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/

Salthill Garden, Salthill House, Mountcharles, County Donegal

contact: Elizabeth Temple

Tel:  087-7988078, 074-9735014

www.donegalgardens.com

Listed Open Dates in 2021: May 1, 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, 27-29, June 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26, July 1-3, 5-9, 12-24, 26-31, Aug 2-7, 9-22, 26-28, 30-31, Sept 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-30, 2pm- 6pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child under 10 years €2, over 10 years €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

Killineer House, County Louth

Drogheda, Co. Louth

Charles & Eithne Carroll

Tel: 041-9838563, 086-2323783

www.killineerhouse.ie

Open dates in 2021 but check due to Covid-19 restrictions: Feb 1-20, May 1-15, June 1-10, Aug 14-28, 9am-1pm

Fee: house: €4, garden €6

Stephen and I visited Killineer on Saturday June 9th, one of our first houses to visit once Covid restrictions eased. I like the drive up along the M1 motorway, over the Mary McAleese bridge. The house has entrance gates.

My trusty little car leaving Killineer after our visit.
The gate lodge, also built in 1836. It has the same Majolica style medallion as on the farm buildings behind the house.

The house is a Regency house, that is, of the Classical style built shortly after the period in England when George IV was Prince Regent (1811-1820, when King George III was ill). Like many Regency houses, it has a stucco facade and columns framing the front door, with a Doric single-storey portico.

The house was built for a local businessman, George Harpur, who made his fortune in trade, dealing in salt and timber. He would have availed of the nearby port to bring in his salt, and timber from Canada. Salt was used to preserve meats and was a precious commodity. Harper married Louisa Ball in 1835, daughter of George Ball (1755-1842) of Ballsgrove, County Louth, and his wife Sarah Webber. 

Ballsgrove, County Louth, built in 1734, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Killineer house was completed in 1836. The front, of two storeys, has six bays on top and a Doric single-storey portico flanked by two bays on either side. The corners have double-height pilasters. The house has a basement and the back is of three storeys. The sides are of three bays, with entablatures over the ground floor windows.

Side of the house, with the original French door, and the farm buildings in the background.

Harpur surrounded the house with seventeen acres of garden, creating terraces and a lake which on the site of an earlier rough pond. A house already stood on the property, the remains of which are in the walled garden behind the current house.

The remains of the previous house built at Killineer, now in use as a tool shed. One can still see remains of the panelled walls and dentil cornice inside. [1]

The earlier house, now located in the walled garden behind the house, may have been built by George Pentland (1770-1834), who owned the property before Harpur, before he moved to Blackhall in 1815, which was begun in approximately 1790 by a fellow solicitor, Philip Pendleton. [2] Before that, the land was owned by Thomas Taylour of Headfort House, County Meath.

Black Hall, County Louth. Picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Casey and Rowan (1993) suggest that the house is in a ‘style greatly reminiscent of Francis Johnston.’ 
Headfort House, County Meath, photograph by A.E. Henson, from Country Life, volume LXXIX, published 21/03/1936The house was built in the early 1770s by Irish architect George Semple with the interiors designed by Robert Adam. [3]

The Harpurs had no children and the house was sold, probably after George Harpur died in 1888. Unfortunately, any record of the plans for the house or garden have been lost, so neither the architect nor the creator of the garden has been identified.

The house passed through several owners until the present family, including Robert Ussher, and the Montgomery family of Beaulieu, County Louth. Richard Thomas Montgomery (1813-1890) of Beaulieu had a son, Richard Johnston Montgomery, who lived in Killineer house when he was High Sheriff of County Louth in 1910. Perhaps he lived at Killineer until he inherited Beaulieu. He married Maud Helena Collingwood Robinson of Rokeby Hall, another Section 482 property in Louth. 

Beaulieu, County Louth [see my blog entry].
Rokeby, County Louth [see my blog entry].

James Carroll, ancestor of the current owner, purchased the house in 1938. He was the grandson of Patrick James Carroll, a tobacco manufacturer from Dundalk. James’s daughter Grace lived in Killineer all of her life and never married. She died in 1999, and the house passed to her cousin, the current owner. 

According to her obituary in the Irish Times, Grace became involved with the Order of Malta, of which her father had been president. She was the first woman in this country to be appointed Dame Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion, Sovereign Military Hospitaller, Order of Malta. This was in recognition of her work and fundraising for those with disabilities in Drogheda. She was instrumental in helping fund The Village, a training centre for those with special needs, built in the former Presentation Convent. [4]

She maintained the gardens laid out by George Harpur, and they were featured in Country Life in 1998. We enjoyed a wander in the lovely gardens after the owner Charles Carroll gave us a tour inside.

The view of the gardens from the front of the house.

The house has an impressive octagonal entry hall, with niches and busts on plinths. It has four doors that look as if they lead off the hall, but two are only for symmetry and do not open. The house itself has a classical layout of four rooms plus the hall on the ground floor, a basement, and the bedrooms above. It has an “imperial” staircase – a staircase which bifurcates into two. A lovely stained glass window of browns, blues and yellows, made by Edward Lowe  of Dublin who also did the windows in Collon’s Church of Ireland, has the Carroll coat of arms in the middle. [5] Below the stairs, in a door, is another stained glass window, with a knight with a lion, which might also have been installed by the Carrolls.

The back of the house, with the stained glass window that lights the stairs.

The Carrolls are an ancient Irish family that can be traced back to the Carrolls of Oriel. Oriel was an area of Ireland. Donogh O’Carroll, King of Oriel, died in 1168 AD and the Carrolls of Oriel are his descendants. Patrick Carroll of Culcredan, County Louth, was born in 1600. The Carrolls of Killineer branch off from the main line of “the O’Carroll Oriel” after this Patrick Carroll. [6] [7]

We entered the dining room first and sat down under a portrait of Grace to hear a little about the history of the house. The windows are French doors, and the room is panelled. It originally had a ceiling with a seascape of Neptune, but unfortunately the house was left empty for two years before the Carrolls purchased it and the ceiling was ruined. The ceiling now features a “very attractive bold circle of plasterwork in the centre of the ceiling,” as Mark Bence-Jones describes it. [8]

The plasterwork in the house is impressive. There are about five layers of cornice patterns around the ceiling in the study, such as ovals and egg-and-dart, and the rooms have wood-like plaster panelled walls. The rooms are decorated in a French empire style of gilt and a deep rose colour. Charles pointed out that some of the plasterwork over the doors may have been added later, as it is a little too ornate and does not quite fit with the rest of the plasterwork. 

The fourth room on the ground floor has been divided in two, probably after the house was built. The pattern around the ceiling continues in both rooms, and features griffons and centaurs and is coloured wine red, pale blue and pink. An unusual sculpted ceiling depicts the figure of Justice, doves, and a figure with a lyre. 

A summer-house in the garden is designed to mirror the architecture of the house, and was probably also built by George Harpur.

It has windows and French doors on each side, and inside, it has plaster coving and niches.

The reeded doorcases with corner blocks carved with rosettes match the doorcases inside the main house.

The wrought iron bridge onto an island in the man-made lake is also contemporary with the house. [9]

Stretching from the house, the garden is terraced. It leads down through a canopy to a laurel maze and lawn laid out in an astragal pattern, to the lake, where a swan was guarding a nest. The lakes, created by George Harpur, are lined with a special yellow clay, which is very fine and hard, so it holds in the water particularly well. Yellow clay is impermeable and can be used to prevent damp in houses.

The astragal shaped lawn.
Woodland walk, below the lake, and the wild garden nearby.
Eighteenth century gates which were originally located on an estate belonging to the Jocelyn family, Earls of Roden.
The lily pond.

Behind the house lies the walled garden from the original house at Killineer. It is still in active use today producing fruits and vegetables. It has a glasshouse in which apricot, peach and nectarine trees grow, and an apiary that houses bees who pollinate the plants. 

Entrance to the walled garden.

The attractive farm buildings are off-limits to visitors due to dangerous farm machinery.

The lush gardens were a treat after months of lockdown in Dublin. They were so peaceful, such an oasis from the everyday bustle. They remind us to stop, linger, and appreciate.

[1] https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/06/13/in-the-good-old-summertime/

Robert O’Byrne notes that: A century earlier the land here had been granted by the local corporation on a 999-year lease to Sir Thomas Taylor, whose family lived at Headfort, County Meath. It then passed to the Pentlands whose main residence was to the immediate east at Blackhall. At some date in the 18th century a house was built on the property: it appears on early maps but little now remains other than one room which still retains sections of plaster panelling. Located to the rear of the walled garden, this space now serves as a toolshed. 

[2] See https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13902207/black-hall-co-louth 

and the Killineer House & Gardens website.

It’s interesting that George Pentland’s son, George Henry Pentland (1800-1882), married Sophia Mabella Montgomery, of Beaulieu, since after George Harpur died, Killineer was owned by one of the Montgomery family from Beaulieu.

See:

http://www.termonfeckinhistory.ie/pentlands_of_blackhall_34.html 

George Henry Pentland (1800-1882) married twice, once to Rebecca Brabazon and secondly to Sophia Mabella Montgomery, daughter of Rev. Alexander and Margaret Johnston. George Henry Pentland lived at Black Hall, Co Louth, as did his father George Pentland (1770-1834).  

[3] https://www.countrylifeimages.co.uk/Image.aspx?id=e3bd0c95-193a-4aad-8e06-f9d2165c4e5b&rd=2|headfort||1|20|18|150 

[4] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/grand-generous-lady-of-the-old-school-1.252377 

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/building-of-the-month/collon-church-collon-church-street-collon-td-collon-county-louth/

The church was erected thanks to the Foster family of Collon, County Louth and of Glyde Court, whom we came across in their association with Cabra Castle in County Cavan.

[6] http://www.carrolloforiel.com/the-ocarroll-oriel/

[7] http://www.thepeerage.com/p36339.htm#i363390

[8] 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.

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

Beaulieu, County Louth

Contact: Cara Konig-Brock tel.: +353 41 983 8557

e: info@beaulieuhouse.ie

w: www.beaulieuhouse.ie

Beaulieu House, near Drogheda in County Louth, is not on the Section 482 list in 2019 or 2020, for the first time in many years. I visited, however, during Heritage Week in 2019, and it’s definitely worth a write-up. The front hall is magnificent, and the history of the house is a lesson in the history of Ireland. The history of Beaulieu encompasses the history of Ireland from the 1640s and its owners played an active role.

It is pronounced “Bewley” and sometimes written on earlier maps as “Bewly.” Nobody is sure where the name came from, but the website suggests that it may come from “booley,” the practice of the Irish in which cattle are moved from place to place to graze.

The house overlooks the River Boyne – you can see it beyond the garden at the side of the house:

View from Beaulieu overlooking the River Boyne estuary.

Beaulieu is a very important house architecturally as it is one of the few Dutch influenced houses still surviving, in a style deriving from works of Inigo Jones. It was built around 1715 and incorporates an older building. The Irish Aesthete tells us that the architect was probably John Curle. [1] The Dictionary of Irish Architects tells us that John Curle may have come originally from Scotland, and was active in Counties Fermanagh, Louth, Meath and Monaghan in the late 1690s and first quarter of the 1700s. As well as working on Beaulieu, he designed the original house at Castle Coole, Co. Fermanagh, built in 1709, and in about 1709 he designed Conyngham Hall (later Slane Castle), Co. Meath (another Section 482 property). It has also been suggested that Curle also designed Stackallan House, Co. Meath, in 1712.

Stackallan House, County Meath. Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Cement-rendered with redbrick trim, Beaulieu has two show facades, the west front and the south garden front. The entrance is of seven bays, with the two end bays brought forward. The windows are framed with flat brick surrounds, and the doorcase, of brick, consists of two Corinthian pilasters supporting a large pediment with carved swags.

photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

There are three dormer windows over the centre three bays, and one above each two-bay projection, and this type of dormer window is a classical mid-seventeenth century practice of construction. [2] The high eaved roof is carried on a massive wooden modillion cornice. Modillions are small consoles at regular intervals along the underside of some types of classical cornice.

photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, showing the modillion cornice.

The two tall moulded chimneystacks are also of brick. [3] There is a single-storey projecting billiard room in the back and a canted bay which I did not see, on the east side. [4]

photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, showing the billiard room extension.

The garden front is a six-bay elevation with two doorcases, one in the centre of each principal room, both with Ionic pilasters and crowned with large triangular pediments. It looks as though the doors open by lifting upwards on a sash, like the door/window we saw at Corravahan in County Cavan.

photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

This side of the building has three dormer windows.

Beaulieu is now owned by Cara Konig-Brock, who inherited it in from her mother Gabriel de Freitas, who was the tenth generation of descendants since King Charles II granted the lands to Henry Tichbourne in 1666. Gabriel inherited the house from mother, Sidney nee Montgomery, who was married to Nesbit Waddington. [5] The house is unusual in that it has often passed through the female rather than male line.

We arrived early for the tour, so wandered the gardens first. We were excited to see the ramshackle remnants of a festival in the wooded part of the back garden – Vantastival takes place at Beaulieu. I love the magic, creativity and craftsmanship of the pop-up structures in the woods.

There was even a boat in the garden, I assume left over from the festival:

But before I discuss the garden, I’ll tell you about the tour and the house, to give a bit of perspective.

We were greeted by a guide when it was time to enter the house. The front hall which we entered is impressive and rather worn with age. It is double height, and I found it difficult to take in everything at once; when overwhelmed, I focus on one thing – in this case it was the couch. I was delighted to be invited sit in front of the huge fireplace to start the tour, to be able to take in my surroundings. Our guide told us we could take photographs as long as we don’t take pictures of the paintings. It was hard to take photographs, however, without including the paintings, as they covered the walls! So I didn’t take many photos, unfortunately. The large two storey hall is a late seventeenth century copy of a medieval hall.

Stephen in front of the fireplace at the start of the tour, in front hall. The large chimneypiece has bolection moulding, defined in Casey and Rowan’s Buildings of Ireland book as “convex moulding covering the joint between two different planes and overlapping the higher as well as the lower one, especially on panelling and fireplace surrounds of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.”

Before Henry Tichbourne, who acquired it around 1666, the land was owned by the Plunketts. According to the Beaulieu website, the Plunkett family may have first inhabited a tower house at the location. I came across the Plunketts when we visited Dunsany Castle, another Section 482 property. Sir Hugh de Plunkett, an Anglo-Norman, came to Ireland during the reign of Henry II. From then on the family owned lands in Louth and Meath. In 1418 Walter Plunkett obtained royal confirmation of his rights in Bewley and other land. [6] Christopher and Oliver Plunkett, the 6th Baron of Louth (1607-1679) took part in the 1641 Rebellion, and were outlawed. [7] The wide walls of the original tower house can be found in the fabric of the building today. [8] Our guide described these walls: rather contrary to expectations, the walls get thicker higher up. This makes sense if you consider that cannonballs would hit the upper part of a structure.

