Office of Public Works properties: County Kilkenny, Leinster

Kilkenny:

1. Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny – site currently closed

2. Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny

3. Kells Priory, County Kilkenny

4. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny

5. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny – site currently closed

1. Dunmore Cave, Mothel, Ballyfoyle, Castlecomer Road, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 776 7726, dunmorecaves@opw.ie

https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/dunmore-cave/

From the OPW website:

Dunmore Cave, not far from Kilkenny town, is a series of limestone chambers formed over millions of years. It contains some of the most impressive calcite formations found in any Irish underground structure.

The cave has been known for many centuries and is first mentioned in the ninth-century Triads of Ireland, where it is referred to as one of the ‘darkest places in Ireland’. The most gruesome reference, however, comes from the Annals of the Four Masters, which tells how the Viking leader Guthfrith of Ivar massacred a thousand people there in AD 928. Archaeological investigation has not reliably confirmed that such a massacre took place, but finds within the cave – including human remains – do indicate Viking activity.

Dunmore is now a show cave, with guided tours that will take you deep into the earth – and even deeper into the past.

2. Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, County Kilkenny.

Jerpoint Abbey, May 2016.

General information: 056 772 4623, jerpointabbey@opw.ie

https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/jerpoint-abbey/

From the OPW website:

Founded in the 12th century, Jerpoint Abbey is one of the best examples of a medieval Cistercian Abbey in Ireland. The architectural styles within the church, constructed in the late twelfth century, reflect the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. The tower and cloister date to the fifteenth century.

Jerpoint is renowned for its detailed stone sculptures found throughout the monastery. Dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries these include mensa [table] tombs from the O’Tunney school, an exquisite incised depiction of two 13th century knights, the decorated cloister arcades along with other effigies and memorials. 

Children can explore the abbey with a treasure hunt available in the nearby visitor centre. Search the abbey to discover saints, patrons, knights, exotic animals and mythological creatures.

A small but informative visitor centre houses an excellent exhibition.

3. Kells Priory, Kells, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 772 4623, jerpointabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Kells Priory owes its foundation to the Anglo-Norman consolidation of Leinster. Founded by Geoffrey FitzRobert, a household knight and trusted companion of William Marshal the priory was one element of Geoffrey’s establishment of the medieval town of Kells. 

Although founded in c. 1193 extensive remains exist today which include a nave, chancel, lady chapel, cloister and associated builds plus the remains of the priory’s infirmary, workshop, kitchen, bread oven and mill. The existence of the medieval defences, surrounding the entire precinct, underline the military aspect of the site and inspired the priory’s local name, the ‘Seven Castles of Kells’.

4. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny:

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by macmillan media 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. It sits on the banks of the River Nore. [1]

General information: 056 770 4100, kilkennycastleinfo@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Built in the twelfth century, Kilkenny Castle was the principal seat of the Butlers, earls, marquesses and dukes of Ormond for almost 600 years. Under the powerful Butler family, Kilkenny grew into a thriving and vibrant city. Its lively atmosphere can still be felt today.

The castle, set in extensive parkland, was remodelled in Victorian times. It was formally taken over by the Irish State in 1969 and since then has undergone ambitious restoration works. It now welcomes thousands of visitors a year.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Kilkenny Castle has been standing for over eight hundred years, dominating Kilkenny City and the South East of Ireland. Originally built in the 13th century by William Marshall, 4th Earl of Pembroke, as a symbol of Norman control, Kilkenny Castle came to symbolise the fortunes of the powerful Butlers of Ormonde for over six hundred years. [2]

In 1967 James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde sold the Castle to the Kilkenny Castle Restoration Committee for £50. Two years later it went into state ownership.

William Marshall (about 1146-1219) was married to the daughter of “Strongbow” Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. With the marriage, he gained land and eventually, the title, Earl of Pembroke. The daughter of Strongbow, Isabel, inherited the title of 4th Countess of Pembroke “suo jure” i.e. herself (her brother, who died a minor, was the 3rd Earl). Hence William Marshall became the 4th Earl through his wife, but then then was created the 1st Earl of Pembroke himself ten years after their marriage. They seem to have settled in Ireland and created place for themselves, beginning with setting up the town of New Ross and then restoring Kilkenny town and castle – a castle had pre-dated them, according to the Kilkenny Castle website. It tells us that the present-day castle is based on the stone fortress that Marshall designed, comprising an irregular rectangular fortress with a drum-shaped tower at each corner. Three of these towers survive to this day.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Mark Wesley 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Finn Richards, 2015 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

By 1200, Kilkenny was the capital of Norman Leinster and New Ross was its principal port. The Marshalls also founded the Cistercian abbeys at Tintern in County Wexford and Duiske in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, as well as the castles at Ferns and Enniscorthy. He died and was buried in England. [3]

In 1317, the de Clare family sold the Kilkenny castle to Hugh Despenser. The Despensers were absentee landlords. In 1391 the Despensers sold the castle to James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond, 9th Chief Butler of Ireland (1360–1405). The first Butler to come to Ireland was Theobald Walter Le Botiller or Butler, 1st Baron Butler, 1st Chief Butler of Ireland (1165–1206). He was called “Le Botiller” because he received the monopoly of the taxes on wines being imported into Ireland (which The Peerage website tells us was eventually purchased back by the Crown from the Marquess of Ormonde for £216,000 in 1811.)

The Butlers were an important family in Ireland. They fought for the king in France and Scotland, and held positions of power, including Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the monarch’s representative in Ireland.

The castle now forms a “u” shape, because in the time of Oliver Cromwell’s invasion, the fourth wall fell.[4] After the Restoration of 1660, there was a major rebuilding of the old castle. In 1826, another remodelling of the castle began. In 1935, the Butler family held a great auction, selling all of the castle’s furnishings.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Thomas Butler the 7th Earl of Ormond (d. 1515) lacked a male heir, and on his death, the Earldom was contested between Sir Piers Butler and his grandchildren led by Sir Thomas Boleyn. Thomas was favoured by King Henry VIII when Henry married his daughter Anne Boleyn. Piers Butler (1467-1539) was a descendant of the 3rd Earl of Ormond. Piers relinquished the claim to the title Earl of Ormond to Boleyn and was created Earl of Ossory by Henry VIII. The lands of the 7th Earl were divided between both parties. After a rapid escalation of disputes with rural Fitzgeralds and Boleyns, Piers regained his position and was recognised Earl of Ormond in February 1538.

The Crown hoped Piers would improve the Crown’s grip over southern Ireland. Piers the 8th Earl of Ormond gained much from Crown, including suppressed monasteries. He married Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of Gerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, in marriage arranged for the purpose of ending the long-standing rivalry between the two families. They lived in Kilkenny Castle and greatly improved it. Margaret urged Piers to bring over skilled weavers from Flanders and she helped establish industries for the production of carpets, tapestries and cloth. Margaret and her husband commissioned significant additions to the castles of Granagh and Ormond. They also rebuilt Gowran Castle, which had been originally constructed in 1385 by James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Roselinde Bon 2016 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

The 10th Earl of Ormond, “Black Tom,” had no direct heir so the Earldom passed to his nephew, Walter, a son of Sir John Butler of Kilcash. Unlike his uncle, who had been raised at Court and thus reared a Protestant, Walter the 11th Earl of Ormond was a Catholic. See my entry about the Ormond Castle at Carrick-on-Suir for more on “Black Tom.” https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/

Walter Butler’s claim to the family estates was blocked by James I. The latter orchestrated the marriage of Black Tom’s daughter and heiress Elizabeth to a Scottish favourite Richard Preston, Baron Dingwall. The King gave Preston the title Earl of Desmond (after the Fitzgeralds lost the title, due to their Desmond Rebellion, and awarded his wife most of the Ormond estate, thus depriving Walter of his inheritance. Walter refused to submit and was imprisoned for eight years in the Fleet, London. He was released 1625. Walter’s nine-year-old grandson, James, became the heir to the titles but not the estates.

James Butler (1610-88) 12th Earl of Ormond (later 1st Duke of Ormond) was the eldest son of Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, and his wife Elizabeth Poyntz. Following his father’s death in 1619, 9-year-old James became direct heir to the Ormond titles. He was made a royal ward and was educated at Lambeth Palace under the tutelage of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury.

In order to reunite the Ormond title with the estates, plans were made for a marriage between James and the daughter of the Prestons, Elizabeth, to resolve the inheritance issue. In 1629 James married his cousin Elizabeth Preston and reunited the Ormond estates.

James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond painted by John Michael Wright (1617-1694), and in centre, Elizabeth Poyntz (1588-1673), mother of the 1st Duke of Ormond, painted by John Michael Wright, and Elizabeth Preston (1615-1684), wife of the 1st Duke of Ormond, with her son Thomas, who became the 6th Earl of Ossory.

James succeeded to the Ormond titles in 1633 on the death of his grandfather, Walter Butler, 11th Earl of Ormond.

The website tells us: “A staunch royalist, Ormond was appointed commander-in-chief of the army in Ireland in 1641. He served his first term of three as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1648 to 1650.  Following the defeat of the royalists in Ireland, Ormond went to exile and spent most of the years 1649 to 1660 abroad, moving about Europe with the exiled court of Charles II. After the restoration of the monarchy in England, Ormond was rewarded with a dukedom and several high offices by a grateful king. Though he enjoyed the king’s favour, Ormond had enemies at court and as a result of the machinations of the Cabal, which included powerful figures such as the Earl of Shaftesbury, he was dismissed from his post as Lord Lieutenant in 1669. When he was raised to a dukedom in the English peerage in 1682, Ormond left Ireland to reside in England. During his last term as Lord Lieutenant (1677-85), he played a major role in the planning and founding of the Royal Hospital for old soldiers at Kilmainham, near Dublin. The last decade of his life was marked by tragedy: all three of his sons and his wife died during that time. He died at his residence at Kingston Lacy in Dorset was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Note that the “Cabal” was the term used to refer to the clique around the king. The term comes from an acronym of their names, Sir Thomas Clifford 1st Baron Clifford, Henry Benet 1st Earl of Arlington, George Villiers 2nd Duke of Buckingham, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Ashley 1st Earl of Shaftesbury and John Maitland, 1st Duke and 2nd Earl of Lauderdale.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20181014_151119.jpeg
James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond, Viceroy 1703-1707 and 1710-1713. Artist: Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680). He is wearing robes of the Order of the Garter and holds the wand of office of Lord Steward of the Household in his right hand.

The 1st Duke of Ormond carried out improvements to the castle. Mark Bence-Jones describes:

The Great Duke transformed the castle from a medieval fortress into a pleasant country house, rather like the chateau or schloss of contemporary European princeling; with high-pitched roofs and cupolas surmounted by vanes and gilded ducal coronets on the old round towers. Outworks gave place to gardens with terraces, a “waterhouse” a fountain probably carved by William de Keyser, and statues copied from those in Charles II’s Privy Gardens. The Duchess seems to have been the prime mover in the work, in which William (afterwards Sir William) Robinson, Surveyor-General and architect of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, was probably involved, supervising the construction of the Presence Chamber 1679. Robinson is also believed to have designed the magnificent entrance gateway of Portland and Caen stone with a pediment, Corinthian pilasters and swags which the second Duke erected on the street front of the castle ca 1709. Not much else was done to the castle in C18, for the Ormondes suffered a period of eclipse following the attainder and exile of the 2nd Duke, who became a Jacobite after the accession of George I.” [5]

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by unknown 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] The National Inventory describes: Random rubble stone walls with sections of limestone ashlar construction (including to breakfront having full-height Corinthian pilasters flanking round-headed recessed niches with sills, moulded surrounds having keystones, decorative frieze having swags, moulded course, modillion cornice, and blocking course with moulded surround to pediment having modillions), and limestone ashlar dressings including battlemented parapets (some having inscribed details) on corbel tables. The classical frontispiece was designed for James Butler, Second Duke of Ormonde possibly to designs prepared by Sir William Robinson. 

You can take an online tour of the castle on the website https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/explore-the-castle-new/

Photograph courtesy of Kilkenny Castle website, Entrance Hall.

The website tells us that there has been an entrance hall here at least since the 17th century rebuilding of the castle. The north doorway through the massive curtain wall was remodelled on two occasions in the 19th century. The black and white stone floor is laid with Kilkenny Black Marble and local sandstone, laid in the 19th century.

Photograph courtesy of Kilkenny Castle website, The Grand Staircase.

This 19th century mahogany staircase was designed and made by the local firm of Furniss & Son, Kilkenny and leads to the Tapestry Room and first floor. The use of mahogany in domestic furniture, which is so synonymous with the Grand House, is virtually unknown before the 18th century. Most of the wood imported came from the Jamaican Plantations which were cleared in order to plant sugar cane and cotton. During the 19th century this staircase was hung with several beautiful tapestries from the Decius Mus suite, some of which are now housed in the Tapestry Room.

The Tapestry Room in the North Tower shows how the medieval castle was transformed in the 17th century to become a magnificent baroque ducal palace. This room was called the Great Chamber in the 17th century and the walls were decorated with embossed and gilded leather hangings on the walls; a fragment of a late 17th/ early 18th century leather has been hung beside the door to give an impression of how rich the room must have been. In the 18th century, they were replaced by a set of tapestries.

Tapestry Room, in the North Tower. There are two tapestries from the “Decius” suite in the Tapestry room: The obsequies of Decius Mus. The Story of ‘Decius Mus’ is a heroic tale of a Roman Consul who foretold his own death at the Battle of Veseris (Vesuvius) in the Latin War (340BC). The tapestries are attributed to the workshop of Jan Raes, after designs by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The ‘Decius’ suite had been in the ownership of the Ormonde family for over 300 years and was displayed in several of their residences before being acquired by OPW for display in Kilkenny Castle. Tapestries were an important feature of the interior decoration of large houses in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and helped provide interior interest, warmth, and colour. You can read more about these tapestries on the Kilkenny Castle website.
Tapestry Room, in the North Tower: Desius Mus and Manlius Torquatus leave to fight the Latins.
The 12 foot thick walls of the Tapestry Room in the North Tower.

The ground floor also contains the State Dining Room. The website tells us that this was the formal dining room in the 1860’s. Historic evidence shows that this room was hung in the late 19th century with a red flock paper when it was a billiard room. The strong blue on the walls echoes the colour in the original 19th century-stained glass windows and provides a backdrop for the Langrishe family portraits, which originated in Knocktopher Abbey, Kilkenny, and are now in the care of the State. Most large estate houses would have had both a formal and informal Dining Room. The collection of silverware contains some pieces from the original 18th century collection, purchased by Walter Butler, the 18th Earl after his marriage to the wealthy heiress Anna Maria Price Clarke.

Photograph courtesy of Kilkenny Castle website, The State Dining Room.

From the website: “Today the first floor space is occupied by three rooms: Anteroom, Library and Drawing Room, as it was in the 19th century. The processional lay out of the rooms, each opening into the next is characteristic of the Baroque style of the 17th century and was know as an ‘enfilade’ suite of rooms. Baroque protocol dictated that visitors of lower rank than their host would be escorted by servants down the enfilade to the nearest room that their status allowed. In the 16th and 17th century the State Rooms were situated on this floor. 17th century history records that it was in these state apartments that James Butler 1st Duke of Ormonde received the Papal Nuncio Giovanni Battista Rinuccini during the Irish Confederate Wars of that century. An Anteroom was a small room used as a waiting room, that leads into a larger and more important room. The Anteroom and the room below,  today the Serving Room, were constructed in the area where an earlier stone staircase was situated.” The anteroom features a reproduction poplin wallpaper and bronze figurines in niches.

The Ante Room.

The anteroom leads to the library. “The interior decoration is a faithful recreation of the furnishing style of the mid to late 19th century. Thanks to a salvaged fabric remnant found behind a skirting board, it was possible to commission the French silk poplin on the walls in its original pattern and colour from the firm of Prelle in Lyons in France. The claret silk damask curtains are also based on the originals were made in Ireland. One of the nine massive curtain pelmets is original and an Irish firm of Master Gilders faithfully reproduced matching gilt reproductions. The bookcases were also reproduced based on one original bookcase acquired by the OPW in the 1980s, this original with its 19th century glass stands in the right end corner of the library. The matching pair of pier mirrors over the mantelpieces was conserved and re gilded.”

The Library. Photograph courtesy of Kilkenny Castle website.

The Drawing Room is typically the room in a house where guests and visitors are entertained. Drawing rooms were previously known as ‘withdrawing rooms’ or ‘withdrawing chambers’ which originated in sixteenth century.

The fabrics in this room are vintage glazed and block printed English and French chintzes and have been chosen to recreate the style of the rooms as they appeared in the 19th century family photographs. The Drawing Room picture hang reflects the Edward Ledwich description in his 1789 “Antiquities of Ireland!” when this room was the Presence Chamber or Alcove.

The Drawing Room, courtesy of Kilkenny Castle website.

The 1st Duke of Ormond had three sons: Thomas (1634-1680), 6th Earl of Ossory; Richard (1639-1686), 1st and last Earl of Arran; and John (1634-1677), 1st and last Earl of Gowran. He had two daughters, Elizabeth (1640-1665) and Mary (1646-1710). Mary married William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire and Elizabeth, the 2nd Earl of Chesterfield.

Thomas Butler (1634-1682) 6th Earl of Ossory was the father of the 2nd Duke of Ormond. Thomas was a soldier and Naval Commander, known as ‘Gallant Ossory’. Born at Kilkenny Castle in 1634, his childhood was spent at Kilkenny until he went with his father and brother Richard to England in 1647. They then went to France, where he was educated at Caen and Paris at Monsieur de Camps’ Academy. In Holland he married Amelia of Nassau, daughter of Lodewyk van Nassau, Heer van Beverweerd, a natural son of Prince Maurice of Nassau. He was a witness when James, Duke of York (later King James II) secretly married Anne Hyde in 1660.

Thomas enjoyed the favour and support of both King Charles II and his queen. Because of his wife’s Dutch connections he was frequently sent on royal missions to Holland. In 1670 he conducted William of Orange to England. John Evelyn, the diarist, was a close friend and referred to him as ‘a good natured, generous and perfectly obliging friend’. He died suddenly in 1680, possibly from food poisoning, at Arlington House in London. He was buried in Westminster Abbey

Top left: James Butler 2nd Duke of Ormonde (1665-1745), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory. First married Anne Hyde and then Mary Somerset; below him, Mary Somerset (1665-1733), daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. In middle, Thomas Butler (1634-1680), Earl of Ossory, second son of the Duke and Duchess of Ormond and father of 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Mary Somerset’s father top right, Henry Somerset (1629-1700), 1st Duke of Beaufort; below Anne Hyde (1669-1685), the 2nd Duke’s first wife, daughter of Lawrence Hyde, 1st Earl of Rochester, artist: William Wissing (1656-87).

James Butler (1665-1745) 2nd Duke of Ormonde [the final ‘e’ was added to the name around this time] was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Butler 6th Earl of Ossory. Following his father’s death in 1680, James became the heir to his grandfather, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, whom he succeeded in 1688.

Following his involvement in a Jacobite rising, a Bill of Attainder was passed against the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. His English and Scottish honours and his English estates were seized. Ormonde fled to France. He lived out his life in exile, and died at Avignon in France. Despite this, he was buried in 1746 in Westminster Abbey.

James the 2nd Duke had no son, so the title passed to his brother Charles Butler (1671-1758). He was enabled by an Act of Parliament in 1721 to recover his brother’s forfeited estates, but the dukedom ended with him. He was, however, also the 14th Earl of Ormonde and this title continued. He had no children, however, so the title passed to a cousin.

Christopher Butler (d. 1758?), Catholic archbishop of Cashel and Emly, son of Walter Butler of Garryricken and brother of Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash, portrait by James Latham (1696-1747); Charles Butler (1671-1758) 2nd Earl of Arran, youngest son of Thomas Butler Earl of Ossory and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde; Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738) by James Latham. He was the son of Walter Butler and Garryricken and Mary Plunket. He inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard, youngest brother of the Duke of Ormond. His wife was Margaret Burke. Portrait attributed to Hans Hysing (1678-1753).

Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash, County Tipperary was a younger brother of James the 1st Duke of Ormond. There is a castle ruin still in Kilcash, under the protection of the Office of Public Works but not open to the public. His son was Walter Butler of Garryricken (1633-1700). Pictured above are this Walter’s sons Christopher (the Catholic Archbishop) and Thomas (d. 1738).

Walter’s son Thomas (d. 1738) inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash. A Colonel of a Regiment of Foot in the army of King James II, Walter married Margaret Bourke, daughter of William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde, and widow of 5th Viscount Iveagh. It was their son John (d. 1766) who succeeded to the Ormonde titles as 15th Earl of Ormonde in 1758. 

The 15th Earl had no children so the title then passed to a cousin, Walter Butler (1703-1783), another of the Garryricken branch, who also became the 9th Earl of Ossory. He took up residence at Kilkenny Castle. Walter, a Catholic, was unable to exercise a political role. He undertook the restoration of the Castle, decorating some of the rooms with simple late eighteenth century plasterwork, and also built the stable block across the road from the Castle, today the Design Centre and National Craft Centre (also a Section 482 property). He also built the Dower House, now a hotel called Butler House.

He married Eleanor Morres (1711-1793), the daughter of Nicholas Morres of Seapark Court, Co. Dublin, and of Lateragh, Co. Tipperary. After Walter’s death in 1783, she moved  into the Dower House.

Their son John (1740-1795) became known as “Jack of the Castle” and was the 17th Earl. Jack’s sister Susannah married Thomas Kavanagh of Borris House in County Carlow (see my entry about Borris House). Jack married Anne Wandesford, pictured below.

John Wandesford (1725-1784), Earl of Wandesford, father of Anne; below, Susan Frances Elizabeth (Anne) Wandesford (1754-1830), Countess of Ormonde, wife of 17th Earl of Ormonde and mother of 18th Earl, Artist: Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1739-1808); Landscape with Waterfall from the Italian school of 18th century and below, Before the Hunt. To right, Gilbert Clarke (d. 1725), by Sir Godffrey Kneller (1646-1723) and below, possibly Susanna nee Boun, wife of Gilbert Clarke.

Their son Walter (1770-1820) became the 18th Earl and 1st Marquess of Ormonde. He had no sons so his brother James Wandesford Butler (1777-1838) inherited the title of 19th Earl. He became one of the largest landowners in Ireland with an estate worth more than £20,000 a year. He was recreated 1st Marquess of Ormonde in 1825 and officiated as Chief Butler of Ireland at the Coronation of George IV. He married Grace Louisa Staples in 1807, they had ten children.

The Chinese Withdrawing Room. On the walls are remnants of hand painted Chinese wallpaper original to the room with monochrome infill carried out by the studio of David Skinner. This delicate paper was probably ordered as part of the redecorations done to the castle by the 18th Earl, Walter Butler. During the 19th century ladies withdrew here from the dining room leaving the men to enjoy their port and cigars after dinner, as was the social convention.
The Chinese Withdrawing Room. A tulipiére is an ornate vessel in which to grow tulips. They are typically constructed to accommodate one bulb per spout with a larger common water reservoir base. It is usually made of hand crafted pottery, classically delftware. This tulipiére was hand-made in Delft in 2009 as a one off.

James Wandesford Butler the 19th Earl and 1st Marquess undertook more renovations. Mark Bence-Jones describes:

Ca. 1826, the Kilkenny architect, William Robertson, when walking in the castle courtyard with the Lady Ormonde of the day, noticed that a main wall was out of true and consequently unsafe. One suspects it may have been wishful thinking on his part, for it landed him the commission to rebuild the castle, which he did so thoroughly that virtually nothing remains from before his time except for the three old towers, the outer walls and – fortunately – the 2nd Duke’s gateway. Apart from the latter, the exterior of the castle became uncompromisingly C19 feudal; all the 1st Duke’s charming features being swept away. Robertson also replaced one of two missing sides of the courtyard with a new wing containing an immense picture gallery; the original gallery, on the top floor of the principal range, having been divided into bedrooms. Robertson left the interior of the castle extremely dull, with plain or monotonously ribbed ceilings and unvarying Louis Quinze style chimneypieces.

William Robertson also designed a Section 482 property which I have yet to visit, Lismacue in County Tipperary.

Kilkenny Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] The National inventory describes the newer wing: Renovated, 1858-62, with eight-bay two-storey range to north-east reconstructed having canted oriel windows to first floor, and pair of single-bay single-stage corner turrets on octagonal plans
Kilkenny Castle, photograph by me in May 2018.
The Chinese Bedroom is connected to the blue bedroom by double doors [these are on the second floor]. This bedroom is decorated with a modern reproduction of a hand painted Chinese wallpaper, part of the Chinoiserie theme of the room. The wallpaper was based on a design from Lissan House in County Tyrone, owned by the Staples family, Grace Louisa Staples became Marchioness of Ormonde when she married James Butler, 19th Earl, 1st Marquess of Ormonde in 1807.

The 1st Marquess died in Dublin in 1838 and was succeeded by his eldest son John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland (see his portrait below).

