Covid times, and planning ahead

Ideally I would like to continue publishing a blog entry every week but I am still catching up on places I have visited, writing and researching and seeking approval from home-owners, and am unable to keep up the pace!

Doneraile Court, County Cork.
deer in the park at Doneraile.

We visited some big houses that are not on the Section 482 revenue list when we were in County Cork last year during Heritage Week, including Doneraile Court and Fota, both open to the public and well worth a visit. [1] If I run out of places to write about on the section 482 list, I will write about them! But I still have to write about our visit to Cabra Castle, County Cavan, before Christmas last year! [2] We had a wonderful treat of being upgraded to a bedroom suite in the Castle, the Bridal Suite, no less, with our own rooftop jacuzzi.

The Bridal Suite at Cabra Castle, County Cavan.

The 2021 Revenue list of 482 Properties has not yet been published, and I am not sure when we will be able to visit places again, due to Covid transmissibility. I have already mapped out a year’s worth of visits, all around Ireland, and have even booked to stay in some exciting looking houses, but I don’t know what is going to be open – I have been planning around the 2020 list, assuming opening dates, once places do open, will be similar to last year.

In the meantime I can look at photographs and dream, and work on my own home (I painted the bedroom sage green) and garden (my potatoes are chitting) and research upcoming visits. I’m currently reading Turtle Bunbury’s book about the landowning families in County Kildare, and Mark Bence-Jones’s Life in an Irish Country House, and Somerville and Ross’s The Real Charlotte.

We were privileged to be able to stay in Mark Bence-Jones’s house last year for a wonderful week. [3]

Glenville Park, the home of the late Mark Bence-Jones, County Cork.

I will be writing soon about more big houses and in the meantime, I hope you are able to stay safe and healthy and happy in these Covid times.

Fota House, County Cork.

[1] http://doneraileestate.ie

https://fotahouse.com

[2] https://www.cabracastle.com

[3] http://www.glenvillepark.com

Ballymurrin, Kilbride, County Wicklow

contact: Philip Geoghegan.  086-1734560

www.ballymurrinquakerfarmstead.eu

Opening dates in 2020 but check due to Covid: May 1-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19-24, 26-31, Aug 1-2, 4-9, 11-23, 25-30, Sept 1-6, 2pm-6pm, Guided Tours 2pm and 4pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child free under 16 years but must be supervised.

Philip coming out to greet us.

Stephen and I drove to Ballymurrin House on Saturday 27th July 2019. We were looking forward to it as we had seen the house on “Home of the Year” on RTE, and I particularly love its style, and we knew it was originally a Quaker farmhouse. Stephen is a Quaker so it is special for him, to see part of the history of Quakers in Ireland. I emailed Philip beforehand, to let him know that we were coming. I knew that the current owners are not Quakers, but the website describes the Quaker history of the house.

Philip was friendly and delighted to welcome a Quaker. The house was built in around 1668, and was formerly a pair of houses, according to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [1] On the Ballymurrin website, the part of the building with the pink painted exterior is identified as the farmhouse, and the white end is the coach house and forge. The pink part of the house was originally two dwellings: a five bay main house, and a dower house of two bays. We did not get to see inside the Dower House, which is now called Box Tree Cottage in honour of a tree in its garden, but you can see pictures on the Ballymurrin website. The buildings form a U shape around a yard, although the buildings to the right hand side when facing the house have not yet been renovated, although they have been stabilised. These would have been the stables. On the left hand side of the U is what was formerly the milking parlour. [2]

The former milking parlour. We did not get to visit inside as it was being used for guests, as it is converted for self-catering.

At the time of the English Civil War (1642–1651), many “dissenting” Christian groups formed, including the Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, as it is also known. The founder of the Quakers, George Fox (1624-1691), was dissatisfied with the teachings of the Church of England and of the other nonconformist, or dissenting, groups. He sought a more pure faith. Wikipedia tells us that in 1652 Fox had a vision on Pendle Hill in Lancashire, England, in which he believed that “the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered,” and after this, Fox travelled around England, the Netherlands and Barbados preaching and teaching with the aim of converting new adherents to his faith. He found many other “seekers” who also felt the churches had become bogged down with traditions, rituals and power politics, and together they tried to live out the Christian message more simply. [3] and [4]

The Quakers spread to Ireland very early after George Fox started the Society in England in 1652: the first recorded Friends Meetings for Worship in Ireland were held in 1654 at the home of William Edmundson in Lurgan, Co. Armagh [4]. As Ballymurrin Farmstead was built from around 1668, some of the first Quakers in Ireland settled in this area in Wicklow. Turtle Bunbury writes that William Edmundson served in Cromwell’s army during the Civil War (and thus fought against those loyal to King Charles I) and settled in Ireland in 1652, and that by 1656 Quaker ideals were making a negative impact on the morale of the Cromwellian army – so much so that Cromwell purged the army of Quakers. This would explain why Quakers settled so early in Ireland – they had been in Cromwell’s army in Ireland. [5] It may seem odd that Quakers were in the army, but it was only during Charles II’s reign that they embraced pacifism.

The Quakers chose a beautiful area to settle in Wicklow, with a view of rolling hills. The house itself is tucked into a hillside so that the hill behind shelters the house.

A Quaker settlement was also established in the late 17th century in Ballitore, County Kildare, by two Quakers, John Bancroft and Abel Strette, who began farming in the area, and Ballitore is still known as the Quaker Village. A Quaker School was founded in Ballitore by Abraham Shackleton (1697–1771) in 1726. Stephen and I visited Ballitore the following month, in August 2019.

Before we began our tour, Philip brought us through the house to the kitchen for a refreshment as it was a particularly hot day. We drank water with fresh mint and sat at the big kitchen table, joining his wife Delphine.

