“Dunmore Cave, not far from Kilkenny town, is a series of limestone chambers formed over millions of years. It contains some of the most impressive calcite formations found in any Irish underground structure.
The cave has been known for many centuries and is first mentioned in the ninth-century Triads of Ireland, where it is referred to as one of the ‘darkest places in Ireland’. The most gruesome reference, however, comes from the Annals of the Four Masters, which tells how the Viking leader Guthfrith of Ivar massacred a thousand people there in AD 928. Archaeological investigation has not reliably confirmed that such a massacre took place, but finds within the cave – including human remains – do indicate Viking activity.
Dunmore is now a show cave, with guided tours that will take you deep into the earth – and even deeper into the past.“
2. Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, County Kilkenny.
General information: 056 772 4623, email@example.com
“Founded in the 12th century, Jerpoint Abbey is one of the best examples of a medieval Cistercian Abbey in Ireland. The architectural styles within the church, constructed in the late twelfth century, reflect the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. The tower and cloister date to the fifteenth century.
Jerpoint is renowned for its detailed stone sculptures found throughout the monastery. Dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries these include mensa [table] tombs from the O’Tunney school, an exquisite incised depiction of two 13th century knights, the decorated cloister arcades along with other effigies and memorials.
Children can explore the abbey with a treasure hunt available in the nearby visitor centre. Search the abbey to discover saints, patrons, knights, exotic animals and mythological creatures.
A small but informative visitor centre houses an excellent exhibition.“
3. Kells Priory, Kells, County Kilkenny:
General information: 056 772 4623, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“Kells Priory owes its foundation to the Anglo-Norman consolidation of Leinster. Founded by Geoffrey FitzRobert, a household knight and trusted companion of William Marshal the priory was one element of Geoffrey’s establishment of the medieval town of Kells.
Although founded in c. 1193 extensive remains exist today which include a nave, chancel, lady chapel, cloister and associated builds plus the remains of the priory’s infirmary, workshop, kitchen, bread oven and mill. The existence of the medieval defences, surrounding the entire precinct, underline the military aspect of the site and inspired the priory’s local name, the ‘Seven Castles of Kells’.“
4. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny:
General information: 056 770 4100, email@example.com
From the OPW website:
“Built in the twelfth century, Kilkenny Castle was the principal seat of the Butlers, earls, marquesses and dukes of Ormond for almost 600 years. Under the powerful Butler family, Kilkenny grew into a thriving and vibrant city. Its lively atmosphere can still be felt today.
The castle, set in extensive parkland, was remodelled in Victorian times. It was formally taken over by the Irish State in 1969 and since then has undergone ambitious restoration works. It now welcomes thousands of visitors a year.“
Kilkenny Castle has been standing for over eight hundred years, dominating Kilkenny City and the South East of Ireland. Originally built in the 13th century by William Marshall, 4th Earl of Pembroke, as a symbol of Norman control, Kilkenny Castle came to symbolise the fortunes of the powerful Butlers of Ormonde for over six hundred years. 
In 1967 James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde sold the Castle to the Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee for £50. Two years later it went into state ownership.
William Marshall (about 1146-1219) was married to the daughter of “Strongbow” Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. With the marriage, he gained land and eventually, the title, Earl of Pembroke. The daughter of Strongbow, Isabel, inherited the title of 4th Countess of Pembroke “suo jure” i.e. herself (her brother, who died a minor, was the 3rd Earl). Hence William Marshall became the 4th Earl through his wife, but then then was created the 1st Earl of Pembroke himself ten years after their marriage. They seem to have settled in Ireland and created place for themselves, beginning with setting up the town of New Ross and then restoring Kilkenny town and castle – a castle had pre-dated them, according to the Kilkenny Castle website. It tells us that the present-day castle is based on the stone fortress that Marshall designed, comprising an irregular rectangular fortress with a drum-shaped tower at each corner. Three of these towers survive to this day.
By 1200, Kilkenny was the capital of Norman Leinster and New Ross was its principal port. The Marshalls also founded the Cistercian abbeys at Tintern in County Wexford and Duiske in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, as well as the castles at Ferns and Enniscorthy. He died and was buried in England. 
In 1317, the de Clare family sold the Kilkenny castle to Hugh Despenser. The Despensers were absentee landlords. In 1391 the Despensers sold the castle to James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, 9th Chief Butler of Ireland (1360–1405). The first Butler to come to Ireland was Theobald Walter Le Botiller or Butler, 1st Baron Butler, 1st Chief Butler of Ireland (1165–1206). He was called “Le Botiller” because he received the monopoly of the taxes on wines being imported into Ireland (which The Peerage website tells us was eventually purchased back by the Crown from the Marquess of Ormonde for £216,000 in 1811.)
The Butlers were an important family in Ireland. They fought for the king in France and Scotland, and held positions of power, including Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the monarch’s representative in Ireland.
The castle now forms a “u” shape, because in the time of Oliver Cromwell’s invasion, the fourth wall fell. After the Restoration of 1660, there was a major rebuilding of the old castle. In 1826, another remodelling of the castle began. In 1935, the Butler family held a great auction, selling all of the castle’s furnishings.
Thomas Butler the 7th Earl of Ormond (d. 1515) lacked a male heir, and on his death, the Earldom was contested between Sir Piers Butler and his grandchildren led by Sir Thomas Boleyn. Thomas was favoured by King Henry VIII when Henry married his daughter Anne Boleyn. Piers Butler (1467-1539) was a descendant of the 3rd Earl of Ormond. Piers relinquished the claim to the title Earl of Ormond to Boleyn and was created Earl of Ossory by Henry VIII. The lands of the 7th Earl were divided between both parties. After a rapid escalation of disputes with rural Fitzgeralds and Boleyns, Piers regained his position and was recognised Earl of Ormond in February 1538.
The Crown hoped Piers would improve the Crown’s grip over southern Ireland. Piers the 8th Earl of Ormond gained much from Crown, including suppressed monasteries. He married Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of Gerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, in marriage arranged for the purpose of ending the long-standing rivalry between the two families. They lived in Kilkenny Castle and greatly improved it. Margaret urged Piers to bring over skilled weavers from Flanders and she helped establish industries for the production of carpets, tapestries and cloth. Margaret and her husband commissioned significant additions to the castles of Granagh and Ormond. They also rebuilt Gowran Castle, which had been originally constructed in 1385 by James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond.
Walter Butler’s claim to the family estates was blocked by James I. The latter orchestrated the marriage of Black Tom’s daughter and heiress Elizabeth to a Scottish favourite Richard Preston, Baron Dingwall. The King gave Preston the title Earl of Desmond (after the Fitzgeralds lost the title, due to their Desmond Rebellion, and awarded his wife most of the Ormond estate, thus depriving Walter of his inheritance. Walter refused to submit and was imprisoned for eight years in the Fleet, London. He was released 1625. Walter’s nine-year-old grandson, James, became the heir to the titles but not the estates.
James Butler (1610-88) 12th Earl of Ormond (later 1st Duke of Ormond) was the eldest son of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, and his wife Elizabeth Poyntz. Following his father’s death in 1619, 9-year-old James became direct heir to the Ormond titles. He was made a royal ward and was educated at Lambeth Palace under the tutelage of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury.
In order to reunite the Ormond title with the estates, plans were made for a marriage between James and the daughter of the Prestons, Elizabeth, to resolve the inheritance issue. In 1629 James married his cousin Elizabeth Preston and reunited the Ormond estates.
James succeeded to the Ormond titles in 1633 on the death of his grandfather, Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond.
The website tells us: “A staunch royalist, Ormond was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in Ireland in 1641. He served his first term of three as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1648 to 1650. Following the defeat of the royalists in Ireland, Ormond went to exile and spent most of the years 1649 to 1660 abroad, moving about Europe with the exiled court of Charles II. After the restoration of the monarchy in England, Ormond was rewarded with a dukedom and several high offices by a grateful king. Though he enjoyed the king’s favour, Ormond had enemies at court and as a result of the machinations of the Cabal, which included powerful figures such as the Earl of Shaftesbury, he was dismissed from his post as Lord Lieutenant in 1669. When he was raised to a dukedom in the English peerage in 1682, Ormond left Ireland to reside in England. During his last term as Lord Lieutenant (1677-85), he played a major role in the planning and founding of the Royal Hospital for old soldiers at Kilmainham, near Dublin. The last decade of his life was marked by tragedy: all three of his sons and his wife died during that time. He died at his residence at Kingston Lacy in Dorset was buried in Westminster Abbey.“
Note that the “Cabal” was the term used to refer to the clique around the king. The term comes from an acronym of their names, Sir Thomas Clifford 1st Baron Clifford, Henry Benet 1st Earl of Arlington, George Villiers 2nd Duke of Buckingham, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Ashley 1st Earl of Shaftesbury and John Maitland, 1st Duke and 2nd Earl of Lauderdale.
The 1st Duke of Ormond carried out improvements to the castle. Mark Bence-Jones describes:
“The Great Duke transformed the castle from a medieval fortress into a pleasant country house, rather like the chateau or schloss of contemporary European princeling; with high-pitched roofs and cupolas surmounted by vanes and gilded ducal coronets on the old round towers. Outworks gave place to gardens with terraces, a “waterhouse” a fountain probably carved by William de Keyser, and statues copied from those in Charles II’s Privy Gardens. The Duchess seems to have been the prime mover in the work, in which William (afterwards Sir William) Robinson, Surveyor-General and architect of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, was probably involved, supervising the construction of the Presence Chamber 1679. Robinson is also believed to have designed the magnificent entrance gateway of Portland and Caen stone with a pediment, Corinthian pilasters and swags which the second Duke erected on the street front of the castle ca 1709. Not much else was done to the castle in C18, for the Ormondes suffered a period of eclipse following the attainder and exile of the 2nd Duke, who became a Jacobite after the accession of George I.” 
The website tells us that there has been an entrance hall here at least since the 17th century rebuilding of the castle. The north doorway through the massive curtain wall was remodelled on two occasions in the 19th century. The black and white stone floor is laid with Kilkenny Black Marble and local sandstone, laid in the 19th century.
This 19th century mahogany staircase was designed and made by the local firm of Furniss & Son, Kilkenny and leads to the Tapestry Room and first floor. The use of mahogany in domestic furniture, which is so synonymous with the Grand House, is virtually unknown before the 18th century. Most of the wood imported came from the Jamaican Plantations which were cleared in order to plant sugar cane and cotton. During the 19th century this staircase was hung with several beautiful tapestries from the Decius Mus suite, some of which are now housed in the Tapestry Room.
The Tapestry Room in the North Tower shows how the medieval castle was transformed in the 17th century to become a magnificent baroque ducal palace. This room was called the Great Chamber in the 17th century and the walls were decorated with embossed and gilded leather hangings on the walls; a fragment of a late 17th/ early 18th century leather has been hung beside the door to give an impression of how rich the room must have been. In the 18th century, they were replaced by a set of tapestries.
