Places to stay and visit in Connacht: Leitrim, Mayo and Sligo

Accommodation is in red. Section 482 properties are in purple.

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

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing;

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

Whole house accommodation is for more than 10 people.

Leitrim:

1. Lough Rynn Castle gardens, Mohill, Co Leitrim 

2. Manorhamilton Castle (Ruin), Castle St, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim – section 482

3. Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim (OPW)

Places to stay, Leitrim

1. Bush Hotel, Carrick on Shannon, Co Leitrim €

2. Lough Rynn Castle, Mohill, County Leitrim

Mayo:

1. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo – hotel and gives tours 

2. Brookhill House, Brookhill, Claremorris, Co. Mayo – section 482

3. Enniscoe House & Gardens, Castlehill, Ballina, Co. Mayo – section 482

4. Old Coastguard Station, Rosmoney, Westport, Co. Mayo – section 482

5. Owenmore, Garranard, Ballina, Co. Mayo – section 482

6. Partry House, Mayo

7. Prizon House, Prizon North, Balla, Co. Mayo – section 482

8. Turlough Park, Museum of Country Life, Mayo

9. Westport House, County Mayo

Places to stay, County Mayo:

1. Ashford Castle, Mayo/Galway – hotel €€€

2. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo –  €€

3. Breaghwy, Castlebar, Co Mayo – – hotel

4. Enniscoe House, Castlehill, Ballina, Co Mayo – section 482  – accommodation

5. Knockranny House Hotel, County Mayo 

6.  Mount Falcon, Ballina, County Mayo – hotel

7. Newport House, Newport, Co. Mayo, Ireland

8. Owenmore, Garranard, Ballina, Co. Mayo – section 482

9. Turin Castle, Turin, Kilmaine, Co. Mayo, Ireland – whole castle rental, whole castle rental, €€ for two, € for 10-12

10. Westbrook Country House, Castlebar, County Mayo https://www.westbrookhousemayo.com

Sligo:

1. Ballymote Castle, County Sligo (OPW)

2. Ballynafad Castle (or Ballinafad), Co Sligo – a ruin, OPW

3. Coopershill House, Riverstown, Co. Sligo – section 482

4. Lissadell House & Gardens, Lissadell, Ballinfull, Co. Sligo – section 482

5. Markree Castle, Collooney, Co Sligo – section 482

6. Newpark House and Demesne, Newpark, Ballymote, Co. Sligo – section 482

7. Rathcarrick House, Rathcarrick, Strandhill Road, Co. Sligo – section 482

8. Temple House, Ballymote, Co. Sligo – section 482

Places to stay, County Sligo:

1. Annaghmore, Colloony, County Sligo

2. Schoolhouse at Annaghmore

3. Ardtarmon Castle, Ballinfull, Co Sligo – accommodation

4. Castle Dargan Lodges, Ballygawley, Co. Sligo, Ireland 

5. Carrowcullen old Irish Farmhouse

6. Coopershill House, Riverstown, Co. Sligo – section 482

7. Lissadell rental properties:

8. Markree Castle, Collooney, Co Sligo – section 482

9. Newpark House and Demesne, Newpark, Ballymote, Co. Sligo – section 482

10. Temple House, Ballymote, Co. Sligo – section 482

Leitrim:

1. Lough Rynn Castle gardens, Mohill, Co Leitrim

https://www.loughrynn.ie/

The website tells us:

Lough Rynn Castle Hotel Estate & Gardens is one of the top luxury castle hotels to stay in. Located in County Leitrim, Lough Rynn Castle exceeds expectations as one of the most preferred hotels in Ireland.

It is the ancestral home of the Clements family and the legendary Lord Leitrim. Our magical Irish castle hotel has been transformed from an incredible ancestral home into a place where old world elegance mixes seamlessly with unimaginable modern hotel luxury.

Staying in a luxurious Castle Hotel in Ireland is a once in a lifetime experience and one that deserves to take place at a location full of history, luxury and charm. Take a step back in time as you approach imposing entrances at Lough Rynn Castle which offers acres of breathtaking scenery, historical sites and walled gardens. Our entire Irish castle hotel’s estate comprises of over 300 acres of land that is idyllic, rich in history and charmed with natural beauty. Take a romantic walk in our walled gardens overlooking our lough and come back to the castle hotel for some exquisite dining in our restaurant or drinks at the Dungeon Bar. Relax and take in the authentic Irish castle atmosphere in the Baronial Hall or in the John McGahern Library.

Mac Raghnaill family (1210 –1621)

The current Lough Rynn estate is built on the ancestral lands of Clan Maelsechlainn-Oge Mac Raghnaill, the pre-Conquest rulers of this part of County Leitrim known as Muintir Eolais. The Annals of Loch Cé and Annals of Connacht refer to “the crannóg of Claenloch” (Lough Rynn) in the High Middle Ages, 1247AD, with the structure marked on some maps as “Crannoge” or “Crane Island”, while the medieval Mac Raghnaill‘s Castle is mentioned in 1474AD.

The ruins of the Mac Raghnaill‘s Castle are located close to the lake and some 500 meters from the existing Lough Rynn Castle. The historian, Fiona Slevin, describes the structure of the Mac Raghnaill castle as “fairly standard for the time, but it did have a few unusual – and clever – features. Although a square shape, the castle had rounded corners that made it more impervious to artillery attacks and it had a straight stairway carved into the hollow of a wall, rather than the more usual spiral stair in one corner.”

The Mac Raghnaill family had played an important role in the Nine Years War on the side of Aodh Mór Ó Néill resisting the English conquest of Ireland.

Crofton family (1621–1750)

In the English Plantation of 1621, the Mac Raghnaill lands in Lough Rynn were confiscated and granted to an English family named Crofton. The Croftons brought British Protestant settlers with them and in the 1620s and 1630s the native Irish were gradually removed from the land.

In 1749, a wealthy landowner named Nathaniel Clements purchased around 10,000 acres in the Mohill area of County Leitrim. Upon doing so, his son Robert became the 1st Earl of Leitrim. On their new estate, the Clements family took up residence in a modest dwelling already on the estate. However, they had their eyes on building a far more impressive residence worthy of their name and their stature – a magnificent castle.

By the start of the 19th century, work had begun on the Clements family’s new home under the watchful eyes of the Earl. Sometime in 1839, Robert Clements died both suddenly and young, which passed the management of the estate to his brother William Sydney Clements. Although Sydney worked with his brother managing the build of Lough Rynn, as a second son, he never expected to inherit the lands or titles. However, in 1854, that’s exactly what he did, taking full ownership of the estate on the death of his father, thus becoming the 3rd Earl of Leitrim or Lord Leitrim as he preferred.

Clements family (1750–1978)

In 1750 the Croftons were replaced by another English family named the Clements. Daniel Clements, an officer in Oliver Cromwell‘s army, had been granted land in County Cavan which had been confiscated from the Irish following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. In 1750 Nathaniel Clements acquired the Lough Rynn estate, while remaining on his lands in Cavan. Nevertheless, the Clements started to become more involved in political life in Leitrim with Robert Clements becoming sheriff for the county in 1759. In 1795 Robert Clements became the first Earl of Leitrim. In 1833, Robert Bermingham [Clements (1805-1839)], Viscount Clements [grandson of the 1st Earl of Leitrim], built a mock Tudor revival house overlooking Lough Rynn. It is this property which is the basis for the current Lough Rynn Castle.

Upon Robert’s death in 1839, management of Lough Rynn estate passed to his brother, William Sydney Clements [(1806-1879) 3rd Earl of Leitrim]. In 1854, when their father Nathaniel Clements, 2nd Earl of Leitrim, died William Sydney Clements became the 3rd Earl of Leitrim. He inherited an estate of a massive 90,000 acres which stretched across four counties. From around this time Sydney Clements asserted his control over the estate in an authoritarian manner which won him many opponents among the tenantry. He was unpopular in the locality and in Ireland, his assassination received widespread publicity in Ireland and abroad, with proponents of land reform using it as evidence of the need to protect tenants from the abuses of tyrannical landlords. His funeral in Dublin was marked by further riots, while none of the three assassins were convicted of his death.

The inheritor of the Lough Rynn estate was Sydney Clements’ English-educated cousin who lived in Cavan, Colonel Henry Theophilus Clements [1820-1904], rather than the heir presumptive to the title who lived in England. This Colonel Clements embarked on an extensive expansion and refurbishment of the castle. He added a new wing, built a Baronial Hall designed by Thomas Drew with heavy plaster cornices, a large ornate Inglenook fireplace, and a fretted ceiling and walls wainscoted in solid English oak. Upon its completion in 1889, the principal floor of the house contained a main hall, Baronial Hall, chapel, reception room, living room and dining room. Two pantries, a kitchen, study, smokehouse and store were accessed by a separate entrance. In the basement there were stores and a wine cellar. There were fourteen bedrooms and four bathrooms upstairs.

By 1952, when Marcus Clements took over the Lough Rynn estate, most of it had been sold off to former tenants under the land acts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Clements lived there until the 1970’s. The estate remained largely empty until 1990 when it was purchased by an Irish-American investor, for a short time it was open to visitors but it was still in need of more investment and care.

Hanly Family (2001- Present)

In 2001 Lough Rynn estate was purchased by the current owners, the Hanly family. They invested substantially in the castle and the grounds. In September 2006 when Lough Rynn Castle finally opened as a hotel, the estate extended to three hundred acres. Local father and son Alan and Albert Hanly purchased the castle and grounds. Over the seven years that followed, they lovingly brought it back to its former glory, so that it’s magic, luxury and history could be embraced.

A secluded location, standard-setting craftsmanship, breathtaking views and the perfect blend of old-world elegance and new-world luxury, has turned Lough Rynn Castle into a truly magical destination.

2. Manorhamilton Castle (Ruin), Castle St, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim – section 482

contact: Anthony Daly
Tel: 086-2502593 

www.manorhamilton.ie

Open: Mar 6-31, April 3-Oct 31, Nov 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27, Dec 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 9am-4pm
Fee: adult €5, audio €10, child free.

Manorhamilton Castle photo by Keith Ewing flickr creative commons.

3. Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim (OPW)

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

Places to stay, Leitrim

1. Bush Hotel, Carrick on Shannon, Co Leitrim  €

https://www.bushhotel.com/

“Our charming award-winning boutique heritage hotel is in the centre of Carrick on Shannon, County Leitrim.”

2. Lough Rynn Castle, Mohill, County Leitrim

https://www.loughrynn.ie/

and self-catering cottages https://www.loughrynn.ie/self-catering/

Mayo:

1. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo – hotel and gives tours

 https://www.belleekcastle.com/

The website tells us:

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. 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.”

2. Brookhill House, Brookhill, Claremorris, Co. Mayo – section 482

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.

Brookhill House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [1]

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.

Appraisal

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.” [2]

3. Enniscoe House & Gardens, Castlehill, Ballina, Co. Mayo – section 482

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/11/25/enniscoe-house-gardens-castlehill-ballina-co-mayo/
contact: Susan Kellett
Tel: 096-31112
www.enniscoe.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: April 1-Oct 31
Open: garden, April 1-Oct 31, 10am-5pm,
Fee: garden & heritage centre adult €8, OAP €6, child €3 under 4 years free, student €3, family 2 adults and 2 children €15, tour of house €5 per adult, free tour in National Heritage Week

4. Old Coastguard Station, Rosmoney, Westport, Co. Mayo – section 482

contact: James Cahill
Tel: 094-9025500
www.jamescahill.com/coastguardstation.html
Open: July 1-Sept 9 closed Sundays, National Heritage Week Aug 13-21, 11am-4pm
Fee: €1.

Old Coastguard Station, County Mayo, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

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.

5. Owenmore, Garranard, Ballina, Co. Mayo – section 482

contact: Jerry O’ Mara
Tel: 087-2446744 

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: 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.” [3]

www.owenbeg.ie – link doesn’t work.

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.” [4]

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.”

6. Partry House, Mayo

http://www.museumsofmayo.com/partry-house/partry-house.html

The website tells us:

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.

Farm

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.”

7. Prizon House, Prizon North, Balla, Co. Mayo – section 482

contact: Tom O’Connor
Tel: 087-9032133

www.prisonehouse.wordpress.com
Open: May 1-31, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 2pm-6pm Fee: adult €5, student/OAP/child free

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:

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.

Patrick Nolan:

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

[6*] Ibid

[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

[19*] NLI Ordnance Survey map 1837, 79/12 microfiche no. 14

[20*] National Archives

[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’

8. Turlough Park, Museum of Country Life, Mayo

https://www.museum.ie/en-IE/Museums/Country-Life

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.
The name of the village and estate derives from the Irish turlach, signifying a lake that dries up in the summer period.

The website tells us about the house:

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.

Turlough Park ca. 1880, photograph from National Library of Ireland, on flickr constant commons.
Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.
Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

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.

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

An imposing stained glass window above the porch incorporates the Fitzgerald family crest and bears the motto Honor Probataque Virtus (Honour, Probity & Virtue)

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

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.

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.
Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.
Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

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.

The Drawing Room,Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

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.

Lyrachord Piano, Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

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.

Museum of Country Life, Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

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.

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

9. Westport House, County Mayo

Westport House, Westport, ©Christian McLeod 2016, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [5]

https://www.westporthouse.ie/

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.

Westport House, Westport, ©Christian McLeod 2016, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [5]

“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).

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.

Aerial view of Westport House, Co Mayo, ©Tsung Ho Lam 2020, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool [5]

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.

Places to stay, County Mayo:

1. Ashford Castle, Mayo/Galway – hotel €€€

Ashford Castle, photograph Courtesy Aervisions 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).

https://ashfordcastle.com/

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.

Ashford Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
Ashford Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).

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 [3])

Ashford Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
George V Dining Room, Ashford Castle, Co Mayo, Courtesy Jack Hardy 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
Billiards Room, Ashford Castle, Courtesy Jack Hardy 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
Afternoon tea, Ashford Castle, Co Mayo Courtesy Kelvin Gillmor 2014. (see [5])
Ashford Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
Ashford Castle, photograph by unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).
Ashford Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [5]).

2. Belleek Castle and Ballina House, originally Belleek Castle, Ballina, Mayo – €€ and see above 

3. Breaghwy, Castlebar, Co Mayo – – now called Breaffy House Resort. I think this hotel is being used for Ukranian refugees at the moment.

https://www.breaffyhouseresort.com/

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 [5])

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 [3])

4. Enniscoe House, Castlehill, Ballina, Co Mayo – section 482

5. Knockranny House Hotel and Spa, County Mayo

https://www.knockrannyhousehotel.ie/

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. 

6.  Mount Falcon, Ballina, County Mayo – hotel €€

https://www.mountfalcon.com/

Mount Falcon Estate, Co Mayo_by Mount Falcon 2020 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [5])

The website tells us:

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).” [7]

7. Newport House, Newport, Co. Mayo, Ireland

http://www.newporthouse.ie

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). 

8. Owenmore, Garranard, Ballina, Co. Mayo – section 482

contact: Jerry O’ Mara
Tel: 087-2446744 

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: March-Oct and Dec

9. Turin Castle, Turin, Kilmaine, Co. Mayo, Ireland – whole castle rental, €€ for two, € for 10-12

http://turincastle.com

The website tells us:

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

https://www.westbrookhousemayo.com

The website tells us:

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.”

Sligo:

1. Ballymote Castle, County Sligo (OPW)

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

2. Ballynafad Castle (or Ballinafad), Co Sligo – a ruin, OPW

3. Coopershill House, Riverstown, Co. Sligo – section 482

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/11/coopershill-house-riverstown-co-sligo/
contact: Simon O’Hara
Tel: 071-9165108
www.coopershill.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: April-Sept, Tues-Sat, 11am-5pm
Fee: adult/child/OAP/student €5.

4. Lissadell House & Gardens, Lissadell, Ballinfull, Co. Sligo – section 482

contact: Edward Walsh
Tel: 087-2550969
www.lissadell.com
Open: June-Aug, 10am-6pm Fee: adult €14, child €7

5. Markree Castle, Collooney, Co Sligo – section 482

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/11/06/markree-castle-collooney-co-sligo/
contact: Nicholas Ryan
Tel: 071-9167800
www.markreecastle.ie
Open: June, July, Aug, 12 noon-4pm 
Fee: Free

6. Newpark House and Demesne, Newpark, Ballymote, Co. Sligo – section 482

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/11/30/newpark-house-and-demesne-newpark-ballymote-co-sligo/
contact: Christopher & Dorothy-Ellen Kitchin
Tel: 087-3706869
Open: Feb 14-18, 28, March 1-4, 28-31, April 1, 25-29, May 3-27, Aug 12-26, 9am- 1pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP/student €5, child free

7. Rathcarrick House, Rathcarrick, Strandhill Road, Co. Sligo – section 482

contact: Michael Sweeney
Tel: 071-9128417
Open: June, July, Aug, Tue-Sat, National Heritage Week Aug 13-21, 2pm-6pm Fee: adult €5, OAP/student/child free

8. Temple House, Ballymote, Co. Sligo – section 482

contact: Roderick and Helena Perceval
Tel: 087-9976045 

www.templehouse.ie
(Tourist Accommodation Facility) Open: April 1-October 31

Places to stay, County Sligo:

1. Annaghmore, Colloony, County Sligo https://www.annaghmore.ie/history

Annaghmore, County Sligo

We stayed here during Heritage Week in 2021 and will be visiting again in 2022! You can book to stay with the owners on airbnb.

Our lovely bedroom in Annaghmore, County Sligo.

The website tells us:

The O’Hara’s were Chiefs of Luighne, an extensive territory in the County of Sligo, and maintained an independent position down to the time of Oliver Cromwell. The family have always had a residence on the present site, as well as castles at Castlelough, Memlough and other parts of Leyne prior to the modern Annaghmore house being built in the 1790s. The house was dramatically added to in the 1830s and again in the 1870s by architect James Franklin Fuller, to form the unusually restrained classical house it is today.   We are one of the very few original old Gaelic families to still live in the family seat.   Over generations The O’Hara’s have made a profound contribution to Irish history both at home and abroad; holding important roles in politics, the military, religious, cultural and sporting arenas.  Annaghmore is a living testimony to the family’s achievements and steadfast commitment and love for the people of Sligo, well documented through manuscripts, paintings, personal diaries, maps and photographs still very much visible within the house today.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

p. 4. “[O’Hara] A house of ca. 1820, consisting of a 2 storey 3 bay centre with single-storey Ionic portico and single-storey 2 bay wings, greatly enlarged ca. 1860-70 by C. W. O’Hara to the design of James Franklin Fuller; the additions being in the same late-Georgian style as the original house. The wings were raised a storey and extended back so that the house had a side elevation as high as the front and as long, or longer, consisting of 1 bay, curved bow, 3 further bays and a three-sided bow. At the same time, the fenestration of the original centre was altered, paired windows being inserted into the two outer bays instead of the original single window above a Wyatt window. All the ground floor windows except for those in the three sided bow have plain entablatures over them. Parapeted roof. Short area balustrade on either side of centre. Curved staircase behind entrance hall. Doorcases with reeded architraves and rosettes.” 

2. Schoolhouse at Annaghmore

https://www.irishlandmark.com/propertytag/cottages-and-houses/?gclid=Cj0KCQiApL2QBhC8ARIsAGMm-KFInICcRSxwLSiDxfFNk5WFytNcVrLvOQYhzJbIBes4V-M65iXz0gYaAln_EALw_wcB

The Schoolhouse in Annaghmore was built in the 1860s to educate local children.

The schoolhouse at Annaghmore, County Sligo

3. Ardtarmon Castle, Ballinfull, Co Sligo – accommodation https://www.ardtarmoncastle.com

The website tells us: “Spend Your Holidays or your Honeymoon in a Castle at Seaside in Ireland – All Apartments in our Castle are South Facing with view to the Sea – Self Catering Holiday and Honeymoon Apartment in an Irish Castle.

The National Inventory tells us Ardtarmon is multiple-bay two-storey rendered castle built c. 1640. Oblong plan, circular towers to north and south ends of main east elevation and centre of west elevation, seven-bay two-storey extension c.1995 with corner turret to south-west, bawn to west. “This national monument is a transitional early-seventeenth century semi-fortified house. Although extensively renovated for residential use, the castle has retained many of its original features.

Ardtarmon Castle which commanded the sea approaches to Sligo town when first built around 1648. Its founder Sir Francis Gore was a distant ancestor of Constance Gore-Booth and founder of the Gore Booth family. It was the original home of the Gore-Booths before they moved to Lissadell in the early 18th century after a fire burned Ardtarmon to the ground. It is one of the two buildings built in the style of the Cromwell period that survive in the area. The other is Park’s Castle on the Shores of Lough Gill in Co. Leitrim.

Rebuilt in the late 20th century to its former glory by Holger & Erika Schiller the castle now offers state of the art luxury self-catering accommodation, with design and interiors faithful to the original but with modern day comfort including under floor heating and dishwashers in all apartments.” 

4. Castle Dargan Lodges, Ballygawley, Co. Sligo, Ireland

https://www.castledargan.com

The website tells us: “Welcome to Castle Dargan Estate, a magnificent, rambling country estate on 170 rolling acres in W.B. Yeats’ beloved County Sligo. The great poet was inspired to write of its charms in The King of The Great Clock Tower and a hundred years later we invite you to be enchanted by a timeless elegance and unique atmosphere that will stay with you forever.

Accommodation at Castle Dargan Estate offers guests a diverse range of 4-star hotel accommodation including luxury suites in the 18th century Castle Dargan House, one and two bed Walled Garden Suites which are perfect for family breaks, and self-catering lodges available for holiday rentals. With a rich history brought in to 21st century, Castle Dargan Estate offers more to our guests than hospitality and fantastic settings, it offers classic grandeur that remains timeless.

The website also tells us about Castle Dargan’s history:

“Castle Dargan: I liked the place for its romance”  – W.B.Yeats 

“Beautifully situated, having delightful views of the surrounding scenery and the mansion house being suitable for the residence of a gentleman of the highest respectability”. – Patrick E. O’Brien 

Such was the description of Castle Dargan prior to public auction in 1875, lands that has been residence to many during five millenia. Extensive archaeological remains bear witness to a continuity; stone age burial sites on the heights of Sliabh Daeane to the north, a possible henge ritual site, bronze age cooking and washing sites, and until recently unknown souterrain – the underground refuge and foodstore of early medieval farmers, and ring forts beside the 5th fairway and on the high ground above the 18th hole. The old castle area, a complex of habitation from the 15 to 18 centuries and built on an earlier cashel or stone-built ring fort, has not yet been interpreted satisfactorily.

By the early 14 century, the MacDonaghs ruled the barony of Tirerrill, that eastern half of Sligo that stretches from the southern shores of Lough Arrow to Castle Dargan. In a dispute of 1422 over the strategic construction of a castle by Conor MacDonagh of Collooney – Castle Dargan was subject to Collooney – the castle was captured by an army of O’Neill and O’Donnell forces, allies of the Castledargan MacDonaghs; which having partaken of overnight hospitality in Castle Dargan, returned north the following day. On a return visit in 1516 another O’Donnell raided Sligo taking several castles, among them and took hostages.

Following the submission of O’Conor Sligo to Queen Elizabeth in 1585, the MacDonaghs found themselves paying fees to the Crown and liable to fines or confiscation. The Collooney family became one of the leading Gaelic families representing Sligo in the early 1600s, a period which ended with the death in rebellion of its leader Brian Óg MacDonagh in 1643.

In the aftermath of the subsequent Cromwellian Wars, the MacDonaghs withdrew into modest circumstances or returned to a tradition of military service in continental armies. Castle Dargan lands were split between three owners, Coote, Crofton and the Strafford & Radcliffe estate which later sold its interest to the Burton family, ancestors of the Cunninghams of Slane. The new ownership provided the opportunity in 1687 for the arrival in Castle Dargan of Stephen Ormsby, great-grandson of an Elizabethan soldier, Thomas Ormsby of Lincolnshire, who had married well in Mayo.

