Newpark House and Demesne, Newpark, Ballymote, Co. Sligo

contact: Christopher & Dorothy-Ellen Kitchin

Tel: 087-3706869, 087-2894550

Listed Open Dates in 2021 but check in advance: March 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, May 10-16, 24-27, 31, June 1-17, Aug 14-22, Sept 7-8, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €7, OAP/student/group €5 

We visited Newpark House during Heritage Week, when we went on holidays to Sligo. We were delighted to discover that the owner, Christopher, is a cousin of Durcan O’Hara, with whom we were staying at Annaghmore in nearby Collooney.

Burke’s A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland tells us that Newpark was built for Robert King Duke (1770-1836), Justice of the Peace and Deputy Governor of Sligo, but the Historic Houses of Ireland website points out that he was only a boy of ten in 1780 when the house was built, so it was probably built for his father Robert (1732-1792). The Duke family descends from John Duke, who came to Sligo at the time of Oliver Cromwell and was granted land in Sligo in 1662. One can still see traces of their presence in the decorative plasterwork in the house. [1]

In 1910, the In 1910, the Duke family left Newpark, and it was purchased by Richard O’Hara, a younger son from nearby Annaghmore and Coopershill.

The house may have been designed by John Roberts of Waterford, who also may have designed Enniscoe in County Mayo, another house we visited during Heritage Week [2].

The house has a main rectangular block of three bays and two storeys, with a basement and dormer attic, built in 1780. The house was extended in the 1870s and lost some of its original features, but the original staircase remains.

A two-bay two-storey over basement wing was added around 1920.

The house is lime rendered with a tripartite entrance: a round-headed door-case flanked by narrow rectangular sidelights. There is another door in the front in the newer section of the house.

Two storey addition to the house.
The round-headed doorcase with side windows and fanlight.
Eaved roof rests on corbels, i.e. blocks projecting from the walls supporting the roof.
The Kitchens have recently received a grant to fix their gabled windows, which are on both sides of the house, and have decorative wooden bargeboards.
Gabled windows with decorative bargeboards, seen here above the later two storey addition.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us that architect and writer Jeremy Williams observed of Newtown: “What strikes one is the harmony of the whole ensemble. Entrance gates and lodge, lime avenue, house, carriage-house, farm yard and partly walled demesne are all proportionate to each other and reveal the unpretentious lifestyle of a typical west of Ireland squireen, a rare survival today.” 

The gate lodge is available for hired accommodation. [3]

The entrance gates to Newpark.
My photograph of the picturesque gate lodge of Newpark – I did not realise it is much bigger than it looks from the side facing the driveway. You can see the lower storey in my photograph below.
Photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, since I did not like to walk around the gate lodge, unsure if it had residents! In this photograph you can see the lovely arched window at the front.
The gate lodge is much larger than it looks from the photographs I took, since I did not walk around it. This photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage shows that the side of the lodge away from the driveway has another storey, lower than that facing the driveway. This extension was built in about 1960 onto the original c. 1840 cottage. [4]
Entrance drive to Newpark.

Robert Duke (1732-1792) of Newtown married Lucinda Parke, daughter of William Parke of Dunally, County Sligo. The Parkes of Dunally were a branch of the Parkes who owned Parkes Castle in County Leitrim, which we also visited during Heritage Week.

Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, built in the early seventeenth century by Captain Robert Parke on the foundations on an old O’Rourke castle built by Brian O’Rourke, Prince of Breffne.

Robert King Duke (1770-1836) also married a Parke from Dunally, Anne. Newpark passed down through the family and it must have been his great-grandson, Roger Philip Duke (1874-1944), who sold Newpark.

Richard Edward O’Hara (1863-1948) who purchased Newpark in 1913 was the son of Charles William Cooper (1817-1898) of Coopershill, who took the name O’Hara when he inherited Annaghmore from his uncle, Charles King O’Hara (1784-1860) (the “King” may have been from Charles King O’Hara’s mother’s mother, whose maiden name was King). Charles William Cooper O’Hara married Anne Charlotte Streatfield, a wealthy heiress, and they lived in Annaghmore. They had many children, one of whom, Richard Edward O’Hara (1863-1948), purchased Newpark. He moved to Queensland, Australia, where he farmed, and married Ethel Fisken in 1911. They returned to live in Ireland and he purchased Newpark.