According to Mark Bence-Jones, it is one of the first country houses built in Ireland without fortification, although until the 19th century it was surrounded by a tall protective hedge, or palisade. [9] Also, the front door is hung with massive carved oak and iron studded shutters, which Bence-Jones explains are probably a vestige of military protection. We did not see these shutters as the door was open for visitors. In the 17th century, troops were garrisoned in the house for a time. We learned more about these troops during the tour.

A History of Beaulieu is a History of Ireland in the 1600’s

To begin chronologically, it’s best to start in 1641 during Phelim O’Neill’s uprising against the British. Phelim O’Neill (1604-1653) rose up to try to prevent a second wave of Plantation in Ireland. During the plantations, first in Laois and Offaly and then in Ulster, lands were taken from the native Irish and given to Protestant settlers to farm, in order to firm up the English King’s control in Ireland. Richard Plunkett, who owned the land at Beaulieu at the time and was a colonel in Phelim O’Neill’s army, allowed Phelim to station his troops in his fortified dwelling at Beaulieu. In his fight, Phelim attacked the walled city of Drogheda.

Henry Tichbourne (or Tichborne – different reference sources spell the name differently) at this time was governor of Lifford, County Donegal. [10] He had come to Ireland from England where as a younger son of Benjamin the 1st Baronet Tichborne of Titchborne, Co. Southampton, he had joined the military. He became commissioner for the Plantation of County Londonderry. Tichborne was sent to Drogheda to protect the city from Phelim O’Neill and his followers. Henry saved the city of Drogheda. His victory is celebrated in the incredible intricately carved wooden “trophy” over the front door in Beaulieu, which includes the “Barbican gate” of Drogheda, underneath the armoured soldier:

According to our guide, after the battle with Phelim O’Neill, the house at Beaulieu was left empty, and Henry Tichbourne moved in. Later, he purchased the land from the Plunketts. The Plunketts had mortgaged their land in order to raise funds for the rebellion of 1641. Tichbourne was able to take over the mortgages and pay them, and thus acquire the estate, thus buying the land and tower that had been formerly occupied by his enemies. [11]

In 1642 King Charles I appointed Tichbourne Lord Justice of Ireland, and he held office until January 1644. In 1644 he went to England with the aim of negotiating peace between the King and the Irish Confederacy. James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, came to the aid of Tichbourne in Drogheda in 1642. This could explain why Tichbourne was involved with trying to negotiate an agreement between King Charles and the Confederates, as Ormonde was a leading negotiator. [12] Complications arose because at the same time, the Puritans were gaining support in the Parliament in England. They judged Charles I to be betraying his religion and his people. Tichbourne sided with Charles I. He was captured by Parliamentary forces and spent some months as a prisoner in the Tower of London.

Upon his release, he returned to Drogheda. When Oliver Cromwell and his troops came to Ireland in 1649 they laid siege to Drogheda. Tichborne decided that the Royalists could not retain control of Ireland, and decided to join Cromwell’s side, the “Parliamentarians.” When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1661, he forgave Tichborne for his submission to the Parliament loyal to Oliver Cromwell. Charles II was very forgiving. (see Antonia Fraser’s excellent biography of Charles II. Fraser, incidentally, grew up in another house on the Section 482 list, Tullynally.) Charles II confirmed Henry Tichbourne’s ownership of Beaulieu in 1666, and made Tichbourne Marshall of the Irish Army. [13]

The painting in the chimneypiece in the Hall is of Drogheda after Cromwell’s siege. Henry Tichbourne, the grandson of the Tichbourne who fought at Drogheda, commissioned Willem Van Der Hagen to paint a port-scape of Drogheda in the early 1720s. Van Der Hagen began a painting career in Ireland around 1718. He began by painting sets at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin – a theatre which has been re-established today after years of alternative use – and went on to become a founding father of Irish landscape painting. The panel painting is built into the overmantel, a picture that refers to Henry’s grandfather the military commander. It is a landscape of Drogheda, with, as the website describes: “its Cromwell-bombarded, medieval walls, gabled houses, (Dutch billies), numerous towers, gates, church spires, monastery gardens and a famous double barbican.”

Beaulieu House

Henry’s son William Tichborne was knighted in 1661 and sat in the Irish Parliament for the borough of Swords, 1661-1666. He was attainted by the Irish Parliament of King James II but was not dispossessed of his estates. He was M.P. for County Louth from 1692 until he died in 1693. He was married to Judith, daughter and co-heiress of John Bysse, Chief Baron of the Exchequer in Ireland. [14]

William’s son Henry also sat in the Irish House of Parliament, representing Ardee and later, County Louth. He also served as Mayor of Drogheda. He was High Sheriff of County Louth and of County Armagh in 1708. He was raised to the Irish peerage as Baron Ferrard of Beaulieu soon after the accession of George I, for promoting the cause of William III in Ireland. He was also Governor of Drogheda. It was probably Henry Baron Ferrard who started work creating the house as we see it today. It was originally thought that the house was begun in William Tichbourne’s time, but due to a letter found by Dr. Edward McPartland in the Molesworth papers in the National Library of Ireland between the then Lord Molesworth and the 1st Lord Ferrard of Beaulieu, it suggests that the building work was carried out between 1710-1720. [15]

The front hall is described in Sean O’Reilly’s Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of  Country Life:

In the entrance hall the magnificence impresses itself on the visitor through architectural effect – the grandeur of the way it rises through two storeys, with the upper levels glazed, most unusually, on inner and outer walls. The internal windows, like those outside with sashes postdating the original construction, allow light to pass between the corridor and hall… the hall is interesting especially for its suggestion of the mixture of traditional or medieval and new Renaissance lifestyles. It is backward looking in the conception of a hall as public living room, a function it continues to serve today as it takes up such a huge proportion of the building… Yet the hall also looks ahead to the Renaissance in its classical articulation and enforced symmetry, all symbolising the power of intellectual discipline.” [16] 

The guide told us that the front hall was actually the courtyard originally, and the front door of the house was the middle door at the back of the hall. There are even windows on the upper level of the hall, which were originally the front windows of the house, and they are part of the corridors upstairs and overlook the hall – see pictures on the website. None of my reference sources however state that this is the case, and the front hall was certainly built in the time of Henry Tichborne, Lord Ferrard.

There are more wooden carvings over two other doors in the Hall. One shows the coat of arms of Ferrard of Beaulieu, who commissioned the three carvings, and the other features musical instruments. The hall was probably used as a place for musical recitals and performances. The lovely plasterwork and panelling is original.

The Ferrard Coat of Arms carved over the door in the Front Hall. According to Thomas U. Sadlier and Page L. Dickinson’s Georgian Mansions in Ireland, the coat-of-arms with the coronet of Lord Ferrard displays the arms of Tichborne, quartering Lymerston, Syferwast, Loveday, de Rake, Wandesford, Martin, Wallis, Rythe and Bysse. The Bysse crest contains silver bells. In Great Irish Houses, the carving is said to be done by a Huguenot. Above the doorway are the antlers of an Irish elk.
One carving over a door features classical instruments while another pictures Irish instruments. The candle sconce was probably made for candles but was later electrified.

The coats of arms include that of William Tichbourne impaling those of his wife, Judith Bysse. More coats of arms embellish the fireplace.

Henry Tichbourne Lord Ferrard wrote in a letter about his relief at finishing the current work on his house. He is proud of the staircase, which was probably delivered by boat, and assembled in Beaulieu, in 1723. The staircase has three flights, with carved balusters and the newels in the form of fluted Corinthian columns. As well as the staircase, it is said that the bricks were brought up the Boyne as ballast in boats, perhaps from Holland.

The wainscoted drawing room contains another work by Willem Van der Hagen, a magnificent trompe-l’oeil painting on the ceiling in a large plaster compartmental panel frame, with garlands of foliage and flowers. It pictures goddess Aurora descending in a chariot to her garden bower from the heavens [17].

Photograph by Paul Highnam 2015, from Country Life picture library.

Most of the other reception rooms also have wood panelling. A fine Italian marble fireplace adorns one of the reception rooms, with a classical carving of Neptune being drawn in a conch shell.

Van der Haagen also designed the gardens, including the terracing and the walled garden. [18] William Aston employed men to create two lakes on the property, in order to provide work in times of scarcity. There is a painting of him in the front hall, pointing toward the lakes.

Lord Ferrard’s sons predeceased him – the eldest was drowned when crossing to England in 1709. The estate therefore passed to Henry Tichbourne’s daughter, Salisbury Tichbourne, and her husband William Aston. [19]

I was fascinated to see the crest with the arm carrying a broken sword, on the chairs in the front hall. I thought it was the crest for the family in Clonalis. On further questioning, the guide told us that it refers to a joust undertaken by King Henry II of France. In 1559 King Henry II wanted to joust against the best jouster of his court. The courtier, Gabriel Montgomery, did not want to joust against King Henry for fear of winning, but Henry promised that no retribution would be taken. The jouster however killed Henry, breaking his jousting stick – which can be seen in the crest. The jouster fled, as despite the king’s assurances for his safety, the jouster could not trust that the king’s widow, Catherine de Medici, would not seek revenge! The broken lance forms part of the Montgomery crest.

Salisbury and William had a son, Tichborne Aston, who was an M.P. for Ardee. In 1746, he married Jane Rowan, daughter of William Rowan. They had a son and a daughter and the property passed down through the generations to its current owners. [20]

I loved that from upstairs you can look over the railing onto the front hall. We saw a bedroom which can be hired out for b&b, which sounds like a treat!

The Beaulieu website describes the gardens:

Four acres of walled garden and grassy terraces surrounding Beaulieu have remained largely original to their early design. Lime trees form an avenue along the short, straight drive and picturesque lakes complete the vista at the front of the house. Family letters [those of Sir Henry, Baron Ferrard] describing the walled garden from this period, tell us that fruits such as figs and nectarines were being grown and also describe crops of flax, hops and bear.”

Inside the walled garden.

At the entrance to the walled garden is a lovely building with classic pillared portico that has been recently renovated:

Inside the attached garden shed is a fern-decked well:

The walled garden is absolutely splendid:

A chapel on the grounds is St. Brigid’s of Beaulieu. According to our guide, it was originally built in 1413 by William Plunkett, a pre-Reformation bishop, and his crypt is inside. Sadlier and Dickinson’s Georgian Mansions of Ireland in fact tells us that John Plunkett of “Bewly” and his wife Alicia founded a church within their manor as far back as the close of the thirteenth century, in the reign of Edward II! The latest version was built in 1807. It contains also a “cadaver stone” the guide told us, which was found in the mud flats of the river, which has a carved skeleton on it. According to Casey and Rowan, it is one of the earliest representations of cadaver figures in Irish medieval sculpture. It displays a female in an advanced state of decomposition, with a lurid range of reptilian life. Worms, toads, newts and lizards slide in and around the shroud. [21]

Photograph by Paul Highnam, 2015, from Country Life Picture Library.

But instead of with death I leave you with life, of growth in the wonderful polytunnel.

[1] https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/01/12/i-am-gabriel/

[2] p. 154-155. Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan, The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. The Counties of Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[3] 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.

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13902509/beaulieu-house-beaulieu-co-louth

[5] https://lvbmag.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/beaulieu-house-louth-gabriel-konig/

[6] p. 17-20. Sadlier, Thomas U. and Page L. Dickinson, Georgian Mansions in Ireland. Printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby and Gibbs, 1915.

[7] http://www.nli.ie/pdfs/mss%20lists/louth.pdf

“Though the Plunketts were deeply involved in the upheavals of the 1640s and 1689- 91, they survived with their lands intact. During the rebellion of 1641, the 6th Baron Louth, Oliver Plunkett, together with several other Catholic Old English lords of the Pale, formed an alliance with Irish rebel leaders from Ulster. The Catholic gentry of Louth appointed Lord Louth as colonel-general of the royalist forces to be raised in the county, though he declined the position. He was taken prisoner in 1642 and outlawed for high treason. Under the Cromwellian land settlement, his lands were forfeited. When Charles II returned to the throne in 1660, most of these lands were restored to Lord Louth and to his son Matthew.”

Also this site tells us of the earlier Plunketts at Beaulieu:

“The Plunkett family of Tallanstown, county Louth was descended from Sir Hugh de Plunkett, an Anglo-Norman who came to Ireland during the reign of Henry II. From then on the family owned lands in Louth. From the fourteenth century they lived at Bewley (Beaulieu) near Drogheda, and a branch of the family was associated with Tallanstown by the late fifteenth century. Early in the fourteenth century, John Plunkett of Bewley, a direct descendent of Sir Hugh, had two sons. One of these, Richard Plunkett, was the ancestor of two titled landowning families; the Earls of Fingall and the Barons of Dunsany, of Dunsany Castle, county Meath – Christopher Plunkett was created Lord Dunsany in 1461. The other son, John Plunkett of Bewley, was the ancestor of the Lords Louth. Of John Plunkett’s direct descendants, his grandson, Walter Plunkett of Bewley, was Sheriff of county Louth in 1401, a position later held by Sir John Plunkett of Bewley, Kilsaran and Tallanstown, who died in 1508. “

[8] https://beaulieuhouse.ie/a-short-history-of-beaulieu/ and also see the article in Country Life, October 28, 2015. https://beaulieuhouse.ie/cms/wp-content/uploads/Country-Life-OCT-28-BEAULIEU.pdf

[9] 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.

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Henry_Tichborne

[11] see Sadlier, Thomas U. and Page L. Dickinson, Georgian Mansions in Ireland. Printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby and Gibbs, 1915. See also Great Irish Houses, edited by Amanda Cochrane, published by Image Publications, London, 2008. The text of this book is by many authors, and individual entries are not credited. Text is by Desmond Fitzgerald, Desmond Guinness, Kevin Kelly, Amanda Cochrane, Ben Webb, William Laffan, Deirdre Conroy, Kate O’Dowd, Elizabeth Mayes and Richard Power.

[12] The best piece I have read about the Catholic Confederacy of the 1640s is by Micheál Siochrú, Confederate Ireland 1642–1649 A constitutional and political analysis. Four Courts Press, 1998.

[13] p. 81. Montgomery Massingberd, Hugh and Christopher Simon Sykes. Great Houses of Ireland. Laurence King Publishing, London, 1999.

[14] p. 17-20. Sadlier, Thomas U. and Page L. Dickinson, Georgian Mansions in Ireland. Printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby and Gibbs, 1915.

[15] p. 85. Montgomery Massingberd, Hugh and Christopher Simon Sykes. Great Houses of Ireland. Laurence King Publishing, London, 1999.

