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. 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.

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: Leinster: Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois

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 (former home of the Aylmer family up to 1935)

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

Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482 

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt. 

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny  

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482 

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482 

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny, maintained by Kilkenny County Council

Places to stay, County Kilkenny

1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – wedding venue, B&B 

2. Blanchville Coachyard, Dunbell, County Kilkenny €

3. Butler House, Kilkenny, co Kilkenny – accommodation 

4. Clomantagh Castle, Co Kilkenny – €€ for two, € for 3-8

5. Grange Manor, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny B&B

6. Lyrath House, near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny – hotel 

7.  Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – hotel 

8. Shankill Castle, Co Kilkenny

9. Tubbrid Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 8

10. Waterside Guest House, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny

Whole House Rental County Kilkenny:

1. Annamult House, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny – whole house accommodation

2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 10

3. Castle Blunden, County Kilkenny – whole house accommodation

Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

2. Ballintubbert House and Gardens, Stradbally, Co Laois – gardens sometimes open to public 

3. Gardens at Castle Durrow, County Laois

4. Clonohill Gardens, Coolrain, Portlaoise, Laois

5. Emo Court, County Laois – OPW

6. Heywood Gardens, County Laois – OPW

7. Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois – section 482

Places to Stay, County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

2. Ballyfin House, Co. Laois – hotel €€€

3. Castle Durrow, Co Laois a hotel 

4. Coolanowle Country House, Ballickmoyler, County Laois

5. Roundwood, Mountrath, Co Laois – guest house

and the forge and writer’s cottage at Roundwood

Whole House Rental County Laois:

1. Ballintubbert House, County Laois – whole house and weddings

2. Preston House, Abbeyleix, County Laois – whole house accommodation

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

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 (former home of the Aylmer family up to 1935)

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

Kildrought, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us it is a detached three-bay two-storey over raised basement house with half-dormer attic, c.1720, on a symmetrical plan retaining early aspect with pediment to centre, single-bay two-storey lean-to lower recessed end bay to right (south-west) and five-bay three-storey rear elevation to south-east.

Kildrought, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Kildrought, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Kildrought, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The assessment states:

Kildrought House is a fine, substantial gentleman’s residence that is one of the earliest remaining private houses in the locality, having been begun prior to commencement of work on Castletown House. The house is of social importance, having been built by a patron of high status in the locality, as evidenced by the scale and fine detailing of the house. Built on a symmetrical plan that is interrupted only by a recessed end bay to right (south-west), the house is composed of graceful Classical proportions and centred to both primary elevations about fine door openings. The inclusion of a pediment to the entrance (north-west) front serves to articulate the skyline and is an unusual feature on Main Street. The construction of the house in rubble stone is of interest, and the unrefined quality suggests that it was originally rendered (possibly in a manner matching the outbuilding to north-west). The use of early red brick to the dressings is an attractive feature of the composition and reveals a high quality of craftsmanship in the locality, notably to the profiled courses to the eaves. The house presents an early aspect, although it is probable that some of the original features have been replaced over the years. Nevertheless, replacement materials have been inserted in keeping with the original integrity of the design and include multi-pane timber sash fenestration and glazed timber doors. Set back from the line of the street, the house is an unusual feature on Main Street, being the only building on the street that is fronted by a forecourt, and adds variety to the established streetline of the streetscape. The house is announced on the side of the road by a fine gateway that reveals a high quality of stone masonry, and which retains early iron work to the gates and railings – the repointing is very prominent, however, and future renovation works ought to follow traditional practises. The formal gardens to the south-east are of particular interest in terms of their landscape design qualities, and reflect the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fashions for formal landscaping. The house is complemented by a range of outbuildings that are individually of architectural heritage merit – the outbuilding to north-west is an attractive long range that is dominated by a graceful curvilinear gable. The building retains most of its original form and replacement materials have been inserted in keeping with the integrity of the original design. The summer house to south is also a picturesque feature in the grounds, constructed entirely of early brick with dressings including pilasters that appear to bulge, despite having no considerable weight over, together with a profiled eaves course. The Kildrought House estate is an important component of the architectural heritage of Celbridge, representing an almost-intact early eighteenth-century middle-size urban estate.” [4]

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

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]

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

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

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])

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

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.” 

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

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 

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

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 Earl 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 

https://www.kilkeacastle.ie/

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 167. “(Fitzgerald, Leinster, D/PB) A medieval castle of the FitzGeralds, Earls fo Kildare, especially associated with C16 11th Earl of Kildare, the most famous “wizard Earl.” 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; 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.

12. Martinstown House, Kilcullen, Co Kildare – accommodation

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 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.

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

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]. 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 [son of Thomas, grandson of Thomas who married Ann Downes] 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

Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

contact: Nicholas & Mary Kelly
Tel: 051-880464, 087-2567866
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 9am-5pm Fee: adult €5, OAP €3, child/student free

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

Ballysallagh House, County Kilkenny, February 2022.

contact: Geralyn & Kieran White
Tel: 087-2906621, 086-2322105
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student €5, child free, groups by arrangement

See my entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/17/ballysallagh-house-johnswell-co-kilkenny/

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482 

contact: John Comerford
Tel: 056-4400080
www.creameryhouse.com
Open: May 14-Sept 30, Friday, Saturday, and Sundays, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 12 noon-5pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child under 18 free

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

Kilfane, County Kilkenny, August 2021.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/12/16/kilfane-glen-waterfall-kilfane-thomastown-co-kilkenny/
contact: Susan Mosse
Tel: 056-7727105, 086-7919318 

www.kilfane.com

Open: July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 11am-6pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP/student €6.50, child €6, family €20

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

Kilkenny Castle, May 2018.

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

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

contact: Aaron Quill
Tel: 064-6623331
www.kilkennydesign.com
Open: all year except Christmas Day and St Stephens Day, 10am-7pm Fee: Free

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt. 

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

William Robertson (1777 – 1850) was a native of Kilkenny where the patronage of Lord Ormonde stood him in good stead, since most of his work can be found in Kilkenny and the neighbouring counties of Laois, Tipperary and Waterford. When Richard St. George wished to move from his medieval castle at Kilrush near Freshford in 1820, Robertson was the obvious choice. His work is less exuberant than that of his namesake Daniel but he was a talented architect and produced an interesting early nineteenth century reinterpretation of the typical late-Georgian country house. 

The St Georges are a Norman family who ‘came over to England with the Conqueror’ and arrived in Ireland in the sixteenth century. They quickly became established here, with several branches in County Kilkenny and others in Galway, Leitrim and Roscommon.

The St Georges of Kilrush were active in political and cultural circles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Richard St George was an M.P. in the Irish Parliament, with a town house at No. 8 Henrietta Street, while his cousin St George Ashe was the Provost of Trinity College and a close friend of Dean Swift. St. George was also a founding member of the Dublin Philosophical Society, which encouraged his numerous publications of scientific and national interest.

Richard considered moving out of his tower-house at Kilrush in the middle of the eighteenth century but this decision was left to his heirs, who built the existing house in the early nineteenth century. Kilrush has a three bay façade, a five bay garden front, a hipped roof with widely overhanging eaves, a single very large, central chimney-stack into which all the flues are diverted, and an interesting ground plan.

The cut-stone door case is a handsome arrangement of Doric half-columns and pilasters, supporting a deep entablature with swags beneath a semi-circular leaded fanlight. The ground floor windows to either side are set in shallow recesses with elliptical heads; otherwise the elevations are quite plain.

The most interesting internal space is the landing, a perfect Doric rotunda supporting a delicately glazed dome. This partly lights the inner hall below through a circular well in the floor. The dining and drawing rooms are both finely proportioned apartments, with many original fittings and furnishings, and their original wallpaper.

Kilrush looks out over mature parkland to a large mill, almost half a mile off.  The gardens contain a stupendous collection of snowdrops, there is a tower house, the former residence of the family in the attached yard, while an interesting early garden layout with connected canals has recently been identified and is currently in the course of restoration.” [11]

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny  

Rothe House, Kilkenny, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland (see[7])

Rothe House is a treasure, older than any house in Dublin! It was built around 1594-1610, by John Rothe FitzPiers (1560-1620) for his wife Rose Archer, and is the last merchant’s townhouse in Kilkenny surviving from the early post-medieval period. [12] The house, purchased by Kilkenny Archaeological Society in 1962, is open to the public as a museum displaying a selection of the historic artefacts collected by the Society since its founding in 1947.  The artefacts relate to Kilkenny heritage throughout the ages and some date from prehistoric times.  The adjoining garden has since 2008 been open to the public and is a faithful reconstruction of an early seventeenth-century urban garden. 

Garden at Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.

The National Inventory describes it:

Terraced five-bay two-storey over basement house with dormer attic on a U-shaped plan about a stone cobbled (east) courtyard with two-bay two-storey gabled central bay having jettied box oriel window to first floor, series of five round-headed openings to ground floor forming arcade, single-bay three-storey linking range to north-west, and three-bay three-storey parallel range to west (completing U-shaped plan about a courtyard) originally three-bay two-storey having round-headed carriageway to right ground floor. In use as school, c.1750. Restored, 1898, to accommodate use as Gaelic League house. Converted to use as museum, 1963-5. Restored, 1983. Restored, 1999, to accommodate use as offices.”

Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.

The Archiseek website tells us:

In 1594 a wealthy merchant called John Rothe built this magnificent Tudor mansion. Second and third generation houses were built around the cobelled courtyards and a well dating to 1604. The façade houses shops, one of them was John Rothe’s own. During the Confederation of Kilkenny, many dignitaries were entertained here by John Rothe and his cousin, the Bishop of Ossory. The building has been restored magnificently and is now home to Kilkenny Archaeological Society.” [13]

Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Plague Doctor! In 1348 there was Plague in Kilkenny. Friar John Clyn in the Franciscan Abbey across the road  recorded the effect of the plague on the town and the friary. He himself fell victim to the epidemic. 
Artefacts from the Confederation of Kilkenny.
Viking Sword.
“Pattens” – wooden shoes worn by women over their regular shoes to protect from mud.

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482 

contact: Geoffrey Cope,
Tel: 087-2437125
www.shankillcastle.com
Open: Feb 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Mar 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Apr 2-3, 9-10, 16- 17, 23-24, 30, May 1, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29, June 2-5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, July 1-3, 7-16, 21-24, 28-31, Aug 3-6, 10-21, 24-27, 31, Sept 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29- 30, Oct 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30, 31, Feb- Apr, 11am-4pm, May- Oct, 11am-5pm Fee: house & garden, adult €10 garden €5, OAP/student €8, gardens €4

The website tells us:

Situated near the ruins of an old church, Shankill Castle began life as a tower-house built by the powerful Butler family during the medieval period. In 1708, the house was rebuilt by Peter Aylward who bought the land from his wife’s family. The new Shankill Castle was constructed as a Queen Anne house, set in a formal landscape, vista to the front and canal to the rear.

