Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois

contact: Thomas Cosby

Tel: 086-8519272

www.stradballyhall.ie

Listed Open dates in 2021 but check due to Covid restrictions: May 1-31, June 1-9, Aug 15-23, Oct 1-14, 9am-1pm

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

Thomas Cosby kindly agreed to show us his home, Stradbally Hall, in June, despite ongoing Covid restrictions. This year (2021) Section 482 houses are not required to be open to the public due to the dangers of the Covid virus.

Many people have heard of Stradbally nowadays as it is the venue for Electric Picnic. Being the venue for a festival brings in much-needed finances for some of the big houses in Ireland. Stradbally is owned by the same family for whom it was built, and it is magnificent. I can only imagine how hard it is to maintain. Like many of the owners who inherit their big houses, Thomas farms his land.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us in his  A Guide to Irish Country Houses that a house was built at Stradbally in 1699 for Lt-Col Dudley Cosby (1662-1729). [1] This house, however, was demolished by the grandson of Lt-Col. Dudley, another Dudley (Alexander Sydney) Cosby, 1stand last Lord Sydney of Leix and Baron of Stradbally, in 1768, and a new house was built in 1772, on what was regarded to be a healthier site. It is a nine bay, two storey over basement house. The stone walls of the original house gardens are now the walled garden.

The 1740s painting of Stradbally with the previous (1699) house in the centre. This hangs in the Billiard Room where Thomas brought us first, and used the painting to illustrate the history of his family.

The second (1772) house was enlarged in 1866-69, designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, of Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon, to form the house which we see today. Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon also designed Castle Leslie, which we visited – another Section 482 property which is now a hotel. [2]

The entrance gates to Stradbally Hall.

Lt-Col. Dudley Cosby was not the first Cosby to live in Ireland. The Cosby, or Cosbie, family, came to Ireland around 1538, during the reign of Queen Mary (i.e. “Bloody Mary,” the eldest daughter of King Henry VIII, called “Bloody” as she used bloody means to defended the Catholic faith). General Francis Cosby (1510-1580) was an active defender of the Pale in Ireland, the area around Dublin controlled by the British crown,  and in 1562 he was granted the site of the Abbey of Stradbally. [3] Francis Cosby married the daughter of the Lord Protector of England, Edward Seymour, the 1st Duke of Somerset. Lord Seymour was the brother of Jane Seymour, wife of Henry VIII. Due to the struggles for power within the court of Henry VIII, Lord Seymour was executed. Francis Cosby came to Ireland at this time. The Abbey, which had been disestablished in Henry VIII’s time (i.e. was taken from the Catholic church and no longer served as an Abbey) became Francis Cosby’s residence, and part of it still exist in the town of Stradbally in a building still called “the Abbey.”

General Francis Cosby died in battle, at the age of seventy, in the battle of Glenmalure in Wicklow, in 1580. He was succeeded by his son, Alexander. Alexander and his son, Francis, continued to fight, engaged in perpetual battle, Major E.A.S. Cosby tells us, with the O’Moores, who had originally controlled the land in the area. In 1596 Anthony O’Moore sent to demand a passage over Stradbally Bridge. Alexander understood this to be a challenge, so he refused passage, and prepared to fight once again, along with his son Francis. That day both Alexander and Francis Cosby were killed, leaving Francis’s nine week old son, William, to inherit. Parts of Stradbally Bridge still exist.

Along the drive to the house.

William died at a young age and so his uncle, Richard, inherited the Stradbally estate. Richard challenged the O’Moores to a further fight to avenge his father, and this time he won. Having won one battle each, the fighting seems to have subsided. Richard married Elizabeth Pigott, daughter of the neighbour Robert Pigott of Dysart.

It was Richard’s great-grandson, Lt-Col. Dudley Cosby (1662-1729) who built the house at Stradbally pictured in the 1740 painting. His grandson of the same name, Dudley Alexander Sydney Cosby (1732-1774), served as Ambassador to the Court of Denmark, and for his services, was created Lord Sydney of Leix and Baron of Stradbally, in 1768. When serving as Ambassador to Denmark he helped to arrange the marriage of King George III’s sister to the son of the King of Denmark. It was an unsuccessful marriage and she left her husband for the Prime Minister of Denmark! Despite the lack of success of the marriage he helped to arrange, Dudley Cosby was elevated to the peerage. He married Lady Isabella St Lawrence, daughter of Thomas St Lawrence, 1st Earl of Howth (who lived in Howth Castle – the castle only recently passed out of ownership of the St. Lawrence family). 