Philip and Delphine are both architects. I love their style, which respects the history and original architecture of the home. The house preserves the traditional cottage air with its thick limewashed stone walls, window alcoves, and exposed wooden beams and lintels. I love the old farmhouse doors. Philip led us into the house via a room which has display boards explaining the history of the house and the Quakers, which we had time to study later. Philip and Delphine purchased the property over twenty-five years ago and have done much renovation work. Philip explained that the setting, with its square courtyard, reminded him of the type of farm houses which he loved in Jersey, the Channel Island, where he had previously worked.

In this explanation board, created by Philip Geoghegan, you can see the farmhouse, with the three-sided courtyard, in the aerial photograph. The third side, the stables, have not been converted.

To begin the tour, Philip brought us out first to see the remains of a cottage out behind the house, built in the 1600’s.

The cottage has been stabilised, but not roofed. The walls were fixed painstakingly to maintain their integrity and heritage. Originally covered in ivy, this was cleared and the floor also levelled.

See the wooden lintel over the door.

Ballymurrin, or “Ballymooranbeg” (Ballymurrin Lower) is identified on the Down Survey Map, made by Sir William Petty for Oliver Cromwell in 1654, and it listed as belonging to Sir William Parsons, who lived in Milltown, Rathnew. [6] William Parsons, the 1st Baronet of Bellamont, was a Lord Justice of Ireland and served as Surveyor General of Ireland. In this position he was able to discern faulty titles for land and appropriate this land for himself. [7] There were Quaker families in Dunganstown and Kilmacow, County Wicklow.

Information panel in the cottage, created by Philip Geoghegan.

Philip has done much research to establish who lived in Ballymurrin. In this 1760 map pictured above, Ballymurrin is identified, and a Quaker Burial place in Kilbride. There is also a Quaker meeting house in Ballykean. Quakers do not have church “services” or masses, they have “meetings,” which are mostly silent.

The Eves family from Leicestershire settled on land also owned by William Parsons. In 1667 Anne Eves married Ambrose Judd, who had moved from Suffolk in England to Ireland in 1651, and their first child, Robert, was born in Ballymurrin in 1668. This couple built up Ballymurrin and had a large family. In 1687 their first child, Robert, died and was buried in the “Friends burying place” just a small walk from the farmhouse, a graveyard that is still there today.

In the marriage register pictured below, of 1680, a Mark Eves (related to Anne) signs as a witness, along with William Bate of Ballymurrin. William Bate, Philip has determined, was born in Stepney St Dunstans East End of London in 1635. He was a carpenter, and he and his wife Anne and five children lived in Ballymurrin for ten years. He probably built most of the buildings at Ballymurrin. He was put in Wicklow Gaol, at the Black Castle, along with twelve other Quakers, for attending a meeting in 1671. The Quakers left England hoping to escape persecution but they were still persecuted in Ireland, for dissenting from the official Church.

Due to persecutions and after his imprisonment, in 1681 William and Mary Bate[s] and their children left Wicklow and helped to set up a township in Newton Creek, West Jersey, in land set aside for Irish Quakers by William Penn, who had that year founded Pennsylvania. William Bates became a senior administrator in the West Jersey government and was buried in 1700 in the Newton Quaker Burial Ground.

Based on the registered births, Philip has calculated that there were about 150 Quakers in County Wicklow between 1661 and 1700. A Meeting House was established in Wicklow Town for monthly meetings at Thomas Trafford’s house in 1669. In details published on Ballymurrin’s website, we see that Thomas Trafford was committed to prison in 1680 for opening his shop (a drapers) on Christmas day! Many Quakers do not celebrate Christmas, since it is every day that Jesus is in their heart.

Inside I was delighted to see the original animal trough inside the cottage:

Animal trough: the Quakers would have kept cows, sheep and pigs, hens, ducks and geese. They grew barley, wheat, oats and vegetables and fruit.

If you look closely you can see a division in the floor. This would have been a wall, dividing the living quarters from the animal quarters. You can see the original door lintel. The fourth wall has been levelled, as you can see in the next picture, from the back of the cottage:

We were curious about the round column at one end of the cottage, while the other is a square column. Philip doesn’t know why there is the rounded column or what it signifies, but it is very impressive, considering it stands there since the 1600s! There are similar rounded gate posts by the stables.

Stephen and Philip speculate on the rounded column to the left, in the barbeque area next to the old cottage.

Next we headed back to the house, and entered the door leading into the forge. You can see the fireplace, with some equipment, in the background, and I took a picture looking upward into the fireplace.

The beehive chimney in the Forge sits on a tree trunk built into stone walls and is a timber frame filled with woven hazel twigs and covered with clay and cow dung inside and plaster outside. It is, Philip points out, a remarkable structure from the 17th century and, even more remarkable, remains intact.

There are more information boards which Philip has made.

Ambrose was “convinced of the blessed truth” in 1672, i.e. became a Quaker.  “Convincement” is when a person realizes that he or she wants to join the Quakers (“Convincement” and officially becoming a Quaker don’t necessarily happen at the same time. Nowadays a person attends Quaker meetings for years before applying for membership). The next information board tells us that Ambrose Judd had to pay for his Quaker faith, with hay and barley, wheat and oats. These were “forcibly recovered,” taken as tithes to be paid to the established church, the Church of Ireland. Catholics also had to pay these tithes. Quakers refused to pay the tithes, so a “tithemonger” took the goods, and refusing to pay tithes would be a reason that Quakers were put in gaol.

In 1689 King James II granted toleration to the Quakers, which means that they no longer had to pay the tithes to the Church of England/Ireland.

