables are all subtle features that enliven the composition. Furthermore, the regular distribution of openings adds a rhythmic quality to the piece. The house retains an early aspect and early materials, including fenestration and a slate roof...

There is a bay in the back which we didn’t see but one can see it in pictures on the National Inventory website. The wings of the house are two storey two bay blocks with Dutch gables.

Inside, Jenny pointed out to us that the house itself is surprisingly narrow from front to back, just one room “deep” plus the front hallway. The two wings are attached by concave walls which front courtyards rather than more rooms, so they make the house look bigger than it actually is. One of these attached wings has been used for stables in the past and is now to be renovated for accommodation, while the other is a guest-house.

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a statue in a niche in the concave wall between a wing and the main house
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The second curved wall that is between house and the wing, and the two storey, two bay wing, with its Dutch gable. This is now a guest house. Beyond lie the farm buildings.

The single storey projecting porch was added later in the 19th century.

The Irish Historic Houses website goes on to expand on the previous occupiers of the house:

Members of the Yates family were no strangers to drama. One was piked to death by the Ballytore rebels in 1798, suspected of alerting the authorities to their activities. Another was prosecuted for abusing his position as High Sheriff to seduce a young woman from Castledermot, while the 1800s fire was allegedly the result of a family feud that got out of hand. Eventually, their unconventional behaviour took its toll on the family finances and in the 1840s they were forced to sell under the Encumbered Estates Act after a tenure of almost a hundred years.

The purchasers were the O’Carroll family, who themselves sold out to the Bolands in 1910 while the estate was bought by a member of the princely German family of Hohenlohe in 1960 and their descendants still live at Moone today. Nearby is the famous castellated flour mill of the Shackleton family, ancestors of Sir Ernest the polar explorer, while the whole complex is approached from Moone village through a pair of splendid piers that originally formed one of the entrances to Belan, the long demolished great house of the famous collector, connoisseur and patron, Lord Aldborough.

After a brief tour of the house, Jenny then brought us out to the garden, including the walled garden. She then allowed us to climb up into the tower, at our own risk! We were thrilled to be allowed such access. It’s amazing to climb the original stairs in such a tower.

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inside the Tower House
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Stephen climbs the stairs in the tower

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the ceiling has been carefully made of overlapping slates
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ceiling slates, a corbelled roof. There is such a corbelled roof also inside Newgrange.
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a fireplace in an upstairs room in the tower, and window

The tower has been converted into a pigeon loft. The book Did you know…? 100 Quirky Facts about County Offaly by Amanda Pedlow (published by Offaly County Council, Nov 2013) contains an entry on pigeon houses. They were used to raise pigeons for food. Several tiers of small nest-holes are placed high above the ground to make it more difficult for rodents to kill the young pigeons. Nest holes are square shaped but in the tower in Offaly and perhaps the one in Moone, inside the walls the holes turn at a right angle to make an L shape. Inside this dark space the pigeons raise their young, called “squabs.” These were a valuable source of food. The birds were considered to be domestic fowl rather than wild game and belonged to the neighbouring house. The presence of a pigeon house was evidence of the high status of the owners.

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the pigeon boxes built into the tower

I was able to take aerial photos from the top, of the house and its surroundings.

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From the front of the house, and top of the tower,  we could see a beautiful single-span cast-iron footbridge over the Buggawn, or Griese, River. We headed down to see it after climbing the tower.

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The house is beautifully situated near the river, with a lovely view toward another stone bridge in the other direction.

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view from the river back toward the house and tower. The Abbey lies behind the house.

The house is a working farm, and Jenny and her husband, whose parents bought the house in 1960, also hosts bed and breakfast guests. The guesthouse is advertised on the airbnb website [5]. I’d love to return and stay!

 

[1]  http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Moone%20Abbey

[2] https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/09/30/moone-abbey/

[3] Maurice Craig and Desmond Guinness Knight of Glin, Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities.Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork, 1970.

[4] http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=kd&regno=11903614

[5] https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/11415715?guests=1&adults=1&sl_alternate_dates_exclusion=true&source_impression_id=p3_1559472574_rN9y32sa2JklBBRL 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1

contact: John Aboud 087 798 3099

number11dublin.ie
Listed Opening dates in 2020, but check due to Covid 19 restrictions: March 9-14, May 11-16, June 8-13, July 6-11, Aug 3-8, 15-23, Sept 7-13, Oct 5-10, Nov 9-13, 16-20, 12 noon-4 pm, Mondays 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €7, students/OAP €3, child free

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photograph from National Inventory of Architectural History Buildings of Ireland website

 

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photograph from National Inventory of Architectural History Buildings of Ireland website

I visited 11 North Great George’s Street in 2012 during Open House, run by the Irish Architectural Foundation. I went with my husband Stephen and my Dad, Desmond. There is a video of the day on the website and I am excited to see myself in it! [1]

We loved this house! It’s wonderfully decorated and we had a tour with owner John Aboud who is himself an architect, I believe. The decor is very quirky and full of character. I loved the plaster decoration on the walls, “John Soane’s Museum” style. Like Peter Pearson, the occupant has rescued parts of old houses which are being discarded. How I’d love to come across such a skip!

