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

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The view of Slane Castle from just inside the gate, driving in.

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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Coming closer to Slane 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.

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The view over the beautiful River Boyne.
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Stephen in front of the Castle.

Our guide Matthew 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, (1733-1796), Teller of the Irish Exchequer and Treasurer of the Royal Irish Academy Date 1780 Engraver Valentine Green, English, 1739 – 1813 After Hugh Douglas Hamilton, Irish, 1740-1808.

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 Conyngham’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 in County Laois. Francis Johnston designed the General Post Office in Dublin, and Townley Hall, County Louth. Another architect consulted was a favourite of King George IV, the English Thomas Hopper.

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!).

The Conyngham family have owned the castle since 1703.

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.

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. [3] He was appointed dean of Raphoe in 1631.

The Bishop’s Palace at Raphoe, now a ruin.

He settled at Mount Charles, County Donegal, on 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 son Albert lived at Mountcharles. [2] 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 (1664-1705). 

Henry, a military man who also served as MP for County Donegal, purchased the land in Slane in 1703.

He built himself a residence, which he called Conyngham Hall, on the foundations of an older castle formerly belonging to the Flemings.

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The intertwined “C” is the symbol of the Conyngham family.
The Conyngham family tree, on the walls going to the public dining area.

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, William Burton (his sister Mary had married Francis Burton).

William Burton (1733-1796) took the name of Conyngham upon inheriting the estate in 1781. It was he who rebuilt Slane Castle.

His brother Francis Pierpoint Burton also who then took the name of Conyngham in 1781 as he inherited the title to become 2nd Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles, Co. Donegal. He died six years later, in 1787. [see 3]. In 1750 he had 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 2nd Baron Conyngham’s son Henry (1766-1832). Henry succeeded as the 3rd Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles, Co. Donegal in 1787. He served as a politician and moved quickly up the ranks of the peerage and was Lord Steward of the Royal household between 1821-30. He married Elizabeth Denison in 1794.

In 1821 King George IV visited Ireland, and he spent time in the Castle with his lover, Elizabeth, wife of Frances Pierpoint Burton Conyngham. “In return,” as our guide told us, the king made Conyngham a Marquess, although this isn’t quite true as he became Marquess in 1816. [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!

Cartoons at Slane Castle Tour, Slane, Co Meath, photograph by Nomos Productions, 2022, Courtesy Failte Ireland.

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.

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The menu in Browne’s Bar, which gives an explanation of the name, telling of the housekeeper.

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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Lovely picture of Phil Lynnott of Thin Lizzy carrying a child at Slane.

Henry 1st Marquess Conyngham’s son, Francis Nathaniel Burton Conyngham (1797-1876) inherited the property and the title, to become 2nd Marquess Conyngham. His daughter Frances Caroline Maria married Gustavus William Lambart (1814-1886), who we will come across later as the owner of Beauparc in County Meath, another Section 482 property https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/07/22/beauparc-house-beau-parc-navan-co-meath/ . The current owner of Slane inherited Beauparc from the Lambarts.

A son, George Henry (1825-1882) became 3rd Marquess Conyngham, and his son, Henry Francis the 4th Marquess. He married the daughter of the 4th Baron Mollens of Ventry, County Kerry. Their son the 5th Marquess died unmarried, so the title passed to his brother, Frederick William Burton, 6th Marquess. The current Marquess is the 8th, who is known as Lord Henry Mount Charles, but is officially 8th Marquess Conyngham since 2009.

A disasterous fire in the castle in 1991 destroyed the roof and one third of the castle.

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Newspaper clippings about the fire, in the entry to pub and restaurant.
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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.

Portrait of George IV which was saved from the fire, Slane Castle Tour, Slane, Co Meath, photograph by Nomos Productions, 2022, Courtesy Failte Ireland.

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.

Slane Castle Tour, Slane, Co Meath, photograph by Nomos Productions, 2022, Courtesy Failte Ireland.
Slane Castle Tour, Slane, Co Meath, photograph by Nomos Productions, 2022, Courtesy Failte Ireland.
Slane Castle, Slane, Co Meath, photograph by Nomos Productions, 2022, Courtesy Failte Ireland

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!

We had lunch in the bar after the tour.

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Outer entrance to the bar and Gandon Restaurant.
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Entrance to the bar and Gandon Restaurant.
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Browne’s Bar.
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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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Memorabilia from music events: I think the guitar was signed by Phil Lynott (it was signed, anyway).
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The music theme of Browne’s Bar is reflected in the gramophone horn lampshade.

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

King House, Main Street, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

Majella Hunt

Tel: 090-6637153 https://www.visitkinghouse.ie/

Open dates listed in 2022: April-Sept, Tue-Sat, Aug 15-23 National Heritage Week, 11am-5pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student /child €3, group discounts apply

It is hard to capture King House in a photograph.

Stephen and I visited King House during Heritage Week 2022. It is open to the public and is not longer a private home.

King House was built in 1720 for Henry King, 3rd Baronet. There was a house previously on the site built for his grandfather, Robert. It was used as a military barracks in later years. Now it is a museum that tells the story of the King family, the history of the military unitt which occupied the building, and it also houses a collection of contemporary art, the Boyle Civic Art Collection and the McAleese Collection. You can take a “virtual tour” on their website.

John King arrived in Ireland from Staffordshire, England, in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Anthony Lawrence King-Harmon tells us in his book, The Kings of King House. His family originally came from Feathercock Hall in Yorkshire.

The land had been previously controlled by the MacDermott clan. A room in King House tells us a few stories about the MacDermott clan. They had a rare victory over Queen Elizabeth I’s forces in the pass in the Curlew Mountains, near Boyle.

John King fought along with Sir Richard Bingham in Connaught during the Nine Years War. [1] In 1603 Robert’s father John King (1560-1636) was given, along with John Bingley, the lease of Boyle Abbey and its surrounding lands, in recognition for services rendered to the Crown. The Abbey had been used as a military barracks since the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII.

Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.
Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.

He married Catherine Drury, grand-niece of Sir William Drury, Lord Deputy of Ireland. They were father of Edward King, who was memorialised in John Milton’s poem, Lycidas, after he drowned in the Irish Sea. The King’s townhouse is now the home of the Society of Irish Pipers, Na Píobairí Uilleann, 15 Henrietta Street. A ceiling in the house features a bust of Milton, commemorating his poem to Edward King.

The King House website tells us that John King’s main residence was in Dublin, in Baggotrath near what is now Baggot Street, but he built a “great castle” in 1607 in Boyle. By 1618 he had obtained an outright grant to the Abbey and and its 4127 acres. King-Harmon tells us that an “apocryphal” story claims that the title “Lay Abbot” gave the right to have more than one wife! He adds that this was not a privilege of which John King availed.

He was made “Muster General” of Ireland responsible for calling up personnel to assist with maintaining law and order in Ireland. At the time that he built his castle in Boyle, the population of Boyle was around 300, of whom thirty were English workmen or traders. Sir John was buried in Boyle Abbey.

As Muster Master, John King was in charge of weapons such as those above: a pike, musket, lance and sword.

Unfortunately we did not have time to visit Boyle Abbey this time, though we stopped to take a few photographs from the road – we will have to visit Boyle again.

King House, August 2022.

Sir John’s daughters married well – Mary married William Caulfeild, 2nd Baron Caulfeild of Charlemont, County Armagh, who became the Master-General of the Ordnance for Ireland. Her sister Dorothy married Arthur Moore, son of Garret, 1st Viscount Moore of Drogheda.

John’s eldest son, Robert (d. 1657) was a supporter of Oliver Cromwell, and offered his services to the Parliamentarians. He fought in battles and has been credited with victory in the battle of Ballintubber. He was MP in the Cromwellian parliament in England, representing Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim. He lived mostly in his home in Baggotrath in Dublin but built a house on the site of the present King House in Boyle. He died the year before Cromwell died, and the Kings immediately switched sides to support King Charles II.

Robert King married twice (although not at the same time, so didn’t avail of the Lay Abbot’s rights!): first to Frances Folliott, daughter of Henry Folliott, 1st Lord Folliott, Baron of Ballyshannon (her sister married Richard Wingfield and was mother of 1st Viscount Powerscourt). Secondly, he married the widow of Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledon, Sophia Zouche. Edward Cecil was the grandson of Queen Elizabeth I’s right hand man, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley.

Robert’s eldest son, John (1638-1676) first fought with the Cromwellians but then became a supporter of King Charles II. He married Catherine Fenton of Mitchelstown, County Cork. Her brothers predeceased her and she was heir to vast estates. John was created 1st Baron Kingston, of Kingston, County Dublin, in 1660, when he was also appointed as Privy Counsellor in Dublin.

Mitchelstown, County Cork, photograph courtesy of the National Library of Ireland. An older castle was demolished and it was rebuilt, as we see in this photograph, in the 1770s by Caroline Fitzgerald and her husband Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston.
Mitchelstown, County Cork, photograph courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

The land of Mitchelstown in County Cork passed into the hands of Maurice Fitzgibbon, the first White Knight, in the early part of the 14th century. The title of White Knight was an Anglo-Norman hereditary title in Ireland, one of three, the others being the Black Knight, or Knight of Glin, and Green Knight, or Knight of Kerry.

In 1608 Edmond Fitzgibbon the 9th White Knight died, as did his son Maurice, and it is said that they were poisoned. The inheritance of Mitchelstown passed to Edmond’s youngest granddaughter Margaret, who married Sir William Fenton. The castle then passed to Catherine Fenton, who brought the estate into the King family.

It was the descendants of John’s second son, Robert (abt. 1640-1707), who lived in County Roscommon, since descendants of the eldest son John 1st Baron Kingston lived in Mitchelstown Castle. John gave his younger brother Robert considerable lands in what was to become Rockingham, outside Boyle. John predeceased his brother Robert, dying in 1676, leaving two sons, who became 2nd and 3rd Barons Kingston.

Robert held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Ballyshannon between 1661 and 1666. He built a sumptuous house at Rockingham in 1673, after he married Frances Gore, daughter of Lt.-Col. Henry Gore, around 1670. She had been previously married to Robert Choppyn of Newcastle, County Longford.

Robert was created 1st Baronet King, of Boyle Abbey, Co. Roscommon [Ireland] on 27 September 1682. He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Roscommon between 1692 and 1699. He was also appointed Privy Counsellor in Ireland, and he held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Boyle between 1703 and 1707.

Inside King House today.

Robert’s brothers’ sons, the 2nd and 3rd Barons Kingston, still owned the property in Boyle. Robert King, 2nd Baron Kingston, and his uncle Robert 1st Baronet King of Boyle Abbey both supported William III, whereas most English families in Counties Sligo and Roscommon supported King James II. Both Robert Kings became heavily involved in military operations. Robert 1st Baronet King played a major role in the Battle of Aughrim. Anthony Lawrence King-Harman tells us that it was during this battle that Robert saved the life of the head of the MacDermot family, the original owner of Rockingham.

To add to complications of the time, Robert 1st Baronet of Boyle Abbey’s son John (1673-1720) supported King James II. He sat in King James’s parliament in Dublin. Fortunately he later escaped retribution from William III when William was made King, and his father must have forgiven him also as he was his father’s heir. John became 2nd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey.

The brother of Robert 2nd Baron Kingston, John (abt. 1664-1727/28), or Jack as he was known, eloped with a servant girl from King House named Peggy O’Cahan (or Kane). They moved to France and married, and he joined court of “The Pretender,” son of James II, also known as James III. Jack converted to Catholicism. His brother did not have children so Jack would have been his brother’s heir. However, due to his Catholicism, his family took legal action to disinherit him. Robert 2nd Baron Kingston instead changed his will so that his uncle Robert, 1st Baronet King of Boyle Abbey, would inherit the Mitchelstown estates and the estate in Boyle. Jack, however, disputed this. King-Harmon tells us in The Kings of King House that Jack, with the support of James II and Catholic circles in London, launched a legal action to show that the actions of his family were in contravention of the marriage settlements of his father, and before that of William Fenton, his mother’s father. He was successful and he obtained possession of Mitchelstown in 1699, but not the estate lands. Jack, who had become 3rd Baron Kingston after his brother’s death, also achieved a Royal pardon from William III for his previous support of King James II and his son.

Jack’s actions threatened the Baronets of Boyle Abbey and their ownership of Rockingham. However, they managed to hold on to their estate and the threat receded somewhat with the accession of William and Mary to the throne. Jack, with an eye to their future, raised his children as Protestants in Mitchelstown.

Robert 1st Baronet of Boyle Abbey’s daughter Mary married Chidley Coote of Cootehall, County Roscommon, son of Richard Coote 1st Lord Coote, Baron of Colloony, County Sligo. His son John, who became 2nd Baronet of Boyle Abbey upon his father’s death, married Elizabeth Sankey, but he had no children. Elizabeth went on to marry secondly, John Moore, 1st Baron Moore of Tullamore and thirdly, Brabazon Ponsonby, 1st Earl of Bessborough. Her mother, Eleanor Morgan, was from Cottlestown, County Sligo, a property added in 2022 to the Section 482 list, which we have yet to visit.

The 2nd Baronet moved from Rockingham back to the house in Boyle, which by this time may have been known as King House. He died in March 1720 and his brother Henry (1681-1739) became 3rd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey. It was Henry who built the King House that we see today. Rockingham burnt down, probably sometime shortly after the death of the 1st Baronet. King House in Boyle was destroyed by fire in 1720, so Henry immediately started to rebuild. King-Harman tells us he hired either Edward Lovett Pearce, or William Halfpenny, an assistant to Edward Lovett Pearce, as architect. The newer house may incorporate walls of the earlier house. A pleasure garden was created across the river, and it is now a public park. It contains a plinth that used to hold a statue of King William III but that statue disappeared!

Henry (1681-1739) 3rd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey, by Robert Hunter.
The museum in King House is less certain as to who designed it, suggesting it could have been Edward Lovett Pearce, Richard Cassel (or Castle), or William Halfpenny.

Mark Bence-Jones points out in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988) that King House is not situated in a demesne but in the centre of a town. It is surrounded by thick walls. He describes it as a large “u” shaped mansion of two storeys over basement with a partly gabled attic. [2]

This overhead shot of King House is taken from the website. As you can see, it’s an unusual house.
The entrance to King House, it is surrounded by these imposing walls.
The round-headed ground floor windows with keystones and blocking.
River-facing facade of King House, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [3]
Model of King House, which is inside the house: river facing facade.
River facade of King House during repair by Roscommon County Council. Work began in 1989 and took over four years, with renovation works designed and supervised by Dublin architects Shaffrey Associates.

The photograph from the National Inventory, above, shows the eleven bay garden front which faces the river, with its three bay pedimented breakfront and large central Venetian window in the upper storey.

The side facades have three Venetian windows, one on top of another, the top being within a gable.

King House, August 2022: side facade with three Venetian windows, the top one being within a gable.

Bence-Jones points out that: “As at Ballyhaise, County Cavan and King’s Fort, County Meath, there is vaulting in other storeys than just the basement; in fact, all four storeys are vaulted over. This was, according to Rev Daniel Beaufort, a fire precaution, Sir Henry King having naturally been fire-conscious after the fire in the earlier house.

Two wings project from the main centre block of the house, and are each two bays wide. The centre block is three bays wide with a centre triangular gable. Bence-Jones describes the deep cornice over the wings, and the round-headed ground floor windows with keystones and blocking.

The front of King House before repair.

On the front facade Bence-Jones describes a “plain massive doorway.” I find the entire centre front surprisingly plain with few windows, except the large arched ones either side of the doorway and the fanlight over the door, and two dormer windows in the roofline. Inside the museum, in a description of the building it is suggested that the front facade was not completed.

The National Inventory adds that there is “a seven-bay three-storey extension to south-west with pitched slated roof with piecrust cornice and red brick chimneystacks. Single-storey roughcast-rendered outbuildings to front. Site bounded by rubble stone wall with carved stone gate piers and cast-iron gates.

The second side facade, with its Venetian windows one on top of another and gable windows in the roof.
Single-storey roughcast-rendered outbuildings to front.
The side facade and basement.

Inside the front door is a long and narrow hall or gallery with lovely flagstone floor, which is original to the house. You can see also the vaulted ceiling, and wood panelling on the walls.

The long gallery front hall, which has the Venetian windows of the side facades of the house at either end.
Fireplace in front hall. There are two in this hall, one is of Kilkenny marble and the other is a replica.

Sir Henry King, 3rd Baronet of Boyle Abbey, served as MP for either Boyle or County Roscommon for thirty three years. He married Isabella Wingfield, daughter of Edward Wingfield of Powerscourt, County Wicklow (her brother was the 1st Viscount of Powerscourt). Henry died in 1739 and was succeeded by his son Robert (1724-1755), 4th Baronet of Boyle Abbey. Robert became MP for Boyle also and was created Baron Kingsborough in 1748. It was he who bought the house in Henrietta Street in Dublin. He became Grand Master of the Freemasons in Ireland. He died unmarried. On his death, the Barony of Kingsborough became extinct.

Robert (1724-1755), 4th Baronet of Boyle Abbey, by Robert Hunter.
Frances King, by Robert Hunter. The portrait is in King House. Thus could be a portrait of Robert’s sister Frances (1726-1812) who married Hans Widman Wood of Rossmead, County Westmeath.

On his death the entailed parts of the estate went to his younger brother Edward (1726-1797), who became 5th Baronet of Boyle Abbey. He was also a Grand Master for the Freemasons and MP for County Roscommon, and Privy Counsellor in Ireland. He inherited King House and large parts of the Sligo and Roscommon estates. However, a later will of his brother was found after his brother’s death, and all the unentailed land was left to their younger brother Henry. Henry did not marry but the dispute over inheritance led to lawsuits and caused family rifts, King-Harmon’s book The Kings of King House tells us.

Edward King (1726-1797), 5th Baronet of Boyle Abbey and eventually, 1st Earl of Kingston.

