King House, Main Street, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

Majella Hunt

Tel: 090-6637153 https://www.visitkinghouse.ie/

Open dates listed in 2022: April-Sept, Tue-Sat, Aug 15-23 National Heritage Week, 11am-5pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student /child €3, group discounts apply

It is hard to capture King House in a photograph.

Stephen and I visited King House during Heritage Week 2022. It is open to the public and is not longer a private home.

King House was built in 1720 for Henry King, 3rd Baronet. There was a house previously on the site built for his grandfather, Robert. It was used as a military barracks in later years. Now it is a museum that tells the story of the King family, the history of the military unit which occupied the building, and it also houses a collection of contemporary art, the Boyle Civic Art Collection and the McAleese Collection. You can take a “virtual tour” on their website.

John King arrived in Ireland from Staffordshire, England, in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Anthony Lawrence King-Harmon tells us in his book, The Kings of King House. His family originally came from Feathercock Hall in Yorkshire.

The land had been previously controlled by the MacDermott clan. A room in King House tells us a few stories about the MacDermott clan. They had a rare victory over Queen Elizabeth I’s forces in the pass in the Curlew Mountains, near Boyle.

John King fought along with Sir Richard Bingham in Connaught during the Nine Years War. [1] In 1603 Robert’s father John King (1560-1636) was given, along with John Bingley, the lease of Boyle Abbey and its surrounding lands, in recognition for services rendered to the Crown. The Abbey had been used as a military barracks since the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII.

Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.
Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.

He married Catherine Drury, grand-niece of Sir William Drury, Lord Deputy of Ireland. They were the parents of Edward King, who was memorialised in John Milton’s poem, Lycidas, after he drowned in the Irish Sea. The King’s townhouse is now the home of the Society of Irish Pipers, Na Píobairí Uilleann, 15 Henrietta Street. A ceiling in the house features a bust of Milton, commemorating his poem to Edward King.

The King House website tells us that John King’s main residence was in Dublin, in Baggotrath near what is now Baggot Street, but he built a “great castle” in 1607 in Boyle. By 1618 he had obtained an outright grant to the Abbey and and its 4127 acres. King-Harmon tells us that an “apocryphal” story claims that the title “Lay Abbot” gave the right to have more than one wife! He adds that this was not a privilege of which John King availed.

He was made “Muster General” of Ireland responsible for calling up personnel to assist with maintaining law and order in Ireland. At the time that he built his castle in Boyle, the population of Boyle was around 300, of whom thirty were English workmen or traders. Sir John was buried in Boyle Abbey.

As Muster Master, John King was in charge of weapons such as those above: a pike, musket, lance and sword.

Unfortunately we did not have time to visit Boyle Abbey this time, though we stopped to take a few photographs from the road – we will have to visit Boyle again.

King House, August 2022.

Sir John’s daughters married well – Mary married William Caulfeild, 2nd Baron Caulfeild of Charlemont, County Armagh, who became the Master-General of the Ordnance for Ireland. Her sister Dorothy married Arthur Moore, son of Garret, 1st Viscount Moore of Drogheda.

John’s eldest son, Robert (d. 1657) was a supporter of Oliver Cromwell, and offered his services to the Parliamentarians. He fought in battles and has been credited with victory in the battle of Ballintubber. He was MP in the Cromwellian parliament in England, representing Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim. He lived mostly in his home in Baggotrath in Dublin but built a house on the site of the present King House in Boyle. He died the year before Cromwell died, and the Kings immediately switched sides to support King Charles II.

Robert King married twice (although not at the same time, so didn’t avail of the Lay Abbot’s rights!): first to Frances Folliott, daughter of Henry Folliott, 1st Lord Folliott, Baron of Ballyshannon (her sister married Richard Wingfield and was mother of 1st Viscount Powerscourt). Secondly, he married the widow of Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledon, Sophia Zouche. Edward Cecil was the grandson of Queen Elizabeth I’s right hand man, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley.

Robert’s eldest son, John (1638-1676) first fought with the Cromwellians but then became a supporter of King Charles II. He married Catherine Fenton of Mitchelstown, County Cork. Her brothers predeceased her and she was heir to vast estates. John was created 1st Baron Kingston, of Kingston, County Dublin, in 1660, when he was also appointed as Privy Counsellor in Dublin.

Mitchelstown, County Cork, photograph courtesy of the National Library of Ireland. An older castle was demolished and it was rebuilt, as we see in this photograph, in the 1770s by Caroline Fitzgerald and her husband Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston.
Mitchelstown, County Cork, photograph courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

The land of Mitchelstown in County Cork passed into the hands of Maurice Fitzgibbon, the first White Knight, in the early part of the 14th century. The title of White Knight was an Anglo-Norman hereditary title in Ireland, one of three, the others being the Black Knight, or Knight of Glin, and Green Knight, or Knight of Kerry.

In 1608 Edmond Fitzgibbon the 9th White Knight died, as did his son Maurice, and it is said that they were poisoned. The inheritance of Mitchelstown passed to Edmond’s youngest granddaughter Margaret, who married Sir William Fenton. The castle then passed to Catherine Fenton, who brought the estate into the King family.

It was the descendants of John’s second son, Robert (abt. 1640-1707), who lived in County Roscommon, since descendants of the eldest son John 1st Baron Kingston lived in Mitchelstown Castle. John gave his younger brother Robert considerable lands in what was to become Rockingham, outside Boyle. John predeceased his brother Robert, dying in 1676, leaving two sons, who became 2nd and 3rd Barons Kingston.

Robert held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Ballyshannon between 1661 and 1666. He built a sumptuous house at Rockingham in 1673, after he married Frances Gore, daughter of Lt.-Col. Henry Gore, around 1670. She had been previously married to Robert Choppyn of Newcastle, County Longford.

Robert was created 1st Baronet King, of Boyle Abbey, Co. Roscommon [Ireland] on 27 September 1682. He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Roscommon between 1692 and 1699. He was also appointed Privy Counsellor in Ireland, and he held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Boyle between 1703 and 1707.

Inside King House today.

Robert’s brothers’ sons, the 2nd and 3rd Barons Kingston, still owned the property in Boyle. Robert King, 2nd Baron Kingston, and his uncle Robert 1st Baronet King of Boyle Abbey both supported William III, whereas most English families in Counties Sligo and Roscommon supported King James II. Both Robert Kings became heavily involved in military operations. Robert 1st Baronet King played a major role in the Battle of Aughrim. Anthony Lawrence King-Harman tells us that it was during this battle that Robert saved the life of the head of the MacDermot family, the original owner of Rockingham.

To add to complications of the time, Robert 1st Baronet of Boyle Abbey’s son John (1673-1720) supported King James II. He sat in King James’s parliament in Dublin. Fortunately he later escaped retribution from William III when William was made King, and his father must have forgiven him also as he was his father’s heir. John became 2nd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey.

The brother of Robert 2nd Baron Kingston, John (abt. 1664-1727/28), or Jack as he was known, eloped with a servant girl from King House named Peggy O’Cahan (or Kane). They moved to France and married, and he joined court of “The Pretender,” son of James II, also known as James III. Jack converted to Catholicism. His brother did not have children so Jack would have been his brother’s heir. However, due to his Catholicism, his family took legal action to disinherit him. Robert 2nd Baron Kingston instead changed his will so that his uncle Robert, 1st Baronet King of Boyle Abbey, would inherit the Mitchelstown estates and the estate in Boyle. Jack, however, disputed this. King-Harmon tells us in The Kings of King House that Jack, with the support of James II and Catholic circles in London, launched a legal action to show that the actions of his family were in contravention of the marriage settlements of his father, and before that of William Fenton, his mother’s father. He was successful and he obtained possession of Mitchelstown in 1699, but not the estate lands. Jack, who had become 3rd Baron Kingston after his brother’s death, also achieved a Royal pardon from William III for his previous support of King James II and his son.