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According to the Buildings of Ireland website, this house was one of the first to be built on North Great George’s Street, a street of stepped terraces built after 1768 as a result of commercial leases granted on the avenue leading to the Mount Eccles Estate and in response to the expansion of the Gardiner Estate [2]. The houses were built as townhouses for the gentry.

The street has its own North Great George’s Street Preservation Society, which has an excellent website with a history of the street written by Conor Lucey. [3] The Preservation Society began in 1979, according to its website, by a group of resident house-owners who had become concerned about the fate of the street, which had survived almost alone amid the surrounding dereliction of North Central Dublin. The Association was formed more recently to represent the views and interests of the many long-term residents in the street.

Sir John Eccles was Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1710. He owned an extensive private estate, which contained the area which is now North Great George’s Street. Unfortunately his mansion has gone and the site where it stood is now occupied by a small two-storey building situated between the present numbers 43 and 46 North Great George’s Street.

Conor Lucey tells us that Mount Eccles is clearly visible on John Rocque’s map of Dublin published in 1756, but it is labelled with the name of Nicholas Archdall Esq. Nicholas Archdall had purchased the lease for the Mount Eccles estate for 999 years, beginning 1st August 1949.

Nicholas Archdall was MP for County Fermanagh. His son, Edward Archdall, became a property developer. He built numbers 19 and 20 North Great George’s Street in the late 1780s. Nicholas Archdall’s widow Sarah (nee Spurling) petitioned the Irish Parliament in 1766 for permission to grant long leases on premises on her property. She may have been inspired by the new Gardiner estate and Gardiner’s Row. Permission was granted, and the advertisement read:

To be Let in Lots for Building, the Lands of Mount Eccles, in Great Britain-street, opposite Marlborough-street, joining Palace-row and Cavendish-street, containing seven Acres, which for Situation, Air and Prospect, cannot be exceeded by any in or about Dublin, subject to no Manner of Tax, Hearth Money excepted. For further Particulars, enquire of Mrs. Archdale, at Mount Eccles, where a Plan of the whole may be seen.

Lucey tells us that the leases for North Great George’s Street contain no covenants or specifications regarding the form of the house, except for the provision of an eight foot wide ‘area’ intended to be ‘in the front of the houses which is to be built on the said ground over and above the flagged passage which is to be 6 ft and 6 in wide’. Other developments, such as Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam square, had much more detailed specifications for the houses to be built.

Lucey describes the typical layout of the houses on the street:

“By far the most common plan type is the ‘two room’ plan, composed of an axially- aligned entrance hall and stair hall, and flanked by front and rear parlours, the latter typically serving as the formal dining room. The principal staircase, customarily of timber open-string construction, is situated at the back of the house and rises from the ground floor – by way of the piano nobile or ‘drawing room storey’ – to the ‘attic’ or bedroom storey, with admittance to the ‘garret’ alone acquired by a smaller, subordinate stair. A distinctive decorative feature of the garret storey stair is the ‘Chinese Chippendale’ balustrade, popular from mid-century and exemplified by surviving examples at Nos.4, 11, 36 and 50.”

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Chinese Chippendale balustrade on the way to the garret, with the owner’s display of masks

According to the website for Number 11 North Great George’s Street, number 11 was completed in 1774 and was one of the first houses built in the newly laid out North Great George’s Street. It was then a very fashionable street. Other properties on the street were leased to Emilia, Dowager Viscountess Powerscourt (the widow of Richard Wingfield, 3rd Viscount Powerscourt, who built Powerscourt Townhouse in Dublin – see my entry on Powerscourt Townhouse) and Valentine Browne, 1st Earl of Kenmare.

The Act of Union of 1800, however, meant that there was no longer a Parliament in Dublin and many gentry left Ireland. The house’s website states:

“Despite the drain from the city of power and money after the Act of Union in 1800, North Great George’s Street managed to hold onto some grandees till the very end of the 19th Century. In the case of no. 11, these included in 1821 a George Whitford, High Sheriff of Dublin, who was knighted in that year by George IV at the Mansion House. No doubt to celebrate his new status, he had the front doorcase re-modelled to accommodate a large new fanlight, and also had the Salon joinery replaced in the fashionable neo-classical style.”

