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

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

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

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Leitrim:

1. Lough Rynn Castle gardens, Mohill, Co Leitrim 

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

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

Places to stay, Leitrim

1. Bush Hotel, Carrick on Shannon, Co Leitrim 

2. Lough Rynn Castle, Mohill, County Leitrim €

Mayo:

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

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

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

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

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

6. Partry House, Mayo

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

8. Turlough Park, Museum of Country Life, Mayo

9. Westport House, County Mayo

Places to stay, County Mayo:

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

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

3. Breaghwy, Castlebar, Co Mayo – hotel

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

5. Knockranny House Hotel, County Mayo 

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

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

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

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

10. Westbrook Country House, Castlebar, County Mayo

Sligo:

1. Ballymote Castle, County Sligo (OPW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Places to stay, County Sligo:

1. Annaghmore, Colloony, County Sligo

2. Schoolhouse at Annaghmore, County Sligo € for 3/4

3. Ardtarmon Castle, Ballinfull, Co Sligo – accommodation

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

5. Carrowcullen old Irish Farmhouse, County Sligo

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

7. Lissadell rental properties, County Sligo

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

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

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

Leitrim:

1. Lough Rynn Castle gardens, Mohill, Co Leitrim

https://www.loughrynn.ie/

The website tells us:

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

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

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

Mac Raghnaill family (1210 –1621)

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

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

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

Crofton family (1621–1750)

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

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

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

Clements family (1750–1978)

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

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

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

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

Hanly Family (2001- Present)

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

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

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

contact: Anthony Daly
Tel: 086-2502593 

www.manorhamilton.ie

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

Manorhamilton Castle photo by Keith Ewing flickr creative commons.

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

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

Places to stay, Leitrim

1. Bush Hotel, Carrick on Shannon, Co Leitrim

https://www.bushhotel.com/

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

2. Lough Rynn Castle, Mohill, County Leitrim

https://www.loughrynn.ie/

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

Mayo:

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

 https://www.belleekcastle.com/

The website tells us:

Welcome to your authentic Castle Experience in the beautiful West of Ireland in Ballina, County Mayo. An award winning hotel & wedding venue with a gourmet restaurant, cafe and museum on site!

Explore Belleek Castle, an iconic Irish Country Home a restaurant, wedding venue, boutique hotel and spectacular exhibition of the eclectic Marshall Doran Collection of which one of our academically trained guides will be delighted to take you on a tour. 

Belleek Castle has been a member of the prestigious Ireland’s Blue Book since 2016. Ireland’s Blue Book is a romantic collection of Irish Country House Hotels, Manor Houses, Castles and Restaurants. Located throughout the island of Ireland these charming and stylish hideaways are the perfect choice for your holiday vacation in Ireland. They are also ideal for a midweek or weekend break and those seeking a romantic getaway.

The neo-gothic Country House, dating from 1831, has not lost its flavour by over modernisation…This historic Belleek Castle is informal, hassle-free and friendly, rich in decor and antiquities, with many open log fires to warm your steps back through half a millennium.”

It continues in the history section:

Belleek Castle was built between 1825 and finished in 1831 for the cost of £10,000. The building was commissioned by Sir Arthur Francis Knox-Gore for the cost of £10,000 and . The manor house was designed by the prolific architect John Benjamin Keane, and the Neo-Gothic architecture met the taste of the time, when Medieval styles became fashionable again. The house is thought to have replaced an earlier structure & is named after the original Belleek Castle, a 13th Tower House Castle situated on the banks of the River Moy. Francis lived at Belleek Castle with his wife Sarah and his 9 children until his death in 1873. According to his wishes he was buried in Belleek Demense. A striking Neo-Gothic Monument, designed by James Franklin Fuller, now marks his grave and is situated in the middle of Belleek Woods. It is said that his wife & favourite horse are both buried beside him. His eldest son Charles Knox-Gore inherited & became the 2nd Baronet. Charles died without issue in 1890 & was also buried in Belleek Demense beside the River Moy, and his dog Phizzie was buried beside him. The house was inherited by his sister Matilda who married Major General William Boyd Saunders of Torquay. Their grandson William Arthur Cecil Saunders-Knox-Gore sold the house in 1942. 

The house was later purchased by the Beckett family who intended on converting the Manor House into a stud farm but later sold the house. Mayo County Council purchased the house in the 1950s and used the Manor House as a hospital & military barracks and was later abandoned it. It was at this time that Mayo County Council considered taking the roof of the building to avoid paying rates. Fortunately Marshall Doran, a merchant navy officer and an avid collector of fossils and medieval armour, acquired the run down property in 1961, restored it and opened it as a hotel in 1970. Some of the rooms are in 19th style, whilst most of the interior design has a medieval and nautical touch. Marshall, being quite a craftsman, did a lot of the work himself, assisted by John Mullen, and supervised the restoration expertly. Today, the Castle is managed by Marshall’s son Paul Doran and Ms. Maya Nikolaeva.

And about the tour of the castle:

The Belleek Castle Tour includes an explanation of the origins of the Castle and the history of its former owners, the Knox-Gore family, the Earls of Arran. Learn about the life of Marshall Doran an adventurer, sailor & smuggler who restored Belleek Castle in the 1960’s. Visitors will see private dining rooms, decorated in opulent romantic style, as well as rooms designed by Marshal such as the Medieval Banquet Hall, the Spanish Armada Bar and the Tween Deck. The highlight of the tour is The Marshall Doran Collection, which is one of the finest collections of Jurassic fossils, Medieval Weapons and Medieval armour in Ireland. Visitors will also see the Grace O’Malley “The Pirate Queen’s” bed, the last wolf shot in Connaught and other curiosities.”

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

contact: Patricia and John Noone
Tel: 094-9371348, 087-3690499, 086-2459832
Open: Jan 13-20, Apr 13-20, May 18-24, June 8-14, July 13-19, Aug 1-25, 2pm-6pm
Fee: adult €6, OAP/child/student €3, National Heritage Week free.

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

The National Inventory tells us it is a:

Detached three-bay two-storey double-pile over part raised basement country house with attic, built 1845, on a T-shaped plan centred on single-bay full-height gabled frontispiece; three- or five-bay two-storey rear (south) elevation centred on single-bay full-height gabled “bas-relief” breakfront… “Restored”, 1990-1…Tudor-headed central door opening approached by flight of thirteen drag edged tooled cut-limestone steps between wrought iron railings, trefoil leaf-embossed timber doorcase having engaged colonette-detailed moulded rebated reveals with hood moulding on polygonal label stops framing timber panelled door. Pointed-arch flanking window openings with creeper- or ivy-covered sills, timber Y-mullions, and carved timber surrounds framing timber casement windows. Square-headed window openings in tripartite arrangement with drag edged dragged cut-limestone sills, timber cruciform mullions, and rendered flush surrounds having chamfered reveals with hood mouldings framing two-over-two timber sash windows without horns. Hipped square-headed central door opening to rear (south) elevation approached by flight of nine drag edged tooled cut-limestone steps between replacement mild steel railings, tooled cut-limestone surround having chamfered reveals with hood moulding framing glazed timber panelled double doors having sidelights below overlight. Square-headed window openings with rendered flush surrounds having chamfered reveals framing timber casement windows. Interior including (ground floor): central hall on a square plan retaining carved timber lugged surrounds to door openings framing timber panelled doors, and moulded plasterwork cornice to ceiling; and carved timber surrounds to door openings to remainder framing timber panelled doors with carved timber surrounds to window openings framing timber panelled shutters on panelled risers. Set in landscaped grounds.

Appraisal

A country house erected to a design attributed to Frederick Darley Junior (1798-1872) of Dublin representing an important component of the domestic built heritage of the rural environs of Claremorris with the architectural value of the composition, one enveloping a “four square” house annotated as “Brook hill [of] Kirwan Esquire” by Taylor and Skinner (1778 pl. 214), confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on panoramic vistas overlooking landscaped grounds; the symmetrical frontage centred on a “medieval” doorcase demonstrating good quality workmanship with the corresponding Garden Front centred on a streamlined doorcase; the diminishing in scale of the multipartite openings on each floor producing a graduated tiered visual effect with the principal “apartments” defined by polygonal bay windows; and the robust timber work embellishing the roofline. Having been well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where contemporary joinery; Classical-style chimneypieces; and decorative plasterwork enrichments, all highlight the artistic potential of the composition. Furthermore, adjacent outbuildings (extant 1893); a lengthy walled garden (extant 1893); and an abbreviated “Triumphal Column” erected over the burial place of Joseph Lambert JP (1793-1855), all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of an estate having historic connections with the Lambert family including Joseph Lambert (1760-1813), one-time High Sheriff of County Mayo (fl. 1796); Alexander Clendenning Lambert JP DL (1803-92), ‘County Treasurer late of Brookhill County Mayo’ (Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1893, 432); Colonel Joseph Alexander Lambert JP DL (1855-1907), ‘late of Brookhill Claremorris County Mayo and of Bouverie Road West Folkestone Kent’ (Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1908, 297); and Brigadier Alexander Fane Lambert DL (1887-1974), later of Auld Licht Manse, Angus, Scotland; and a succession of tenants including Valentine Joseph Blake JP (1842-1912), ‘Land Agent’ (NA 1901); Major General Reginald Henry Mahon (1859-1929; NA 1911); and Katharine Tynan Hinkson (1859-1931; occupant 1916-21), poet and author of the autobiographical “The Years of the Shadow” (1919) and “The Wandering Years” (1922).

The Landed Estates database tells us:

Brookhill was situated on church land held by the Gonnes, who leased the house to the Kirwans in the late 1770s. Occupied by the Lambert family from the 1790s to the 1940s when it was sold to Gerald Maguire, a solicitor in Claremorris. Now the home of the Noone family.” [2]

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

See my entry:

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

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

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

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

The National Inventory tells us it is “A coastguard station erected to a design examined (1876) by Enoch Trevor Owen (c.1833-81), Assistant Architect to the Board of Public Works (appointed 1863), representing an important component of the later nineteenth-century maritime architectural heritage of County Mayo. Having been reasonably well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior: the introduction of replacement fittings to the openings, however, has not had a beneficial impact on the character or integrity of the composition. Nevertheless, an adjacent boathouse (extant 1897) continues to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a neat self-contained ensemble making a pleasing visual statement in a low hillside overlooking the islet-studded Westport Bay.

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

contact: Jerry O’ Mara
Tel: 087-2446744 

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: March-Oct and Dec

Originally called Millbrook, Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

p. 229. “(Orme/LGI1912; McCausland/IFR) An early C19 house of two storeys over high basement. Entrance front of 5 bays; single-storey Doric portico with a die up broad flight of steps. Entablatures on console brackets over windows of lower storey. Side elevation of one bay with a curved bow; at the other side is a two storey bowed wing of the same height and style as the main block, set back from it and joined to it by a canted bay. Eaved roof on cornice. Two drawing rooms en suite with decoration of ca 1830; ceilings with plasterwork in compartments; pediment over double-doors. Dining room ceiling  with delicate plasterwork in centre surrounded by rectangular frame with similar decoration.” [3]

www.owenbeg.ie – link doesn’t work.

Timothy William Ferres tells us it was built ca 1847, and when the estate was decimated by the Land Acts, about 1926, it was sold to the Knox family. It was sold again in 1950 to Major Marcus McCausland.” [4]

It seems to have been built for William Orme (1810-76), JP. The National Inventory adds:

the compact plan form centred on a pillared portico demonstrating good quality workmanship in a blue-grey limestone; and the very slight diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a graduated visual impression with those openings showing sleek “stucco” dressings. Having been well maintained, the form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior, including crown or cylinder glazing panels in hornless sash frames: meanwhile, contemporary joinery; and ‘splendid ceilings [revealing] the superb skill of the Italian masters introduced for this work’ (Irish Tourist Association Report 1942), all highlight the artistic potential of the composition.”

6. Partry House, Mayo

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

The website tells us:

Partry House is a charming historic house in a unique and secluded old estate by the shores of Lough Carra.

Built in 1667 on the site of an old Castle, it is set in just 250 acres of unspoilt woodland, bog, pasture and parkland.

Farm

The farm and gardens are run on ecologically friendly and organic principles. Wildlife abounds on this peaceful sanctuary in scenic South County Mayo.

Now restored in keeping with its age and character, Partry House is open in part to the public during July and August.

Partry House dates from 1667 when it was built on the remains of Cloonlagheen Castle by Arthur Lynch as a dowager house for his mother Lady Ellis, widow of Sir Roebuck Lynch [2nd Baronet, 1621-1667] of Castle Carra.

Sir Roebuck’s lands were seized by the Cromwellians and he was compensated by lands at Castle Carra during the first half of the seventeenth century. The Castle was named after Cloonlagheen (‘the meadow of the little lake’) townland on which it stands.

Evidence of the original castle was discovered during restoration work in 1995 when slit windows opening inwards were found at knee level on the first floor. Old castle walls can be seen incorporated into stable walls.

Knox’s ‘History of Mayo‘ (1910) clearly states that Cloonlagheen castle was owned in 1574 by Abbé MacEnvile who was over Ballintubber Abbey. This was part of the Elizabethan survey called the ‘Divisons of Connaught’.

The Lynchs, of the noted Galway family, occupied Partry House from 1667 until 1991; over 330 years in residence. Many of the ancestors of the present Lynch family are buried in a ring-fort graveyard on the estate, where their achievemements are noted on a large stone obelisk. Military, Exploratory and Humanitarian, their dates and names are written in stone.

The one-time islands Moynish, Creggaun and Leamnahaye are linked to the shore by means of the Famine Walk built between the lake and a bog area. This and the fine limestone shore edging date from famine times when the Lynchs looked after their tenants providing food and work for them. Two old cast iron pots used to cook cornmeal stand in the garden.

The obelisk commemorates George Quested Lynch MD who returned at once to Partry from Euphrates on hearing of the famine and died here of Typhus in 1848, aged only 34. The Lynchs, along with Browns of Westport House and the Moores of Moore Hall chartered the ship the ‘Martha Washington’ to bring corn meal from America for their tenants.”

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

contact: Tom O’Connor
Tel: 087-9032133

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

The website gives a wonderfully detailed study of the townland and the house, which is a terrific summary of some important historical figures of the area. The website tells us:

Prison House is situated in the townland of Prison North in the parish of Manulla and barony of Carra, Co. Mayo.  The townland of Prison North comprises 340 acres 3 roods and 26 perches. Originally Prison North, West and East were not subdivided but went collectively under the name of Prison townland.  One of the earliest references to Prison townland dates from 1586.  Prison also appears variously as ‘Prizon’, ‘Prisone’ and ‘Preeson’.  The origin of the townland’s name is unknown.  The Ordnance Survey books of 1837 notes the name but does not provide a suggestion for its origin, although the books record two forts and a cave in the townland. [1*]

The 1654 Down Survey and the Browne Rentals indicate that Prison was previously also known as Trineloghan/Trineleghane, and Triskine/Trilkine, names that appear to have no connection to its other alias.

The lands of Prison were successively in the possession of the Bourke family, later Viscounts of Mayo; the Browne family later Viscounts of Sligo; the Nolan family; and the Trench and Domville families.  Prison remained in the hands of the Domville’s until the 20th century.

Prison House:

Prison House is a simple three bay house, two stories high.  To put any definitive date on Prison House has proved to be impossible, but the research to date has been able to prove that a building has stood on the site for over 200 years.  As early as 1814, Prison house was already referred to as the ‘old house’ by the surveyor John Longfield, employed by the local landlord, Frederick Trench.

We have concluded that Prison House probably stands on the site of an older house, parts of which were incorporated into the structure of the house now standing.  Although the external features of the house indicate that the house was built in the early 19th Century, the unusual chimney-stacks suggest that this part of the house at least was probably built in the late 18th Century. This opinion was confirmed by David Griffin, the director of the Irish Architectural Archives, on viewing the survey photographs of Prison House.

The Irish Architectural Archive (IAA) does not hold any photographic records of Prizon House. David Griffin, the director of the IAA was shown photographs of the building but was unable to put a date other than possibly early 19th century on the house.  He did however comment on the unusual chimney-stacks, saying that they had only ever seen two other examples of this, one on an unspecified house in County Wexford, the other Luggala House in County Wicklow.  Luggala House was built by the La Touche family of banking fame, in the 1790s.  A late Victorian photograph does show the same type of chimney-stack but at some date these were replaced and no longer exist in Luggala House. This is helpful to the extent that it dates at least part of the house to the late 18th century.

It is almost certain that Prison House was built in the second half of the 18th Century. In 1764 the landlord Reverend Trench concluded a lease with the Ormsby family for three lives. The lease makes no specific mention of an existing house, and does not require the Trench’s to provide stone or bricks as building materials, or the Ormsbys to build a house as a condition of lease. The size of Prison House, and the apple orchard and many other trees planted around it, indicates that a great deal of initial work was carried out when the house was first built.

Given the circumstantial evidence it is probable that Prison House was laid out by the Ormsby family, although there is a remote chance that the landlord Frederick Trench, a well known amateur architect, may have designed and built the original house. [2*]  …

The Bourke Family:

An early reference to Prison townland appears in an Elizabethan fiant of 1586. This fiant records the pardon of ‘Walter Boorke m’Richard en yeren, of Prisone’ [3*]. [Wikipedia tells us that a “fiant” is a writ issued to the Irish Chancery mandating the issue of letters patent under the Great Seal of Ireland. The name fiant comes from the opening words of the document, Fiant litterae patentes, Latin for “Let letters patent be made”.]

Walter Bourke was the son of Richard Bourke [1532-1583] or as he was more commonly known, ‘Richard-an-Iarainn’ (literally Richard of Iron) the second husband of the infamous Grace O’Malley, ‘Granuaile’ described in 1576 by the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney, as ‘a most famous feminine sea captain. . .a notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland’[4*]. Richard Bourke was descended from the sept of the Bourkes of Umhall and Carra, one of the senior Bourke branches. The fact that Walter was recorded as ‘of Prisone’ would suggest that at this date he was the occupier of the townland, and that his residence was there.  However in two subsequent fiants of 1592 and 1598 he was described as ‘of Togher’ and ‘of Mohine’ respectively, so his stay in Prison may well have been brief.

In 1641 the proprietor of Trynylonghan comprising 171 acres, and Treelkin comprising 14 acres, was one David Bourke [b. 1576]. This David may have been the grandson of Richard-an Iarainn and son of the 1st Viscount Mayo, Tibbott-ne-Long [5*], the only child born to Granuaile and her second husband Richard. [6*]  David Bourke inherited the castle and lands of Manulla and acquired further lands in Carra barony.  He married first Mary O’Donnell the sister of Red Hugh O’Donnell, and secondly a daughter of Richard Heword of Dublin.  David Bourke’s date of death is unknown and as he died without legitimate issue the lands reverted to Viscount Mayo.

Patrick Nolan:

While David Bourke was the owner of Prison townland in 1641, part of these lands recorded as ‘arable and pasture’ were subsequently confiscated and granted to a Patrick ‘Nowlan’.  On the 16th of September 1685 Trinelogan and Triskeen and various other townlands were sold by Patrick Nolan of ‘Balenderry’ County Galway to [Colnel] John Browne of Kinturk, County Mayo for £694 [7*].

Colonel John Browne:

This John Browne of Kinturk was more commonly known as Colonel John Browne. A barrister by profession and a colonel in the army of King James II, John Browne had married Maud Bourke in 1669.  Maud was the daughter of the third Viscount Mayo, Theobald Bourke. Following James II’s defeat Browne was heavily in debt. He owed money to his wife’s family for lands purchased from the Estate of Viscount Mayo in the baronies of Carra, Murrisk and Burrishole. He was eventually imprisoned for his debt and the lands sold. Family fortunes improved in 1702 when John Browne’s daughter Mary married her cousin Theobald Bourke [(1681-1731) 6th Viscount Mayo]. The Browne family were later made Viscounts Sligo, with a family seat at Westport House.

Rentals of Colonel Browne’s estate dating 1696 record that Randle McDonnell held a three year lease of the lands of ‘Preeson’ at a year’s rent of £35 for the first two years and £40 for the third year.

In 1704 when the estate was sold ‘Presson & Gallon farme’ was leased by Colonel Manus O’Donnell, although a note states that there was ‘no tenant at present’. It is not clear from this why a farm at Prison should be called Prison and Gallen or if it is in fact referring to two separate farms.  It would appear to be the latter as a further note stated that ‘Coll Manus O’Donnell is to pay out of Gallen farme for one year ending’. [8*]

The Trench Family:

Prison townland and the neighbouring lands were bought by William Trench [1683-1729] of County Laois in the first decade of the 18th Century. William’s grandfather, Frederick Trench, came to Ireland from England in 1631 and settled in Galway. William Trench and his wife, Susanna Segar, heiress of Redcastle, Co. Laois, had nine children and the family established themselves at Ballinakill, Co.Laois. Their second son, Frederick Trench born 21st September 1715, inherited Prison townland and lands in Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Laois on the death of his elder brother.Frederick Trench received a BA degree from Trinity College in 1737 and was ordained in 1740.  He married Mary Moore of Crymorgan, Co. Laois in 1745.  Their only child was Michael Frederick Trench, known as Frederick, a renowned amateur architect.  Michael Frederick married Anna Helena Stewart in 1775.  They had six surviving children including; Frederick William (1775-1859) MP and aide-de-camp to George IV; Stewart-Segar, Chancellor of Christ Church Cathedral and Sarah Helena.

In 1708 in order to preserve official copies (memorials) of land and commercial transactions the Registry of Deeds was established by Act of the Irish Parliament.  Registration of deeds was voluntary, so the majority of early records relate mainly to those properties that were likely to face a legal challenge.  A search of the early indexes for the townland of Prison and the other aliases (Trineloghan and Triskine/Trilkine) was unsuccessful.  The first reference relating to Prison townland in the Registry of Deeds was in the 1739-1810 townland index.  A memorial of a deed of lease dated 6th October 1764 [9*] records that part of Prison townland was held by the Reverend Frederick Trench of Ballynakill, Co. Laois.  The deed stated that part of the lands of Prizon and Drimloughra ‘lately held by Mr Garret Coghlan’ were to be let to Anthony Ormsby of Ballynamore, Co. Mayo, for the lives of Thomas his eldest son, Adam his second son and his third son, Christopher, for the sum of £164 sterling.  There was a clause of surrender at the end of every three years and liberty to carry off sixteen acres of Corn Potatoes or Flax’.  There was no reference to any specific building in the lease, so that we know that Prison House was not yet built at this time.

The Ormsby family seat was at Ballinamore co. Mayo, and it is not known whether any of the family ever lived in Prison townland. The Ormsby family had settled in Ireland in the late 16th century. According to Burke’s Irish Family Records Anthony Ormsby was a High Sheriff and a Captain in Hingham Regiment of Horse. [10*]  He married Sarah, the daughter of Thomas Lindsay of Co. Mayo and the couple had four children, one daughter Anne, and three sons, mentioned in the deed of 1764.

The deeds ledger of the Trench estates, and the Longfield Maps – 1814:

The first definitive reference to a building occupying the site where Prison House now stands is in maps of Prison surveyed by John Longfield in 1814.  This was not the first time that the lands had been mapped, the 1814 deeds ledger of the Trench estate refers to maps of Prison townland surveyed in 1719, 1756 and 1785.  Unfortunately none of these maps appear to have survived.  One of the maps of 1814 however shows a building termed the ‘Old House’ which is clearly situated on the site where Prison House now stands. Longfield drew a rectangular structure with an adjoining rear, an L-shaped structure.  Two buildings stood to the front left and right of the house.  A long avenue ran up to the house and this can be traced in the map accompanying the Land Registry documents seen clearly as a thin strip of land.  A garden stood to the left of the house and Longfield also marked a Haggard (an enclosed space near the farm-house), denoted by the words ‘Hgd’.

At the same time as the map was being surveyed a member of the Trench family, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick William Trench visited Prison and its neighbouring townlands.  In a bound volume he not only recorded his Grand Tour of Europe but also chronicled his tour of his father’s estate which fortunately concentrates on lands in the barony of Carra.  His visit may have been designed to coincide with Longfield’s survey.  In a letter surviving from this time William’s father wrote to his son: I consider it as an Event truly fortunate that you became acquainted with Mr Longfield, a person of so much real knowledge and Exertion, and on whom you seem so justly to have placed so much reliance…’.[14*]  F.W. Trench appears to have been keen to note improvements that could be made to the lands and frequently noted the rentals...

The next substantial information on Prison dates from the mid 1820s. On Monday the 14th November 1825 the Trench estate ‘upwards of 5000 English acres’, the property of Colonel Sir Frederick William Trench including Prison townland was to be auctioned in lots at the Commercial Buildings in Dame Street, Dublin at 12 noon by the vendor’s solicitors Messrs. Robert Hamilton & Co.  Lot No. 3 consisted of Prison townland and the following description was detailed in the auction prospectus:

‘. . .containing 453 acres 2 roods 23 perches situate in the Barony of CARRA, and County of Mayo, let to Thomas[sic] Ormsby, Esq. By Lease, dated in 1764, for 3 Lives, (only one of whom, viz. Christopher Ormsby , Esq. supposed to be now aged about 75 years, is in being), at £164 per Annum, and consists of Arable, Pasture, Meadow, and Bog is most commodiously circumstanced, having a south aspect, and being well sheltered.  The Meadow is of superior quality and the Feeding Land is supposed to be as good as any in the County of Mayo – There are on this Lot 12 good Houses, and the Farm is ornamented with Hedge-rows – The Turbary is both plenty and convenient – These Lands if now to be Let would produce a very large Annual Sum, the excellent quality of the ground being well known, and highly esteemed.’

Improvements must have been made to the townland, the sale notice writes of twelve good houses.  It does not however refer to any new buildings having been built or to any modernisation of Prison House.  The sale notice remarks solely on the Hedge-rows of the Farm and Trench was himself impressed by the hedging and planting of trees.  He made a small pencil sketch of a rectangular building and the various trees planted around, this presumably did not refer to Prison House, as the map outlines a rectangular structure without an adjoining rear and this could refer to the Herd’s house and his own tree planting.

The estate failed to find a buyer in 1825, and in 1833 Sir Frederick William Trench of Moyvannon Castle, Co. Roscommon, sold the estate to Sir Compton Domville of Santry House, Co. Dublin, his brother-in-law, for £60,000 less £18,000 that was loaned from Domville to Sir Frederick [16*]. Frederick William’s sister Sarah Helena had married Sir Compton Pocklington Domville of Templeogue and Santry House, County Dublin in 1815.

With the sale of the lands at Prison the Ormsby’s lease came to an end. An advertisement was placed in the local newspaper, the Mayo Constitution, published in Castlebar…

Once again there is no reference to Prison House itself, suggesting that it was neither new nor modernised.  Presumably J. E. Strickland was the agent acting for the Trench family.  Prison townland was at this time leased by a Michael Barrett recorded in the Tithe Applotment Books, taken for the parish of Manulla in 1837. [18*]  Barrett held the lands in Prison North of Sir Compton Domville, and the only additional observation recorded was that Barrett ‘has no lease’, i.e. he held the lands at the landlord’s will.  (A copy of the TAB for Prison North is enclosed with this report).

It was in this same year (1837) that the Ordnance Survey maps of Ireland were first published. The map of Prison townland shows the farm, an L-plan structure with two outbuildings.  A large grove of trees to the rear right of the building is shown and the long avenue of trees still stands as do the outbuildings (a copy of the 1837 map is enclosed with this report) [19*].

Prison Farm continued to be occupied by the Barrett family into the 1840s. The 1842 Tenement Act provided for a uniform valuation of all property in Ireland based on the productive capacity of land and the potential rent of buildings, for taxation purpose. The Commissioner of Valuation, Richard Griffith, produced and published a nationwide survey between 1847 and 1864. However prior to Griffith’s Valuation, the original valuation surveyors took two nationwide surveys in the 1840s which are recorded in a set of books known variously as the ‘field’, ‘house’, ‘mill’ and ‘tenure books’.

In 1893 the Ordnance Survey published new maps for County Mayo. At some date between the surveying of the townland in 1837 and the publication of new maps in 1893, Prison House was altered.  By 1893 the adjoining rear now stood to the centre of the main building and the large outhouses parallel and to the rear of the house were constructed. It is probable that the alterations to the house were made prior to 1858. The Cancelled Books do not indicate any alternations to the house or outhouses after 1858.  Although amendments and alterations sometimes went unnoticed, it is highly unlikely that the type of large-scale improvements indicated in the 1893 Ordnance Survey map, would not have resulted in a revision of the rates on Prison House.

The changes to Prison House most likely occurred between 1841, the time of the first survey recorded in the House-books, and 1858, the start of the first Cancelled Books for the townland of Prison North.  In the course of research we found a later (1901) lease for the house and lands at Prison North, which cited an earlier, 1853 lease between Sir Compton Domville and Martin Barrett. The Tithe Applotment Books had indicated that as late as 1837 Martin Barrett had no lease, and would have rented the house and lands from year to year.   It seems very probable that the alterations to Prison House were made sometime after the lease was agreed in 1853, and November 1857 when Martin Barrett died.