In the 1820s, the house was enlarged and castellated. Serpentine bays were added to the canal and an unusual polyhedral sundial given pride of place on a sunken lawn. A gothic porch bearing the Aylward crest and a conservatory were other additions. 

The stableyard and the castellated entrance to the demesne were built in 1850 and are attributed to Daniel Robertson.

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482 

contact: Louis Dowley
Tel: 087-2313106
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 10am-4pm Fee: adult €5, student €3, child/OAP free

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny, maintained by Kilkenny County Council

Mark Bence-Jones writes about Woodstock (1988):

p. 286. “(Fownes, Bt/EDB; Tighe/IFR) A house by Francis Bindon [for William Fownes, 2nd Baronet], probably dating from 1740s, which is unusual in being built round a small inner court, or light-shaft. Three storeys; handsomely rusticated entrance front of six bays with a central niche and statue above the entrance doorway…In 1770s Sarah Ponsonby lived here with her cousins, Sir William and Betty Fownes [born Elizabeth Ponsonby]; her friend, Eleanor Butler, having escaped from Borris, co Carlow, where she was being kept in disgrace, was let into Woodstock through a window, hiding herself in Sarah’s room for 24 hours before being discovered; shortly afterwards, the two friends left for Wales, where they subsequently became famous as the “Ladies of Llangollen.” Woodstock passed to the Tighes with the marriage of the daughter and heiress of Sir William Fownes to William Tighe, whose daughter-in-law was Mary Tighe, the poet, author of Psyche; she died at Woodstock 1810 aged 37, and Flaxman’s monument to her is in a small neo-Classical mausoleum behind the Protestant church in the village of Inistioge, at the gates of the demesne. There was also a statue of her in one of the rooms in the house. Woodstock was burnt ca 1920, and is now a ruin, but the demesne, with its magnificent beechwoods, still belongs to the Tighes.” 

The information board tells us that in 1804 flanking wings were added to designs by William Robertson (1770-1850). The house was burned in 1922 after being occupied by the Black and Tans.
The gardens at Woodstock, County Kilkenny, August 2021. The gardens at Woodstock, gloriously situated above the River Nore, were conceived on a grand scale by Colonel William Tighe (d. 1878) and Lady Louisa Lennox (d. 1900) as the centrepiece of a great estate.

The estate passed to the daughter, Sarah, of William Fownes and Elizabeth Ponsonby, and Sarah married William Tighe of Rossana, County Wicklow.

This information board tells us about the Arboretum at Woodstock, where a number of exotic trees were planted in the nineteenth century.
Entrance to walled garden at Woodstock.
Gardens at Woodstock, with reproduction Turner glasshouse.
“Turner bench” which matches the glasshouse at Woodstock.
The longest and oldest Monkey Puzzle Walk in Europe, at Woodstock.

Places to stay, County Kilkenny

1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – wedding venue, B&B 

http://ballyduffhouse.ie/booking-enquiries/ 

The website tells us:

Ballyduff House is a classic Georgian country house with a 14th century castle, steeped in Irish history and full of the warmest of welcomes.

The River Nore sparkles as it runs along Ballyduff’s riverbank while sheep and cattle graze the pasture either side.

Open fires, the book lined library and the comfortable bedrooms furnished with Irish antiques capture an early 18th century experience tempered by discreet 21st century comfort.

This is real Ireland – calm, green and beautiful, set alongside the picturesque village of Inistioge with Dublin only an hour away.

2. Blanchville Coachyard, Dunbell, County Kilkenny

https://blanchville.ie/

The Coach Houses & Gardener’s Cottage are, as the name suggests, part of the beautiful old stone building that was originally the Coach House at Blanchville. The building has been sensitively and extensively refurbished and now offers guests comfortable and inviting Self-Catering Accommodation in three self-contained Holiday Homes.

These Heritage Holiday Lets feature a cosy woodburning stove or open fire, fully fitted modern kitchen and relaxing bedrooms – the perfect requisite for an enjoyable weekend break or holiday in Kilkenny.

3. Butler House, Kilkenny, co Kilkenny – accommodation 

https://www.butler.ie

View to Butler House and Garden, Kilkenny Leo Byrne Photography 2015. (see [7])

The National Inventory tells us about Butler house: “Semi-detached three-bay three-storey over basement house, built 1786, with pair of three-bay full-height bowed bays to rear (east) elevation. Extended, 1832, comprising two-bay three-storey perpendicular block to right. Renovated, 1972. Now in use as hotel. One of a pair…An elegantly-composed Classically-proportioned substantial house built either by Walter Butler (1713-83), sixteenth Earl of Ormonde or John Butler (1740-95), seventeenth Earl of Ormonde as one of a pair of dower houses…Distinctive attributes including the elegant bowed bays to the Garden (east) Front contribute positively to the architectural design value of the composition while carved limestone dressings with particular emphasis on the well-executed doorcase displaying high quality stone masonry further enliven the external expression of the house in the streetscape.”

The house was home to Lady Eleanor Butler who lived here after the death of her husband Walter in 1783. Lady Eleanor Butler was the mother of John, the 17th Earl of Ormonde and her daughter, also Eleanor, was one of the famous “Ladies of Langollen”.

James, Earl of Ormonde resided in the house while the Castle was under reconstruction in 1831.
A soup kitchen was run from here during the cholera epidemic of 1832.

The Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland held their meetings in Butler House in 1870. Kilkenny Design, the state design agency, restored Butler House in 1972. The decor and furnishings reflect a certain 1970s Art Deco style, which because of the muted colours and natural fabrics used, proved sympathetic to the original features of the house. In 1989, the Kilkenny Civic Trust acquired both Butler House and the Castle Stables. 

4. Clomantagh Castle, Co Kilkennyaccommodation, whole house on airbnb: €€ for two, € for 3-8

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/29346656?federated_search_id=050f383f-6e5e-45b5-9989-b166bfe7e70d&source_impression_id=p3_1650104926_er%2FjFSqCgEWzQLW5

The National Inventory tells us it is a farmhouse erected by John Shortal (d. 1857) or Patrick Shortal (d. 1858) representing an integral component of the mid nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Kilkenny with the architectural value of the composition, one occupying the site of a hall adjoining the fifteenth-century Clomantagh Castle.

Clomantagh Castle - was home to the [8th] Earl of Ormond, Pierce Ruadh (1467-1539). When he died in 1539 the castle along with other properties was passed to his son Richard Butler, first Viscount Mountgarret (1500-1571). The castle and its estate stayed in the Butler family until it was forfeited during the war with Cromwell to Lieutenant Arthur St. George [ancestor of the Kilrush family]. After the war the castle changed hands twice more and a farmhouse was added by the Shortall family, the owners in the 1800’s, before its last owner  Willie White a local vet. The property is now owned by a non profit making charity called the Landmark Trust who preserve historic buildings. 

The Landmark site tells us:

The name Clomantagh comes from the Irish “cloch mantaigh”, meaning missing tooth or gappy smile. Locals gave this name to the castle as the irregular castellation reminded them of someone smiling with missing teeth.  

It has been established that the tower and bawn were built in the 15th century (c.1430). The tower house has been modified and extended over the centuries, and in the early 19th century a farmhouse was added providing accommodation with comfort, rather than defence, in mind. In recent times, the bawn walls have sheltered the buildings of a 20th century working farm. It also has a rare clochán (small dome-roomed structure) knit into the bawn walls. Five other tower houses can be seen from the roof of Clomantagh Castle, and they were all strategically aligned for defence purposes.

Clomantagh followed mainstream castle design, emerging as an almost square building, six storeys high, with massive walls built from local limestone, and a corner staircase. Inserted high on the south wall is a Sheela-na-Gig. This pagan symbol was adopted by medieval builders and incorporated as the building was erected. High up the remains of the stepped battlement walls, the merlons can be seen – a specifically Irish feature whose inspiration is considered to be Venetian. Inside the battlements a wide walkway gave access to all sides of the building. In the north east corner, a high watchtower has been built. This is knows as Moll Gearailt’s Chair, after the particularly ferocious original mistress of the house, Maighréad nhee Gearóid, who used to sit watching over her fields to ensure that her labourers were not slacking at their work. The walkway, or Alure, was sloped outward to allow run off water through drainage holes and stone spouts. Generally, battlement walls have not survived well, their thinner construction and unstable sloping bases have contributed to their disappearance from tower houses.  [15]

5. Grange Manor, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny B&B

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.

http://grangemanorkilkenny.com

The website tell us: “Located in the heart of the Kilkenny countryside, this beautiful Georgian manorhouse is set into 26 acres of lush landscaped grounds. With the medieval city of Kilkenny just 20 mins drive, experience Irish culture at your own pace in in Grange Manor.”

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory describes the doorcase: “Classically-detailed doorcase not only demonstrating good quality workmanship in a deep grey limestone, but also showing a pretty overlight.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory tell us: “Interior including (ground floor): central hall retaining carved timber surrounds to window openings framing timber panelled shutters on panelled risers with carved timber surrounds to opposing door openings framing timber panelled doors, and plasterwork cornice to ceiling on “bas-relief” frieze centred on “bas-relief” ceiling rose.”

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 145. “(Lannigan, Stannard and Dowdall, sub Bancroft/IFR) An old farmhouse to which Georgian reception rooms were added, producing a house of two storeys and nine bays, with a three bay breakfront centre higher than the bays on either side. Fanlighted doorway; high-pitched roof. Room with Adamesque plasterwork incorporating oval painted medallions.” 

It was occupied (1751) by Captain James Warren (d. 1758). It was advertised for sale in 2021.

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory describes: “double-height staircase hall (north) retaining carved timber surrounds to door openings framing timber panelled doors, moulded plasterwork cornice to ceiling, staircase on a dog leg plan with turned timber “spindle” balusters supporting carved timber banister terminating in volute, carved timber Classical-style surround to window opening to half-landing framing timber panelled shutters, carved timber surrounds to door openings to landing framing timber panelled double doors having overlights, and decorative plasterwork cornice to coved ceiling centred on “bas-relief” ceiling rose.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. Staircase hall with Adamesque plasterwork incorporating oval medallions.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory tells us about the gate lodge: “A gate lodge erected by John Stannard (né Lannigan) (d. 1836) contributing positively to the group and setting values of the Grange House estate with the architectural value of the composition suggested by such attributes as the compact square plan form centred on a featureless doorcase; and the openings showing pretty lattice glazing patterns.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.