Edward the 5th Baronet married Jane Caulfeild, daughter of Thomas Caulfeild of Donamon Castle, County Roscommon (still standing, it now belongs to the Divine Word Missionaries). Edward was ambitious and when his cousin James King 4th Baron Kingston died in 1761 with no sons, he applied for a peerage and was granted it, becoming the 1st Baron Kingston of the second creation. He built a second mansion in Rockingham, which he called Kingston Hall.

He arranged with 4th Baron Kingston that his son would marry the heir to Mitchelstown, Caroline Fitzgerald. The 4th Baron Kingston’s son William predeceased him in 1755, dying childless. The 4th Baron’s daughter Margaret married Richard Fitzgerald, son of the 19th Earl of Kildare. Their only child was a daughter, Caroline (1754-1823). By marrying into the family of the Barons of Kingston, Mitchelstown came into the family of the Baronets of Boyle Abbey. Caroline and Edward’s son Robert were to marry when just 15 and 16 years old.

Meanwhile Edward, after intense lobbying, had become Viscount Kingsborough in 1767 and Earl of Kingston in 1768.

Edward, now Earl of Kingston, and his family moved into Kingston Hall in 1771, and King House was kept as a second residence, but following a fire in 1778, Edward decided to dispose of it. It was bought by the British army in 1795, and became the depot of the Connaught Rangers until taken over by the Irish army in 1922. It was abandoned and in ruins by 1987 when bought by Roscommon County Council, and it was restored and opened to the public in 1995.

Information in King House about Boyle in the 1700s.

Edward Earl of Kingston’s daughter Jane married Laurence Harman Parsons (1749-1807), son of Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet, who was later created 1st Earl of Rosse, and Anne Harman.

The 1st Earl of Kingston’s daughter Francis married Thomas Tenison, and their son Lt.-Col Edward King-Tenison lived in Kilronan Castle in County Roscommon and his wife, Lady Louisa Mary Anne Anson, was the origin of the use of the word “loo” for toilet! (according to The Peerage website). I’m not sure why! (Kilronan Castle is now also a hotel, https://www.kilronancastle.ie/

His daughter Eleanor died unmarried in 1822.

Henry’s daughter Eleanor, who never married, and James Stewart, a grandson of Henry.
Eleanor King, died 1822, unmarried, painting by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.

Edward’s heir, Robert (1754-1799) became the 2nd Earl of Kingston and married his cousin Caroline Fitzgerald of Mitchelstown when he was just 15. They had nine children but later separated. When young, they lived in London, and toured the world, until they took up residence at Mitchelstown Castle. Mary Wollstonecraft, who later died after giving birth to Mary Shelley née Godwin who wrote Frankenstein, was tutor to the 2nd Earl of Kingston’s children. Mary Wollstonecraft later became a writer, intellecutal and radical, spending time in Paris during the French Revolution, and wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, as well as several novels. She remained friendly with King’s daughters, who imbibed Mary’s feminism. Caroline, unhappy in her life with Robert, moved to England, and Robert took a lover, Elinor Hallenan, who bore him two more children.

On 18 May 1798 Robert 2nd Earl of Kingston was tried by his peers in the Irish House of Lords for the murder of Colonel Henry Gerald Fitzgerald, who had seduced the Earl’s daughter. He was acquitted as no witnesses came forward – a benefit of being in the House of Lords was that one was not tried in a general court, but tried in a court consisting of the other members of the House of Lords.

Colonel Henry Gerald Fitzgerald was the illegitimate son of Caroline’s half-brother. Her father had remarried after her mother died. Caroline raised Henry Gerald along with her own family. Caroline brought her daughter Mary with her when she separated her husband and moved to England. It was Mary who was seduced by her cousin, despite him having a wife. As Mary Wollstonecraft later had lovers, perhaps young Mary King was influenced by her governess’s romantic nature. Colonel Fitzgerald regularly visited Caroline and Mary in their new home in London. One day, Mary disappeared, and was found installed in a lodging house, regularly visited by her lover, Colonel Fitzgerald. King-Harman tells the story in The Kings of King House. Her father shot and killed Colonel Fitzgerald.

Another daughter, Margaret, married Stephen Moore, 2nd Earl Mountcashell. Also influenced by Mary Wollstonecraft’s radicalism, she supported the United Irishmen and Anthony Lawrence King-Harman writes that she may have been with Edward Fitzgerald when he was mortally wounded in Dublin. She left her husband for George Tighe (1776-1837) of Rossana, County Wicklow, an Irishman living in Rome, and became close friends with Wollstonecraft’s daughter Mary Shelley. She wrote children’s books and treatises on pre- and post-natal care.

Dining room, King House.

Robert’s son George (1770-1839) became the 3rd Earl of Kingston upon his father’s death in 1797. Robert left the Boyle properties to his second son, Robert Edward (1773-1854), who later became Viscount Lorton, the name chosen from a local place-name.

Brothers George, 3rd Earl of Kingston, Robert, 1st Viscount Lorton, and Admiral James William King, by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.
This large portrait in the dining room is General Robert King (1773-1854), 1st Viscount Lorton, who was the son of Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston.

Robert Edward King (1773-1854) inherited Kingston Hall at Rockingham. He joined the military and distinguished himself in the Caribbean. When he inherited in 1797, he returned to Ireland and joined the Roscommon Militia and worked his way up to become a General. With Rockingham, however, came debt. In 1799 he married his first cousin, Frances Parsons Harman, daughter of his aunt Jane who had married Lawrence Parsons Harman (1749-1807), who owned the Newcastle Estate in County Longford. Robert worked hard to reduce the debt, and was a tough landlord, evicting many tenants.

In the centre, Frances née Parsons Harman (1775-1841) who married Robert Edward King (1773-1854). She is flanked by their daughter Jane King, who married Anthony Lefroy, and Frances King, who married Right Reverend Charles Leslie of Corravahan.

Robert Edward was created Baron Erris of Boyle, County Roscommon in 1800 and in 1806, Viscount Lorton of Boyle, County Roscommon. His support of the Act of Union in 1800 would have helped in his rise within the Peerage.

Viscount Lorton decided to build a new house on the Rockingham estate, which is a few kilometers from Boyle. Robert O’Byrne tells us that the previous house, Kingston Hall, remained in use and became known as the Steward’s House. [4] The new house was designed by John Nash and was ready by 1810. Lorton also modernised the estate. Landscaper Humphrey Repton helped with the design of the outbuildings, gate houses and demesne. The house no longer exists, and the demesne is now part of Lough Key Park. An impressive gate lodge remains, and a chapel built by Lord Lorton in 1833 on the site of a 17th century church also built by the Kings. An icehouse, gazebo called the Temple and a tunnel which ran from the mansion to the lake and was used by tradesmen is open for visitors.

Rockingham.
Rockingham.
Rockingham.
Model of Rockingham House created by Leaving Certificate students of Ballinamore Vocational School Fergal Conefrey, Conor Lee and Declan Sammon with construction teacher Mr. Tommy Flynn.
The interior of Rockingham.
The interior of Rockingham.
Looking out from Rockingham.

It was a time of trouble with tenants, as outlined in The Kings of King House. Robert evicted Catholic tenants due to uprisings. In famine years, however, he lowered rents and provided work.

Viscount Lorton’s daughters married well. Jane married Anthony Lefroy of Carriglass Manor, County Longford. Jane Austen had been in love with his father, Thomas Lefroy, and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice may have been based upon him. Caroline married Robert Gore-Booth, 4th Baronet, of Lissadell, County Sligo (another section 482 property). Frances married Right Reverend Charles Leslie, who we came across when we visited Corravahan, another Section 482 property, in County Cavan.

Viscount Lorton’s heir was Robert (1804-1869). He had an unhappy marriage, and his wife, Anne Gore-Booth, daughter of Robert Newcomen Gore-Booth, 3rd Baronet of Lissadell, had an affair which produced a son. Robert and his father sought to make sure that this son would not inherit the King estates.

The Kings of Rockingham were a “cadet branch” of the family of the Kings of Mitchelstown, County Cork. Viscount Lorton’s older brother inherited the Mitchelstown estate and the title of 3rd Earl of Kingston. Let’s make a diversion and look at what was happening at the Mitchelstown estate.

After her husband Robert 2nd Earl of Kingston’s death, Mitchelstown remained in the hands of Caroline (née Fitzgerald), and she returned to run the estate for a further twenty-five years. She kept her son George at arm’s length, King-Harman tells us.

George King (177901839), later 3rd Earl of Kingston, painting by Romney.

George did not inherit Mitchelstown until he was 53 years old. He was godson of King George III and was a friend of the Prince Regent who later became King George IV. He had several illegitimate children with a lover when he was in his twenties, with whom he lived in the Bahamas. He went on to marry Helena Moore, daughter of Stephen, 1st Earl of Mountcashell, County Tipperary. Before his father died, he was titled Viscount Kingsborough between 1797 and 1799, and he held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Roscommon between 1797 and 1799. He became Colonel of the local Militia, the Mitchelstown Light Dragoons, part of the North Cork Militia.

When his father died, he succeeded as the 3rd Baron Kingston of Rockingham, Co. Roscommon, the 3rd Viscount Kingston of Kingsborough, Co. Sligo, 3rd Earl of Kingston, and 7th Baronet King, of Boyle Abbey, Co. Roscommon.

George 3rd Earl of Kingston’s eldest son, Edward, predeceased him. Edward, who was Viscount Kingsborough, became interested in Mexico while in Oxford and devoted his life and finances to the production of a monumental work, The Antiquities of Mexico. He fell into debt, partly because his father did not allow him enough to run Mitchelstown, and was imprisoned in Ireland, where he developed typhus and died in 1837. In his lifetime he presented a number of antiquities to Trinity College Dublin.

It was therefore George’s second son, Robert Henry (1796-1857) who became 4th Earl of Kingston in 1839. By 1844 the Mitchelstown estate had been taken over by the Encumbered Estaes Court. Outstanding debts went back to James 4th Baron, King-Harman tells us. Despite this, Robert Henry’s life continued at Mitchelstown in rather high style, also despite the famine. Sadly, parts of the estate were sold off bit by bit and eventually Robert Henry had a mental breakdown and ended up in an asylum in England. [for more about the 4th Earl of Kingston see the Irish Aesthete’s blog. [5]

His younger brother James became the 5th Earl of Kingston, but died two years later without issue, and with him the Barony of Kingston of Mitchelstown became extinct. He married Anna Brinkley from Parstonstown (Birr), who was thirty years his junior, and King-Harman tells us that she “was destined to play a major role in the affairs of Castle [of Mitchelstown] right through to the present century.” They had no children, so the estate would have gone to the Viscounts Lorton of Boyle.

James King (1800-1869), 5th Earl of Kingston, who married Anna Brinkley.
Anna, wife of the 5th Earl of Kingston, who lived in Mitchelstown.

Robert, who was to become 2nd Viscount Lorton, and his wife Anne née Gore-Booth, had a son, Robert (1831-1871), and a daughter, Frances. Anne then had a son, Henry Ernest, with her lover, Vicomte Ernest Satgé St Jean. 1st Viscount Lorton tried to take action to ensure that Henry Ernest would not inherit.

In order to avoid Henry Ernest from inheriting Mitchelstown, they had to break the entail on Mitchelstown and James the 5th Earl of Kingston promised money from the Mitchelstown estate to the 3rd Viscount Lorton, for signing away the entail. Instead, Mitchelstown was left to his wife. The money promised to 3rd Viscount Lorton formed a debt, falling to Anna Brinkley, which gave her much difficulty later.

Before continuing, I must mention the youngest son of 1st Viscount Lorton, Laurence Harman King (1816-1875). He married Mary Cecilia Johnstone of Alva, Scotland. His father drew up a settlement which in the event that the 2nd Viscount’s legitimate son did not have an heir, Rockingham would go to his younger son, Laurence Harman, who in 1838 had legally changed his name to Laurence Harman King-Harman.

Laurence Harman King-Harman also inherited the estate of Newcastle in County Longford. He was chosen for the inheritance in preference to his dissipated brother. Lawrence’s mother, recall, was Frances Parsons, daughter of Laurence Harman Parsons and and Jane King (daughter of 1st Earl of Kingston). Laurence Harman Parsons’s father was Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet of Birr Castle, County Offaly, and his mother was Anne Harman, whose family owned Newcastle, County Longford.

The property of Newcastle had belonged to the Chappoyne family. A daughter of that family married Anthony Sheppard, and the property passed into the ownership of the Sheppard family. It then passed via a daughter, Frances Sheppard, who married Wentworth Harman (c. 1635-1714). On Frances’s death in 1766 the property passed to her son Reverend Cutts Harman (1706-1784), Dean of Waterford. He had no children, so he left the property to his nephew, Laurence Parsons, who had married Jane King. In return, Laurence Parsons added the name Harman to his surname in 1792 to become Laurence Harman Parsons-Harman.

Laurence Harman Parsons was created 1st Baron Oxmantown, Co. Wexford in 1792, and 1st Earl of Rosse in 1806.

Laurence and Jane had a daughter, Frances, and no son. Frances married Robert Edward King, 1st Viscount Lorton in 1799. Laurence left all of his property to his wife Jane, which included Newcastle and two houses in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. Upon the birth of Frances and Robert Edward’s second son, whom they named Laurence Harman King, Lady Rosse decided to leave Newcastle to him. In 1838 when Lady Rosse died, just a year after Laurence Harman King’s marriage, he inherited Newcastle. At that time he also added Harman to his surname to become Laurence Harman King-Harman. [6]

One can now stay in Newcastle House, see https://www.newcastlehousehotel.ie/

Irish Army Artillery Dress Uniform c.1935: This uniform would have been worn by a Lieutenant Colonel. A military uniform would consist of the following: shako, tunic, slacks, black patent boots and spurs, white doe-skin gloves, cape, sword-belt complete with two scabbard slings and dress sword, sword knot and sword belt.
Dining room of King House.
The Honourable Laurence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875).
Laurence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875). The information tells us that he was the second son of Edward King, 1st Viscount Lorton. He inherited the Newcastle estate in County Longford in 1838 from his grandmother the Countess of Rosse, and lived there until his death. He succeeded to the Rockingham estate after the death of his brother Robert, 6th Earl of Kingston, in 1869.
Mary Cecilia, 6th daughter of Thomas Reymond Johnstone of Alva, Scotland. Married in May 1837 Laurence Harman King-Harman, 2nd son of Robert Edward 1st Viscount Lorton. She lived at Newcastle until her husband’s death in 1875 and then in London when she died in 1904.

Let us go back, however, to his brother Robert, who was upon his father’s death to become 2nd Viscount Lorton. The reason that 1st Viscount Lorton was worried about the second, illegitimate grandson inheriting, is that the first grandson, Robert Edward, had suffered a serious illness and had only one child, a daughter.

The 1st Viscount Lorton died in 1854 and was buried in the family vault in Boyle Abbey.

Obituary for 1st Viscount Lorton.

The 1st Viscount Lorton’s son Robert had been a long time waiting to come into his inheritance and had meanwhile spent his time dissipating the family’s money and by the time of his marriage, according to The Kings of King House, had a reputation for drinking too much alcohol. In the same year that she was proven to have an affair, Robert became semi-paralysed, perhaps after severe attack of delirium tremens from his drinking.

Robert and his wife Anne moved to Frankfurt in 1840 and his health improved somewhat. However it was here that his wife met Vicomte Ernest de Satgé St Jean. He too was married. He and Anne accumulated debts at the gaming tables which Robert had to pay, and when his wife left him, Ernest de Satgé St Jean moved into the home of the Kings in Frankfurt!

When 1st Viscount Lorton heard of the shenanigans, he sent an old friend to bring his son and his son’s wife back to Ireland. He did not succeed, and the story of Robert’s wife’s debts reminds me of “Buck” Whaley’s, with the Vicomte entering in convoluted schemes in order to try to gain money to pay off his debts, as described in The Kings of King House.

When the 1st then 2nd Viscounts Lorton died, the 2nd Viscount’s legitimate son Robert Edward (1731-1771) came into ownership of Rockingham, and became 3rd Viscount Lorton and 7th Earl of Kingston. He died two years later, after felling large quantities of timber at Rockingham to pay off his debts.

In the meantime, the younger son, Henry Ernest Newcomen King (named Ernest after his birth father) had not been legally recognised as illegitimate. Therefore when his brother died, he became 8th Earl of Kingston, although he did not inherit as much land as he could have, since the entail on Mitchelstown had been broken, and his uncle Laurence Harman inherited Newcastle and Rockingham. He joined the Connaught Rangers, which were housed in the old King home, and he gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and was a representative Irish peer in the House of Lords. He married Florence, daughter and co-heir of Colonel Edward King-Tenison of Kilronan Castle in County Roscommon. He changed his name to surname King-Tenison in 1883. He held the office of Lord-Lieutenant of County Roscommon between 1888 and 1896.

The Coronation Robe and Crown in the dining room of King House belong to his son the 9th Earl of Kingston’s wife, Ethel Lisette, made to be worn at the coronation of King Edward VIII in 1936, which did not happen since he abdicated the throne.

On the death of the 7th Earl of Kingston, the 1st Viscount Lorton’s youngest son, Harman King-Harman, inherited Rockingham and the Boyle estates as life tenant. He remained living in Newcastle, County Longford. He had six sons and his eldest Edward King-Harman (1838-1888) would inherit Rockingham and Newcastle.

This painting just identifies the sitted as Mrs King-Harman. She is probably Laurence Harman King-Harman’s wife Mary Cecilia née Johnstone, in later life.
Vanity Fair entry and picture, about Edward Robert King-Harman (1838-1888), son of Laurence Harman King-Harman. He inherited Newcastle in County Longford and Rockingham in Roscommon.