They had a daughter, Sheela, who married Finlay Kitchin, grandfather of the current owner, Christopher. Christopher’s parents moved out of Newpark only a few years ago to a house built on the property, yielding the house to their son and his wife, Dorothy-Ellen. Our week took a serendipitous turn when we learned that Dorothy-Ellen is the daughter of Mary White of The Old Rectory, Killedmond in Carlow, where we were going to be staying later that week! [5]

Dorothy and Christopher had arranged for a special event for Heritage Week, so Stephen and I purchased tickets for this: a nature talk and walk by Michael Bell of Naturelearn [6]. Christopher told us that the house would be open to visitors during the event.

Dorothy-Ellen in front of her home.
The gardens in front of the house.

Christopher greeted us and was kind enough to take time from his busy preparations for the Heritage Week event to give us a tour of the house. He pointed out that the geometrical plan is most unusual, and reminded the architectural historian Maurice Craig of a swastika, with four principal rooms of unequal size arranged around a small central hall. Another Section 482 property, Oakfield Park in County Donegal, also has this arrangement.

Front hall of Newpark, with “cobweb” fanlight.
The front hall of Newpark, with lovely plasterwork on ceiling: a decorative cornice and central ceiling rose feature.
The plasterwork on the front hall ceiling, of acanthus leaves and floral swags and a geometrical design.
Isaac Nicholson, b. 1840, a Kitchin ancestor.

The drawing room also has fine stucco work, with garlands and flowers and urns.

Above the fireplace the frieze of plasterwork has a shield with the arms of the Duke family, a chevron between three terns. The frieze also features the crest of the Dukes, a sword plunged in a plume of nine ostrich feathers. Robert O’Byrne points out that there is a cornet with plumes rising from it, and that this may represent the coat of arms of Lucinda Parke, wife of Robert Duke. [7]

The crest of the Dukes features in the cornice frieze, a sword plunged in a plume of nine ostrich feathers.

The other main reception room is the dining room.

Dorothy-Ellen took us downstairs to show us the basement, and the room in which she is creating a museum of the old things from the house.

All the heating is supplied by this passat boiler which Dorothy-Ellen showed us.

Dorothy and Christopher have converted their barns into a beautiful event space which they call the Juniper Barn. [8] They run it according to eco-conscious principals very like those of Dorothy-Ellen’s mother, a former Green party TD. We headed over to the barns to attend the nature talk.

The names of Christopher and Dorothy-Ellen’s children are carved in the swing.
I asked Christopher about the “S” shapes on the barns – they are part of the construction of the barn.
Barn with bellcote.
The beautiful interior of the barn, which is available for hire.
I was very impressed by the hanging plume pampas grass decorations, created by Dorothy-Ellen.

I was even impressed by the “decor” of the bathroom in the outbuildings, and especially like the stirrup incorporated into the chain of the cistern.

The animals and skulls brought by Michael Bell, including a huge vertebrae, and a dolphin skull.
A “death’s head” hawkmoth with what looks like a skull on its head. Michael Bell set up a moth catcher, and showed us the typical types of moths of the area.
Michael and his daughter brought us down to the lake to see what wildlife we could find. We saw different types of dragonflies, and he told us about the lonely swan, whose mate had died. I hope it won’t be lonely for long!

We then headed back to see the gardens around the house, including the herb garden and walled garden.

The herb garden, created by Christopher’s parents.
The walled garden contains a polytunnel.

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

[2] http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Newpark and see my entry about Enniscoe, County Mayo, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/11/25/enniscoe-house-gardens-castlehill-ballina-co-mayo/

[3] https://www.juniperbarn.ie/accommodation

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/32403317/newpark-house-newpark-sligo

[5] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/16/the-old-rectory-killedmond-borris-co-carlow/

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

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/01/30/frieze-it/

[8] https://www.juniperbarn.ie/venue

Enniscoe House & Gardens, Castlehill, Ballina, Co. Mayo

contact: Susan Kellett Tel: 096-31112 

www.enniscoe.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Listed open dates in 2022 but check in advance: April 1-Oct 31

Garden, April 1-Oct 31, weekdays 10am-5.30pm, weekends 1.30pm-5.30pm

Fee: garden & heritage centre adult €8, OAP €6, child/student €3, family 2 adults and 2 children €15

Enniscoe House, County Mayo.

We visited Enniscoe House in August, during Heritage Week. I was delighted that the owner, Susan Kellett, had heard of and likes my website! She gave us a lovely tour of her home, which she also runs as an upmarket guest house. One can stay in the beautiful bedrooms in the house where breakfast is provided and dinner is also an option, or in self-catering accommodation in converted stables.