6. Lyrath House, near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny – hotel

 https://www.lyrath.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

p. 184. “(Wheeler-Cuffe, Bt/PB1934; Tupper/LGI1958) Originally a Tobin castle, acquired by the Wheeler family C17. By 1826, the house here consisted of a simple two storey five bay pedimented front facing west, with two wings running back from it to enclose a small three sided office court; the entrance door being on the south side; under a Regency veranda. In 1861, Sir Charles Wheeler-Cuffe, 2nd Bt, married Pauline Villiers-Stuart, daughter of Lord Stuart de Decies [of Dromana House, County Waterford – see my entry], whose parents did not regard this house as grand enough for her; so in that same year he rebuilt the main western block on a larger scale and in a rich Italianate style, while leaving the two storey wings more of less as they were.; his architect being John McCurdy. The entrance was moved from the south side to the new west front, which is pedimented and of five bays like its predecessor, but not entirely symmetrical; having a pair of windows on the ground floor to the left of centre, but a single window on the right. Entrance door framed by Ionic columns carrying a balustrade, above which is a Venetian window framed by an aedicule with a segmental pediment. All the ground floor windows have semi-circular heads, while the heads of the windows of the upper storey – apart from the central Venetian windows – are cambered. The garden front to the north has two single-storey balustraded curved bows, the windows of which are treated as arcades supported by Romanesque columns of sandstone. There is another Romanesque column separated the pair of windows in the centre of the front. The windows in the bow are glazed with curved glass. The roof is carried on a deep bracket cornice and there are prominent string courses, which give the elevations a High Victorian character. Hall with imposing imperial staircase, the centre ramp of which rises between two fluted Corinthian columns. There is a similarity between the staircase here and that at Dromana, Co Waterford, Pauline Lady Wheeler-Cuffe’s old home; except that the Dromana staircase was of stone, whereas that at Leyrath is of wood, with ornate cast-iron balustrades. On the centre ramp of the staircase there is still a chair with its back legs cut down to fit the steps; this was put there in 1880s for Pauline when she became infirm. Hall has a ceiling cornice of typical C19 plasterwork in a design of foliage, and door with entablatures which still have their original walnut graining. To the left of the hall, in the garden front, are the drawing room, ante-room and dining room, opening into each other with large double doors’ they have ceiling cornices similar to that in the hall, and good C19 white chimneypieces, enriched with carving; the drawing room and ante-room keep their original white and gold wallpaper. In the south wing there are smaller and lower rooms surviving from before the rebuilding; while first floor rooms in this wing have barrel ceilings throughout and contain some C18 chimneypieces of black marble.” 

The website tells us more about the history:

The name Lyrath is thought to date back to Norman times when “Strongbow” settled in Ireland during the Norman invasion. The area was originally called Le Rar or Le Rath by the French speaking De Ponte family who during the 12th century lived in the Monastery which was once located within the grounds. There is also a mention of a castle which was once said to have been situated within the grounds.

Prior to 1653 the lands were owned by the Shortall family, who then rented the ‘old castle in repair’ and land to Thomas Tobin, Constable of the Barony of Gowran. In 1664, a gentleman named Thomas Mances, paid a sum of 4s ‘hearth money’ for the old castle.

Later in the Seventeenth Century the property was acquired by Richard Wheeler through his kinship to Jonah Wheeler the Bishop of Ossary. By then the original ‘Tobin’ castle had been demolished.

Richard Wheeler’s son, Jonah Wheeler, married Elisabeth Denny-Cuffe, a descendant of the Desart-Cuffe family who had extensive landed property in the Counties of Carlow and Kilkenny, on his marriage Jonah decided to adopt the name Cuffe.

In 1814 the grandson of Jonah, also named Jonah, was living in the house with his with Elisabeth Browne, from Brownes Hill in neighbouring Carlow. Sir Jonah died in 1853 and his elder son, Sir Charles Denny Wheeler-Cuffe succeeded him.

To redesign the house Sir Charles engaged the services of John McCurdy, a Dublin born Architect, whose other commissions with his partner, William Mitchell, include Kilkenny’s Knocktopher Abbey, Dublin’s famous ‘Shelbourne Hotel’ and the South City Markets.

The current house is one of the most important surviving country houses built by John McCurdy.

Sir Charles and Pauline had no children, so on the death of Sir Charles, his nephew Sir Ottway Forteque Luke Wheeler-Cuffe inherited the baronetcy and demesne of Lyrath and became the primary resident. Sir Ottaway married Charlotte Isabel Williams in 1897. Lady Charlotte was the earliest known botanical explorer to reach the remote areas Burma and it was during these trips that she discovered several plants including two new species of Rhododendrons, Burmanicum, and Cuffianum (named after her). Cuffianum, the white rhododendron is extremely rare and has not been collected by any botanist since Lady Wheeler-Cuffe found in 1911.

Sir Ottway and Lady Charlotte stayed in Burma until Sir Ottway’s retirement in August 1921 when they finally returned to live at Lyrath. On her return to Lyrath, Lady Charlotte redesigned the gardens. The Conservatory adjacent to Tupper’s Bar in the new Hotel overlooks the Victorian garden designer by her which has been carefully restored to her original design (based on family records and drawings), they are also home to the ancient yew trees which are now protected by a preservation order.

Lady Charlotte lived in the house until her death in 1966 in her 100th year.

Following the death of Lady Charlotte, in 1967 the property was inherited by Lieutenant-Colonel G.W. Tupper whose grandfather had married Sir Charles’ sister in 1846. Reginald’s great nephew, Captain Anthony Tupper and his wife moved into the house and ran it as a traditional estate farm with a herd of Jersey cows, hens, and geese in the yard, calves in the haggard field and a big old-fashioned kitchen with dogs and cats which rambled in and out at will.

The Tuppers remained in the house until 1997.

When the Tuppers left, there was an auction at the house of all the furniture and the bits and pieces accumulated over several lifetimes laid out and labelled for sale. Fortunately, Xavier McAuliffe managed to obtain many of the items on auction that day, these items are now on display in the house and include to original large portraits hanging in the hallway and other paintings on display.

Xavier purchased the Estate in 2003 and developed the house into Lyrath Estate Hotel and Convention Centre, which opened its doors to the public in 2006.

7. Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – hotel

Mount Juliet Gardens, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, photograph by Finn Richards 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [7])

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Mount Juliet:

p. 214. “(Butler, Carrick, E/PB; McCalmont/IFR) A mid to late C18 house built by the 1st Earl of Carrick [Somerset Hamilton Butler, 8th Viscount Ikerrin and 1st Earl of Carrick (1719-1774)] across the River Nore from the former family seat, Ballylinch Castle on an estate which he had bought ca 1750 from Rev Thomas Bushe [1727-1795], of Kilmurry; traditionally named by him after his wife [Juliana Boyle, daugher of the 1st Earl of Shannon]. Of three storeys over basement, front of seven bays between two shallow curved bows, each having three windows. One bay central breakfront, with Venetian windows in the two upper storeys above tripartite pedimented and fanlighted doorway. Centre window in two lower storeys of bows roundheaded. Perron and double steps in front of entrance door, with iron railings. High pitched roof and massive stacks. Sold 1914 by 6th Earl of Carrick to the McCalmonts who had leased the house for some years. Major Dermot McCalmont made a new entrance in what had formerly been the back of the house, where the main block is flanked by two storey wings, extending at right angles from  it to form a shallow three sided court, and joined to it by curved sweeps. The interior of the house was richly decorated by 2nd Earl of Carrick 1780s with plasterwork in the manner of Michael Stapleton. The hall, which is long and narrow, is divided by an arcade carried on fluted Ionic columns, beyond which rises a bifurcating staircase with a balustrade of plain slender uprights; the present entrance being by way of a porch built out at the back of the staircase. The rooms on either side of the hall in what was formerly the entrance front and is now the garden front have plasterwork ceilings; one with a centre medallion of a hunting scene, another with a medallion of a man shooting. One of these rooms, the dining room, also has plasterwork on the walls, incorporating medallions with Classical reliefs. One of the wings flanking the present entrance front contains a ballroom made by Major Dermot McCalmont 1920s, with a frieze of late C18 style plasterwork; it is reached by way of a curving corridor. The demesne of Mount Juliet is one of the finest in Ireland, with magnificent hardwoods above the River Nore ; it includes the Ballylinch demesne across the river. There is a series of large walled gardens near the house Mount Juliet is famous for its stud, founded by Major Dermot McCalmont 1915. Sold 1987.” 

8. Shankill Castle, Co Kilkenny – see above

9. Tubbrid Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 8

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/29598290?adults=2&category_tag=Tag%3A8047&children=0&infants=0&search_mode=flex_destinations_search&check_in=2022-06-05&check_out=2022-06-10&federated_search_id=6eebbe51-3470-4008-be61-4228d4019473&source_impression_id=p3_1652359358_O%2F1m3ENyNNeiOZ%2Bf

The entry tells us:

Tubbrid Castle is a unique 15th-century tower house, uninhabited for the last century and now restored to its former glory. We’ve highlighted original features to let you step back in time and added luxury touches so you can indulge your inner prince or princess.

Heritage
In 942 AD, Muircheartach, King of modern-day Ulster, marched his army of 1000 Leather Cloaks south to avenge his allies, who had been attacked by Callaghan, King of Cashel. Muircheartach’s bard, Colmanach, recorded the journey in an epic poem, Circuit of Ireland, in which he praised the beauty of Osraí (now Kilkenny), and the hospitality of its people. At the edge of enemy territory and on the cusp of battle, Muircheartach’s army set up camp in Tubbrid, on a plain that a millennium later is still called Bán an Champa (the Field of the Encampment). The King himself is thought to have slept at the fort where Tubbrid Castle now stands. A thousand years later, the people of Kilkenny still pride ourselves on our warm hospitality and from the top floor bedroom of Tubbrid Castle you can survey Bán an Champa and enjoy lodgings befitting a king.

10. Waterside Guest House, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny

https://www.watersideguesthouse.com

This is set in a beautiful old mill on the river in Graiguenamanagh.

Whole House rental, County Kilkenny:

1. Annamult House, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny – whole house rental 

https://annamultcountryhouseestate.com/terms-and-conditions/

The National Inventory describes Annamult: “Detached four-bay two-storey double gable-fronted Tudor-style country house, c.1825, incorporating fabric of earlier house, pre-1771, with three-bay single-storey flat-roofed projecting open porch to centre ground floor, three-bay two-storey side elevations, and five-bay three-storey lower wing to left having single-bay (two-bay deep) two-storey connecting return to east.

2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 10

http://www.ballyburcastle.com/

The website tells us:

Ballybur Castle is the ancient seat of the Comerford clan, built by Richard Comerford around 1588. Despite the violent times, it seems to have maintained a fairly peaceful existance. It was one of the seats of the powerful Comerford family, the only one remaining.

Ballybur Castle is typical of the single family castles of that period, built primarily for protection against warring groups travelling the countryside. They were usually surrounded by more temporary structures where the farm labourers lived and livestock were kept.

When trouble was brewing, a roofwatch was kept and at the sight of any hostile group, labourers and livestock were gathered into the castle.

The Comerford castles flourished in the 1500s and well into the 16th century, all three castles were clustered in this area. (There were two more castles near Ballybur Castle belonging to the Comerford clan).

One can imagine the social standing of the Comerfords, the entertainment and grand parties that took place in their castles were renowned. The Comerfords occupied Ballybur Castle during the confederation that took place in Kilkenny in 1641.