To continue with the story of Mitchelstown, in 1873 Anna née Brinkley, wife of James 5th Earl of Kingston, remarried, to William Webber. King-Harman writes that Webber allowed his relationship to the tenants to deteriorate. Meanwhile, the old debts were paid off by selling off tenanted lands under the Wyndham Land Acts. Anna, the Countess of Kingston, expressed a wish that upon her husband’s death, Mitchelstown should revert to the King family, in the person of Lt Colonel Alec King-Harman of Newcastle, great grandson of the 1st Lord Lorton. However, the castle was burnt by the IRA during the Civil War in 1922, and Alec sold off the estate.

The 2nd Earl of Kingston laid out much of the town of Mitchelstown. King Square includes Georgian houses of Kingston College and its Protestant chapel and family vault built by James, 4th Baron Kingston, and the square also includes the building where James founded the first Grand Lodge of Freemasons in Ireland. The 3rd Earl erected a drinking fountain in the square. The inn at Kilworth where Colonel Fitzgerald was shot is now a private residence. [The Kings of King House]

Edward Robert King-Harman (1838-1888), son of Laurence Harman King-Harman, inherited Newcastle in County Longford and Rockingham in Roscommon. He joined the military and fought in the siege of Dehli during the Indian Mutiny, then returned to Ireland in 1859 and became Honorary Colonel of the 5th Battalion of the Connaught Rangers whose depot was now in King House. He developed an interest in politics and the cause of Home Rule and was returned to the House of Commons in Ireland as a Conservative Home Ruler for County Sligo. He moved from Newcastle into Rockingham. He managed to leave Rockingham to his daughter, Fay, although her brothers contested this. She managed to keep Rockingham, however, along with her husband, Dr. Thomas Stafford, who was a Catholic. Fay’s son took the name Edward Stafford King-Harman.

Meanwhile Edward’s younger brother Wentworth (1840-1919) inherited Newcastle from his brother. He joined the military in Britain. When he inherited, he immersed himself in running Newcastle. It was his son Alec who inherited Mitchelstown. Alec also joined the military. He left Newcastle to a cousin Douglas King-Harman, and by that time the estate was reduced to just 50 acres, and he sold it in 1951. Before leaving Newcastle, Douglas set aside most of the family records and took them to England with him and published a book in 1959, Kings Earls of Kingston.

Edward Stafford King-Harman died in WWI. His father was raised to the British peerage as 1st Baronet Stafford in 1914. Edward married Olive Pakenham Mahon from Strokestown in Roscommon – I will be writing about it soon as it is also a Section 482 property.

It was his second son, Cecil Stafford King-Harman, who inherited Rockingham and became 2nd Baronet Stafford. Having taken a degree in Agriculture in New Zealand, Cecil was able to bring the estate back into good working order. Unfortunately, Rockingham was destroyed by fire in 1957 and although most of the furniture and pictures were saved, Cecil decided to sell. The house was demolished, and half the estate became Lough Key Forest Park. On Cecil’s death the baronetcy became extinct.

Part of a set of china rescued from the fire in 1957.
This room in King House describes the fire at Rockingham. Over the fireplace is a picture of Lady Eleanor King, and one of her nephews, brothers George, 3rd Earl of Kingston, Robert, 1st Viscount Lorton, and Admiral James William King.

In an upper storey of the King House there is a step-by-step description of the 1989-94 renovation of the house.

Inside the attic of King House.
Vaulted ceiling of the attic.
Display of builders’ paraphernalia in the attic.

King House is used to host art exhibitions, as well as weddings and events.

The Main Salon on the first floor. This room was used for formal dining and entertaining. It contains two fireplaces and decorative cornicing.

When used as a Barracks, the military erected a mezzanine level in the Main Salon. After Independence, in the 1940s the Irish army used the room for dances every Wednesday.

Henry King b. 1733 by Hunter. He was a son of Henry King who built King House.

King House is now home to the Connaught Rangers museum as well as the Boyle Civic Art Collection, and the house also plays host to musical, dramatic and cultural events. 

The displays about the Connaught Rangers are very moving, and remind of us that horrors of war.
Connaught Rangers dress helmet (1878-1922). Regimental buttons on uniforms had a harp and crown surrounded by a shamrock leaf, and on the collar was a brass Indian elephant.

The barracks in King House served as a recruitment centre. We can see some of the posters that encouraged Irish men to join the British Army during the wars.

As home to the Connaught Rangers, Robert O’Byrne tells us that the house was able to accommodate 12 officers and 260 non-commissioned officers and private foot soldiers, as well as a 30-bed hospital and stabling for horses. [7]

During the War of Independence, the Barracks was strongly garrisoned and the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Black and Tans were stationed outside the barracks near the main gate. Many arrests of Irishmen fighting for Independence were made, and prisoners were held in the barracks. Two prisoners managed to escape, James Molloy and Michael Dockery.

Prison cell in the basement of King House.
A drawing depicting the escape from King House.

Sadly, reflecting the turbulent times in Ireland, Michael Dockery was later killed by anti-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War that took place after Ireland gained Independence (the Civil War occurred because many did not agree with the Treaty signed to give Ireland independence since the British kept six counties in Ulster, leading to the division of the island of Ireland). When the new Republic of Ireland continued to use King House as a barracks it was called Dockery Barracks after Michael Dockery.

A couple of rooms in King House now contain the gifts which were given to President Mary McAleese, which is a lovely collection of the crafts of various nations.

Based in the courtyard, Úna Bhán Tourism Co-operative runs a traditional craft shop showcasing locally produced crafts as well as operating an accommodation booking service and at weekends there is a farmers market in the courtyard.

[1] Connolly, Paul. The Landed Estates of County Roscommon. Published by Paul Connolly, 2018.

[2] 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.

[3] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31804023/king-house-military-road-knocknashee-boyle-co-roscommon

[4] https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/08/22/kingston-lodge/

[5] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/09/01/god-bless-the-kings/

[6] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13402709/newcastle-house-newcastle-newcastle-demesne-county-longford

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/tag/king-house/

Hibernian/National Irish Bank, 23-27 College Green, Dublin 2

Dan O’Sullivan

Tel: 01-6755100

www.clarendonproperties.ie

Open: all year, except Dec 25, 10am-7pm

Fee: Free

Former Hibernian Bank, now H&M store, 2013. Photograph courtesy of Swire Chin, Toronto.

The former Union Bank, latterly the Hibernian Bank, building was designed by William George Murray (1822-1871), in association with Thomas Drew (1838-1910), and construction began in 1864. [1] Originally it was built with just four bays on College Green and two bays on Church Street.

The Bank of Ireland was formed in 1783. The Hibernian Bank was founded as The Hibernian Joint Stock and Annuity Company in April 1825, and later changed its name to The Hibernian Bank. A group of Dublin businessmen apparently formed the company in response to anti-Catholic discrimination by the Bank of Ireland. The bank aimed itself primarily at the Dublin business community. It opened its only branch in Dublin on 20 June 1825 with 1063 shareholders, many of them London based. The Hibernian Bank was taken over by the Bank of Ireland in 1958. [2]

William George Murray joined the architectural firm of his father, William Murray. William George Murray, the Dictionary of Irish Architects tells us, was architect to the Dundalk, Enniskillen & Londonderry Railway Company, for whom he built the railway station in Enniskillen, Fermanagh as well as many others. He was also architect to the South Dublin Union. [3] Thomas Drew was also an architect in the same firm, and he worked with Murray on the original building for the Union Bank. The Union Bank failed after just six months, and the building was bought by the Hibernian Bank.

William George Murray also designed the Royal College of Physicians on Kildare Street in Dublin after the previous building had been burnt in a fire. Murray also designed many more banks, including the Provincial Bank on College Green (now part of the Westin hotel), and insurance offices.

Thomas Drew was employed by the Hibernian Bank to add more bays to each side, from 1873-76. Thomas Drew later became President of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects and President of the RIAI, and held the Chair of Architecture in the new National University of Ireland. He married a sister of William G. Murray, Anne Adelaide, in 1871. Among his most important building, Archiseek tells us, are the Ulster Bank branch on Dame Street (the interior of which has been destroyed), the Trinity College Graduates Memorial Building, Rathmines Town Hall, and St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. [4]

The building features a wonderful “chateau-esque” tower topped with ornate wrought iron railings and finials. It has another tapering belltower-type turret at the other side which is actually a chimneystack.

Former Hibernian Bank, with its “chateau-esque” roof.
The belltower-like turret feature is a chimney stack.

It is built chiefly in limestone, in the Italian Gothic style, with arcades, and has four storeys. The ground storey has deeply moulded arches splaying from octagon piers, and the corner toward College Green is squared off and one entrance door is positioned there on the ground floor, in an arched opening with Corinthian pilasters, under an ornately carved triangular pediment. There is another ornate door entrance at the other end of the building on Dame Street.

The Appraisal in the National Inventory gives us a summary:

This exuberant former bank commenced operation as the Union Bank in 1864, designed by William G. Murray, assisted by Thomas Drew... It is constructed in an Italian Gothic Revival idiom with arcading to the main floors. The bosses and colonnettes of polished pink granite, and capitals and roundels of Portland stone by C.W. Harrison, create a strong contrast with the pale grey limestone that dominates the façade. The quality and profusion of ornament is particularly striking, with many very fine details, such as the carved timber door, the chimney structure, the carved tympanums and the aedicule [niche or pediment] to the roof of the corner bay. It is located within a group of significant historic bank buildings which line the north and south sides of College Green. The former banking hall has been recently converted for use a large retail outlet.” [5]

Former Hibernian Bank, now H&M store, June 2022: The ground storey has deeply moulded arches splaying from octagon piers.

The ground floor windows have hood mouldings with foliate stops, and limestone sills.

Former Hibernian Bank, now H&M store, June 2022: the corner toward College Green is squared off and one entrance door is positioned there on the ground floor, in an arched opening with Corinthian pilasters, under an ornately carved triangular pediment.

The Inventory description continues: “…Shouldered-arch door opening to elliptical-arch recess to corner bay, with carved Corinthian pilasters with engaged marble colonnettes, double-leaf battened timber door with trefoil-headed upper panels, and having carved limestone voussoirs [wedge shaped stones forming an arch] and moulded keystone and triangular pediment with carved tympanum bearing lettering ‘Hibernian Bank’, and egg-and-dart cornice.” [5] “Tympanum” comes from the word drum, like the eardrum of the ear, so is like a drum-skin, and in architecture it means the surface between the lintel of a doorway or window and the arch above it.

The National Inventory describes the doorway at the other end of the building on Dame Street: “Shoulder-arch door opening to west end of main facade, with Corinthian pilasters to reveals having engaged marble Corinthian colonnettes, limestone step, overlight, exquisitely carved timber panelled door, and voussoirs with keystone above, set within open-bed pedimented porch supported on hanging-posts, with carved panels to spandrels, and lettering ‘Hibernian Bank 1824’ to frieze.” [5]

The first floor has more deep semicircular arches divided by columns of polished red granite topped with ornately sculpted capitals. The windows in the first floor are square headed. On the arcading on the first floor level the arches over the windows contain the initials of the banks – the older bays have the initials of the Union Bank and the newer bays, the Hibernian Bank. The windows of the first storey have slightly pointed arched hood mouldings with carved limestone masks to the stops.

The second floor has semi-circular headed openings and the storey above has round dormer windows in the roof. The stone carving was done by C.W. Harrison of Great Brunswick Street. The dressings are in Portland stone, with the finer carving in Caen stone. [6]

The original occupants, the short-lived Union Bank, are remembered by the intertwined “UBI” monogram over the first floor windows.
Newer bays can be identified by different carved initials over the windows.

The south elevation to St. Andrew Street was added in 1925-8 by Ralph Byrne.

The National Inventory tells us:

College Green facade (north) has seven bays; Church Lane facade has nine bays, two at north end being similar to main facade and of same date, three to south end being similar at ground and first floors and built 1925-8, other four-bay section being different and built 1873-6; and five-bay facade to St. Andrew Street (current main entrance) built 1925-8.” [5]

Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: five-bay facade to St. Andrew Street built 1925-8, designed by Ralph Byrne.
c. 1928 “Hibernian Bank Ltd., Andrew Street and Church Lane, Dublin,” held by Assoc. Prof. Joseph Brady. © Unknown. Digital content by Dr. Joseph Brady, published by UCD Library, University College Dublin. [7]

The description continues: “Limestone balconette to first floor of middle bays of Trinity Lane elevation, supported on corbels, window openings to same floor being set within square-headed frame; same bays have paired square-headed window openings to second floor, with gablet above having limestone copings with finial, and carved tympanum. Three south end bays of Trinity Lane elevation and all bays of St. Andrew Street elevation have diminutive round-headed window openings to second floor; first floor has elliptical-arch double-height openings with decorative cast-iron balconettes to middle of each opening, with timber casement windows having margined upper lights with fanlights.” [5]

Trinity Lane Elevation: “Limestone balconette to first floor of middle bays of Trinity Lane elevation, supported on corbelsfirst floor has elliptical-arch double-height openings with decorative cast-iron balconettes to middle of each opening, with timber casement windows having margined upper lights with fanlights.” [5]

The former bank now houses a branch of the clothing shop H&M.

The interior has a vaulted ceiling, which was traditionally left lit up at night for display. It has a semicircular recess on one side. The arched ceiling is very ornate. Archiseek describes it as “arched and groined, and springs from a stone cornice all around; it is covered with coffered panels arranged in a kind of diaper, with rich centre flowers in each.” Note that a “groin” is described by Alistair Rowan in his Buildings of Ireland: Northwest Ulster, as a sharp edge at the meeting of two cells of a cross-vault, and coffering, he tells us, are sunken panels, square or polygonal, decorating a ceiling, vault or arch [see my entry of architectural definitions, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/18/architectural-definitions/ ]

Initials of the Union Bank.
Initials of the Hibernian Bank.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/app/uploads/2019/10/Dublin-South-City.pdf

[2] https://www.irishpapermoney.com/old-irish-bank-notes/hibernian-bank-token-issue-1826.html

[3] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/3694/MURRAY-WILLIAMGEORGE

[4] https://www.archiseek.com/tag/thomas-drew/

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/50910203/23-27-college-green-church-lane-dublin-2-co-dublin

[6] https://www.archiseek.com/2010/1867-national-irish-bank-college-green-dublin/

[7] https://digital.ucd.ie/view/ucdlib:46916

Places to visit and stay in County Clare

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

Munster’s counties are Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.

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/

Clare:

1. Barntick House, Clarecastle County Claresection 482

2. Bunratty Castle, County Clare

3. Craggaunowen Castle, Kilmurray, Sixmilebridge, County Clare

4. Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, County Clare

5. Kilrush House, County Clare‘lost,’ Vandeleur Gardens open 

6. Knappogue or Knoppogue Castle, County Clare

7. Mount Ievers Court, Sixmilebridge, County Clare  

8. Newtown Castle, Newtown, Ballyvaughan, County Clare – section 482

9. O’Dea’s, or Dysert Castle, County Clare

Places to Stay, County Clare 

1. Ballinalacken Castle, Lisdoonvarna, County Clare – hotel €€

2. Ballyportry Castle, Corofin, County Clare € for 4-8 for one week

3. Castle Fergus House, or Ballyhannon, County Clarecoach house accommodation €€€ or € for 15 or castle €€ for 10

4.  Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clarehotel €€€

5. Falls Hotel (was Ennistymon House), Ennistymon, Co. Clare €€

6. Gregan’s Castle Hotel, County Clare €€€

7. Loop Head Lightkeeper’s Cottage, County Clare €€ for 2; € for 4-6

8. Loughnane’s, Main Street, Feakle, County Clare

9. Mount Callan House and Restaurant, Inagh, County Clare – B&B 

10. Mount Cashel Lodge, Kilmurry, Sixmilebridge, County Clare €

11. Newpark House, Ennis, County Clare

12. Smithstown Castle (or Ballynagowan), County Clare € for 4-8 for one week

13. Spanish Point House, Spanish Point, County Clare €

14. Strasburgh Manor coach houses, Inch, Ennis, County Clare

Whole House Rental, County Clare

1. Inchiquin House, Corofin, County Clare – whole house rental € for 6-10

2. Mount Vernon lodge, County Clare – whole house accommodation € for 7-11 people

Clare:

1. Barntick House, Clarecastle Co. Claresection 482

contact: Ciarán Murphy
Tel: 086-1701060
Open: May 1-31, Aug 1-31, 5pm-9pm
Fee: adult/student €5, child/OAP free, group discount available.

Barntick House May 2022, photograph courtesy of Ciarán Murphy.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us:

Detached three-bay two-storey house, dated 1665, and renovated c. 1740. Hipped slate roof with red brick chimneystacks. Roughcast rendered walls with string course between ground and first floors and moulded eaves course. Timber sliding sash windows. Carved limestone door surround comprising shouldered surround with entablature above, approached by flight of limestone steps. Timber panelled double leaf doors. Retaining interior features. Attached single-bay single-storey outbuilding to right. Date plaque from house moved to outbuilding. Rendered gate piers to site with wrought-iron railings.” [1]

An article in the Irish Times by Mary Leland published Saturday April 13th 2019 tells us a little more:

Plantation House, barracks and now a farm, Barntick House in Co Clare was built in 1665, renovated in 1740 and survived through the families of Hickman, Peacocke, Lyons and Murphy.