[16] p. 130. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998. 

[17] https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/06/29/a-room-with-a-view/

[18] p. 86. Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitgGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008.

[19] p. 17-20. Sadlier, Thomas U. and Page L. Dickinson, Georgian Mansions in Ireland. Printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby and Gibbs, 1915. According to The Peerage website, Salisbury was the granddaughter of Henry Tichbourne: her father Robert Charles Tichbourne was the son of Lord Ferrard but he predeceased his father so the property passed to his son-in-law William Aston who had married Salisbury Tichbourne. This genealogy makes sense as it accounts for Salisbury’s unusual name, as Robert Charles Tichbourne married Hester Salisbury.

[20] Henry Tichborne, married Jane, daughter of Sir Robert Newcomen of Kenagh, County Longford. They had five sons and three daughters: Sir William Tichborne, the second but eldest surviving son, married Judith Bysse, daughter of John Bysse, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer, by whom he was the father of Henry, first and last Baron Ferrard. Henry Baron Ferrard married Arabella Cotton. She was the daughter of Sir Robert Cotton, 1st Baronet of Combermere, in Cheshire. They had four sons (William, Cotton, Robert & Henry), all of whom died before their father leaving no male issue, so that at his death in 1731 his titles became extinct.

The son Robert Charles married Hester Salisbury and their only surviving daughter, Salisbury Tichborne, married William Aston, MP for Dunleer. They had a son, Tichborne Aston (1716-1748), who was an M.P. for Ardee. In 1746, he married Jane Rowan, daughter of William Rowan. Tichborne and Jane Aston had a son, William (1747-1769), and a daughter, Sophia.

According to Great Mansions of Ireland, while William Aston owned Beaulieu, the house had Lord Chief Justice Singleton as a tenant. This Chief Justice was a friend of the Lord Lieutenant, the four Earl of Chesterfield, which may explain why it is sometimes said that Lord Chesterfield himself occupied Beaulieu. In D’Alton’s History of Drogheda, a poet and bricklayer, Henry Jones, is said to have been born in Beaulieu. He was also a friend of the Earl of Chesterfield, and of Aston.

Sophia Aston married Thomas Tipping of Bellurgan, County Louth, who was M.P. for the borough of Kilbeggan. Her brother William died and Beaulieu passed to her. Their daughter Sophia-Mabella Tipping, married Rev Robert Montgomery, Rector of Monaghan, and the house passed to them.

Rev Robert Montgomery and Sophia-Mabella had sons Rev. Alexander and (Captain)Thomas Montgomery.

Reverend Alexander Montgomery married Margaret Johnson, and they had a son Richard Thomas Montgomery (1813-1890). According to his grave, Alexander Montgomery took on his wife’s name and became Alexander Johnson. The son, Richard Thomas, married Frances Barbara Smith.

Their son Richard Johnson Montgomery (1855-1939) Maud Helenda Collingwood Robinson of Rokeby Hall.

Richard Johnston Montgomery’s daughter Sidney married Nesbit Waddington. They were parents of Gabriel and Penderell.

Gabriel Waddington married, and was mother of Cara, the current owner.

[21] p. 156. Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan, The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. The Counties of Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. Penguin Books, London, 1993. You can see a picture of the stone at http://irishheraldry.blogspot.com/2014/09/heraldry-and-inscriptions-at-st-brigids.html

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/

Tullynally Castle and Gardens, Castlepollard, County Westmeath

 www.tullynallycastle.com

Open dates in 2021 but check due to Covid:

Apr 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 29-30, May 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, 27-29, June 3-5, 11-12, 17-19, 24-26, July 1-3, 8-10, 15-17 Aug 14-22, Sept 2-4, 9-11, 10.30am- 2.30pm
Garden: Apr 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29-30, May 1-2, 6-9, 13-16, 20-23, 27-30, June 3-6, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27, July 1-4, 8-11,15-18, 22-25, 29-31, Aug 1, 5-8, 12-22, 26- 29, Sept 2-5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26 10.30am-2.30pm 

Fee: adult, castle & access to garden €16, garden only €8, child, castle & access to garden €8, garden only €4, families, castle & access to garden €40, garden only €20.

We visited Tullynally Castle and Gardens when we were staying near Castlepollard with friends for the August bank holiday weekend. Unfortunately the house tour is only given during Heritage Week, but we were able to go on the Below Stairs tour, which is really excellent and well worth the price.

According to Irish Historic Houses, by Kevin O’Connor, Tullynally Castle stretches for nearly a quarter of a mile: “a forest of towers and turrets pierced by a multitude of windows,” and is the largest castle still lived in by a family in Ireland [1]. It has nearly an acre of roof! It has been the seat of the Pakenham family since 1655. I love that it has stayed within the same family, and that they still live there.

The current incarnation of the Castle is in the romantic Gothic Revival style, and it stands in a large wooded demesne near Lake Derravaragh in County Westmeath.

We stayed for the weekend even closer to Lake Derravaragh, and I swam in it!

The lands of Tullynally, along with land in County Wexford, were granted to Henry Pakenham in 1655 in lieu of pay for his position as Captain of a troop of horse for Oliver Cromwell. [2] [3] His grandfather, Edward (or Edmund) Pakenham, had accompanied Sir Henry Sidney from England to Ireland when Sir Sidney, a cousin of Edward Pakenham, was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland. [4]

A house existed on the site at the time and parts still exist in the current castle. It was originally a semi-fortified Plantation house. When Henry Pakenham moved to Tullynally the house became Pakenham Hall. Over the years it was added to and transformed into Pakenham Castle. It was enlarged in 1780 to designs by Graham Myers (who, in 1789 was appointed architect to Trinity College, Dublin), when it became a Georgian house. The house was Gothicized by Francis Johnston in 1801-1806 to become a castle. Further work was carried out by James Sheil, and more by Richard Morrison, and in 1860 by James Rawson Carroll (d. 1911). It is only relatively recently that it reverted to its former name, Tullynally, which means “hill of the swans.”

Henry, who settled at Tullynally, left the property to his oldest son, Thomas (1649-1706) who became a member of Parliament and an eminent lawyer. His oldest son, Edward (1683-1721), became an MP for County Westmeath. Edward was succeeded by his son, Thomas Pakenham (1713-1766) [see 3]. Thomas married Elizabeth Cuffe, the daughter of Michael Cuffe of Ballinrobe, County Mayo. Her father was heir to Ambrose Aungier, 2nd and last Earl of Longford (1st creation). Michael Cuffe sat as a Member of Parliament for County Mayo and the Borough of Longford. Later, Thomas represented Longford Borough in the Irish House of Commons. In 1756 the Longford title held by his wife’s ancestors was revived when Thomas was raised to the peerage as Baron Longford. After his death, his wife Elizabeth was created Countess of Longford in her own right, or “suo jure,” in 1785. Michael Cuffe had another daughter, Catherine Anne Cuffe, by the way, who married a Bagot, Captain John Lloyd Bagot. I haven’t found whether my Baggots are related to these Bagots but it would be nice to have such ancestry! Even nicer because his mother, Mary Herbert, came from Durrow Abbey near Tullamore, a very interesting looking house currently standing empty and unloved.

It was Thomas’s son, Edward Michael Pakenham, 2nd Baron Longford (1743-92) who had the 1780 enlargement carried out. The Buildings of Ireland website tells us that the original five bay house had a third floor added at this time. [5]

The oldest parts still surviving from the improvements carried out around 1780 are some doorcases in the upper rooms and a small study in the northwest corner of the house. The study has a dentil cornice and a marble chimneypiece with a keystone of around 1740. [see 2] The oldest part of the castle is at the south end, and still holds the principal rooms.

The entrance hall seems to survive from earlier incarnations of the house.

Francis Johnston added the porch, which was later altered by Richard Morrison. Johnston also added the arched windows on either side of the entrance porch.

The next work on the house was done by the son of the 2nd Baron, Thomas the 3rd Baron (1774-1834). The 2nd Baron died in 1792, predeceasing his mother Elizabeth the Countess of Longford, who died two years later. When she died, her grandson Thomas the 3rd Baron succeeded her to become the 2nd Earl of Longford. He sat in the British House of Lords as one of the 28 original Irish Representative Peers. It may have been this that prompted him to hire Francis Johnston to enlarge the house. Casey and Rowan call Francis Johnston’s work on the house “little more than a Gothic face-lift for the earlier house.” He produced designs for the house from 1794 until 1806. On the south front he added two round towers projecting from the corners of the main block, and battlemented parapets. He added the central porch. To the north, he built a rectangular stable court, behind low battlemented walls. He added thin mouldings over the windows, and added the arched windows on either side of the entrance porch.

the two round towers built by Francis Johnston.

Thomas married in 1817 and according to Rowan and Casey it may have been his wife Georgiana Lygon’s “advanced tastes” that led to the decision to make further enlargements in 1820. He was created Baron Silchester, of Silchester in the County of Southampton, in 1821, which gave him and his descendants an automatic seat in the House of Lords. They chose James Sheil, a former clerk of Francis Johnston, who also did similar work at Killua Castle in County Westmeath, Knockdrin Castle (near Mullingar) and Kileen Castle (near Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath). At Tullynally Sheil added a broad canted bay window (a bay with a straight front and angled sides) towards the north end of the east front, with bartizan turrets (rounds or square turrets that are corbelled out from a wall or tower), and wide mullioned windows under label mouldings (or hoodmouldings) in the new bay.

picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, showing the “canted bay window” – ie. the bay with windows on three sides, by James Sheil.
picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Sheil also decorated the interior, and the dining room, drawing room and library were all decorated in his favoured simple geometrical shaped plasterwork of squares and octagons on the ceiling. The hall has a ceiling of “prismatic fan-vaults, angular and overscaled, with the same dowel-like mouldings marking the intersection of the different planes…The hall is indeed in a very curious taste, theatrical like an Italian Gothick stage set, and rendered especially strange by the smooth wooden wainscot which completely encloses the space and originally masked all the doors which opened off it.” [6] As this smooth wainscot and Gothic panelled doors are used throughout the other main rooms of the house and are unusual for Sheil, this is probably a later treatment. There is a long vaulted corridor that runs through the house at first-floor level which Rowan and Casey write is probably attributable to Sheil.

Terence Reeves-Smyth describes the front hall:

“Visitors entering the castle will first arrive in the great hall – an enormous room forty-feet square and thirty feet high with no gallery to take away from its impressive sense of space. A central-heating system was designed for this room by Richard Lovell Edgeworth, who earlier in 1794 had fitted up the first semaphore telegraph system in Ireland between Edgeworthstown and Pakenham Hall, a distance of twelve miles. In a letter written in December 1807, his daughter Maria Edgeworth, a frequent visitor to Pakenham Hall, wrote that “the immense hall is so well warmed by hot air that the children play in it from morning to night. Lord L. seemed to take great pleasure in repeating twenty times that he was to thank Mr. Edgeworth for this.” Edgeworth’s heating system was, in fact, so effective that when Sheil remodelled the hall in 1820 he replaced one of the two fireplaces with a built-in organ that visitors can still see. James Sheil was also responsible for the Gothic vaulting of the ceiling, the Gothic niches containing the family crests, the high wood panelling around the base of the walls and the massive cast-iron Gothic fireplace. Other features of the room include a number of attractive early nineteenth century drawings of the castle, a collection of old weapons, family portraits and an Irish elk’s head dug up out of a bog once a familiar feature of Irish country house halls.” [see 1]

The gate lodge was designed by James Sheil.

Georgina had further enlargements designed and built by another fashionable Irish architect, Sir Richard Morrison in 1839-45, with two enormous wings that linked the house to the stable court, and a central tower. Her husband the 2nd Earl had died, and in 1838 her son the 3rd Earl, Edward Michael, nicknamed “Fluffy,” turned 21. Casey and Rowan describe it: “On the entrance front the new work appears as a Tudoresque family wing, six bays by two storeys, marked off by tall octagonal turrets, with a lower section ending in an octagonal stair tower which joins the stable court. This was refaced and gained a battlemented gateway …The entrance porch, a wide archway in ashlar stonework, with miniature bartizans rising from the corners, was also rebuilt at this time. … The kitchen wing … [has] a variety of stepped and pointed gables breaking the skyline and a large triple-light, round-headed window to light the kitchen in the middle of the facade.

“The entrance porch, a wide archway in ashlar stonework, with miniature bartizans rising from the corners, was also rebuilt at this time [by Richard Morrison].”
The Tullynally motto, our tour guide told us, is “Glory in the shadow of virtue.”
“On the entrance front the new work appears as a Tudoresque family wing, six bays by two storeys, marked off by tall octagonal turrets, with a lower section ending in an octagonal stair tower which joins the stable court.”
The dry moat.
picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, showing the older end, and the Tudoresque family wing, six bays by two storeys, marked off by tall octagonal turrets
picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, showing the Tudoresque family wing and further, the battlemented stable courtyard with the red entrance door to the courtyard.
picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, with the “banana shaped” conservatory, and the kitchen wing beyond.
picture from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “The kitchen wing … [has] a variety of stepped and pointed gables breaking the skyline and a large triple-light, round-headed window to light the kitchen in the middle of the facade.”

Terence Reeves-Smyth details the enlargement of Tullynally in his Big Irish Houses:

“Additions to Johnson’s work were made by the second Earl in the early 1820’s when James Sheil added a bow on the east garden front and redesigned the entrance hall. More substantial additions followed between 1839 and 1846 when Richard Morrison, that other stalwart of the Irish architectural scene, was employed by the Dowager Countess [the former Georgiana Lygon] to bring the house up to improved Victorian standards of convenience. Under Morrison’s direction the main house and Johnson’s stable court were linked by two parallel wings both of which were elaborately castellated and faced externally with grey limestone. Following the fashion recently made popular by the great Scottish architect William Burn, one of the new wings contained a private apartment for the family, while the other on the east side of the courtyard contained larger and more exactly differentiated servants’ quarters with elaborate laundries and a splendid kitchen.” [On the tour, our guide also told us of the various additions. She told us that “Fluffy” Pakenham, the third Earl, lived with his mother and chose to follow the fashion of living in a wing of the house].

“After the third Earl’s death in 1860 his brother [William] succeeded to the title and property and proceeded to modernise the castle with all the latest equipment for supplying water, heat and lighting. Except for a water tower erected in the stable court by the Dublin architect J. Rawson Carroll [architect of Classiebawn, Co Sligo, built for Lord Palmerston and eventually Lord Mountbatten’s Irish holiday home in the 1860s], these modifications did not involve altering the fabric of the building, which has remained remarkably unchanged to the present day.” [1 and 7]

We purchased our tickets in the café and had time for some coffee and cake and then a small wander around the courtyard and front of the Castle, before the tour.