On 13th September 1901 a lease was recorded between the Very Reverend John Canon Barret of St Mary’s, Headford, Tuam, Co. Galway; John McEllen of Balla, Co. Mayo, Merchant; and Sir Compton Meade Domville of Santry ‘ a person of unsound mind’. [23*]  The Reverend Barrett appears to have sold the time that remained on the 1853 lease, to John McEllen, with the agreement of the trustees of Sir Compton Meade Domville.

In March 1901 the Census recorded that Thomas Connolly, married with four infant children occupied Prison House.

The Connolly family appear to have remained resident in Prison House even after John McEllin bought out the lease to Prison townland.  In 1920, the Congested Districts Board took over the House, offices and lands (19 acres 1 rood 12 perches).  Between 1920 and 1931 possession of Prison North passed to the Irish Land Commission.  The Connolly family remained resident in Prison House despite the change in land title.

In 1931 the house and lands were sold to Ellen Connolly, widow of Thomas Connolly. The house remained in the Connolly family’s possession until 1999 when it was sold to the current owners.

[1*] NLI Pos 4123 Ordnance Survey Office John O’Donovan name books for Co. Mayo, Killala to Turlough.  Unfortunately there is not at present an archaeological inventory for Mayo County.

[2*] See also, Patricia Friel, Frederick Trench 1746-1836, Maynooth Studies in Irish Local History, 2000.

[3*] The Irish Fiants of the Tudor Sovereigns Vol 2 (Dublin,1994)

[4*] Cited in Granuaile: The Life and Times of Grace O’Malley by Anne Chambers, (Dublin, 1998) p3

[5*] Books of Survey and Distribution Co. Mayo

[6*] Ibid

[7*] National Archives of Ireland D. 12,111 Memorial of deed

[8*] National Library of Ireland. Pos. 940

[9*]Registry of Deeds. Book 238 page 239 No. 154263

[10*] A copy of the Ormsby pedigree is enclosed with this report.

[11*] National Library of Ireland, Ms. 9393

[12*] They are not mentioned as among the Trench papers in the Hayes Guide, nor are they listed in the Historical Manuscripts Commission, National Register of Archives which provides coverage of the U.K. and Scotland.  However, after the report was completed the researcher noted that the British Records Association has recently deposited schedules relating to Trench family deeds and lands, including at least one document relating to co. Mayo.

[13*] NLI Ms. 9393

[14*] National Library of Ireland. Ms. 11,348 – Michael Frederick Trench to William Frederick Trench, Heywood, December 27th 1814

[15*] ‘John Mucalini’ is almost certainly a pun based on “mucal”, the Irish word for swine.  The pun was possibly coined as a local nick-name for the herder James Monyahan.

[16*] See Patricia Friel’s Frederick Trench and Heywood, Queen’s County (Dublin, 2000)

[17*] The Mayo Constitution, Thursday May 2nd 1833 page 3 column e

[18*] The Composition Act of 1823 specified that tithes due to the Established Church, the Protestant Church of Ireland, which had hitherto been payable in kind, should now be paid in money.  As a result it was necessary to carry out a valuation of the entire country, civil parish by civil parish, to determine how much would be payable by each landholder.  This was done between 1823 and 1838, at which latter date the tithe system was abolished. The tithe applotment books for the parish of Manulla were assessed in 1837

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

[20*] National Archives

[21*] Martin Barrett was granted a lease by Compton Domville dated 19th November 1853.  Reference was made to this lease in a later lease of 1901.  A search was made for the 1853 lease in the Registry of Deeds but no record was found.

[22*] Full government censuses were taken of the entire island of Ireland after 1821.  The census returns recorded between 1821 and 1851 were almost entirely destroyed in the fire in the Public Records Office in 1922, while the census returns between 1861 and 1891 were pulped during WWI by order of the government.  However, the government extracted and published statistical information in the aftermath of each census.

[23*] Book 1901-86-32

[24*] Ellen Connolly, aged 4 years at the time of the 1901 Census appears to have died as a young child.

[25*] National Archives 1901 & 1911 Census 56/D.E.D ‘7’

8. Turlough Park, Museum of Country Life, Mayo

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

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

The website tells us about the house:

Turlough Park was built in 1865, to replace a much older building near the entrance to the park. The name of the village and estate derives from the Irish turlach, signifying a lake that dries up in the summer period.

Turlough Park was the home of the Fitzgerald family, to whom the estate was granted under the Cromwellian land settlements of the mid-seventeenth century.

At its largest, the Turlough estate consisted of almost 8,500 acres requiring many indoor servants and outdoor estate workers to maintain the house and lands. In 1915, the Congested Districts Board – established to initiate economic improvements along the western seaboard – purchased and re-distributed the Fitzgerald estate.

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

A notable family member was George Robert [c. 1712-1782], son of George and later known as the ‘Fighting Fitzgerald’. Famous for his brave and reckless horsemanship, and a renowned duellist, George Robert was involved in a number of disputes and family quarrels. He was found guilty of murder and hanged in Castlebar, Co. Mayo in 1786.

His younger brother Charles Lionel would inherit the Turlough Park estate.

The architect Thomas Newenham Deane designed Turlough Park House. Deane was also the designer of the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology in Dublin.

The architectural style of the house has been referred to as ‘Victorian Gothic’. The two-storey house built of limestone rises to a high-pitched roof with dormer windows. It incorporates an open central Gothic porch bearing the house’s 1865 date stone.

A service area adjoining the house, which once accommodated the kitchen and stable block, now incorporates visitor facilities such as the gift shop and café. In such houses, the kitchen was detached from the main house to avoid cooking smells disturbing the family and their guests and to minimise the risk of fire.

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

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

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

While the library was used mostly for recreation and study, the room was also where tenant farmers paid their quarterly rents to their landlord, the Fitzgerald family. The agent, seated facing the glass doors where the tenants entered, would note the payment in his rent book and issue the tenant with a receipt. It is said that the landlord sometimes sat behind the concealed door to hear what the tenants had to say without being observed.

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

The Drawing Room of the Big House

This room is furnished and decorated the way it may have looked around 1900. Most families occupying a house for a long time accumulate a variety of furniture from different eras and in different styles. The furniture here is from the Decorative Arts & History collections of the Museum.

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

Among the items is a Lyrachord Piano, which is the only one of its kind in the world. The left side operates like a piano and the right like a harpsichord.

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

There is also a nest of tables with harp and shamrock inlay typical of the Killarney school of furniture, as well as an embroidered armchair from Adare Manor, Co. Limerick dating from 1850.

Becoming part of the National Museum of Ireland

Turlough Park House remained in the same family until 1991 when it was purchased by Mayo County Council. The proposal to open the house as a museum was a local initiative which led eventually to a decision made in 1995 to locate part of the National Museum of Ireland here. The Museum’s Folklife collections had been stored for a long time in Daingean, Co. Offaly, awaiting a suitable venue.

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

As the house was not suitable as a major exhibition space, a new building was purpose-built alongside it. Housing the Museum galleries, this award winning design was created by the architectural branch of the Office of Public Works. As part of the project, the Office of Public Works also restored the original ‘Big House’. The grounds and gardens were restored by Mayo County Council.

Turlough Park, County Mayo, February 2015.

9. Westport House, County Mayo

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

https://www.westporthouse.ie/

The website tells us: “One of the few privately-owned historic houses left in Ireland, Westport House was built by the Browne family whose connections to Mayo date back to the 1500s. Their lineage relates them and the house to the trail-blazing pirate queen and chieftain, Grace O’Malley.

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

“In 2017, Westport House was bought by another local and historic family, the Hughes family, who hope to ensure its survival into the future.

Built in the 18th century, Westport House was designed by the famous architects, Richard Cassels, James Wyatt and Thomas Ivory. Westport House is located west of the Shannon and is considered to be one of Ireland’s most beautiful historic homes open to visitors – and is today often described as being one of Ireland’s National Treasures. It is situated in a superb parkland setting with lake, terraces, gardens and magnificent views overlooking Clew Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, Clare Island and Ireland’s Holy Mountain, Croagh Patrick right in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way. It was built … by the Browne family, who are direct descendants of the famous 16th century Pirate Queen – Grace O’Malley.

After Grace O’Malley’s death, a report stated that for forty years she was the stay of all rebellions in the West. She was chief of the O’Malley Clan and ruled the seas around Mayo. Grace O’Malley had several castles in the West of Ireland and it was on the foundations of one of these that Westport House was actually built. There is still an area of her original castle in the basement of the House (now known as The Dungeons), which is on view to visitors.

The original house which would have been smaller, was built by Colonel John Browne [1631-1712], a Jacobite, who was at the Siege of Limerick and his wife, Maude Burke [or Bourke, (1640-1690)] in 1679-83. Maude Burke was Grace O’Malley’s great-great granddaughter. The house did not have the lake or a dam and the tide rose and fell against the walls.

The east front of the House, as it is today, was built in 1730 by Colonel John Browne’s grandson, also John- 1st Earl of Altamont [1709-1776]. He hired the famous German architect, Richard Cassels. It is built with the finest limestone taken from the quarry south of the estate farmyard and was executed by local craftsmen. Richard Cassels also designed Carton, Haselwood, Russborough and Leinster Houses.

From the plans made in 1773, the ground floor contained:

  • The Waiting Room – now The Library
  • Front Staircase – now the Ante- library
  • Living Room – now The Front Hall
  • Back staircase – now part of the present Drawing Room
  • Dressing Room – now the East end of The Long Gallery.

It was only one room deep, built round an open courtyard.

In 1778, Peter, the 2nd Earl Of Altamont built the south wing to the Thomas Ivory plans his father had commissioned but had not carried out. Ivory’s south façade has a delicacy quite unlike Cassel’s bolder work on the East.  In the 1780’s Peter’s son John Denis, 3rd Earl of Altamont (who later became the 1st Marquess of Sligo), completed the square of the House. He engaged James Wyatt to decorate his new Long Gallery and Large Dining Room (one of the great English architects who is responsible for other significant buildings in the town of Westport and further afield).

In 1816, Howe Peter (2nd Marquess of Sligo) began his alterations to the House. He built on the north wing for men servants and between 1819-1825, he built on the south wing. The south wing was built as a two-tiered library designed by Benjamin Wyatt. This was warmed by hot air and due to defects in the system, it was destroyed by fire almost immediately in 1826.

In the 1830s, the central open courtyard where the Marble Staircase now sits, was covered in and Howe Peter made a new library by running a gallery round the now enclosed wall. In 1858 his son George abolished his father’s Library, moving it to where it is today and replaced it with the Marble Staircase.

On the west side of the house, the highly effective balustraded terraces’above the lake and the landing places were put in by George Ulick (6th Marquess of Sligo). These were designed by the English architect, Romaine Walker, whose main Irish work was the remodelling of Waterford Castle.

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

The website continues, telling us about the Browne Family:

The story of the Browne Family is a microcosm for the wider and, at times, turbulent history of Ireland. Each generation has had to contend with and adapt to the prevailing social, political and religious changes encountered along the way. Despite revolution, invasion, plantation, famine and confiscation, the bond uniting Westport House and its family remained right up until 2017.

The Browne Family originally arrived into Mayo from Sussex in the 16th century. Through marriage with daughters of native Irish landowners and by purchase, they built up a small estate near The Neale. As a Catholic family, they were fortunate that their lands were situated in Connaught thereby escaping the notorious confiscations of Cromwell. It was with John Browne III (1638-1711) with whom the connection with Westport House commenced. A successful lawyer, he married Maud Burke, daughter of Viscount Mayo and great-great granddaughter of the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley (Granuaile 1530-1603).

John Browne greatly increased his estate in Mayo and Galway including Cathair-na-mart (Stone-fort of the Beeves), a ruinous O’Malley fortress on the shores of Clew Bay. John’s good fortune was swept away as Ireland was plunged into chaos in the Williamite Wars. A Catholic, John supported the Jacobite cause and was appointed a Colonel in the Jacobite army. From the iron mines on his lands near Westport, he supplied the army with cannon balls and weapons. The defeat of the Jacobite army at Aughrim and Limerick in 1691 brought financial ruin in the confiscations that followed. At his death in 1711, his estate was reduced to Cathair-na-Mart and a few hundred acres.

The Penal Laws which followed left his grandson, John IV, with little option but to conform to the prevailing religion in hope of surviving the confiscations and political upheaval. John IV gradually revived the family fortune. Young and ambitious he set about extending his estate and transforming the old O’Malley castle into modern day Westport House. In 1767, he – along with architect, William Leeson – replaced the old village of Cathair-na-Mart with a new town of Westport where he established a thriving linen industry. An excellent farmer he set about improving the fertility of his lands, which for the most part were of poor quality. He became the 1st Earl of Altamont. In 1752, his son and heir, Peter, 2nd Earl Of Altamont, married the heiress Elizabeth Kelly from Co. Galway whose estates in Jamaica further enhanced the family fortune. It is said that – as part of the dowry – her father insisted that he take the Kelly name and he became known as Peter Browne Kelly.

John, 3rd Earl of Altamont, continued the innovative farming tradition of his grandfather. He created the lake to the West of Westport House and planted trees. He laid out the principal streets of the present town of Westport and many of the streets in Westport today are named after Browne Family members such as Peter Street, James Street, Altamont Street and John’s Row. He also established a theatre at the Octagon and built the town of Louisburgh. In 1787, he married Louisa Catherine, daughter and heiress of the famous English Admiral Earl Howe. During his lifetime, the French inspired 1798 Rebellion occurred. Aided by the arbitrary actions of Denis Browne, his younger brother, against the Irish insurgents (which earned him the reputation of “ black sheep” of the family), the Rebellion was crushed.

In 1800, there was an Act of Union with England. The 3rd Earl voted for it and became the 1st Marquess of Sligo and an Irish representative peer. The reason the title is Sligo when the family home is in Mayo, is that in 1800 there was already an Earl of Mayo, a Viscount Galway to the south and a Lord Roscommon to the East. West was the Atlantic Ocean, so it had to be North – the land of Yeats and black cattle – Sligo.

His only son Howe Peter, 2nd Marquess of Sligo, inherited in 1809 at the age of twenty-one. Extravagant and generous, his early life subscribed to the popular image of a “regency buck”. Friend of Byron, de Quincy and the Prince Regent, he traveled extensively throughout Europe on the “grand tour”. He excavated at Mycenae and discovered the 3,000 year old columns of the Treasury of Atreus. To bring them back to Westport, he took some seamen from a British warship and was subsequently sentenced to 4 months in Newgate prison. He married Hester, the Earl of Conricard’s daughter, with whom he had 14 children and settled down to life in Westport. He bred many famous race horses both at Westport and the Curragh. One of his horses, Waxy, won the Derby. He owned the last two of the original breed of Irish Wolfhound. In 1834, he was appointed Governor of Jamaica with the difficult task of overseeing the “apprenticeship system” a period prior to the full emancipation of the slaves. He met with great opposition from plantation owners and other vested interests. He was first to emancipate the slaves on the family’s Jamaican plantations. The first “free village” in the world, Sligoville, was subsequently named in his honour. A liberal, he was one of the few Irish Peers to vote for Catholic Emancipation. He died in 1845 as the clouds of the Great Famine descended over Mayo.

His son, George, the 3rd Marquess, inherited a terrible legacy. The West of Ireland was worst affected by the famine. Westport House was closed and with no rents forthcoming, George borrowed where he could, spending £50,000 of his own money to alleviate the suffering of the tenants. With the guidance of his mother, Hesther Catherine, he imported cargoes of meal to Westport Quay and sub-vented the local workhouse, then the only shelter available to the destitute. He wrote tirelessly to the British Government demanding that they do more to help the famine victims. He wrote and had published a pamphlet outlining many pioneering reforms of the economic and social conditions that had led to the famine. In 1854, on being offered the Order of St. Patrick, an honour once held by his father and grandfather, disillusioned by England’s Irish policy (a reoccurring sentiment at Westport House!), the 3rd Marquess wrote “ I have no desire for the honour.” An exhibition about the Great Famine is on display in Westport House as told through Hesther Catherine’s letters to the estate’s agent in Westport, Hildebrand.

John succeeded his brother as 4th Marquess. He had to contend with the huge changes that occurred in the ownership of land in Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Above all he was a “professional” farmer whose main contribution was to transform a reduced and almost bankrupt estate into a profitable one solely from agriculture. This work was continued by the 6th Marquess who added a sawmill, a salmon hatchery and planted extensively. The compulsory acquisition of the main entrance to the House for local public housing occurred in the ownership of the 8th Marquess which altered the historic relationship that had existed between the House and the town of Westport.

In 1960, in the midst of a great depression and facing rising death duties, the 10th Marquess, Denis Edward, his wife Jose and son Jeremy (11th Marquess) decided to open Westport House and the grounds to the visiting public. It was a pioneering venture in a place and at a time that was remote and depressed. Over the succeeding decades, the 11th Marquess and his family developed the Estate into a Tourist Attraction.

The Grounds & Gardens

The Brownes of Westport House knew the value of trees in a landscape too, as the stunning woodland in the estate’s grounds attest. Westport Demesne retains 100 acres of historic woods dating back to the 1700s.

Back in the day, these trees provided a number of resources for the Westport House Estate. They created a shelter belt from the harsh Atlantic weather systems, they provided a fuel and timber source for heating and building materials, and they created a lush green back drop for the ‘naturalised parkland’ design landscape.

The lords and ladies loved to interact with the landscape by promenading along a deep networks of track and trails. They would bring their visitors along these paths too, impressing them with the grandeur and beauty of the estate’s stately woodlands. Aptly enough, these design pathways and the areas of woodlands they ventured through were known as ‘the pleasure grounds’.

An elaborate network of serpentine pathways meandered along, softly curving – following the style of landscape design that was popular during the 1800s and remains timeless to this day. The trails led the walker deep into the woodlands and surrounding landscape, where they could discover hidden design elements, such as sculptural pieces of architecture, exotic plant and tree species and new views.

The pyramidal cone of Croagh Patrick was one of the most emphasised views in the Westport House Demesne, and a number of the historic pathways were specifically designed to yield the most captivating vistas. The woodlands even had purposely made gaps to seduce the stroller with sudden framed glimpses of the famous Reek.

Opened to the Public in 1960

By the early 1960s, most historic homes of its nature were either burnt, knocked down or abandoned. Not so for Westport House. Jeremy – 11th Marquess of Sligo (1939 – 2014), took the estate in a whole new direction with inspiration from the “Big Houses” in the UK who had opened their doors to the interested public who were keen to see how the “other half” lived. In 1960, when Jeremy and Jennifer opened the attraction, the admission price was 2/6 for adults and 1/- for children. Admission to the grounds was 6d for both adults and children. In 1960, 2,400 visitors visited Westport House.

Jeremy had a remarkable passion for product development and marketing. He was inspired by other houses that were becoming sustainable and viable by diversifying their offering from not only heritage but including other leisure attractions. He felt strongly that Westport House needed to appeal to a wider audience than those solely interested in antiques and architecture. Over time, he introduced a number of fun attractions. In the 1970s, the Slippery Dip (Cannon Ball run) and the Miniature Railway (Westport House Express) were added discretely on the grounds. A Camping and Caravan Park was developed – as well as Horse Drawn Caravan tours of Connemara – and Gracy’s Restaurant (situated at the Farmyard was created from what was originally a cowshed) and a shop evolved from a similar situation. There were even one armed bandits in the basement at one point in time and the giant pink rabbit called Pinkie was introduced as the estate’s mascot.  The Tennis Courts, Pitch and Putt, a Flume Ride (The Pirates Plunge), Jungle World (The Pirates Den), and of course The Giant Swans on the lake were also phased in. In 2008, the Ships Galleon (The Pirate Queen) was introduced.

It was during this time that Jeremy and Jennifer realised that in order to be able to leave the estate to their daughters, drastic action would need to be taken. Jeremy had signed a family trust aged 21 to leave the estate and title to his son. They went on to have five wonderful daughters (with no sign of a male heir). With the help of Mary Robinson QC (and later, first female president of Ireland) and Michael Egan, solicitor from Castlebar, Jeremy succeeded in bringing the Altamont Act through the senate in 1992 allowing him to leave the estate to his daughters and break the trust. He did not enact the same for the title of Marquess of Sligo and today, the 12th Marquess of Sligo, Sebastian Browne, resides in Sydney, Australia.

In 2003, Jeremy commissioned Michael Cooper, his brother-in-law, to create a sculpture of Grace O’Malley – the original of alabaster stone is situated in the House and a bronze casting is in the garden. This was the beginning of reinstating her back where she belongs – in her home, with her family, and where the re-branding of the estate in 2009 as Westport House and Pirates Adventure Park emanated from.

It was around this time that Sheelyn and Karen Browne – the two eldest of Jeremy’s five daughters – took the reins and added an Adventure Activity Centre, a seasonal Events Programme as well as holding the first large music festivals on the estate while Clare and Alannah ran Gracy’s Bar. Fifth sister, Lucinda, was always happy to lend a hand when home from the U.K. In 2017, the Browne family sold the house and estate to the local Hughes family who own neighbouring Hotel Westport and workwear provider, Portwest. A new chapter in the history of Westport House & Estate has begun. The Hughes family immediately started working on the grounds and gardens of the estate. The adventure park has been upgraded with a variety of new attractions and rides and there are plans to further invest in adventure. In 2021, urgent and necessary restorative works to Westport House will begin. And our new CEO’s main focus – along with the Hughes family – has been to produce a master plan for the entire estate that will ensure the sustainability and viability of the house and estate into the future.

Places to stay, County Mayo:

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

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

https://ashfordcastle.com/

The website tells us: “Unrivalled service, warm Irish hospitality and five-star luxury await at Ashford Castle, part of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection. Situated in a spectacular 350-acre estate, discover sumptuous rooms and suites, splendid interiors brimming with antique furniture, fine fabrics and unique features at every turn.

It was built originally by the Norman De Burgo family around 1228.

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

Mark Bence-Jones writes in  A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 12. “(Browne, Oranmore and Browne, B/PB; Guinness, Bt/PB) A vast and imposing Victorian-Baronial castle of rather harsh rough-hewn grey stone in a superb postion and the head of Lough Corrib…built onto an earlier house consisting of a 2 storey 5 bay Georgian shooting-box enlarged and remodelled in French chateau style. The shooting-box and estate originally belonged to the Oranmore and Browne family; they were sold by the Encumbered Estates Court in 1855 and bought by Benjamin Lee Guinness, afterwards 1st Bt., head of Guinness’s brewery, who transformed the shooting-box into the French chateau. From the 1870s onwards, his son, Arthur, 1st and Last Lord Ardilaun, added the castle, which was designed by James Franklin Fuller and George Ashlin. He also built the tremendous castellated 6 arch bridge across the river, with outworks and an embattled gateway surmounted by a gigantic A and a Baron’s coronet, which is the main approach; from the far side of this bridge the castle looks most impressive. Its interior, however, is a disappointment, like the interiors of so many late-Victorian houses. The rooms are not particularly large, and some of them are rather low; everything is light oak, with timbered ceilings and panelling. The main hall was formed out of 2 or more rooms in the earlier house, and has a somewhat makeshift air; it is surrounded by an oak gallery with thin uprights and a staircase rises straight from one side of it. Another room has an immense carved oak mantel with caryatids and the Guinness motto. Magnificent gardens and grounds; large fountain, vista up the hillside with steps; castellated terrace by the lake. Sold ca 1930, now a hotel.” (see [3])

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

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

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

https://www.breaffyhouseresort.com/

The website tells us: “Breaffy House Resort is located in the heart of County Mayo and is the perfect destination if you are looking for a well-deserved and relaxing break! Set on 101 acres, the resort consists of 4* Breaffy House Hotel and Self-Catering Apartments, only a 2 minute stroll between House Hotel & Apartments.”

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 47. “(Browne/IFR) A large Victorian Baronial mansion of rough-hewn grey stone with red sandstone around the windows; unusually long for its height. Entrance front with single-storey battlemented porch. Garden front with stepped gables, polygonal corner turret with battlements and pointed roof, and another battlemented turret set at an obtuse angle to the façade. Sold ca 1960. Now an hotel.” (see [5])

Archiseek describes it: “Dominick Andrew Browne built the present Breaffy House in 1890. The house is a Scottish baronial mansion and is victorian in style and was designed by English architect William M. Fawcett from Cambridge. The house has boldly recessed facades, a polygonal corner turret with battlements and pointed roof, a second turret set at an obtuse angle to the facade and stepped gables. The entrance front has a single story battlement porch. The building has tall slender chimneys and there are dormer windows on the roof.” (see [3])

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

5. Knockranny House Hotel and Spa, County Mayo

https://www.knockrannyhousehotel.ie/

The website tells us: “Owned and run by Adrian & Geraldine Noonan, Knockranny House Hotel & Spa is one of Ireland’s finest 4 star hotels in Westport. 

Set in secluded grounds on a hillside, this luxury hotel stands proudly overlooking the picturesque town of Westport and enjoys breathtaking views of Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay’s islands to the west and the Nephin Mountains to the north, one of the best Westport hotels locations.  

The welcoming atmosphere at Knockranny House Hotel Westport begins with the open log fires in the reception hall, and is carried throughout the property with its antique furniture, excellent spa facilities, superb cuisine and friendly service, creating a genuine sense of relaxed warmth and hospitality. Previously voted as AA Irish hotel of the year. 

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

https://www.mountfalcon.com/

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

The website tells us:

Mount Falcon Estate is a luxury 32 bedroom 4-star deluxe hotel with 45 luxury lodges located on the west bank of the River Moy and is situated perfectly for exploring the 2500km of rugged Irish coastline called The Wild Atlantic Way. Mount Falcon hotel offers 100 acres of magical woodlands, between Foxford and Ballina, in North County Mayo, the most beautiful part of the West of Ireland.  Situated in the heart of the Moy Valley (which encompasses Mayo North and Co. Sligo) this Victorian Gothic manor house (est. 1876) exudes understated elegance from a bygone era. Originally constructed as a wedding gift, Mount Falcon Estate has subsequently become known as the most romantic house in Ireland. 

Mount Falcon’s owners, the Maloney Family fell in love with the Estate and transformed it into one of the top Hotels in Ballina and Mayo. The owners have invested heavily in an ongoing restoration programme, and have ensured that the integrity and charm of the Estate have been completely retained. AA Hotel of the Year 2009/2010 & IGTOA Boutique Hotel of the Year 2011. Best Manor House Hotel in Ireland 2015, Hotel of the year 2017 Manor House Hotel, Traditional Luxury Hotel 2018 Luxury Travel Diary, Irelands Favourite Place to Stay Connaught 2018 Gold Medal Awards People Choice Winner, Top 100 Best Wedding Venues 2018 One Fab Day.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 213. “(Knox/IFR) A Victorian Gothic house of rough-hewn stone, built 1876 for U.A. Knox [Utred Augustus Knox JP DL (1825-1913)], probably to the design of James Franklin Fuller. Of two storeys with a three storey bock to which a tower was added. Plate glass windows. There is a similarity between Mount Falcon and Errew Grange. Mount Falcon is now a hotel.

The National Inventory adds:

A country house erected for Utred Augustus Knox JP DL (1825-1913) to a design signed by James Franklin Fuller (1835-1924) of Great Brunswick Street [Pearse Street], Dublin, representing an important component of the later nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Mayo with the architectural value of the composition, one evoking strong comparisons with the Fuller-designed Errew House (1872-7), Errew, confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on scenic vistas overlooking gently rolling grounds; the compact, albeit multi-faceted plan form; the robust rock faced surface finish offset by sheer limestone dressings not only demonstrating good quality workmanship, but also compounding a ponderous two-tone palette; the slight diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a feint graduated visual effect with the principal “apartments” defined by polygonal bay windows; and the spire-topped tower embellishing a multi-gabled roofline. Having been well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where encaustic tile work; contemporary joinery; restrained chimneypieces carrying the monogram of the proprietor (“UAK”); and decorative plasterwork enrichments, all highlight the considerable artistic potential of a country house having subsequent connections with the Aldridge family including Major John Beauclerk Aldridge RA (1900-76), previously of Glenmore: meanwhile, a discreet benchmark remains of additional interest for the connections with cartography and the preparation of maps by the Ordnance Survey (established 1824).” [7]

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

http://www.newporthouse.ie

Newport provides guests with a unique opportunity to experience the elegance and hospitality of an historic Irish Country House Hotel, with luxury guest accommodation ideal for an overnight stay or longer sejourn.

Newport overlooks the tidal river and quay, it rests between Achill Island and the mountains of Mayo close to the wild and unspoilt splendours of Erris and Connemara.

The superb menu offered at Newport House reflects the hospitable character of the house, using fresh produce from the fishery, garden and farm, including home-smoked salmon. The cellar, with wines of character and value, is internationally renowned and compliments the cuisine.

All the reception rooms are spacious and appropriately furnished. The bedrooms have individuality as well as comfort. Twelve are in the main house. The others are in two smaller houses near the courtyard, one of which was previously the holiday residence of the late Sean Lemass, Prime Minister of Ireland. Some bedrooms are well suited for families, as they are in self-contained sections.”