“In 2016 it was a case of do something or let it go completely,” Ciarán Murphy says. “But all the aesthetics are still in place and after the childhood I had out there I had to do something. Revenue was very helpful: once you adhere to the guidelines there’s no problem.”” [2]

2. Bunratty Castle, County Clare

maintained by Shannon Heritage

Bunratty Castle, County Clare, photograph by Chris Hill 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]

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

p. 49. “(O’Brien, Inchiquin, B/PB; and Thomond, E/DEP; Studdert/IFR; Russell/IFR; Vereker, Gort, VPB) One of the finest 15C castles in Ireland, standing by the side of a small tidal creek of the Shanon estuary; built ca 1425, perhaps by one of the McNamaras; then held by the O’Briens, who became Earls of Thomond, until 6th Earl [Barnabas O’Brien (d. 1657)] surrendered it to the Cromwellian forces during the Civil War. A tall, oblong building, it has a square tower at each corner; these are linked, on the north and south sides, by a broad arch just below the topmost storey. The entrance door leads into a large vaulted hall, or guard chamber, above which is the Great Hall, the banqueting hall and audience chamber of the Earls of Thomond, with its lofty timber roof. Whereas the body of the castle is only three storeys – there being another vaulted chamber below the guard chamber – the towers contain many storeys of small rooms, reached up newel stairs and by passages in the thickness of the walls. One of these rooms, opening off the Great Hall, is the chapel, which still has its original plasterwork ceiling of ca 1619, richly adorned with a pattern of vines and grapes. There are also fragment of early C17 plasterwork in some of the window recesses. After the departure of the O’Briens, a C17 brick house was built between the two north towers; Thomas Studdert [1696-1786], who bought Bunratty early in C18, took up residence here in 1720. Later, the Studderts built themselves “a spacious and handsome modern residence in the demesne: and the castle became a constabulary barracks, falling into disrepair so that, towards the end of C19, the ceiling of the Great Hall collapsed. Bunratty was eventually inherited by Lt-Com R.H. Russell, whose mother was a Studdert, and sold by him to 7th Viscount Gort [Standish Robert Gage Prendergast Vereker (1888-1975)] 1956. With the help of Mr Percy Le Clerc and Mr John Hunt, Lord Gort carried out a most sympathetic restoration of the castle, which included removing C17 house, re-roofing the Great Hall in oak and adding battlements to the towers. The restored castle contains Lord Gort’s splendid collection of medieval and C16 furniture, tapestries and works of art, and is open to the public; “medieval banquets” being held here as a tourist attraction. Since the death of Lord Gort, Bunratty and its contents have been held in trust for the Nation.” [4]

Bunratty Castle, County Clare, Photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])
Bunratty Castle, County Clare, Photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])
Bunratty Co Clare National Library of Ireland stereo pairs collection STP_1858. (Dublin City Library and Archives) [5]
Bunratty Castle Co Clare National Library of Ireland Lawrence Collection taken between 1880 and 1914, L_CAB_00962 (Dublin City Library and Archives) [5]

3. Craggaunowen Castle, Kilmurray, Sixmilebridge, County Clare

Craggaunowen Pre-Historic Park, County Clare, photo by Stephen Power 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])

– history park, maintained by Shannon Heritage, www.craggaunowen.ie

The Irish Homes and Garden website tells us:

“Early medieval 500AD-1500: The most common form of house style during this period was the ringfort –a circular area of earth surrounded by a bank and ditch. In some cases, stone was used in the defensive enclosure and these are known as cashels. Over 45,000 examples still remain today. Also dating from this period were crannogs (from the Irish crann – tree) – an artificial island built in the shallow areas of lakes with the houses surrounded by a timber palisade or fence. These can be spotted in the landscape as small tree covered islands close to the lake shore – both the ringforts and crannogs most commonly contained circular houses. A reconstruction of a crannog dwelling can be found at Craggaunowen, Co. Clare

This was also a time when Christianity was introduced to Ireland and whereas the early churches of the 6th and 7th centuries were of timber, evidence of stone churches appear from the late 8th century. These were simple rectangular buildings of about 5m long with a high steep pitched roof. The only doorway had a flat-topped lintelled opening. The early Irish monasteries of the 9th and 10th centuries, such as Clonmacnoise, had larger churches and monastic buildings also included the drystone beehive hut or clochan, as can be seen at Skellig Michael, and also the Round Tower, built between the 10th and 12th century, which consisted of a narrow tower up to 30m high tapering at the top with a conical roof.” [6]

The Craggaunowen website tells us: “Craggaunowen Castle - built by  John MacSioda MacNamara in 1550 a descendant of Sioda MacNamara who built Knappogue Castle in 1467. After the collapse of the Gaelic Order, in the 17th century, the castle was left roofless and uninhabitable. The Tower House remained a ruin until it and the estate of Cullane House across the road, were inherited in 1821 by ”Honest” Tom Steele, a confederate of Daniel O’Connell, Steele had the castle rebuilt as a summer house in the 1820s. He used it and the turret on the hill opposite for recreation. His initials can be seen on one of the quoin-stones to the right outside. “The Liberator”. By the time of the First Ordnance Survey, in the 1840s, the castle was “in ruins”. After Steele in 1848 the lands were divided, Cullane going to one branch of his family, Craggaunowen to another, his niece Maria Studdert. Eventually the castle and grounds were acquired by the “Irish Land Commission”. Much of the land was given over to forestry and the castle itself was allowed to fall into disrepair. In the mid-19th century, the castle, herd’s house and 96 acres were reported in the possession of a Reverend William Ashworth, who held them from a Caswell (a family from County Clare just north of Limerick). In 1906, a mansion house here was owned by Count James Considine (from a family based at Derk, County Limerick). Craggaunowen Castle was restored by John Hunt in the 1960s – he added an extension to the ground floor, which for a while housed part of his collection of antiquities. The collection now resides in the Hunt Museum in the city of Limerick.” [7]

4. Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, County Clare

Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, July 2021.

Maintained by Shannon Heritage.

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

p. 115. “(Martyn/LGI1912; Gogarty/IFR; Russell, Ampthill, B/PB) An old tower-house with a bawn and a smaller tower, on a creek of Galway Bay; which was for long roofless, though in other respects well maintained by the Martyn family, of Tulira, who owned it C18 and C19, and which was bought in the present century by Oliver St John Gogarty, the surgeon, writer and wit, to save it from threat of demolition. More recently, it was bought by the late Christabel, Lady Ampthill, and restored by her as her home; her architect, being Donal O’Neill Flanagan, who carried out a most successful and sympathetic restoration. The only addition to the castle was an unobtrusive two storey wing joining the main tower to the smaller one. The main tower has two large vaulted rooms, one above the other, in its two lower storeys, which keep their original fireplaces; these were made into the dining room and drawing room. “Medieval” banquets and entertainments are now held here.” 

Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, July 2021.
Dunguaire Castle, County Clare, July 2021.

5. Kilrush House, County ClareVandeleur Gardens

Vandeleur walled Garden, Kilrush, Co Clare, photo by Air Swing Media 2019 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])

– ‘lost’, Vandeleur Gardens open 

www.vandeleurwalledgarden.ie 

Timothy William Ferrers writes about it on his website:

KILRUSH HOUSE, County Clare, was an early Georgian house of 1808. 

From 1881 until Kilrush House was burnt in 1897, Hector Stewart Vandeleur lived mainly in London and only spent short periods each year in Kilrush. Indeed during the years 1886-90, which coincided with the period of the greatest number of evictions from the Vandeleur estate, he does not appear to have visited Kilrush. 

In 1889, Hector bought Cahircon House and then it was only a matter of time before the Vandeleurs moved to Cahircon as, in 1896, they were organising shooting parties at Kilrush House and also at the Cahircon demesne.  

Hector Stewart Vandeleur was the last of the Vandeleurs to be buried at Kilrush in the family mausoleum. Cahircon House was sold in 1920, ending the Kilrush Vandeleurs’ direct association with County ClareHector Vandeleur had, by 1908, agreed to sell the Vandeleur estate to the tenants for approximately twenty years’ rent, and the majority of the estate was purchased by these tenants. 

THE VANDELEURS, as landlords, lost lands during the Land Acts and the family moved to Cahircon, near Kildysart. 
 
In 1897, Kilrush House was badly damaged by fire. 

During the Irish Land Commission of the 1920s, the Department of Forestry took over the estate, planted trees in the demesne and under their direction the remains of the house were removed in 1973, following an accident in the ruins.Today the top car park is laid over the site of the house. 

Vandeleur Walled Garden now forms a small part of the former Kilrush demesne. The Kilrush demesne was purchased by the Irish Department of Agriculture as trustee under the Irish Land Acts solely for the purpose of forestry. The Kilrush Committee for Urban Affairs purchased the Fair Green and Market House.” [8]

6. Knappogue or Knoppogue Castle, County Clare

Knappogue is maintained by Shannon Heritage.

From Mark Bence-Jones, A Guide to Irish Country Houses.

Mark Bence-Jones writes about Knoppogue, or Knappogue, Castle in A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):

p. 180. “(Butler, Dunboyne, B/PB) A large tower-house with a low C19 castellated range, possibly by James Pain, built onto it. Recently restored and now used for “medieval banquets” similar to those at Bunratty Castle, Co Clare.” 

7. Mount Ievers Court, Sixmilebridge, County Clare  

Mount Ievers, photograph from National Inventory.

mountieverscourt.ie

The website has a terrific history of the house. First, it tells us:

Mount Ievers Court is an 18th c. Irish Georgian country house nestled in the Co. Clare countryside just outside the town of Sixmilebridge.  The house was originally the site of a 16th c.  tower house called Ballyarilla Castle built by Lochlann McNamara.  The tower house was demolished in the early 18th c. to construct the present house, built between 1733-1737 by John & Isaac Rothery, for Col. Henry Ievers.

Mount Ievers Court  has been home to the Ievers family for 281 years and since then generations of Ievers and their families have worked hard to maintain the house in order to ensure that the estate retains a viable place in the local community and Ireland’s heritage long into the future. Mount Ievers is currently owned by Breda Ievers née O’Halloran, a native of Sixmilebridge, and her son Norman. Norman is married to Karen, an American by birth, who has a keen interest in Irish history & the family archives.

A topographical vie of Mount Ievers, County Clare dating from the second quarter of the 18th century, courtesy of exhibition “In Harmony with Nature” curated by Robert O’Byrne in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022.

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

p. 214. “(Ievers/IFR) The most perfect and also probably the earliest of the tall Irish houses; built ca. 1730-37 by Colonel Henry Ievers to the design of John Rothery, whose son, Isaac, completed the work after his death and who appears to have also been assisted by another member of the Rothery family, Jemmy. The house, which replaced an old castle, is thought to have been inspired by Chevening, in Kent – now the country house of the Prince of Wales – with which Ievers could have been familiar not only through the illustration in Vitruvius Britannicus, but also because he may have been connected with the family which owned Chevening in C17. Mount Ievers, however, differs from Chevening both in detail and proportions; and it is as Irish as Chevening is English. Its two three storey seven bay fronts – which are almost identical except that one is of faded pink brick with a high basement whereas the other is of silvery limestone ashlar with the basement hidden by a grass bank – have that dreamlike, melancholy air which all the best tall C18 Irish houses have. There is a nice balance between window and wall, and a subtle effect is produced by making each storey a few inches narrower than that below it. The high-pitched roof is on a bold cornice; there are quoins, string-courses and shouldered window surrounds; the doorcase on each front has an entablature on console brackets. The interior of the house is fairly simple. Some of the rooms have contemporary panelling; one of them has a delightful primitive overmantel painting showing the house as it was originally, with an elaborate formal layout which has largely disappeared. A staircase of fine joinery with alternate barley-sugar and fluted balusters leads up to a large bedroom landing, with a modillion cornice and a ceiling of geometrical panels. On the top foor is a long gallery, a feature which seems to hark back to the C17 or C16, for it is found in hardly any other C18 Irish country houses; the closest counterpart was the Long Room in Bowen’s Court, County Cork. The present owners, S.Ldr N.L. Ievers, has carried out much restoration work and various improvements, including the placement of original thick glazing bars in some of the windows which had been given thin late-Georgain astragals ca. 1850; and the making of two ponds on the site of those in C18 layout. He and Mrs Ievers have recently opened the home to paying guests in order to meet the cost of upkeep.” 

The website tells of the ancient origins of the family, and goes on to explain:

A parchment found in the sideboard at Mount Ievers in July 2012 maintains that Henry Ivers arrived in Ireland in 1640 from Yorkshire, where the family had been settled since arriving with William the Conqueror nearly six hundred years earlier. It also records that Henry settled in County Clare in 1643 when he was appointed Collector of Revenue for Clare and Galway.

8. Newtown Castle, Newtown, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare – section 482

Newtown Castle, photograph fron National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.

contact: Mary Hawkes- Greene
Tel: 065-7077200
www.newtowncastle.com , 
Open: Jan 10-May 31, Mon-Fri, June 1-30 Mon-Sat, July 1-Aug 31 daily, Sept 1-Dec 16 Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm
Fee: Free.

The website tells us: “The historic Newtown Castle has occupied a prominent position in Ballyvaughan since the 16th century. Having lain derelict for many years, the castle’s restoration began in 1994, completed in time for the opening of the Burren College of Art in August of that year. 

Newtown Castle is once again a vibrant building in daily use, central to the artistic, cultural and educational life of the Burren. It is open free of charge to the public on week days. Newtown Castle is also available to hire for: wedding ceremonies, small private functions or company events.” 

Maurice Craig and Desmond Fitzgerald the Knight of Glin describe it in their book Ireland Observed. A handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities: “This sixteenth-century tower, nearly round in plan, rises from a square base, on which is the entrance door. Ingeniously places shot-holes protect its four sides.” [9]

Maurice Craig also writes about Newtown in his book The Architecture of Ireland from the Earliest Times to 1880:

There is a small class of cylindrical tower-houses: so small that it is worth attempting to enumerate them all, omitting those which appear to be thirteenth-century (and hence not tower-houses). They are Cloughoughter, County Cavan (which is dubiously claimed for the fourteenth century); Carrigabrack, East of Fermoy County Cork; Knockagh near Templemore County Tipperary; Ballysheeda near Cappawhite County Tipperary; Golden in the same county; Crannagh now attached to an eighteenth century house near Templetuohy in the same county; Balief County Kilkenny; Grantstown near Rathdowney County Leix; Barrow Harbour County Kerry; Newtown near Gort in County Galway; Doonagore County Clare also by the sea; Faunarooska, Burren, County Clare; and Newtown at the North edge of the Burren, also in County Clare.

The last of these is in some ways the most interesting, being in form a cylinder impaled upon a pyramid. Over the door (which is in the pyramid) there is a notch in the elliptical curve traced by the cylinder, and in this notch is a gunhole covering a wide sector of the sloping wall below. At some other castles, for example, Ballynamona on the Awbeg river, there is a feature using the same principle, which is not easy to describe. On each face of the building there is what looks at first site like the “ghost” or creasing of a pitched roof, but is in fact a triangular plane, about a foot deep at the top, decreasing to nothing at the base. In the apex there is a gunhole. Aesthetically the effect is very subtle.” [10]

Newtown Castle, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [11]

9. O’Dea’s, or Dysert Castle, County Clare

– can visit http://www.dysertcastle.com/castle.htm

The Castle was built in 1480 by Diarmuid O’Dea, Lord of Cineal Fearmaic. The uppermost floors and staircase were badly damaged by the Cromwellians in 1651. Repaired and opened in 1986, the castle houses an extensive museum, an audio visual presentation and various exhibitions. 

Free car/coach parking and toilets 
Tea rooms and bookshop 
Chapel 
Modern History Room 1700AD – 2000AD 
Museum – Local artefacts 1000BC – 1700AD 
Audio – visual presentation – local archaeology 
Medieval masons and carpenters workshop 
Roof wall – walk to view surrounding monuments 

Places to Stay, County Clare 

1. Ballinalacken Castle, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare – hotel €€

Photograph from National Library of Ireland, constant commons, Flickr, Ballinalicken Castle, County Clare.

https://www.ballinalackencastle.com/ 

The website tells us that the property has been in the O’Callaghan family for three generations, and is now run by Declan and Cecilia O’Callaghan. The rooms look luxurious, some with four poster beds, and the hotel has a full restaurant.

The website tells us: “The original house was owned by the famous O’Brien clan – a royal and noble dynasty who were descendants of the High King of Ireland, Brian Ború. The house , castle and 100 acres of land was bought by Declan’s grandfather Daniel O’Callaghan, in 1938 and he and his wife Maisie opened it as a fine hotel. It was later passed to Daniel’s son Dennis and his wife Mary and then to his son, Declan. Declan and Cecilia have three children who also assist in the family business.

Standing tall on a limestone outcrop, our very own Castle, Ballinalacken Castle, is a two-stage tower house which was built in the 15th or early 16th century. It is thought the name comes from the Irish Baile na leachan (which means “town of the flagstones/tombstones/stones”).

10th Century: The original fortress is built by famous Irish clan, the O’Connors – rulers of West Corcomroe.

14th Century: The fortress itself is found and Lochlan MacCon O’Connor is in charge of its rebuilding.

1564: Control of West Corcomroe passes to Donal O’Brien of the O’Brien family.

1582: The lands are formally granted by deed to Turlough O’Brien of Ennistymon. After the Cromwellians triumphed in the area, five of Turlough’s castles are razed to the ground – but Ballinalacken is saved as it was not on the list of “overthrowing and demolishing castles in Connaught and Clare.”

1662: Daniel dies and grandson Donough is listed as rightful holder of the Castle.

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

p. 26. “(O’Brien/LGI1912) A single-storey house with a curved bow, close to an old keep on a rock. The seat of the O’Brien family, of which Lord Chief Justice Peter O’Brien, Lord O’Brien of Kilfenora (known irreverently as “Pether the Packer”) was a younger son.” 

2. Ballyportry Castle, Corofin, County Clare a tower house, € for 4-8 for one week

http://www.ballyportry.ie

Ballyportry, County Clare, photograph from National Inventory.

Rising bluntly out of the craggy landscape, Ballyportry is the finest example in Ireland of a complete medieval Gaelic Tower House. Built in the 15th century it has been beautifully restored with careful attention being paid to retaining all its original features and style, yet with the comforts of the 21st century.”

3. Castle Fergus House, or Ballyhannon, County Clarecoach house accommodation €€€ or € for 15 or castle €€ for 10 – the lodge is for sale so may not be available for rental

There is a private house, a tower house castle and coach house.