I was lucky to be able to see Howth Castle (pictured here) this year when I went to the preview for the sale of the books in its library.

The overseer  for the building of the new house built in 1772 for Dudley Cosby, Lord Sydney was Arthur Roberts (stated on a plaque which reads: “Built by Dudley, Lord Sydney, 1772, Arthur Roberts, overseer.”)  The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us that Dudley died before the house was finished, and his successor Admiral Phillips had to sell 5000 acres to finance the completion. [4]

Dudley Lord Sydney died soon after his marriage, and did not have any children. The estate passed to his nephew, son of his brother Alexander, Admiral Phillips Cosby. Phillips’s father, Alexander, was Lieutenant Governor of Annapolis Royal in the United States, and Alexander’s brother William was Governor of New York. William’s daughter Elizabeth Cosby married Lord Augustus Fitzroy and her son, Augustus Henry Fitzroy (the 3rd Duke of Grafton), became Prime Minister of England in 1767.

Phillips was born in the United States and was active in the Navy, in which he continued to serve after inheriting Stradbally Hall. He served on the British side in the American War of Independence. He collected many paintings, as discussed in Stradbally’s webpage. 

View from the front of the house.

Admiral Phillips had no children, so the estate passed to Thomas Cosby (d. 1798), to his son Thomas (d. 1832), to his son Thomas Phillips, and on down to his nephew Colonel Robert Cosby (1837-1920), son of Sydney Cosby who had married the daughter and co-heir of Robert Ashworth of Shirley House, Twickenham (his brother Wellesley Pole Cosby had married the other daughter and co-heir). 

Colonel Robert Cosby then employed Charles Lanyon (in 1866) to enlarge the house, remodelling it in an Italianate style. He inherited a fortune, and built houses in the nearby village of Stradbally, following in the footsteps of his forebears who had also sought to develop the village.

Stradbally passed to his son, also in the military, Captain Dudley Cosby (1862-1923), and to his son, Major Ashworth Cosby (1898-1984). Major Ashworth married Enid Elizabeth Hamilton from nearby Roundwood, County Laois. 

Roundwood House, County Laois, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

It was Major Ashworth’s grandson, Thomas, who showed us around the house. Thomas’s young son joined us in the Billiard room to look at the old painting of Stradbally, and asked a few intelligent questions, so he is learning the history of his home also!

Mark Bence-Jones tells us that Lanyon added a new entrance front, which was advanced from the old front wall so that the house became three rooms deep instead of two. This front has an impressive single-storey balustraded Doric portico leading up a flight of stone steps to the front door. On either side of the portico are a group of three round-headed windows, and beyond those on either side, a two-bay block projecting forward. 

The upper storey windows are what Bence-Jones describes as “camber-headed” (he defines camber-headed windows as a window of which the head is in the form of a shallow convex curve). [5]

The house was given a high-pitched eaved roof on a bracket cornice. 

After our tour of the house, we walked around to the back of the house as I wanted to see what Bence-Jones had described: “On the garden front, Lanyon left the two three sided bows, but filled in the recessed centre with a giant pedimented three arch loggia.” It is impressive! According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, this was originally the front of the house, but when the three arches were added, so was the Doric portico on what is now the entrance front, so this impressive two storey over basement treble arch was never intended, it seems, as an entry to a front door! [6]

The impressive garden front of the house with its “giant pedimented three arch loggia.”

The arches extend into shallow barrel-vaults with well-executed coffering. The door into the garden has an arched pediment over it on brackets. [7]

The side of the house has a bow in the centre, and rectangular windows with entablatures on console-brackets over them. 

The other end of the house is a slightly lower two storey over basement “bachelor’s wing” (this may have been used for visiting single gentlemen.)

The “bachelor’s wing” viewed from the garden front.

Pole Cosby (b. 1703), son of the first Lt-Col Dudley Cosby, wrote an autobiography. [8] His return from a Grand Tour of Europe is pictured in the 1740 painting in the Billiard Room. He says that his father married and set up house at Stradbally. He built the first big house on the estate, with some help from his wife’s dowry. He created gardens and kept racehorses, which, however, his father-in-law did not like and in fact paid him £100 not to keep them, which Lt-Col Dudley did not strictly observe! His wife, Sarah Pole, Pole Cosby’s mother, was from nearby Ballyfin, now a luxury hotel.