John Butler (1808-1854), 2nd Marquess of the 3rd creation, 20th Earl of Ormonde, Earl of Ossory and Viscount Thurles, Baron Ormonde of Lanthony, Chief Butler of Ireland. He died while bathing; Frances Jane Paget in middle (1817-1903), with her son James, Earl of Ossory. She was the daughter of General E. Paget and niece of Field Marshal Henry William Paget, 1st Marquis of Anglesey, and wife of 2nd Marquess of Ormonde. Following the death of her husband, she managed the Ormonde estates and continued the rebuilding of Kilkenny Castle.  On top of the three,  over her father and uncle, is France Jane Paget again, with her dog. Below is her father General the Honourable Edward Paget (1775-1849), soldier and Governor of Ceylon. He was second in command under the Duke of Wellington in the Napoleonic Wards. He lost his right arm in Spain. Below him is Field Marshall Henry William Paget (1768-1854), 1st Marquis of Anglesey, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, brother of Edward, above.

John the 2nd Marquess travelled extensively. His journals (now in National Library of Ireland) record his many journeys across  Europe to Italy and Sicily. He published an account of his travels, Autumn in Sicily, and he also wrote an account of the life of St. Canice. He married Frances Jane Paget in 1843. He continued the work of rebuilding Kilkenny castle that was started by his father. His journals show him to have a deep interest in art, and there are careful descriptions of several of the great galleries in Italy to be found in his writing. Although he continued to write in his journals during the years 1847 to 1850, no mention of the Irish famine is made. He died while bathing in the sea near Loftus hall on Hook Head, Co. Wexford. A marble tomb was erected in his memory in St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny.

The son of the 2nd Marquess, James Edward William Theobald Butler became the 3rd Marquess in 1854. It was during his time that changes were made to the rather plain picture gallery block created by William Robertson. Robertston’s Picture Gallery, in keeping with his work on the rest of the castle, was in a Castellated Baronial style. Initially the gallery was built with a flat roof that had begun to cause problems shortly after its completion. The distinguished architectural firm of Deane and Woodward was called in during the 1860s to make changes to the overall design of the Picture Gallery block, and other corrections to Robertson’s work. These changes included the insertions of four oriels in the west wall and the blocking up of the eight windows, while another oriel added to the east wall.

The Moorish Staircase: Created by the architects Woodward & Deane to allow better access to the Picture Gallery and provide another staircase in this awkwardly shaped building. It is a rising half-turn stairs around a sky-lit well. Charles Harrison (1835-1903), the stone carver, is credited with the carved naturalistic foliage and small animals which adorn the stairs.

The magnificent Picture Gallery is situated in the east wing of Kilkenny Castle.This stunning space dates from the 19th century and was built primarily to house the Butler Family’s fine collection of paintings.

From the website: “… The entire ceiling was hand painted by John Hungerford Pollen (1820-1902), then Professor of Fine Arts at Newman College, Dublin, using a combination of motifs ranging from the quasi-medieval to the pre-Raphaelite, with interlace, gilded animal and bird heads on the cross beam.

The Marble Fireplace is made of Carrara marble and was designed by J. H. Pollen also in a quasi-medieval style. It was supplied by the firm of Ballyntyne of Dorset Street, Dublin. Foliage carving attributed to Charles Harrison covers the chimneypiece and a frieze beneath is decorated with seven panels, showing the family coat of arms and significant episodes from the family’s long history. Starting on the left, the first panel shows the buying the castle by the first Earl of Ormond in 1391 from the Despenser family – money changing hands is shown. The second panel depicts Theobald Fitzwalter acting as Chief Butler to the newly crowned King of England highlighting their ancient royal privilege and upon which their surname of Butler is based. On the third panel, you see King Richard the Second acting as godfather for one of the infants of the Butler family in 1391. The centrepiece is the family crest which can also be seen over the arch and gateway, with the family motto “comme je trouve”- “as I find”, as well as the heraldic shield guarded, the falcon, the griffin (a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle) and the ducal coronet. In the fifth panel, the 1st Duke of Ormond can be seen entering the Irish House of Lords still bearing his sword. Indeed, he refused to hand his weapon over as were the protocols in case it was used inside during an argument; this became known as The Act of Defiance. The sixth panel next to this symbolizes the charity of the Butler family showing Lady Ormonde giving alms to the poor. Finally, the sixth and last panel portrays the First Duke of Ormond’s triumphant return to Dublin from exile on the Restoration of Charles the Second in 1662, when he also established the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham and founded the Phoenix Park.”

From the Poole photographic collection, National Library of Ireland. Royal visitors to the Picture Gallery of Kilkenny Castle: the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary with James Butler the 3rd Marquess of Ormond and his wife Elizabeth Grosvenor, also Two other Ormondes (likely the Marquess’ daughter & brother), Marshal & Lady Roberts (Frederick Roberts & Nora Bews), 4th Viscount & Viscountess De Vesci (John Vesey & Evelyn Charteris), Lady Eva Dugdale (later Lady of the Bedchamber), Earl of Ava (Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood d.1900), Sir Charles Leopold Cust (baronet), Sir Francis De Winton, Mr J. T Seigne JP (officer of Ormonde’s estate – we came across him when we visited Kilfane, as he lived in the house there), and “Mr Moncrieffe” 

The 3rd Marquess’s brother James Arthur Wellington Foley Butler (1849-1943) became 4th Marquess (and 22nd Earl) of Ormonde in 1919. He was educated at Harrow and joined the army becoming a lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards. He was state steward to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In 1887 he married Ellen Stager, daughter of American General Anson Stager.

The Nursery. Boys were usually sent away to boarding school in England at a young age. The Butlers traditionally sent their sons to Harrow. Girls however generally received less formal education at home including sewing, drawing, etiquette and instruction on running a household. 

As I mentioned earlier, it was James Arthur Norman Butler (1893-1971), 6th Marquess and 24th Earl of Ormonde, youngest son of James Arthur, 4th Marquess of Ormonde, who in 1967 sold the Castle.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the interior was largely redecorated and wood-carvings in the manner of Grinling Gibbons were introduced into some of the family rooms in the South Tower after the castle suffered damage 1922 during the Civil War, when, having been occupied by one side, it was attacked and captured by the other; the Earl of Ossory (afterwards 9th Marquess) and his wife being in residence at the time. In 1935 the Ormondes ceased to live in the castle, which for the next thirty years stood empty and deteriorating. It is now a wonderful place to visit, and has fifty acres of rolling parkland, a terraced rose garden, playground, tearoom and man-made lake, for visitors to enjoy.

5. St. Mary’s Church, Gowran, County Kilkenny:

General information: 056 772 6894, breda.lynch@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This church was built in the late thirteenth century as a collegiate church and was served by a college – clerics who lived in a community but did not submit to the rule of a monastery. 

The church was patronised by the Butler family and many early family members are commemorated here with elaborate medieval tombs. The impressive ruins were decorated by the Gowran Master whose stone carvings are immortalised in the poetry of Nobel Laureate Séamus Heaney. 

The once medieval church was later partly reconstructed in the early 19th century and functioned as a Church of Ireland church until the 1970’s when it was gifted to the State as a National Monument. Today the restored part of the church preserves a collection of monuments dating from the 5th to the 20th centuries.

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

[2] https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/explore-the-castle-new/

[3] https://kilkennycastle.ie/about/characters-of-kilkenny-castle/

[4] http://www.stevenroyedwards.com/kilkennycastle-timeline.html

[5] p. 167. 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.

Blarney Castle & Rock Close, Blarney, Co. Cork

contact: C. Colthurst

Tel: 021-4385252

www.blarneycastle.ie

Open dates in 2022: all year except Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, Jan-Feb, Nov-Dec, 9am-4pm,
Mar-Oct, 9am-5pm.
Fee: adult €18, OAP/student €15, child €10, family and season passes.

Blarney Castle, County Cork, June 2022.

We visited Blarney Castle on a trip to Cork in June 2022, choosing to visit on a date when we could also visit Blarney House – see my entry (on its way!).

We have all heard that kissing the Blarney stone gives us the “gift of the gab,” but where did the story come from? Randal MacDonnell, in his book, The Lost Houses of Ireland, tells us that Queen Elizabeth I said of Cormac mac Diarmada MacCarthy (1552-1616), Lord of Muskerry, ‘This is all Blarney; what he says he never means!’ so the term was used as far back as Elizabethan times. The Blarney Stone, set high in the castle under the battlements, was said to have been a gift to the MacCarthy family after sending 5,000 soldiers to help Robert the Bruce (who died in 1329) in battle. It was reputedly the stone that gushed water after Moses struck it, or else it is said to be part of the Stone of Scone, on which the Kings of Scotland were inaugurated. It is also said to be the pillow that Jacob slept upon when he dreamed of angels ascending a ladder to heaven, that was brought from the Holy Land after the Crusades. Frank Keohane tells us bluntly in his description of Blarney Castle in Buildings of Ireland, Cork City and County (published 2020) that it is in fact the lintel to the central machicolation on the south side!

An Irish person can be reluctant to visit Blarney castle, thinking it “stage Irish” with its tradition of kissing the Blarney stone but it is really well worth a visit, including queueing to get to the top of the castle (to kiss the stone, which you can of course skip!), because along the way you can see the interior five storeys of the castle with its many rooms and corridors. Each year around 550,000 tourists visit Blarney Castle.

It is also worth visiting just to wander the seventy acres of gardens, which are beautiful. There’s a coffee shop in the stable yard.

Map of the extensive estate and gardens.
The Stables and Coach Yard have a coffee shop.
This sign board tells us that the castle we see today is the third structure that was erected on the site. In the tenth century there was a wooden hunting lodge. Around 1210 this was replaced by a stone structure, which was demolished for the foundations of the third, current, castle, built by Cormac MacCarthy in 1446.

The castle we see today is the third structure that was erected on the site. In the tenth century there was a wooden hunting lodge. Around 1210 this was replaced by a stone structure, which was demolished for the foundations of the third, current, castle, built by Cormac Laidir (‘the strong’) MacCarthy in 1446. To put it into chronological perspective, this is around the same time that Richard III deposed King Edward V and nearly fifty years before Christopher Columbus “discovered” the “New world” in 1492 (see the terrific chronology outlined in James Lyttelton’s Blarney Castle, An Irish Towerhouse). He built a slender self-contained four storey tower house, which is now called the northwest tower.

The MacCarthy clan had vast estates, and were recognised as Kings of Munster by the lesser Irish chiefs, the sign boards at Blarney tell us. They trace their ancestry back to a chieftain who was converted to Christianity by St. Patrick. Cormac MacCarthy built Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel, 1127-1134, before the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169.

The second, larger, five storey tower was built in the early to mid 16th century.

In 1628 King Charles I created Cormac (Charles) MacCarthy (1564-1640/41) Viscount Muskerry. His father was the 16th Lord of Muskerry – the family gained the title from the English crown in 1353 – and his mother was Mary Butler, daughter of the 1st Baron Caher (of second creation), Theobald, of Cahir Castle in County Tipperary. Viscount Muskerry inherited Blarney in 1616 and undertook alterations, perhaps adding the tall machicolated parapets, and enlarging windows, fitting them with hooded twin and triple light mullioned windows. He married Margaret O’Brien, a daughter of the 4th Earl of Thomond, and secondly, Ellen, widow of Donall MacCarthy Reagh, and daughter of David, seventh Viscount Fermoy. [1]

Viscount Muskerry died in 1640/41, passing the title 2nd Viscount to his son Donnchadh (or Donough). Donough MacCarthy based himself in Macroom, County Cork, and Dublin. Donough and his father were Members of Parliament and sat in the House of Lords in Dublin. He was loyal to the crown in 1641 during the rebellion but afterwards supported the Catholics who sought to be able to keep their lands. The Duke of Ormond sought negotiation between the Confederate Catholics and the crown, and 2nd Viscount Muskerry played an active role in these negotiations. [2] Negotiations were complicated because the lines of disagreement were unclear and as time progressed and more negotiators became involved, goals changed. For some, it was about Catholics being able to own land, for others, to be able to practice their religion freely. Factions fought amongst themselves.

Donough MacCarthy (1594-1665), 2nd Viscount Muskerry and 1st Earl Clancarty, Painted portrait (oil on canvas) at the Hunt Museum, Limerick, Accession number HCP 004. The portrait is part of the original collection donated by antiquarian John Durell Hunt and wife Gertrude Hunt. Other sources suggest it is Donough MacCarthy the 4th Earl Clancarty. I will have to check this!

Further complications arose as Parliament in England was unhappy with the reign of Charles I. Viscount Muskerry was firmly Royalist, along with his brother-in-law the Duke of Ormond. It was at this time that Donough MacCarthy the 2nd Viscount married Eleanor Butler, twin sister of the 1st Duke of Ormond. In 1649, Lord Broghill (Roger Boyle, later created 1st Earl of Orrery) persuaded the towns of Cork, Youghal, Bandon, and Kinsale to declare for Parliament. The division was no longer between Catholics and English rule, but between Royalists and Parliament supporters.

Blarney Castle was taken by Cromwell’s army under Lord Broghill in 1646 and again in 1649 by Oliver Cromwell. The inhabitants and defenders fled via the passageways below the castle and escaped.

It is said that the inhabitants of the castle escaped Cromwell’s army by these routes under the castle.

The 2nd Viscount became the 1st Earl of Clancarty in 1658, raised to the title by the exiled son of King Charles I, who in 1660 became King Charles II. MacCarthy’s property was restored to him by the King.

Charles 3rd Viscount died in the same year as his father (1665), having joined first the French army when in exile from Ireland, and later, the regiment of the Duke of York (who later became King James II). It was therefore his son, Charles James MacCarthy, who became 2nd Earl of Clancarty. The 2nd Earl’s mother was Margaret de Burgh, or Bourke, daughter of the 1st Marquess Clanricarde. The 2nd Earl died in the following year, so the 1st Earl’s second son, Callaghan (1635-1676) became 3rd Earl of Clancarty in 1666. Callaghan converted to Protestantism. He married Elizabeth FitzGerald, daughter of the 16th Earl of Kildare. His younger brother, Justin, was given the title of Viscount Mountcashel.

Jane Ohlmeyer writes of the MacCarthys of Muskerry in her book Making Ireland English:

p. 108: “[the MacCarthys of Muskerry] The family thus enjoyed a formidable range of kinship ties that included the Butlers, of Ormond and Cahir, and the houses of Thomond, Fermoy, Buttevant, Courcy of Kinsale and Kerry. Like Viscount Roche, Muskerry enjoyed a close friendship with the earl of Cork and stood as godfather to one of his youngest children. …Blarney Castle..was the family’s principal residence…. They also resided at Macroom castle in mid-Cork…Though Muskerry retained the traditional customs associated with Gaelic lordship, he also acted as an anglicizing speculator, loaning money and securing lands through mortgages, and as an improving landlord who encouraged English settlers to his estates and especially his main town of Macroom, in mid-Cork.” [see 1]

We saw many means of defense illustrated on our tour of Cahir Castle recently during Heritage Week 2022, and many of these were utilised at Blarney. [see my entry on Cahir Castle in https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/26/opw-sites-in-munster-clare-limerick-and-tipperary/ ] One can see the heavy machicolation, a series of openings in the floor of projecting parapets in castles and tower-houses through which offensive or injurious substances can be dropped on the enemy below.

See the machicolation at the top of Blarney Castle.

The castle rises formidably from the bedrock of solid limestone. Its height gives a view all around for defense.

The castle is built on a bedrock of solid limestone.
Ground level openings.
The ground level entrance we see was a gatehouse that defended the tower. Below the castle is a labyrinth of underground passages and chambers. One chamber may have been used as a prison. Another housed a well.

A bawn surrounded the tower house: a defensive area of about eight acres surrounded by a wall. Maurice Craig tells us in his book The Architecture of Ireland from the Earliest Times to 1880 that the word bawn comes from the Irish name “bádhún” meaning an enclosure for cattle. Animals and people took shelter within the bawn in times of danger. The castle was self-sufficient and the bawn would have been a hive of activity with tanners, blacksmiths, masons, woodcutters, carpenters, livestock keepers, horses, cows, pigs, poultry, butchers, cooks, gardeners and attendants. Part of the bawn wall remains.

View of the bawn wall from the castle.
Defense measures include an Oubliette for unwanted guests, and a murder hole if you gain entry to the tower house.
The tower house rising from the limestone bedrock.
The impressively intact casement oriel window we can see here was the Earl of Clancarty’s bedchamber, probably added in 1616 when Cormac (Charles) MacCarthy (1564-1640/41) Viscount Muskerry inherited and undertook major alterations. Further up, there is a two-light window, which was not made to be glazed so is therefore very old.

Blarney was a typical tower house with four or five storeys, with one or two main chambers and some smaller rooms on each floor. A vaulted stone ceiling served to keep the thin tower structurally sound by tying the walls together and also acted as a firebreak. Blarney was constructed as two towers, one built later (by about 100 years) than the other. At the bottom the walls are about 18 feet thick. When it was first built it would have been covered in plaster and whitewashed to protect it from rainy weather.

The MacCarthys retained Blarney Castle until forced to leave it in the years following the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. They were Jacobites, supporters of King James II, and not supporters of King William III, who was crowned King of England, along with his wife Mary, James II’s daughter, in 1689. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the castle was fortified by Donogh MacCarthy (c. 1668-1734), 4th Earl of Clancarty, who fought for James II in the Williamite War. [3]

The Dictionary of Irish Biography tells us that Donogh MacCarthy the 4th Earl held the office of Lord of the Bedchamber to King James II in Ireland in 1689. MacCarthy fought in the Siege of Cork in 1690, where he was captured, and he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He escaped and fled to France in May 1694. In 1698 he secretly returned to England but was betrayed by his brother-in-law, Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, and was again imprisoned in the Tower. The Dictionary tells us that Lady Russell obtained a pardon for him, on condition he stayed permanently abroad. Lady Rachel Russell, nee Wriothesley, had previously petitioned unsuccessfully for the freedom of her husband, William Lord Russell, who had been arrested as part of the Rye House Plot to kill King Charles II and his brother James.

In exile in France in 1707, Donogh MacCarthy was Lord of the Bedchamber to the titular King James III (so called by the Jacobites who continued to support the Stuarts for the monarchy after William III and Mary had taken the throne). [4] This means he would have known John Baggot of County Cork and Baggotstown, County Limerick, whom I hope was an ancestor of mine (I haven’t been able to trace my family tree back that far). John Baggot married Eleanor Gould, daughter of Ignatius Gould, and fought at the Battle of Aughrim, where he lost an eye. The exiled monarchy recognised his sacrifice and in gratitude, made him groom of the bedchamber to the titular King James III in France also. Those that left Ireland at this time were called the Wild Geese. His son John Baggot subsequently fought in the French army and the other son, Ignatius, in the Spanish army.

There is a terrific summary in plaques in the ground in Limerick city around the Treaty of Limerick stone, on which the Treaty of Limerick was signed in 1691, that tells of the series of battles fought between the troops supporting King James II and the troops supporting King William. One plaque tells us:

Sept 1690 King William returned to England leaving Baron de Ginkel in charge. Cork and Kinsale surrendered to William’s army. Sarsfield rejects Ginkel’s offer of peace. More French help arrives in Limerick as well as a new French leader, the Marquis St. Ruth. Avoiding Limerick, Ginkel attacked Athlone, which guarded the main route into Connaght. 30th June 1691, Athlone surrendered. St. Ruth withdrew to Aughrim. 12th July 1691 The Battle of Aughrim. The bloodiest battle ever fought on Irish soil. The Jacobites were heading for victory when St. Ruth was killed by a cannonball. Without leadership the resistance collapsed and by nightfall, the Williamites had won, with heavy losses on both sides. Most of the Jacobites withdrew to Limerick.

Plaques in the ground of Limerick City around the Treaty of Limerick Stone, about the War of two Kings.
There are many additions to the castle as well as the main keep. This round tower was part of a Gothic mansion built on to the side of the castle by James Jefferyes in 1739.

After the MacCarthys were forced to leave Blarney Castle, it was occupied by the Hollow Sword Blade Company from London. The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us that this company was a forerunner of the disastrously speculative South Sea Company that was attempting to break the Bank of England’s monopoly over Government loans. [5] The Landed Estates database tells us:

The Hollow Sword Blades Company was set up in England in 1691 to make sword blades. In 1703 the company purchased some of the Irish estates forfeited under the Williamite settlement in counties Mayo, Sligo, Galway, and Roscommon. They also bought the forfeited estates of the Earl of Clancarty in counties Cork and Kerry and of Sir Patrick Trant in counties Kerry, Limerick, Kildare, Dublin, King and Queen’s counties (Offaly and Laois). Further lands in counties Limerick, Tipperary, Cork and other counties, formerly the estate of James II were also purchased, also part of the estate of Lord Cahir in county Tipperary. In June 1703 the company bought a large estate in county Cork, confiscated from a number of attainted persons and other lands in counties Waterford and Clare. However within about 10 years the company had sold most of its Irish estates. Francis Edwards, a London merchant, was one of the main purchasers.” [6]

In 1702 the castle was sold to Sir Richard Pyne, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, who sold it the following year, in 1703, to the Governor of Cork, Sir James Jeffereyes (alternatively spelled “Jefferyes”). Richard Pyne also purchased land at Ballyvolane in County Cork, another section 482 property which we have yet to visit!

In 1739 James Jeffereyes built a four storey Gothic style mansion on to the side of the castle, which he called “The Court,” demolishing a former house the MacCarthys had added to the castle. Frank Keohane tells us that the architect may have been Christopher Myers, who had previously rebuilt Glenarm Castle in County Antrim. We can see glimpses of its appearance from the round towers and ruins to one side of the castle, which are the remnants of this grand mansion. The Jefferyes family also laid out a landscape garden at Blarney known as Rock Close, with great stones arranged to look as though they had been put there in prehistoric times. There is a stone over the “wishing steps” inscribed “G. Jefferyes 1759” which commemorates the date of birth of James Jefferyes’s heir. It was a popular tourist destination as early as the 1770s.

Blarney Castle, County Cork 1796 After Thomas Sautelle Roberts, Irish, 1760-1826, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
Pictures of the Gothic house that was built on the side of the castle, on a noticeboard at Blarney.
Ruins of “the Court,” the Gothic house added to the side of the castle by the Jeffereyes. You can see the plaster decoration of a horse over the door. This must have been put up by later owners of the castle as the horse, or colt, is a symbol of the Colthurst family.

We joined the queue to go up the tower. The ground floor is a large vaulted space. We saw the same sort of vaulting in Oranmore Castle in County Galway, which we visited later that week during Heritage Week 2022.

Ground floor of the Castle, a vaulted space.

This room would have been the cellar chamber when first built, and would have had a wooden floor above, supported by still-present stone supports in the walls. The room on the upper wooden floor was the Great Hall. Originally, an information board tells us, the lower storey probably housed servants or junior members of the household. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it had become a wine cellar, as evidenced by some brick-lined shelves.

Ground floor of Blarney Castle.

We can see the arched vaulted ceiling from the ground floor, with indentations left from wickerwork mats that were used, on which the bed of mortar for the roof was set. We saw similar indentations at Trim Castle and the nearby house of St. Mary’s Abbey in Trim, in the basement [see https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/09/17/st-marys-abbey-high-street-trim-co-meath/ ]. The walls would have been covered in tapestries, which were put on the floor at some stage, becoming carpets. The arched ceiling tied the walls of the tower together.

See the remnants of the wickerwork on the vaulted ceiling, and an impressive fireplace remains in what would have been the Great Hall.

Next to the Great Hall was the Earl’s bedroom.

From here we have a good view of the remnants of the Gothic house remnants:

Remnants of the Gothic styled house which had been built onto the castle.

We climbed a stone spiral staircase inside the tower to see the upper chambers. As usual in tower houses, the narrow spiral staircase was built partly for defense.

We next reached the “Young Ladies’ Bedroom.” The noticeboard tells us that three daughters of Cormac Teige MacCarthy (d. 1583), 14th Lord, grew up here.

The room above the Great Hall in the tower would have been the family room.

Remaining plasterwork on the wall in the family room.
One end of the Family Room has a large fireplace, and the Banqueting Hall was on the storey above. The floor of the Banqueting Hall no longer exists, but you can see the fireplace of this room on the right hand side of the photograph.
Continuing our climb up to the top of Blarney Castle, looking down.

The floors of the banqueting hall, above the family room, and the chapel which would have been on the floor above the banqueting hall, are gone, so when you reach the top of the castle, you can look down inside.

Looking down from the battlements at what would have been the chapel (with the arched windows) and the Banqueting Hall below.

In the Chapel, mass would have been said in Latin, and the chaplain acted as tutor to the children also. The builder of Blarney Castle, Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, was a generous patron of the church and he built five churches, including Kilcrea Abbey where he was buried, which became the traditional burial place for the lords of Blarney.

I love how well-preserved the stone door and window frames remain.

The information boards tell us that feasting was part of the way of life at the time and a meal was combined with a night’s entertainment as part of the social life of the Castle. A series of courses would be served, with fish eggs, fowl and roast meat, all highly spiced to keep them fresh. Alcohol served included mead, beer, wine and whiskey. The high ranks sat near the Lord at the top of the table “above the salt” and others sat “below the salt.” As the meal progressed the Chieftain’s Bard would play his harp and sing songs celebrating the prowess of the MacCarthy clan.

The bell-tower, midway along the top of the eastern battlements. The north pilaster supporting the arch is built on top of a chimneystack that served the fireplaces in the Great Hall and the Banqueting Hall.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us that in former times visitors were lowered over the parapet to kiss ‘The Stone’ while gripped firmly by the ankles. The process has become easier and safer today though one still has to lean very far back to kiss the stone, head dangling downward. It has been a popular tourist destination since the days of Queen Victoria. The keep and Blarney stone remains, “despite the osculatory attrition of the eponymous stone by thousands of tourists every year” as Burke’s Peerage tells us with verve! (107th Edition (2003) page 865)

Photograph dated around 1897, National Library of Ireland Creative Commons on flickr.
photo by Chris Hill, 2015, Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.
Winston Churchill at Blarney Stone, 1912.
Photograph from National Library of Ireland Creative Commons.