Enniscoe house is a two storey house with a five bay entrance front, with a central window in the upper storey above the pedimented tripartite doorway. The doorway has Doric columns and pilasters, and sidelights. The side elevation has five bays. [1]

Side of the house.

Susan’s father inherited the property from his cousin, Mervyn Pratt (1873-1950). Mervyn’s grandfather, another Mervyn Pratt (1807-1890) married Madeline Eglantine Jackson, heiress, from Enniscoe. We came across Mervyn Pratt before, when we visited Cabra Castle. [2]

Mervyn and Madeline Eglantine’s daughter Louisa Catherine Hannah Pratt, the sister of Joseph, the second Mervyn’s father, married Thomas Rothwell from Rockfield, County Meath (which is currently for sale for €1.75 million [3]), and Susan’s father was their descendant. [4]

The view from Enniscoe House. The house is on the shore of Lough Conn. The horses are Connemara ponies – the land is leased to the National Parks and Wildlife, and they are keeping rare breeds such as Connemara ponies on the property. President Erskine Childers gave a herd of Connemara ponies to the state, and these ponies are related to them.

An informative booklet about Enniscoe which Susan gave me tells us that in ancient times, there was a castle at “Inniscoe,” one of the chief residences of the Kings of Hy-Fiachrach (who claimed descent from Fiachrae, brother of Niall of the Nine Hostages). The booklet tells us that traces of early earthworks can still be found. “Innis Cua” means the island of the hound. The O’Dowda, a Hy-Fiachrach family, ruled in the area and were famous for their greyhounds, which probably led to the Anglicised name Enniscoe. From the time of the Normans coming to Ireland, the land was fought over by the Bourkes, Barretts, Lynotts and Cusacks, and eventually owned by the Bourkes. At one stage Theobald Bourke, “Tibbot ne Long” (Theobald of the Ships), 1st Viscount of Mayo (1567-1629) owned the land around Enniscoe.

The information booklet tells us that the Patent Rolls of James I state that Enniscoe was possessed by the sons of John McOliverus Bourke in 1603 (this Patent Roll sounds like a great source of information! Copies are available in the National Library, and the information is gathered from 1603-1619). In the Strafford Inquisition of 1625, which gathered information about the landowners of County Mayo for Thomas Wentworth, the Earl of Strafford (who had plans for a Plantation), Richard Roe Bourke was recorded as having one third of the castle, town and lands of Enniscoe, and Thomas Roe Bourke had the other two thirds.

By 1641, the Bourkes no longer lived at Enniscoe. Susan’s booklet tells us that a Roger William Palmer owned the lands at one point – perhaps related to Roger Palmer, 1st Earl of Castlemaine (1634-1705), who was married to Barbara Villiers, who later became a favourite of King Charles II.

In the 1660s, a soldier in Cromwell’s army, Francis Jackson, was granted the lands at Enniscoe. This was confirmed by Charles II in 1669. He settled down to live in Ireland and to farm the land.

In the mid-eighteenth century George Jackson (1717-1789), great grandson of Francis, built a large farmhouse, using stones of the old castle of “Inniscoe” and oak trees recovered from nearby bogland. This house was a tall single gabled building of five bays, and it has been incorporated into the current house – Susan pointed out to us where the newer house joins to the old. George married Jane Cuffe, daughter of James Cuffe of Ballinrobe, County Mayo, and sister of James, the 1st and last Baron Tyrawley of County Mayo [of the second creation – the first creation of Baron Tyrawley was for Charles O’Hara in 1706].

A portrait of Jane Cuffe, daughter of James Cuffe of Ballinrobe, County Mayo, wife of George Jackson (1717-1789).

George Jackson’s son, George “Two” (as he is called by the family) (1761-1805), became a Member of Parliament for County Mayo in the Irish House of Commons, with the aid of Baron Tyrawley.

Colonel George Jackson, MP for County Mayo (George “Two”).

George Two expanded the house into what it is today. The old house was three storey but the new front was two storey. He built on two large reception rooms and a grand staircase. The architect Jeremy Williams attributes the design of the enlargement of the house to John Roberts (1712-1796) of Waterford, who also designed Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford, and may have built Moore Hall in County Mayo. [5] The stucco work in the Stairway Hall is similar to some in Deel Castle done in the 1790s, which is situated across the lake from Enniscoe, for James Cuffe, Baron Tyrawley.