The ground floor also contains the State Dining Room. The website tells us that this was the formal dining room in the 1860’s. Historic evidence shows that this room was hung in the late 19th century with a red flock paper when it was a billiard room. The strong blue on the walls echoes the colour in the original 19th century-stained glass windows and provides a backdrop for the Langrishe family portraits, which originated in Knocktopher Abbey, Kilkenny, and are now in the care of the State. Most large estate houses would have had both a formal and informal Dining Room. The collection of silverware contains some pieces from the original 18th century collection, purchased by Walter Butler, the 18th Earl after his marriage to the wealthy heiress Anna Maria Price Clarke.
From the website: “Today the first floor space is occupied by three rooms: Anteroom, Library and Drawing Room, as it was in the 19th century. The processional lay out of the rooms, each opening into the next is characteristic of the Baroque style of the 17th century and was know as an ‘enfilade’ suite of rooms. Baroque protocol dictated that visitors of lower rank than their host would be escorted by servants down the enfilade to the nearest room that their status allowed. In the 16th and 17th century the State Rooms were situated on this floor. 17th century history records that it was in these state apartments that James Butler 1st Duke of Ormonde received the Papal Nuncio Giovanni Battista Rinuccini during the Irish Confederate Wars of that century. An Anteroom was a small room used as a waiting room, that leads into a larger and more important room. The Anteroom and the room below, today the Serving Room, were constructed in the area where an earlier stone staircase was situated.” The anteroom features a reproduction poplin wallpaper and bronze figurines in niches.
The anteroom leads to the library. “The interior decoration is a faithful recreation of the furnishing style of the mid to late 19th century. Thanks to a salvaged fabric remnant found behind a skirting board, it was possible to commission the French silk poplin on the walls in its original pattern and colour from the firm of Prelle in Lyons in France. The claret silk damask curtains are also based on the originals were made in Ireland. One of the nine massive curtain pelmets is original and an Irish firm of Master Gilders faithfully reproduced matching gilt reproductions. The bookcases were also reproduced based on one original bookcase acquired by the OPW in the 1980s, this original with its 19th century glass stands in the right end corner of the library. The matching pair of pier mirrors over the mantelpieces was conserved and re gilded.”
The Drawing Room is typically the room in a house where guests and visitors are entertained. Drawing rooms were previously known as ‘withdrawing rooms’ or ‘withdrawing chambers’ which originated in sixteenth century.
The fabrics in this room are vintage glazed and block printed English and French chintzes and have been chosen to recreate the style of the rooms as they appeared in the 19th century family photographs. The Drawing Room picture hang reflects the Edward Ledwich description in his 1789 “Antiquities of Ireland!” when this room was the Presence Chamber or Alcove.
The 1st Duke of Ormond had three sons: Thomas (1634-1680), 6th Earl of Ossory; Richard (1639-1686), 1st and last Earl of Arran; and John (1634-1677), 1st and last Earl of Gowran. He had two daughters, Elizabeth (1640-1665) and Mary (1646-1710). Mary married William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire and Elizabeth, the 2nd Earl of Chesterfield.
Thomas Butler (1634-1682) 6th Earl of Ossory was the father of the 2nd Duke of Ormond. Thomas was a soldier and Naval Commander, known as ‘Gallant Ossory’. Born at Kilkenny Castle in 1634, his childhood was spent at Kilkenny until he went with his father and brother Richard to England in 1647. They then went to France, where he was educated at Caen and Paris at Monsieur de Camps’ Academy. In Holland he married Amelia of Nassau, daughter of Lodewyk van Nassau, Heer van Beverweerd, a natural son of Prince Maurice of Nassau. He was a witness when James, Duke of York (later King James II) secretly married Anne Hyde in 1660.
Thomas enjoyed the favour and support of both King Charles II and his queen. Because of his wife’s Dutch connections he was frequently sent on royal missions to Holland. In 1670 he conducted William of Orange to England. John Evelyn, the diarist, was a close friend and referred to him as ‘a good natured, generous and perfectly obliging friend’. He died suddenly in 1680, possibly from food poisoning, at Arlington House in London. He was buried in Westminster Abbey
James Butler (1665-1745) 2nd Duke of Ormonde [the final ‘e’ was added to the name around this time] was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Butler 6th Earl of Ossory. Following his father’s death in 1680, James became the heir to his grandfather, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, whom he succeeded in 1688.
Following his involvement in a Jacobite rising, a Bill of Attainder was passed against the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. His English and Scottish honours and his English estates were seized. Ormonde fled to France. He lived out his life in exile, and died at Avignon in France. Despite this, he was buried in 1746 in Westminster Abbey.
James the 2nd Duke had no son, so the title passed to his brother Charles Butler (1671-1758). He was enabled by an Act of Parliament in 1721 to recover his brother’s forfeited estates, but the dukedom ended with him. He was, however, also the 14th Earl of Ormonde and this title continued. He had no children, however, so the title passed to a cousin.
Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash, County Tipperary was a younger brother of James the 1st Duke of Ormond. There is a castle ruin still in Kilcash, under the protection of the Office of Public Works but not open to the public. His son was Walter Butler of Garryricken (1633-1700). Pictured above are this Walter’s sons Christopher (the Catholic Archbishop) and Thomas (d. 1738).
Walter’s son Thomas (d. 1738) inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash. A Colonel of a Regiment of Foot in the army of King James II, Walter married Margaret Bourke, daughter of William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde, and widow of 5th Viscount Iveagh. It was their son John (d. 1766) who succeeded to the Ormonde titles as 15th Earl of Ormonde in 1758.
The 15th Earl had no children so the title then passed to a cousin, Walter Butler (1703-1783), another of the Garryricken branch, who also became the 9th Earl of Ossory. He took up residence at Kilkenny Castle. Walter, a Catholic, was unable to exercise a political role. He undertook the restoration of the Castle, decorating some of the rooms with simple late eighteenth century plasterwork, and also built the stable block across the road from the Castle, today the Design Centre and National Craft Centre (also a Section 482 property). He also built the Dower House, now a hotel called Butler House.
He married Eleanor Morres (1711-1793), the daughter of Nicholas Morres of Seapark Court, Co. Dublin, and of Lateragh, Co. Tipperary. After Walter’s death in 1783, she moved into the Dower House.
Their son John (1740-1795) became known as “Jack of the Castle” and was the 17th Earl. Jack’s sister Susannah married Thomas Kavanagh of Borris House in County Carlow (see my entry about Borris House). Jack married Anne Wandesford, pictured below.
Their son Walter (1770-1820) became the 18th Earl and 1st Marquess of Ormonde. He had no sons so his brother James Wandesford Butler (1777-1838) inherited the title of 19th Earl. He became one of the largest landowners in Ireland with an estate worth more than £20,000 a year. He was recreated 1st Marquess of Ormonde in 1825 and officiated as Chief Butler of Ireland at the Coronation of George IV. He married Grace Louisa Staples in 1807, they had ten children.
James Wandesford Butler the 19th Earl and 1st Marquess undertook more renovations. Mark Bence-Jones describes:
“Ca. 1826, the Kilkenny architect, William Robertson, when walking in the castle courtyard with the Lady Ormonde of the day, noticed that a main wall was out of true and consequently unsafe. One suspects it may have been wishful thinking on his part, for it landed him the commission to rebuild the castle, which he did so thoroughly that virtually nothing remains from before his time except for the three old towers, the outer walls and – fortunately – the 2nd Duke’s gateway. Apart from the latter, the exterior of the castle became uncompromisingly C19 feudal; all the 1st Duke’s charming features being swept away. Robertson also replaced one of two missing sides of the courtyard with a new wing containing an immense picture gallery; the original gallery, on the top floor of the principal range, having been divided into bedrooms. Robertson left the interior of the castle extremely dull, with plain or monotonously ribbed ceilings and unvarying Louis Quinze style chimneypieces.”
William Robertson also designed a Section 482 property which I have yet to visit, Lismacue in County Tipperary.
The 1st Marquess died in Dublin in 1838 and was succeeded by his eldest son John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland (see his portrait below).
John the 2nd Marquess travelled extensively. His journals (now in National Library of Ireland) record his many journeys across Europe to Italy and Sicily. He published an account of his travels, Autumn in Sicily, and he also wrote an account of the life of St. Canice. He married Frances Jane Paget in 1843. He continued the work of rebuilding Kilkenny castle that was started by his father. His journals show him to have a deep interest in art, and there are careful descriptions of several of the great galleries in Italy to be found in his writing. Although he continued to write in his journals during the years 1847 to 1850, no mention of the Irish famine is made. He died while bathing in the sea near Loftus hall on Hook Head, Co. Wexford. A marble tomb was erected in his memory in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.
The son of the 2nd Marquess, James Edward William Theobald Butler became the 3rd Marquess in 1854. It was during his time that changes were made to the rather plain picture gallery block created by William Robertson. Robertston’s Picture Gallery, in keeping with his work on the rest of the castle, was in a Castellated Baronial style. Initially the gallery was built with a flat roof that had begun to cause problems shortly after its completion. The distinguished architectural firm of Deane and Woodward was called in during the 1860s to make changes to the overall design of the Picture Gallery block, and other corrections to Robertson’s work. These changes included the insertions of four oriels in the west wall and the blocking up of the eight windows, while another oriel added to the east wall.
“The magnificent Picture Gallery is situated in the east wing of Kilkenny Castle.This stunning space dates from the 19th century and was built primarily to house the Butler Family’s fine collection of paintings.“
From the website: “… The entire ceiling was hand painted by John Hungerford Pollen (1820-1902), then Professor of Fine Arts at Newman College, Dublin, using a combination of motifs ranging from the quasi-medieval to the pre-Raphaelite, with interlace, gilded animal and bird heads on the cross beam.“
“The Marble Fireplace is made of Carrara marble and was designed by J. H. Pollen also in a quasi-medieval style. It was supplied by the firm of Ballyntyne of Dorset Street, Dublin. Foliage carving attributed to Charles Harrison covers the chimneypiece and a frieze beneath is decorated with seven panels, showing the family coat of arms and significant episodes from the family’s long history. Starting on the left, the first panel shows the buying the castle by the first Earl of Ormond in 1391 from the Despenser family – money changing hands is shown. The second panel depicts Theobald Fitzwalter acting as Chief Butler to the newly crowned King of England highlighting their ancient royal privilege and upon which their surname of Butler is based. On the third panel, you see King Richard the Second acting as godfather for one of the infants of the Butler family in 1391. The centrepiece is the family crest which can also be seen over the arch and gateway, with the family motto “comme je trouve”- “as I find”, as well as the heraldic shield guarded, the falcon, the griffin (a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle) and the ducal coronet. In the fifth panel, the 1st Duke of Ormond can be seen entering the Irish House of Lords still bearing his sword. Indeed, he refused to hand his weapon over as were the protocols in case it was used inside during an argument; this became known as The Act of Defiance. The sixth panel next to this symbolizes the charity of the Butler family showing Lady Ormonde giving alms to the poor. Finally, the sixth and last panel portrays the First Duke of Ormond’s triumphant return to Dublin from exile on the Restoration of Charles the Second in 1662, when he also established the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham and founded the Phoenix Park.”
The 3rd Marquess’s brother James Arthur Wellington Foley Butler (1849-1943) became 4th Marquess (and 22nd Earl) of Ormonde in 1919. He was educated at Harrow and joined the army becoming a lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards. He was state steward to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1887 he married Ellen Stager, daughter of American General Anson Stager.