 

The No.11 website tells us more about former inhabitants.

Dr. Charles Orpen lived in the house in the 1830s. He played a significant part in the development of sign language, and in the education of deaf children, founding Ireland’s first school for deaf children, in 1816, in Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street). It became The Claremont Institution for the Deaf and Dumb when it moved to a large demesne called Claremont in Glasnevin. Dr. Orpen worked at the Workhouse at the House of Industry in Dublin, where he noticed that there were 21 deaf children. He took one of the children, Thomas Collins, home to educate him, and based on his learnings about the conditions of being deaf, he gave several popular lectures in the Rotunda, which led to a public interest in the condition and of education of deaf and dumb children. [4]

Another former inhabitant of number 11 in the 1850s was a barrister named Patrick Blake. He had Nationalist leanings, and the no.11 website tells us that it is believed that Michael Davitt, one of the leaders of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Land League, was hidden in the house for some time before his arrest and imprisonment in 1870. By this time, and for the rest of the century, the domestic quarters of the house had retreated to the top two floors, and the rest of the house was given over to office space for barristers and land agents.

As the wealthy left the city centre for houses in the suburbs, in 1910 a Mr. Kelly bought the house and turned it into a tenement. The No.11 website tells us that unlike many houses, the landlord lived on the premises and so the house survived many of the ravages that other houses suffered at this time. Between the 1930s and 1970s every room in the house was used as a family flat.

By the early 1980s the historic centre of Dublin had been all but abandoned. The house was largely derelict with a roof that was on the point of collapse. The website tells us that a great deal of the house was saturated and pigeons inhabited the upper floors. Despite this, the last tenant, Mrs. Margaret Howard, who had moved into the house in 1921, struggled to maintain an old fashioned gentility in her tenement rooms.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Buildings of Ireland website describes number 11 as a terraced three-bay four-storey house over exposed basement. It’s made of handmade red bricks and granite window sills. The website describes:

“Round-headed door opening with painted stone Doric doorcase. Original ten-panelled painted timber door flanked by engaged Doric columns on stone plinth blocks supporting deep cornice, and replacement peacock fanlight with moulded surrounds and scrolled keystone.”

The website also mentions the original plaster walls and ceiling, as well as original timber joinery and flooring. The ceilings seemed overly colourful, but the owner assured us that this is how such a ceiling would have looked originally.

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The Buildings of Ireland website describes:

“Upper floors having large amounts of surviving late Rococo plasterwork with projecting birds, acanthus leaves and flower-baskets to rear rooms. First floor saloon having ceiling with flower vases, acanthus pendants and cartouches. Neo-classical over-doors and friezes with urns and festoons. Lugged architraves throughout and moulded joinery [“lugged” is a moulded frame with horizontal projections at the top, according to wikipedia]. Imposing fluted Doric architraves to round-headed windows at each half-landing. Chinese Chippendale stair to garret floor.” [5]

The Rococo plasterwork, the number 11 website tells us, “must be amongst the very last flings of the renowned Robert West School of Rococo plasterwork.” We came across Robert West plasterwork also in Colganstown [6].

 

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The home owner is a collector, not only of architectural pieces and masks, but of dolls:

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Some of the architectural pieces are from, I believe, a church that was demolished, St. Peter’s Church on Aungier Street. These banisters might have been altar rails:

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The back garden is beautifully tranquil with an Oriental vibe, with a pond and a temple at the back with more architectural pieces and sculptures.

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In its appraisal the National Inventory website states:

“Largely dilapidated by the early 1980s, it was carefully conserved by the owner and is now a residence and venue for weddings and other events. The surviving early plasterwork is a fine example of the traditional ‘Dublin school’ Rococo style and its juxtaposition with the Neo-classical embodies the stylistic developments of the late eighteenth century. The oversailing lintel of c.1820 is one of few on the street and the restored light posts add a further element of interest in the public realm of the street. The retention of timber sash windows and of the granite and iron work to the entrance and basement enhances the architectural heritage quality of this house and of the street in general.”

The website for number 11 has a link to airbnb accommodation available in the house.