“And so it happened that the papal Nunco, Cardinal Rinnuncini on his way to Kilkenny stopped at Ballybur Castle where a reception was held in honour of him and many important personages came to pay their respect.”

The cardinal presented a very ornate rosary to Richard and Mary Comerford. This rosary was passed on through generations of the castle’s owners at Ballybur. It was presented to Rothe House by father Langton Hayward who said he was given the rosary by the Marnell sisters in 1970, who still occupied the castle.

John Comerford, son of Richard Comerford, was the last Comerford to reside at Ballybur Castle. He was banished to Connaught in 1654 and forfeited his castle and lands to Brian Manseragh during the Cromwellian distribution survey of that period. Interestingly, this Brian Manseragh is a forefather of Martin Manseragh, the present T.D. from Tipparary who was the Taoiseach’s special advisor for the north during the current peace negotiations.

We know little about the period between 1655 until 1841 when it is stated that Thomas Deigan was the occupier of Ballybur.

Locally it is known that the Marnell sisters married into the Deigan family. They occupied Ballybur until Frank and Aifric Gray bought it in 1979.

The Grays at Ballybur By Ruan Gray

When mum and dad bought Ballybur in 1979, there was no roof on the castle as it is said that; “Cromwell blew it off with a cannon at the end of Ballybur lane.”

At the time when my parents bought the castle, it was in a very poor state of repair. It was their intention to spend five years on it’s restoration. They received grant aid from the Kilkenny County Council to replace the windows, some help towards the rebuilding of the roof from the Heritage Council and from Barrow Suir Development to complete the renovation.

It is now 25 years since the work began, and it has been mostly accomplished by dad and some local builders. Now it is completely refurbished and open to visitors. It truly has been a labour of love.

3. Castle Blunden, County Kilkenny – whole house rental

hhiref@castleblunden.com

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

A few miles from the cathedral city of Kilkenny, Castle Blunden stands on an elevated site in the midst of mature parkland. Dating from the 1750s, and still owned by the Blunden family, this pretty seven-bay building is typical of County Kilkenny houses from the mid-Georgian period. The house is rendered, with a profusion of cut limestone decoration and details, and a handsome sprocketed roof, while the later Doric porch compliments the symmetry of the facade. The basement is concealed by a ramped gravel approach, which makes the house appear both lower and wider than is actually the case, while the small lakes to either side add to the overall air of enchantment.” [14]

Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482

contact: Grace Pym
Tel: 0505-21453
www.castleballaghmore.com
Open: all year except Christmas Day, 10am-6pm Fee: adult €5, child/OAP/student €3, family of 4, €10

The website tells us:

Ballaghmore Castle was built in 1480 by the Gaelic Chieftain MacGiollaphadraig (now called Fitzpatrick), meaning son of the servant of Patrick. Lords of Upper Ossory. They defended North Munster, strategically placed as they were on the old Irish Road. A Sheela-na-Gig carved in stone is on the front facing wall, a pagan fertility symbol to ward off evil.

Ballaghmore was partially destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1647. It was restored in 1836 by a Mr. Ely who found a hoard of gold on the land. Ely was shot by an angry tenant and never lived in the castle. The castle was then used as a granary and afterwards fell into disuse, until the present owner Gráinne Ní Cormac, bought it in 1990 and restored it. Now furnished.

Gráinne (Grace) will delight you with stories of the history of the MacGiollaphadraigs (changed to Fitzpatrick by order of Henry 8th of England) which goes back to 500 B.C.

2. Ballintubbert House and Gardens, Stradbally, Co Laois – open to public  https://www.discoverireland.ie/laois/ballintubbert-gardens-house

The gardens at Ballintubbert have been described as ‘An enchanting work of art – intimate and extraordinarily peaceful”. 

The historic gardens at Ballintubbert have been expanded with an Arts & Crafts influence to include an impressive variety of over 40 ‘garden rooms’ and pedimented yew cloisters within 14 acres. 

Of particular note is the Sir Edwin Lutyens design water garden complimented by Gertrude Jekyll style planting schemes. 

There are wild flower meadows and woodlands influenced by William Robinson’s approach to ‘wild gardening’ in contrast to the formal lime walks that flank a hundred meter canal in the more classical gardening tradition. 

Opening Hours 

The gardens are open to view every Thursday from 10am to 5pm 
(April to September) 

Very occasionally the gardens may be closed with a private event – please check our Facebook page for details 

Admission €5 (children under 8 free) 
Guided tours available by appointment 

Allow 2 hours and please feel welcome all day. Relax & savour what lies ahead – this is a rich experience of the senses 

3. Gardens at Castle Durrow, County Laois

www.castledurrow.com 

4. Clonohill Gardens, Coolrain, Portlaoise, Laois

https://www.gardensofireland.org/directory/31/clonohill+gardens/

5. Emo Court, County Laois – OPW

see my OPW entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

Emo Court, County Laois.

6. Heywood Gardens, County Laois – OPW

see my OPW entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/07/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-laois-longford-louth-meath-offaly-westmeath-wexford-wicklow/

7. Stradbally Hall, Stradbally, Co. Laois – section 482

Stradbally Hall, County Laois, June 2021.

contact: Thomas Cosby
Tel: 086-8519272
www.stradballyhall.ie
Open: May 1-31, June 1-9, Aug 13-21, Oct 1-14, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €5, child free

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/10/14/stradbally-hall-stradbally-co-laois/

Places to Stay, County Laois:

1. Ballaghmore Castle, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois – section 482 – see above.

There is the tower house castle, a farmhouse or a cottage to stay in.

2. Ballyfin House, Co. Laois – hotel €€€

https://ballyfin.com

Ballyfin, photograph by Tony Pleavin 2018 for Tourism Ireland (see [7]).

The website tells us: “Steeped in Irish history, the site of Ballyfin has been settled from ancient times and was ancestral home in succession to the O’Mores, the Crosbys, the Poles, the Wellesley-Poles (the family of the Duke of Wellington) and later the Cootes.”

The east front of Ballyfin, dominated by the grand Ionic portico. The house was built in the 1820s for Sir Charles Coote to designs by Sir Richard and William Morrison. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

The website continues:

The Coote family was descended from Sir Charles Coote, an Elizabethan adventurer who came to Ireland in 1601. The Coote coat-of-arms is prominently displayed above the entrance to Ballyfin.

The house itself was built in the 1820s for another Sir Charles Coote to designs by the great Irish architects Sir Richard and William Morrison. The Cootes enjoyed the house for exactly one hundred years employing a large team of servants to preserve the life of refined leisure that is documented in Edwardian photographs showing tea on the terrace or skating in the walled garden. As the political situation changed with the dawning of the Irish Independence, the Cootes sold the estate to the Patrician Brothers who, for much of the twentieth century, ran a much-loved school at Ballyfin. After many years of restoration Ballyfin reopened its doors in May 2011.

The restoration project took nine years – significantly longer than it took to build the house in the first place. Every single aspect of the house from the roof down required remedial attention. Skilled craftsmen worked on the elaborate inlaid floors, repaired the gilding and the stucco work or treated the stone work of the house which was disintegrating. After this emergency work, a process of redecoration could begin with carefully selected paint finishes, papers and textiles bringing the interiors back to life. The house has been furnished with a collection of Irish art and antiques from around the world, fine Irish mahogany, French chandeliers and mirrors by Thomas Chippendale. The result was spectacular, and one of Ireland’s most endangered great houses emerged ready for the current century, a place of grandeur, yet warmth, providing the kind of welcome envisaged when the house was first built.”

Ballyfin, photograph by Tony Pleavin 2018 for Tourism Ireland (see [7]). Wrought-iron curvilinear Victorian conservatory, c.1855, on a rectangular plan with apsidal ends and glazed corridor linking it to Ballyfin House. Designed by Richard Turner.

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

p. 21. “(Wellesley-Pole, sub Wellington; D/PB; Coote, Bt/PB)The grandest and most lavishly appointed early C19 Classical house in Ireland; built between 1821 and 1826 by Sir Charles Coote, 9th Baronet [1794-1864. He married Caroline Whaley, granddaughter of “Burn Chapel” Whaley whom we came across when we visited the Museum of Literature of Ireland in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin]; replacing a long, plain house of 1778 which had been the seat of William Wellesley-Pole [1763-1835], afterwards 1st Lord Marlborough and 3rd Earl of Mornington, a brother of the Duke of Wellington. Coote, the Premier Bt. of Ireland, who bought the estate from Wellesley-Pole ca 1812, seems originally to have employed an architect named Dominick Madden, who produced a design for a 2 storey house with a long library at one side running from front to back, and extending into a curved bow in the centre of the side elevation; a room very similar to the library at Emo Court, a few miles away. When this end of the house – which also contained a top-lit rotunda, another feature doubtless inspired by Emo – had been built, Coote switched from Madden to Richard Morrison, who, assisted by his son William Vitruvius Morrison, completed the house according to a modified plan, but incorporating Madden’s library wing which forms the side elevation of Morrison’s house, just has it would have done of Madden’s; it is of one bay on either side of the central curved bow, which is fronted by a colonnade of giant Ionic columns.”

The south front of Ballyfin, with the grand bow window for the library. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The Victorian conservatory at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: “The side elevation is now prolonged by a gracefully curving glass and iron conservatory of ca 1850. The principal front is of 13 bays with a giant pedimented Ionic portico; the 2 end bays on either side being stepped back. The interior, almost entirely by the Morrisons, is of great magnificence and beautifully finished, with exciting spatial effects and a wealth of rich plasterwork, scagiola columns in Siena porphyry, green and black; and inlaid parquetry floors; originally the rooms contained a fine collection of pictures and sculpture and furniture said to have been made for George IV as Prince of Wales. A rather restrained entrance hall, with a coffered ceiling and a floor of mosaic brought from Rome, leads into the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end.

The upstairs top-lit saloon reminds me of that at Stradbally Hall. The first son of Charles Coote and Caroline Whaley died unmarried, the second son predeceased the first son, after marrying Margaret Mary Cosby of Stradbally. The third son, Algernon, became 11th Baron Coote and also joined the clergy. He died in 1920 and afterwards the house was sold.

The hall at Ballyfin, built in the 1820s for Sir Charles Coote to designs by Sir Richard and William Morrison. The mosaic centrepiece on the floor came from Rome in 1822. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin, the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin top-lit saloon. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Ballyfin, the top-lit saloon in the centre of the house, which has a coved ceiling decorated with the most elaborate plasterwork and a screen of Corinthian columns at each end. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Detail of the ceiling in the saloon at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: The saloon is flanked by the rotunda, which is surrounded by Ionic columns and has a coffered dome, and the staircase hall, which has pairs of engaged and recessed columns round its upper storey; the balustrade of the stairs and gallery being of brass uprights.