The National Inventory tells us it is : “A country house erected by Hugh O’Donel (d. 1762) representing an important component of the mid eighteenth-century domestic built heritage of Newport with the architectural value of the composition, one subsequently annotated as “Seamount [of the] Honourable J. Browne” by Taylor and Skinner (1778 pl. 79), confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on panoramic vistas overlooking an inlet of Newport Bay; the neo-Palladian-esque plan form centred on a polygonal breakfront showing a provincial Gibbsian doorcase ‘omitting architrave [sic] and frieze’ (Craig 1976, 40); the diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a graduated visual impression; and the high pitched roofline. Having been reasonably well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where contemporary joinery; Classical-style chimneypieces; and sleek plasterwork refinements, all highlight the artistic potential of the composition: however, the introduction of replacement fittings to most of the openings has not had a beneficial impact on the character or integrity of the country house. Furthermore, a lengthy outbuilding (extant 1838); a walled garden (extant 1838); and a nearby gate lodge (extant 1897), all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a self-contained estate having historic connections with the O’Donel family including Sir Neal O’Donel (d. 1811); Lieutenant Connell O’Donel (1775-1840; Lewis 1837 I, 233); Sir George Clendenning O’Donel (1832-89), fifth Baronet (Bence-Jones 1978, 204); and Edwin Thomas O’Donel JP DL (né Thomas) (1853-1932; NA 1911); and Sir Anthony Beaver KCVO CBE (1895-1977), one-time Private Secretary to Prime Minister Clement Attlee (1883-1967). 

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

contact: Jerry O’ Mara
Tel: 087-2446744 

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: March-Oct and Dec

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

http://turincastle.com

The website tells us:

Turin Castle in County Mayo is a luxury self catering venue near Ballinrobe in County Mayo Ireland. It is a unique medieval castle set against the backdrop of picturesque countryside. This exclusive and intimate venue is the perfect location for a  romantic, castle wedding or family gathering.  Unfortuntately It is not suitable for stag or hen parties. It is the only privately owned castle in Ireland with en-suite facilities. The castle sleeps a maximum of 12 people and is hired on a self catering basis but catering can be arranged if required. Please ask for details.

If you are looking for a truly exceptional medieval experience, Turin Castle in County Mayo will not disappoint. The castle is ideal for a family holiday with a difference or a special intimate wedding affording total privacy. 

Turin Castle is situated in the ancient barony of Kilmaine, the castle is surrounded by 16 acres of rich walled pasture land and is an ideal choice for couples searching for an idyllic but small wedding venue. The nearest town is Ballinrobe which is 8 km away offering a good selection of pubs and eateries. The picturesque village of Cong famous for the John Ford film ” The Quiet Man” and Ashford castle are also close by. The castle is conveniently located close to excellent golf courses.

The website includes a good description of its history:

1238 was a most auspicious year  in the long and turbulent  history of County Mayo. For we are told in the annals of the four Masters that the foreigners erected Castles In Conmacnaine Cuile(Kilmaine) and Muinter Murchadha.(Robeen).

The Foreigners were Anglo-Normans led by Richard de Burgo, son of William de Burgo. One of the most powerful Lords in England. In 1228 Richard had received the Overlordship  of the whole of Connacht from the English King, Henry II, making him the “ red Earl “ the most powerful man in Ireland.

The de Burgo dynasty survived and flourished up until Elizabethan times when the two hereditary titles of upper and lower Mac William (From William de Burgo, known as the conqueror) were finally abolished. During this time the de Burgos had become completely integrated into Gaelic society adopting Gaelic customs, laws and language becoming “ Hiberniores  Hibernis  ipis”.  More Irish than the Irish themselves .However this was the beginning of the end of the old Gaelic order in Ireland and opened the way for the final conquest and plantation of Ireland.

The origins and history of Turin Castle Ireland and neighbouring castles are sadly mostly lost in the mists of time. According to the chronicler O’Donovan “ In the parish of Kilmaine there are several square Castles said to have been built by the Burkes ( de Burgos) There is one in Kilmaine, one in Cregduff, one in Elistron and one in Killernan”. Turin would appear to derive from the old Irish meaning ‘small bleaching field’. Which may suggest that Turin Castle Ireland was involved in the very lucrative trade of sheep farming.  There was a growing market for hides, meat and wool in continental Europe and by the mid 16th Century Kilmaine, politically and economically was the most important barony in the county. In 1574 there were 41 castles in an area of just 10 miles long by eight broad, by far the highest concentration of castles in Connacht, an indication that agriculture was on an industrial scale. The producers were the owners or tenants of  the  estates  who  would have enjoyed the protection of the upper and lower  Mac William and in turn the Mac Williams would profit from the duty imposed which would probably directly affect the commodity market price in Galway. Keeping the lines of communication open was essential hence the need for a line of Castles protecting the trade route from Lough Corrib to Galway. Apart from this liberal studding of castles in Kilmaine another possible indication of the profitability and importance of this trade was the presence of a large mercenary army loyal to the Mac Williams.

In the division of Connacht 1570-1574 one Walter Mac Remon is listed as being resident of Turin Castle Ireland.The Mac Remons was a cadet branch of the clann Seonin who were one of the chief de Burgo clans of Ireland.

Following the death of the Mac William Sir Richard Bourke, in September of 1586. The de Burgo clans and the Mac Donnells along with the O’Malleys  and the Joys(Joyces) rose up against the English oppressors in an attempt to reinstate the Mac Williamship and other lordships which the English had abolished. One of the signatories to a document presented to the council of Connaught was Walter Mac Jonyn ( Seonin) of Towrin (Turin). This document attested that the principle reason for the rebellion was the abolition of the Mac Williamship and other titles.

In 1589 the de Burgo clans along with the O’ Flaherties,Joys  and  Clandonnel rose up against the English forces and plundered the baronies of Clare,Kilmaine and Clanmorris.

Sir Murrough O’Flaherty [(1540-1626)I believe he was a son of Grace O’Malley and Donal O’Flaherty] stayed with a few men at Keltyprichnane in Kilmaine and sent the rest under his son Teige to plunder the baronies of Clare and Dunmore where they burned 16 towns and gathered 3000 head of cattle and horses. The” rebel forces” gathered at the Carre in Kilmainham and engaged the English. Edward Bermingham of MilltownCastle and former Sherrif of Mayo joined the battle after being attacked by Teig O’ Flaherty. He described the battle in a letter written from Athlone on the 31st March:-

“The soldiers not neglecting their time went against them; there was a volley of shot on both sides.They came to the push of the pike with great courage, when the said Teig O’ Flaherty was slain with eight of his company. They were then disordered and I with six horsemen of mine and eight footmen, being beside our battle as a wing ready to charge upon the breach, did charge,

When I struck their Guidion (standard bearer) under his morion (helmet) with my staff and ran him through in the face of battle. I followed another and had him down, and so did my horseman Kill 5 more at that charge. We had not six score of ground to deal with them when they recovered a main bog. Three of my horsemen and eight footmen did kill of them in the bog 16.

Her majesties attorney in that province (Mr Comerford)understanding of their disordering, issued forth when he met of them and did slay 16.Divers others in the fight did kill of them, so that I account there is slain of them 80 and upwards. The attorney and I brought the head of Teige O’Flaherty to Sir Richard yester night that was wonderful glad, for this Teige was the stoutest man in the province and could do most.”

According to a letter written by Comerford at Turin Castle Ireland dated 29th March Comerford rode two miles to the battle field and sallied forth on the fugitives with six shot, seven footmen and four horsemen killing 24.

Following the subjugation and pacification of the Gaelic lords and subsequent plantation of Mayo. Many of the Castles were abandoned by their new English owners preferring the comfort of Manor houses. In some cases, incorporating the existing building or cannibalising materials from it. From records we know that Turin Castle Ireland had been abandoned for at least two hundred and fifty years up until its restoration in 1997.

10. Westbrook Country House, Castlebar, County Mayo

https://www.westbrookhousemayo.com

The website tells us:

A New Boutique Georgian Country House, Westbrook epitomises elegance & splendour. Located between the tourist meccas’ Westport & Castlebar, Westbrook Country House is the ideal base from which to explore the stunning West of Ireland Wild Atlantic Way, cycle the Greenway, sail on Clew Bay, climb Croagh Patrick, visit Knock Shrine or the National Museum of Country Life, or catch a show in the Castlebar Theatre Royal.

As restful or as adventurous as you prefer your break to be, Westbrook Country House is the perfect place to base yourself; with world-class home cooked breakfasts, and stylish, spacious, immaculate five star hotel-grade guest rooms & suites complimented by a relaxed, friendly family atmosphere.

Curl up on a leather armchair in front of a roaring fire with a first edition or your favourite novel in our library, climb in under crisp white linen sheets on one of our sumptuous beds or sink into a bubbling Jacuzzi bath with your favourite music & a lovely glass of Sauvingon Blanc, our vibe is opulent and fabulous but down to earth, and homely. We pride ourselves on guest consideration that is second to none.

Arrive as a Guest, leave as a friend. We look forward to welcoming you to Westbrook.”

Sligo:

1. Ballymote Castle, County Sligo (OPW)

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

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

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

See my entry:

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

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

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

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

See my entry:

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

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

See my entry:

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

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

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

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

contact: Roderick and Helena Perceval
Tel: 087-9976045 

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

Places to stay, County Sligo:

1. Annaghmore, Colloony, County Sligo €

https://www.annaghmore.ie/history

Annaghmore, County Sligo

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

Our lovely bedroom in Annaghmore, County Sligo.

The website tells us:

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

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988):

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

2. Schoolhouse at Annaghmore, County Sligo € for 3-4

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

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

The schoolhouse at Annaghmore, County Sligo

3. Ardtarmon Castle, Ballinfull, Co Sligo – accommodation 

https://www.ardtarmoncastle.com

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.castledargan.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    O, but I saw a solemn sight;

    Said the rambling, shambling travelling-man;

    Castle Dargan’s ruin all lit,

    Lovely ladies dancing in it.

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

The host is riding from Knocknarea

    And over the grave of Clooth-na-bare;

    Caoilte tossing his burning hair,

    And Niamh calling Away, come away …

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Carrowcullen old Irish Farmhouse, County Sligo

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

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Lissadell rental properties, County Sligo

http://lissadellhouse.com/lissadellrentals/

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

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

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

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

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

contact: Roderick and Helena Perceval
Tel: 087-9976045

www.templehouse.ie
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Places to visit and stay in Ulster: Counties Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

The province of Ulster contains counties Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone.

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

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Fermanagh:

1. Castle Archdale Countryside Centre & War Museum – demolished in 1970 but the stables remain intact.

2. Castle Balfour (ruin), County Fermanagh

3. Castle Coole, County Fermanagh

4. Crom Estate, County Fermanagh

5. Enniskillen Castle, County Fermanagh

6. Florence Court, County Fermanagh

Places to stay, County Fermanagh

1. Belle Isle Courtyard cottages and castle accommodation, Lisbellaw, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh Northern Ireland self catering €

2. Colebrooke gate lodge, Colebrooke Park, County Fermanagh and Triumphal Arch Lodge, Colebrook, County Fermanagh and Colebrook Cottages € for 4

3. West Wing and holiday cottages, Crom Castle, County Fermanagh

Adler’s cottage € and Bluebell Cottage € and Aspen Cottage €

4. Erne View Cottage, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh €

5. Florence Court, County Fermanagh – Butler’s Apartment

6. Manor House Hotel (formerly Killadeas Manor and before that, Rockfield), County Fermanagh

Whole House Rental, County Fermanagh:

1. Ashbrooke House, Brookeborough, Enniskillen Co Fermanagh BT94 4GX – whole house rental

2. Belle Isle Courtyard cottages and castle accommodation, Lisbellaw, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh Northern Ireland

County Monaghan:

1. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co. Monaghan – section 482

2. Hilton Park House, Clones, Co. Monaghan – section 482

3. Mullan Village and Mill, Mullan, Emyvale, Co. Monaghan – section 482

Places to stay, County Monaghan

1. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co. Monaghan – section 482

2. Hilton Park House, Clones, Co. Monaghan, and cottage – section 482, see above

Tyrone:

1. Ashfield Park, County Tyrone – gardens open to visitors 

2. Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, County Tyrone – open for tours, self catering accommodation on the grounds 

3. Hill of The O’Neill and Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre, County Tyrone

4. Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone

5. Lissan House, Drumgrass Road, Cookstown, County Tyrone, BT80 9SW.

6. Prehen, County Tyrone

Places to stay County Tyrone

1. An Creagan, Omagh, County Tyrone € for 4 or more nights, €€ for 2 nights

2. Ashbrook House, Aucnacloy, County Tyrone

3. Baronscourt Estate, Newtownstewart, Omagh, County Tyrone € for one week

4. Blessingbourne, County Tyrone €€

5. Cobblers Cottage Omagh, County Tyrone

6. Corick House Hotel, Clogher, County Tyrone €€

7. Kilcootry Barn, Fintona, County Tyrone

8. Killymoon Castle Lodge, 302 Killymoon Road, BT80 8ZA

9. The Lower House Rooms, Donaghmore, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, BT70 3EZ

10. Spice Cottages, Dungannon, County Tyrone €€

Fermanagh:

1. Castle Archdale Countryside Centre & War Museum – demolished in 1970 but the stables remain intact.

https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/castle-archdale-countryside-centre-and-war-museum-p675541

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 61. (Archdale/IFR) “A noble house of 1773 on the shores of Lough Erne, built by Colonel Mervyn Archdall in 1773 to replace a “Plantation castle”  originally built by John Archdale 1615. 
 
Three storeys over a basement; a six bay entrance front with a two bay breakfront centre; and a tripartite doorway with Ionic pilasters, entablature and pediment, the latter breaking forwards on two Ionic columns to form a porch, which appears to have been a subsequent alteration. 
 

The side elevation was of three bays, the bottom storey having Venetian windows with Gothic astragals in its outer baysThe quoins were rusticated and bold; with a solid roof parapet. Derelict since 1959 and now ruinous.” [1]

2. Castle Balfour (ruin), County Fermanagh

https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/castle-balfour-p675501

Built in about 1618 by Sir James Balfour, a Scottish planter, the castle was in continuous occupation until the early 19th century. Open all year.

Timothy William Ferres tells us: “CASTLE BALFOUR formed the nucleus of the town [Lisnaskea]. It stands beside the parish church, in the graveyard. The Castle was built with local stone ca 1618 by Sir James Balfour. Sandstone was used for the quoins and dressings. The main block consists of a rectangular block, 78 feet by 24 feet, with a large wing projecting to the east and west, comprising two L-shaped units. The northern block has three storeys with attics. The kitchen is vaulted, with a fireplace and oven. Corbelled turrets and gun-slits are a feature
 
During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Castle Balfour and the village were burnt but later reoccupied. In 1689, the Castle was again badly damaged by the Jacobite armies but was repaired after the Williamite victory at Limerick. About 1780, Castle Balfour was sold to the 1st Earl of Erne, and the Balfours subsequently left County Fermanagh. 
 
The last person to inhabit the Castle was James Haire (1737-1833), of Nutfield, who leased the Castle from Lord Erne. James Haire and his family ceased to occupy the castle after it was destroyed by an arson-based fire in 1803 (his mother, Phoebe, was killed in the rubble caused by the fire). 
 
Thereafter the Castle remained ruinous, until it was placed in state care by the 6th Earl of Erne in 1960. 
 
Major conservation work was carried out between 1966-68 and again during the late 1990s.” [2]

3. Castle Coole, County Fermanagh

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-coole

Castle Coole (pronounced cool) is a late-eighteenth-century neo-classical mansion situated in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Set in a 1200 acre (5 km²) wooded estate, Castle Coole was constructed between 1789 and 1798 as the summer retreat of Armar Lowry-Corry, the 1st Earl of Belmore. photo by Brian Morrison, Tourism Northern Ireland 2008. [3]
Castle Coole, County Fermanagh, March 2022, built to impress by the first Earl of Belmore by Amar Lowry-Corry, 1st Earl Belmore (1740-1802) and furnished largely by Somerset Lowry Corry, 2nd Earl (1774-1841). 

The website tells us:

Castle Coole is one of the greatest neo-classical country houses in Ireland. Home to the Earls of Belmore, it was commissioned and built to impress by the first Earl of Belmore by Amar Lowry Corry, 1st Earl Belmore (1740-1802) and furnished largely by Somerset Lowry Corry, 2nd Earl (1774-1841). 

Castle Coole boasts some of the finest neoclassical architecture, interiors, furniture and Regency furnishings in Ireland. Original drawings by the architects, the building records, inventories and invoices recording the daily work of the joiners, plasterers and painters in the 1790s and the furnishing of the house 1807 to 1821 helped guide the restoration of Castle Coole in the 1980s. This combination of place, collection and archival record must be unique in Ireland where so many records and collections have been dispersed. It speaks of careful husbandry by generations of the family who cherished the past.

John Corry, a merchant from Scotland, bought land in Fermanagh in 1655 that had previously belonged to one of the participants in the Ulster Plantation. John’s son, James, supported William of Orange in his Irish war with James II, during which the old castle at Coole was burnt down. A replacement was built in c1707 – not a fortified castle but a brick building with sash windows and tall chimneys, signalling a period of peace and prosperity in Ulster after years of unrest.” 

The estate was inherited by Colonel James’s grandson, Leslie (named after his mother, who was Sarah Leslie. Sarah Leslie’s sister Martha married Reverend William Armar, Archdeacon of Connor and Margetson Armar was their son), in 1726 when he was still a minor. The estate was then managed by his cousin, Margetson Armar, who had been brought up at Castle Coole and who married Leslie’s sister Mary in 1736. Leslie Corry died young and so Margetson continued to manage Castle Coole. He brought about improvements of the farm and house and his wife was a talented gardener. They had no children so the house passed to their nephew, Armar Lowry-Corry. Armar was the son of Sarah Corry, a sister of aforementioned Leslie Corry who died young and Galbraith Lowry, who added the name Corry to his surname in 1764, on condition that his son would inherit the Corry estates. Armar Lowry-Corry’s sister Anne married into the Cole family of Florence Court in County Fermanagh (see below).

The website continues: “Through marriages and connections, the combined estates of the Lowry, Corry and Armar families (amounting to over 70,000 acres of tenanted land by 1779) were all inherited by Armar Lowry Corry in 1779 [he inherited after the deaths of Margetson Armar (1773), Mary Armar (nee Corry, died in 1774) and Sarah Lowry-Corry (nee Sarah Corry, she married Galbraith Lowry, and she died in 1779]. Armar, MP for Tyrone, was raised to the peerage as Lord Belmore in 1780 (and earl in 1797) and began to plan a new house, more suited to contemporary taste and his position in society. Architect Richard Johnston from Dublin was employed in 1789 but Belmore switched to James Wyatt, then at the height of his career and particularly skilled in the neoclassical style. Wyatt never visited the site, sending all his drawings from England. Much of the building work was carried out by skilled Irish builders and craftsmen and some of the furniture designed by Wyatt was made by the Irish joiners, including a great mahogany sideboard, and a large wine cooler for the dining room. The house is faced with Portland limestone from England; specialist plasterers under Joseph Rose created the decoration to the ceilings and walls; marble chimneypieces were commissioned from Richard Westmacott and Domenico Bartoli created scagliola columns and pilasters.

The ground floor of the central block contains the principal receptions rooms. The wings and first floor bedrooms were the family’s private quarters. The vast basement contains service rooms with separate areas governed by Housekeeper, Butler and Cook, who could come and go via a large service tunnel that connected the basement to the service yards.

Castle Coole, Fermanagh, Tourism Northern Ireland 2018 (see [3]). It has a wonderfully large front hall, intended to resemble a Roman atrium, with scagliola (imitation marble, the recipe for scagliola died with the man who created it) Doric columns and lovely plasterwork, which matches the Carrara marble fireplace. Specialist plasterers under Joseph Rose created the decoration to the ceilings and walls; marble chimneypieces were commissioned from Richard Westmacott and Domenico Bartoli created scagliola columns and pilasters. The rosettes in the frieze are from an old Corry coat of arms, and chalices are from the Lowry coat of arms.

One is not allowed to photograph inside, because the furnishings are owned by the present 8th Earl. You can see photographs of the sumptuous interiors on the website. The house was handed to the National Trust by the 7th Earl in 1951 but the family still occupy a wing.

Armar Lowry-Corry married Margaret Butler, daughter of Somerset Butler, the 1st Earl of Carrick. They had a son, Somerset, who became the 2nd Earl of Belmore. She died young, and Armar remarried, this time to Lady Henrietta Hobart, the daughter of the Earl of Buckinghamshire, who was Lord Lieutenant at the time. Henrietta however was not happy at Castle Coole and was twenty two years younger than her husband so they divorced, which would have been unusual at the time. He married a third time, this time to Mary Anne Caldwell, in 1794, from nearby Castle Caldwell in County Fermanagh (now a ruin). It was Armar who built the house we see today. He had it built in a new location, at the top of the hill, since he suffered from rheumatism so wanted to avoid damp. The old house burned down in 1797 while the new house was being built.

The website continues: “The 2nd Earl [Somerset (1774-1841)] had campaigned fiercely against the Act of Union of 1800 which led to the abolition of the independent Irish parliament. He lost his parliamentary seat, only becoming a representative peer in the British House of Lords in 1819. In the meantime, he concentrated on the furnishing of Castle Coole, commissioning John and Nathaniel Preston of Dublin to supply complete rooms of furniture from 1807 onwards. Inspired no doubt by the interiors he saw in London where he had a house, Castle Coole was as lavishly furnished as the greatest Regency interiors. 

To add to the splendour the Second Earl of Belmore commissioned furniture from Preston’s of Dublin in 1807, in lavish French Empire style. Preston’s also made the most extravagant piece of furniture in the house, the State bed, which was commissioned for the visit of George IV in 1821, although in the end he never visited Castle Coole meaning the ornate decoration has stayed in perfect condition.

Perhaps to escape creditors, Somerset took his family away for a 4-year tour of the Mediterranean in 1816, visiting Malta, Egypt and the Holy Land. He acquired a paid position as Governor of Jamaica [appointed by his friend the Duke of Wellington, who was prime minister at the time] in 1828 finding himself in the middle of a highly volatile situation. Leading up to the abolition of slavery, the British government sought to improve the living conditions of the [300,000] enslaved people, but this was resented by the plantation owners who dominated the local assembly [in Jamaica]. Belmore’s attempts at moderation were not welcomed by either side. In December 1831 many of the enslaved people rebelled, martial law declared, and the leaders executed. Belmore was blamed for mis-handling the situation and recalled to London. His conduct was subsequently vindicated, but it must have been a bitter end to his posting.

Somerset’s son Armar Lowry-Corry (1801-1845) became the 3rd Earl of Belmore but died a few years after his father and his brother Somerset (1835-1913) succeeded as the 4th Earl.

The website continues: “The 4th Earl, Somerset (1835-1913), rescued the family’s finances by selling land, reducing the estate to some 20,000 acres, enabling a partial redecoration of Castle Coole. In 1867 Somerset was appointed Governor General of New South Wales, where he supported the development of the railways. The 5thEarl never married but lived on modestly at Castle Coole with five unmarried siblings [one of whom was his brother Cecil the 6th Earl]. By the time the 7thEarl [a great nephew of the 4th Earl, grandson of the 3rd Earl, Major Galbraith Lowry-Corry (1913-1960)] inherited in 1949, the burden of taxes and the expense of maintaining the house led to the house and 70 acres of land being transferred to the National Trust with a grant from the Ulster Land Fund, the contents remaining on loan. 

The present 8th Earl lives nearby and continues to take an active interest in the house and demesne.

Castle Coole, County Fermanagh, March 2022: the entrance front has four giant Ionic columns, and the centre block of two storeys and nine bays. On the entrance front, the wings are single storey and consist of deep colonnades of fluted Doric columns ending in small Doric pavilions. The basement is completely hidden from view. Attic windows are also not visible, as they are behind the balustrade.
The Park Front has a curved central bow lined with giant fluted Ionic columns, and the wings on the garden front are of five bay links and end pavilions with Venetian windows. The Park front overlooks Lough Coole. The ground floor sash windows in the bow extend down to to floor to allow direct access from the Saloon to the park. [4]

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 64. “(Lowry-Corry, Belmore, E/PB) The most palatial late C18 house in Ireland, built 1790-98 by 1st Earl Belmore to the design of James Wyatt, who adapted earlier designs by Richard Johnston, and also showed himself to be much influenced by Stuart and Revett’s Antiquities of Athens, so that the house is an unusually perfect example of late  C18 Hellenism, massive and unrestrained; yet keeping certain Palladian features such as Venetian windows and a balustraded roof parapet; and following the traditional Palladian plan of a centre block and wings. The centre block of two storeys and nine bays, with a pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns on the entrance front, and a curved central bow lined with giant fluted Ionic columns on the garden front; the wings single storey and consisting, on the entrance front, of deep colonnades of fluted Doric columns ending in small Doric pavilions, and on the garden front of five bay links and end pavilions with Venetian windows. The ends of the wings have central features of four fluted Doric columns and are as perfectly finished as the major elevations; all being of beautifully cut masonry in a pale silvery Portland stone which was brought here at great expense, being shipped to Ballyshannon, taken overland to Lough Erne, shipped to Enniskillen and taken the last two miles in bullock carts.

The entrance front of Castle Coole. The windows are severe by design and have no moulding of any kind.
The entrance front of Castle Coole.
The entrance front of Castle Coole. The capitals of the columns are unusal as they are set at 45 degree angle to the facade. The pediment above is plain.
The Doric baseless fluted columns of the wing of the entrance front.
The side of an end pavilion of Castle Coole. The Doric columns continue on the pavilions and they too are topped with balustrades. The semicircular niches on the ends of the pavilions have always been empty. [4]
The park front of Castle Coole.
The park front of Castle Coole.
Wing of the park front of Castle Coole. The side pavilions have Venetian windows with medallions above and niches on either side.
Garden front of pavilion of Castle Coole.

Bence-Jones continues: “It was no less expensive getting English plasterers to come here under the supervision of Joseph Rose; and it seems that the austerity of the interior plasterwork was to some degree for reasons of economy; though in fact it is entirely suited to the Grecian purity of the house. The single-storey hall is of great depth and dramatic simplicity, its only adornments beinga Doric frieze, a pair of small Doric chimneypieces by Westmacott facing each other on either side and a screen of Doric columns in porphyry scagliola at the inner end. The splendour is reserved for the oval saloon in the middle of the garden front, which is lined with grey scagliola Corinthian pilasters and has a frieze of swags and delicate ornament on the flat of the ceiling; it is flanked by the drawing room and the dining room, forming a magnificent enfilade. The library, which has its original delicately moulded bookcases, is on one side of the hall, separated from the drawing room by the staircase hall, which contains a double stone staircase of great length, leading up to a landing with a screen of yellow and brown scagliola Doric columns. The first floor lobby, lit by glass domes, rises into an attic storey which is not visible from the outside of the house; and is surrounded by a gallery with a colonnade probably inspired by the interiors of the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon at Paestuum. In 1797, just before the present house was completed, the earlier house, which was small, built 1709 and with a rather heavy pediment, was burnt to the ground. The earlier family pictures and furniture were probably lost in this fire, which would explain why the house contains comparatively few portraits, making for large stretches of unrelieved wall, again very much in keeping with the Grecian simplicity. As a contrast, however, there is the sumptuous gilt Regency furniture in the saloon, introduced by 2nd Earl, and the bed, festooned with flame silk, in the state bedroom, said to have been decorated for George IV, who, however, never slept here. The garden front of the house overlooks a lake on which there is the oldest nonmigratory flock of greylag geese in the British Isles; it is said that if ever they go, the Belmores will also go. There are some wonderful trees in the park, and fine stables by Sir Richard Morrison. Castlecoole has been maintained by the Northern Ireland National Trust since 1951 and is open to the public.” 

Castle Coole, Fermanagh, Tourism Northern Ireland 2018 (see [3]).

The house is very cleverly surrounded by tunnels for the servants, which run along the basement level outside the house. The tunnels allow light to reach down to the tall sash windows of the basement. There is a special entrance for horse riders, where they can enter the tunnels after their hunt to go into the basement of the house where a special area for changing and washing was created in the basement with a unique Roman bath-style plunge pool down a few steps for the home owners and their guests, which would be filled by the servants with heated water. The changing area is beautifully designed and the tunnels are covered with grills which let in the light, so that the basement lets in the sunlight.

The basement level tunnels for servants or horseriders.

Another underground tunnel leads down to the Grand Yard. It was created in order to avoid a servants’ entrance at ground level. Deliveries could be made by driving up the tunnel to a back door into the basement area.

The delivery tunnel. It has rooms off the sides, where turf and coal were stored. It leads from the basement of the house down to the Grand Yard.
Grill covered holes let in the light to the tunnels.

The Grand Yard was designed by Richard Morrison for the 2nd Earl of Belmore in 1817. The area was used for several purposes including dairy, stables, laundry house, candle factory and servants accommodation quarters [including the Steward’s House, which is still owned by Lord Belmore, as well as the farm yeard]

The Grand Yard is surrounded by stables and coach houses. The stables and coach houses not only housed the family’s work horses, coach horses and coaches but also had space available to accommodate visitor’s horses and coaches – Strangers Stables and Coachhouses as they were referred to on plans.