One can see from the window embrasures how thick the castle walls are. There are passageways within the walls.

Passageways within the thick walls of the castle.

Some passageways lead to ancilliary rooms, sometimes to a garderobe or “bathroom.”

James St. John Jeffereyes (1734-1780) inherited Blarney estate at the age of six. St. John Jeffereyes was an “improving” landlord who sought to aid the welfare of his tenants and maximise profits from his estates. He took an interest in the linen trade developing in County Cork, which processed locally grown flax into linen. St. John Jeffereyes created a village near Blarney Castle in 1765 with a linen mill, bleach mill, weavers’ cottages and a bleach green. The River Martin powered the mills. The rise of cotton, however, proved the downfall of the production of linen. In 1824, Martin Mahon moved his woollen manufacturing business to a former cotton mill in Blarney, to develop Blarney Woollen Mills. James St. John also, with three other landed gentlemen, established the Tonson Warren bank in Cork city (1768). It was a prominent institution in Cork until its failure in 1784, after Jeffereyes’s death.

James St. John Jeffereyes first married Elizabeth Cosby (1721-1788). We came across her when we visited Stradbally in County Laois, which is still owned by the Cosby family. Her father was William Cosby (1690-1736), who was Governor of New York. She had been previously married to Augustus Fitzroy, 2nd Duke of Grafton, who died in 1741. James St. John and Elizabeth’s daughter Lucia served as Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III.

James St. John Jeffereyes married secondly Arabella Fitzgibbon, sister of the 1st Earl of Clare, John Fitzgibbon (1748-1802) (who, by the way, married the daughter of Richard Chapell Whaley, who had the house on St. Stephen’s Green built which now houses the Museum of Literature Ireland (MOLI) – see my entry for MOLI on https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/06/06/covid-19-lockdown-20km-limits-and-places-to-visit-in-dublin/. He was the Lord Chancellor of Ireland who forced the Act of Union through parliament). With Arabella, James had a son and heir, George Jeffereyes (1768-1841).

James’s son George Jeffereyes (1768-1841) married Anne, daughter of the Right Hon. David la Touche of Marlay, the richest man in Ireland and head of the banking dynasty. George’s sisters also married well: Marianne married George Frederick Nugent, 7th Earl of Westmeath; Albinia married Colonel Stephen Francis William Fremantle; and Emilia married Richard Butler, 1st Earl of Glengall.

The Court was destroyed by fire in 1820. Instead of rebuilding, George Jeffereyes and his family moved to Inishera House in West Cork. [7] George and Anne’s son St. John Jeffereyes (1798-1862) inherited Blarney. He had a son, also St. John, who lived in Paris and died in 1898. The estate passed to St. John’s sister Louisa, who married George Colthurst (1824-1878), 5th Baronet Colthurst, of Ardum, Co. Cork. He was a man of property, with another large estate at Ballyvourney near the border with County Kerry, along with Lucan House in County Dublin (currently the Italian ambassador’s residence in Ireland). Blarney remains in the hands of the Colthurst family. Blarney House was built for Louisa and George Colthurst, in 1874.

Blarney House, built for George Colthurst (1824-1878), 5th Baronet Colthurst and his wife Louisa Jeffereyes in 1874, as seen from the top of Blarney Castle.

George Colthurst’s maternal grandmother was Emily La Touche, daughter of David La Touche and Elizabeth Marlay, and paternal grandmother was Emily La Touche’s sister Harriet. Their sister Anne had married George Charles Jeffereyes, Louisa’s grandmother, so Louisa and George were second cousins.

Randall MacDonald tells us in his book The Lost Houses of Ireland. A chronicle of great houses and the families who lived in them:

p. 29 “The Colthursts had arrived in Ireland from Yorkshire towards the end of Elizabeth I’s reign and settled in Cork. Christopher Colthurst was murdered by the rebels in 1641 near Macroom in County Cork. By the 1730s, they were High Sheriffs of County Cork, and in 1744 John Colthurst, who had married the daughter of the 1st Earl of Kerry, Lady Charlotte Fitzmaurice, was created a baronet. It would be uncharitable to suggest that it was his father-in-law’s influence that procured him this advancement. He was Member of Parliament for Doneraile from 1751 (and afterwards for Youghal and Castle Martyr). His son Sir John Colthurst, the 2nd Baronet, was killed in a duel with Dominick Trant in 1787 and the title passed to his brother (MP for Johnstown, Co Longford and then for Castle Martyr until 1795), who married Harriet, daughter of the Right Hon. David la Touche. Sir Nicholas Colthurst, the 4th Baronet, was the MP for the city of Cork from 1812-1829.

It was his son, Sir George Colthurst, the 5th Baronet, who married Louisa Jefferyes of Blarney Castle in 1846.” [8]

The 9th Baronet Colthurst, Richard La Touche Colthurst (1928-2003) married Janet Georgina Wilson Wright, from Coolcarrigan in County Kildare, another section 482 property [ https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/05/31/coolcarrigan-house-and-gardens-coill-dubh-naas-county-kildare/ ]. Their son is the current owner of Blarney Castle and House.

We headed for the coffee shop after our perusal of the Castle. In the yard they have beautiful barrell vaulted wagons, and in the cafe, lovely old travel advertisements.

Individual stables have been made into “snugs” for snacks.

The seventy acres of gardens offer various landscapes. The bawn contains a Poison Garden, or medicinal garden, where various medicinal plants are grown, including poisons such as wolfsbane, ricin, mandrake, opium and cannabis.

The bawn wall and poison garden.

The Rock Close is the garden that was developed by the Jefferyes in the 1750s and echoes Ireland’s ancient past with giant rock formations and hints of Druidic culture. Water running through adds to the beauty, with a lovely waterfall.

We were impressed by the bamboo maze.

My favourite area is the Fern Garden, which feels prehistoric and is extremely picturesque, with raised wooden walkways. We headed to Blarney House, which will be my next entry!

The Fern Garden, which includes lovely wooden walkways.

[1] p. 108. Ohlmeyer, Jane. Making Ireland English: The Irish Aristocracy in the 17th Century.

[2] See Ó Siochrú, Micheál’s entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography: https://www.dib.ie/biography/maccarthy-donough-a5129

[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] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume III, page 216. Quoted on the website The Peerage.com. See also https://www.dib.ie/biography/maccarthy-donogh-a5128

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

[6] https://landedestates.ie/family/2877

[7] see the timeline in James Lyttelton’s Blarney Castle, An Irish Towerhouse.

[8] MacDonnell, Randal. The Lost Houses of Ireland. A chronicle of great houses and the families who lived in them. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. London, 2002.

Places to visit and to stay in County Kildare, Leinster

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

Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

As well as places to visit, I have listed separately places to stay, because some of them are worth visiting – you may be able to visit for afternoon tea or a meal.

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/

Kildare:

1. Blackhall Castle, Calverstown, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare – section 482

2. Burtown House and Garden, Athy, Co. Kildare – section 482

3. Castletown House, County Kildare – OPW

4. Coolcarrigan House & Gardens, Coolcarrigan, Coill Dubh, Naas, Co. Kildare – section 482

5. Donadea Forest Park and ruins of Donadea Castle, County Kildare

6. Farmersvale House, Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare – section 482

7. Griesemount House, Ballitore, Co Kildare – section 482

8. Harristown House, Brannockstown, Co. Kildare – section 482

9. Kildrought House, Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare – section 482

10. Larchill, Kilcock, Co. Kildare – section 482

11. Leixlip Castle, Leixlip, Co. Kildare – section 482

12. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare – OPW

13. Millbrook House, County Kildare: House and limited garden access for groups only

14. Moone Abbey House & Tower, Moone Abbey, Moone, Co. Kildare – section 482

15. Moyglare Glebe, Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare – section 482

16. Steam Museum Lodge Park Heritage Centre, Lodge Park, Straffan, Co. Kildare – section 482

Places to stay, County Kildare:

1. Balyna, Moyvalley, Co Kildare – Moyvalley Hotel 

2. Barberstown Castle, Kildare – hotel 

3. Batty Langley Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare €€

4. Burtown House holiday cottages

5. Carton House, Kildare – open to public, hotel 

6. Castletown Gate Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare: Irish Landmark € for 3

7. Castletown Round House, Celbridge, County Kildare: Irish Landmark € for 3-6 

8. The Cliff at Lyons, County Kildare

9. The K Club, Straffan House, County Kildare

10. Kilkea Castle, Castledermot, Kildare – hotel 

11. Leixlip Manor hotel (formerly St. Catherine’s Park) Leixlip, Co Kildare

12. Martinstown House, Kilcullen, Co Kildare – accommodation  

13. Moone Abbey, County Kildare holiday cottages

Whole house accommodation in County Kildare:

1. de Burgh (or Bert) Manor, Kilberry, County Kildare – whole house accommodation

2. Firmount, Clane, County Kildare – whole house or weddings.

3. Griesemount House, County Kildare

Kildare

1. Blackhall Castle, Calverstown, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare

Blackhall Castle, County Kildare.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/05/14/blackhall-castle-calverstown-kilcullen-county-kildare/
contact: Jeffrey & Naomi White
Tel: 087-6771661
Open: May 1-31, Aug 13-22, Sept 1-15, Dec 1-20, 2pm-6pm Fee: Free

2. Burtown House and Garden, Athy, Co. Kildare – section 482

Burtown House, County Kildare, June 2021.

contact: James Fennell
Tel: 059-8623148
www.burtownhouse.ie
Open: May 4-7, 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, June 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, July 6-9, 13-16, 19-23, 27-30, August 3-6, 10-21, 24-27, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €5, child under €5 free

Burtown House and Gardens, Athy, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2022, Courtesy Failte Ireland

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

Ballytore, in County Kildare, was a stronghold of the Irish Quakers and the centre of a sizeable Quaker community. One of their members, Robert Power, built Burtown House as the hub of a two thousand acre farming enterprise in the 1720s. His Georgian villa, shown on early maps as “Power’s Grove,” was only one room deep so wings were added later in the century. These were subsequently removed, though their faint outlines can still be identified and Burtown was further extended in the early nineteenth century when a full height bow was added on the garden front. 

The new extension provided a bow ended room on the garden front, a large bedroom above and a grand staircase, lit by a tall round-headed window. Pretty plasterwork in the manner of James Wyatt was also introduced at the time, most notably in an arched alcove in the bow-ended room, which is likely to have been the original dining room. The alcove is filled with a shallow fan, and delightfully cursive sprays of vine leaves, and is flanked by a pair of classical vases on pilasters of foliage with naive Corinthian capitals.

Burtown has never been sold in all its three hundred years. The house passed from the Power family to the Houghtons and thence to the Wakefields, who gave it a new roof with widely projecting eaves in the early nineteenth century. They also lengthened the sash windows, installed a new front door with a fanlight in a deep recess, and carried out a number of other alterations.

When Mr. Wakefield was killed playing cricket Burtown passed to his sister, who had married a fellow Quaker from County Tipperary, William Fennell. Their son, William James was a keen horseman but “was asked to leave the Quaker congregation because of his fondness for driving a carriage with two uniformed flunkeys on the back”.

Today Burtown is in the midst of two hundred acres of parkland, including ten acres of lush flower, vegetable and woodland gardens with many fine walks. The house has now been home to five generations of the Fennell family, and to the acclaimed botanical artist and illustrator, Wendy Walsh. Coincidentally, the leading Irish botanical artist of the early twentieth century, Lydia Shackleton, also came from the same small Quaker community.” [1]

3. Castletown House, County Kildare – OPW

The Print Room, Castletown House, County Kildare.

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

4. Coolcarrigan House & Gardens, Coolcarrigan, Coill Dubh, Naas, Co. Kildare – section 482

Coolcarrigan, County Kildare, September 2019.

See my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/05/31/coolcarrigan-house-and-gardens-coill-dubh-naas-county-kildare/
contact: Robert Wilson-Wright
Tel: 086-2580439
www.coolcarrigan.ie
Open: Feb 1-4, 21-25, Mar 1-4, April 23-29, May 9-17, Aug 13-31, Sept 1-9, 14-16, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €8, OAP/student €5, child free

5. Donadea Forest Park and ruins of Donadea Castle, County Kildare

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

https://www.coillte.ie/site/donadea-forest-park/

The website tells us:

Donadea Forest Park includes Donadea Castle and estate, the former home of the Aylmer family up until 1935. There are many historical features including the remains of the castle and walled gardens, St. Peter’s church, an ice house and boat house. The Lime tree avenue planted in the 19th century formed the original entrance to the estate. Another feature of the park is the 9/11 Memorial, a scaled replica of the twin towers carved in limestone. The small lake is brimming with ducks, waterhens and has a beautiful display of water lilies in the summer. There is a café open throughout the year.

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.
It has looked much the same for over fifty years: Donadea County Kildare by James P. O’Dea Circa 1958 National Library of Ireland on flickr

In 1581 Gerald Aylmer, (1548-1634), Knight, of Donadea, son of George Aylmer, of Cloncurry, and grandson of Richard Aylmer, of Lyons, built a new tower in Donadea, not fully completed until 1624 and it is now the oldest part of the Castle. [2]

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

In 1626, he repaired the medieval Church in Donadea and built a new extension in which he established his family burial plot. In the extension he also constructed an Altar Tomb monument as a burial memorial for his family. Gerald was titled by the Crown and became the first Baronet of Donadea.  
 
The Aylmers were connected with the various conflicts and rebellions over the next two centuries. During the wars of the 1640s, Sir Andrew, 2nd Baronet (c. 1610-c. 1671), supported the rebels and was imprisoned at the beginning of the war. 
 
Although he was a brother-in-law of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, there were no favours granted to him. The Aylmers rebuilt the castle after it was burned by James Butler’s troops. 

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

In 1689, after the battle of the Boyne, Lady Helen Aylmer, widow of the 3rd Baronet, (born Plunkett, daughter of Luke Plunkett 3rd Earl of Fingall) was in charge of the Castle. She was outlawed due to her support for James II, but she managed to hold on to the Castle and lands under the terms of the Treaty of Limerick. 

In 1736, Sir Gerald, 5th Baronet, died leaving an only son FitzGerald who became the 6th Baronet. 

He was only one year old when his father died and was subsequently raised by his mother (Ellice or Ellen, daughter of Gerald Aylmer, 2nd Baronet of Balrath, County Meath) and her relatives who were members of the established church. FitzGerald subsequently conformed to the established religion. In 1773, he built a new house in front of the Castle and incorporated the Tower in his new residence. 

Donadea Castle, County Kildare, Septemeber 2017.

Gerald, 8th Baronet, held the lands of Donadea between 1816 and 1878 and he is accredited with most of the construction work that is visible in Donadea demesne today. He began his building program in the 1820s by re-routing the roads away from the Castle and the construction of a high wall enclosing the demesne. Gate lodges were then built at all the entrances. 

He also built a new grand entrance known as the Lime Avenue. 

In 1827 he completely remodelled the front of the Castle which gave it an attractive bow shaped appearance. It has been suggested that he employed the renowned architect Richard Morrison to design this new structure. 

The older cabin-type dwellings close to the castle were demolished and new estate houses built at the Range. To the west of the Castle he built an eight acre area of gardens and paddocks, surrounded and sub-divided by walls. In the Castle yard he built dwellings for staff and elaborative farm buildings. He also constructed the artificial lake and the Ice House. Large areas of the demesne were planted and, by the time of his death, Donadea demesne was listed as one of the finest parkland settings in the county. 

Outside the demesne he was involved in numerous construction projects including the famous ‘Aylmer Folly’, viz. the Tower on the summit of the hill of Allen. (see [2]) Sir Gerald’s grandson Justin, 10th Baronet, died unmarried in 1885. His sister Caroline inherited the castle and much of the demesne, while the baronetcy passed to a cousin. Caroline Maria Aylmer, who was the daughter of Sir Gerald George Aylmer, 9th Baronet, was the last Aylmer to live at Donadea. She died in 1935, leaving the estate to the Church of Ireland who, in turn, passed it bequeathed to the Irish state. 

The castle remained unoccupied and its roof was removed in the late 1950s. 

For more on the Aylmer family, see The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of County Kildare by Turtle Bunbury & Art Kavanagh (published by Irish Family Names, 2004). 

6. Farmersvale House, Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare – section 482

Farmersvale House, County Kildare, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Patricia Orr
Tel: 086-2552661
Open: May 1-18, Aug 1-22, Dec 1-20, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: adult €5, student/child/OAP €3, (Irish Georgian Society members free)

7. Griesemount House, Ballitore, Co Kildare – section 482

contact: Katharine Bulbulia
Tel: 087-2414556
www.griesemounthouse.ie
Open: April 4-8, 25-29, May 3-17, June 7-10, 13-26, July 4-8, 11-15, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child €3

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

In 1685, the village of Ballitore on the river Griese in the southern corner of County Kildare became the first planned Quaker village in England and Ireland. The Shackleton family from Yorkshire settled here some decades later and besides establishing wool and corn mills, founded the famous village school in 1726. Thanks to an entry by Mary (née Shackleton) Leadbetter in her ‘Annals of Ballitore’, we know that the first stone of Griesemount House (also known as Ballitore Hill House) was laid on Midsummer Day in 1817. While the three-bay side elevation is symmetrical, the two-bay front façade with the front door under the left window is quite modest, as was often the case with Quaker houses. It was built by George Shackleton, who had grown up in Griesebank House beside the now-ruinous Ballitore Mills on the river just below. He married Hannah Fisher and they raised 13 children in the new house, including the noted botanical artist Lydia Shackleton, the first artist-in-residence at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin. One of her first recorded sketches is of the house. The family lived here until the early 20th century; the house then changed hands several times. It was briefly owned and restored by the mother of mezzosoprano Frederica von Stade, and has recently come into new ownership.” [3]

8. Harristown House, Brannockstown, Co. Kildare – section 482

Harristown House, County Kildare, August 2019.

See my write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/27/harristown-brannockstown-county-kildare/
contact: Hubert Beaumont
Tel: 087-2588775
https://www.harristownhouse.ie/
Open: Jan 3-14, Feb 21-28, Mar 1-4, May 3-13, June 13-26, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-9, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €10, child €5

9. Kildrought House, Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: June Stuart
Tel: 01-6271206, 087-6168651
Open: Jan 15-31, Feb 1-3, May 16-31, June 1-3, Aug 11-31, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3, child under 5 years free, school groups €2 per head

See my entry, on its way!

Kildrought, County Kildare.

10. Larchill, Kilcock, Co. Kildare – section 482

Larchill, County Kildare.

contact: Michael De Las Casas
Tel: 087-2213038
www.larchill.ie
Open: May 1-20, 23-31, June 1-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, Aug 13-21, 27-28, 10am- 2pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €8, child €4, concession for groups

See my entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/09/02/larchill-kilcock-co-kildare/

11. Leixlip Castle, Leixlip, Co. Kildare – section 482

Leixlip Castle, County Kildare, June 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/04/leixlip-castle-county-kildare-desmond-guinnesss-jewelbox-of-treasures/
contact: Penelope Guinness
Tel: 01-6244430
Open: Jan 31, Feb 1-4, 7-11, Mar 28-31, Apr 1, 4-8, May 9-20, June 7-17, Aug 13-22, Sept 5-11, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €4, concessions no charge for school groups

12. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare – OPW

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

13. Millbrook House, County Kildare:

House and limited garden access for groups only

Minimum 4, maximum 8 visitors

May to September: 

Monday-Thursday, 11 am to 3 pm

Open during Heritage Week. The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

The forebears of the Greenes of Millbrook House in the far south of County Kildare lived at Kilmanaghan Castle and Moorestown Castle [now a ruin] in County Tipperary. A great grandson of the family patriarch Captain Godfrey Greene moved up to settle near Carlow. William Nassau Greene (1714-1781) was a businessman and magistrate, and built a residence known as Kilkea Lodge (c. 1740) adjacent to the ancient Fitzgerald seat at Kilkea Castle, where his descendants are still resident. A younger son, John (1751-1819), who became High Sheriff of Kildare and Captain of the Castledermot Yeomanry, built a neighbouring house at Millbrook with the help of his father. It was completed in 1776 with its attendant mill and millrace off the River Griese, which had replaced an earlier mill in the nearby Kilkea Castle demesne. The house passed through generations of the family until finally the mill ceased operating under Thomas Greene (1843-1900), a poet and author who was made High Sheriff of Kildare in 1895. The house was left by inheritance to one of the cousins from Kilkea Lodge, father of the present owner. Throughout WWII, he had served as a frontline doctor in the 4th Indian Division in North Africa, Italy and Greece, and returned with his wife in 1950 to an utterly neglected house. Millbrook is still in the process of being restored to its former state.” [5]

See also the entry by Robert O’Byrne, https://theirishaesthete.com/tag/millbrook/

14. Moone Abbey House & Tower, Moone Abbey, Moone, Co. Kildare – section 482

Moone Abbey House, County Kildare, May 2019.

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/06/13/moone-abbey-house-and-tower-moone-county-kildare/
contact: Jennifer Matuschka
Tel: 087-6900138
Open: May 1-31, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-20, 12 noon- 4pm Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €4

15. Moyglare Glebe, Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: Joan Hayden
Tel: 01-8722238
Open: Jan 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 8.30am-12.30pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

16. Steam Museum Lodge Park Heritage Centre, Lodge Park, Straffan, Co. Kildare – section 482

contact: Robert C Guinness
Tel: 01-6288412
www.steam-museum.com
Open: June 1-6, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29-30, July 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-31, Aug 1, 3-7, 10-21, 24-28, 31, 2pm-6pm,
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/child/student €5, concession by negotiation

Lodge Park, photograph courtesy of Historic Houses of Ireland.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us about Lodge Park:

Lodge Park, overlooking a fine stretch of the River Liffey, was built by Hugh Henry who had married his cousin, Lady Anne Leeson from Russborough [daughter of Joseph Leeson 1st Earl of Milltown]. Completed in about 1776, the centre block forms the core of an unusual composition with curved quadrants leading to a pair of two-storey wings, both attached to two further pavilions by curtain walls to form a unique elongated ensemble of five interconnected buildings, “perhaps the most extreme example of the Irish Palladian style.”

Henry’s father was the merchant banker Hugh Henry, who had purchased the entire Straffan estate with 7,000 acres. Lodge Park was long thought to be the last building by Nathaniel Clements, who died in 1777, but has now been attributed to John Ensor. The hipped roof is surrounded by a granite-topped parapet, and the walls are finished in rough cast, with ashlar block quoins and granite window surrounds with detailing. It is Ireland’s best exampe of concatenation, having curtain walls attached to the main house, leading to two pavilions, attached by two gateways to two further buildings. Hugh’s son Arthur built the Victorian walled garden, now beautifully restored and open to the public, as well as the fine gate lodge. The house was bought by the Guinness family in 1948. 

The walled garden has been beautifully restored while a disused Victorian church has been re-erected in the grounds to house a magnificent Steam Museum with early inventor’s models, scientific engineering models and historic works of mechanical art. The Power Hall displays six huge stationary steam engines, which are run on special occasions.https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Lodge%20Park

Places to stay, County Kildare:

1. Balyna, Moyvalley, Co Kildare – weddings, accommodation 

Now called Moyvalley Hotel. https://www.moyvalley.com/aboutus.html

The website tells us:

Balyna House lies to the south of Moyvalley Bridge over the Grand Canal, about half way between Enfield and Kinnegad on the old Dublin — Galway road. The house lies in the centre of the estates 500 acres. Balyna Estate was granted in 1574 by Queen Elizabeth I to the O’Moore family because they had lost their land in Laois and were reinstated in Balyna.

Major Ambrose O’Ferrall married Letitia More in 1796. Their  eldest son Richard More O’Ferrall was born in 1797. [ I don’t think this is correct. I believe that Letitia More married Richard O’Ferrall (1729-1790) and that their son was Ambrose More O’Ferrall who married Ann Baggot daughter of John Baggot of Castle Baggot, Rathcoole. Richard More O’Ferrall (1797-1880) was their son]. He is reputed for having been responsible for the erection of the Celtic cross which now stands to the rear of the house. It is said that this Cross, along with another was  transported from Europe, the two being encased in wooden crates and towed behind the ship on a barge. Legend has it that one was lost at sea, but its twin survives to this day.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 30. [More O’Ferrall] “The ancestral home of the O’More family, the land having been granted to them by Eliz I as a small compensation for their forfeited territories in Laois… A new house was built 1815, which was burnt 1878; this was replaced by the present house, built 1880s. It is slightly Italianate, with a Mansard roof carried on a bracket cornice; of 2 storeys with a dormered attic. Entrance front with two 3 sided bows and a single-storey Ionic portico, 5 by garden front with pediment, the windows on either side being larger than those in the centre. Imposing staircase with handrail of decorative ironwork; ceiling of staircase hall has modillion cornice. Chapel in garden. Sold 1960s, subsequently owned by Bewleys Oriental Cafe Ltd” [6]

The website continues: “The first real record of any house dates from 1815 when Ambrose built a large mansion. That Georgian house was burned down and replaced in the 1880’s by the present Italianate mansion.