James Cuffe bought the life interest of Deel Castle, which had also originally been a Bourke castle, from his uncle (the brother of his mother, Elizabeth Gore) Arthur Gore, 1st Earl of Arran. James Cuffe built a new house a short distance from the castle. Deel Castle reverted to the Earls of Arran after James Cuffe’s death, but is now a ruin, and the house was burnt in 1921 and not rebuilt. David Hicks has written about Deel Castle and the neighbouring house, Castle Gore, on his website. [6]

The large entrance hall of Enniscoe has a frieze of foliage, and Adamesque decoration in the centre of the ceiling.

The inside of the front door with its old locks.
Front Hall of Enniscoe, with beautiful stuccowork, and fishing rods on the walls.

The portrait in the Front Hall of the man in wonderful frilled pantaloons is an ancestor, Sir Audley Mervyn (about 1603-1675), Speaker in the Irish House of Commons. His parents Henry Mervyn and Christian Touchet purchased lands in County County Tyrone from Mervyn Touchet, the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven, which Audley Mervyn (who was named after the Touchet estate in Staffordshire, Audley) inherited. [7] The heads of Indian deer were shot by the brothers Audley and Mervyn Pratt while fighting with the British army in the early 1900s. The carved hall chairs picture the Bourke family crest of a chained cat; Susan’s mother was a Bourke from Heathfield House, Ballycastle, County Mayo. [8] The pike was caught in Lough Conn in 1896 and weighs 37 lbs!

Delicate stucco work in the ceiling rose in the front hall.
Fireplace in front hallway. The crest in the fireplace is the Nicholson crest, painted by a family member. Above the crest is a white horse, the crest of the Jackson family.

The front hall leads into the staircase hall, which is built on the exterior wall of the old house. The staircase hall has a frieze of urns and foliage and a glazed dome surrounded by foliage and oval medallions of classical figures.

The stairs, part of the newer build for George Jackson Two, nips across the doorway of the drawing room. Susan pointed out how one door – see in the photograph below, has a blocked off section in its height, as a result – compare it to the other door in the photograph below it.
The doorway height is lowered due to the way the staircase nips across it in the hallway.
The door on the other side of the drawing room, without the lowered height of the other door. The decorative overdoors were added later than the original carved timber surround, probably in the 1870s.
It’s hard to capture the wonderful curving sweep of the top-lit staircase in a photograph, with its lantern roof lined with beautiful neoclassical stucco work.

One can see the division between older original house and the newer part clearly. Behind the staircase hall is a lobby with a delicate interior fanlight opening onto the staircase of the earlier house.

The fanlight of the original doorcase to the older house, at the foot of the older staircase.

The Rising of 1798, which had been inspired by the French Revolution, came to Enniscoe, in the form of French soldiers under General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert, who landed at Killala in County Mayo on August 23, 1798. George Jackson was a Colonel in the North Mayo Militia and so would have opposed the 1798 Rebellion and the incoming French troops – although he was stationed further south as militia regiments were never stationed in their own county. The French soldiers stopped at the house at Enniscoe and Susan told us that the troops drank his wine, later declaring that it was “the only good wine in Ireland”! The scaffolding from the enlargement of the house was still lying in front of the house when the troops arrived and they used it for firewood for their campfire. George’s regiment were summoned back from the south, and Colonel Jackson was made Military Governor of the Crossmolina area. He was responsible for killing or imprisoning many of the defeated rebels in the surrounding countryside, and it is said that he lined the road from Crossmolina to Gortnor Abbey with severed heads on pikes. General Humbert and his troops were defeated by the British Army in the Battle of Ballinamuck. [9]

Susan’s mother, an artist, Patita Bourke, painted a scene famous from the 1798 Rebellion, when the French troops billeted themselves in the home of the Church of Ireland Bishop Joseph Stock of Killala (who wrote a memoir of the incident).

One result of the 1798 Rebellion was that the Irish Parliament was abolished by the Act of Union in 1800, which was supported by George Jackson. George was promoted to Colonel of the Carabineers, a dragoon in the British Army, and the position was inherited by his son, William.

William married Jane Louise Blair, daughter of Colonel William Blair of Scotland, and moved to England, and died young. He died in 1822 and his wife predeceased him in 1817 so their only daughter, Madeline Eglantine Jackson, was left an orphan at the age of six. She was raised by her aunt at Stephenstown in County Louth. Her mother’s sister was Catherine Eglantine Blair, who married Matthew Fortescue, whose father had built Stephenstown. They arranged a good marriage for Madeline when she turned 18, to a cousin of the family, Mervyn Pratt of Cabra Castle. They married in 1834.

