Leixlip Castle, County Kildare: Desmond Guinness’s jewelbox of treasures

contact: Mrs Desmond (Penny) Guinness

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid-19 restrictions): Feb 10-14, 17-21, Mar 23-27, 30-31, Apr 1-3, May 18-29, June 6-12, Aug 15-23, Sept 7-18, 9am-1pm

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

I am publishing my Leixlip Castle blog this week to honour Desmond Guinness who died last month. The Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne published a thoughtful tribute on his website. [1]

It was a beautiful sunny day on Saturday June 15th 2019 when we headed to Leixlip Castle. It is just outside of Leixlip, not far from Dublin on the N4, though confusing to find when one drives into Leixlip – don’t get it confused with the Manor! Keep going through the town and you’ll see it on your left as you are heading to veer right – so don’t veer right but turn left instead. You cannot see it in advance so I’m sure one could cause an accident if a car follows close behind!

A note on the gate listed tour times – I think they were every hour at quarter past the hour, on open days. We made it in time for the 11:15 tour. We were early, so had time to walk around the grounds. This is the place so far where I most want to live! It is so beautiful, especially the garden.

We passed a gate lodge on the way in – impressive itself!

the gate lodge
view of an interesting looking building toward the back of the gate lodge

Not sure where to park, I parked outside the gate lodge. We then walked up toward the house, along a cobbled driveway with wildflower meadow alongside and gorgeous sylvan landscape.

We approached the castle: impressive with a rounded tower immediately in view and castellated wall, with gothic mullioned windows, approached by a sweeping lawn:

The oldest part of the castle, the round tower, was built in 1172 – there is a stone noting that date [2] – by Adam de Hereford, an Anglo-Norman knight. A lovely coincidence is that when I looked up Adam de Hereford on Wikipedia, I have discovered that amongst the land bestowed by Strongbow on de Hereford, was “half the vill of Aghaboe.” My Grandfather purchased the house and farm at Aghaboe, which contains the Abbey of Aghaboe in County Laois! Unfortunately the Land Commission placed a compulLsory purchase order on the land when my Grandfather, John Baggot, died in 1977. Our family was left the house and about ten acres. The family sold the remaining land and house in 1985, much to my disappointment.

Aghaboe Abbey, County Laois, 2018, founded by St. Canice in the 6th century.
the house at Aghaboe, also from our 2018 trip. It has been restored by its current owner.
the house at Aghaboe, 1981.

John Colgan has complied a chronology of Leixlip, 1200-1499. [3] According to this, the grant from King John to Adam de Hereford is given in 1202. A website called “Curious Ireland” claims that soon after the castle was built, it was used as a hunting base by King John when he was Lord of Ireland in 1185. [4]

this is the side which Mark Bence-Jones refers to as facing the river, with pointed windows that have Gothic astragals (a term used loosely to denote the glazing bars in the window)

According to Mark Bence-Jones in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses, it later belonged to the Crown [more on this later], and was then granted in 1569 to Sir Nicholas Whyte, Master of the Rolls [again, we shall learn more about these details later]. In 1731, it was sold by John Whyte to Rt Hon William Conolly, nephew and heir of Speaker Conolly, the builder of nearby Castletown. William Conolly left Leixlip for Castletown after his aunt’s death in 1752, but it remained in the Conolly family until 1914, being let to a succession of tenants. Bence-Jones writes that remodelling of the castle appears to date from when William Conolly lived in it, and also perhaps slightly later, during the tenancy of Primate Stone, which was from 1752 onwards. The wing which forms a projection on the entrance front, balancing the old round tower, was more or less rebuilt at this period, and has a regular three storey four bay front towards the river. The windows on this projection are pointed and have Gothic astragals (a term used loosely to denote the glazing bars in the window). Similar windows, Bence-Jones adds, “were pierced in the thick old wall of the entrance front, and were glazed with diamond panes, in a delightful Batty Langley manner.” [5]

Beyond the round tower in the other direction there are steps leading up to a small terrace:

Walking around a little further, we see more of the house, with multiple roof levels, and a squat round ivy-covered one storey crenellated wall:

We can see more little windows, set into the round tower, another gothic arched window, and a round window also.

Walking further around, the back part of the jumble of a building leads to an archway built into the building:

The other side of the cobbled driveway leads to outbuildings with a path down to farmbuildings. Ahead of us, was a doorway in the wall, leading to the gardens.

According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Buildings of Ireland website, the castle was completed in 1837. I find it hard to correlate the descriptions of the castle with the castle itself: the inventory describes:

Detached four-bay two-storey over part-raised basement rubble stone house, completed 1837, incorporating fabric of earlier castle, dated 1172, and subsequent reconstructions with two-bay two-storey advanced end bay to left (north-east), four-bay three-storey side elevation to north-east and single-bay three-storey corner tower to west on a circular plan having battlemented parapet.Set back from road in own extensive landscaped grounds. [6]

The Castle overlooks the River Liffey:

Leixlip Castle has been owned by Desmond Guinness, the founder of the Irish Georgian Society in 1958. The Georgian Society is dedicated to the conservation and research into eighteenth century Irish art and architecture. His wife Penny joined us in the front hall, before Jenny took us on a tour of the house. The tour guide, Jenny, a young Philipino woman who was hired to take care of Desmond’s parents, and has been with the family for seventeen years and at the time we visited, took care of Desmond. Before entering the house, however, we had to find where to enter!

There’s a front door to the front of the castle but moss growing on the steps indicated to me that that door is not used. We went around to the side, to the terrace. The door is small – the handle very low, so I imagined Sleepy, Doc or Grumpy opening the door! Jenny explained that the floor had to be raised and that they just cut the door to make it fit.

Jenny had us sign the book and started to tell us about the castle, when another couple arrived and joined us for the tour. There is an accompanying brochure written by Desmond Guinness about the house and its contents. Jenny told us we are allowed to take photos! I began eagerly to snap away, as well as to take notes.

History of Leixlip Castle

The pamphlet explains that the Irish name for Leixlip, Leim an Bhradain, means “leap of the salmon,” and that the name derives from the Danish Lax-Hlaup, as the village was first established by the Vikings.

The pamphlet says that the castle was built just after 1192, so this must be the part built on to the earlier 1172 tower. It was built where the Rye Water and the River Liffey meet.

From 1300, a family called Pypard lived in Leixlip. Sources online state that in 1302 Ralph Pypard “surrendered all his castles etc to the Crown, and in consequence Richard de Kakeputz, who was constable of Leixlip, was ordered to deliver it up to the king. [7] “Curious Ireland” adds that in 1316 the castle withstood a four day siege by Edward Bruce’s army. 

According to the leaflet written by Desmond Guinness, the Pypards occupied Leixlip until King Henry VII granted Leixlip to Gerald Fitzgerald 8th Earl of Kildare, upon his marriage to Dame Elizabeth Saint John, between 1485-1509. Known as “Garret the Great” (Gearóid Mór) or “The Great Earl”, he was Ireland’s premier peer. He served as Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1477 to 1494, and from 1496 onwards. His power was so great that he was called “the uncrowned King of Ireland”. A legend, retold by Nuala O’Faoláin, says that Fitzgerald was skilled in the black arts, and could shapeshift. However, he would never let his wife see him take on other forms, much to her chagrin. After much pleading, he yielded to her, and turned himself into a goldfinchbefore her very eyes. A sparrowhawk flew into the room, seized the “goldfinch”, and he was never seen again. [8]

Due to the rebellion of Silken Thomas Fitzgerald, 10th Earl of Kildare, in 1534, Leixlip Castle was taken back by the Crown. In 1569 the Manor and Castle were granted to Sir Nicholas Whyte, Master of the Rolls, and the house remained in the family for nearly 200 years.

An article in The Journal of County Kildare, based on notes on Leixlip principally taken from a pamphlet called “Leixlip Castle,” written by the late Very Rev. James Canon O’Rourke, in 1885 (when Parish Priest of Maynooth), states: 

In 1538 the Manor and Castle of Leixlip were surrendered by Matthew King, of Dublin, on which John Alen, the Chancellor, obtained a lease of them for twenty-one years; in 1561 they passed to William Vernon, gent., for a like period; and in 1569 they were granted to Sir Nicholas Whyte, Master of the  Rolls, in whose family they remained till about the beginning  of the eighteenth century.” [9]


Reverend O’Rourke continues: “Sir Nicholas Whyte’s successor at Leixlip was his fourth son, Charles, who had served in Spain, and in 1689 was Governor of the County Kildare; he died about the year 1697, was buried at Leixlip, and was succeeded by his son John, from whom, I believe, the Conollys of Castletown purchased Leixlip, which remains at present in the possession of that family.”

William James Conolly (died 1754), nephew, heir and namesake of Speaker (of the Irish House of Commons) William Conolly (1662-1729) of Castletown, County Kildare, purchased Leixlip Castle in 1731 and it remained the property of the family until 1914. It was frequently let during this period. Desmond Guinness purchased Castletown House in 1967 to preserve it from destruction, nearly ten years after purchasing Leixlip Castle!

The oval portrait is of Lady Anne Conolly (born Wentworth, daugher of Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford), who lived in Leixlip Castle until the death of her husband’s aunt, the widow (Katherine Conyngham, daughter of General Sir Albert Conyngham of Mountcharles, County Donegal – ancestors of the Conynghams of Slane Castle) of parliament speaker William Conolly of Castletown House. Lady Anne’s husband, another William Conolly, inherited Castletown in 1752.
Jenny told us that this portrait is of Thomas Conolly. He was the son and heir of William James Conolly (d.1754) of Castletown House, by his wife Lady Anne Wentworth.. Thomas Conolly married Lady Louisa Lennox, a daughter of Charles Lennox, the 2nd Duke of Richmond. Thomas Connolly was an member of Parliament of Ireland.

Mark Bence-Jones mentions two of the tenants of Leixlip Castle during this period: in the eighteenth century, Primate George Stone, Archbishop of Armagh, “the most powerful man in Ireland in his day,” and 4th Viscount (afterwards 1st Marquess) George Townshend (1724-1807), when he was Viceroy.

O’Rourke tells us:

“Lewis, in his “ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland,” speaking of Leixlip Castle, says: — “ This venerable mansion was the favourite retreat of several of the viceroys, of whom Lord Townsend usually spent the summer here; it is at present (1837) the residence of the Hon. George Cavendish, by whom it has been modernized and greatly improved.”… 

George Cavendish (1766-1849), of Waterpark, County Cork, added “unobtrusive” battlements, according to Mark Bence-Jones. O’Rourke continues:

“In the autumn of 1856, John Michael Henry, Baron de Robeck, then a tenant of the Castle, was drowned in the Liffey during a great flood. He was High Sheriff for the County Kildare in 1834, for the County Dublin in 1838, and for the County Wicklow in 1839. His remains were deposited in the vault in the Maynooth Church tower.”… “In 1878 Captain the Honourable Cornwallis Maude, son and heir to the Earl of Montalt, took up his residence in the Castle after his marriage in this year. When the Boer war broke out, he volunteered for service, and was numbered with the dead after the disastrous Majuba Hill affair on the 27th February, 1881. The present resident in the Castle is William Mooney, Esq., j.p., who so kindly admitted the members of the County Kildare Archaeological Society into his demesne to visit the Salmon Leap, and showed them over the old Castle in 1896.”

In 1914, John de La Poer Beresford, 5th Baron Decies, Chief Press Censor, purchased the property and added the kitchen wing. Bence-Jones tells us that he replaced some of the Georgian-Gothic windows with Tudor-style mullions, and panelled one or two rooms in oak. Unable to sell it in 1923, the castle was let to more tenants, and for a while served as residence for the French ambassador. In 1945 the castle was sold to William Kavanagh (see [4], and when I googled him, I found, interestingly, a painting for auction by Whytes in 2004 of the Salmon Weir, Leixlip, and it was owned by William Kavanagh, “Rathgar, a well known specialist in the work of O’Connor in the 1920s to 1940s” ). Finally, Desmond Guinness purchased the castle in 1958. His ancestor Richard Guinness had a brewery in Leixlip in the mid eighteenth century, before Richard’s son, Arthur, founded the Guinness brewery in Dublin!

The pamphlet we obtained in the hallway states that an electric dam was built in1947, completely submerging the salmon leap.

Jenny had us sign the Guest Book and then began to tell us of the contents of the grand hallway in which we stood.

The Castle Interior

Desmond Guinness’s pamphlet describes the contents also. The black Kilkenny marble mantel was originally made for Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, County Dublin, in 1744. The coat of arms featured over the fireplace belongs to the Gorges family of Ratoath, County Meath. The tapestry to the right of the fireplace was made in Florence in around 1730 and a manufactory by the name of Bennini, and it has the Medici arms, with the balls. When Stephen and I travelled to Florence for a holiday, we saw these balls on many buildings.