At the top of North Great George’s Street, on Denmark Street, is Belvedere House, now part of Belvedere College, a boys’ secondary school. I visited this on another Open Day. Its splendid stucco work is of the Neoclassical or “Adam” style popular in Dublin in mid 1770s to 1800, designed by Michael Stapleton. Conor Lucey writes:

“The neoclassical style is also well represented by Belvedere House. Built for George Augustus Rochfort, 2nd Earl of Belvedere, and completed by 1786, it is one of the finest city mansions built during the latter part of the century. The interiors of this house represent a text-book model of how Irish stuccodors invented freely within the Adamesque idiom, deriving their decorative vocabulary from architectural treatises, builder’s manuals and pattern books.”

Open House, Belvedere House, Belvedere College, Dublin
Open House, Belvedere House, Belvedere College, Dublin, 2015
Open House, Belvedere House, Belvedere College, Dublin
Belvedere House, 2015. The architect was Robert West. 86 St. Stephen’s Green has also been attributed to Robert West, which now houses MoLI, the new Museum of Literature of Ireland. The stucco work in no. 11 North Great George’s Street is of the Robert West school.

 

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=C3RdULJddO0&feature=emb_logo

[2] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/50010998/north-great-georges-street-dublin-dublin-city

[3] https://northgreatgeorgesstreet.ie/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claremont_Institution

[5] 
According to Craig, Maurice and Knight of Glin, Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities. Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork, 1970, Rococo is the asymmetrical freely-modelled style of decoration originating in France and popular in Ireland from about 1750 to 1775. See also Architectural Definitions:

architectural definitions

[6] Colganstown House, Hazelhatch Road, Newcastle, County Dublin

Dardistown Castle, County Meath

On Sunday July 14th Stephen and I went to see Dardistown Castle, in County Meath. I contacted the owners beforehand, Ken and Lizanne Allen, 086 277 4271.

dardistowncastle.ie

Open in 2020: Jan 9-11, 13-18, 20-24, 27-31, Aug 15-31, Sept 1-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-26, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult €6, child €3, student/OAP free, all proceeds to Irish Cancer Society.

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It has some links to our most recent visit, to Dunsany Castle, as it was enlarged by Dame Jenet Sarsfield, who was the widow of Robert Plunkett, the 5thBaron of Dunsany.

She is worth writing about, but first let me backtrack.

During the Hundred Years War, 1337-1453 (that’s more than one hundred!), in which the English fought the French for the right to rule France, the English military were mostly withdrawn from Ireland. To compensate for their military absence, a limited number of government grants of £10 each were made available to landowners in the “The Pale” for the building of fortified houses. John Cornwalsh (or Thomas? Drogheda Museum blog writes that it was built by Thomas Cornwalsh, and that Thomas Cornwalsh was related to the Talbot family of Malahide Castle by marriage, which explains how the castle came into the Talbot family later [1]) obtained a £10 grant in 1465 for the building of Dardistown Castle. According to wikipedia, John Cornwalsh was Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer.

Driving up the driveway, one cannot see the tower. We drove up in front of the house, which has a lovely square trellis outside.

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Ken was sitting outside waiting for visitors. He took us around to the back of the house. We went around the side, and only then saw the impressive tower.

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It’s a four storey medieval tower, extended with the addition of a Victorian frontage. The tower is square with sides about 44 feet long and a square turrret at each corner. The turrets are of different sizes.  The main arched entrance to the tower is now blocked and the main entrance is now on the south side. The tower is fifty feet high.

Ken led us in to the ground floor, which was originally the basement. This room is quite empty, and has been used for parties and gatherings so has a bar installed. It is described on the website as a games room. It is surprisingly large – this is by far the largest most spacious tower I have seen. There are vaulted smaller rooms in three of the four turrets off the main ground floor room. One turret would have been the toilet, where everything dropped down to the ground. There is a fireplace in the west wall of each main room on every level.

This room has the remains of a very unusual looking ceiling, “barrel vaulted.” [2] We can still see the sticks, in what looks like a wattle and daub type construction. I had never seen anything like it in a tower, but it is part of the original tower! The website states:

“Following a native Irish technique, woven wicker mats resting on timber beams were used to support the vaults during their construction and at Dardistown bits of the wickerwork may still be seen embedded in the undersides of the vaults.”

We went up the original stone staircase in the southwest turret, unusual because it spirals to the left, or anticlockwise, rather than the right – Stephen is fascinated how the direction in most towers was determined to give the advantage to the owner, so that on descent, he (it was usually a male, I presume, wielding the sword, although surely not always!) could more easily wield his sword than an intruding coming up the stairs. Perhaps the person who designed these stairs was left-handed, Stephen speculated.