Jack’s actions threatened the Baronets of Boyle Abbey and their ownership of Rockingham. However, they managed to hold on to their estate and the threat receded somewhat with the accession of William and Mary to the throne. Jack, with an eye to their future, raised his children as Protestants in Mitchelstown.

Robert 1st Baronet of Boyle Abbey’s daughter Mary married Chidley Coote of Cootehall, County Roscommon, son of Richard Coote 1st Lord Coote, Baron of Colloony, County Sligo. His son John, who became 2nd Baronet of Boyle Abbey upon his father’s death, married Elizabeth Sankey, but he had no children. Elizabeth went on to marry secondly, John Moore, 1st Baron Moore of Tullamore and thirdly, Brabazon Ponsonby, 1st Earl of Bessborough. Her mother, Eleanor Morgan, was from Cottlestown, County Sligo, a property added in 2022 to the Section 482 list, which we have yet to visit.

The 2nd Baronet moved from Rockingham back to the house in Boyle, which by this time may have been known as King House. He died in March 1720 and his brother Henry (1681-1739) became 3rd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey. It was Henry who built the King House that we see today. Rockingham burnt down, probably sometime shortly after the death of the 1st Baronet. King House in Boyle was destroyed by fire in 1720, so Henry immediately started to rebuild. King-Harman tells us he hired either Edward Lovett Pearce, or William Halfpenny, an assistant to Edward Lovett Pearce, as architect. The newer house may incorporate walls of the earlier house. A pleasure garden was created across the river, and it is now a public park. It contains a plinth that used to hold a statue of King William III but that statue disappeared!

Henry (1681-1739) 3rd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey, by Robert Hunter.
The museum in King House is less certain as to who designed it, suggesting it could have been Edward Lovett Pearce, Richard Cassel (or Castle), or William Halfpenny.

Mark Bence-Jones points out in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988) that King House is not situated in a demesne but in the centre of a town. It is surrounded by thick walls. He describes it as a large “u” shaped mansion of two storeys over basement with a partly gabled attic. [2]

This overhead shot of King House is taken from the website. As you can see, it’s an unusual house.
The entrance to King House, it is surrounded by these imposing walls.
The round-headed ground floor windows with keystones and blocking.
River-facing facade of King House, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [3]
Model of King House, which is inside the house: river facing facade.
River facade of King House during repair by Roscommon County Council. Work began in 1989 and took over four years, with renovation works designed and supervised by Dublin architects Shaffrey Associates.

The photograph from the National Inventory, above, shows the eleven bay garden front which faces the river, with its three bay pedimented breakfront and large central Venetian window in the upper storey.

The side facades have three Venetian windows, one on top of another, the top being within a gable.

King House, August 2022: side facade with three Venetian windows, the top one being within a gable.

Bence-Jones points out that: “As at Ballyhaise, County Cavan and King’s Fort, County Meath, there is vaulting in other storeys than just the basement; in fact, all four storeys are vaulted over. This was, according to Rev Daniel Beaufort, a fire precaution, Sir Henry King having naturally been fire-conscious after the fire in the earlier house.

Two wings project from the main centre block of the house, and are each two bays wide. The centre block is three bays wide with a centre triangular gable. Bence-Jones describes the deep cornice over the wings, and the round-headed ground floor windows with keystones and blocking.

The front of King House before repair.

On the front facade Bence-Jones describes a “plain massive doorway.” I find the entire centre front surprisingly plain with few windows, except the large arched ones either side of the doorway and the fanlight over the door, and two dormer windows in the roofline. Inside the museum, in a description of the building it is suggested that the front facade was not completed.

The National Inventory adds that there is “a seven-bay three-storey extension to south-west with pitched slated roof with piecrust cornice and red brick chimneystacks. Single-storey roughcast-rendered outbuildings to front. Site bounded by rubble stone wall with carved stone gate piers and cast-iron gates.

The second side facade, with its Venetian windows one on top of another and gable windows in the roof.
Single-storey roughcast-rendered outbuildings to front.
The side facade and basement.

Inside the front door is a long and narrow hall or gallery with lovely flagstone floor, which is original to the house. You can see also the vaulted ceiling, and wood panelling on the walls.

The long gallery front hall, which has the Venetian windows of the side facades of the house at either end.
Fireplace in front hall. There are two in this hall, one is of Kilkenny marble and the other is a replica.

Sir Henry King, 3rd Baronet of Boyle Abbey, served as MP for either Boyle or County Roscommon for thirty three years. He married Isabella Wingfield, daughter of Edward Wingfield of Powerscourt, County Wicklow (her brother was the 1st Viscount of Powerscourt). Henry died in 1739 and was succeeded by his son Robert (1724-1755), 4th Baronet of Boyle Abbey. Robert became MP for Boyle also and was created Baron Kingsborough in 1748. It was he who bought the house in Henrietta Street in Dublin. He became Grand Master of the Freemasons in Ireland. He died unmarried. On his death, the Barony of Kingsborough became extinct.

Robert (1724-1755), 4th Baronet of Boyle Abbey, by Robert Hunter.
Frances King, by Robert Hunter. The portrait is in King House. Thus could be a portrait of Robert’s sister Frances (1726-1812) who married Hans Widman Wood of Rossmead, County Westmeath.

On his death the entailed parts of the estate went to his younger brother Edward (1726-1797), who became 5th Baronet of Boyle Abbey. He was also a Grand Master for the Freemasons and MP for County Roscommon, and Privy Counsellor in Ireland. He inherited King House and large parts of the Sligo and Roscommon estates. However, a later will of his brother was found after his brother’s death, and all the unentailed land was left to their younger brother Henry. Henry did not marry but the dispute over inheritance led to lawsuits and caused family rifts, King-Harmon’s book The Kings of King House tells us.

Edward King (1726-1797), 5th Baronet of Boyle Abbey and eventually, 1st Earl of Kingston.

Edward the 5th Baronet married Jane Caulfeild, daughter of Thomas Caulfeild of Donamon Castle, County Roscommon (still standing, it now belongs to the Divine Word Missionaries). Edward was ambitious and when his cousin James King 4th Baron Kingston died in 1761 with no sons, he applied for a peerage and was granted it, becoming the 1st Baron Kingston of the second creation. He built a second mansion in Rockingham, which he called Kingston Hall.

He arranged with 4th Baron Kingston that his son would marry the heir to Mitchelstown, Caroline Fitzgerald. The 4th Baron Kingston’s son William predeceased him in 1755, dying childless. The 4th Baron’s daughter Margaret married Richard Fitzgerald, son of the 19th Earl of Kildare. Their only child was a daughter, Caroline (1754-1823). By marrying into the family of the Barons of Kingston, Mitchelstown came into the family of the Baronets of Boyle Abbey. Caroline and Edward’s son Robert were to marry when just 15 and 16 years old.

Meanwhile Edward, after intense lobbying, had become Viscount Kingsborough in 1767 and Earl of Kingston in 1768.

Edward, now Earl of Kingston, and his family moved into Kingston Hall in 1771, and King House was kept as a second residence, but following a fire in 1778, Edward decided to dispose of it. It was bought by the British army in 1795, and became the depot of the Connaught Rangers until taken over by the Irish army in 1922. It was abandoned and in ruins by 1987 when bought by Roscommon County Council, and it was restored and opened to the public in 1995.