As I mentioned earlier, it was James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde, youngest son of James Arthur, 4th Marquess of Ormonde, who in 1967 sold the Castle.
Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the interior was largely redecorated and wood-carvings in the manner of Grinling Gibbons were introduced into some of the family rooms in the South Tower after the castle suffered damage 1922 during the Civil War, when, having been occupied by one side, it was attacked and captured by the other; the Earl of Ossory (afterwards 9th Marquess) and his wife being in residence at the time. In 1935 the Ormondes ceased to live in the castle, which for the next thirty years stood empty and deteriorating. It is now a wonderful place to visit, and has fifty acres of rolling parkland, a terraced rose garden, playground, tearoom and man-made lake, for visitors to enjoy.
5. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny:
General information: 056 772 6894, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the OPW website:
“This church was built in the late thirteenth century as a collegiate church and was served by a college – clerics who lived in a community but did not submit to the rule of a monastery.
The church was patronised by the Butler family and many early family members are commemorated here with elaborate medieval tombs. The impressive ruins were decorated by the Gowran Master whose stone carvings are immortalised in the poetry of Nobel Laureate Séamus Heaney.
The once medieval church was later partly reconstructed in the early 19th century and functioned as a Church of Ireland church until the 1970’s when it was gifted to the State as a National Monument. Today the restored part of the church preserves a collection of monuments dating from the 5th to the 20th centuries.“
 p. 167. 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.
“Welcome to your authentic Castle Experience in the beautiful West of Ireland in Ballina, County Mayo. An award winning hotel & wedding venue with a gourmet restaurant, cafe and museum on site!
Explore Belleek Castle, an iconic Irish Country Home a restaurant, wedding venue, boutique hotel and spectacular exhibition of the eclectic Marshall Doran Collection of which one of our academically trained guides will be delighted to take you on a tour.
Belleek Castle has been a member of the prestigious Ireland’s Blue Book since 2016. Ireland’s Blue Book is a romantic collection of Irish Country House Hotels, Manor Houses, Castles and Restaurants. Located throughout the island of Ireland these charming and stylish hideaways are the perfect choice for your holiday vacation in Ireland. They are also ideal for a midweek or weekend break and those seeking a romantic getaway.
The neo-gothic Country House, dating from 1831, has not lost its flavour by over modernisation…This historic Belleek Castle is informal, hassle-free and friendly, rich in decor and antiquities, with many open log fires to warm your steps back through half a millennium.”
It continues in the history section:
“Belleek Castle was built between 1825 and finished in 1831 for the cost of £10,000. The building was commissioned by Sir Arthur Francis Knox-Gore for the cost of £10,000 and . The manor house was designed by the prolific architect John Benjamin Keane, and the Neo-Gothic architecture met the taste of the time, when Medieval styles became fashionable again.”
John B. Keane began his career as assistant to Richard Morrison in the early 1820s and set up his own practice by 1823, David Hicks tells us in his Irish Country Houses, A Chronicle of Change. The stone for the house was quarried from nearby quarry in Moyne. Francis Arthur Francis Knox-Gore had inherited the estate in 1818 when he was 15, and the manor was built after his marriage to Sarah Nesbit Knox from Castle Lacken, County Mayo. It is thought to have replaced an earlier structure, as the basement area of the castle today appears to be older than the floors above.
The website continues: “The house is thought to have replaced an earlier structure & is named after the original Belleek Castle, a 13th Tower House Castle situated on the banks of the River Moy. Francis lived at Belleek Castle with his wife Sarah and his 9 children until his death in 1873. According to his wishes he was buried in Belleek Demense. A striking Neo-Gothic Monument, designed by James Franklin Fuller, now marks his grave and is situated in the middle of Belleek Woods. It is said that his wife & favourite horse are both buried beside him. His eldest son Charles Knox-Gore inherited & became the 2nd Baronet. Charles died without issue in 1890 & was also buried in Belleek Demense beside the River Moy, and his dog Phizzie was buried beside him. The house was inherited by his sister Matilda who married Major General William Boyd Saunders of Torquay. Their grandson William Arthur Cecil Saunders-Knox-Gore sold the house in 1942.
The house was later purchased by the Beckett family who intended on converting the Manor House into a stud farm but later sold the house. Mayo County Council purchased the house in the 1950s and used the Manor House as a hospital & military barracks and was later abandoned it. It was at this time that Mayo County Council considered taking the roof of the building to avoid paying rates. Fortunately Marshall Doran, a merchant navy officer and an avid collector of fossils and medieval armour, acquired the run down property in 1961, restored it and opened it as a hotel in 1970. Some of the rooms are in 19th style, whilst most of the interior design has a medieval and nautical touch. Marshall, being quite a craftsman, did a lot of the work himself, assisted by John Mullen, and supervised the restoration expertly. Today, the Castle is managed by Marshall’s son Paul Doran and Ms. Maya Nikolaeva.“
And about the tour of the castle:
“The Belleek Castle Tour includes an explanation of the origins of the Castle and the history of its former owners, the Knox-Gore family, the Earls of Arran. Learn about the life of Marshall Doran an adventurer, sailor & smuggler who restored Belleek Castle in the 1960’s. Visitors will see private dining rooms, decorated in opulent romantic style, as well as rooms designed by Marshal such as the Medieval Banquet Hall, the Spanish Armada Bar and the Tween Deck. The highlight of the tour is The Marshall Doran Collection, which is one of the finest collections of Jurassic fossils, Medieval Weapons and Medieval armour in Ireland. Visitors will also see the Grace O’Malley “The Pirate Queen’s” bed, the last wolf shot in Connaught and other curiosities.”
contact: Patricia and John Noone Tel: 094-9371348, 087-3690499, 086-2459832 Open: Jan 13-20, Apr 13-20, May 18-24, June 8-14, July 13-19, Aug 1-25, 2pm-6pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/child/student €3, National Heritage Week free.
The National Inventory tells us it is a:
“Detached three-bay two-storey double-pile over part raised basement country house with attic, built 1845, on a T-shaped plan centred on single-bay full-height gabled frontispiece; three- or five-bay two-storey rear (south) elevation centred on single-bay full-height gabled “bas-relief” breakfront… “Restored”, 1990-1…Tudor-headed central door opening approached by flight of thirteen drag edged tooled cut-limestone steps between wrought iron railings, trefoil leaf-embossed timber doorcase having engaged colonette-detailed moulded rebated reveals with hood moulding on polygonal label stops framing timber panelled door. Pointed-arch flanking window openings with creeper- or ivy-covered sills, timber Y-mullions, and carved timber surrounds framing timber casement windows. Square-headed window openings in tripartite arrangement with drag edged dragged cut-limestone sills, timber cruciform mullions, and rendered flush surrounds having chamfered reveals with hood mouldings framing two-over-two timber sash windows without horns. Hipped square-headed central door opening to rear (south) elevation approached by flight of nine drag edged tooled cut-limestone steps between replacement mild steel railings, tooled cut-limestone surround having chamfered reveals with hood moulding framing glazed timber panelled double doors having sidelights below overlight. Square-headed window openings with rendered flush surrounds having chamfered reveals framing timber casement windows. Interior including (ground floor): central hall on a square plan retaining carved timber lugged surrounds to door openings framing timber panelled doors, and moulded plasterwork cornice to ceiling; and carved timber surrounds to door openings to remainder framing timber panelled doors with carved timber surrounds to window openings framing timber panelled shutters on panelled risers. Set in landscaped grounds.
A country house erected to a design attributed to Frederick Darley Junior (1798-1872) of Dublin representing an important component of the domestic built heritage of the rural environs of Claremorris with the architectural value of the composition, one enveloping a “four square” house annotated as “Brook hill [of] Kirwan Esquire” by Taylor and Skinner (1778 pl. 214), confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on panoramic vistas overlooking landscaped grounds; the symmetrical frontage centred on a “medieval” doorcase demonstrating good quality workmanship with the corresponding Garden Front centred on a streamlined doorcase; the diminishing in scale of the multipartite openings on each floor producing a graduated tiered visual effect with the principal “apartments” defined by polygonal bay windows; and the robust timber work embellishing the roofline. Having been well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where contemporary joinery; Classical-style chimneypieces; and decorative plasterwork enrichments, all highlight the artistic potential of the composition. Furthermore, adjacent outbuildings (extant 1893); a lengthy walled garden (extant 1893); and an abbreviated “Triumphal Column” erected over the burial place of Joseph Lambert JP (1793-1855), all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of an estate having historic connections with the Lambert family including Joseph Lambert (1760-1813), one-time High Sheriff of County Mayo (fl. 1796); Alexander Clendenning Lambert JP DL (1803-92), ‘County Treasurer late of Brookhill County Mayo’ (Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1893, 432); Colonel Joseph Alexander Lambert JP DL (1855-1907), ‘late of Brookhill Claremorris County Mayo and of Bouverie Road West Folkestone Kent’ (Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1908, 297); and Brigadier Alexander Fane Lambert DL (1887-1974), later of Auld Licht Manse, Angus, Scotland; and a succession of tenants including Valentine Joseph Blake JP (1842-1912), ‘Land Agent’ (NA 1901); Major General Reginald Henry Mahon (1859-1929; NA 1911); and Katharine Tynan Hinkson (1859-1931; occupant 1916-21), poet and author of the autobiographical “The Years of the Shadow” (1919) and “The Wandering Years” (1922).“
The Landed Estates database tells us:
“Brookhill was situated on church land held by the Gonnes, who leased the house to the Kirwans in the late 1770s. Occupied by the Lambert family from the 1790s to the 1940s when it was sold to Gerald Maguire, a solicitor in Claremorris. Now the home of the Noone family.” 
The National Inventory tells us it is “A coastguard station erected to a design examined (1876) by Enoch Trevor Owen (c.1833-81), Assistant Architect to the Board of Public Works (appointed 1863), representing an important component of the later nineteenth-century maritime architectural heritage of County Mayo. Having been reasonably well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior: the introduction of replacement fittings to the openings, however, has not had a beneficial impact on the character or integrity of the composition. Nevertheless, an adjacent boathouse (extant 1897) continues to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a neat self-contained ensemble making a pleasing visual statement in a low hillside overlooking the islet-studded Westport Bay.“
“Partry House is a charming historic house in a unique and secluded old estate by the shores of Lough Carra.
Built in 1667 on the site of an old Castle, it is set in just 250 acres of unspoilt woodland, bog, pasture and parkland.
The farm and gardens are run on ecologically friendly and organic principles. Wildlife abounds on this peaceful sanctuary in scenic South County Mayo.
Now restored in keeping with its age and character, Partry House is open in part to the public during July and August.
Partry House dates from 1667 when it was built on the remains of Cloonlagheen Castle by Arthur Lynch as a dowager house for his mother Lady Ellis, widow of Sir Roebuck Lynch [2nd Baronet, 1621-1667] of Castle Carra.
Sir Roebuck’s lands were seized by the Cromwellians and he was compensated by lands at Castle Carra during the first half of the seventeenth century. The Castle was named after Cloonlagheen (‘the meadow of the little lake’) townland on which it stands.
Evidence of the original castle was discovered during restoration work in 1995 when slit windows opening inwards were found at knee level on the first floor. Old castle walls can be seen incorporated into stable walls.