The stable yard of Castle Coole, designed by Richard Morrison, commissioned by the Somerset, 2nd Earl of Belmore, in 1810.
The stable yard of Castle Coole, designed by Richard Morrison.
The Stables were on the ground floor of the yard and the stable hands and feed above.
The stable yard of Castle Coole, designed by Richard Morrison.

For more about the wonderful interior of the house, of which one can take a tour, see the website. The tour takes in the centre block. On the ground floor are the library, drawing room, dining room, morning breakfast room, and the round impressive Saloon with its bow front. Upstairs above the saloon is the bow room (decorated with Chinese style wallpaper, curtains and covered furniture, this room was used by the ladies during the day for sewing, reading and playing cards), a lovely double-height lobby that has more pretty plasterwork, and the state bedroom decorated for King George IV (with a particularly beautiful tester bed with gorgeous folded swags of curtains, original tassels and fringes, pleated sunburst lining and a generous rosette of scarlet silk above the bed inside the curtains. Bed steps flank the bed, like the ones we came across and used during our stay in “Norman’s Room” in Castle Leslie, and the bed is topped with gold coronets and gilt poles), as we have come across before in other houses (Charleville in County Wicklow and Loughton in Offaly). The lobby is lit by an impressive oval skylight and two further circular skylights. On the upper, attic, floor, that one can see from the lobby, are more Doric columns painted to look like marble, and a iron balustrade that matches the staircase. Doors off the lobby lead to the bow room and the state room, and two doors either side lead to the four principal bedrooms in the corners.

Also upstairs is the Library, which has a particularly impressive pelmet which end with what our guide told us have been called griffin heads but she thinks, and I agree, that they look more like camels, reflecting the 2nd Earl’s passion for travel. He travelled extensively in Egypt, travelling up the Nile, and he sponsored excavations and began a collection of Egyptian antiquities. He sold some of these later to the British Museum in 1842 to pay off debts. The unusual tentlike ceiling of the kitchens is made of a special fireproof material as it is underneath the room where the 2nd Earl stored his treasures.

The stair hall has a staircase that breaks into two, to create a “floating” imperial staircase, with iron balusters that contain gilded rosettes, with a slim mahogany handrail. At the bottom of the stairs is a table with many lamps for the residents and guests to bring up to their room at night.

4. Crom Estate, County Fermanagh

Crom Castle, Fermanagh Courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland, by Brian Morrison, 2008 (see [3])

https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/crom-estate-p675551 and https://cromcastle.com

The castle is still in private hands but the grounds are open to the public.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 95. “(Crichton, Erne, E/PB) A large castellated mansion combining Baronial and Tudor-Revival elements, by the side of one of the many inlets of Upper Lough Erne, built 1829 to the design of Edward Blore. The entrance front has a gabled projection with a corbelled oriel at each end, but they are not entirely similar; while the tall, battlemented entrance tower, which incorporates a porte-cochere, is not central but to one side, against the left hand gable. The adjoining garden front is symmetrical, dominated by a very tall central tower with slender octagonal turrets, inspired by various Tudor gatehouse towers in England, but without a doorway. On either side of it is a gable and oriel. In the park are the ruins of the earlier Crom Castle, a Plantation castle of 1611, destroyed by fire in 1764.” 

5. Enniskillen Castle, County Fermanagh

https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/enniskillen-castle-p742361

Enniskillen Castle by Gardiner Mitchell 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3]).

The website tells us: “Enniskillen Castle, situated beside the River Erne in County Fermanagh, was built almost 600 years ago by Gaelic Maguires.

Guarding one of the few passes into Ulster, it was strategically important throughout its history. In the 17th century it became an English garrison fort and later served as part of a military barracks. This historic site houses two museums, Fermanagh County Museum and The Inniskillings Museum.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 121. (Cole, Enniskillen, E/PB) A large and impressive fortress at one side of the island in the River Erne on which the town of Enniskillen is built; with walls enclosing a ward of courtyard, an inner keep and a tall and frowning water gate with two conical-roofed bartizans. Until C18 the castle stood on a small island of its own, separated from the rest of the island by a ditch of water crossed by a draw-bridge. The castle was originally built C15 by the Maguires; it was granted 1607 to Captain William Cole, who rebuilt the keep as a house for himself, and renovated all the fortifications; the water gate probably dates from his time. The Coles continued to live on and off at the castle until 1739; afterwards, they established themselves permanently at Florence Court. The castle then became barracks, and the keep was rebuilt once again. The buildings remain in good repair.” 

Enniskillen Castle by Chris Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [3]).

6. Florence Court, County Fermanagh

Florence Court, formerly the home of the Cole family, Earls of Enniskillen, is surrounded by a large area of parkland, garden and woodland, with beautiful views to Benaughlin and the Cuilcagh Mountains. photo Courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland by Brian Morrison 2008 (see [3]).

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/florence-court

The website tells us:

Florence Court epitomises the Irish country house: a grand and elegant house in a romantic setting with self-sufficient demesne complete with gardens, parkland, woodland, and supporting buildings. The beauty and peacefulness of Florence Court bely the sometimes turbulent lives of those who lived and worked here during the course of its 300-year history.

Captain William Cole came to Ireland as part of Elizabeth 1’s army of colonisation in 1601. He oversaw the creation of Enniskillen at its strategically important location on Lough Erne and lived in Enniskillen Castle, becoming Provost and then Governor. Many generations of the family continued to be involved in the governance of the area and as members of parliament. A century later, his descendant Sir John Cole (1680-1726) built a lodge to the south west of the town, and named it after his wife, Florence [Wray].  The house he built in the 1720s was not fortified as the early 1700s were a time of relative peacefulness in Ulster compared to the previous century. The present Florence Court house we see today was built by Sir John’s son, also called John Cole, who was raised to the peerage as Lord Mount Florence in 1760.  The house was still unfinished at the time of young John’s death. The colonnades and pavilions were completed by his son, William Willoughby Cole (1736-1803) who became Earl of Enniskillen in 1789.

Florence Court, March 2022.
Florence Court, March 2022. Mark Bence-Jones describes it: A tall, early to mid-C18 block of three storeys over a basement and seven bays, its front heavily enriched with rustications, balustrades, pedimented niches and other features; joined by long arcades with rusticated pilasters to pedimented and pilastered single-storey pavilions. The centre block was probably built by John Cole, MP, afterwards 1st Lord Mountflorence, whose mother was the Florence after whom the house is named; the name was probably originally given to a shooting-box built here in the days when the family lived at Enniskillen Castle.”
The centre block has a three bay breakfront with a central pedimented niche between two windows in the top storey, a Venetian window between two niches in the storey below, and a pedimented tripartite doorway on the ground floor.
Mark Bence-Jones writes:“The arcades and pavilions seem to date from ca 1770, and would have been added by William Cole, 1st Earl of Enniskillen; they were possibly designed by Davis Duckart.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 125. “(Cole, Enniskillen, E/PB) A tall, early to mid-C18 block of three storeys over a basement and seven bays, its front heavily enriched with rustications, balustrades, pedimented niches and other features; joined by long arcades with rusticated pilasters to pedimented and pilastered single-storey pavilions. The centre block was probably built by John Cole, MP, afterwards 1st Lord Mountflorence, whose mother was the Florence after whom the house is named; the name was probably originally given to a shooting-box built here in the days when the family lived at Enniskillen Castle. The arcades and pavilions seem to date from ca 1770, and would have been added by William Cole, 1st Earl of Enniskillen; they were possibly designed by Davis Duckart. They blend perfectly with the centre block, and the whole long, golden-grey front has a dream-like Baroque beauty that is all the greater for being somewhat bucolic. The centre block has a three bay breakfront with a central pedimented niche between two windows in the top storey, a Venetian window between two niches in the storey below, and a pedimented tripartite doorway on the ground floor. The rear elevation has a central three sided bow with rusticated window surrounds, but there is nothing like the lavish ornament here that there is on the front. Curved sweeps join the back of the house to outbuildings.”

The back of Florence Court. The rear elevation has a central three sided bow with rusticated window surrounds
The back of Florence Court.
Curved sweeps join the back of the house to outbuildings.”
This is one of the outbuildings at the rear of the house. Through the entrance at the far end, one enters into the Laundry Yard.
Entrance to the Laundry Yard of Florence Court.
The Laundry Yard of Florence Court and the rear of the house.
The Cow Sheds behind Florence Court.
Outbuildings to the side of Florence Court.
Outbuildings to the side of Florence Court.
Outbuildings to the side of Florence Court.
The Brougham Carriage: A square fronted double brougham by Holland and Holland of London.
Outbuildings to the side of Florence Court.
Outbuildings to the side of Florence Court.

The only room we were allowed to photograph inside was the Colonel’s Room, which is in one of the pavilions and which is where the tour begins.

The portrait above the fireplace in the Colonel’s Room is of one of Douglas Baird of Closeburn (1808-1854), not a family member.
John Willoughby Cole, 2nd Earl of Enniskillen and 1st Baron Grinstead (1768-1840).

Mark Bence-Jones continues, describing the inside of Florence Court: “The interior contains some wonderfully vigorous rococo plasterwork, in the manner of Robert West and apparently dating from 1755. In the hall, which is divided from the staircase by an arch, the decoration is architectural, reflecting the outside, with banded pilasters and a Doric frieze. Through the arch and up the staircase of splendid joinery with its handrail of tulip wood, the plasterwork becomes more rococo: great panels of foliage on the walls, and a cornice of pendants and acanthus. From the half landing one gets a view downwards to the hall and upwards through two arches at the top of the stairs to the Venetian Room, lit by the great Venetian window, which has what is probably the finest ceiling in the house; with a swirl of foliage and eagles and other birds of prey in high relief. The drawing room, to the right of the foot of the staircase, has a cornice of acanthus foliage, masks of “Tragedy” and “Comedy,” baskets of fruit and and birds. The ceiling of the dining room, on the other side of the staircase hall, is more elaborate, with foliage and birds and a central panel of cherubs puffing from clouds. There was formerly a delightful ceiling in the nursery on the top floor, with drums, rocking horses and other toys incorporated in the ornament. The park, which is dramatically overshadowed by the sombre mountains of Benknocklan and Cuilcagh, contains the original Irish or Florence Court yew. The 5th Earl and his son, the late Viscount Cole, gave Florence Court to the Northern Ireland National Trust in 1953. Two years later, the centre of the house was severely damaged by fire; fortunately the staircase and much of the plasterwork was saved, and most of what was lost was restored under the direction of the late Sir Albert Richardson. No photographic record existed of the nursery ceiling, which was among those destroyed, so this was not reinstated. Florence Court is open to the public.” 

The website tells us: “The house is a bit of a mystery: the architect or architects are unknown and in some of the main rooms superb decorative plasterwork survives though there is no record of who the skilled plasterers were. The main block probably dates to the 1760s and its colonnades and wings to the 1770s. These hide extensive yards and service buildings, grouped cleverly around the back of the house.  

The ice house at Florence Court.

At around the same time, the formal landscape of the 1720s was re-designed by William King, one of the great landscape gardeners of the late 18th century, who planted belts of trees to provide shelter and woodland, and clumps of trees in open parkland, where sheep, horses and cattle could graze. The mass of Benaughlin mountain provides a dramatic backdrop to the composition. The demesne provided the immediate needs of the household and employment for staff, servants and farm labourers, with grazing for cattle, sheep and horses, a large deer park, arable land for crops and woodlands for timber.  A major restoration of the 19th century walled garden is underway through the dedication of volunteers and staff.  The vegetable and fruit garden is full of activity once again, giving a sense of Florence Court as the hive of industry that enabled it to be largely self-sustaining.”

The walled garden of Florence Court.
The gardener’s cottage, Florence Court, built in 1840, where the head gardener lived.
The rose pergola.
We saw frogs and spawn in the water around the gardens!

“At its height, it was further supported by nearly 30,000 acres of tenanted farmland, which provided much-needed rental income. The latter part of the 19th century in Ireland was dominated by the Land Wars: a period of unrest and reappraisal of the historic form of land tenure and landlord- tenant relations. Like most other estates, Florence Court’s estate was significantly reduced by various Land Acts brought in by the British government in around 1900 to deal with the situation. In so doing, many houses in Ireland lost their main source of income from tenanted land and began a gradual decline in fortune. With the impact of the 1st and 2nd World Wars and rising taxes, Florence Court eventually proved impossible for the family to maintain and the house was transferred to the National Trust in 1954.”

The website tells us: “Through the 19th century the 3rd and 4th Earls of Enniskillen continued the work of their ancestors by investing in and developing the land and the estate. William, 3rd Earl, was also a keen palaeontologist, and gathered a large collection of fossil fish which he eventually sold to the British Museum. As Grand Master of the Orange Lodge of Ireland he was also involved in many civic duties. William’s first wife, Jane Casamaijor, laid out the American garden with rhododendrons and azaleas on the slopes south of the house. William invested heavily in the estate and demesne. The 3rd Earl also built a Tile, Brick and Pottery Works which turned local clay into drainage pipes, bricks and tiles (no longer extant). The sawmill transformed trees into everything from coffins to fence posts, railway sleepers, furniture and gates.” 

The water wheel that drove the sawmill.
Water fed down via a wooden (larch) “flume” to the water wheel to operate the sawmill.
Entrance to the sawmill.
The sawmill.

After a devastating fire in 1955 the interiors of the house were quickly rebuilt and repaired. The contents had been on loan from the family and many had miraculously survived the fire. They were removed by the 6th Earl in the 1970s, when he and his wife went to live elsewhere but were generously returned by his widow, Nancy, in the 1990s. This breathed renewed life back into the house and the Trust continues to restore the gardens and demesne buildings so that all can enjoy this remarkable house, gardens and demesne and hear the story of those who created them.

View of the parkland of Florence Court.
The Summer House at the top of the Pleasure Gardens. The Cole family would adjourn to the summer house to drink tea and to admire the view of Benaughlin. The current house is a recent replica of the original.
The park is dramatically overshadowed by the mountains of Benknocklan and Cuilcagh. This is the view from the Summerhouse.

Places to stay, County Fermanagh

1. Belle Isle Courtyard cottages and castle accommodation, Lisbellaw, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh Northern Ireland (self-catering)

Nestling close to the water’s edge and set within a landscape of lakes and islands of gently rolling hills and fragrantwoods, Belle Isle Castle provides self-catering or fully catered accommodation. Situated at the heart of Belle Isle Estate and dating from the early 17th century the castle has been extensively yet sensitively refurbished, ensuring that a full range of modern facilities blends seamlessly with original period grandeur. Photo for Tourism Ireland, 2008. (see [3])

https://belle-isle.com

The website tells us:

Belle Isle provides an outstanding mix of natural beauty and authentic heritage on a private 400 acre estate designated a Special Area of Conservation with a range of accommodation options including castle rental, luxury cottages and self-catering apartments. Whether you are looking to host your wedding, enjoy a private event with friends and family or just have a relaxing weekend with your pets, we have something for everyone. Enjoy a Summer Getaway to the Belle Isle Estate with one of our great special offers.

Belle Isle has a rich history dating back to before the 15th century as the place where the Annals of Ulster were written. Belle Isle Castle was built in the early 17th century as the home to many generations of nobles and has been hosting events since as early as 1760. In 1991, the castle was fully refurbished to open its doors to more visitors. Belle Isle Estate stretches over 470-acres across Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It is a private estate with access to its estate grounds and trails open solely its visitors. If you are looking for the ultimate experience in luxury, Belle Isle Estate is one of the best hotels Fermanagh can offer.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 38. “(Gore, Bt/PB; Porter, sub Baird/IFR) A house beautifully situated on an island in Upper Lough Erne; the seat of a distinguished C18 soldier, Sir Ralph Gore, 6th Bt, 1st and last Earl of Ross and Viscount Bellisle, who was C-in-C in Ireland 1788. Bought early in C19 by Rev. J.G. Porter. The present house appears to incorporate a two storey C18 range with a three sided bow at one end, to which a range of 1820-30 was added at right angles, with a staircase hall, top-lit by an octangular lantern, in the re-entrant. The house was re-modelled post 1880 in the plain English Tudor manor house style made popular by Norman Shaw and his disciples; producing a gable entrance front with mullioned windows, a projecting porch and a tall, church-like battlemented tower at the corner of th 1820-30 range. The latter range, which is the garden front facing the lough, remains unaltered apart from having Victorian plate-glass windows; at one end is the end bow of C18 range, with Georgian astragals. Inside the house, arches were opened up between the staircase hall and the rooms at either end of it, to make a much larger hall; the staircase hall was also widened at the expense of the rooms in 1820-30 range, the old wall being replaced by a massive oak beam. An oak staircase with barleysugar balusters replaced the original stairs; the walls were panelled in oak, or decorated with half-timbering. The octangular ceiling lantern, however, was left undisturbed. The drawing room, in 1820-30 range, was redecorated, having been reduced in width, and given a chimneypiece of old oak carving, possibly of more than one period and nationality. The room extending into the bow of C18 range, which is now the drawing room, was given a stone Tudor fireplace; but it still keeps its original doors with shouldered C18 architraves. In 1907 the entrance front was prolonged by a wing in Tudor style containing a long and lofty gallery, with a timbered roof, an elaborate Tudor fireplace and overmantel and a minstrels’ gallery, the balustrade of which has slender turned uprights and would appear to be late C17 or early C18 woodwork brought from elsewhere. At this end of the entrance front stands a pedimented and gable-ended office wing which would appear to date from quite early C18. After the death of N.H.A. Porter 1973, Belle Isle was inherited by his niece, Miss Olivia Baird.” 

Belle Isle Estate, photo by Brian Morrison 2008 for Tourism Ireland. (see [3])

2. Colebrooke gate lodge, Colebrooke Park, County Fermanagh € for 4

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

see also https://colebrooke.info

and Triumphal Arch Lodge, Colebrook, County Fermanagh https://colebrooke.info/cottages/triumphal-arch-lodge/

Colebrook Cottages: https://colebrookecottages.com

Colebrooke Estate in Co. Fermanagh, N.Ireland offers guests a haven of peace and privacy with over 1000 acres to play in. The 5 star Whitehill Cottage and 5 star Woodcock Corner Cottage are sensitively restored original Estate workers cottages. Rossbeg Cottage is located in a stunning part of Co. Donegal, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We are proud of all the properties, which offer high standards of comfort, with all the modern conveniences you would expect to find in quality accommodation.

See photographs on the recently published mention on Robert O’Byrne’s website, https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/08/03/triumphant/

3. West Wing, Crom Castle, County Fermanagh

https://cromcastle.com

Holiday cottages at Crom:

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/crom/features/holiday-cottages-at-crom

Adler’s cottage € and Bluebell Cottage € and Aspen Cottage €

4. Erne View Cottage, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh €

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/erne-view-northern-ireland

A converted farm building with a spacious living area and views of the Lough Erne.

Erne View is the largest in a row of holiday cottages on the shores of Lough Erne. The cottage boasts stunning views, an open fire and a wet room on the ground floor.

Enjoy a coffee whilst taking in the view over to the Island of Inishfendra before heading down to the nearby jetty for a stroll along the shoreline.  

Adventurers might want to take advantage of the Lough Erne Canoe Trail which offers guided trips and canoe hire. Further afield, the pretty town of Enniskillen, with its historic castle, is just 20 miles away.

5. Florence Court, County Fermanagh – Butler’s Apartment

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/butlers-apartment-northern-ireland

Butler’s Apartment served as living quarters for the male servants at Florence Court, the 18th-century mansion next door to the holiday home. This atmospheric first floor apartment overlooks the laundry courtyard and adjoining woodland garden. Inside, you’ll find many historical quirks such as the period fireplaces, large sash windows and wooden floorboards. 

6. Manor House Hotel (formerly Killadeas Manor and before that, Rockfield), County Fermanagh

https://www.manorhousecountryhotel.com

Country Manor Hotel, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013

We often stay here on our way to Donegal!

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 168. “(Irvine/LGI1912) A two storey Victorian Italianate house, in a splendid position on the shores of Lough Erne. Entrance front with pediment and porch in the form of a three arched loggia, flanked by a square tower with glazed belvedere and urns on its parapet. Now a hotel.” 

Grounds of Country Manor Hotel, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Grounds of Country Manor Hotel, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Country Manor Hotel, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013

A younger son of the Irvines of Castle Irvine [now dilapidated but you can visit the grounds], John Irvine, acquired the estate in 1660. It was known as Rockfield. The website tells us it remained as Rockfield until it was rebuilt in 1860 by Colonel John Gerard Irvine (1823-1902), who brought workmen from Italy to do the interior decoration which exists to this day.

The name of Rockfield was changed to Killadeas Manor House by Major John Irvine who succeeded to Killadeas in 1835 and died in 1860. It was his son, Colonol John Gerard Irvine, who rebuilt Killadeas, incorporated some parts of the old house into the new mansion.

The website adds that in a directory of Fermanagh, published in 1879, the author states that Rockfield was built in 1710, and greatly altered and added to in 1868 by Colonel Irvine under the direction of that able and artistic architect, Mr Armstrong of Belleek. There are some obvious similarities between the architecture of the Belleek Pottery and The Manor House not least the unusual narrow, arched windows.

During the 1939-45 war it was requisitioned by the Government and was for a time used by the American Forces. The house itself was used as an Officers’ Mess and Headquarters for the Seaplane base of Killadeas. It was a plane from this base which sighted the ‘Bismarck’ and consequently resulted in the destruction of this mighty battleship. The Manor House remained in the Irvine family until 1957 when it was acquired for a Hotel.

Country Manor Hotel front hall, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Country Manor Hotel front hall, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Country Manor Hotel front hall, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Country Manor Hotel front hall, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Country Manor Hotel, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Country Manor Hotel Drawing Room, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Country Manor Hotel Drawing Room fireplace, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Country Manor Hotel Drawing Room, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Country Manor Hotel, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
Country Manor Hotel, Fermanagh, 28 August 2013
The honeymoon suite in Country Manor Hotel, Kildeas, County Fermanagh, Aug 27th 2014
Honeymoon Suite Country Manor Hotel, Fermanagh, 2014.
Country Manor Hotel honeymoon suite, Fermanagh. The bathroom walls can mist up to create privacy at the push of a button!

Whole House Rental, County Fermanagh:

1. Ashbrooke House, Brookeborough, Enniskillen Co Fermanagh BT94 4GX – whole house rental https://www.ashbrookehouse.com

Ashbrooke is the Dower House for the Colebrooke Estate it has been in the Brooke family for over 200 years. Formerly the home of Viscount and Viscountess Brookeborough the house has recently been fully restored and renovated to provide luxurious accommodation.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Colebrook Park in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 89. “(Brooke, Brookeborough, V.PB) An austere Classical house of 1825 by William Farrell; built for Sir Henry Brooke [1770-1834], 1st Bt of 2nd creation. Two storey nine bay front, with a pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns; three storey irregular side; eaved roof. Of cut-stone, with a sprinking of red sandstone ashlars which gives the elevation a pleasant reddish tinge. Large entrance hall; double staircase in back hall. Drawing room with original white and gold damask wallpaper. Sitting room with C19 arabesques. Large dining room, which Lord Craigavon, 1st Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, christened “Golgotha” on account of the numerous deer skulls covering the walls. The home of Sir Basil Brooke, 5th Bt and 1st Viscount Brookeborough, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland 1943-63; he and the late Lady Brookeborough made an attractive sunken garden at one end of the house. The house stood empty for some years after the death of 1st Viscount, 2nd Viscount living in Ashbrooke, a smaller house on the estate. But the present Lord and Lady Brookeborough have moved back into Colebrook.” 

2. Belle Isle Courtyard cottages and castle accommodation, Lisbellaw, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh Northern Ireland

Monaghan:

1. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co. Monaghan – see my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/07/castle-leslie-glaslough-county-monaghan/
contact: Samantha Leslie
Tel: 047-88091
www.castleleslie.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: all year, National Heritage Week events August 13-21, 9am-1pm.
Fee: Free

2. Hilton Park House, Clones, Co. Monaghan – section 482

contact: Fred Madden
Tel 047-56007
www.hiltonpark.ie
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: April- Sept
House and garden tours available for groups Jan 31, Feb 1-4, 7-11, 28, Mar 1-4, 7-11, May 3-6, 8-20, June 2, 13-17, 20-24, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, Sept 11, 18, 25, weekdays, 9am-1pm, Sunday, 1pm-5pm
Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €8, child €5

Hilton Park, Monaghan, photograph taken 2018 for Tourism Ireland. (see [3])

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 153. “[Madden] (formerly Maddenton). A large late-Georgian house of 2 storeys over a basement, 11 bay entrance front with the 5 centre bays breaking forward; rebuilt after a fire 1804. In 1872 the basement was excavated so that it became in effect a ground floor, as at Montalto, Co Down, and the house was refaced with Dungannon stone; with a pierced roof parapet and pediments over the windows of the principal storey. At the same time, a handsome Ionic porte-cochere was added, with coupled columns in the centre; and the principal reception rooms were given decorative ceilings.” 

Hilton Park, Monaghan, photograph taken 2018 for Tourism Ireland. (see [3])

The website has a detailed history of the Madden family:

The family is descended from the princes of Oriel and in particular from Maine, who left Clogher in the 5th Century to find less populous lands, for they were a quarrelsome breed and were always warring and fighting among themselves. Maine settled a large area astride the Shannon and became the progenitor of the tribes of Hy-Many. From Anmchadh, son of Eoghan Buac, fourteenth in descent from Maine, sprang the tribe of O’Madden, who were the chiefs of Siol Anmchadha. Our line almost certainly comes from John O’Madden, great grandson of Eoghan O’Madden, the celebrated Lion of Birra and Chief of Siol Anmchadha, (1323-47). Two of John’s elder brothers were Chiefs of the clan from 1411 to 1451 and one of their sons, Cobthach, killed his two elder brothers, Brasil and Diarmuid, to claim their birth right, but the third brother, Eoghan Carregh, killed him first to claim the chieftainship. From this constant quarrelling and frequent fratricide, John appears to have fled to England, where he settled at Bloxham Beauchamp in Oxfordshire. From parish records we know that he was in humble circumstances, but each generation seems to have improved their lot until four generations later, in 1599, Thomas marries Elizabeth Pettifer of a well-established local family: it must be presumed that the family became Protestant during the Reformation. Thomas Madden, the name having become anglicised, then becomes Comptroller to Sir Thomas Wentworth, later Earl of Strafford, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, returns to Ireland and takes up residence at Baggotsrath.

In 1635 his son John, attorney to HM Court of Castle Chambers, General Solicitor for Parliamentary Sequestrations, of Maddenton in Co.Kildare, married Elizabeth Waterhouse, heiress of Manor Waterhouse in Co.Fermanagh, thus contracting the second advantageous marriage in successive generations.

His son John, who was three times President of the Irish College of Physicians and clearly a most cultured man as he had a very valuable collection of early Irish and English historical manuscripts, married Mary Molyneux, sister of William Molyneux, who in 1684 founded the Dublin Philosophical Society to ‘the design of the Royal Society in London’. [a Baggot whom I hope was an ancestor of mine, Mark Baggot (d. 1718 and buried in St Audoen’s, Dublin) was also a founding member of the Dublin Philosophical Society, and the only Catholic member).]

It is not surprising that the next generation produced a remarkable philanthropist in the Rev. Samuel Madden DD. His brother John and his uncle, Sir Thomas Molyneux of Castle Dillon, in Co.Armagh, were founders of the Dublin Society and Samuel joined them within the first year and he set the agenda for encouragement of improvements in the Arts, Agriculture and Manufacturing by guaranteeing an annual sum for premiums from his own pocket, provided they were matched by the society; for this, as well as for giving premiums to Trinity College, Dublin, he earned the soubriquet ‘Premium’. Such was his generosity, Mrs. Delaney recalls in one of her contemporary letters, that his wife, who was something of a shrew, would not let him go out with any money on his person as he would give anything he had to any poor that he met. It was through Madden’s friendship with the Earl of Chesterfield that the Dublin Society received its Royal Charter. He was a collector of works of art and left Trinity 20 of his best paintings at their choice to hang in the Provost’s House for ever.

Madden wrote a number of books and plays, not always putting his name to them. The most interesting are ‘Reflections and Resolutions proper to the Gentlemen of Ireland’, which amongst many exhortations states that raw materials should not be exported to England, but rather that ‘value should be added at home’, and ‘A Memoir of the Twentieth Century’. A thousand copies of the latter were printed in 1735, but were destroyed prior to publication on the order of the government; only a half dozen copies survive. Two of his books, ‘Memoirs’ and ‘Boulter’s Monument’, published 1745, were dedicated to Frederick, Prince of Wales, to whom he had been tutor. It is interesting to speculate what influence this literary, cultured man may have had on the young prince, who contrary to the martial and philistine Hanoverians that spawned him, became the greatest royal patron of the arts and architecture since Charles the Second and who was left at home in Hanover for the first 20 years of his life, whilst his grandfather and his father ruled Britain.