Medici coat of arms, from the Museo Bardini in Florence, my favourite, or second to the Victoria and Albert, museum in the world!

To the right of the side door hangs a mirror from Clonfert Palace, County Galway (palace of the Church of Ireland bishops of Clonfert, unfortunately a ruin since 1950).

The dolls house is believed to have originated in County Cork:

The wooden-headed antlers are probably of German origin and come from Powerscourt, County Wicklow. The tapestry is seventeenth century and depicts Theodotus offering the head of Pompey to Caesar. [10]

The dining room, with Bavarian tapestry.

Desmond Guinness states that the dining room chairs are eighteenth century “Irish Chippendale,” and were purchased at the Malahide Castle sale in 1976, as were the two black side tables.

The tapestries, in the “Chinese taste,” were woven in Bavaria in around 1750. The picture over the fireplace is an early view of Leixlip Castle of unknown origin. The ornate frame came originally from the eighteenth century house that was replaced by the present Dromoland Castle in County Clare. There is also a picture of the Holy Family by Cambiasi, the leaflet tells us.

The picture over the fireplace is an early view of Leixlip Castle of unknown origin. The ornate frame came originally from the eighteenth century house that was replaced by the present Dromoland Castle in County Clare.

As we read the pamphlet we can see Desmond Guinness’s love of antiques and history, which brought us the great treasure that is the Georgian Society. His generosity spills from the house, in the way he let us photograph, and he teaches us patiently through his leaflet.

Our tour guide, Jenny. She has been with the Guinness’s for 17 years. The cook has been with them for 30! They must be good employers. One can see the thickness of the walls by looking at the windows. The model of the obelisk at Stillorgan, County Dublin, on the table behind – a typically Irish hunt table, according to Desmond Guinness. The obelisk is a memorial designed in 1727 by Edward Lovett Pearce for his kinswoman Lady Allen, commissioned by Lord Joshua Allen, 2nd Viscount of Stillorgan (for more on Lovett Pearce, see my entry for Altidore Castle).

We next entered the Library.

The pamphlet states that the plasterwork in the Library dates from the mid 18th Century. An Irish library cabinet stands between the windows. These windows, and the bookcases, are modern and were installed by the present owner, who also devised the print room decoration on the walls. The prints are laid out in a way similar to those of the Print Room in Castletown House, which were done by the Lennox sisters.

Print Room in Castletown House County Kildare. Desmond and his first wife, Mariga, purchased Castletown House in 1967 to preserve it from destruction. On his website in his recent entry about Desmond Guinness, Robert O’Byrne the Irish Aesthete tells us: “Today Castletown is owned by the Irish State and is rightly lauded as a splendid example of Irish design and craftsmanship. But if it had not been for Desmond’s brave initiative, and then the restoration work that he and Mariga oversaw on the house – helped by the many volunteers they inspired – Castletown would now be nothing more than a handful of old black and white photographs.”

The prints in Leixlip Castle were put up by Nicola Windgate-Saul in 1976. The engravings, according to the pamphlet, relate to the decoration in the Galerie des Glaces in Versailles, executed in 1755 by Jean Baptiste Masse, based on the seventeeth century paintings of Charles le Brun (gardener to Louis XIV I believe – see my entry on Curraghmore).

The gilt mirror over the mantel was originally in a bedroom (Lady Kildare’s, Jenny told us) at Castletown, as well as the golden plasterwork, and was made in Dublin by the firm of Francis and John Booker in the mid-18th century.

We could not identify the origin of the death mask:

A card next to the death mask, however, identified the stuffed animal below the table, a mongoose:

There are a lot of mongooses (mongeese?) in Grenada in the West Indies, I remember. They supposedly harbour rabies. One rarely sees one, however. We did have an injured one come into our garden in Grenada, which we discovered due to our dog Minky barking madly from the safety of the patio. The poor mongoose, like the one above, died. Mongoose can kill snakes and snails. I need one for my allotment!

the chandelier is nineteenth century Venetian. It reminds me of the chandeliers in Castletown:

18th-century Murano Venetian coloured and plain glass 24-light chandeliers, decorated with flower heads and moulded finials, one of three in the Long Gallery of Castletown. It is believed that Lady Louisa ordered them from Venice between 1775 and 1778.

A delightful detail in the library are the model cast iron stoves:

model cast iron stoves.

We moved from the library into the Drawing Room.

The painting over the mantelpiece is Carton, County Kildare, by Thomas Roberts. Stephen liked the globes on the mantelpiece.
Carton, County Kildare by Thomas Roberts

The pamphlet tells of the treat in the Drawing Room: the large 18th century Dolls House that originally came from Newbridge House. It was given to Desmond’s daughter Marina when she was ten years old (his children’s mother is his first wife, Mariga).

a room inside the dolls house
another dolls house room
another room in the dolls’ house

The little plates in the dolls’ house are decorated with the initials “JG” for Desmond’s granddaughter Jasmine Guinness, now a model in London. The building blocks beside the dolls’ house were for the boys.

There are also drawings of the six Mitford sisters by William Acton. These sisters are the mother and aunts of Desmond Guinness.

The one on the top left is Nancy Mitford the writer. Diana Mitford, below her, is Desmond Guinness’s mother: she left his father, Bryan Walter Guinness, in order to be with Robert Mosley, the Nazi, and Hitler was the best man at their wedding, five years after she had married Bryan Guinness. Next to Nancy on top is Unity Mitford, a friend of Hitler, and below her, Deborah, who married Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire, who inherited Lismore Castle in Waterford, a real fairytale-looking castle with gardens which are open to the public.

Another picture by William Acton is of Desmond’s mother in law, Teresa Jungman, Penny’s mother – it seems an amazing coincidence that he drew both of their parents!. Desmond married Penny Cuthbertson in 1984 (thirty years after he had married his first wife, Princess Henriette Marie-Gabrielle von Urach – a member of the royal house of Wurtemburg, Germany – known as Mariga). When Jenny came to the house seventeen years ago, Teresa and her sister lived with the Guinness’s, and the sister was 99 years old!
Beneath the portrait above, under the cabinet with the deer, is a cabinet made in Killarney around 1880, which is inlaid with Irish views of ruined abbeys and round towers, and Irish wolfhounds, harps and shamrocks. Stephen gave me a box very similar for our “wooden” wedding anniversary! These Killarney items were popularised by Queen Victoria when she visited Killarney.

We were lucky to be shown the “secret door”:

Jenny opens the secret door

It led to a surprising outdoor area, which features mosaics on the walls!

and a blocked up arched doorway:

On the way to the grand staircase we passed another painting of Desmond’s mother – one she was not so fond of, as you can imagine, as it’s a bit risque. It highlights the blue of her eyes, however, which are inherited by her son.

a photograph of Desmond Guinness and his children Marina and Patrick

The woodwork of the staircase dates from the early 18th century or late 17th. The window is twentieth century and probably replaces a Venetian window, Guinness tells us in the pamphlet, in an attempt to make the interior look earlier than it is.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the staircase, of wood with pear-shaped balusters, appears to date from the early eighteenth century, and rises “impressively” in a separate hall behind the entrance hall.

This (below) is just something that Desmond saw at a party that tickled his fancy, I believe:

Under the turn of the stairs: the portrait is, I believe, of Desmond’s great great grandfather, the 12th Earl of Buchan, Henry David Erskine (1783-1857).

The carved wooden heads “supporting” the upstairs landing came from a shop front in Dawson Street, Dublin, where they were unrecognisable due to many layers of paint. They may be the work, Guinness tells us, of Edward Smyth who carved the Riverine heads on the facade of the Custom House in Dublin, besides much of the sculptural ornament on public buildings in Dublin.

The tapestry was woven in Brussels in the seventeenth century and depicts Caesar in a green toga, making the crossing to Brindisium, protected on the way by the goddess Fortuna, who hovers aloft. It was a present to Desmond from his mother, who brought it from France (somehow!).

a print of the 17th century tapestry
The painting is a portrait by William Hogarth of the 1st Earl of Charlemont, James Caulfield (1728-1799) aged 13, with his mother, Elizabeth Bernard (portrait painted in 1741).
This wonderful chair is not mentioned in Desmond’s notes but Jenny told us is a copy of a Venetian chair. It sits under a French tapestry representing Plenty, Autumnm, Earth or Harvest.

Next we went upstairs. There are 14 bedrooms, all still used when there are enough guests.

This was unusually situated at the top of the stairs. It had been stolen from the lower yard, then repurchased at an auction, and so was brought indoors!
The upstairs hallway.

The first room we entered is the “Yellow room” or the “plate room.” Notice that the plates are complemented with matching candles!

The next room, the Blue Room, is one of the largest:

some sort of odd communication device on the wall
An old picture, above, of Leixlip Castle with the boat house and church – with a bit of artistic license
Jenny’s reaction to this painting was priceless. I asked her if she knows who it is or who it is by (I was thinking of that film, “Big Eyes” about painter Margaret Keane). Jenny exclaimed “What’s that doing there! How did that get there! Someone must have moved it!” She explained that it is normally on the wall in the bed alcove. Stephen suggested that someone must have found it too creepy to sleep beside! Jenny tried to remember who had stayed in the room most recently!

The next room is NOT called the “pink room,” Jenny told us. I think it’s the Chinese or Oriental room.

I believe Marina cut and pasted the prints in this hallway:

The next room is called the Chapel, so named, I believe, for the IHS above the doorway.

Jenny points out a model of the Casino in Marino
I love these curtains

The next bedroom was the grandest, and is called King John’s bedroom as the story is that he slept there. There is a painted Venus on the ceiling.

I love the enormous wardrobe with funny leonine feet with too many toes, and the still used copper bath.

Jenny told us of the time Mick Jagger and his then-wife Jerry Hall stayed in this room, and she had her photograph taken in the bath. The picture somehow got out to magazines, and a copy of the picture was kept behind the shutters, but has disappeared!

Our last room, the Tower Room, is not usually one shown to guests, I think, because it’s not always kept tidy, but Jenny found us such enthusiastic guests, along with the other couple, that we were privileged with a view of the room and even the toilet off it.

I loved these pictures, in the hall on the way to the stairs up to the attic
a framed map on the wall, featuring some structures with which Desmond Guinness was associated, including the Obelisk, also called the Conolly Folly, one of the structures which the Irish Georgian Society campaigned to have protected and restored – as well as the Hindu-Gothic gate at Dromana (see my Dromana entry), and Carton House, which Desmond and his wife Mariga rented when they returned to live in Ireland in 1955.
the Tower Room. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the walls have been decorated with panels of an early nineteenth century paper by Dufour, Vues d’Italie.
an odd figure in the carpet
Stephen in the Tower Room, outside the bathroom, admiring the painting.
the bathroom off the Tower Room. The bath is even smaller than ours, I think!
I loved the decoration on the bathroom walls. I think it was done by Desmond Guinness’s father, if I heard correctly.
I love the way the pipe is incorporated to be a palm tree!
the stairs down from the tower room
This portrait looks familiar – can you identify the subject? Let me know if you can!

We explored outside before we had our indoor tour.

Across the cobbled driveway from the castle, outbuildings with a path down to farmbuildings. 
the gate to the garden. For more on this gate, see the Irish Aesthete’s blog [11]. He tells us that Desmond Guinness says these were originally part of the Dublin city reservoir or basin developed in 1721-22 adjacent to where his family later developed the well-known brewery. When the basin was filled in during the 1970s, Desmond acquired the gates.

This is the vision that met our eyes when we went through the gateway, a living arcadia:

the swimming pool is within the castellated walls in the garden
the swimming pool, covered
I asked Penny about this portico and statue. She said the portico stone was found, and they thought it looked like it came from a temple. I believe it was found in Summerhill, County Wicklow. The statue is a copy of a work by Canova. [12]

By the side of the conservatory, there is another gate, down to the farm buildings and stable, by a cottage, where Jenny and her family live.

According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, this is “rubble stone outbuilding with half-dormer attic, c.1830.” [13]
According to the National Inventory of Historic Architecture, this is: “Detached single-bay single-storey over raised base gable-fronted rubble stone dovecote, c.1780. [14]
The National Inventory tells us that this is: Attached eight-bay single-storey lean-to rubble stone outbuilding, c.1800, with four-bay single-storey lean-to lower advanced bay to right (south-west) and series of segmental-headed integral carriageways to left. Renovated, c.1950, with some integral carriageways remodelled. [15].
to the side of the castle, beyond the seat, you can see the archway, which we saw from the other side in a photograph in the beginning of this entry.

What an amazing home!

[1] https://theirishaesthete.com/2020/08/24/a-pioneer/

[2] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11804045/leixlip-castle-leixlip-demesne-leixlip-co-kildare

[3] http://www.kildare.ie/ehistory/index.php/leixlip-chronology-1200-1499-ad/

[4] http://curiousireland.ie/leixlip-castle-leixlip-co-kildare-1172/

[5] p. 183. 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] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11804045/leixlip-castle-leixlip-demesne-leixlip-co-kildare

[7] A “Pipard” also built the castle near Aghaboe, according to Wickipedia, but that castle is now gone. I wonder is this the same family as “Pypard”?

