Oranmore Castle, Oranmore, Co. Galway


Open dates in 2023: April 1-10, May 1-10, June 1-10, July 17-30, Aug 12-21, Sept 1-10, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €7, child €3


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Oranmore Castle, photograph from flickr creative commons Johanna.

Oranmore Castle is a tall fourteenth or fifteenth century castle on the shore of Galway bay, lapped on two sides by the sea at high tide. The castle contains two very large vaulted halls, but we only saw one of them. It has four storeys, a rectangular tower house with a square staircase turret, and a great hall on the ground floor.

Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
The pier was built in the nineteenth century when turf boats from Connemara brought their loads to the people of Oranmore.

We visited Oranmore Castle during Heritage week in 2022. I was excited to visit it as it belongs to a daughter of Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, another section 482 property which we have visited. Anita Leslie’s mother purchased it for her. At the time of our visit it was inhabited by Anita’s daughter Leonie and her husband Alec, who has since died.

The website welcomes us: “Welcome to Oranmore Castle — an exciting experience, which brings the mystery of the old alive and an eccentricity into the new. Oranmore Castle is a wonderful experience for people of all ages. Whether you come just to take a guided tour or whether you would like to create your own special event in the castle this is certainly an experience not to be missed! This enchanting castle sparks the imagination and is perfect for artistic retreats and alternative events, wedding ceremonies, concerts and workshops.

Just imagine getting married in the romantic and atmospheric setting of this charismatic space, certainly a day to be remembered! Run by dynamic husband and wife team Leonie (artist) and Alec Finn (noted musician of De Dannan) with a passion for the arts, the castle provides a unique, creative, welcoming and alternative space for people to reconnect with their artistic selves. Overlooking the magnificent Galway Bay, Oranmore Castle is a natural delight and will leave you feeling nourished, refreshed and inspired. Come and join in the fun and mystery or create your own history at Oranmore Castle, a place steeped in magic, tradition and eccentricity.

The website continues: “Oranmore Castle was built sometime round the fifteenth century possibly on the site of an older castle.

It was a stronghold of the Clanricardes who were a prominent Norman family of Galway. [The castle was recorded as being occupied by the Earl of Clanricarde in 1574]. In 1641 Galway was under the overlordship of the Marquess and fifth Earl Clanricarde. In March 1642 the town revolted and joined the Confederates with the Fort (St Augustin’s) still holding out.

Clanricarde placed a strong garrison in Oranmore castle, from which he provisioned the Fort of Galway from the sea until 1643 when Captain Willoughby Governor of Galway surrendered both fort and castle without the Marquess’s consent. In 1651 the castle surrendered to the Parliamentary forces.”

The 5th Earl of Clanricarde lived in Portumna Castle in County Galway. The town of Galway was held by the Confederates, who were mostly Catholic landowners. They wanted an end to anti-Catholic discrimination, and to have greater Irish self-governance. They were loyal to King Charles I, who was sympathetic to their cause. The Confederates formed their own parliament, in Kilkenny, and there was a period of Irish Catholic self-government between 1642 and 1649.

The Parliamentarians were supporters of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell’s troops came to Ireland in 1649 to crush the alliance of the Confederates and the Royalists. Charles Coote, later 1st Earl of Mountrath, and his Parliamentarian troops fought the Confederates in Galway in 1651 and the town surrendered in 1652. The castles of both Oranmore and Claregalway were taken in 1651.

Hardiman’s History of Galway tells us: “The surrender [of Galway] was followed by a famine throughout the country, by which multitudes perished. This was again succeeded by a plague, which carried off thousands both in the town and the surrounding districts; so that the severest vengeance of heaven seemed now to have been poured down on the heads of this devoted community. Many, driven to despair by the severities inflicted upon them, instead of avoiding the pestilence, sought refuge in death from their merciless persecutors. This dreadful visitation continued for two years, during which upwards of one-third of the population of the province was swept away, and those who survived were doomed to undergo sufferings to which even death itself was preferable. Col. Stubbers, who was appointed military governor of the town upon its surrender, under pretence of taking up vagrants and idle persons, made frequent nightly excursions, with armed troops into the country, and seized upwards of a thousand people, often without discrimination of rank or condition, whom he transported to the West Indies, and there had sold as slaves.” [1]

The castle was restored to Richard Burke (c. 1610-1666), 6th Earl of Clanricarde in 1662 after King Charles II came to the throne. Many Catholics and Confederates were restored to their land after the restoration of the monarchy in 1661. 