Knox’s ‘History of Mayo‘ (1910) clearly states that Cloonlagheen castle was owned in 1574 by Abbé MacEnvile who was over Ballintubber Abbey. This was part of the Elizabethan survey called the ‘Divisons of Connaught’.
The Lynchs, of the noted Galway family, occupied Partry House from 1667 until 1991; over 330 years in residence. Many of the ancestors of the present Lynch family are buried in a ring-fort graveyard on the estate, where their achievemements are noted on a large stone obelisk. Military, Exploratory and Humanitarian, their dates and names are written in stone.
The one-time islands Moynish, Creggaun and Leamnahaye are linked to the shore by means of the Famine Walk built between the lake and a bog area. This and the fine limestone shore edging date from famine times when the Lynchs looked after their tenants providing food and work for them. Two old cast iron pots used to cook cornmeal stand in the garden.
The obelisk commemorates George Quested Lynch MD who returned at once to Partry from Euphrates on hearing of the famine and died here of Typhus in 1848, aged only 34. The Lynchs, along with Browns of Westport House and the Moores of Moore Hall chartered the ship the ‘Martha Washington’ to bring corn meal from America for their tenants.”
The website gives a wonderfully detailed study of the townland and the house, which is a terrific summary of some important historical figures of the area. The website tells us:
“Prison House is situated in the townland of Prison North in the parish of Manulla and barony of Carra, Co. Mayo. The townland of Prison North comprises 340 acres 3 roods and 26 perches. Originally Prison North, West and East were not subdivided but went collectively under the name of Prison townland. One of the earliest references to Prison townland dates from 1586. Prison also appears variously as ‘Prizon’, ‘Prisone’ and ‘Preeson’. The origin of the townland’s name is unknown. The Ordnance Survey books of 1837 notes the name but does not provide a suggestion for its origin, although the books record two forts and a cave in the townland. [1*]
The 1654 Down Survey and the Browne Rentals indicate that Prison was previously also known as Trineloghan/Trineleghane, and Triskine/Trilkine, names that appear to have no connection to its other alias.
The lands of Prison were successively in the possession of the Bourke family, later Viscounts of Mayo; the Browne family later Viscounts of Sligo; the Nolan family; and the Trench and Domville families. Prison remained in the hands of the Domville’s until the 20th century.
Prison House is a simple three bay house, two stories high. To put any definitive date on Prison House has proved to be impossible, but the research to date has been able to prove that a building has stood on the site for over 200 years. As early as 1814, Prison house was already referred to as the ‘old house’ by the surveyor John Longfield, employed by the local landlord, Frederick Trench.
We have concluded that Prison House probably stands on the site of an older house, parts of which were incorporated into the structure of the house now standing. Although the external features of the house indicate that the house was built in the early 19th Century, the unusual chimney-stacks suggest that this part of the house at least was probably built in the late 18th Century. This opinion was confirmed by David Griffin, the director of the Irish Architectural Archives, on viewing the survey photographs of Prison House.
The Irish Architectural Archive (IAA) does not hold any photographic records of Prizon House. David Griffin, the director of the IAA was shown photographs of the building but was unable to put a date other than possibly early 19th century on the house. He did however comment on the unusual chimney-stacks, saying that they had only ever seen two other examples of this, one on an unspecified house in County Wexford, the other Luggala House in County Wicklow. Luggala House was built by the La Touche family of banking fame, in the 1790s. A late Victorian photograph does show the same type of chimney-stack but at some date these were replaced and no longer exist in Luggala House. This is helpful to the extent that it dates at least part of the house to the late 18th century.
It is almost certain that Prison House was built in the second half of the 18th Century. In 1764 the landlord Reverend Trench concluded a lease with the Ormsby family for three lives. The lease makes no specific mention of an existing house, and does not require the Trench’s to provide stone or bricks as building materials, or the Ormsbys to build a house as a condition of lease. The size of Prison House, and the apple orchard and many other trees planted around it, indicates that a great deal of initial work was carried out when the house was first built.
Given the circumstantial evidence it is probable that Prison House was laid out by the Ormsby family, although there is a remote chance that the landlord Frederick Trench, a well known amateur architect, may have designed and built the original house. [2*] …
The Bourke Family:
An early reference to Prison townland appears in an Elizabethan fiant of 1586. This fiant records the pardon of ‘Walter Boorke m’Richard en yeren, of Prisone’ [3*]. [Wikipedia tells us that a “fiant” is a writ issued to the Irish Chancery mandating the issue of letters patent under the Great Seal of Ireland. The name fiant comes from the opening words of the document, Fiant litterae patentes, Latin for “Let letters patent be made”.]
Walter Bourke was the son of Richard Bourke [1532-1583] or as he was more commonly known, ‘Richard-an-Iarainn’ (literally Richard of Iron) the second husband of the infamous Grace O’Malley, ‘Granuaile’ described in 1576 by the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney, as ‘a most famous feminine sea captain. . .a notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland’[4*]. Richard Bourke was descended from the sept of the Bourkes of Umhall and Carra, one of the senior Bourke branches. The fact that Walter was recorded as ‘of Prisone’ would suggest that at this date he was the occupier of the townland, and that his residence was there. However in two subsequent fiants of 1592 and 1598 he was described as‘of Togher’and‘of Mohine’respectively, so his stay in Prison may well have been brief.
In 1641 the proprietor of Trynylonghan comprising 171 acres, and Treelkin comprising 14 acres, was one David Bourke [b. 1576]. This David may have been the grandson of Richard-an Iarainn and son of the 1st Viscount Mayo, Tibbott-ne-Long [5*], the only child born to Granuaile and her second husband Richard. [6*] David Bourke inherited the castle and lands of Manulla and acquired further lands in Carra barony. He married first Mary O’Donnell the sister of Red Hugh O’Donnell, and secondly a daughter of Richard Heword of Dublin. David Bourke’s date of death is unknown and as he died without legitimate issue the lands reverted to Viscount Mayo.
While David Bourke was the owner of Prison townland in 1641, part of these lands recorded as ‘arable and pasture’ were subsequently confiscated and granted to a Patrick ‘Nowlan’. On the 16th of September 1685 Trinelogan and Triskeen and various other townlands were sold by Patrick Nolan of ‘Balenderry’ County Galway to [Colnel] John Browne of Kinturk, County Mayo for £694 [7*].
Colonel John Browne:
This John Browne of Kinturk was more commonly known as Colonel John Browne. A barrister by profession and a colonel in the army of King James II, John Browne had married Maud Bourke in 1669. Maud was the daughter of the third Viscount Mayo, Theobald Bourke. Following James II’s defeat Browne was heavily in debt. He owed money to his wife’s family for lands purchased from the Estate of Viscount Mayo in the baronies of Carra, Murrisk and Burrishole. He was eventually imprisoned for his debt and the lands sold. Family fortunes improved in 1702 when John Browne’s daughter Mary married her cousin Theobald Bourke [(1681-1731) 6th Viscount Mayo]. The Browne family were later made Viscounts Sligo, with a family seat at Westport House.
Rentals of Colonel Browne’s estate dating 1696 record that Randle McDonnell held a three year lease of the lands of ‘Preeson’ at a year’s rent of £35 for the first two years and £40 for the third year.
In 1704 when the estate was sold ‘Presson & Gallon farme’ was leased by Colonel Manus O’Donnell, although a note states that there was ‘no tenant at present’. It is not clear from this why a farm at Prison should be called Prison and Gallen or if it is in fact referring to two separate farms. It would appear to be the latter as a further note stated that ‘Coll Manus O’Donnell is to pay out of Gallen farme for one year ending’. [8*]
The Trench Family:
Prison townland and the neighbouring lands were bought by William Trench [1683-1729] of County Laois in the first decade of the 18th Century. William’s grandfather, Frederick Trench, came to Ireland from England in 1631 and settled in Galway. William Trench and his wife, Susanna Segar, heiress of Redcastle, Co. Laois, had nine children and the family established themselves at Ballinakill, Co.Laois. Their second son, Frederick Trench born 21st September 1715, inherited Prison townland and lands in Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Laois on the death of his elder brother.Frederick Trench received a BA degree from Trinity College in 1737 and was ordained in 1740. He married Mary Moore of Crymorgan, Co. Laois in 1745. Their only child was Michael Frederick Trench, known as Frederick, a renowned amateur architect. Michael Frederick married Anna Helena Stewart in 1775. They had six surviving children including; Frederick William (1775-1859) MP and aide-de-camp to George IV; Stewart-Segar, Chancellor of Christ Church Cathedral and Sarah Helena.
In 1708 in order to preserve official copies (memorials) of land and commercial transactions the Registry of Deeds was established by Act of the Irish Parliament. Registration of deeds was voluntary, so the majority of early records relate mainly to those properties that were likely to face a legal challenge. A search of the early indexes for the townland of Prison and the other aliases (Trineloghan and Triskine/Trilkine) was unsuccessful. The first reference relating to Prison townland in the Registry of Deeds was in the 1739-1810 townland index. A memorial of a deed of lease dated 6th October 1764 [9*] records that part of Prison townland was held by the Reverend Frederick Trench of Ballynakill, Co. Laois. The deed stated that part of the lands of Prizon and Drimloughra ‘lately held by Mr Garret Coghlan’ were to be let to Anthony Ormsby of Ballynamore, Co. Mayo, for the lives of Thomas his eldest son, Adam his second son and his third son, Christopher, for the sum of £164 sterling. There was a clause of surrender at the end of every three years and ‘liberty to carry off sixteen acres of Corn Potatoes or Flax’. There was no reference to any specific building in the lease, so that we know that Prison House was not yet built at this time.
The Ormsby family seat was at Ballinamore co. Mayo, and it is not known whether any of the family ever lived in Prison townland. The Ormsby family had settled in Ireland in the late 16th century. According to Burke’s Irish Family Records Anthony Ormsby was a High Sheriff and a Captain in Hingham Regiment of Horse. [10*] He married Sarah, the daughter of Thomas Lindsay of Co. Mayo and the couple had four children, one daughter Anne, and three sons, mentioned in the deed of 1764.…
The deeds ledger of the Trench estates, and the Longfield Maps – 1814:
The first definitive reference to a building occupying the site where Prison House now stands is in maps of Prison surveyed by John Longfield in 1814. This was not the first time that the lands had been mapped, the 1814 deeds ledger of the Trench estate refers to maps of Prison townland surveyed in 1719, 1756 and 1785. Unfortunately none of these maps appear to have survived. One of the maps of 1814 however shows a building termed the ‘Old House’ which is clearly situated on the site where Prison House now stands. Longfield drew a rectangular structure with an adjoining rear, an L-shaped structure. Two buildings stood to the front left and right of the house. A long avenue ran up to the house and this can be traced in the map accompanying the Land Registry documents seen clearly as a thin strip of land. A garden stood to the left of the house and Longfield also marked a Haggard (an enclosed space near the farm-house), denoted by the words ‘Hgd’.