The Castle Dargan Ormsbys leased rather than owned land for several generations. William, Stephen’s grandson, married well during the 1740s, his wife bringing the 408 acres of nearby Knockmullen as a dowry. Having renewed the lease of Drumnamackin ‘called commonly the name of Castle Dargan’ in 1749 he was recorded as paying a chief rent of £3 for it in 1775; during those intervening years Castle Dargan had obviously come into full Ormsby ownership. Subsequently, he took out a lease on three townlands for 400 years in 1781.

Reflecting these improved circumstances, William built the original Castle Dargan House in the second half of the eighteenth century. He also developed the demesne, its farmlands and, probably, the walled and ornamental gardens in the castle area. He died in 1784 ‘deservedly lamented’ and was succeeded in turn by each of his sons, Nicholson and Thomas, both of whom died unmarried, and William who was in turn succeeded by his son, John.

John, the most public person of the Castle Dargan Ormsbys was elected a Burgess of Sligo Borough in 1824, appointed Provost in 1829 and 1839, High Sheriff of the county in 1834 and was regularly a Grand Juror of the Assizes. He was a founder member of and contributed to the first Famine Relief Committee of 1846 and served over many years as a Resident Magistrate. He died in 1870 and was succeeded by his son, Nicholson, who survived him by one year only and by his grandson, John Robert, the last Ormsby of Castle Dargan House.

In John Robert’s time, the young W.B. Yeats visited Castle Dargan House ‘where lived a brawling squireen’, married to one of his Middleton cousins; Mary Middleton was married to John Robert. It was, as he said, “the last household where I could have found the reckless Ireland of a hundred years ago in final degradation. But I liked the place for the romance of its two castles facing one another across a little lake, Castle Dargan and Castle Furey”; the Ormsbys were well-known for their country pursuits.

They had historically taken a dramatic place in Irish folklore when it is recorded that a group of Elizabethan adventurers, arriving by boat on a western shore, were promised a grant of land to the first to set foot on land. Ormsby, a veteran of the continental wars cast his cork-leg ahead of him, wading ashore at his leisure.

Cock-fighting in the Sligo of 1781 was noted in reporting the rivalry of Nicholson Ormsby and Philip Perceval of Templehouse, in which Ormsby lost the princely prize of two hundred guineas. Nicholson’s reputation was such that, Archdeacon O’Rorke, writing his otherwise sober in 1889, made an exception in the case of Nicholson Ormsby, recounting tales of his practical jokes, for which he had some notoriety.

Over many years the Ormsbys had participated in Sligo horse-racing, its gentlemen and young ladies remarked upon among the attendance of the ‘beauty and fashion of the County’ at such gatherings, their racing successes beginning at the first festival of racing at Bowmore in Rosses Point in September 1781. This love of horses continued with the hunt and the hosting of several times a season. Ormsby hospitality was once remarked upon when, following ‘as good a run on so fine a day as any could wish for’, the hunting party ‘came to lunch at Castle Dargan House, where the usual hospitality of the owner was taken every advantage of’.

Inevitably, stories of Castle Dargan and Ormsby exploits made their way into Yeats’s works. Reflecting the folklore of spectral dancers in well-lit ruins; the royal attendant of, more than half a century later, sang –

    O, but I saw a solemn sight;

    Said the rambling, shambling travelling-man;

    Castle Dargan’s ruin all lit,

    Lovely ladies dancing in it.

High over Castle Dargan on Sliabh Daeane – the mountain of the two birds – is the passage tomb of Its name recalls the legend of The Old Woman of Beara – Bird Mountain Clooth-na-BareThe Hosting of the Sidhe

The host is riding from Knocknarea

    And over the grave of Clooth-na-bare;

    Caoilte tossing his burning hair,

    And Niamh calling Away, come away …

An event, not recalled in genealogies, in which an Ormsby daughter is said to have eloped with a groom, married and happily raised a family in nearby Coolaney, is reputedly evoked in; an eventwhich may be reflected when the old man tells his son;

My mother that was your grand-dam owns it, This scenery and this countryside kennel and stables, horse and hound –She had a horse at the Curragh, and there met my father, a groom in a training stable, looked at him and married him.Her mother never spoke to her again,

By March 1875 a series of financial reversals finally forced the sale by the Landed Estates Court of the various Ormsby interests in almost 2000 acres. Castle Dargan was bought for £12,000 by William Middleton, Mary Ormsby’s father, with a five year £10,000 loan from Andrew Hosie, a successful miller of Dromahair.

William Middleton died in 1882, the loan unpaid and John Robert Ormsby having departed unexpectedly and alone for the United States. The 959 acres of Castle Dargan were auctioned in September 1883, Andrew Hosie being the sole bidder and Mary Ormsby and her family of seven children retired to Elsinore, a Middleton property in Rosses Point. A daughter, Amy Frances Vernon, subsequently achieved fame as a County Sligo lady golfer winning Irish and South African Ladies’ Championships; Larry (Arthur) Vernon, her husband, won the inaugural West of Ireland Championship at County Sligo Golf Club in 1923.

Andrew Hosie died in1888, having already vested Castle Dargan in his nephew, John, in December 1883. Following extensive repairs to the house in 1884, the current hall-door entrance and bay-windows were added in 1895. The demesne was farmed by John’s son, James, and grandson, John, until the death of John C. Hosie in November 1997. With the sale of the mountain lands in 1894 to the Coopers of Markree Castle, and of several smaller sections in the intervening years, the remaining 145 acres of Castle Dargan demesne and the nineteen acres of Carrigeenboy near the gate-lodge were sold in 1998 by Mrs Kathleen Hosie to Dermot Fallon of Ballinacarrow, Co. Sligo.

With that, the continuous occupation of three families over almost six centuries was finally drawn to a close.”

5. Carrowcullen old Irish Farmhouse

https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/old-irish-farmhouse-carrowcullen/

The website tells us:

Carrowcullen: The Old Irish Farmhouse is an 1880s six room stone traditional farmhouse, with a low hipped slate roof which drew from earlier building traditions of the 1820s/1830s and offers a ‘walk back in time’ experience so that when visitors arrive they enter the farmhouse kitchen, as they would have in the past and find themselves at centre the house as would have happened traditionally.

On the first floor, the Carrowcullen: Old Irish Farmhouse offers a master bedroom, twin bedroom, a small bedroom and a bathroom with Victorian cast-iron bath with overhead shower and cast-iron cistern. On the ground floor is the kitchen, flanked on either side by the parlour and sitting room. The master and twin bedrooms have sinks. On the ground floor the sitting room also has a single bed, sink and toilet, in the event that guests may not be able to manage the narrow and irregular original stairs. The kitchen has a Stanley 8 stove (matching the original), gas cooker, microwave and toaster. An under-stairs cloakroom is off the kitchen provides additional flexibility for guests. An immersion heater provides hot water when the boiler is not being used for heating.

The Old Irish Farmhouse offers a ‘walk back in time’ experience: the fridge, microwave, dishwasher are hidden, so that when visitors arrive they enter the farmhouse kitchen, as they would the centre the house traditionally. Antique furniture, furnishings and sanitary ware are appropriate with the house’s age and some are original to the house.

Situated in Co Sligo, Carrowcullen: The Old Irish Farmhouse is set today on the fourteen acres of rugged farmland along the Wild Atlantic Way and set well back from a quiet country lane, the farmhouse is accessed by a private lane (with public access) which links with a forestry lane, providing for an easy ‘loop’ walk. Two natural springs are in the east and west pastures, and a river, the Ardnaglass runs on two sides of the east pasture; it runs from Loch Acree on Ladies Brae ultimately flowing to Dunmoran Sands. The farmhouse has spectacular views of the Ox Mountain ranges & Knocknarea. Intentionally , the Old Irish Farmhouse is embodied as a living house – as it always had been– not a ‘replica’ which would arbitrarily ‘assign’ ‘a ‘date’ to the house, from which eliminating decisions and associations would cascade. As a living house, it contains artwork associated with my family and with my family’s and my connections with American artists from the 1970 onwards and with the Swedish arts and crafts traditions. (I crochet lace using my Swedish grandmother’s patterns and paint ordinary objects with flowers inspired by those on Carrowcullen’s pastures, in the Swedish tradition; Carrowcullen gifts are available to purchase).

Carrowcullen: The Old Irish Farmhouse meets with the ‘Fáilte Ireland Welcome Standard’ and promotes sustainability and recycling as an integral part of the ‘message’ and ‘dialogue’ of Carrowcullen as re-envisioned since 2016. Biodiversity projects record plant, animal and bird species and precise times of year they appear and guests may contribute to this recording, should they so wish.

Come stay and experience late 19th c objects and farmhouse life at Carrowcullen!

Carrowcullen: The Old Irish Farmhouse is set on an east west axis with its south gabled end facing Ladies Brae, a dramatic steep passage on the Ox Mountains, from which fierce winds and rain sweep. The Sligo walking trails are directly accessible from the house and the quiet country lane. Beaches such as Dunmoran Strand and Aughris Head (with the Beach Bar) are minutes drive away. Nearby, Beltra Country Market on Saturday mornings offers home-produced food and vegetables in addition to crafts and activities. Other activities in the area include Surfing and horseriding. Local shops (Collery’s and Ardabrone) service the area. The anticipated nearby Coolaney National Mountain Bike Centre will soon be opening. The Skreen Dromard guild of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association meets on Wednesday evenings and welcomes guest visitors! With prior arrangement, guests may experience the daily sheep herding and checks. Carrowcullen also offers visitors an opportunity to engage with our roaming hens and quails who provide fresh eggs which are available to purchase and not forgetting the flock of Japanese and Jumbo Italian quails.

6. Coopershill House, Riverstown, Co. Sligo – section 482

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/11/coopershill-house-riverstown-co-sligo/
contact: Simon O’Hara
Tel: 071-9165108
www.coopershill.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: April-Sept, Tues-Sat, 11am-5pm

7. Lissadell rental properties:

http://lissadellhouse.com/lissadellrentals/

8. Markree Castle, Collooney, Co Sligo – section 482

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/11/06/markree-castle-collooney-co-sligo/
contact: Nicholas Ryan
Tel: 071-9167800
www.markreecastle.ie

9. Newpark House and Demesne, Newpark, Ballymote, Co. Sligo – section 482

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/11/30/newpark-house-and-demesne-newpark-ballymote-co-sligo/
contact: Christopher & Dorothy-Ellen Kitchin
Tel: 087-3706869

10. Temple House, Ballymote, Co. Sligo – section 482

contact: Roderick and Helena Perceval
Tel: 087-9976045

www.templehouse.ie
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

and Gardener’s Cottage, https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/temple-house/the-gardeners-cottage/

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31310114/brookhill-brookhill-co-mayo

[2] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie:8080/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=638

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

[4] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/2014/07/owenmore-house.html

[5] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en

[6] https://archiseek.com/2009/breaffy-house-co-mayo-ireland/

[7] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31303909/mount-falcon-drumrevagh-co-mayo

Places to visit and to stay: Leinster: Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois

Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

Accommodation is in red. Section 482 properties are in purple.

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

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing;

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

Whole house accommodation is for more than 10 people.

Kildare:

1. Blackhall Castle, Calverstown, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare – section 482

2. Burtown House and Garden, Athy, Co. Kildare – section 482

3. Castletown House, County Kildare – OPW

4. Coolcarrigan House & Gardens, Coolcarrigan, Coill Dubh, Naas, Co. Kildare – section 482

5. Donadea Forest Park and ruins of Donadea Castle, County Kildare (former home of the Aylmer family up to 1935)

6. Farmersvale House, Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare – section 482

7. Griesemount House, Ballitore, Co Kildare – section 482

8. Harristown House, Brannockstown, Co. Kildare – section 482

9. Kildrought House, Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare – section 482

10. Larchill, Kilcock, Co. Kildare – section 482

11. Leixlip Castle, Leixlip, Co. Kildare – section 482

12. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare – OPW

13. Millbrook House, County Kildare:

House and limited garden access for groups only

14. Moone Abbey House & Tower, Moone Abbey, Moone, Co. Kildare – section 482

15. Moyglare Glebe, Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare – section 482

16. Steam Museum Lodge Park Heritage Centre, Lodge Park, Straffan, Co. Kildare – section 482

Places to stay, County Kildare:

1. Balyna, Moyvalley, Co Kildare – Moyvalley Hotel 

2. Barberstown Castle, Kildare – hotel 

3. Batty Langley Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare

4. Burtown House holiday cottages

5. Carton House, Kildare – open to public, hotel 

6. Castletown Gate Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare

7. Castletown Round House, Celbridge, County Kildare : Irish Landmark

8. The Cliff at Lyons, County Kildare

9. The K Club, Straffan House, County Kildare

10. Kilkea Castle, Castledermot, Kildare – hotel 

11. Martinstown House, Kilcullen, Co Kildare – accommodation http://martinstownhouse.com/wordpress/ 

12. Moone Abbey, County Kildare holiday cottages

13. St. Catherine’s Park, Leixlip, Co Kildare – now Leixlip Manor hotel 

Whole house accommodation in County Kildare:

1. de Burgh Manor, Kilberry, County Kildare – whole house rental 

2. Griesemount House, County Kildare, whole house rentals

Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482 

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt. 

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny  

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482 

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482 

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny, maintained by Kilkenny County Council

Places to stay, County Kilkenny

1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – wedding venue, B&B 

2. Butler House, Kilkenny, co Kilkenny – accommodation 

3. Grange Manor, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny B&B

4. Leyrath (or Lyrath House), near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny – hotel 

5.  Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – hotel 

6. Shankill Castle, Co Kilkenny

7. Waterside Guest House, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny

Whole House Rental County Kilkenny:

1. Annamult House, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny – whole house rental 

2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 10

http://www.ballyburcastle.com/

3. Castle Blunden, County Kilkenny whole house rental

4. Clomantagh Castle, Co Kilkenny – €€ for two, € for 3-8

5. Tubbrid Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 8

Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

2. Ballintubbert House and Gardens, Stradbally, Co Laois – open to public  https://www.discoverireland.ie/laois/ballintubbert-gardens-house

3. Gardens at Castle Durrow, County Laois

4. Clonohill Gardens, Coolrain, Portlaoise, Laois

5. Emo Court, County Laois – OPW

6. Heywood Gardens, County Laois – OPW

7. Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois – section 482

Places to Stay, County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

2. Ballyfin House, Co. Laois – hotel €€€

3. Castle Durrow, Co Laois – a hotel 

4. Coolanowle Country House, Ballickmoyler, County Laois

5. Roundwood, Mountrath, Co Laois – guest house https://roundwoodhouse.com 

and the forge and writer’s cottage at Roundwood

Whole House Rental County Laois:

1. Preston House, Abbeyleix, County Laois

Kildare

1. Blackhall Castle, Calverstown, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare

Blackhall Castle, County Kildare.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/05/14/blackhall-castle-calverstown-kilcullen-county-kildare/
contact: Jeffrey & Naomi White
Tel: 087-6771661
Open: May 1-31, Aug 13-22, Sept 1-15, Dec 1-20, 2pm-6pm Fee: Free

2. Burtown House and Garden, Athy, Co. Kildare – section 482

Burtown House, County Kildare, June 2021.

contact: James Fennell
Tel: 059-8623148
www.burtownhouse.ie
Open: May 4-7, 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, June 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, July 6-9, 13-16, 19-23, 27-30, August 3-6, 10-21, 24-27, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €5, child under €5 free

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

Ballytore, in County Kildare, was a stronghold of the Irish Quakers and the centre of a sizeable Quaker community. One of their members, Robert Power, built Burtown House as the hub of a two thousand acre farming enterprise in the 1720s. His Georgian villa, shown on early maps as “Power’s Grove,” was only one room deep so wings were added later in the century. These were subsequently removed, though their faint outlines can still be identified and Burtown was further extended in the early nineteenth century when a full height bow was added on the garden front. 

The new extension provided a bow ended room on the garden front, a large bedroom above and a grand staircase, lit by a tall round-headed window. Pretty plasterwork in the manner of James Wyatt was also introduced at the time, most notably in an arched alcove in the bow-ended room, which is likely to have been the original dining room. The alcove is filled with a shallow fan, and delightfully cursive sprays of vine leaves, and is flanked by a pair of classical vases on pilasters of foliage with naive Corinthian capitals.

Burtown has never been sold in all its three hundred years. The house passed from the Power family to the Houghtons and thence to the Wakefields, who gave it a new roof with widely projecting eaves in the early nineteenth century. They also lengthened the sash windows, installed a new front door with a fanlight in a deep recess, and carried out a number of other alterations.

When Mr. Wakefield was killed playing cricket Burtown passed to his sister, who had married a fellow Quaker from County Tipperary, William Fennell. Their son, William James was a keen horseman but “was asked to leave the Quaker congregation because of his fondness for driving a carriage with two uniformed flunkeys on the back”.

Today Burtown is in the midst of two hundred acres of parkland, including ten acres of lush flower, vegetable and woodland gardens with many fine walks. The house has now been home to five generations of the Fennell family, and to the acclaimed botanical artist and illustrator, Wendy Walsh. Coincidentally, the leading Irish botanical artist of the early twentieth century, Lydia Shackleton, also came from the same small Quaker community.” [1]

3. Castletown House, County Kildare – OPW

The Print Room, Castletown House, County Kildare.

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

4. Coolcarrigan House & Gardens, Coolcarrigan, Coill Dubh, Naas, Co. Kildare – section 482

Coolcarrigan, County Kildare, September 2019.

See my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/05/31/coolcarrigan-house-and-gardens-coill-dubh-naas-county-kildare/
contact: Robert Wilson-Wright
Tel: 086-2580439
www.coolcarrigan.ie
Open: Feb 1-4, 21-25, Mar 1-4, April 23-29, May 9-17, Aug 13-31, Sept 1-9, 14-16, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €8, OAP/student €5, child free

5. Donadea Forest Park and ruins of Donadea Castle, County Kildare (former home of the Aylmer family up to 1935)

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

https://www.coillte.ie/site/donadea-forest-park/

The website tells us:

Donadea Forest Park includes Donadea Castle and estate, the former home of the Aylmer family up until 1935. There are many historical features including the remains of the castle and walled gardens, St. Peter’s church, an ice house and boat house. The Lime tree avenue planted in the 19th century formed the original entrance to the estate. Another feature of the park is the 9/11 Memorial, a scaled replica of the twin towers carved in limestone. The small lake is brimming with ducks, waterhens and has a beautiful display of water lilies in the summer. There is a café open throughout the year.

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

In 1581 Gerald Aylmer, (1548-1634), Knight, of Donadea, son of George Aylmer, of Cloncurry, and grandson of Richard Aylmer, of Lyons, built a new tower in Donadea, not fully completed until 1624 and it is now the oldest part of the Castle. [2]

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

In 1626, he repaired the medieval Church in Donadea and built a new extension in which he established his family burial plot. In the extension he also constructed an Altar Tomb monument as a burial memorial for his family. Gerald was titled by the Crown and became the first Baronet of Donadea.  
 
The Aylmers were connected with the various conflicts and rebellions over the next two centuries. During the wars of the 1640s, Sir Andrew, 2nd Baronet (c. 1610-c. 1671), supported the rebels and was imprisoned at the beginning of the war. 
 
Although he was a brother-in-law of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, there were no favours granted to him. The Aylmers rebuilt the castle after it was burned by James Butler’s troops. 

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

In 1689, after the battle of the Boyne, Lady Helen Aylmer, widow of the 3rd Baronet, (born Plunkett, daughter of Luke Plunkett 3rd Earl of Fingall) was in charge of the Castle. She was outlawed due to her support for James II, but she managed to hold on to the Castle and lands under the terms of the Treaty of Limerick. 

In 1736, Sir Gerald, 5th Baronet, died leaving an only son FitzGerald who became the 6th Baronet. 

He was only one year old when his father died and was subsequently raised by his mother (Ellice or Ellen, daughter of Gerald Aylmer, 2nd Baronet of Balrath, County Meath) and her relatives who were members of the established church. FitzGerald subsequently conformed to the established religion. In 1773, he built a new house in front of the Castle and incorporated the Tower in his new residence. 

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

Gerald, 8th Baronet, held the lands of Donadea between 1816 and 1878 and he is accredited with most of the construction work that is visible in Donadea demesne today. He began his building program in the 1820s by re-routing the roads away from the Castle and the construction of a high wall enclosing the demesne. Gate lodges were then built at all the entrances. 

He also built a new grand entrance known as the Lime Avenue. 

In 1827 he completely remodelled the front of the Castle which gave it an attractive bow shaped appearance. It has been suggested that he employed the renowned architect Richard Morrison to design this new structure. 

The older cabin-type dwellings close to the castle were demolished and new estate houses built at the Range. To the west of the Castle he built an eight acre area of gardens and paddocks, surrounded and sub-divided by walls. In the Castle yard he built dwellings for staff and elaborative farm buildings. He also constructed the artificial lake and the Ice House. Large areas of the demesne were planted and, by the time of his death, Donadea demesne was listed as one of the finest parkland settings in the county. 

Outside the demesne he was involved in numerous construction projects including the famous ‘Aylmer Folly’, viz. the Tower on the summit of the hill of Allen. (see [2]) Sir Gerald’s grandson Justin, 10th Baronet, died unmarried in 1885. His sister Caroline inherited the castle and much of the demesne, while the baronetcy passed to a cousin. Caroline Maria Aylmer, who was the daughter of Sir Gerald George Aylmer, 9th Baronet, was the last Aylmer to live at Donadea. She died in 1935, leaving the estate to the Church of Ireland who, in turn, passed it bequeathed to the Irish state. 

The castle remained unoccupied and its roof was removed in the late 1950s. 

For more on the Aylmer family, see The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of County Kildare by Turtle Bunbury & Art Kavanagh (published by Irish Family Names, 2004). 

6. Farmersvale House, Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare – section 482

Farmersvale House, County Kildare, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Patricia Orr
Tel: 086-2552661
Open: May 1-18, Aug 1-22, Dec 1-20, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: adult €5, student/child/OAP €3, (Irish Georgian Society members free)

7. Griesemount House, Ballitore, Co Kildare – section 482

contact: Katharine Bulbulia
Tel: 087-2414556
www.griesemounthouse.ie
Open: April 4-8, 25-29, May 3-17, June 7-10, 13-26, July 4-8, 11-15, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child €3

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

In 1685, the village of Ballitore on the river Griese in the southern corner of County Kildare became the first planned Quaker village in England and Ireland. The Shackleton family from Yorkshire settled here some decades later and besides establishing wool and corn mills, founded the famous village school in 1726. Thanks to an entry by Mary (née Shackleton) Leadbetter in her ‘Annals of Ballitore’, we know that the first stone of Griesemount House (also known as Ballitore Hill House) was laid on Midsummer Day in 1817. While the three-bay side elevation is symmetrical, the two-bay front façade with the front door under the left window is quite modest, as was often the case with Quaker houses. It was built by George Shackleton, who had grown up in Griesebank House beside the now-ruinous Ballitore Mills on the river just below. He married Hannah Fisher and they raised 13 children in the new house, including the noted botanical artist Lydia Shackleton, the first artist-in-residence at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin. One of her first recorded sketches is of the house. The family lived here until the early 20th century; the house then changed hands several times. It was briefly owned and restored by the mother of mezzosoprano Frederica von Stade, and has recently come into new ownership.” [3]

8. Harristown House, Brannockstown, Co. Kildare – section 482

Harristown House, County Kildare, August 2019.

See my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/27/harristown-brannockstown-county-kildare/
contact: Hubert Beaumont
Tel: 087-2588775
https://www.harristownhouse.ie/
Open: Jan 3-14, Feb 21-28, Mar 1-4, May 3-13, June 13-26, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-9, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €10, child €5

9. Kildrought House, Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: June Stuart
Tel: 01-6271206, 087-6168651
Open: Jan 15-31, Feb 1-3, May 16-31, June 1-3, Aug 11-31, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3, child under 5 years free, school groups €2 per head

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us it is a detached three-bay two-storey over raised basement house with half-dormer attic, c.1720, on a symmetrical plan retaining early aspect with pediment to centre, single-bay two-storey lean-to lower recessed end bay to right (south-west) and five-bay three-storey rear elevation to south-east.