The rotunda at Ballyfin, which is encircled by eight Siena scagliola columns. The coffered dome is ornamented with hexagonal panels containing decorative stars set in an emphatic geometrical lattice. Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The staircase hall at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The staircase hall at Ballyfin. Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The doorway in the saloon at Ballyfin, looking through to the staircase hall. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

Bence-Jones continues: “There is a splendid vista through the centre of the house, from the staircase hall to the library, which lies at right angles to this central axis, beyond the rotunda; it is divided by screens of Ionic columns. The drawing room has characteristic Morrison ceiling and gilt Louis XV decoration on the walls dating from 1840s and by a London decorator. Classical entrance gates with piers similar to those at Kilruddery, Co Wicklow and Fota, Co Cork; and a folly castle in the park. Ballyfin was sold by the Coote family 1920s and is now a college run by the Patrician brothers.” 

The library at Ballyfin, with screens of Scagliola columns. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The library at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The library at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The Gold Drawing Room at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The Gold Drawing Room at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The dining room at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
A bedroom at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.

The Ballyfin website tells us:

At Ballyfin, stone walls enclose 614 acres of parkland, a lake and ancient woods, delightful garden buildings, follies and grottoes. The landscape, laid out in the mid-eighteenth century, is among the finest examples in Ireland of the natural style of gardening inspired by ‘Capability’ Brown.

There are many highlights that will keep garden lovers and outdoor enthusiasts exploring for days. These include the medieval-style tower, built as a folly in the 1860’s, the walled garden with its formal borders and kitchen gardens, the abundant wildlife to be seen on early morning walks and the restored Edwardian rock garden.”

Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The new cascade and classical temple at Ballyfin. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  [Not Used]. Photograph by Paul Barker.
Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.
The south front of Ballyfin, with the grand bow window for the library. Beyond is the lake made in the 1750s. Image from archive of Country Life 31/08/2011  vol. CCV. Photograph by Paul Barker.

3. Castle Durrow, Co Laois – a hotel 

https://www.castledurrow.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Castle Durrow (1988):

p. 66. “(Flower, Ashbrook, V/PB) An early C18 house of an attractive pinkish stone, with a high-pitched roof and tall stacks’ built 1716-18 by Col William Flower [b. 1685], MP, afterwards 1st Lord Castle Durrow, who employed a builder named Benjamin Crawley or Crowley. Of two storeys – originally with a dormered attic in the roof – and nine bays; the front being divided into three groups of three bays by giant Doric pilasters and entablature with urns; now erected on the front of a C19 enclosed porch. Alterntive triangular and segmental pediments over ground floor windows. Originally the house was flanked by single-storey outbuildings with mullion-and-transom windows; but these have since been replaced by other outbuildings; while the front has been extended by the addition of two projecting bays at one side. The interior was originally panelled, the hall and dining room in oak; but the panelling now survived only in two rooms. Subsequent generations of the family, who from 1751 held the title of Viscount Ashbrook [Henry Flower (1712-1752)], adorned the house with C18 plasterwork and C19 stained glass; as well as building the impressive castellated entrance gate in the square of the little town of Durrow. Castle Durrow was sold by 9th Viscount Ashbrook 1922 and is now a convent school.In recent years, the attic dormers have been removed.” 

The 4th Viscount, Henry Flower, married Deborah Susannah Freind. Their son the 5th Viscount, Henry, married Frances Robinson, daughter of John Robinson, who became 1st Baronet Robinson, of Rokeby Hall, Co. Louth, a section 482 property (see my entry). He was born John Freind, and changed his name to Robinson when he inherited Rokeby. The 6th and 7th Viscounts had no male heirs and the 8th Viscount, Colonel Robert Thomas Flower, was the son of the 5th Viscount. It was his son, the 9th Viscount, who sold Castle Durrow.

The website tells us:

Colonel William Flower commenced with the construction of the Manor in 1712. The Flower family assumed residence of Castle Durrow in 1716 and continued to expand and improve their estate on various occasions during their 214 year reign. Past research indicates that the Ashbrook family were generally regarded as benevolent landlords and of course the largest employer of Durrow Village.

In 1922 the banks finally foreclosed and the Flower family were forced to relocate to Britain. The castle was sold to Mr Maher of Freshford, County Kilkenny who was primarily interested in the rich timber reserves of the Estate and sold of most of the beautiful old oak trees to Britain, by 1928 the old hard wood forests of Durrow were scarce.

The Land Commission divided up the arable portions of the property and the Forestry department took over many of the woods for further plantation. During this time the great manor house remained entirely empty. The Bank of Ireland acquired the town and consequently for the next 40 years house property in Durrow was purchased from that bank.

In 1929 with the Bishop’s approval the Parish of Durrow acquired the Estate for the purchase price of £1800 and Castle Durrow was transformed into a school, St. Fintan’s College and Convent. The establishing of a school at Castle Durrow was testimony to the fact that beautiful buildings of the past could be used in the modern world. The Presentation order ran the castle as a closed convent before they opened up the castle as a primary and secondary school which stayed open until 1987.

In the 90’s, Peter and Shelly Stokes purchased Castle Durrow and began the castle’s renovations. The works took over 3 years to complete. The renovations were a bigger job than originally was thought; the roof had to be completely replaced, new wiring and plumbing was put in through the whole castle. When the roof was renewed the original black oak beams were exposed and they are now a feature in the oriental rooms. Irish oak floors with underfloor heating were put in. New wooden sash windows were made for the castle to replace the old rotten ones. The stained glass windows, fire places and magnificent plastered ceilings were all restored. Furniture for the entire house was handpicked from Irish and European auction houses and many family heirlooms and antiques can be found dotted around the grounds. The Stokes family manage the daily running of the castle and they are an intricate part of the charming homely feel.

4. Coolanowle Country House, Ballickmoyler, County Laois

http://www.coolanowle.com

The website tells us:

Coolanowle Country House is a multi award winning County House B&B offering an inviting and welcoming stay for all its guests. It also offers two tastefully restored  self catering holiday cottages as well as a cosy log house self catering chalet. In total it can accommodate up to 38 guests. 

Coolanowle is the perfect venue for small parties & events.  Set on 3 acres of natural woodland with historic flax ponds, it’s the perfect place to experience country living. Famous for organic traditional food and personal attention to detail, a stay here at Coolanowle will rejuvinate, regenerate and revive!  

5. Roundwood, Mountrath, Co Laois – guest house

https://roundwoodhouse.com 

and the forge and writer’s cottage at Roundwood

The website tells us: “Nestled in 18 acres of native woodland, just over an hour from Dublin, Roundwood House is a B&B and restaurant with six bedrooms in the Main House, four in the older restored Yellow House, two self-catering cottages, a wonderful library, a dog that gives walking tours, two little girls, some hens and ducks to greet you on arrival and a rooster named Brewster.”

The website tells us a little of the history of the house: “Built in 1731 for a prosperous Quaker family of cloth makers by the name of Sharp, it retains much of its charm and feel from its early days.

Most of its original features remain intact including chimney pieces of Black Kilkenny marble, carved timber architraves, sash windows and Rococo plasterwork.The 1970s were a particularly colourful time in Roundwood’s history. Then, under the ownership of the Irish Georgian Society, Roundwood became a party house for a young, upper-class, bohemian setSome individuals stand out during the 1970s in Roundwood, including Brian Molloy, who abandoned his law degree in favour of working on restoring houses with the Irish Georgian Society. Molloy brought the derelict Roundwood back to life and guests remember his hospitality, with candlelight, bouquets of wild flowers and “music floating out from somewhere”.

Hannah’s parents, Frank and Rosemary Kennan, bought Roundwood in 1983, after it had been rescued by the Irish Georgian Society from the fate of demolition. A decade of restoration by the Society followed, after which Hannah’s parents opened their home to guests and lovingly ran it for 25 years.

Just over a decade ago, Hannah & Paddy took the reins. Paddy Flynn, a musician from Canada, met Hannah in Galway where she was studying Classical Civilization. They decided that a life as live-in hosts in a Georgin Country House was an appealing prospect and so left their city life behind to do just that. They and their two girls, Amélie and Lucie, look forward to welcoming you into their beautiful home.

An added feature of Roundwood is a special library:

Frank’s Library is situated in the old Coach House on the grounds of Roundwood House. It is an English language library with approximately two thousand volumes.

The library is intended to facilitate a general understanding of the development of civilisation & to celebrate those individuals who successfully climbed onto the shoulders of millions to give us something new & beautiful; a poem, a philosophy, a scientific theory, a painting, a symphony, a new kind of politics or technology. The intention is to do this within the overall picture of our history from the beginning, with our darkest periods included.

Spread over two levels, with ample desks and armchairs in cosy corners, the library is couched in exposed brick, with beautiful brass lighting fixtures, a wrought-iron gallery and spiral staircase. Its book cases are packed wall to wall with everything from Fisk’s tome on the Middle East to an impressive fine art and limited edition facsimile copy of the Book of Kells.

The Library is open to guests staying in the house and the self-catering cottages. For anyone  not booked to stay, but interested in visiting the library , please contact us in advance.

Whole House Rental County Laois:

1. Ballintubbert House, County Laois – whole house and weddings

https://www.ballintubbert.com/exclusive-hire/manor-house/

Ballintubbert is a five-bay two-storey over basement rectory, c. 1835. It was previously owned by actor John Hurt, and poet Cecil Day-Lewis.

The Manor House has five double bedrooms and the Garden Wing has four additional double bedrooms. A beautiful country style kitchen, two stunning living rooms and a dining room that sits twenty. The house has six bathrooms.

2. Preston House, Abbeyleix, County Laois – whole house accommodation

https://hiddenireland.com/house-pages/preston-house/

Hidden Ireland tells us:

We are delighted that you have found our beautifully restored 18th Century Georgian House, with a private courtyard and wooded garden, located on the Main Street of the picturesque Heritage Town of Abbeyleix.

Preston House is the perfect space to unite for family gatherings or private parties. Boasting the home from home comforts of a fully equipped country kitchen, a drawing room, a music parlour & two dining rooms, our six luxurious suites are individually decorated with a quirky mix of chic and antique furnishings, providing ample living space to comfortably accommodate 14 people.

Our country manor kitchen, with an Aga to boot, was originally designed to cater for up to 80 people but it’s perfect for large or small gatherings. The individual room mixes are the perfect setting for family dining, relaxing with friends or celebrations. The house as a whole can be transformed into an event or workshop space, a cultural gathering or wellness space.

With a beautiful courtyard for outdoor dining, historic curtledge and a wonderful tree lined garden Preston House is the perfect place for a family break, a celebration or a unique wedding setting.

The Lords Walk is just a short walk from Preston House, every day, there is an adventure waiting in Laois. With its mountains, canals, forest trails, rivers & lakes, Laois is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, Preston House and Abbeyleix is the perfect starting point to explore!