At the same time as the map was being surveyed a member of the Trench family, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick William Trench visited Prison and its neighbouring townlands. In a bound volume he not only recorded his Grand Tour of Europe but also chronicled his tour of his father’s estate which fortunately concentrates on lands in the barony of Carra. His visit may have been designed to coincide with Longfield’s survey. In a letter surviving from this time William’s father wrote to his son:‘I consider it as an Event truly fortunate that you became acquainted with Mr Longfield, a person of so much real knowledge and Exertion, and on whom you seem so justly to have placed so much reliance…’.[14*] F.W. Trench appears to have been keen to note improvements that could be made to the lands and frequently noted the rentals...
The next substantial information on Prison dates from the mid 1820s. On Monday the 14th November 1825 the Trench estate ‘upwards of 5000 English acres’, the property of Colonel Sir Frederick William Trench including Prison townland was to be auctioned in lots at the Commercial Buildings in Dame Street, Dublin at 12 noon by the vendor’s solicitors Messrs. Robert Hamilton & Co. Lot No. 3 consisted of Prison townland and the following description was detailed in the auction prospectus:
‘. . .containing 453 acres 2 roods 23 perches situate in the Barony of CARRA, and County of Mayo, let to Thomas[sic] Ormsby, Esq. By Lease, dated in 1764, for 3 Lives, (only one of whom, viz. Christopher Ormsby , Esq. supposed to be now aged about 75 years, is in being), at £164 per Annum, and consists of Arable, Pasture, Meadow, and Bog is most commodiously circumstanced, having a south aspect, and being well sheltered. The Meadow is of superior quality and the Feeding Land is supposed to be as good as any in the County of Mayo – There are on this Lot 12 good Houses, and the Farm is ornamented with Hedge-rows – The Turbary is both plenty and convenient – These Lands if now to be Let would produce a very large Annual Sum, the excellent quality of the ground being well known, and highly esteemed.’
Improvements must have been made to the townland, the sale notice writes of twelve good houses. It does not however refer to any new buildings having been built or to any modernisation of Prison House. The sale notice remarks solely on the Hedge-rows of the Farm and Trench was himself impressed by the hedging and planting of trees. He made a small pencil sketch of a rectangular building and the various trees planted around, this presumably did not refer to Prison House, as the map outlines a rectangular structure without an adjoining rear and this could refer to the Herd’s house and his own tree planting.
The estate failed to find a buyer in 1825, and in 1833 Sir Frederick William Trench of Moyvannon Castle, Co. Roscommon, sold the estate to Sir Compton Domville of Santry House, Co. Dublin, his brother-in-law, for £60,000 less £18,000 that was loaned from Domville to Sir Frederick [16*]. Frederick William’s sister Sarah Helena had married Sir Compton Pocklington Domville of Templeogue and Santry House, County Dublin in 1815.
With the sale of the lands at Prison the Ormsby’s lease came to an end. An advertisement was placed in the local newspaper, the Mayo Constitution, published in Castlebar…
Once again there is no reference to Prison House itself, suggesting that it was neither new nor modernised. Presumably J. E. Strickland was the agent acting for the Trench family. Prison townland was at this time leased by a Michael Barrett recorded in the Tithe Applotment Books, taken for the parish of Manulla in 1837. [18*] Barrett held the lands in Prison North of Sir Compton Domville, and the only additional observation recorded was that Barrett ‘has no lease’, i.e. he held the lands at the landlord’s will. (A copy of the TAB for Prison North is enclosed with this report).
It was in this same year (1837) that the Ordnance Survey maps of Ireland were first published. The map of Prison townland shows the farm, an L-plan structure with two outbuildings. A large grove of trees to the rear right of the building is shown and the long avenue of trees still stands as do the outbuildings (a copy of the 1837 map is enclosed with this report) [19*].
Prison Farm continued to be occupied by the Barrett family into the 1840s. The 1842 Tenement Act provided for a uniform valuation of all property in Ireland based on the productive capacity of land and the potential rent of buildings, for taxation purpose. The Commissioner of Valuation, Richard Griffith, produced and published a nationwide survey between 1847 and 1864. However prior to Griffith’s Valuation, the original valuation surveyors took two nationwide surveys in the 1840s which are recorded in a set of books known variously as the ‘field’, ‘house’, ‘mill’ and ‘tenure books’.…
…In 1893 the Ordnance Survey published new maps for County Mayo. At some date between the surveying of the townland in 1837 and the publication of new maps in 1893, Prison House was altered. By 1893 the adjoining rear now stood to the centre of the main building and the large outhouses parallel and to the rear of the house were constructed. It is probable that the alterations to the house were made prior to 1858. The Cancelled Books do not indicate any alternations to the house or outhouses after 1858. Although amendments and alterations sometimes went unnoticed, it is highly unlikely that the type of large-scale improvements indicated in the 1893 Ordnance Survey map, would not have resulted in a revision of the rates on Prison House.
The changes to Prison House most likely occurred between 1841, the time of the first survey recorded in the House-books, and 1858, the start of the first Cancelled Books for the townland of Prison North. In the course of research we found a later (1901) lease for the house and lands at Prison North, which cited an earlier, 1853 lease between Sir Compton Domville and Martin Barrett. The Tithe Applotment Books had indicated that as late as 1837 Martin Barrett had no lease, and would have rented the house and lands from year to year. It seems very probable that the alterations to Prison House were made sometime after the lease was agreed in 1853, and November 1857 when Martin Barrett died.
On 13th September 1901 a lease was recorded between the Very Reverend John Canon Barret of St Mary’s, Headford, Tuam, Co. Galway; John McEllen of Balla, Co. Mayo, Merchant; and Sir Compton Meade Domville of Santry ‘ a person of unsound mind’. [23*] The Reverend Barrett appears to have sold the time that remained on the 1853 lease, to John McEllen, with the agreement of the trustees of Sir Compton Meade Domville.
In March 1901 the Census recorded that Thomas Connolly, married with four infant children occupied Prison House.
The Connolly family appear to have remained resident in Prison House even after John McEllin bought out the lease to Prison townland. In 1920, the Congested Districts Board took over the House, offices and lands (19 acres 1 rood 12 perches). Between 1920 and 1931 possession of Prison North passed to the Irish Land Commission. The Connolly family remained resident in Prison House despite the change in land title.
In 1931 the house and lands were sold to Ellen Connolly, widow of Thomas Connolly. The house remained in the Connolly family’s possession until 1999 when it was sold to the current owners.“
[1*] NLI Pos 4123 Ordnance Survey Office John O’Donovan name books for Co. Mayo, Killala to Turlough. Unfortunately there is not at present an archaeological inventory for Mayo County.
[2*] See also, Patricia Friel, Frederick Trench 1746-1836, Maynooth Studies in Irish Local History, 2000.
[3*] The Irish Fiants of the Tudor Sovereigns Vol 2 (Dublin,1994)
[4*] Cited in Granuaile: The Life and Times of Grace O’Malley by Anne Chambers, (Dublin, 1998) p3
[5*] Books of Survey and Distribution Co. Mayo
[7*] National Archives of Ireland D. 12,111 Memorial of deed
[8*] National Library of Ireland. Pos. 940
[9*]Registry of Deeds. Book 238 page 239 No. 154263
[10*] A copy of the Ormsby pedigree is enclosed with this report.
[11*] National Library of Ireland, Ms. 9393
[12*] They are not mentioned as among the Trench papers in the Hayes Guide, nor are they listed in the Historical Manuscripts Commission, National Register of Archives which provides coverage of the U.K. and Scotland. However, after the report was completed the researcher noted that the British Records Association has recently deposited schedules relating to Trench family deeds and lands, including at least one document relating to co. Mayo.
[13*] NLI Ms. 9393
[14*] National Library of Ireland. Ms. 11,348 – Michael Frederick Trench to William Frederick Trench, Heywood, December 27th 1814
[15*] ‘John Mucalini’ is almost certainly a pun based on “mucal”, the Irish word for swine. The pun was possibly coined as a local nick-name for the herder James Monyahan.
[16*] See Patricia Friel’s Frederick Trench and Heywood, Queen’s County (Dublin, 2000)
[17*] The Mayo Constitution, Thursday May 2nd 1833 page 3 column e
[18*] The Composition Act of 1823 specified that tithes due to the Established Church, the Protestant Church of Ireland, which had hitherto been payable in kind, should now be paid in money. As a result it was necessary to carry out a valuation of the entire country, civil parish by civil parish, to determine how much would be payable by each landholder. This was done between 1823 and 1838, at which latter date the tithe system was abolished. The tithe applotment books for the parish of Manulla were assessed in 1837
[21*] Martin Barrett was granted a lease by Compton Domville dated 19th November 1853. Reference was made to this lease in a later lease of 1901. A search was made for the 1853 lease in the Registry of Deeds but no record was found.
[22*] Full government censuses were taken of the entire island of Ireland after 1821. The census returns recorded between 1821 and 1851 were almost entirely destroyed in the fire in the Public Records Office in 1922, while the census returns between 1861 and 1891 were pulped during WWI by order of the government. However, the government extracted and published statistical information in the aftermath of each census.
[23*] Book 1901-86-32
[24*] Ellen Connolly, aged 4 years at the time of the 1901 Census appears to have died as a young child.
[25*] National Archives 1901 & 1911 Census 56/D.E.D ‘7’
“Turlough Park was built in 1865, to replace a much older building near the entrance to the park. The name of the village and estate derives from the Irish turlach, signifying a lake that dries up in the summer period.
Turlough Park was the home of the Fitzgerald family, to whom the estate was granted under the Cromwellian land settlements of the mid-seventeenth century.
At its largest, the Turlough estate consisted of almost 8,500 acres requiring many indoor servants and outdoor estate workers to maintain the house and lands. In 1915, the Congested Districts Board – established to initiate economic improvements along the western seaboard – purchased and re-distributed the Fitzgerald estate.
A notable family member was George Robert [c. 1712-1782], son of George and later known as the ‘Fighting Fitzgerald’. Famous for his brave and reckless horsemanship, and a renowned duellist, George Robert was involved in a number of disputes and family quarrels. He was found guilty of murder and hanged in Castlebar, Co. Mayo in 1786.
His younger brother Charles Lionel would inherit the Turlough Park estate.
The architect Thomas Newenham Deane designed Turlough Park House. Deane was also the designer of the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology in Dublin.
The architectural style of the house has been referred to as ‘Victorian Gothic’. The two-storey house built of limestone rises to a high-pitched roof with dormer windows. It incorporates an open central Gothic porch bearing the house’s 1865 date stone.
A service area adjoining the house, which once accommodated the kitchen and stable block, now incorporates visitor facilities such as the gift shop and café. In such houses, the kitchen was detached from the main house to avoid cooking smells disturbing the family and their guests and to minimise the risk of fire.
An imposing stained glass window above the porch incorporates the Fitzgerald family crest and bears the motto Honor Probataque Virtus (Honour, Probity & Virtue).
While the library was used mostly for recreation and study, the room was also where tenant farmers paid their quarterly rents to their landlord, the Fitzgerald family. The agent, seated facing the glass doors where the tenants entered, would note the payment in his rent book and issue the tenant with a receipt. It is said that the landlord sometimes sat behind the concealed door to hear what the tenants had to say without being observed.
The Drawing Room of the Big House
This room is furnished and decorated the way it may have looked around 1900. Most families occupying a house for a long time accumulate a variety of furniture from different eras and in different styles. The furniture here is from the Decorative Arts & History collections of the Museum.