Ballyfin hotel, Photo by Tony Pleavin, 2018. [9]

Dudley Cosby overstretched his finances, however, and he had to go into the Army, purchasing a Captain’s Commission in a Regiment. He leased out Stradbally, and his wife returned to Ballyfin while he was fighting abroad. Her father died but she continued to live with her brother in Ballyfin in the winter and in his house in Queens Street, Dublin, in the summer, for five years. The children were sent to board with a family for schooling and to learn French. 

After five years, Dudley and his wife Sarah moved to London “for cheapness” and then to York. They returned to Stradbally in 1714 in better financial circumstances and he continued to do up the house and garden. Pole Cosby’s autobiography is very detailed and he writes of the places in which he lived and of his father’s battles in the military, then of his own schooling, listing all of his schoolmates. He also discusses family finances in detail. He writes that his father financed himself at first by marrying Miss Ann Owens daughter of Sir Andrew Owens of the City of Dublin and “with her he got £1500,” then in 1699 he married Sarah Pole and “got with her £2000.” He paid £300 for his Captain Commission and had to pay £100 to for his brother Alexander for not finishing his apprenticeship (this was the Alexander who moved to the U.S. along with his brother William). 

Pole Cosby went to university in Leyden in Holland, as did several of his Irish cousins. There he was studious and abstemious, he tells us. He travelled while in Europe and was introduced by Lord Townsend to King George I and his son Frederick Prince of Wales. He visited a monastery of Irish priests in Prague and argued with them about religion – they told him he was a heretic and would be damned, but when not talking of religion he says they got along very well!

Pole’s son was the second Dudley, who built the new (current) house, whose successor was Phillips Cosby his uncle. 

But let us go around to the front again. The sides of the Doric portico hold niches.

I love the little doors at either side of the Doric portico.

Two small doors either side of the portico, with segmental pediments surmounted by urns.

In the Doric portico is a round-headed door opening and timber panelled double door with overpanel.

The door leads into an entrance hall with a vaulted ceiling and a flight of steps up to the level of the principal storey. 

This figure is in the front hall, and looks like something from the prow of a ship. Perhaps she is from one of Admiral Phillips Cosby’s ships.

We went first to the billiard room on our right (the newer, Lanyon designed part of the house) to see the large painting of old Stradbally. From the billiard room you have a good view of the beautiful cut-stone farm buildings.

 The dining room. 

The three reception rooms on the garden front: the dining room, saloon  and drawing room remain much as they were before the Lanyon renovation, with late-Georgian plasterwork. 

I admired the beautiful lamp shade over the dining table, and the plasterwork ceiling, which the National Inventory describes as “Adamesque” (ie. like the work of William Adams and his sons, most famous of whom are Robert and James). Andrew Tierney in his Buildings of Ireland describes the frieze of swags “framing calyxes and paterae”, and a “guttae cornice.” Patera is a round or oval ornament in shallow relief, and calyxes are the whorls of a plant that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a bud. A guttae is one part of a post-and-lintel structure.

The ceiling centrepiece is of acanthus, anthemion and circles of laurel interweaving around a ribbon-and-reed moulding.

In the dining room are portraits of the Third Earl of Mornington, who was the elder brother of the Duke of Wellington (their grandfather, the 1st Baron of Mornington, was born Richard Colley, and he inherited from his cousin and took the name Wesley, which was later changed to Wellesley. His sister Anne Colley married William Pole, of the Poles of Ballyfin); Captain Thomas Cosby of the Royal Horse Guards; and of Emily and Marie Ashworth by Sir Thomas Laurence (Sydney Cosby, son of Thomas who inherited Stradbally from Phillips Cosby, married Emily Ashworth from Twickenham). Elsewhere in the house, are portraits of Dudley Cosby Lord Sydney; the Prime Minister Augustus Henry Fitzroy, 3rd Duke of Grafton; and George Earl of Halifax (William Cosby who was the Governor of New York married Grace Montagu, sister of the 1st Earl of Halifax).