The arched red gateway door is the entrance to the stable courtyard. Picture from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Inside the stable courtyard, looking back at the arched gateway through which we came. According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Single-bay two-storey castellated gate house (on rectangular plan with integral Tudor-pointed carriage arch and a projecting polygonal tower rising a further storey above crenellated parapet over) to north end of complex gives access to outer courtyard.”
Stephen inside the castellated gate house arch.

I didn’t get to find out what is in every higgeldy piggeldy tower and behind every window, and I suspect it’s a place to get to know by degrees!

We entered through this archway to begin the “downstairs” tour with our tour guide. We entered into another, smaller courtyard. Look at all those chimneys! According to the National Inventory: “Inner courtyard accessed through two-storey block (on rectangular plan) having integral segmental-headed carriage with open belfry/clock tower (on hexagonal plan) over having sprocketed natural slate roof and cast-iron weather vane finial.”
This is the rectanguar stable block with turreted walls by Francis Johnston. The historic water pump is in the foreground, and cafe in the back.
another view of the entrance archway to the stable courtyard.

Behind those blue doors was a shed containing a carriage:

The Pakenham Coach. It was built by Hoopers of London and brought to Ireland in the 1840s by Dean Henry Pakenham, the brother of Thomas, the 2nd Earl of Longford. The coat of arms on the door [see the photograph below] incorporates three Irish crests: the Pakenham eagle, the Sandford boar’s head (Dean Henry’s wife was Eliza Catherine Sandford), and the Mahon tiger (Dean Henry’s son Henry married Grace Catherine Mahon).

The coach was passed down to Olive Pakenham-Mahon of Strokestown, Roscommon (another property on our list to be visited!), who was Dean Henry’s great granddaughter. Olive sold it to her cousin Thomas Pakenham, the present owner of Tullynally. It was restored by Eugene Larkin of Lisburn, and in July 1991 took its first drive in Tullynally for over a hundred years. Family legend has it that the coach would sometimes disappear from the coachhouse for a ghostly drive without horses or coachman! It was most recently used in 1993 for the wedding of Eliza Pakenham, Thomas’s daughter, to Alexander Chisholm.

There was a handy chart of the recent family on the wall in the courtyard café:

It was only afterwards that I learned that one of my favourite writers, Antonia Fraser, who wrote amongst other things a terrific biography of Marie Antoinette and another wonderful one of King Charles II of England, was born a Pakenham in Tullynally! She is a sister of Thomas. Stephen noted with satisfaction that Thomas Pakenham does not use his title, the 8th Earl of Longford. That makes sense of course since such titles are not recognised in the Republic of Ireland! In fact Stephen’s almost sure that it is against the Irish Constitution to use such titles. This fact corresponds well with the castle’s change in name – it was renamed Tullynally in 1963 to sound more Irish.

The tour brought us through the arch from the first courtyard containing the café, into a smaller courtyard.

Inner courtyard, Picture from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
The telescoped Octagon tower. Laundry is on the right side of the courtyard when facing the octagon tower.
The family apartment was in this section, built by Richard Morrison.
The kitchen is on the left hand side of the courtyard when facing the octagon tower. The servants’ hall was in the basement below.

We toured the wings of the castle that had been added by Fluffy and his mother. A wing was built for the staff, and it was state of the art in the 1840s when Richard Morrison built these additions. Fluffy never married, and unfortunately died in “mysterious circumstances” in a hotel in London. His brother then took up the reins, a middle-aged army sergeant named William, the 4th Earl.

Richard Morrison spent more time working on the laundry room than on any other part of the house.

The “state of the art” laundry room. These undergarments would have been for little boys as well as girls, and the boys would wear dresses over the pantaloons. Boys were dressed as girls up to the age of about six years old, so that the fairies would not steal them away, as supposedly fairies favoured boys. The boys would have long hair to that age also.

It was at this time that the “dry moat” was built – it was not for fortification purposes but to keep the basements dry.

Our guide described the life of a laundress. After the installation of the new laundry, water was collected in a large watertank, and water was piped into the sinks into the laundry.

A laundry girl would earn, in the 1840s (which is during famine time), €12/year for a six day week, and start at about fourteen years of age. A governess would teach those who wanted to learn, to read and write, so that the girls could progress up in the hierarchy of household staff. There was even a servants’ library. This was separate of course from the Pakenham’s library, which is one of the oldest in Ireland. There was status in the village to be working for Lord Longford, as he was considered to be a good employer. His employees were fed, clothed in a uniform, housed, and if they remained long enough, even their funeral was funded. There was a full time carpenter employed on the estate and he made the coffins.

The laundry girls lived in a world apart from household staff. They ate in the laundry. Their first job in the morning would be to light the fire – you can see the brick fireplace in the first laundry picture above. A massive copper pot would be filled with water, heated, and soap flakes would be grated into the pot. The laundry girls would do the washing not only for their employers but also for all of the household staff – there were about forty staff in 1840. As well as soap they would use lemon juice, boiled milk and ivy leaf to clean – ivy leaves made clothes more black. The Countess managed the staff, with the head housekeeper and butler serving as go-between.

William, the 4th Earl of Longford, had a hunting lodge in England and since he had installed such a modern laundry in Tullynally, he would ship his laundry home to Pakenham Hall be washed!

Next, the washing would be put through the mangle.

The Box Mangle, for sheets.
The Box Mangle, invented by Baker of Fore Street, London invented in 1808 and patented: “An important improvement in the construction of the common mangle…by which the otherwise unwieldy heavy box was moved with great facility backwards and forewards, by a continuous motion of the handle in one direction; and by the addition of a fly wheel to equalise the motion, a great amount of muscular exertion is saved to the individual working the machine.” [quoted from the information on the mangle, from The Engineers and Mechanics Encyclopedia, London, 1838].

The girls might have to bring laundry out to the bleaching green. A tunnel was installed so that the girls avoided the looks and chat of the stable boys, or being seen by the gentry. William also developed a drying room. Hot water ran through pipes to heat the room to dry the clothes.

the drying racks could be pulled out along treads on the floor then pushed back in to the heated area to dry.

There was also an ironing room.

The next room was a small museum with more information about the castle and family, and included a receipt for the iron end of a mangle, purchased from Ardee Street Foundry, Brass and Iron Works, Dublin. We live near Ardee Street!

This information board tells us details about the staff, as well as giving the layout of the basement:

The basement contained the Bake room, boot room, beer cellar, servant’s hall, brushing room, butler’s pantry, footman’s bedroom, and across the courtyard, the bacon room.

By 1860 Pakenham Castle was run in the high Victorian manner. The Butler and Housekeeper managed a team of footmen, valets, housemaids and laundry maids, whilst Cook controlled kitchen maids, stillroom maid and scullery maids. A stillroom maid was in a distillery room, which was used for distilling potions and medicines, and where she also made jams, chutneys etc. There was also a dairy, brewery and wine cellar. The Coachman supervised grooms and stable boys, while a carpenter worked in the outer yard and a blacksmith in the farmyard. Further information contains extracts from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1859), detailed duties of a housemaid, a laundry-maid, and treatment of servants. The estate was self-sufficient. Staff lived across the courtyard, with separate areas for men and women. There were also farm cottages on the estate. Servants for the higher positions were often recruited by word of mouth, from other gentry houses, and often servants came from Scotland or England, and chefs from France.

We are also given the figures for servants’ wages in 1860.

The next board tells us more about General William Pakenham, the 4th Earl, with a copy of his diary from when he arrived home from the Crimean War. He married Selina Rice Trevor. Her family, as our guide told us, “owned most of Wales.” We can even read his proposal to her:

William the 4th Earl installed a new plumbing system. He also developed a gas system, generating gas to light the main hall. The gas was limited, so the rest of the light was provided by candles, and coal and peat fires. His neighbour Richard Lovell Edgeworth provided the heating system.

The ground floor of the main house contains Lord Longford’s study, the dining room, library, drawing room, Great Hall, Lady Longford’s sitting room, Plate room and Servant’s Libary.

The family are lucky to have wonderful archives and diaries. Mary Julia Child-Villiers, wife of the 5th Earl of Longford, Brigadier General Thomas Pakenham, was left a widow with six children when her husband died during World War I in Gallipoli. The history panels continue with extracts from the Memoires of Mary Clive, daughter of the 5th Earl of Longford, 1912-1914.

Other information tells us that since 1915 the family have been writers (before that, they were mostly military). Edward the 6th Earl was a prolific playwright who restored the Gate Theatre in Dublin and taught himself Irish, and with his wife Christine (nee Trew), created the Longford Players theatrical company which toured Ireland in the 30s and 40s. A brother of Edward, Frank, and his wife Elizabeth (nee Harman) Lady Longford, wrote biographies, as did their children, Antonia Fraser, Rachel Billington and Thomas Pakenham. Thomas’s wife Valerie has published also, including The Big House in Ireland (I must get it out of the library!). Their daughter Eliza Pakenham has published a book about the Duke of Wellington: Tom, Ned and Kitty: An Intimate History of an Irish Family. A daughter of the second Baron Longford, Kitty, fell for a local naval man, but the family refused to let her marry him. He promised her that he would return to marry her. He went off to sea to earn his fortune, and she was brokenhearted. He, Arthur Wellesley, did indeed return to marry her, as the Duke of Wellington! He was not a very nice man, however, and is reported to have said loudly as she walked up the aisle of the church to marry him, “Goodness, the years have not been kind.”

Next, we headed over toward the kitchen. On the way we passed a water filter system, which was a ceramic jar containing an asbestos and charcoal filter system. However, staff were given beer to drink as it was safer at the time than water. We saw a container used to bring food out to staff in the fields – the food would be wrapped in hay inside the container, which would hold in the heat and even continue to cook the food. We stopped to learn about an ice chest:

The ice box.

The ice chest would be filled with ice from the icehouse. We were also shown the coat of a serving boy, which our tour guide had a young man on the tour don – which just goes to show how young the serving boys were:

A serving boy would wear this uniform. He would carry dishes from the kitchen to the dining room, which was as far from the kitchen as possible to prevent the various smells emanating from the kitchen from reaching the delicate nostrils of gentry. The serving boy would turn his back to the table, and watch mirrors to see when his service was needed at the table, under the management of the butler. Later, when the ladies had withdrawn to the Drawing Room, to leave the men to drink their port and talk politics, the serving boy would produce “pee pots” from a sideboard cupboard, and place a pot under each gentleman! Our guide told us that perhaps, though she is not sure about this, men used their cane to direct the stream of urine into the pot. The poor serving boy would then have to collect the used pots to empty them. Women would relieve themselves behind a screen in the Drawing Room.

In the large impressively stocked kitchen, we saw many tools and implements used by the cooks. Richard Morrison ensured that the kitchen was filled with light from a large window.

This kitchen was used until around 1965. The yellow colour on the walls is meant to deter flies. Often a kitchen is painted in blue either, called “Cook’s blue,” also reputed to deter flies. Because this kitchen remained in continuous use its huge 1875 range was replaced by an Aga in the 1940s.

The huge butter maker. Our guide also pointed out the large mortar and pestle in the wooden press. Sugar came in a loaf and was bashed down in a mortar and pestle.
Heated niches, to keep dishes warm.

The cookware is made of copper, and you can see by the stove a large ceramic vessel topped with muslin for straining jams.

The rusty looking pronged instrument above is a metal torch – rushes were held in the top and dipped in paraffin.

Candles were made from whale blubber. Candles made from blubber closer to the whale’s head were of better quality.

The housekeeper would have her own room, which our guide told us, was called the “pug room” due to the, apparently, sour face of of the housekeeper, but also because she often kept a pug dog!

Next we were taken to see Taylor’s room. Taylor was the last Butler of the house. We passed an interesting fire-quenching system on the way.

Next, the tour guide took us to see the servants’ staircase and set of bells. We passed the mailbox on the way:

This would normally be the end of the tour, but since we were such a fascinated, attentive group, the guide took us into the basement to see the old servants’ dining hall.

Basement hall, with what I think is an old fire extinguisher.
I think this was the carpenter’s workshop; unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of the dining hall! See how the basement has vaulted ceilings.
This lovely little fellow sat on the ground at the bottom of the stairs.

The gardens, covering nearly 30 acres, were laid out in the early 19th century and have been restored. They include a walled flower garden, a grotto and two ornamental lakes.

The ha ha and castle terraces. The ha ha is a sharp downward slope in a lawn to prevent animals coming too close to the house, or, as we were told in another house, to hide the servants walking past.

The current owner Thomas Packenham has published a five book series on trees that begins with Meetings with Remarkable Trees and the most recent is The Company of Trees.

Here is the description of the gardens, from the Irish Historic Houses website:

“The gardens, illustrated by a younger son in the early eighteenth century, originally consisted of a series of cascades and formal avenues to the south of the house. These were later romanticised in the Loudonesque style, with lakes, grottoes and winding paths, by the second Earl and his wife [Thomas (1774-1835) and Georgiana Lygon (1774-1880)]. They have been extensively restored and adapted by the present owners, Thomas and Valerie Pakenham, with flower borders in the old walled gardens and new plantings of magnolias, rhododendron and giant lilies in the woodland gardens, many collected as seed by Thomas while travelling in China and Tibet. He has recently added a Chinese garden, complete with pagoda, while the surrounding park contains a huge collection of fine specimen trees.” [8]

A. Castle Terraces, B. Pleasure Garden or Woodland Garden, C. Grotto, D. Flower Gardens, E. Kitchen Garden, F. Yew Avenue, G. Llama Paddock, H. Queen Victoria’s Summerhouse, I. Upper Lake, J. Tibetan Garden, K. Forest Walk or Stream Garden, L. Chinese Garden, M. Gingerbread House, N. Lower Lake or Swan Pool, O. Viewing Hut, P. Viewing Mound, Q. Magnolia Walk.
The upper lake. This was originally a bathing place with a bathhouse, now replaced by a small summerhouse. It was extended to the present size in 1884. It originally also served the purpose for water to be released into the millpond to drive the water wheel, and later, turbine, in the farm mill.
The lily pond with the “weeping pillar” of eroded limestone.
One of the two sphinxes by the gate leading to the Kitchen Garden which were once part of an 18th century classical entrance gate to the estate.
llamas!
A lovely little shed.

I befriended the resident cat.

She was so happy to have her tummy rubbed – not like our Bumper – and was so friendly that I wanted to take her home!

A summerhouse copied from an old photograph of Queen Victoria’s summer house in Frogmore, near Windsor. It was built by Antoine Pierson in 1996 for the present owners.
A Fossil Tree: a Dawn Redwood, considered extinct and only known about from fossils from 60 million years ago, until discovered in 1941 in China.
A romantically placed seat. Tullynally, with its various turrets and spires, set in its beautiful gardens, is a great exemplar of the picturesque.
Entrance to Forest Walk, originally formed part of an extended woodland garden created in the 1820s. The path leads to the Chinese garden and to the Lower Lake, reputedly one of the lakes where the Children of Lir stayed as swans.
Another romantic spot. The Chinese Garden was created in 1994 with plants grown from seed by Thomas Pakenham from Yunnan in southern China. The Pagoda was made by local craftsmen.
I’m afraid Stephen is a little irreverent in this one.