A member of Swift’s circle and a kinsman of Oliver Goldsmith, Madden was particularly admired by Dr. Johnson, who said of him, ‘his is a name Ireland ought to honour’.

On the home front, Samuel was rector of Newtownbutler and kept a fine garden at Manor Waterhouse; in particular he was an expert in growing fruit and his manuscript catalogue and plan for ‘fruit trees planted in espalier hedges at Manor Waterhouse’ in 1740 is in the Hilton library. Tragically, all his manuscripts were left to his son, John of Hilton and they were lost in the fire 40 years later.

In 1734 he purchased the Hilton Estate, then comprising some 4000 acres, for his third son and around the same time bought an estate at Spring Grove, Rosslea, for his youngest son. As both his elder sons failed to bring children to majority, the Manor Waterhouse estate fell to John Madden of Hilton, but it appears to have been largely uninhabited after Premium Madden died in 1765 and the house hardly seems to have existed by the start of the 19th century. The old castle had been sacked in the Jacobite wars and it may be that the new one had not been well built.

The next generation, Colonel Samuel Madden of the Monaghan Militia, nearly finished the Maddens at Hilton, for this man was nothing like his namesake grandfather. He turned out to be a gambler and bon viveur and there is a vivid account of his excesses throughout the 1790s, culminating in the fire of 1803, the arrival of his creditors in 1812 and his expiry in 1814. His son, Colonel John [1756-1814] of the Monaghan Militia was left to pick up the pieces, about £5 million in today’s terms. Colonel John’s good fortune was a rich and prudent cleric, the Rev. Charles Dudley Ryder, for a grandfather, who seeing the calibre of his son in law, had kept most of his fortune from his daughter, knowing her husband would gamble all away. Dudley Ryder was the son of the Rev. John Ryder, Archbishop of Tuam, and had married Catherine, last of the Charnell family of Snarestone Hall in Leicestershire. The Snarestone Estate was made over to Colonel Sam by 1795 and would appear to have been sold soon after 1802; thereafter Dudley Ryder kept his powder dry until after old Sam’s demise. Colonel John appears to have worked hard and played hard. He took much of his lands on the Monaghan and Fermanagh estates in hand and became a noted breeder of Shorthorn cattle and hackney horses. So successful was he at the latter that long after his death people would come looking for horses of the ‘old Hilton strain’. He built the Ride, a colonnade for exercising horses on wet days under his study window. During an election, he even found time to fight a duel with the Lord Rossmore of the day, wounding the peer in the leg. He had always kept a yacht in Dublin Bay, with a skipper and crew of four but this was swapped for a smaller boat when he inherited his father’s debts. A member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, he won a race right round Ireland in the Ganymede and sailed off to the Mediterranean, bringing back from Naples one of the fine chimney pieces. He also built a villa at Sandycove to accommodate his sailing activities, where he eventually died in 1844, leaving a young widow and three sons, the oldest of whom was only seven, which resulted in the young heir being made a ward of Chancery. Sydney Anne, the young widow, was daughter of old Admiral William Wolseley, an old salt who had spent much of his life at sea and who had the distinction of being the only captain to share prize money with Nelson in the Mediterranean. Wolseley’s son, whilst serving as a midshipman on the flag ship HMS Superb, had the distinction of being presented to the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon had put himself under the protection of the British navy after Waterloo and he was taken aboard HMS Bellopheron on which vessel he was to be taken into exile at St.Helena. Napoleon was invited to breakfast with Admiral Hotham on the Superb, where he was treated with full honours and insisted on being presented to all the officers.

Young John,(1837-1902) left more of a mark on Hilton than all his predecessors except the first. At 19 he sank the well, from which we still get our water, 135 feet into the ground under his own superintendence. At 21 he celebrated throwing off the yoke of the Court of Chancery by erecting the bell tower, which at around 70 feet meant that he had covered 200 feet up and down in two years. At twenty-four he travelled for months on horseback through the eastern states of America up to the Great Lakes; this only a year before the Civil War. Back home he joined Isaac Butt’s Home Rule Party, but failed to get elected in the three elections he fought. Disappointed, and particularly so when he saw Parnell take over the Home Rulers, he reverted to Toryism. The rest of his life he devoted to travel, improving – first the park, then the gardens and pleasure grounds and finally the house and all the time writing . He kept a diary from 1868 onwards and published his magnum opus, The Wilderness and its Tenants in three volumes in 1897; this meticulous work is an inventory of the natural world prior to the industrial revolution. Having read widely of the early travellers and hunters, he found during his own travels in the latter half of the 19th Century that much had been altered since the start of the century; that the great herds of buffalo had been reduced, that the Sahara had moved and he wanted to set down a yardstick by which future depredations could be assessed. The public were not sufficiently concerned to buy his book and his warnings went unheeded. Of particular interest to the family, is his journal, which records details of the estates in Monaghan, Fermanagh and Leitrim during and before his time. Another record of immense intrinsic value is the photographic record of his younger brother, Charles Dudley Ryder, who obtained a camera in 1858 when only 19 and his albums, up until his death in 1874 at Cork Barracks of typhoid fever, show the park, house and gardens as they were before being improved. Charles and his brother, William Wolseley, both served in the 8thKing’s Liverpool Regiment and both died within 5 weeks of each other, William in Brighton. William was very involved in the loyal orders and built the Protestant Hall in Scotshouse. There is some mystery about him because, from his brother John’s diary, it is clear that he was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm and he served two years in Strangeways Gaol, Manchester. One can only surmise that some loyalist fracas led to his conviction, but it should also be remembered that a letter of his instructing Protestants not to interfere with Fenian processions had much to do with defusing local tensions.

John appears to have been serious to a fault and to have had a highly developed sense of his own rectitude. He ‘laid an information’ in court in Dublin against the Fenians’ who he was convinced were going to contravene the Party Processions Act at an imminent rally, which he thought unreasonable as his side had kept that law at a recent event. His case was not accepted and to prove his point, he marched, at no little risk to himself, in the Fenian rally and was no doubt delighted to be proved correct. He was a Magistrate, a Deputy Lieutenant for two counties and High Sheriff. On being appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Leitrim, he refused the honour saying that he was no longer prepared to serve an administration that had presided over a complete breakdown in law and order. He was summarily stripped of all his honours and appointments ‘for this studied insult to the Queen’. He at least had the satisfaction that all the magistrates in Ireland signed a petition in favour of his reinstatement.

He married the niece of the 3rd Earl of Leitrim, known as the ‘wicked’ Earl who was popularly believed to exercise his seignorial rights on his tenants’ daughters, in particular on their wedding night. He was murdered in 1878. The funeral took place at St.Michan’s in Dublin and such was Leitrim’s reputation that a mob turned out and overturned the hearse and the mourners had to be rescued by the police.

Owing to Lord Leitrim’s unfortunate will, which all but disinherited his successor and left all to his elderly, well off cousin, who would gladly have renounced his right, litigation loomed again for John Madden, whose children had a reversion under the will. Madden felt it his duty to protect his minor children’s interest and so litigation commenced causing Lady Dartrey to write of him ‘…(he) is a semi-madman, who stood as a Tory Home Ruler for Monaghan in 1868 and wrote such outrageous letters that he was struck off the list of JPs’. It may of course be that her staunch Whig politics had something to do with her opinion.

And so to the 20th Century and Lt.Col. John Clements Waterhouse Madden, ‘Jack’, (1870-1935). Called to the English Bar in 1895 and the Irish Bar in 1897, he had the task of winding up the estates as a result of the Land Acts, Acts which probably caused greater damage to the stock of great country houses in Ireland than all other events. Prior to Independence he held the usual posts that went with his rank, JP, High Sheriff, DL. He was a Standing Committee Member of the Ulster Unionist Council and a Deputy Grand Master of Ireland in the Orange Society. Incensed, however, by the activities of Craig and Carson whereby they engineered the setting up of the Boundary Commission and so tore up the agreement that the nine Ulster counties would remain under the Crown, he resigned from the Orange Order, disgusted that the Belfast Loyalists were loyal only to themselves. He made his own submission to the Boundary Commission, that the border should be a visible water boundary, coming in the estuary of the Erne in the west and exiting at the mouth of the Fane in the east. Whatever sense this may have made, it was a self serving device to try to ensure that Hilton remained north of the line and that the works of the Great Northern Railway, on the north bank of the Fane in Dundalk, would do likewise.

After Independence he was elected a Monaghan County Councillor. During the Troubles of 1920-1922 he took certain defensive measures at Hilton, that were designed to protect his property in the event of attack, no doubt comforted by his father’s foresight in installing steel shutters half a century before. The Colonel was of massive frame and utterly without fear. He was a hard taskmaster and much disliked at Clones railway station where he never found things to his liking as a director of the Great Northern Railway, expecting standards of turnout from railwaymen more appropriate to that of guardsmen.

On one occasion he crossed swords with General Eoin O’Duffy of Blueshirt fame. Jack had been to Belfast by train on GNR business and on his return to Clones station found his car gone. He was told it had been commandeered in the name of the State by General O’Duffy and was thus forced to walk the 4 miles home in pouring rain.

He wrote complaining at this high handed treatment and he asked the General to tell him if his government wished people such as he to leave the country. The reply was non commital, non apologetic and cited national business. Jack married Agnes Tate, daughter of Sir William Henry Tate, Bt. and granddaughter of the donor of the Tate Gallery. His brother Gerald, who was killed commanding a battalion of the Irish Guards in World War 1, married Mabel Macpherson-Grant of Ballindalloch. Sister Sydney, romantic poet and publisher of ‘Rose Petals- for those who love me’, married Chandos, Marquess of Ailesbury and in later life had the misfortune to entertain Queen Mary and her waspish companion, Osbert Sitwell, at Savernake . Misfortune because Sitwell remembered her as a romantic girl pursuing some German princling at a ball and was struck sufficiently by the change wrought by the years so as to describe her in a book as ‘standing like a pillar of red granite’. It would be kinder to remember her by her portrait at Hilton, depicting the romantic young girl holding her dog.

Jack’s eldest son, John William Ryder (1913 – 1996), was educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he was an accomplished oar. After university he joined the Irish Guards, serving in Palestine in 1937-8. He was in the party that took the Dutch Royal family and Cabinet off the Hook of Holland in 1940 and was in the thick of the bloody fighting that took place after the Boulogne landing in 1941. He then joined the 2nd Bn. Irish Guards, which was to form part of the Guards’ Armoured Division, with whom he landed in Normandy in 1944 but was wounded some 3 weeks later at La Marvindiere, losing a leg, which forced his retirement with the rank of Major. He brought his family to live at Hilton in 1945 and himself took a refresher course in agriculture at Cirencester. Encouraged by a neighbour, Jack Gibson, he established a Hereford herd, which became famous all over Ireland. Owning a great deal more land than the average in Ireland at that time, he saw it as his duty to use every square yard and to employ as many as possible on the land. He became a great innovator, introducing silage making to the area and planting orchards, Christmas trees, which he exported to Britain and Dutch bulbs; at one time in the 1950s there were five acres of daffodils, gladioli and tulips as well as onions. Subsequently he built up a dairy herd and became a considerable expert on forestry. He advised a number of friends on their woodlands on a regular basis. His great strength was thorough research, wherein he consulted all the experts and read all the books, before starting on a project. He was a keen sailor of small boats and kept two ‘Snipe’ at Crom and sailed most weekends throughout the summer. A lifelong afficionado of motor racing, he competed three times in the Circuit of Ireland Rally in Morris Minors. A first class shot, it was easy to forget that he had but one leg. He married Nita Mellor in 1937, daughter of Brigadier-General J.Seymour Mellor CBE DSO MC and Betty Marquand, a granddaughter of Henry G. Marquand who made the original endowment to the picture gallery of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, of which he was President: she was also related to the Robeson family, big plantation owners in the Carolinas, from whom the singer Paul Robeson is said to have taken his name. Seymour Mellor was a distinguished soldier who fought in the Boer War, and the First World War, with the KRRC. In 1920 he went for two years to Poland to reorganise their police force; his ‘Letters from Warsaw’, which were compiled by his wife are a fascinating document of the times there. Thereafter he became a King’s Messenger on the Constantinople run and during the Second World War was Provo Marshal UK and Chief Constable of the War Department Constabulary.

Hilton Park, Monaghan, photograph taken 2018 for Tourism Ireland. (see [3])
Hilton Park, Monaghan, photograph taken 2018 for Tourism Ireland. (see [3])

The website tells us more about the house:

Hilton Park is one of the great surviving houses of Ireland. Built in 1734 the house combines elegant historical grandeur with contemporary country house comfort.

Located in the remote and unspoilt drumlins of County Monaghan yet just 90 minutes from Dublin and Belfast Airports, Hilton is perfect for corporate groups or families and friends seeking the intimacy and exclusivity of a stunning property set amidst 400 acres of undisturbed natural beauty.

The house has magnificent reception rooms, including one of the country’s finest dining rooms that is the perfect setting for those special occasion dinner parties. The house also features a more informal living spaces with stunning vaulted ceilings, a classic country house kitchen for self-catering groups. The house also a table tennis room, billiard room and library. Outside there is croquet and lawn games, fishing on both lakes (plus wild swimming), a rowing boat and complimentary golf on the next door 18 hole course. A stay at Hilton will feel like you’re a million miles from anywhere. But for those in search of a truly authentic Irish pub, fear not for Connolly’s Pub a mere fifteen-minute walk through the estate serves up a truly great pint beside a roaring fire. The intriguing history of the house by Johnny Madden

There has been a house at Hilton Park since the early 17th Century, although its earliest name was Killshanless until changed to Maddenton, presumably in recognition of the earlier Madden property in Co. Kildare and was finally changed to its present name at the end of the 18th Century. When Samuel Madden purchased the estate for his third son in 1734, he built a house incorporating the original building. In 1803 a servant, answering a call of nature or the bell to lunch, history does not relate which, put down a bucket of glowing coals from a cleaned-out grate and burned down the house. It is said to have burnt for two days the glow being seen in Clones. The main and upper floors were completely gutted, many works of art and furniture perished and most of Samuel Madden’s archive, then housed at Hilton, was lost.

The house was rebuilt over the following 15 years or so, it is believed to the design of James Jones; meanwhile the family lived in the male servants’ quarters over the stables. The two principal bedrooms and the dining room remain intact from this rebuilding, as does the north end. The dining room has a fine ‘Nelson’ ceiling of ropes and oakleaves, reflecting no doubt that Admiral Lord Nelson had fallen at Trafalgar in 1805 and that Colonel John Madden’s father-in-law, Admiral William Wolseley, had been Admiral of the Red in his fleet.

The next John Madden, a true Victorian ‘improver’, set about transforming his house in the 1870s into an Italian ‘palazzo’, with the technical assistance of the young, local architect, William Hague, who became well known as architect of many fine Roman Catholic churches, including the cathedral in Monaghan. This involved digging out the basement, so that it became the ground floor, introducing a new hall, inner hall, staircase and gallery, as well as a ballroom and boudoir. The exterior was encased in cut Dungannon sandstone; enrichments and a handsome ‘porte-cochere’ were added. The house was then virtually fortified with steel shutters and a massive front door in deference to the Land League, who by then could smell the blood of the landlords.

The Hilton that John Madden bequeathed is today substantially as he altered it, except that it is electrified, centrally heated, every bedroom has its ‘en suite’ bathroom and the ballroom has been divided to make two drawing rooms.

As a ‘piano nobile’ the main floor commands outstanding views over the park, parterre and lake. Hague’s fine watercoloured architectural drawings for these works can be seen on the way downstairs to the breakfast room. Madden records in his diary that he consulted Sir Charles Lanyon, but it is probable that he engaged Hague because he was cheaper and more likely to accept the influence of his patron than the older man. The house is furnished with period pieces that have been here for generations and musical guests are encouraged to play the splendidly original ‘Erard’ concert grand piano, which is contemporary with Chopin and is exactly the piano he might have played. There is also a fine chimney piece that Colonel John brought back from Naples in his yacht in the first decade of the 19th Century. Through the back windows the colonnaded ride that he built can be seen, under which his horses were exercised on wet days – it is believed to be unique in Ireland.

Hilton Park, Monaghan, photograph taken 2018 for Tourism Ireland. (see [3])
Hilton Park, Monaghan, photograph taken 2018 for Tourism Ireland. (see [3])

The Flat Lakes festival used to take place on the grounds of Hilton Park, and we attended in June 2011.

Grounds of Hilton Park, County Monaghan, home of the “flat lakes,” June 2011.
Hilton Park, County Monaghan, June 2011.
Hilton Park, County Monaghan, June 2011.
Hilton Park, County Monaghan, June 2011.
Hilton Park, County Monaghan, June 2011.
Hilton Park, County Monaghan, June 2011.
Hilton Park, County Monaghan, June 2011.
Hilton Park, County Monaghan, June 2011.
Hilton Park, County Monaghan, June 2011.

3. Mullan Village and Mill, Mullan, Emyvale, Co. Monaghan – section 482

contact: Michael Treanor
Tel: 047-81135
www.mullanvillage.com
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 2pm-6.30pm
Fee: €6

Places to stay, County Monaghan

1. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co. Monaghan – section 482

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/07/castle-leslie-glaslough-county-monaghan/
contact: Samantha Leslie
Tel: 047-88091
www.castleleslie.com
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: all year, National Heritage Week events August 13-21, 9am-1pm.
Fee: Free

2. Hilton Park House, Clones, Co. Monaghan – section 482, see above

contact: Fred Madden
Tel 047-56007
www.hiltonpark.ie
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Open: April- Sept

There is also a cottage: https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/52624113?guests=1&adults=1&s=67&unique_share_id=7b807434-ea7d-4b61-a8a9-977ac73725fa&source_impression_id=p3_1648836274_6bBQXGdvQuronwMs

Tyrone:

1. Ashfield Park, County Tyrone – gardens open to visitors 

http://www.ni-environment.gov.uk/index.htm 

and

Telephone 

028 9056 9615 

2. Blessingbourne, Fivemiletown, County Tyrone – open for tours, self catering accommodation on the grounds 

https://www.blessingbourne.com

Blessingbourne, County Tyrone, photograph courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland, 2019. (see [3])

The website tells us:

Blessingbourne Estate came into the Montgomery family by marriage to the Armar family in the early 18th century.  The builder of Blessingbourne was a man of taste; Hugh De Fellenberg known as “Colonel Eclipse”, Montgomery, grandfather of Captain Peter Montgomery.

Blessingbourne originally belonged to the Armars. The Estate came to the Montgomerys in the eighteenth century when Elizabeth Armar married Hugh Montgomery [b. 1692], of Derrygonnelly Castle in Fermanagh.

The first Montgomery to live at Blessingbourne was another Hugh. Hugh was born in 1779 and known for some reason as “Colonel Eclipse”. His portrait, which he gave to his old school, Eton, shows him to have been very handsome. However, he was unlucky in love.

He vowed he would never marry and built himself a bachelor retreat at Blessingbourne, a romantic thatched cottage. He also built the charming little Gate Lodge (transformed to the present day 5 star Gate Lodge)

But his bachelorhood ended after a few years, for he married a Spanish girl and had a son. His son’s godmother was Lady Byron, who remained a close friend and was greatly attached to his sister Mary, a key figure in the development of Blessingbourne.

It descended in the family to Peter Montgomery, Vice-Lord Lieutenant of Tyrone, who died childless, after which it passed to a cousin. The property was ultimately the inheritance of Captain Robert Lowry, a direct descendant of Colonel Eclipse, and now belongs to Colleen and Nicholas Lowry.

The Classic Tour encompasses everything well loved about the Estate. Current estate owners Nicholas and Colleen Lowry host all Tours personally. This tour includes a walk through the Victorian gardens, with their majestic setting overlooking the beautiful Lough Fadda. As well as, a private tour of main ground floor rooms of the impressive Manor House. The Manor House was built in 1871-74 and designed by Pepy’s Cockerall a close friend of William Morris. After that, enjoy a guided stroll around the extensive Coach , Carriage and Costume Collections from yesteryear.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 44. “(Montgomery/IFR) There was originally no house at Blessingbourne, an estate which came to the Montgomerys through marriage early in C18; the family seat being Derrygonnelly Castle in County Fermanagh, which was burnt later in C18 and not rebuilt. The family lived for some years at Castle Hume, which they rented; then, at the beginning of C19, a romantic thatched cottage was built by the side of the lough at Blessingbourne by Hugh Montgomery (known as Colonel Eclipse) as a bachelor retreat for himself after he had been crossed in love. His bachelorhood ended in 1821, when he married a Spanish girl; but during the next 50 years the family lived mainly abroad, so that his cottage was all they needed for their occasional visits to County Tyrone. The present Victorian Elizabethan house was built by his grandson, Hugh de Fellenberg Montgomery, between 1870 and 1874, to the design of F. Pepys Cockerell. Pepys Cockerell, son of the better-known C.R. Cockerell, as an artist as much as an architect; his patron and his patron’s wife were also people of tate; so that Blessingbourne is an unusually attractive and successful example of it style and period. The grey stone elevations are not overloaded with ornament; such as there is had restraint: caps on the chimneys, small finials on the gables, curved and scrolled pediments over some of the mullioned windows. The interior of the house is comfortable, with great character. The hall has a staircase incorporated in a screen of tapering wooden piers. Through glazed arches one looks across an inner hall to the lough and mountains. The principal rooms have chimneypieces of carved sone in a Tudor design, flanked by niches for logs: some of them being decorated with William de Morgan tiles. The dining room still keeps its original William Morris wallpaper of blue and green grapes and foliage; while there is another original Morris paper in the library. The late owner, Capt P. S. Montgomery, former President of th Northern Ireland Arts Council, stylishly redecorated much of the interior, which houses his collection of modern Irish art. Blessingbourne has passed to his nephew, Captain R.H.Lowry.” 

3. Hill of The O’Neill and Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre, County Tyrone https://www.hilloftheoneill.com

Hill of The O’Neill and Ranfurly House Arts Visitor Centre, Tyrone, by Brian Morrison 2014, for Tourism Northern Ireland (see [3]).

The website tells us:

The O’Neills were perhaps the greatest of the Irish clans, whose origins date back as far as the 10th century and whose lineage includes two High Kings of Ireland.

Hugh O’Neill became leader of the clan in 1595 and as such was known as The O’Neill. A charismatic, even romantic figure, he had a long, tempestuous and complicated relationship with the English Crown, a relationship largely of convenience – for both parties. It was characterised by double-crossing by each side, building and abandoning strategic alliances. And ultimately, by all-out war.

In this story Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone and the last inaugurated chief of the O’Neills, plays the central role. Dungannon was at the eye of an international political storm from 1594 to 1603, during which time The O’Neill would lead mighty armies, would win and lose battles, and create problems for at least four monarchs.

And the repercussions were serious. Some might say that the consequences are still being felt today. When Hugh O’Neill was ultimately outmanoeuvred, his defeat paved the way for two connected seismic events that would forever transform his kingdom.

The O’Neill was a military genius who repeatedly got the better of the Crown’s generals in Ulster. However, after a bitter defeat at the Battle of Kinsale, he was driven to bid farewell to the Hill of the O’Neill and the lands he ruled over.

O’Neill’s departure for Spain, with the Earl of Tyrconnell and 90 followers, became known as the Flight of the Earls. It was a pivotal event in Irish history, effectively marking the end of the Gaelic way of life.

With The O’Neill and his followers effectively gone into exile, the way was clear for the organised colonisation of their lands by wealthy settlers, largely from Scotland and England under King James I. This was known as the Plantation, a plan conceived to subdue, control and ‘civilise’ the wayward Irish. Instrumental in managing the process and distributing the lands was the Lord Deputy of Ireland – Arthur Chichester, who had defeated Hugh O’Neill in the Nine Years War. (Chichester would go on to become a major figure in the founding of Belfast.)

The Plantation is the point that marks the shift in Ulster from an ancient Gaelic tradition to a new Anglo-Scottish ethos.  It is in effect, the beginning of another age in the history of Ireland, Ulster, Dungannon and, of course, of the Hill.

4. Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone

https://killymooncastle.com

Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone, photograph @ChristopherHeaney for Tourism Ireland 2022, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])

The website tells us:

Killymoon castle sits in picturesque surroundings overlooking the Ballinderry River on the outskirts of Cookstown just 50 miles from Belfast by car. The castle is a grade A listed building designed by the famous John Nash who also designed the Regent Street area of London and its most famous landmark Buckingham Palace. The castle was originally built in 1600 for James Stewart, six generations of the Stewarts lived in the castle until 1852. It was described in the Irish Penny Journal of 1841 ‘as one of the most aristocratic residences in the province of Ulster’.”

The original castle, built in 1671 by James Stewart on the substantial demesne had been granted to him under the Plantation Settlement. Stewarts ancestors had come from Scotland during the plantation to settle in Cookstown, and in 1666 James bought the land lease for the castle site from Alan Cooke – the founder of Cookstown. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1801 and in 1802, Colonel William Stewart had a new, more imposing castle built, designed by John Nash, the famous London Architect.

Killymoon was Nash’s first castle in Ireland, and reputedly cost £80,000 to build (about £7.4 million today).  It was described in the Irish Penny Journal of 1841 as “one of the most aristocratic residences in the province of Ulster, with state apartments consisting of “a breakfast-parlour, dining room, ante-room and drawing-room, all of which are of noble proportions and their woodwork of polished oak”.

The Killymoon estate remained the property of the Stewart family for six generations; however, their extravagant lifestyle caused the Stewart family to fall on hard times, especially during the years of the Irish famine.  The estate was sold in 1852 for £100,000.  In 1857, the castle had again been sold to the Cooper family; and, in 1865, Colonel Bolton, an English gentleman, purchased the castle.

A mere ten years later, Mervyn Stuart Thomas Moutray JP,  became the owner of Killymoon Castle until 1916, when Gerald Macura bought the castle and town of Cookstown for almost £100,000.  By 1918, Macura was also in financial difficulties and was compelled to sell off his assets. John Coulter bought the castle and grounds in 1922 and it remains the home of the Coulter family to this day.

Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone, photograph @ChristopherHeaney for Tourism Ireland 2022, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])

Take a tour of Killymoon Castle and step back in time. Visit Lady Molesworth’s morning room, the oval dining room whose restrained plasterwork and marble fireplace show the dignity of their Georgian origin. Ascend the magnificent cantilever style staircase and admire the fragile plasterwork like sugar spires on an inverted wedding cake .

Colonel Stewart was only 27 when this castle was built and it must have been a truly wonderful fairy tale to bring his beautiful bride to  this romantic spot.

Fortunes and families rise and fall and this fabulous fairy dwelling which cost £80.000 to build in 1807, was gambled in a game of poker and sold for an unbelieveable sum in the 1920’s 

Group tours can be arranged  by clicking the button below and filling out a request form. Private tours also available.

Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone, photograph @ChristopherHeaney for Tourism Ireland 2022, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 173. “(Stewart/LGI1912; Moutray/LGI1912) One of John Nash’s earliest castles, built ca 1803 for William Stewart, MP, incorporating part of the previous house which was burnt ca 1800. A building with a romantic silhouette in a glorious position above the Ballinderry river with a backdrop of sweeping woods and parkland. The principal front dominated by an almost central battlemented and machicolated round tower and turret; at one end, an octagonal battlemented and machicolated tower; at the other, the profile of the square tower in the adjoining front, the base of which is arched to form a porte-cochere. The latter tower has slender octagonal corner turrets, with cupolas. Pointed windows grouped together under segmental hood-mouldings, which were regarded by Nash and his contemporaries as Saxon. Good interior planning with square, circular and octagonal rooms fitted together. Hall with double staircase, lit by Gothic lantern on plaster fan-vaulted ceiling. Drawing room with plain gilt plasterwork cornice of wreath and honeysuckle design. Library in form of Gothic chapel, with stained glass windows. Sold after William Stewart’s death 1850. Subsequently the seat of the Moutray family.” 

Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone, photograph @ChristopherHeaney for Tourism Ireland 2022, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])
Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone, photograph @ChristopherHeaney for Tourism Ireland 2022, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])
Killymoon Castle, County Tyrone, photograph @ChristopherHeaney for Tourism Ireland 2022, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])

5. Lissan House, Drumgrass Road, Cookstown, County Tyrone, BT80 9SW.

https://discovernorthernireland.com/things-to-do/lissan-house-p704981

The house is open from Easter to mid September on Saturdays and Sundays, and during July and August it is open Thursday to Sunday. Opening hours are from 12:00 – 17:00.
3 guided tours per day at 12:30, 14:00 and 15:30.

Lissan House is an enchanting country residence set within a 260 acre demesne of ancient woodland and forestry. 

The estate was created in the 17th century and remained the home of the Staples family for nearly 400 years. Lissan came to prominence in 2003 when its popularity helped it reach the final of the BBC Restoration programme. 