The rooms above are furnished beautifully, in a style to fit the medieval origins but with all the comforts of a modern home. They have wooden ceilings. It is tasteful and elegant and I would love to stay there! The Allens rent the rooms for accommodation. The first floor above is the dining room, furnished with a large heavy table. A chandelier graces the room, and many pieces of antique furniture, plus comfortable couches and armchairs in front of the wood-burning stove in the fireplace. The original stone walls are exposed and have been repointed.

A fully outfitted kitchen has been installed in one turret. It is modern and luxurious.

The third turret has a large bathroom, which contains a lovely free-standing bath. At all levels above the ground floor the southeast turret contains a small chamber with an even smaller garderobe chamber opening off it.

The fourth turret on the first level contains a second, wooden, staircase, for fire escape safety. We looked up to see the top of the turret, which has a ceiling of overlapping flagstones, much like the tower ceiling which we saw in the Moone Abbey ten pound tower, and also in Newgrange.

The two upper floors of the turret have been decorated as luxurious bedrooms. There is a corridor off the third floor that leads into the main house, and which has been converted with two more beautiful bedrooms that can be hired for accommodation, plus bathroom.

I would love to stay! There is more accommodation in the yard.

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The Granary, which can be rented [3]
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There is more accommodation for rental called “the Stables” [4]
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There is a walled garden, which now is the back garden of the Allen family, and contains a tennis court. After our tour, we wandered into the lovely garden.

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According to the website, fifty years after the castle was built, the Castle and lands were rented for £4 a year by John and Thomas Talbot, who supplied three armed horsemen for the royal army.

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The Talbot family remained in Dardistown Castle until 1690, when they lost possession of the Castle and lands at Dardistown after the Battle of the Boyne. The castle became the residence of the Osborne family, who remained there until 1970. Francis Osborne of Dardistown was M. P. for Navan Borough in 1692 and 1695, and the Osborne family continued to occupy Dardistown until the death of the last member of the family. Henry Osborne (died May 10, 1828) also owned Cooperhill Brickworks. The castle passed via Samuel Henry Osborne to Henry St. George Osborne, who died in 1899, and then to his son Henry Ralph Osborne, who died in the 1970’s.

It was then taken over by the Armstrong family until 1987, and then the Allen family, who are from the Drogheda area, and it was Ken Allen who showed us around. He has restored the castle tower beautifully.

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The tower was a ruin when the Allens acquired the castle and attached house.

The first extension to the Castle, forming part of the present house, was built before 1582, when Dame Genet (or Jenet) Sarsfield came to reside here, and made a new entrance doorway and built a further addition (commemorated by two stone tablets on the house).

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back of the house, where you can see the house extended from the castle

The house was further added to in around 1770, and an extension built in 1800, with an upper storey added around 1860.

Dame Jenet Sarsfield was the not only the widow of Robert Plunkett. She was also the widow of Sir John Plunket of Dunsoghly Castle in Dublin (that one is not on the Section 482 list so I will not be visiting it this year!). She was married six times! She was the daughter of a merchant, John Sarsfield, of Sarsfieldstown in County Meath. She was born in around 1528. Her brother William was an alderman of Dublin. She must therefore have mixed in rather elite circles, as she married Robert Shilyngford (or Shillingford), who became Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1534 for the usual one year term. They had one daughter who survived to adulthood – the only offspring of Jenet who lived into adulthood, according to Wikipedia [5]  . Jenet was also reputed to be the tallest lady living in Ireland in the 1500s, as testified by the tall door built at Dardistown! (it must be this pale green door under the balcony). [6]

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After Robert’s death, Jenet married James Luttrell. He was also prominent in Dublin administration as he was the High Sheriff of County Dublin in 1556. He died in 1557.

It was after James Luttrell’s death that Jenet married Robert Plunkett, 5thBaron of Dunsany. She was his second wife. He died only two years after her previous husband died! After that marriage, she continued to be referred to as the Dowager Lady Dunsany. She next married Sir Thomas Cusack of Cushinstown. He had previously been Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He was about thirty years older than her. She was his third wife (!), although he refused to acknowledge his first wife. His second wife was reputed to have murdered her first husband, but she had a happy marriage to Thomas Cusack. Jenet had around eleven years as Thomas Cusack’s wife before he died.

Jenet inherited most of Cusack’s personal property, which was unusual at that time. Normally the firstborn son would be the heir. Sir Robert had acquired the Abbey of Lismullen after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Sir Robert’s son Edward pursued litigation to obtain his father’s property. Lady Dunsany married Sir John Plunket then, who was an influential judge and Privy Councillor. She eventually vacated Lismullen but Edward the stepson complained that she had removed most of the valuables. Lady Dunsany lived with her husband Sir John Plunket in Dunsoghly Castle. He died in 1582.