Madeline and Mervyn settled in Enniscoe and Mervyn had the estate surveyed in order to set to work on an enormous scheme of draining land and building roads. The booklet Susan gave me tells us that during the famine, the Pratts did their best for those in the area and they gained a reputation for good management and fairness.

Patita painted a portrait of Madeline Jackson, based on the picture below.
Madeline Jackson.
Mervyn Pratt, husband of Madeline Jackson.
The Drawing Room has the original silk Adam design wallpaper, which has faded over the years from pale blue to mushroom pink.

There are two large reception rooms on the ground floor, as well as the dining room.

The intricately carved mirror over the fireplace in the drawing room is made of wood and was never gilded. Rosette-detailed cut-white marble Classical-style chimneypiece.
A beautiful dollhouse which Susan used to admire as a child; her mother made the furniture and even installed the electric light.
We liked this “conversation sofa.”

Madeline and Mervyn had five children. Their only son Joseph joined the army and served in India, and when he came home, took over the running of Enniscoe. He married his cousin Ina Hamilton of Cornacassa, County Monaghan (this house has been partly demolished. It was built around 1800 for Dacre Hamilton). [10]

Joseph Pratt was one of the first landlords to start selling his land to his tenants under the Wyndham Land Acts of 1903. Joseph and Ina did much to improve their estate, farming and creating the garden within the old walled garden. The Heritage Centre gives us an idea of what life on the farm was like for both the home owners and the many people employed on the estate. 

Joseph’s elder son Mervyn was injured in the wars and the younger Audley was killed in the First World War. The Heritage Centre located in the walled garden at Enniscoe displays a hippo skull which Audley brought home from Africa when he fought in the Boer War (1899-1902).

Major Mervyn lived all his life in Enniscoe, and was particularly interested in gardening and fishing. His rock garden and greenhouses were well-known. He never married, and left Enniscoe to his cousin Jack Nicholson, Susan’s father (Jack was a great-grandson of Madeline Jackson). Mervyn did not spend much time in Cabra Castle in County Cavan which he also inherited, and he left it to another cousin, Mervyn Sheppard.

Jack Nicholson married Patita Bourke, daughter of Captain Bertrim Bourke of Heathfield, County Mayo. In his blog, David Hicks tells us that Heathfield was purchased by the Land Commission and the family were allocated a farm at Beauparc, County Meath. He adds that former President of Ireland Mary Robinson was from the Bourke family of Heathfield.

The second drawing room of Enniscoe, with George “Two” over the fireplace.

Jack was a Professor of Veterinary Medicine, so I felt a bond with Susan, as my father, Desmond Baggot, was also a Professor of Veterinary Medicine! Jack was head of the Veterinary College of Ireland, so perhaps their paths crossed as my father was studying there at the time of my birth, before we moved to the United States where my father did his PhD in Ohio State University. Jack died in 1972 and Enniscoe house and lands passed to his children. In 1984 Susan Kellett took over the property from her brother.

The house is full of Patita’s creative and sometimes cheeky paintings.

This is an example of Patita’s creativity – she thought the original painting of the seascape was rather dull, so she painted the foreground of the girls on the balcony onto the original painting! The wallpaper in this bedroom is by David Skinner, who reproduces wallpaper from historic houses using scraps from the original.

The dining room was originally the library. The side nook was created by Susan’s parents. It has a simple early nineteenth century cornice of reeding and acanthus leaves.

Stephen and Susan in the dining room.
Cut-veined white marble Classical-style chimneypiece, and to the left, the dining nook added by Susan’s parents.
A painting by Patita of Heathfield House, her childhood home, of herself with her mother and sister Binki. Her father Bertrim Bourke was killed in the First World War and she paints him as a ghost in his military uniform.
A painting by Patita of Enniscoe and her family, painted in the 1950s.

Next we went up to the bedrooms. Susan’s son DJ and his wife Colette help to run the guest house. The main bedrooms open off the oval top-lit landing. They are classically proportioned large rooms with canopy or four poster beds, all with en suite bathrooms.

One of the bedrooms available for Bed & Breakfast.
This unusual piece of Victorian style furniture is original to the house.

The bedrooms are on slightly different levels, since the newer part is of two storeys built on to the original three storey.