Castlefergus House, also known as Ballyhannon Castle: A Blood Smyth property from the late 18th century, sold by the Blood Smyth to the Bloods of Ballykilty in the early 20th century. This house was occupied by Daniel Powell in 1814 but the Blood Smyths were in residence in the 1830s and 1850s. They appear to have held the property from Ralph Westropp. The mansion house of Castlefergus was in the possession of Rev William Blood Smith in 1906.” [12]

The Lodge: https://www.castleferguslodge.com/ €€€ or € for 15

The lodge is for sale (July 2022) so I suspect it is no longer available for rental.

Castle Fergus Lodge, County Clare, photograph from myhome.ie

A 19th century coach house adjacent to Ballyhannon Fortress Castle. Take a step back in time, and enjoy the unique experience of this historic landmark, at our bed and breakfast. We are at the end of a private drive, so no one will be “passing by” to interfere with your peace and tranquility.” 

Castle Fergus Lodge and Ballyhannon Castle, photograph from myhome.ie
Castle Fergus Lodge and Ballyhannon Castle, photograph from myhome.ie

The Tower House: http://rentacastleinireland.com/history.html €€ for 10

The website tells us:

The castle of Ballyhannon, also known in later times as Castlefergus, most likely from its proximity to the River Fergus, is a late fifteenth century towerhouse of untypical internal design within the context of the Co. Clare group of towerhouses. The castle stands in the townland of Castlefergus close to Latoon Creek, which itself feeds into the River Fergus. Ballyhannon townlands (both north and south) lie to the north east of the castle. The older spelling, Ballyhannan, is retained in these townland names. The townland name can be translated as O’Hannan’s or O’Hannon’s home. Although there are many substantial families of Hannon in Munster and Connaught, the name seldom appears in the annals of medieval Ireland. 

The death in 1266 of Maelisa O’Hannen, prior of Roscommon, is one of the few such entries.In the census of 1659 the name was found in considerable numbers in the Barony of Bunratty. The prefix O, was dropped in the submergence of Gaelic Ireland and has not been resumed. Strictly speaking Hannon is the anglicised form of the Gaelic O’ hAnnáin, a name chiefly associated with Co. Limerick. It was common at the end of the sixteenth century in many parts of Connaught and Munster. The Hannons or Ó hAnnáin are a Dalcassian sept of noble Milesian ancestry whose members attained the status of knighthood, and whose patrimonial lands were in this area, south of Quin. Their name is still retained in the townlands of Ballyhannan north and Ballyhannan south. Although the Hannon name is remembered in the name of Ballyhannon Castle, their history is of an earlier period and no references to the family can be found in connection with the history of the castle itself. 

The castle was built about 1490 by Hugh, and possibly Síoda, sons of Donnchadh MacNamara. This period was described by the noted antiquarian, T.J.Westropp, as the “Golden Age of castle-building in Thomond”, because of the high standard of construction which had been achieved by the masons at this period. Although Ballyhannon Castle was the home of the MacNamaras for many centuries, there are some references to the O’Briens, on whose lands it stood, in relation to its history. For example in the year 1560, a grant was made by Queen Elizabeth I to Conor O’Brien, Earl of Thomond, of Ballyhannon Castle, and several other castles, previously held by Donnell O’Brien; “To hold in tail male, by service of one knight’s fee”, meaning that the property would pass onto his male heirs, subject to military service to the Queen. In the lists of the castles of the county for the years 1570 and 1574 Ballyhannon Castle was owned by Covea Riogh MacNamara, son of Mahon. Some transcriptions of these lists record the castle as being owned by William Neylon. This was due to an error in aligning the columns during the transcription of the original manuscript lists

Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.

A fireplace with the inscription “H.T.E. 1576” was recorded by Westropp & Twigge in the 1890’s, as being in the castle. This was one of the earliest dated fireplaces in the county, though it cannot now be located within the castle. In 1586 Queen Elizabeth I issued a pardon to Hugh, son of Covea MacNamara, of Ballyhannon Castle for being in rebellion. He had to provide sureties for his future good behaviour and answer at the local courts as requested. In the 1626 rental of the 5th Earl of Thomond, Henry O’Brien, Ballyhannon Castle was listed as being rented to one Robert Hawksworth, with one quarter of land for the sum of £4.00. It is likely that Hawksworth was one of the many English Protestant settlers brought into the county by the O’Briens and settled on the O’Brien properties in Thomond during this period. The settling of English Protestants on lands of the native Irish Catholics precipitated the 1641 rebellion and many records exist of the Irish despoiling the settlers and turning them out of their newly acquired lands and properties. The MacNamaras of Ballyhannon acted no differently than the other displaced Irish. John Smith of Latoon complained of his losses which, “amounted to £1,354, including his lease for life of Lattoon, and his outlay upon buildings and sea embankments.” He complained that Oliver Delahoyde of Fomerla Castle in Tulla, “with fifty men came, on the night of 15th January 1642, and stripped him of part of his goods. The work of spoilation was subsequently completed by the MacNamaras of Ballyhannon” among others. Most of the Irish landowners who took part in this rebellion were later stripped of their possessions. Among those noted as having forfeited their property after the rebellion was Mahone MacNamara of Ballyhannon. His property was disposed of to Pierce Creagh (a Protestant settler) and to the Earl of Thomond, Barnabas O’Brien, 6th Earl. After the rebellion, the Cromwellian campaign attempted to complete the subjugation of the native Irish, and many of their castles were dismantled by the Commonwealth forces to render them defenceless. Ballyhannon appears to have escaped this destruction and a sketch of the castle in 1675, which survives in the “Edenvale Survey”, shows it to have been roofed and in good condition. The castle appears to be surrounded by a bawn wall with a gate and loophole windows at this time. With the assention to the English throne of the Catholic King James II in 1685, the fate of the native Irish improved somewhat for a time. Ballyhannon Castle was one of the castles noted by Sir Daniel O’Brien, Viscount Clare, as being suitable for the imprisonment of Protestant settlers who were now being dispossessed. A letter written in 1689 describing the events of the time is worth recording. “Take every one of them that are young (Seir or Mr.), and let the common sort lie in the prison, and the rest strictly guarded, or rather put into some strong castle that has a geate to be locked on the outside like Ballyhannon”. Pierce Creagh who had received part of the MacNamara property at Ballyhannon after the rebellion was named as one of those to be imprisoned in the above letter from Sir Daniel O’Brien. The castle is also mentioned in 1690 when Thomas Hickman, who seemed to be living in fear during another upsurge in the conflict, asked Sir Donough O’Brien to collect some of his belongings from Ballyhannon Castle and to keep  other possessions of his in a safe place, as he expected the castle was soon to be garrisoned. The castle appears on Henry Pelham’s “Grand Jury” map of 1787 under the names Ballyhannon and Castlefergus, which is the first time Castlefergus appears as the name of the castle. Hely Dutton, writing in 1808, records the castle as: “Fergus – inhabited and lately white-washed! ”. There are also some references to the Blood family of Castlefergus, though these relate most likely to Castlefergus House which stood south west of the castle and is now demolished. Charlotte Blood, daughter of William Blood, who was murdered at his house at Applevale near Corofin, married her cousin Matthew Henry Blood, M.D. of Castlefergus in 1831. Westropp, writing in 1917 notes some curious traces of settlement in the fields at Castlefergus, most likely the remains of ringforts and other early Bronze Age habitation sites. Samuel Lewis, writing, in 1837, notes Castlefergus as: “The fine modern residence” of William Smith Blood Esq. He adds: “adjoining which are the remains of the ancient edifice”, telling us that by this date the castle was uninhabited, probably for the first time in 350 years. By 1858 the castle was ivy-covered and described as: “a fine old green-mantled tower” on the grounds of Castlefergus House. 

Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.

The American millionaire and oil heiress Elizabeth Phillips (of Phillips Petroleum) and her husband Henry D. Irwin, who chose to call it “Ballyhannan Castle”, (using the older townland spelling), restored the building to its former glory in 1970. It is currently rented out to top-of-the-market tourists as a unique ‘out-of-the-way’ destination. It was also home to rock stars, as well as several American and British film stars during film making in the region. 

Robert Twigge’s description of the castle in the early 1900’s is of interest and is appended here. “The castle stands on a low rock, scarped to the west and had no outworks, (the bawn noted in 1675 having been removed by this time). The very perfect tower, measuring 33’6” x 24’, is in excellent preservation, having been inhabited in the last century. The pointed south door is defended by a shot-hole on the left and a murder hole above. The stair mounts round the s.w. angle, and at the 14th step a long corridor with 2 lights in the w. wall is reached. At the n. end a spiral staircase of 72 steps leads to the top. At the 12th step from the corridor another passage through the n. wall is reached. 5 curved steps at the s. end of the w. corridor lead to a similar passage along the s. wall over the porch and lodge. There is a handsome trefoil headed window of 2 lights in the s.w. angle and a garderobe to the s.e. angle. Mounting the spiral stair still higher other corridors, over the lower ones, in the w. and s. sides, are reached. There are 4 main stories under the stone vault forming the roof. The basement story has very deep recesses under the corridor and the 2 on the n. side have a narrow chamfered screen between them. A fireplace bears the date 1576, but this was of course a later addition to the building”. 

In Quin, County Clare, on the west coast of Ireland is one of the most renowned authentic medieval castles in Ireland to rent, whether as a self catering vacation rental, or in which to have your castle wedding or to mark one of life’s special occasions.  

Dating back to the late 15th century, in recent years it has proven to be the most popular choice of foreign and Irish tourists alike, for both catered events and self catering accommodation.  

Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.

Known locally as Castlefergus, in the Irish Governmental records it is registered as a National Monument and “Listed/Protected” structure, intended to protect its historic, architectural and aesthetic significance. It is indeed fortunate that we, the current owners, take great care of it and are in a position to allow it to continue to be among the few castles in Ireland to rent on an exclusive basis for the likes of weddings, honeymooners, family reunions or other milestone events, or just for those who wish to have the unique experience of having an entire real medieval Irish castle privately to themselves.”  

Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.
Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.
Castlefergus Lodge, photograph from myhome.ie, July 2022.

4. Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare – hotel €€€

www.dromoland.ie 

Dromoland Castle, County Clare, photo care of Dromoland Castle, for Tourism Ireland 2019, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])

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

p. 109. “(O’Brien, Inchiquin, B/PB) Originally a large early C18 house with a pediment and a high pitched roof; built for Sir Edward O’Brien, 2nd Bt; possibly inspired by Thomas Burgh, MP, Engineer and Surveyor-General for Ireland. Elaborate formal garden. This house was demolished ca 1826 by Sir Edward O’Brien, 4th Bt (whose son succeeded his kinsman as 13th Lord Inchiquin and senior descendant of the O’Brien High Kings) and a wide-spreading and dramatic castle by James and George Richard Pain was built in its place. The castle is dominated by a tall round corner tower and a square tower, both of then heavily battlemented and machicolated; there are lesser towers and a turreted porch. The windows in the principal fronts are rectangular, with Gothic tracery. The interior plan is rather similar to that of Mitchelstown Castle, Co Cork, also by the Pains; a square entrance hall opens into a long single-storey inner hall like a gallery, with the staircase at its far end and the principal reception rooms on one side of it. But whereas Mitchelstown rooms had elaborate plaster Gothic vaulting, those at Dromoland had plain flat ceilings with simple Gothic or Tudor-Revival cornices. The dining room has a dado of Gothic panelling. The drawing room was formerly known as the Keightley Room, since it contained many of the magnificent C17 portraits which came to the O’Brien family through the marriage of Lucius O’Brien, MP [1675-1717], to Catherine Keightley, whose maternal grandfather was Edward Hyde, the great Earl of Clarendon. The other Keightley portraits hung in the long gallery, which runs from the head of the staircase, above the inner hall. Part of the C18 garden layout survives, including a gazebo and a Doric rotunda. In the walled garden in a C17 gateway brought from Lemeneagh Castle, which was the principal seat of this branch of the O’Briens until they abandoned it in favour of Dromoland. The Young Irelander leader, William Smith O’Brien, a brother of the 13th Lord Inchiquin, was born in Dromoland in C18 house. Dromolond castle is now a hotel, having been sold 1962 by 16yh Lord Inchiquin, who built himself a modern house in the grounds to the design of Mr Donal O’Neill Flanagan; it is in a pleasantly simple Georgian style.” 

Lucius Henry O’Brien, 3rd Baronet of Dromoland, County Clare (1731-95) also lived in 14 Henrietta St from 1767-1795 – for more about him, see Melanie Hayes, The Best Address in Town: Henrietta Street, Dublin and its First Residents 1720-80, published by Four Courts Press, Dublin 8, 2020. 

5. Falls Hotel, formerly Ennistymon House, Ennistymon, Co. Clare  €€

Falls Hotel, photograph for Failte Ireland, 2021. [see Ireland’s Content Pool]. (see [3])

www.fallshotel.ie 

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

p. 121. “(Macnamara/IFR) :A two storey seven bay gable-ended C18 house with a two bay return prolonged by a single-storey C19 wing ending in a gable. One bay pedimented breakfront with fanlighted tripartite doorway; lunette window in pediment. Some interior plasterwork, including a frieze incorporating an arm embowed brandishing a sword – the O’Brien crest – in the hall. Conservatory with art-nouveau metalwork; garden with flights of steps going down to the river. The home of Francis MacNamara, a well-known bohemian character who was the father-in-law of Dylan Thomas and who married, as his second wife, the sister of Augustus John’s Dorelia; he and John are the Two Flamboyant Fathers in the book of that name by his daughter, Nicolette Shephard.” 

6. Gregan’s Castle Hotel, County Clare €€€

WWW.GREGANS.IE

Gregan’s Castle hotel, County Clare, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory tells us Gregan’s Castle was built in 1750. It tells us Gregan’s Castle is a: “six-bay two-storey house, built c. 1750, with half-octagonal lower projection. Extended c. 1840, with single-bay two-storey gabled projecting bay and single-storey flat-roofed projecting bay to front. Seven-bay two-storey wing with single-storey canted bay windows to ground floor, added c. 1990, to accommodate use as hotel.”

The website tells us:

Welcome to Gregans Castle Hotel. Please take a look around our luxury, eco and gourmet retreat, nestled in the heart of the beautiful Burren on Ireland’s west coast. The house has been welcoming guests since the 1940s and our family have been running it since 1976. Our stunning 18th century manor house is set in its own established and lovingly-attended gardens on the Wild Atlantic Way, and has spectacular views that stretch across the Burren hills to Galway Bay.

Inside, you’ll find welcoming open fires, candlelight and striking decoration ranging from modern art, to antique furniture, to pretty garden flowers adorning the rooms. Gregans Castle has long been a source of inspiration for its visitors. 

Guests have included J.R.R Tolkien, who’s said to have been influenced by the Burren when writing The Lord of the Rings, as well as other revered artists and writers such as Seamus Heaney and Sean Scully.

And for the guests of today: with warm Irish hospitality, stylish accommodation, outstanding service and exceptional fine dining in our award-winning restaurant, we truly are a country house of the 21st century. You can do nothing or everything here. And whatever you choose, we’d like you to join us in celebrating all that is wondrous and beautiful in this truly exceptional place.

Simon Haden and Frederieke McMurray

7. Loop Head Lightkeeper’s Cottage, County Clare €€ for 2; € for 4-6

https://www.irishlandmark.com/properties/

Perched proudly on an enclosure at the tip of Loop Head stands the lighthouse station. Surrounded by birds and wild flowers, cliffs and Atlantic surf, Loop Head offers holiday accommodation with all of the spectacular appeal of the rugged west coast.

8. Loughnane’s, Main Street, Feakle, Co Claresee above

contact: Billy Loughnane
Tel: 086-2565012
www.clareecolodge.ie
Open: June 1-August 31, Wed-Sun, Aug 13-21, 2pm-6pm Fee: Free

The website tells us:

Clare Ecolodge at Loughnane’s, Feakle, in the heart of East Clare, is a unique family-run guest accommodation experience. We also offer group and self-catering accommodation as well as residential courses.
The buildings, which have been in the family for over 100 years, were renovated 10 years ago. Since then we have been welcoming guests from all over the world.
Clare Ecolodge at Loughnane’s offers a wide variety of accommodation to suit the needs of individuals and groups visiting Feakle for a residential courses or using the village as a base to explore the wild and beautiful landscape of County Clare.
Feakle is an ideal location from which to discover the East Clare countryside. Steeped in history and heritage, the area is known for its fine walks, stunning lakes, rugged mountains and of course its vibrant Irish traditional music scene.
Loughnane’s offers a unique blend of tranquillity and fun giving guests a genuine Irish experience.

Clare Ecolodge at Loughnane’s in Feakle has been designated by the Irish State as a building of significant historical, architectural interest and members of the public are invited to view the building (free of charge) at the following times from June 1 to August 31 from Wednesday to Sunday between 2pm and 6pm.

Clare Ecolodge; The Energy Story:

Clare Ecolodge was created in 2018 to signify the changes which we have implemented over  the past two years at Loughnane’s Guesthouse/ Hostel. 

We have converted all our rooms in the main house to large private double and family rooms.

In May 2018 we installed 30 Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof of the main building. Look up and see for yourself!

Since then we have been producing between 20 to 60kw hours per day.

In May 2018 we also installed an air to water heat pump system. This is a low usage eco-water heating system powered by electricity.

This heats all our water requirements for showers, laundry and kitchen requirements. We have not turned on our oil burner since installation. 

The average yearly energy requirements for an Irish household is approximately 4000kwh. Our energy system has produced this in the past 3 months. In that time we have avoided 2.5 tonnes of CO2.

We use between 5 and 15kwh per day. The surplus is sent back to the grid at the transformer  at the top of the village. We currently receive zero compensation for the excess electricity we generate but the ESB charges the community for the usage of this electricity.

We estimate that we are currently at least 50% off-gird.

Our main hot water and energy requirements are in the summer months. In high season there are more showers used and laundry needed. Our current energy system can handle this with little effort.

For the past decade we have been growing our own vegetables and herbs for use in our kitchen.

Next phase – Winter time

Our Solar PV panels are powered by light rather than heat so will work in winter, albeit not for periods as long in the summer. 