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_FitzGerald,_8th_Earl_of_Kildare

[9] This source continues:

“Sir Nicholas Whyte, Knt., was the son of James Whyte, of King’s Meadows, in the County Waterford. He was in 1564 Recorder of Waterford; in 1569 he was appointed Seneschal of the County of Wexford and Constable of the Castle of Wexford; and in 1572 he was made Master of the Rolls — an office which he held till his death on the 20th March, 1593. In 1569 he was granted the lands of St. Catherine’s, on the opposite bank of the Liffey, in the County Dublin, and in the following year he obtained a grant of the Manor of Leixlip, two castles, a water-mill, a salmon-weir, two fishing-places, called the Salmon Leap, on the river Analiffey, Priortown Meade, and other demesne lands of the manor, 6d. rent for licence to have a right  of way from Confey to Leixlip, the right of pasture on the great  common of Moncronock, and rents out of several townlands, to hold for ever in capite by the service of a fortieth part of a  knight’s fee, at a rent of £36 13s. 4d.Irish (or 1227 10s.sterling)….”


[10] https://www.discoverireland.ie/kildare/leixlip-castle

[11] https://theirishaesthete.com/2012/10/24/heavens-gate/

[12] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11804055/leixlip-castle-leixlip-demesne-leixlip-co-kildare

[13] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11804048/leixlip-castle-leixlip-demesne-leixlip-co-kildare

[14] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11804058/leixlip-castle-leixlip-demesne-leixlip-co-kildare

[15] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11804060/leixlip-castle-leixlip-demesne-leixlip-co-kildare

[16] And to finish off, if you have had the mammoth attention-span to get through this all in one go (and even if you have not!), we’ll end with a Ghost Story by Charles Robert Maturin (a favourite writer of Oscar Wilde’s):

http://www.ricorso.net/rx/library/authors/classic/Maturin_CR/Leixlip.htm

Bibliographical note: First published in The Literary Souvenir; or, Cabinet of Poetry and Romance (London: Hurst & Robinson 1825); rep. in The Grimoire and Other Supernatural Stories, collected by Montague Summers (Fortune Press 1936), pp.23-27.
Source: The Literary Souvenir, or Cabinet of Poetry and Romance (1825), at “The Literary Gothic Website” [online] – supplied by Dr. Dick Collins (Inchigeela, Co. Cork, Ireland) [accessed 30.11.2007.]

THE INCIDENTS of the following tale are not merely founded on fact, they are facts themselves, which occurred at no very distant period in my own family. The marriage of the parties, their sudden and mysterious separation, and their total alienation from each other until the last period of their mortal existence, are all facts. I cannot vouch for the truth of the supernatural solution given to all these mysteries; but I must still consider the story as a fine specimen of Gothic horrors, and can never forget the impression it made on me when I heard it related for the first time among many other thrilling traditions of the same description.

C.R.M.

The tranquillity of the Catholics of Ireland during the disturbed periods of 1715 and 1745, was most commendable, and somewhat extraordinary; to enter into an analysis of their probable motives, is not at all the object of the writer of this tale, as it is pleasanter to state the fact of their honour, than at this distance of time to assign dubious and unsatisfactory reasons for it. Many of them, however, showed a kind of secret disgust at the existing state of affairs, by quitting their family residences and wandering about like persons who were uncertain of their homes, or possibly expecting better from some near and fortunate contingency.


Among the rest was a Jacobite Baronet, who, sick of his uncongenial situation in a Whig neighbourhood, in the north – where he heard of nothing but the heroic defence of Londonderry; the barbarities of the French generals; and the resistless exhortations of the godly Mr Walker, a Presbyterian clergyman, to whom the citizens gave the title of ‘Evangelist’; – quitted his paternal residence, and about the year 1720 hired the Castle of Leixlip for three years (it was then the property of the Connollys, who let it to triennial tenants); and removed thither with his family, which consisted of three daughters – their mother having long been dead.


The Castle of Leixlip, at that period, possessed a character of romantic beauty and feudal grandeur, such as few buildings in Ireland can claim, and which is now, alas, totally effaced by the destruction of its noble woods; on the destroyers of which the writer would wish ‘a minstrel’s malison were said’. – Leixlip, though about seven miles from Dublin, has all the sequestered and picturesque character that imagination could ascribe to a landscape a hundred miles from, not only the metropolis but an inhabited town. After driving a dull mile (an Irish mile) [1] in passing from Lucan to Leixlip, the road – hedged up on one side of the high wall that bounds the demesne of the Veseys, and on the other by low enclosures, over whose rugged tops you have no view at all – at once opens on Leixlip Bridge, at almost a right angle, and displays a luxury of landscape on which the eye that has seen it even in childhood dwells with delighted recollection. – Leixlip Bridge, a rude but solid structure, projects from a high bank of the Liffey, and slopes rapidly to the opposite side, which there lies remarkably low. To the right the plantations of the Vesey’s demesne – no longer obscured by walls – almost mingle their dark woods in its stream, with the opposite ones of Marshfield and St Catherine’s. The river is scarcely visible, overshadowed as it is by the deep, rich and bending foliage of the trees. To the left it bursts out in all the brilliancy of light, washes the garden steps of the houses of Leixlip, wanders round the low walls of its churchyard, plays, with the pleasure-boat moored under the arches on which the summer-house of the Castle is raised, and then loses itself among the rich woods that once skirted those grounds to its very brink. The contrast on the other side, with the luxuriant walks, scattered shrubberies, temples seated on pinnacles, and thickets that conceal from you the sight of the river until you are on its banks, that mark the character of the grounds which are now the property of Colonel Marly, is peculiarly striking.


Visible above the highest roofs of the town, though a quarter of a mile distant from them, are the ruins of Confy Castle, a right good old predatory tower of the stirring times when blood was shed like water; and as you pass the bridge you catch a glimpse of the waterfall (or salmon-leap, as it is called) on whose noon-day lustre, or moon-light beauty, probably the rough livers of that age when Confy Castle was ‘a tower of strength’, never glanced an eye or cast a thought, as they clattered in their harness over Leixlip Bridge, or waded through the stream before that convenience was in existence.


Whether the solitude in which he lived contributed to tranquillize Sir Redmond Blaney’s feelings, or whether they had begun to rust from want of collision with those of others, it is impossible to say, but certain it is, that the good Baronet began gradually to lose his tenacity in political matters; and except when a Jacobite friend came to dine with him, and drink with many a significant ‘nod and beck and smile’, the King over the water – or the parish-priest (good man) spoke of the hopes of better times, and the final success of the right cause, and the old religion – or a Jacobite servant was heard in the solitude of the large mansion whistling ‘Charlie is my darling’, to which Sir Redmond involuntarily responded in a deep bass voice, somewhat the worse for wear, and marked with more emphasis than good discretion – except, as I have said, on such occasions, the Baronet’s politics, like his life, seemed passing away without notice or effort. Domestic calamities, too, pressed sorely on the old gentleman: of his three daughters the youngest, Jane, had disappeared in so extraordinary a manner in her childhood, that though it is but a wild, remote family tradition, I cannot help relating it:-


The girl was of uncommon beauty and intelligence, and was suffered to wander about the neighbourhood of the castle with the daughter of a servant, who was also called Jane, as a nom de caresse. One evening Jane Blaney and her young companion went far and deep into the woods; their absence created no uneasiness at the time, as these excursions were by no means unusual, till her playfellow returned home alone and weeping, at a very late hour. Her account was, that, in passing through a lane at some distance from the castle, an old woman, in the Fingallian dress (a red petticoat and a long green jacket), suddenly started out of a thicket, and took Jane Blaney by the arm: she had in her hand two rushes, one of which she threw over her shoulder, and giving the other to the child, motioned to her to do the same. Her young companion, terrified at what she saw, was running away, when Jane Blaney called after her – ‘Good-bye, good-bye, it is a long time before you will see me again.’ The girl said they then disappeared, and she found her way home as she could. An indefatigable search was immediately commenced – woods were traversed, thickets were explored, ponds were drained – all in vain. The pursuit and the hope were at length given up. Ten years afterwards, the housekeeper of Sir Redmond, having remembered that she left the key of a closet where sweetmeats were kept, on the kitchen table, returned to fetch it. As she approached the door, she heard a childish voice murmuring – ‘Cold – cold – cold how long it is since I have felt a fire!’ – She advanced, and saw, to her amazement, Jane Blaney, shrunk to half her usual size, and covered with rags, crouching over the embers of the fire. The housekeeper flew in terror from the spot, and roused the servants, but the vision had fled. The child was reported to have been seen several times afterwards, as diminutive in form, as though she had not grown an inch since she was ten years of age, and always crouching over a fire, whether in the turret-room or kitchen, complaining of cold and hunger, and apparently covered with rags. Her existence is still said to be protracted under these dismal circumstances, so unlike those of Lucy Gray in Wordsworth’s beautiful ballad:

Yet some will say, that to this day
She is a living child –
That they have met sweet Lucy Gray
Upon the lonely wild;
O’er rough and smooth she trips along,
And never looks behind;
And hums a solitary song
That whistles in the wind.

The fate of the eldest daughter was more melancholy, though less extraordinary; she was addressed by a gentleman of competent fortune and unexceptionable character: he was a Catholic, moreover; and Sir Redmond Blaney signed the marriage articles, in full satisfaction of the security of his daughter’s soul, as well as of her jointure. The marriage was celebrated at the Castle of Leixlip; and, after the bride and bridegroom had retired, the guests still remained drinking to their future happiness, when suddenly, to the great alarm of Sir Redmond and his friends, loud and piercing cries were heard to issue from the part of the castle in which the bridal chamber was situated.


Some of the more courageous hurried up stairs; it was too late – the wretched bridegroom had burst, on that fatal night, into a sudden and most horrible paroxysm of insanity. The mangled form of the unfortunate and expiring lady bore attestation to the mortal virulence with which the disease had operated on the wretched husband, who died a victim to it himself after the involuntary murder of his bride. The bodies were interred, as soon as decency would permit, and the story hushed up.


Sir Redmond’s hopes of Jane’s recovery were diminishing every day, though he still continued to listen to every wild tale told by the domestics; and all his care was supposed to be now directed towards his only surviving daughter. Anne, living in solitude, and partaking only of the very limited education of Irish females of that period, was left very much to the servants, among whom she increased her taste for superstitious and supernatural horrors, to a degree that had a most disastrous effect on her future life.


Among the numerous menials of the Castle, there was one withered crone, who had been nurse to the late Lady Blaney’s mother, and whose memory was a complete Thesaurus terrorum. The mysterious fate of Jane first encouraged her sister to listen to the wild tales of this hag, who avouched, that at one time she saw the fugitive standing before the portrait of her late mother in one of the apartments of the Castle, and muttering to herself – ‘Woe’s me, woe’s me! how little my mother thought her wee Jane would ever come to be what she is!’ But as Anne grew older she began more ‘seriously to incline’ to the hag’s promises that she could show her her future bridegroom, on the performance of certain ceremonies, which she at first revolted from as horrible and impious; but, finally, at the repeated instigation of the old woman, consented to act a part in. The period fixed upon for the performance of these unhallowed rites, was now approaching – it was near the 31st of October – the eventful night, when such ceremonies were, and still are supposed, in the North of Ireland, to be most potent in their effects. All day long the Crone took care to lower the mind of the young lady to the proper key of submissive and trembling credulity, by every horrible story she could relate; and she told them with frightful and supernatural energy. This woman was called Collogue by the family, a name equivalent to Gossip in England, or Cummer in Scotland (though her real name was Bridget Dease); and she verified the name, by the exercise of an unwearied loquacity, an indefatigable memory, and a rage for communicating, and inflicting terror, that spared no victim in the household, from the groom, whom she sent shivering to his rug, [2] to the Lady of the Castle, over whom she felt she held unbounded sway.
The 31st of October arrived – the Castle was perfectly quiet before eleven o’clock; half an hour afterwards, the Collogue and Anne Blaney were seen gliding along a passage that led to what is called King John’s Tower, where it is said that monarch received the homage of the Irish princes as Lord of Ireland and which was, at all events, the most ancient part of the structure. [3]


The Collogue opened a small door with a key which she had secreted, about her, and urged the young lady to hurry on. Anne advanced to the postern, and stood there irresolute and trembling like a timid swimmer on the bank of an unknown stream. It was a dark autumnal evening; a heavy wind sighed among the woods of the Castle, and bowed the branches of the lower trees almost to the waves of the Liffey, which, swelled by recent rains, struggled and roared amid the stones that obstructed its channel. The steep descent from the Castle lay before her, with its dark avenue of elms; a few lights still burned in the little village of Leixlip – but from the lateness of the hour it was probable they would soon be extinguished.
The lady lingered – ‘And must I go alone?’ said she, foreseeing that the terrors of her fearful journey could be aggravated by her more fearful purpose.
‘Ye must, or al

l will be spoiled,’ said the hag, shading the miserable light, that did not extend its influence above six inches on the path of the victim. ‘Ye must go alone – and I will watch for you here, dear, till you come back, and then see what will come to you at twelve o’clock.
The unfortunate girl paused. ‘Oh! Collogue, Collogue, if you would but come with me. Oh! Collogue, come with me, if it be but to the bottom of the castlehill.’