The doorcase in one of the bedrooms of the older section of the house. The shouldered doorcase is distinct from the doorcases of the newer rooms. Not pictured here is an unusual latch on the door. The latch could be opened from the bed. Susan had never seen such a contraption before until she came across one in Hampton Court in London!
This staircase in the older section of the house leads to the attic. The maids would have slept upstairs and the butlers downstairs, to keep them apart. In the past, the Pratts would have employed many people in the house, in the gardens, in the stables, where there was a forge, and on the farm.
A view on to the stable yard.
The stable yard.

After our wonderful tour, we headed over to the walled garden and the North Mayo Heritage Centre, which also provides a genealogy service. [11] It is a member of the Irish Family History Foundation, which provides a country wide service through the website RootsIreland. North Mayo Heritage Centre covers the northern half of County Mayo, and the Centre in Ballinrobe covers the southern half.

There is mature woodland around Enniscoe that supports a diversity of plant, insect and animal species.

The door to the walled garden has this lovely horse carving, the crest of the Jackson family.

The walled garden was restored in 1996-9 under the Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration Programme. The head gardener at Enniscoe from 1872 to 1912 was William Gray, who moved to Enniscoe from St. Anne’s in Clontarf, where he had worked on Benjamin Lee Guinness’s estate. Much of the present ornamental garden is much as it was in William’s day.

Enniscoe, County Mayo, by Maria Levinge, oil on board. Part of the exhibition of paintings of walled gardens in 2021 in the Irish Georgian Society [12].

Storyboards from the Heritage Centre, including a picture of the booklet which Susan gave me which gave me much of my information.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31303803/enniscoe-house-originally-inishcoe-house-prospect-co-mayo

[2] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/03/28/cabra-castle-kingscourt-county-cavan/

[3] https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/new-to-market/restored-1-75m-georgian-estate-in-co-meath-brought-into-the-21st-century-1.4630736

[4] http://thepeerage.com/

[5] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/4559/ROBERTS%2C+JOHN+%5B1%5D#tab_works

Moore Hall, County Mayo, also attributed to John Roberts of Waterford. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

[6] http://davidhicksbook.blogspot.com/

[7] Dictionary of Irish Biography, which contains an informative piece on Audley Mervyn. https://www.dib.ie/biography/mervyn-sir-audley-a5803

[8] p. 151. Great Irish Houses. Forward by Desmond FitzGerald and Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008.

[9] Guy Beiner’s book entitled Remembering the Year of the French (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007) discusses folk history and how this French incursion and the 1798 Rebellion in Mayo is remembered.

[10] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/41400944/cornecassa-house-cornecassa-demesne-co-monaghan

[11] email: northmayo@gmail.com

www.northmayogenealogy.com

[12] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/09/24/an-exhibition-in-the-irish-georgian-society/

Cappoquin House & Gardens, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford

contact: Sir Charles Keane

Tel: 087-6704180

www.cappoquinhouseandgardens.com

Listed open dates in 2021 (but check due to Covid restrictions): July 20-24, 26-31, Aug 2-7, 9-28, 30, Sept 1-4, 6-11, 13-18, 20-25, 27-30, 9am-1pm
Gardens open all year, 9am-6pm, closed Sundays.

Fee: house/garden €15, garden only €6.

The front of Cappoquin House, which was originally the back.

We visited Cappoquin House during Heritage Week in 2020. Cappoquin House was built in 1779 for Sir John Keane (1757-1829), and is still owned by the Keane family. The original house, sometimes known as “Belmont,” the name of the townland, was built on a site of an Elizabethan house built by the Munster planter, Sir Christopher Hatton. [1] It is most often attributed to a local architect, John Roberts (1712-96). [2] John Roberts was also architect of Moore Hall in County Mayo (1792 – now a ruin) and Tyrone House in County Galway (1779 – also a ruin).

From the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Moore Hall, County Mayo.
From the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Tyrone House, County Galway.

Glascott Symes points out in his book Sir John Keane and Cappoquin House in time of war and revolution that it is not known who the original architect was, and it may have been Davis Ducart, who also built Kilshannig. [3]

The house was burnt and destroyed in 1923, because a descendent, John Keane (1873-1956), accepted a nomination to the Senate of the new government of Ireland. Ireland gained its independence from Britain by signing a Treaty, in which independence was given to Ireland at the expense of the six counties of Northern Ireland, which remained a part of Britain. Disagreement about the Treaty and the loss of the six counties led to the Irish Civil War. During this war, Senators’ houses were targeted by anti-Treaty forces since Senators served in the new (“pro-Treaty”) government; thirty-seven houses of Senators were burnt.