The ceiling centrepiece is of acanthus, anthemion (i.e. honeysuckle flower) and circles of laurel interweaving around a ribbon-and-reed moulding. [10]

From the Dining Room we went into the Saloon. 

The stuccowork is carefully coloured with pale blue and salmon red, and there is paintwork on the ceiling:

The next room had a ceiling that took my breath away. It has a delicate band of acanthus fronds and an outer band of husks. Andrew Tierney describes also the gilded rinceau freize, in his Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. This is a frieze of leafy scrolls branching alternately to left and right. The walls have a Victorian paper in a gilt diamond pattern.

The late eighteenth century doorways of the original 1770s house remain.

The ballroom, as Bence-Jones calls it, now the library, one of the additional rooms formed 1866-69, extends into the bow at the end of the house. It has a ceiling decorated with panels of early C19 pictorial paper in grissaille, i.e. painting using a palette of greys, or “gris” in French. There is a pink egg and dart and dentil cornice around the ceiling, and patterning similarly painted in the ceiling rose.

Above and below, grissaille painting on the library ceiling. The paintings are of French origin and depict the story of Cupid and Psyche. [11]
The library extends into the bow.

Back to the front of the house, is the study, on the other side of the front hall from the billiards room.

Amazing as the house is so far, the best is yet to come: the front hall leads to the stairwell. The former entrance hall, which keeps its eighteenth century chimneypiece, was made by Lanyon into a central top-lit staircase hall. The staircase is of Victorian oak joinery and leads up to a long picture gallery. This occupies the centre of the house, and is sixty feet in length and twenty in breadth, and is surmounted by an elaborate coffered and ornamented barrel-vaulted ceiling with glass roof  of panels set in steel frame. 

The gallery is flanked by narrow passages from which open the bedrooms. At the western end is a small lobby separated from the main portion by two pink marble Corinthian pillars, above which is an architrave decorated with a bold design in stucco.

After seeing the house, we went outside to wander around the gardens. The garden front looks on to Italianate gardens, laid out in 1867 by Maurice Armour.

There are also lovely walks around, of which we didn’t properly avail – we must have been tired!

There’s a lake on the property, and tennis court. 

The stable complex matches the house, and was also designed by Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon. 

Inside the stable courtyard is a pretty little building, a well house with blind recessed arches and raised ornamental panels:

View of the bachelor’s wing from the stable courtyard, and below, the farmyard bell.

[1] p. 265. Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[2] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/07/castle-leslie-glaslough-county-monaghan/

[3] see the Stradbally Hall website, and the history of the house, written by Major E.A.S. Cosby in 1951. https://www.stradballyhall.ie/history/

[4] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Stradbally%20Hall

[5] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/18/architectural-definitions/

[6] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/12900432/stradbally-hall-stradbally-demesne-stradbally-stradbally-co-laois

[7] p. 598. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[8] Autobiography of Pole-Cosby of Stradbally, Queen’s County  (1703-1766) originally published in the Journal of the Co Kildare Archæological Society and Surrounding Districts, Vol V, 1906-1908. 
https://www.ornaverum.org/reference/pdf/183.pdf

[9] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en/media-assets/media/52026  

[10] p. 600. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[11] see https://theirishaesthete.com/2020/02/22/dancing-on-the-ceiling/

for more information about these pictures.

Castle Leslie, Glaslough, County Monaghan

Contact: Samantha Leslie Tel: 047-88091

www.castleleslie.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Open in 2021 (but check due to Covid-19 restrictions): all year, National Heritage Week events August 14-22

Fee: Free

photo by Chris Hill of Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.
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“A brooding pile of rock faced limestone and russet sandstone, the exterior blends the irregular massing and elongated proportions typical of the High Victorian era with details inspired by the Renaissance and Tudor periods.” [1]

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

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

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Above, our bed from 1617.

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

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

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

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the Lodge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the Drawing Room

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

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

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

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

“Here I am in Castle Leslie

With rows and rows of books upon the shelves

Written by The Leslies

All about themselves.”

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

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

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portrait of Charles Powell Leslie I

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

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Charles Powell Leslie II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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a portrait of Lady Constance in later life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Frescoes painted by Sir John Leslie.
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I think it was this painting that hung in the Royal Academy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The website continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAY 2: Horse riding! And exploring the Lodge

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

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

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

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

And now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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