The estate was a refuge for bishops and priests for centuries and Dr. Forstall, Bishop of Kildare, ordained priests here in the year 1678 — 1680. For this loyalty, the family was granted Papal permission to build a private Chapel on the estate (located to the rear of the house) and up to approximately 1914 Sunday Mass was offered. It was only used intermittently after that, with the last occasion being in the summer of 1959.

The estate remained in the More O’Ferrall family until May 1960 when it was sold to the Bewley family (of Café fame). The wonderful milk and cream in the Cafes came from the pedigree Jersey herd at Balyna. In 1984 the estate was sold to Justin Keating; it was sold again in 1990-1991 to George Grant. Moyvalley was developed into a Hotel & Golf Resort in 2007.

Balyna House consists of 10 luxurious ensuite bedrooms, 3 reception rooms to cater for up to 100 guests, Balyna Bar and Cellar Bar. The house is available exclusively for private events and weddings.

In 2014 the resort was purchased by the late Oliver Brady (well-known horse trainer from Co. Monaghan) with his business partner a well know entrepreneur Rita Shah owner of Shabra Recycling Plastic’s Group, Thai business woman Jane Tripipatkul and her son Mark McCarthy who are based in London.

It is likely that several Irish and European military campaigns were discussed and argued over at Balyna, as apart from the fierce-some O’More’s and the well documented Irish battles in which they took part, several later generations saw service in European armies. All three sons of Richard and Letitia O’Ferrall saw service abroad. The eldest, Ambrose, and his youngest brother, Charles, rose to the rank of Major in the Royal Sardinian Army, while the middle brother, James attained the rank of Major General in the Austrian Hohenzollern Army.

Incidentally, there was a Bagot family of “Castle Baggot” in Rathcoole, and neither son had children so all the Bagot property, which included land around Smithfield in Dublin and extensive property in County Carlow, passed to the daughter, Ann, who married the above-mentioned Ambrose More O’Ferrall.

As a digression, it is worth noting that Rory O’ More’s eldest daughter, Anne, married Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan and famous military leader. His father in law was the man behind the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

King James had adopted the policy of remodelling the Irish army so as to turn it from a Protestant-led force to a Roman Catholic led one, and Sarsfield, whose family were Roman Catholics, was selected to assist in this reorganisation. Colonel Sarsfield went to Ireland with Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell , who was appointed commander-in-chief by the king.

2. Barberstown Castle, Kildare – hotel 

www.barberstowncastle.ie

Barberstown Castle, photograph courtesy of barberstowncastle.ie

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 31. “A tower-house with a long plain 2 storey wing attached. In 1814, the residence of Jos Atkinson, in 1837, of Capt Robinson.” 

The website gives a timeline:

“1288: Nicholas Barby built the original Castle towards the end of the 13th Century on the land which was originally owned by the Great Norman family the Fitzgerald’s.

1310: The Castle was built as a fortress to protect the village and people of Barberstown from the attack of the rebellious Ui Faolain tribesmen who tried to burn the town (among others) in 1310. It has traditionally found itself in the middle of political struggle and local wars which generally resulted in change of ownership.

Retaining Ownership: Some of its previous owners have gone to extreme lengths to retain ownership. Just how far some went is illustrated by the story of the body that is said to be interred in the tower of the Castle Keep (the original part of the Castle). His fate can be explained by reading the lease on the Castle at the time in which was written that the lease would expire when he was buried underground (ie. his death). The ending of a lease normally resulted in an increase in rent so after the man’s death he was buried in the tower above the earth which ensured the family continued to hold the lease to the Castle!

The walls of the Castle Keep walls slope inwards so as to prevent an enemy getting out of range by closing up to the building. Ironically however the rooms on the upper floors of the Castle are larger than those on the ground level as their walls are somewhat thinner.

Penal Times: The neighbouring village of Straffan is named after St. Straffan, one of the early sixth century missionaries. Its close linkages with the local town and people were proven when an underground tunnel from the Church in Straffan to the Castle was found in 1996 during renovations. A ‘Priest’s Hole’ can be also found in the Castle which was originally made to protect the priests of the town during Penal Times.

1630: William Sutton of one of the most important families in the area owned the property. The population of Barberstown at the time was 36!

1689: Lord Kingston [I’m not sure who they mean here – Robert King (d. 1693) was the 2nd Baron of Kingston at the time] had his ownership confiscated by Earl of Tyrconnell after the accession to power of James 11 of England. It was around this time that it fell into the less glamorous hands of the Commissioners of the Revenue who let it out to a Roger Kelly for £102 annual rent in the late 1600s.

1703: It was purchased by Bartholomew Van Homreigh in 1703 for £1,033 the sixth owner in six years. At the time the property was 335 acres. Van Homreigh had been mayor of Dublin in 1697 and his greatest ‘claim to fame’ lies in the fact that he was the father of Vanessa of whom Swift wrote so passionately about. He sold it to the Henrys who were prone to excessive spending at the time….

1830: The Henry’s had no option but to sell it to Mr. Hugh Barton [1766-1854] who completed the last wing of the house in the 1830s which added to the present day unique architectural status of Barberstown. He is also famed for constructing Straffan House known today at the K-Club.

1900: As the property became too expensive to retain as a residence, the Huddlestons who owned Barberstown Castle in the 1900s sold it to Mrs. Norah Devlin who converted it into a hotel in 1971. Barberstown was one of the first great Irish country houses to display its splendour to the outside world when it opened as a hotel in 1971. It has maintained the elegance of design over the centuries by sympathetically blending its Victorian and Elizabethan extensions with the original Castle Keep.

1979: The acclaimed Musician, Singer, Songwriter & Record Producer Mr. Eric Clapton CBE purchased the property in 1979 and lived in the property until 1987. Music sessions took place in the Green Room and original Castle Keep during the time Eric lived here with many famous Rockstars from all over the world coming here to stay.

1987 to Present Day: Upon purchasing Barberstown Castle from Eric Clapton in 1987, this beautiful historic house has since been transformed from a 10-bedroom property with three bathrooms to a 55-bedroom Failte Ireland approved 4 Star Hotel. They are a proud member of Ireland’s Blue Book of properties and Historic Hotels of Europe.

Since 1288 Barberstown has had 37 owners all of whom had the foresight to protect its heritage and character. Look out for the names of all the owners of Barberstown Castle painted on the bedroom doors of the hotel!”

3. Batty Langley Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare €€

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

Batty Langley Lodge, Castletown, County Kildare.

One of the entrances to the Castletown demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley (1696-1751) 1741. Batty Langley was an English garden designer who produced a number of engraved “Gothick” designs for garden buildings and seats. He was named “Batty” after his father’s patron, David Batty. He also published a wide range of architectural books.

4. Burtown House holiday cottages – see above

www.burtownhouse.ie

5. Carton House, Kildare – open to public, hotel 

https://www.cartonhouse.com/

The house was built in 1739 to designs by Richard Castle and remodelled in 1815 by Richard Morrison. This is now the front of the building – it was formerly the back, and was changed when Richard Morrison carried out the remodelling.

The website tells us that the name ‘Carton’ comes from the old Irish name ‘Baile an Cairthe’ or Land of the Pillar Stone.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Carton (1988):

p. 60. “(Talbot de Malahide, B/PB; Fitzgerald, Leinster, D/PB; Nall-Cain, sub Brocket, P/BP) The lands of Carton always belonged to the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare, whose chief castle was nearby, at Maynooth; in C17, however, they were leased to a junior branch of the Talbots of Malahide, who built the original house there.”

The Carton website tells us that the lands of Carton first came into the ownership of the FitzGerald family shortly after Maurice FitzGerald (d. 1176) played an active role in the capture of Dublin by the Normans in 1170 and was rewarded by being appointed Lord of Maynooth, an area covering townlands which include what is now Carton. The website goes on to tell us:

His son became Baron Offaly in 1205 [Gerald FitzMaurice FitzGerald, d. 1203] and his descendant John FitzGerald [5th Baron Offaly, d. 1316], became Earl of Kildare in 1315. Under the eighth earl, [Gerald FitzGerald (1455-1513)] the FitzGerald family reached pre-eminence as the virtual rulers of Ireland between 1477 and 1513.

However, the eighth earl’s grandson, the eloquently titled Silken Thomas [the 10th Earl of Kildare] was executed in 1537, with his five uncles, for leading an uprising against the English. Although the FitzGeralds subsequently regained their land and titles, they did not regain their position at the English Court until the 18th century when Robert, the 19th Earl of Kildare, became a noted statesman.

It surprises me that after Silken Thomas’s rebellion that his brother was restored to the title and became the 11th Earl on 23 February 1568/69, restored by Act of Parliament, about thirty years after his brother was executed.

It was William Talbot, Recorder of the city of Dublin, who leased the lands from Gerald FitzGerald, 14th Earl of Kildare (1547-1612). William Talbot was created 1st Baronet Talbot, of Carton, Co. Kildare on 4 February 1622/23. He was MP for Kildare in 1613-1615. He built a house at Carton. His son Richard was created 1st Duke of Tyrconnell in 1689 by King James II, after he had been James’s Groom of the Bedchamber. He fought in the Battle of the Boyne and was loyal to the Stuarts, so was stripped of his honours when William of Orange (William III) came to power.

Tyrconnell Tower in grounds of Carton House, photograph 2014 for Tourism Ireland. (see [7])

Richard Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnell (1630-1691), courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “After the attainder of Richard Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnell, James II’s Lord Deputy of Ireland, Carton was forfeited to the crown and sold 1703 to Major-Gen Richard Ingoldsby, Master-General of the Ordnance and a Lord Justice of Ireland; who added a two storey nine bay pedimented front to the old house, with wings joined to the main block by curved sweeps, in the Palladian manner. In 1739 Thomas Ingoldsby sold the reversion of the lease back to 19th Earl of Kildare [Robert FitzGerald (1675-1744)], who decided to make Carton his principal seat and employed Richard Castle to enlarge and improve the house.

Richard Ingoldsby (c.1664/5–1712) was the son of George, who came to Ireland with the Cromwellian army in 1651 and became a prominent landowner in Limerick. Richard fought in the Williamite army. The Dictionary of Irish Biography tells us that Richard Ingoldsby purchased Carton House and demesne in Co. Kildare for £1,800 in 1703 from the Talbot family. He also owned a town house in Mary St., Dublin. He married Frances, daughter of Col. James Naper of Co. Meath; they had at least one son, Henry Ingoldsby (d. 1731). Henry lived the high life in London and Carton had to be sold to pay his debts in 1738, and he sold it back to Robert Fitzgerald the 19th Earl of Kildare.

Robert FitzGerald the 19th Earl of Kildare married Mary O’Brien, daughter of William, 3rd Earl of Inchiquin.

Bence-Jones continues: “Castle’s rebuilding obliterated all traces of the earlier house, except for a cornice on what is now the entrance front and the unusually thick interior walls. He added a storey, and lengthened the house by adding a projecting bay at either end; he also refaced it. He gave the entrance front a pediment, like its predecessor; but the general effect of the three storey 11 bay front, which has a Venetian window in the middle storey of each of its end bays, is one of massive plainness. As before, the house was joined to flanking office wings; but instead of simple curved sweeps, there were now curved colonnades.”

Carton House 2014, for Failte Ireland (see [7])
The Garden Front of Carton House, July 2022. It was initially the front of the house.

The Archiseek website tells us:

In 1739, the 19th Earl of Kildare employed Richard Castle to build the existing house replacing an earlier building. Castle (originally Cassels) was responsible for many of the great Irish houses, including Summerhill, Westport, Powerscourt House and in 1745, Leinster House, which he also built for the FitzGeralds.

Leinster House, also built by Richard Castle for the FitzGeralds.
The garden front of Carton House. The house was built in 1739 to designs by Richard Castle and remodelled in 1815 by Richard Morrison.

There is a projecting bay on either side of the garden front facade with a Venetian window in the middle storey of either projecting bay. According to Mark Bence-Jones, these were designed by Richard Castle. The flanking wings were joined initially by curved colonnades, later replaced by straight connecting links.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The work was completed after the death of 19th Earl for his son [James (1722-1773)], 20th Earl, who later became 1st Duke of Leinster and was the husband of the beautiful Emily, Duchess of Leinster [Emily Lennox, daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond] and the father of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the United Irish Leader.”

James Fitzgerald, 20th Earl of Kildare, later 1st Duke of Leinster by Robert Hunter, Irish, 1715/1720-c.1803. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
Emilia Mary, Countess of Kildare (née Lennox), (1731-1814), Wife of the 20th Earl of Kildare and future 1st Duke of Leinster After Joshua Reynolds, English, 1723-1792, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
Portrait of Emilia Mary, Duchess of Leinster, (née Lennox), (1731-1814), Wife of the 1st Duke of Leinster, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

They certainly were a rebellious family! It is said that this saved the house from being burnt by Irish rebels in 1920s, as a portrait of Edward Fitzgerald the United Irishman was shown to the would-be arsonists. Emily Lennox’s sister, Louisa, married Thomas Conolly and lived across the parkland in Castletown House. Stella Tillyard writes of the life and times of the sisters, Emily and Louisa and it was made into a mini series for the BBC, entitled “The Aristocrats” which was filmed on site at Carton House. I’d love to read the book and see the movie! She also wrote about Edward FitzGerald.

William Robert Fitzgerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster, (1749-1804) Date 1775 by Engraver John Dixon, Irish, c.1740-1811 After Joshua Reynolds, English, 1723-1792. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Emilia Olivia, Duchess of Leinster (née Usher St. George), (1759-1798), wife of the 2nd Duke of Leinster Date 1780 Engraver William Dickinson, English, 1746-1823 After Joshua Reynolds, English, 1723-1792, courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “3rd Duke, Lord Edward’s nephew, [Augustus Frederick Fitzgerald (1791-1874)] employed Sir Richard Morrison to enlarge and remodel the house ca 1815, having sold Leinster House in Dublin. Morrison replaced the curved colonnades with straight connecting links containing additional rooms behind colonnades of coupled Doric columns, so as to form a longer enfilade along what was now the garden front; for he moved the entrance to the other front [the north side], which is also of 11 bays with projecting end bays, but has no pediment. The former music room on this side of the house became the hall; it is unassuming for the hall of so important a house, with plain Doric columns at each end. On one side is a staircase hall by Morrison, again very unassuming; indeed, with the exception of the great dining room, Morrison’s interiors at Carton lack his customary neo-Classical opulence.”

Augustus Frederick FitzGerald, 3rd Duke of Leinster, (1791-1874) Engraver George Sanders, Scottish, 1810-c.1876 After Stephen Catterson Smith, Irish, 1806-1872. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Archiseek continues: “Carton remained in the control of the FitzGeralds until the early 1920s when the 7th Duke sold the estate and house to pay off gambling debts of £67,500. In 2000, Carton was redeveloped as a “premier golf resort and hotel”. A hotel was added to the main house, and the estate’s eighteenth-century grounds and landscaping were converted into two golf courses.” [8]

Carton, Image for Country Life, by Paul Barker.
The coat of arms in the pediment on the garden front of Carton House.
The Chinese Room at Carton House, decorated by Emily, Countess of Kildare in the mid 18th century. Above the chimneypiece is a Chippendale mirror erupting into a series of gilded branches, some of which are sconces. Pub.  Orig Country Life 18/02/2009  vol CCIII

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “Beyond the staircase, on the ground floor, is the Chinese bedroom, where Queen Victoria slept when she stayed here; it remains as it was when decorated 1759, with Chinese paper and a Chinese Chippendale giltwood overmantel. The other surviving mid-C18 interior is the saloon, originally the dining room, in the garden front, dating from 1739 and one of the most beautiful rooms in Ireland. It rises through two storeys and has a deeply coved ceiling of Baroque plasterwork by the Francini brothers representing “the Courtship of the Gods”; the plasterwork, like the decoration on the walls, being picked out in gilt. At one end of the room is an organ installed 1857, its elaborate Baroque case designed by Lord Gerald Fitzgerald [1821-1886], a son of the 3rd Duke.

The Gold Saloon, Carton House.
The Gold Saloon at Carton House, which was originally known as the Eating Parlour. The organ case was designed by Lord Gerald FitzGerald in 1857.
The Gold Saloon at Carton House, which was originally known as the Eating Parlour. Country Life archives, for 18/02/2009 [not used] 
The Courtship of the Gods in the Gold Saloon at Carton House. It dates from 1739 and was executed by the Lafranchini brothers. Cupids hang from wreaths and further putti sit on the cornice. Beneath this is a frieze with pairs of creatures and a series of masks and scallop shells.

The door at this end of the saloon leads, by way of an anteroom, to Morrison’s great dining room, which has a screen of Corinthian columns at each end and a barrel-vaulted ceiling covered in interlocking circles of oak leaves and vine leaves.

Carton, From Country Life 14/11/1936 . We did not see this room, if it still exists.

The demesne of Carton is a great C18 landscape park, largely created by 1st Duke and Emily Duchess; “Capability” Brown was consulted, but professed himself too busy to come to Ireland. By means of a series of dams, a stream has been widened into a lake and a broad serpentine river; there is a bridge by Thomas Ivory, built 1763, an ornamental dairy of ca 1770 and a shell house. Various improvements were carried out to the gardens toward the end of C19 by Hermione, wife of 5th Duke, who was as famous a beauty in her day as Emily Duchess was in hers; she was also the last Duchess of Leinster to reign at Carton, for her eldest son, 6th Duke, died young and unmarried, and her youngest son, 7th Duke, was unable to live here having, as a young man, signed away his expectations to the “50 Shilling Tailor” Sir Henry Mallaby-Deeley, in return for ready money and an annuity. As a result of this unhappy transaction, Carton had eventually to be sold. It was bought 1949 by 2nd Lord Brocket, and afterwards became the home of his younger son, Hon David Nall-Cain, who opened it to the public. It was sold once again in 1977.” 

Caroline, Duchess of Leinster (née Lady Sutherland-Leveson-Gower), (1827-1887), Wife of 4th Duke, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
A shell cottage in the grounds of Carton House begun in the second half of the 18th century. A passage leads into a domed shell room embellished with coral and stained glass. Not Used Country Life archives 18/02/2009. Photographer Paul Barker.
Shell Cottage Carton, Photographer Paul Barker, for Country LIfe. Not used.
Shell Cottage Carton, Photographer Paul Barker, for Country LIfe. Not used.

6. Castletown Gate Lodge, Celbridge, County Kildare € for 3

Castletown Gate Lodge, a Landmark Trust property.

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

7. Castletown Round House, Celbridge, County Kildare: Irish Landmark € for 3-6 

Castletown Round House, a Landmark Trust property.

https://www.irishlandmark.com/property/castletown-round-house/

8. The Cliff at Lyons, County Kildare

www.cliffatlyons.ie

Robert O’Byrne writes about the Cliff at Lyons:

The Village at Lyons, County Kildare is often described as a restoration but to be frank it is more a recreation. By the time the late Tony Ryan bought the estate in 1996, the buildings beside the Grand Canal, which had once included a forge, mill and dwelling houses, were in a state of almost total ruin. Therefore the work undertaken here in the years prior to his death in 2007 involved a great deal of architectural salvage, much of it brought from France, although some Irish elements were incorporated such as a mid-19th century conservatory designed by Richard Turner, originally constructed for Ballynegall, County Westmeath. Today the place primarily operates as a wedding venue, providing an alluring stage set for photographs but bearing little resemblance to what originally stood here.”[9]

The entrance front of Lyons House, designed by Oliver Grave for Nicholas Lawless, 1st baron Cloncurry circa 1786 and remodelled by his son Richard Morrison in 1802-05. Pub Orig Country Life 16/01/2003, vol. CXCVII by Photographer Paul Barker. (see[7])

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Lyons:

p. 196. “(Alymer/IFR; Lawless, Cloncurry, B/PB1929; Winn, sub St. Oswalds, B/PB) Originally the seat of the Aylmer family. Sold 1796 by Michael Aylmer to Nicholas Lawless,the 1st Lord Cloncurry, son of a wealthy blanket manufacturer, who had a new house built in 1797, to the design of an architect named Grace. 

Three storey block with a curved bow on either side of its entrance front, joined to two-storey wings by curved sweeps. About 1801, shortly after his release from the Tower of London, where he had been imprisoned for two years on account of his advanced political views and friendship wiht some of the United Irishmen, the 2nd Lord Cloncurry hired Richard Morrison to undertake improvements and alterations to his father’s house, work continuing till 1805. 

During this period, Lord Cloncurry was in Italy, collecting antiques and  modern sculpture for the house; he also acquired three antique columns of red Egyptian granite from the Golden House of Nero, afterwards at the Palazzo Farnese, which were used as three of the four columns in a single-storey portico at Lyons, with a triangular pediment surmounted by a free-standing coat-of-arms.The other notable alteration made to the exterior of the house at this time was the substitution of straight colonnades for the curved sweeps linking the main block to the winds, a change similar to that which Morrison made a few years later at Carton. Also the main block and wings were faced with rusticated ashlar up to the height of one storey on the entrnace front. The hall was given a frieze of ox-skulls and tripods based on the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in Rome, doorcases with fluted entablatures and overdoor panels with classical reliefs; a pair of free-standing antique marble Corinthian columns were set against one wall, and vaarous items from Lord Cloncurry’s collection fo sculpture disposed around the other walls. The walls of the dining room and music rom were painted with Irish waterfalls – and other enchanting decoration by Gaspare Gabrielli, an artist brought by Lord Cloncurry from Rome. The bow-ended dining room was also decorated with a wall painting, of Dublin Bay; and was adorned with reliefs of the story of Daedalus.” 

The garden front of Lyons House, The new orangery and pool house are the single-storey buildings flanking the central block. Pub Orig Country Life 16/01/2003, vol. CXCVII by Photographer Paul Barker. (see [7])

Bence-Jones continues: “The seven-bay garden front was left fairly plain, but before it a vast  formal garden was laid out, with abundant statuary and urns and an antique column supporting a statue of Venus half way along the broad central walk leading from the house to what is the largest artificial lake in Ireland. Beyond the lake rises the wooded Hill of Lyons. 

The Grand Canal passes along one side of the demesne, and there is a handsome Georgian range of buildings beside it which would have been Lord Cloncurry’s private canal station. A daughter of 3rd Lord Cloncurry was Emily Lawless, the poet, a prominent figure in the Irish Revival of the early yars of the present century. Her niece, Hon Kathleen Lawless, bequeathed the Lyons estate to a cousin, Mr G M V Winn, who sold it about 1962 to University College, Dublin, which has erected a handsome pedimented arch from Browne’s Hill, Co Carlow at one of the entrances to the demesne.” 

Art Kavanagh’s book on the Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, volume 1, tells us more about the Aylmers of Balrath. During the reign of Henry VI, Richard Aylmer of Lyons was a Keeper of the Peace for both Dublin and Kildare. He was in charge of protecting the settler community from attack by the neighbouring O’Toole and O’Byrne septs. The family rose to become one of the most prominent families in Meath and Kildare and key figures in the Dublin administration. Before the end of the 16th century they had established two independent branches at Donadea in Kildare and Dollardstown in County Meath.

The first Aylmer of real significance, Art Kavanagh tells us, was John Aylmer (c. 1359 – c. 1415) who married Helen Tyrell of Lyons, an heiress, at the end of the 14th century, and so the family acquired Lyons. [p. 1, Kavanagh, published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005]

9. The K Club, Straffan House, County Kildare

Straffan House, the K Club, courtesy of the K Club Resort, 2005.

The Straffan estate formed part of the original land grant bestowed upon Maurice Fitzgerald by Strongbow for his role in the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169. In 1679, the property was purchased by Richard Talbot, the Duke of Tyrconnell who commanded the Jacobite army in Ireland during the war between James II and William of Orange. Tyrconnell’s estates were forfeited to the crown in the wake of the Williamite victory. In about 1710, the property was purchased by Hugh Henry, a prosperous merchant banker, who also owned Lodge Park. He married Anne Leeson, a sister of Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown. Straffan passed to their son, Joseph, who travelled in Europe and collected art. In April 1764 he married Lady Catherine Rawdon, eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Moira.

Their son John Joseph (1777-1846) married Lady Emily Fitzgerald, the 23-year-old daughter of the 2nd Duke of Leinster. He was an extravagant spender and had to sell Straffan in 1831.

Hugh Barton (1766-1854) acquired Straffan House from the Henry family in 1831 and his descendents remained there until the 1960s. The Barton family were part of the Barton & Guestier winemakers. Hugh soon commissioned Dublin architect, Frederick Darley, to build a new house, based on Madame Dubarry’s great Château at Louveciennes to the west of Paris. [10] The house passed through many hands subsequently.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Straffan House (1988):

p. 266. “(Barton/IFR)  An imposing C19 house in a style combining Italianate and French chateau. Main block of two storeys with an attic of pedimented dormers in a mansard roof; seven bay entrance front, the centre bay breking forward and having a tripartite window above a single-storey balustraded Corinthian portico. Entablatures on console brackets over ground-floor windows; triangular pediments over windows above and segmental pediment of central window. Decorated band between storeys; balustraded roof parapet; chimneystacks with recessed panels and tooth decoration. The main block prolonged at one side by a lower two storey wing, from which rises a tall and slender campanile tower, with two tiers of open belvederes. Formal garden with elaborate Victorian fountain. Capt F.B. Barton sold Straffan ca 1949 to John Ellis. It was subsequently the home of Kevin McClory, the film producer, and later owned by Mr Patrick Gallagher, who restored the main block to its original size.” 