The assessment states:

Kildrought House is a fine, substantial gentleman’s residence that is one of the earliest remaining private houses in the locality, having been begun prior to commencement of work on Castletown House. The house is of social importance, having been built by a patron of high status in the locality, as evidenced by the scale and fine detailing of the house. Built on a symmetrical plan that is interrupted only by a recessed end bay to right (south-west), the house is composed of graceful Classical proportions and centred to both primary elevations about fine door openings. The inclusion of a pediment to the entrance (north-west) front serves to articulate the skyline and is an unusual feature on Main Street. The construction of the house in rubble stone is of interest, and the unrefined quality suggests that it was originally rendered (possibly in a manner matching the outbuilding to north-west). The use of early red brick to the dressings is an attractive feature of the composition and reveals a high quality of craftsmanship in the locality, notably to the profiled courses to the eaves. The house presents an early aspect, although it is probable that some of the original features have been replaced over the years. Nevertheless, replacement materials have been inserted in keeping with the original integrity of the design and include multi-pane timber sash fenestration and glazed timber doors. Set back from the line of the street, the house is an unusual feature on Main Street, being the only building on the street that is fronted by a forecourt, and adds variety to the established streetline of the streetscape. The house is announced on the side of the road by a fine gateway that reveals a high quality of stone masonry, and which retains early iron work to the gates and railings – the repointing is very prominent, however, and future renovation works ought to follow traditional practises. The formal gardens to the south-east are of particular interest in terms of their landscape design qualities, and reflect the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fashions for formal landscaping. The house is complemented by a range of outbuildings that are individually of architectural heritage merit – the outbuilding to north-west is an attractive long range that is dominated by a graceful curvilinear gable. The building retains most of its original form and replacement materials have been inserted in keeping with the integrity of the original design. The summer house to south is also a picturesque feature in the grounds, constructed entirely of early brick with dressings including pilasters that appear to bulge, despite having no considerable weight over, together with a profiled eaves course. The Kildrought House estate is an important component of the architectural heritage of Celbridge, representing an almost-intact early eighteenth-century middle-size urban estate.” [4]

10. Larchill, Kilcock, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: Michael De Las Casas
Tel: 087-2213038
www.larchill.ie
Open: May 1-20, 23-31, June 1-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, Aug 13-21, 27-28, 10am- 2pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €8, child €4, concession for groups

The website tells us:

Created between 1740 and 1780 Larchill Arcadian Garden is a ‘Ferme Ornée’ or Ornamental Farm and is the only surviving, near complete, garden of its type in Europe. The Ferme Ornée gardens of the mid 18th century were an expression in landscape gardening of the Romantic Movement. 

Emulating Arcadia, a pastoral paradise was created to reflect Man’s harmony with the perfection of nature. As is the case at Larchill, a working farm with decorative buildings (often containing specimen breeds of farm animal) was situated in landscaped parkland ornamented with follies, grottos and statuary.  Tree lined avenues, flowing water, lakes, areas of light and shade and beautiful framed views combined to create an inspirational experience enabling Man’s spirit to rejoice at the wonder of nature. 

At this time in Versailles, Marie Antoinette enjoyed extravagant pastoral pageants, housed specimen cattle in highly decorated barns, while she herself is said to have dressed as a milk maid complete with porcelain milk churns.  Freed from the restrictions of the 17th century formal garden, the Ferme Ornée represented the first move towards the fully fledged landscape parkland designs of Capability Browne. 

The inspiration for the Ferme Ornée garden at Larchill,  in rural Ireland,,is believed to have come directly  from the Prentices, a Quaker merchant family who owned the land which was to become Larchill within their estate of Phepotstown from the early 1700’s.  This was their country residence where they farmed flax for the production of linen, a highly prized fabric of the time. 

The Prentice family had trading connections throughout Europe and would have been aware of the new fashion in garden design.  In particular the famous gardens of Leasowes and Woburn Farm in England.  In Ireland the Prentice’s townhouse was adjacent to the home of Dean Swift in Dublin where he had developed his orchard and garden, ‘Naboth’s Vineyard.  Dean Swift and his great friend Mrs Delaney (known today for her exquisite floral collages) were most closely associated in Ireland with knowledge of the new movement in garden design.  Larchill was only 10 miles from Dangan Castle, often visited by Mrs Delaney,  where from 1730 an extravagant 600 acres of land was embellished  with a 26 acre lake, temples, statuary, obelisks and grottos by Richard Wellesley, Earl of Mornington and Grandfather of the Duke of Wellington.  This is entirely contemporary with the Prentice’s period of garden development on their estate. 

Thus there were many sources of reference for the Prentice family as they  created their own pastoral paradise before falling on hard times and bankruptcy due to failure in their trading enterprises.  The Ferme Ornée gardens were, as a result, leased separately from Phepotstown House and became known as Larchill after a boundary of Larch trees was planted around the farm and garden in the early 1800’s. 

It was after this time that the local Watson family leased Larchill and the famous connection was made, to this day, between Robert Watson, Master of the Carlow and Island Hounds and the Fox’s Earth folly.  Although the Fox’s Earth would certainly predate the Watson’s tenure at  Larchill, and the fact that Robert Watson was only a distant relative of the Watsons at Larchill, still it is believed that the Fox’s Earth was constructed in response to Robert Watson’s guilt at having killed one too many foxes and his fear of punishment in reincarnation as a fox. 

Although described in the notes to the 1836 Ordnance Survey as ‘the most fashionable garden in all of Ireland’ over the decades knowledge of the Larchill Ferme Ornée faded.  The parkland returned to farmland, the lake was drained and the formal garden was lost and used to graze sheep.  Although the follies became semi derelict and obscured by undergrowth and trees, the mystery and beauty of Larchill was still recognised.   Folklore stories of hauntings and the ‘strange’ nature of Larchill ensured its continued notoriety. 

In 1994 the de Las Casas family acquired Larchill.  Paddy Bowe, Garden Historian, visited Larchill and was the first to realise that Larchill was indeed a Ferme Ornée and an important ‘lost’ garden.  Four years of restoration followed with the aid of a grant from the Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration Program and a FAS Community Employment Project. 

In recognition of the quality and sensitivity of the restoration program Larchill Arcadian Garden has been awarded the 1988 National Henry Ford Conservation Award, the 1999 ESB Community Environment Award and the 2002 European Union Environmental Heritage Award. 

Follies: 

The Shell tower: 

At the north west corner of the restored Walled Garden the Shell Tower is a three storey, battlemented tower with single arched Gothic windows. 

The lower rooms are decorated with shells laid in geometric patterns – presumably by the hand of a gifted lady of the house following the fashionable pastime of the 18th century.   There are anecdotal tales of cart loads of shells being collected from Irish beaches to facilitate the inlay of such shell grottoes.  The Shell Cottage at nearby Carton House under the design of Emily, Duchess of Leinster, is a wonderful example. 

In the case of the Larchill Shell Tower, the shells appear to be mostly native varieties, many are cockles with some exotic exceptions such as conches – perhaps sourced via the trading connections of  the 18th century Prentice family who created the Ferme Ornée at Larchill. 

The Statue of Meleager: 

Now at the head of a water feature in the Walled Garden, this 18th century statue originally stood in the middle of the lake between the island fort of Gibraltar and the Lake Temple. 

For many years the statue was believed to be a representation of Nimrod the mighty hunter described in the Book of Genesis.  Larchill has many associations with the hunt through stories of the famous Mr Robert Watson and the Fox’s Earth.  However it is now known to be a statue of Meleager, hero of  the epic Greek mythological tale of the Calydonian boar hunt. Meleager is always represented with his hunting dog and the head of the slain boar as he is here. 

During the garden restoration the statue was not returned to its original position in the lake as it is protected from the elements in the Walled Garden.

Feuille: 

This is a circular mound planted with a spiral of beech trees to the side of the lake. 

It would appear to have been a practical and ornamental use for the soil excavated to create the lake itself.  Feuillé is an appropriate name as the word ‘folly’ is an archaic English term for a lush and overgrown area of bushes and trees and was likely to have derived from the French ‘la feuillé’ meaning leaf.”

11. Leixlip Castle, Leixlip, Co. Kildare – section 482

Leixlip Castle, County Kildare, June 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/04/leixlip-castle-county-kildare-desmond-guinnesss-jewelbox-of-treasures/
contact: Penelope Guinness
Tel: 01-6244430
Open: Jan 31, Feb 1-4, 7-11, Mar 28-31, Apr 1, 4-8, May 9-20, June 7-17, Aug 13-22, Sept 5-11, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €4, concessions no charge for school groups

12. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare – OPW

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

13. Millbrook House, County Kildare:

House and limited garden access for groups only

Minimum 4, maximum 8 visitors

May to September: 

Monday-Thursday, 11 am to 3 pm

Open during Heritage Week. The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

The forebears of the Greenes of Millbrook House in the far south of County Kildare lived at Kilmanaghan Castle and Moorestown Castle [now a ruin] in County Tipperary. A great grandson of the family patriarch Captain Godfrey Greene moved up to settle near Carlow. William Nassau Greene (1714-1781) was a businessman and magistrate, and built a residence known as Kilkea Lodge (c. 1740) adjacent to the ancient Fitzgerald seat at Kilkea Castle, where his descendants are still resident. A younger son, John (1751-1819), who became High Sheriff of Kildare and Captain of the Castledermot Yeomanry, built a neighbouring house at Millbrook with the help of his father. It was completed in 1776 with its attendant mill and millrace off the River Griese, which had replaced an earlier mill in the nearby Kilkea Castle demesne. The house passed through generations of the family until finally the mill ceased operating under Thomas Greene (1843-1900), a poet and author who was made High Sheriff of Kildare in 1895. The house was left by inheritance to one of the cousins from Kilkea Lodge, father of the present owner. Throughout WWII, he had served as a frontline doctor in the 4th Indian Division in North Africa, Italy and Greece, and returned with his wife in 1950 to an utterly neglected house. Millbrook is still in the process of being restored to its former state.” [5]

14. Moone Abbey House & Tower, Moone Abbey, Moone, Co. Kildare – section 482

Moone Abbey House, County Kildare, May 2019.

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/06/13/moone-abbey-house-and-tower-moone-county-kildare/
contact: Jennifer Matuschka
Tel: 087-6900138
Open: May 1-31, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-20, 12 noon- 4pm Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €4

15. Moyglare Glebe, Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: Joan Hayden
Tel: 01-8722238
Open: Jan 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 8.30am-12.30pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

16. Steam Museum Lodge Park Heritage Centre, Lodge Park, Straffan, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: Robert C Guinness
Tel: 01-6288412
www.steam-museum.com
Open: June 1-6, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29-30, July 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-31, Aug 1, 3-7, 10-21, 24-28, 31, 2pm-6pm,
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/child/student €5, concession by negotiation

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us about Lodge Park:

Lodge Park, overlooking a fine stretch of the River Liffey, was built by Hugh Henry who had married his cousin, Lady Anne Leeson from Russborough [daughter of Joseph Leeson 1st Earl of Milltown]. Completed in about 1776, the centre block forms the core of an unusual composition with curved quadrants leading to a pair of two-storey wings, both attached to two further pavilions by curtain walls to form a unique elongated ensemble of five interconnected buildings, “perhaps the most extreme example of the Irish Palladian style.”

Henry’s father was the merchant banker Hugh Henry, who had purchased the entire Straffan estate with 7,000 acres. Lodge Park was long thought to be the last building by Nathaniel Clements, who died in 1777, but has now been attributed to John Ensor. The hipped roof is surrounded by a granite-topped parapet, and the walls are finished in rough cast, with ashlar block quoins and granite window surrounds with detailing. It is Ireland’s best exampe of concatenation, having curtain walls attached to the main house, leading to two pavilions, attached by two gateways to two further buildings. Hugh’s son Arthur built the Victorian walled garden, now beautifully restored and open to the public, as well as the fine gate lodge. The house was bought by the Guinness family in 1948. 

The walled garden has been beautifully restored while a disused Victorian church has been re-erected in the grounds to house a magnificent Steam Museum with early inventor’s models, scientific engineering models and historic works of mechanical art. The Power Hall displays six huge stationary steam engines, which are run on special occasions.https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Lodge%20Park

Places to stay, County Kildare:

1. Balyna, Moyvalley, Co Kildare – weddings, accommodation 

Now called Moyvalley Hotel. https://www.moyvalley.com/aboutus.html

The website tells us:

Balyna House lies to the south of Moyvalley Bridge over the Grand Canal, about half way between Enfield and Kinnegad on the old Dublin — Galway road. The house lies in the centre of the estates 500 acres. Balyna Estate was granted in 1574 by Queen Elizabeth I to the O’Moore family because they had lost their land in Laois and were reinstated in Balyna.

Major Ambrose O’Ferrall married Letitia More in 1796. Their  eldest son Richard More O’Ferrall was born in 1797. [ I don’t think this is correct. I believe that Letitia More married Richard O’Ferrall (1729-1790) and that their son was Ambrose More O’Ferrall who married Ann Baggot daughter of John Baggot of Castle Baggot, Rathcoole. Richard More O’Ferrall (1797-1880) was their son]. He is reputed for having been responsible for the erection of the Celtic cross which now stands to the rear of the house. It is said that this Cross, along with another was  transported from Europe, the two being encased in wooden crates and towed behind the ship on a barge. Legend has it that one was lost at sea, but its twin survives to this day.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 30. [More O’Ferrall] “The ancestral home of the O’More family, the land having been granted to them by Eliz I as a small compensation for their forfeited territories in Laois… A new house was built 1815, which was burnt 1878; this was replaced by the present house, built 1880s. It is slightly Italianate, with a Mansard roof carried on a bracket cornice; of 2 storeys with a dormered attic. Entrance front with two 3 sided bows and a single-storey Ionic portico, 5 by garden front with pediment, the windows on either side being larger than those in the centre. Imposing staircase with handrail of decorative ironwork; ceiling of staircase hall has modillion cornice. Chapel in garden. Sold 1960s, subsequently owned by Bewleys Oriental Cafe Ltd” [6]

The website continues: “The first real record of any house dates from 1815 when Ambrose built a large mansion. That Georgian house was burned down and replaced in the 1880’s by the present Italianate mansion.

The estate was a refuge for bishops and priests for centuries and Dr. Forstall, Bishop of Kildare, ordained priests here in the year 1678 — 1680. For this loyalty, the family was granted Papal permission to build a private Chapel on the estate (located to the rear of the house) and up to approximately 1914 Sunday Mass was offered. It was only used intermittently after that, with the last occasion being in the summer of 1959.

The estate remained in the More O’Ferrall family until May 1960 when it was sold to the Bewley family (of Café fame). The wonderful milk and cream in the Cafes came from the pedigree Jersey herd at Balyna. In 1984 the estate was sold to Justin Keating; it was sold again in 1990-1991 to George Grant. Moyvalley was developed into a Hotel & Golf Resort in 2007.

Balyna House consists of 10 luxurious ensuite bedrooms, 3 reception rooms to cater for up to 100 guests, Balyna Bar and Cellar Bar. The house is available exclusively for private events and weddings.

In 2014 the resort was purchased by the late Oliver Brady (well-known horse trainer from Co. Monaghan) with his business partner a well know entrepreneur Rita Shah owner of Shabra Recycling Plastic’s Group, Thai business woman Jane Tripipatkul and her son Mark McCarthy who are based in London.

It is likely that several Irish and European military campaigns were discussed and argued over at Balyna, as apart from the fierce-some O’More’s and the well documented Irish battles in which they took part, several later generations saw service in European armies. All three sons of Richard and Letitia O’Ferrall saw service abroad. The eldest, Ambrose, and his youngest brother, Charles, rose to the rank of Major in the Royal Sardinian Army, while the middle brother, James attained the rank of Major General in the Austrian Hohenzollern Army.

Incidentally, there was a Bagot family of “Castle Baggot” in Rathcoole, and neither son had children so all the Bagot property, which included land around Smithfield in Dublin and extensive property in County Carlow, passed to the daughter, Ann, who married the above-mentioned Ambrose More O’Ferrall.

As a digression, it is worth noting that Rory O’ More’s eldest daughter, Anne, married Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan and famous military leader. His father in law was the man behind the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

King James had adopted the policy of remodelling the Irish army so as to turn it from a Protestant-led force to a Roman Catholic led one, and Sarsfield, whose family were Roman Catholics, was selected to assist in this reorganisation. Colonel Sarsfield went to Ireland with Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell , who was appointed commander-in-chief by the king.

2. Barberstown Castle, Kildare – hotel 

www.barberstowncastle.ie

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 31. “A tower-house with a long plain 2 storey wing attached. In 1814, the residence of Jos Atkinson, in 1837, of Capt Robinson.” 

The website gives a timeline:

“1288: Nicholas Barby built the original Castle towards the end of the 13th Century on the land which was originally owned by the Great Norman family the Fitzgerald’s.

1310: The Castle was built as a fortress to protect the village and people of Barberstown from the attack of the rebellious Ui Faolain tribesmen who tried to burn the town (among others) in 1310. It has traditionally found itself in the middle of political struggle and local wars which generally resulted in change of ownership.

Retaining Ownership: Some of its previous owners have gone to extreme lengths to retain ownership. Just how far some went is illustrated by the story of the body that is said to be interred in the tower of the Castle Keep (the original part of the Castle). His fate can be explained by reading the lease on the Castle at the time in which was written that the lease would expire when he was buried underground (ie. his death). The ending of a lease normally resulted in an increase in rent so after the man’s death he was buried in the tower above the earth which ensured the family continued to hold the lease to the Castle!

The walls of the Castle Keep walls slope inwards so as to prevent an enemy getting out of range by closing up to the building. Ironically however the rooms on the upper floors of the Castle are larger than those on the ground level as their walls are somewhat thinner.

Penal Times: The neighbouring village of Straffan is named after St. Straffan, one of the early sixth century missionaries. Its close linkages with the local town and people were proven when an underground tunnel from the Church in Straffan to the Castle was found in 1996 during renovations. A ‘Priest’s Hole’ can be also found in the Castle which was originally made to protect the priests of the town during Penal Times.

1630: William Sutton of one of the most important families in the area owned the property. The population of Barberstown at the time was 36!

1689: Lord Kingston [I’m not sure who they mean here – Robert King (d. 1693) was the 2nd Baron of Kingston at the time] had his ownership confiscated by Earl of Tyrconnell after the accession to power of James 11 of England. It was around this time that it fell into the less glamorous hands of the Commissioners of the Revenue who let it out to a Roger Kelly for £102 annual rent in the late 1600s.

1703: It was purchased by Bartholomew Van Homreigh in 1703 for £1,033 the sixth owner in six years. At the time the property was 335 acres. Van Homreigh had been mayor of Dublin in 1697 and his greatest ‘claim to fame’ lies in the fact that he was the father of Vanessa of whom Swift wrote so passionately about. He sold it to the Henrys who were prone to excessive spending at the time….

1830: The Henry’s had no option but to sell it to Mr. Hugh Barton [1766-1854] who completed the last wing of the house in the 1830s which added to the present day unique architectural status of Barberstown. He is also famed for constructing Straffan House known today at the K-Club.

1900: As the property became too expensive to retain as a residence, the Huddlestons who owned Barberstown Castle in the 1900s sold it to Mrs. Norah Devlin who converted it into a hotel in 1971. Barberstown was one of the first great Irish country houses to display its splendour to the outside world when it opened as a hotel in 1971. It has maintained the elegance of design over the centuries by sympathetically blending its Victorian and Elizabethan extensions with the original Castle Keep.

1979: The acclaimed Musician, Singer, Songwriter & Record Producer Mr. Eric Clapton CBE purchased the property in 1979 and lived in the property until 1987. Music sessions took place in the Green Room and original Castle Keep during the time Eric lived here with many famous Rockstars from all over the world coming here to stay.

1987 to Present Day: Upon purchasing Barberstown Castle from Eric Clapton in 1987, this beautiful historic house has since been transformed from a 10-bedroom property with three bathrooms to a 55-bedroom Failte Ireland approved 4 Star Hotel. They are a proud member of Ireland’s Blue Book of properties and Historic Hotels of Europe.

Since 1288 Barberstown has had 37 owners all of whom had the foresight to protect its heritage and character. Look out for the names of all the owners of Barberstown Castle painted on the bedroom doors of the hotel!”

3. Batty Langley Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare

https://www.irishlandmark.com/propertytag/cottages-and-houses/?gclid=Cj0KCQiApL2QBhC8ARIsAGMm-KFInICcRSxwLSiDxfFNk5WFytNcVrLvOQYhzJbIBes4V-M65iXz0gYaAln_EALw_wcB

Batty Langley Lodge, Castletown, County Kildare.

One of the entrances to the Castletown demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley (1696-1751) 1741. Batty Langley was an English garden designer who produced a number of engraved “Gothick” designs for garden buildings and seats. He was named “Batty” after his father’s patron, David Batty. He also published a wide range of architectural books.

4. Burtown House holiday cottages – see above

www.burtownhouse.ie

5. Carton House, Kildare – open to public, hotel 

The north front of Carton House. The house was built in 1739 to designs by Richard Castle and remodelled in 1815 by Richard Morrison. Not Used Country Life archives, for 18/02/2009 . Photographer Paul Barker. [7]
Carton, Photograph for Tourism Ireland 2014, Ireland’s Content Pool. [7]
Carton House 2014, for Failte Ireland (see [7])

The Archiseek website tells us:

In 1739, the 19th Earl of Kildare employed Richard Castle to build the existing house replacing an earlier buildng. Castle (originally Cassels) was responsible for many of the great Irish houses, including Summerhill, Westport, Powerscourt House and in 1745, Leinster House, which he also built for the FitzGeralds. 

In 1815 the 3rd Duke decided to sell Leinster House to the Royal Dublin Society and make Carton his principal residence. He employed Richard Morrison to enlarge and re-model the house. Morrison replaced the curved colonnades with straight connecting links to obtain additional rooms. At this time, the entrance to the house was moved to the north side. 

Carton remained in the control of the FitzGeralds until the early 1920s when the 7th Duke sold the estate and house to pay off gambling debts of £67,500. In 2000, Carton was redeveloped as a “premier golf resort and hotel”. A hotel was added to the main house, and the estate’s eighteenth-century grounds and landscaping were converted into two golf courses.” [8]

The garden front of Carton House. The house was built in 1739 to designs by Richard Castle and remodelled in 1815 by Richard Morrison. Not Used Country Life archives, 18/02/2009.  Photographer Paul Barker.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Carton (1988):

p. 60. “(Talbot de Malahide, B/PB; Fitzgerald, Leinster, D/PB; Nall-Cain, sub Brocket, P/BP) The lands of Carton always belonged to the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare, whose chief castle was nearby, at Maynooth; in C17, however, they were leased to a junior branch of the Talbots of Malahide, who built the original house there. After the attainder of Richard Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnel. James II’s Lord Deputy of Ireland, Carton was forfeited to the crown and sold 1703 to Major-Gen Richard Ingoldsby, Master-General of the Ordnance and a Lord Justice of Ireland; who added a two storey nine bay pedimented front to the old house, with wings joined to the main block by curved sweeps, in the Palladian manner. In 1739 Thomas Ingoldsby sold the reversion of the lease back to 19th Earl of Kildare [Robert FitzGerald (1675-1744)], who decided to make Carton his principal seat and employed Richard Castle to enlarge and improve the house. Castle’s rebuilding obliterated all traces of the earlier house, except for a cornice on what is now the entrance front and the unusually thick interior walls. He added a storey, and lengthened the house by adding a projecting bay at either end; he also refaced it. He gave the entrance front a pediment, like its predecessor; but the general effect of the three storey 11 bay front, which has a Venetian window in the middle storey of each of its end bays, is one of massive plainness. As before, the house was joined to flaking office wings; but instead of simple curved sweeps, there were now curved colonnades

Carton House, photograph not used Country Life archives, 18/02/2009.  
Carton, Image for Country Life, by Paul Barker.
The coat of arms in the pediment on the garden front of Carton House Image by Paul Barker for Country Life, CCIII, 2009.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The work was completed after the death of 19th Earl for his son, 20th Earl, who later became 1st Duke of Leinster and was the husband of the beautiful Emily, Duchess of Leinster [Emily Lennox, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond] and the father of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the United Irish Leader.