We aim to install a battery storage system so we can manage the energy we generate to be used at the most opportune times.

We aim to install a second heat pump for our central heating requirements. This will effectively reduce our oil consumption to zero.

We aim to install a wind turbine system on our 12 acre farm behind the main house. This will be used as a back up to bridge the energy generation gap between winter and summer.

9. Mount Callan House and Restaurant, Inagh, Co Clare – B&B 

https://www.mountcallanhouse.ie

Culleen, Kilmaley,
County Clare, V95 NV0T

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

p. 212. (Synge/IFR; Tottenham/IFR) A Victorian house of two storys over basement built 1873 by Lt Col G.C. Synge and his wife, Georgiana, who was also his first cousin, being the daughter of Lt-Col Charles Synge, the previous owner of the estate. The estate was afterwards inherited by Georgiana Synge’s nephew, Lt-Col F. St. L. Tottenham, who made a garden in which rhododendrons run riot and many rare and tender species flourish.” 

The website tells us:

Mount Callan House & Restaurant is situated in the beautiful surroundings of West Clare in the heart of Kilmaley village. We are a small, family-run restaurant, led by Chef Daniel Lynch, and guest house with a deep connection to our rural community.

The local landscape is our inspiration and our food is created using the very best seasonal ingredients from award-winning, local suppliers.

We encourage creativity, a good working environment and a community approach for the benefit of all.

10. Mount Cashel Lodge, Kilmurry, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare period self-catering accommodation €

https://www.mtcashel.com

and Stables https://hiddenireland.com/stay/self-catering-holiday-rentals/

The website describes it: “Enjoy luxury self-catering accommodation in these beautifully restored 18th Century lakeside lodges. Set in a 38 acre private landscaped estate with private Lake, riverside walk and Victorian cottage garden to explore. Lake boating, kayaking and fishing are available on site to complete this idyllic retreat.

11. Newpark House, Ennis, County Clare €

https://www.newparkhouse.com/rates/

Newpark House, County Clare by Jen on flickr constant commons, 2016.

The website tells us: “Newpark House was built around 1750, and since then it has been the property of three families: the Hickmans, the Mahons and the Barrons.

The Hickmans came into the possession of Cappahard Estate in 1733. On part of this estate, Gortlevane townland, Richard Hickman built a house and landscaped around it. Around this time he re-named the townland Newpark. Several of those trees from the planting of the new park still survive. 
On his marriage in 1768 his father transferred the property to Richard. He died in 1810 and this property transferred to his son Edward Shadwell Hickman. Edward was a Crown Solicitor in Dublin and put the property up for rent. 

The Mahons: Patrick Mahon, a member of the new up and coming Catholic gentry, took up this offer and moved his family into Newpark. The Mahon family were very involved in the campaign for equal rights for Catholics in Ireland. Patrick’s son, James Patrick commonly known as The O’Gorman Mahon, nominated Daniel O’Connell to contest the famous Clare Election of 1828. O’Connell’s victory in this election resulted in the granting of Catholic Emancipation in 1829. It is highly likely that Daniel O’Connell stayed at Newpark during his visits to Ennis at this time. O’Gorman Mahon (1802-1891) had a very colourful life which ranged from hunting bears in Finland with a Russian Tzar to becoming a Colonel and Aide-de-Camp to the President of Costa Rica. Back in Ireland he is said to have introduced Parnell to Kitty O’Shea. 

While the Mahon family were living here they totally remodled the house. They added on wings and castlated the house in the Gothic revival style which was fashionable in Ireland at that time. The architect responsible would seem to be either John Nash or one of his former apprentices, the Pain brothers, all three were working in the area at this time.

 Of special historical significance is a pair of crosses on the turrets of the house. These crosses have shamrocks on the ends and were put there to commerate Catholic Emancipation. The Mahon family purchased the estate outright in 1853 and held it until 1904. 

At times when Newpark was owned by the Hickmans and Mahons several other families and individuals lived there. The Ennis poet Thomas Dermody spent time here with his father before he set off from Newpark, in 1785, for Dublin, in search of fame and fortune. Thomas remarked on the comfort he felt at Newpark during his time there. Also to have lived at Newpark were Captain William Cole Hamilton, a Magistrate (1870-1876), William Robert Prickett (1883-1886) and Philip Anthony Dwyer (1888-1904), Captains in the local Clare Division of the British Army. 

The Barrons: In 1904 the property came into ownership of the present family, the Barrons. 
Timothy ‘Thady’ Barron was born on the side of the road, in 1847, during the famine. His father had lost his herdsman job, along with the herdsman’s cottage, due to a change of landlord. After a few tough years his father got another herdsmans job and Thady followed in his fathers footsteps. Thady moved in to Newpark in 1904 with his family and he lived he until his death in 1945. In the 1950s Thady’s son James ‘Amy’ bought the property from his sister Nance. In 1960 Amy’s son Earnan and his new wife Bernie moved into a barely habitable Newpark House. They set about slowly but surely bringing the house back to live. Luckily for them they got an opportunity to furnish the house with antiques, which were at that time considered second-hand furniture. Bernie opened up Newpark House as a B&B in 1966. Her son, Declan, is the present owner and we are looking forward to 50 years in business in 2016.”

12. Smithstown Castle (or Ballynagowan), County Claretower house € for 4-8 for one week

http://smithstowncastle.com 

Ballynagowan Castle County Clare by Neale Adams, 2011 on flickr constant commons.

From the website:

Only few castles in the West of Ireland have survived into our times. Ballynagowan (Smithstown) Castle has played an exciting role in the history of North Clare, taking its name from ‘beal-atha-an-ghobhan’, meaning the ‘mouth of the smith’s ford’. 

It was first mentioned in 1551 when the last King of Munster, Murrough O’Brien, (also known as the Tanist, was created 1st Earl of Thomond and 1st Baron of Inchiquin in 1543), willed the Castle of Ballynagowan to his son Teige before his death. 

Over the years it accommodated many famous characters of Irish history. Records show that in 1600 the legendary Irish rebel “Red” Hugh O’Donnell rested there with his men during his attack on North Clare, spreading ruin everywhere and seeking revenge on the Earl of Thomond for his being in alliance with the English. 

In 1649 Oliver Cromwell’s army came from England with death and destruction. The Castle was attacked with cannons when Cromwell’s General, Ludlow, swept into North Clare striking terror everywhere he went. 

In 1650 Conor O’Brien of Lemeneagh became heir of the castle. His death, however, came shortly afterwards in 1551, as he was fatally wounded in a skirmish with Cromwellian troops commanded by General Ludlow at Inchicronan. With him had fought his wife Maire Rua O’Brien (“The Red Mary”, named after her long red hair), one of the best known characters in Irish tradition. She had lived in the castle as a young woman and it is the ferocity and cruelty attributed to her, which has kept her name alive. Legends tell that to save her children’s heritage after Conor’s death she married several English generals, who were killed in mysterious ways one after the other- she supposedly ended her bloody carrier entombed in a hollow tree. 

During 1652 almost all inhabitable castles in Clare including Smithstown were occupied by Cromwellian garrisons, a time of terrible uncertainty as Clare was under military rule. 

Over the next decades Ballynagowan Castle was the seat of army generals, the High Sheriff of County Clare and Viscount Powerscourt, one of the most powerful aristocrats who had their main residence – a monumental neogothic palace – in Dublin.  

The castle was last inhabited mid 19th century and until its recent restauration served as beloved meeting point for couples -, songs and poems about it finding their way into the local pubs.

13. Spanish Point House, Spanish Point, County Clare €

https://spanishpointhouse.ie

The is a Victorian house, originally called Sea View House.

The website tells us:

In 1884 the local Roman Catholic Bishop, James Ryan, expressed a wish to start a primary and secondary school in Miltown Malbay, a short distance from Spanish Point House, but his vision was unrealised for many years to come.

In 1903 the bishop’s estate donated £900 to the Mercy Sisters to establish a school, but things did not happen until 1928, when three houses owned by the Morony estate were offered for sale to the Mercy Sisters with the intention of establishing a school at Spanish Point. The Moronys were a family of local landlords who had owned a significant number of properties in the Spanish Point and Miltown Malbay area between 1750 and 1929, including Sea View House, Miltown House, and The Atlantic Hotel.

The Moronys were responsible for much of the development of the locality of Spanish Point, which began in 1712 when Thomas Morony took a lease of land, later purchased by his eldest son, Edmund, divided it into two farms and leased it to two local landlords for thirty-one years. Francis Gould Morony willed Sea View House, which he built in 1830, to his wife’s niece, Marianne Harriet Stoney, who married Captain Robert Ellis. The house was inherited by the Ellis family and one of their sons – Thomas Gould Ellis – became the son and heir.

Almost a century later, in January 1928, a successor, Robert Gould Ellis, sold the property to the Mercy Sisters for £2,400 and in 1929 Colonel Burdett Morony sold Woodbine Cottage to the nuns for £300. Colonel Burdett Morony was a son of widow Ellen Burdett Morony of Miltown House, a woman who was quite unpopular amongst her tenants for rack-renting to such an extent that a boycott was operated against her. Woodbine Cottage, now part of the local secondary school building, was a summer residence of the Russell family and part of the Morony estate.

On 19 March 1929 – the feast of St Joseph – a deed of purchase was signed and Sea View House became St Joseph’s Convent. The coach house, stables and harness rooms were fitted out as classrooms and a secondary school was opened on 4 September 1929.

In 1931 the west wing was used as dormitories for boarders for the first time. In 1946 Wooodbine Cottage was converted into three classrooms and Miltown House (the Morony family seat, built in the early 1780s by Thomas J. Morony, who developed the town of Miltown Malbay) was also bought by the nuns and became the convent of the Immaculate Conception and a day school, while St Joseph’s was given over to boarding pupils.

In 1959 a new secondary school was opened in part of Miltown House and in Woodbine Cottage by Dr Patrick Hillery, then Minister for Education. He originally came from Spanish Point and was later to become President of Ireland.

In 1978 the boarding school at St Joseph’s closed, due to falling numbers, following the introduction of free secondary education and free school transport, which allowed pupils a greater choice of schools. The house was then given by the sisters to Clare Social Services as a holiday home for children, and was called McCauley House after the Venerable Catherine McCauley – founder of the Mercy Order.

In September 2015 Clare Social Service sold the former convent to Pat and Aoife O’Malley, who restored it as a luxury guesthouse and re-named it Spanish Point House.”

14. Strasburgh Manor coach houses, Inch, Ennis, County Clare

https://www.strasburghmanor.com/about-strasburgh-manor/

The website tells us:

The buildings that comprise the holiday homes were the coach houses attached to the House.

Once occupied by James Burke, who was killed in the French Revolution in 1790, the House was named after the French town of Strasbourg.

It figured prominently in Irish history up to its demise in 1921, when it was burned down during the Irish War of Independence.

Families associated with it included: Burke, Daxon, Stacpoole, Huxley, Mahon, Talbot, Taylor, Scott & McGann (ref: ‘Houses of Clare’ by Hugh Weir, published by Ballinakella Press, Whitegate, Co. Clare).

Whole House Rental, County Clare

1. Inchiquin House, Corofin, County Clare – whole house rental, €€€ for 2, € for 6-10

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

Inchiquin House, County Clare by Conall, 2021 on flickr constant commons.

The website tells us “Inchiquin House is an elegant period home in County Clare, romantically tucked away in the west of Ireland not far from the Wild Atlantic Way. It is the perfect base from which to explore the unique Burren landscape, historic sites, and the region’s many leisure activities.

2. Mount Vernon lodge, Co Clare – whole house accommodation € for 7-11 people 

https://www.mountvernon.ie

Mount Vernon is a lovely Georgian Villa built in 1788 on the Burren coastline of County Clare with fine views over Galway Bay and the surrounding area. 

Built in 1788 for Colonel William Persse on his return from the American War of Independence, Mount Vernon was named to celebrate his friendship with George Washington. The three remaining cypress trees in the walled garden are thought to have been a gift from the President. 
 
During the nineteenth century Mount Vernon was the summer home of Lady Augusta Gregory of Coole, an accomplished playwright and folklorist and a pivotal figure in the Irish Cultural Renaissance. It was her collaboration with W.B.Yeats and Edward Martyn that created the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1904. Lady Gregory entertained many of the luminaries of the Irish Literary Revival at Mount Vernon including W.B.Yeats, AE (George Russell), O’Casey, Synge and George Bernard Shaw. 
 
In 1907 Lady Gregory gave the house to her son Robert Gregory as a wedding present and it was from here that he produced many of his fine paintings of the Burren landscape. He later joined the Royal Flying Corps and was shot down by ‘friendly fire’ in 1918, an event commemorated by W.B.Yeats in his famous poem, An Irish Airman Foresees his Death. 
 
A feature from this period are the unusual fireplaces designed and built by his close friend the pre-Raphaelite painter Augustus John.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/20404103/barntick-house-barntick-co-clare

[2] https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/open-season-grand-irish-homes-that-welcome-visitors-and-get-a-tax-break-1.3855641

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

[4] p. 49. 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.

[5] https://repository.dri.ie/catalog?f%5Broot_collection_id_ssi%5D%5B%5D=pk02rr951&mode=objects&search_field=all_fields&view=grid

[6] https://www.irishhomesandgardens.ie/irish-architecture-history-part-1/

[7] https://www.geni.com/projects/Historic-Buildings-of-County-Clare/29203

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

[9] Craig, Maurice and Knight of Glin [Desmond Fitzgerald] Ireland Observed. A handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities. The Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork, 1970.

[10] p. 103. Craig, Maurice. The Architecture of Ireland from the Earliest Times to 1880, Lambay Books, Portrane, County Dublin, first published 1982, this edition 1997, p. 103.

[11] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/20400502/newtown-art-college-newtown-burren-co-clare

[12] https://www.geni.com/projects/Historic-Buildings-of-County-Clare/29203

Happy new year!

Happy new year and best wishes for 2023 to all my readers!

As you may recall if you are a regular visitor, the updated Revenue Section 482 list for the year is not normally published until February. So if you are making some visits to properties in January I recommend using the 2022 list and contacting a property in advance to see if it is open.

I still have to write up many properties that I have visited – all properties from Heritage week onwards. I took a hiatus to work on my calendars for 2023. I am now working on a calendar that will publish the opening dates of all of the properties for 2023, which I will publish once the 2023 Revenue Section 482 list is published.

Each property opens on different dates, so planning routes around the country to visit when neighbouring properties are open takes some work! To help you to plan, I am listing for each date which properties are open on that date. I am listing properties by number, as it would take too much space to list every property open on every day, considering that there were 187 properties in 2022. To make it easier, I am colour-coding the properties by province, so that one can scan and see where neighbouring properties are open.

Each year I try to visit as many properties as possible, taking holidays for the most far-flung counties from Dublin, and during Heritage Week, going on a tour of as many properties as possible all over the country, as all the properties are open on those dates (unless they are listed as Accommodation, in which case, they do not have to be open during Heritage Week).

I will be publishing photographs of properties in the calendar, to create a book. Here is a sample of how the calendar will look:

I hope that some of my readers would like to purchase my calendars! It will give you a go-to hard copy for planning your visits to historic houses in Ireland, full of photographs of places to be discovered. (I will publish details as to how to order a copy, and the price, once the dates have been finalised).

A summary of 2022 and previous years

As 2022 is entering its final dark days, I thought I’d look over our last few years, to see how we are doing on the project of visiting Section 482 properties. I began the project in April 2019 with a visit to Slane Castle, in County Meath. That was an impressive start to our project.

Slane Castle, County Meath, 26th April 2019, formerly owned by the Flemings and then the Conynghams.

I gathered notes on properties I had already visited, during Open House or Heritage weeks in previous years. As you can see, my interest in historic houses predated my discovery of the Section 482 scheme. In fact, in a PhD I started but never finished, about aesthetic experience, I began my thesis by attempting to capture a moment of aesthetic experience: that of looking at a historic house. It’s lovely to see how I was already trying to understand what it is that draws me to such places.

We’ve visited 87 of the properties so far!

Properties we’d visited before I learned of the Section 482 list include:

Loughcrew, County Meath, May 2010 – our combined Hen and Stag weekend, before Stephen and I married!

Lough Crew 22nd May 2010, where Stephen and I had our combined Hen and Stag weekend before our wedding.
Lough Crew 22nd May 2010.

11 North Great Georges Street, Dublin, during Open House 2012;

11 North Great Georges Street, Dublin.

Old Glebe in Newcastle Lyons, County Dublin, during Heritage Week 2012;

“The Old Glebe,” Newcastle, County Dublin, Heritage Week, 17th August 2012.

Primrose Hill, County Dublin, 17th August 2013

Primrose Hill, Lucan, Dublin, which may have been designed by James Gandon, who designed the Custom House in Dublin.

Huntington Castle, County Carlow, in August 2016.

Huntington Castle, Clonegal, County Carlow, August 2016, home of the Esmondes and later, still related by marriage, the Durdin Robertsons.

Russborough House, County Wicklow, April 2018

Russborough House, which I have visited several times, including in April 2018.

I’d like to choose a House of the Year for each year. I should have started in my first year! In 2019 the competition is stiff and it seems a little unfair as my favourite dwarfs the others in size as well as in impressive interior: I have to choose Curraghmore, County Waterford, as my 2019 House of the Year! Although considering that we also visited Birr Castle, Dunsany and Borris House that year, it was a year full of wonderful discoveries. Lady Dunsany, who sadly passed away since, deserves a special mention as a warm, welcoming and delightful host.

In 2019 we set off at an ambitious pace, visiting a house nearly every weekend! We went on holidays to Waterford to see some of the lovely houses, and coincided with the day of lectures in Dromana on the topic of “The Pursuit of the Heiress.” In 2019 we visited:

Salterbridge, County Waterford, 3rd May 2019

Salterbridge, County Waterford. We visited in May 2019.

Tourin, County Waterford, 3rd May 2019

Tourin House, County Waterford, home of the Jamesons, of former whiskey fame.