Among the items is a Lyrachord Piano, which is the only one of its kind in the world. The left side operates like a piano and the right like a harpsichord.
There is also a nest of tables with harp and shamrock inlay typical of the Killarney school of furniture, as well as an embroidered armchair from Adare Manor, Co. Limerick dating from 1850.
Becoming part of the National Museum of Ireland
Turlough Park House remained in the same family until 1991 when it was purchased by Mayo County Council. The proposal to open the house as a museum was a local initiative which led eventually to a decision made in 1995 to locate part of the National Museum of Ireland here. The Museum’s Folklife collections had been stored for a long time in Daingean, Co. Offaly, awaiting a suitable venue.
As the house was not suitable as a major exhibition space, a new building was purpose-built alongside it. Housing the Museum galleries, this award winning design was created by the architectural branch of the Office of Public Works. As part of the project, the Office of Public Works also restored the original ‘Big House’. The grounds and gardens were restored by Mayo County Council.“
The website tells us: “One of the few privately-owned historic houses left in Ireland, Westport House was built by the Browne family whose connections to Mayo date back to the 1500s. Their lineage relates them and the house to the trail-blazing pirate queen and chieftain, Grace O’Malley.
“In 2017, Westport House was bought by another local and historic family, the Hughes family, who hope to ensure its survival into the future.
Built in the 18th century, Westport House was designed by the famous architects, Richard Cassels, James Wyatt and Thomas Ivory. Westport House is located west of the Shannon and is considered to be one of Ireland’s most beautiful historic homes open to visitors – and is today often described as being one of Ireland’s National Treasures. It is situated in a superb parkland setting with lake, terraces, gardens and magnificent views overlooking Clew Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, Clare Island and Ireland’s Holy Mountain, Croagh Patrick right in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way. It was built … by the Browne family, who are direct descendants of the famous 16th century Pirate Queen – Grace O’Malley.
After Grace O’Malley’s death, a report stated that for forty years she was the stay of all rebellions in the West. She was chief of the O’Malley Clan and ruled the seas around Mayo. Grace O’Malley had several castles in the West of Ireland and it was on the foundations of one of these that Westport House was actually built. There is still an area of her original castle in the basement of the House (now known as The Dungeons), which is on view to visitors.
The original house which would have been smaller, was built by Colonel John Browne [1631-1712], a Jacobite, who was at the Siege of Limerick and his wife, Maude Burke [or Bourke, (1640-1690)] in 1679-83. Maude Burke was Grace O’Malley’s great-great granddaughter. The house did not have the lake or a dam and the tide rose and fell against the walls.
The east front of the House, as it is today, was built in 1730 by Colonel John Browne’s grandson, also John- 1st Earl of Altamont [1709-1776]. He hired the famous German architect, Richard Cassels. It is built with the finest limestone taken from the quarry south of the estate farmyard and was executed by local craftsmen. Richard Cassels also designed Carton, Haselwood, Russborough and Leinster Houses.
From the plans made in 1773, the ground floor contained:
The Waiting Room – now The Library
Front Staircase – now the Ante- library
Living Room – now The Front Hall
Back staircase – now part of the present Drawing Room
Dressing Room – now the East end of The Long Gallery.
It was only one room deep, built round an open courtyard.
In 1778, Peter, the 2nd Earl Of Altamont built the south wing to the Thomas Ivory plans his father had commissioned but had not carried out. Ivory’s south façade has a delicacy quite unlike Cassel’s bolder work on the East. In the 1780’s Peter’s son John Denis, 3rd Earl of Altamont (who later became the 1st Marquess of Sligo), completed the square of the House. He engaged James Wyatt to decorate his new Long Gallery and Large Dining Room (one of the great English architects who is responsible for other significant buildings in the town of Westport and further afield).
John Denis Browne, 1st Marquess of Sligo Date 1806 Engraver William Whiston Barney, British, fl. c. 1805 After John Opie, English, 1761-1807, courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
In 1816, Howe Peter (2nd Marquess of Sligo) began his alterations to the House. He built on the north wing for men servants and between 1819-1825, he built on the south wing. The south wing was built as a two-tiered library designed by Benjamin Wyatt. This was warmed by hot air and due to defects in the system, it was destroyed by fire almost immediately in 1826.
In the 1830s, the central open courtyard where the Marble Staircase now sits, was covered in and Howe Peter made a new library by running a gallery round the now enclosed wall. In 1858 his son George abolished his father’s Library, moving it to where it is today and replaced it with the Marble Staircase.
On the west side of the house, the highly effective balustraded terraces’above the lake and the landing places were put in by George Ulick (6th Marquess of Sligo). These were designed by the English architect, Romaine Walker, whose main Irish work was the remodelling of Waterford Castle.“
The website continues, telling us about the Browne Family:
The story of the Browne Family is a microcosm for the wider and, at times, turbulent history of Ireland. Each generation has had to contend with and adapt to the prevailing social, political and religious changes encountered along the way. Despite revolution, invasion, plantation, famine and confiscation, the bond uniting Westport House and its family remained right up until 2017.
The Browne Family originally arrived into Mayo from Sussex in the 16th century. Through marriage with daughters of native Irish landowners and by purchase, they built up a small estate near The Neale. As a Catholic family, they were fortunate that their lands were situated in Connaught thereby escaping the notorious confiscations of Cromwell. It was with John Browne III (1638-1711) with whom the connection with Westport House commenced. A successful lawyer, he married Maud Burke, daughter of Viscount Mayo and great-great granddaughter of the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley (Granuaile 1530-1603).
John Browne greatly increased his estate in Mayo and Galway including Cathair-na-mart (Stone-fort of the Beeves), a ruinous O’Malley fortress on the shores of Clew Bay. John’s good fortune was swept away as Ireland was plunged into chaos in the Williamite Wars. A Catholic, John supported the Jacobite cause and was appointed a Colonel in the Jacobite army. From the iron mines on his lands near Westport, he supplied the army with cannon balls and weapons. The defeat of the Jacobite army at Aughrim and Limerick in 1691 brought financial ruin in the confiscations that followed. At his death in 1711, his estate was reduced to Cathair-na-Mart and a few hundred acres.
The Penal Laws which followed left his grandson, John IV, with little option but to conform to the prevailing religion in hope of surviving the confiscations and political upheaval. John IV gradually revived the family fortune. Young and ambitious he set about extending his estate and transforming the old O’Malley castle into modern day Westport House. In 1767, he – along with architect, William Leeson – replaced the old village of Cathair-na-Mart with a new town of Westport where he established a thriving linen industry. An excellent farmer he set about improving the fertility of his lands, which for the most part were of poor quality. He became the 1st Earl of Altamont. In 1752, his son and heir, Peter, 2nd Earl Of Altamont, married the heiress Elizabeth Kelly from Co. Galway whose estates in Jamaica further enhanced the family fortune. It is said that – as part of the dowry – her father insisted that he take the Kelly name and he became known as Peter Browne Kelly.
John, 3rd Earl of Altamont, continued the innovative farming tradition of his grandfather. He created the lake to the West of Westport House and planted trees. He laid out the principal streets of the present town of Westport and many of the streets in Westport today are named after Browne Family members such as Peter Street, James Street, Altamont Street and John’s Row. He also established a theatre at the Octagon and built the town of Louisburgh. In 1787, he married Louisa Catherine, daughter and heiress of the famous English Admiral Earl Howe. During his lifetime, the French inspired 1798 Rebellion occurred. Aided by the arbitrary actions of Denis Browne, his younger brother, against the Irish insurgents (which earned him the reputation of “ black sheep” of the family), the Rebellion was crushed.
In 1800, there was an Act of Union with England. The 3rd Earl voted for it and became the 1st Marquess of Sligo and an Irish representative peer. The reason the title is Sligo when the family home is in Mayo, is that in 1800 there was already an Earl of Mayo, a Viscount Galway to the south and a Lord Roscommon to the East. West was the Atlantic Ocean, so it had to be North – the land of Yeats and black cattle – Sligo.
His only son Howe Peter, 2nd Marquess of Sligo, inherited in 1809 at the age of twenty-one. Extravagant and generous, his early life subscribed to the popular image of a “regency buck”. Friend of Byron, de Quincy and the Prince Regent, he traveled extensively throughout Europe on the “grand tour”. He excavated at Mycenae and discovered the 3,000 year old columns of the Treasury of Atreus. To bring them back to Westport, he took some seamen from a British warship and was subsequently sentenced to 4 months in Newgate prison. He married Hester, the Earl of Conricard’s daughter, with whom he had 14 children and settled down to life in Westport. He bred many famous race horses both at Westport and the Curragh. One of his horses, Waxy, won the Derby. He owned the last two of the original breed of Irish Wolfhound. In 1834, he was appointed Governor of Jamaica with the difficult task of overseeing the “apprenticeship system” a period prior to the full emancipation of the slaves. He met with great opposition from plantation owners and other vested interests. He was first to emancipate the slaves on the family’s Jamaican plantations. The first “free village” in the world, Sligoville, was subsequently named in his honour. A liberal, he was one of the few Irish Peers to vote for Catholic Emancipation. He died in 1845 as the clouds of the Great Famine descended over Mayo.
His son, George, the 3rd Marquess, inherited a terrible legacy. The West of Ireland was worst affected by the famine. Westport House was closed and with no rents forthcoming, George borrowed where he could, spending £50,000 of his own money to alleviate the suffering of the tenants. With the guidance of his mother, Hesther Catherine, he imported cargoes of meal to Westport Quay and sub-vented the local workhouse, then the only shelter available to the destitute. He wrote tirelessly to the British Government demanding that they do more to help the famine victims. He wrote and had published a pamphlet outlining many pioneering reforms of the economic and social conditions that had led to the famine. In 1854, on being offered the Order of St. Patrick, an honour once held by his father and grandfather, disillusioned by England’s Irish policy (a reoccurring sentiment at Westport House!), the 3rd Marquess wrote “ I have no desire for the honour.” An exhibition about the Great Famine is on display in Westport House as told through Hesther Catherine’s letters to the estate’s agent in Westport, Hildebrand.
John succeeded his brother as 4th Marquess. He had to contend with the huge changes that occurred in the ownership of land in Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Above all he was a “professional” farmer whose main contribution was to transform a reduced and almost bankrupt estate into a profitable one solely from agriculture. This work was continued by the 6th Marquess who added a sawmill, a salmon hatchery and planted extensively. The compulsory acquisition of the main entrance to the House for local public housing occurred in the ownership of the 8th Marquess which altered the historic relationship that had existed between the House and the town of Westport.
In 1960, in the midst of a great depression and facing rising death duties, the 10th Marquess, Denis Edward, his wife Jose and son Jeremy (11th Marquess) decided to open Westport House and the grounds to the visiting public. It was a pioneering venture in a place and at a time that was remote and depressed. Over the succeeding decades, the 11th Marquess and his family developed the Estate into a Tourist Attraction.
The Grounds & Gardens
The Brownes of Westport House knew the value of trees in a landscape too, as the stunning woodland in the estate’s grounds attest. Westport Demesne retains 100 acres of historic woods dating back to the 1700s.