10. Kilkea Castle, Castledermot, Kildare – hotel 

Kilkea Castle County Kildare by Elena on flickr constant commons 2005.

https://www.kilkeacastle.ie/

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 167. “(Fitzgerald, Leinster, D/PB) A medieval castle of the FitzGeralds, Earls of Kildare, especially associated with C16 11th Earl of Kildare, the most famous “wizard Earl.” [Gerald (1525-1585)] After Carton became the family seat in C18, it was leased to a succession of tenants; one of them being the Dublin silk merchant, Thomas Reynolds, friend of Lord Edward Fitzgerald through whom he became a United Irishman, only to turn informer when he realised the full aims of the movement. His role as informer did not prevent the unhappy Reynolds from having the castle, which he had only recently done up in fine style, sacked by the military; who tored up the floorboards and tore down the panelling on the pretext of searching for arms. Subsequent tenants caused yet more damage and there was a serious fire 1849; after which the third Duke of Leinster resumed possession of the castle and restored and enlarged it as a dower-house for his family. The work was sympathetically done, so that the tall grey castle keeps its air of medieval strength with its bartizans and its massively battered stone walls; though its battlements and its rather too regularly placed trefoil headed windows are obviously C19. AT one side of the caslte a long, low, gabled office range was added, in a restrained Tudor Revival style. The interior is entirely of 1849, for the lofty top storey, where the principal rooms were originally situated, was divided to provide a storey extra. The ceilings are mostly beamed, with corbels bearing the Leinster saltire. In 1880s the beautiful Hermione, Duchess of Leinster (then Marchioness of Kildare) lived here with her amiable but not very inspiring husband [Gerald the 5th Duke of Leinster]; finding the life not much to her taste, she composed the couplet “Kilkea Castle and Lord Kildare/are more than any woman can bear.” After the sale of Carton 1949, Kilkea became the seat of the 8th and Present Duke of Leinster (then Marquess of Kildare), but it was sold ca 1960 and is now an hotel.” 

11. Leixlip Manor hotel (formerly Liffey Valley House hotel, formerly St. Catherine’s Park), Leixlip, Co Kildare

http://www.leixlipmanorhotel.ie/about-us/the-manor-kildare

The house that stood before the current Manor House was taller and was tenanted by the Earl of Lanesborough. Then in 1792, it was occupied by David La Touche, of the Huguenot banking family. It shortly thereafter burned to the ground and in around 1798 a new house, also called St Catherine’s Park, was built in the same townland to the design of Francis Johnston; it is now Leixlip Manor Hotel & Gardens.

Rt Hon. David La Touche of Marlay (1729-1817) Date c.1800 by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, Irish, 1740-1808, courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

12. Martinstown House, Kilcullen, Co Kildare – accommodation

Martinstown House 2012, photograph courtesy of Martinstown House on flickr constant commons.

http://martinstownhouse.com/wordpress/ 

featured in Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitzGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008. 

p. 232. “Martinstown House is one of the finest cottage ornee style buildings in Ireland today. Originally part of the huge estates of the Dukes of Leinster, this fine house was commissioned by Robert Burrowes [d. 1850, son of Kildare Dixon Borrowes, 5th Baronet] and completed by the Burrowes family between 1832 and 1840, when decorative effects such as thatched roofs, undressed stonework and verandahs made of free growing branches were being incorporated into rural Irish dwellings. While experts feel the house was built in 1833, it may have been started years earlier, with many of the outbuildings including stables and also the walled gardens dating to some time between 1815 and 1820.” The book’s authors add that Decimus Burton was involved in the creation of this house.

See also Robert O’Byrne’s entry, which has lovely pictures: https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/03/07/martinstown/

13. Moone Abbey, County Kildare holiday cottages – see above

Whole house accommodation in County Kildare:

1. de Burgh Manor (or Bert), Kilberry, County Kildare – whole house accommodation

Bert House or De Burgh, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.deburghmanor.ie

Beautiful self catering, Georgian Manor centrally located in the hearth of Kildare in a very private setting. De Burgh Manor comprises of 15 bedrooms all ensuite. The ground floor consists of a double reception room, drawing room, dining room, bar, library , breakfast room and kitchen. Situated on c. 6 acres of grounds overlooking the River Barrow.

The website also tells us about the history:

De Burgh Manor was built circa 1709 [the National Inventory says it was built around 1780] by Thomas Burgh [1670-1730] of Oldtown [built ca 1709 by Thomas Burgh (1670-1730), MP, Engineer and Surveyor-General for Ireland, to his own design. The centre block was burned 1950s. A house has now been made out of one of the wings. He also designed Kildrought house, a Section 482 property] for his brother William Burgh later known as Captain William De Burgh and who became Comptroller and Auditor General for Ireland. Thomas Burgh was Barracks Overseer for Ireland from 1701 and was also responsible for [building] – the Library at Trinity College Dublin, Collins Barracks Dublin – now a museum – and Dr Steeven Hospital Dublin.

William De Burgh was born in 1667 and had a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Elisabeth. Thomas, born in 1696, eventually became a Member of Parliament for Lanesboro, Co. Longford. Freeman of Athy Borough and Sovereign of Athy, in 1755 he married Lady Ann Downes, daughter of the Bishop of Cork & Ross. Her mother was a sister to Robert Earl of Kildare. Her brother, Robert Downes, was the last MP for Kildare in 1749 and was Sovereign of Athy.

Thomas had two sons, William and Ulysses [Ulysses was actually the grandson of Thomas, son of another Thomas]. William born in 1741 went on to represent Athy as an MP in Parliament between 1768 and 1776. A monument to his memory by Sculptor Sir Richard Westmacott, a statue of faith, which depicts him with a book in one hand and a scroll in the other and stands in York Minster. He wrote two books on religion and faith.

Ulysses, born in 1788 succeeded to the title of Lord Downes [2nd Baron Downes of Aghanville] on the death of his cousin William Downes who was made Lord Chief Justice in 1803 and created Lord Downes on his retirement in 1822. It was Ulysses De Burgh who presented the Town Hall Clock to Athy in 1846 and it was he who had the wings added to Bert House. [Mark Bence-Jones writes of Bert: “enlarged early in C19 by the addition of two storey Classical overlapping wings, of the same height as the centre block; which is of three storeys over basement with two seven bay fronts.”]

Ulysses’ daughter Charlotte was the last of the De Burgh’s to call Bert House home with her husband Lt. General James Colbourne [2nd Baron Seaton of Seaton, co. Devon]. Charlotte and James came to Bert House in 1863 as Lord and Lady Seaton after the death of Lord Downes. It was sold by them in 1909 to Lady Geoghegan who then sold it onto her cousin, Major Quirke.

2. Firmount, Clane, County Kildare – whole house or weddings

https://www.firmounthouse.com/

The website tells us:

Firmount House is a unique and stunning venue just outside Clane in County Kildare, only 40minutes from Dublin city centre. Lovingly restored by the owners, the house is known for flexibility and creativity and is now open for weddings, private parties, film shoots, yoga retreats and corporate events. Enjoy visiting the Firmount website and see for yourself the lifelong journey these restoration warriors have taken to provide you with the perfect location in a wonderful, natural setting.

This fabulous house consists of a sitting room, breakfast room and dining room downstairs reached from a large hallway, alongside a commercial kitchen and butlers pantry. The first floor consists of seven large and sumptuous bedrooms – five doubles and two twin rooms with plenty of room for two travel cots which are also provided. There are also six bathrooms. Heated by oil fired radiators, there are also two stoves in the main entertaining space.

Firmount House has a colourful history dating from the 13th century when there was reputed to be a fortified house on the current site. The Down Survey of 1655 seems to show a house on the land (then known as Keapock). In the 18th century the house was owned by the Warburtons and sat on extensive grounds. The story of the current house really begins in 1878 when Hugh Henry Snr having married his cousin Emily Henry (of Lodge Park, site of the current K-club) bought Firmount house and renovated it extensively. It seems he took what was a Georgian house, wrapped it in concrete (one of the first houses of it’s kind) and added a Victorian wing to the South.

The estate consisted of 409 acres at that point. Hugh Henry’s son, imaginatively named Hugh Jr, inherited the house in 1888 and lived there until 1917. It is rumoured that his wife, Eileen, had nightmares of the house going down in flames – although given it was made of concrete, we think she would have been ok. The house became a WWI hospital in 1917 and 390 soldiers were treated there until 1919, with no deaths registered – thank goodness for that. However the next decades were not so lucky for the house. In 1929 the house was bought by Kildare County Council and turned into a TB sanatorium. It ran as such until 1961. There are local stories of movies being run in the ballroom for patients with the now Mayor of Clane, at the projector. And of patients sitting on the elevated banks at the very front of the house on the roadside, watching life on the road go by but being unable to participate. 1964 brought the purchase of the house by the Department of Defence who ran it as a Control Centre for Nuclear Tracking and named it Section Seven Regional Control.

Here things get really interesting as the basement of the house was intended to house senior officials, media and communications personel in the event of nuclear fall out. It is rumoured the Taoiseach (Irish prime-minister) was supposed to have a bunker on site and the house can still be found on Russian nuclear maps!  This picture shows one of the several signs found in the house.  The downside of government and county council ownership is that many original period features were lost through ignorance, neglect and the reinforcement of windows, floors, porticos and doors with concrete.

The current “madthings” bought the house in 2012 with the aim of slowly bringing Firmount house back to life, window by window and floor by floor aswell as bringing Firmount forward into a gathering place with a welcome for all.

3. Griesemount House, County Kildare, whole house rentals – see above

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

[2] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Kildare%20Landowners

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

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11805062/kildrought-house-main-street-celbridge-celbridge-co-kildare

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

[6] 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.

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

[8] https://archiseek.com/2014/carton-maynooth-co-kildare/

[9] https://theirishaesthete.com/2020/01/08/a-stage-set/

[10] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_barton.html

Office of Public Works Properties Dublin

I have noticed that an inordinate amount of OPW sites are closed ever since Covid restrictions, if not even before that (as in Emo, which seems to be perpetually closed) [these sites are marked in orange here]. I must write to our Minister for Culture and Heritage to complain.

I have written to Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin and received a response in June 2022:

I wish to acknowledge receipt of your recent correspondence to Catherine Martin, TD. Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media in connection with OPW Sites.

OPW Sites would fall under the remit of Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan and the Department of Office of Public Works. Minister of State O’Donovan’s office can be reached at  ministersoffice@opw.ie and should be able to assist you with your query.

Well, I have another email to write! I’ll keep you posted…

Dublin:

1. Aras an Uachtarain, Phoenix Park, Dublin

2. Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin

3. Ashtown Castle, Phoenix Park, Dublin – closed at present

4. The Casino at Marino, Dublin

5. Customs House, Dublin

6. Dublin Castle

7. Farmleigh House, Dublin

8. Garden of Remembrance, Dublin

9. Government Buildings Dublin

10. Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Dublin

11. Irish National War Memorial Gardens, Dublin

12. Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

13. Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

14. National Botanic Gardens, Dublin

15. Phoenix Park, Dublin

16. Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin

17. Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin – historic rooms closed

18. St. Audoen’s, Dublin

19. St. Enda’s Park and Pearse Museum, Dublin

20. St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin

1. Aras an Uachtarain, Phoenix Park, Dublin 8:

July 2012, The Garden Front of the Aras. The portico with giant Ionic columns was added in 1815 by Francis Johnston.

general enquiries: (01) 677 0095

phoenixparkvisitorcentre@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Áras an Uachtaráin started life as a modest brick house, built in 1751 for the Phoenix Park chief ranger. It was later an occasional residence for the lords lieutenant. During that period it evolved into a sizeable and elegant mansion.

It has been claimed that Irish architect James Hoban used the garden front portico as the model for the façade of the White House.

After independence, the governors general occupied the building. The first president of the Republic of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, took up residence here in 1938. It has been home to every president since then.” [1]

Phoenix Park was originally formed as a royal hunting Park in the 1660s, created by James Butler the Duke of Ormond. A large herd of fallow deer still remain to this day. Since it was a deer park it needed a park ranger. One of the park chief rangers was Nathaniel Clements (1705-1777), who was also an architect, and it was he who built the original house in 1751 which became the Aras. He was appointed as Ranger and Master of the Game by King George II in 1751. Clements was also an MP in the Irish Parliament.

Photograph from the National Library, from when the building was the Vice Regal Lodge. This is the front which faces Chesterfield Avenue. Photograph is by Robert French, and the photograph is part of the Lawrence Photographic Collection, Date: between circa. 1865-1914, NLI Ref: L_ROY_00335
The Vice-Regal Lodge (Lord Lieutenant’s Residence), Phoenix Park, Dublin After John James Barralet, Irish, 1747-1815, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Clements accumulated much property including Abbotstown in Dublin, and estates in Leitrim and Cavan. In Dublin, he developed property including part of Henrietta Street, where he lived in number 7 from 1734 to 1757. For more about him, see Melanie Hayes’s wonderful book The Best Address in Town: Henrietta Street, Dublin and its First Residents, 1720-80 published by Four Courts Press in 2020. Another house he designed, which is sometimes on the Section 482 list, is Beauparc in County Meath, and another Section 482 property, Lodge Park in County Kildare. Desmond Fitzgerald also attributed Colganstown to him, a house we visited in 2019, though this is not certain. [2]

7 Henrietta Street, recently for sale, photograph courtesy of myhome.ie, built for Nathaniel Clements, who also built the house that has become Aras an Uachtarain.
Number 7 Henrietta Street, from myhome.ie. The interior retains an original double-height open-well staircase and early dog-leg closed-string service stair with original plasterwork and joinery throughout. Laid out by Luke Gardiner in the 1720s, Henrietta Street is a short cul-de-sac containing the finest early Georgian houses in the city, and was named after Henrietta Crofts, the third wife of Charles Paulet, 2nd Duke of Bolton and Lord Lieutenant in 1717-1721.

We attended a few of President Higgins’s summer parties at the Aras. These are open to the public, by booking tickets.

Aras an Uachtarain, July 2012.
Aras an Uachtarain, June 2022.

The Entrance Hall of the Áras dates from 1751 from the time of Nathaniel Clements, and features a magnificent barrel-vaulted ceiling with plaster busts in the ceiling coffers.

The Entrance Hall dates from 1751 and features a magnificent barrel-vaulted ceiling with plaster busts in the ceiling coffers. Photograph taken on our visit to the Aras Garden Party in June 2022.
Bust of President Michael D. Higgins in the Entrance Hall.

The Council of State Room is part of the original 1751 house. The ceiling, installed by Nathaniel Clements in 1757, is by Bartholomew Cramillion and depicts three of Aesop’s Fables – the Fox and the Stork, the Fox and the Crow and the Fox and the Grapes.

A covered ceiling with original mid-C18 plasterwork of Aesop’s fable theme. This beautiful plasterwork is by Bartholomew Cramillion. Another ceiling by him was taken from a house which was demolished, Mespil House in Dublin, and is now in what is called the President’s Study, and depicts Jupiter presiding over the elements and the four season and dates from the late 1750s.
Maude Gonne, by Sarah Purser, on the right of us in our Bloomsday outfits, in the Council of State Room. On the left is Constance Markievicz, by Szankowski.
The first meeting of the Council of State, January 1940.

The State Drawing Room is also part of the original house and the its rich gilt ceiling dates from then. The walls are lined with green silk.

Myself and Stephen with the President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina in 2012, in the State Drawing Room.
The State Drawing Room. The Louis XVI couch came from the palace of Versailles during the Presidency of Eamon De Valera.
The ceiling of the State Drawing Room, part of the 1751 house.
The State Drawing Room, June 2022. The chandelier commemorates the 1801 Act of Union with its entwined shamrocks, roses and thistles, and originally hung in Dublin Castle. The wall lights were made from a second similar chandelier. The Louis XIV couch and chairs came from the Palace of Versailles as a gift during Eamon de Valera’s Presidency.
The Pianist at the Bloomsday Celebration at the Aras, June 2022, in the State Drawing Room.

The administration of the British Lord Lieutenant bought the house from Nathaniel Clements’ son Robert 1st Earl of Leitrim in 1781, to be the personal residence for the Lord Lieutenant. In 1781 the Viceroy, or Lord Deputy, was Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle. The building was rebuilt and named the Viceregal Lodge. At first it served as a summer residence, while the Viceroy stayed in Dublin Castle for the winter. The first “Lord Lieutenant” was his successor, William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland.

Wife of the 1st Lord Lieutenant, Dorothy Bentinck Duchess of Portland (1750-1794), nee Cavendish, daughter of the 4th Duke of Devonshire, Vicereine of Ireland 1782, painted by George Romney.

The house was extended when acquired for the Viceroys to reflect its increased ceremonial importance. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that after being bought by the government, the house was altered and enlarged at various times. David Hicks tells us in his Irish Country Houses, A Chronicle of Change that all those who were awarded the position of Lord Lieutenant were from titled backgrounds and accustomed to grand country houses in England, so they found the Viceregal Lodge to be unimpressive. The 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, Philip Yorke, was the first Lord Lieutenant after the Act of Union in 1800, in 1801-1806. Yorke supported Catholic emancipation. In 1802 Yorke employed Robert Woodgate, a Board of Works architect, to make some alterations to the house, adding new wings to the house.

Photograph from the National Library of Ireland. This is the garden side of the house. The double height pedimented portico of four gian Ionic columns was added in 1815 by architect Francis Johnston. Photograph is by Robert French, and the photograph is part of the Lawrence Photographic Collection, Date: between circa. 1865-1914, NLI Ref: L_CAB_02652.
Philip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, (1757-1834), Former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Date 1836 Engraver William Giller, British, c.1805-after 1868 After Thomas Lawrence, English, 1769-1830, photograh courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Additional work was carried out by Michael Stapleton – who was an architect as well as noted stuccadore – and Francis Johnston. In 1808, when Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond was Lord Lieutenant, Johnston added a Doric portico to the entrance front, and the single-storey wings were increased in height.

Aras an Uachtarain, June 2022. In 1808 Francis Johnston added a Doric portico to the entrance front.
Aras an Uachtarain, June 2022.
Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, (1764-1819), Soldier and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Engraver Henry Hoppner Meyer, English, 1782-1847 After John Jackson, English, 1778-1831. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

In 1815, Johnston extended the garden front by five bays projecting forwards, and in the centre of this front he added the pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns which is the house’s most familiar feature. 

In 1815, Francis Johnston added the pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns which is the house’s most familiar feature. 

The ballroom/state reception room was also added at this time.

The former ballroom, now the State Reception Room, which features a plaster cast of a Lafrancini ceiling. Photograph taken in June 2022 at the Bloomsday Summer Garden Party.

It was not until the major renovations in the 1820s that the Lodge came to be used regularly by Lord Lieutenants. In the 1820s the Lord Deputy was Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, 2nd Earl of Mornington, brother of the Duke of Wellington of Waterloo fame. See my footnotes for some portraits of Vicereines and Viceroys who may have lived in the Aras.

Maria Phipps nee Liddell, Marchioness of Normanby (1798-1882),Vicereine 1835-39, laid out the gardens along with Decimus Burton in 1839-40. Decimus Burton also designed many gardens in London including St. James’s Park, Hyde Park Corner and Regent’s Park. He was also an architect.

Maria Phipps nee Liddell, Marchioness of Normanby (1798-1882) by Sir George Hayter, Vicereine 1835-39, who laid out the gardens along with Decimus Burton. She persuaded Queen Victoria to support Irish weavers and grant them lucrative royal warrants. George Hayter was Queen Victoria’s favourite painter.
The gardens of the Aras, at 2022 garden party. The main parterre forms a pair of ringed Celtic crosses, as laid out by Decimus Burton in conjunction with Maria Phipps nee Liddell, Lady Normanby, wife of the Viceroy in 1838. Decimus Burton also designed many gardens in London including St. James’s Park, Hyde Park Corner and Regent’s Park. He was also an architect.

In 1849 the east wing was added, which houses the new State Dining Room. The financing of any royal visit was a matter of concern for Lord Lieutenants as they had to finance any improvements to the Viceregal Lodge. It was during the tenure of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon (1800-1870), that Queen Victoria visited, with the idea that this would boost morale after the famine.

The State Dining Room at the Aras, July 2013. Jacob Owen, chief architect of the Board of Works, designed the dining room and matching drawing room in 1849.

Jacob Owen, chief architect of the Board of Works, designed the dining room and matching drawing room in 1849.

The State Dining Room, June 2022.

Queen Victoria planted a Wellingtonia Gigantea tree which is still standing (others have planted trees also, including Queen Alexandria and Barak Obama, Charles de Gaulle, John F. Kennedy, Pope John Paul II and King Juan Carlos of Spain).

Queen Victoria planted this Wellingtonia Gigantea (photograph from July 2012).

In 1854 the west wing was added, also designed by Jacob Owen. Queen Victoria visited again in 1853, and at this time the Viceregal Lodge was connected to the public gas supply, in order to illuminate the reception rooms and also to provide public lighting throughout Phoenix Park.

A new part of the West Wing was added for the visit of George V in 1911, during the Lord Lieutenancy of John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair.

Ishbel nee Marjoribanks Countess of Aberdeen (1857-1939), by Alphonse Jongers. Vicereine 1886 and 1905-1915, she brought about improvements in cottage industries and women’s healthcare, and was a committed advocate of Irish Home Rule.

The office of Lord Lieutenant was abolished in 1922 when the Irish Free State came into being. From 1922 until 1932 it was the residence of the Governor General of the Irish Free State. In 1922 Tim Healy was sworn in as Governor General. Over the following weeks, the former Viceregal Lodge was attacked and came under heavy fire on regular occasions.

The State Dining Room contains furniture by James Hicks of Dublin. The early 19th century fireplaces were originally a gift to Archbishop Murray of Dublin in 1812 “by his flock” for his residence at 44 Mountjoy Square, and were brought to the house in 1923, upon the sale of the house in Mountjoy Square, by the first Governor General of the Irish Free State, Tim Healy.

The early 19th century fireplaces were originally a gift to Archbishop Murray of Dublin, and were brought to the house by the first Governor General, Tim Healy.
The early 19th century fireplaces were originally a gift to Archbishop Murray of Dublin, and were brought to the house by the first Governor General, Tim Healy.

In 1937 when the office of President of Ireland was established, the house became the house of the president. The first President was Douglas Hyde (President of Ireland 1938-1945).

Douglas Hyde, President of Ireland 1938-1945.

During the incumbency of President Sean T. O’Kelly, in 1948, a mid-C18 plasterwork ceiling attributed to Cramillion representing Jupiter and the Four Elements, with figures half covered in clouds, was brought from Mespil House, Dublin, which was then being demolished, and installed in the President’s Study, one of the two smaller rooms in the garden front of the original house, which we did not see.

President Sean T. Kelly, term of office 1945-1959.

The Mespil House ceiling was brought here at the instigation of Dr. C.P. Curran, who was also instrumental in having casts made of the plasterwork by the Francini, or Lafranchini, brothers, at Riverstown House, Co. Cork, which then seemed in danger; and which have been installed in the ballroom and in the adjoining corridor. 

The State Reception Room (formerly the ballroom) features a plaster cast of a Lafranchini panel in the ceiling. The Lafranchini brothers were 18th century Swiss stuccodores who also worked on Carton and Castletown Houses. See my entry about Riverstown House https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/10/05/__trashed/.

One of the State Rooms in the Aras, 1984, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archives. [3] The handwoven Donegal carpet, designed for the house by Raymond McGrath, includes the riverine heads from the Custom House representing the principal rivers of Ireland, and the phoenix rising from the flames.
The plaster cast of the Lafrancini ceiling in the former ballroom. It features “Time Rescuing Truth from the Assaults of Discord and Envy.”
The original Lafrancini ceiling in Riverstown House, County Cork, photograph taken on our visit to Riverstown in June 2022.
Riverstown House, County Cork. The original of the plaster cast, in Riverstown House, County Cork. The owner of Riverstown House, Denis Dooley, cleaned the plasterwork himself, and discovered the castle in the top left hand corner, which is not in the cast, and which, on his visit to Riverstown, Desmond Guinness was astounded to notice!

The State Corridor, also called the Lafranchini Corridor, leads from the Entrance Hall past the State Reception Room. This corridor was originally part of the orchestra pit for the adjoining ballroom. It was created as a corridor in the 1950s. One side of the corridor is lined with bronze busts of Irish Presidents mounted on marble columns and the other side features stucco panels showing classical figures. These too are casts taken from Riverstown House.

The Francini Corridor leads from the Entrance Hall past the State Reception Room. One side of the corridor is lined with bronze busts of Irish Presidents mounted on marble columns and the other side features stucco panels showing classical figures.
The handwoven Donegal carpet, designed for the house by Raymond McGrath, includes the riverine heads from the Custom House representing the principal rivers of Ireland
Queuing in the Lafrancini Corridor at the June 2022 Garden Party, in order to enter the State Rooms and to meet President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina.
Plaster cast in the Aras.
Original plaster in Riverstown House.
Wall plaster cast of Francini plasterwork.
Original plasterwork in Riverstown House.

The State corridor also has a fireplace by 18th century Italian craftsman, Bossi, whose family knew the secret of how to colour marble.

A plaster cast in the Lafrancini Corridor in the Aras, above a Bossi fireplace.
The State Reception Room has a Bossi fireplace, as does the Lafranchini corridor.
The Dining Room, which contains portraits of past Presidents of Ireland.
Erskine Hamilton Childers, President of Ireland 1973 until 1974 when he died in office.
Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, President of Ireland from December 1974 to October 1976
Patrick Hillery, President of Ireland 1976-1990.
“A breath of fresh air,” by the Keep Well Glass Quilt Project undertaken by members of the Glass Society of Ireland during the third wave of Covid with a twelve week lockdown. Fifty glassmakers made two pieces each. It is on loan to the President.
Mary Robinson, President of Ireland 1990-1997.