Information in King House about Boyle in the 1700s.

Edward Earl of Kingston’s daughter Jane married Laurence Harman Parsons (1749-1807), son of Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet, who was later created 1st Earl of Rosse, and Anne Harman.

The 1st Earl of Kingston’s daughter Francis married Thomas Tenison, and their son Lt.-Col Edward King-Tenison lived in Kilronan Castle in County Roscommon and his wife, Lady Louisa Mary Anne Anson, was the origin of the use of the word “loo” for toilet! (according to The Peerage website). I’m not sure why! (Kilronan Castle is now also a hotel, https://www.kilronancastle.ie/

His daughter Eleanor died unmarried in 1822.

Henry’s daughter Eleanor, who never married, and James Stewart, a grandson of Henry.
Eleanor King, died 1822, unmarried, painting by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.

Edward’s heir, Robert (1754-1799) became the 2nd Earl of Kingston and married his cousin Caroline Fitzgerald of Mitchelstown when he was just 15. They had nine children but later separated. When young, they lived in London, and toured the world, until they took up residence at Mitchelstown Castle. Mary Wollstonecraft, who later died after giving birth to Mary Shelley née Godwin who wrote Frankenstein, was tutor to the 2nd Earl of Kingston’s children. Mary Wollstonecraft later became a writer, intellecutal and radical, spending time in Paris during the French Revolution, and wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, as well as several novels. She remained friendly with King’s daughters, who imbibed Mary’s feminism. Caroline, unhappy in her life with Robert, moved to England, and Robert took a lover, Elinor Hallenan, who bore him two more children.

On 18 May 1798 Robert 2nd Earl of Kingston was tried by his peers in the Irish House of Lords for the murder of Colonel Henry Gerald Fitzgerald, who had seduced the Earl’s daughter. He was acquitted as no witnesses came forward – a benefit of being in the House of Lords was that one was not tried in a general court, but tried in a court consisting of the other members of the House of Lords.

Colonel Henry Gerald Fitzgerald was the illegitimate son of Caroline’s half-brother. Her father had remarried after her mother died. Caroline raised Henry Gerald along with her own family. Caroline brought her daughter Mary with her when she separated her husband and moved to England. It was Mary who was seduced by her cousin, despite him having a wife. As Mary Wollstonecraft later had lovers, perhaps young Mary King was influenced by her governess’s romantic nature. Colonel Fitzgerald regularly visited Caroline and Mary in their new home in London. One day, Mary disappeared, and was found installed in a lodging house, regularly visited by her lover, Colonel Fitzgerald. King-Harman tells the story in The Kings of King House. Her father shot and killed Colonel Fitzgerald.

Another daughter, Margaret, married Stephen Moore, 2nd Earl Mountcashell. Also influenced by Mary Wollstonecraft’s radicalism, she supported the United Irishmen and Anthony Lawrence King-Harman writes that she may have been with Edward Fitzgerald when he was mortally wounded in Dublin. She left her husband for George Tighe (1776-1837) of Rossana, County Wicklow, an Irishman living in Rome, and became close friends with Wollstonecraft’s daughter Mary Shelley. She wrote children’s books and treatises on pre- and post-natal care.

Dining room, King House.

Robert’s son George (1770-1839) became the 3rd Earl of Kingston upon his father’s death in 1797. Robert left the Boyle properties to his second son, Robert Edward (1773-1854), who later became Viscount Lorton, the name chosen from a local place-name.

Brothers George, 3rd Earl of Kingston, Robert, 1st Viscount Lorton, and Admiral James William King, by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.
This large portrait in the dining room is General Robert King (1773-1854), 1st Viscount Lorton, who was the son of Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston.

Robert Edward King (1773-1854) inherited Kingston Hall at Rockingham. He joined the military and distinguished himself in the Caribbean. When he inherited in 1797, he returned to Ireland and joined the Roscommon Militia and worked his way up to become a General. With Rockingham, however, came debt. In 1799 he married his first cousin, Frances Parsons Harman, daughter of his aunt Jane who had married Lawrence Parsons Harman (1749-1807), who owned the Newcastle Estate in County Longford. Robert worked hard to reduce the debt, and was a tough landlord, evicting many tenants.

In the centre, Frances née Parsons Harman (1775-1841) who married Robert Edward King (1773-1854). She is flanked by their daughter Jane King, who married Anthony Lefroy, and Frances King, who married Right Reverend Charles Leslie of Corravahan.

Robert Edward was created Baron Erris of Boyle, County Roscommon in 1800 and in 1806, Viscount Lorton of Boyle, County Roscommon. His support of the Act of Union in 1800 would have helped in his rise within the Peerage.

Viscount Lorton decided to build a new house on the Rockingham estate, which is a few kilometers from Boyle. Robert O’Byrne tells us that the previous house, Kingston Hall, remained in use and became known as the Steward’s House. [4] The new house was designed by John Nash and was ready by 1810. Lorton also modernised the estate. Landscaper Humphrey Repton helped with the design of the outbuildings, gate houses and demesne. The house no longer exists, and the demesne is now part of Lough Key Park. An impressive gate lodge remains, and a chapel built by Lord Lorton in 1833 on the site of a 17th century church also built by the Kings. An icehouse, gazebo called the Temple and a tunnel which ran from the mansion to the lake and was used by tradesmen is open for visitors.

Rockingham.
Rockingham.
Rockingham.
Model of Rockingham House created by Leaving Certificate students of Ballinamore Vocational School Fergal Conefrey, Conor Lee and Declan Sammon with construction teacher Mr. Tommy Flynn.
The interior of Rockingham.
The interior of Rockingham.
Looking out from Rockingham.

It was a time of trouble with tenants, as outlined in The Kings of King House. Robert evicted Catholic tenants due to uprisings. In famine years, however, he lowered rents and provided work.

Viscount Lorton’s daughters married well. Jane married Anthony Lefroy of Carriglass Manor, County Longford. Jane Austen had been in love with his father, Thomas Lefroy, and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice may have been based upon him. Caroline married Robert Gore-Booth, 4th Baronet, of Lissadell, County Sligo (another section 482 property). Frances married Right Reverend Charles Leslie, who we came across when we visited Corravahan, another Section 482 property, in County Cavan.

Viscount Lorton’s heir was Robert (1804-1869). He had an unhappy marriage, and his wife, Anne Gore-Booth, daughter of Robert Newcomen Gore-Booth, 3rd Baronet of Lissadell, had an affair which produced a son. Robert and his father sought to make sure that this son would not inherit the King estates.

The Kings of Rockingham were a “cadet branch” of the family of the Kings of Mitchelstown, County Cork. Viscount Lorton’s older brother inherited the Mitchelstown estate and the title of 3rd Earl of Kingston. Let’s make a diversion and look at what was happening at the Mitchelstown estate.

After her husband Robert 2nd Earl of Kingston’s death, Mitchelstown remained in the hands of Caroline (née Fitzgerald), and she returned to run the estate for a further twenty-five years. She kept her son George at arm’s length, King-Harman tells us.

George King (177901839), later 3rd Earl of Kingston, painting by Romney.

George did not inherit Mitchelstown until he was 53 years old. He was godson of King George III and was a friend of the Prince Regent who later became King George IV. He had several illegitimate children with a lover when he was in his twenties, with whom he lived in the Bahamas. He went on to marry Helena Moore, daughter of Stephen, 1st Earl of Mountcashell, County Tipperary. Before his father died, he was titled Viscount Kingsborough between 1797 and 1799, and he held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Roscommon between 1797 and 1799. He became Colonel of the local Militia, the Mitchelstown Light Dragoons, part of the North Cork Militia.