‘If I went with you, dear, we should never reach the top of it alive again, for there are them near that would tear us both in pieces.’


‘Oh! Collogue, Collogue – let me turn back then, and go to my own room – I have advanced too far, and I have done too much.’


‘And that’s what you have, dear, and so you must go further, and do more still, unless, when you return to your own room, you would see the likeness of some one instead of a handsome young bridegroom.’


The young lady looked about her for a moment, terror and wild hope trembling at her heart – then, with a sudden impulse of supernatural courage, she darted like a bird from the terrace of the Castle, the fluttering of her white garments was seen for a few moments, and then the hag who had been shading the flickering light with her hand, bolted the postern, and, placing the candle before a glazed loophole, sat down on a stone seat in the recess of the tower, to watch the event of the spell. It was an hour before the young lady returned; when her face was as pale, and her eyes as fixed, as those of a dead body, but she held in her grasp a dripping garment, a proof that her errand had been performed. She flung it into her companion’s hands, and then stood, panting and gazing wildly about her as if she knew not where she was. The hag herself grew terrified at the insane and breathless state of her victim, and hurried her to her chamber; but here the preparations for the terrible ceremonies of the night were the first objects that struck her, and, shivering at the sight, she covered her eyes with her hands, and stood immovably fixed in the middle of the room.
It needed all the hag’s persuasions (aided even by mysterious menaces), combined with the returning faculties and reviving curiosity of the poor girl, to prevail on her to go through the remaining business of the night. At length she said, as if in desperation, ‘I will go through with it: but be in the next room; and if what I dread should happen, I will ring my father’s little silver bell which I have secured for the night – and as you have a soul to be saved, Collogue, come to me at its first sound.’


The hag promised, gave her last instructions with eager and jealous minuteness, and then retired to her own room, which was adjacent to that of the young lady. Her candle had burned out, but she stirred up the embers of her turf fire, and sat, nodding over them, and smoothing the pallet from time to time, but resolved not to lie down while there was a chance of a sound from the lady’s room, for which she herself, withered as her feelings were, waited with a mingled feeling of anxiety and terror.


It was now long past midnight, and all was silent as the grave throughout the Castle. The hag dozed over the embers till her head touched her knees, then started up as the sound of the bell seemed to tinkle in her ears, then dozed again, and again started as the bell appeared to tinkle more distinctly – suddenly she was roused, not by the bell, but by the most piercing and horrible cries from the neighbouring chamber. The Cologue, aghast for the first time, at the possible consequences of the mischief she might have occasioned, hastened to the room. Anne was in convulsions, and the hag was compelled reluctantly to call up the housekeeper (removing meanwhile the implements of the ceremony), and assist in applying all the specifics known at that day, burnt feathers, etc., to restore her. When they had at length succeeded, the housekeeper was dismissed, the door was bolted, and the Collogue was left alone with Anne; the subject of their conference might have been guessed at, but was not known until many years afterwards; but Anne that night held in her hand, in the shape of a weapon with the use of which neither of them was acquainted, an evidence that her chamber had been visited by a being of no earthly form.


This evidence the hag importuned her to destroy, or to remove: but she persisted with fatal tenacity in keeping it. She locked it up, however, immediately, and seemed to think she had acquired a right, since she had grappled so fearfully with the mysteries of futurity, to know all the secrets of which that weapon might yet lead to the disclosure. But from that night it was observed that her character, her manner, and even her countenance, became altered. She grew stern and solitary, shrunk at the sight of her former associates, and imperatively forbade the slightest allusion to the circumstances which had occasioned this mysterious change.


It was a few days subsequent to this event that Anne, who after dinner had left the Chaplain reading the life of St Francis Xavier to Sir Redmond, and retired to her own room to work, and, perhaps, to muse, was surprised to hear the bell at the outer gate ring loudy and repeatedly – a sound she had never heard since her first residence in the Castle; for the few guests who resorted there came, and departed as noiselessly as humble visitors at the house of a great man generally do. Straightway there rode up the avenue of elms, which we have already mentioned, a stately gentleman, followed by four servants, all mounted, the two former having pistols in their holsters, and the two latter carrying saddle-bags before them: though it was the first week in November, the dinner hour being one o’clock, Anne had light enough to notice all these circumstances. The arrival of the stranger seemed to cause much, though not unwelcome tumult in the Castle; orders were loudly and hastily given for the accommodation of the servants and horses – steps were heard traversing the numerous passages for a full hour – then all was still; and it was said that Sir Redmond had locked with his own hand the door of the room where he and the stranger sat, and desired that no one should dare to approach it. About two hours afterwards, a female servant came with orders from her master, to have a plentiful supper ready by eight o’clock, at which he desired the presence of his daughter. The family establishment was on a handsome scale for an Irish house, and Anne had only to descend to the kitchen to order the roasted chickens to be well strewed with brown sugar according to the unrefined fashion of the day, to inspect the mixing of the bowl of sago with its allowance of a bottle of port wine and a large handful of the richest spices, and to order particularly that the pease pudding should have a huge lump of cold salt butter stuck in its centre; and then, her household cares being over, to retire to her room and array herself in a robe of white damask for the occasion.


At eight o’clock she was summoned to the supper-room. She came in, according to the fashion of the times, with the first dish; but as she passed through the ante-room, where the servants were holding lights and bearing the dishes, her sleeve was twitched, and the ghastly face of the Collogue pushed close to hers; while she muttered ‘Did not I say he would come for you, dear?’ Anne’s blood ran cold, but she advanced, saluted her father and the stranger with two low and distinct reverences, and then took her place at the table. Her feelings of awe and perhaps terror at the whisper of her associate, were not diminished by the appearance of the stranger; there was a singular and mute solemnity in his manner during the meal. He ate nothing. Sir Redmond appeared constrained, gloomy and thoughtful. At length, starting, he said (without naming the stranger’s name), ‘You will drink my daughter’s health?’ The stranger intimated his willingness to have that honour, but absently filled his glass with water; Anne put a few drops of wine into hers, and bowed towards him. At that moment, for the first time since they had met, she beheld his face – it was pale as that of a corpse. The deadly whiteness of his cheeks and lips, the hollow and distant sound of his voice, and the strange lustre of his large dark moveless eyes, strongly fixed on her, made her pause and even tremble as she raised the glass to her lips; she set it down, and then with another silent reverence retired to her chamber.


There she found Bridget Dease, busy in collecting the turf that burned on the hearth, for there was no grate in the apartment. ‘Why are you here?’ she said, impatiently.


The hag turned on her, with a ghastly grin of congratulation, ‘Did not I tell you that he would come for you?’


‘I believe he has,’ said the unfortunate girl, sinking into the huge wicker chair by her bedside; ‘for never did I see mortal with such a look.’
‘But is not he a fine stately gentleman?’ pursued the hag.


‘He looks as if he were not of this world,’ said Anne.


‘Of this world, or of the next,’ said the hag, raising her bony fore-finger, ‘mark my words – so sure as the – (here she repeated some of the horrible formularies of the 31st of October) – so sure he will be your bridegroom.’
‘Then I shall be the bride of a corpse,’ said Anne; ‘for he I saw tonight is no living man.’


A fortnight elapsed, and whether Anne became reconciled to the features she had thought so ghastly, by the discovery that they were the handsomest she had ever beheld – and that the voice, whose sound at first was so strange and unearthly, was subdued into a tone of plaintive softness when addressing her or whether it is impossible for two young persons with unoccupied hearts to meet in the country, and meet often, to gaze silently on the same stream, wander under the same trees, and listen together to the wind that waves the branches, without experiencing an assimilation of feeling rapidly succeeding an assimilation of taste; – or whether it was from all these causes combined, but in less than a month Anne heard the declaration of the stranger’s passion with many a blush, though without a sigh. He now avowed his name and rank. He stated himself to be a Scottish Baronet, of the name of Sir Richard Maxwell; family misfortunes had driven him from his country, and forever precluded the possibility of his return: he had transferred his property to Ireland, and purposed to fix his residence there for life. Such was his statement. The courtship of those days was brief and simple. Anne became the wife of Sir Richard, and, I believe, they resided with her father till his death, when they removed to their estate in the North. There they remained for several years, in tranquility and happiness, and had a numerous family. Sir Richard’s conduct was marked by but two peculiarities: he not only shunned the intercourse, but the sight of any of his countrymen, and, if he happened to hear that a Scotsman had arrived in the neighbouring town, he shut himself up till assured of the stranger’s departure. The other was his custom of retiring to his own chamber, and remaining invisible to his family on the anniversary of the 31st of October. The lady, who had her own associations connected with that period, only questioned him once on the subject of this seclusion, and was then solemnly and even sternly enjoined never to repeat her inquiry. Matters stood thus, somewhat mysteriously, but not unhappily, when on a sudden, without any cause assigned or assignable, Sir Richard and Lady Maxwell parted, and never more met in this world, nor was she ever permitted to see one of her children to her dying hour. He continued to live at the family mansion and she fixed her residence with a distant relative in a remote part of the country. So total was the disunion, that the name of either was never heard to pass the other’s lips, from the moment of separation until that of dissolution.


Lady Maxwell survived Sir Richard forty years, living to the great age of ninety-six; and, according to a promise, previously given, disclosed to a descendent with whom she had lived, the following extraordinary circumstances.


She said that on the night of the 31st of October, about seventy-five years before, at the instigation of her ill-advising attendant, she had washed one of her garments in a place where four streams met, and peformed other unhallowed ceremonies under the direction of the Collogue, in the expectation that her future husband would appear to her in her chamber at twelve o’clock that night. The critical moment arrived, but with it no lover-like form. A vision of indescribable horror approached her bed, and flinging at her an iron weapon of a shape and construction unknown to her, bade her ‘recognize her future husband by that.’ The terrors of this visit soon deprived her of her senses; but on her recovery, she persisted, as has been said, in keeping the fearful pledge of the reality of the vision, which, on examination, appeared to be incrusted with blood. It remained concealed in the inmost drawer of her cabinet till the morning of the separation. On that morning, Sir Richard Maxwell rose before daylight to join a hunting party – he wanted a knife for some accidental purpose, and, missing his own, called to Lady Maxwell, who was still in bed, to lend him one. The lady, who was half asleep, answered, that in such a drawer of her cabinet he would find one. He went, however, to another, and the next moment she was fully awakened by seeing her husband present the terrible weapon to her throat, and threaten her with instant death unless she disclosed how she came by it. She supplicated for life, and then, in an agony of horror and contrition, told the tale of that eventful night. He gazed at her for a moment with a countenance which rage, hatred, and despair converted, as she avowed, into a living likeness of the demon-visage she had once beheld (so singularly was the fated resemblance fulfilled), and then exclaiming, ‘You won me by the devil’s aid, but you shall not keep me long,’ left her – to meet no more in this world. Her husband’s secret was not unknown to the lady, though the means by which she became possessed of it were wholly unwarrantable. Her curiosity had been strongly excited by her husband’s aversion to his countrymen, and it was so – stimulated by the arrival of a Scottish gentleman in the neighbourhood some time before, who professed himself formerly acquainted with Sir Richard, and spoke mysteriously of the causes that drove him from his country – that she contrived to procure an interview with him under a feigned name, and obtained from him the knowledge of circumstances which embittered her after-life to its latest hour. His story was this:


Sir Richard Maxwell was at deadly feud with a younger brother; a family feast was proposed to reconcile them, and as the use of knives and forks was then unknown in the Highlands, the company met armed with their dirks for the purpose of carving. They drank deeply; the feast, instead of harmonizing, began to inflame their spirits; the topics of old strife were renewed; hands, that at first touched their weapons in defiance, drew them at last in fury, and in the fray, Sir Richard mortally wounded his brother. His life was with difficulty saved from the vengeance of the clan, and he was hurried towards the seacoast, near which the house stood, and concealed there till a vessel could be procured to convey him to Ireland. He embarked on the night of the 31st of October, and while he was traversing the deck in unutterable agony of spirit, his hand accidentally touched the dirk which he had unconsciously worn ever since the fatal night. He drew it, and, praying ‘that the guilt of his brother’s blood might be as far from his soul, as he could fling that weapon from his body,’ sent it with all his strength into the air. This instrument he found secreted in the lady’s cabinet, and whether he really believed her to have become possessed of it by supernatural means, or whether he feared his wife was a secret witness of his crime, has not been ascertained, but the result was what I have stated.