Goodbye Tullynally! I hope to get back for the house tour sometime, usually open during Heritage Week!

[1] Reeves-Smyth, Terence. Big Irish Houses. Appletree Press Ltd, The Old Potato Station, 14 Howard Street South, Belfast BT7 1AP. 2009

[2] p. 525. Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[3] p. 135. Great Houses of Ireland. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd and Christopher Simon Sykes. Laurence King Publishing, London, 1999.

[4] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Westmeath%20Landowners

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/15400321/tullynally-castle-tullynally-co-westmeath

[6] p. 527. Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[7] p. 138, Montgomery-Massingberd and Sykes.

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

Castle Howard, Avoca, County Wicklow

contact: Mark Sinnott Tel: 087-2987601

Opening dates in 2021 but check due to Covid: Jan 11-13, Feb 1-5, Mar 1-3, 22-24, June 10-12, 14-15, 19, 21-26, 28, July 5-9, 19-22, Aug 13-22, Sept 6-11, 18, 25, Oct 4-6, 11-13, 9am-1pm.

Fee: adult €8.50, OAP/student €6.50, child €5.

photograph taken from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1].

Wicklow is full of stunning gems of houses, unfortunately nearly all are private [2]. We are lucky to be able to visit Castle Howard as it is on the revenue 482 list. Stephen and I went to Castle Howard on Saturday September 14th 2019. Don’t be confused with the Castle Howard in the UK, setting for the original filmed version of Brideshead Revisited (the one with Jeremy Irons, not the excellent more recent version starring Ben Whishaw).

I rang the house beforehand and made a time for our visit in order to have a tour. We had a lovely drive out to Wicklow, and rang when we reached the gates. Someone drove up in a tractor to open them for us.

We drove past a lovely gate lodge, and through some gorgeous scenery.

The property has a small lake and boathouse.
There’s a bronze deer standing under the tree.

We crossed a small stone bridge to reach the castle. This bridge used to be topped by a lion, the symbol of the Howard family. Unfortunately the lion stands no longer.

One cannot see the whole house as one drives up, and it becomes even more impressive as it is when one walks around it

We parked, and knocked on the front door, which was picturesque in its Gothic pointed arched stone setting, with roses growing over the top of the door. The medieval-style studded door with ancient looking pull handle and Georgian door knocker is in the castellated two storey wing.

Studded door with “reeded” or fluted stone surrounds, which has a matching fanlight above.
“ogee” shaped doorway and window over door. The other windows are “flat headed” with gothic traceries and “drip moulding” (see [1] and [3]).
I also loved the boot scraper, with ends like turreted castles.

The house was built around the fabric of an earlier house in 1811 for Lieutenant Colonel Robert Howard to the design of Richard Morrison. It is designed to combine two archaic styles: a castle and an abbey [4]. The section in the photographs above is the abbey-like section of the house: Bence-Jones describes it as a two-storey wing ending in a gable with pinnacles and a Perpendicular window. A gable is a peaked end wall, often triangular, at the end of a double pitched roof, or sometimes just refers to an end wall.

When you walk back and around the house, the “castle” part of the house is revealed.

The “castle” side of the house has two turreted towers, and two bows. There is a conservatory at the south-east side. The building is finished with render with stone dressing.

conservatory on the south-east side of the house.

There were visitors leaving as we were coming, so the tour guide was kept busy! Mark Sinnott is not the owner, but works on the estate. The estate has an Equestrian centre and the house occasionally hosts shooting, and our tour guide helps with that. He has been working there for eighteen years, so knows the house and estate intimately.

The house is currently owned by Ivor Fitzpatrick, a prominent Dublin solicitor and property developer, and his wife, Susan Stapleton.

The earlier house on the site was called Cronebane Lodge, and belonged to the director of the Avoca Copper Mines. [5] The mines had their own coinage: one can find halfpenny coins stating “payable at Cronebeg Lodge or in Dublin” for sale on the internet! The coins picture St. Patrick in his Bishop’s Mitre on one side and a shield on the other. The Associated Irish Mine Company was founded in 1787 by Abraham Mills, William Roe, Thomas Weaver, Thomas Smith, Charles Caldwell and Brabazon Noble and its head office at 184, Great Britain Street, Dublin. It existed until 1798. [6]

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Howard purchased the house in 1811 and had it extended and Gothicized by Richard Morrison.

Richard Morrison (b. 1767) studied under William Gandon. He became an architect and often collaborated with his son, William Vitruvius Morrison.

Among Richard Morrison’s public works were alterations to the cathedral at Cashel, the court-house and gaol at Galway, court-houses in Carlow, Clonmel, Roscommon, Wexford and elsewhere, and St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. He built or altered very many mansions of the nobility and gentry in Ireland, and was knighted by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1841. [7]

He and his son also designed renovations for Killruddery House, near Bray in County Wicklow, which is another section 482 house; Ballyfin House in County Laois (now a five star hotel); and Fota, in County Cork, which Stephen and I visited this year (October 2020). Richard Morrison also designed Knockdrin Castle, just north of Mullingar in County Westmeath, and the Gothic fantasy 1819 remodeling of Shelton Abbey, Arklow, County Wicklow. [8]

Shelton Abbey in County Wicklow, remodelled by Richard Morrison in 1819. Photo from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. It is now an open prison, sold by the 8th Earl of Wicklow, William Howard, to the Irish state in 1951.

Shelton Abbey was owned for nearly three hundred years by the Howard family, the Earls of Wicklow, into which Robert Howard was born. The Lieutenant Colonel was the youngest son of the 3rd Earl of Wicklow, William Forward Howard (he took the surname Forward when he inherited his mother’s family estates in Donegal). There is a wonderful pyramid mausoleum of the Howard family in Old Kilbride Cemetery in Arklow, County Wicklow, built in 1785.

A mausoleum erected by Ralph Howard (1726-86), first Viscount Wicklow of Shelton Abbey, attributed to Simon Vierpyl (c.1725-1810) of Dublin and London. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

In the front hall, our guide Mark told us the history of the house. He explained that the front hall had been renovated by previous owners and the ceiling lowered so it is less impressive than the original entry hall would have been.

There is a beautiful curved brass-banistered spiral stairway, which is pictured in a book of photographs (simply called Photographs) by Paddy Rossmore, edited by the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne, published this year by Lilliput Press and reviewed in January in the Irish Times. [9]

photograph by Paddy Rossmore from Photographs, taken from Irish Times article. “In 1811 Col Robert Howard purchased a house then called Cronebane Lodge, romantically perched above the Meeting of the Waters, a spot made famous thanks to a poem written by Thomas Moore four years before. Its location, combined with the desire to build a residence evoking an ancient past, encouraged Col Howard to commission a design from architect Richard Morrison that would appear part-castle and part-abbey. The interiors owe much to the English Perpendicular style, not least the splendid staircase. Lit by a large arched Gothic window, the cantilevered Portland stone steps with brass banisters spiral up to the first floor below a plasterwork ceiling replete with coats of arms featuring families associated with the Howards. Although no longer with descendants of the original owners, Castle Howard remains in private hands and in excellent condition.” [9] The “English Perpendicular” style is, according to wikipedia, a style of Gothic architecture developed in England in the 14th to 17th century.

The library has terrific plasterwork on the ceiling, especially in the round towers – very intricate work. The round towers form little rooms off the main room. We only saw one storey so didn’t get to see the tower room sections on the upper floors. Impressive antlers adorned one wall, of the Giant Irish Elk. Most antlers found in Ireland are about 11,000 years old! These “elk” were not unique to Ireland; they lived across Eurasia all the way into China. The most recent remains discovered date back 7,700 years, and were found in Siberia. They are called “Irish” as they are most commonly found in Ireland, preserved in bogs. They are not near relations of “elk” found today, such as moose, and are more properly called deer. Irish Elk are the largest species of deer that ever lived. The antlers in Castle Howard were attached to a skull. Not all sets of antlers found are attached to a skull, as Giant Elk, just like deer today, shed their horns regularly, and regrew them during mating season. [10]

As the Lieutenant Colonel and his wife Letitia Deborah Brooke had no children, the house passed to a nephew, Richard Brooke, the son of Letitia Deborah’s brother, Henry Brooke, who was created the 1st Baronet Brooke of Colebrook, County Fermanagh, in 1822. Richard took the surname Howard-Brooke in 1835. His son and heir was also a Lieutenant Colonel, Robert Howard-Brooke (1840-1902). He had no children and I don’t know who lived in the house after him.

In the records of children in Duchas.ie [11], Winnie Doyle writes in 1928 that there is an underground tunnel from the kitchen to the garden. She also writes that a Mr.Lefroy lived in Castle Howard after Colonel Brooks Howard and after someone named Miss Johnson, and later, a Darcy Sloane. Lt.-Col. Robert Howard-Brooke, heir to aforementioned Richard Howard-Brooke married Florence Elizabeth Johnston of Kinlough House, Co Leitrim, so Miss Johnston may have been a sister of hers. A Sophia Johnston is listed in the 1901 and 1911 censuses, but as just a “visitor.”

Perhaps these are the tunnels that Winnie was writing about, leading from the basement of the house.

Scouring the internet I found in County Offaly archives that Langlois Massy Lefroy and his wife Sheelah, who was a Trench of the family who lived in Loughton, the subject of last week’s blog, purchased Castle Howard! Langlois Massy Lefroy purchased Castle Howard in 1924, the Loughton archives tells us, when he was “flush with the capital which his wife’s marriage settlement brought him.” He sold it in 1954 when he inherited Carriglas Manor (he was a descendent of Tom Lefroy, a suitor of Jane Austen, who lived in Carriglas Manor, County Longford). When he died his wife Sheelagh moved back to Loughton to live with her unmarried sister Thora. [12].

The gardens too are impressive. They slope down on one side to the river.

A straight path leads through formal gardens including a maze and an orchard, alongside a tall wall which appeared to lead into woodland and to a walled garden – it was rainy so we didn’t explore as much as I might have liked. At the end of this path are stables and outbuildings. To one side of the path is a clock tower folly and a bricked terraced area and small temple area with a water fountain – it is extremely romantic. The house itself backs onto a large tree filled lawn.

The clock tower garden folly.

A wall extends from the folly tower, to frame a courtyard on the far side of the wall from the house. On the house side of the wall is a picturesque pond area.

The picturesque pond on the house-side of the wall.

The tower folly:

Inside the folly. Unfortunately we could not go up the stairs!

The picture below is the courtyard on the further side of the wall, away from the house:

The barbeque style courtyard opens onto a shooting, or archery, stretch of lawn:

Beyond the folly is the path alongside the formal gardens and orchard.

A small temple like structure, topped by a pair of fantastical dragons.

Below, is the inside of what I am calling the temple:

There is also a Laburnum grove, which would be magnificent when in flower. There is a painting in the house of the grove in full bloom.

Around the stables and outbuildings at the end of the path we found some lovely statues!

And there is an interesting stone face on the stable building:

heading back to the house.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16403502/castle-howard-castlehoward-county-wicklow

[2] I would like to share with you some examples of the houses in Wicklow listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. There are so many lovely ones I have written a separate entry! https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/12/historic-houses-in-county-wicklow-listed-in-the-national-inventory-of-architectural-heritage/

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

[4] 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.

[5]
http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_howard_wicklow.html

[6] https://en.numista.com/catalogue/pieces141563.html

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Morrison_(architect)

[8] See the Dictionary of Irish Architects for more of Richard Morrison’s work.

https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/3600/MORRISON-RICHARD(SIR)#tab_works

[9] https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/portraits-of-the-irish-big-house-from-castle-howard-to-luttrellstown-1.4140611

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_elk

[11] https://www.duchas.ie/en/src?q=castle+howard

[12] https://www.offalyarchives.com/index.php/wicklow

Russborough House, Blessington, County Wicklow

The Albert Beit Foundation, Blessington, Co. Wicklow

contact: Eric Blachford Tel: Tel: 045-865239

enc@russborough.ie

Open dates in 2021 but check due to Covid 19 restrictions: Mar 1- Dec 25, 10am-5pm.

Fee: adult €12, OAP/student €9, child €6.

taken in June 2012 on a visit with my friends Tara and Jeremy and their daughters.
photo by Jeremy Hylton.

In his A Guide to Irish Country Houses, Mark Bence-Jones calls Russborough House “arguably the most beautiful house in Ireland.” [1] We are lucky that Russborough House is open to the public, thanks to the Beit Foundation. Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit left the property to the state in 1978, to be cared for by a Trust established for the purpose. The Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne tells us about the Beits: “The couple had no immediate connection with Ireland, although Lady Beit’s maternal grandmother had been raised in this country and being a Mitford, she was first cousin of the Hon Desmond Guinness’s mother.” [2]

Russborough House was built for Joseph Leeson in 1741 when he inherited a fortune from his father and purchased land owned by John Graydon, and it was designed by Richard Castle.

Joseph Leeson (1701-1783), painted by Anthony Lee. Portrait from the National Gallery of Ireland. Later he was created 1st Earl of Milltown.
Joseph Leeson later 1st Earl of Milltown, by Pompeo Batona, 1744. While building Russborough House he made the first of two trips to Italy to broaden his education and to acquire art. Batoni depicted him wearing a fur hat and fur-lined surcoat, in front of a cascading curtain and column base.

Leeson went to great expense creating the grounds for the building of his house: “Leeson’s development of the garden terraces was extravagant. The house gained its fine prominence from sitting on an embankment created by the opening of the lakes and ponds, all reputedly costing some £30,000.” [3]

photograph by Jeremy Hylton.

We came across Richard Castle (c.1690-1751) (or Cassels, as his name is sometimes spelled) in Powerscourt in County Wicklow. The Dictionary of Irish Architects tells us that, oddly, he was born David Riccardo, and it is not known when or why he changed his name. [4]

Castle originally trained as an engineer. He worked in London, where he was influenced by Lord Burlington. Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork, is credited with bringing the Palladian style of architecture to Britain and Ireland, after Grand Tours to Europe. [5] Palladian architecture is a style derived from the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). Palladio’s work was strongly based on the symmetry, perspective, and values of the formal classical temple architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Castle came to the attention of Sir Gustavus Hume of County Fermanagh, who invited Castle to Ireland in 1728 to build him a home on the shores of Lough Erne, Castle Hume, which unfortunately no longer exists. [6] Castle was an contemporary of Edward Lovett Pearce, and early in his career in Dublin worked with him on the Houses of Parliament in Dublin. Both Lovett Pearce and Castle favoured the Palladian style, and when Lovett Pearce died at the tragically young age of 34, in 1733, Castle took over all of Lovett Pearce’s commissions.