The website continues: “In 1666 he leased the castle to Walter Athy. Mary, Walter’s daughter married secondly [her first husband, a Mr. French, had died] Walter Blake [c. 1670-1740] of Drumacrina Co Mayo, and her descendants by that marriage held Oranmore until 1853, when the estates of Walter Blake were sold to the Encumbered Estates Court.

Mary and Walter had a son, the exotically named Xaverius J. A. Blake. Their daughter Anne married Patrick D’Arcy of Kiltullagh, County Galway (now a ruin, unfortunately). The Blake family built a large house against the south side of the castle, but this was later demolished.

Xaverius (d. 1768) married a daughter of Charles Daly of Callow, County Galway, and had at least two sons, Walter (d. 1757) and Andrew (d. 1770). Walter married Bridget Daly, daughter of Denis Daly of Raford, County Galway (the house now at Raford, built by Francis Bindon, was built after they married but still stands, a beautiful three storey over basement house. It was advertised for sale in 2009). The other son, Andrew, died without any children. [2]

Walter Blake (d. 1757) and Bridget had a son, Xaverius (1752-1784). The Peerage website tell us that on his majority, Xaverius entered into possession of a rent-roll of £5,500 a year, together with £100,000 in ready money which had accumulated during his 16 year minority. With his wife he embarked on a career of such extravagance that by his death the greater part of the inheritance had been dissipated. He lived at Dunmacrina (or is it Drumacrina?), County Mayo, Ireland, and at Oranmore Castle. He married Isabella Knox, heiress to the Knox diamonds. Her father John Knox went by the nickname “Diamond” Knox, and he lived in Castlerea, County Roscommon. He was called “Diamond” Knox because of the large dowry which he gave his daughter Isabella, along with a large suite of diamonds, David Hicks tells us. [3] Diamond Knox marred Anne King, daughter of Henry King of Rockingham, County Roscommon. Upon Xaverius’s death there followed by lengthy litigation regarding the ownership of the Knox Diamonds, which was not settled until nearly a century later.

Isabella married again after Xaverius died, to Andrew Blake of Castlegrove, County Galway (the house is now a ruin).

Xaverius and Isabella had several children. Their son Walter Arthur Blake (d. 1836) lived at Drumacrina and Oranmore. He fought in the Irish Rebellion in 1798, for which he raised, equipped and maintained at his own expense a corps of Yeomen Cavalry in the King’s service. He held the office of Justice of the Peace. He married Mary Butler of County Clare, and they had a son, another Xaverius (d. 1838).

The Landed Estates database tells us that in 1786 Wilson mentions Oranmore as the seat of Denis Blake. He was a brother of Xaverius (1752-1784). In 1814 and again in 1837 Oranmore Castle is recorded as the seat of Walter Blake. At the time of Griffith’s Valuation he was leasing a property, valued at £10, in Oranmore townland, to Martin Grady. [4]

Xaverius (d. 1838) married Ellis Ussher, daughter of Christopher Ussher of Eastwell, County Galway. It was their son, Walter Augustus Blake (d. 1858) who sold Oranmore Castle to pay his debts in 1853.

The Landed Estates database tells us that Pádraig Lane writes that Walter Blake sold “Oran Castle” to James Dillon Meldon, a Dublin lawyer. [5] The Stillorgan History website tells us that James (1803-1883) was an agent to the Commission of Bankruptcy, with chambers at 16 Upper Ormond Quay and a solicitor of Casino, Milltown/Dundrum and Glencorrib, Mayo. He married Bedelia Louisa Ingram, daughter of John Ingham, Solicitor of Johnville, Cavan. He purchased land in Belmont near Tuam and restored it to the former tenants. He advanced them with money for farm implements, seed and horses with the help of his agent Thomas Jackson. He was a generous supporter of Dublin charities and he worked pro bono for the Sick and Indigent hotel and Inn
keepers charity. Their town house was 16 Fitzwilliam street and by 1873 they were at 24 Merrion Square. [6] This website doesn’t mention his ownership of Oranmore.