Dromana, County Waterford, 5th May 2019

Dromana, County Waterford – the estate was the home of the Fitzgerald Lords of the Decies, and is owned by their descendants.

Curraghmore, County Waterford, 5th May 2019, my chosen Home of the Year in 2019.

Curraghmore, County Waterford. The house is very large as it is not only seven bays wide but seven bays deep. It is still in the hands of the Le Poer Beresford family.

Moone Abbey, County Kildare, May 18, 2019

View from Moone Abbey tower, County Kildare. The nearby Abbey has a large Celtic cross. We visited on Saturday May 18, 2019.

Charleville, County Wicklow, 18th May 2019

Charleville, County Wicklow, visited on Saturday May 18th 2019. The surrounding formal gardens, never mind the impressive house, make it worth a visit.

Loughton, County Offaly, 25th May 2019

Loughton, County Offaly, where we enjoyed meeting owners Andrew and Michael during our visit on May 25th, 2019.

Altidore Castle, County Wicklow, 31st May 2019

Altidore Castle, County Wicklow, a seven bay, two storey over basement house, with Venetian (tripartite) window over a single-storey pillared porch, which houses a Robert Emmet museum.

Moyglare House, County Meath, 2nd June 2019

Moyglare House, Maynooth, on the border of Counties Kildare and Meath, once owned by a Hugeuont family, and before the current owners, it was a hotel.

Leixlip Castle, County Kildare, 14th June 2019

Leixlip Castle, County Kildare, home to the late Desmond Guinness, founder of the Irish Georgian Society.

Birr Castle, County Offaly, 21st June 2019

Birr Castle, County Offaly, 21st June 2019, home of the Earl of Rosse.

Dunsany Castle, County Meath, 1st July 2019

Dunsany, County Meath, 1st July 2019, home of the Plunketts, Barons of Dunsany.

Dardistown, County Meath, 13th July 2019

Dardistown, County Meath, July 2019, available for accommodation, where former owners included the powerful Jenet Sarsfield who had four husbands.

Borris House, County Carlow, 23rd July 2019

Borris House, County Carlow, still home of its builders, the Kavanagh family.

Ballymurrin, County Wicklow, 27th July 2019

Ballymurrin, County Wicklow, a former Quaker home which we visited on 27th July 2019.

Clonalis, County Roscommon, 3rd August 2019

Clonalis, County Roscommon, which is still the home of the O Conor family, ancient High Kings of Ireland, with a family museum of historical documents, as well as a beautiful garden. Stephen and I were invited to join friends for a weekend in County Westmeath and took the opportunity to visit Clonalis House in County Roscommon.

Tullynally, County Westmeath, 4th August 2019

Tullynally, County Westmeath, home of the Pakenhams, Lords Longford, now the home of Thomas Pakenham, brother to one of my favourite writers, Antonia Fraser. It has tours of the servants’ quarters all year around, and during Heritage Week, when we went in 2020, it has tours of the house itself.

Tankardstown, County Meath, 9th August 2019

Tankardstown, County Meath, now a plush hotel.

Swainstown House, County Meath, 19th August 2019

Swainstown, County Meath, still home of the Preston family.

Harristown, County Kildare, 22nd August 2019

Harristown, County Kildare, a former La Touche home.

Blackhall Castle, County Kildare, 22nd August 2019

Blackhall Castle, County Kildare, a former Eustace (or Fitzeustace) home.

Rokeby, County Louth, 7th September 2019

Rokeby, County Louth, with its elegant Richard Turner conservatory.

Coolcarrigan, County Kildare, 21st September 2019

Coolcarrigan, County Kildare, visited September 2019. Its gardens are a treat.

Castle Howard, County Wicklow, 28th September 2019

Castle Howard, County Wicklowa mixture of church and castle architecture.

Barmeath Castle, County Louth, 15th October 2019

Barmeath Castle, County Louth, still home of the Bellews.

Colganstown House, County Dublin, 23rd November 2019

Colganstown, County Dublin. Maurice Craig describes the plasterwork dragon by Robert West: “over the staircase window, presides a splendidly animated Chinese dragon, scaly wings outstretched, and his tail piercing the egg-and-dart moulding at the base of the cornice to emerge and recurve again, stabbing the plasterwork.”

Castle Leslie, County Monaghan, 27-29th November 2019

Castle Leslie, County Monaghan, where we slept in a bed carved in 1617. Now a hotel but still owned by the Leslies.

Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin, December 2019

Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin. I visited in order to take photographs in December 2019. Former townhouse of the Wingfields, Viscounts Powerscourt.

In 2020, during Covid restrictions and even after, houses did not have to open to the public. However, some owners were kind and opened to us. We went on holiday down to County Cork during Heritage Week, and at the end of the year treated ourselves to two nights in Cabra Castle in County Cavan. My choice of Favourite House in 2020 is Ian Elliot’s Corravahan in County Cavan. Ian’s research deepened my appreciation of the house and its history. In 2020 we visited:

The Odeon, Dublin, 13th April 2020 (outside – we may have been in a lockdown at that point!)

The Odeon, formerly the Harcourt Street tram station, 13th April 2020.

Old Rectory Killedmond, 1st July 2020

Old Rectory Killedmond, a five bay two storey Tudor-Gothic Revival house with three dormer windows and a loggia. We enjoyed meeting owner Mary White, a former Green politician and Irish representative to the European Union, with whom I bonded over our love of literature.

Corravahan, County Cavan, 24th July 2020: My chosen Home of the Year in 2020.

Former Rectory Corravahan, County Cavan, home of the Beresfords. Owner Ian Elliot has taken great interest in the history of the house and the house is full of quirks.

Kilshannig, County Cork, 14th August 2020

Kilshannig, County Cork, which features stuccowork by Lafranchini brothers.

Cappoquin, County Waterford, 15th August 2020

Cappoquin House, County Waterford, built for and still owned by the Keane family.

Drishane House, County Cork, 20th August 2020

Drishane House, County Cork, former home of Edith Somerville, who wrote novels with her cousin Violet Martin, as “Somerville and Ross” – the latter the name of Violet Martin’s childhood home.

Baltimore Castle, County Cork, 20th August 2020

Baltimore Castle, County Cork – it wasn’t open when we visited but I took a photograph.

Cabra Castle, County Cavan, 23rd December 2020

Cabra Castle, County Cavan, formerly owned by the Pratt family and now a hotel.

In 2021 the house that really blew my socks off and has to be given my Favourite Home of the Year award is Stradbally in County Laois. Again in 2021 houses did not have to be open if owners were concerned about the spread of Covid-19. We managed to visit quite a few, however, and were able to go on holidays during Heritage week, when we travelled to Sligo and Mayo and back home through County Kilkenny. Special award goes to our lovely hosts Nicola and Durcan at Annaghmore, County Sligo, where we stayed during our visits in Mayo and Sligo. Special mention also goes to Wilton Castle in County Wexford, whose owners have done a tremendous job in renovations after it lay a roofless ruin for years. In 2021 we visited:

Killruddery, County Wicklow, 24th April 2021

Killruddery House, May 2013we also visited in July 2020 and 24th April 2021. In June 2015 we were given a tour of the house as part of our membership of the Irish Decorating and Fine Arts Society, but we have yet to take another tour, since I learned about the Section 482 scheme. I look forward to it next year in 2023.

Mount Usher, County Wicklow, 6th June 2021

Mount Usher, County Wicklow, an example of a “Robinsonian” garden, after William Robinson who wrote “The Wild Garden.”

Stradbally Hall, County Laois, 7th June 2021, my Home of the Year 2021.

Stradbally, County Offaly. Built for the Cosby family, who still own it.

Killineer, County Louth, 9th June 2021

Killineer, County Louth. Built for a wealthy merchant of Drogheda.

Burtown, County Kildare, 23rd June 2021

Burtown, County Kildare. We had booked a visit with the Fennells but they were busy preparing to open the restaurant The Green Barn that day, for the first day after a prolonged lockdown, so my visit inside the house has had to be postponed.

Salthill Garden, County Donegal, July 2021

Salthill Garden, County Donegal. The house, not open to the public, was formerly the house for the agent of the Conynghams of The Hall, Mountcharles, who later purchased Slane Castle.

Markree Castle, County Sligo, 16th August 2021

Markree Castle, County Sligo, originaly owned by the Cooper family, it is now a hotel.

Newpark, County Sligo, 16th August 2021

Newpark, County Sligo, home to the Kitchen family, descended from the O’Haras who own Annaghmore house and Coopershill.

Enniscoe, County Mayo, 17th August 2021

Enniscoe, County Mayo, still in the hands of the same family, descended from the Jacksons.

Coopershill, County Sligo, 18th August 2021

Coopershill, County Sligo, home to the O’Haras, descendants of the original Cooper family.

Kilfane, County Kilkenny, 23rd August 2021

Kilfane, County Kilkennyonly the grounds are open, which are developed into a wonderful haven of the Picturesque, with thatched cottage and small waterfall.

Wilton Castle, County Wexford, November 2021

Wilton Castle, County Wexford – the owners have done a marvellous renovation of what was previously a roofless ruin. It is available for accommodation.

And this year, in 2022, we went on holiday in June to County Cork to visit some historic houses. Then we did another tour of the country during Heritage Week. My favourite, to be awarded House of the Year 2022, is Bantry House, although special mention must go to St. Mary’s Abbey House in Trim, which is a real gem. During 2022 we visited:

Springfield House, County Offaly, January 2022

Springfield, County Offaly, where Muirean and her husband kindly gave us a tour.

Ballysallagh, County Kilkenny, 12th February 2022

Ballysallagh, County Kilkenny, awarded a prize in 2020 for its renovation, maintenance, and winter garden.

Bewleys Cafe, Dublin, 6th March 2022

Bewleys Cafe, established by the Quaker Bewley family, home of Harry Clarke stained glass windows.

Beauparc House, County Meath, 15th March 2022

Beauparc, County Meath, passed from Lambart relative to the current Marquess Conyngham of Slane.

Powerscourt Estate, County Wicklow, March 2022

10th December 2009, my Dad and Stephen, when we went to Powerscourt to celebrate my birthday. Stephen and I visited again in March 2022.

Martello Tower Portrane, County Dublin, 23rd April 2022

Martello Tower, Portranea former defensive tower built in the reign of Napoleon of France.

Larchill, County Kildare, 8th May 2022

Larchill, County Kildare, a former Quaker home, complete with Arcadian garden.

St. Mary’s Church, Dublin, May 2022

St. Mary’s Church, now a bar, it was one of the oldest parishes on the north side of the city in Dublin.

St. Mary’s Abbey, Trim, County Meath, May 2022

St. Mary’s abbey house, County Meath – this may have been part of the medieval St. Mary’s Abbey next to Trim Castle.

Kildrought, County Kildare, 28th May 2022

Kildrought, County Kildare, a beautifully restored home and garden on the banks of the Liffey.

Bantry House, Cork, 8th June 2022. My Home of the Year 2022.

Bantry House, County Cork, a treasurehouse of culture.

Blarney House, Cork, 7th June 2022

Blarney House, County Cork, belonging still to the family who lived in Blarney Castle.

Blarney Castle, Cork, 7th June 2022

Blarney Castle, County Cork.

Riverstown House, County Cork, June 2022

Riverstown, County Cork, home of Lafranchini plasterwork.

Former Hibernian Bank, Dublin, 25th June 2022

Former Hibernian Bank, Dublin.

Oakfield Park, County Donegal, 2nd July 2022

Oakfield Park gardens, County Donegal.

Killeen Mill, County Meath, 16th July 2022

Killeen Mill, July 2022. We stopped by to have a look on a day we revisited Dunsany Castle. It is available for accommodation.

St. George’s, Killiney, County Dublin, August 2022

St. George’s, Dublin, an Arts and Crafts house by George Ashlin for his wife Mary Pugin, daughter of the famous church architect.

The Turret, County Limerick, August 2022

The Turret, County Limerick, built in 1683.

Ashill, County Limerick, 12-15th August 2022

Ashill, County Limerick, where we treated ourselves to three nights’ stay.

Beechwood, County Tipperary, 13th August 2022

Beechwood, County Tipperary, August 2022 – I still have to write up about our visit to this lovely former Rectory.

Glenview, County Limerick, 14th August 2022

Glenville, County Limerick, a former home of the Massey family, we enjoyed our visit with the current owners.

Mount Trenchard, County Limerick, 14th August 2022

Mount Trenchard, County Limerick, currently undergoing renovation. We were given a wonderful tour of the house and its grounds, including the walled garden.

Oranmore Castle, County Galway, 15th August 2022

Oranmore Castle, County Galway, the gift from her mother to Anita Leslie from Castle Leslie, County Monaghan.

Claregalway Castle, County Galway, 15th August 2022

Claregalway Castle, County Galway, parts of which can be booked for accommodation.

King House, County Roscommon, 18th August 2022

King House, County Roscommon, once home of the King family, now a beautiful museum.

Strokestown Park, County Roscommon, August 2022

Strokestown, County Roscommon – it was listed as open in Section 482 but opening was delayed due to renovations. We were lucky to get on a Heritage Week tour.

Lissadell, County Sligo, 19th August 2022

Lissadell, County Sligo, the former home of the Countess Markievicz and the Gore-Booth family.

Manorhamilton, County Leitrim, 20th August 2022

Manorhamilton Castle, Leitrim. It was not open on the day we visited despite being listed as an open day during Heritage Week.

Hilton Park, County Monaghan, 21st August 2022

Hilton Park, still in the ownership of the Madden family for whom it was built.

After that big holiday during Heritage Week 2022 I needed a break in September!

Fahanmura, County Dublin, 11th October 2022

Fahanmura, a 1940s home in Dublin.

39 North Great Georges Street, Dublin, 10th November 2022

39 North Great Georges Street, a 1771 home of Georgian splendour.

Hamwood, County Meath, 14th November 2022

Hamwood House, built by and still lived in by the Hamiltons, including artists Letitia and Eva.

Bantry House & Garden, Bantry, Co. Cork

contact: Julie Shelswell-White
Tel: 087- 9811149
www.bantryhouse.com
Open dates in 2022: Apr 1-Oct 31, 10am-5pm
Fee: adult €14, OAP/student €11.50, child €5, groups over 8-20, €8 and groups of 21 or more €9

Bantry House, overlooking Bantry Bay, from the top of the “Sky Steps” or 100 Steps. June 2022.
Photograph from the National Library of Ireland Creative Commons. This is taken c. 1895, and the conservatory is now gone, as well, unfortunately, as the stork sculptures on the steps!

What we see today at Bantry House started as a more humble abode: a three storey five bay house built for Samuel Hutchinson in around 1690. It was called Blackrock. A wing was added in 1820, and a large further addition in 1845.

In the 1760s it was purchased by Captain Richard White (1700-1776). He was from a Limerick mercantile family and he had settled previously on Whiddy Island, the largest island in Bantry Bay. The Bantry website tells us that he had amassed a fortune from pilchard-fishing, iron-smelting and probably from smuggling, and that through a series of purchases, he acquired most of the land around Bantry including large parts of the Beare Peninsula, from Arthur Annesley, 5th Earl of Anglesey. The house is still occupied by his descendants, the Shelswell-White family.

This looks like the main entrance to the house – we came in the back way.
The Visitors’ entry to the house.

Driving from Castletownshend, we entered the back way and not through the town. From the car park we walked up a path which gave us glimpses of the outbuildings, the west stables, and we walked all around the house to reach the visitors’ entrance. We were lucky that the earlier rain stopped and the sun came out to show off Bantry House at its best. I was excited to see this house, which is one of the most impressive of the Section 482 houses.

We missed the beginning of the tour, so raced up the stairs to join the once-a-day tour in June 2022. Unfortunately I had not been able to find anything about tour times on the website. We will definitely have to go back for the full tour! The house is incredible, and is full of treasures like a museum. I’d also love to stay there – once can book accommodation in one wing.

Captain Richard White married Martha Davies, daughter of Rowland Davies, Dean of Cork and Ross. During his time, Bantry House was called Seafield. They had a son named Simon (1739-1776), who married Frances Hedges-Eyre from Macroom Castle in County Cork. Their daughter Margaret married Richard Longfield, 1st Viscount Longueville.

The house overlooks Bantry Bay which is formative in its history because thanks to its views, Richard’s grandson was elevated to an Earldom.

Frances Jane and Simon had a son, Richard (1767-1851), who saw French ships sail into Bantry Bay in 1796. The British and French were at war from February 1793. It was in gratitude for Richard’s courage and foresight in raising a local militia against the French that Richard was given a title.

There are four guns overlooking the bay. The two smaller ones are from 1780, and the larger one is dated 1796. One is French and dated 1795 and may have been captured from an invading French ship.

United Irishman Theobald Wolfe Tone was on one of the French ships, which were under command of French Louis Lazare Hoche.

Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763–98) (named after his godfather, Theobald Wolfe) had sought French support for an uprising against British rule in Ireland. The United Irishmen sought equal representation of all people in Parliament. Tone wanted more than the Catholic Emancipation which Henry Grattan advocated, and for him, the Catholic Relief Act of 1793 did not go far enough, as it did not give Catholics the right to sit in the Irish House of Commons. Tone was inspired by the French and American Revolutions. The British had specifically passed the Catholic Relief Act in the hope of preventing Catholics from joining with the French.

Theobald Wolf Tone, who was on the ships which Richard White spotted in Bantry Bay carrying the French who were coming to support Irish Independence.

The Dictionary of Irish Biography tells us that

With the outbreak of war with France, Dublin Castle instituted a crackdown on Irish reformers who had professed admiration for the French, and by the end of the year the United Irishmen and the reform movement were in disarray. In quick succession, the Volunteers were proscribed, the holding of elected conventions was banned, and a number of United Irishmen… were hauled before the courts on charges of seditious libel.

Tone went to the U.S. and thought he might have to settle there but with others’ encouragement he continued in his work for liberating Ireland. He went to France for support. As a result 43 ships were sent to France.