3rd Duke, Lord Edward’s nephew, [Augustus Frederick Fitzgerald (1791-1874)] employed Sir Richard Morrison to enlarge and remodel the house ca 1815, having sold Leinster House in Dublin. Morrison replaced the curved colonnades with straight connecting links containing additional rooms behind colonnades of coupled Doric columns, so as to form a longer enfilade along what was now the garden front; for he moved the entrance to the other front, which is also of 11 bays with projecting end bays, but has no pediment. The former music room on this side of the house became the hall; it is unassuming for the hall of so important a house, with plain Doric columns at each end. On one side is a staircase hall by Morrison, again very unassuming; indeed, with the exception of the great dining room, Morrison’s interiors at Carton lack his customary neo-Classical opulence.”

The Chinese Room at Carton House, decorated by Emily, Countess of Kildare in the mid 18th century. Above the chimneypiece is a Chippendale mirror erupting into a series of gilded branches, some of which are sconces. Pub.  Orig Country Life 18/02/2009  vol CCIII

” Beyond the staircase, on the ground floor, is the Chinese bedroom, where Queen Victoria slept when she stayed here; it remains as it was when decorated 1759, with Chinese paper and a Chinese Chippendale giltwood overmantel. The other surviving mid-C18 interior is the saloon, originally the dining room, in the garden front, dating from 1739 and one of the most beautiful rooms in Ireland. It rises through two storeys and has a deeply coved ceiling of Baroque plasterwork by the Francini brothers representing “the Courtship of the Gods”; the plasterwork, like the decoration on the walls, being picked out in gilt. At one end of the room is an organ installed 1857, its elaborate Baroque case designed by Lord Gerald Fitzgerald, a son of the 3rd Duke.

The Gold Saloon at Carton House, which was originally known as the Eating Parlour. The organ case was designed by Lord Gerald FitzGerald in 1857. Not Used Country Life archives 18/02/2009,  Photographer Paul Barker.
The Gold Saloon at Carton House, which was originally known as the Eating Parlour. Country Life archives, for 18/02/2009 [not used] 
The Courtship of the Gods in the Gold Saloon at Carton House. It dates from 1739 and was executed by the Lafranchini brothers. Cupids hang from wreaths and further putti sit on the cornice. Beneath this is a frieze with pairs of creatures and a series of masks and scallop shells. Not Used Country Life archives 18/02/2009 , photograph by Paul Barker. 

The door at this end of the saloon leads, by way of an anteroom, to Morrison’s great dining room, which has a screen of Corinthian columns at each end and a barrel-vaulted ceiling covered in interlocking circles of oak leaves and vine leaves.

The Saloon at Carton neg. 11423 Country Life archives, 14/11/1936  
Carton, From Country Life 14/11/1936  

The demesne of Carton is a great C18 landscape park, largely created by 1st Duke and Emily Duchess; “Capability” Brown was consulted, but professed himself too busy to come to Ireland. By means of a series of dams, a stream has been widened into a lake and a broad serpentine river; there is a bridge by Thomas Ivory, built 1763, an ornamental dairy of ca 1770 and a shell house. Various improvements were carried out to the gardens toward the end of C19 by Hermione, wife of 5th Duke, who was as famous a beauty in her day as Emily Duchess was in hers; she was also the last Duchess of Leinster to reign at Carton, for her eldest son, 6th Duke, died young and unmarried, and her youngest son, 7th Duke, was unable to live here having, as a young man, signed away his expectations to the “50 Shilling Tailor” Sir Henry Mallaby-Deeley, in return for ready money and an annuity. As a result of this unhappy transaction, Carton had eventually to be sold. It was bought 1949 by 2nd Lord Brocket, and afterwards became the home of his younger son, Hon David Nall-Cain, who opened it to the public. It was sold once again in 1977.” 

A shell cottage in the grounds of Carton House begun in the second half of the 18th century. A passage leads into a domed shell room embellished with coral and stained glass. Not Used Country Life archives 18/02/2009. Photographer Paul Barker.
Shell Cottage Carton, Photographer Paul Barker, for Country LIfe. Not used.
Shell Cottage Carton, Photographer Paul Barker, for Country LIfe. Not used.
Tyrconnell Tower in grounds of Carton House, photograph 2014 for Tourism Ireland. (see [7])

6. Castletown Gate Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare

https://www.irishlandmark.com/propertytag/cottages-and-houses/?gclid=Cj0KCQiApL2QBhC8ARIsAGMm-KFInICcRSxwLSiDxfFNk5WFytNcVrLvOQYhzJbIBes4V-M65iXz0gYaAln_EALw_wcB

7. Castletown Round House, Celbridge, County Kildare : Irish Landmark https://www.irishlandmark.com/property/castletown-round-house/

8. The Cliff at Lyons, County Kildare

www.cliffatlyons.ie

Robert O’Byrne writes about the Cliff at Lyons:

The Village at Lyons, County Kildare is often described as a restoration but to be frank it is more a recreation. By the time the late Tony Ryan bought the estate in 1996, the buildings beside the Grand Canal, which had once included a forge, mill and dwelling houses, were in a state of almost total ruin. Therefore the work undertaken here in the years prior to his death in 2007 involved a great deal of architectural salvage, much of it brought from France, although some Irish elements were incorporated such as a mid-19th century conservatory designed by Richard Turner, originally constructed for Ballynegall, County Westmeath. Today the place primarily operates as a wedding venue, providing an alluring stage set for photographs but bearing little resemblance to what originally stood here.”[9]

The entrance front of Lyons House, designed by Oliver Grave for Nicholas Lawless, 1st baron Cloncurry circa 1786 and remodelled by his son Richard Morrison in 1802-05. Pub Orig Country Life 16/01/2003, vol. CXCVII by Photographer Paul Barker. (see[7])

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Lyons:

p. 196. “(Alymer/IFR; Lawless, Cloncurry, B/PB1929; Winn, sub St. Oswalds, B/PB) Originally the seat of the Aylmer family. Sold 1796 by Michael Aylmer to Nicholas Lawless,the 1st Lord Cloncurry, son of a wealthy blanket manufacturer, who had a new house built in 1797, to the design of an architect named Grace. 

Three storey block with a curved bow on either side of its entrance front, joined to two-storey wings by curved sweeps. About 1801, shortly after his release from the Tower of London, where he had been imprisoned for two years on account of his advanced political views and friendship wiht some of the United Irishmen, the 2nd Lord Cloncurry hired Richard Morrison to undertake improvements and alterations to his father’s house, work continuing till 1805. 

During this period, Lord Cloncurry was in Italy, collecting antiques and  modern sculpture for the house; he also acquired three antique columns of red Egyptian granite from the Golden House of Nero, afterwards at the Palazzo Farnese, which were used as three of the four columns in a single-storey portico at Lyons, with a triangular pediment surmounted by a free-standing coat-of-arms.The other notable alteration made to the exterior of the house at this time was the substitution of straight colonnades for the curved sweeps linking the main block to the winds, a change similar to that which Morrison made a few years later at Carton. Also the main block and wings were faced with rusticated ashlar up to the height of one storey on the entrnace front. The hall was given a frieze of ox-skulls and tripods based on the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in Rome, doorcases with fluted entablatures and overdoor panels with classical reliefs; a pair of free-standing antique marble Corinthian columns were set against one wall, and vaarous items from Lord Cloncurry’s collection fo sculpture disposed around the other walls. The walls of the dining room and music rom were painted with Irish waterfalls – and other enchanting decoration by Gaspare Gabrielli, an artist brought by Lord Cloncurry from Rome. The bow-ended dining room was also decorated with a wall painting, of Dublin Bay; and was adorned with reliefs of the story of Daedalus.” 

The garden front of Lyons House, The new orangery and pool house are the single-storey buildings flanking the central block. Pub Orig Country Life 16/01/2003, vol. CXCVII by Photographer Paul Barker. (see [7])

Bence-Jones continues: “The seven-bay garden front was left fairly plain, but before it a vast  formal garden was laid out, with abundant statuary and urns and an antique column supporting a statue of Venus half way along the broad central walk leading from the house to what is the largest artificial lake in Ireland. Beyond the lake rises the wooded Hill of Lyons. 

The Grand Canal passes along one side of the demesne, and there is a handsome Georgian range of buildings beside it which would have been Lord Cloncurry’s private canal station. A daughter of 3rd Lord Cloncurry was Emily Lawless, the poet, a prominent figure in the Irish Revival of the early yars of the present century. Her niece, Hon Kathleen Lawless, bequeathed the Lyons estate to a cousin, Mr G M V Winn, who sold it about 1962 to University College, Dublin, which has erected a handsome pedimented arch from Browne’s Hill, Co Carlow at one of the entrances to the demesne.” 

Art Kavanagh’s book on the Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, volume 1, tells us more about the Aylmers of Balrath. During the reign of Henry VI, Richard Aylmer of Lyons was a Keeper of the Peace for both Dublin and Kildare. He was in charge of protecting the settler community from attack by the neighbouring O’Toole and O’Byrne septs. The family rose to become one of the most prominent families in Meath and Kildare and key figures in the Dublin administration. Before the end of the 16th century they had established two independent branches at Donadea in Kildare and Dollardstown in County Meath.

The first Aylmer of real significance, Art Kavanagh tells us, was John Aylmer (c. 1359 – c. 1415) who married Helen Tyrell of Lyons, an heiress, at the end of the 14th century, and so the family acquired Lyons. [p. 1, Kavanagh, published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005]

9. The K Club, Straffan House, County Kildare

The Straffan estate formed part of the original land grant bestowed upon Maurice Fitzgerald by Strongbow for his role in the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169. In 1679, the property was purchased by Richard Talbot, the Earl of Tyrconnell who commanded the Jacobite army in Ireland during the war between James II and William of Orange. Tyrconnell’s estates were forfeited to the crown in the wake of the Williamite victory. In about 1710, the property was purchased by Hugh Henry, a prosperous merchant banker, who also owned Lodge Park. He married Anne Leeson, a sister of Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown. Straffan passed to their son, Joseph, who travelled in Europe and collected art. In April 1764 he married Lady Catherine Rawdon, eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Moira.

Their son John Joseph (1777-1846) married Lady Emily Fitzgerald, the 23-year-old daughter of the 2nd Duke of Leinster. He was an extravagant spender and had to sell Straffan in 1831.

Hugh Barton (1766-1854) acquired Straffan House from the Henry family in 1831 and his descendents remained there until the 1960s. The Barton family were part of the Barton & Guestier winemakers. Hugh soon commissioned Dublin architect, Frederick Darley, to build a new house, based on Madame Dubarry’s great Château at Louveciennes to the west of Paris. [10] The house passed through many hands subsequently.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Straffan House (1988):

p. 266. “(Barton/IFR)  An imposing C19 house in a style combining Italianate and French chateau. Main block of two storeys with an attic of pedimented dormers in a mansard roof; seven bay entrance front, the centre bay breking forward and having a tripartite window above a single-storey balustraded Corinthian portico. Entablatures on console brackets over ground-floor windows; triangular pediments over windows above and segmental pediment of central window. Decorated band between storeys; balustraded roof parapet; chimneystacks with recessed panels and tooth decoration. The main block prolonged at one side by a lower two storey wing, from which rises a tall and slender campanile tower, with two tiers of open belvederes. Formal garden with elaborate Victorian fountain. Capt F.B. Barton sold Straffan ca 1949 to John Ellis. It was subsequently the home of Kevin McClory, the film producer, and later owned by Mr Patrick Gallagher, who restored the main block to its original size.” 

10. Kilkea Castle, Castledermot, Kildare – hotel https://www.kilkeacastle.ie/

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 167. “(Fitzgerald, Leinster, D/PB) A medieval castle of the FitzGeralds, Earls fo Kildare, especially associated with C16 11th Earl of Kildare, the most famous “wizard Earl.” After Carton became the family seat in C18, it was leased to a succession of tenants; one of them being the Dublin silk merchant, Thomas Reynolds, friend of Lord Edward Fitzgerald through whom he became a United Irishman, only to turn informer when he realised the full aims of the movement. His role as informer did not prevent the unhappy Reynolds from having the castle, which he had only recently done up in fine style, sacked by the military; who tored up the floorboards and tore down the panelling on the pretext of searching for arms. Subsequent tenants caused yet more damage and there was a serious fire 1849; after which the third Duke of Leinster resumed possession of the castle and restored and enlarged it as a dower-house for his family. The work was sympathetically done, so that the tall grey castle keeps its air of medieval strength with its bartizans and its massively battered stone walls; though its battlements and its rather too regularly placed trefoil headed windows are obviously C19. AT one side of the caslte a long, low, gabled office range was added, in a restrained Tudor Revival style. The interior is entirely of 1849, for the lofty top storey, where the principal rooms were originally situated, was divided to provide a storey extra. The ceilings are mostly beamed, with corbels bearing the Leinster saltire. In 1880s the beautiful Hermione, Duchess of Leinster (then Marchioness of Kildare) lived here with her amiable but not very inspiring husband; finding the life not much to her taste, she composed the couplet “Kilkea Castle and Lord Kildare/are more than any woman can bear.” After the sale of Carton 1949, Kilkea became the seat of the 8th and Present Duke of Leinster (then Marquess of Kildare), but it was sold ca 1960 and is now an hotel.” 

11. Martinstown House, Kilcullen, Co Kildare – accommodation http://martinstownhouse.com/wordpress/ 

featured in Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitzGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008. 

p. 232. “Martinstown House is one of the finest cottage ornee style buildings in Ireland today. Originally part of the huge estates of the Dukes of Leinster, this fine house was commissioned by Robert Burrowes and completed by the Burrowes family between 1832 and 1840, when decorative effects such as thatched roofs, undressed stonework and verandahs made of free growing branches were being incorporated into rural Irish dwellings. While experts feel the house was built in 1833, it may have been started years earlier, with many of the outbuildings including stables and also the walled gardens dating to some time between 1815 and 1820.” The book’s authors add that Decimus Burton was involved in the creation of this house.

12. Moone Abbey, County Kildare holiday cottages – see above

13. St. Catherine’s Park, Leixlip, Co Kildare – Leixlip Manor hotel , formerly Liffey Valley House hotel http://www.leixlipmanorhotel.ie/about-us/the-manor-kildare

The house that stood before the current Manor House was taller and was tenanted by the Earl of Lanesborough. Then in 1792, it was occupied by David La Touche, of the Huguenot banking family. It shortly thereafter burned to the ground and in around 1798 a new house, also called St Catherine’s Park, was built in the same townland to the design of Francis Johnston; it is now Leixlip Manor Hotel & Gardens.

Whole house accommodation in County Kildare:

1. de Burgh Manor (or Bert), Kilberry, County Kildare – whole house rental 

https://www.deburghmanor.ie

Beautiful self catering, Georgian Manor centrally located in the hearth of Kildare in a very private setting. De Burgh Manor comprises of 15 bedrooms all ensuite. The ground floor consists of a double reception room, drawing room, dining room, bar, library , breakfast room and kitchen. Situated on c. 6 acres of grounds overlooking the River Barrow.

The website also tells us about the history:

De Burgh Manor was built circa 1709 [the National Inventory says it was built around 1780] by Thomas Burgh [1670-1730] of Oldtown [built ca 1709 by Thomas Burgh (1670-1730), MP, Engineer and Surveyor-General for Ireland, to his own design. The centre block was burned 1950s. a house has now been made out of one of the wings. He also designed Kildrought house, a Section 482 property] for his brother William Burgh later known as Captain William De Burgh and who became Comptroller and Auditor General for Ireland. Thomas Burgh was Barracks Overseer for Ireland from 1701 and was also responsible for [building] – the Library at Trinity College Dublin, Collins Barracks Dublin – now a museum – and Dr Steeven Hospital Dublin.

William De Burgh was born in 1667 and had a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Elisabeth. Thomas, born in 1696, eventually became a Member of Parliament for Lanesboro, Co. Longford. Freeman of Athy Borough and Sovereign of Athy, in 1755 he married Lady Ann Downes, daughter of the Bishop of Cork & Ross. Her mother was a sister to Robert Earl of Kildare. Her brother, Robert Downes, was the last MP for Kildare in 1749 and was Sovereign of Athy.

Thomas had two sons, William and Ulysses [Ulysses was actually the grandson of Thomas]. William born in 1741 went on to represent Athy as an MP in Parliament between 1768 and 1776. A monument to his memory by Sculptor Sir Richard Westmacott, a statue of faith, which depicts him with a book in one hand and a scroll in the other and stands in York Minster. He wrote two books on religion and faith.

Ulysses, born in 1788 [son of Thomas, grandson of Thomas who married Ann Downes] succeeded to the title of Lord Downes [2nd Baron Downes of Aghanville] on the death of his cousin William Downes who was made Lord Chief Justice in 1803 and created Lord Downes on his retirement in 1822. It was Ulysses De Burgh who presented the Town Hall Clock to Athy in 1846 and it was he who had the wings added to Bert House. [Mark Bence-Jones writes of Bert: “enlarged early in C19 by the addition of two storey Classical overlapping wings, of the same height as the centre block; which is of three storeys over basement with two seven bay fronts.”]

Ulysses’ daughter Charlotte was the last of the De Burgh’s to call Bert House home with her husband Lt. General James Colbourne [2nd Baron Seaton of Seaton, co. Devon]. Charlotte and James came to Bert House in 1863 as Lord and Lady Seaton after the death of Lord Downes. It was sold by them in 1909 to Lady Geoghegan who then sold it onto her cousin, Major Quirke.

2. Griesemount House, County Kildare, whole house rentals – see above

Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

contact: Nicholas & Mary Kelly
Tel: 051-880464, 087-2567866
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 9am-5pm Fee: adult €5, OAP €3, child/student free

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

Ballysallagh House, County Kilkenny, February 2022.

contact: Geralyn & Kieran White
Tel: 087-2906621, 086-2322105
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student €5, child free, groups by arrangement

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482 

contact: John Comerford
Tel: 056-4400080
www.creameryhouse.com
Open: May 14-Sept 30, Friday, Saturday, and Sundays, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 12 noon-5pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child under 18 free

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

Kilfane, County Kilkenny, August 2021.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/12/16/kilfane-glen-waterfall-kilfane-thomastown-co-kilkenny/
contact: Susan Mosse
Tel: 056-7727105, 086-7919318 

www.kilfane.com

Open: July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 11am-6pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP/student €6.50, child €6, family €20

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

Kilkenny Castle, May 2018.

see my OPW entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

contact: Aaron Quill
Tel: 064-6623331
www.kilkennydesign.com
Open: all year except Christmas Day and St Stephens Day, 10am-7pm Fee: Free

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt. 

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

William Robertson (1777 – 1850) was a native of Kilkenny where the patronage of Lord Ormonde stood him in good stead, since most of his work can be found in Kilkenny and the neighbouring counties of Laois, Tipperary and Waterford. When Richard St. George wished to move from his medieval castle at Kilrush near Freshford in 1820, Robertson was the obvious choice. His work is less exuberant than that of his namesake Daniel but he was a talented architect and produced an interesting early nineteenth century reinterpretation of the typical late-Georgian country house. 

The St Georges are a Norman family who ‘came over to England with the Conqueror’ and arrived in Ireland in the sixteenth century. They quickly became established here, with several branches in County Kilkenny and others in Galway, Leitrim and Roscommon.

The St Georges of Kilrush were active in political and cultural circles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Richard St George was an M.P. in the Irish Parliament, with a town house at No. 8 Henrietta Street, while his cousin St George Ashe was the Provost of Trinity College and a close friend of Dean Swift. St. George was also a founding member of the Dublin Philosophical Society, which encouraged his numerous publications of scientific and national interest.

Richard considered moving out of his tower-house at Kilrush in the middle of the eighteenth century but this decision was left to his heirs, who built the existing house in the early nineteenth century. Kilrush has a three bay façade, a five bay garden front, a hipped roof with widely overhanging eaves, a single very large, central chimney-stack into which all the flues are diverted, and an interesting ground plan.

The cut-stone door case is a handsome arrangement of Doric half-columns and pilasters, supporting a deep entablature with swags beneath a semi-circular leaded fanlight. The ground floor windows to either side are set in shallow recesses with elliptical heads; otherwise the elevations are quite plain.

The most interesting internal space is the landing, a perfect Doric rotunda supporting a delicately glazed dome. This partly lights the inner hall below through a circular well in the floor. The dining and drawing rooms are both finely proportioned apartments, with many original fittings and furnishings, and their original wallpaper.

Kilrush looks out over mature parkland to a large mill, almost half a mile off.  The gardens contain a stupendous collection of snowdrops, there is a tower house, the former residence of the family in the attached yard, while an interesting early garden layout with connected canals has recently been identified and is currently in the course of restoration.” [11]

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny  

Rothe House, Kilkenny, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland (see[7])

Rothe House is a treasure, older than any house in Dublin! It was built around 1594-1610, by John Rothe FitzPiers (1560-1620) for his wife Rose Archer, and is the last merchant’s townhouse in Kilkenny surviving from the early post-medieval period. [12] The house, purchased by Kilkenny Archaeological Society in 1962, is open to the public as a museum displaying a selection of the historic artefacts collected by the Society since its founding in 1947.  The artefacts relate to Kilkenny heritage throughout the ages and some date from prehistoric times.  The adjoining garden has since 2008 been open to the public and is a faithful reconstruction of an early seventeenth-century urban garden. 

Garden at Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.

The National Inventory describes it:

Terraced five-bay two-storey over basement house with dormer attic on a U-shaped plan about a stone cobbled (east) courtyard with two-bay two-storey gabled central bay having jettied box oriel window to first floor, series of five round-headed openings to ground floor forming arcade, single-bay three-storey linking range to north-west, and three-bay three-storey parallel range to west (completing U-shaped plan about a courtyard) originally three-bay two-storey having round-headed carriageway to right ground floor. In use as school, c.1750. Restored, 1898, to accommodate use as Gaelic League house. Converted to use as museum, 1963-5. Restored, 1983. Restored, 1999, to accommodate use as offices.”

Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.

The Archiseek website tells us:

In 1594 a wealthy merchant called John Rothe built this magnificent Tudor mansion. Second and third generation houses were built around the cobelled courtyards and a well dating to 1604. The façade houses shops, one of them was John Rothe’s own. During the Confederation of Kilkenny, many dignitaries were entertained here by John Rothe and his cousin, the Bishop of Ossory. The building has been restored magnificently and is now home to Kilkenny Archaeological Society.” [13]

Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Plague Doctor! In 1348 there was Plague in Kilkenny. Friar John Clyn in the Franciscan Abbey across the road  recorded the effect of the plague on the town and the friary. He himself fell victim to the epidemic. 
Artefacts from the Confederation of Kilkenny.
Viking Sword.
“Pattens” – wooden shoes worn by women over their regular shoes to protect from mud.

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482 

contact: Geoffrey Cope,
Tel: 087-2437125
www.shankillcastle.com
Open: Feb 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Mar 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Apr 2-3, 9-10, 16- 17, 23-24, 30, May 1, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29, June 2-5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, July 1-3, 7-16, 21-24, 28-31, Aug 3-6, 10-21, 24-27, 31, Sept 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29- 30, Oct 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30, 31, Feb- Apr, 11am-4pm, May- Oct, 11am-5pm Fee: house & garden, adult €10 garden €5, OAP/student €8, gardens €4

The website tells us:

Situated near the ruins of an old church, Shankill Castle began life as a tower-house built by the powerful Butler family during the medieval period. In 1708, the house was rebuilt by Peter Aylward who bought the land from his wife’s family. The new Shankill Castle was constructed as a Queen Anne house, set in a formal landscape, vista to the front and canal to the rear.

In the 1820s, the house was enlarged and castellated. Serpentine bays were added to the canal and an unusual polyhedral sundial given pride of place on a sunken lawn. A gothic porch bearing the Aylward crest and a conservatory were other additions. 