The website continues: “This house was left in ruins when the Blake family left Oranmore and the castle was un-roofed until 1947 when it was bought by Lady Leslie, a cousin of Churchill and wife of Sir Shane Leslie the writer.

We came across Shane Leslie (1885-1971), 3rd Baronet of Glaslough, County Monaghan and his wife Marjorie Ide in Castle Leslie, see my entry. [7]

In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
Leonie Leslie, Shane Leslie’s mother. Originally Leonie Jerome, her sister Jennie was Winston Churchill’s mother.
The Castle must have looked like this when Lady Leslie purchased it.
The castle when the original Blake house had been demolished.

Lady Leslie purchased the property for her daughter, Anita – whom we also came across in Castle Leslie.

The tour guide showed us a copy of a letter which was sent to Leonie telling the story about how her mother purchased the castle. She must have been quite a character, the purchase seems quite impulsive! A leaflet from Oranmore tells us that Leonie Leslie was travelling around the west coast of Ireland with her friend Oliver St. John Gogarty. He had persuaded another American woman, Mrs Watson, to buy the castle from the Land Commission. Leonie Leslie then purchased it from Mrs Watson.

In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.

Anita Leslie had a very interesting life. She was an ambulance driver for five years in Egypt, Italy and France. She had been married first to a soldier from Russia, who had tried to save the Romanov family (see my entry for Castle Leslie). Secondly she married Bill King.

In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.

The website tells us that Lady Leslie re-roofed the castle and gave it to her daughter. She was certainly brave to take on such a dilapidated tower house! A cousin of Shane Leslie, Clare Sheridan, purchased the Spanish Arch in Galway around the same time. Lady Leslie discussed designing a roof for the castle with the County Engineer. Eventually he drew up plans for a cement roof, to be covered in asphalt.

Commander Bill King.
Bill King as a child, sent to Naval college at just twelve years old, our guide told us.
In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.

The website tells us that between 1950 and 1960, Anita and her husband, Cmdr Bill King (also a writer who sailed solo around the world in 1970) added a two storey wing joined to the castle by a single storey range. A nursery and bathroom was first added when a baby was born. Ten years later, stone from a small Protestant church which was being demolished was purchased and used to build the second small tower, with the help of Michael Richardson. At the time of our visit, the castle was occupied by artist Leonie King (daughter of Anita Leslie and Bill King) and her husband Alec Finn of the music band De Danaan.

In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
Oranmore Castle taken from the side facing the sea.

There was a marquis attached to the front of the castle for a Heritage Week event.

Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
The two storey addition.
This is the entrance to the castle.

Through the front door, one steps into the large vaulted chamber. It is difficult to capture in a photograph. The castle is a treasure trove of objects and furniture from around the world, and its inhabitants must be creative and artistic. Unfortunately we did not get to meet the owners.

The entrance to the castle.
Photograph from airbnb website entry for a stay in Oranmore Castle.

The fireplace was carved by Michael Richardson from Moycullen.

Photograph from airbnb website entry for a stay in Oranmore Castle.

The poster of the Irish Tower House shows a tower house much like Oranmore. We can see the vaulted ceiling, and the way there may have been many floors below the vault. It explains that the mortared vaults were built directly on top of a wattle or wicker-work screen supported by a timber frame. When the frame was removed the wattle was left attached to the mortar and was over plastered over. Today the impression of the woven wattle screens can be seen on the underside of many of these vaults, as we can see on the ceiling in Oranmore. We also saw this effect in St. Mary’s Abbey house in Trim, County Meath (see my entry).

In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
The large vaulted chamber.
The square hole above the doorway would have been where a wooden beam was placed, to hold up a wooden floor.
A photograph of the family here in the castle, with Anita and her two children, Leonie and her brother, with the fireplace and the tapestry.
In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
You can see the thickness of the walls looking at this window. You can also see the vaulted ceiling with the marks from when the ceiling was made. It would have been originally built over a wickerwork frame, which was then removed.
In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.

We did not get to see upstairs unfortunately, so I have to make do with photographs of the upstairs which were on display.