In July 1796 Tone was appointed chef de brigade (brigadier-general) in Hoche’s army ... Finally, on 16 December 1796, a French fleet sailed from Brest crammed with 14,450 soldiers. On board one of the sails of the line, the Indomptable, was ‘Citoyen Wolfe Tone, chef de brigade in the service of the republic.’” [1]

Richard White had trained a militia in order to defend the area, and stored munitions in his house. When he saw the ships in the bay he raised defenses. However, it was stormy weather and not his militia that prevented the invasion. Tone wrote of the expedition in his diary, saying that “We were close enough to toss a biscuit ashore”.

The French retreated home to France, but ten French ships were lost in the storm and one, the Surveillante, sank and remained on the bottom of Bantry bay for almost 200 years. 

For his efforts in preparing the local defences against the French, Richard White was created Baron Bantry in 1797 in recognition of his “spirited conduct and important service.” In 1799 he married Margaret Anne Hare (1779-1835), daughter of William the 1st Earl of Listowel in County Kerry, who brought with her a substantial dowry. In 1801 he was made a viscount, and in 1815 he became Viscount Berehaven and Earl of Bantry. He became a very successful lawyer and made an immense fortune.

Bantry House. June 2022. The entrance is under the portico, which is now glassed in. This middle section is the original house. The part on the sea facing side is the part added in 1820. The addition that appears on the left hand side is part of the fourteen bay block added to the rear of the old house in 1845 by the 2nd Earl.
In this view of the house we can see the two copper domes of the stable ranges, either side of the house. The stable blocks were built in 1845 and the National Inventory tells us they are sited to appear as further lateral extensions of the house beyond its wings; when viewed from the bay they might be read as lower flanking wings in the Palladian manner.

Richard was not Simon White’s only son. Simon’s son Simon became a Colonel and married Sarah Newenham of Maryborough, County Cork. They lived in Glengariff Castle. Young Simon’s sister Helen married a brother of Sarah Newenham, Richard, who inherited Maryborough. Another daughter, Martha, married Michael Goold-Adams of Jamesbrook, County Cork and another daughter, Frances, married General E. Dunne of Brittas, County Laois. Another son, Hamilton, married Lucinda Heaphy.

A wing was added to the house in 1820 in the time of the 1st Earl of Bantry. This wing is the same height as the original block, but of only two storeys, and faces out to the sea. It has a curved bow at the front and back and a six bay elevation at the side. This made space for two large drawing rooms, and more bedrooms upstairs.

The side of the house which faces the bay. This is the six bay elevation with curved bow at front a back (not visible here) which was added to the original house by the 1st Earl of Bantry.
The entrance is under the Corinthian colonnade, which was built later onto the oldest part of the house. The bow in this photograph is part of the house added on during the time of the 1st Earl of Bantry.

The house was greatly enlarged and remodelled in 1845 by the son of the 1st Earl, Richard (1800-1867). The 1st Earl had moved out to live in a hunting lodge in Glengariff. This son Richard was styled as Viscount Berehaven between 1816 and 1851 until his father died, when he then succeeded to become 2nd Earl of Bantry. He married Mary O’Brien, daughter of William, 2nd Marquess of Thomond, in 1836.

The 2nd Earl of Bantry and his wife travelled extensively and purchased many of the treasures in the house. The website tells us he was a passionate art collector who travelled regularly across Europe, visiting Russia, Poland, France and Italy. He brought back shiploads of exotic goods between 1820 and 1840.

To accommodate his new furnishings he built a fourteen bay block on the side of the house opposite to the 1820 addition, consisting of a six-bay centre of two storeys over basement flanked by four-storey bow end wings.

To accommodate his new furnishings, the Viscount built a fourteen bay block to the rear of the old house consisting of a six-bay centre of two storeys over a basement flanked by four-storey bow end wings.

The website tells us:

.”..No doubt inspired by the grand baroque palaces of Germany, he gave the house a sense of architectural unity by lining the walls with giant red brick pilasters with Coade-stone Corinthian capitals, the intervening spaces consisting of grey stucco and the parapet adorned with an attractive stone balustrade.

Bantry House, County Cork.

He also lay out the Italianate gardens, including the magnificent terraces on the hillside behind the house, most of which was undertaken after he had succeeded his father as the second Earl of Bantry in 1851.

After his death in 1867 the property was inherited by his brother William, the third Earl (1801-1884), his grandson William the fourth and last Earl (1854-91), and then passed through the female line to the present owner, Mr. Shelswell-White.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us: “The house is entered through a glazed Corinthian colonnade, built onto the original eighteenth century front in the nineteenth century; there is a similar colonnade on the original garden front.” [2]

The Corinthian colonnade at the entrance to the house.
There is a colonnade similar to that on the front entrance on the other side of the oldest part of the house.
The cafe area to the side of the house.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs inside. You can see photographs of the incredible interior on the Bantry house website, and on the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne’s blog. [3]

The rooms are magnificent, with their rich furnishings, ceilings and columns. Old black and white photographs show that even the ceilings were at one time covered in tapestries. The Spanish leather wallpaper in the stair hall is particularly impressive.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The hall is large but low-ceilinged and of irregular shape, having been formed by throwing together two rooms and the staircase hall of the mid-eighteenth century block; it has early nineteenth century plasterwork and a floor of black and white pavement, incorporating some ancient Roman tiles from Pompeii. From one corner rises the original staircase of eighteenth century joinery.”

Staircase in Bantry House, photograph courtesy of Bantry house website.

The website tells us: “Today the house remains much as the second earl left it, with an important part of his great collection still intact. Nowhere is this more son than the hall where visitors will find an eclectic collection garnered from a grand tour, which includes an Arab chest, a Japanese inlaid chest, a Russian travelling shrine with fifteenth and sixteenth century icons and a Fresian clock. There is also a fine wooden seventeenth century Flemish overmantel and rows of family portraits on the walls. The hall was created by combining two rooms with the staircase hall of the original house and consequently has a rather muddled shape, though crisp black and white Dutch floor tiles lend the room a sense of unity.. Incorporated into this floor are four mosaic panels collected by Viscount Berehaven from Pompeii in 1828 and bearing the inscriptions “Cave Canem” and “Salve.” Other unusual items on show include a mosque lamp from Damascus in the porch and a sixteenth century Spanish marriage chest which can be seen in the lobby.

Bence-Jones continues: “The two large bow-ended drawing rooms which occupy the ground floor of the late eighteenth century wing are hung with Gobelins tapestries; one of them with a particularly beautiful rose-coloured set said to have been made for Marie Antoinette.

The Drawing Room in Bantry House, photograph courtesy of Bantry house website.

The Royal Aubusson tapestries in the Rose drawing room, comprising four panels, are reputed to have been a gift from the Dauphin to his young wife-to-be Marie Antoinette. In the adjoining Gobelin drawing room, one panel of tapestries is said to have belonged to Louis Philippe, Duc D’Orleans, a cousin of Louis XV.

The website tells us: “The most spectacular room is the dining-room, dominated by copies of Allan Ramsay’s full-length portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte, whose elaborate gilt frames are set off by royal blue walls. The ceiling was once decorated with Guardi panels, but these have long since been removed and sold to passing dealers at a fraction of their worth. The differing heights of the room are due to the fact that they are partly incorporated in the original house and in the 1845 extension, their incongruity disguised by a screen of marble columns with gilded Corinthian capitals. Much of the furniture has been here since the second Earl, including the George III dining table, Chippendale chairs, mahogany teapoy, sideboards made for the room, and the enormous painting The Fruit Market by Snyders revealing figures reputedly drawn by Rubens – a wedding present to the first Countess.

The Chippendale chairs and the George III dining table were made for the room.

King George III, a reproduction in Castletown, County Kildare.
Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, a reproduction in Castletown, County Kildare.

The description on the website continues: “The first flight of the staircase from the hall belongs to the original early eighteenth century house, as does the half-landing with its lugged architraves. This leads into the great library, built around 1845 and the last major addition to the house. The library is over sixty feet long, has screens of marble Corinthian columns, a compartmented ceiling and Dublin-made mantelpieces at each end with overhanging mirrors. The furnishing retains a fine rosewood grand piano by Bluthner of Leipzig, still occasionally used for concerts. The windows of this room once looked into an immense glass conservatory, but this has now been removed and visitors can look out upon restored gardens and the steep sloping terraces behind.

The Library in Bantry House, photograph courtesy of Bantry house website.

The third Earl, William Henry (1801-1884), succeeded his brother, who died in 1868. On 7 September 1840 William Henry’s surname was legally changed to William Henry Hedges-White by Royal Licence, adding Hedges, a name passed down by his paternal grandmother.

His grandmother was Frances Jane Eyre and her father was Richard Hedges Eyre. Richard Hedges of Macroom Castle and Mount Hedges, County Cork, married Mary Eyre. Richard Hedges Eyre was their son. He married Helena Herbert of Muckross, County Kerry. In 1760 their daughter, Frances Jane, married Simon White of Bantry, William Henry’s grandfather. When her brother Robert Hedges Eyre died without heirs in 1840 his estates were divided and William Henry the 3rd Earl of Bantry inherited the Macroom estate. [4] Until his brother’s death in 1868, William Henry Hedges-White had been living in Macroom Castle. [5]

Macroom Castle, photograph taken 2009 by “Shiny Things,” flickr constant commons.
Macroom Castle gate house, photograph taken 2007 by Carole Waller, flickr constant commons.

William Henry Hedges-White married Jane Herbert in 1845, daughter of Charles John Herbert of Muckross Abbey in County Kerry (see my entry about places to visit in County Kerry).

In November 1853, over 33,000 acres of the Bantry estate were offered for sale in the Encumbered Estates Court, and a separate sale disposed of Bere Island. The following year more than 6,000 further acres were sold, again through the Encumbered Estates Court. Nevertheless in the 1870s the third earl still owned 69,500 acres of land in County Cork.

His son, the 4th Earl, died childless in 1891. The title lapsed, and the estate passed to his nephew, Edward Egerton Leigh (1876-1920), the son of the 4th Earl’s oldest sister, Elizabeth Mary, who had married Egerton Leigh of Cheshire, England. This nephew, born Edward Egerton Leigh, added White to his surname upon his inheritance. He was only fifteen years old when he inherited, so his uncle Lord Ardilaun looked after the estate until Edward came of age in 1897. William Henry Hedges-White’s daughter Olivia Charlotte Hedges-White had married Arthur Edward Guinness, 1st and last Baron Ardilaun. Edward Egerton’s mother had died in 1880 when he was only four years old, and his father remarried in 1889.

Bantry House, County Cork, photograph 1989 from the National Library, flickr constant commons.

Edward Egerton married Arethusa Flora Gartside Hawker in 1904. She was a cousin through his father’s second marriage. They had two daughters, Clodagh and Rachel. In March 1916 an offer from the Congested Districts’ Board was accepted by Edward Egerton Leigh White for 61,589 tenanted acres of the estate. [6] Edward Egerton died in 1920.

Patrick Comerford tells us in his blog that during the Irish Civil War in 1922-1923, the Cottage Hospital in Bantry was destroyed by fire. Arethusa Leigh-White offered Bantry House as a hospital to the nuns of the Convent of Mercy, who were running the hospital. Arethusa only made one proviso: that the injured on both sides of the conflict should be cared for. A chapel was set up in the library and the nuns and their patients moved in for five years. [7]

In 1926, Clodagh Leigh-White came of age and assumed responsibility for the estate. Later that year, she travelled to Zanzibar, Africa, where she met and married Geoffrey Shelswell, then the Assistant District Commissioner of Zanzibar. (see [7])

Geoffrey Shelswell added “White” to his surname when in 1926 Clodagh inherited Bantry estate after the death of her father. They had a son, Egerton Shelswell-White (1933-2012), and two daughters, Delia and Oonagh.

During the Second World War, the house and stables were occupied by the Second Cyclist Squadron of the Irish Army, and they brought electricity and the telephone to the estate.

Clodagh opened the house in 1946 to paying visitors with the help of her sister Rachel who lived nearby. Her daughter Oonagh moved with her family into the Stable Yard.

Clodagh remained living in the house after her husband died in 1962, until her death in 1978. Brigittte, wife of Clodagh’s son Egerton, writes:

As far as I know it never occurred to Clodagh to live elsewhere. She thought nothing of having her sitting room downstairs, her kitchen and bedroom upstairs and her bathroom across the landing. No en suite for her! In the winter when the freezing wing howled through the house, she more or less lived in her fur coat, by all accounts cheerful and contented. She loved bridge and held parties, which took place in the Rose Drawing Room, or in the room next to the kitchen, called the Morning Room.

Brigitte also tells of wonderful evenings of music and dance hosted by Clodagh and her friend Ian Montague, who had been a ballet dancer with the Royal Swedish Ballet. Ian put on plays and dancing in period costumes. Members of the audience were taught about eighteenth century dance and were encouraged to join in. I think we should hold such dances in the lovely octagon room of the Irish Georgian Society!

Clodagh’s son Egerton had moved to the United States with his wife Jill, where he taught in a school called Indian Springs. When his mother died he returned to Bantry. The house was in poor repair, the roof leaking and both wings derelict. Jill decided to remain in the United States with their children who were teenagers at the time and settled into their life there.

Bantry House features in Great Irish Houses, which has a foreward by Desmond FitzGerald and Desmond Guinness (IMAGE Publications, 2008). In the book, Egerton is interviewed. He tells us:

p. 68. “The family don’t go into the public rooms very much. We live in the self-contained area. I remember before the war as children we used the dining rooms and the state bedrooms, but after the war my parents moved into this private area of the house. It feels like home and the other rooms are our business. You never think of all that furniture as being your own. You think of it more as the assets of the company.

The relatively modest private living quarters were completed in 1985. Sophie Shelswell-White, Egerton’s daughter, says, “When we were younger we shied away from the main house because of the intrusion from the public. Everyone imagines we play hide and seek all day long and we did play it a bit. We also used to run around looking for secret tunnels and passageways. I used to believe one day I’d push something and it would open a secret room, but it never happened.”

Mark Bence-Jones continues his description, moving to the stables: “Flanking the entrance front is an imposing stable range, with a pediment and cupola. The house is surrounded by Italian gardens with balustrades and statues and has a magnificent view over Bantry Bay to the mountains on the far shore. The demesne is entered by a fine archway.” (see [2])

The large stable complex is to one side of the house, the East Stables. This is where the horses and carriages were kept.

The National Inventory tells us about the East Stables:

A classically inspired outbuilding forming part of an architectural set-piece, the formal design of which dates to the middle of the nineteenth century when Richard White, Viscount Berehaven and later second Earl of Bantry, undertook a large remodelling of Bantry House. At this time the house was extended laterally with flanking six-bay wings that overlook the bay. This stable block and the pair to the south-west are sited to appear as further lateral extensions of the house beyond its wings; when viewed from the bay they might be read as lower flanking wings in the Palladian manner. This elaborate architectural scheme exhibits many finely crafted features including a distinguished cupola, playful sculptural detailing as well as cut stone pilasters to the façade. The survival of early materials is visible in a variety of fine timber sliding sash windows, which add to the history of the site.

View of the 1820 wing in foreground and 1845 behind, and behind that, the East Stables.
This impressive arch with pediment topped by urns and birds, which leads toward the east stable yard, as seen behind.
The East Stable yard.
The east stable yard as seen from the garden.

Egerton married Brigitte in 1981. They undertook many of the repairs themselves. They started a tearoom with the help of a friend, Abi Sutton, who also helped with the house. Egerton played the trombone and opened the house to musical events. They continued to open the house for tours. They renovated the went wing and opened it for bed and breakfast guests.

Coffee is served on the terrace, similar to that in the front, but only partly glazed. Unfortunately we arrived too late for a snack. Bantry House is breathtaking and its gardens and location magnify the grandeur. I like that the grandeur, like Curraghmore, is slightly faded: a lady’s fox fur worn down to the leather and shiny in places.

The balustraded area on the side of the house where tea and coffee are served overlooks a garden.

From the garden to one side of the house, you can see another stable complex, the West Stables.

Brigitte and Egerton continued restoration of the house and started to tackle the garden. They repaired the fountain and started work on the Italian parterre. In 1998 they applied for an EEC grant for renovation of the garden. They restored the statues, balustrades, 100 Steps, Parterre, Diana’s Bed and fourteen round beds overlooking the sea.

Looking past the fountain to the 100 Steps.
Bantry House, County Cork, photograph by Chris Hill, 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. Wisteria adds an extra oomph to the garden.

It is Egerton’s daughter Sophie who now lives in and maintains Bantry House, along with her husband and children.

The family donated their archive of papers to the Boole Library of University College Cork in 1997.

The National Inventory tells us the five-bay two-storey west stables were also built c.1845. They have a pedimented central bay with cupola above, which has a copper dome, finial, plinth and six Tuscan-Corinthian columns. [8] The West Stables were used as a workshop for outdoor maintenance and repairs. They had fallen into disrepair but were repaired to rectify deteriorating elements with the help of the Heritage Council in 2010-11.

These buildings, the West Stables, were used as a workshop for outdoor maintenance and repairs. They have fallen into disrepair but were repaired to rectify deteriorating element with the help of the Heritage Council in 2010-11.

[1] https://www.dib.ie/biography/tone-theobald-wolfe-a8590

[2] 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.

[3] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/09/08/when-its-gone-its-gone/

[4] https://landedestates.ie/family/1088 and https://www.dib.ie/biography/eyre-robert-hedges-a2978

See also

[5] Shelswell-White, Sophie. Bantry House & Garden, The History of a family home in Ireland. This booklet includes an article by Geoffrey Shelswell-White, “The Story of Bantry House” which had appeared in the Irish Tatler and Sketch, May 1951.

[6] https://landedestates.ie/family/1088

[7] http://www.patrickcomerford.com/2016/05/bantry-house-has-story-that-spans.html

[8] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/20911813/bantry-house-seafield-bantry-co-cork