Following extensive redevelopment, the house opened its doors in spring 2012 to reveal modern interactive exhibits and original family furnishings which take you on a unique journey through the history of the estate and the family characters that have shaped it. Children will be kept entertained in the house with the teddy bear treasure hunt. The demesne also features a challenging adventure playground for children, a wooded picnic area, walled garden.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 188. “(Staples, Bt/PB) A plain three storey 9 bay Georgian house with later additions. At one end, a single-storey wing with a three-sided mullioned bow. At the other, a gable-ended office range. And in the middle of the entrance front, a single-storey protuberance of unusual depth, embodying a porch and a bow-fronted porte-cochere with windows. Some time post mid-C18, a garden was laid out here by the architect, Davis Duckart; with an “artificial sheet of water with cascades, and a picturesque bridge.” 

6. Prehen, County Tyrone

http://prehenhouse.com/?msclkid=cbb767dba6a711ec8a9ab161a56f043c

Places to stay County Tyrone

1. An Creagan,Omagh, County Tyrone € for 4 or more nights, €€ for 2 nights

www.ancreagan.com

2. Ashbrook House, Aucnacloy, County Tyrone

www.ashbrook-house.co.uk

3. Baronscourt Estate, Newtownstewart, Omagh, County Tyrone € for one week

https://barons-court.com

4. Blessingbourne, County Tyrone €€

https://www.blessingbourne.com/self-catering-accommodation/ 

Nestled in the heart of the estate’s historic courtyard the collection of 5 award-winning self-catering apartments are ideal for family breaks, romantic breaks and groups. Guests can enjoy a relaxing country estate experience.

Guests can choose from 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom self-catering accommodation, all of which are pet friendly. Experience a home from home environment with the apartment’s warm and inviting décor. All apartments feature open plan Living, Dining and Kitchen areas. On-site laundry facilities are available.

5. Cobblers Cottage Omagh, County Tyrone (sleeps 5)

http://www.cobblerscottagecreggan.com

The lovingly renovated Cobblers Cottage has a cosy living/kitchen/dining area, 2 spacious bedrooms (sleeps 5) &  a bathroom.

Enjoy the simplicity of this recently renovated 200 year old traditional Irish cottage in peaceful surroundings of Tyrone at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains between Omagh and Cookstown, in the area of Creggan. 

6. Corick House Hotel, Clogher, County Tyrone €€

https://www.corickcountryhouse.com

7. Kilcootry Barn, Fintona, County Tyrone

www.kilcootrybarn.com

Kilcootry Barn is a 150 year old stone barn which is set on a 6 acre retreat in a private, rural setting.

This beautifully furnished and fully equipped property offers luxurious self catering accommodation for the discerning visitor.

8. Killymoon Castle Lodge, 302 Killymoon Road, BT80 8ZA, see above

https://killymooncastle.com

Stay with us in our Castle Lodge, located in the grounds of Killymoon Castle on the banks of the Ballinderry River, offers the most tranquil of breaks. Only a short distance from Cookstown town centre and a one hour drive to the north coast, Donegal or Belfast. With Killymoon golf club and the Ballinderry River on your doorstep what better way to relax.

9. The Lower House Rooms, Donaghmore, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, BT70 3EZ

https://thelowerhouserooms.com/rooms/

Located in Donaghmore in the heart of Mid-Ulster, the conversion of The Lower House into 7 rooms of accomodation has been our pride and joy. Renovated with the finest fixtures, fittings and decoration, a stay at The Lower House rooms is an experience full of character and luxury.

10. Spice Cottages, Dungannon, County Tyrone €€

https://www.spicecottages.com/cottages/ginger-cottage-dungannon

4 Stunning self catering family cottages situated in the Dungannon countryside, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland

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

[2] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com

[3] Ireland’s Content Pool, https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en

[4] Castle Coole, County Fermanagh, booklet published by the National Trust, originally written by Peter Marlow, revised by Oliver Garnett, with a forward by the 8th Earl of Belmore, 2013.

Historic houses in County Wicklow listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

I would like to share with you some examples of the houses in Wicklow listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (photographs are all taken from the National Inventory):

i. Avondale, open to the public. Built in 1779, designs may have been by James Wyatt. It was the home of Charles Stewart Parnell, the Nationalist leader in Ireland.

ii. Avonmore

Avonmore House, built around 1830.

iii. Ballyarthur

Ballyarthur, built in 1680.

iv. Ballycurry

Ballycurry House, built in 1807 to designs by Francis Johnston.

v. Ballykeane

Ballykeane, built around 1780.

vi. Ballymoney

Ballymoney, built around 1800.

vii. Ballynure House

Ballynure House, built around 1800.

viii. Baltiboys

Baltiboys, built around 1840.

ix. Carnew Castle

Carnew Castle, built in the late sixteenth century, re-roofed and remodernised ca. 1817 by 4th Earl Fitzwilliam whose Irish seat, Coolattin, is nearby.

x. Castle Kevin

Castle Kevin, built in 1813.

xi. Clonmannon House (Old)

Clonmannon House (Old), built around 1700.

xii. Cronroe, now Bel Air Hotel

https://www.belairhotelequestrian.com/hotel/

Cronroe, now Bel Air Hotel, built in 1890.

xiii. Donard House

Donard House, built in 1813-14 to the designs of William Vierpyl.

xiv. Fortgranite

Fortgranite, built around 1730.

xv. Glanmore Castle

Glanmore Castle, built around 1804, to designs by Francis Johnston.

xvi. Glenart Castle, was a hotel, now private again, built around 1820.

xvii. Grangecon Parks

Grangecon Parks, built around 1820.

xviii. Hollybrook House

Hollybrook House, built in 1835 incorporating an earlier house, to designs by William Vitruvius Morrison.

xix. Humewood Castle

Humewood Castle, built 1867-70 to designs by William White.

xx. Mount John

Mount John, built around 1800.

xxi. Rathsallagh, now a hotel

https://www.rathsallagh.com/

Rathsallagh, built as stables around 1750, converted to a house in 1798.

xxii. Rosanna House

Rosanna House, built around 1720.

xxiii. Roundwood

Roundwood, built around 1800, remodelled later in the nineteenth century.

xxiv. Slaney Park House

Slaney Park House, built around 1810, reduced by one storey after a fire in 1946.

xxv. Tinakilly House, now a small hotel

Tinakilly House (now a hotel), built around 1876 to designs by James Franklin Fuller.

xxvi. Tinode House (you can visit June Blake’s garden www.juneblake.ie )

Tinode, built in 1864 to designs by W.F. Caldbeck, partly demolished in a fire in 1922 and restored in 1973.

xxvii. Tulfarris – now a hotel https://www.tulfarrishotel.com/

Tulfarris – now a hotel, built in 1760, porch from around 1860.

xxviii. Woodbrook, now a golf course

Woodbrook, now a golf course, built around 1840.

xxix. Woodstock House, now Druid’s Glen Golf Course and hotel

Druid’s Glen hotel, formerly called Woodstock, built around 1770.

Curraghmore, Portlaw, County Waterford

contact: Vanessa Behal
Tel: 051-387101
www.curraghmorehouse.ie
Open in 2022: May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Thurs-Sun and Bank Holidays, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21,10am-4pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student, house/garden/shell house tour €20, house €15, garden & shell house €12, garden €7, child under12 years free

DSC_0564

It was difficult to find Curraghmore House despite obtaining directions when we rang the house. We drove two kilometres up a stony track: without the reassuring directions, we would not have believed we were on the right road. When we turned in to the estate, we weren’t sure we had the right entrance, since we went past old buildings and stables. Surely this was not the general entrance for those visiting the gardens, I wondered, which are open to the public? There was barely any signage. When we parked and looked around, however, we discovered that we were indeed in the right place! It’s just not very touristy! [Curraghmore was one of the first places we visited on my project of visiting all section 482 properties, so at the time, it seemed odd that it was not as tourist-oriented as somewhere like Powerscourt in Wicklow, with which I was more familiar. I did not take into account that Curraghmore is still a private home.] We found the bathrooms and the cafe in the courtyard.

DSC_0563
Entering Curraghmore, via servants’ quarters either side of courtyard.

Mark Bence-Jones describes Curraghmore in A Guide to Irish Country Houses, as a medieval tower with a large three storey house behind it. He writes that the “original Castle is encased in a spectacular Victorian mansion” with flanking Georgian ranges housing servants, stables, etc. [1] The house is seven bays wide (see garden front) and seven bays deep.

Mark Bence-Jones writes that:

The tower survives from the old castle of the Le Poers or Powers; the house was in existence in 1654, but was rebuilt 1700 and subsequently enlarged and remodelled; it extends round three sides of a small inner court, which is closed on fourth side by the tower. The 1700 rebuilding was carried out by James Power, 3rd and last Earl of Tyrone of first creation, whose daughter and heiress, Lady Catherine Power, married Sir Marcus Beresford…The 1st Beresford Earl of Tyrone remodelled the interior of the old tower and probably had work done on the house as well…The tower and the house were both refaced mid-C19. The house has a pediment in the garden front; and, like the tower, a balustraded roof parapet. The tower has three tiers of pilasters framing the main entrance doorway and the triple windows in the two storeys above it, and is surmounted by St. Hubert’s Stag, the family crest of the Le Poers.” (see [1])

DSC_0565
St. Hubert’s Stag on top of Curraghmore. The crown below that stage on top of the coat of arms, is the coronet of a Marquess.
Photograph of Curraghmore from Georgian Mansions In Ireland by Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson, printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915. [2]
DSC_0612
Back, or garden front, with windows now where there was the original door for guest entrance. Mark Bence-Jones describes the house as seven bays wide.
DSC_0613
The house is very large as it is not only seven bays wide but seven bays deep.

We explored the buildings flanking the courtyard while waiting for the guided tour, and found the entrance to the gardens, through an arch, with an honesty box, in which we duly deposited our fee. We had missed the earlier house tour so had a couple of hours to wait for the next tour. We wandered out into the gardens. The gardens are amazing, in their formal arrangement, for such an empty place.

DSC_0619

I’ll write more about the gardens later, as we learned more about them on the tour.

We gave ourselves forty-five minutes to get our lunch, and we were hungry after a good stroll. We had home-baked soda bread and salad with smoked salmon, Americano coffee and fresh coffee cake – delicious!

We gathered with others for a tour. The tour guide was excellent – a woman from the nearby town of Portlaw. She told us that the gardens only opened to the public a few years ago, when the more private father of the current (ninth) Marquess died.

I commented to the tour guide before the tour that it was “sad to see the place in such a state” (of dilapidation). She looked baffled, and once I entered the house, I understood why. The outbuildings may look run-down, but once you go inside, all that is forgotten. Splendour!!

DSC_0601
Inside one of the outbuildings, leading me to conclude on first appearances, mistakenly, that the estate was “run down.”

As usual, we were not permitted to take photographs inside, unfortunately. You can see some on the website [3]. There is also a new book out, July 2019, it looks terrific! [4] More on the interior later – first I will tell you of the history of the house.

According to the website:

Curraghmore House in Waterford is the historic home of the 9th Marquis of Waterford. His ancestors (the de la Poers) came to Ireland from Normandy after a 100-year stopover in Wales around 1170, or, about 320 years before Columbus ‘discovered’ the New World.

Some 2,500 acres of formal gardens, woodland and grazing fields make this the largest private demesne in Ireland and one of the finest places to visit in Ireland….This tour takes in some of the finest neo-classical rooms in Ireland which feature the magnificent plaster work of James Wyatt and grisaille panels by Peter de Gree.” [We came across a link to the De La Poer family, also called Le Poer or Power, in Salterbridge, and will meet them again in Powerscourt in Wicklow and Dublin.]

Curraghmore, meaning great bog, is the last of four castles built by the de la Poer family after their arrival in Ireland in 1167. The Castle walls are about 12 feet thick and within one, a tight spiral stairway connects the lower ground floor with the roof above. Of the many curious and interesting features of Curraghmore, the most  striking is the courtyard front of the house, where the original Castle is encased in a spectacular Victorian mansion with flanking Georgian ranges.” (see [3])

Note on spelling of Marquis/Marquess: on the Curraghmore website “Marquis” is used, but in other references, I find “Marquess.” According to google:

A marquess is “a member of the British peerage ranking below a duke and above an earl. … A marquis is the French name for a nobleman whose rank was equivalent to a German margrave. They both referred to a ruler of border or frontier territories; in fact, the oldest sense of the English word mark is ‘a boundary land’.”

I shall therefore use the spelling “marquess.” If quoting – I’ll use the spelling used by the source. I prefer “marquis”,  as “marquess” sounds female to me, although it refers to a male!

I didn’t take as many photos as I should have, so here are a few from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage of the range that fronts the house: [5]

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Servants’ quarters in the courtyard, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]
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This is the view looking back the way we drove in, with our backs to the house, and the buildings of the courtyard on either side. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]
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Arch through which we went, in order to explore the gardens, and also through which one goes to see the rest of the outside of the house. [5]

POWER AND MONEY AND MARRIAGE: Don’t be put off by the complications of Titles!

I shall intervene here to give a summary of the rank of titles, as I’m learning them through my research on houses. They rank as follows, from lowest to highest:

Baron –  female version: Baroness

Viscount – Viscountess

Earl – Countess

Marquess – Marchioness

Duke – Duchess

The estate was owned by the la Poer family for over 500 years, during which time the family gained the titles Baron la Poer (1535), and Viscount Decies and Earl of Tyrone (1673, “second creation”, which means the line of the first Earls of Tyrone died out or the title was taken from them – in this case the previous Earl of Tyrone, Hugh O’Neill, rose up against the British throne during the Nine Years War and fled from Ireland when arrest was imminent, so lost his title). Sir Piers Power (or Le Poer) of Curraghmore, who came into his title in 1483, cemented the family’s influence with a strategic marriage to the House of Fitzgerald. His first wife, Katherine, was a daughter of Sir Gerald Fitzgerald, Lord of the Decies. His second wife was another Fitzgerald of the House of Kildare.

Sir Piers’s son and heir, Richard, further strengthened the power of the family by marrying a daughter, Katherine, of the 8th Earl of Ormond (Piers Butler, d. 1539). The rival families of Butler and Fitzgerald, into both of which the Le Poers had married, effectively ran the country at this time when English influence in Ireland had been in decline for several decades. [6] Richard was created 1st Baron le Power and Coroghmore, co. Waterford on 13 September 1535. [7]

In 1538 Richard was succeeded by his eldest son, Piers (1526-1545). After Piers’s premature death in 1545, he was succeeded by his younger brother, John “Mor” Power (d. 1592), 3rd Baron. In 1576, Henry Sidney, the Lord Deputy of Ireland and father of the poet Philip Sidney, stayed with John Mor at Curraghmore. He wrote:

“The day I departed from Waterford I lodged that night at Curraghmore, the house that the Lord Power is baron of. The Poerne country is one of the best ordered countries in the English Pale, through the suppression of coyne and livery. The people are both willing and able to bear any reasonable subsidy towards the finding and entertaining of soldiers and civil ministers of the laws; and the lord of the country, though possessing far less territory than his neighbour (ie: Sir James Fitzgerald of the Decies, John Mor’s cousin) lives in show far more honourably and plentifully than he or any other in that province.” [8]

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When one enters the garden through the arch, one walks along the side of the house to the garden front, which originally held the front door of the house. Originally visitors would drive up to the house through the courtyard and then the horse and carriage would go through the arch to the garden front, to enter through the front door facing the gardens.

Turtle Bunbury writes of the Le Poer family history in his blog (see [6]). I wonder if I can turn my blog into a way of learning Irish history, through Irish houses? I will continue to quote Mr. Bunbury’s blog here, so I can try to see connections between various house owners as I continue my travels around the country.

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It was a common practice at the time for the aristocracy to send their sons to the English Court. It was a way to curry favour and contacts, and for the King to secure the loyalty of the aristocracy and their Protestant faith. 

John Mor married Eleanor, daughter of James FitzGerald the 13th Earl of Desmond, who bore his heir. After she died, he married Ellen MacCartie, widow of the 3rd Viscount Barry. He died in 1592 and was succeeded by his son Richard (d. 1607), 4th Baron Le Poer. The 4th Baron married his step-sister, Katherine Barry, daughter of his step-mother Ellen MacCartie and her first husband the 3rd Viscount Barry.

The oldest son of the 4th Baron, John “Og”, died young, in 1600. He married Helen Barry, daughter of the 5th Viscount Barry, Viscount Buttevant. After he died, she remarried, espousing Thomas Butler the 10th Earl of Ormond, “Black Tom.” (you can read more about him in my entry about the Ormond Castle in Carrick-on-Suir, an OPW property www.irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/). She married a third time, in 1631, to 1st (and last) Viscount Somerset, of Cashell, County Tipperary.

The family were very powerful and influential, and Catholic. Despite dying young, John “Og” and Helen had daughters, Ellen, who married Maurice Roche, 8th Viscount Roche of Fermoy (the Peerage website tells us that “She died in 1652, hanged by the Commonwealth regime on a trumped up charges of murder“) and Elinor who married Thomas Butler, 3rd Baron Caher.

King James I ordered Richard the 4th Baron to send his grandson and heir, John, the 5th Baron (born circa 1584), to England for his education, in order to convert John to Protestantism. John lived with a Protestant Archbishop in Lambeth. However, John didn’t maintain his Protestant faith. Furthermore, he later suffered from mental illness.

Julian Walton, in a talk I attended in Dromana House in Waterford (another section 482 house), told us about a powerful woman, Kinbrough Pyphoe (nee Valentine). [9] She is named after a Saxon saint, Kinbrough. Her unfortunate daughter Ruth was married to John Power of the “disordered wits” (the 5th Baron). In 1642, Kinbrough Pyphoe wrote for to the Lord Justices of Ireland for protection, explaining that Lord Le Poer had “these past twelve years been visited with impediments” which had “disabled him from intermeddling with his own estate.” As a result, when Oliver Cromwell arrived in Ireland, he issued a writ on 20th September 1649 decreeing that Lord Power and his family be “taken into his special protection.” In this way, Kinbrough Pyphoe saved the family and estates from being confiscated by the Cromwellian parliament or overtaken by Cromwellian soldiers.

Despite his mental illness, John and Ruth had a son Richard (along with many other children), who succeeded as the 6th Baron. One of their daughters, Catherine (1641-1660), married John Fitzgerald (1642-1664), Lord of the Decies, of Dromana, County Waterford.

In 1672 King Charles II made Richard the 1st Earl of Tyrone, and elevated Richard’s son John to the peerage as Viscount Decies. Turtle Bunbury writes that Richard the 1st Earl of Tyrone sat on Charles II’s Privy Council from 1667-1679. However, Richard was forced to resign when somebody implicated him in the “Popish Plot.” The “Popish Plot” was caused by fear and panic. There never was a plot, but many people assumed to be sympathetic to Catholicism were accused of treason. In 1681, Richard Power was brought before the House of Commons and charged with high treason. He was imprisoned. He was released in 1684.

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WHO TO SUPPORT? CATHOLIC OR PROTESTANT? JAMES II OR WILLIAM III?

James II came to the throne after the death of his brother Charles II, and he installed Richard in the Irish Privy Council.

When William of Orange and Mary came to the throne, taking it from Mary’s father James II, Richard was again charged with high treason, this time for supporting James II, and he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and died there, in 1690. He was succeeded by his son 25-year-old son John.

John married his first cousin, the orphaned heiress Catherine Fitzgerald, daughter of above-mentioned Catherine (1641-1660) who married John Fitzgerald (1642-1664), Lord of the Decies, of Dromana, County Waterford. They were married as children in 1673, in order for John to marry Catherine’s wealth. However, Catherine managed to have the marriage declared null and void, so that she could marry her true love, in March 1676, Edward Villiers, son and heir of George, 4th Viscount Grandison [I write more on this in my entry on Dromana www.irishhistorichouses.com/2021/02/06/dromana-house-cappoquin-co-waterford/].

John died aged just 28 and was succeeded by his brother James. James, the 3rd Earl of Tyrone, married Anne Rickard, eldest daughter and co-heir of Andrew Rickard of Dangan Spidoge, County Kilkenny. He had fought with the Jacobites (supporters of James II), but when William III came to the throne, the 3rd Earl of Tyrone claimed that he had only supported James II because his father had forced him to (this is the father who died in the Tower of London for supporting James II). In 1697 James Le Poer received a Pardon under the Great Seal and he served as Governor of Waterford from 1697 until his death in 1704.

DEVELOPING THE CASTLE
In 1700 the 3rd Earl, James, commissioned the construction of the present house at Curraghmore on the site of the original castle. Mark Bence-Jones writes: “the house was in existence in 1654, but was rebuilt 1700 and subsequently enlarged and remodelled; it extends round three sides of a small inner court, which is closed on fourth side by the tower.“(see [1])

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photograph from flickr commons, National Library of Ireland.

In 1704 the male line of the la Poers became extinct as James had no sons. Catherine de la Poer (1701-1769), the sole child of her parents, could not officially inherit the property at the time. Fortunately, the property was kept for her and she was married to Marcus Beresford (1694-1763), in 1717. This ensured that the house stayed in her family, as Marcus joined her to live in Curraghmore.

This marriage was foretold. The guide told us the story:

“One night in 1693 when Nichola, Lady Beresford [nee Hamilton, wife of 3rd Baronet Beresford of Coleraine, daughter of Hugh Hamilton, 1st Viscount of Glenawly, Co Fermanagh], was staying in Gill Hall, her schoolday friend, John Power, [2nd] Earl of Tyrone, with whom she had made a pact that whoever died first should appear to the other to prove that there was an afterlife, appeared by her bedside and told her that he was dead, and that there was indeed an after-life. To convince her that he was a genuine apparition and not just a figment of her dreams, he made various prophecies, all of which came true: noteably that she would have a son who would marry his niece, the heiress of Curraghmore and that she would die on her 47th birthday. He also touched her wrist, which made the flesh and sinews shrink, so that for the rest of her life she wore a black ribbon to hide the place.” [10]

The predictions came true! Lady Nichola did indeed die on her 47th birthday, and her son Marcus married John’s niece, Catherine Power. Sir Marcus Beresford of Coleraine (born 1694) was already a Baronet by descent in his family. After he married Catherine, he became Viscount Tyrone and 1st Baron Beresford, of Beresford, County Cavan. In 1746 he was created 1st Earl of Tyrone. Proud of her De La Poer background, when her husband died, Catherine, now titled the Dowager Countess of Tyrone, requested the title of Baroness La Poer.

The entry via the servants’ quarters, which I thought odd, has indeed always been the approach to the house. Catherine had the houses in the forecourt built for her servants in 1740s or 50s. She cared for the well-being of her tenants and workers, and by having their houses built flanking the entrance courtyard, perhaps hoped to influence other landlords and employers.

Bence-Jones writes of the forecourt approach to the house:

“[The house] stands at the head of a vast forecourt, a feature which seems to belong more to France, or elsewhere on the Continent… having no counterpart in Ireland, and only one or two in Britain… It is by the Waterford architect John Roberts, and is a magnificent piece of architecture; the long stable ranges on either side being dominated by tremendous pedimented archways with blocked columns and pilasters. There are rusticated arches and window surrounds, pedimented niches with statues, doorways with entablatures; all in beautifully crisp stonework. The ends of the two ranges facing the front are pedimented and joined by a long railing with a gate in the centre.

The Guide told us a wonderful story of the stag on top of the house. It has a cross on its head, and is called a St. Hubert’s Stag. This was the crest of the family of Catherine de la Poer. They were Catholic. To marry Marcus Beresford, she had to convert to Protestantism. She kept the cross of her crest. The Beresford crest is in a sculpture on the front entrance, or back, of the house: a dragon with an arrow through the neck. The broken off part of the spear is in the dragon’s mouth.

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Dragon from the Beresford crest, atop the garden front of the house.

The IRA came to set fire to the house at one point. They came through the courtyard at night. The moon was full, and the stag and cross cast a shadow. Seeing the cross, the rebels believed the occupants were Catholic and decided not to set fire to the house. The story illustrates that the rebels must not have been from the local area, as locals would have known that the family had converted to Protestantism centuries ago. It is lucky the invaders did not approach from the other side of the house!

When I was researching Blackhall Castle in County Kildare, I came across more information about St. Hubert’s Stag. The stag with the crucifix between its antlers that tops Curraghmore is in fact related to Saint Eustachius, a Roman centurion of the first century who converted to Christianity when he saw a miraculous stag with a crucifix between its antlers. This saint, Eustace, was probably the Patron Saint of the Le Poers since their family crest is the St. Eustace (otherwise called St. Hubert’s) stag. I did not realise that St. Eustace is also the patron saint of Newbridge College in Kildare, where my father attended school and where for some time in the 1980s and 90s my family attended mass!

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See the St. Eustace stag in the Newbridge College crest.

I read in Irish Houses and Gardens, from the archives of Country Life by Sean O’Reilly, [Aurum Press, London: 1998, paperback edition 2008] that the St. Hubert Stag at Curraghmore was executed by Queen Victoria’s favourite sculptor, Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm. He was also responsible for the “haunting” representation in the family chapel at Clonegam of the first wife of the 5th Marquess, who died in childbirth. [11]

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Barrels in the forecourt picture the St. Hubert’s Stag.

Since bad weather threatened, as you can see from my photographs, the tour guide took us out to the Shell House in the garden first. This was created by Catherine Countess of Tyrone. A friend of Jonathan Swift, Mrs. Mary Delany, started a trend for shell grottoes, which progressed to shell houses. Catherine had the house specially built, and she went to the docks nearby to ask the sailors to collect shells for her from all over the world, who obliged since their wages were paid by the Marquess. She then spent two hundred and sixty one days (it says this in a scroll that the marble sculpture holds in her hand) lining the structure with the shells (and some coral). The statue in the house is of Catherine herself, made of marble, by the younger John van Nost (he did many other sculptures and statues in Dublin, following in his father’s footsteps). Robert O’Byrne has a lovely video about shell grottoes and tells us more about this shell house on his website. [12]

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The Shell Grotto
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Inside the shell grotto, statue by John van Nost of Catherine Le Poer Beresford, Countess of Tyrone.
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Catherine also adorned the interior of Curraghmore with frescoes by the Dutch painter van der Hagen, and laid out the garden with canals, cascades, terraces and statues, which were swept away in the next century in the reaction against formality in the garden. In the nineteenth century, the formal layout was reinstated. [13]

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THE INTERIOR OF THE HOUSE

The entrance hall, which is in the old tower, has a barrel vaulted ceiling covered with plasterwork rosettes in circular compartments which dates from 1750; it was one of the rooms redecorated by Marcus Beresford and his wife Catherine (see [1]). Sadleir and Dickinson tell us of the house and the Hall:

p. 49. “Careful remodelling has given to the back of the structure the lines of a complete architectural whole, but there can be no doubt from internal evidence that at least three important additions are in fact embodied; it is also probable that a portion of the centre, which differs in character from the surroundings, was rebuilt in consequence of a fire. 

The entrance hall has a Georgian ceiling of bold, regular design. A flight of stone steps leads up to a corridor giving access to the spacious staircase hall, a late eighteenth century addition, with Adam ornament on the ceiling and walls. The grand staircase, which has a plain metal balustrade, is gracefully carried up along the wall to a gallery, giving access to the billiard room and bedrooms.” (see [8])

Photograph from Georgian Mansions In Ireland by Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson, printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915.(see [8])

Marcus Beresford also redecorated the room above, now the billiard room, which has a tremendously impressive coved ceiling probably by Paul and Philip Francini, according to Mark Bence-Jones. This room is in the original castle keep. The ceiling is decorated with rococo foliage, flowers, busts and ribbons in rectangular and curvilinear compartments. The chimneypiece, which has a white decorative  overmantel with a “broken” pediment (i.e. split into two with the top of the triangular pediment lopped off to make room for a decoration in between) and putti cherubs, is probably by John Houghton, German architect Richard Castle’s carver. Bence-Jones describes that the inner end of the room is a recess in the thickness of the old castle wall with a screen of fluted Corinthian columns. There is a similar recess in the hall below, in which a straight flight of stairs leads up to the level of the principal rooms of the house.

Photograph of Curraghmore mantel in billiard room from Georgian Mansions In Ireland by Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson, printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915. (see [8])
Photograph from Georgian Mansions In Ireland by Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson, printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915. Mark Bence-Jones writes that the ceiling in the billiards room was probably decorated by the Francini brothers. (see [8])

Marcus Beresford was succeeded by his fourth but eldest surviving son, the second Earl, George Beresford (1734-1800), who also inherited the title Baron La Poer from his mother in 1769. [By the way, he married Elizabeth Monck, only daughter and heiress of Henry Monck (1725-1787) of Charleville, another house on the Section 482 list which we visited www.irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/18/charleville-county-wicklow/.]  

In 1786 he was created Baron Tyrone. Three years later he was made Marquess of Waterford in the Peerage of Ireland. He was therefore the 1st Marquess of Waterford. The titles descended in the direct line until the death of his grandson, the third Marquess, in 1859.

George had the principal rooms of the house redecorated to the design of James Wyatt in the 1780s. Perhaps this was when the van der Hagen paintings were lost! We can see more of Van der Hagen’s work in a house sometimes open to the public, Beaulieu. At the same time George the 1st Marquess probably built the present staircase hall, which had been an open inner court, and carried out other structural alterations.