In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
In Oranmore Castle, August 2022.
This picture may have been taken in Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, of Leonie and her brother. It looks similar to the bed in which Stephen and I slept at Castle Leslie!
Leonie and her brother Tarka as children in the castle.
Photograph from airbnb website entry for a stay in Oranmore Castle.
A lovely picture of owner Leonie.

Another fascinating person in the extended Leslie family is Clare Sheridan, née Frewin. She was a sculptor and writer. Her mother was the third Jerome sister, i.e. sister of Jennie Jerome mother of Winston Churchill.

You can stay in Oranmore Castle! It is on airbnb, https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/750577721156942923?guests=1&adults=1&s=67&unique_share_id=df41c7c7-440c-4254-bb64-bcc281c67e14&source_impression_id=p3_1679423724_hQHjy8%2B%2F767VgiM0&modal=PHOTO_TOUR_SCROLLABLE

Photograph from airbnb website, of the bedroom one can stay in. One also has use of the main hall and a bathroom.

[1] http://www.galway.net/galwayguide/history/hardiman/chapter5/coote.html

[2] Blake family records, 1600 to 1700; a chronological catalogue with notes, appendices, and the genealogies of many branches, of the Blake family, together with a brief account of the fourteen ancient families of tribes of the town of Galway, and a description of the corporate arms used by that town at different periods; with an index to the records in the first part. Illustrated with photographs of various original documents and seals. 2d series. https://archive.org/stream/blakefamilyrecor00blakuoft/blakefamilyrecor00blakuoft_djvu.txt

[3] http://davidhicksbook.blogspot.com/2016/08/castlereagh-killala-co.html

[4] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/property-list.jsp?letter=O

[5] https://landedestates.ie/estate/579

[6] https://www.youwho.ie/meldon.html

[7] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/07/castle-leslie-glaslough-county-monaghan/

Slane Castle, County Meath

Open in 2023: Mar 18-19, 25-26. April 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, May 5-7, June 23-25, July 1-2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, Aug 4-6, 12-20, 25-27, Sept 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30, Oct 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29

tours 11am, 1pm, 3pm
Fee: adult €14, OAP/student €12.50, child €8.40, concession group discounts available for over 3 guests, starting from 10%-32% for up to 25 guests

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

Today (Saturday 27th April 2019) my husband Stephen and I made our first official blog trip.  We started in the “ancient east,” going to Slane Castle in County Meath. The land around the Boyne River is beautiful, rolling and fertile. It took almost exactly one hour to drive from our home in Dublin, taking the M1 which I find easier than the M2 through the city’s north side, with which I’m less familiar. Our timing was perfect, we arrived at 2:10pm, in time for the 2:15 tour – there are tours every hour on the quarter hour. [1]

Coming closer to Slane Castle.

The castle is three storeys over basement, in the Gothic Revival style. There is a bow on the back side of the castle, facing the river, and the basement serves as the ground floor on this side due to the steep slope down to the River Boyne. The bow forms a round tower, but you cannot see it as you approach the castle as the river is behind.

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

Our guide Matthew told us that the castle was reconstructed and enlarged by William Burton Conyngham (1733-1796). It was built on the foundations of a medieval castle of the Fleming family, replacing an earlier house. William Burton Conyngham was a classicist and the front hall features Greek columns and key patterns on the walls and many marble Greek sculptures, including a sculpture of King George IV of England, donated by the king himself.

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

William Burton Conyngham argued with his architects, Matthew told us, so ended up having three architects for his castle: James Gandon, James Wyatt and Francis Johnston. According to Mark Bence-Jones in A Guide to Irish Country Houses, Francis Johnston completed the house for the the second Lord Conyngham’s son, nephew of William Burton Conyngham, Henry (1766-1832), who later became the 1st Marquess Conyngham. Other architects were consulted at various times, including James Gandon, who most famously designed the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin, and Emo in County Laois. Francis Johnston designed the General Post Office in Dublin, and Townley Hall, County Louth. Another architect consulted was a favourite of King George IV, the English Thomas Hopper.