The separation took place on the discovery: – for the rest,

I know not how the truth may be,
I tell the Tale as ’twas told to me.

1. An Irish mile – a distance of undetermined length. In the West of Ireland, any distance up to about sixty kilometres may be expressed as ‘about a mile or so.’
2. His rug – the horse-rug under which he sleeps.
3. King John – king of England 1199-1216. Was Lord of Ireland for a brief period; having mortally insulted the Irish chieftains, he was hastily withdrawn by his father, the great Henry II (1154-1189). This is why he was called ‘John Lackland.’

 

Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, County Louth

Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, Co Louth

20190907_122458

contact: Jean & Jeff Young

Tel: 086-8644228

www.rokeby.ie

Opening dates in 2020 but check due to Covid-19 restrictions: May 1-31, Mon-Sat, Aug 15-23, Sept 1-30, Mon-Sat, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult/OAP €7, child/student €5

20190907_122009

Stephen and I visited Rokeby Hall in County Louth on Saturday September 7th, 2019. I texted ahead to alert Jean to our visit. We were lucky to have another beautifully sunny day!

20190907_122221

We entered the gates and drove up the impressive drive, through lovely fields.

20190907_122230

I paused as we approached the house to take a photograph of the observatory, and of the field near the house with the grazing cattle.

20190907_122250

There is an excellent website for Rokeby Hall which I read in advance so knew a little bit of information. [1]

“Rokeby Hall is a country house in the Neoclassical style built for Richard Robinson, Archbishop of Armagh.

Initially designed by Thomas Cooley and built c. 1785 by renowned Irish architect Francis Johnston, Rokeby is an elegant building with beautiful exterior and interior detailing which remains largely unchanged to this day.

The house is a testament to the architects and the skilled craftsmen of the Georgian era and is today considered to be one of the most significant historic country houses remaining in Co. Louth.”

Francis Johnston (1760-1829) is best known for building the General Post Office in Dublin, and is the son of another architect, William Johnston. Francis is from Armagh and first practised his architecture there, and then lived in Drogheda from 1786 before moving to Dublin about 1793. It was the archbishop of Armagh, Richard Robinson, who sent Johnston to Dublin to train under Thomas Cooley, having already worked with Cooley to design buildings.

20190907_140930

Thomas Cooley, who worked first as a carpenter then draughtsman in an architectural office, came from England to Ireland in 1768 when he won a competition to design a new Royal Exchange in Dublin, which is now the City Hall on Dame Street. He built several public buildings in Dublin in the neoclassical style. Together with James Gandon (1743–1823), Cooley was part of a small school of architects influenced by Sir William Chambers (1723–1796). Cooley died in 1784. He worked closely with the Archbishop Richard Robinson and designed many buildings in Armagh, including the Archbishop’s Palace (now the Town Hall) and the library. He also designed the Four Courts in Dublin.

Cooley designed Rokeby Hall, and it fell to Francis Johnston to finish the project after Cooley’s death. Johnston continued to work with Archbishop Robinson, for whom he went on to build the Armagh Observatory and Armagh Courthouse, and other buildings in Armagh (I think that the observatory in Rokeby was built for the current owner, but I’m sure the Archbishop would have been delighted had he known, since he had the one in Armagh built in 1790 [2]!). Jean Young, the owner of Rokeby, recommended that we also visit another house in Louth designed and built by Francis Johnston, Townley Hall.

He designed more buildings, including the beautiful Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle, and he converted Parliament House in College Green in Dublin into the Bank of Ireland. He also designed Charleville Forest Castle in Tullamore, County Offaly, and probably designed a house I hope to visit when I get the chance, that is on Section 482, Turbotstown in County Westmeath. He also helped in the 2nd Earl of Longford to convert Tullynally House into Tullynally Castle [see my blog entry], completing that work in 1803.

Jean greeted us and invited us inside. We paused in the capacious front hall to look at a portrait while she told us about the man responsible for having the house built, Archbishop Richard Robinson. Robinson named the building after his family home in Yorkshire, England, Rokeby Park.

20190907_124015
The columns reminded me of “scagliola” [3] but are actually painted.
The website tells us about Richard Robinson:

After coming to Ireland as chaplain to the Duke of Dorset in 1751, he eventually rose through the ranks of the church before becoming Archbishop of Armagh in 1765. Prior to Robinson’s appointment, most Archbishops had spent little time in Armagh which in 1759 had been described as ‘an ugly, scattered town’. Primate Robinson is credited with much of Armagh’s transformation to the beautiful Georgian city it is today. His many contributions to the city include the Armagh Robinson Library, the Armagh Observatory, the Gaol, the Armagh Infirmary and the Archbishop’s Palace, Chapel and Palace Stables.

He was created the 1st Baron Rokeby in 1777, choosing the title “Rokeby” as his elder brother Sir Thomas Robinson had by then sold the family estate of Rokeby Park. He purchased land at Marlay in Co. Louth from the Earl of Darby to create a new “Rokeby” estate. On his death, his titles passed to a cousin but he left the Rokeby estate in Louth to the son of his sister Grace. The Reverend John Freind changed his name to his maternal surname “Robinson” and moved from England to Rokeby Hall in 1794.”

Lord Rokeby’s coat of arms on the decorative Neoclassical pediment, which stands on Ionic pilasters.

20190907_122528

I was surprised to hear that an archbishop was made a Baron, but Jean assured me that this was quite common.

Jean has studied the history of her home, completing a Masters degree in Maynooth, so we thoroughly enjoyed our discussion and she was able to explain the history of ownership of the house as well as architectural details. It is the details of the house which are special.

20190907_125229

20190907_125258

I also asked why Robinson lived here in Rokeby rather than in Armagh, since he was archbishop of Armagh. Jean explained that archbishops had much work to do in Dublin, including taking their place in Parliament, so it was suitable to live in a premises between Dublin and Armagh. The Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne has a delightful entry that tells us more about this Archbishop of Armagh, who, according to O’Byrne, “behaved more like a continental prince-bishop.” He extravagantly travelled in a carriage with six horses, attended by three footmen behind. [4]

In Classic Irish Houses of the Middle Size, Maurice Craig writes (p. 152):

The north (entrance) front of the house built for Richard Robinson, Archbishop of Armagh, in the years following 1785, probably by Thomas Cooley (1740-84) and certainly with the participation of Francis Johnston (1760-1829). Both in elevation and in plan it is related to Lucan House, and in plan also to Mount Kennedy. James Wyatt, Michael Stapleton, Richard Johnston and even Sir William Chambers are involved in a complex tale which may never be fully unravelled. Rokeby is more remarkable for the beauty of its detail than for its overall impression…”

The most noteable feature of the house, for me, is the round hallway upstairs, and the second one above that in what seems to be the nursery and children’s area – which we saw after a tour of the first floor rooms.

20190907_130525

This is the landing at the top of the staircase. It opens into many bedrooms, a bathroom, another small landing, and one door is purely decorative, to keep symmetry. Note the detailing of the windows, over every second door, which let in light to the hall – all original.

Jean and Jeff had to furnish the house entirely, as unfortunately it was empty when they purchased it and needed repairs. They have done so beautifully.

20190907_131032

20190907_131303

20190907_131316

These bedrooms contain their original chimneypieces. The Irish Aesthete writes that the upstairs chimneypieces are original to the house but that the downstairs ones are not and were installed later, along with some downstairs doors.

The Youngs have also restored the garden to its former splendour:

20190907_131128
they have done much work, such as planting this formal garden.

Above the round hall at the top of the stairs, is another round hallway, you can see why I found it so surprising and delightful.

20190907_131532

One doesn’t expect such detail in an upper level. The rooms leading off on this level were of various sizes, some quite large.

20190907_132125

The room, although in the attic, contains as much attention to detail as the reception rooms, with curving door and window frames. Outside is the parapet of the house, so the windows have to be set back to allow in maximum light. The Youngs still have work to do to restore the cupola roof. You can see the wear and tear of use on the original stone stairs:

20190907_131747 (1)

The Irish Aesthete discusses Rokeby in his blog:

 “The house’s severe limestone façade hides a more inviting interior, of three storeys over basement, since Rokeby contains a particularly generous attic concealed behind the parapet, centred on a circular room lit by glazed dome. A similar circular landing on the first floor provides access to the main bedrooms.

“Descendants of the Robinson family remained in possession, although not necessarily in occupation, of Rokeby until the middle of the last century. Thereafter the property passed through a variety of hands often with unfortunate consequences. When the present owners bought the place in 1995, for example, the library had been stripped of its bookcases and divided in two with one half used as a kitchen. Over the past twenty years, a process of reclamation has taken place, driven by the correct balance of enthusiasm, commitment and ongoing research into the house’s history. Most recently the present owners have impeccably restored Rokeby’s mid-19th century conservatory.” [5]

In the article from the Irish Times which originally inspired me to start visiting houses and to write this blog, “Open season: Grand Irish homes that welcome visitors – and get a tax break,” published Sat, Apr 13, 2019, Mary Leland writes that Jean and Jeff worked on the house for ten years, commuting back and forth to California to working in the software industry, before finally moving over in 2006. The tax break enabled them to restore the Richard Turner conservatory. [6]

20190907_140601

20190907_133648

20190907_134131

20190907_133739

The complete restoration of this structure took about two years, 2012-2014. The restored conservatory received 1st prize of the Ellison Award for Meath An Taisce in 2014.  A fascinating full description of the restoration is on the Rokeby Hall website. There’s also discussion of the restoration of the Armorial window and the attics.

20190907_133754

20190907_133940

Jean noticed my puzzlement at the crescent dips in the glass at the top of the window, as you can see in the picture above. Her explanation shows just how authentic the restoration work was: in the 1850s, the size of panes of glass was  limited. Therefore glass was laid out in layers. The curved edge ensured that rainwater would move to the middle of the glass before dripping down, thus protecting the window frames.

The archbishop left the house upon his death in 1794 to his sister Grace’s son. Grace Robinson had married the Dean of Canterbury, William Freind. Her son, the Reverend Archdeacon John Friend subsequently changed his surname to Robinson. Reverend John did not stay long in Ireland, however. When his father-in-law, Captain James Spencer of Rathangan House, County Kildare, was killed by rebels during the 1798 rebellion, he fled. Despite no longer living there, Reverend John Robinson was created 1st Baronet of Rokeby Hall in 1819.

The house was subsequently let to tenants, including Viscount Thomas Southwell; Count Jerome de Salis (leased from 29 April 1822 – he had been appointed High Sheriff of Armagh in 1810 – see [7]); and Henry Coddington, Esq (1734-1816). This is the same Henry Coddington whose daughter Elizabeth married Edward Winder (1775-1829), one of my husband Stephen’s ancestors! Henry himself probably did not live in Rokeby, but probably leased the land to farm, as he lived in Oldbridge nearby. The house was left to deteriorate. Robert O’Byrne quotes James Brewer’s The Beauties of Ireland published in 1826, who wrote that the house “is now, we believe, in the hands of a farmer, and the chief apartments are let furnished to casual inmates.”

It was only after the death of John Robinson in 1832 that his son, Richard, returned to Rokeby in 1840. Richard, 2nd Baronet (1787-1847) had married, in 1813, the Lady Eleanor Helena Moore, daughter of Stephen, 2nd Earl Mount Cashell. He died in 1847 and was succeeded by his eldest son Sir John Stephen Robinson. Sir John and his wife were responsible for two significant additions to Rokeby Hall – the Turner conservatory, added in the 1850s, and the armorial window in the main stair hall showing the Robinson family history.

20190907_130058

Sir John, 3rd Baronet (1816-95), JP DL, High Sheriff of County Louth, 1849, married, in 1841, Sarah, only daughter of Anthony Denny, of Barham Wood, Hertfordshire, and granddaughter of Lord Collingwood, Admiral in the Royal Navy who served alongside Lord Nelson in the Napoleonic Wars. Due to his fame, Sarah’s eldest sons took the name Collingwood. [8]

The Rokeby Hall website continues the history of the Rokeby inhabitants:

Sir John died in 1895 and the estate passed to his son Sir Gerald [William Collingwood] Robinson (4th bart.) who died in 1903. The 5th baronet was Sir John’s younger brother Richard Harcourt Robinson. After his death in 1910 the estate eventually passed to Sir Gerald’s sister Maud who had earlier married Richard Montgomery, the owner of Beaulieu House in Co. Louth. 

20190907_132219 (1)

With the Robinsons no longer in residence, the estate was gradually broken up. The house and demesne lands were sold to the Clinton family in 1912. The remaining estate lands were also broken up and sold and the Robinson collection of furniture, art and books were eventually auctioned in 1943. The Clinton family remained at Rokeby until about 1950. Since then the ownership of the house has changed a number of times. The current owners purchased the house in 1995.”