As Bence-Jones describes it, the principal rooms of the house lie on three sides of the great staircase hall, which has Wyatt decoration and a stair with a light and simple balustrade rising in a sweeping curve. Our tour paused here for the guide to point out the various portraits of the generations of Marquesses, and to tell stories about each.

Bence-Jones writes that the finest of the Wyatt interiors are the dining room and the Blue drawing room, two of the most beautiful late eighteenth rooms in Ireland, he claims.

Photograph from Georgian Mansions In Ireland by Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson, printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915.

The dining room has delicate plasterwork on the ceiling,  incorporating rondels attributed to Antonio Zucchi (1726-1795, an Italian painter and printmaker of the Neoclassic period) or his wife Angelica Kauffman (a Swiss Neoclassical painter who had a successful career in London and Rome).

Photograph from Georgian Mansions In Ireland by Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson, printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915.

The walls have grissaille panels by Peter de Gree, which are imitations of bas-reliefs, so are painted to look as if they are sculpture. de Gree was born in Antwerp, Holland [14]. In Antwerp he met David de la Touche of Marlay, Rathfarnham, Dublin, who was on a grand tour. The first works of de Gree in Ireland were for David de la Touche for his house in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. [15] The Blue Drawing Room has a ceiling incorporating roundels by de Gree and semi-circular panels attributed to Zucchi.

Sadlier and Dickinson tell us: “The principal drawingroom is a large apartment, somewhat low, with three windows, four doors, and Adam overdoors; there is a pretty Adam ceiling in pale green and white, the work in relief being slightly gilt.

Photograph from Georgian Mansions In Ireland by Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson, printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915. The circular plaques are decorated in monochrome by De Gree, while four semi-circular compartments are believed to have been painted by Zucci, the husband of Angelica Kauffman.

Sadleir and Dickinson continue: “The circular plaques are decorated in monochrome by De Gree, while four semi-circular compartments are believed to have been painted by Zucci, the husband of Angelica Kauffman. The heavy white marble mantel, of classic design, is possibly contemporary with the decoration…A door communicates with the yellow drawing room, smaller but better proportioned, which has an uncoloured Adam ceiling, and a pretty linen-fold mantel in white marble [plate XXXI]. It is lighted by three windows … 

“A pretty linen-fold mantel in white marble” [plate XXXI] Photograph from Georgian Mansions In Ireland by Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson, printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915.

Sadleir and Dickinson continue the tour: “A door to the right gives access from the Hall to the library, which has an Adam ceiling with circular medallion heads, and an Adam mantel with added overshelf, the design of the frieze being repeated in the mantel and bookcases. Most of the books belonged to Lord John George Beresford, Archbishop of Armagh, whose portrait hangs over the fireplace.

Photograph from Georgian Mansions In Ireland by Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson, printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915.

A story is told that a woman’s son was hung, and she cursed the magistrate, the Marquess, by walking nine times around the courtyard of Curraghmore and cursing the family, wishing that the Marquess would have a painful death. It seems that her curse had some effect, as tragedy haunted the family. It was the fourth son who inherited the property and titles of Marcus Beresford, all other sons having died.

The obituary of the 8th Marquis of Waterford gives more details on the curse, which was described to us by our guide, with the help of the portraits:

The 8th Marquis of Waterford, who has died aged 81, was an Irish peer and a noted player in the Duke of Edinburgh’s polo team.

That Lord Waterford reached the age he did might have surprised the superstitious, for some believed his family to be the object of a particularly malevolent curse. He himself inherited the title at only a year old, when his father, the 7th Marquis, died aged 33 in a shooting accident in the gun room at the family seat, Curraghmore, in Co Waterford.

The 3rd Marquis broke his neck in a fall in the hunting field in 1859; the 5th shot himself in 1895, worn down by years of suffering from injuries caused by a hunting accident which had left him crippled; and the 6th Marquis, having narrowly escaped being killed by a lion while big game hunting in Africa, drowned in a river on his estate in 1911 when he was 36.” [16]

The lion, along with some pals, stand in the front hallway in a museum style diorama!

The obituary gives us an introduction to the stories of the various descendants of the 1st Marquess, George Beresford. Let’s now look at the rest of the line of Marquesses.

MARQUESSES OF WATERFORD

I am aided here by the wonderfully informative website of Timothy Ferres. [17]

George, 1st Marquess of Waterford had several children including some illegitimate. His illegitimate son Admiral Sir John de la Poer Beresford was raised to the British peerage as 1st Baronet Beresford, of Bagnall, co. Waterford. His other illegitimate son was Lt.-Gen. William Carr Beresford, created 1st and last Viscount Beresford of Beresford. His first legitimate son died in a riding accident.

The first legitimate son of the 1st Marquess, killed in a riding accident. Photograph from Georgian Mansions In Ireland by Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson, printed for the authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915.

He was succeeded by his second legitimate son, Henry, 2nd Marquess (1772-1826), who wedded, in 1805, Susanna, only daughter and heiress of George Carpenter, 2nd Earl of Tyrconnell. Henry, who was a Knight of St Patrick, a Privy Counsellor in Ireland, Governor of County Waterford, and Colonel of the Waterford Militia, was succeeded by his eldest son, Henry, 3rd Marquess.

In an interview with Patrick Freyne, the current Marquess, whom the townspeople call “Tyrone,” explained that it was the third Marquess, Henry who originated the phrase “painting the town red” while on a wild night in Miltown Mowbray in 1837: he literally painted the town red! [18]

I wonder was this the Marquis who, as a boy in Eton, was expelled, and took with him the “whipping bench,” which looks like a pew, from the school. It remains in the house, in the staircase hall! We can only hope that it meant than no more boys in Eton were whipped.

In 1842, the third Marquess of Waterford married Louisa Stuart, daughter of the 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay, and settled in Curraghmore House. It was he who broke his neck in a fall while hunting. His wife Louisa laid out the garden. She had been raised in France and modelled the gardens on those at Versailles.

According to the website:

After Wyatt’s Georgian developments, work at Curraghmore in the  nineteenth century concentrated on the gardens and the Victorian refacing to the front of the house.

Formal parterre, tiered lawns, lake, arboretum and kitchen gardens  were all developed during this time and survive to today. At this time some of Ireland’s most remarkable surviving trees were planted in the estate’s arboretum. Today these trees frame miles of beautiful river walks  (A Sitka Spruce overlooking King John’s Bridge is one of the tallest trees in Ireland).

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Built in 1205, this stone-arched structure, spanning the Clodagh River, is the oldest bridge in Ireland, called King John’s Bridge, a 13th-century bridge built in anticipation of a visit from King John (he never came).
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The Lake was designed by James Wyatt.
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When Henry died he was succeed by his younger brother, John (1814-1866), who became the 4th Marquess. It was this Marquess who bought the scarey statues in the garden. The tour guide told us that perhaps the choice of statue reflected the Marquis’s personality.

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There were horrible scary statues flanking a path – we learned later that they were bought by the fourth Marquis of Waterford in the World Fair in Paris.
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The 4th Marquess became more religious and more forboding as he aged. John married Christiana Leslie, daughter of Charles Powell Leslie II of Castle Leslie (we will learn more about the Leslies in my write ups for Castle Leslie www.irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/07/castle-leslie-glaslough-county-monaghan/ and Corravahan House in County Cavan www.irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/28/corravahan-house-and-gardens-drung-county-cavan/).

John entered the ministry and served as Prebendary of St Patrick’s Cathedral, under his uncle, Lord John (John George de la Poer Beresford, Lord Archbishop of Armagh, the brother of his father the second Marquess). Our guide told us that John forbade his wife from horseriding, which she adored. When he died, the sons were notified. Before they went to visit the body, when they arrived home they went straight to the stables. They took a horse and brought it inside the house, and up the grand staircase, right into their mother’s bedroom, where she was still in bed. It was her favourite horse! They “gave her her freedom.” She got onto the horse and rode it back down the staircase – one can still see a crack in the granite steps where the horse kicked one on the way down – and out the door and off into the countryside!

The oldest of these sons, John Henry de La Poer Beresford (1844-1895), became 5th Marquess, and also a Member of Parliament and Lord Lieutenant of Waterford. Wikipedia tells us that W. S. Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame refers to John Henry in his opera “Patience” as “reckless and rollicky” in Colonel Calverley’s song “If You Want A Receipt For That Popular Mystery”!

The second son, Admiral Charles William de la Poer Beresford, was created the 1st and last Baron Beresford of Metemmeh and Curraghmore, County Waterford in the British peerage. His daughter Kathleen Mary married Maj.-Gen. Edmund Raoul Blacque and in 1926 she purchased Castletown Cox, a Georgian classical mansion in County Kilkenny.

The 5th Marquess eloped with Florence Grosvenor Rowley, wife of John Vivian, an English Liberal politician, and married her on 9 August 1872. She died in 1873, and he married secondly, Lady Blanche Somerset, daughter of Henry Somerset, 8th Duke of Beaufort, on 21 July 1874. The second Lady Waterford suffered from a severe illness which left her an invalid. She had a special carriage designed to carry her around the estate at Curraghmore.

Lady Waterford in her specially designed invalid carriage 1896
Lady Blanche Waterford, daughter of the 8th Duke of Beaufort, wife of the 5th Marquess, John Henry, in her specially designed invalid carriage 1896, photograph courtesy of National Library of Ireland, from Flickr constant commons.
curraghmore castle guests
January 10, 1902, Group shot of guests at a Fancy Dress Ball held at Curraghmore House, Portlaw, Co. Waterford, courtesy of National Library of Ireland.

Sadly, John Henry killed himself when he was 51, leaving his son Henry to be 6th Marquess (1875-1911).

Henry the 6th Marquess served in the military. He married Beatrix Frances Petty-Fitzmaurice. He died tragically in a drowning  accident on the estate aged only 36. His daughter Blanche Maud de la Poer Beresford married Major Richard Desiré Girouard and had a son Mark Girouard, architectural historian, who worked for Country Life magazine.

His son John Charles became the 7th Marquess (1901-34). He too  died young. He served as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Regiment of Horse Guards but died at age 33 in a shooting accident in the gun room at Curraghmore. He married Juliet Mary Lindsay. Their son John Hubert (1933-2015) thus became 8th Marquess at the age of just one year old.

the Hunt, Curraghmore House
The Hunt, January 11, 1902, courtesy of National Library of Ireland.
Otter Hunt, Curraghmore
According to the National Library, this is an Otter Hunt! At Curraghmore, May 14, 1901.

It is not all fun and games at the house, as in the pictures above!  The guide told us a bit about the lives of the servants. In the 1901 census, she told us, not one servant was Irish. This would be because the maidservants were brought by their mistresses, who mostly came from England. The house still doesn’t have central heating, and tradition has it that the fireplace in the front hall can only be lit by the Marquis, and until it is lit, no other fires can be lit. The maids had to work in the cold if he decided to have a lie-in!

John Hubert served as a lieutenant in the Royal Horse Guards’ Supplementary Reserve and was a skilled horseman. From 1960 to 1985, he was captain of the All-Ireland Polo Club, and he was a member of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Windsor Park team. After retiring from the Army, John Hubert, Lord Waterford, returned to Curraghmore and became director of a number of enterprises to provide local employment, among them the Munster Chipboard company, Waterford Properties (a hotel group) and, later, Kenmare Resources, an Irish oil and gas exploration company. He was a founder patron of the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera.

In 1957 he married Lady Caroline Olein Geraldine Wyndham-Quin, daughter of the 6th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl, of Adare Manor in County Limerick. The 8th Marquess and his wife Caroline carried out restoration of the Library and Yellow Drawing Room. Lord Waterford devoted much of his time to maintaining and improving the Curraghmore estate, with its 2,500 acres of farmland and 1,000 acres of woodland.

He was succeeded by his son, Henry de La Pore Beresford (b. 1958), the current Marquess. He and his wife now live in the House and have opened it up for visitors. His son is also a polo professional, and is known as Richard Le Poer.

The website tells us, as did the Guide, of the current family:

The present day de la Poer Beresfords are country people by tradition. Farming, hunting, breeding  horses and an active social calendar continues as it did centuries ago. Weekly game-shooting parties are held every season (Nov. through Feb.) and in spring, calves, foals and lambs can be seen in abundance on Curraghmore’s verdant fields. Polo is still played on the estate in summer. Throughout Ireland’s turbulent history, this family have never been ‘absentee landlords’ and they still provide diverse employment for a number of local people. Change comes slowly to Curraghmore – table linen, cutlery and dishes from the early nineteenth century are still in use.

THE OUTBUILDINGS

Behind the houses and stables on one side were more buildings, probably more accommodation for the workers, as well as more stables, riding areas and workplaces such as a forge. I guessed that one building had been a school but we later learned that the school for the workers’ children was in a different location, behind a the gate lodge by the entrance gate (nearly 2 km away, I think).

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We were lucky to be able to wander around the outbuildings.

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There were some interesting looking machines in sheds. Perhaps some of this machinery is for grain, or some could be for the wool trade. Turtle Bunbury writes of the wool trade in the 18th century and of the involvement by the de la Poer family in Curraghmore. [19]

Other buildings were stables, or had been occupied as accommodation in the past, and some were used for storage.

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Amazing vaulted ceilings for stables!
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The buildings above are behind the stables of the courtyard.
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The Butler’s house, the first house in the courtyard nearest the main house. The Butler lived in the main house until he married, when he then was given the house in the courtyard. There was a Butler in the house until just two years ago, and he lived here until he retired.
household staff of Curraghmore House, Portlaw, Co. Waterford, ca.1905, National Library of Ireland
Household staff of Curraghmore, around 1905, courtesy of National Library of Ireland.

Someone asked about the sculptures in the niches in the courtyard. They too were purchased at the World Fair Exhibition in Paris. Why are there only some in niches – are the others destroyed or stolen? That in itself was quite a story! A visitor said they could have the sculptures cleaned up, by sending them to England for restoration. The Marquess at the time agreed, but said only take every second one, to leave some in place, and when those are back, we’ll send the remaining ones. Just as well he did this, since the helper scuppered and statues were never returned.

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The Forge – see the bellows in the corner of the room.

Last but not least, Curraghmore is now the venue for the latest music festival, Alltogethernow. There’s a stag’s head made by a pair of Native American artists, of wooden boughs that were gathered on the estate. It was constructed for the festival last year but still stands, ready for this year (2019)! Some of my friends will be at the festival. The house will be railed off for the event.

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[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] Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson. Georgian Mansions in Ireland with some account of the evolution of Georgian Architecture and Decoration. Printed for the Authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915. 

[3] http://curraghmorehouse.ie/

[4] https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/07/03/now-available/

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22900816/curraghmore-house-curraghmore-co-waterford

[6] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_delapoer.html

Turtle Bunbury on his website writes of the history of the family:

“On his death on 2nd August 1521, Sir Piers was succeeded as head of the family by his eldest son, Sir Richard Power, later 1st Baron le Poer and Coroghmore…. In 1526, five years after his father’s death, Sir Richard married Lady Katherine Butler, a daughter of Piers, 8th Earl of Ormonde, and aunt of ‘Black Tom’ Butler, Queen Elizabeth’s childhood sweetheart. The marriage occurred at a fortuitous time for Power family fortunes. English influence in Ireland had been in decline for several decades and the rival Houses of Butler and Fitzgerald effectively ran the country. The Powers of Curraghmore were intimately connected, by marriage, with both.”

[7] www.thepeerage.com

[8] Quoted p. 51, Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson. Georgian Mansions in Ireland with some account of the evolution af Georgian Architecture and Decoration. Printed for the Authors at the Dublin University Press, by Ponsonby & Gibbs, 1915. 

[9] https://dromanahouse.com/2019/03/20/the-drawbacks-and-dangers-of-heiress-hunting/

[10] Mark Bence-Jones describes it in his book, 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.

[11] see https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/07/01/curraghmore-church/

[12] https://theirishaesthete.com/2018/03/19/in-a-shell/

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

[14] https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/11/23/to-a-de-gree/

[15] https://www.libraryireland.com/irishartists/peter-de-gree.php

[16] https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/obituary-the-irish-peer-who-outlived-curse-30998942.html

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

[18] https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/oh-lord-next-generation-takes-the-keys-to-waterford-county-1.2191959

[19] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_delapoer.html

County Cavan, historic houses to see and stay

I set out today to do a write up of County Cavan the way I did of Dublin, of all the big houses to visit or that offer accommodation. There are only two listings in Section 482  for County Cavan and one is a hotel. It turns out that, despite multiple beautiful historic houses, there are not many to visit. I researched places to stay in Cavan as Stephen and I travel through there regularly on our way to Donegal where his mum lives.

From my research I have a list of forty historic houses in County Cavan. Of those, at least eleven no longer exist or are in ruins, and most of the rest are private. Ballyhaise House is now an agricultural college. Farnham Estate and Virginia Park’s hunting lodge are now hotels. Owendoon House is now the Jampa Ling Buddhist Centre and Dromkeen is a Loreto College. Kilnacrott House also appears to belong to a religious order.

1. Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan – section 482
This is a hotel but unlike some heritage house or castle hotels, they do allow visitors to view the building: the website states that they are open between 11am to 4pm for visitors for viewing all year round, except at Christmastime.

Cabra Castle, County Cavan, December 2020.

see my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/03/28/cabra-castle-kingscourt-county-cavan/
contact: Howard Corscadden.
Tel: 042-9667030
www.cabracastle.com
Open: all year, except Dec 24, 25, 26, 11am-4pm
Fee: Free

2. Castle Saunderson, Co. Cavan – a ruin 

Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
The castle, which dates from 1840, was destroyed by fire in 1990.

https://www.thisiscavan.ie/fun/article/luanch-of-new-heritage-trail-at-castle-saunderson

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 75. “(Saunderson/IFR) A large castellated mansion combining both baronial and Tudor-Revival elements, built ca 1840; from its close stylistic resemlance  to Crom Casle, about five miles away in County Fermanagh, it can be attributed to Edward Blore. Entrance front symmetrical, with a battlemented parapet, square end turrets and a tall central gatehouse tower which is unusual in having the entrance door in its side rather than in its front. The adjoining garden front is more irregular, with a recessed centre between two projecting wings of unequal size and fenestration, each having a Tudor gable; the two wings being joined at ground floor level by a rather fragile Gothic arcade. To the left of this front, a lower “L”-shaped wing with a battlemented parapet and various turrets, ending in a long Gothic conservatory. Castle Saunderson has stood empty for years and is now semi-derelict.” [1]

The land belonged to the O’Reilly clan in the 16th century, rulers of Breifne, which covered much of modern County Cavan. Scottish mercenatry Alexander Sanderson (the ‘u’ was added later), was first granted lands in Cavan and Tyrone in 1618. The estate passed to his son Robert, the first recorded Sanderson to live here, in 1633. The castle that was there at that time was burned to the ground in 1641 during the Rebellion. Robert Sanderson helped Oliver Cromwell’s troops to reconquer, and he was awarded with more land.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
In 1828, Alexander Saunderson, MP for Cavan, married Sarah Maxwell, daughter of Reverend Henry Maxwell 6th Baron Farnham, head of another of Cavan’s powerful Anglo-Irish families (Farnham Estate is now a hotel). Through marriage, the Maxwells are reputed to be able to trace their lineage back to the High King Brian Boru, and to the Scottish Robert Bruce. Alexander was a kind landlord, suspending rent collection from 1845-51 due to the famine.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
In the late 19th century, Colonel Edward Saunderson opposed Charles Stewart Parnell. Saunderson was the founder of Irish Unionism, a movement to preserve British rule in Ireland.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
Castle Saunderson, County Cavan, December 2020.
The last Saunderson, Alexander, or “Sandy,” was a prisoner of war in WWII, sharing a cell with Sir John Leslie of Castle Leslie. In prison he studied law and later worked at the Nuremburg Nazi war crimes trials.
A Scout centre nearby has been established, and is a World Peace Centre for the Scouts.

3. Clough Oughter, County Cavan

https://www.discoverireland.ie/Activities-Adventure/clough-oughter-castle/48729

Clough Oughter Castle, County Cavan, photograph by Chris Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [2]

Clough Oughter Castle is a ruined circular castle, situated on a small island in Lough Oughter, four kilometres east of the town of Killeshandra in County Cavan.

The castle is located in what was once the historic Kingdom of Breifne. In the latter part of the 12th century, it was under the control of the O’Rourkes, but it seems to have come into the hands of the Anglo-Norman William Gorm de Lacy. While the exact date construction began is unknown, it is estimated to have started in the first quarter of the 13th century.  
 
In 1233, the O’Reilly clan took possession of the area and completed the castle. They retained it for centuries in the midst of their ongoing conflicts with the O’Rourkes and with members of their own clan. It was there that Philip O’Reilly was imprisoned in the 1360s. 
 
Lough Oughter is regarded as the best inland example of a flooded drumlin landscape in Ireland and has rich and varied wildlife. The number of whooper swans which winter in the area represents about 3% of the total European population, while the lake also houses the largest concentration of breeding great crested grebes in the Republic of Ireland. 
 

Lough Oughter is a popular angling lake and is also popular with canoeists and boating enthusiasts. The Lough Oughter complex, along with Killykeen Forest Park, is a designated Natura 2000 habitat, Special Area for Conservation (SAC), and Special Protection Area (SPA) under EU legislation. 
 
Canoes and kayaks are available for hire from Cavan Canoe Centre, which also offers guided boat trips around the lake and out to the castle.” [3]

On the Discover Belturbet website, we are told the history of Clough Oughter:

Clough is the Gaelic word for stone, so literally this is Castle of Stone. The island was made by man, and the castle which sits upon it was also made by man and one can only speculate as to what a marvellous feat of engineering it took to accomplish such a build.  

The castle would have been part of the historical kingdom of Breifne, and specifically a part of  East Breifne, (Roughly speaking the same borders as modern day Cavan).  It is likely that the Crannog itself came sometime before the castle, and in the latter part of the 12th century, it was under the control of the O’Rourke clan, but with the invasion of the Anglo Normans, the crannog came to be controlled by the Anglo-Norman  William Gorm De Lacy. No concrete dates exist for the construction of the castle, but architectural elements from the lower two storeys suggest it was begun during the early 13th century.  

In 1233, the O’Reilly clan gained possession of the castle. They seem to have retained the castle for centuries throughout ongoing conflicts with the O’Rourkes, and indeed with members of their own clan. Philip O’Reilly was imprisoned here in the 1360’s with “no allowance save a sheaf of oats for day and night and a cup of water, so that he was compelled to drink his own urine”.  

After the Ulster Plantation, the castle was given to servitor Hugh Culme. Philip O’Reilly who was a Cavan MP and leader of the rebel forces during the Rebellion of 1641  seized control of the castle and kept it as an island fortress for the next decade. During this period it was mainly used as a prison. Its most notable prisoner would have been the Anglican Bishop of Kilmore, William Bedell, who was held here and is said to have died because of the harsh winter conditions in the prison.  

Clough Oughter castle became the last remaining stronghold for the rebels during the Cromwell era, but sometime in March of 1653 the castle fell to Cromwells canons. The castle walls were breached by the canon and the castle was never rebuilt after this point.  

Visitors will be astounded to note the thickness of the walls which can now be seen because of the canon bombardment. The island and the castle have received considerable refurbishments since 1987, making it safe to visit, and well worth the visit.” [4]

4. Corravahan House & Gardens, Drung, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan – section 482

Corravahan, County Cavan, photograph from Ian Elliot.

see my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/28/corravahan-house-and-gardens-drung-county-cavan/
contact: Ian Elliott
Tel: 087-9772224
www.corravahan.com
Open: Jan 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, Mar 1-2, 8-9, May 4- 5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30-31, June 1-4, Aug 14-31, Sept 1-2, 9am-1pm, Sundays 2pm- 6pm
Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €5 

Places to stay, County Cavan

1. Cabra Castle, on section 482 – hotel – see above www.cabracastle.com

and lodges

2. Clover Hill Gate Lodge, Cloverhill, Belturbet, Cavan

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/4962376?source_impression_id=p3_1646316400_8H59V8wuqVzXlMog

Cloverhill House is now a ruin. Mark Bence-Jones tells us the house was built 1799-1804 for James Saunderson [1763-1842] to the design of Francis Johnston. Robert O’Byrne adds that it was in fact extended in 1799, but built originally in 1758 [thus was built for James’s father Alexander, who married Lucy Madden of the Hilton Park House Madden family, another Section 482 property. A date stone gives us the date of 1758]. [5] Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the house passed by inheritance to the Purdons, and was sold by Major J.N. Purdon ca 1958. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us that the Sanderson family were instrumental in the development of Cloverhill village with the building of the Church of Ireland church and estate workers’ houses.

The house is featured in Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Mansions of Ireland, Collins Press, Cork, 2010. 

The house passed down through the Sanderson family until James Sanderson (1763-1842), and then passed down through the female line since the son, also named James, had no heirs. It passed first to Mary Anne, who was unmarried, and then to her sister’s son, Samuel Sanderson Winter (1834-1912), whose parents were Lucy Sanderson and Samuel Winter (1796-1867) of Agher, County Meath. Samuel Sanderson Winter married Ann, daughter of John Armytage Nicholson of Balrath Bury, County Meath (we came across this family as Enniscoe in County Mayo was inherited by Jack Nicholson, of the Balrath Bury family). Samuel Sanderson Winter’s son died young so Cloverhill passed to the son of his sister, Elizabeth Ann Winter, who married George Nugent Purdon (1819-1910). This is how the house passed to the Purdon family.

The house passed to their son, John James Purdon, who died childless so it passed to his nephew, John Nugent Purdon, son of Charles Sanderson Purdon. John Nugent Purdon sold Cloverhill demesne ca 1958 to Mr Thomas Mee. [6] 

3. Farnham House, Farnham Estate, Cavan – Farnham Estate hotel 

https://www.farnhamestate.ie

Farnham House, photograph from National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.

The website gives us a history of the estate:

“1664- The Waldrons of Dromellan Castle (early name of Farnham House) were forced to sell the estate to settle gambling debts. Bought by Bishop Robert Maxwell, thus beginning the Maxwell family connection that was to continue for more than 330 years (family motto is Je suis prêt – I am ready’).”

Mark Bence-Jones adds in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988, p. 123):

The estate here was granted by James I to the Waldrons; Henry Waldron, later in C17, followed the popular custom of naming it after his wife; but  instead of giving it a name incorporating her Christian name, he gave it her maiden name, which was Farnham. A few years later the estate was sold to Robert Maxwell, Bishop of Kilmore, whose cathedral was nearby. The Bishop’s son, John Maxwell, built a new house here ca 1700, which was improved ca 1780 by Barry Maxwell, 3rd Lord Farnham and first Earl of Farnham of 2nd creation, who added a library designed by James Wyatt.

The Bishop’s son John Maxwell died childless in 1713 so the estate passed through his brother Henry to Henry’s son John Maxwell (d. 1759).

The website continues: “1756- John Maxwell (d. 1759) was ennobled, created Baron Farnham of Farnham, conferring prestige and social status.

1761- Robert, Earl of Farnham [1720-1779, son of the 1st Baron Farnham], was a keen agriculturalist and agent of improvement who put the most technologically and scientifically advanced agricultural methods into action.

In 1777, noted agricultural scientist and topographer Arthur Young said of Farnham; “…upon the whole Farnham is one of the finest places that I have ever seen in Ireland; the water wood and hill are all in great stile and abound in a variety of capabilities. The woodland plantations of Derrygid coupled with the lakes of Farnham and Derrygid were noted by Young who described them as being ‘uncommonly beautiful; extensive and have a shore extremely varied.” In the 1770’s, approximately 100 labourers were employed in maintaining the landscape at Farnham. [When Robert died his title died with him but his brother Barry (1723-1800) was created 1st Earl Farnham, of second creation.]

In 1795, Earl of Farnham Barry asked James Wyatt, one of the most fashionable architects of that time, to draw designs for three ceilings. Although there is no evidence of them being installed at Farnham, these plans are now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Some work was undertaken by Wyatt though around the 1795 timeframe and to this day, a library case where his design has been noted stands inserted in an alcove on the staircase landing.

In the early 1800’s, a coat of arms was incorporated onto the façade of the house. Comprised of the arms of the Maxwell and Barry family [John Maxwell the 1st Baron Farnham married Judith Barry in 1719], they are supported by two bucks, with a buck’s head on top of the Baron’s coronet as the crest.

The South Front of Farnham House. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

In 1802 Francis Johnston, architect for Dublin’s famous GPO building, was engaged to complete an extension of the existing house to provide an edifice to the southwest garden front. [Barry Maxwell, the 1st Earl of Farnham of second creation’s son was John James Barry, 2nd Earl of Farnham (1760-1823). He had no children so the title became extinct again when he died. The title of Baron Farnham passed to the son of Barry’s other brother, the Reverend Henry Maxwell (1723-1798)]. This is the latter day surviving Farnham House, which is now incorporated as the centrepiece of the hotel complex design.