Here is another part of the forge:

In the Timeline for Ballymurrin which Philip compiled, we can see that in 1754, Susanna Ashton, born Eves, a widow, marries Joseph Pim from Nurney, County Kildare, who moves to Ballymurrin. He dies in 1764 and is buried in Ballymurrin Burial Ground. His son may have built nearby Woodville House, in Kilbride, County Wicklow (built around 1780). [8]

Above the exhibition room is a loft, which still has its original roofing timbers. The forge below would have kept the bedrooms above warm.

In 1855 Ballymurrin Upper, 163 acres was sold by Joseph Pim through the Emcumbered Estates Court. The Encumbered Estates Act was passed in 1849 to facilitate the sale of Irish estates whose owners could not meet their financial obligations due to losses during the Famine. Ballymurrin Lower was sold in 1874 or 1891, this time by Lydia Pim, through the Landed Estates Court, which had taken over from the Encumbered Estates Court. Ballymurrin and Woodville were bought by the Catholic Byrne family: Edward, Bernard and Mary, according to Philip’s research.

According to Philip’s records, Mary Byrne dies in 1926 and after this, the O’Sullivans live in Ballymurrin. Alterations were made to the house, dated 1927 and 1935.

In 1990, David and Mary Strawbridge moved in to the house and initiated restoration of the main house. In 1994, Delphine and Philip Geoghegan purchased and extended restoration of the house over a twenty year period. In 1995, they re-roofed the agricultural building on the left of the main house, which incorporated a dwelling, two buildings for agriculture, a forge and a cart shed with loft above. This part of the house now includes the exhibition space, a studio and bedrooms upstairs.

We moved on into the next room then, which would have been the living area of the original house.

The living area of the original house.

This contains another huge fireplace. This is called an “inglenook” fireplace. It had been boarded up for perhaps two hundred years!

Next to this is the kitchen, which would have been a later addition to the Quaker house. Its size indicates a good standard of living. The beams of the ceiling are original but the secondary joists were replaced in 1927. The stairs appear to be a later addition as the beam supporting the ceiling joists was cut to make head room for ascending the stairs. Originally the upper level was probably accessed by a steep ladder. You can see a huge oak beam spanning across the kitchen fireplace, which is original.

Kitchen, with yet another huge fireplace, with the airbnb guest inside!

Inside the fireplace is a special feature which Philip and Delphine discovered during their renovations, unique as far as they know to this house for this time period: a bread oven.

The bread oven. I love its wooden door, which you can see at the right hand side of the photograph.
The stone floor of the fireplace is from a local quarry, and has fossils of wormy creatures.

In the last room of the tour, now the family sitting room, there is a wonderful old original cupboard, which contains more Quaker history, which Philip calls the “Minutes cupboard,” as it may have held the minutes of meetings. This cupboard is original to the house, as are the window shutters and doors.

A facsimile of the the front page of a book, History Rise and Progress of the People called Quakers in Ireland, from the year 1653 to 1700.

Before the visitors arrived, Stephen was able to have detailed discussion with Philip about the Quakers, and Philip showed us documents he had transcribed which Stephen admired, especially because he himself has been attempting to copy old documents, and has found them sometimes impossible to decipher. He asked if he could send a copy of a document to Philip to see if he is able to help in deciphering! Since our visit, Philip has indeed aided Stephen in his transcription. Philip prepared the information boards for a 350 year celebration of the Quakers which took place in the farmhouse. He has also prepared a booklet for visiting schoolchildren.

Another event the Geoghagans hosted, which you can see on the website, was a visit by the Bates family of America, descendants of the Quaker Bates who moved to Pennsylvania.

We were delighted not only to see the beautiful house, but to meet this wonderful couple!

After we left the house we visited the nearby Quaker graveyard.

Although about 140 people are buried in this Quaker burial ground, there are only four headstones. This is because in 1671 the Quakers stopped using headstones, perhaps they did not like the overly ornate headstones becoming popular at the time, as these did not convey their belief about the equality of all people. However, by 1850 this restraint was dropped, and the four headstones memorialise members of the Pim family. The Pim family transferred ownership of the Burial ground to the Quakers in 1812.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16403107/ballymurrin-house-ballymurrin-lower-kilbride-co-wicklow

[2] https://www.ballymurrinquakerfarmstead.eu/index.html

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers

[4] https://quakers-in-ireland.ie/history/background/

[5] p. 75. Bunbury, Turtle and Art Kavanagh. The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of County Kildare. Published by Irish Family Names, 11 Emerald Cottages, Grand Canal St, Dublin 4 and Market Square, Bunclody, Co Wexford, Ireland. 2004.

[6] Information taken from information boards created by Philip Geoghegan:

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_William_Parsons,_1st_Baronet_of_Bellamont

Nora Robertson writes about him in her book, The Crowned Harp. Memories of the Last Years of the Crown in Ireland. published by Allen Figgis & Co. Ltd., Dublin, 1960.

[8] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16403106/woodville-house-ballymurrin-lower-kilbride-co-wicklow

[9] I examined the census to see if I can work out more about who lived in Ballymurrin farm, but it is confusing as I don’t know what other habitations exist in the area of “Ballymurrin Lower” and “Ballymurrin Upper” and the numbering system seems to change from 1901 to 1911, as well, perhaps, as the specification between which habitations are “upper” and which “lower,” unless the families moved about quite a bit, which is possible. I don’t know whether all the habitations listed are actually part of the current Ballymurrin farmstead. I have made charts but it is all guesswork.

Philip Geoghegan mentions Mary, Bernard and Edward Byrne purchasing Ballymurrin, but looking at the census, ownership appears to be more complicated.