Back in the day, these trees provided a number of resources for the Westport House Estate. They created a shelter belt from the harsh Atlantic weather systems, they provided a fuel and timber source for heating and building materials, and they created a lush green back drop for the ‘naturalised parkland’ design landscape.
The lords and ladies loved to interact with the landscape by promenading along a deep networks of track and trails. They would bring their visitors along these paths too, impressing them with the grandeur and beauty of the estate’s stately woodlands. Aptly enough, these design pathways and the areas of woodlands they ventured through were known as ‘the pleasure grounds’.
An elaborate network of serpentine pathways meandered along, softly curving – following the style of landscape design that was popular during the 1800s and remains timeless to this day. The trails led the walker deep into the woodlands and surrounding landscape, where they could discover hidden design elements, such as sculptural pieces of architecture, exotic plant and tree species and new views.
The pyramidal cone of Croagh Patrick was one of the most emphasised views in the Westport House Demesne, and a number of the historic pathways were specifically designed to yield the most captivating vistas. The woodlands even had purposely made gaps to seduce the stroller with sudden framed glimpses of the famous Reek.
Opened to the Public in 1960
By the early 1960s, most historic homes of its nature were either burnt, knocked down or abandoned. Not so for Westport House. Jeremy – 11th Marquess of Sligo (1939 – 2014), took the estate in a whole new direction with inspiration from the “Big Houses” in the UK who had opened their doors to the interested public who were keen to see how the “other half” lived. In 1960, when Jeremy and Jennifer opened the attraction, the admission price was 2/6 for adults and 1/- for children. Admission to the grounds was 6d for both adults and children. In 1960, 2,400 visitors visited Westport House.
Jeremy had a remarkable passion for product development and marketing. He was inspired by other houses that were becoming sustainable and viable by diversifying their offering from not only heritage but including other leisure attractions. He felt strongly that Westport House needed to appeal to a wider audience than those solely interested in antiques and architecture. Over time, he introduced a number of fun attractions. In the 1970s, the Slippery Dip (Cannon Ball run) and the Miniature Railway (Westport House Express) were added discretely on the grounds. A Camping and Caravan Park was developed – as well as Horse Drawn Caravan tours of Connemara – and Gracy’s Restaurant (situated at the Farmyard was created from what was originally a cowshed) and a shop evolved from a similar situation. There were even one armed bandits in the basement at one point in time and the giant pink rabbit called Pinkie was introduced as the estate’s mascot. The Tennis Courts, Pitch and Putt, a Flume Ride (The Pirates Plunge), Jungle World (The Pirates Den), and of course The Giant Swans on the lake were also phased in. In 2008, the Ships Galleon (The Pirate Queen) was introduced.
It was during this time that Jeremy and Jennifer realised that in order to be able to leave the estate to their daughters, drastic action would need to be taken. Jeremy had signed a family trust aged 21 to leave the estate and title to his son. They went on to have five wonderful daughters (with no sign of a male heir). With the help of Mary Robinson QC (and later, first female president of Ireland) and Michael Egan, solicitor from Castlebar, Jeremy succeeded in bringing the Altamont Act through the senate in 1992 allowing him to leave the estate to his daughters and break the trust. He did not enact the same for the title of Marquess of Sligo and today, the 12th Marquess of Sligo, Sebastian Browne, resides in Sydney, Australia.
In 2003, Jeremy commissioned Michael Cooper, his brother-in-law, to create a sculpture of Grace O’Malley – the original of alabaster stone is situated in the House and a bronze casting is in the garden. This was the beginning of reinstating her back where she belongs – in her home, with her family, and where the re-branding of the estate in 2009 as Westport House and Pirates Adventure Park emanated from.
It was around this time that Sheelyn and Karen Browne – the two eldest of Jeremy’s five daughters – took the reins and added an Adventure Activity Centre, a seasonal Events Programme as well as holding the first large music festivals on the estate while Clare and Alannah ran Gracy’s Bar. Fifth sister, Lucinda, was always happy to lend a hand when home from the U.K. In 2017, the Browne family sold the house and estate to the local Hughes family who own neighbouring Hotel Westport and workwear provider, Portwest. A new chapter in the history of Westport House & Estate has begun. The Hughes family immediately started working on the grounds and gardens of the estate. The adventure park has been upgraded with a variety of new attractions and rides and there are plans to further invest in adventure. In 2021, urgent and necessary restorative works to Westport House will begin. And our new CEO’s main focus – along with the Hughes family – has been to produce a master plan for the entire estate that will ensure the sustainability and viability of the house and estate into the future.“
The website tells us: “Unrivalled service, warm Irish hospitality and five-star luxury await at Ashford Castle, part of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection. Situated in a spectacular 350-acre estate, discover sumptuous rooms and suites, splendid interiors brimming with antique furniture, fine fabrics and unique features at every turn.“
It was built originally by the Norman De Burgo family around 1228.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 12. “(Browne, Oranmore and Browne, B/PB; Guinness, Bt/PB) A vast and imposing Victorian-Baronial castle of rather harsh rough-hewn grey stone in a superb postion and the head of Lough Corrib…built onto an earlier house consisting of a 2 storey 5 bay Georgian shooting-box enlarged and remodelled in French chateau style. The shooting-box and estate originally belonged to the Oranmore and Browne family; they were sold by the Encumbered Estates Court in 1855 and bought by Benjamin Lee Guinness, afterwards 1st Bt., head of Guinness’s brewery, who transformed the shooting-box into the French chateau. From the 1870s onwards, his son, Arthur, 1st and Last Lord Ardilaun, added the castle, which was designed by James Franklin Fuller and George Ashlin. He also built the tremendous castellated 6 arch bridge across the river, with outworks and an embattled gateway surmounted by a gigantic A and a Baron’s coronet, which is the main approach; from the far side of this bridge the castle looks most impressive. Its interior, however, is a disappointment, like the interiors of so many late-Victorian houses. The rooms are not particularly large, and some of them are rather low; everything is light oak, with timbered ceilings and panelling. The main hall was formed out of 2 or more rooms in the earlier house, and has a somewhat makeshift air; it is surrounded by an oak gallery with thin uprights and a staircase rises straight from one side of it. Another room has an immense carved oak mantel with caryatids and the Guinness motto. Magnificent gardens and grounds; large fountain, vista up the hillside with steps; castellated terrace by the lake. Sold ca 1930, now a hotel.” (see )
2. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo – €€ and see above
3. Breaffy House Resort, Castlebar, Co Mayo (formerly Breaghwy)
The website tells us: “Breaffy House Resort is located in the heart of County Mayo and is the perfect destination if you are looking for a well-deserved and relaxing break! Set on 101 acres, the resort consists of 4* Breaffy House Hotel and Self-Catering Apartments, only a 2 minute stroll between House Hotel & Apartments.”
Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):
p. 47. “(Browne/IFR) A large Victorian Baronial mansion of rough-hewn grey stone with red sandstone around the windows; unusually long for its height. Entrance front with single-storey battlemented porch. Garden front with stepped gables, polygonal corner turret with battlements and pointed roof, and another battlemented turret set at an obtuse angle to the façade. Sold ca 1960. Now an hotel.” (see )
Archiseek describes it: “Dominick Andrew Browne built the present Breaffy House in 1890. The house is a Scottish baronial mansion and is victorian in style and was designed by English architect William M. Fawcett from Cambridge. The house has boldly recessed facades, a polygonal corner turret with battlements and pointed roof, a second turret set at an obtuse angle to the facade and stepped gables. The entrance front has a single story battlement porch. The building has tall slender chimneys and there are dormer windows on the roof.” (see )
4. Enniscoe House, Castlehill, Ballina, Co Mayo – section 482
The website tells us: “Owned and run by Adrian & Geraldine Noonan, Knockranny House Hotel & Spa is one of Ireland’s finest 4 star hotels in Westport.
Set in secluded grounds on a hillside, this luxury hotel stands proudly overlooking the picturesque town of Westport and enjoys breathtaking views of Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay’s islands to the west and the Nephin Mountains to the north, one of the best Westport hotels locations.
The welcoming atmosphere at Knockranny House Hotel Westport begins with the open log fires in the reception hall, and is carried throughout the property with its antique furniture, excellent spa facilities, superb cuisine and friendly service, creating a genuine sense of relaxed warmth and hospitality. Previously voted as AA Irish hotel of the year. “
“Mount Falcon Estate is a luxury 32 bedroom 4-star deluxe hotel with 45 luxury lodges located on the west bank of the River Moy and is situated perfectly for exploring the 2500km of rugged Irish coastline called The Wild Atlantic Way. Mount Falcon hotel offers 100 acres of magical woodlands, between Foxford and Ballina, in North County Mayo, the most beautiful part of the West of Ireland. Situated in the heart of the Moy Valley (which encompasses Mayo North and Co. Sligo) this Victorian Gothic manor house (est. 1876) exudes understated elegance from a bygone era. Originally constructed as a wedding gift, Mount Falcon Estate has subsequently become known as the most romantic house in Ireland.
Mount Falcon’s owners, the Maloney Family fell in love with the Estate and transformed it into one of the top Hotels in Ballina and Mayo. The owners have invested heavily in an ongoing restoration programme, and have ensured that the integrity and charm of the Estate have been completely retained. AA Hotel of the Year 2009/2010 & IGTOA Boutique Hotel of the Year 2011. Best Manor House Hotel in Ireland 2015, Hotel of the year 2017 Manor House Hotel, Traditional Luxury Hotel 2018 Luxury Travel Diary, Irelands Favourite Place to Stay Connaught 2018 Gold Medal Awards People Choice Winner, Top 100 Best Wedding Venues 2018 One Fab Day.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 213. “(Knox/IFR) A Victorian Gothic house of rough-hewn stone, built 1876 for U.A. Knox [Utred Augustus Knox JP DL (1825-1913)], probably to the design of James Franklin Fuller. Of two storeys with a three storey bock to which a tower was added. Plate glass windows. There is a similarity between Mount Falcon and Errew Grange. Mount Falcon is now a hotel.“
The National Inventory adds:
“A country house erected for Utred Augustus Knox JP DL (1825-1913) to a design signed by James Franklin Fuller (1835-1924) of Great Brunswick Street [Pearse Street], Dublin, representing an important component of the later nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Mayo with the architectural value of the composition, one evoking strong comparisons with the Fuller-designed Errew House (1872-7), Errew, confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on scenic vistas overlooking gently rolling grounds; the compact, albeit multi-faceted plan form; the robust rock faced surface finish offset by sheer limestone dressings not only demonstrating good quality workmanship, but also compounding a ponderous two-tone palette; the slight diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a feint graduated visual effect with the principal “apartments” defined by polygonal bay windows; and the spire-topped tower embellishing a multi-gabled roofline. Having been well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where encaustic tile work; contemporary joinery; restrained chimneypieces carrying the monogram of the proprietor (“UAK”); and decorative plasterwork enrichments, all highlight the considerable artistic potential of a country house having subsequent connections with the Aldridge family including Major John Beauclerk Aldridge RA (1900-76), previously of Glenmore: meanwhile, a discreet benchmark remains of additional interest for the connections with cartography and the preparation of maps by the Ordnance Survey (established 1824).” 