The Dictionary of Irish Architects gives us a flavour of what Castle was like as a person:

According to the short biography in Anthologia Hibernica for October 1793, Castle was a man of integrity, of amiable though somewhat eccentric manners, kept poor by his improvidence and long afflicted by gout resulting from intemperance and late hours. The same source states that he often pulled down those of his works which were not to his liking, ‘and whenever he came to inspect them … required the attendance of all the artificers who followed him in a long train’.

Castle began work on Powerscourt House in County Wicklow in 1730, finishing in 1741. He also began work on Westport House in County Mayo in 1730. He worked on Carton House, in County Kildare, which is now an upmarket hotel, from 1739-1744. In Dublin City he built Tyrone House for Marcus Beresford, Earl of Tyrone (we came across him at Curraghmore in County Waterford) (which now houses the Department of Education) [7]. He designed and built the hunting lodge called Belvedere in County Westmeath around 1740, and began to work on Russborough House around 1742. He was still working on Russborough House when he died suddenly, while at Carton House, in 1751, while writing a letter to a carpenter employed at Leinster House (begun in 1745 for James FitzGerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare, the house was at initially called Kildare House, and now houses the government in Dublin). Desmond FitzGerald, the Knight of Glin, wrote about Richard Castle and his work, and attributes another section 482 property to him which I have yet to visit, Strokestown House in County Roscommon. FitzGerald attributes many more buildings to Castle. [8]

Joseph Leeson (1711-1783) was the grandson of Hugh Leeson, who came to Ireland from England as a military officer in 1680, and settled in Dublin as a successful brewer. Hugh married Rebecca, daughter of Dublin Alderman Richard Tighe. Joseph inherited the brewing fortune from his father, another Joseph, who had married the daughter, Alice, of a Dublin Alderman and Sheriff, Andrew Brice. Young Joseph Leeson entered politics and from 1743 sat in the House of Commons. By this time, he had already married, been widowed by his first wife, Cecelia Leigh, remarried, to Anne Preston (daughter of Nathaniel Preston, ancestor of the owners of a house we have visited, Swainstown in County Meath – which was built later than the start date of Russborough, in 1750, and which Richard Castle may also have designed), and inherited his fortune from his brewer father, and started building Russborough House. He was raised to the peerage first as Baron Russborough in 1756, and as Earl of Milltown in 1763.

photo taken by Jeremy Hylton, showing the extent of the centre block with the curving Doric colonnades and two-storey seven bay wings. Beyond the wings on either side of the central block, one can see the arches with cupolas. The full stretch contains kitchen and stable wings.

The entrance front of Russborough stretches for over 700 feet, reputedly the longest house in Ireland, consisting of a seven bay centre block of two storeys over a basement, joined by curving Doric colonnades to wings of two storeys and seven bays which are themselves linked to further outbuildings by walls with rusticated arches surmounted by cupolas. In this structure, Russborough is rather like Powerscourt nearby in Wicklow, and like Powerscourt, it is approached from the side.

Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, showing wing to the right of the house.
photograph taken in May 2018 – the weather makes a different to the look of the house! The roofline is topped with urns on the parapet.
The lions at the foot of the entrance steps carry the heraldic shield of the Milltowns, which must have been put in place after 1763 when Joseph Leeson was promoted to be Earl of Milltown. Photo by Jeremy Hylton.

The residential part of the house is quite small, and is entirely housed in the central block. Of seven bays across, it houses three rooms along its front. It is made of local granite from Golden Hill quarry rather than the more expensive Portland stone often imported from Britain. In Sean O’Reilly’s discussion of the house in his Irish Houses and Gardens (from Country Life), he explains the styles used on the facade of the house:

the different functions of the building’s elements are appropriately distinguished though Castle’s frank, if unsubtle, use of the orders: Corinthian for the residence, Doric for the colonnades, Ionic for the advancing wings, and a robust astylar threatment for the ranges beyond.” [9]

the “rusticated” arch that gives entrance to a courtyard, and is topped by a cupola. Rustication – the use of stone blocks with recessed joints and often with rough or specially treated faces; a treatment generally confined to the basement or lower part of a building [10].

The main central block has a pediment on four Corinthian columns, with swags between the capitals of the columns. Above the entrance door is a semi-circular fanlight window.

Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, of pediment on four Corinthian columns.
photograph by Jeremy Hylton of central block.
Wing in foreground, with Ionic pilasters, and urns on the parapet.
photograph by Jeremy Hylton, wing on left.

The wings have a central breakfront of three bays with Ionic pilasters. Within the colonnades are niches with Classical statues.

colonnade with niches containing Classical statues, photograph by Jeremy Hylton.

The garden front of the centre block has a few urns on the parapet, and a pair of Corinthian columns with an entablature framing a window-style door in the lower storey which opens onto broad balustraded stone steps down to the garden.

Inside, we see Castle’s difference from Edward Lovett Pearce, in his fondness for the Baroque, which is described in wikipedia:

“The Baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, deep colour, grandeur and surprise to achieve a sense of awe. The style began at the start of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France, northern Italy, Spain and Portugal, then to Austria, southern Germany and Russia…excess of ornamentation…The classical repertoire is crowded, dense, overlapping, loaded, in order to provoke shock effects.”

The Baroque effect is most obvious in the wonderful plasterwork. The plasterwork may be by the Francini brothers – it is not definite who carried it out but the Francini brothers certainly seem to have had a hand in some of the beautiful stucco work.

entrance hall of Russborough House.
entrance hall of Russborough House with chimneypiece is of black Kilkenny marble, above it hangs a striking painting by Oudry of Indian Blackbuck with Pointers and Still Life, dated 1745

In his book, Big Irish Houses, Terence Reeves-Smyth describes the entrance hall:

Ascending the broad flight of granite steps guarded by a pair of carved lions, the visitor enters the front hall – a well-proportioned room with a floor of polished oak and an ornate but severe compartmental ceiling with Doric frieze quite similar to the one Castle deigned for Leinster House. The monumental chimneypiece is of black Kilkenny marble, much favoured by Castle for entrance halls, while above it hangs a striking painting by Oudry of Indian Blackbuck with Pointers and Still Life, dated 1745.” [11]

The principal reception rooms lead from one to the other around the central block: the saloon, drawing-room, dining-room, tapestry room and the grand staircase. They retain their original doorcases with carved architraves of West Indian mahogany, marble chimneypieces and floors of inlaid parquetry.

The house took ten years to complete, and development of the house followed Leeson’s trips to Europe, where he bought items to populate his house. In 1744 and in 1751 he travelled to Rome and purchased extensive Roman materials, as well as many artworks. He had his portrait painted by Pompeo Batoni, and was aided in his purchases by dealers including an Irishman named Robert Wood. A book details his collection, as well as later owners of Russborough, Russborough: A Great Irish House, its Families and Collections by William Laffan and Kevin V Mulligan.

Richard Castle died while the house was still being built, and the work was taken over by his associate, Francis Bindon.

The Saloon, Russborough House 2018, Rubens painting over fireplace, large picture on back wall is Cain and Abel.

The Saloon occupies the three central bays of the north front of the house. It has a coved ceiling with rococo plasterwork incorporating flowers, garlands, swags and putti bearing emblems of the Seasons and the Elements, which on stylistic grounds can be attributed to the Francini brothers of Italy. [Rococo is the asymmetrical freely-modelled style of decoration originating in France and popular in Ireland from about 1750 to 1775. Craig, Maurice and Knight of Glin, Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities. Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork, 1970].  Terence Reeves-Smyth describes the room:

The walls are covered with a crimson cut Genoese velvet dating from around 1840 – an ideal background for paintings which include many pictures from the Beit collection. The room also has Louis XVI furniture in Gobelins tapestry signed by Pluvinet, a pair of Japanese lacquer cabinets from Harewood House and a chimney-piece identical to one at Uppark in Sussex, which must be the work of Thomas Carter (the younger) of London.

“A striking feature of the room is the inlaid sprung mahogany floor with a central star in satinwood. This was covered with a green baize drugget when the house was occupied by rebels during the 1798 rebellion. The potential of the drugget for making four fine flags was considered but rejected, lest “their brogues might ruin his Lordship’s floor.” The rebels, in fact, did virtually no damage to the house during their stay, although the government forces who occupied the building afterwards were considerably less sympathetic. It is said that the troops only left in 1801 after a furious Lord Milltown challenged Lord Tyrawley to a duel “with blunderbusses and slugs in a sawpit.” [11]

Next to the Saloon is the music room with another wonderful rococo ceiling, and then the library, which was formerly the dining room, both have ceilings probably by the Francini brothers. There aren’t records to tell us who created the stucco work of the house, and stylistically different parts of the house have been done by different hands.

Russborough House 2018, the music room. The last portrait to the right on the wall is Lord Conolly of Castletown House. The Russborough House website tells us: “When the Beits’ art collection was stolen, Sir Alfred had many copies of the paintings made. This room showcases the replicas of the oil paintings that were infamously stolen in the 1970s and 1980s. The originals of these paintings were gifted to the National Gallery of Ireland in the 1980s for safekeeping, where they can now be seen.
Visitors can learn more about the robberies at Russborough and how most of the paintings were recovered. The exhibition also includes Sir Alfred in an interview with broadcasting legend Gay Byrne, talking about the pictures and furniture contained in the house.
the ebullient rococo ceiling in the Music Room, probably the work of the Francini brothers.
The Library, Russborough House 2018
Russborough House 2018 Lady Beit’s grandmother, Mabell, Countess of Airlie, by John Lavery.

Reeves-Smyth writes that:

The coffered and richly decorated barrel-vaulted ceiling of the tapestry room, to the south of the music room, is by a less experienced artist, though the room is no less impressive than the others and contains an English state bed made in London in 1795 and two Soho tapestries of Moghul subjects by Vanderbank.

The Tapestry Room, Russborough House 2018
The Tapestry Room, Russborough House 2018

The Russborough website states:

Infused with a restless energy the plasterwork of the adjacent drawing-room spills onto the walls, where fantastic plaster frames surround the four oval marine scenes by Vernet representing morning, noon, evening and night. Although part of the patrimony of the house, these pictures were sold in 1926 and only after a determined search were recovered 43 years later by Sir Alfred Beit. [12]

Stucco specially designed to frame the oval Joseph Vernet paintings. Carrera marble fireplace.
The Drawing Room, 2018, small painting next to the fireplace of the Beits by Derek Hill
unusual timepiece clock from time of Louis XVIth

Reeves-Smyth continues his evocative description:

Beyond lies the boudoir, a charming little panelled apartment with a Bossi chimney-piece dating around 1780. From here visitors pass into the tapestry-hung corridor leading to the pavilion, formerly the bachelor’s quarters. The dining-room, formerly the library, on the opposite side of the hall has a monumental Irish chimney-piece of mottled grey Sicilian marble. The walls are ornamented both by paintings from the Beit collection and two magnificent Louis XIV tapestries.” [11]

The dining room, with a monumental Irish chimneypiece of mottle grey Sicilian marble. The walls are ornamented with two magnificent Louis XIV tapestries.

Reeves-Smyth goes on to say that “No one who visits Russborough is likely to forget the staircase with its extraordinary riot of exuberant plasterwork; there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in the British Isles.

In later years the decorator Mr. Sibthorpe is reported to have remarked that it represented “the ravings of a maniac,” adding that he was “afraid the madman was Irish.”

Nobody knows who did the wonderful stuccowork in the staircase hall. The stairs are of mahogany.

Sean O’Reilly tells us that the Knight of Glin pointed out that Castle “cribbed the idea of the balustraded upper landing lit by a lantern window at Russborough from Pearce’s superb Palladian villa of Bellamont Forest, Co Cavan, built circa 1730 for his uncle Lord Justice Coote (and recently immaculately restored by the designer John Coote from Australia)”. Sadly since this was written, John Coote has died. I did not take a photograph of the upper landing, but you can see it on the Russborough website or better yet, during a visit to the house. The rooms off the this top-lit lobby would have been the bedrooms.

Joseph the 1st Earl of Milltown died in 1783, and his bachelor son Joseph succeeded to the peerages and to Russborough. The first Earl’s third wife and widow, Elizabeth French, lived on to a very great age until 1842. When the 2nd Earl of Milltown died in 1801, his brother Brice succeeded to Russborough and to the title to become the 3rd Earl of Milltown. The 1st Earl’s children married very well: Mary, his daughter by his first wife Cecelia Leigh married John Bourke, the 2nd Earl of Mayo; his daughter Frances Arabella by his third wife married Marcus de la Poer Beresford, son of John the 1st Marquess of Waterford (of Curraghmore House, which we visited, another section 482 property); his daughter Cecelia married Colonel David la Touche, son of David La Touche of Marley Park in Dublin.

Russborough remained in the possession of the Earls of Milltown until after the 6th Earl’s decease – the 5th, 6th and 7th Earls of Milltown were all sons of the 4th Earl of Milltown. The 6th Earl’s widow, the former Lady Geraldine Stanhope, lived on at Russborough until 1914. The family collection of pictures in the house was given by Lady Geraldine to the National Gallery of Ireland, in 1902 (the Milltown wing was thus created in the National Gallery). [13] On the death of Lady Milltown in 1914, it passed to a nephew, Sir Edmund Turton (the son of the 4th Earl’s daughter Cecelia), who rarely stayed there, as he lived in Yorkshire and was an MP in the British Parliament. After Turton’s death in 1928, his widow sold the house to Captain Denis Bowes Daly (of the Dalys of Dunsandle, County Galway – now a ruin) in 1931.

Alfred Beit, heir to a fortune made in gold and diamond mining by his uncle in South Africa, saw Russborough in an article in Country Life in 1837.  He was so impressed that he had the dining room chimneypiece copied for a chimney in his library in his home in Kensington Palace Gardens in London. [see 13] In 1952 he bought Russborough from Captain Daly to house his art collection and in 1976 established the Alfred Beit Foundation to manage the property. The foundation opened the historic mansion and its collections to the Irish public in 1978.

Sir Alfred died in 1994 but Lady Beit remained in residence until her death in 2005. [14] The Beits donated their art collection the National Gallery of Ireland in 1986, and a wing was dedicated to the Beits.

Russborough House is now a destination for all the family. Inside, rooms have been filled with information about the Beits, their life and times. They entertained many famous friends, travelled the world, and collected music, photographs and films, all now on display.

various visitors and friends of the Beits.