Later additions to the gardens were carried out by Ninian Niven, who designed Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. The gardens contain many Victorian features including ceremonial trees, an arboretum, wilderness, pleasure grounds, avenues, walks, ornamental lakes and a walled garden, which contains a Turner peach house and which grows the food and flowers organically.

The walled gardens at the Aras.
The Peach House glasshouse was designed by Richard Turner, constructed between 1836-37. Turner also designed the large palm houses in the Botanic Gardens in Dubln, Belfast and London. The one at the Aras underwent restoration between 2007-2009.
This lovely building is to one side of the main house at the Aras, I’m not sure what it is but it’s very picturesque.

2. Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin 7:

General enquiries: (01) 821 3021, superintendent.park@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

The military cemetery at Arbour Hill is the last resting place of 14 of the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising. It is therefore a place of pilgrimage for students and aficionados of this tempestuous moment in Irish history.

There is an adjoining church, the chapel for Arbour Hill Prison. At the rear of the church lies the old cemetery, containing fascinating memorials to British military personnel.

The clear focus of Arbour Hill, however, is the legend of the rising. Among those buried here are Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and Major John MacBride. Their bodies were put into an unmarked pit and covered with quicklime, but their grave has now been saved from obscurity with an impressive memorial inscribed in English and Irish.

Arbour Hill Cemetery is at the rear of the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, where you can currently find a large display of 1916-related material.

3. Ashtown Castle, Phoenix Park, Dublin:

Ashtown Castle is in the Phoenix Park. From the OPW website:

Ashtown Castle is a tower house that probably dates from the seventeenth century, but may be as early as the fifteenth.

For years it was completely hidden within the walls of a Georgian mansion once occupied by the under-secretary for Ireland. When that house was demolished in the late 1980s, the castle was rediscovered. It has since been fully restored and now welcomes visitors.”

The National Inventory tells us:

The castle was dated to the early seventeenth century on the basis of surviving fragments of a roof truss found in the wall during the restoration project in the early 1990s. There is in the stonework some suggestion of a further wing to the north, but no archaeological evidence was found, leaving this section unresolved. The builder is unknown, but in 1641 the estate was in the ownership of John Connell, a distant ancestor of Daniel O’Connell. Curiously the Civil Survey, 1654, lists him as a Protestant. Stone from a quarry at Pelletstown owned by Connell was used in the building of the original wall of the Park. The castle and its lands were purchased for the crown by the Duke of Ormonde in 1663 and it became the official residence of the second Keeper of the Park, Sir William Flower, who assigned it to a subordinate. The building was extended to become the Under Secretary’s residence in the late eighteenth century. After Independence it served as the residence of the Papal Nuncio. The later extension was demolished in the 1980s and the site was briefly considered for an official Taoiseach’s residence, the brief requiring the restoration of the castle. Although heavily restored, it is a rare surviving example of a fortified tower house close to the capital city.

The land at Ashtown was granted to the Hospital of St. John the Baptist in the 12th century by Hugh Tyrrell, 1st Baron of Castleknock. Restoration of the castle began in 1989.

4. The Casino at Marino, Cherrymount Crescent, Malahide Road, Marino, Dublin 3

The Casino at Marino, Dublin, August 2009. It looks like it houses one large room, but it actually has sixteen rooms, arranged over three floors.

General enquiries (01) 833 1618, casinomarino@opw.ie

From the website:

“The Casino is a remarkable building, both in terms of structure and history. Sir William Chambers designed it as a pleasure-house for James Caulfeild, first earl of Charlemont, beside his residence in what was then the countryside. It is a gem of eighteenth-century neo-classical architecture. In fact, it is one of the finest buildings of that style in Europe.

The term ‘casino’ in this case means ‘little house’, and from the outside it gives an impression of compactness. However, it contains 16 rooms, each of which is finely decorated and endlessly rich in subtle and rare design. The Zodiac Room, for example, has a domed ceiling which represents the sky with astrological symbols modelled around its base.

The Casino at Marino, Dublin, August 2009. At the front of the building stand Ceres and Bacchus, and at the back are Apollo and Venus. These represented the enjoyment and abundance that was intended for the Casino. The urns on the roof (disguised chimneys) can also be seen from this angle. The lions that guard each corner are Egyptian in style.
The painting is a portrait by William Hogarth of the 1st Earl of Charlemont, James Caulfeild (1728-1799) aged 13, with his mother, Elizabeth Bernard (portrait painted in 1741).
James Caulfeild, 1st Earl of Charlemont Date/ 1790 by Martin Ferdinand Quadal, Moravian, 1736-1808.

The Casino website tells us that the plan of the Casino is in the shape of a Greek cross, and it is only fifty feet square. There are three floors containing sixteen rooms. Although small, they are entirely habitable, with service rooms in the basement, reception rooms on the main floor, and sleeping quarters on the upper floor. There is, however, no evidence of any long term occupation of the building. The exterior of the building is that of a one-room Greek temple, so the complexity of the interior was achieved by remarkable architectural design. This includes faux windows, gib doors, hollow columns, and disguised chimneys. Only half of the great front door actually swings open to admit entrance.

Very little is known about how the inside of the building originally looked. There are brief descriptions surviving in Charlemont’s own correspondence or in that of visitors, or rare mentions in sales catalogues. The exterior of the building is heavily decorated. Four statues adorn the attic storey; Bacchus, Ceres, Venus, and Apollo declare the abundance and love of good living that inspired the creation of the Casino. Around the chimney-urns curve mermaids and mermen. The ‘ceilings’ of the outside porches are densely carved to create a stucco effect. Four large Egyptian-style lions guard the corners. [4] Service tunnels underground surround the building, lit from above by grilles.

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

“… in the form of a Roman Doric temple, … built over the years 1758-76. It is one of the most exquisite miniature C18 buildings in Europe; within an exterior that appears to be sculptured rather than built are a number of little rooms, each of them perfectly proportioned and finished; with plasterwork ceilings, doorcases and inlaid floors. Sir Sacheverell Sitwell compares them to the little rooms in the Petit Trianon, and indeed the Casino shows considerable French influence, both inside and out. Among those who worked on the Casino was Simon Vierpyl, the sculptor and builder from Rome, and Joseph Wilton, the sculptor. The house [Marino] has long been demolished, but the Casino is maintained as a National Monument and has been restored by Mr Austin Dunphy of O’Neill Flanagan and Partners, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works.” [5]

The Casino at Marino, Dublin, August 2009.

The website of the Casino educates us about the family who owned the Casino. James Caulfeild succeeded to the titles 8th Lord Caulfeild, Baron of Charlemont and 4th Viscount Charlemont on the death of his father in 1734. It was not until 1763 that he was created 1st Earl of Charlemont, as recognition for keeping the peace in the Armagh/ Tyrone area. He was well-known for his love of the arts, and spent a record nine years on Grand Tour through Europe, Turkey, and Egypt. With the help of his stepfather, Thomas Adderley, he established himself at Marino on his return to Ireland in 1755. Here he began the improvements to his Marino estate, one of which was the celebrated Casino.

He was a leader in many different areas of eighteenth-century Irish society. Instrumental in setting up the Royal Irish Academy, he was also its first President. He was a member of the Royal Dublin Society, and a supporter of Grattan’s parliament. He was also a founding member of the Irish Volunteers (formed to protect Ireland from invasion while British troops served in the American Revolutionary War). His contribution to Irish culture was significant and lasting. [6]

The website tells us that while James was on his Grand Tour in Rome, he had become acquainted with those he would eventually hire to create his estate at Marino. This included William Chambers, Simon Vierpyl, Johann Heinrich Müntz, and Giovanni Battista Cipriani. Charlemont’s heavy involvement in the composition of the buildings at Marino, as well as his house in Rutland Square, is clear from the correspondence that has survived. In many ways, what he created at Marino was a living testament to the different cultures and styles he had experienced while travelling, and his buildings there were fitting exhibition spaces to the huge number of souvenirs and collectable items he brought home.

The Casino at Marino, Dublin, August 2009.

The website also tells us more about William Chambers:

Born in Sweden to a Scottish father in 1723, he spent the first few years of his working life travelling to and from China as an agent of the Swedish East India Company. At the age of twenty-six, he began training as an architect in Paris, later living in Rome, where he was a member of Charlemont’s circle. He moved to London to establish his practice in the same year that Charlemont returned to Dublin (1755). He achieved great success in England, with much employment from King George III and his mother, the Dowager Princess Augusta. His Treatise on Civil Architecture, published in 1759, was a huge influence on Palladian neoclassicism in Britain. The Casino appeared in this Treatise as a plate illustration (image below). Chambers would go on to count James Gandon as one of his students.

As well as the Casino at Marino, Chambers completed designs for Charlemont House and Trinity College, and for modifications to Rathfarnham Castle, Castletown House, and Leinster House, among others. He never, however, visited Ireland in person. His projects with Charlemont were discussed at great length, over two decades, in numerous letters; many of these can be read today in the Royal Irish Academy. One of his original drawings for the Casino is on display in the building.”

photograph of the Casino taken 1951, Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]

It was London-born Simon Vierpyl who oversaw the building work. The website tells us:

He was an accomplished sculptor and builder, who was living in Rome at the same time as Charlemont and Chambers. Impressed with his work on a commission of terracotta copies of statues and busts (now in the Royal Irish Academy), Charlemont invited him to come to Ireland. Vierpyl arrived in 1756, and supervised work on the Casino, something he was complimented for in Chambers’ Treatise. He stayed in Ireland for the rest of his life, working as a builder or developer on many central Dublin sites. He married twice, and died in Athy, Co. Kildare in 1810 at the age of around eighty-five.”

The website also tells us about Giovanni Battista Cipriani, an Italian painter:

“He was another member of Charlemont’s circle in the early 1750s in Rome; in 1755, he also left the city, and travelled in England in the company of Joseph Wilton. Wilton was a sculptor whose work is represented at the Casino in the four lions which guard it. Cipriani’s contribution was the design of the four attic statues, and the dragon gates that formed the entrance to the estate. Copies of his original sketches for the four statues, as well as a revised sketch of Venus, can be seen on display in the State Bedroom today. The gods represented (Ceres, Bacchus, Venus, and Apollo) were chosen by Charlemont and Chambers, designed by Cipriani, and then sculpted by either Wilton or Vierpyl on site.”

In 1876, The 2nd Lady Charlemont (Anne Bermingham) died, after which the 3rd Earl [James Molyneux Caulfeild, son of Henry Caulfeild, and therefore grandson to the 1st Earl. He inherited the title from his uncle, Francis] sold the estate lands [James lived at Roxborough Castle in Northern Ireland]. It was bought on behalf of Cardinal Cullen, who kept thirty acres for an orphanage (the O’Brien Institute), and gave the remaining land (over 300 acres) to the Christian Brothers.

5. Custom House, Dublin:

Custom House, Dublin, by James Gandon, 1781-91. Photograph by Chris Hill, 2014, for Tourism Ireland. Ireland’s Content Pool. [7]

General enquiries: 086 606 2729, customhousevc@opw.ie

From the website:

“This architectural icon stands on the Liffey quays, which were once Ireland’s major trade route to the wider world. The architect James Gandon completed the building, a masterpiece of European neoclassicism, in 1791. Admire the decorative detail of Edward Smyth’s beautifully executed stonework carvings on the exterior and the famous carved keystones depicting the terrible heads of the river gods. There are 14 of these – one for every major river of Ireland.

The Custom House witnessed not only the development of a great city, but also some of the most turbulent milestones in its history. The building was destroyed by burning in 1921 and later restored to its former splendour.

The stories of the building, burning and restoration of Dublin’s Custom House are now brought to life in a new and fascinating exhibition, revealing a rich, many-layered story that spans over 200 years.

Custom House, from James Malton, English, 1761-1803, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
Customs House, Dublin, February 2015.

A previous Custom House was located further up the river at Essex Quay, built in 1707. By 1780 it was judged to be unsafe and a new building was required. The Right Honourable John Beresford (1738-1805) determined position for the new Custom House (against much objection as its position affected property prices – raising prices in the area and lowering the value of properties nearer the previous Custom House). Beresford sought to move the city centre eastwards from the Capel Street-Parliament Street axis towards College Green. The new Custom House was built on land reclaimed from the estuary of the Liffey.

John Beresford, (1738-1805), First Commissioner of Revenue in Ireland G. Cowen, Dublin and at T. Macklin’s, London, 1st November 1790, Engraver Charles Howard Hodges, English, 1764-1837 After Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755-1828. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
On the main pediment, Hibernia is seen embracing Britannia while Neptune drives away famine and despair. Above the pediment stand four figures symbolising Neptune, Mercury, Industry and Plenty. At the top of the dome stands a figure of Commerce. [8]
At the roof line is the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Ireland, with a lion and a unicorn either side of an Irish harp.

James Gandon was an English-born architect who settled in Dublin in 1781 and was responsible for three major public buildings there – the Custom House, the Four Courts, and the King’s Inns – as well as for Carlisle Bridge and for extensions to the Parliament House. He also designed Emo in County Laois for John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington (formerly 2nd Viscount Carlow). He was apprenticed to William Chambers, who designed on the Casino at Marino.

James Gandon, (1743-1823), Architect, against the Custom House, Dublin, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

The Custom House has four different but consistent facades, linked by corner pavilions. The south facade is of Portland stone, the others of mountain granite. The exterior is adorned with sculptures by Thomas Banks, Agnostino Carlini and Edward Smyth. Smyth carved the series of sculpted keystones symbolising the rivers of Ireland: the Bann, Barrow, Blackwater, Boyne, Erne, Foyle, Lagan, Lee, Liffey, Nore, Shannon, Slaney and Suir. On the north face are personifications of the four continents of world trade: Africa, America, Asia and Europe. [9]

Custom House, photograph taken 1943, Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]
Custom House 1982 photograph from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3] Smyth carved the series of sculpted keystones symbolising the rivers of Ireland: the Bann, Barrow, Blackwater, Boyne, Erne, Foyle, Lagan, Lee, Liffey, Nore, Shannon, Slaney and Suir.
Custom House 1982 photograph from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]
Allegorical statues and motifs on the north façade of Custom House, photograph courtesy of Swire Chin, Toronto.

During the Irish Civil War, the buildings was engulfed in flames and the interior destroyed. The dome was rebuilt with Ardbraccan limestone instead of Portland stone.

Custom House photograph taken 1971, Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]

6. Dublin Castle, Dame Street, Dublin:

Dublin castle, photograph taken 1951, from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3] This is the Bedford Hall and the design has been attributed to Arthur Jones Nevill (d. 1771), who was Surveyor General at the time. He also designed the entrance front of the Battleaxe Hall building with its colonnade of Doric columns. The Bedford Hall was completed by his successor Thomas Eyre (d. 1772). [10]
Dublin Castle, 2020.

General Enquiries: 01 645 8813, dublincastle@opw.ie

From the website:

Just a short walk from Trinity College, on the way to Christchurch, Dublin Castle is well situated for visiting on foot. The history of this city-centre site stretches back to the Viking Age and the castle itself was built in the thirteenth century.

The building served as a military fortress, a prison, a treasury and courts of law. For 700 years, from 1204 until independence, it was the seat of English (and then British) rule in Ireland.

Rebuilt as the castle we now know in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Dublin Castle is now a government complex and an arena of state ceremony.

The state apartments, undercroft, chapel royal, heritage centre and restaurant are now open to visitors.

Dublin castle by Robert French Lawrence Photographic Collection National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.
Dublin Castle, 2020.

What is called “Dublin Castle” is a jumble of buildings from different periods and of different styles. The castle was founded in 1204 by order of King John who wanted a fortress constructed for the administration of the city. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the castle contained law courts, meeting of Parliament, the residence of the Viceroy and a council chamber, as well as a chapel.

The oldest parts remaining are the medieval Record Tower from the thirteenth century and the tenth century stone bank visible in the Castle’s underground excavation.

The first Lord Deputy (also called Lord Lieutenant or Viceroy) to make his residence here was Sir Henry Sidney (1529-1586) in 1565. He was brought up at the Royal Court as a companion to Prince Edward, afterwards King Edward VI. He served under both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I. He spent much of his time in Ireland expanding English administration over Ireland, which had reduced before his time to the Pale and a few outlying areas.

Sir Henry Sidney (1529-1586), Lord Deputy of Ireland After Arnold van Brounkhorst, Dutch, fl.1565-1583. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
James Malton, English, 1761-1803 The Upper Yard, Dublin Castle, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
The statue of Justice by John Van Nost (1721).
Dublin Castle, September 2021. The statue of Justice by John Van Nost (1721). On the other gate is the figure of Fortitude.
Fortitude by John Van Nost.
Dublin Castle Upper Yard, 2022.
Dublin Castle Upper Yard, 2022.
Dublin Castle Upper Yard, 2022, exit to the Lower Yard.
Dublin Castle Lower Yard, 2020.
NLI Ref.: L_ROY_06809, National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.

In 1684 a fire in the Viceregal quarters destroyed part of the building. The Viceroy at the time would have been James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond. He moved temporarily to the new building of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. New designs by the Surveyor General Sir William Robinson were constructed by October 1688, who also designed the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. He designed the State Apartments, originally to be living accommodation for the Lord Lieutenant (later known as the Viceroy), the representative for the British monarch in Ireland. [11] Balls and other events were held for fashionable society in the Castle. The State Apartments are now used for State occasions such as the Inauguration of the President. The Castle was formally handed over to General Michael Collins on 16th January 1922, and the Centenary of this event was commemorated in January 2022.

James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond, Viceroy from 1643, on and off until he died in 1688.
Frances Jennings, Vicereine of Ireland 1687-89, Duchess of Tyrconnell. She and her husband would have been Vicereine and Viceroy while the new State Apartments by William Robinson were constructed. Resting her hand on a spaniel, a symbol of loyalty. She was committed to James II, which prompted her to establish a Catholic convent beside Dublin Castle and in 1689, to lead a procession that culminated in the seizure of Christ Church cathedral from Protestant hands. She was married to Richard Talbot, 1st Duke of Tyrconnell (1630-1691). She was previously married to George Hamilton, Comte d’Hamilton.
Dublin Castle, 2020.
Dublin Castle, 2020.
Dublin Castle July 2011.
Bermingham Tower of Dublin Castle, 2020. This tower was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion in 1775 and demolished, leaving only its lowest stage and battery base. The tower was rebuilt in 1777 in a loose interpretation of the medieval which we now term Georgian Gothic or “Gothick.” [12]
Dublin Castle, 2020, the base of the Records, or Wardrobe, Tower.

The Bedford Tower was constructed around 1750 along with its flanking gateways to the city. The clock tower is named after the 4th Duke of Bedford John Russell who was Lord Lieutenant at the time.

The Chapel Royal, renamed the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in 1943, was designed by Francis Johnston in 1807. It is built on the site of an earlier church which was built around 1700. The exterior is decorated with over 100 carved stone heads by Edward Smyth, who did the river heads on Dublin’s Custom House, and by his son John. They are carved in Tullamore limestone, and represent a variety of kings, queens, archbishops and ‘grotesques’. A carving of Queen Elizabeth I is on the north façade and Saint Peter and Jonathan Swift above the main entrance. The interior of the chapel has plasterwork by George Stapleton and wood carving by Richard Stewart. What looks like carved stone is actually limestone ashlar facing on a structure of timber, covered in painted plaster. Plasterwork fan vaulting, inspired by Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster Abbey, is by George Stapleton (1777-1841) while a host of modelled plasterwork heads are by the Smyths, likely the work of John (the younger) after the death of his father in 1812. [13] The Arms of all the Viceroys from 1172-1922 are on display.

Chapel Royal and the Record Tower, Dublin Castle, March 2020.
Dublin Castle, 2020. The Wardrobe tower was renovated at the same time as the Chapel Royal, in 1807, with the addition of a storey, topped with battlements.
Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle, 2020.
Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle, 2020. Two of the 103 heads carved by Edward and John Smyth. These two are Brian Boru and St. Patrick.

The Viceroy at the time of Francis Johnston’s work on the chapel would have been Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond.

Charlotte Lennox nee Gordon (1768-1842), Duchess of Richmond, Vicereine 1807-1813, wife of Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond.

The State Apartments consist of a series of ornate decorated rooms, stretching along the first floor of the southern range of the upper yard.

The Battleaxe Staircase, Dublin Castle, September 2021. This staircase dates from 1749 and is the gateway to the State Apartments. The Viceroy’s Guards were called the Battleaxe Guards.
Photograph of the “Battleaxe staircase” taken in 1984, photograph from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]
Photograph of the “Battleaxe staircase” taken in 1984, photograph from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]

The State Corridor on the first floor of the State Apartments is by Edward Lovett Pearce in 1758.

The State Corridor, Dublin Castle, September 2021. It was designed in 1758 and provided access to a series of public reception rooms on the left and the Viceregal’s quarters on the right. At the far end it led to the Privy Council Chamber.
State apartments Dublin Castle, photograph taken 1985, from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]
The ceiling of the Apollo Room. Apollo, god of the sun and music, identified by a sunburst and a lyre. Emerging from the clouds are some of the signs of the zodiac, including Sagittarius, Scorpio and Libra. The ceiling was taken in eleven pieces from a nearby townhouse, Tracton House, St Stephen’s Green, which was demolished in 1910. [14]
In the corners of the Apollo room are “trophies” i.e. collections of objects and instruments that symbolise life’s pursuits. Pictures here is Music. The other corners are The Arts, Hunting and some that can either be identified as Love or War.

The Drawing room was largely destroyed in a fire in 1941, and was reconstructed in 1968 in 18th century style. It is heavily mirrored with five large Waterford crystal chandeliers.

The State Drawing Room, designed in 1838, with its five Waterford crystal chandeliers, installed in the 1960s.

The Throne Room, originally known as Battleaxe Hall, has a throne created for the visit of King George IV in 1821. The walls are decorated with roundels painted by Gaetano Gandolfi, depicting Jupiter, Juno, Mars and Venus. The Throne Room was created by George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, the viceroy of the day.

The Throne Room, originally known as Battleaxe Hall. The walls are decorated with roundels painted by Gaetano Gandolfi depicting Jupiter, Juno, Mars and Venus. The chandelier was created in 1788. (see [10])
On the canopy is a lion representing England and a unicorn representing Scotland, each gripping the harp, to symbolise British control of Ireland. These date from 1788 when the Throne Room was created by Lord George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess Buckingham (1753-1813), the viceroy of the day.
The Throne Room, originally known as Battleaxe Hall. The walls are decorated with roundels painted by Gaetano Gandolfi depicting Jupiter, Juno, Mars and Venus.

Next to the Throne Room is the Portrait Gallery, where formal banquets took place at the time of the Viceroys.

The Viceroys wear a star-shaped badge that contains rubies, emeralds and Brazilian diamonds. These crown jewels were stolen from Dublin Castle in 1907. Pictured here, John William Brabazon Ponsonby (1781-1847) 4th Earl of Bessborough, County Kilkenny, Viceroy in 1846.
Some of the Viceroys also wear the chain of office.The panelling in the room is from 1747 and is the oldest surviving interior finish in the State Apartments. Pictured here, Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1852-1915), 6th Marquess of Londonderry, Viceroy from 1886-1889.
Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey (1768-1854), Viceroy in 1828 and 1830.

There are many other important rooms, including the Wedgwood Room, an oval room decorated in Wedgwood Blue with details in white, which was used as a Billiards Room in the 19th century. It dates from 1777.

The Wedgwood Room.
Wedgwood Room, Dublin Castle, photograph taken 1985, from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]

Beyond the Wedgwood Room is the Gothic Room, and then St. Patrick’s Hall. It has two galleries, one at each end, initially intended as one for musicians and one for spectators. There are hanging banners of the arms of the members of the Order of St Patrick, the Irish version of the Knight of the Garter: they first met here in 1783. The room is in a gold and white colour scheme with Corinthian columns. The painted ceiling, commissioned and paid for by the viceroy George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham in 1788, is by Vincenzo Valdre (c. 1742-1814), an Italian who was brought to Ireland by his patron the Marquess of Buckingham. In the central panel, George III is between Hibernia and Brittania, with Liberty and Justice. Other panels depict St. Patrick, and Henry II receiving the surrender of Irish chieftains.

The hall was built originally as a ballroom in the 1740s but was damaged by an explosion in 1764, remodelled in 1769, and redecorated in the 1780s in honour of the Order of St Patrick.

1985, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archives. (see [3])
St. Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle.
St. Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle.
Dublin castle, photograph taken 1960, from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]
St. Patrick’s Hall, Dublin Castle.
Henrietta Crofts, Duchess of Bolton (1682-1730) as shepherdess, by James Maubert. Henrietta Street was named in her honour. Vicereine 1717-1720. She was the daughter of James Crofts (Scott), 1st and last Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of King Charles II. She married Charles Paulet, 2nd Duke of Bolton.
Dublin Castle, September 2021.
Dublin Castle state apartments, photograph taken 1985, from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]

Located around the castle within the castle grounds are the Coach House Gallery, Garda Museum, the Revenue Museum, the Hibernia Conference Centre and the Chester Beatty Museum and Dubh Linn Gardens, which are located on the original “dubh linn” or black pool of Dublin.

next to Dublin Castle, 2020.
Entrance to Dublin Castle, March 2020.
Entrance to Dublin Castle, March 2020.
Entrance to Dublin Castle, March 2020.

7. Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park, Dublin, July 2015:

Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park, Dublin, July 2015.

General enquiries: (01) 815 5914, farmleighguides@opw.ie

Farmleigh was originally a two storey Georgian house, belonging first to the Coote family and then to the Trenches, then bought by the 1st Earl of Iveagh in 1870. He enlarged it and added a third storey, using designs first by James Franklin Fuller and later by William Young.

From the website:

Farmleigh is a 78-acre estate inside Dublin’s Phoenix Park. The government bought it in June 1999 to provide accommodation for high-level meetings and visiting guests of the nation.

Farmleigh is a unique representation of its heyday, the Edwardian period. Edward Cecil Guinness [(1847-1927) 1st Earl of Iveagh], great-grandson of Arthur Guinness (founder of the brewery), constructed Farmleigh around a smaller Georgian house in the 1880s. According to his tastes, the new building merged a variety of architectural styles.

Many of the artworks and furnishings that Guinness collected remain in the house. There is a stunning collection of rare books and manuscripts in the library. The extensive pleasure-grounds contain wonderful Victorian and Edwardian ornamental features, with walled and sunken gardens and scenic lakeside walks. The estate also boasts a working farm with a herd of Kerry cows.” [15]

Farmleigh House, Phoenix Park, Dublin, July 2015. It was renovated by architect James Franklin Fuller.

One is not allowed to take photographs inside the house but you can see pictures of the house and take an online tour on the website. It operates as the official residence for guests of the Irish state, which is why photography is not allowed inside.

Farmleigh was purchased by Edward Cecil Guinness (1847-1927) on his marriage to his cousin, Adelaide Guinness, in 1873. A great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, founder of the eponymous brewery, Edward Cecil became the first Earl of Iveagh in 1919. The first major building programme was undertaken in 1881-84 to designs by Irish architect James Franklin Fuller (1832-1925), who extended the House to the west, refurbished the existing house, and added a third storey. In 1896 the Ballroom wing was added, designed by the Scottish architect William Young (1843-1900).

With the addition of a new Conservatory adjoining the Ballroom in 1901, and increased planting of broadleaves and exotics in the gardens, Farmleigh had, by the early years of the twentieth century, all the requisites for gracious living and stylish entertainment. Its great charm lies in the eclecticism of its interior decoration ranging from the classical style to Jacobean, Louis XV, Louis XVI and Georgian.

Farmleigh  was purchased from the Guinness family by the Irish Government in 1999 for €29.2m. The house has been carefully refurbished by the Office of Public Works as the premier accommodation for visiting dignitaries and guests of the nation, for high level Government meetings, and for public enjoyment.” [16]

Gardens at Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, February 2014.

Edward’s main residence at the time was 80 St. Stephen’s Green (now Iveagh House, the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs – see my entry under places visited at Open House) and he viewed Farmleigh as ‘a rustic retreat’. In 1886 Edward Cecil Guinness floated the brewery on the Stock Exchange increasing his wealth and social standing and this reflected in an extensive rebuild of Farmleigh. Despite this work, Edward and his wife Adelaide spent relatively little time there. Their primary residence was in London, but when in Dublin, they stayed mostly at 80 St. Stephen’s Green. The family only stayed in Farmleigh for short periods of a couple of weeks, mainly in the spring and summer months.

After Edward Cecil’s death in 1927, his eldest son, Rupert, became the second Earl of Iveagh and inherited Farmleigh and 80 St Stephen’s Green. The latter he presented the Irish State in 1939. Rupert, who was a British MP for Southend at the time, ceased to be an MP when he succeeded to his father’s earldom. His wife The Countess of Iveagh, Gwendolen Guinness, won the Southend by-election in November 1927 to replace her husband as MP. She served until her retirement in 1935.

Rupert gave Farmleigh to his grandson and heir, Benjamin (Rupert’s eldest son and Benjamin’s father, Arthur, was killed in WWII). Farmleigh became a family home for Benjamin (3rd Earl of Iveagh) and Miranda Guinness, and their children. Benjamin became a keen bibliophile and collector of rare books, parliamentary and early bindings, as well as first editions of the modern poets and playwrights. The library in Farmleigh in now dedicated to Benjamin Iveagh and his wonderful collection of books.

Benjamin died in 1993 in London and in 1999, his son Arthur Guinness (4th Earl of Iveagh), sold Farmleigh to the Irish State.” [16]

Connemara marble dominates the Entrance Hall. The immediate front hallwas is toplit by roundels set in the ceiling of the hallway/porte cochere. The stairwell is toplit also. The Dining Room panelling was designed by decorators Charles Mellier & Co to incorporate four late seventeenth century Italian tapestries which once belonged to Queen Maria Christina of Spain. One of the former drawing rooms is now called the “Noble Room” and honours the memory of Ireland’s four Nobel Laureates for literature: George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney.

The suite for state guests, which is not included in the house tour, is inspired by designs of Irish modernist Eileen Gray (you can see examples of her work in the Museum at Collins Barracks in Dublin).

The house also contains the Benjamin Iveagh Library, donated by the Guinness family to Dublin’s Marsh’s Library and on permanent display in Farmleigh. Scholars can access material from the collection by arrangement.

The grounds contain a clock tower, a large classical fountain in the Pleasure Grounds, an ornamental dairy, garden temple and four acre walled garden and sunken garden. The outbuildings have been adapted to house an art gallery and a theatre and a courtyard for additional state accommodation. The Boathouse now houses a cafe overlooking the lake.

Gardens at Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin, August 2015.
Gardens at Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin, August 2015.

Sunken gardens in various formal styles were popular in the early twentieth century… This one is in the Dutch of Early English style and was created some time after 1907, probably by Edward Cecil Guinness. The design has some similarities with the sunken pond garden at Hampton Court, which dates from the original Early English period, and may relate to his connections with the British Royal family.

An ornamental gate leads into the rectangular garden, which was designed with three descending brick terraces leading to an oval pool in the centre, with a marble fountain of carved putti figures. The fountain has been restored under the direction of OPW and the Carrara marble exposed. Fine topiary peacocks and spirals surround this fountain on two levels. A brick wall enclosing the garden is paralleled by a high yew hedge, which leads the eye to the two conifers framing the view to the small apple orchard beyond.” [17]

Gardens at Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin, August 2015.

“The Walled Garden covers about four acres and is sloped ideally towards the south. A fine pair of highly decorative wrought iron gates lead into a diagonal walk with double herbaceous borders backed by high yew hedges. South of the main crosswalk is a small orchard and potager, while north of it there is a small rose and lavender garden. The Walled Garden dates from the early nineteenth century, when Charles Trench owned Farmleigh; it is shown on the 1837 Ordnance Survey map as having a diagonal layout with seven squares and glasshouse. Later that century it had an extensive range of glasshouses on the south wall for many plants grown in typical Victorian fashion to support large-scale bedding schemes as well as producing exotic fruit and flowers and foliage, particularly orchids and ferns, for year round display in the house.

Among the additions made by Edward Cecil Guinness were the small Victorian fernery under glass and grotto nearby with two old ogee windows from St Patrick’s Cathedral in the end wall of the garden. He also erected a number of glasshouses, including a fine three quarter span cast-iron vinery behind the high yew hedge, the potting shed, and the gardener’s house and pump house which were built in the Arts and Crafts style. His daughter in-law, Gwendolen, Lady Iveagh, subsequently created a compartmentalised layout, which was fashionable in the early twentieth century along with renewed interest in old style garden plants and herbaceous borders. A new traditional path led from the wrought iron gateway connecting the Walled Garden to the broad walk at the back of the house. This new axis of the garden was reinforced by tall yew hedges backing the long double herbaceous borders which she also planted.

A stone temple was created as a focal point of the garden by Benjamin and Miranda Guinness in 1971: it has six antique columns of Portland with a copper roof and ornamental weather vane. The main cross path either side of the temple has metal structures designed by Lanning Roper for climbing roses and wisteria similar to those in the famous Bagatelle Garden in Paris. A paved rose garden was laid out to the north east of the temple backed by a yew hedge and looking across a lawn to the small orchard and potage. Lanning Roper suggested planting a quince, a mulberry, a catalpa, and a magnolia, to complete what he described as a Carolingian Quartet on this lawn. Lady Iveagh subsequently planted the double herbaceous borders, which include yuccas, phormiums, paeonies, astilbe and euphorbias.” [18]

Gardens at Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin, August 2015.

8. Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin 1:

Garden of Remembrance, Dublin, photo by Anthony Woods, 2021 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [7])

General enquiries: (01) 821 3021, superintendent.park@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This beautiful garden in the centre of the city was designed by architect Dáithí Hanly and dedicated to the memory of ‘all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom’. 

The garden was officially opened on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Rising.

The focus point is a magnificent sculpture by Oisín Kelly, based on the legend of the Children of Lir, in which four children are transformed into swans and remain so for 900 years before becoming human again. A poem by Liam Mac Uistin is inscribed on the wall behind the sculpture. It concludes: ‘O generations of freedom remember us, the generations of the vision.’

The garden is intended as a place of quiet remembrance. It is a perfect place to enjoy some respite from the clamour of the city.

Garden of Remembrance, Dublin, photo by Anthony Woods, 2021 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

and

In the eighteenth century, it was the location of pleasure gardens which were intended to raise funds for the maternity hospital to the front of Rutland (now Parnell) Square. In the late nineteenth century, these gardens contained a large temporary building which was used as a hall, and called Rotunda Rink.

It was at Rotunda Rink in 1913 that the Irish Volunteers were formed, at a meeting reportedly attended by around 7,000 people. In 1916, the Rotunda gardens were also where many of the leaders of the Easter Rising were held, before being taken to Kilmainham Gaol for execution. The site for the Garden of Remembrance was bought from the hospital in 1939, and a competition for its design was announced the year after.” [19]

Architect Daithí Hanly (1917-2003) was responsible for the design of the Garden. The centre of the plan contains a large cross-shaped pool, with a tiled mosaic pattern as its base. The tiles show a picture of swords, shields, and spears thrown beneath waves; this is a nod to the Celtic custom of casting weapons into water once a battle had ended. Important objects from the history of prehistoric and medieval Ireland were woven into the structure of the Garden elsewhere; in the railings can be seen the shapes of the Trinity College (Brian Boru) harp, the Loughnashade trumpet, and the Ballinderry sword.” [19]

Commemorated by the Garden of Remembrance are:

  • the 1798 rebellion of the Society of United Irishmen
  • the 1803 rebellion of Robert Emmet
  • the 1848 rebellion of Young Ireland
  • the 1867 rising of the Fenian Brotherhood
  • the 1916 Easter Rising
  • the 1919-21 Irish War of Independence

9. Government Buildings Dublin:

Irish Government Buildings, Dublin, housing the office of the Prime Minister or Taoiseach, as well as the Department of Finance. Photograph by Dave Walsh, 2009, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [7])
Photograph by Jeremy Hylton, June 2022.

General Inquiries: 01 645 8813

From the OPW website:

The imposing complex of Government Buildings on Upper Merrion Street, next door to Leinster House, was the last major public building the British constructed in Ireland. It was intended as accommodation for the Royal College of Science and various departments of the administration.

Fortuitously, it was complete by 1922. When independence dawned, the new Free State government moved in.

In more recent times, Taoiseach Charles Haughey converted and entirely refurbished the building to form state-of-the-art accommodation for a number of departments, including the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Finance and the Office of the Attorney General. Despite criticism of the expenditure involved, the renovated building won awards for its architectural design when it opened in the 1990s.

There are free guided tours every Saturday, although they are subject to occasional cancellation for urgent government business.

The building was constructed between 1904 and 1922 as a combination of Government offices and Royal College of Science, which occupied the centre block. My father went to college there! The function is represented by statues of William Rowan Hamilton, a mathematician, and Richard Boyle, the scientist, in niches flanking the entrance. The architects were Sir Aston Webb of London and Sir Thomas Manley Dean, from Cork.

The College of Science was incorporated into University College Dublin in 1926 and it vacated the premises in 1989.

Stephen and I took the tour of the buildings in 2020 but one is not allowed to take photographs. We were excited to stand in the Office of the Taoiseach – who was Leo Varadkar at the time.

1947, photograph from Digital Repository, Dublin City Archives and Library, for Failte Ireland. [see 3]

10. Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Blackhorse Avenue, Dublin 7:

General enquiries: (01) 821 3021, superintendent.park@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

The largest military cemetery in Ireland, Grangegorman is a stone’s throw from the landmark Phoenix Park.

The graveyard was opened in 1876 as a resting place for service personnel of the British Empire and their families. It contains war graves from both world wars, as well as the graves of some of the British soldiers who lost their lives during the 1916 Rising.

A simply designed screen-wall memorial, built of Irish limestone and standing nearly 2 metres high, commemorates those war casualties whose graves lie elsewhere in Ireland and can no longer be maintained.

Mature trees and well-maintained lawns cast a sombre and reflective atmosphere over this restful place.” [20]

The cemetery adopts the “garden cemetery” styple promoted by J.C. Louden, the Victorian botanist and garden designer.

11. Irish National War Memorial Gardens, Islandbridge, Dublin:

National War Memorial Gardens, Dublin, 2021. At the centre of the garden is the War Stone, or Stone of Remembrance, on which is written “Their name liveth forevermore.” There is a similar stone is almost all cemeteries of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

General enquiries: (01) 475 7816, parkmanager@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

These gardens in Islandbridge, a Dublin suburb, are one of the most famous memorial gardens in Europe. They are dedicated to the memory of the 49,400 Irish soldiers who died in the First World War. The name of every single soldier is contained in the sumptuously illustrated Harry Clarke manuscripts in the granite bookrooms.” They were created in the 1930s, with the stipulation that labour would be divided with fifty percent coming from ex-soldiers of the British army and fifty percent from ex-soldiers of the Irish army.

These gardens are not only a place of remembrance; they are also of great architectural interest and beauty. The great Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) designed them. Lutyens was a prolific garden designer, especially of war memorials, but nonetheless lent his expertise to only four gardens in Ireland.

Sunken rose gardens, herbaceous borders and extensive tree-planting make for an enjoyable visit in any season. The solemn, serene atmosphere of this elegant garden makes it a perfect place in which to relax and reflect.

War Memorial Gardens October 2014: the sunken rose garden.
War Memorial Gardens November 2020.
War Memorial Gardens October 2014, my Dad and Stephen.
War Memorial Gardens October 2014, Stephen, and two of the four “bookrooms” which represent the four provinces of Ireland and house a collection of items relating to both world wars, as well as record books which list the names, regiments and places of birth of the Irish soldiers known to have died in the First World War. These books are illustrated by Harry Clarke and are kept in cases designed by Lutyens. I have never seen these pavilions open to the public, however.
War Memorial Gardens November 2020.
War Memorial Gardens November 2020.

The site chosen for the Gardens lies on the banks of the River Liffey, and was known as Longmeadows. It is around fifty acres in size. Its location next to this section of the Liffey meant that it was an important ancient and medieval fording point. The earliest Viking burials were discovered in the vicinity in the early nineteenth century. The most recent excavations in 2008 uncovered a grave which contained a sword, spearhead, and ringed pin. In an era when the Liffey was unconstrained by its modern quays, and spread far wider than it does today, Islandbridge was the first navigable point. The Irish National War Memorial Gardens therefore occupy a space that was important at many different points in Irish history.

Today, the location of the Gardens mean that they are a popular recreational destination for both the local community and international visitors alike. The pathways between the rose gardens, tree avenues, and herbaceous borders allow for pleasant walking. The presence of many boatclubs, mainly along the north side of the Liffey, mean that the park is a significant hub for rowing, and other water sports, in Dublin. The 250m-long weir, dating to the 13th century, attracts a steady stream of anglers who fish its salmon and trout.” [21]

12. Iveagh Gardens, Clonmel Street, Dublin 2:

Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, October 2021.

General Enquiries: 01 475 7816, parkmanager@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Tucked away behind the National Concert Hall, the Iveagh Gardens are among the finest, but least known, of Dublin’s parks and gardens.

They were designed by Ninian Niven in 1865 as the grounds for the Dublin Exhibition Palace – a space ‘where the citizens might meet for the purposes of rational amusement blended with instruction’.

The gardens contain a unique collection of features, which include rustic grottos, sunken formal panels of lawn with fountain centrepieces, woodlands, a maze, a rosarium, the American garden, rockeries and archery grounds.

This oasis of tranquillity and beauty, just a stone’s throw from the city centre, can justly claim to be the capital’s best-kept secret.

This figure used to be in the fountain.
Iveagh Gardens rose garden, 2009.

Above, Information about Ninian Niven, from the exhibition at the Irish Georgian Society in July 2022 curated by Robert O’Byrne, “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900.

The website gives us a wonderfully informative history of the garden:

In 1777, Harcourt Street was built southwards from the south-west corner of St Stephen’s Green. The following year, its first residence was completed – Clonmel House – now number 17 Harcourt street. The proprietor was John Scott (1739 – 1798), 1st Earl of Clonmell, whose country estate was Temple Hill House in Blackrock, Co Dublin. A lawyer by profession, Scott was a friend, collaborator, and fellow-scoundrel of the infamous ‘Buck’ Whaley (whose house at number 85 St Stephen’s Green backed onto Leeson’s Fields).” John Scott, or “Jack,” was the original “Copper Faced Jack,” so called because of his face red from alcohol.

John Scott, 1st Earl of Clonmel, (1739-1798), Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in Ireland Date after 1798 by Engraver Pierre Condé, French, fl.1806-after 1840 After Richard Cosway, English, 1742-1821, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Scott bought eleven acres of Leeson’s Fields as a garden for Clonmel House. Because Harcourt Street separated the two, a subterranean passage was built (believed to be extant), from one of the now-demolished wings of Clonmel House, with two entrances in the garden.  In a map of 1789 this site is named ‘Lord Earlsfort’s Lawn’ after Scott’s first title Baron Earlsfort.  In the 1790s he became Earl of Clonmell, to which he added an ‘L’ (Clonmell).  

In 1817 this private land was leased, made public, and renamed the ‘Cobourg Gardens’, a name probably suggested by recent events on the Continent. For a brief period the Cobourg Gardens, barely altered from their time as the lawn of Clonmell House, enjoyed a very fashionable position among Dublin’s upper-class society…

Iveagh Gardens 2014, photograph by James Fennell for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [7])

By the 1830s the popularity of the Cobourg Gardens had declined sharply. In 1836, the ground reverted to Thomas, Earl of Clonmell, who seems to have encouraged plans to build a new street across the Garden, parallel to St Stephen’s Green to be called Clonmel Street.

The gardens … were badly neglected until bought by Benjamin Lee Guinness from John Henry, [3rd] Earl of Clonmell, in 1862.

Benjamin Lee Guinness acquired the land to act as a garden for his town house mansion Iveagh House (numbers 80 and 81 St Stephen’s Green), which he acquired in 1856. Being characteristic of his conscientious and philanthropic family, he became a trustee of the Dublin Exhibition Palace and Winter Garden Company, established in 1862.

He sold the land bordered by Harcourt Street, St Stephens Green south, Earlsfort Terrace and Hatch Street, to the Company for the price he had paid for it. This was to be the location of the Company’s planned recreational and cultural centre for Dublin’s citizens…

Meanwhile, considerable labour was required in the pleasure grounds of the Exhibition Palace. Ninian Niven, famed landscape gardener and former Director of the Botanic Gardens Glasnevin (1834 – 1838), designed the layout…” [you can see a picture of the Exhibition building on the OPW website]. The gardens combined the “French formal” style with “English landscape.” Niven also designed the gardens at a Section 482 property, Hilton Park in County Monaghan, as well as the National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin at gardens at Aras an Uachtarain.

Iveagh Gardens 2014, photograph by James Fennell for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [7])

The heir to the throne, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, to rapturous enthusiasm, performed the grand opening, on 9 May 1865. In all a huge 930,000 visitors attended the Exhibition between 9 May and 9 November.  The Company arranged special railway and other concessions and the Palace was equipped with a telegraph centre, post office branch, railway office, and facilities for a large number of international newspapers.

The gardens remained open to the public until the exhibition building was sold and then, the land made private again in 1883. They opened again to the public in 1941, first as part of University College Dublin.

The Gardens feature a unique collection of landscape features, which include a Rustic Grotto and Cascade, sunken formal panels of lawn with Fountain Centre Pieces, Wilderness Woodlands, a Maze, Rosariurn, American Garden, Archery grounds, Rockeries and Rookeries. Happily, many of these features were still visible when the gardens transferred into State care in 1991.

Accordingly, a plan was put in place immediately to undertake restoration and conservation works to the gardens. Looking around the gardens the fruits of this work are visible, in features such as the Yew maze and the Rosarium with its period collection of roses pre-dating 1865. The two fountains, restored in 1994, form a magnificent centerpiece in the gardens.” [22]

Legend tell us that an elephant is buried near the sunken lawn. It may have been used for dissection in the medical school or by a veterinarian, or else could have died in Dublin zoo. However, no remains have ever been found so its presence may be an urban myth.

13. Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin:

The main entrance was the formidable doorway, above which five monstrous shapes writhe. These have variously been called dragons, demons, serpents, and a hydra. It is said that they represented the five worst crimes: murder, rape, theft, treason, and piracy. Just outside this entrance was where public hangings took place until the late nineteenth century, and remains of the fixtures for the gallows can still be seen. [23]
Kilmainham Gaol, January 2014.

General Enquiries: 01 453 5984, kilmainhamgaol@opw.ie

from OPW website:

Kilmainham Gaol is one of the largest unoccupied gaols in Europe. It opened in 1796 as the new county gaol for Dublin and finally shut its doors as such in 1924. During that period it witnessed some of the most heroic and tragic events in Ireland’s emergence as a modern nation.

Among those detained – and in some cases executed – here were leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916, as well as members of the Irish republican movement during the War of Independence and Civil War.

Names like Henry Joy McCracken [founder of the United Irishmen. He entered the Gaol on the 11th of October 1796 and was hanged two years later], Robert Emmet [United Irishman, hung in 1803], Anne Devlin [friend of Robert Emmet, spent two years in Kilmainham Gaol] and Charles Stewart Parnell [leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party at Westminster, and many of his fellow MPs were detained in Kilmainham after their open rejection of the Land Act introduced by the British government in 1881. Parnell was imprisoned in Kilmainham from October 1881 to May 1882] will always be associated with the building. Not to be forgotten, however, are the thousands of men, women and children that Kilmainham held in its capacity as county gaol. 

Kilmainham Gaol is now a major museum. The tour of the prison includes an audio-visual presentation.

The Gaol was closed as a convict prison in 1910 and handed over to the British Army. It was closed for good as a prison in 1924.

Kilmainham Gaol, January 2014.
Kilmainham Gaol, January 2014.
Kilmainham Gaol, January 2014.
In the late 1850s, the east wing was replaced completely. The architect who won the open competition was John McCurdy, freemason and official college architect of Trinity College Dublin. This new wing was envisaged as a different system as early as its competition advertisement in 1857. It opened four years later, and reflected the very different ideas of the Victorian age. Based on the Panopticon, it is possible to see all ninety-six cells from a central viewing area. The use of light was deliberate and philosophical. It was thought that the huge skylight would spiritually inspire the inmates, while the out-of-reach cell windows would encourage them to turn heavenward. Under the ground of this new wing were four cellar-level isolation cells intended for dark and solitary confinement. [23]
Eamon De Valera’s cell, who later became President of Ireland.
Eamon de Valera, as President of Ireland, portrait in the Áras an Uachterain.

The Easter Rising of 1916 was devised to take place at a time when the British were distracted by fighting the Great War on the continent. Led by members of the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, with support from the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers, and Cumann na mBan, the rebels seized key sites in Dublin on the 24th of April 1916. It began with a reading of the Proclamation of the Republic by Patrick Pearse. Fighting lasted for six days, until the British Army suppressed the rebellion and Pearse surrendered.

James Connolly was badly wounded and brought to Dublin Castle. Patrick Pearse was brought to Arbour Hill, before transferring to where the rest of the leaders were located, in Richmond Barracks. There they were court-martialled and sentenced to death. They were transferred to Kilmainham Gaol. Here, they were visited by loved ones, and wrote their final goodbyes. It was also here that another leader, Joseph Plunkett, married Grace Gifford in the Gaol chapel the night before he was shot. Between the 3rd and 12th of May 1916, fourteen men were executed by firing squad in the Stonebreakers’ Yard of Kilmainham Gaol. Seven of them had been the signatories of the Proclamation. These were Thomas Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Patrick Pearse, Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, and Joseph Plunkett.” [23]

The cell of Grace Gifford, Mrs Joseph Plunkett in 1923 (her husband was killed in 1916).
The place where the executions took place in 1916.
Kilmainham Gaol, January 2014.

14. National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin 9:

National Botanic Gardens Glasnevin, 2009: the Richard Turner Palm House. The glass houses were built between 1843-1869.

General enquiries: (01) 804 0300, botanicgardens@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

The National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, just 3 kilometres from Dublin city centre, are renowned for the exquisite plant collections held there. They are home to over 15,000 plant species and cultivars from a variety of habitats from all around the world.

The jewel in the gardens’ crown is a set of exquisitely restored and planted historic glasshouses. Most notable among these are Richard Turner’s Curvilinear Range and the Great Palm House, both winners of an award for excellence in conservation architecture.