“Newport provides guests with a unique opportunity to experience the elegance and hospitality of an historic Irish Country House Hotel, with luxury guest accommodation ideal for an overnight stay or longer sejourn.
Newport overlooks the tidal river and quay, it rests between Achill Island and the mountains of Mayo close to the wild and unspoilt splendours of Erris and Connemara.
The superb menu offered at Newport House reflects the hospitable character of the house, using fresh produce from the fishery, garden and farm, including home-smoked salmon. The cellar, with wines of character and value, is internationally renowned and compliments the cuisine.
All the reception rooms are spacious and appropriately furnished. The bedrooms have individuality as well as comfort. Twelve are in the main house. The others are in two smaller houses near the courtyard, one of which was previously the holiday residence of the late Sean Lemass, Prime Minister of Ireland. Some bedrooms are well suited for families, as they are in self-contained sections.”
The National Inventory tells us it is : “A country house erected by Hugh O’Donel (d. 1762) representing an important component of the mid eighteenth-century domestic built heritage of Newport with the architectural value of the composition, one subsequently annotated as “Seamount [of the] Honourable J. Browne” by Taylor and Skinner (1778 pl. 79), confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on panoramic vistas overlooking an inlet of Newport Bay; the neo-Palladian-esque plan form centred on a polygonal breakfront showing a provincial Gibbsian doorcase ‘omitting architrave [sic] and frieze’ (Craig 1976, 40); the diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a graduated visual impression; and the high pitched roofline. Having been reasonably well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where contemporary joinery; Classical-style chimneypieces; and sleek plasterwork refinements, all highlight the artistic potential of the composition: however, the introduction of replacement fittings to most of the openings has not had a beneficial impact on the character or integrity of the country house. Furthermore, a lengthy outbuilding (extant 1838); a walled garden (extant 1838); and a nearby gate lodge (extant 1897), all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a self-contained estate having historic connections with the O’Donel family including Sir Neal O’Donel (d. 1811); Lieutenant Connell O’Donel (1775-1840; Lewis 1837 I, 233); Sir George Clendenning O’Donel (1832-89), fifth Baronet (Bence-Jones 1978, 204); and Edwin Thomas O’Donel JP DL (né Thomas) (1853-1932; NA 1911); and Sir Anthony Beaver KCVO CBE (1895-1977), one-time Private Secretary to Prime Minister Clement Attlee (1883-1967). “
(Tourist Accommodation Facility) Open: March-Oct and Dec
Originally called Millbrook, Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):
p. 229. “(Orme/LGI1912; McCausland/IFR) An early C19 house of two storeys over high basement. Entrance front of 5 bays; single-storey Doric portico with a die up broad flight of steps. Entablatures on console brackets over windows of lower storey. Side elevation of one bay with a curved bow; at the other side is a two storey bowed wing of the same height and style as the main block, set back from it and joined to it by a canted bay. Eaved roof on cornice. Two drawing rooms en suite with decoration of ca 1830; ceilings with plasterwork in compartments; pediment over double-doors. Dining room ceiling with delicate plasterwork in centre surrounded by rectangular frame with similar decoration.” 
Timothy William Ferres tells us it was built ca 1847, and when the estate was decimated by the Land Acts, about 1926, it was sold to the Knox family. It was sold again in 1950 to Major Marcus McCausland.” 
It seems to have been built for William Orme (1810-76), JP. The National Inventory adds:
“the compact plan form centred on a pillared portico demonstrating good quality workmanship in a blue-grey limestone; and the very slight diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a graduated visual impression with those openings showing sleek “stucco” dressings. Having been well maintained, the form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior, including crown or cylinder glazing panels in hornless sash frames: meanwhile, contemporary joinery; and ‘splendid ceilings [revealing] the superb skill of the Italian masters introduced for this work’ (Irish Tourist Association Report 1942), all highlight the artistic potential of the composition.”
9. Turin Castle, Turin, Kilmaine, Co. Mayo, Ireland – whole castle rental, €€ for two, € for 10-12
“Turin Castle in County Mayo is a luxury self catering venue near Ballinrobe in County Mayo Ireland. It is a unique medieval castle set against the backdrop of picturesque countryside. This exclusive and intimate venue is the perfect location for a romantic, castle wedding or family gathering. Unfortuntately It is not suitable for stag or hen parties. It is the only privately owned castle in Ireland with en-suite facilities. The castle sleeps a maximum of 12 people and is hired on a self catering basis but catering can be arranged if required. Please ask for details.
If you are looking for a truly exceptional medieval experience, Turin Castle in County Mayo will not disappoint. The castle is ideal for a family holiday with a difference or a special intimate wedding affording total privacy.
Turin Castle is situated in the ancient barony of Kilmaine, the castle is surrounded by 16 acres of rich walled pasture land and is an ideal choice for couples searching for an idyllic but small wedding venue. The nearest town is Ballinrobe which is 8 km away offering a good selection of pubs and eateries. The picturesque village of Cong famous for the John Ford film ” The Quiet Man” and Ashford castle are also close by. The castle is conveniently located close to excellent golf courses.“
The website includes a good description of its history:
“1238 was a most auspicious year in the long and turbulent history of County Mayo. For we are told in the annals of the four Masters that the foreigners erected Castles In Conmacnaine Cuile(Kilmaine) and Muinter Murchadha.(Robeen).
The Foreigners were Anglo-Normans led by Richard de Burgo, son of William de Burgo. One of the most powerful Lords in England. In 1228 Richard had received the Overlordship of the whole of Connacht from the English King, Henry II, making him the “ red Earl “ the most powerful man in Ireland.
The de Burgo dynasty survived and flourished up until Elizabethan times when the two hereditary titles of upper and lower Mac William (From William de Burgo, known as the conqueror) were finally abolished. During this time the de Burgos had become completely integrated into Gaelic society adopting Gaelic customs, laws and language becoming “ Hiberniores Hibernis ipis”. More Irish than the Irish themselves .However this was the beginning of the end of the old Gaelic order in Ireland and opened the way for the final conquest and plantation of Ireland.
The origins and history of Turin Castle Ireland and neighbouring castles are sadly mostly lost in the mists of time. According to the chronicler O’Donovan “ In the parish of Kilmaine there are several square Castles said to have been built by the Burkes ( de Burgos) There is one in Kilmaine, one in Cregduff, one in Elistron and one in Killernan”. Turin would appear to derive from the old Irish meaning ‘small bleaching field’. Which may suggest that Turin Castle Ireland was involved in the very lucrative trade of sheep farming. There was a growing market for hides, meat and wool in continental Europe and by the mid 16th Century Kilmaine, politically and economically was the most important barony in the county. In 1574 there were 41 castles in an area of just 10 miles long by eight broad, by far the highest concentration of castles in Connacht, an indication that agriculture was on an industrial scale. The producers were the owners or tenants of the estates who would have enjoyed the protection of the upper and lower Mac William and in turn the Mac Williams would profit from the duty imposed which would probably directly affect the commodity market price in Galway. Keeping the lines of communication open was essential hence the need for a line of Castles protecting the trade route from Lough Corrib to Galway. Apart from this liberal studding of castles in Kilmaine another possible indication of the profitability and importance of this trade was the presence of a large mercenary army loyal to the Mac Williams.
In the division of Connacht 1570-1574 one Walter Mac Remon is listed as being resident of Turin Castle Ireland.The Mac Remons was a cadet branch of the clann Seonin who were one of the chief de Burgo clans of Ireland.
Following the death of the Mac William Sir Richard Bourke, in September of 1586. The de Burgo clans and the Mac Donnells along with the O’Malleys and the Joys(Joyces) rose up against the English oppressors in an attempt to reinstate the Mac Williamship and other lordships which the English had abolished. One of the signatories to a document presented to the council of Connaught was Walter Mac Jonyn ( Seonin) of Towrin (Turin). This document attested that the principle reason for the rebellion was the abolition of the Mac Williamship and other titles.
In 1589 the de Burgo clans along with the O’ Flaherties,Joys and Clandonnel rose up against the English forces and plundered the baronies of Clare,Kilmaine and Clanmorris.
Sir Murrough O’Flaherty [(1540-1626)I believe he was a son of Grace O’Malley and Donal O’Flaherty] stayed with a few men at Keltyprichnane in Kilmaine and sent the rest under his son Teige to plunder the baronies of Clare and Dunmore where they burned 16 towns and gathered 3000 head of cattle and horses. The” rebel forces” gathered at the Carre in Kilmainham and engaged the English. Edward Bermingham of MilltownCastle and former Sherrif of Mayo joined the battle after being attacked by Teig O’ Flaherty. He described the battle in a letter written from Athlone on the 31st March:-
“The soldiers not neglecting their time went against them; there was a volley of shot on both sides.They came to the push of the pike with great courage, when the said Teig O’ Flaherty was slain with eight of his company. They were then disordered and I with six horsemen of mine and eight footmen, being beside our battle as a wing ready to charge upon the breach, did charge,
When I struck their Guidion (standard bearer) under his morion (helmet) with my staff and ran him through in the face of battle. I followed another and had him down, and so did my horseman Kill 5 more at that charge. We had not six score of ground to deal with them when they recovered a main bog. Three of my horsemen and eight footmen did kill of them in the bog 16.
Her majesties attorney in that province (Mr Comerford)understanding of their disordering, issued forth when he met of them and did slay 16.Divers others in the fight did kill of them, so that I account there is slain of them 80 and upwards. The attorney and I brought the head of Teige O’Flaherty to Sir Richard yester night that was wonderful glad, for this Teige was the stoutest man in the province and could do most.”
According to a letter written by Comerford at Turin Castle Ireland dated 29th March Comerford rode two miles to the battle field and sallied forth on the fugitives with six shot, seven footmen and four horsemen killing 24.
Following the subjugation and pacification of the Gaelic lords and subsequent plantation of Mayo. Many of the Castles were abandoned by their new English owners preferring the comfort of Manor houses. In some cases, incorporating the existing building or cannibalising materials from it. From records we know that Turin Castle Ireland had been abandoned for at least two hundred and fifty years up until its restoration in 1997.“
10. Westbrook Country House, Castlebar, County Mayo
“A New Boutique Georgian Country House, Westbrook epitomises elegance & splendour. Located between the tourist meccas’ Westport & Castlebar, Westbrook Country House is the ideal base from which to explore the stunning West of Ireland Wild Atlantic Way, cycle the Greenway, sail on Clew Bay, climb Croagh Patrick, visit Knock Shrine or the National Museum of Country Life, or catch a show in the Castlebar Theatre Royal.
As restful or as adventurous as you prefer your break to be, Westbrook Country House is the perfect place to base yourself; with world-class home cooked breakfasts, and stylish, spacious, immaculate five star hotel-grade guest rooms & suites complimented by a relaxed, friendly family atmosphere.
Curl up on a leather armchair in front of a roaring fire with a first edition or your favourite novel in our library, climb in under crisp white linen sheets on one of our sumptuous beds or sink into a bubbling Jacuzzi bath with your favourite music & a lovely glass of Sauvingon Blanc, our vibe is opulent and fabulous but down to earth, and homely. We pride ourselves on guest consideration that is second to none.
Arrive as a Guest, leave as a friend. We look forward to welcoming you to Westbrook.”
 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.