In 1785 the castle was remodelled to the design of James Wyatt (1746 – 1813). Wyatt also designed another house on the section 482 list this year, Curraghmore in County Waterford, and a house not on the list, unfortunately, as I would love to see inside, Abbeyleix House (incidentally, my father grew up in Abbeyleix and we used to enjoy the gardens which used to be open and which were reknowned for the bluebells. Also, coincidentally, according to wikipedia, Wyatt spent six years in Italy, 1762–68, in company with Richard Bagot of Staffordshire, who was Secretary to the Earl of Northampton’s embassy to the Venetian Republic. My family is rumoured to be descended from the Staffordshire Bagots, although I have not found the connection!).

The Conyngham family have owned the castle since 1703.

The Flemings of Slane

The Conynghams bought the land in Slane after it was confiscated from the Flemings. In 1175, Richard Le Fleming built a castle at the western end of Slane hill and, three generations later, Simon Fleming was created Baron of Slane. [4]

The Conynghams did not acquire Slane directly after it was confiscated from the Flemings – Terry Trench of the Slane History and Archaeology Society writes that the estate changed hands, at least on paper, seven times between 1641 and 1703. The estate was taken from the Flemings in 1641, when William Fleming, the 14th Baron Slane, joined the Catholic Irish forces in rebellion against the British. He remained loyal to the king, but objected to the laws that the British parliament passed to make the Irish parliament subservient to the British parliament. The estate was restored to William’s son Randall under the Act of Settlement and Distribution of Charles II’s reign, by decree dated 27th March 1663. [5] Many estates that had been confiscated by Cromwell’s parliament were restored when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660.

The Flemings had their land confiscated again as Christopher, 17th Baron Slane (1669-1726), backed James II in his battles against William of Orange. He served in the Irish Parliament of King James II in 1689, and as colonel in James’s army in Ireland 1689-91, fighting in both the Battle of the Boyne and in Aughrim, where he was taken prisoner by William’s forces. Released, he emigrated and fought in the French and Portuguese armies, as did many of James II’s followers who were attainted and lost their estates, as they needed to be able to earn a living. He was later reconciled with Queen Anne of England (daughter of James II) and returned to Ireland, to live in Anticur, County Antrim. In 1703, Henry Conyngham purchased the estate of Slane.

The Conynghams of Slane

The Conyngham motto, Over Fork Over, recounts the way Duncan hid from Macbeth (familiar to us from Shakespeare). Matthew told us that Duncan hid in straw in a barn, having it forked over him. After that, he managed to defeat Macbeth and to become king. So the Conynghams are descendants of a Scottish king!

The Conyngham coat of arms, with its motto, Over Fork Over.

Alexander Conyngham moved from Scotland to Ireland when he was appointed in 1611 to be the first Protestant minister to Enver and Killymardin the diocese of Raphoe, County Donegal. [3] He was appointed dean of Raphoe in 1631.

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

He settled at Mount Charles, County Donegal, on an estate he leased from John Murray, earl of Annandale, the owner of ‘a vast estate’ in Scotland. Conyngham subsequently acquired the Mount Charles property through his marriage to the earl’s grand-neice, Marian, daughter of John Murray of Broughton, in Scotland (see [3]).

Alexander’s son Albert lived at Mountcharles. [2] Albert had fought with William III’s troops in the Battle of the Boyne, against Fleming and James II’s troops.

Albert married Mary, daughter of the Right Reverend Robert Leslie, Bishop of Raphoe – this Bishop is the ancestor of the Leslie family of Castle Leslie in County Monaghan, another property on the Section 482 list that I will be visiting. Albert was killed by Irish Royalist rebels, and succeeded by his only surviving son, Henry (1664-1705). 

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

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

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

Henry Conyngham (d. 1705) fought first in James II’s army, but then persuaded his regiment to transfer their loyalty to William III.

Henry’s son Henry (1705-1781) inherited the Slane estate. Henry became an Member of the Irish Parliament and was raised to the peerage in 1753 to the title of Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles, and later became Viscount and eventually, Earl. He died without a son so the Barony passed to his nephew, William Burton (his sister Mary had married Francis Burton).