The stableyard and the castellated entrance to the demesne were built in 1850 and are attributed to Daniel Robertson.

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482 

contact: Louis Dowley
Tel: 087-2313106
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 10am-4pm Fee: adult €5, student €3, child/OAP free

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny, maintained by Kilkenny County Council

Mark Bence-Jones writes about Woodstock (1988):

p. 286. “(Fownes, Bt/EDB; Tighe/IFR) A house by Francis Bindon [for William Fownes, 2nd Baronet], probably dating from 1740s, which is unusual in being built round a small inner court, or light-shaft. Three storeys; handsomely rusticated entrance front of six bays with a central niche and statue above the entrance doorway…In 1770s Sarah Ponsonby lived here with her cousins, Sir William and Betty Fownes [born Elizabeth Ponsonby]; her friend, Eleanor Butler, having escaped from Borris, co Carlow, where she was being kept in disgrace, was let into Woodstock through a window, hiding herself in Sarah’s room for 24 hours before being discovered; shortly afterwards, the two friends left for Wales, where they subsequently became famous as the “Ladies of Llangollen.” Woodstock passed to the Tighes with the marriage of the daughter and heiress of Sir William Fownes to William Tighe, whose daughter-in-law was Mary Tighe, the poet, author of Psyche; she died at Woodstock 1810 aged 37, and Flaxman’s monument to her is in a small neo-Classical mausoleum behind the Protestant church in the village of Inistioge, at the gates of the demesne. There was also a statue of her in one of the rooms in the house. Woodstock was burnt ca 1920, and is now a ruin, but the demesne, with its magnificent beechwoods, still belongs to the Tighes.” 

The information board tells us that in 1804 flanking wings were added to designs by William Robertson (1770-1850). The house was burned in 1922 after being occupied by the Black and Tans.
The gardens at Woodstock, County Kilkenny, August 2021. The gardens at Woodstock, gloriously situated above the River Nore, were conceived on a grand scale by Colonel William Tighe (d. 1878) and Lady Louisa Lennox (d. 1900) as the centrepiece of a great estate.

The estate passed to the daughter, Sarah, of William Fownes and Elizabeth Ponsonby, and Sarah married William Tighe of Rossana, County Wicklow.

This information board tells us about the Arboretum at Woodstock, where a number of exotic trees were planted in the nineteenth century.
Entrance to walled garden at Woodstock.
Gardens at Woodstock, with reproduction Turner glasshouse.
“Turner bench” which matches the glasshouse at Woodstock.
The longest and oldest Monkey Puzzle Walk in Europe, at Woodstock.

Places to stay, County Kilkenny

1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – wedding venue, B&B 

http://ballyduffhouse.ie/booking-enquiries/ 

The website tells us:

Ballyduff House is a classic Georgian country house with a 14th century castle, steeped in Irish history and full of the warmest of welcomes.

The River Nore sparkles as it runs along Ballyduff’s riverbank while sheep and cattle graze the pasture either side.

Open fires, the book lined library and the comfortable bedrooms furnished with Irish antiques capture an early 18th century experience tempered by discreet 21st century comfort.

This is real Ireland – calm, green and beautiful, set alongside the picturesque village of Inistioge with Dublin only an hour away.

2. Butler House, Kilkenny, co Kilkenny – accommodation 

https://www.butler.ie

View to Butler House and Garden, Kilkenny Leo Byrne Photography 2015. (see [7])

The National Inventory tells us about Butler house: “Semi-detached three-bay three-storey over basement house, built 1786, with pair of three-bay full-height bowed bays to rear (east) elevation. Extended, 1832, comprising two-bay three-storey perpendicular block to right. Renovated, 1972. Now in use as hotel. One of a pair…An elegantly-composed Classically-proportioned substantial house built either by Walter Butler (1713-83), sixteenth Earl of Ormonde or John Butler (1740-95), seventeenth Earl of Ormonde as one of a pair of dower houses…Distinctive attributes including the elegant bowed bays to the Garden (east) Front contribute positively to the architectural design value of the composition while carved limestone dressings with particular emphasis on the well-executed doorcase displaying high quality stone masonry further enliven the external expression of the house in the streetscape.”

The house was home to Lady Eleanor Butler who lived here after the death of her husband Walter in 1783. Lady Eleanor Butler was the mother of John, the 17th Earl of Ormonde and her daughter, also Eleanor, was one of the famous “Ladies of Langollen”.

James, Earl of Ormonde resided in the house while the Castle was under reconstruction in 1831.
A soup kitchen was run from here during the cholera epidemic of 1832.

The Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland held their meetings in Butler House in 1870. Kilkenny Design, the state design agency, restored Butler House in 1972. The decor and furnishings reflect a certain 1970s Art Deco style, which because of the muted colours and natural fabrics used, proved sympathetic to the original features of the house. In 1989, the Kilkenny Civic Trust acquired both Butler House and the Castle Stables. 

3. Grange Manor, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny B&B

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.

http://grangemanorkilkenny.com

The website tell us: “Located in the heart of the Kilkenny countryside, this beautiful Georgian manorhouse is set into 26 acres of lush landscaped grounds. With the medieval city of Kilkenny just 20 mins drive, experience Irish culture at your own pace in in Grange Manor.”

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory describes the doorcase: “Classically-detailed doorcase not only demonstrating good quality workmanship in a deep grey limestone, but also showing a pretty overlight.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory tell us: “Interior including (ground floor): central hall retaining carved timber surrounds to window openings framing timber panelled shutters on panelled risers with carved timber surrounds to opposing door openings framing timber panelled doors, and plasterwork cornice to ceiling on “bas-relief” frieze centred on “bas-relief” ceiling rose.”

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 145. “(Lannigan, Stannard and Dowdall, sub Bancroft/IFR) An old farmhouse to which Georgian reception rooms were added, producing a house of two storeys and nine bays, with a three bay breakfront centre higher than the bays on either side. Fanlighted doorway; high-pitched roof. Room with Adamesque plasterwork incorporating oval painted medallions.” 

It was occupied (1751) by Captain James Warren (d. 1758). It was advertised for sale in 2021.

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory describes: “double-height staircase hall (north) retaining carved timber surrounds to door openings framing timber panelled doors, moulded plasterwork cornice to ceiling, staircase on a dog leg plan with turned timber “spindle” balusters supporting carved timber banister terminating in volute, carved timber Classical-style surround to window opening to half-landing framing timber panelled shutters, carved timber surrounds to door openings to landing framing timber panelled double doors having overlights, and decorative plasterwork cornice to coved ceiling centred on “bas-relief” ceiling rose.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. Staircase hall with Adamesque plasterwork incorporating oval medallions.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory tells us about the gate lodge: “A gate lodge erected by John Stannard (né Lannigan) (d. 1836) contributing positively to the group and setting values of the Grange House estate with the architectural value of the composition suggested by such attributes as the compact square plan form centred on a featureless doorcase; and the openings showing pretty lattice glazing patterns.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.

4. Lyrath House, near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny – hotel

 https://www.lyrath.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

p. 184. “(Wheeler-Cuffe, Bt/PB1934; Tupper/LGI1958) Originally a Tobin castle, acquired by the Wheeler family C17. By 1826, the house here consisted of a simple two storey five bay pedimented front facing west, with two wings running back from it to enclose a small three sided office court; the entrance door being on the south side; under a Regency veranda. In 1861, Sir Charles Wheeler-Cuffe, 2nd Bt, married Pauline Villiers-Stuart, daughter of Lord Stuart de Decies [of Dromana House, County Waterford – see my entry], whose parents did not regard this house as grand enough for her; so in that same year he rebuilt the main western block on a larger scale and in a rich Italianate style, while leaving the two storey wings more of less as they were.; his architect being John McCurdy. The entrance was moved from the south side to the new west front, which is pedimented and of five bays like its predecessor, but not entirely symmetrical; having a pair of windows on the ground floor to the left of centre, but a single window on the right. Entrance door framed by Ionic columns carrying a balustrade, above which is a Venetian window framed by an aedicule with a segmental pediment. All the ground floor windows have semi-circular heads, while the heads of the windows of the upper storey – apart from the central Venetian windows – are cambered. The garden front to the north has two single-storey balustraded curved bows, the windows of which are treated as arcades supported by Romanesque columns of sandstone. There is another Romanesque column separated the pair of windows in the centre of the front. The windows in the bow are glazed with curved glass. The roof is carried on a deep bracket cornice and there are prominent string courses, which give the elevations a High Victorian character. Hall with imposing imperial staircase, the centre ramp of which rises between two fluted Corinthian columns. There is a similarity between the staircase here and that at Dromana, Co Waterford, Pauline Lady Wheeler-Cuffe’s old home; except that the Dromana staircase was of stone, whereas that at Leyrath is of wood, with ornate cast-iron balustrades. On the centre ramp of the staircase there is still a chair with its back legs cut down to fit the steps; this was put there in 1880s for Pauline when she became infirm. Hall has a ceiling cornice of typical C19 plasterwork in a design of foliage, and door with entablatures which still have their original walnut graining. To the left of the hall, in the garden front, are the drawing room, ante-room and dining room, opening into each other with large double doors’ they have ceiling cornices similar to that in the hall, and good C19 white chimneypieces, enriched with carving; the drawing room and ante-room keep their original white and gold wallpaper. In the south wing there are smaller and lower rooms surviving from before the rebuilding; while first floor rooms in this wing have barrel ceilings throughout and contain some C18 chimneypieces of black marble.” 

The website tells us more about the history:

The name Lyrath is thought to date back to Norman times when “Strongbow” settled in Ireland during the Norman invasion. The area was originally called Le Rar or Le Rath by the French speaking De Ponte family who during the 12th century lived in the Monastery which was once located within the grounds. There is also a mention of a castle which was once said to have been situated within the grounds.

Prior to 1653 the lands were owned by the Shortall family, who then rented the ‘old castle in repair’ and land to Thomas Tobin, Constable of the Barony of Gowran. In 1664, a gentleman named Thomas Mances, paid a sum of 4s ‘hearth money’ for the old castle.

Later in the Seventeenth Century the property was acquired by Richard Wheeler through his kinship to Jonah Wheeler the Bishop of Ossary. By then the original ‘Tobin’ castle had been demolished.

Richard Wheeler’s son, Jonah Wheeler, married Elisabeth Denny-Cuffe, a descendant of the Desart-Cuffe family who had extensive landed property in the Counties of Carlow and Kilkenny, on his marriage Jonah decided to adopt the name Cuffe.

In 1814 the grandson of Jonah, also named Jonah, was living in the house with his with Elisabeth Browne, from Brownes Hill in neighbouring Carlow. Sir Jonah died in 1853 and his elder son, Sir Charles Denny Wheeler-Cuffe succeeded him.

To redesign the house Sir Charles engaged the services of John McCurdy, a Dublin born Architect, whose other commissions with his partner, William Mitchell, include Kilkenny’s Knocktopher Abbey, Dublin’s famous ‘Shelbourne Hotel’ and the South City Markets.

The current house is one of the most important surviving country houses built by John McCurdy.

Sir Charles and Pauline had no children, so on the death of Sir Charles, his nephew Sir Ottway Forteque Luke Wheeler-Cuffe inherited the baronetcy and demesne of Lyrath and became the primary resident. Sir Ottaway married Charlotte Isabel Williams in 1897. Lady Charlotte was the earliest known botanical explorer to reach the remote areas Burma and it was during these trips that she discovered several plants including two new species of Rhododendrons, Burmanicum, and Cuffianum (named after her). Cuffianum, the white rhododendron is extremely rare and has not been collected by any botanist since Lady Wheeler-Cuffe found in 1911.

Sir Ottway and Lady Charlotte stayed in Burma until Sir Ottway’s retirement in August 1921 when they finally returned to live at Lyrath. On her return to Lyrath, Lady Charlotte redesigned the gardens. The Conservatory adjacent to Tupper’s Bar in the new Hotel overlooks the Victorian garden designer by her which has been carefully restored to her original design (based on family records and drawings), they are also home to the ancient yew trees which are now protected by a preservation order.

Lady Charlotte lived in the house until her death in 1966 in her 100th year.

Following the death of Lady Charlotte, in 1967 the property was inherited by Lieutenant-Colonel G.W. Tupper whose grandfather had married Sir Charles’ sister in 1846. Reginald’s great nephew, Captain Anthony Tupper and his wife moved into the house and ran it as a traditional estate farm with a herd of Jersey cows, hens, and geese in the yard, calves in the haggard field and a big old-fashioned kitchen with dogs and cats which rambled in and out at will.

The Tuppers remained in the house until 1997.

When the Tuppers left, there was an auction at the house of all the furniture and the bits and pieces accumulated over several lifetimes laid out and labelled for sale. Fortunately, Xavier McAuliffe managed to obtain many of the items on auction that day, these items are now on display in the house and include to original large portraits hanging in the hallway and other paintings on display.

Xavier purchased the Estate in 2003 and developed the house into Lyrath Estate Hotel and Convention Centre, which opened its doors to the public in 2006.

5. Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – hotel

Mount Juliet Gardens, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, photograph by Finn Richards 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [7])

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Mount Juliet:

p. 214. “(Butler, Carrick, E/PB; McCalmont/IFR) A mid to late C18 house built by the 1st Earl of Carrick [Somerset Hamilton Butler, 8th Viscount Ikerrin and 1st Earl of Carrick (1719-1774)] across the River Nore from the former family seat, Ballylinch Castle on an estate which he had bought ca 1750 from Rev Thomas Bushe [1727-1795], of Kilmurry; traditionally named by him after his wife [Juliana Boyle, daugher of the 1st Earl of Shannon]. Of three storeys over basement, front of seven bays between two shallow curved bows, each having three windows. One bay central breakfront, with Venetian windows in the two upper storeys above tripartite pedimented and fanlighted doorway. Centre window in two lower storeys of bows roundheaded. Perron and double steps in front of entrance door, with iron railings. High pitched roof and massive stacks. Sold 1914 by 6th Earl of Carrick to the McCalmonts who had leased the house for some years. Major Dermot McCalmont made a new entrance in what had formerly been the back of the house, where the main block is flanked by two storey wings, extending at right angles from  it to form a shallow three sided court, and joined to it by curved sweeps. The interior of the house was richly decorated by 2nd Earl of Carrick 1780s with plasterwork in the manner of Michael Stapleton. The hall, which is long and narrow, is divided by an arcade carried on fluted Ionic columns, beyond which rises a bifurcating staircase with a balustrade of plain slender uprights; the present entrance being by way of a porch built out at the back of the staircase. The rooms on either side of the hall in what was formerly the entrance front and is now the garden front have plasterwork ceilings; one with a centre medallion of a hunting scene, another with a medallion of a man shooting. One of these rooms, the dining room, also has plasterwork on the walls, incorporating medallions with Classical reliefs. One of the wings flanking the present entrance front contains a ballroom made by Major Dermot McCalmont 1920s, with a frieze of late C18 style plasterwork; it is reached by way of a curving corridor. The demesne of Mount Juliet is one of the finest in Ireland, with magnificent hardwoods above the River Nore ; it includes the Ballylinch demesne across the river. There is a series of large walled gardens near the house Mount Juliet is famous for its stud, founded by Major Dermot McCalmont 1915. Sold 1987.” 

6. Shankill Castle, Co Kilkenny – see above

7. Waterside Guest House, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny

https://www.watersideguesthouse.com

This is set in a beautiful old mill on the river in Graiguenamanagh.

Whole House rental, County Kilkenny:

1. Annamult House, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny – whole house rental 

https://annamultcountryhouseestate.com/terms-and-conditions/

The National Inventory describes Annamult: “Detached four-bay two-storey double gable-fronted Tudor-style country house, c.1825, incorporating fabric of earlier house, pre-1771, with three-bay single-storey flat-roofed projecting open porch to centre ground floor, three-bay two-storey side elevations, and five-bay three-storey lower wing to left having single-bay (two-bay deep) two-storey connecting return to east.

2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 10

http://www.ballyburcastle.com/

The website tells us:

Ballybur Castle is the ancient seat of the Comerford clan, built by Richard Comerford around 1588. Despite the violent times, it seems to have maintained a fairly peaceful existance. It was one of the seats of the powerful Comerford family, the only one remaining.

Ballybur Castle is typical of the single family castles of that period, built primarily for protection against warring groups travelling the countryside. They were usually surrounded by more temporary structures where the farm labourers lived and livestock were kept.

When trouble was brewing, a roofwatch was kept and at the sight of any hostile group, labourers and livestock were gathered into the castle.

The Comerford castles flourished in the 1500s and well into the 16th century, all three castles were clustered in this area. (There were two more castles near Ballybur Castle belonging to the Comerford clan).

One can imagine the social standing of the Comerfords, the entertainment and grand parties that took place in their castles were renowned. The Comerfords occupied Ballybur Castle during the confederation that took place in Kilkenny in 1641.

“And so it happened that the papal Nunco, Cardinal Rinnuncini on his way to Kilkenny stopped at Ballybur Castle where a reception was held in honour of him and many important personages came to pay their respect.”

The cardinal presented a very ornate rosary to Richard and Mary Comerford. This rosary was passed on through generations of the castle’s owners at Ballybur. It was presented to Rothe House by father Langton Hayward who said he was given the rosary by the Marnell sisters in 1970, who still occupied the castle.

John Comerford, son of Richard Comerford, was the last Comerford to reside at Ballybur Castle. He was banished to Connaught in 1654 and forfeited his castle and lands to Brian Manseragh during the Cromwellian distribution survey of that period. Interestingly, this Brian Manseragh is a forefather of Martin Manseragh, the present T.D. from Tipparary who was the Taoiseach’s special advisor for the north during the current peace negotiations.

We know little about the period between 1655 until 1841 when it is stated that Thomas Deigan was the occupier of Ballybur.

Locally it is known that the Marnell sisters married into the Deigan family. They occupied Ballybur until Frank and Aifric Gray bought it in 1979.

The Grays at Ballybur By Ruan Gray

When mum and dad bought Ballybur in 1979, there was no roof on the castle as it is said that; “Cromwell blew it off with a cannon at the end of Ballybur lane.”

At the time when my parents bought the castle, it was in a very poor state of repair. It was their intention to spend five years on it’s restoration. They received grant aid from the Kilkenny County Council to replace the windows, some help towards the rebuilding of the roof from the Heritage Council and from Barrow Suir Development to complete the renovation.

It is now 25 years since the work began, and it has been mostly accomplished by dad and some local builders. Now it is completely refurbished and open to visitors. It truly has been a labour of love.

3. Castle Blunden, County Kilkenny whole house rental

hhiref@castleblunden.com

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

A few miles from the cathedral city of Kilkenny, Castle Blunden stands on an elevated site in the midst of mature parkland. Dating from the 1750s, and still owned by the Blunden family, this pretty seven-bay building is typical of County Kilkenny houses from the mid-Georgian period. The house is rendered, with a profusion of cut limestone decoration and details, and a handsome sprocketed roof, while the later Doric porch compliments the symmetry of the facade. The basement is concealed by a ramped gravel approach, which makes the house appear both lower and wider than is actually the case, while the small lakes to either side add to the overall air of enchantment.” [14]

4. Clomantagh Castle, Co Kilkenny – accommodation, whole house on airbnb: €€ for two, € for 3-8

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/29346656?federated_search_id=050f383f-6e5e-45b5-9989-b166bfe7e70d&source_impression_id=p3_1650104926_er%2FjFSqCgEWzQLW5

The National Inventory tells us it is a farmhouse erected by John Shortal (d. 1857) or Patrick Shortal (d. 1858) representing an integral component of the mid nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Kilkenny with the architectural value of the composition, one occupying the site of a hall adjoining the fifteenth-century Clomantagh Castle.

Clomantagh Castle - was home to the [8th] Earl of Ormond, Pierce Ruadh (1467-1539). When he died in 1539 the castle along with other properties was passed to his son Richard Butler, first Viscount Mountgarret (1500-1571). The castle and its estate stayed in the Butler family until it was forfeited during the war with Cromwell to Lieutenant Arthur St. George [ancestor of the Kilrush family]. After the war the castle changed hands twice more and a farmhouse was added by the Shortall family, the owners in the 1800’s, before its last owner  Willie White a local vet. The property is now owned by a non profit making charity called the Landmark Trust who preserve historic buildings. 

The Landmark site tells us:

The name Clomantagh comes from the Irish “cloch mantaigh”, meaning missing tooth or gappy smile. Locals gave this name to the castle as the irregular castellation reminded them of someone smiling with missing teeth.  

It has been established that the tower and bawn were built in the 15th century (c.1430). The tower house has been modified and extended over the centuries, and in the early 19th century a farmhouse was added providing accommodation with comfort, rather than defence, in mind. In recent times, the bawn walls have sheltered the buildings of a 20th century working farm. It also has a rare clochán (small dome-roomed structure) knit into the bawn walls. Five other tower houses can be seen from the roof of Clomantagh Castle, and they were all strategically aligned for defence purposes.

Clomantagh followed mainstream castle design, emerging as an almost square building, six storeys high, with massive walls built from local limestone, and a corner staircase. Inserted high on the south wall is a Sheela-na-Gig. This pagan symbol was adopted by medieval builders and incorporated as the building was erected. High up the remains of the stepped battlement walls, the merlons can be seen – a specifically Irish feature whose inspiration is considered to be Venetian. Inside the battlements a wide walkway gave access to all sides of the building. In the north east corner, a high watchtower has been built. This is knows as Moll Gearailt’s Chair, after the particularly ferocious original mistress of the house, Maighréad nhee Gearóid, who used to sit watching over her fields to ensure that her labourers were not slacking at their work. The walkway, or Alure, was sloped outward to allow run off water through drainage holes and stone spouts. Generally, battlement walls have not survived well, their thinner construction and unstable sloping bases have contributed to their disappearance from tower houses.  [15]

5. Tubbrid Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 8

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/29598290?adults=2&category_tag=Tag%3A8047&children=0&infants=0&search_mode=flex_destinations_search&check_in=2022-06-05&check_out=2022-06-10&federated_search_id=6eebbe51-3470-4008-be61-4228d4019473&source_impression_id=p3_1652359358_O%2F1m3ENyNNeiOZ%2Bf

The entry tells us:

Tubbrid Castle is a unique 15th-century tower house, uninhabited for the last century and now restored to its former glory. We’ve highlighted original features to let you step back in time and added luxury touches so you can indulge your inner prince or princess.

Heritage
In 942 AD, Muircheartach, King of modern-day Ulster, marched his army of 1000 Leather Cloaks south to avenge his allies, who had been attacked by Callaghan, King of Cashel. Muircheartach’s bard, Colmanach, recorded the journey in an epic poem, Circuit of Ireland, in which he praised the beauty of Osraí (now Kilkenny), and the hospitality of its people. At the edge of enemy territory and on the cusp of battle, Muircheartach’s army set up camp in Tubbrid, on a plain that a millennium later is still called Bán an Champa (the Field of the Encampment). The King himself is thought to have slept at the fort where Tubbrid Castle now stands. A thousand years later, the people of Kilkenny still pride ourselves on our warm hospitality and from the top floor bedroom of Tubbrid Castle you can survey Bán an Champa and enjoy lodgings befitting a king.

Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

contact: Grace Pym
Tel: 0505-21453
www.castleballaghmore.com
Open: all year except Christmas Day, 10am-6pm Fee: adult €5, child/OAP/student €3, family of 4, €10

The website tells us:

Ballaghmore Castle was built in 1480 by the Gaelic Chieftain MacGiollaphadraig (now called Fitzpatrick), meaning son of the servant of Patrick. Lords of Upper Ossory. They defended North Munster, strategically placed as they were on the old Irish Road. A Sheela-na-Gig carved in stone is on the front facing wall, a pagan fertility symbol to ward off evil.

Ballaghmore was partially destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1647. It was restored in 1836 by a Mr. Ely who found a hoard of gold on the land. Ely was shot by an angry tenant and never lived in the castle. The castle was then used as a granary and afterwards fell into disuse, until the present owner Gráinne Ní Cormac, bought it in 1990 and restored it. Now furnished.