The 1911 census has a Mary Byrne as head of household, single and Catholic, in house “1.2” in Ballymurrin Lower. The 1901 census has Bernard Byrne and his sister Mary in house 6 in Ballymurrin lower, along with servants who include Laurence Farrell and two youger Farrells who are probably his sons, as well as Peter Penrose, Julia Bull and Patrick Murry. It looks like the numbering system changed from 1901 to 1911 as I doubt the occupants moved between the dwellings.

In 1911 in house 1.1 there is Mary Farrell, head of household, and her sons John, Laurence and James, and daughter Mary – all also Catholic. These are probably the Farrells listed as servants to the Byrnes in 1901.

It looks like a nice little community, with tailor, postmen, shoemaker and dressmaker along with farmers and agricultural labourers, although they may be on the edge of poverty with the dwelling places only classed as type 0, with perishable materials in 1901, but nearly all of the habitations are improved by 1911. Furthermore, by 1911 all but one of the homes are owned by their inhabitants. The families are extended and many are related by marriage. The main families in 1901 are Byrne, Farrell, Arthur, Smyth (or Smith), Douglas, Meade, Redmond (Byrne daughter married a Redmond), Carly (or Carty). Additionally, owners include Colonel Ellis and Mary Cullen. In 1911 the main familes are Byrne, Farrell, Arthur, Smith, Douglas, Meade (daughter married a Farrell), Murray, Lawless and Doyle, as well as owners Michael Kavanagh and Mrs Stampher. All of the inhabitants are Catholic.

Curraghmore, Portlaw, County Waterford

Contact: Vanessa Behal, 051 387101
Open dates listed in 2020 [check if open or closed due to Covid-19]: May, June, July, Sept, Wed- Sun, Aug 1-31, 10.30am-4.30pm

Fee: full tour €18, house tour €12, garden & shell house €10, garden only €6 under12 years free.

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It was difficult to find Curraghmore House despite obtaining directions when we rang the house. That difficulty is good in a way, as the house is secluded and safer for the owners. We drove two kilometres up a stony track; without the reassuring directions, we would not have believed we were on the right road. When we turned in to the estate, we weren’t sure we had the right entrance, since we went past old buildings and stables. Surely this was not the general entrance for those visiting the gardens, which are open to the public? There was barely any signage, and there was meant to be a cafe open. When we parked and looked around, however, we discovered that we were indeed in the right place! It’s just not very touristy! We found the bathrooms and the cafe in the courtyard.

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entering Curraghmore, via servants’ quarters either side of courtyard. Approaching the courtyard front of the house, where the “original Castle is encased in a spectacular Victorian mansion” with flanking Georgian ranges housing servants, stables, etc. [1]
I didn’t take as many photos as I should have, so here are a few from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, of the range that fronts the house: [2]

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servants’ quarters in the courtyard, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

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this is the view looking back the way we drove in, with our backs to the house, and the buildings of the courtyard on either side. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

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arch through which we went, in order to explore the gardens, and also through which one goes to see the rest of the outside of the house

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photograph from flickr commons, National Library of Ireland.

Mark Bence-Jones describes Curraghmore in A Guide to Irish Country Houses, as a medieval tower with a large three storey house behind it. The house is seven bays wide (see garden front) and seven bays deep. [1]

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

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

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back of the castle, with windows now where there was the original door for guest entrance

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the house is seven bays wide and seven bays deep

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There were horrible scary statues flanking a path – we learned later that they were bought by the fourth Marquis of Waterford in the World Fair in Paris.

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

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

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

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

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

According to the website:

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

Some 2,500 acres of formal gardens, woodland and grazing fields make this the largest private demesne in Ireland and one of the finest places to visit in Ireland….This tour takes in some of the finest neo-classical rooms in Ireland which feature the magnificent plaster work of James Wyatt and grisaille panels by Peter de Gree.” 
[We came across a link to the De La Poer family, also called Le Poer or Power, in Salterbridge, and will meet them again in Powerscourt in Wicklow and Dublin.]
Curraghmore, meaning great bog, is the last of 4 castles built by the de la Poer family after their arrival in Ireland in 1167. The Castle walls are about 12 feet thick and within one, a tight spiral stairway connects the lower ground floor with the roof above. Of the many curious and interesting features of Curraghmore, the most  striking is the courtyard front of the house, where the original Castle is encased in a spectacular Victorian mansion with flanking Georgian ranges.

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

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

I shall therefore use “marquess” and “marquis” interchangeably. If quoting – I’ll use the spelling used by the source. I prefer “marquis”,  as “marquess” sounds female to me, although it refers to a male! Therefore although Marquess is correct, I’ll follow the website and use sometimes use Marquis in this blog entry.

Mark Bence-Jones writes that:

The tower survives from the old castle of the Le Poers or Powers; the house was in existence in 1654, but was rebuilt 1700 and subsequently enlarged and remodelled; it extends round three sides of a small inner court, which is closed on 4th side by the tower. The 1700 rebuilding was carried out by James Power, 3rd and last Earl of Tyrone of first creation, whose daughter and heiress, Lady Catherine Power, married Sir Marcus Beresford…The 1st Beresford Earl of Tyrone remodelled the interior of the old tower and probably had work done on the house as well…The tower and the house were both refaced mid-C19. The house has a pediment in the garden front; and, like the tower, a balustraded roof parapet. The tower has three tiers of pilasters framing the main entrance doorway and the triple windows in the two storeys above it, and is surmounted by St. Hubert’s Stag, the family crest of the Le Poers. [1]

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St. Hubert’s Stag on top. The crown below is the coronet of a Marquess.

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

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

Baron –  female version: Baroness

Viscount – Viscountess

Earl – ? what’s the female version?