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

His brother Francis Pierpoint Burton also who then took the name of Conyngham in 1781 as he inherited the title to become 2nd Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles, Co. Donegal. He died six years later, in 1787. [see 3]. In 1750 he had married Elizabeth, the daughter of amateur architect Nathaniel Clements, whose work we will see later in other houses on the section 482 list of heritage properties. For himself, Nathaniel Clements built what is now the Áras an Uachtaráin, the residence of our President, Michael D. Higgins, in Phoenix Park in Dublin.  

The castle and estate passed to Francis 2nd Baron Conyngham’s son Henry (1766-1832). Henry succeeded as the 3rd Baron Conyngham of Mount Charles, Co. Donegal in 1787. He served as a politician and moved quickly up the ranks of the peerage and was Lord Steward of the Royal household between 1821-30. He married Elizabeth Denison in 1794.

In 1821 King George IV visited Ireland, and he spent time in the Castle with his lover, Elizabeth, wife of Frances Pierpoint Burton Conyngham. “In return,” as our guide told us, the king made Conyngham a Marquess, although this isn’t quite true as he became Marquess in 1816. [6].

One of the rooms of the castle, the Smoking Room, has two cartoons from the period mocking the King and his consort Elizabeth, drawing them as overweight. In one, she aids her son when he has to move from the Castle of Windsor where he was Royal Chamberlain. It was he who announced to Victoria that she was Queen, upon death of the previous monarch. He was let go from his position when he tried to move his lover into his rooms in Windsor. His mother came to fetch him, with several wheelbarrows, the story goes, and she took all the furniture from his rooms. Somehow she brought a grand piano back from Windsor to Slane Castle where it sat in a specially made arbor for music in the Smoking room, until it was destroyed by a fire in Slane Castle in the 1990’s. One of the Punch style cartoons is of Elizabeth with a wheelbarrow fetching her son from Windsor. I can’t quite remember the other – it had King George IV and herself in a carriage. The Irish were very annoyed that when he came to Ireland he spent his entire time at Slane Castle!

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

The Irish Aesthete writes of the visit:

Neither the king nor his inamorata were in the first flush of youth, and both were equally corpulent. These circumstances however did nothing to dampen their ardour. As was written of them at the time, ‘Tis pleasant at seasons to see how they sit/ First cracking their nuts, and then cracking their wit/ Then quaffing their claret – then mingling their lips/ Or tickling the fat about each other’s hips.’ And according to one contemporary observer, Lady Conyngham ‘lived exclusively with him during the whole time he was in Ireland at the Phoenix Park. When he went to Slane, she received him dressed out as for a drawing-room; he saluted her, and they then retired alone to her apartments.’” [7]

Our tour started with a video of Charles Conyngham, now known as Lord Mount Charles, telling of his childhood in the Castle, growing up in a very old-world upper class manner.  He did not join his parents at the dining table until he was twelve years old, dining until then in the Nursery. His nurse, Margaret Browne, came to the Castle at 16 years old, and he held her in such regard that he named his bar after her.

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

Lord Mount Charles described how he started out, when he had to take over the Castle, with a restaurant, which is now the Gandon Restaurant. To further fund the Castle maintenance, Lord Mount Charles started concerts at the venue, beginning with Thin Lizzy in 1981. To seal the deal, the next show was the Rolling Stones! With such august imprimateur, the Castle’s concerts became world-famous and featured many top performers including David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Queen.

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

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

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

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

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

The magnificent library with its intricate ceiling and impressive wooden chandelier was saved by two firemen fighting the fire from within the room, battling for nine hours. The smoke was so thick that one couldn’t see the ceiling. I think they deserve a plaque in the room to recognise their effort! Meanwhile the family saved as many priceless historic paintings and antiques as they could, including a huge portrait of King George IV that is now hanging again in the library, by cutting it from its giant gilt frame then taking the frame apart into four pieces in order to get it out through the doors. Lord Mount Charles now suffers with his lungs, probably partially as a result of long exposure to the flames and smoke. It took ten years to reconstruct the castle, but it has been done excellently so traces of the fire barely remain.

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

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, as usual with these properties. There is a picture of the ornate roof in the library on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete [8].