The Russborough website tells us: “In 1939 Sir Alfred joined the Royal Air Force. In this room, extracts can be heard from some of the many romantic letters that Sir Alfred Beit wrote to his wife during the Second World War.”

Russborough House 2018

“The exhibition includes a short film that starts in 2D and then moves to the third dimension. We display 3D images taken by Sir Alfred on his world travels in the 1920s and 1930s.

“This private auditorium is arguably one of the most interesting rooms in the house, and was created by Sir Alfred himself when he bought Russborough so that he could share his adventures with friends and enjoy movies on the silver screen. 

“Visitors can also sit and watch fascinating footage from around the world in the glamorous 1920s at the touch of a button.”

Outside near the former riding arena, hedges have been shaped into a maze.

photo by Jeremy Hylton, 2012.
photo by Jeremy Hylton, 2012, the former riding arena.
woods at Russborough House 2018
woods at Russborough House 2018
“Thank you for visiting Russborough House. ” Classical gate at the eastern entrance to Russborough, built in 1745 to designs by Richard Castle.

[1] 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://theirishaesthete.com/2015/05/11/of-russborough-and-its-predicament/

[3] p. 85. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998.

[4] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/347/CASTLE,+RICHARD

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Boyle,_3rd_Earl_of_Burlington

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Cassels

[7] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/50010221/tyrone-house-department-of-education-marlborough-street-dublin-1-dublin-city

[8] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/347/CASTLE,+RICHARD#tab_works

[9] p. 85. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998.

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

[11] Reeves-Smyth, Terence. Big Irish Houses. Appletree Press Ltd, The Old Potato Station, 14 Howard Street South, Belfast BT7 1AP. 2009

[12] http://www.russborough.ie/

Note that the website has changed since I first wrote the blog and some quotations from the website are no longer on the site.

[13] p. 147. Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh and Christopher Simon Sykes. Great Houses of Ireland. Laurence King Publishing, 1999.

[14] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Wicklow%20Landowners?updated-max=2018-01-05T08:13:00Z&max-results=20&start=8&by-date=false

Loughton House, Moneygall, County Offaly

Sat May 25th 2019, Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co Offaly

Opening dates in 2021: May 11-16, 18-23, 25-30, June 1-6, 8-13, 15-20, 22-27, 29-30, Aug 1, 3-8, 10- 22, 11am-3.30pm.

contact: Michael Lyons 089 431 9150

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student €4, child €3 (under 12 free), family (2 adults & 2 children over 12) € 15.

www.loughtonhouse.com

We drove up a long tree-lined avenue to Loughton House. Stephen rang from the car on our way and spoke to Michael Lyons, who was out chopping wood, so told us that Andrew would be at the house to meet us.

This would have been the front of the house in 1777, as it has the bow in the centre. This is the side which we saw first as we drove up, the North facing side.

Loughton House was built on the site of a previous house, in 1777. When we arrived, we wondered why there were two front doors. I think Andrew Vance, who greeted us, explained, but we were so busy introducing ourselves and immediately got along so well, that I forget what he told me about the two doors. That’s a question for next time!

single storey addition with crisp limestone pilasters, and pediments on console brackets over the doors.

According to the website, alterations were made to the house in 1835 by James and George Pain. I don’t know who the architect of the 1777 house is, but originally the house faced north, with a shallow full-height half hexagon bow in the centre.

I would consider this to be the back of the house since we went out of the door in the single-storey addition, above, after our tour, to see the garden, but is officially the front, the South facing side. The windows have pediments with console brackets on the ground and first floors. The three storeys are over a concealed basement.

Mark Bence-Jones describes the house in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses:

“Of elegant and restrained late-Georgian character, the main front consisting of two wide and shallow three sided bows of three bays each, with a two bay centre between them. Single storey wing of two bays, adorned with pilasters. Pediments and entablatures on console brackets over ground floor and first floor windows. Parapeted roof. Very handsome Georgian stables.” [1]

The 1777 house was built for Major Thomas Pepper. Thomas, born around 1735, of Ballygarth, Julianstown, Co Meath, son of Lambert Pepper and Jane Otway, was Major in the 14th Light Dragoons. The Peppers acquired Ballygarth Castle (now a ruin) and lands in County Meath after the Restoration of Charles II to the British throne in 1660, for their loyalty to the Stuart monarchy. [2] Thomas Pepper married Mary Ryder, daughter of John Ryder, the Archbishop of Tuam, County Roscommon. The 14th Light Dragoons was originally called James Dormer’s Dragoons, and were raised in the south of England in 1715 in response to the Jacobite Rebellion. They were sent to Ireland in 1717. In 1747 they were renamed the 14th Regiment of Dragoons, and became the Light Dragoons in 1776 [3]. Loughton House passed to their son Thomas Ryder Pepper (1760-1828), who in 1792 married Anne Bloomfield, daughter of John Benjamin Bloomfield and Charlotte Anne Waller, of Newport, County Tipperary. The Bloomfield family had originally settled at Eyrecourt, County Galway.

When Thomas Ryder Pepper died, the house passed to his brother-in-law, Benjamin Bloomfield, 1st Baron Bloomfield (1815) of Oakhampton and Redwood (1768-1846). Redwood House in County Tipperary no longer exists. Oakhampton, also in Tipperary, still stands. He was Lieutenant General in the British Army and fought the rebels in 1798 at Vinegar Hill, County Wexford. He rose in the ranks to become Keeper of the Privy Purse for King George IV. This was a particularly difficult job – we came across King George IV before at several houses listed in the Revenue Section 482 Property list. The king enjoyed a romance with Elizabeth Conyngham of Slane Castle, and relished the good life: food, drink and beauty in the form not only of women but in architecture, with the help of John Nash. He was therefore rather a Big Spender. Naturally, therefore, he came to resent Benjamin Bloomfield and his efforts to tighten the purse strings.

We have already seen that several houses underwent alterations in expectation of a visit from King George IV in 1821. In Charleville, County Wicklow, a new floor was installed at great expense. Here in Loughton, a bedroom was done up for the King. Unfortunately, the King never made it to Loughton.

It was later that Bloomfield hired James and George Richard Pain to renovate Loughton House, in 1835.

James and George were sons of James Pain, an English builder and surveyor. Their Grandfather William Pain was the author of a series of builder’s pattern books, so they had architecture in the blood. According to the Dictionary of Irish Architects, James and his younger brother George Richard were both pupils of John Nash, one of the foremost British architects of his day responsible for the design of many important areas of London including Marble Arch, Regent Street and Buckingham Palace. He was architect to the prolific lover of architecture the Prince Regent, later King George IV. When Nash designed Lough Cutra Castle in County Galway for Charles Vereker in 1811, he recommended that the two brothers should be placed in charge of the work, so it was at this time that they came to Ireland. Lough Cutra is an amazing looking castle privately owned which is available for self-catering rental. [4] James Pain settled in Limerick and George in Cork, but they worked together on a large number of buildings – churches (both Catholic and Protestant), country houses, court houses, gaols and bridges – almost all of them in the south and west of Ireland. [5] In 1823 James Pain was appointed architect to the Board of First Fruits for Munster, responsible for all the churches and glebe houses in the province.

The Pains Gothicized and castellated Dromoland Castle in County Clare at some time from 1819-1838, now a luxury hotel. [6] They took their Gothicizing skills then to Mitchelstown Castle in 1823-25, but that is now a ruin. In 1825 they also worked on Convamore (Ballyhooly) Castle but that too is now a ruin. They also probably worked on Quinville in County Clare and also Curragh Chase in County Limerick (now derelict after a fire in 1941), Blackrock Castle in County Cork (now a science centre, museum and observatory which you can visit [7]), they did some work for Adare Manor in County Limerick (also now a luxury hotel), Clarina Park in Limerick (also, unfortunately, demolished, but you can get a taste of what it must have been like from its gate lodge), Fort William in County Waterford, probably they designed the Gothicization and castellation of Ash Hill Towers in County Limerick (also a section 482 property!), alterations and castellation of Knoppogue Castle, County Clare (you can also visit and stay, or attend a medieval style banquet), Aughrane Castle mansion in County Galway (demolished – Bagots used to own it, I don’t know if we are related!), a castellated tower on Glenwilliam Castle, County Limerick and more.

The Pain brothers reoriented Loughton House to face south, and the main doorcase was put to the east end, the Loughton House website tells us. In his Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly, Andrew Tierney tells us that this oblique approach of typical of James Pain. [8]

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage claims that Loughton House is probably the Pain’s finest Classical work [9]. The exterior is relatively plain, with limestone window dressings with keystones. The north facing side is the original house, whereas the south facing side, of eight bays instead of the seven in the north side, is by the Pain brothers. The windows on this side have moulded cement detailing: architrave, cornice and consoles, and pediments. We saw more of the Pains’ work inside, in the Drawing and Dining Rooms which date from their renovation, and the wonderful curved stone cantilevered staircase.

The current owners, who acquired the house in 2016, are both medical doctors, as was the previous owner, Dr. James Reilly, who was also a former Minister for Health in the Irish government. When we visited, the house exuded a comfortable quirky chic, with marble busts on pillars in the front hall and a touch of whimsy, with a stag’s head draped in a fur at the bottom of the sweeping cantilevered staircase. 

The Loughton House website tells us:

“The house has very fine detailing – traces of the late eighteenth-century decoration can be seen in the house as well as early nineteenth-century changes in internal layout.

“The ground floor is laid out with bright and generously proportioned formal reception rooms with magnificent decorative cornicing and ceilings, ornate plaster work and large original period fireplaces. The original wood floors remain throughout and the grand sash bay windows permit torrents of light into the house. Most notable are the wood-carved shutters and door panels in the original Billiard room.” [10]

Loughton passed to Bloomfield’s son, John Arthur Douglas Bloomfield (1802-1879). He succeeded as 2nd Baron Bloomfield on his father’s death. He was a diplomat and travelled widely, was envoy to St. Petersburg and Ambassador to Austria. He was appointed Privy Counsellor on 17 December 1860. He was created 1st Baron Bloomfield of Ciamhaltha, Co. Tipperary on 7 August 1871. In 1834 his father had a hunting lodge built, Ciamhaltha House, County Tipperary, so the new title referred to this house [11]. He and his wife Georgiana Liddell had no son and the titles ended with his death. Georgina served as a Maid of Honour to Queen Victoria between 1841-45. Upon Georgiana’s marriage to Baron Bloomfield in 1845, when Georgiana left her position in the house of the Queen, Victoria gave her a cutting from a vine, which still grows at Loughton House today. Georgiana wrote the book Reminiscences of Court and Diplomatic Life, published 1883. It sounds fascinating!

The house passed to the Baron’s sister, Georgina, and her husband, Henry Trench, of Cangort Park, County Offaly (still standing, privately owned). The Landed Estates website tells us that in the 1870s, Henry Trench owned 4,707 acres in county Tipperary, 2,113 acres in county Offaly, 1,926 acres in county Limerick, 1,581 acres in county Galway, 704 acres in county Clare and 432 acres in county Roscommon. [12]

When James Reilly sold Loughton House, he unfortunately sold its contents, including an archive of family papers. Michael Parsons of The Irish Times wrote of the auction:

Lot 2066, The Loughton Papers circa 1749-1960 – an archive of documents including correspondence, diaries, journals, sketch books and recipe books created by the various families who had lived at Loughton House – sold for €12,000 (above the estimate of €5,000-€8,000).

Sheppard’s said the buyer was Galway businessman Pat McDonagh, founder and managing director of the Supermac’s fast-food chain and owner of the Barack Obama Plaza – a services area on the M8 motorway just outside the village of Moneygall built following the visit of the US president.”

Fortunately, the article continues to reassure the readers that the documents will be properly preserved and accessible:

“In a statement issued via the auction house, Mr McDonagh described the archive “part of a tapestry of history” and that his “first priority” was its “preservation for historians, the community and the country”.

“The statement said: “Mr McDonagh commended Offaly County Council for their interest in working with Supermac’s for the preservation of the papers” which will be digitised, and that “historians owe a debt of gratitude to the owners of Loughton House, Dr James Reilly and his wife Dorothy”.

“Mr McDonagh “confirmed also that the visitor centre at the Barack Obama Plaza will host a Loughton House section, where extracts from the archive will be displayed on a rolling basis.” He said the plaza would work to ensure that the heritage of the house was not lost to the community, adding that he would encourage local and expert input to ensuring that the archive would be educational, appropriate and accessible.” [13]

The wood carved panels shutters and door panels in the billiards room, now a dining room, were decorated by one of the Trenches, Dora. The form of decoration, with details rendered by a hot poker, is exquisitely done. The portrait of the artist, Dora, hangs next to the doors. Dora was Henry Trench’s son Benjamin Bloomfield Trench’s wife, Dora Agnes Caroline Turnor. Dora Trench died in 1899, after a brief illness. Benjamin and Dora had two daughters, Sheelagh Georgiana Bertha and Theodora Caroline. [14]

Dora illustrated the doors with crests and intricate patterns, and all of the doors from the room are decorated, along with the shutters. I was delighted when Stephen asked if I could take a photograph of the door – I didn’t like to ask, knowing that most section 482 houses forbid indoor photography. Andrew’s assent typified his warm welcome. You can see photographs of the room, called Dora’s Room, on the Loughton website, along with photographs of the other reception rooms, the Library, Dining and Drawing Rooms. “Dora’s Room” contains a long table and chairs, and an intricately carved fireplace.

The fireplace in Dora’s Room can be seen on the Loughton website. It is, Andrew Tierney tells us in his Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster, Tudor Revival, of 1862. The male caryatid figure on the right is the original, Andrew thinks, whereas the figure on the left is a copy. It’s strange how such fireplaces are carved in wood and manage to survive the fire they contain. Andrew said it throws out great heat. It has a second flue behind, from which the fire can draw its oxygen, rather than drawing from the warmed air inside the room.

The Loughton website tells us that the Trenches remained in residence until 1973 when the property was passed to the Atkinson family.

Major Anthony Guy Atkinson (b. 1909) inherited Loughton in 1970 from his cousins Thora and Sheelah Trench (Dora’s daughters). Henry Trench, Georgina Bloomfield’s husband, had a sister, Anne Margaret Trench. She married Guy Caddell Atkinson. They inherited Cangort Park in County Tipperary and Major Anthony Guy Atkinson was a descendant of Anne Margaret Trench. [15] He made Loughton over to his son, Guy Nevill Atkinson (b. 1950), who sold it in 2001.

From Dora’s Room we came upon the hallway with the sweeping floating stone cantilever staircase. This was originally the entrance hall, before James Pain added the staircase and moved the entrance to the east end.