Fortunately the Keanes received compensation and engaged Richard Francis Caulfield Orpen (1863-1938) of South Frederick Street, Dublin [4], brother of painter William Orpen, to rebuild. Any material possible to salvage from the fire was used, and the fine interiors were recreated. [5] It was at this time that the former back of the house became the front, overlooking a courtyard which is entered through an archway. 

The archway to the courtyard. The lawn was laid by Sir Charles’s parents.
View of the arched entry to the courtyard from the garden

The square house has six bays across with a two-bay two-storey breakfront, and the door is in a frontispiece with columns.

The house has a balustraded parapet topped with urns. The garden front, which was originally the front of the house, faces toward the Blackwater River, and has a central breakfront of three bays with round-headed windows and door. The door has cut-limestone surround with flush panelled pilasters and a fanlight. The round-headed flanking windows have fluted keystones and six-over-six timber sashed windows with fanlights.

Garden front of the house.
View from the gardens, beyond the courtyard.
West side of the house

The porch on one side of the house was built in 1913 by Page L. Dickinson for John Keane, and remains the same after the fire. [6] The work done by Dickinson inside the house in 1913, including decorative plasterwork, was destroyed.

Side of the house with porch from 1913 by Page Dickinson.
View from the west portico.

On the east side of the house is a Conservatory.

Cappoquin House after the fire, 1922.
Rebuilding the roof, 1922. The motor vehicle puts the dates into perspective!

When Sir John had the house rebuilt after the fire, he asked Page Dickinson again to be his architect but by this time Dickinson had moved to England, so Keane engaged Dickinson’s former partner, Richard Caulfield Orpen.

The white buildings around the courtyard were not destroyed in the fire and pre-date the rebuilt house. Some probably date from Hatton’s time.

The Keanes are an old Irish family, originally named O’Cahan. The Ulster family lost their lands due to the Ulster Plantation in 1610. In 1690, following the victory of William III at the Battle of the Boyne, George O’Cahan and converted to Protestantism and anglicized his name to Keane. He practiced as a lawyer. [7] In 1738 his son, John, acquired land in the area of Cappoquin in three 999 years leases from Richard Boyle, the 4th Earl of Cork.  The leases included an old Fitzgerald castle. It was this John’s grandson, also named John Keane (1757-1829), who bought out the lease and built Cappoquin House. [8]

John became MP for Bangor in the Irish parliament from 1791 to 1801 and for Youghal in the British parliament from 1801 to 1818. He was created a baronet, denominated of Belmont and Cappoquin, County Waterford, in 1801 after the Act of Union. The current owner is the 7th Baronet.

John the 1st Baronet’s oldest son, Richard, became the 2nd Baronet (1780-1855). John’s second son, John, served in the British army, and received the title of 1st Baron Keane of Ghuznee in Afghanistan and Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, in 1839. The current owner is a descendent of the elder son, Richard the 2nd Baronet, who also served in the military. He was Lieutenant Colonel of the Waterford Militia. 

General John, 1st Baron Keane of Ghuznee in Afghanistan and Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, by Martin Arthur Shea. This is the ancestor who was in Afghanistan – he can be identified by his medals and sword.

In 1855 the Keane estate was offered for sale in the Encumbered Estates Court, as the estate was insolvent after tenants could not pay their rents during the Famine. It seems that the 3rd Baronet, however, managed to clear the debt and reclaim the estate.

Sir Charles showed us maps of the property, as drawn up under the Encumbered Estates Act.

The 4th Baronet served as High Sheriff of County Waterford and Deputy Lieutenant of County Waterford.

John Keane the 5th Baronet also served in the British Army, and fought in the Boer War between 1899-1902. In 1904 he was admitted to the Middle Temple to become a Barrister, but he never practiced as a Barrister. Following in his father’s footsteps he too held the office of High Sheriff of County Waterford. He followed politics closely and supported Home Rule for Ireland. He was a kind, thoughtful man and housed refugees during the wars. He fought in World War One, becoming a Lieutenant Colonel. It was this John who became a Senator.

Keane joined Horace Plunkett in the co-operative movement in Ireland, which promoted the organisation of farmers and producers to obtain self-reliance. The idea was that they would process their own products for the market, thus cutting out the middle man. The founders of the co-operative movement embraced new technologies for processing, such as the steam-powered cream separator. Unfortunately this led to a clash with farm labourers who unionised to prevent reduction in their wages when prices fell. Keane refused to negotiate with the Union. Rancour grew between landowners and labourers, which may have encouraged the later burning of Keane’s house. The idealism of the co-operative movement, with the goal of “better farming, better business, better living,” was easier said than done.