Mark Bence-Jones describes the room in his 1988 book (published before the fire, but this room remained intact!), A Guide to Irish Country Houses:

“…the great circular ballroom or library which rises through two storeys of the round tower and is undoubtedly the finest Gothic Revival room in Ireland; with a ceiling of Gothic plasterwork so delicate and elaborate that it looks like filigree. Yet this, too, is basically a Classical room; the Gothic ceiling is, in fact, a dome; the deep apses on either side of the fireplace are such as one finds in many of Wyatt’s Classical interiors, except that the arches leading into them are pointed; they are decorated with plasterwork that can be recognised as a very slightly Gothicized version of the familiar Adam and Wyatt fan pattern.

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

Of the tales on the tour, I especially enjoyed the story of the funeral of a soldier’s leg. Apparently it was quite the custom to have funerals for body parts – his leg had to be amputated on the field of battle and the soldier brought it back to be buried with a full-scale military funeral. It must have been to do with the fact that a person’s body is to be resurrected on the Last Day, so it’s good to know where all the parts are! Cremation used to be forbidden in the Catholic church, as somehow it would be too difficult for God to put the ashes back together – never mind a disintegrated body!

We had lunch in the bar after the tour.

Outer entrance to the bar and Gandon Restaurant.
Entrance to the bar and Gandon Restaurant.
Browne’s Bar.
Album covers of musical performers at the Castle, in the bar: Van Morrison, Santana, Bruce Springstein, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, Chris Rea, Bob Dylan, U2 and Bon Jovi.
Memorabilia from music events: I think the guitar was signed by Phil Lynott (it was signed, anyway).
Slane Castle.
The music theme of Browne’s Bar is reflected in the gramophone horn lampshade.

There is an adjoining distillery in what used to be the stables, and a tour of that can be purchased in combination if desired. Lord Charles’s mother bred horses before the stables were converted. The stables were designed by Capability Brown.

The stables, designed by Capability Brown, now a whiskey distillery.

According to the Irish Aesthete:

Henry Conyngham, grandson of General Henry Conyngham who purchased the property, around 1770 invited Capability Brown around 1770 to produce a design both for the landscaping of the parkland at Slane, and also for a new stable block. In the collection of the Irish Architectural Archive in Dublin a drawing survives of Brown’s proposal for the latter. It is not unlike the finished building, but more elaborate than what we see today.” [9]

I noticed this on the wall on the lower level outside the Castle – I don’t know its origin or age.

I found a blog by the Irish Aesthete on a portrait now in Slane, of Lady Elizabeth wife of the first Marqess’s daughter, Lady Maria Conyngham. Reportedly Lady Elizabeth looked very like her daughter – which one would not guess from the unflattering cartoons of her! [10]


Help me to fund my creation and update of this website. It is created purely out of love for the subject and I receive no payment so any donation is appreciated! For this entry I paid for petrol and entrance fee for myself and Stephen.


[1] https://www.slanecastle.ie/tours/castle-tours/

[2] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/40847025/the-hall-hall-demesne-mountcharles-co-donegal

[3] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/2017/11/slane-castle.html

[4] https://www.culturenorthernireland.org/article/1323/the-flemings-barons-of-slane

[5] http://slanehistoryandarchaeologysociety.com/index.php/famous-people/13-the-flemings-and-the-conynghams

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Conyngham,_Marchioness_Conyngham

“She probably became his [George IV’s] lover in 1819, when he was Prince Regent, but finally supplanted her predecessor, Isabella Seymour-Conway, Marchioness of Hertford, after he became king in 1820. He became besotted with her, constantly “kissing her hand with a look of most devoted submission.” While his wife Caroline of Brunswick was on trial in 1820 as part of efforts to divorce her, the king could not be seen with Lady Conyngham and was consequently “bored and lonely.” During his coronation, George was constantly seen “nodding and winking” at her.
“Lady Conyngham’s liaison with the king benefited her family. Her husband was raised to the rank of a marquess in the Peerage of the United Kingdom and sworn to the Privy Council, in the coronation honours of 1821. He was also given several other offices, including Lord Steward of the Household and the lieutenancy of Windsor Castle. Her second son was made Master of the Robes and First Groom of the Chamber.”

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/10/12/when-royalty-comes-to-call/

[8] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/10/24/vaulting-ambition/

[9] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/10/27/after-the-horses-have-bolted/

[10] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/03/21/ireland-crossroads-of-art-and-design-vi/

Irish Historic Homes