When his father died, he succeeded as the 3rd Baron Kingston of Rockingham, Co. Roscommon, the 3rd Viscount Kingston of Kingsborough, Co. Sligo, 3rd Earl of Kingston, and 7th Baronet King, of Boyle Abbey, Co. Roscommon.

George 3rd Earl of Kingston’s eldest son, Edward, predeceased him. Edward, who was Viscount Kingsborough, became interested in Mexico while in Oxford and devoted his life and finances to the production of a monumental work, The Antiquities of Mexico. He fell into debt, partly because his father did not allow him enough to run Mitchelstown, and was imprisoned in Ireland, where he developed typhus and died in 1837. In his lifetime he presented a number of antiquities to Trinity College Dublin.

It was therefore George’s second son, Robert Henry (1796-1857) who became 4th Earl of Kingston in 1839. By 1844 the Mitchelstown estate had been taken over by the Encumbered Estaes Court. Outstanding debts went back to James 4th Baron, King-Harman tells us. Despite this, Robert Henry’s life continued at Mitchelstown in rather high style, also despite the famine. Sadly, parts of the estate were sold off bit by bit and eventually Robert Henry had a mental breakdown and ended up in an asylum in England. [for more about the 4th Earl of Kingston see the Irish Aesthete’s blog. [5]

His younger brother James became the 5th Earl of Kingston, but died two years later without issue, and with him the Barony of Kingston of Mitchelstown became extinct. He married Anna Brinkley from Parstonstown (Birr), who was thirty years his junior, and King-Harman tells us that she “was destined to play a major role in the affairs of Castle [of Mitchelstown] right through to the present century.” They had no children, so the estate would have gone to the Viscounts Lorton of Boyle.

James King (1800-1869), 5th Earl of Kingston, who married Anna Brinkley.
Anna, wife of the 5th Earl of Kingston, who lived in Mitchelstown.

Robert, who was to become 2nd Viscount Lorton, and his wife Anne née Gore-Booth, had a son, Robert (1831-1871), and a daughter, Frances. Anne then had a son, Henry Ernest, with her lover, Vicomte Ernest Satgé St Jean. 1st Viscount Lorton tried to take action to ensure that Henry Ernest would not inherit.

In order to avoid Henry Ernest from inheriting Mitchelstown, they had to break the entail on Mitchelstown and James the 5th Earl of Kingston promised money from the Mitchelstown estate to the 3rd Viscount Lorton, for signing away the entail. Instead, Mitchelstown was left to his wife. The money promised to 3rd Viscount Lorton formed a debt, falling to Anna Brinkley, which gave her much difficulty later.

Before continuing, I must mention the youngest son of 1st Viscount Lorton, Laurence Harman King (1816-1875). He married Mary Cecilia Johnstone of Alva, Scotland. His father drew up a settlement which in the event that the 2nd Viscount’s legitimate son did not have an heir, Rockingham would go to his younger son, Laurence Harman, who in 1838 had legally changed his name to Laurence Harman King-Harman.

Laurence Harman King-Harman also inherited the estate of Newcastle in County Longford. He was chosen for the inheritance in preference to his dissipated brother. Lawrence’s mother, recall, was Frances Parsons, daughter of Laurence Harman Parsons and and Jane King (daughter of 1st Earl of Kingston). Laurence Harman Parsons’s father was Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet of Birr Castle, County Offaly, and his mother was Anne Harman, whose family owned Newcastle, County Longford.

The property of Newcastle had belonged to the Chappoyne family. A daughter of that family married Anthony Sheppard, and the property passed into the ownership of the Sheppard family. It then passed via a daughter, Frances Sheppard, who married Wentworth Harman (c. 1635-1714). On Frances’s death in 1766 the property passed to her son Reverend Cutts Harman (1706-1784), Dean of Waterford. He had no children, so he left the property to his nephew, Laurence Parsons, who had married Jane King. In return, Laurence Parsons added the name Harman to his surname in 1792 to become Laurence Harman Parsons-Harman.

Laurence Harman Parsons was created 1st Baron Oxmantown, Co. Wexford in 1792, and 1st Earl of Rosse in 1806.

Laurence and Jane had a daughter, Frances, and no son. Frances married Robert Edward King, 1st Viscount Lorton in 1799. Laurence left all of his property to his wife Jane, which included Newcastle and two houses in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. Upon the birth of Frances and Robert Edward’s second son, whom they named Laurence Harman King, Lady Rosse decided to leave Newcastle to him. In 1838 when Lady Rosse died, just a year after Laurence Harman King’s marriage, he inherited Newcastle. At that time he also added Harman to his surname to become Laurence Harman King-Harman. [6]

One can now stay in Newcastle House, see https://www.newcastlehousehotel.ie/

Irish Army Artillery Dress Uniform c.1935: This uniform would have been worn by a Lieutenant Colonel. A military uniform would consist of the following: shako, tunic, slacks, black patent boots and spurs, white doe-skin gloves, cape, sword-belt complete with two scabbard slings and dress sword, sword knot and sword belt.
Dining room of King House.
The Honourable Laurence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875).
Laurence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875). The information tells us that he was the second son of Edward King, 1st Viscount Lorton. He inherited the Newcastle estate in County Longford in 1838 from his grandmother the Countess of Rosse, and lived there until his death. He succeeded to the Rockingham estate after the death of his brother Robert, 6th Earl of Kingston, in 1869.
Mary Cecilia, 6th daughter of Thomas Reymond Johnstone of Alva, Scotland. Married in May 1837 Laurence Harman King-Harman, 2nd son of Robert Edward 1st Viscount Lorton. She lived at Newcastle until her husband’s death in 1875 and then in London when she died in 1904.

Let us go back, however, to his brother Robert, who was upon his father’s death to become 2nd Viscount Lorton. The reason that 1st Viscount Lorton was worried about the second, illegitimate grandson inheriting, is that the first grandson, Robert Edward, had suffered a serious illness and had only one child, a daughter.

The 1st Viscount Lorton died in 1854 and was buried in the family vault in Boyle Abbey.

Obituary for 1st Viscount Lorton.

The 1st Viscount Lorton’s son Robert had been a long time waiting to come into his inheritance and had meanwhile spent his time dissipating the family’s money and by the time of his marriage, according to The Kings of King House, had a reputation for drinking too much alcohol. In the same year that she was proven to have an affair, Robert became semi-paralysed, perhaps after severe attack of delirium tremens from his drinking.

Robert and his wife Anne moved to Frankfurt in 1840 and his health improved somewhat. However it was here that his wife met Vicomte Ernest de Satgé St Jean. He too was married. He and Anne accumulated debts at the gaming tables which Robert had to pay, and when his wife left him, Ernest de Satgé St Jean moved into the home of the Kings in Frankfurt!

When 1st Viscount Lorton heard of the shenanigans, he sent an old friend to bring his son and his son’s wife back to Ireland. He did not succeed, and the story of Robert’s wife’s debts reminds me of “Buck” Whaley’s, with the Vicomte entering in convoluted schemes in order to try to gain money to pay off his debts, as described in The Kings of King House.

When the 1st then 2nd Viscounts Lorton died, the 2nd Viscount’s legitimate son Robert Edward (1731-1771) came into ownership of Rockingham, and became 3rd Viscount Lorton and 7th Earl of Kingston. He died two years later, after felling large quantities of timber at Rockingham to pay off his debts.