Her sixth and final marriage was to John Bellew, and she lived for her last years in Dardistown Castle. She died in 1598 and chose not to be buried with any of her husbands, but in a tomb of her own, in Moorchurch in County Meath. Her last husband outlived her. Dardistown Castle passed to her son-in-law Thomas Talbot after her death. Her daughter Katherine Shillingford married Thomas Talbot, who lived in Dardistown Castle. Jenet Sarsfield/Lady Dunsany was John Bellew’s third wife. John Bellew (1522-1600) was of Bellewstown and Castletown. Dardistown Castle came into the family due to Katherine’s marriage to Thomas Talbot. [6]

The historic battle of Julianstown of 1641 is said to have taken place on the front lawn of Dardistown, though at that time it was separated from the House by the road [in1800 the road (main Drogheda – Dublin road at that time) was moved so that, instead of passing the front door, it now curved several hundred yards from the Castle, enclosing the area which is now picturesque parkland.] Richard Talbot was then in occupation of the Castle. The battle was fought by insurgents led by Sir Phelim O’Neill, against an English garrison on their way to Drogheda. Three new rooms were added to the Castle about this time.

In the main house, the drawing room and dining room date from around 1750. The upper floors were added in two stages, the back about 1800 and the front in 1860. We did not get to see inside the main house, as the Allen family live there.

http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Meath/Dardistown-Castle.html

 

[1] see http://droghedamuseum.blogspot.com/2014/09/dardistown-castle.html

[2] architectural definitions

[3] https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/15112511?source_impression_id=p3_1563534784_c%2Fw0vavEzHNtvJih

[4] https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/15113245?source_impression_id=p3_1563534911_%2BZqpeapdtE%2BY8LOT

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenet_Sarsfield

[6] https://www.pressreader.com

[7] https://www.independent.ie/regionals/argus/localnotes/bellew-clan-keep-tradition-alive-in-julianstown-31409763.html

 

Huntington Castle, County Carlow

In the past, in August 2016, I visited Huntington Castle in Clonegal, County Carlow.

Contact person: Alexander Durdin Robertson, tel 086 0282266

Open in 2020: Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29, Mar 1, Apr 11-13, May 1-31, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, Oct 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 24-31, Dec 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 11am-5pm

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It’s magical! And note that you can stay at this castle – see their website!

Huntington Castle stands in the valley of the River Derry, a tributary of the River Slaney, on the borders of Counties Carlow and Wexford, near the village of Clonegal. Built in 1625, it is the ancient seat of the Esmonde family, and is presently lived in by the Durdin-Robertsons. It passed into the Durdin family from the Esmonde family by marriage in the nineteenth century, so actually still belongs to the original family. It was built as a garrison on the strategically important Dublin-Wexford route, on the site of a 14th century stronghold and abbey, to protect a pass in the Blackstairs Mountains. After fifty years, the soldiers moved out and the family began to convert it into a family home. [2]

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A History of the house and its residents

The castle website tells us that the Esmondes (note that I have found the name spelled as both ‘Esmond’ and ‘Edmonde’) moved to Ireland in 1192 and were involved in building other castles such as Duncannon Fort in Waterford and Johnstown Castle in Wexford. Laurence Esmonde was a convert to Anglicanism and served in the armies of British Queen Elizabeth I and then James I . He fought in the Dutch Wars against Spain, and later, in 1599, he commanded 150 foot soldiers in the Nine Years War, the battle led by an Irish alliance led mainly by Hugh O’Neill and Tyrconnell (Hugh Roe O’Donnell) against the British rule in Ireland. In reward for his services,  he was raised to the peerage in 1622 as Baron of Limerick (I was confused about this, but there is a Limerick, or Limbrick, in County Wexford, according to wikipedia, and it is now called Killinierin), and it seems that a few years after receiving this honour he built the core of the present Huntington Castle: a three-storey fortified tower house, which forms the front facing down the avenue, according to Mark Bence-Jones in A Guide to Irish Country Houses. [3]

 

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Huntington Castle, Clonegal, County Carlow, the view when one enters the courtyard from the avenue. There is an irregular two storey range with castellated battlements and a curved bow and battlemented gable, and the earlier building, the fortress, rises above them.