Marquess (Marquis) – Marchioness

Duke – Duchess

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

Sir Piers’s son and heir, Richard, further strengthened the power of the family by marrying a daughter of the 8th Earl of Ormond. The rival families of Butler and Fitzgerald, into both of which the Le Poers had married, effectively ran the country at this time when English influence in Ireland had been in decline for several decades. [5]

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

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

Turtle Bunbury writes of the Le Poer family history in his blog. I wonder if I can turn my blog into a way of learning Irish history, through Irish houses? I will continue to quote Mr. Bunbury’s blog here, so I can try to see connections between various house owners as I continue my travels around the country.
WHO TO SUPPORT? CATHOLIC OR PROTESTANT? JAMES II OR WILLIAM III?

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

John Mor died in 1592 and was succeeded by his son Richard, 4th Baron Le Poer. King James I ordered Richard to send his grandson and heir, John, (John’s father had already died) to England for his education, in order to convert John to Protestantism. John lived with a Protestant Archbishop in Lambeth. However, John didn’t maintain his Protestant faith. Furthermore, he later suffered from mental illness.

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

Despite his mental illness, John and Ruth had a son Richard, who succeeded as the 6th Baron. In 1672 King Charles II made Richard the 1st Earl of Tyrone, and elevated Richard’s son John to the peerage as Viscount Decies. Turtle Bunbury writes that Richard the 1st Earl of Tyrone sat on Charles II’s Privy Council from 1667-1679. However, Richard was forced to resign when somebody implicated him in the “Popish Plot.” The “Popish Plot” was caused by fear and panic. There never was a plot, but many people assumed to be sympathetic to Catholicism were accused of treason. In 1681, Richard Power was brought before the House of Commons and charged with high treason. He was imprisoned. He was released in 1684.

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

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

John married his first cousin, the orphaned heiress Catherine Fitzgerald. They were married as children, in order for John to marry Catherine’s wealth. However, Catherine managed to have the marriage declared null and void, so that she could marry her true love, in March 1676, Edward Villiers, son and heir of George, 4th Viscount Grandison [I will write more on this in my entry on Dromana].

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

DEVELOPING THE CASTLE
In 1700 the 3rd Earl, James, commissioned the construction of the present house at Curraghmore on the site of the original castle.

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

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

“One night in 1693 when Nichola, Lady Beresford, was staying in Gill Hall, her schoolday friend, John Power, Earl of Tyrone, with whom she had made a pact that whoever died first should appear to the other to prove that there was an afterlife, appeared by her bedside and told her that he was dead, and that there was indeed an after-life. To convince her that he was a genuine apparition and not just a figment of her dreams, he made various prophecies, all of which came true: noteably that she would have a son who would marry his niece, the heiress of Curraghmore and that she would die on her 47th birthday. He also touched her wrist, which made the flesh and sinews shrink, so that for the rest of her life she wore a black ribbon to hide the place.” [5]

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

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

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

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


We were lucky to be able to wander around.

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There were some interesting looking machines in sheds. Perhaps some of this machinery is for grain, or some could be for the wool trade. Turtle Bunbury writes of the wool trade in the 18th century and of the involvement by the de la Poer family in Curraghmore. [6]
Other buildings were stables, or had been occupied as accommodation in the past, and some were used for storage.

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amazing vaulted ceilings for stables!

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The buildings above are behind the stables of the courtyard.

There must have been a whiskey distillery at one stage:

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the Butler’s house, the first house in the courtyard nearest the main house. The Butler lived in the main house until he married, when he then was given the house in the courtyard. There was a Butler in the house until just two years ago, and he lived here until he retired.

household staff of Curraghmore House, Portlaw, Co. Waterford, ca.1905, National Library of Ireland
Household staff of Curraghmore, around 1905, courtesy of National Library of Ireland

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

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dragon from the Beresford crest

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

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

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see the St. Eustace stag in the Newbridge College crest

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

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

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

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the Shell Grotto

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inside the shell grotto, statue by John van Nost of Catherine Le Poer Beresford.

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Catherine also adorned the interior of Curraghmore with frescoes by the Dutch painter van der Hagen, and laid out the garden with canals, cascades, terraces and statues, which were swept away in the next century in the reaction against formality in the garden. In the nineteenth century, the formal layout was reinstated. [7]

THE INTERIOR OF THE HOUSE

The entrance hall, which is in the old tower, has a barrel vaulted ceiling covered with plasterwork rosettes in circular compartments which dates from 1750, as it was one of the rooms redecorated by Marcus Beresford and his wife Catherine. He also redecorated the room above, now the billiard room, which has a tremendously impressive coved ceiling probably by the Francini brothers, according to Mark Bence-Jones. The ceiling is decorated with foliage, flowers, busts and ribbons in rectangular and curvilinear compartments. The chimneypiece, which has a white decorative  overmantel with a “broken” pediment (i.e. split into two with the top of the triangular pediment lopped off to make room for a decoration in between) and putti cherubs, is probably by John Houghton, German architect Richard Castle’s carver. Bence-Jones describes that the inner end of the room is a recess in the thickness of the old castle wall with a screen of fluted Corinthian columns. There is a similar recess in the hall below, in which a straight flight of stairs leads up to the level of the principal rooms of the house.

According to the Wikipedia article on the Marquesses of Waterford [8], Lord Tyrone ie. Marcus Beresford, was succeeded by his fourth but eldest surviving son, the second Earl, George Beresford (1734-1800), who also inherited the title Baron La Poer from his mother in 1769. [By the way, he married Elizabeth Monck, only daughter and heiress of Henry Monck (1725-1787) of Charleville, another house on the Section 482 list which we will be visiting.]  In 1786 he was created Baron Tyrone. Three years later he was made Marquess of Waterford in the Peerage of Ireland. He was therefore the 1st Marquess of Waterford. The titles descended in the direct line until the death of his grandson, the third Marquess, in 1859.