In the meantime, the younger son, Henry Ernest Newcomen King (named Ernest after his birth father) had not been legally recognised as illegitimate. Therefore when his brother died, he became 8th Earl of Kingston, although he did not inherit as much land as he could have, since the entail on Mitchelstown had been broken, and his uncle Laurence Harman inherited Newcastle and Rockingham. He joined the Connaught Rangers, which were housed in the old King home, and he gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and was a representative Irish peer in the House of Lords. He married Florence, daughter and co-heir of Colonel Edward King-Tenison of Kilronan Castle in County Roscommon. He changed his name to surname King-Tenison in 1883. He held the office of Lord-Lieutenant of County Roscommon between 1888 and 1896.

The Coronation Robe and Crown in the dining room of King House belong to his son the 9th Earl of Kingston’s wife, Ethel Lisette, made to be worn at the coronation of King Edward VIII in 1936, which did not happen since he abdicated the throne.

On the death of the 7th Earl of Kingston, the 1st Viscount Lorton’s youngest son, Harman King-Harman, inherited Rockingham and the Boyle estates as life tenant. He remained living in Newcastle, County Longford. He had six sons and his eldest Edward King-Harman (1838-1888) would inherit Rockingham and Newcastle.

This painting just identifies the sitted as Mrs King-Harman. She is probably Laurence Harman King-Harman’s wife Mary Cecilia née Johnstone, in later life.
Vanity Fair entry and picture, about Edward Robert King-Harman (1838-1888), son of Laurence Harman King-Harman. He inherited Newcastle in County Longford and Rockingham in Roscommon.

To continue with the story of Mitchelstown, in 1873 Anna née Brinkley, wife of James 5th Earl of Kingston, remarried, to William Webber. King-Harman writes that Webber allowed his relationship to the tenants to deteriorate. Meanwhile, the old debts were paid off by selling off tenanted lands under the Wyndham Land Acts. Anna, the Countess of Kingston, expressed a wish that upon her husband’s death, Mitchelstown should revert to the King family, in the person of Lt Colonel Alec King-Harman of Newcastle, great grandson of the 1st Lord Lorton. However, the castle was burnt by the IRA during the Civil War in 1922, and Alec sold off the estate.

The 2nd Earl of Kingston laid out much of the town of Mitchelstown. King Square includes Georgian houses of Kingston College and its Protestant chapel and family vault built by James, 4th Baron Kingston, and the square also includes the building where James founded the first Grand Lodge of Freemasons in Ireland. The 3rd Earl erected a drinking fountain in the square. The inn at Kilworth where Colonel Fitzgerald was shot is now a private residence. [The Kings of King House]

Edward Robert King-Harman (1838-1888), son of Laurence Harman King-Harman, inherited Newcastle in County Longford and Rockingham in Roscommon. He joined the military and fought in the siege of Dehli during the Indian Mutiny, then returned to Ireland in 1859 and became Honorary Colonel of the 5th Battalion of the Connaught Rangers whose depot was now in King House. He developed an interest in politics and the cause of Home Rule and was returned to the House of Commons in Ireland as a Conservative Home Ruler for County Sligo. He moved from Newcastle into Rockingham. He managed to leave Rockingham to his daughter, Fay, although her brothers contested this. She managed to keep Rockingham, however, along with her husband, Dr. Thomas Stafford, who was a Catholic. Fay’s son took the name Edward Stafford King-Harman.

Meanwhile Edward’s younger brother Wentworth (1840-1919) inherited Newcastle from his brother. He joined the military in Britain. When he inherited, he immersed himself in running Newcastle. It was his son Alec who inherited Mitchelstown. Alec also joined the military. He left Newcastle to a cousin Douglas King-Harman, and by that time the estate was reduced to just 50 acres, and he sold it in 1951. Before leaving Newcastle, Douglas set aside most of the family records and took them to England with him and published a book in 1959, Kings Earls of Kingston.

Edward Stafford King-Harman died in WWI. His father was raised to the British peerage as 1st Baronet Stafford in 1914. Edward married Olive Pakenham Mahon from Strokestown in Roscommon – I will be writing about it soon as it is also a Section 482 property.

It was his second son, Cecil Stafford King-Harman, who inherited Rockingham and became 2nd Baronet Stafford. Having taken a degree in Agriculture in New Zealand, Cecil was able to bring the estate back into good working order. Unfortunately, Rockingham was destroyed by fire in 1957 and although most of the furniture and pictures were saved, Cecil decided to sell. The house was demolished, and half the estate became Lough Key Forest Park. On Cecil’s death the baronetcy became extinct.

Part of a set of china rescued from the fire in 1957.
This room in King House describes the fire at Rockingham. Over the fireplace is a picture of Lady Eleanor King, and one of her nephews, brothers George, 3rd Earl of Kingston, Robert, 1st Viscount Lorton, and Admiral James William King.

In an upper storey of the King House there is a step-by-step description of the 1989-94 renovation of the house.

Inside the attic of King House.
Vaulted ceiling of the attic.
Display of builders’ paraphernalia in the attic.

King House is used to host art exhibitions, as well as weddings and events.

The Main Salon on the first floor. This room was used for formal dining and entertaining. It contains two fireplaces and decorative cornicing.

When used as a Barracks, the military erected a mezzanine level in the Main Salon. After Independence, in the 1940s the Irish army used the room for dances every Wednesday.

Henry King b. 1733 by Hunter. He was a son of Henry King who built King House.

King House is now home to the Connaught Rangers museum as well as the Boyle Civic Art Collection, and the house also plays host to musical, dramatic and cultural events. 

The displays about the Connaught Rangers are very moving, and remind of us that horrors of war.
Connaught Rangers dress helmet (1878-1922). Regimental buttons on uniforms had a harp and crown surrounded by a shamrock leaf, and on the collar was a brass Indian elephant.

The barracks in King House served as a recruitment centre. We can see some of the posters that encouraged Irish men to join the British Army during the wars.

As home to the Connaught Rangers, Robert O’Byrne tells us that the house was able to accommodate 12 officers and 260 non-commissioned officers and private foot soldiers, as well as a 30-bed hospital and stabling for horses. [7]

During the War of Independence, the Barracks was strongly garrisoned and the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Black and Tans were stationed outside the barracks near the main gate. Many arrests of Irishmen fighting for Independence were made, and prisoners were held in the barracks. Two prisoners managed to escape, James Molloy and Michael Dockery.

Prison cell in the basement of King House.
A drawing depicting the escape from King House.

Sadly, reflecting the turbulent times in Ireland, Michael Dockery was later killed by anti-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War that took place after Ireland gained Independence (the Civil War occurred because many did not agree with the Treaty signed to give Ireland independence since the British kept six counties in Ulster, leading to the division of the island of Ireland). When the new Republic of Ireland continued to use King House as a barracks it was called Dockery Barracks after Michael Dockery.

A couple of rooms in King House now contain the gifts which were given to President Mary McAleese, which is a lovely collection of the crafts of various nations.

Based in the courtyard, Úna Bhán Tourism Co-operative runs a traditional craft shop showcasing locally produced crafts as well as operating an accommodation booking service and at weekends there is a farmers market in the courtyard.

[1] Connolly, Paul. The Landed Estates of County Roscommon. Published by Paul Connolly, 2018.

[2] 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.