Andrew drew our attention to an old tall clock with barometer. It was from Lissadell House, and, appropriately, was made by a man named Yates – not the poet Yeats who frequented the house, note the different spelling, but in a nice touch, the picture hanging beside it was of the poet. Incidentally, one of the Trench family, a sister of Benjamin Bloomfield Trench who inherited Loughton, Louisa Charlotte, married Colonel James Gore-Booth, of the Lissadell family. The owners have taken their time to populate the house appropriately, with respect for its history and a dash of humour.

I was most enamoured with the next room, the library, with its floor to ceiling built in bookshelves. It retains original wallpaper, worn but still in situ.

“This is where we sit in the evenings, with a glass of wine,” Andrew told us. I could just see myself there too, in the well-worn couches, facing the fireplace. You can also see this room on the website, with its comfy leather armchairs. The Equine pictures are appropriate as Andrew is Master of the local Hunt!

In the Drawing Room, a formal room with sofas, carpets and lovely salmon pink walls, gorgeous cabinets, piano and ornate gilt overmantel mirror, Andrew pointed out another treasure: the fire insurance plaque from a building. The various insurance companies had their own firetrucks and teams, and they only put out fires of the buildings insured by them. Unfortunate neighbours burned down. I was excited to see the plaque as I had seen one on the Patriot Inn in Kilmainham, one of the few remaining, and learned about them in a lecture in Warrenmount in Dublin.

We then entered the second dining room (if we consider Dora’s Room, the former Billiards room, to be a dining room also, as it is currently furnished), a larger room than the first. This dining room also has a clever fireplace, this one of steel, with secret cabinets at the sides to keep the plates and dishes hot. It also had vents, and further vents built into the walls of the room, to control temperature and air flow.

A painting above the door is by Sarah, Lady Langham, an artist, who has also applied her creative skills to the house, and who manages the day-to-day operation of the house. She has made curtains and even the wallpaper of The King’s Bedroom. On our way to the back staircase we ran into Sarah herself, as I was photographing the chain that was used to pull the coal to the upper floors.

The final rooms we viewed are Sarah’s piece de resistance, “the King’s Suite,” which comprises two rooms – the room where George IV was meant to sleep, and a room next to it also furnished with a bed, which might have been his dressing room or a parlour.

Sarah created the wallpaper. It features a crest of a unicorn and a lion around the top – and a stag that is pictured in the recurring motifs below. She also made the magnificant curtains and pelmet.

The fireplace is interesting. It is made of limestone, which contains fossils of tubular sea creatures:

This, along with other rooms, is available for guest accommodation.

There is a stable complex to one side of the house. Andrew brought us out to show us the function room, which was originally a coal shed. It’s huge, and would be wonderful for parties, and is available for hire. The garden outside it, which would also be available for the functions, is romantic and beautiful, with a pond and stone walls.

Then we sat at a table outside and Andrew brought us coffees – such a lovely touch!

Michael joined us briefly and shared with us a photograph he had found in the national archives in England, of a group gathered at what is now the back of the house.

Andrew then urged us to wander in the gardens. We walked over to what looks like a Norman keep. It is Ballinlough Castle (not to be confused with Ballinlough Castle of County Westmeath), which dates back to the early seventeeth century, and belonged to the O’Carroll family. I climbed nearly all the way to the top (at my own peril!)!

We then found our way to the walled garden. Michael told us he hopes to restore the glasshouse.

I’d love such a large growing space, with space for fruit trees and sheltering walls. I have had my own allotment for seven years!

The vine, above, which was taken from a cutting from a vine belonging to Queen Victoria and given to her lady-in-waiting, Georgiana Liddell, when she married Baron Bloomfield.

I’d love to stay in the cottage, which is also available to rent.

[1] 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] http://www.patrickcomerford.com/search/label/castles?updated-max=2017-03-10T11:30:00Z&max-results=20&start=79&by-date=false

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14th_King%27s_Hussars

[4] http://www.loughcutra.com/

[5] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/2640/PAIN-JAMES

[6] https://www.dromoland.ie/

[7] https://www.bco.ie

[8] p. 472. Tierney, Andrew. Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. The Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[9] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14946003/laughton-house-ballinlough-cl-by-cullenwaine-ed-moneygall-co-offaly

[10] https://loughtonhouse.com/

[11] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22403202/ciamaltha-house-garraunbeg-tipperary-north

[12] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=2352

Redwood was inherited by Henry Trench’s son William Thomas Trench (1843-1911).

[13] https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/fine-art-antiques/owner-of-supermac-s-buys-loughton-house-archive-1.2818308

[14] http://www.thepeerage.com

[15] https://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/search/label/Ireland?updated-max=2017-02-19T16:18:00Z&max-results=20&start=23&by-date=false Atkinson of Cangort and Ashley Park

Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, County Louth

contact: Bryan Bellew. Tel: 041-6851205

Opening dates in 2021 (but check due to Covid 19 restrictions): May 1-31, June 1-9, Aug 14-22, Oct 1-20, 9am-1pm  

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

photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]
photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1] I myself didn’t manage to take a photograph of the entire building.
photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]. Square tower which was added in 1839, with its Romanesque arch and portcullis.
photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

I was excited to see Barmeath Castle as it looks so impressive in photographs. We headed out on another Saturday morning – I contacted Bryan Bellew in advance and he was welcoming. We were lucky to have another beautifully sunny day in October.

We drove up the long driveway.

The Bellew family have lived in the area since the 12th century, according to Timothy William Ferres. [2] The Bellews were an Anglo-Norman family who came to Ireland with King Henry II. The Castle was built in the 15th century by previous owners, the Moores, as a tower house. The Moores were later Earls of Drogheda, and owned Mellifont Abbey after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which became the Moore family home until 1725. [3]

We were greeted outside the castle by Lord and Lady Bellew – the present owner is the 8th Lord Bellew of Barmeath. I didn’t get to take a photograph of the house from the front as we immediately introduced ourselves and Lord Bellew told us the story of the acquisition of the land by his ancestor, John Bellew.

The name “Barmeath” comes from the Irish language, said to derive from the Gaelic Bearna Mheabh or Maeve’s Pass. Reputedly Queen Maeve established a camp at Barmeath before her legendary cattle raid, which culminated in the capture the Brown Bull of Cooley, as recounted in the famous epic poem, The Tain.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

“Barmeath Castle stands proudly on the sheltered slopes of a wooded hillside in County Louth, looking out over the park to the mountains of the Cooley Peninsula and a wide panorama of the Irish sea. The Bellew family was banished to Connacht by Cromwell but acquired the Barmeath estate in settlement of an unpaid bill.” [4]

John Bellew fought against Cromwell and lost his estate in Lisryan, County Longford, and was banished to Connacht.

Theobald Taaffe, Lord Carlingford, also lost lands due to his opposition to Cromwell and the Parliamentarians and loyalty to King Charles I. The Taaffes had also lived in Ireland since the twelfth or thirteenth century, and owned large tracts of land in Louth and Sligo. Theobald Taaffe, 2nd Viscount, was advanced in 1662 to be Earl of Carlingford. He engaged John Bellew as his lawyer to represent him at the Court of Claims after the Restoration of King Charles II (1660). Theobald’s mother was Anne Dillon, daughter of the 1st Viscount Theobald Dillon. John Bellew, while banished to Connacht, married a daughter of Robert Dillon of Clonbrock, County Galway. The Clonbrock Dillons were related to the Viscounts Dillon, so perhaps it was this relationship which led Lord Carlingford to engage John Bellew as his lawyer. Bellew won the case and as payment, he was given 2000 of the 10,000 acres which Lord Carlingford won in his case, recovered from Cromwellian soldiers and “adventurers” who had taken advantage of land transfers at the time of the upheaval of Civil War. Lord Carlingford may have taken up residence in Smarmore Castle in County Louth, which was occupied by generations of Taaffes until the mid 1980s and is now a private clinic. A more ancient building which would have been occupied by the Taaffe family is Taaffe’s Castle in the town of Carlingford.

The Baronetcy of Barmeath was created in 1688 for Patrick Bellew, the lawyer John’s son, for his loyalty to James II. [see 2] Patrick, who was High Sheriff of County Louth, married Miss Elizabeth Barnewall, sister of Sir Patrick Barnewall Baronet of Crickstown Castle, County Meath (a little bit of a ruin survives of this castle). His son John inherited Barmeath and the title, 2nd Baronet Barmeath.

John’s second son, Christopher, remained in Galway and established the market town, Mount Bellew.

A three storey seven bay house. Two round corner turrets were added on the former entrance front, which is now the garden-facing side.

The castle we see today was built onto the 15th century tower house, in 1770, for Patrick Bellew, 5th Baronet, and enlarged and castellated in 1839 by Sir Patrick Bellew, 7th Bt, afterwards 1st Baron Bellew. The title Baron Bellew of Barmeath was created in 1848 for Sir Patrick, who had previously represented Louth in the House of Commons as a Whig, and also served as Lord Lieutenant of County Louth. Part of a genuine tower house is still part of the castle, detectable by the unusual thickness of the window openings at the northeastern corner of the building. [5] Before the 1839 enlargement, it was a plain rectangular block, two rooms deep and three storeys high, with seven windows across the front, and a central main door.

Mark Bence-Jones suggests in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses that the design for the enlargement may have been by John Benjamin Keane. [6]. Lord Bellew recalled Mr. Bence-Jones’s visit to the house! However, the Irish Historic Houses website names the Hertfordshire architect, Thomas Smith, as the designer of the Neo-Norman castle.

John Benjamin Keane worked first as an assistant to Richard Morrison, and went into independent practice by 1823. According to the Dictionary of Irish Architects, during the next two decades he received several important commissions including the new Queen’s College, Galway, and a number of major Catholic churches in Dublin and elsewhere, and in 1846-48 he was engineer to the River Suir Navigation Co. [7] He also designed several houses, such as Stradone House in County Cavan for Major Burrowes (1828), Cloncorick Castle County Leitrim for Edward Simpson (1828), Ballybay House in County Monaghan for Lt. Col. Leslie (1829), Laurah in County Laois for Sir Walter Burrowes (1829), Belleek Manor in County Mayo (around 1830), Gothicization of Castle Irvine County Fermanagh in 1831-1835, Glencorig Castle County Leitrim, probably Pilltown House County Meath (1838), Edermine County Wexford in 1840, Magheramenagh Castle, County Fermanagh for James Johnston (1840, now a ruin), Oak Park mausoleum in County Carlow, and Glencara House County Westmeath. It makes sense that he could have Gothicized Barmeath since he worked on Castle Irvine in that period.

However, the Dictionary of Irish Architects attributes Barmeath to Thomas Smith (1798-1875). He also worked on Castle Bellingham in County Louth (another magnificent castle which is available for weddings) [8], and Braganstown House in County Louth (privately owned).

The faces in the carving around the windows reminded me of Borris House.

At this time, Bence-Jones tells us, two round corner turrets were added on the former entrance front, which became the garden front. A new entrance was made under a Romanesque arch guarded by a portcullis on a square tower which was built at one end of the side elevation. On the other side of the castle, a long turreted wing was added, enclosing a courtyard. The castle kept its Georgian sash-windows, though some of them lost their astragals later in the nineteenth century. The entire building was cased in cement, lined to look like blocks of stone, and hoodmouldings were added above the windows.

The Bellews brought us inside, and Lady Bellew had us sign the visitors’ book. I told them I am writing a blog, and mentioned that we visited Rokeby Hall and met Jean Young, who had told us that she is reading the archives of Barmeath. Lord Bellew proceeded with the tour. 

On the staircase, we chatted about history and enjoyed swapping stories. Lord Bellew pointed out the unusually large spiral end of the mahogany staircase handrail, perpendicular to the floor – it must be at least half a metre in diameter. The joinery of the staircase is eighteenth century, with Corinthian balusters.

Mark Bence-Jones describes it:

“Staircase of magnificent C18 joinery, with Corinthian balusters and a handrail curling in a generous spiral at the foot of the stairs, opening with arches into the original entrance hall; pedimented doorcases on 1st floor landing, one of them with a scroll pediment and engaged Corinthian columns.”

Bence-Jones continues his description:

“Long upstairs drawing room with Gothic fretted ceiling. Very handsome C18 library, also on 1st floor; bookcases with Ionic pilasters, broken pediments and curved astragals; ceiling of rococo plasterwork incorporating Masonic emblems. The member of the family who made this room used it for Lodge meetings. When Catholics were no longer allowed to be Freemasons, [in accordance with a Papal dictat, in 1738], he told his former brethren that they could continue holding their meetings here during his lifetime, though he himself would henceforth be unable to attend them.” Bence-Jones writes in his Life in an Irish Country House that it was Patrick Bellew, the 5th Baronet, who remodelled the house and had the ceiling made. [9]

When in the library, I told Lord Bellew that I’d read about his generous ancestor who continued to allow the Freemasons to meet in his home despite his leaving the organisation. Lord Bellew pointed out the desk where Jean works when she visits the archives. What a wonderful room in which to spend one’s days!

The rococo details pre-date the exterior Gothicization. The egg-and-dart mouldings around the first floor doors, Corinthian columns and staircase all seem to date, according to Casey and Rowan, to approximately 1750, which would have been the time of the 4th and 5th Baronets; John the 4th Baronet (1728-50) died of smallpox, unmarried, and the title devolved upon his brother, Patrick (c. 1735-95), 5th Baronet. The library might be from a little later. Casey and Rowan describe it:

“The finest room, the library, set on the NE side of the house above the entrance lobby, is possibly a little later. Lined on its N and S walls with tall mahogany break-front bookcases, each framed by Ionic pilasters and surmounted by a broken pediment, it offers a remarkable example of Irish rococo taste. The fretwork borders and angular lattice carving of the bookcases are oriental in inspiration and must reflect the mid-C18 taste for chinoiserie, made popular by pattern books such as Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director (1754). The ceiling has a deep plasterwork cove filled with interlaced garland ropes, a free acanthus border, oval motifs and shells set diagonally in the corners. Free scrolls, flowers and birds occupy the flat area with, in the centre, a rather artless arrangement of Masonic symbols, including three set-squares, three pairs of dividers, clouds and the eye of God.”

an example of Masonic symbols from the wonderful Freemasons Hall interior in Molesworth Street in Dublin, open during Open House Dublin each year.
Freemasons Hall interior in Molesworth Street in Dublin, Open House Dublin 2010.

We saw some of the bedrooms next, which provide accommodation when the house is used as a wedding venue. [10] A wing of the house is also advertised for accommodation on Airbnb. [11]

Next we headed outside, and Lord Bellew took us on a tour of the garden. According to the Britain and Ireland Castles website, Barmeath Castle is set on 300 acres of parkland with 10 acres of gardens, including a lake with island. I found a short video of Lord Bellew discussing the castle on youtube, and he tells how his son made the “temple” on the island, in return for the gift of a car! The temple is very romantic in the distance, and extremely well-made, looking truly ancient.