Keane kept diaries, which have been studied by Glascott J.R.M. Symes for an MA thesis in Maynooth University’s Historic House Studies. Symes outlines the details about the disagreements. [9] Horace Plunkett, one of the founders of the Irish Agricultural  Organisation Society, also became a Senator in Ireland’s first government and his house in South Dublin, Kilteragh, was also destroyed during the Civil War that followed the founding of the state.

Keane knew that his house may become a target and he sent his wife and children to live in London, and packed up principal contents of the house. Seventy six houses were destroyed in the War of Independence in what was to become the Republic of Ireland, but almost two hundred in the Civil War. [10] Unfortunately the library and some of the art collection at Cappoquin were destroyed. [11] 

We entered the house through a door in the older former servants’ area in order to see the maps. We then passed into the main house, with its impressive entrance hall, with stone floor and frieze of plasterwork.

Beyond this room is the stair hall, with a top-lit cantilevered staircase and beautiful coffered dome. The timber banister terminates in a volute.

From the stair hall we entered the library, which has a dentilled cornice and built-in bookcases and is painted a deep red colour. The most intricate works in rebuilding the interior of the house were the library bookcases and the staircase, which are a tribute to the skills of carpenter James Hackett and Edward Brady, a mason from Cappoquin. [see Symes].

Beyond the stair hall is the central drawing room, which was formerly the entrance hall. It has an Ionic columnar screen, and a decorative plasterwork cornice – a frieze of ox skulls and swags.

The ceiling plasterwork and columns in the drawing room are by G. Jackson and Sons (established 1780) of London, who also made the decoration in the stair hall. Sir Charles explained to us that it would have been made not freehand but from a mould.

The chimneypiece is similar to one in 52 St. Stephen’s Green, the home of the Office of Public Works. One can tell it is old, Sir Charles told us, by running one’s hand over the top – it is not smooth, as it would be if it were machine-made. According to Symes, three original marble mantelpieces survive from before the fire, and the one in the drawing room was brought from a Dublin house of the Vance family, probably 18 Rutland Square, in the late nineteenth century. Richard Keane, the 4th Baronet, married Adelaide Sidney Vance. The Vance chimneypiece is of Carrara marble with green marble insets and carved panels of the highest quality. Christine Casey has identified the designs as derived from the Borghese vase, a vase now in the Louvre museum, which was sculpted in Athens in the 1st century BC. [12]

The chimneypieces in the dining room and former drawing room are of carved statuary marble with columns and are inset with Brocatello marble (a fine-grained yellow marble) from Siena. [13] The dining room has another splendid ceiling. The chimmeypiece in the dining room has a central panel of a wreath and oak leaves with urns above the columns. 

The Brocatello marble fireplace in the Dining Room.

We then went out to the conservatory. 

After our house tour, we had the gardens to explore. The gardens are open to the public on certain days of the year [14]. They were laid out in the middle of the nineteenth century but there are vestiges of earlier periods in walls, gateways and streams. Sir Charles’s mother expanded the gardens and brought her expertise to the planting.

To the west of the house is an orchard of pears and Bramley apples. 

The Eucalyptus coccifera.

One wends one’s way up the hill across picturesque lawns, the Upper Pleasure Gardens. The paths take one past weeping ash and beeches, a Montezuma pine and rhododendrons.

Our energy was flagging by the end of our walk around the gardens so unfortunately I have no pictures of the sunken garden, which is on the south side of the house, overlooking the view towards Dromana House.

[1] p. 7. Symes, Glascott J.R.M. Sir John Keane and Cappoquin House in time of war and revolution. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2016.

[2] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22810098/cappoquin-house-cappoquin-demesne-cappoquin-co-waterford

[3] p. 42, Symes.

[4] Irish Builder 5th March 1927, 162, https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22810098/cappoquin-house-cappoquin-demesne-cappoquin-co-waterford

[5] p. 56. 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.

[6] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/07/16/exactly-as-intended/

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

[8] https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/03/04/risen-from-the-ashes/

[9] p. 31-35. Symes.

[10] p. 39. Symes.

[11] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/property-list.jsp?letter=C

[12] p. 46. Symes.

[13] p. 45. Symes.

[14] https://www.cappoquinhouseandgardens.com/