[3] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31804023/king-house-military-road-knocknashee-boyle-co-roscommon

[4] https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/08/22/kingston-lodge/

[5] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/09/01/god-bless-the-kings/

[6] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13402709/newcastle-house-newcastle-newcastle-demesne-county-longford

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/tag/king-house/

Office of Public Works properties in Connaught, Counties Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo

My entry for all of the OPW sites in Connaught was too long, so since it is mainly about Portumna Castle in Galway, I have separated my Galway OPW entry from the other counties in Connaught.

Leitrim:

1. Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim

2. Sean MacDiarmada Cottage, County Leitrim

Mayo:

3. Ceide Fields, County Mayo

Roscommon:

4. Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon

5. Rathcroghan, County Roscommon

Sligo:

6. Ballymote Castle, County Sligo

7. Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, County Sligo

8. Sligo Abbey, County Sligo

Leitrim:

1. Parkes Castle, Fivemilebourne, County Leitrim:

Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.

General information: 071 916 4149, parkescastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/parkes-castle/:

Parke’s Castle occupies a striking setting on the northern shores of Lough Gill in County Leitrim.

A restored castle of the early seventeenth century, it was once the home of English planter Robert Parke. There is evidence of an earlier structure on the site, a tower house once owned by Sir Brian O’Rourke, lord of West Breifne [The Kingdom of Breifne, or Breffny, was what is now Leitrim and parts of Cavan and other neighbouring counties]. O’Rourke, whom one English governor described as ‘the proudest man this day living on the earth’, resisted crown rule and fled Ireland, but ended up in the hands of Queen Elizabeth’s forces. He was thrown into the Tower of London, tried and finally hanged at Tyburn.

By the 11th century Breifne was ruled by the O’Rourke or Ua Rairc dynasty. Brian O’Rourke assumed the leadership of Breifne after assassinating his older brothers, apparently! His daughter Mary married The O’Conor Don, Hugh O’Conor (1540-1627) – for more on the O’Conor Don, see my entry about Clonalis, County Roscommon. Sir Brian O’Rourke was indicted in 1591 for sheltering Francisco de Cueller, an officer of the shipwrecked Armada in 1588, who later wrote about his time in Ireland.

The land was then given to Robert or Roger Parke. It passed to his son Robert (1585-1671).

The OPW website continues: “Tragedy struck in 1677, when two of Parke’s children drowned on the lake. The castle then fell into disrepair. Only in the late twentieth century was it restored, using traditional Irish oak and craftsmanship.

Robert Parke’s daughter Anne married Francis Gore of Ardtarmon, County Sligo, a brother of Arthur Gore, ancestor to the Earls of Arran.

Parkes Castle, which was also called Newtown Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.

The OPW did a terrific job of renovation, as you can see from former photographs – look at 1926!

Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.

Unfortunately although we visited during Heritage Week in 2021, the castle was closed due to Covid restrictions. We were able to enter the courtyard and courtyard buildings, and to wander around the castle, but did not get to go inside, which is normally open to the public.

The last member of the Parke family left the castle in 1691.

Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.
Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.
Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.
Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.
The Forge, Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, August 2021.
I loved this chart of shoes, for horses and also donkeys.
Stephen entering the Sweathouse, which may date back to the 12th century!
Stephen in the Sweathouse, which may date back to the 12th century!
This tunnel leads down to the water, for a quick escape.

2. Sean MacDiarmada Cottage, County Leitrim:

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/sean-mac-diarmada-cottage/:

The homestead of the 1916 leader Seán Mac Diarmada in Kiltyclogher, County Leitrim is the jewel in the county’s historic crown.

The cottage is the only original existing homeplace of any of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It offers an unparalleled insight into the origins of a key figure in one of the most explosive episodes of Irish history. It is also an authentic traditional Irish cottage and as such gives us a glimpse of what life was like for ordinary people a hundred years ago.

The cottage has been maintained in its original condition for decades. Regular tours allow visitors to experience the authentic atmosphere of this incredible historical resource.

Mayo:

3. Ceide Fields, Glenurla, Ballycastle, County Mayo:

Ceide Fields, photograph by Alison Crummy, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [1]

General Information: 096 43325, ceidefields@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/ceide-fields/:

Beneath the wild boglands of north Mayo lies a system of fields, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs which together make up the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world.

The stone-walled fields, extending over hundreds of hectares, are the oldest known globally, dating back almost 6,000 years. They are covered by a natural blanket bog with its own unique vegetation and wildlife.

The award-winning visitor centre is set against some of the most dramatic rock formations in Ireland. A viewing platform on the edge of the 110-metre-high cliff will help you make the most of the breathtaking scenery. Come prepared with protective clothing and sturdy footwear, though. The terrain – and the weather – can be challenging.

Day break over the Visitors centre overlooking the Ceide Fields and the Atlantic Coast County Mayo Ireland, photo from Ireland’s Content Pool by Failte Ireland. [see 1]

Roscommon:

4. Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon:

Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.

General information: 071 966 2604, boyleabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/boyle-abbey/:

This Cistercian monastery was founded in the twelfth century by monks from Mellifont Abbey under the patronage of the local ruling family, the MacDermotts. It was one of the most powerful of the early Cistercian foundations in Ireland and among the foremost in Connacht.

Cromwellian forces wreaked devastation when they occupied the abbey in 1659. It was further mutilated during the following centuries, when it was used to accommodate a military garrison. Despite all the violence it has suffered over the centuries, Boyle Abbey is well preserved and retains its ability to impress.

A sixteenth/seventeenth-century gatehouse has been restored and turned into an interpretive centre, where you can learn more about the abbey’s gripping history.

Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.
Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.

5. Rathcroghan, Cruachan Ai, Tulsk, Castlerea, County Roscommon:

General information: 071 963 9268, info@rathcroghan.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/rathcroghan/:

Tightly packed into a few square kilometres of the Roscommon landscape at Rathcroghan lie over 240 archaeological sites. These include Stone Age tombs and royal burial mounds, great ringforts and places of ceremonial inauguration.
The legendary Oweynagat (Cave of the Cats), for example, is regarded as the origin-place of the festival of Samhain. Fearful Christian scribes described Oweynagat as Ireland’s Gate to Hell.

A two-metre standing stone, meanwhile, is said to mark the grave of King Dathi, the last pagan king of Ireland, who died when he was struck by lightning in the Alps.

Perhaps most impressively, the great warrior Queen Medb ruled all of Connacht from her home at Rathcroghan.
Experience Rathcroghan’s rich archaeology, mythology and history through our interpretive rooms and expertly guided tours. The Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, the home of our museum, is located in the medieval village of Tulsk, Co. Roscommon.
(This is a Communities Involvement Initiative Project, supported by the OPW.)

We went to the Visitor Centre when in County Roscommon during Heritage week 2022, but did not go to the actual site.

I found the timeline in the Visitor’s Centre very helpful for seeing the age of various archaeological sites. Rathcroghan is mainly a bronze age site, and so is from around 1000BCE. Newgrange is Neothilic and therefore over 2000 years before the Bronze Age, created around 3200BCE.

It’s really interesting to see other events on the timeline in relation to archaeological sites in Ireland. Newgrange is older than the pyramids of Egypt which were built in the Chalcolithic age, and both pre-date the Bronze Age and Iron Age.
Before the Iron Age was the Bronze Age, which is where we can chronologically place much of Rathcroghan.
The Visitor Centre in Rathcroghan has some Bronze Age artefacts on loan from the National Museum of Ireland. We can even see a tiny arrow head older than the Bronze Age items, which is from the Neolithic period.
I find it incredible that this Bronze Age bowl, which could be as old as 4500 years, is still intact.