After the tour of the house, Stephen and I went out to explore the gardens.

20190907_135937
20190907_140424

20190907_140207
20190907_140032

20190907_140617

[1] www.rokeby.ie

[2] https://armagh.space/heritage/

[3] Wikipedia defines scagliola: Scagliola (from the Italian scaglia, meaning “chips”) is a technique for producing stucco columns, sculptures and other architectural elements that resemble inlays in marble and semi-precious stones. The Scagliola technique came into fashion in 17th-century Tuscany as an effective substitute for costly marble inlays, the pietra dura works created for the Medici family in Florence.

Scagliola is a composite substance made from selenite, glue and natural pigments, imitating marble and other hard stones. The material may be veined with colours and applied to a core, or desired pattern may be carved into a previously prepared scagliola matrix. The pattern’s indentations are then filled with the coloured, plaster-like scagliola composite, and then polished with flax oil for brightness, and wax for protection. The combination of materials and technique provides a complex texture, and richness of colour not available in natural veined marbles.

architectural definitions

[4] https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/02/04/building-on-a-prelates-ambition/

[5] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/09/21/take-three/

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

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome,_4th_Count_de_Salis-Soglio

Jerome de Salis was born in Italy and inherited the title, Count de Salis, a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. He lived in England from the 1790s. He married three times – had one child by each of his first two wives, then after the first two wives’ deaths, married in 1810, Henrietta (or Harriet) Foster, daughter of Right Reverend William Foster, who was chaplain to the Irish House of Commons (1780–89), and then at different times, Bishop of Cork and Ross; Kilmore; and of Clogher. They had a further nine children.

[8] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Louth%20Landowners

Altidore Castle, Kilpeddar, Greystones, County Wicklow

Contact: Philip Emmet. Tel: 087-7601369

Listed Open dates in 2020 but check beforehand due to Covid 19 restrictions: Mar 9-29, May 1-31 June 1-3, 1pm-5pm, Aug 15-23, 2pm-6pm
Fee: adult /OAP/ student €5, child over 12 years €5, group rates

DSC_0656
seven bay, two storey over basement

DSC_0653
beautiful wrought iron gates at the entrance to the farm, and square panelled pillars

Stephen and I visited Altidore Castle on a grey Saturday, June 1st 2019. I contacted Philip Emmet beforehand and he suggested we come at 3pm for a tour of the house. Philip Emmet is a descendent of the family of the Irish rebel Robert Emmet, who was hung for treason in 1803. We arrived early and Philip’s wife Vicky suggested we look around the gardens until the other couple who were coming for the tour arrived. We had spied a pond to our left on our way up the long driveway, and there were stone steps up from the driveway across from the front of the house to a large rectangle of a lawn, edged by huge rhododendrons, so we headed off to explore.

DSC_0657

We only had about fifteen minutes, so after looking at the lawn above, we went down toward the pond and the gardens directly outside the house. We found a lovely sunken garden with two lions guarding it, containing a “wishing well.”

DSC_0659

DSC_0658
steps down to the sunken garden

DSC_0662
lions flank the steps to the sunken garden

DSC_0660
Stephen at the wishing well. I could not make out what was on the top of the well

DSC_0661
the well had Corinthian columns and a crest on top with two heads, and a cast iron embellishment

We walked around the back, I was conscious that we could look in the windows and not wanting to disturb or pry, I carefully kept my back to the windows and gazed at the impressive view of the wide valley below. What a view!

DSC_0666

We headed back to the front of the house then. It is a most odd-looking home. It’s quite small but has imposing castellations. This must be why it is called a “toy fort” (by Mark Bence-Jones) or a “toy castle” (National Inventory of Historic Architecture).

Mark Bence-Jones describes it in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses [1]:

A charming late-Georgian “toy fort,” with four octagonal corner turrets; of two storeys on the entrance side and three on the other sides, where the ground falls away. Despite the battlements on the turrets, the house is more Classical than Gothic; it is symmetrical and has a central Venetian window over a pillared porch.

DSC_0654
the Venetian (tripartite) window over a pillared porch

DSC_0664
back of the house – it is three storeys whereas the front is two, due to the slope of the ground. The basement forms the ground floor in the back.

The house was built for General Thomas Pearce around 1730. It may have been designed by his nephew, Edward Lovett Pearce. General Thomas Pearce (ca. 1670-1739) was a British Army officer, a privy councillor and member of Parliament. He was appointed to Ireland in 1715, ultimately becoming General of His Majesty’s Forces in Ireland. He represented Limerick in Parliament from 1727 until his death. He married Mary daughter of William Hewes of Wrexham, and they had three sons and two daughters. His daughter Anne married her first cousin, Edward Lovett Pearce. [2]

Edward Lovett Pearce was a young Irish architect, born in 1699. He favoured the Palladian style of architecture and studied initially under his cousin the English Baroque architect John Vanbrugh. Lovett Pearce is best known for his work on Castletown House and the Irish Houses of Parliament, which later became the Bank of Ireland on College Green in Dublin. In Italy he met the Florentine architect Alessandro Galilei who was making plans for Castletown. Pearce seems to have taken over the work on Castletown based on Galilei’s plans.

Pearce was also commissioned by his uncle-in-law Thomas Coote (Coote married Edward Lovett Pearce’s aunt Anne Lovett – she was Thomas Coote’s third wife) to build Bellamont House in Cootehill, County Cavan (around 1730). He also designed two houses on Henrietta Street in Dublin, including number 9, for his cousin Mrs. Thomas Carter, and he designed Summerhill, County Meath. He died of an abscess at the young age of 34 in his home The Grove in Stillorgan, Dublin, and is buried in St. Mary’s Graveyard, now a closed graveyard in Donnybrook, which I was lucky enough to see in a tour a couple of years ago.

We followed the other couple in through the porch to meet Philip Emmet, who welcomed us. We stepped into a large, high ceilinged hall, hung with impressive tapestries. These, Philip told us, were copies of tapestries which Louis XIV may have had. There was a set of tapestries with an Oriental tone, meant to be from China but with a mish-mash of European features, Indian and Chinese elements, with a pagoda in the background and picturing the Empress and Emperor in separate tapestries, sitting under tented pavilions tended by their servants and courtiers. One of the tapestries is in the drawing room, along with some other intricate mounted tapestries, as it couldn’t fit in the hall.

The inside of the front hall and staircase is odd as the windows don’t look as if they fit the plans, or else the staircase has been moved. Philip does not know a lot about the background of the house. The Irish Historic Houses website states that Altidore was enlarged and modified for a subsequent owner, Major Henry Brownrigg. [3] We did not go upstairs, but Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the staircase is “of stout but elegant joinery with a scrolled end to its balusters.”

By 1773 the house was owned by Reverend William Blachford, Librarian of Marsh’s Library in Dublin. Philip has a portrait of Reverend Blachford’s daughter Mary Tighe, a poet who was famous in her time and was grouped with the Romantic writers Byron and the revolutionary Mary Wollestonecraft. The poet John Keats admired her work. I must borrow her book, Psyche or the Legend of Love from the library! Mary, nee Blachford, had a severely religious upbringing. William Blachford died in 1773 leaving his wife Theodosia (daughter of William Tighe of Rossana, County Wicklow), a son John and daughter Mary. Theodosia converted to Methodism, founded by John Wesley, [4] and was involved in many charitable works including supporting the Leeson Street Magdalen Asylum for unmarried mothers, and the Female Orphan House on Prussia Street in Dublin. Mary married, at the young age of 21, her cousin Henry Tighe, who served as an MP in the Irish Parliament representing Inistioge, County Kilkenny. She lived her final months as an invalid in her brother-in-law William Tighe’s estate, Woodstock in County Kilkenny (the house is now a ruin but the gardens are open to the public), where she died of tuberculosis at the age of 37. A marble statue of her carved by Tuscan Lorenzo Bartolini, commissioned by her son after her death, stood in the hall of Woodstock before the house was burnt in 1922. However, there is another life-size sculpture of her by English sculptor John Flaxman in her mausoleum in the graveyard attached to the former Augustinian priory in Inistioge, County Kilkenny. [5]

Reverend Blachford’s son John inherited Altidore and lived there with his wife Mary Anne, daughter of Henry Grattan MP, from nearby Tinnehinch [6].

There was another fascinating portrait in one of the beautifully decorated rooms, this time of an Indian military man, who was a servant of an ancestor of Philip’s wife. This ancestor, named Dennehy, worked in India under Queen Victoria, and introduced Victoria to Indian servants – and through him she met her beloved Indian servant, about whom, and their relationship, there was a movie a few years ago, “Victoria and Abdul”! Philip’s wife was in Osbourne, Victoria’s home on the Isle of Wight, and noticed that there is a series of these pictures, matching her own, of Queen Victoria’s other Indian servants. Stephen and I also loved the tv series about young Victoria.

The most fascinating piece of furniture in the house was Lord Cornwallis’s travelling trunk from his time in the War of Independence in America. When he lost the War of Independence he surrendered the trunk to Washington. It is suitable that the family of someone who would have supported the rebel colonists – i.e. Robert Emmet – ended up with the trunk! It’s like a chest of drawers, and has wonderful compartments – one holds his shaving bowl, another is a board which can be pulled out to be a desk surface, another has cubbies for his toiletries. In a bottom drawer is a discreet commode!

Before the Emmets purchased the house in 1944, the Dopping-Hempenstals owned the house, from 1834 – 1918. They owned extensive lands in County Wicklow. They rarely lived in Altidore and instead, leased it out. At one stage it housed a tuberculosis sanatorium. According to the Irish Historic Houses website, Altidore changed hands many times over the next decades and was owned by two different banks on separate occasions. Finally, in 1945, James Albert Garland Emmet (who went by “Garland”) purchased the house on three hundred acres from Percy Burton, a bachelor who had allowed it to become very dilapidated. The Emmets carried out extensive restoration and created a large new garden, centred on a pair of canals from the early 18th century garden layout. These are the bodies of water we saw on the way in. The present owners, Philip (grandson of Garland Emmet) and his wife Vicky, have farmed the estate organically for nearly 20 years.

 

DSC_0663
one of the canals, now more of a pond

DSC_0665
archway from the sunken garden to the back of the house

DSC_0668

DSC_0669
side view of the house

We moved from the drawing rooms to the dining room. The walls are adorned with fine medallions of Classical figures in stucco relief. They were uncovered when the walls were being redone, under layers of paint and wallpaper! The Irish Aesthete writes about them, and has beautiful photographs on his website:

“One of the past year’s most fascinating personal discoveries was the dining room at Altidore Castle, County Wicklow …. Much of the interior decoration dates from that period [ca. 1730], including the dining room’s panelling. In the last quarter of the 18th century, however, additional ornamentation was added with the introduction of oval and circular plaster medallions featuring female classical deities and graces: this would have been around the period that Altidore was owned by Rev William Blachford … During the same period the interiors of nearby Mount Kennedy – designed by James Wyatt in 1772 but only built under the supervision of Thomas Cooley the following decade – was being decorated by the celebrated stuccadore Michael Stapleton. The medallions are not unlike those seen in Lucan House, County Dublin where Stapleton also worked: might he have had a hand in the plasterwork at Altidore?” [7]

Michael Stapleton (1747-1801) was a famous Irish stuccodore, known as the “Dublin Adam,” referring to the Scottish architect and interior designer Robert Adam (1728-1792), who worked in the neo-Classical style of plasterwork characterised by its delicacy and use of motifs copied from recently discovered paintings at Pompeii and Herculaneum, along with James Wyatt. [8] 

Philip told us that his ancestors, the Emmets, had to leave Ireland after Robert and his brother Thomas Addis Emmet rebelled. Thomas Addis Emmet moved to the United States. Thomas Addis Emmet (1764-1827) was a lawyer and politician, from a wealthy Anglo-Irish Protestant family, and fought to end discrimination against Catholics and Protestant Dissenters such as Presbyterians. He acted as a legal advisor for the Society of United Irishmen. He tried to find a peaceful way of introducting a non-sectarian democracy to Ireland. However, the United Irishmen were declared illegal, so efforts for a peaceful Catholic emancipation were abandoned. Instead, the United Irishmen sought  independence from Britain by armed rebellion. Thomas Addis Emmet advocated waiting until the French had arrived for the rebellion, but Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798) was more impatient and decided to go ahead with the rebellion in 1798. British intelligence infiltrated the United Irishmen and arrested most of the leaders, including Thomas Addis Emmet, on the eve of their rebellion on March 12, 1798. On his release in 1802 he went to Brussels, where he was visited by his brother Robert in October that year, who informed of the preparations for a fresh rising in Ireland in conjunction with French aid. However, at that stage France and Britain were briefly at peace, and the Emmets’ pleas for help were turned down by Napoleon.