This original tower-house is made of rough-hewn granite. The first alterations and additions to that core were made around 1680 by the grandson of Laurence, also a Sir Laurence Esmonde. In her discussion of marriage in Making Ireland English, Jane Ohlmeyer writes that for the Irish, legitimacy of children didn’t determine inheritance, and so attitudes toward marriage, including cohabitation and desertion, were very different than in England. She writes that the first Baron Esmonde behaved in a way reminiscent of medieval Gaelic practices when he repudiated his first wife and remarried without a formal divorce. Laurence met Ailish, the sister of Morrough O’Flaherty (note that Turtle Bunbury tells us that she was a granddaughter of the pirate queen Grace O’Malley!) on one of his expeditions to Ulster, and married her. However, after the birth of their son, Thomas, she returned to her family, fearing that her son would be raised as a Protestant. Esmonde went on to marry Elizabeth Butler, a granddaughter of the ninth earl of Ormond (daughter of Walter Butler, and she was already twice widowed). He had no children by his second marriage and despite acknowledging Thomas to be his son, he did not admit that his first marriage was lawful and consequently had no official heir and his title Baron of Limerick became extinct after his death. Although his son did not inherit his title, he did inherit his property. [4] Baron Esmonde governed the fort of Duncannon from 1606-1646 when he died after a siege of the fort by General Preston of the Confederates, who considered Esmonde a defender of the Parliamentarians (i.e. Oliver Cromwell’s men, the “roundheads”). [5]

Thomas Esmonde did not inherit his father’s title but was himself awarded a Baronetcy, and became Baronet Esmonde in 1629. It was the 2nd Baronet, Laurence, who made the first additions to Huntington Castle around 1680, and who named it “Huntington” after the Esmonde’s “ancestral pile” in England [6]. A wing was constructed by the latter’s grandson (yet another Sir Laurence, 4th Baronet) around forty years later in 1720. The castle, as you can see, is very higgeldy piggedly, reflecting the history of its additions.

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the bow was probably added by the descendent Manning Durdin-Robertson.

Brendan O’Neill tells us in his book Irish Castles and Historic Houses that the property was inherited by Alexander Durdin in 1849, whose grand-uncle had married the two daughters and co-heirs of Sir John Esmonde, third Baronet, as his two successive wives. This is how the house passed from Esmondes to Durdins.

According to the Irish Historic Houses website, the Durdin family were long established in County Cork, where they had acquired the estates of William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania) [2]. In 1880, Helen, the Durdin heiress who inherited the castle, married Herbert Robertson, Baron Strathloch (a Scots feudal barony) and MP for a London borough. Together they made a number of late Victorian additions at the rear of the castle while their professional architect son, Manning Durdin-Robertson, an early devotee of concrete, carried out yet further alterations in the 1920s.

Manning Durdin-Robertson married Nora Kathleen Parsons, from Birr Castle. She wrote The Crowned Harp. Memories of the Last Years of the Crown in Ireland, an important memorial of the last years of English rule in Ireland [7]. I ordered a copy of the book from my local library! It’s a lovely book and an enjoyable rather “chatty” read. She writes a bit about her heritage, which you can see in my entry on another section 482 castle, Birr Castle. She tells us about life at the time, which seems to have been very sociable! She writes a great description of social rank:

The hierarchy of Irish social order was not defined, it did not need to be, it was deeply implicit. In England the nobility were fewer and markedly more important than over here and they were seated in the mansions considered appropriate….
The top social rows were then too well-known and accepted to be written down but, because a new generation may be interested and amused, I will have a shot at defining an order so unreal and preposterous as to be like theatricals in fancy dress. Although breeding was essential it still had to be buttressed by money.

Row A: peers who were Lord or Deputy Lieutenants, High Sheriffs and Knights of St. Patrick. If married adequately their entrenchment was secure and their sons joined the Guards, the 10th Hussars or the R.N. [Royal Navy, I assume]
Row B: Other peers with smaller seats, ditto baronets, solvent country gentry and young sons of Row A, (sons Green Jackets, Highland regiments, certain cavalry, gunners and R.N.).
Row A used them for marrying their younger children.
Row C: Less solvent country gentry, who could only allow their sons about £100 a year. These joined the Irish Regiments which were cheap; or transferred to the Indian army. They were recognised and respected by A and B and belonged to the Kildare Street Club.
Row D: Loyal professional people, gentlemen professional farmers, trade, large retail or small wholesale, they could often afford more expensive Regiments than Row C managed. Such rarely cohabited with Rows A and B but formed useful cannon fodder at Protestant Bazaars and could, if they were really liked, achieve Kildare Street.

Absurd and irritating as it may seem today, this social hierarchy dominated our acceptances.

I had the benefit of always meeting a social cross section by playing a good deal of match tennis…. The top Rows rarely joined clubs and their play suffered….There were perhaps a dozen (also very loyal) Roman Catholic families who qualified for the first two Rows; many more, equally loyal but less distinguished, moved freely with the last two.