After the Bronze age came the Iron Age, which was around the year zero. The visitor centre has a model dressed in Iron age clothing:

He wears a yellow linen shirt, or leine dyed with saffron. Over this he wears a red tunic or ionar. The cape or brat is trimmed with fur. These Irish items of dress were worn for centuries. This man would have been a warrior of high rank. The sword would have been made of bronze in Ireland but imitates the steel sword of a type made in Grundlingen in Germany. The shield would be made of wood covered in leather with a metal handgrip.

The rath gives the place its name, while the area is called in Irish Cruachan Ai.

Sligo:

6. Ballymote Castle, County Sligo:

Ballymote Castle, County Sligo, August 2021.

The OPW information board at the site tells us that Ballymote, taken from an Irish word meaning “town of the mound,” was built by the Norman Richard de Burgo, the “Red Earl” of Ulster in around 1300. It was probably the strongest castle in Connacht, but was captured by the O’Connor family in 1317 and from then on it changed hands many times. In 1598 it was sold for £400 and 300 cows to Red Hugh O’Donnell (1572-1602) and it was from here that he assembled his army for the Battle of Kinsale (1601). He was beaten in this battle by Charles Blount, 8th Baron Mountjoy (who served as Lord Deputy of Ireland under Queen Elizabeth I and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under James I), and he left for Spain to seek support from King Philip III, but died abroad in 1602.

Charles Blount (1563-1606), 8th Baron Mountjoy, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Nearly 100 years later it was surrendered to Lord Granard after an artillery attack, and fell into ruin. The information board also tells us that the Book of Ballymote was partly compiled at the caste in around 1400. It is a manuscript including sections on the invasions of Ireland, the creation of the world and a study of the old Irish Ogham style of writing.

Runic writing on a deer antler from the 11th century! It was found in Fishamble Street, Dublin, and is kept in the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street in Dublin. See the key for the ogham alphabet below the antler.
Ballymote Castle, County Sligo, August 2021.

6. Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, County Sligo:

General information: 071 916 1534, carrowmoretomb@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/carrowmore-megalithic-cemetery/:

Carrowmore – the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland. It lies just south-west of Sligo town, right at the heart of the Cúil Írra Peninsula, an area alive with prehistoric significance.

Packed together at Carrowmore are more than 30 stone tombs, many of which are still visible. Most are passage tombs and boulder circles. There are various forts and standing stones in the area too. The origins of these monuments reach far into prehistory – the most ancient among them is close to 6,000 years old.

A restored cottage houses an exciting new exhibition that will satisfy the curiosity of even the most demanding visitors. Come prepared for a hike across rugged terrain.

Tomb 4 and Listoghil, or number 51, in background.
Listoghil, or number 51, mirrors Ben Bulben mountain in the background. Stephen likes the way that if one stands and turns around 360 degrees, the mountains around Carrowmore seem to hold and enfold one.
The whole area around Carrowmore is called Cuil Irran, which includes Knocknarea, the huge pile of stones on top of a nearby mountain said to be Queen Maebh’s tomb, Carrowmore and Carns Hill.
Tomb 1, where the outer and inner circles remain intact.
Carrowmore megalithic cemetery, Co. Sligo, Photographer/Creator/ Rory O’Donnell for Fáilte Ireland, 2021.
Looking in to Listoghil.
Inside Listoghil.
Inside Listoghil.
Inside Listoghil.
Tomb 4, Stephen’s favourite.
Tomb 4, Stephen’s favourite.
Tomb 4, Stephen’s favourite.
Tomb 7, still on private land.

7. Sligo Abbey, Abbey Street, County Sligo:

Sligo Abbey, Sligo Town, photograph Courtesy Eddie Lee/Ed Lee Photography 2022 for Fáilte Ireland.

General information: 071 914 6406, sligoabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/sligo-abbey/:

This Dominican friary has dominated Sligo town centre since the mid-thirteenth century, when it was created by Maurice FitzGerald, the founder of the town itself. Some of the building from that period has survived the next nine centuries of turmoil.

The abbey was partially destroyed by burning in 1414, when it fell foul of an unattended candle, and suffered further mutilation following the Rebellion of 1641. According to legend, worshippers salvaged the abbey’s silver bell at that time and threw it into Lough Gill. You can hear it peal even now – provided, that is, that you are wholly free from sin.

Despite the ravages of history, the abbey contains a great wealth of carvings, including Gothic and Renaissance tomb sculpture, a well-preserved cloister and a sculptured fifteenth-century high altar – the only such altar to survive in an Irish monastic church.

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

Places to Visit and Stay in County Roscommon, Connaught

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

I am continuing to separate “province” entries into counties, as the province entries for places to visit and stay were too long.

The five counties of Connaught are Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo.

As well as places to visit, I have listed separately places to stay, because some of them are worth visiting – you may be able to visit for afternoon tea or a meal.

For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

€€ – up to approx €250 per night for two;

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Places to visit in County Roscommon:

1. Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon – OPW

2. Castlecoote House, Castlecoote, Co. Roscommon – section 482

3. Clonalis House, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon – section 482

4. King House, Main Street, Boyle, Co. Roscommon – section 482

5. Rathcroghan, County Roscommon – OPW

6. Shannonbridge Fortifications, Shannonbridge, Athlone, Co. Roscommon – section 482

7. Strokestown Park House, Strokestown Park House, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon – section 482

Places to stay, County Roscommon:

1. Abbey Hotel, Abbeytown, Ballypheasan, Roscommon, Co Roscommon 

2. Castlecoote, County Roscommon (also Section 482) see above

3. Clonalis House, Castlerea, Co Roscommon – accommodation and 482 – see above

4. Edmondstown (Bishop’s Palace or St. Nathy’s), Ballaghaderreen Co Roscommon – airbnb 

5.  Kilronan Castle (formerly Castle Tenison), Ballyfarnan, County Roscommon – hotel  

Places to visit in County Roscommon:

1. Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon – OPW

Boyle Abbey County Roscommon.

See my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/14/office-of-public-works-properties-connacht/

1. Castlecoote House, Castlecoote, Co. Roscommon – section 482

Castlecoote House, County Roscommon, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Kevin Finnerty
Tel: 087-2587537
www.castlecootehouse.com
Open: July1-31, Aug 1-31
Garden-guided tours, 2pm-6pm
Home of the Percy French Festival, www.percyfrench.ie 

July 20,21,22, 10am-4pm Fee: €5

2. Clonalis House, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon – section 482

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/10/16/clonalis-castlerea-county-roscommon/
contact: Pyers O’Conor Nash, Richard O’Connor Nash
Tel: 094-9620014
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
April 1-September 30
www.clonalishouse.com
Open: Jun 1-Aug 31, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, guided tours,11am-4pm
Fee: adult €10, child €5, group rates available

3. King House, Main Street, Boyle, Co. Roscommon – section 482

King House, County Roscommon, August 2022.

contact: Majella Hunt
Tel: 090-6637100

www.visitkinghouse.ie

Open: April 1-Sept 30, National Heritage Week Aug 13-21, Mon-Sat 11am-5pm, Sunday 11am-4pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP/student /child €5, Family €20

We visited King House during Heritage Week in 2022 – write-up coming soon!