Thomas received news of the failure of Robert Emmet’s rising in July 1803 in Paris. Robert was hung for treason in front of St. Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street in Dublin on September 20th 1803. Thomas Addis then emigrated to the United States and joined the New York bar where he had lucrative practice.

DSC_0963
Memorial in front of St. Catherine’s church, Thomas Street, Dublin

DSC_0964
plaque in front of St. Catherine’s church, Thomas Street, Dublin

In the United States the Emmet descendents went into, amongst other occupations, banking, and became wealthy. Philip’s great great grandfather did the European tour and became an art and object collector.

Thomas Addis Emmet’s grandson, also named Thomas Addis Emmet, visited Ireland in 1880. He hoped to move to Ireland but unfortunately he was not allowed by the government to live in Ireland, although he was a gynaecologist by profession, because it was thought that, like his ancestors, he may harbour rebellious tendencies. He requested that he be buried in Ireland so he could “rest in the land from which my family came.” Dr Emmet was interred according to his wishes, in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, in 1922. His grave marker was designed by the father and brother of the revolutionary Padraig  Pearse (they also sculpted the statues adorning St. Augustine and St. John church on Thomas Street).

It was the son of this Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, James Garland Emmet, who returned to Ireland and purchased Altidore Castle in 1944. He set up his home as the base the Irish branch of the Emmet family and gathered objects for a collection of Emmet memorabilia. Altidore still hosts an Emmet Museum. Fascinated, Stephen lingered in the museum room and traded stories with Philip. There are lovely miniatures of the Emmet family, and a sketch of Emmet done from his time in court, by – oh, who was it? Someone famous! [9] They also have Robert Emmet’s college books, with his sketches of uniforms – he was a good artist! He was thrown out of Trinity for being a revolutionary. The house also has some artifacts from Thomas Addis Emmet, and also Robert Emmet’s final letter from prison – written not to his fiance, Sarah Curran, as Stephen and I had believed, but to a politician, to urge him to excuse himself for not anticipating the rebellion. Robert Emmet was reknown for his secrecy.

We wandered back out to the ponds, which are divided into three, and are part of a canal running down the mountain. We found the old walled garden – not in use currently – and looked around the farm and the beautiful old farm buildings.

 

DSC_0674

DSC_0676

DSC_0679

DSC_0675 (1)

DSC_0673

[1] Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses published by Constable and Company Limited, London, 1988, previously published by Burke’s Peerage Ltd as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses, vol. 1 Ireland, 1978.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Pearce_(British_Army_officer)

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

[4] Mary Delany (1700-1788) whose letters are published, was Godmother to a musician in the Wesley family, and explains how the Methodist Wesleys were cousins of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington – who is honoured in the Wellington obelisk in the Phoenix Park.

[5] https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/05/13/of-wonderous-beauty-did-the-vision-seem/

The Irish Aesthete also notes: A new biography of Mary Tighe by Miranda O’Connell has been published by the Somerville Press.

[6] Tinnehinch was presented to Grattan, according to Mark Bence-Jones, in gratitude for  the part he played in obtaining freedom from British control in 1782. The house has been destroyed by fire but one storey of the ruin still stands and has been made into a feature of the garden of the present house, which is in the former stables.

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/01/02/getting-thoroughly-plastered/

[8] Other work by Michael Stapleton can be seen in Marlay House in Dublin, several houses in North Great George’s Street including Belvedere House, Powerscourt Townhouse, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2 and in Trinity College Dublin, especially in the Exam Hall and the Chapel. Note that Stapleton was the executor of Robert West’s will, and may have trained with Robert West. We came across Robert West’s characteristic stucco work in Colganstown.

DSC_0657 (1)
Examination Hall, Trinity College Dublin

[9] Perhaps the artist was John Comerford, who sketched Robert Emmet during his trial, and a miniature has been made from the sketch. The miniature is now in the National Gallery.

Moone Abbey House and Tower, Moone, County Kildare

 

DSC_0712
Moone Abbey House

contact: Jenifer Matuschka. Tel: 087-6900138

Listed Opening Dates in 2020 but check due to Covid 19 restrictions: May 1-31, Aug 15-23, Sept 1-30, 12 noon-4pm

Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

 

We visited Moone Abbey House on Saturday May 11th, 2019.

We had a 3pm appointment with the owner, Jenifer Matuschka. We visited Charleville House in Wicklow earlier in the day. Moone Abbey is at the far end of Kildare, approximately an hour away from Charleville. We arrived nearly an hour early, however, having given ourselves plenty of driving time in case we got lost on the way.

This gave us time to see the Abbey itself. The Abbey predates the house by centuries, so the house is named after the Abbey that was on its lands. Access from the road to the Abbey is a narrow gap in the stone wall. The Abbey contains the impressive Moone Cross, one of the two tallest Celtic Crosses in Ireland, and certainly the tallest that either Stephen or I had ever seen (we think – certainly none made such an impression, since we were able to stand right next to it). The Abbey is a ruin but a roof has been constructed to protect the cross, which originally stood outside the Abbey.

DSC_0697
The High Cross of Moone Abbey, looking inside the Abbey from the front

DSC_0698
inside the Abbey

 

DSC_0699
back of the Abbey

 

According to the Irish Historic Houses website [1]:

Behind the mid-18th century Palladian house are the remains of Moone Abbey, a monastery originally founded in the 6th century by St. Columkille and rebuilt almost 700 years later. The abbey contains the splendid High Cross of Moone, rediscovered amidst the ruins during the nineteenth century, while the house’s mediaeval predecessor stands a little way off; a ‘Ten Pound’ tower house in remarkably fine condition.

DSC_0708

Stephen and the south side of the cross

A panel describes the finding of the cross – and in fact there is a second cross displayed in parts, behind where Stephen stands in the photo above.

DSC_0703

The panel says:

The two remarkable High Crosses displayed here – one complete except for its cap, and the other surviving only in fragments – were probably both carved in the ninth century, and are the earliest surviving testimony to the existence of an early Christian monastery on this site. Yet its old Irish name, Moen or Moin Cholm-cille, the “walled enclosure” or “bog” of St. Colmcille, better known as Columba, suggests that the abbey may have been founded by the great Celtic churchman who lived in the sixth century. His connection with the site is supported by a twelfth century literary source, and a nearby well dedicated to him was a popular place of annual pilgrimage until the last century. The O’Flanagan family certainly provided hereditary abbots during the eleventh century but, by 1225, the archbishop of Dublin was in a position to give the monastery’s lands and mill to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

The Franciscans were said to have had a house in Moone, and this church with its long rectangular shape so typical of Irish medieval friary architecture, may well have been built by them, possibly around 1300, but abandoned when the English king Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1536-40. Outside, to the south-east, there was once a four-story tower in which the friars may have lived, but it was demolished in the early 1800’s, along with a Lady Chapel adjoining the north-east wall of the church.

Before 1850 a mason in search of good building stones discovered the base and head of the tall cross “deeply buried under a heap of fallen masonry” where the tower had once stood, and these were mounted together by the fourth Duke of Leinster and Mr Yeates, the then owner of the adjoining mansion. One Michael O’Shaughnessy later discovered a shaft portion which then lay loose around the churchyard for years until it was inserted between the other two parts in 1893, with assistance from the Kildare Achaeological Society. this helped to raise the height to over seven metres, and thereby made Moone of the two tallest High Crosses in Ireland.

The granite for the cross must originally have been brought from some miles away, and the slightly differing hues of the stones has led to doubts as to whether all three parts belong together, but no evidence to the contrary was found when the cross was temporarily dismantled in 1994, before being brought inside and displayed here in 1996.

 

Further panels explain the carvings on the cross.

DSC_0702

This picture explains the south side of the cross, from top to bottom:

human figure
human figure
human figure turned to left
angel
heart-shaped feature (enclosing human head?)
roaring lion
long eared animal sniffing the ground
Saints Paul and Anthony breaking bread in the desert – the hermit saints, seated on their high backed chairs in the middle of the desert, break the bread which the rather plump raven above them had brought for their nourishment.
The Temptation of (probably) St. Anthony the Hermit. A central figure, probably St. Anthony, tempted by the devil who, half human and half animal, appears in the guise of a goat and cock.
Six headed monster. There is a head at each end of this six-legged monster, from whose twin body-spirals four fabulous animals uncoil themselves, two with their heads in profile and the other pair with a head seen from above. The significance of this curious beast is uncertain (apocalyptic?).

DSC_0700

The Temptation of St. Anthony, Anthony in the middle with a goat on one side and cock on the other, representing the devil. Below is the six-headed monster.

DSC_0701
The Twelve Apostles. I had an apostle like this made of old bog turf – it was my mother’s, a gift from me or my sister, I’m not sure.

IMG_1141
my Moone Abbey Apostle. I never realised until I saw the cross at Moone that this statue’s design was based on the Cross of Moone. Statue is made by Owen Crafts, Ballyshannon, Ireland.

DSC_0704

Above, the west face: Adam and Eve being tempted by the snake, Adam about to sacrifice his son Isaac (with the ram in the thicket nearby which the Lord tells him to offer instead of his son), and below, Daniel in the lions’ den (he is saved by an angel). You can see the North side in this picture also, just about. This is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, to the side of Adam and Eve. King Nebuchadnezzar had thrown them in the furnace for refusing to worship a golden image he had set up, but they did not burn. I used to know a song about this, that I was taught along with my classmates in Australia by Mrs. Firth. It went “Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, lived in Judah a long time ago, they had funny names and they lived far away but they knew what was right and they knew what to say. This is a story that you ought to know about Shadrach, what kind of name is that? Meshach, who had a name like that? Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego-ooooh!” Below them on the cross is the Flight into Egypt of Mary and Jesus on the donkey and Joseph alongside, as they’d been warned of the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod. The final picture, on bottom, is the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.

DSC_0705
The west face of the cross: Jesus, with an animal above, and below, two human heads each in the claws of two serpents

We were still early when we drove up to the house. Someone passed by in jodphurs and said Jenny, the owner, would be out to us in a minute.

Jenny greeted us warmly. She told us first about the impressive tower. It is a “ten pound tower” – landowners were paid ten pounds in the 1400s to build a fortified tower for protection of the inhabitants to defend from Irish marauders: in this area, the O’Tooles were the marauders. (In Irish Castles and Historic Houses by Brendan O’Neill, he writes “In the early fifteenth century, government subsidies were offered to those able to construct castles or towers in the counties of Dublin, Kildare, Louth and Meath, but these “ten-pound” castles were fairly basic.”). 

The Irish Historic Houses website adds: “In return for building a defensive castle or tower, 20’ long, 16’ wide and at least 40’ high, dimensions that were smaller than those of a typical Irish tower house, landowners received a subsidy of £10 to help defray their expenses, perhaps the earliest instance of that much-loved Irish institution, the building grant.”

DSC_0731

The website also states that “the monastery was duly suppressed and dissolved in the sixteenth century, and its lands ultimately passed to the Jacobite O’Dempsey family who lived in the nearby tower house.”

The Jacobites were supporters of King James II. However, when James II fled from Ireland to France, and William of Orange was crowned king, Jacobites in Ireland lost their land. The estate was granted to a Cromwellian soldier, Thomas Ashe, who was buried in the nearby Rath of Moone. The Irish Aesthete writes in his blog entry on 30th Sept 2019 that Thomas Ashe was a Dublin alderman, who died in 1741. [2]

The property was subsequently leased for 999 years to Samuel Yates (or Yeats, the spellings have been used interchangeably), who built the current house in about 1750. Yates, according to the Irish Aesthete, was from Colganstown, in County Dublin, another property listed in Section 482! Colganstown is said to have been designed by Nathanial Clements, so Moone Abbey House may also have been designed by Clements although it is not known. Robert O’Byrne the Irish Aesthete also mentions the Dublin-based architect John Ensor as the possible architect of Moone Abbey House.

DSC_0723

Yates’s new house consisted of a central block, five bays wide and two of storeys over a basement, with wings on either side joined to the central block by curved walls. The stretch of the house, with the wings, make it “Palladian” style. Originally there was a single bay central breakfront surmounted by a pediment with a Diocletian window (a Diocletian or thermal window, according to Maurice Craig and Desmond Guinness in Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities, is a large semi-circular window with two vertical mullions dividing it into three. This styles derives from Roman baths!) [3]  After a fire in around 1800, the central block was rebuilt and given an extra storey, and the Diocletian window seems to have disappeared.

DSC_0710
the curved two storey wall, concealing a courtyard, that join the wings of the house to the main house

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Buildings of Ireland website describes the frontal aspect of the house [4]:

The ‘modern’ house is a fine example of a pseudo Palladian structure that is composed of a central residential block, linked by curved walls or wings to attendant ‘outbuildings’ and at Moone this arrangement has been little altered since first constructed. The house is composed of graceful Classical proportions and is without superfluous detailing – the porch to centre of the main (south-east) front, the bow to the rear (north-west), the curved walls and Dutch-style gables are all subtle features that enliven the composition. Furthermore, the regular distribution of openings adds a rhythmic quality to the piece. The house retains an early aspect and early materials, including fenestration and a slate roof...