George had the principal rooms of the house redecorated to the design of James Wyatt in the 1780s. Perhaps this was when the van der Hagen paintings were lost! We will see more of his work later, in a house not on section 482 in 2019, but often on the list, Beaulieu.  At the same time he probably built the present staircase hall, which had been an open inner court, and carried out other structural alterations.

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

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

The dining room has delicate plasterwork on the ceiling,  incorporating rondels attributed to Antonio Zucchi (1726-1795, an Italian painter and printmaker of the Neoclassic period) or his wife Angelica Kauffman (a Swiss Neoclassical painter who had a successful career in London and Rome). The walls have grissaille panels by Peter de Gree, which are imitations of bas-reliefs, so are painted to look as if they are sculpture. de Gree was born in Antwerp, Holland [9]. In Antwerp he met David de la Touche of Marlay, Rathfarnham, Dublin, who was on a grand tour. The first works of de Gree in Ireland were for David de la Touche for his house in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. [10] The Blue Drawing Room has a ceiling incorporating roundels by deGree and semi-circular panels attributed to Zucchi.

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

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

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

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

The 3rd Marquis broke his neck in a fall in the hunting field in 1859; the 5th shot himself in 1895, worn down by years of suffering from injuries caused by a hunting accident which had left him crippled; and the 6th Marquis, having narrowly escaped being killed by a lion while big game hunting in Africa, drowned in a river on his estate in 1911 when he was 36.” [11]

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

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

MARQUESSES OF WATERFORD

I am aided here by the wonderfully informative website of Timothy Ferres. [12]
George, 1st Marquess of Waterford, was succeeded by his eldest son, Henry, 2nd Marquess (1772-1826), who wedded, in 1805, Susanna, only daughter and heiress of George Carpenter, 2nd Earl of Tyrconnell. Henry, who was a Knight of St Patrick, a Privy Counsellor in Ireland, Governor of County Waterford, and Colonel of the Waterford Militia, was succeeded by his eldest son, Henry, 3rd Marquess.

In an interview with Patrick Freyne, the current Marquess, whom the townspeople call “Tyrone,” explained that it was the third Marquess, Henry who originated the phrase “painting the town red” while on a wild night in Miltown Mowbray in 1837: he literally painted the town red! [13]

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

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

When Henry died he was succeed by his younger brother, John (1814-1866), who became the 4th Marquess. It was this Marquess who bought the scarey statues in the garden. The tour guide told us that perhaps the choice of statue reflected the Marquis’s personality. She referred back to this on the tour. The Earl became more religious and more forboding as he aged. John married Christiana Leslie, daughter of Charles Powell Leslie II of Castle Leslie (we will learn more about the Leslies in my write ups for Castle Leslie and Corravahan House in County Cavan). John entered the ministry and served as Prebendary of St Patrick’s Cathedral, under his uncle, Lord John. He forbade his wife from horseriding, which she had adored. When he died, the sons were notified. Before they went to visit the body, when they arrived home they went straight to the stables. They took a horse and brought it inside the house, and up the grand staircase, right into their mother’s bedroom, where she was still in bed. It was her favourite horse! They “gave her her freedom.” She got onto the horse and rode it back down the staircase – one can still see a crack in the granite steps where the horse kicked one on the way down – and out the door and off into the countryside!

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

Lord Waterford eloped with Florence Grosvenor Rowley, wife of John Vivian, an English Liberal politician, and married her on 9 August 1872. I don’t know what happened to her, but less than two years later he married secondly, Lady Blanche Somerset, daughter of Henry Somerset, 8th Duke of Beaufort, on 21 July 1874. The second Lady Waterford suffered from a severe illness which left her an invalid. She had a special carriage designed to carry her around the estate at Curraghmore.

Lady Waterford in her specially designed invalid carriage 1896
Lady Blanche Waterford, wife of the 5th Marquess, John Henry, in her specially designed invalid carriage 1896, courtesy of National Library of Ireland

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January 10, 1902, Group shot of guests at a Fancy Dress Ball held at Curraghmore House, Portlaw, Co. Waterford, courtesy of National Library of Ireland

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

Henry the 6th Marquess served in the military. He married Beatrix Frances Petty-Fitzmaurice. He died tragically in a drowning  accident on the estate aged only 36.

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

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

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

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

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

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

the Hunt, Curraghmore House
The Hunt, January 11, 1902, courtesy of National Library of Ireland

Otter Hunt, Curraghmore
According to the National Library, this is an Otter Hunt! At Curraghmore, May 14, 1901

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

THE GARDENS AND OUTBUILDINGS

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

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

According to the website:

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

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

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The Lake was designed by James Wyatt

And here is a photograph of King John’s Bridge, a 13th-century bridge built in anticipation of a visit from King John (he never came):

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Built in 1205, this stone-arched structure, spanning the Clodagh River, is the oldest bridge in Ireland.

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

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

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

[3] http://curraghmorehouse.ie/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquess_of_Waterford

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

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

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

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

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

Huntington Castle, County Carlow

In the past, in August 2016, I visited Huntington Castle in Clonegal, County Carlow.