Gráinne (Grace) will delight you with stories of the history of the MacGiollaphadraigs (changed to Fitzpatrick by order of Henry 8th of England) which goes back to 500 B.C.

2. Ballintubbert House and Gardens, Stradbally, Co Laois – open to public  https://www.discoverireland.ie/laois/ballintubbert-gardens-house

The gardens at Ballintubbert have been described as ‘An enchanting work of art – intimate and extraordinarily peaceful”. 

The historic gardens at Ballintubbert have been expanded with an Arts & Crafts influence to include an impressive variety of over 40 ‘garden rooms’ and pedimented yew cloisters within 14 acres. 

Of particular note is the Sir Edwin Lutyens design water garden complimented by Gertrude Jekyll style planting schemes. 

There are wild flower meadows and woodlands influenced by William Robinson’s approach to ‘wild gardening’ in contrast to the formal lime walks that flank a hundred meter canal in the more classical gardening tradition. 

Opening Hours 

The gardens are open to view every Thursday from 10am to 5pm 
(April to September) 

Very occasionally the gardens may be closed with a private event – please check our Facebook page for details 

Admission €5 (children under 8 free) 
Guided tours available by appointment 

Allow 2 hours and please feel welcome all day. Relax & savour what lies ahead – this is a rich experience of the senses 

3. Gardens at Castle Durrow, County Laois

www.castledurrow.com 

4. Clonohill Gardens, Coolrain, Portlaoise, Laois

https://www.gardensofireland.org/directory/31/clonohill+gardens/

5. Emo Court, County Laois – OPW

see my OPW entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

Emo Court, County Laois.

6. Heywood Gardens, County Laois – OPW

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

7. Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois – section 482

Stradbally Hall, County Laois, June 2021.

contact: Thomas Cosby
Tel: 086-8519272
http://www.stradballyhall.ie
Open: May 1-31, June 1-9, Aug 13-21, Oct 1-14, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €5, child free

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/10/14/stradbally-hall-stradbally-co-laois/

Places to Stay, County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482 – see above.

There is the tower house castle, a farmhouse or a cottage to stay in.

2. Ballyfin House, Co. Laois – hotel 

https://ballyfin.com

Ballyfin, photograph by Tony Pleavin 2018 for Tourism Ireland (see [7]).

The website tells us: “Steeped in Irish history, the site of Ballyfin has been settled from ancient times and was ancestral home in succession to the O’Mores, the Crosbys, the Poles, the Wellesley-Poles (the family of the Duke of Wellington) and later the Cootes.”

The east front of Ballyfin, dominated by the grand Ionic portico. The house was built in the 1820s for Sir Charles Coote to designs by Sir Richard and William Morrison. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

The website continues:

The Coote family was descended from Sir Charles Coote, an Elizabethan adventurer who came to Ireland in 1601. The Coote coat-of-arms is prominently displayed above the entrance to Ballyfin.

The house itself was built in the 1820s for another Sir Charles Coote to designs by the great Irish architects Sir Richard and William Morrison. The Cootes enjoyed the house for exactly one hundred years employing a large team of servants to preserve the life of refined leisure that is documented in Edwardian photographs showing tea on the terrace or skating in the walled garden. As the political situation changed with the dawning of the Irish Independence, the Cootes sold the estate to the Patrician Brothers who, for much of the twentieth century, ran a much-loved school at Ballyfin. After many years of restoration Ballyfin reopened its doors in May 2011.

The restoration project took nine years – significantly longer than it took to build the house in the first place. Every single aspect of the house from the roof down required remedial attention. Skilled craftsmen worked on the elaborate inlaid floors, repaired the gilding and the stucco work or treated the stone work of the house which was disintegrating. After this emergency work, a process of redecoration could begin with carefully selected paint finishes, papers and textiles bringing the interiors back to life. The house has been furnished with a collection of Irish art and antiques from around the world, fine Irish mahogany, French chandeliers and mirrors by Thomas Chippendale. The result was spectacular, and one of Ireland’s most endangered great houses emerged ready for the current century, a place of grandeur, yet warmth, providing the kind of welcome envisaged when the house was first built.”

Ballyfin, photograph by Tony Pleavin 2018 for Tourism Ireland (see [7]). Wrought-iron curvilinear Victorian conservatory, c.1855, on a rectangular plan with apsidal ends and glazed corridor linking it to Ballyfin House. Designed by Richard Turner.

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

p. 21. “(Wellesley-Pole, sub Wellington; D/PB; Coote, Bt/PB)The grandest and most lavishly appointed early C19 Classical house in Ireland; built between 1821 and 1826 by Sir Charles Coote, 9th Baronet [1794-1864. He married Caroline Whaley, granddaughter of “Burn Chapel” Whaley whom we came across when we visited the Museum of Literature of Ireland in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin]; replacing a long, plain house of 1778 which had been the seat of William Wellesley-Pole [1763-1835], afterwards 1st Lord Marlborough and 3rd Earl of Mornington, a brother of the Duke of Wellington. Coote, the Premier Bt. of Ireland, who bought the estate from Wellesley-Pole ca 1812, seems originally to have employed an architect named Dominick Madden, who produced a design for a 2 storey house with a long library at one side running from front to back, and extending into a curved bow in the centre of the side elevation; a room very similar to the library at Emo Court, a few miles away. When this end of the house – which also contained a top-lit rotunda, another feature doubtless inspired by Emo – had been built, Coote switched from Madden to Richard Morrison, who, assisted by his son William Vitruvius Morrison, completed the house according to a modified plan, but incorporating Madden’s library wing which forms the side elevation of Morrison’s house, just has it would have done of Madden’s; it is of one bay on either side of the central curved bow, which is fronted by a colonnade of giant Ionic columns.”

The south front of Ballyfin, with the grand bow window for the library. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The Victorian conservatory at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: “The side elevation is now prolonged by a gracefully curving glass and iron conservatory of ca 1850. The principal front is of 13 bays with a giant pedimented Ionic portico; the 2 end bays on either side being stepped back. The interior, almost entirely by the Morrisons, is of great magnificence and beautifully finished, with exciting spatial effects and a wealth of rich plasterwork, scagiola columns in Siena porphyry, green and black; and inlaid parquetry floors; originally the rooms contained a fine collection of pictures and sculpture and furniture said to have been made for George IV as Prince of Wales. A rather restrained entrance hall, with a coffered ceiling and a floor of mosaic brought from Rome, leads into the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end.

The upstairs top-lit saloon reminds me of that at Stradbally Hall. The first son of Charles Coote and Caroline Whaley died unmarried, the second son predeceased the first son, after marrying Margaret Mary Cosby of Stradbally. The third son, Algernon, became 11th Baron Coote and also joined the clergy. He died in 1920 and afterwards the house was sold.

The hall at Ballyfin, built in the 1820s for Sir Charles Coote to designs by Sir Richard and William Morrison. The mosaic centrepiece on the floor came from Rome in 1822. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin, the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin top-lit saloon. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin, the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Detail of the ceiling in the saloon at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: The saloon is flanked by the rotunda, which is surrounded by Ionic columns and has a coffered dome, and the staircase hall, which has pairs of engaged and recessed columns round its upper storey; the balustrade of the stairs and gallery being of brass uprights.

The rotunda at Ballyfin, which is encircled by eight Siena scagliola columns. The coffered dome is ornamented with hexagonal panels containing decorative stars set in an emphatic geometrical lattice. Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The staircase hall at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The staircase hall at Ballyfin. Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The doorway in the saloon at Ballyfin, looking through to the staircase hall. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: “There is a splendid vista through the centre of the house, from the staircase hall to the library, which lies at right angles to this central axis, beyond the rotunda; it is divided by screens of Ionic columns. The drawing room has characteristic Morrison ceiling and gilt Louis XV decoration on the walls dating from 1840s and by a London decorator. Classical entrance gates with piers similar to those at Kilruddery, Co Wicklow and Fota, Co Cork; and a folly castle in the park. Ballyfin was sold by the Coote family 1920s and is now a college run by the Patrician brothers.” 

The library at Ballyfin, with screens of Scagliola columns. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The library at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The library at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The Gold Drawing Room at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The Gold Drawing Room at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The dining room at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
A bedroom at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

The Ballyfin website tells us:

At Ballyfin, stone walls enclose 614 acres of parkland, a lake and ancient woods, delightful garden buildings, follies and grottoes. The landscape, laid out in the mid-eighteenth century, is among the finest examples in Ireland of the natural style of gardening inspired by ‘Capability’ Brown.

There are many highlights that will keep garden lovers and outdoor enthusiasts exploring for days. These include the medieval-style tower, built as a folly in the 1860’s, the walled garden with its formal borders and kitchen gardens, the abundant wildlife to be seen on early morning walks and the restored Edwardian rock garden.”

Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The new cascade and classical temple at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The south front of Ballyfin, with the grand bow window for the library. Beyond is the lake made in the 1750s. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.

3. Castle Durrow, Co Laois – a hotel 

https://www.castledurrow.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Castle Durrow (1988(:

p. 66. “(Flower, Ashbrook, V/PB) An early C18 house of an attractive pinkish stone, with a high-pitched roof and tall stacks’ built 1716-18 by Col William Flower [b. 1685], MP, afterwards 1st Lord Castle Durrow, who employed a builder named Benjamin Crawley or Crowley. Of two storeys – originally with a dormered attic in the roof – and nine bays; the front being divided into three groups of three bays by giant Doric pilasters and entablature with urns; now erected on the front of a C19 enclosed porch. Alterntive triangular and segmental pediments over ground floor windows. Originally the house was flanked by single-storey outbuildings with mullion-and-transom windows; but these have since been replaced by other outbuildings; while the front has been extended by the addition of two projecting bays at one side. The interior was originally panelled, the hall and dining room in oak; but the panelling now survived only in two rooms. Subsequent generations of the family, who from 1751 held the title of Viscount Ashbrook [Henry Flower (1712-1752)], adorned the house with C18 plasterwork and C19 stained glass; as well as building the impressive castellated entrance gate in the square of the little town of Durrow. Castle Durrow was sold by 9th Viscount Ashbrook 1922 and is now a convent school.In recent years, the attic dormers have been removed.” 

The 4th Viscount, Henry Flower, married Deborah Susannah Freind. Their son the 5th Viscount, Henry, married Frances Robinson, daughter of John Robinson, who became 1st Baronet Robinson, of Rokeby Hall, Co. Louth, a section 482 property (see my entry). He was born John Freind, and changed his name to Robinson when he inherited Rokeby. The 6th and 7th Viscounts had no male heirs and the 8th Viscount, Colonel Robert Thomas Flower, was the son of the 5th Viscount. It was his son, the 9th Viscount, who sold Castle Durrow.

The website tells us:

Colonel William Flower commenced with the construction of the Manor in 1712. The Flower family assumed residence of Castle Durrow in 1716 and continued to expand and improve their estate on various occasions during their 214 year reign. Past research indicates that the Ashbrook family were generally regarded as benevolent landlords and of course the largest employer of Durrow Village.

In 1922 the banks finally foreclosed and the Flower family were forced to relocate to Britain. The castle was sold to Mr Maher of Freshford, County Kilkenny who was primarily interested in the rich timber reserves of the Estate and sold of most of the beautiful old oak trees to Britain, by 1928 the old hard wood forests of Durrow were scarce.

The Land Commission divided up the arable portions of the property and the Forestry department took over many of the woods for further plantation. During this time the great manor house remained entirely empty. The Bank of Ireland acquired the town and consequently for the next 40 years house property in Durrow was purchased from that bank.

In 1929 with the Bishop’s approval the Parish of Durrow acquired the Estate for the purchase price of £1800 and Castle Durrow was transformed into a school, St. Fintan’s College and Convent. The establishing of a school at Castle Durrow was testimony to the fact that beautiful buildings of the past could be used in the modern world. The Presentation order ran the castle as a closed convent before they opened up the castle as a primary and secondary school which stayed open until 1987.

In the 90’s, Peter and Shelly Stokes purchased Castle Durrow and began the castle’s renovations. The works took over 3 years to complete. The renovations were a bigger job than originally was thought; the roof had to be completely replaced, new wiring and plumbing was put in through the whole castle. When the roof was renewed the original black oak beams were exposed and they are now a feature in the oriental rooms. Irish oak floors with underfloor heating were put in. New wooden sash windows were made for the castle to replace the old rotten ones. The stained glass windows, fire places and magnificent plastered ceilings were all restored. Furniture for the entire house was handpicked from Irish and European auction houses and many family heirlooms and antiques can be found dotted around the grounds. The Stokes family manage the daily running of the castle and they are an intricate part of the charming homely feel.

4. Coolanowle Country House, Ballickmoyler, County Laois

http://www.coolanowle.com

The website tells us:

Coolanowle Country House is a multi award winning County House B&B offering an inviting and welcoming stay for all its guests. It also offers two tastefully restored  self catering holiday cottages as well as a cosy log house self catering chalet. In total it can accommodate up to 38 guests. 

Coolanowle is the perfect venue for small parties & events.  Set on 3 acres of natural woodland with historic flax ponds, it’s the perfect place to experience country living. Famous for organic traditional food and personal attention to detail, a stay here at Coolanowle will rejuvinate, regenerate and revive!  

5. Roundwood, Mountrath, Co Laois – guest house https://roundwoodhouse.com 

and the forge and writer’s cottage at Roundwood

The website tells us: “Nestled in 18 acres of native woodland, just over an hour from Dublin, Roundwood House is a B&B and restaurant with six bedrooms in the Main House, four in the older restored Yellow House, two self-catering cottages, a wonderful library, a dog that gives walking tours, two little girls, some hens and ducks to greet you on arrival and a rooster named Brewster.”

The website tells us a little of the history of the house: “Built in 1731 for a prosperous Quaker family of cloth makers by the name of Sharp, it retains much of its charm and feel from its early days.

Most of its original features remain intact including chimney pieces of Black Kilkenny marble, carved timber architraves, sash windows and Rococo plasterwork.The 1970s were a particularly colourful time in Roundwood’s history. Then, under the ownership of the Irish Georgian Society, Roundwood became a party house for a young, upper-class, bohemian setSome individuals stand out during the 1970s in Roundwood, including Brian Molloy, who abandoned his law degree in favour of working on restoring houses with the Irish Georgian Society. Molloy brought the derelict Roundwood back to life and guests remember his hospitality, with candlelight, bouquets of wild flowers and “music floating out from somewhere”.

Hannah’s parents, Frank and Rosemary Kennan, bought Roundwood in 1983, after it had been rescued by the Irish Georgian Society from the fate of demolition. A decade of restoration by the Society followed, after which Hannah’s parents opened their home to guests and lovingly ran it for 25 years.

Just over a decade ago, Hannah & Paddy took the reins. Paddy Flynn, a musician from Canada, met Hannah in Galway where she was studying Classical Civilization. They decided that a life as live-in hosts in a Georgin Country House was an appealing prospect and so left their city life behind to do just that. They and their two girls, Amélie and Lucie, look forward to welcoming you into their beautiful home.

An added feature of Roundwood is a special library:

Frank’s Library is situated in the old Coach House on the grounds of Roundwood House. It is an English language library with approximately two thousand volumes.

The library is intended to facilitate a general understanding of the development of civilisation & to celebrate those individuals who successfully climbed onto the shoulders of millions to give us something new & beautiful; a poem, a philosophy, a scientific theory, a painting, a symphony, a new kind of politics or technology. The intention is to do this within the overall picture of our history from the beginning, with our darkest periods included.

Spread over two levels, with ample desks and armchairs in cosy corners, the library is couched in exposed brick, with beautiful brass lighting fixtures, a wrought-iron gallery and spiral staircase. Its book cases are packed wall to wall with everything from Fisk’s tome on the Middle East to an impressive fine art and limited edition facsimile copy of the Book of Kells.

The Library is open to guests staying in the house and the self-catering cottages. For anyone  not booked to stay, but interested in visiting the library , please contact us in advance.

Whole House Rental County Laois:

1. Preston House, Abbeyleix, County Laois

https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/preston-house/

Hidden Ireland tells us:

We are delighted that you have found our beautifully restored 18th Century Georgian House, with a private courtyard and wooded garden, located on the Main Street of the picturesque Heritage Town of Abbeyleix.

Preston House is the perfect space to unite for family gatherings or private parties. Boasting the home from home comforts of a fully equipped country kitchen, a drawing room, a music parlour & two dining rooms, our six luxurious suites are individually decorated with a quirky mix of chic and antique furnishings, providing ample living space to comfortably accommodate 14 people.

Our country manor kitchen, with an Aga to boot, was originally designed to cater for up to 80 people but it’s perfect for large or small gatherings. The individual room mixes are the perfect setting for family dining, relaxing with friends or celebrations. The house as a whole can be transformed into an event or workshop space, a cultural gathering or wellness space.

With a beautiful courtyard for outdoor dining, historic curtledge and a wonderful tree lined garden Preston House is the perfect place for a family break, a celebration or a unique wedding setting.

The Lords Walk is just a short walk from Preston House, every day, there is an adventure waiting in Laois. With its mountains, canals, forest trails, rivers & lakes, Laois is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, Preston House and Abbeyleix is the perfect starting point to explore!

Each of the suites in Preston House has its own unique & fascinating story to tell. The Pembroke Suite was named after Pembroke Terrace, a group of four impressively designed houses built as part of a dowry by the 11th Earl of Pembroke & Montgomery when his daughter Emma married Thomas De Vesci the 3rd. At the turn of the century a constabulary barracks, an inspector’s house and the post office occupied Pembroke Terrace. The Preston Suite was named after a previous incarnation of this fine premises which was a post-primary school. Mr A. E. M. Charleton of Galway Grammar School was appointed Head Master in 1895. Two months later the school opened to both boarders and day pupils. It served as an excellent educational establishment until it closed in September 1966. The Heritage Suite was named after our local tourism and community centre Heritage house: It was a Boys National School until 1995, it now serves as heritage centre with a museum, meeting rooms and playground. It’s open to the public for guided tours, cultural events and exhibitions. Exhibits include ancient artifacts and recent traditional craft from Laois as well as artifacts from the Titanic Carpet factory here in Abbeyleix.

The Sexton Suite was named after Sexton House. On the retirement of the last sexton (an officer of a church), the house became somewhat derelict but as it forms a significant part of the town’s heritage its restoration was widely welcomed and it is now a notable stop on the Heritage Trails around the town. The Bramley Suite is named after Bramley’s premises on lower Main St dates back to the early 19th century. The first business was a saddlery and post office. Early in the 20th Century, the first automobile garage in Abbeyleix was opened at the rear of Bramley’s premises. The property beside Bramley’s was formerly the site of the Abbeyleix Carpet Factory, which closed in 1914. The De Vesci Suite is named after Abbeyleix House, home of the De Vesci family for over 300 years. It is a magnificent building built beside the Nore and situated in the rolling pastureland of the estate. It is now in private ownership. The estate is rich in history with the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey and the tomb of Malachy, King of Laois on its grounds.

[1] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Burtown%20House

[2] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Kildare%20Landowners

[3] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Griesemount%20House

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11805062/kildrought-house-main-street-celbridge-celbridge-co-kildare

[5] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Millbrook%20House

[6] 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.

[7] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en

[8] https://archiseek.com/2014/carton-maynooth-co-kildare/

[9] https://theirishaesthete.com/2020/01/08/a-stage-set/

[10] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_barton.html

[11] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Kilrush%20House

[12] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/12000025/rothe-house-15-16-parliament-street-gardens-st-johns-par-kilkenny-co-kilkenny

[13] https://archiseek.com/2010/1594-rothe-house-kilkenny-co-kilkenny/

and http://kilkennyarchaeologicalsociety.ie

[14] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Castle%20Blunden

[15] https://www.irishlandmark.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Clomantagh_castle.pdf

Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny

Just to finish up my entries about Office of Public Works properties: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

Carlow:

1. Altamont Gardens

[Dublin 2-21]

Kildare:

22. Castletown House, County Kildare

23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare

Kilkenny:

24. Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny

25. Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny

26. Kells Priory, County Kilkenny

27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny

28. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny

Carlow:

1. Altamont House and Gardens, Bunclody Road, Altamont, Ballon, County Carlow:

Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [1]

General information: (059) 915 9444

altamontgardens@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

A large and beautiful estate covering 16 hectares in total, Altamont Gardens is laid out in the style of William Robinson, which strives for ‘honest simplicity’. The design situates an excellent plant collection perfectly within the natural landscape.

For example, there are lawns and sculpted yews that slope down to a lake ringed by rare trees and rhododendrons. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, sheltered by ancient oaks and flanked by huge stone outcrops, leads to the banks of the River Slaney. Visit in summer to experience the glorious perfume of roses and herbaceous plants in the air.

With their sensitive balance of formal and informal, nature and artistry, Altamont Gardens have a unique – and wholly enchanting – character.” [2]

Altamont, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

From Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the care of the OPW, Government Publications, Dublin, 2018:

Altamont House was constructed in the 1720s, incorporating parts of an earlier structure said to have been a medieval nunnery. In the 1850s, a lake was excavated in the grounds of the house, but it was when the Lecky-Watsons, a local Quaker family, acquired Altamont in 1924 that the gardens truly came into their own.

Feilding Lecky-Watson had worked as a tea planter in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he nurtured his love of exotic plants, and of rhododendrons in particular. Back in Ireland, he became an expert in the species, cultivating plants for the botanical gardnes at Glasnevin, Kew and Edinburgh. So passionate was he about these plants that when his wife, Isobel, gave birth to a daughter in 1922, she was named Corona, after his favourite variety of rhododendron.” [3]

Altamont House and Gardens lake, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Around the lake are mature conifers that were planted in the 1800s, including a giant Wellingtonia which commemorates the Battle of Waterloo. [3] Corona continued in her father’s footsteps, planing rhododendrons, magnolia and Japanese maples. Another feature is the “100 steps” hand-cut in granite, leading down to the River Slaney. There are red squirrels, otters in the lake and river, and peacocks. Before her death, Corona handed Altamont over to the Irish state to ensure its preservation.

The Temple, Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Kildare:

22. Castletown House and Parklands, Celbridge, County Kildare.

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photo by Mark Wesley 2016, Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General Information: castletown@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Castletown is set amongst beautiful eighteenth-century parklands on the banks of the Liffey in Celbridge, County Kildare.

The house was built around 1722 for the speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly, to designs by several renowned architects. It was intended to reflect Conolly’s power and to serve as a venue for political entertaining on a grand scale. At the time Castletown was built, commentators expected it to be ‘the epitome of the Kingdom, and all the rarities she can afford’.

The estate flourished under William Conolly’s great-nephew Thomas and his wife, Lady Louisa, who devoted much of her life to improving her home.

Today, Castletown is home to a significant collection of paintings, furnishings and objets d’art. Highlights include three eighteenth-century Murano-glass chandeliers and the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in the country.

It is still the most splendid Palladian-style country house in Ireland.

This photo was taken probably by Robert French, chief photographer of William Lawrence Photographic Studios of Dublin, National Library of Ireland flickr constant commons.

William Conolly rose from modest beginnings to be the richest man in Ireland in his day. He was a lawyer from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, who made an enormous fortune out of land transactions in the unsettled period after the Williamite wars.