4. Shannonbridge Fortifications, Shannonbridge, Athlone, Co. Roscommon – section 482

Shannonbridge Fortifications, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Fergal Moran
Tel: 090-9674973 

www.shannonbridgefortifications.ie 

Open: May 1-Sept 30, 10am-6pm

Fee: Free

5. Strokestown Park House, Strokestown Park House, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon – section 482

Strokestown Park, County Roscommon, August 2022.

contact: Ciarán
Tel: 01-8748030
www.strokestownpark.ie www.irishheritagetrust.ie
Open: Mar 17-Dec 20, Mar, Apr, May, Sept, Oct, 10am-5pm, June, July, Aug, 10am- 6pm, Nov, Dec 10.30am-4pm

Fee: adult €14, €12.50, €9.25, OAP/student €12.50, child €6, family €29, groups €11.50

We visited in 2022 during Heritage Week but unfortunately the house was being renovated and was not open to the public yet. We did manage to get inside, to see a few rooms, as we attended a talk about the darkroom that had been installed in Strokestown by a previous owner, Henry Pakenham Mahon (1851-1922). We also toured the excellent famine museum, which manages to be fascinating rather than depressing, especially due to the final act, as it were, where the steward for the Pakenham Mahons was shot by one of the disgruntled tenants. My write-up will be coming soon! And we need to make another visit to see the rest of the interior of Strokestown House.

Places to stay, County Roscommon:

1. Abbey Hotel, Abbeytown, Ballypheasan, Roscommon, Co Roscommon 

https://www.abbeyhotel.ie

The website tells us: “The 4* Abbey Hotel located in the heart of the Irish Midlands town of Roscommon is considered by many as one of Ireland’s last few remaining authentic family-run hotels.

The National Inventory tells us it is a five-bay two-storey house, built c. 1800, now in use as a hotel, with advanced two-bay tower with entrance and with recessed two-bay gable-fronted block to south end of façade and modern single-storey extensions to east and south.

This Georgian House was remodelled as a miniature Gothic castle possibly by Richard Richards. Though the form of this building has been altered with many extensions added to facilitate its new function as a hotel, it still maintains many original materials. The elaborate entranceway, turrets and castellated parapet combine to make this a very striking building. The landscaped grounds with castellated turrets offset the ruins of the medieval Abbey located to the south of the hotel.

2. Castlecoote, County Roscommon (also Section 482) – see above

www.castlecootehouse.com

3. Clonalis House, Castlerea, Co Roscommon – accommodation and 482 – see above

4. Edmondstown (Bishop’s Palace or St. Nathy’s), Ballaghaderreen Co Roscommon – airbnb

Edmondstown (Bishop’s Palace or St. Nathy’s), Ballaghaderreen Co Roscommon, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/27927866?source_impression_id=p3_1580207144_IGlnwq6lh1FFj9pW

The Bishop’s Palace (aka Edmondstown House) was built in 1864 by Captain Arthur Robert Costello. The house was designed by John McCurdy, who also remodelled the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. It is built in the High Victorian Gothic style. 

For 100 years the house was the residence of the Bishop of Achonry.  

A historically interesting building with beautiful grounds (and a full Irish breakfast!) 

The National Inventory tells us:

Edmondstown House, otherwise known as Saint Nathy’s, is a rare example of High Victorian Gothic in County Roscommon. The construction of such an architecturally expressive structure was an ambitious project for the original owner, Captain Arthur Costello. Edmondstown House exhibits many features typical of High Victorian architecture, famously employed by architect such as Deane and Woodward, and J.S. Mulvany. These architectural elements include the octagonal tower and the string courses of red brick framing the pointed-arch window openings, and the decorative cast-iron roof finials.

5.  Kilronan Castle (formerly Castle Tenison), Ballyfarnan, County Roscommon – hotel 

Amazingly, when this was photographed for the National Inventory, it was a ruin! It has now been completely renovated. https://www.kilronancastle.ie

The website tells us:

Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa should be on your list of castles to stay at in Ireland. The luxury 4 star castle hotel is situated in County Roscommon in a secluded corner of the idyllic West of Ireland. Built in the 18th century, the Kilronan Castle resort welcomes its guests through a set of magnificent medieval gates at the top of a meandering driveway through an ancient forest which is surrounded by fifty acres of lush green estate and next to a beautiful lough making the castle look like something straight out of a fairytale.

Kilronan Castle Estate is also a site that is full of history as it was lovingly transformed from the ancestral home of a royal family into a luxurious Irish castle hotel with a spa. The castle hotel seamlessly mixes the elegance, sophistication and tradition of the past with the luxury and comfort of the modern era. This makes Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa one of the most luxurious castle hotels in Ireland to stay in. Kilronan Castle’s location and surroundings include breathtaking views as well as peace and quiet which makes a break at Kilronan Castle feel like time is standing still.

The name Kilronan comes from the Gaelic ‘Cill Ronain’, meaning Ronan’s Abbey. According to tradition, St. Ronan and his daughter St. Lasair established a church here on the banks of Lough Meelagh in the 6th century. However, it is the building of a home for a famous land-owning family, that has made this part of Roscommon famous the world over. That said, it wasn’t always known as Kilronan Castle.

During the era of Edward I in the late 13th century, there was a family known as the Tenisons. Although they originated from Oxfordshire, their descendents eventually settled in the north of Ireland in the mid-17th century. Down through the ages, they would fight with the Irish Brigade in France, Spain and Portugal and then serve as members of The Irish Guards during the Boer Wars. Although valiant soldiers, generation after generation of Tenison heirs would famously squander their inheritances, only to reimburse themselves by marrying wealthy heiresses.

Marrying into majesty

One such advocate of this technique was Thomas Tenison. Initially an MP for Boyle in 1792, he later became a lieutenant colonel in the Roscommon Militia. In 1803, he married the Lady Frances Anne King, daughter of Edward, 1st Earl of Kingston. As a result, this branch of the family became known as the King-Tenisons. At this stage the King-Tenisons held extensive estates, with over 17, 726 acres to their name in Roscommon alone. Within the year, Colonel King-Tenison and his new bride would demolish their humble house and build a residence fit for a family of their great stature – Castle Tenison.

At the end of a short tree-lined avenue, on the banks of the beautiful Lough Meelagh, their new home consisted of a magnificent three storeys, with three bay-symmetrical castellated blocks and slender corner turrets. The well-proportioned rooms and delicate fan-vaulting plaster work on the stairs and landing made it a spacious and costly modern-built edifice and one worthy of their name.

From extension to destruction

In 1876, Lieutenant-Colonel Edward King-Tenison, the 12th Earl of Kingston, and his wife Lady Louisa, extended the castle to five storeys. They also added a magnificent over-basement baronial tower and battlements. The Earl and Countess of Kingston enjoyed the estate immensely and the quality of the shooting available on their grounds drew people from across Ireland to share in their incredible home.

Unfortunately, the political and social change that was happening in Ireland at that time ensured their stays in their home became less and less frequent. Although fully furnished, the castle was seldom occupied and was eventually closed and sold along with many other great country estates in Ireland at that time. While religious orders and, at one time the Free State Military, ensured the castle remained unoccupied, the contents of the castle were sold by auction in 1939 and the roof was even removed in the 1950s in an attempt to mitigate taxation.

A labour of unrivalled love

By 2004, all that remained was the perimeter walls and a huge challenge for the new owners, the Hanly Group. In 2006, Irish Father & Son Albert and Alan Hanly undertook a significant restoration project to rejuvenate Kilronan Castle into the luxury castle estate and spa. Combined with the painstaking sourcing and procurement of many antique fixtures and fittings, original paintings of some of the extended members of the Tenison family were also acquired. What’s more, historians and curators were also commissioned to ensure faithful attention to detail including the sensitive selection of interior design and materials from a bygone era. A secluded location, standard-setting craftsmanship, breathtaking views and the perfect blend of old-world elegance and new-world luxury, has turned Kilronan Castle from a forgotten ruin into a truly magical destination once again.