Contact person: Alexander Durdin Robertson, tel 086 0282266

Open in 2020: Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29, Mar 1, Apr 11-13, May 1-31, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, Oct 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 24-31, Dec 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 11am-5pm

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It’s magical! And note that you can stay at this castle – see their website! [1]

Huntington Castle stands in the valley of the River Derry, a tributary of the River Slaney, on the borders of Counties Carlow and Wexford, near the village of Clonegal. Built in 1625, it is the ancient seat of the Esmonde family, and is presently lived in by the Durdin-Robertsons. It passed into the Durdin family from the Esmonde family by marriage in the nineteenth century, so actually still belongs to the original family. It was built as a garrison on the strategically important Dublin-Wexford route, on the site of a 14th century stronghold and abbey, to protect a pass in the Blackstairs Mountains. After fifty years, the soldiers moved out and the family began to convert it into a family home. [2]

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A History of the house and its residents

The castle website tells us that the Esmondes (note that I have found the name spelled as both ‘Esmond’ and ‘Edmonde’) moved to Ireland in 1192 and were involved in building other castles such as Duncannon Fort in Waterford and Johnstown Castle in Wexford. Laurence Esmonde was a convert to Anglicanism and served in the armies of British Queen Elizabeth I and then James I . He fought in the Dutch Wars against Spain, and later, in 1599, he commanded 150 foot soldiers in the Nine Years War, the battle led by an Irish alliance led mainly by Hugh O’Neill and Tyrconnell (Hugh Roe O’Donnell) against the British rule in Ireland. In reward for his services,  he was raised to the peerage in 1622 as Baron of Limerick (I was confused about this, but there is a Limerick, or Limbrick, in County Wexford, according to wikipedia, and it is now called Killinierin), and it seems that a few years after receiving this honour he built the core of the present Huntington Castle: a three-storey fortified tower house, which forms the front facing down the avenue, according to Mark Bence-Jones in A Guide to Irish Country Houses. [3]

 

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Huntington Castle, Clonegal, County Carlow, the view when one enters the courtyard from the avenue. There is an irregular two storey range with castellated battlements and a curved bow and battlemented gable, and the earlier building, the fortress, rises above them.
photograph by Kevin Loftus, 2017, Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool

This original tower-house is made of rough-hewn granite. The first alterations and additions to that core were made around 1680 by the grandson of Laurence, also a Sir Laurence Esmonde. In her discussion of marriage in Making Ireland English, Jane Ohlmeyer writes that for the Irish, legitimacy of children didn’t determine inheritance, and so attitudes toward marriage, including cohabitation and desertion, were very different than in England. She writes that the first Baron Esmonde behaved in a way reminiscent of medieval Gaelic practices when he repudiated his first wife and remarried without a formal divorce. Laurence met Ailish, the sister of Morrough O’Flaherty (note that Turtle Bunbury tells us that she was a granddaughter of the pirate queen Grace O’Malley!) on one of his expeditions to Ulster, and married her. However, after the birth of their son, Thomas, she returned to her family, fearing that her son would be raised as a Protestant. Esmonde went on to marry Elizabeth Butler, a granddaughter of the ninth earl of Ormond (daughter of Walter Butler, and she was already twice widowed). He had no children by his second marriage and despite acknowledging Thomas to be his son, he did not admit that his first marriage was lawful and consequently had no official heir and his title Baron of Limerick became extinct after his death. Although his son did not inherit his title, he did inherit his property. [4] Baron Esmonde governed the fort of Duncannon from 1606-1646 when he died after a siege of the fort by General Preston of the Confederates, who considered Esmonde a defender of the Parliamentarians (i.e. Oliver Cromwell’s men, the “roundheads”). [5]

Thomas Esmonde did not inherit his father’s title but was himself awarded a Baronetcy, and became Baronet Esmonde in 1629. It was the 2nd Baronet, Laurence, who made the first additions to Huntington Castle around 1680, and who named it “Huntington” after the Esmonde’s “ancestral pile” in England [6]. A wing was constructed by the latter’s grandson (yet another Sir Laurence, 4th Baronet) around forty years later in 1720. The castle, as you can see, is very higgeldy piggedly, reflecting the history of its additions.

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the bow was probably added by the descendent Manning Durdin-Robertson.

Brendan O’Neill tells us in his book Irish Castles and Historic Houses that the property was inherited by Alexander Durdin in 1849, whose grand-uncle had married the two daughters and co-heirs of Sir John Esmonde, third Baronet, as his two successive wives. This is how the house passed from Esmondes to Durdins.

According to the Irish Historic Houses website, the Durdin family were long established in County Cork, where they had acquired the estates of William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania) [2]. In 1880, Helen, the Durdin heiress who inherited the castle, married Herbert Robertson, Baron Strathloch (a Scots feudal barony) and MP for a London borough. Together they made a number of late Victorian additions at the rear of the castle while their professional architect son, Manning Durdin-Robertson, an early devotee of concrete, carried out yet further alterations in the 1920s.

Manning Durdin-Robertson married Nora Kathleen Parsons, from Birr Castle. She wrote The Crowned Harp. Memories of the Last Years of the Crown in Ireland, an important memorial of the last years of English rule in Ireland [7]. I ordered a copy of the book from my local library! It’s a lovely book and an enjoyable rather “chatty” read. She writes a bit about her heritage, which you can see in my entry on another section 482 castle, Birr Castle. She tells us about life at the time, which seems to have been very sociable! She writes a great description of social rank:

The hierarchy of Irish social order was not defined, it did not need to be, it was deeply implicit. In England the nobility were fewer and markedly more important than over here and they were seated in the mansions considered appropriate….
The top social rows were then too well-known and accepted to be written down but, because a new generation may be interested and amused, I will have a shot at defining an order so unreal and preposterous as to be like theatricals in fancy dress. Although breeding was essential it still had to be buttressed by money.