The Archiseek website tells us:

“Soon after the project got underway Conolly met Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737), an Italian architect, who had been employed in Ireland by Lord Molesworth in 1718 [John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount, who had been British envoy to Florence]. He designed the façade of the main block in the style of a 16th century Italian town palace. He returned to Italy in 1719 and was not associated with the actual construction of the house which began in 1722. Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (died 1733), a young Irish architect, on his Italian grand tour became acquainted with Galilei in Florence and through this connection he was employed by the Speaker to complete Castletown when he returned to Ireland in 1724. Pearce had first hand knowledge of the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and his annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura survives. It was Pearce who added the Palladian colonnades and the terminating pavillions. This layout was the first major Palladian scheme in Ireland and soon had many imitators.” [4]

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photograph from macmillan media for Tourism Ireland 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Mark Bence-Jones tells us in his  A Guide to Irish Country Houses:

The centre block, of three storeys over a basement, has two more or less identical thirteen bay fronts reminiscent of the façade of an Italian Renaissance town palazzo; with no pediment or central feature and no ornamentation except for doorcase, entablatures over the ground floor windows, alternate segmental and triangular pediments over the windows of the storey above and a balustraded roof parapet. Despite the many windows and the lack of a central feature, there is no sense of monotony or heaviness; the effect being one of great beauty  and serenity. The centre block is joined by curved Ionic colonnades to two storey seven bay wings; the wings and colonnades having been designed by Pearce, who also designed the impressive two storey entrance hall, which has a gallery supported by Ionic columns. Apart from the hall, the long gallery upstairs and some rooms with simple wainscot, the interior of Castletown was still unfinished at the time of Speaker Conolly’s death, and remained so until after his great-nephew, the popular Irish patriot Tom Conolly, married Lady Louisa Lennox (daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond and sister of Emily, Duchess of Leinster) 1758.” [5]

William Conolly married Katherine Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal, whose brother purchased Slane Castle. William and Katherine had no children, so his estate passed to his nephew William James Conolly (1712-1754) via his brother Patrick. We came across William James Conolly before in Leixlip Castle (another Section 482 property), which he also inherited. William James died just two years after Katherine nee Conyngham, so the estate then passed to his son Thomas Conolly (1738-1803).

Thomas Conolly (1738-1803) by Anton Raphael Mengs, painted 1758. The German painter Mengs captured Conolly as a 19 year old on his Grand Tour. He is shown posting in front of a Roman sarcophagus, the “Relief of the Muses,” now in the Louvre. He is wearing a rich satin suit with gilt braid, portraying a young cultured aristocrat. In reality he displayed little interest in ancient civilisation, and brought back no souvenirs from Rome save for this portrait. Portrait in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Thomas’s wife, Lady Louisa Lennox, was one of five Lennox sisters, daughters of the Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond. From the age of eight she had lived at nearby Carton with her sister Emily, who was married to James Fitzgerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare (who became the 1st Duke of Leinster) where she was exposed to the fashionable idea of the day in architecture, decoration, horticulture and landscaping. [6]

Carton House, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Archiseek continues: “The Castletown papers, estate records and account books, together with Lady Louisa’s [i.e. Louisa Lennox, wife of Tom Conolly] diaries and correspondence with her sisters, provide a valuable record of life at Castletown and also of the reorganisation of the house. Lady Louisa’s letters from the 1750s onwards are revealing of the fashions in costume design, fabric patterns and furniture. She played an important part in the alteration and redecoration of Castletown during the 1760s and 1770s. As no single architect was responsible for all of the work carried out, she supervised most of it herself. Much of the redecoration of the house was done to the published designs of the English architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) who never came to Ireland himself. Chambers also worked for Lady Louisa’s brother, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, at Goodwood in Sussex. In a letter, written in July 1759, Lady Louisa mentions instructions given by Chambers to his assistant Simon Vierpyl who supervised the work at Castletown.” [4]

Interior view of Castletown. Country Life 27/07/2016 
Image Number: 5499871  
Photographer: Will Pryce. In the niches are a pair of marble busts of the Earl and Countess of Dartrey by Lawrence McDonald carved in Rome in 1839. They came from Dartrey in County Monaghan which has been demolished (bequeathed to the Irish Georgian Society by Lady Edith Windham of Dartrey). The eighteenth-century organ was originally in the chapel of Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin (restored by the Cleveland Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society). 

Description of the Hall, from Archiseek: “This impressive two-storeyed room with a black and white chequered floor, was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. The Ionic order on the lower storey is similar to that of the colonnades outside and at gallery level there are tapering pilasters with baskets of flowers and fruit carved in wood. The coved ceiling has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame and central roundel with shell decoration.” [see 4]

The staircase at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873959  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Country Life Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E.Henson.

 
Castletown House, June 2015. ‘The Boar Hunt’ by Paul de Vos (1596-1678) is framed by Lafranchini plasterwork.

Mark Bence-Jones continues:

In the following year, Tom Conolly and Lady Louisa employed the Francini to decorate the walls of the staircase hall with rococo stuccowork; and in 1760 the grand staircase itself – of cantilevered stone, with a noble balustrade of brass columns – was installed; the work beign carried out by Simon Vierpyl, a protégé of Sir William Chambers. The principal reception rooms, which form an enfilade along the garden front and were mostly decorated at this time, are believed to be by Chambers himself; they have ceilings of geometrical plasterwork, very characteristic of him. Also in this style is the dining room, to the left of the entrance hall. It was here that, according to the story, Tom Conolly found himself giving supper to the Devil, whom he had met out hunting and invited back, believing him to be merely a dark stranger; but had realised the truth when his guest’s boots were removed, revealing him to have unusually hairy feet. He therefore sent for the priest, who threw his breviary at the unwelcome guest, which missed him and cracked a mirror. This, however, was enough to scare the Devil, who vanished through the hearthstone. Whatever the truth of this story, the hearthstone in the dining room is shattered, and one of the mirrors is cracked. The doing-up of the house was largely supervised by Lady Louisa, and two of the rooms bear her especial stamp: the print room, which she and her sister, Lady Sarah Napier made ca 1775; and the splendid long gallery on the first floor, which she had decorated with wall paintings in the Pompeian manner by Thomas Riley 1776. The gallery, and the other rooms on the garden front, face along a two mile vista to the Conolly Folly, an obelisk raised on arches which was built by Speaker Conolly’s widow 1740, probably to the design of Richard Castle. The ground on which it stands did not then belong to the Conollys, but to their neighbour, the Earl of Kildare, whose seat, Carton, is nearby. The folly continued to be a part of the Carton estate until 1968, when it was bought by an American benefactress and presented to Castletown. At the end of another vista, the Speaker’s widow built a remarkable corkscrew-shaped structure for storing grain, known as the Wonderful Barn. One of the entrances to the demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley 1741. The principal entrance gates are from a design by Chambers. Castletown was inherited by Tom Conolly’s nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, who took the name of Conolly. It eventually passed to 6th and present Lord Carew [William Francis Conolly-Carew (1905-1994)], whose mother was a Conolly of the Pakenham line. He sold it 1965; the estate was bought for development and for two years the house stood empty and deteriorating. Then, in 1967, Hon Desmond Guinness courageously bought the house with 120 acres as the headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society, and in order to save it for posterity. Since then the house has been restored and it now contains an appropriate collection of furniture, pictures and objects, which has either been bought for the house, presented to it by benefactors, or loaned. The house is open to the public.” 

Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015. In the stair hall, in the rococo plasterwork, Tom and Louisa Conolly are represented in plaster, along with shells, masks and flowers. 
Castletown House, June 2015.
My Dad Desmond and Stephen in the Dining Room of Castletown House, June 2015. The portrait, on the west wall, is of William Conolly in his robes as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons by Stephen Catterson Smith the elder (1806-1872) (donated by Mr and Mrs Galen Weston). This posthumous portrait was based on Jervas’s portrait of the Speaker in the Green Drawing Room. Note the vase on the side table, one of a pair of large Meissen gilt and white two-handled campana vases with everted rims and entwined scrolling serpent and acanthus handles. This pair of vases is reputed to have been given to Thomas Conolly (1823–1876) as a gift by the future French Emperor, Napoleon III.
The portrait over the fireplace in the dining room is a half-length portrait of Charles Lennox (1701–1750), 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, wearing armour with the ribbon of the Order of the Garter, in a contemporary frame in the manner of William Kent. 

The Dining Room, description from Archiseek:

This room dates from the 1760s redecoration of Castletown undertaken by Lady Louisa Conolly and reflects the mid-eighteenth century fashion for separate dining rooms. Originally, there were two smaller panelled rooms here. It was reconstructed to designs by Sir William Chambers, with a compartmentalised ceiling similar to one by Inigo Jones in the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The chimney-piece and door cases are in the manner of Chambers. Of the four doors, two are false. 

Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms. The three elaborate pier glasses are original to the Dining Room. The frames are carved fruiting vines, symbols of Bacchus and festivity. These are probably the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809) who, with the firm of Thomas Jackson of Essex Bridge, Dublin, was paid large sums for carving and gilding throughout the house.

Cranfield Mirror, the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809).
Castletown House, June 2015.

The Red Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

It is one of a series of State Rooms that form an enfilade and were used on important occasions in the eighteenth century. This room was redesigned in the mid 1760s in the manner of Sir William Chambers. The chimney-piece, ceiling and pier glasses are typical of his designs. 

The walls are covered in red damask which is probably French and dates from the 1820s. Lady Shelburne recorded in her journal seeing a four coloured damask, predominently red, in this room. The Aubusson carpet dates from about 1850 and may have been made for the room. Much of the furniture has always been in the house and Lady Louisa Conolly paid 11/2 guineas for each of the Chinese Chippendale armchairs which she considered very expensive. The chairs and settee were made in Dublin and they are displayed in a formal arrangement against the walls as they would have been in the eighteenth century. The bureau was made for Lady Louisa in the 1760s.

Castletown House, June 2015. A Chinese gilt and polychrome lacquer cabinet on Irish stand, with a pair of doors later painted with vignettes of romantic landscapes and birds on floral sprays. The landscapes on this lacquered cabinet are said to have been painted by Katherine Conolly as a gift for her great-niece, Molly Burton, in about 1725. Katherine, who had no children herself, looked after Molly after her father died. [7]
Chinese Chippendale sofas, Irish, c.1770.
The Green Drawing Room, Castletown House, June 2015. Portrait of the woman and child is Mrs Katherine Conolly with Miss Molly Burton, by Charles Jervas. The man on the other side of the door is Speaker William Conolly.

The Green Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

The Conollys formally received important visitors to the house in the Green Drawing Room which was the saloon or principal reception room. The room was redecorated in the 1760s and like the other state rooms reflects the neo-classical taste of the architect Sir William Chambers. The Greek key decoration on the ceiling is repeated on the pier glasses and the chimney-piece. Originally these were pier tables with a Greek key frieze and copies of these may be made in the future. The chimney-piece is similar to one designed by Chambers for Lord Charlemont’s Casino at Marino.”

Upstairs, The Long Gallery, Castletown House, June 2015.

The Long Gallery, description from Archiseek:

measuring almost 80 by 23 feet, with its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s. Originally there were four doors in the room and the walls were panelled in stucco similar to the entrance Hall. In 1776 the plaster panels and swags were removed but traces of them were found behind the painted canvas panels when they were taken down for cleaning during recent conservation work. 

In the mid 1770s the room was redecorated in the Pompeian manner by two English artists, Charles Reuben Riley (c.1752-1798) and Thomas Ryder (1746-1810). Tom and Louisa’s portraits are at either end of the room over the chimney-pieces and the end piers are decorated with cyphers of the initals of their families: The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard) and that of Tom after Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland). The subjects of the wall paintings were mostly taken from engraving in d’Hancarville’s Antiquites Etrusques, Greques, et Romaines (1766-67) and de Montfaucon’s L’antiquite expliquee et representee en figures (1719). The busts of the poets and philosophers are placed on gilded brackets designed by Chambers. In the central niche stands a seventeenth-century statue of Diana. Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter. 

The three glass chandeliers were made for the room in Venice and the four large sheets of mirrored glass came from France. In the 1770s the Long Gallery was used as a living room and was filled with exquisite furniture. Originally in the room, there were a pair of side tables attributed to John Linnell, with marble tops attributed to Bossi, a pair of commodes by Pierre Langlois, that were purchased in London for Lady Louisa by Lady Caroline Fox and a pair of bookcases at either end of the room. 

In 1989 major conservation work was carried out on the Long Gallery. The wall paintings that had been flaking for many years were conserved. The original eighteenth-century gilding has been cleaned and the chandeliers restored. The project was funded by the American Ireland Fund, the Irish Georgian Society and by private donations.

The gallery at Castletown House, as decorated for Lady Louisa Conolly circa 1790. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873951  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, July 2017. A set of three 18th-century Venetian coloured and plain glass 24-light chandeliers, decorated with flower heads and moulded finials. These three Murano glass chandeliers are unique in Ireland and rare even in Italy. It is believed that Lady Louisa ordered them from Venice between 1775 and 1778 for the redecorated Long Gallery. The chandeliers were wired for electricity in the mid-1990s; they were cleaned and restored by a Venetian firm of historic glass-makers in 2009. [see 7]
The Print Room, Castletown House, June 2015.

Print rooms were fashionable in the 18th century – ladies would collect their favourite prints and paste the walls with them – and Lady Louisa’s remains the only intact 18th century print room in Ireland. Those featured include Le Bas, Rembrandt and Teniers, the actor David Garrick and Sarah Cibber, Louisa’s sister Sarah, Charles I and Charles II as a boy, with whom Louisa shared a bloodline. [see 6]

The State Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015. In the 1720s, when the house was first laid out, this room, along with the rooms either side, probably formed William Conolly’s bedroom suite. It was intended that he would receive guests in the morning while sitting up in bed or being dressed in the manner of the French court at Versailles. In the nineteenth century, the room was converted into a library and the mock leather Victorian wall paper dates from this time. Sadly, the Castletown library was dispersed in the 1960s and today the furniture reflects the room’s original use.
The library at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873961  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
The Blue Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
The Boudoir, Castletown House, July 2017.

From the website: “The Boudoir and the adjoining two rooms formed Lady Louisa’s personal apartment. The Boudoir served as a private sitting room for Louisa and subsequent ladies of the house. The painted ceiling, dado rail and window shutters possibly date from the late eighteenth century and were restored in the 1970s by artist Philippa Garner. The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery. Amongst the items inside the built-in glass cabinet are pieces of glass and china featuring the Conolly crest.

In the adjoining room, Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, OPW’s conservation architects have left exposed the walls to offer visitors a glimpse of the different historic layers in the room, from the original brick walls, supported by trusses, to wooden panelling to fragments of whimsical printed wall paper that once embellished the room.

Castletown House, July 2017.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, July 2017.
Lady Kildare’s Room is named after Lady Louisa’s sister Emily, Countess of Kildare and later Duchess of Leinster, who had raised Louisa and the two younger sisters Sarah and Cecilia at nearby Carton House after their parents’ death. She bore her husband, James FitzGerald, nineteen children, but when her younger sister Louisa suffered a miscarriage that put an end to her hopes of ever having children, Emily came to stay with her in Castletown until she had recovered.
As members of the aristocracy in eighteenth-century Ireland, Louisa and Emily garnered much attention. Emily described herself and her sister as ‘women of fashion’, a term that emphasised not only their social position, but their knowledge and love of fashion. This room now displays five remarkable eighteenth-century gowns worn for formal ceremonies from the Berkeley Costume Collection. Made in France, Italy, and England, the dresses on display consist of rich embroidered bodices and full skirts made from silk and gold thread.
Statue taken from the grave of Speaker William Conolly, of him reclining next to his wife.
Statue of Lady Catherine Conolly, from the grave (see above), by Thomas Carter.
Obelisk, Castletown by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection NLI, flickr constant commons.
The Wonderful Barn, Castletown by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection NLI, flickr constant commons.

23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare:

Maynooth Castle, photograph by Gail Connaughton 2020, for Faitle Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General information: 01 628 6744, maynoothcastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This majestic stone castle was founded in the early thirteenth century. It became the seat of power for the FitzGeralds, the earls of Kildare, as they emerged as one of the most powerful families in Ireland. Garret Mór, known as the Great Earl of Kildare, governed Ireland in the name of the king from 1487 to 1513.

Maynooth Castle was one of the largest and richest Geraldine dwellings. The original keep, begun around 1200, was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. Inside, the great hall was a nerve centre of political power and culture.

Only 30 kilometres from Dublin, Maynooth Castle occupies a deceptively secluded spot in the centre of the town, with well-kept grounds and plenty of greenery. There is a captivating exhibition in the keep on the history of the castle and the family.

Kilkenny:

24. Dunmore Cave, Mothel, Ballyfoyle, Castlecomer Road, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 776 7726, dunmorecaves@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

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.

25. Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, County Kilkenny.

Jerpoint Abbey, May 2016.

General information: 056 772 4623, jerpointabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

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 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.

26. Kells Priory, Kells, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 772 4623, jerpointabbey@opw.ie

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’.

27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny:

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by macmillan media 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. It sits on the banks of the River Nore. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] The National Inventory describes: Random rubble stone walls with sections of limestone ashlar construction (including to breakfront having full-height Corinthian pilasters flanking round-headed recessed niches with sills, moulded surrounds having keystones, decorative frieze having swags, moulded course, modillion cornice, and blocking course with moulded surround to pediment having modillions), and limestone ashlar dressings including battlemented parapets (some having inscribed details) on corbel tables. The classical frontispiece was designed for James Butler, Second Duke of Ormonde possibly to designs prepared by Sir William Robinson. 

General information: 056 770 4100, kilkennycastleinfo@opw.ie

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, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

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. [8]

1n 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. [9]

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

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.[10] 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.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] The National inventory describes the newer wing: Renovated, 1858-62, with eight-bay two-storey range to north-east reconstructed having canted oriel windows to first floor, and pair of single-bay single-stage corner turrets on octagonal plans
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by me in May 2018.

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 the 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.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Roselinde Bon 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Mark Wesley 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Finn Richards, 2015 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

The 10th Earl of Ormond, “Black Tom,” had no direct heir so the Earldom passed to his nephew, Walter, a son of Sir John Butler of Kilcash. Unlike his uncle, who had been raised at Court and thus reared a Protestant, Walter the 11th Earl of Ormond was a Catholic. See my entry about the Ormond Castle at Carrick-on-Suir for more on “Black Tom.”

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. This gave Preston the title Earl of Desmond, 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. Thomas’s nine-year-old son, James, became the heir to the titles. Plans were made for a marriage between James and Elizabeth, only daughter of the Prestons, to resolve the inheritance issue.

James Butler (1610-88) 1st Duke of Ormond, 12th Earl 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 1629 he married his cousin Elizabeth Preston and reunited the Ormond estates, as she was the sole heiress of her mother Elizabeth, daughter of the 10th Earl of Ormond, who had married Theobald Butler, 1st Viscount Tulleophelim, and secondly, Elizabeth’s father Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond.  

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.

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James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond, Viceroy 1703-1707 and 1710-1713. Artist: Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680). He is wearing robes of the Order of the Garter, Ormond holds the wand of office of Lord Steward of the Household in his right hand.

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.

During the 1st Duke of Ormond’s tenure the castle underwent improvements. 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 contruction 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.” [11]

James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond painted by John Michael Wright (1617-1694), and in centre, Elizabeth Poyntz (1588-1673), mother of the 1st Duke of Ormond, painted by John Michael Wright, and Elizabeth Preston (1615-1684), wife of the 1st Duke of Ormond, with her son Thomas, who became the 6th Earl of Ossory.

Thomas Butler (1634-1682) 6th Earl of Ossory, was the father of the 2nd Duke of Ormond. Thomas was also Lord Butler of Moore Park and Lord Deputy of Ireland, and was a soldier and Naval Commander, known as ‘Gallant Ossory’. Born at Kilkenny Castle in 1634, he was the second but eldest surviving son of the Duke of Ormonde. 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. Ossory was a witness when James, Duke of York (later King James II) secretly married Anne Hyde in 1660.

Ossory 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 that country. In 1670 he conducted William of Orange to England. John Evelyn, the diarist, was a close friend, who 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 2nd Duke of Ormonde (1665-1745), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory. First married Anne Hyde and then Mary Somerset; below, Mary Somerset (1665-1733), daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. In middle, Thomas Butler (1634-1680), Earl of Ossory, Lord Butler of Moore Park, Lord Deputyof Ireland. Second son of the Duke and Duchess of Ormond and father of 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Mary Somerset’s father top right, Henry Somerset (1629-1700), 1st Duke of Beaufort, 3rd Marquess of Worcester; below Anne Hyde (1669-1685), the 2nd Duke’s first wife, daughter of Lawrence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester, artist: William Wissing (1656-87).

James Butler (1665-1745) 2nd Duke of Ormonde, 13th Earl of Ormonde, was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and his wife Amelia van Beverweerd. 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, he was impeached and a year later a Bill of Attainder was passed against him. 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 and was buried in 1746 in Westminster Abbey.

Christopher Butler (d. 1758?), Catholic archbishop of Cashel and Emly, son of Walter Butler of Garyricken and brother of Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash, portrait by James Latham (1696-1747); Charles Butler (1671-1758) 2nd Earl of Arran, youngest son of Thomas Butler Earl of Ossory and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde; Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738) by James Latham. He was the son of Walter Butler and Garyricken and Mary Plunket. He inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard, youngest brother of the Duke of Ormond. His wife was Margaret Burke. Portrait attributed to Hans Hysing (1678-1753).

Charles Butler (1671-1758), 2nd Earl of Arran, de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde, de jure 14th Earl of Ormonde was born on 4th September 1671, the youngest son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and Amelia of Nassau and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Arran was enabled by an Act of Parliament in 1721 to recover his brother’s forfeited estates.

A younger brother of James the 1st Duke of Ormond was Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash, County Tipperary. His son was Walter Butler of Garyricken (1633-1700). Pictured above are the sons of Walter Butler: Christopher (the Catholic Archbishop) and Thomas (d. 1738).

Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738), son of Walter Butler of Garryricken and Lady Mary Plunket, inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard Butler, youngest brother of James, 1st Duke of Ormond.  A Colonel of a Regiment of Foot in the army of King James II, he married Margaret Bourke, widow of Viscount Iveagh and daughter of William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde. They had three sons: Richard (d.1711), Walter who died in Paris and John Butler of Kilcash, who succeeded to the Ormonde titles as de jure 15th Earl in 1758 on the death of his cousin Amelia, sister of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde. The couple also had five daughters: one, Honora married Valentine Brown, Lord Kenmare.

A son of Thomas became the 15th Earl of Ormond, John Butler (d. 1766), because the 14th Earl (the 2nd Earl of Arran) had no children.

The title then passed to a cousin of the 15th Earl, Walter Butler (1703-1783), another of the Garryricken branch, who also became the 9th Earl of Ossory. He was the only son and heir of John Butler of Garryricken and Frances, daughter of George Butler of Ballyragget. He inherited the Ormonde titles in 1766 which he did not assume but took up residence at Kilkenny Castle. Walter, who remained a Roman Catholic, exercised no political role but undertook the restoration of the Castle and also built the stable block across the road from the Castle, today the Design Centre and National Craft Centre, and the Dower House, today Butler House.

Walter the 16th Earl of Ormonde carried out various repairs, decorating some of the rooms with simple late C18 plasterwork.

He married Eleanor Morres (1711-1793), the daughter of Nicholas Morres of Seapark Court, Co. Dublin, and of Lateragh, Co. Tipperary, and of Susanna, daughter of Richard Talbot of Malahide Castle. After Walter’s death in 1783, she moved  into the Dower House, today Butler House, across the road from the Castle.

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.

John Wandesford (1725-1784), Earl of Wandesford, father of Anne; below, Susan Frances Elizabeth (Anne) Wandesford (1754-1830), Countess of Ormonde, wife of 17th Earl of Ormonde and mother of 18th Earl, Artist: Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1739-1808); Landscape with Waterfall from the Italian school of 18th century and below, Before the Hunt. To right, Gilbert Clarke (d. 1725), by Sir Godffrey Kneller (1646-1723) and below, possibly Susanna nee Boun, wife of Gilbert Clarke.

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 and was recreated at 1st Marquess of Ormonde and became one of the largest landowners in Ireland with an estate worth more than £20,000 a year. He was created 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 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.” [see 11]

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 second eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, Anne Wandesford Butler married in 1838, the Right Honourable John Wynne of Hazelwood, Co. Sligo, which is now a distillery.

Another daughter, Louisa Grace Butler (1868-1896), the third eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, married Thomas Fortescue of Ravensdale, Co. Louth,  1st Baron Clermont in 1840.

The son of the 2nd Marquess, James Edward William Theobald Butler became the 3rd Marquess. His brother James Arthur Wellington Foley Butler (1849-1943), 4th Marquess, 22nd Earl of Ormonde, was the brother and heir to James Edward Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde. 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.