Amongst these “Row A” Roman Catholics were the Kenmares, living in a long gracious house at Killarney. Like Bantry House, in an equally lovely situation.

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We were not allowed to take photos inside, except for in the basement, but you can see some pictures on the official website [1] and also on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete [8].

There were wonderful old treasures in the house including armour chest protections in the hallway along the stairs, which was one of the first things to catch my attention as we entered. We went up a narrow stairway linked as Bence-Jones describes “with wainscot or half-timbered studding.”

There are some noteable structures inside the building, as Robert O’Byrne notes. “The drawing room has 18th century classical plaster panelled walls beneath a 19th century Perpendicular-Gothic ceiling. Some passages on the ground floor retain their original oak panelling, a number of bedrooms above being panelled in painted pine. The dining room has an immense granite chimneypiece bearing the date 1625, while those in other rooms are clearly from a century later.” [8]

Another drawing room is hung with tapestry, which would have kept the residents a bit warmer in winter. There are beautiful stuccoed ceilings, which you can see on the website.

O’Neill adds that Huntington was one of the first country houses in Ireland to have electricity, and in order to satisfy local interest a light was kept burning on the front lawn so that the curious could come up and inspect it.

I loved the light and plant filled conservatory area, with a childlike drawing on one wall. The glass ceiling is draped in grape vines.

We were allowed to take photos in the basement, which used to house dungeons, and now holds the “Temple of Isis.” It also contains a well, which was the reason the castle was situated on this spot. In the 1970s two of the four children of Manning Durdin-Robertson, the writer and mystic Olivia Durdin-Robertson, who was a friend of W.B. Yeats and A.E. Moore, and her brother Laurence (nicknamed Derry), and his wife Bobby, converted the undercroft into a temple to the Egyptian Goddess Isis, founding a new religion. In 1976 the temple became the foundation centre for the Fellowship of Isis [9]. I love the notion of a religion that celebrates the earthy aspects of womanhood, and I purchased a copy of Olivia Durdin-Robertson’s book in the coffee shop. The religion takes symbols from Egyptian religion, as you can see in my photos of this marvellous space:

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our tour guide
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there is a well here

Turtle Bunbury has a video of the Fellowship of Isis on his website [6]! You can get a flavour of what their rituals were like initially. Perhaps they are similar today. The religion celebrates the Divine Feminine.

After a tour of the castle, we then went to the back garden. According to its website,

The Gardens were mainly laid out in the 1680’s by the Esmondes. They feature impressive formal plantings and layouts including the Italian style ‘Parterre’ or formal gardens, as well the French lime Avenue (planted in 1680). The world famous yew walk is a significant feature which is thought to date to over 500 years old and should not be missed.

Later plantings resulted in Huntington gaining a number of Champion trees including more than ten National Champions. The gardens also feature early water features such as stew ponds and an ornamental lake as well as plenty to see in the greenhouse and lots of unusual and exotic plants and shrubs.

The Irish Aesthete also discusses this garden in another blog entry [10]. He tells us that the yew walk, which stretches 130 yards, dates from the time of the Franciscan friary in the Middle Ages! The “stew ponds” would have held fish that could be caught for dinner.

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500 year old yew walk

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After the garden, we needed a rest in the Cafe.

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I loved the arrangement of plates on the walls of the cafe!

I was also thrilled by the hens who roamed the yard and even tried to enter the cafe:

There is space next to the cafe that can be rented out for events:

A few plants were for sale in the yard. A shop off the cafe sells local made craft, pottery, and books. The stables and farmyard buildings are kept in good condition and buzzed with with the business of upkeep of the house and gardens.

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what is this tall flower?

[1] https://www.huntingtoncastle.com/

[2] The website http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Huntington%20Castle says it was built on the site of a 14th century stronghold and abbey, whereas the Irish Aesthete says it was built on the site of a 13th century Franciscan monastery.

[3]  Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[4] p. 171, Ohlmeyer, Jane. Making Ireland English. The Irish Aristocracy in the Seventeenth Century. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2012. See also pages 43, 273, 444 and 451.

[5] Dunlop, Robert. ‘Edmonde, Laurence.’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition volume 18, accessed February 2020. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Esmonde,_Laurence_(DNB00)

[6] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_houses/hist_hse_huntington.html

[7] Robertson, Nora. The Crowned Harp. Memories of the Last Years of the Crown in Ireland. published by Allen Figgis & Co. Ltd., Dublin, 1960.

[8] https://theirishaesthete.com/2017/01/23/huntington/

[9] http://www.fellowshipofisis.com/

[10] https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/11/14/light-and-shade/

Irish Historic Homes