Each of the suites in Preston House has its own unique & fascinating story to tell. The Pembroke Suite was named after Pembroke Terrace, a group of four impressively designed houses built as part of a dowry by the 11th Earl of Pembroke & Montgomery when his daughter Emma married Thomas De Vesci the 3rd. At the turn of the century a constabulary barracks, an inspector’s house and the post office occupied Pembroke Terrace. The Preston Suite was named after a previous incarnation of this fine premises which was a post-primary school. Mr A. E. M. Charleton of Galway Grammar School was appointed Head Master in 1895. Two months later the school opened to both boarders and day pupils. It served as an excellent educational establishment until it closed in September 1966. The Heritage Suite was named after our local tourism and community centre Heritage house: It was a Boys National School until 1995, it now serves as heritage centre with a museum, meeting rooms and playground. It’s open to the public for guided tours, cultural events and exhibitions. Exhibits include ancient artifacts and recent traditional craft from Laois as well as artifacts from the Titanic Carpet factory here in Abbeyleix.

The Sexton Suite was named after Sexton House. On the retirement of the last sexton (an officer of a church), the house became somewhat derelict but as it forms a significant part of the town’s heritage its restoration was widely welcomed and it is now a notable stop on the Heritage Trails around the town. The Bramley Suite is named after Bramley’s premises on lower Main St dates back to the early 19th century. The first business was a saddlery and post office. Early in the 20th Century, the first automobile garage in Abbeyleix was opened at the rear of Bramley’s premises. The property beside Bramley’s was formerly the site of the Abbeyleix Carpet Factory, which closed in 1914. The De Vesci Suite is named after Abbeyleix House, home of the De Vesci family for over 300 years. It is a magnificent building built beside the Nore and situated in the rolling pastureland of the estate. It is now in private ownership. The estate is rich in history with the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey and the tomb of Malachy, King of Laois on its grounds.

[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

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

[12] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/12000025/rothe-house-15-16-parliament-street-gardens-st-johns-par-kilkenny-co-kilkenny

[13] https://archiseek.com/2010/1594-rothe-house-kilkenny-co-kilkenny/

and http://kilkennyarchaeologicalsociety.ie

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

[15] https://www.irishlandmark.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Clomantagh_castle.pdf

Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny

Just to finish up my entries about Office of Public Works properties: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

Carlow:

1. Altamont Gardens

[Dublin 2-21]

Kildare:

22. Castletown House, County Kildare

23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare

Kilkenny:

24. Dunmore Cave, County Kilkenny – site currently closed

25. Jerpoint Abbey, County Kilkenny

26. Kells Priory, County Kilkenny

27. Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny

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

Carlow:

1. Altamont House and Gardens, Bunclody Road, Altamont, Ballon, County Carlow:

Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [1]

General information: (059) 915 9444

altamontgardens@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

A large and beautiful estate covering 16 hectares in total, Altamont Gardens is laid out in the style of William Robinson, which strives for ‘honest simplicity’. The design situates an excellent plant collection perfectly within the natural landscape.

For example, there are lawns and sculpted yews that slope down to a lake ringed by rare trees and rhododendrons. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, sheltered by ancient oaks and flanked by huge stone outcrops, leads to the banks of the River Slaney. Visit in summer to experience the glorious perfume of roses and herbaceous plants in the air.

With their sensitive balance of formal and informal, nature and artistry, Altamont Gardens have a unique – and wholly enchanting – character.” [2]

Altamont, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

From Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the care of the OPW, Government Publications, Dublin, 2018:

Altamont House was constructed in the 1720s, incorporating parts of an earlier structure said to have been a medieval nunnery. In the 1850s, a lake was excavated in the grounds of the house, but it was when the Lecky-Watsons, a local Quaker family, acquired Altamont in 1924 that the gardens truly came into their own.

Feilding Lecky-Watson had worked as a tea planter in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he nurtured his love of exotic plants, and of rhododendrons in particular. Back in Ireland, he became an expert in the species, cultivating plants for the botanical gardnes at Glasnevin, Kew and Edinburgh. So passionate was he about these plants that when his wife, Isobel, gave birth to a daughter in 1922, she was named Corona, after his favourite variety of rhododendron.” [3]

Altamont House and Gardens lake, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Around the lake are mature conifers that were planted in the 1800s, including a giant Wellingtonia which commemorates the Battle of Waterloo. [3] Corona continued in her father’s footsteps, planing rhododendrons, magnolia and Japanese maples. Another feature is the “100 steps” hand-cut in granite, leading down to the River Slaney. There are red squirrels, otters in the lake and river, and peacocks. Before her death, Corona handed Altamont over to the Irish state to ensure its preservation.

The Temple, Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Kildare:

22. Castletown House and Parklands, Celbridge, County Kildare.

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photo by Mark Wesley 2016, Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General Information: castletown@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Castletown is set amongst beautiful eighteenth-century parklands on the banks of the Liffey in Celbridge, County Kildare.

The house was built around 1722 for the speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly, to designs by several renowned architects. It was intended to reflect Conolly’s power and to serve as a venue for political entertaining on a grand scale. At the time Castletown was built, commentators expected it to be ‘the epitome of the Kingdom, and all the rarities she can afford’.

The estate flourished under William Conolly’s great-nephew Thomas and his wife, Lady Louisa, who devoted much of her life to improving her home.

Today, Castletown is home to a significant collection of paintings, furnishings and objets d’art. Highlights include three eighteenth-century Murano-glass chandeliers and the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in the country.

It is still the most splendid Palladian-style country house in Ireland.

This photo was taken probably by Robert French, chief photographer of William Lawrence Photographic Studios of Dublin, National Library of Ireland flickr constant commons.

William Conolly rose from modest beginnings to be the richest man in Ireland in his day. He was a lawyer from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, who made an enormous fortune out of land transactions in the unsettled period after the Williamite wars.

The Archiseek website tells us:

“Soon after the project got underway Conolly met Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737), an Italian architect, who had been employed in Ireland by Lord Molesworth in 1718 [John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount, who had been British envoy to Florence]. He designed the façade of the main block in the style of a 16th century Italian town palace. He returned to Italy in 1719 and was not associated with the actual construction of the house which began in 1722. Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (died 1733), a young Irish architect, on his Italian grand tour became acquainted with Galilei in Florence and through this connection he was employed by the Speaker to complete Castletown when he returned to Ireland in 1724. Pearce had first hand knowledge of the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and his annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura survives. It was Pearce who added the Palladian colonnades and the terminating pavillions. This layout was the first major Palladian scheme in Ireland and soon had many imitators.” [4]

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photograph from macmillan media for Tourism Ireland 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

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

The centre block, of three storeys over a basement, has two more or less identical thirteen bay fronts reminiscent of the façade of an Italian Renaissance town palazzo; with no pediment or central feature and no ornamentation except for doorcase, entablatures over the ground floor windows, alternate segmental and triangular pediments over the windows of the storey above and a balustraded roof parapet. Despite the many windows and the lack of a central feature, there is no sense of monotony or heaviness; the effect being one of great beauty  and serenity. The centre block is joined by curved Ionic colonnades to two storey seven bay wings; the wings and colonnades having been designed by Pearce, who also designed the impressive two storey entrance hall, which has a gallery supported by Ionic columns. Apart from the hall, the long gallery upstairs and some rooms with simple wainscot, the interior of Castletown was still unfinished at the time of Speaker Conolly’s death, and remained so until after his great-nephew, the popular Irish patriot Tom Conolly, married Lady Louisa Lennox (daughter of the 2nd Duke of Richmond and sister of Emily, Duchess of Leinster) 1758.” [5]

William Conolly married Katherine Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal, whose brother purchased Slane Castle. William and Katherine had no children, so his estate passed to his nephew William James Conolly (1712-1754) via his brother Patrick. We came across William James Conolly before in Leixlip Castle (another Section 482 property), which he also inherited. William James died just two years after Katherine nee Conyngham, so the estate then passed to his son Thomas Conolly (1738-1803).

Thomas Conolly (1738-1803) by Anton Raphael Mengs, painted 1758. The German painter Mengs captured Conolly as a 19 year old on his Grand Tour. He is shown posting in front of a Roman sarcophagus, the “Relief of the Muses,” now in the Louvre. He is wearing a rich satin suit with gilt braid, portraying a young cultured aristocrat. In reality he displayed little interest in ancient civilisation, and brought back no souvenirs from Rome save for this portrait. Portrait in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Thomas’s wife, Lady Louisa Lennox, was one of five Lennox sisters, daughters of the Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond. From the age of eight she had lived at nearby Carton with her sister Emily, who was married to James Fitzgerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare (who became the 1st Duke of Leinster) where she was exposed to the fashionable idea of the day in architecture, decoration, horticulture and landscaping. [6]

Carton House, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Archiseek continues: “The Castletown papers, estate records and account books, together with Lady Louisa’s [i.e. Louisa Lennox, wife of Tom Conolly] diaries and correspondence with her sisters, provide a valuable record of life at Castletown and also of the reorganisation of the house. Lady Louisa’s letters from the 1750s onwards are revealing of the fashions in costume design, fabric patterns and furniture. She played an important part in the alteration and redecoration of Castletown during the 1760s and 1770s. As no single architect was responsible for all of the work carried out, she supervised most of it herself. Much of the redecoration of the house was done to the published designs of the English architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) who never came to Ireland himself. Chambers also worked for Lady Louisa’s brother, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, at Goodwood in Sussex. In a letter, written in July 1759, Lady Louisa mentions instructions given by Chambers to his assistant Simon Vierpyl who supervised the work at Castletown.” [4]

Interior view of Castletown. Country Life 27/07/2016 
Image Number: 5499871  
Photographer: Will Pryce. In the niches are a pair of marble busts of the Earl and Countess of Dartrey by Lawrence McDonald carved in Rome in 1839. They came from Dartrey in County Monaghan which has been demolished (bequeathed to the Irish Georgian Society by Lady Edith Windham of Dartrey). The eighteenth-century organ was originally in the chapel of Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin (restored by the Cleveland Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society). 

Description of the Hall, from Archiseek: “This impressive two-storeyed room with a black and white chequered floor, was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. The Ionic order on the lower storey is similar to that of the colonnades outside and at gallery level there are tapering pilasters with baskets of flowers and fruit carved in wood. The coved ceiling has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame and central roundel with shell decoration.” [see 4]

The staircase at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873959  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Country Life Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E.Henson.

 
Castletown House, June 2015. ‘The Boar Hunt’ by Paul de Vos (1596-1678) is framed by Lafranchini plasterwork.