John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess of the 3rd creation, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland. He died while bathing; Frances Jane Paget in middle (1817-1903), with her son James, Earl of Ossory. She was the daughter of General E. Paget and niece of Field Marshal Henry William Paget, 1st Marquis of Anglesey, and wife of 2nd Marquess of Ormonde. Following the death of her husband, she managed the Ormonde estates and continued the rebuilding of Kilkenny Castle.  On top of the three,  over her father and uncle, is France Jane Paget again, with her dog. Below is her father General the Honourable Edward Paget (1775-1849), soldier and Governor of Ceylon. He was second in command under the Duke of Wellington in the Napoleonic Wards. He lost his right arm in Spain. Below him is Field Marshall Henry William Paget (1768-1854), 1st Marquis of Anglesey, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, brother of Edward, above.

You can take an online tour of the castle on the website https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/explore-the-castle-new/

Tapestry Room, in the North Tower. There are two tapestries from the “Decius” suite in the Tapestry room: The obsequies of Decius Mus. The Story of ‘Decius Mus’ is a heroic tale of a Roman Consul who foretold his own death at the Battle of Veseris (Vesuvius) in the Latin War (340BC). The tapestries are attributed to the workshop of Jan Raes, after designs by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The ‘Decius’ suite had been in the ownership of the Ormonde family for over 300 years and was displayed in several of their residences before being acquired by OPW for display in Kilkenny Castle. Tapestries were an important feature of the interior decoration of large houses in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and helped provide interior interest, warmth, and colour. You can read more about these tapestries on the Kilkenny Castle website.
Tapestry Room, in the North Tower: Desius Mus and Manlius Torquatus leave to fight the Latins.
The 12 foot thick walls of the Tapestry Room in the North Tower.
The Nursery. Boys were usually sent away to boarding school in England at a young age. The Butlers traditionally sent their sons to Harrow. Girls however generally received less formal education at home including sewing, drawing, etiquette and instruction on running a household. 
The Chinese Withdrawing Room. On the walls are remnants of hand painted Chinese wallpaper original to the room with monochrome infill carried out by the studio of David Skinner. This delicate paper was probably ordered as part of the redecorations done to the castle by the 18th Earl, Walter Butler. During the 19th century ladies withdrew here from the dining room leaving the men to enjoy their port and cigars after dinner, as was the social convention.
The Chinese Withdrawing Room. A tulipiére is an ornate vessel in which to grow tulips. They are typically constructed to accommodate one bulb per spout with a larger common water reservoir base. It is usually made of hand crafted pottery, classically delftware. This tulipiére was hand-made in Delft in 2009 as a one off.
The Ante Room.

From the website: “Today the first floor space is occuppied 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 Moorish Staircase: Created by the architects Woodward & Deane to allow better access to the Picture Gallery and provide another staircase in this awkwardly shaped building. It is a rising half-turn stairs around a sky-lit well. Charles Harrison (1835-1903), the stone carver, is credited with the carved naturalistic foliage and small animals which adorn the stairs.

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 Picture Gallery was built during the early nineteenth century building programme carried out by the architect William Robertson. It was constructed on earlier foundations. 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 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.”

From the Poole photographic collection, National Library of Ireland. Royal visitors to the Picture Gallery of Kilkenny Castle: the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary with James Butler the 3rd Marquess of Ormond and his wife Elizabeth Grosvenor, also Two other Ormondes (likely the Marquess’ daughter & brother), Marshal & Lady Roberts (Frederick Roberts & Nora Bews), 4th Viscount & Viscountess De Vesci (John Vesey & Evelyn Charteris), Lady Eva Dugdale (later Lady of the Bedchamber), Earl of Ava (Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood d.1900), Sir Charles Leopold Cust (baronet), Sir Francis De Winton, Mr J. T Seigne JP (officer of Ormonde’s estate – we came across him when we visited Kilfane, as he lived in the house there), and “Mr Moncrieffe” 
King Charles II (1630-85); Artist: attributed to John Michael Wright (1617-1694)
Son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. During the civil war in England, Charles played an active role and fought with the army. After the defeat of the royalist, he left England for France to join his mother. In 1649, after the execution of his father, he was proclaimed king of Edinburgh and later in parts of Ireland by Ormond. In 1660 the monarchy was restored.
Full-length, standing in robes of the Garter in a pose frequently used in the studio of Sir Peter Lely. The portrait has suffered severe paint loss, and it is difficult to be certain about the attribution. The carefully delineated folds of linen, and the treatment of textures in general, are similar to those featured in the work of John Michael Wright. Other than the pose, it does not resemble the work of Sir Peter Lely. It may be one of a group of portraits which were undertaken by Wright when he painted several works for Ormond in the early 1680s.

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.

28. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 772 6894, breda.lynch@opw.ie

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.

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

[2] https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/altamont-gardens/

[3] p. 8, Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the Care of the OPW. Government Publications, Dublin 2, 2018.

[4] https://archiseek.com/2011/1770s-castletown-house-celbridge-co-kildare/

[5] p. 75. 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.

[6] p. 129. Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitgGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008. 

[7] https://castletown.ie/collection-highlights/

[8] https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/explore-the-castle-new/

[9] https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/characters-of-kilkenny-castle/

[10] http://www.stevenroyedwards.com/kilkennycastle-timeline.html

[11] 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.

Salthill Garden, Salthill House, Mountcharles, County Donegal

contact: Elizabeth Temple

Tel:  087-7988078, 074-9735014

www.donegalgardens.com
Open dates in 2022: May 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28, June 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, July 1-2, 4-9, 11- 16, 18-23, 25-30, Aug 1-6, 8-27, 29-31, Sept 1-2, 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult/OAP €6, student €5, child €3

Views of the garden – on the right hand picture, you can see the garden behind the outbuildings, with just grass and the greenhouse. On the left hand side, you can see the garden developing.

In July 2021, Stephen and I dropped in to Salthill Garden on our way up to visit his mum in Donegal. Salthill Garden is just outside Donegal town. The gardens are listed in the Revenue Section 482 list, but the house is not, although the house was built in approximately 1770 and might have been designed by Thomas Ivory (1732 – 1786), who built the beautiful Blackhall Place in Dublin, which now houses the Law Society.

Blackhall Place, Dublin, designed by Thomas Ivory, who may have designed Salthill House in Donegal.

Salthill House was the house for Agent to Conyngham family of The Hall, Mountcharles. The Conynghams of Slane Castle are descendants of the Conynghams of Mountcharles. [1]

Salthill House, image from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
The view of the back of Salthill House.
The Hall, Mountcharles, built for the Conynghams in approximately 1750, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The Conynghams lived in Donegal possibly as early as 1660, when Albert Conyngham purchased land there. [2] The first Conyngham to move to Ireland was Alexander (1610-1660), who joined the clergy and was appointed in 1611 to be the first Protestant minister of Enver and Killymard, County Donegal. [3] He was appointed to the deanery of Raphoe in Donegal in 1630. His son Albert lived at Mountcharles. It was Albert’s son Henry (1664-1705), a military man who also served as MP for County Donegal, who moved to Slane Castle in County Meath. I thought the Mountcharles was named after a Charles Conyngham, but since there are no Charles’s in the early Conynghams of Mountcharles, I believe Mountcharles may have been named in honour of King Charles of England.

The impressive ruins of the Bishops Palace, Raphoe, County Donegal, built in ca. 1636 by John Leslie, Bishop of Raphoe, who married Catherine, the daughter of Alexander Conyngham, Dean of Raphoe. Bishop John Leslie is the ancestor of the Leslies of Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, another Section 482 property that we have visited. [4]

The gardens are a great achievement, recreating a flourishing walled garden. It is a good example of a walled garden that has been brought back to life to provide fruits and vegetables for the home owners, as well as flowers, and a place of beauty and tranquility for any visitor. There is an information centre but it and the toilet facilities were closed due to the Covid pandemic. There is a cafe nearby at the nearby Salthill Pier, the Salthill Cabin.

Russian kale, chard, courgettes, black kale and peas thriving.

Slane Castle was originally owned by the Flemings, who became Lords of Slane. The Fleming estates were forfeited in 1641 (after a rebellious uprising), from William 14th Baron Slane and his son Charles, 15th Baron Slane, but restored to them in 1663 (after the Restoration of Charles II to the throne, who restored land to those who were loyal to the monarchy through the time of Cromwell and the Parliamentarians). The 15th Baron had left Ireland after his land was confiscated and fought in Louis XIVth’s French army, and died in 1661. It was his brother Randall Fleming the 16th Baron Slane who was restored to his estate under the Act of Settlement and Distribution. [5] However, the Flemings’ land was forfeited again, in 1688, with the coming to the throne of William III. It was in 1703 that Henry Conyngham purchased land in Slane.

The Greenhouse.

Henry Conyngham’s son Henry (1705-1781) was created 1st Earl Conyngham of Mountcharles, County Donegal but he died without issue. His sister Mary married Francis Burton and their son Francis Pierpoint Burton took the name of Conyngham and became 2nd Baron Conyngham of Mountcharles. The Conynghams were one of the largest landowners in Donegal: by 1876 the third Marquess Conyngham (George Henry, 1825-1882; the 3rd Baron became the 1st Marquess) and the wider family owned four separate estates in the county amounting to over 122,300 acres of land, as well as extensive landholdings in Clare (centred around Kilkee) and Meath (centred around Slane), and in Kent in the south-east of England.

The Conyngham’s agent’s house was called Salthill because the area was known in Irish as Tamhnach an tSalainn (‘the Field of Salt’). The anglicization of this is “Tawnyfallon,” as Salthill was also known. The fields along the coast flooded and when they dried, the salt could be collected. This provided an income for the locals and for the Conynghams.

Salthill House was the residence for Hugh Montgomery, Esq. according to the 1777 – 83 Taylor and Skinner map of the area [6]. There is a record of the renewal of a lease on ‘Tawnyfallon, otherwise Salthill’ from Henry Conyngham (1st Marquess) to a Francis Montgomery in 1824 (Conyngham Papers). The National Inventory adds that Salthill was the home of a Leonard Cornwall, Esq., in 1838 (marriage record) and 1846 (Slater’s Directory), and a Robert Russell in 1857 – c. 1881 (latter date in Slater’s Directory). The Hall, belonging to the Conynghams, was sold after World War II by the 6th Marquess.

The walled garden of Salthill House was built around 1800. [7] The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us that the walls are constructed of coursed rubble and random rubble stone masonry, and that the South-east wall abuts main outbuilding to the rear of the house.

More recently, the house was the home of John and Nancy McCaffrey until the early 1980s, when it was purchased by Lynn Temple of Magees, the manufacturers and promoters of Donegal Tweed, and his wife Elizabeth. The Irish Historic Houses website describes the work that the current owner, Elizabeth Temple, has carried out in the garden:

During the last thirty years Elizabeth has re-created the walled garden, which is sheltered by the house and yards, slowly and patiently. She complimented the original gravel paths with hedges and grass paths to provide additional structure, and concentrated on plants that thrive in this northernly environment. The result is an authentic country house walled garden, skilfully planted with a combination of perennials and shrubs, interspersed with vegetables, herbs and fruit trees…the gravel avenue, curved sweep and yards are skilfully raked into swirling curvilinear patterns that recall the abstract la Tène ornamentation that influenced Irish early Christian art. [see 6]

We were greeted at the gate by Elizabeth Temple. I asked her about the curvilinear patterns mentioned in the Historic Houses of Ireland website, but instead she explained that she likes to plant in such a way that there are several layers to see, of graduated heights, in each direction you look. There were several visitors that day so we did not get to chat as much as I may have wished but the day was a little rainy also, so we did not linger for as long as the gardens deserve. We shall have to visit again!

[1] See my entry about Slane Castle, County Meath: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/slane-castle-county-meath/

[2] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/40847025/the-hall-hall-demesne-mountcharles-co-donegal

[3] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/2017/11/slane-castle.html

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/40833005/church-of-ireland-bishops-palace-raphoe-demesne-raphoe-donegal

and see my entry on Castle Leslie, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/07/castle-leslie-glaslough-county-monaghan/

[5] http://slanehistoryandarchaeologysociety.com/index.php/famous-people/13-the-flemings-and-the-conynghams by Terry Tench, ‘Fleming and Conyngham of Slane’ in Ríocht na Midhe, vol. VII, no.2, 1982-83.

[6] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Salthill%20House

[7] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/40909939/salthill-house-salthill-demesne-donegal

Swainstown House, Kilmessan, County Meath

contact: Caroline Preston
Tel: 086-2577939
Open in 2022: Mar 7-8, 10-11, April 4-5, 7-8, May 2-8, June 6-12, July 4-10, Aug 13-21, Sept 5-16, Oct 3-4, 6-7, Nov 7-8, 10-11, Dec 5-6, 8-9, 11am-3pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child free

We visited Swainstown House on Monday 19th August 2019, during Heritage Week. Stephen took the entire week off work. It was an opportunity to visit the section 482 Houses, as all are open that week!

Swainstown is a house built in 1750 of two storeys with a seven bay centre block attached to two wings by curved sweeps with Ionic pilasters, in the Palladian style. It is not known who the architect was, but the Irish Aesthete suggests that Richard Castle may have had a hand in designing it. The wings originally housed the servants’ quarters and the stables. The centre block has a breakfront of three bays, and an arched pediment over the front door. The Irish Aesthete comments on the limestone window lintels, which he says show a “whimsical caprice,”along with the exaggeratedly tall and narrow doorcase [1]. I think the caprice of the lintels must be that the ones on the first storey resemble the ones on the lower storey upside-down. The front door is approached by a broad flight of stone steps.

I always like when the house is still owned by descendants, and Swainstown is one such property. It was built for Nathaniel Preston, an ancestor of the current owner, John “Punch” Preston. Caroline, the listed contact, is his wife. I contacted Caroline in advance, and she told me that Anne, who stood in as tour guide while Caroline was away, would meet us at the door at 2pm. Indeed she was there as promised, and gave us a tour of the house. “Punch” farms the land, and his son Arthur now also farms and has started a chemical-free produce business, Swainstown Farm. [2] We came across Punch in the yard in a tractor when we explored the grounds after the house tour. Caroline and her husband live in the main house and her son in what was formerly the servants’ area.

Nathaniel was given the lands of Swainstown by his father, John (1611 – 1686). According to a website about the history of Navan, John Preston was a grandson of Jenico Preston, 3rd Viscount Gormanston [3]. After much digging, I have found that he was in fact the great grandson. [4]

Stephen found this reference to John Preston in his ancestor Earl George Macartney’s papers! Stephen’s six-times great aunt, Elizabeth Winder, married George Macartney (1695-1779). Earl Macartney recorded genealogical data of some prominent families in Ireland. He writes that John Preston, Alderman of Dublin, was son of Hugh Preston of Bolton in Lancashire. The Prestons originally came from Lancashire.

John’s grandfather Martin, although being the son of Viscount Gormanston, was the youngest son so did not inherit a fortune. John Preston therefore had to build up his own fortune, and so he went into business as a merchant in Dublin. There are conflicting accounts of how John acquired land beyond Dublin. According to a website on Bellinter House, a house built on lands which John purchased, he bought up property after Oliver Cromwell confiscated lands of those who had fought against his Parliamentary armies. The land of Swainstown previously belonged to the Nangle family, an Anglo-Norman family who held the title Baron of Navan. They were Catholic and fought in the army against Cromwell, so were outlawed and their lands confiscated. Confiscated lands were parcelled out to Cromwell’s soldiers as a means of payment for their services. Many of these soldiers sold the land if they had no interest in farming or of living in Ireland. John Preston took advantage of this to establish his family country seats, acquiring 7,859 acres of land in County Meath and Queens County (now Laois) in 1666.

The website also tells us of a clever ploy utilised by Preston to protect his land from being returned to its original owners. He placed 1,737 acres in trust for the keeping of two schools, one in Navan and one in Ballyroan in Laois. The website for Bellinter House tells us that this placing of land in trust for schools was probably done in order to make it more difficult for the original owners to seek return of their property, since charitable institutions were now involved! [5]

There is a note, however, on the Navan History website, that “It is reputed that John Preston married a daughter of Baron Nangle of Navan and that this was how he came into the lands in Co. Meath. However, this cannot be confirmed.” I think instead that John Preston’s mother was a Nangle, Mary Margaret, grand-daughter of Thomas Nangle, the 17th Baron of Navan. He may therefore have come into some of his land through his mother. Using the website ancestry.co.uk, I believe Mary Margaret’s father was Jocelyn Nangle, and that he fought in the rebellion of 1641. He probably had land confiscated, but as his family supported Charles II, much of their land was restored to them. A study of the history of the Prestons and the families with which they intermarried would certainly give a fascinating picture of land ownership in the tumultuous and violent times of the Civil War between the armies of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell and struggles for land ownership and restoration under King Charles II.

As well as being a merchant, John Preston was also involved in government and administration. He was appointed as Clerk of the Tholsel (the seat of Dublin city council) in 1650. The Tholsel building stood on the site that is now Dublin’s City Hall. Two days after being appointed as Clerk he was elected as Alderman in the Corporation of Dublin. A few years later he was elected to be Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1653.

John was elected as a Member of Parliament for Navan in 1661. His land ownership was confirmed under the Act of Settlement after the restoration of the monarchy to Charles II. He also owned property in Dublin and he donated the site for the “Hospital and Free School of King Charles II” or more informally called Blue Coat School, a school which was founded in 1669, which is now the home of the Law Society of Ireland. The building of the school became quite controversial as it became a tool for showing off one’s wealth and generosity, and subsequently the building, built by Thomas Ivory, was far grander than that required for a school.

The “Blue Coat School” by Thomas Ivory, now known by its address as Blackhall Place, the home of the Law Society of Ireland.

John married, first, Mary Morris of Lancashire, and had three children with her: Mary, Phineas and Samuel. She died in 1654 and he married a second time, to Katherine Ashburnham, widow of a John Sherlock. He married a third time, to Anne Tighe, who was the daughter of Richard Tighe who had also served as an Alderman and then Mayor of Dublin, and had two more sons, John and Nathaniel [6]. He distributed the land he had acquired to his four sons: Phineas, Samuel, John and Nathaniel.

Ardsallagh, which had formerly been a property of the Nangles, went to his son Phineas, although Phineas died before his father so it went to Phineas’s son, John. By the way, it is exciting to note as a former philosophy student that Ardsallagh passed down to the English philosopher Bertrand Russell! According to the Bellinter website, Ardsallagh was passed down through the family and was left by the heirless George James Ludlow, Third Earl of Ludlow, to the Duke of Bedford, as they shared the same political views. This Duke willed the property to his brother Lord John Russell, who became Prime Minister of England. From him, the estate passed down to Bertrand Russell!

John’s second son Samuel inherited land in County Laois (around Ballyroan and Emo, although Emo Court was not built for another 100 years, by Joshua Dawson in 1790). He married Mary Sandford, daughter of Theophilus Sandford of Moyglare, County Meath.

The third son, John, inherited land in Balsoon, County Meath, and built Bellinter House, near to Swainstown, and Nathaniel, the fourth son, inherited Swainstown.

Nathaniel was born around 1678. In 1713 he followed in the footsteps of his father and was elected M.P. for Navan, and he held this position until 1760, the year he died. He married Anne Dawson in 1719, sister of Joshua Dawson (1660-1725) who developed Dawson Street, Dublin (as well as Anne Street – probably named for his wife Anne [nee Carr] and Grafton Street, and also organised construction of the Mansion House in Dublin in 1710 which was purchased in 1715 to be the official residence of the Mayor of Dublin). [The Navan history website says Nathaniel’s wife was a niece of Joshua Dawson but according to the Peerage website, she was a sister.] Nathaniel’s daughter Anne married Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown – another prominent Dublin street name! He had Russborough House in County Wicklow built, so Nathaniel’s daughter married very well!

The Navan history website quotes a lovely description of Nathaniel Preston, written by Mrs. Delaney:

“an old prim beau, as affected as a fine lady: but an honest man, obstinate in his opinions, but the pink of civility in his own house, which is as neat as a cabinet, and kept with an exactness which is really rather troublesome.‟ [7]

Nathaniel’s second son, also named Nathaniel, born in 1723, became a Protestant clergyman. His older brother died, and he inherited Swainstown. Reverend Nathaniel died in 1796 and left Swainstown in turn to his son, also named Nathaniel (the third, 1752-1812) – the name was passed on through the family and continues today. [8] The Preston ancestors are interred in a vault under Kilmessan Church, next to Swainstown.

Swainstown is built on land near an old abbey – Anne showed us the remains of the abbey on the property.

In the house we were shown one of the few still-in-use dumb waiters in Ireland, and I was allowed to take a photograph:

We were also shown Caroline Preston’s book, This Tumult, when we told Anne that we honed our interest in history first by researching our family genealogies. Caroline too researched her family history and what she found was so interesting that she wrote a book about what she found!

It was raining on and off, so we didn’t get to explore the grounds as much as we would have liked, but Anne did show us around close to the house and I took some photographs. I envied them the  pool they had installed a few years ago! Also the beautiful grounds.

I love the bridge which we could see from the back of the house! Arthur is developing a path through the woods, that will lead to the ice house, which is being restored. I look forward to returning for a walk in the woods!

[1] https://theirishaesthete.com/tag/swainstown/

[2] https://www.swainstownfarm.com/pages/about-us

[3] http://www.navanhistory.ie/index.php?page=preston

[4] I worked this out using family trees on www.ancestry.co.uk

John Preston’s father was Hugh Preston. Hugh Preston was the son of Martin Preston, who was a son of Jenico Preston, 3rd Viscount Gormanston.

[5] https://www.bellinterhouse.com/history.html

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Preston_(alderman)

Anne Tighe’s brother was an ancestor of the Tighes of Altidore, another section 482 property.

[7] http://www.navanhistory.ie/index.php?page=preston

[8] The genealogy is complicated, due to the repetition of names passed from father to son. Note that the Navan history website states that Reverend Nathaniel Preston married Alice Dillon, in 1751, as does http://www.bomford.net/IrishBomfords/Chapters/Chapter18/Preston%20in%20Burke%201912.htm

According to the peerage website http://www.thepeerage.com/p14786.htm#i147860, the Reverend Nathaniel Preston (second Nathaniel) married Mary Hamilton. However, as the third Nathaniel was born in 1752, Mary Hamilton must have been Reverend Nathaniel’s second wife, as he married Mary Hamilton in 1763.

The Navan history website also claims that this Reverend Nathaniel served on the Grand Jury of Meath in 1801 and 1811, and that his wife Alice’s father John Dillon, his son Charles, and Nathaniel Preston formed a company to exploit a vein of copper ore on the Walterstown lands of Nathaniel Preston. As the second Nathaniel died in 1796, I wonder if it was the third Nathaniel Preston who served on the Grand Jury and who formed the mining company i.e. not the Reverend but the Reverend’s son.

Nathaniel (the third, b. 1752 died 1812) also had a son named Nathaniel (the fourth, b. 1813), who inherited and lived in Swainstown. The fourth Nathaniel is said on the peerage website to have died in 1840, but elsewhere is said to have had his son Nathaniel (the fifth), ie. Nathaniel Francis Preston, in 1843, so the death in 1840 does not make sense. The Bomford website says he died in 1853, which makes more sense. The fourth Nathaniel (b. 1813) married Margaret Winter in 1839. When his father died he inherited Swainstown, which at the time consisted of about 320 acres.

Nathaniel Francis Preston married Augusta Florence Caulfield of Bloomfield, Mullingar, in 1865. According to the Navan history website, a cousin, Arthur John Preston, inherited Swainstown from this Nathaniel, in 1903. Arthur John Preston had a son, John Nathaniel (Nat) Preston. Arthur John was killed along with most of the Dublin Fusiliers in Gallipoli in August 1915. He had written letters to his wife and to his father at Swainstown the day he was killed. His son, Nat, born the same year his father died, inherited Swainstown. He let the lands while in agricultural college in England, then returned to farm the land. He also established a saw mill. He married Madeleine Emily Shirley in 1938, and they had five children. John Peter William Preston, “Punch,” was born in 1947 and inherited Swainstown, and married Caroline.