Photograph of Farnham House from Country Life, A Chinese Chippendale chair in the hall at Farnham House. Pub Orig CL 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker. 
The staircase at Farnham House designed by Francis Johnston. Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Mark Bence-Jones describes the house as built by Francis Johnston:

“Johnston produced a house consisting of two somewhat conservative 3 storey ranges at right angles to one another; one of them, which incorporated part of the earlier house, including Wyatt’s library, having a front of 8 bays, with a die over a 2 bay breakfront, and a single-storey Doric portico; the other having a front of 9 bays with a 3 bay pedimented breakfront; prolonged by 1 bay in the end of the adjoining range. The interior was spacious but restrained, the principal rooms having simple ovolo or dentil cornices. Elliptical staircase hall, with simple geometrical design in the ceiling; stone stair with elegant metal balustrade.

The portico is now incorporated into the interior of Farnham Estate hotel. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website continues: “In the depths of the earth beneath Farnham lies a myriad of passages. These passages were constructed to allow food, supplies and heating fuels to be brought into the mansion house by the servants. Such underground passages kept the servants out of sight from Lords and Ladies Farnham and their guests and no doubt were used by the servants to enjoy some activities of their own, which they would not have wanted Lord and Lady Farnham to witness!

In 1823, a new system of management for the Farnham estate was introduced, employing persons as inspectors of districts, buildings, bog and land and a moral agent! The main duties of the moral agent were to encourage the tenantry to adhere to the main principles contained in Lord Farnham’s address to them. These included: keeping of the Sabbath, responsibility towards the education of their children, imbuing within their children a strict moral sense and to ensure that they abstained from all evil habits, including cursing and the distillation or consumption of alcohol. [at this time the estate would have been in the possession of Reverend Henry Maxwell’s son, John Maxwell Barry Maxwell, 5th Baron Farnham, of Farnham, Co. Cavan. He died childless in 1838, so his brother Reverend Henry Maxwell became the 6th Baron Farnham. He married Anne Butler, daughter of the 3nd Earl of Carrick. Their son Henry became the 7th Baron Farnham (1799-1868). His brothers became 8th and 9th Baron and then the son of their brother Richard Thomas Maxwell, Somerset Henry Maxwell, became the 10th Baron.]

Mark Bence-Jones tells us: “In 1839, 7th Lord Farnham (a distinguished scholar and genealogist who, with his wife, was burnt to death 1868 when the Irish mail train caught fire at Abergele, North Wales), enlarged the house by building new offices in the re-entrant between the two ranges. Also probably at this time the main rooms were changed around; the library becoming the dining room, and losing any Wyatt decoration it might have had; Wyatt’s bookcases being moved to the former drawing room.

The drawing room at Farnham House. The portrait to the right is of thr Rt Hon John, 5th Baron Farnham by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
Photograph of Farnham House from Country Life, Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website continues the timeline:

“1911- [in the time of the 11th Baron, Arthur Kenlis Maxwell (1879-1957)] Records mention a staff of 11: butler, cook, governess, nursery maid, nurse, footman, ladies’ maid and several house and kitchen maids. Some 3,000 of Farnham’s then 24,000 statute acres were sold off.

1914-1918- Lord Farnham rejoined the military; he was captured, imprisoned and released after the Armistice. His political efforts failed to prevent the exclusion of three counties from the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland.

1921-1931- Lord and Lady Farnham left for England. They emptied the house of its furniture, due to widespread burning and looting of country houses. The 1923 Land Act would ultimately end landlordism in Ireland: by 1931, Lord Farnham retained only his demesne lands at Farnham, which he operated in a more intensive fashion in order to increase much-needed revenue.

1950- Economic decline had by now affected the demesne. A Farnham Tintorreto ’Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples’ was sold in 1955; the Canadian National Art Gallery in Ontario paid some $100,000. 1956- Barry Owen Somerset Maxwell, 12th Baron Farnham [grandson of the 11th Baron] became the last member of the Maxwell family to reside at Farnham House.

In 1961, dry rot was discovered within the Farnham house and in an attempt to alleviate it, the oldest part of the house looking across the parkland, and the additions made to the house in 1839, were demolished.”

The entrance front of Farnham House, as remodelled in 1961. In an attempt to alleviate dry rot, the oldest part of the house was demolished. Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.

Mark Bence-Jones describes the changes: “Ca 1960, the present Lord Farnham, finding the hosue to be badly infested with dryrot, demolished the range where the entrance had formerly been situated, as well as the additions of 1839; and remodelled the surviving Johnston range to form a house in itself; being assisted in the work by Mr Philip Cullivan. The pedimented front is still the garden front, as it was formerly; the back of the range being now the entrance front, with the portico re-erected at one end of it; so that the entrance is directly into the staircase hall. The surviving range contains Johnston’s dining room, which has been the drawing room since 19C rearrangement; as well as the boudoir and the former study, now the dining room. One of Wyatt’s bookcases is now in the alcove of the former staircase window. The demesne of Farnham has long been famous for its beauty; a landscape of woods, distant mountain views and lakes, which are part of the great network of loughs and islands stretching southwards from Upper Lough Erne.

The dining room at Farnham House. Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
Photograph of Farnham House from Country Life, Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
Photograph of Farnham House from Country Life, Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.
The fireplace in Lady Farnham’s bedroom at Farnham House. The pastels of the family arranged over the chimneypiece are by Hugh Douglas Hamilton and the portrait in the centre is by Sir Francis Grant. Pub Orig Country Life 02/01/2003, volume CXCVII. Photographer Paul Barker.

The website continues:

1995 – 2001 – Lord Farnham abandoned farming and leased the agricultural lands to local farmers. One of his last acts on the Farnham demesne was the planting of a group of trees to mark the New Millennium. Lord Farnham died in March 2001 and his wife, Diana, Baroness Farnham now resides in England where she is a current Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth II. Farnham House estate was sold to a local entrepreneur who developed it into a hotel resort.

Present Day – The resort is owned by Mr. Thomas Röggla and along with his team at the resort, every effort is made to provide genuine hospitality in this new phase in the evolution of this magnificent location. Thus, the indelible-mark made by the Maxwell family, as far back as 1664 on the landscape of Farnham Estate will continue to be appreciated by future generations.”

As former Radisson Blu, Farnham Estate, Cavan 2013.
Walk on Farnham Estate, Cavan, Sept 2013
Walk on Farnham Estate, Cavan, Sept 2013
Walk on Farnham Estate, Cavan, Sept 2013

4. Killinagh House, McNean Court, Blacklion, County Cavan – whole house rental and a lodge

Killinagh House, built 1827, a former Glebe House, three-bay two-storey over basement. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.discoverireland.ie/accommodation/killinagh-house

and Killinagh Lodge, https://killinaghlodge.com/facilities.html on the grounds of Killinagh House:

Killinagh Lodge is situated within 1 mile from the village of Blacklion in the picturesque grounds of Killinagh House, a former Church of Ireland manse dating back to Georgian times.

Set in the courtyard, Killinagh Lodge offers luxurious, purpose built, self catering accommodation on the shores of Lough MacNean. Boasting its own private access to the Lough, Killinagh Lodge is set in one of the most beautiful and tranquil locations where you can enjoy the grounds of the wider Estate.

The house website tells us:

Killinagh House is a unique, Georgian Country House, situated in the heart of the Marble Arch Global Geo Park, in west County Cavan. The perfect getaway for peace and relaxation. We cater for customer comforts, special requests and reasonable prices.

The perfect retreat to unwind and recharge the batteries. Peaceful and quiet with relaxed garden views. Killinagh House is at the heart of Marble Arch Global Geo Park, ideally located for outdoor pursuits, including golf, fishing and nature walks.”

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory further describes it: “Roughcast rendered lime-washed walls with string course above basement. Three-over-six timber sash windows to first floor and six-over-six to ground floor all with stone sills and timber internal window shutters. Front door set in smooth-rendered segmental-arched recess, having four-panelled door in classical surround of slender Doric pilasters, metope frieze and cobweb fanlight above. Basement well to east, north and west side. Stone steps leading to entrance with recent metal railings.

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

5. Lismore House, Co Cavan – was a ruin. Place to stay: Peacock House on the demesne:

Lismore House, Co Cavan – restored house (believed to have been the agent’s house) and a place to stay, Peacock House, available on airbnb. Of the original Lismore House, attributed to Edward Lovett Pearce (1699-1733), only the two wings and tower survive.

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/27674042?source_impression_id=p3_1646316758_vwGIKKMTwiWKK%2FB7

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. The Inventory tells us it is: “Symmetrical pair of detached six-bay two-storey flanking wings to former Lismore House, built c.1730, having advanced outermost end bays to each block, single-bay two-stage flanking tower formerly attached to south corner of house having single-bay extension to north…Rubble stone walls having red brick quoins, eaves course, and string course. Red brick surrounds to oculi at first floor over round-headed ground-floor windows and central segmental-headed door.
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Blind lunette and oculus to gables facing former house.”
Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Tower having mansard slate roof, rubble stone walls with cut-stone platbands, cut-stone surrounds to window openings, round-headed openings with raised keystone and impost blocks to former ground floor, and segmental-headed openings to former basement level.”

The house was restored by Richard and Sonya Beer. [8]

It was probably built for Thomas Nesbitt, (c1672-1750), of Grangemore, County Westmeath, High Sheriff of County Cavan, 1720, MP for Cavan Borough, 1715-50 [7].

Mark Bence-Jones writes about Lismore House in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988), p. 186:

Originally the seat of the Nesbitts, passed to the Burrowes through the marriage of Mary [Mary Anne, born 1826, daughter of John Nesbitt and Elizabeth Tatam] Nesbitt to James Burrowes [1820-1860, of Stradone House, County Cavan] in 1854; Lismore passed to the Lucas-Clements family through the marriage of Miss Rosamund Burrowes to the late Major Shuckburgh Lucas-Clements in 1922.

Mary Anne and James had a son, Thomas Cosby Burrowes (1856-1925). He married in 1885 Anna 
Frances, daughter of Richard Thomas Maxwell, and grand-daughter of the sixth Baron Farnham (of Farnham Estate), by whom he has issue two daughters. One daughter, Rosamund Charlotte Cosby Burrowes, of Lismore, married, in 1922, Major Shuckburgh Upton Lucas-Clements in 1922. [9] The main house was vacated c.1870 when the family relocated to Lismore Lodge, formerly the agent’s house. 
 
Mark Bence-Jones continues: “Having stood empty for many years, the house fell into ruin and was demolished ca 1952, with the exception of the “tower” wings. The office wings are now used as farm buildings, and the family now live in the former agent’s house, an early house with a Victorian wing and other additions.” 

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

6. Olde Post Inn, Cloverhill, County Cavan

https://www.theoldepostinn.com

The website tells us: “The Olde Post inn was built in the 1800s. It opened as a post office in 1884, grocery & residence. It had a number of owners and was for some time derelict before it was renovated into a restaurant with accommodation in early 1990s. It has been run as a restaurant since and was taken over by Gearoid & Tara Lynch in November 2002. Since then it has gone under further refurbishment and been extended to include two Hampton Conservatories.

7. Ross Castle, Co Cavan (address is in Mountnugent, County Meath, A82HF89, on the border of Cavan)

https://www.ross-castle.com

Whole castle rental, or nearby Castle Cottage, Quarry House or Tea Rose Cottage.

The website tells us:

Ross Castle is situated on the shores of Lough Sheelin in the rolling countryside of County Meath. The Norman Tower House was strategically built in 1520 commanding views of Cavan, Westmeath, Longford, Meath and Lough Sheelin for the Nugent Family. 500 years later Ross Castle has retained its medieval charm while also providing the comforts of today’s world. The Castle is an ideal venue for conferences, small weddings, family get togethers, tour groups and private parties. 
With the new addition of the Great Room and the Bishop’s Suite bedroom at the Castle, combined with our two cottages and Farm House, you now have the option of booking the combined properties for up to 31 guests. Individual property rentals for smaller groups are also possible. While Ross Castle was a Bed & Breakfast in the past, it can now only be booked for groups and events
.”

8. Slieve Russel Hotel, Cavan 

https://www.originalirishhotels.com/destinations/irelands-ancient-east

Slieve Russel hotel, County Cavan, photograph by Geoffrey Arrowsmith, 2019 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

Stands on the site of what was once Cranaghan House, which was the Church of Ireland rectory for Tomregan parish from 1850 to 1959.

9. Virginia Park Lodge, Co Cavan

WWW.VIRGINIAPARKLODGE.COM

This was formerly the hunting lodge of the Taylours, Marquess Headfort, who also owned Headfort House in County Meath. It was built for the First Earl of Bective, Thomas Taylour (1724-1795), son of Thomas Taylor 2nd Baronet Taylor, of Kells, co. Meath, who served as MP for Kells and as a Privy Counsellor in Ireland. His mother was Sarah Graham from Platten, County Meath. Thomas the 1st Earl of Bective also served as Privy Counsellor. He married Jane Rowley, from Summerhill, County Meath.

It was their one of their younger sons, Reverend Henry Edward Taylour (1768-1852), who lived at Ardgillan Castle in Dublin. Their son Thomas the second earl became the 1st Marquess of Headfort, and added to Virginia Park Lodge and imported plants to create the parkland surrounding the Lodge. He married Mary Quin, from Quinsborough, County Clare. The Lodge passed through the family to the 4th Marquess, Geoffrey Thomas Taylour, son of the second wife of the 3rd Marquess. He married a music hall star, Rosie Boote, which scandalised society, but they moved to the Lodge and lived happily and had many children.

The Lodge was bought by chef Richard Corrigan in 2014, and he has undertaken much work to restore it to its former glory.

*************************

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

[2] Ireland’s Content Pool, https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en

[3] https://www.discoverireland.ie/Activities-Adventure/clough-oughter-castle/48729 

[4] http://www.discoverbelturbet.ie/unesco-geopark/clough-oughter/

[5] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/09/09/a-mere-shell/

[6]  see Timothy William Ferres: http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Cavan%20Landowners?updated-max=2018-07-03T12:32:00%2B01:00&max-results=20&start=10&by-date=false

[7] ibid.

[8] https://www.anglocelt.ie/news/roundup/articles/2018/06/17/4157489-bringing-lismore-back-from-the-dead/ 

[9] https://nisbetts.co.uk/archives/nesalx.htm

Slane Castle, County Meath


contact: Jemma Smith
Tel: 041-9884477
www.slanecastle.ie
Open in 2022: Jan 16, 23, 30Feb 6, 13, 20, 27, Mar 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, April 2-3, 9- 10, 16-18, 23-24, 30, May 1-2, 6-8, 13-15, 20-23, June 3, 6, 10, 17, 24, July 1, 7-8, 14-15, 22, 28, 31, Aug 1, 4-5, 11-21, 25-26, 28, Sept 4,18, 25, Jan- Apr, and June 10am-4pm, May, Fri-Sat, 10am-4pm, Sunday, 12 noon 4pm, July, Thurs-Sat, 10am- 4pm, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm, Aug, Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm, Sept, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm

Fee: adult €14, OAP/student €12.50, child €7.50, concession family ticket (2 adults and 2 children €39, additional adults €1, additional children €6

Today (Saturday 27th April 2019) my husband Stephen and I made our first official blog trip.  We started in the “ancient east,” going to Slane Castle in County Meath. The land around the Boyne River is beautiful, rolling and fertile. It took almost exactly one hour to drive from our home in Dublin, taking the M1 which I find easier than the M2 through the city’s north side, with which I’m less familiar. Our timing was perfect, we arrived at 2:10pm, in time for the 2:15 tour – there are tours every hour on the quarter hour. [1]

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The view of Slane Castle from just inside the gate, driving in.
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coming closer to the Castle.

The castle is three storeys over basement, in the Gothic Revival style. There is a bow on the back side of the castle, facing the river, and the basement serves as the ground floor on this side due to the steep slope down to the River Boyne. The bow forms a round tower, but you cannot see it as you approach the castle as the river is behind.

Our tour guide was a young very pleasant man named Matthew, who seemed very knowledgeable about the castle and its history and the history of the Conyngham family, who have owned the castle since 1703. The Conynghams of Slane Castle are descendants of the Conynghams of Mountcharles, County Donegal. 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), from Scotland, 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. 

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The view over the beautiful River Boyne.

The Flemings of Slane

The Conynghams bought the land in Slane after it was confiscated from the Flemings. In 1175, Richard Le Fleming built a castle at the western end of Slane hill and, three generations later, Simon Fleming was created Baron of Slane. [4]

The Conynghams did not acquire Slane directly after it was confiscated from the Flemings – Terry Trench of the Slane History and Archaeology Society writes that the estate changed hands, at least on paper, seven times between 1641 and 1703. The estate was taken from the Flemings in 1641, when William Fleming, the 14th Baron Slane, joined the Catholic Irish forces in rebellion against the British. He remained loyal to the king, but objected to the laws that the British parliament passed to make the Irish parliament subservient to the British parliament. The estate was restored to William’s son Randall under the Act of Settlement and Distribution of Charles II’s reign, by decree dated 27th March 1663. [5] Many estates that had been confiscated by Cromwell’s parliament were restored when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660.

The Flemings had their land confiscated again as Christopher, 17th Baron Slane (1669-1726), backed James II in his battles against William of Orange. He served in the Irish Parliament of King James II in 1689, and as colonel in James’s army in Ireland 1689-91, fighting in both the Battle of the Boyne and in Aughrim, where he was taken prisoner by William’s forces. Released, he emigrated and fought in the French and Portuguese armies, as did many of James II’s followers who were attainted and lost their estates, as they needed to be able to earn a living. He was later reconciled with Queen Anne of England (daughter of James II) and returned to Ireland, to live in Anticur, County Antrim. In 1703, Henry Conyngham purchased the estate of Slane.

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Stephen in front of the Castle.

The Building of Slane Castle

In 1785 the castle was remodelled to the design of James Wyatt (1746 – 1813). Wyatt also designed another house on the section 482 list this year, Curraghmore in County Waterford, and a house not on the list, unfortunately, as I would love to see inside, Abbeyleix House (incidentally, my father grew up in Abbeyleix and we used to enjoy the gardens which used to be open and which were reknowned for the bluebells. Also, coincidentally, according to wikipedia, Wyatt spent six years in Italy, 1762–68, in company with Richard Bagot of Staffordshire, who was Secretary to the Earl of Northampton’s embassy to the Venetian Republic. My family is rumoured to be descended from the Staffordshire Bagots, although I have not found the connection!).

Our guide told us that the castle was reconstructed and enlarged by William Burton Conyngham (1733-1796). It was built on the foundations of a medieval castle of the Fleming family, replacing an earlier house. William Burton Conyngham was a classicist and the front hall features Greek columns and key patterns on the walls and many marble Greek sculptures, including a sculpture of King George IV of England, donated by the king himself. William Burton Conyngham argued with his architects, Matthew told us, so ended up having three architects for his castle: James Gandon, James Wyatt and Francis Johnston. According to Mark Bence-Jones in A Guide to Irish Country Houses, Francis Johnston completed the house for the the second Lord Conygham’s son, nephew of William Burton Conyngham, Henry (1766-1832), who later became the 1st Marquess Conyngham. Other architects were consulted at various times, including James Gandon, who most famously designed the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin, and Emo Court in County Laois. Francis Johnston designed the General Post Office in Dublin, and Townley Hall, a grand house in County Louth. Another architect consulted was a favourite of King George IV, the English Thomas Hopper.

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The intertwined “C” is the symbol of the Conyngham family.

The Conynghams of Slane

The Conyngham motto, Over Fork Over, recounts the way Duncan hid from Macbeth (familiar to us from Shakespeare). Matthew told us that Duncan hid in straw in a barn, having it forked over him. After that, he managed to defeat Macbeth and to become king. So the Conynghams are descendants of a Scottish king!

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The Conyngham coat of arms, with its motto, Over Fork Over.

Alexander Conyngham moved from Scotland to Ireland when he was appointed in 1611 to be the first Protestant minister to Enver and Killymardin the diocese of Raphoe, County Donegal. He was appointed dean of Raphoe in 1631. He settled at Mount Charles, an estate he leased from John Murray, earl of Annandale, the owner of ‘a vast estate’ in Scotland. Conyngham subsequently acquired the Mount Charles property through his marriage to the earl’s grand-neice, Marian, daughter of John Murray of Broughton, in Scotland (see [3]). Alexander’s grandson Henry purchased the land in Slane in 1703. Brigadier Henry Conyngham’s father Albert had fought with William III’s troops in the Battle of the Boyne, against Fleming and James II’s troops. Albert married Mary, daughter of the Right Reverend Robert Leslie, Bishop of Raphoe – this Bishop is the ancestor of the Leslie family of Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, another property on the Section 482 list that I will be visiting. Albert was killed by Irish Royalist rebels, and succeeded by his only surviving son, Henry. Henry Conyngham built himself a residence, Conyngham Hall, on the foundations of an older castle formerly belonging to the Flemings.

Henry Conyngham (d. 1705) fought first in James II’s army, but then persuaded his regiment to transfer their loyalty to William III. Henry’s son Henry (1705-1781) inherited the Slane estate. Henry became an Member of the Irish Parliament and was raised to the peerage in 1753 to the title of Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles, and later became Viscount and eventually, Earl. He died without a son so the Barony passed to his nephew, Francis Pierpoint Burton (his sister Mary had married Francis Burton). On inheriting the title and estate, Francis took the name Conyngham [see 3]. He married Elizabeth, the daughter of amateur architect Nathaniel Clements, whose work we will see later in other houses on the section 482 list of heritage properties. For himself, Nathaniel Clements built what is now the Áras an Uachtaráin, the residence of our President, Michael D. Higgins, in Phoenix Park in Dublin.  

The castle and estate passed to Francis’s son Henry. Henry served as politician and moved quickly up the ranks of the peerage and was Lord Steward of the Royal household  between 1821-30.

In 1821 King George IV spent time in the Castle with his lover, the wife of Conyngham, Elizabeth Denison. In return the king made Conyngham a Marquess [6]. One of the rooms of the castle, the Smoking Room, has two cartoons from the period mocking the King and his consort Elizabeth, drawing them as overweight. In one, she aids her son when he has to move from the Castle of Windsor where he was Royal Chamberlain. It was he who announced to Victoria that she was Queen, upon death of the previous monarch. He was let go from his position when he tried to move his lover into his rooms in Windsor. His mother came to fetch him, with several wheelbarrows, the story goes, and she took all the furniture from his rooms. Somehow she brought a grand piano back from Windsor to Slane Castle where it sat in a specially made arbor for music in the Smoking room, until it was destroyed by a fire in Slane Castle in the 1990’s. One of the Punch style cartoons is of Elizabeth with a wheelbarrow fetching her son from Windsor. I can’t quite remember the other – it had King George IV and herself in a carriage. The Irish were very annoyed that when he came to Ireland he spent his entire time at Slane Castle!

The Irish Aesthete writes of the visit:

Neither the king nor his inamorata were in the first flush of youth, and both were equally corpulent. These circumstances however did nothing to dampen their ardour. As was written of them at the time, ‘Tis pleasant at seasons to see how they sit/ First cracking their nuts, and then cracking their wit/ Then quaffing their claret – then mingling their lips/ Or tickling the fat about each other’s hips.’ And according to one contemporary observer, Lady Conyngham ‘lived exclusively with him during the whole time he was in Ireland at the Phoenix Park. When he went to Slane, she received him dressed out as for a drawing-room; he saluted her, and they then retired alone to her apartments.’” [7]

Our tour started with a video of Charles Conyngham, now known as Lord Mount Charles, telling of his childhood in the Castle, growing up in a very old-world upper class manner.  He did not join his parents at the dining table until he was twelve years old, dining until then in the Nursery. His nurse, Margaret Browne, came to the Castle at 16 years old, and he held her in such regard that he named his bar after her. We had lunch in the bar after the tour. The food was delicious! Stephen had bread with buttery mushrooms and creme fraiche, and I had Thia carrot lentil soup. With good strong Americanos our meal came to €24 with tip, the same price for entry for two adults to the Castle Tour.

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The menu in Browne’s Bar, which gives an explanation of the name, telling of the housekeeper.
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The music theme of Browne’s Bar is reflected in the gramophone horn lampshade.
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Me in Browne’s Bar.
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Entrance to the bar and Gandon Restaurant.
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Outer entrance to the bar and Gandon Restaurant.

But, back to our tour! Lord Mount Charles described how he started out, when he had to take over the Castle, with a restaurant, which is now the Gandon Restaurant. To further fund the Castle maintenance, Lord Mount Charles started concerts at the venue, beginning with Thin Lizzy in 1981. To seal the deal, the next show was the Rolling Stones! With such august imprimateur, the Castle’s concerts became world-famous and featured many top performers including David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Queen.

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Album covers of musical performers at the Castle, in the bar: Van Morrison, Santana, Bruce Springstein, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, Chris Rea, Bob Dylan, U2 and Bon Jovi.
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Lovely picture of Phil Lynnott of Thin Lizzy carrying a child at Slane.
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Memorabilia from music events: I think the guitar was signed by Phil Lynott (it was signed, anyway).
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However, there was a disasterous fire in the castle in 1991 and the roof and one third of the castle was destroyed. The magnificent library with its intricate ceiling and impressive wooden chandelier was saved by two firemen fighting the fire from within the room, battling for nine hours. The smoke was so thick that one couldn’t see the ceiling. I think they deserve a plaque in the room to recognise their effort! Meanwhile the family saved as many priceless historic paintings and antiques as they could, including a huge portrait of King George IV that is now hanging again in the library, by cutting it from its giant gilt frame then taking the frame apart into four pieces in order to get it out through the doors. Lord Mount Charles now suffers with his lungs, probably partially as a result of long exposure to the flames and smoke. It took ten years to reconstruct the castle, but it has been done excellently so traces of the fire barely remain.

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Newspaper clippings about the fire, in the entry to pub and restaurant.
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A bit of history, on the walls going to the dining area.
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We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, as usual with these properties. There is a picture of the ornate roof in the library on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete [8].

Mark Bence-Jones describes the room in his 1988 book (published before the fire, but this room remained intact!), A Guide to Irish Country Houses:

“…the great circular ballroom or library which rises through two storeys of the round tower and is undoubtedly the finest Gothic Revival room in Ireland; with a ceiling of Gothic plasterwork so delicate and elaborate that it looks like filigree. Yet this, too, is basically a Classical room; the Gothic ceiling is, in fact, a dome; the deep apses on either side of the fireplace are such as one finds in many of Wyatt’s Classical interiors, except that the arches leading into them are pointed; they are decorated with plasterwork that can be recognised as a very slightly Gothicized version of the familiar Adam and Wyatt fan pattern.

Of the tales on the tour, I especially enjoyed the story of the funeral of a soldier’s leg. Apparently it was quite the custom to have funerals for body parts – his leg had to be amputated on the field of battle and the soldier brought it back to be buried with a full-scale military funeral. It must have been to do with the fact that a person’s body is to be resurrected on the Last Day, so it’s good to know where all the parts are! Cremation used to be forbidden in the Catholic church, as somehow it would be too difficult for God to put the ashes back together – never mind a disintegrated body!

There is an adjoining distillery in what used to be the stables, and a tour of that can be purchased in combination if desired. Lord Charles’s mother bred horses before the stables were converted. The stables were designed by Capability Brown.

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The stables, designed by Capability Brown, now a whiskey distillery.

According to the Irish Aesthete:

Henry Conyngham, grandson of General Henry Conyngham who purchased the property, around 1770 invited Capability Brown around 1770 to produce a design both for the landscaping of the parkland at Slane, and also for a new stable block. In the collection of the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin a drawing survives of Brown’s proposal for the latter. It is not unlike the finished building, but more elaborate than what we see today.” [9]

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I noticed this on the wall on the lower level outside the Castle – I don’t know its origin or age.

I found a blog by the Irish Aesthete on a portrait now in Slane, of Lady Elizabeth wife of the first Marqess’s daughter, Lady Maria Conyngham. Reportedly Lady Elizabeth looked very like her daughter – which one would not guess from the unflattering cartoons of her! [10]

[1] https://www.slanecastle.ie/tours/castle-tours/

[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.culturenorthernireland.org/article/1323/the-flemings-barons-of-slane

[5] http://slanehistoryandarchaeologysociety.com/index.php/famous-people/13-the-flemings-and-the-conynghams

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Conyngham,_Marchioness_Conyngham

“She probably became his [George IV’s] lover in 1819, when he was Prince Regent, but finally supplanted her predecessor, Isabella Seymour-Conway, Marchioness of Hertford, after he became king in 1820. He became besotted with her, constantly “kissing her hand with a look of most devoted submission.” While his wife Caroline of Brunswick was on trial in 1820 as part of efforts to divorce her, the king could not be seen with Lady Conyngham and was consequently “bored and lonely.” During his coronation, George was constantly seen “nodding and winking” at her.
“Lady Conyngham’s liaison with the king benefited her family. Her husband was raised to the rank of a marquess in the Peerage of the United Kingdom and sworn to the Privy Council, in the coronation honours of 1821. He was also given several other offices, including Lord Steward of the Household and the lieutenancy of Windsor Castle. Her second son was made Master of the Robes and First Groom of the Chamber.”

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/10/12/when-royalty-comes-to-call/

[8] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/10/24/vaulting-ambition/

[9] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/10/27/after-the-horses-have-bolted/

[10] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/03/21/ireland-crossroads-of-art-and-design-vi/

Irish Historic Homes