Mark Bence-Jones continues:

In the following year, Tom Conolly and Lady Louisa employed the Francini to decorate the walls of the staircase hall with rococo stuccowork; and in 1760 the grand staircase itself – of cantilevered stone, with a noble balustrade of brass columns – was installed; the work beign carried out by Simon Vierpyl, a protégé of Sir William Chambers. The principal reception rooms, which form an enfilade along the garden front and were mostly decorated at this time, are believed to be by Chambers himself; they have ceilings of geometrical plasterwork, very characteristic of him. Also in this style is the dining room, to the left of the entrance hall. It was here that, according to the story, Tom Conolly found himself giving supper to the Devil, whom he had met out hunting and invited back, believing him to be merely a dark stranger; but had realised the truth when his guest’s boots were removed, revealing him to have unusually hairy feet. He therefore sent for the priest, who threw his breviary at the unwelcome guest, which missed him and cracked a mirror. This, however, was enough to scare the Devil, who vanished through the hearthstone. Whatever the truth of this story, the hearthstone in the dining room is shattered, and one of the mirrors is cracked. The doing-up of the house was largely supervised by Lady Louisa, and two of the rooms bear her especial stamp: the print room, which she and her sister, Lady Sarah Napier made ca 1775; and the splendid long gallery on the first floor, which she had decorated with wall paintings in the Pompeian manner by Thomas Riley 1776. The gallery, and the other rooms on the garden front, face along a two mile vista to the Conolly Folly, an obelisk raised on arches which was built by Speaker Conolly’s widow 1740, probably to the design of Richard Castle. The ground on which it stands did not then belong to the Conollys, but to their neighbour, the Earl of Kildare, whose seat, Carton, is nearby. The folly continued to be a part of the Carton estate until 1968, when it was bought by an American benefactress and presented to Castletown. At the end of another vista, the Speaker’s widow built a remarkable corkscrew-shaped structure for storing grain, known as the Wonderful Barn. One of the entrances to the demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley 1741. The principal entrance gates are from a design by Chambers. Castletown was inherited by Tom Conolly’s nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, who took the name of Conolly. It eventually passed to 6th and present Lord Carew [William Francis Conolly-Carew (1905-1994)], whose mother was a Conolly of the Pakenham line. He sold it 1965; the estate was bought for development and for two years the house stood empty and deteriorating. Then, in 1967, Hon Desmond Guinness courageously bought the house with 120 acres as the headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society, and in order to save it for posterity. Since then the house has been restored and it now contains an appropriate collection of furniture, pictures and objects, which has either been bought for the house, presented to it by benefactors, or loaned. The house is open to the public.” 

Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015. In the stair hall, in the rococo plasterwork, Tom and Louisa Conolly are represented in plaster, along with shells, masks and flowers. 
Castletown House, June 2015.
My Dad Desmond and Stephen in the Dining Room of Castletown House, June 2015. The portrait, on the west wall, is of William Conolly in his robes as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons by Stephen Catterson Smith the elder (1806-1872) (donated by Mr and Mrs Galen Weston). This posthumous portrait was based on Jervas’s portrait of the Speaker in the Green Drawing Room. Note the vase on the side table, one of a pair of large Meissen gilt and white two-handled campana vases with everted rims and entwined scrolling serpent and acanthus handles. This pair of vases is reputed to have been given to Thomas Conolly (1823–1876) as a gift by the future French Emperor, Napoleon III.
The portrait over the fireplace in the dining room is a half-length portrait of Charles Lennox (1701–1750), 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, wearing armour with the ribbon of the Order of the Garter, in a contemporary frame in the manner of William Kent. 

The Dining Room, description from Archiseek:

This room dates from the 1760s redecoration of Castletown undertaken by Lady Louisa Conolly and reflects the mid-eighteenth century fashion for separate dining rooms. Originally, there were two smaller panelled rooms here. It was reconstructed to designs by Sir William Chambers, with a compartmentalised ceiling similar to one by Inigo Jones in the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The chimney-piece and door cases are in the manner of Chambers. Of the four doors, two are false. 

Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms. The three elaborate pier glasses are original to the Dining Room. The frames are carved fruiting vines, symbols of Bacchus and festivity. These are probably the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809) who, with the firm of Thomas Jackson of Essex Bridge, Dublin, was paid large sums for carving and gilding throughout the house.

Cranfield Mirror, the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809).
Castletown House, June 2015.

The Red Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

It is one of a series of State Rooms that form an enfilade and were used on important occasions in the eighteenth century. This room was redesigned in the mid 1760s in the manner of Sir William Chambers. The chimney-piece, ceiling and pier glasses are typical of his designs. 

The walls are covered in red damask which is probably French and dates from the 1820s. Lady Shelburne recorded in her journal seeing a four coloured damask, predominently red, in this room. The Aubusson carpet dates from about 1850 and may have been made for the room. Much of the furniture has always been in the house and Lady Louisa Conolly paid 11/2 guineas for each of the Chinese Chippendale armchairs which she considered very expensive. The chairs and settee were made in Dublin and they are displayed in a formal arrangement against the walls as they would have been in the eighteenth century. The bureau was made for Lady Louisa in the 1760s.

Castletown House, June 2015. A Chinese gilt and polychrome lacquer cabinet on Irish stand, with a pair of doors later painted with vignettes of romantic landscapes and birds on floral sprays. The landscapes on this lacquered cabinet are said to have been painted by Katherine Conolly as a gift for her great-niece, Molly Burton, in about 1725. Katherine, who had no children herself, looked after Molly after her father died. [7]
Chinese Chippendale sofas, Irish, c.1770.
The Green Drawing Room, Castletown House, June 2015. Portrait of the woman and child is Mrs Katherine Conolly with Miss Molly Burton, by Charles Jervas. The man on the other side of the door is Speaker William Conolly.

The Green Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

The Conollys formally received important visitors to the house in the Green Drawing Room which was the saloon or principal reception room. The room was redecorated in the 1760s and like the other state rooms reflects the neo-classical taste of the architect Sir William Chambers. The Greek key decoration on the ceiling is repeated on the pier glasses and the chimney-piece. Originally these were pier tables with a Greek key frieze and copies of these may be made in the future. The chimney-piece is similar to one designed by Chambers for Lord Charlemont’s Casino at Marino.”

Upstairs, The Long Gallery, Castletown House, June 2015.

The Long Gallery, description from Archiseek:

measuring almost 80 by 23 feet, with its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s. Originally there were four doors in the room and the walls were panelled in stucco similar to the entrance Hall. In 1776 the plaster panels and swags were removed but traces of them were found behind the painted canvas panels when they were taken down for cleaning during recent conservation work. 

In the mid 1770s the room was redecorated in the Pompeian manner by two English artists, Charles Reuben Riley (c.1752-1798) and Thomas Ryder (1746-1810). Tom and Louisa’s portraits are at either end of the room over the chimney-pieces and the end piers are decorated with cyphers of the initals of their families: The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard) and that of Tom after Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland). The subjects of the wall paintings were mostly taken from engraving in d’Hancarville’s Antiquites Etrusques, Greques, et Romaines (1766-67) and de Montfaucon’s L’antiquite expliquee et representee en figures (1719). The busts of the poets and philosophers are placed on gilded brackets designed by Chambers. In the central niche stands a seventeenth-century statue of Diana. Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter. 

The three glass chandeliers were made for the room in Venice and the four large sheets of mirrored glass came from France. In the 1770s the Long Gallery was used as a living room and was filled with exquisite furniture. Originally in the room, there were a pair of side tables attributed to John Linnell, with marble tops attributed to Bossi, a pair of commodes by Pierre Langlois, that were purchased in London for Lady Louisa by Lady Caroline Fox and a pair of bookcases at either end of the room. 

In 1989 major conservation work was carried out on the Long Gallery. The wall paintings that had been flaking for many years were conserved. The original eighteenth-century gilding has been cleaned and the chandeliers restored. The project was funded by the American Ireland Fund, the Irish Georgian Society and by private donations.

The gallery at Castletown House, as decorated for Lady Louisa Conolly circa 1790. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873951  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, July 2017. A set of three 18th-century Venetian coloured and plain glass 24-light chandeliers, decorated with flower heads and moulded finials. These three Murano glass chandeliers are unique in Ireland and rare even in Italy. It is believed that Lady Louisa ordered them from Venice between 1775 and 1778 for the redecorated Long Gallery. The chandeliers were wired for electricity in the mid-1990s; they were cleaned and restored by a Venetian firm of historic glass-makers in 2009. [see 7]
The Print Room, Castletown House, June 2015.

Print rooms were fashionable in the 18th century – ladies would collect their favourite prints and paste the walls with them – and Lady Louisa’s remains the only intact 18th century print room in Ireland. Those featured include Le Bas, Rembrandt and Teniers, the actor David Garrick and Sarah Cibber, Louisa’s sister Sarah, Charles I and Charles II as a boy, with whom Louisa shared a bloodline. [see 6]

The State Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015. In the 1720s, when the house was first laid out, this room, along with the rooms either side, probably formed William Conolly’s bedroom suite. It was intended that he would receive guests in the morning while sitting up in bed or being dressed in the manner of the French court at Versailles. In the nineteenth century, the room was converted into a library and the mock leather Victorian wall paper dates from this time. Sadly, the Castletown library was dispersed in the 1960s and today the furniture reflects the room’s original use.
The library at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873961  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
The Blue Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
The Boudoir, Castletown House, July 2017.

From the website: “The Boudoir and the adjoining two rooms formed Lady Louisa’s personal apartment. The Boudoir served as a private sitting room for Louisa and subsequent ladies of the house. The painted ceiling, dado rail and window shutters possibly date from the late eighteenth century and were restored in the 1970s by artist Philippa Garner. The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery. Amongst the items inside the built-in glass cabinet are pieces of glass and china featuring the Conolly crest.

In the adjoining room, Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, OPW’s conservation architects have left exposed the walls to offer visitors a glimpse of the different historic layers in the room, from the original brick walls, supported by trusses, to wooden panelling to fragments of whimsical printed wall paper that once embellished the room.

Castletown House, July 2017.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, July 2017.
Lady Kildare’s Room is named after Lady Louisa’s sister Emily, Countess of Kildare and later Duchess of Leinster, who had raised Louisa and the two younger sisters Sarah and Cecilia at nearby Carton House after their parents’ death. She bore her husband, James FitzGerald, nineteen children, but when her younger sister Louisa suffered a miscarriage that put an end to her hopes of ever having children, Emily came to stay with her in Castletown until she had recovered.
As members of the aristocracy in eighteenth-century Ireland, Louisa and Emily garnered much attention. Emily described herself and her sister as ‘women of fashion’, a term that emphasised not only their social position, but their knowledge and love of fashion. This room now displays five remarkable eighteenth-century gowns worn for formal ceremonies from the Berkeley Costume Collection. Made in France, Italy, and England, the dresses on display consist of rich embroidered bodices and full skirts made from silk and gold thread.
Statue taken from the grave of Speaker William Conolly, of him reclining next to his wife.
Statue of Lady Catherine Conolly, from the grave (see above), by Thomas Carter.
Obelisk, Castletown, by Richard Castle, March 2022.
Obelisk, Castletown, by Richard Castle, March 2022.
Obelisk, Castletown, by Richard Castle, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, Castletown by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection NLI, flickr constant commons.
When we went to find the Wonderful Barn, we discovered there is not just one but in fact three Wonderful Barns!
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The smaller Wonderful Barn.

23. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare:

Maynooth Castle, photograph by Gail Connaughton 2020, for Faitle Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General information: 01 628 6744, maynoothcastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

This majestic stone castle was founded in the early thirteenth century. It became the seat of power for the FitzGeralds, the earls of Kildare, as they emerged as one of the most powerful families in Ireland. Garret Mór, known as the Great Earl of Kildare, governed Ireland in the name of the king from 1487 to 1513.