Conservation plays an important role in the life of the gardens and Glasnevin is home to over 300 endangered plant species, 6 of which are already extinct in the wild.

The gardens have been closely associated with their counterpart in Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow, since 1854. Unlike the Wicklow branch, though, they provide a calm and beautiful green space in the midst of the nation’s capital.

National Botanic Gardens Glasnevin, 2009.

“In 1790, the Irish Parliament, with the active support of the Speaker of the House, John Foster, granted funds to the Dublin Society (now the Royal Dublin Society), to establish a public botanic garden.

In 1795, the Gardens were founded on lands at Glasnevin…The original purpose of the Gardens was to promote a scientific approach to the study of agriculture. In its early years the Gardens demonstrated plants that were useful for animal and human food and medicine and for dyeing but it also grew plants that promoted an understanding of systematic botany or were simply beautiful or interesting in themselves.

By the 1830s, the agricultural purpose of the Gardens had been overtaken by the pursuit of botanical knowledge.

This was facilitated by the arrival of plants from around the world and by closer contact with the great gardens in Britain, notably Kew and Edinburgh and plant importers such as Messrs. Veitch. By 1838, the basic shape of the Gardens had been established. Ninian Niven as Curator had, in four years, laid out the system of roads and paths, and located many of the garden features that are present today. [Niven had formerly been head gardener at the Chief Secretary’s Lodge in the Phoenix Park, now the residence of the American Ambassador to Ireland).

The ever increasing plant collection, and especially plants from tropical areas, demanded more and more protected growing conditions and it was left to Niven’s successor, David Moore, to develop the glasshouse accommodation. Richard Turner the great Dublin iron-master, had already supplied an iron house to Belfast Gardens, and he persuaded the Royal Dublin Society that such a house would be a better investment than a wooden house. So indeed it has proved.

…Moore used the great interest in plants that existed among the estate owners and owners of large gardens in Ireland to expand trial grounds for rare plants not expected to thrive at Glasnevin. The collections at Kilmacurragh, Headford, and Fota, for example, attest to this.

It was David Moore who first noted potato blight in Ireland at Glasnevin on 20th August 1845, and predicted that the impact on the potato crop would lead to famine in Ireland….

A development plan for the Gardens, published in 1992, led to a dramatic programme of restoration and renewal.

Primary amongst these was the magnificent restoration of the Turner Curvilinear Range of glasshouses completed for the bicentenary of the Garden in 1995. A new purpose-built herbarium/library was opened in 1997. The 18th century Director’s House and the Curator’s House have been refurbished. New service glasshouses and compost storage bays have been built. Additional lecture rooms for the Teagasc Course in Amenity Horticulture were opened in 1999. Improved visitor and education facilities have been provided in a new Visitor Centre. In tandem with the restoration and expansion of the buildings, upgrading of the collections and displays has also been in progress. The work of plant identification and classification, of documenting, labelling and publishing continues, as does that of education and service to the visiting public.

The Botanic Gardens came into state care in 1878 and since then have been administered variously by the Department of Art and Industry, the Department of Agriculture, Dúchas the Heritage Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage the Gaeltacht and the Islands, and the Office of Public Works (OPW), which currently has responsibility for the Gardens.” [24]

The gardens include an extensive arboretum as well as rockery, herbaceous border, alpine house, rose garden and woodland garden.

National Botanic Gardens Glasnevin, 2009.
National Botanic Gardens Glasnevin, 2009.
National Botanic Gardens, Dublin, 2021.

15. Phoenix Park, Dublin:

Phoenix Park in snow, 1969, photograph from Dublin City Library archive. [see 3]

General Enquiries: 01 821 3021, superintendent.park@opw.ie

One would think it was named for the bird that rose from the flames, but in fact its name comes from the Irish phrase “Fionn Uisce” meaning “clear water.”

From the OPW website:

It was originally formed as a royal hunting Park in the 1660s [by James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, for King Charles II] and opened to the public in 1747. A large herd of fallow deer still remain to this day. The Park is also home to the Zoological Gardens, Áras an Uachtaráin, and Victorian flower gardens. The Phoenix Park is only a mile and a half from O’Connell Street. Both passive and active recreational pursuits may be viewed or pursued such as walking, running, polo, cricket, hurling, and many more. The Glen Pond is set in very scenic surrounds in the Furry Glen. There are many walks and cycle trails available to the public.

The Phoenix Park is open 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, all year round.”

The 4th Earl of Chesterfield [Philip Stanhope] was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in January 1745, and is credited with initiating a series of landscape works, many of which were probably not completed until after his short tenure, having been recalled to London more than a year later. These included considerable replanting of the Park as well as planting of trees on either side of the main avenue and the erection of the Phoenix Column in 1747. He is also credited with opening the Park to the public.

The dominant eighteenth-century managerial and infrastructural characteristics of the Phoenix Park were reflected in the extensive use of the Park by the military and the number of lodges used by government officers and other lesser officials involved in Park management. Apart from the use of the Park for military manoeuvres and practices, there were also a number of military institutions which included the Royal Hibernian Military School (1766) for children who were orphaned, or whose father was on active military service abroad. The Magazine Fort, constructed in 1736 with additions in 1756, was a major military institution from which small arms, munitions and gunpowder were distributed to other military barracks in the Dublin area. Mountjoy Cavalry Barracks (formerly the home of Luke Gardiner, one of the Keepers of the Park) and the Royal Military Infirmary were two further buildings constructed during the eighteenth century, in 1725 and 1786 respectively. The role of the Salute Battery (for firing cannon on Royal and other special occasions), situated in the environs of the Wellington Testimonial, was discontinued, and the lands it occupied within the Park subsequently became known as the Wellington Fields, and on which the Wellington Testimonial was erected.

All the important lodges and accompanying demesnes, which were originally occupied by Park Rangers or Keepers, were purchased for Government use as private dwellings for the chief officers of state. These included the Viceregal Lodge for the Lord Lieutenant (now Áras an Uachtaráin), the Chief Secretary’s Residence (now the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland [called Deerfield]) and the Under-Secretary’s Residence (subsequently the Papal Nunciature and now the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre [Ashtown Castle, next to a Victorian walled kitchen garden]).

The beginning of the nineteenth century saw the Park in a much-neglected state with poor drainage, the roads in bad order, and most of the trees very old and/or in a state of decay. However with the Commissioners of Woods and Forests taking over the management of the public areas of the Park and the employment of the renowned architect/landscape architect, Decimus Burton, all this was about to change. Burton produced a master plan for the Park which included the building of new gate lodges, the removal and levelling of old hedgerows and shooting butts, tree planting in strategic locations, drainage, the restoration of the boundary wall, creation and realignment of the Park roads, which included Chesterfield Avenue. This latter project involved the relocation of the Phoenix Column on the main avenue. Burton’s involvement for nearly two decades represents the greatest period of landscape change since the Park’s creation by the Duke of Ormond.

From the 1830s and particularly after the 1860s, sporting and recreational activities became prominent. The Royal Dublin Zoological Society opened Dublin Zoo in 1830. The Promenade Grounds opened in 1840 (later to be known as the People’s Garden) and were considerably improved in the 1860s with the addition of a Head Gardener’s House, rock garden, and horticultural facilities to allow for flower production for planting in the Gardens. Between the People’s Garden and Dublin Zoo, a bandstand and tearooms were built in the final decade of the nineteenth century.” [25]

Phoenix Park People’s Garden, 1971, photograph from Dublin City Library archive. [see 3]

and the People’s Flower Garden:

A 9-hectare section of the massive Phoenix Park is given over to this enclosed and immaculately manicured Victorian flower garden. 

The garden was laid out and opened in the mid-nineteenth century as the Promenade Grounds. It provides an opportunity to enjoy the horticulture of that era at its best. A large ornamental lake with various fowl, a children’s playground, picnic areas and Victorian bedding schemes are just some of the attractions you will come across here.

Whether you’re looking to relax in the sun, have a picnic or simply take a pleasant walk, don’t miss this enchanting portion of the capital’s largest green space.

Phoenix Park People’s Garden, 1959, photograph from Dublin City Library archive. [see 3]

16. Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin:

Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin, September 2021.

General Enquiries: 01 493 9462, rathfarnhamcastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

The castle at Rathfarnham dates back to the Elizabethan period. It was built [around 1583] for Adam Loftus, a Yorkshire clergyman and politician [1533-1605]. Loftus was ambitious and eventually rose to become Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Loftus’s castle, with its four flanker towers, is an excellent example of the Elizabethan fortified house in Ireland. In the late eighteenth century, the house was remodelled on a splendid scale employing some of the finest architects of the day including Sir William Chambers and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart. The collection includes family portraits by Angelica Kauffman, Sir Peter Lely, and Hugh Douglas Hamilton.

Archbishop-Chancellor Adam Loftus (1533-1605). The portrait is in Trinity College Dublin, as he was the first Provost. He was also Keeper of the Great Seal of Ireland, and he is here holding the embroidered purse which held the seal.

Loftus wanted the Castle to be a grand and impressive home which would reflect his high status in Irish society. He also needed it to be easily defended against attack from hostile Irish families such as the O’Byrnes based in the mountains to the south. The design was radically modern for the time and based on recent continental thinking about defensive architecture. The angled bastion towers located at each corner of the building were equipped with musket loops which allowed a garrison of soldiers to defend all approaches to the castle.” He married Jane Purdon. He was also the Provost of Trinity College Dublin, and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. They had many children, who married very well. [He died while he was Archbishop of Dublin, in the old Palace of St. Sepulchre beside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which until recently was the Garda barracks on Kevin Street, now housed in a new building. I hope they will make something of the historic old archbishop’s palace now, which could be a great museum!]

Loftus had previously lived in an archiepiscopal palace in Tallaght, and it had been sacked by the O’Byrnes and O’Tooles from the Wicklow mountains, which is why he ensured that his new house in Rathfarnham had strong defenses. The Bishop’s Palace in Raphoe, now a ruin, is similarly shaped.

Ruin of Bishop’s Palace in Raphoe, County Donegal, built for Bishop John Leslie in 1636.

Maurice Craig points out in his The Architecture of Ireland from the earliest times to 1880 that there are a group of similar buildings, built over a period of fifty years or more: Rathfarnham; Kanturk for MacDonagh MacCarthy, before 1609; Portumna for the Earl of Clanrickarde, before 1618; Manorhamilton for Sir Frederick Hamilton, probably around 1634; Raphoe, for Bishop John Leslie (the “Fighting Bishop” – see my entry on Castle Leslie https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/07/castle-leslie-glaslough-county-monaghan/) in 1636, and Burntcourt for Sir Richard Everard before 1650. Manorhamilton is a section 482 ruin which I will be writing about, and we visited Portumna in County Galway – see my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/14/office-of-public-works-properties-connacht/. The buildings resemble a fort, such as Mountjoy Fort in County Tyrone built 1600-1605. Killenure, County Tipperary, is similar but has cylindrical flankers, Craig tells us. This last was unroofed by 1793.

Manorhamilton, County Leitrim, August 2022, built for Sir Frederick Hamilton, probably around 1634.
Portumna Castle, County Galway, July 2021, built for the Earl of Clanrickarde, before 1618.

The Rathfarnham website continues: “[Adam Loftus’s] son Dudley (1561-1616) married Anne Bagenal, daughter of Nicholas Henry Bagenal, Marshal of Ireland. The castle passed to his son, Adam Loftus (1590-1666), who married Jane Vaughan of Golden Grove, County Offaly. Their son Arthur Loftus (1616-1659) married Dorothy Boyle, daughter of Richard Boyle the 1st Earl of Cork. They had a son, Adam Loftus (1632-1691) who became the 1st and last Viscount Lisburne. His only son died in infancy. Viscount Loftus was killed at the Seige of Limerick.

Lucy Loftus nee Brydges (1654-1681), by Peter Lely. She was a renowned Restoration beauty and the first wife of Viscount Adam Loftus. He died at the Siege of Limerick in 1691 and the cannon ball which reputedly killed him hangs in St Patrick’s Cathedral. Lucy is dressed in pseudo-antique clothing against an Arcadian landscape. The parrot in the background is an ambiguous symbol and can refer to a number of characteristics including eloquence, marital obedience or exoticism. Peter Lely was of Dutch origin but spent most of his career in England and became the most influential portrait painter at court following the death of Anthony van Dyck. He successfully navigated the turbulence of the 17th century to paint at the court of Charles I, the Cromwellian Commonwealth and Charles II following the REstoration. Lely was prolific, often only painting the sitter’s head while students and assistants at his studio completed the portraits.

Another son of Dudley and Anne Bagenal was Nicholas Loftus (1592-1666), the ancestor of Henry Loftus, the Earl of Ely. Nicholas’s second son Henry (1636-1716) lived in Loftus Hall in County Wexford, and was the father of Nicholas Loftus, 1st Viscount Loftus of Ely. He married Anne Ponsonby, daughter of William Ponsonby, 1st Viscount Duncannon, and they had, first, the son Nicholas Loftus (1708-1766), who became the 1st Earl of Ely, and who added Hume to his surname after marrying Mary Hume, daughter of Gustavus Hume, 3rd Baronet of Castle Hume, County Fermanagh.

Nicholas Loftus, 1st Viscount Ely (1687-1763). Painter unknown. This painting was completed in 1758 to mark the 70th birthday of Nicholas, father of both Nicholas (the 1st Earl of Ely) and Henry Loftus. He sits next to a book entitled 
The Present State of Ireland
. This anonymous work was originally published in 1730 and contained criticism of the amount of money flowing out of Ireland to absentee landlords, no doubt reflecting Nicholas’s concern with the financial state of the kingdom. He is sometimes known as “the Extinguisher” because of his threat to extinguish the Hook lighthouse in Wexford unless the rent he received from it was increased.

Nicholas Loftus 1st Earl of Ely and his wife Mary Hume gave birth to Nicholas Loftus Hume, 2nd Earl of Ely (1738-1769). 

Nicholas Hume Loftus, 1st Earl of Ely (1708-1766), unknown artist. 
It was after Nicholas Loftus (son of the Extinguisher) had married into the wealthy Hume family that the Ely earldom was created for the first time. This depicts Nicholas, the so-called “Wicked Earl” in the doctoral robes of Trinity College Dublin. 
Nicholas Hume Loftus, 1st Earl of Ely (1708-1766) by Jacob Ennis. These two portraits depict Nicholas, the so-called “Wicked Earl” at various stages of his life. Nicholas is much older in the Ennis portrait on the left. Lord Loftus allegedly mistrated his son (also Nicholas) leading to a protracted court case. That son would later bequeath Rathfarnham Castle and the estate to his uncle, Henry Loftus (1709-1783) who became the 1st Earl of Ely (of the second creation). Jacob Ennis was an Irish historical and portrait painter who spent some time studying in Italy. He was later a Master in the Dublin Society’s Drawing Schools.
Henry Loftus, 1st Earl of Ely of the 2nd Creation (1709-1783) by Angelica Kauffman. Henry inherited Rathfarnham Castle and its demesne in 1769 upon the death of Nicholas, his nephew. Nicholas had been the subject of a long running legal case concerning the state of his mind and Henry had suppported him throughout. Between 1769 and his death in 1783 Henry funded some of the most substantial 18th century changes to Rathfarnham Castle and the demesne. He contracted Sir William Chambers to remodel several of the rooms including the Ballroom and Anteroom. The Swiss artist Angelica Kauffman is known to have spent several months in Dublin in 1771. As well as this portrait which was probably completed to mark Henry’s elevation to the earldom of Ely, this renowned painter also completed a group portrait of Henry and his family (now in the National Gallery) as well as a series of ceiling paintings for the long gallery on the first floor depicting scenes from Greek mythology.

Henry Loftus (1709-1783) pictured below. He married first, Frances Monroe of Roe’s Hall, County Down, (pictured below), who died in 1774, then married secondly Anne Bonfoy. He purchased Ely House in Dublin (built 1770) from Sir Gustavus Hume, 3rd Baronet.

painting by Angelica Kauffman, who spent several months in Dublin in 1771. It shows Henry Loftus with his wife Frances, her nieces and an exotic trophy servant, a young Indian page in Oriental dress carrying a cushion with two coronets, symbolising the title the Earl had just received. The older niece, Dolly Monroe, was Classical costume. Her younger sister Frances plays a fashionable aria on the harpsichord.

Rathfarnham Castle remained in the hands of the Loftus family and their heirs until it was purchased in 1723 by Speaker William Conolly of Castletown, Co Kildare, for £62,000. It returned to ownership of the Loftus family in 1767 when it was purchased by Nicholas Hume-Loftus.

Speaker Conolly never resided at Rathfarnham, leasing it instead to Joan Hoady, Archbishop of Dublin, from 1730-1742, who began the series of alterations that were to transform the castle into a modern country residence. He gave it to his son-in-law Bellingham Boyle.

“Bellingham Boyle (1709-1772). He inherited Rathfarnham Castle in 1746 from his father-in-law, Archbishop John Hoadley who leased the castle in 1742 by “indented lease renewable forever.” Bellingham Boyle served as an MP, first for Bandon then for Youghal in Cork and was later appointed a Commissioner for the Revenue. Prior to his marriage, Belingham travelled across Europe to Italy where he had his portrait painted by Giorgio Dupra.”

The castle returned to the ownership of the Loftus family in 1767 when it was purchased by Nicholas Hume-Loftus. Nicholas never married and on his death in 1769 the Castle passed to his uncle, Henry Loftus (created Earl of Ely in 1771). Henry continued the remodelling of the castle and the works were completed by the time of his death in 1783. 

Henry Loftus (1709-1783) commissioned Sir William Chambers to remodel and redecorate Rathfarnham Castle. There are also several rooms which are attributed to architect and designer James “Athenian” Stuart. Much of the neo-classical design of the Castle today can be attributed to these two architects.
Externally, the window openings were enlarged, and a new stone Tuscan entrance portico added, probably to the designs of William Chambers. The original battlements were removed and the new parapet was embellished with ball finials and urns some of which also serve as chimneys. On the south front new garden steps were added, while on the east front a three bay bow had been added by 1774.
Most of the main interiors can now be attributed with certainty to James Stuart, whose best work in Ireland is the Temple of the Winds at Mount Stewart, County Down, and Sir William Champbers. Stuart was employed at Rathfarnham from at least 1769 and was responsible for the design of the ground floor gallery and two rooms above it. He was also involved in the decoration of some interiors at the family townhouse, Ely House, Dublin. Chambers was responsible for the small drawing room ceiling, back staircase lobby, the ante room and ballroom above, the entrance hall on the first floor, and the octagonal room in one of the towers.

Henry Loftus was succeeded by his nephew Charles Tottenham who did little beyond the erection in 1790 of the Gothic or Back Gate, now almost competely demolished to make way for a road.

Charles Tottenham Loftus, Marquis of Ely by Hugh Douglas Hamilton. Charles was the nephew of Henry Loftus Earl of Ely and inherited Rathfarnham CAstle and the demesne on his death in 1783. The painting shows Charles in the robes of the Irish House of Lords. He is also wearing a chain indicating his membership of the prestigious Order of St Patrick. He was elevated to a Marquis, given a baronetcy in England as well as £45,000 in return for his votes in favour of the Act of Union. Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1740-1808) was born and grew up in Dublin and attended the Dublin Society’s Drawing Schools. He had a long and successful career as an artist and worked in London and Rome as well as Dublin. He is perhaps best known for his work in pastels and left an extensive series of portraits of leading figures in Irish society.
Jane Tottenham-Loftus (nee Myhill), 1740-1807, Marchioness of Ely. After Angelica Kauffman. She was married to Charles Tottenham Loftus, 1st Marquis of Ely, whose portrait hangs in the Ballroom. He was the son of John Tottenham, 1st Baron Tottenham of Ireland, and of Elizabeth Loftus, daughter of Nicholas Loftus, 1st Viscount Loftus of Ely.

“The Loftus family left Rathfarnham Castle in the 19th century and it was ultimately sold to the Blackburne family in 1852 (Francis Blackburne 1782-1867) who lived there until 1911. Coincidentally almost in the footsteps of Adam Loftus who built Rathfarnham Castle, Francis Blackburne became Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College. The Society of Jesus then acquired the building and for much of the remainder of the 20th century it was used as a Retreat House for lay visitors as well as accommodation for seminarians attending college in the city. Following the departure of the Jesuits in 1985, the Castle came into the care of the state and a great deal of restoration work has been carried out. Most of the rooms have been restored to their 18th century state and several are furnished with a collection of fine eighteen and nineteenth century pieces from continental Europe, Britain and Ireland.”

The entrance hall, Rathfarnham Castle.

This room is believed to have been built to a design by the influential architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796). Despite never visiting Ireland, Chambers left a significant mark on Dublin where he also designed the Casino at Marino, Charlemont House on Parnell Square, and much of Front Square in Trinity College. The floor and free standing Doric columns are in Portland stone. The painted glass panels featuring fruit and flowers are believed to be by the Dublin Huguenot artist Thomas Jervais (d. 1799). The marble relief busts on the walls depict well known figures from the Classical and Renaissance past, including the Egyptian queen Cleopatra and Italian poet Dante. These sculptures seem to have been acquired in Italy and would have been incorporated into the design of the Entrance Hall to signal the taste and refinement and learning of the Loftus family. The original eighteenth century marble fireplace was replaced with a painted timber one in around 1913. It was one of several of the original fireplaces which were removed and sold when the Blackburne family left the castle in 1911.

The painted glass panels featuring fruit and flowers are believed to be by the Dublin Huguenot artist Thomas Jervais (d. 1799).
This long room would have been used as a saloon or drawing room to entertain guests and perhaps also as a space to display a collection of art works. It is believed the room was designed by James “Athenian” Stuart (1713-1788). The original ceiling paintings were a series of Greek mythological scenes by Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807). These were sold at auction in the early 20th century and are now believed to be in a private collection in the United States. The Jesuits commissioned a new series of ceiling paintings featuring scenes from the life of Christ by Dublin artist Patrick Tuohy (1894-1930). The residents of the Castle had direct access from this room to the lawn, woods and ornamental lake beyond via a double-cantilevered exterior staircase in Portland stone.

The Dining Room. “This room remains unrestored which allows us to see the changes and alternations which were made to the building over the years. The door on the left-hand (northern) wall is typically eighteenth century in style and decoration. However to the left of it a trace of the original Elizabethan doorway is visible. It was blocked up during the 18th century refurbishments. The bow extension to the eastern side of the building is another change dating to that period which added space and brought more light into these rooms. The 18th century timber wall panelling and lining paper survives in this room. It is likely that the walls were covered with silk. Although designed as a dining room, in the 20th century the Jesuits used this room as a library.

Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin.
The door on the left-hand (northern) wall is typically eighteenth century in style and decoration. However to the left of it a trace of the original Elizabethan doorway is visible. It was blocked up during the 18th century refurbishments. 
The Pistol Loop Room: “This room in the south-eastern corner of the Castle reminds us of the orignal defensive function of the building. A blocked-up gun loop is still visible in the corner of the room. These gun loops allowed those defending the Castle to fire their weapons at any approaching attackers. Note also the odd shape of the room which tapers off to the left. This reflects the shape of the angled bastion towers which were designed to allow defending soldiers to protect all approaches to the castle. The plates and wine decanters depicted in the plaster frieze just below the ceiling would suggest that in the eighteenth century this room may have been used as a private or smaller dining room.”
The Ante-Room. This served as a reception or waiting rom for guests attending the Ball. The Ionic columned Venetian style window is perhaps the highlight of this room. The columns are wooden and hollow and feature intricately carved foliage. The whole window may be referencing the form of a Roman triumphal arch. The wall separating this room from the ballroom was reinstated in the 1990s by the OPW. It had been removed in the 19th century by the then owner, Lord Chancellor Francis Blackburne (1782-1867), to accommodate a large pipe organ.
The Ballroom. The Ballroom was the principal room for entertainment and dancing and it is believed that the room was designed by Sir William Chambers. The door to the left on entering the room is false. It opens to reveal the wall behind. It was installed to maintain the balance and symmetry of the room. Musicians may have played in the eastern bow at the top of the Ballroom when dancing took place. Later, the Jesuits transformed the room into a chapel placing an altar in the bow with pews arranged down the centre of the room.
Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin.
The Octagonal Room. This room features an eight sided ceiling and is decorated with ancient Roman symbols of war. The border is made up of bound groups of timber rods (fasces), a symbol of authority and power in the Roman period. In the 18th century it may have been a withdrawing room where guests could step out of the Ballroom for private conversation or relaxation. It was later used as a sacristy by the Jesuits.
The Four Seasons Room, believed to have been designed by James “Athenian” Stuart. In each corner of the ceilign a cherub represents one of the four seasons while the central painting is that of teh goddess of agriculture and the harvest (Demeter in Greek or Ceres in Roman mythology). The mirror is from the late18tth century and constructed from a type of papier-mache treated to give the appearance of gilded wood or metal. The Louis XVI giltwood and tapestry chairs feature scense from La Fontaine’s fables which were adapted from the classics and published in the late 17th century. They are accompanied by an inlaid George III Pembroke Table. The bureau belonged to Henry Loftus and is of German manufacture (c. 1775). The carpet is a late 19th century Aubusson.
The Gilt Room ceiling. A design by James “Athenian” Stuart, features eight rondels containing objects symbolising different Greek gods and goddesses. Facing toward the window and moving clockwise, these symbols are thought to represent Apollo, Hermes, Dionysus, Ares, Aphrodite, Pen, Demeter and Artemis.