Row A: peers who were Lord or Deputy Lieutenants, High Sheriffs and Knights of St. Patrick. If married adequately their entrenchment was secure and their sons joined the Guards, the 10th Hussars or the R.N. [Royal Navy, I assume]
Row B: Other peers with smaller seats, ditto baronets, solvent country gentry and young sons of Row A, (sons Green Jackets, Highland regiments, certain cavalry, gunners and R.N.).
Row A used them for marrying their younger children.
Row C: Less solvent country gentry, who could only allow their sons about £100 a year. These joined the Irish Regiments which were cheap; or transferred to the Indian army. They were recognised and respected by A and B and belonged to the Kildare Street Club.
Row D: Loyal professional people, gentlemen professional farmers, trade, large retail or small wholesale, they could often afford more expensive Regiments than Row C managed. Such rarely cohabited with Rows A and B but formed useful cannon fodder at Protestant Bazaars and could, if they were really liked, achieve Kildare Street.

Absurd and irritating as it may seem today, this social hierarchy dominated our acceptances.

I had the benefit of always meeting a social cross section by playing a good deal of match tennis…. The top Rows rarely joined clubs and their play suffered….There were perhaps a dozen (also very loyal) Roman Catholic families who qualified for the first two Rows; many more, equally loyal but less distinguished, moved freely with the last two.

Amongst these “Row A” Roman Catholics were the Kenmares, living in a long gracious house at Killarney. Like Bantry House, in an equally lovely situation.

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We were not allowed to take photos inside, except for in the basement, but you can see some pictures on the official website [1] and also on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete [8].

There were wonderful old treasures in the house including armour chest protections in the hallway along the stairs, which was one of the first things to catch my attention as we entered. We went up a narrow stairway linked as Bence-Jones describes “with wainscot or half-timbered studding.”

There are some noteable structures inside the building, as Robert O’Byrne notes. “The drawing room has 18th century classical plaster panelled walls beneath a 19th century Perpendicular-Gothic ceiling. Some passages on the ground floor retain their original oak panelling, a number of bedrooms above being panelled in painted pine. The dining room has an immense granite chimneypiece bearing the date 1625, while those in other rooms are clearly from a century later.” [8]

Another drawing room is hung with tapestry, which would have kept the residents a bit warmer in winter. There are beautiful stuccoed ceilings, which you can see on the website.

O’Neill adds that Huntington was one of the first country houses in Ireland to have electricity, and in order to satisfy local interest a light was kept burning on the front lawn so that the curious could come up and inspect it.

I loved the light and plant filled conservatory area, with a childlike drawing on one wall. The glass ceiling is draped in grape vines.

We were allowed to take photos in the basement, which used to house dungeons, and now holds the “Temple of Isis.” It also contains a well, which was the reason the castle was situated on this spot. In the 1970s two of the four children of Manning Durdin-Robertson, the writer and mystic Olivia Durdin-Robertson, who was a friend of W.B. Yeats and A.E. Moore, and her brother Laurence (nicknamed Derry), and his wife Bobby, converted the undercroft into a temple to the Egyptian Goddess Isis, founding a new religion. In 1976 the temple became the foundation centre for the Fellowship of Isis [9]. I love the notion of a religion that celebrates the earthy aspects of womanhood, and I purchased a copy of Olivia Durdin-Robertson’s book in the coffee shop. The religion takes symbols from Egyptian religion, as you can see in my photos of this marvellous space:

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our tour guide
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there is a well here

Turtle Bunbury has a video of the Fellowship of Isis on his website [6]! You can get a flavour of what their rituals were like initially. Perhaps they are similar today. The religion celebrates the Divine Feminine.

After a tour of the castle, we then went to the back garden. According to its website,

The Gardens were mainly laid out in the 1680’s by the Esmondes. They feature impressive formal plantings and layouts including the Italian style ‘Parterre’ or formal gardens, as well the French lime Avenue (planted in 1680). The world famous yew walk is a significant feature which is thought to date to over 500 years old and should not be missed.

Later plantings resulted in Huntington gaining a number of Champion trees including more than ten National Champions. The gardens also feature early water features such as stew ponds and an ornamental lake as well as plenty to see in the greenhouse and lots of unusual and exotic plants and shrubs.

photograph by Chris Hill, 2015, Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
photograph by Chris Hill, 2015, Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
photograph by Chris Hill, 2015, Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool
photograph by Chris Hill, 2015, Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool

The Irish Aesthete also discusses this garden in another blog entry [10]. He tells us that the yew walk, which stretches 130 yards, dates from the time of the Franciscan friary in the Middle Ages! The “stew ponds” would have held fish that could be caught for dinner.

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500 year old yew walk
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photograph by Chris Hill, 2015, Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool

After the garden, we needed a rest in the Cafe.

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I loved the arrangement of plates on the walls of the cafe!

I was also thrilled by the hens who roamed the yard and even tried to enter the cafe:

There is space next to the cafe that can be rented out for events:

A few plants were for sale in the yard. A shop off the cafe sells local made craft, pottery, and books. The stables and farmyard buildings are kept in good condition and buzzed with with the business of upkeep of the house and gardens.

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what is this tall flower?

[1] https://www.huntingtoncastle.com/

[2] The website http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Huntington%20Castle says it was built on the site of a 14th century stronghold and abbey, whereas the Irish Aesthete says it was built on the site of a 13th century Franciscan monastery.

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

[4] p. 171, Ohlmeyer, Jane. Making Ireland English. The Irish Aristocracy in the Seventeenth Century. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2012. See also pages 43, 273, 444 and 451.

[5] Dunlop, Robert. ‘Edmonde, Laurence.’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition volume 18, accessed February 2020. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Esmonde,_Laurence_(DNB00)

[6] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_houses/hist_hse_huntington.html

[7] Robertson, Nora. The Crowned Harp. Memories of the Last Years of the Crown in Ireland. published by Allen Figgis & Co. Ltd., Dublin, 1960.

[8] https://theirishaesthete.com/2017/01/23/huntington/

[9] http://www.fellowshipofisis.com/

[10] https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/11/14/light-and-shade/

Irish Historic Homes