Maynooth Castle was one of the largest and richest Geraldine dwellings. The original keep, begun around 1200, was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. Inside, the great hall was a nerve centre of political power and culture.

Only 30 kilometres from Dublin, Maynooth Castle occupies a deceptively secluded spot in the centre of the town, with well-kept grounds and plenty of greenery. There is a captivating exhibition in the keep on the history of the castle and the family.

Kilkenny:

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

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

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.

25. Jerpoint Abbey, Thomastown, County Kilkenny.

Jerpoint Abbey, May 2016.

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

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 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.

26. 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’.

27. 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. [see 1]
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. 

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. [8]

1n 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.

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. [9]

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

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.[10] 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 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.

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 the 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]
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]

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.”

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. This gave Preston the title Earl of Desmond, 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. Thomas’s nine-year-old son, James, became the heir to the titles. Plans were made for a marriage between James and Elizabeth, only daughter of the Prestons, to resolve the inheritance issue.

James Butler (1610-88) 1st Duke of Ormond, 12th Earl 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 1629 he married his cousin Elizabeth Preston and reunited the Ormond estates, as she was the sole heiress of her mother Elizabeth, daughter of the 10th Earl of Ormond, who had married Theobald Butler, 1st Viscount Tulleophelim, and secondly, Elizabeth’s father Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond.  

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.

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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, Ormond holds the wand of office of Lord Steward of the Household in his right hand.

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.

During the 1st Duke of Ormond’s tenure the castle underwent improvements. 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 contruction 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.” [11]

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.

Thomas Butler (1634-1682) 6th Earl of Ossory, was the father of the 2nd Duke of Ormond. Thomas was also Lord Butler of Moore Park and Lord Deputy of Ireland, and was a soldier and Naval Commander, known as ‘Gallant Ossory’. Born at Kilkenny Castle in 1634, he was the second but eldest surviving son of the Duke of Ormonde. 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. Ossory was a witness when James, Duke of York (later King James II) secretly married Anne Hyde in 1660.

Ossory 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 that country. In 1670 he conducted William of Orange to England. John Evelyn, the diarist, was a close friend, who 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

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, Mary Somerset (1665-1733), daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. In middle, Thomas Butler (1634-1680), Earl of Ossory, Lord Butler of Moore Park, Lord Deputyof Ireland. 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, 3rd Marquess of Worcester; 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, 13th Earl of Ormonde, was the eldest surviving son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and his wife Amelia van Beverweerd. 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, he was impeached and a year later a Bill of Attainder was passed against him. 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 and was buried in 1746 in Westminster Abbey.

Christopher Butler (d. 1758?), Catholic archbishop of Cashel and Emly, son of Walter Butler of Garyricken 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 Garyricken 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).

Charles Butler (1671-1758), 2nd Earl of Arran, de jure 3rd Duke of Ormonde, de jure 14th Earl of Ormonde was born on 4th September 1671, the youngest son of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory and Amelia of Nassau and brother of the 2nd Duke of Ormonde. Arran was enabled by an Act of Parliament in 1721 to recover his brother’s forfeited estates.

A younger brother of James the 1st Duke of Ormond was Richard Butler (d. 1701) of Kilcash, County Tipperary. His son was Walter Butler of Garyricken (1633-1700). Pictured above are the sons of Walter Butler: Christopher (the Catholic Archbishop) and Thomas (d. 1738).

Colonel Thomas Butler of Kilcash (d. 1738), son of Walter Butler of Garryricken and Lady Mary Plunket, inherited Kilcash from his grandfather Richard Butler, youngest brother of James, 1st Duke of Ormond.  A Colonel of a Regiment of Foot in the army of King James II, he married Margaret Bourke, widow of Viscount Iveagh and daughter of William, 7th Earl of Clanricarde. They had three sons: Richard (d.1711), Walter who died in Paris and John Butler of Kilcash, who succeeded to the Ormonde titles as de jure 15th Earl in 1758 on the death of his cousin Amelia, sister of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde. The couple also had five daughters: one, Honora married Valentine Brown, Lord Kenmare.

A son of Thomas became the 15th Earl of Ormond, John Butler (d. 1766), because the 14th Earl (the 2nd Earl of Arran) had no children.

The title then passed to a cousin of the 15th Earl, Walter Butler (1703-1783), another of the Garryricken branch, who also became the 9th Earl of Ossory. He was the only son and heir of John Butler of Garryricken and Frances, daughter of George Butler of Ballyragget. He inherited the Ormonde titles in 1766 which he did not assume but took up residence at Kilkenny Castle. Walter, who remained a Roman Catholic, exercised no political role but undertook the restoration of the Castle and also built the stable block across the road from the Castle, today the Design Centre and National Craft Centre, and the Dower House, today Butler House.

Walter the 16th Earl of Ormonde carried out various repairs, decorating some of the rooms with simple late C18 plasterwork.

He married Eleanor Morres (1711-1793), the daughter of Nicholas Morres of Seapark Court, Co. Dublin, and of Lateragh, Co. Tipperary, and of Susanna, daughter of Richard Talbot of Malahide Castle. After Walter’s death in 1783, she moved  into the Dower House, today Butler House, across the road from the Castle.

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 and was recreated at 1st Marquess of Ormonde and became one of the largest landowners in Ireland with an estate worth more than £20,000 a year. He was created 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.

James Wandesford Butler the 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.” [see 11]

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 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 second eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, Anne Wandesford Butler married in 1838, the Right Honourable John Wynne of Hazelwood, Co. Sligo, which is now a distillery.

Another daughter, Louisa Grace Butler (1868-1896), the third eldest daughter of James Butler, 1st Marquess of Ormonde and Grace Louisa Staples, married Thomas Fortescue of Ravensdale, Co. Louth,  1st Baron Clermont in 1840.

The son of the 2nd Marquess, James Edward William Theobald Butler became the 3rd Marquess. His brother James Arthur Wellington Foley Butler (1849-1943), 4th Marquess, 22nd Earl of Ormonde, was the brother and heir to James Edward Butler, 3rd Marquess of Ormonde. 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.

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.

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.

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

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 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. 
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.
The Ante Room.

From the website: “Today the first floor space is occuppied 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 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 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 Picture Gallery was built during the early nineteenth century building programme carried out by the architect William Robertson. It was constructed on earlier foundations. 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 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” 
King Charles II (1630-85); Artist: attributed to John Michael Wright (1617-1694)
Son of Charles I and Henrietta Maria. During the civil war in England, Charles played an active role and fought with the army. After the defeat of the royalist, he left England for France to join his mother. In 1649, after the execution of his father, he was proclaimed king of Edinburgh and later in parts of Ireland by Ormond. In 1660 the monarchy was restored.
Full-length, standing in robes of the Garter in a pose frequently used in the studio of Sir Peter Lely. The portrait has suffered severe paint loss, and it is difficult to be certain about the attribution. The carefully delineated folds of linen, and the treatment of textures in general, are similar to those featured in the work of John Michael Wright. Other than the pose, it does not resemble the work of Sir Peter Lely. It may be one of a group of portraits which were undertaken by Wright when he painted several works for Ormond in the early 1680s.

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.

28. 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://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/altamont-gardens/

[3] p. 8, Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the Care of the OPW. Government Publications, Dublin 2, 2018.

[4] https://archiseek.com/2011/1770s-castletown-house-celbridge-co-kildare/

[5] p. 75. 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.

[6] p. 129. Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitgGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008. 

[7] https://castletown.ie/collection-highlights/

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

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

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

[11] 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.

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]

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

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

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. Clements was also an MP in the Irish Parliament. He 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. 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. I hope to visit both this year! Desmond Fitzgerald also attributed Colganstown to him, though this is not certain, a house we visited in 2019. [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.

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. At first it served as a summer residence. The building was rebuilt and named the Viceregal Lodge.

Aras an Uachtarain, June 2022.

The Entrance Hall 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.

The house was extended when acquired for the Vice Regents 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. In 1802 Robert Woodgate made some alterations to the house.

Additional work was carried out by Michael Stapleton – who was an architect as well as noted stuccadore – and Francis Johnston. An extra storey was added to the wings and in 1815 Johnston extended the garden front by 5 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. The ballroom/state reception room was added at this time.

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.

It was not until the major renovations in the 1820s that the Lodge came to be used regularly by Viceroys. See my footnotes for some portraits of Vicereines and Viceroys who may have lived in the Aras. 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.

In 1840 Decimus Burton laid out the formal gardens.

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 1937 when the office of President of Ireland was established, the house became the house of the president.

The State Reception Room (formerly the ballroom) features a plaster cast of a Lafranchini panel in the ceiling. The original ceiling from which the plaster cast was taken is in a house we visited in June 2022 in Cork, which is a section 482 property and which I will be writing about: Riverstown House. The Lafranchini brothers were 18th century Swiss stuccodores who also worked on Carton and Castletown Houses.

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. 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 at Riverstown House, Co. Cork, which then seemed in danger; and which have been installed in the ballroom and in the adjoining corridor. 

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. This room dates from 1802.
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 handwoven Donegal carpet, designed for the house by Raymond McGrath, includes the riverine heads from the Custom House representing the principal rivers of Ireland
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.
The State Reception Room has a Bossi fireplace.

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 orchtestra pit for the adjoining ballroom. 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 State corridor also had a fireplace by 18th century Italian craftsman, Bossi, whose family knew the secret of how to colour marble.

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.
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.
Riverstown House, County Cork.
Riverstown House, County Cork.
A plaster cast in the Lafrancini Corridor in the Aras, above a Bossi fireplace.
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!
Plaster cast in the Aras.
Original plaster in Riverstown House.
Wall plaster cast of Francini plasterwork.
Original plasterwork in Riverstown House.

The Council of State Room is part of the original 1751 house. The ceiling 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.

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 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 Battle of Ballynahinch, 1798.

The East Wing was added in 1849 for a visit of Queen Victoria. Jacob Owen designed the dining room and matching drawing room in 1849. George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon would have been Viceroy at that time (1800-1870). The Queen 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).

By Queen Victoria’s Wellingtonia Gigantea in July 2012.

The State Dining Room contains furniture by James Hicks of Dublin, and portraits of past Presidents. 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 State Dining Room at the Aras, July 2013.
The State Dining Room, June 2022.
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.
“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.

A new part of the West Wing was added for the visit of George V in 1911. The gardens were created in 1840 by Decimus Burton with later additions by Ninian Niven, who designed Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. 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. 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.

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.
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).

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.

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.

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.

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]

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.

Dublin Castle Upper Yard, 2020.
Dublin Castle Upper Yard, 2022.
Dublin Castle Upper Yard, 2022.
Dublin Castle Upper Yard, 2022.
Photograph by Jeremy Hylton July 2022.
Dublin Castle, September 2021. The statue of Justice by John Van Nost (1721). On the other gate is the figure of Fortitude.
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.