There is a bay in the back which we didn’t see but one can see it in pictures on the National Inventory website. The wings of the house are two storey two bay blocks with Dutch gables.

Inside, Jenny pointed out to us that the house itself is surprisingly narrow from front to back, just one room “deep” plus the front hallway. The two wings are attached by concave walls which front courtyards rather than more rooms, so they make the house look bigger than it actually is. One of these attached wings has been used for stables in the past and is now to be renovated for accommodation, while the other is a guest-house.

DSC_0714
a statue in a niche in the concave wall between a wing and the main house

DSC_0713
The second curved wall that is between house and the wing, and the two storey, two bay wing, with its Dutch gable. This is now a guest house. Beyond lie the farm buildings.

The single storey projecting porch was added later in the 19th century.

The Irish Historic Houses website goes on to expand on the previous occupiers of the house:

Members of the Yates family were no strangers to drama. One was piked to death by the Ballytore rebels in 1798, suspected of alerting the authorities to their activities. Another was prosecuted for abusing his position as High Sheriff to seduce a young woman from Castledermot, while the 1800s fire was allegedly the result of a family feud that got out of hand. Eventually, their unconventional behaviour took its toll on the family finances and in the 1840s they were forced to sell under the Encumbered Estates Act after a tenure of almost a hundred years.

The purchasers were the O’Carroll family, who themselves sold out to the Bolands in 1910 while the estate was bought by a member of the princely German family of Hohenlohe in 1960 and their descendants still live at Moone today. Nearby is the famous castellated flour mill of the Shackleton family, ancestors of Sir Ernest the polar explorer, while the whole complex is approached from Moone village through a pair of splendid piers that originally formed one of the entrances to Belan, the long demolished great house of the famous collector, connoisseur and patron, Lord Aldborough.

After a brief tour of the house, Jenny then brought us out to the garden, including the walled garden. She then allowed us to climb up into the tower, at our own risk! We were thrilled to be allowed such access. It’s amazing to climb the original stairs in such a tower.

DSC_0709

DSC_0716
inside the Tower House

DSC_0726
Stephen climbs the stairs in the tower

DSC_0725

DSC_0722
the ceiling has been carefully made of overlapping slates

DSC_0721
ceiling slates, a corbelled roof. There is such a corbelled roof also inside Newgrange.

DSC_0719
a fireplace in an upstairs room in the tower, and window

The tower has been converted into a pigeon loft. The book Did you know…? 100 Quirky Facts about County Offaly by Amanda Pedlow (published by Offaly County Council, Nov 2013) contains an entry on pigeon houses. They were used to raise pigeons for food. Several tiers of small nest-holes are placed high above the ground to make it more difficult for rodents to kill the young pigeons. Nest holes are square shaped but in the tower in Offaly and perhaps the one in Moone, inside the walls the holes turn at a right angle to make an L shape. Inside this dark space the pigeons raise their young, called “squabs.” These were a valuable source of food. The birds were considered to be domestic fowl rather than wild game and belonged to the neighbouring house. The presence of a pigeon house was evidence of the high status of the owners.

DSC_0715
the pigeon boxes built into the tower

I was able to take aerial photos from the top, of the house and its surroundings.

DSC_0724

From the front of the house, and top of the tower,  we could see a beautiful single-span cast-iron footbridge over the Buggawn, or Griese, River. We headed down to see it after climbing the tower.

DSC_0711

DSC_0729

The house is beautifully situated near the river, with a lovely view toward another stone bridge in the other direction.

DSC_0727

 

 

DSC_0732
view from the river back toward the house and tower. The Abbey lies behind the house.

The house is a working farm, and Jenny and her husband, whose parents bought the house in 1960, also hosts bed and breakfast guests. The guesthouse is advertised on the airbnb website [5]. I’d love to return and stay!

 

[1]  http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Moone%20Abbey

[2] https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/09/30/moone-abbey/

[3] Maurice Craig and Desmond Guinness Knight of Glin, Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities.Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork, 1970.

[4] http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=kd&regno=11903614

[5] https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/11415715?guests=1&adults=1&sl_alternate_dates_exclusion=true&source_impression_id=p3_1559472574_rN9y32sa2JklBBRL 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coolcarrigan House and Gardens, Coill Dubh, Naas, County Kildare

Listed Opening Dates in 2020, but check first due to Covid 19 restrictions: Feb 17-22, April 20-21, May 11-15, 23-24, 25-29, Aug 4-7, 14-30, Sept 1-4, 7, 24-30, Oct 1-2, 5-9, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €8, OAP/student €5, child free

Contact: Robert Wilson-Wright 086 258 0439

http://coolcarrigan.ie/

On Sept 21st 2019, my husband Stephen and I visited Coolcarrigan House & Gardens, Coolcarrigan, Coill Dubh, Naas, Co Kildare. I rang Mr. Wilson-Wright that morning, leaving a message on his answering machine to say we’d be visiting during the open hours that day, hoping it would be alright since we hadn’t actually spoken to him in advance.

20190921_130912
entrance gates taken from inside the property – note the lovely tops on the side piers.

On the gates and there was a note welcoming visits, so we headed up the long driveway.

IMG_1015

We reached the house, and parked.

IMG_1016

We were lucky to have another sunny day!

Mark Bence-Jones describes the house in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses as a two storey nineteenth century house of three bays. According to Bence-Jones, there is a parapet along the entrance front, and a bracket cornice under the roof at the sides and a projecting porch, though I can’t see that the porch, if he means the front door, projects [1].

There was a note on the door with two mobile phone numbers to ring. Robert Wilson-Wright answered, and said he’d be out to meet us in a few minutes. On either side of the central block of the house, curved screen walls, ending in tall piers, project outwards and disguise the fact that the house has been considerably enlarged at the rear. The piers are topped with what look like pineapple representations, and the walls contain niches.

IMG_1018

To our left, when we stood in front of the house, stretched a beautiful vista of a lawn with curved urns on pillars in the distance.

IMG_1017

The Irish Historic Houses website states that the house is in the Georgian style, and was built in the 1830s by Robert Mackay Wilson on a large estate, to the designs of an unknown architect. It must have been a bit later, however, if Timothy Ferres is correct, and Robert Mackay Wilson was only born in 1829. [2] The Irish Historic Houses website continues “The façade has hooded mouldings over the upper windows and a simple parapet, while the central bay is emphasised by a pair of pilasters and a typical late Georgian door-case with a fanlight and sidelights.” [3]

20190921_130237

Mr. Wilson-Wright greeted us warmly. He brought us inside. The house has a lovely big hall, and the main reception rooms are off the hall. Robert gave us a brief history of the house and his ancestors. He is the sixth generation of the family to live in the house!

Mr. Wilson-Wright took us back to Robert Mackay Wilson’s father: William Wilson, a shipping magnate in Belfast, had four sons, and he bought each of them a house. These houses were Coolcarrigan in Kildare, Currygrane in Longford, Dunardagh in Dublin and Daramona House in Westmeath. The current Robert has made recordings about his family history,  which I found online [4].

The oldest son of the four, John, inherited Daramona House in County Westmeath from his father, and was High Sheriff for Counties Westmeath and Longford. Thejournal.ie explains what High Sheriffs were in Ireland: [5]

The concept of a sheriff is a pre-Norman one and its continued existence in Ireland is a remnant of English law.

The word itself comes from the words shire and reeve, where reeve is old English for an agent of the king and shire is an administration subdivision.

Originally comprising of a single ‘high sheriff’ with many ‘under-sheriffs’, they were responsible for the enforcement of court judgements.

Changes in the 19th century took the enforcement of these judgements away from the high sheriff and into the hands of the under-sheriffs who then, in turn, handed over the responsibility to bailiffs.

After independence, the Court Officers Act of 1926 led to the high sheriff being abolished and the transfer of under-sheriff functions to county registrars as each under-sheriff post became vacant.

John’s son William Edward Wilson became a famous astronomer. According to the website of the Northern Ireland Amateur Astronomy Association, William E. Wilsons’s father had a great influence on him, “a man of intellectual capacity who is 1885 published Thoughts on Science, Theology and Ethics.”  The Irish Aesthete writes of Daramona House and William Edward Wilson and tells us that it was a trip to Algeria to see a total solar eclipse that led to his interest in astronomy, and that he set up an observatory next to his house. [6]

The second brother was George Orr Wilson who was given Dunardagh, Blackrock, County Dublin. This house was taken over by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in 1939. [7]

The third, and youngest, of the brothers was James Wilson, who was given Currygrane in County Longford. This house is now demolished – it was burnt down in 1922 when James’s son, James Mackay Wilson, a noted antiquarian, was in residence [8]. Another  son of James Wilson was Field Marshal Sir Henry Hughes Wilson [more on him later].

The Mackay name of Robert Mackay Wilson is from his mother, Rebecca Dupre Mackay. Robert was given Coolcarrigan by his father. In 1858 Robert Mackay Wilson married Elizabeth, daughter of Murray Suffern of Belfast. He became High Sheriff of Kildare in 1887. Coolcarrigan passed to Robert Mackay Wilson’s only surviving child, Jane Georgina Wilson (1860-1926), in 1914. Jane Georgina married Sir Almroth Wright (1861-1947), in 1889. Almroth Wright was the son of the Reverend Charles Henry Hamilton Wright and his wife Ebba Johanna, daughter of Nils Wilhelm Almroth (Director of the Royal Mint in Stockholm and a Knight of the Northern Star of Sweden). Mark Bence-Jones describes Sir Almroth Wright as an eminent pathologist, author, and originator of the system of Anti-typhoid innoculation.

A stained glass window in the stairwell of Coolcarrigan contains the family crests.

IMG_1019

Current owner Robert showed us portraits of some of the prominent family members, including Almroth Wright. Wright worked on the development of vaccinations, and discovered the cure for typhoid. He also warned that antibiotics would eventually lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria. A far-sighted man!

The playwright George Bernard Shaw was his close friend and “Sir Colenso Ridgeon” in his play The Doctor’s Dilemma is based upon Sir Almroth. I haven’t read this play! While Sir Almroth studied medicine in Trinity College Dublin, he simultaneously studied modern literature and won a gold medal in modern languages and literature! (I studied pharmacy in Trinity, and subsequently took a degree in English and Philosophy in Trinity – I didn’t do them at the same time!).

In 1902 Wright started a research department at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. He developed a system of anti-typhoid fever inoculation and persuaded the armed forces to innoculate the troops in France during World War I. He remained in St. Mary’s, with a break during World War II, until his retirement in 1946. Alexander Fleming also worked and did research in St. Mary’s Hospital, and discovered penicillin. It must have been after the discovery of this antibiotic that Wright realised that bacteria can develop immunity to antibiotics.

Working in England, the Wrights must not have resided much in Coolcarrigan. In researching Almroth Wright I discovered that a biography has been written about him: The Plato of Praed Street: the Life and Times of Almroth Wright by Michael Dunhill, published in 2000. Wright worked in the University of Sydney, Australia, as Professor of Physiology, from 1889-1892. [9] Before that, not sure if he wanted to pursue medicine, he studied in the Inns of Court in London, reading Jurisprudence and International Law! (and here I am, pharmacist and philosopher, researching history! Some of us just can’t settle down it seems…)

Unfortunately Wright was not a fan of women’s suffrage, and thought women’s brains did not equip them for social and political issues. His arguments were most fully expounded in his book The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage (1913). His friend Bernard Shaw strongly disagreed with him, though never dissuaded him from his view.

Sir Almroth’s first son died young, so his second son, Leonard Almroth Wilson-Wright, inherited Coolcarrigan. He also served as High Sheriff for County Kildare. He married Florence, eldest daughter of James Ivory, Justice of the Peace, of Brewlands, Glenisla, Forfarshire.

Leonard did not remain in Coolcarrigan for long. He fled from Ireland in fear of being shot by the IRA. The IRA took over the house for a week. His cousin, the grandson of William Wilson whom I mentioned earlier, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, a Unionist, had been shot by the IRA in London in 1922. [there is more on Leonard and on the Field Marshall in Robert’s recordings footnoted below]

Leonard and Florence had one son, John Michael (Jock) Wilson-Wright, who married in 1953 Sheila Gwendolyn Yate, only daughter of Col. Henry Patrick Blosse-Lynch of Partry, Claremorris, County Mayo. Jock moved back to Coolcarrigan when he inherited in 1972. Jock and Sheila had three children, including Robert, the current owner.

According to the online description of his recordings, over time, Robert and his father have added some arable land to their property and have bought back some of the peat bog which had been taken under the Emergency Powers Act. Now the property is more viable as a business than it was previously, he explained to us.

Stephen asked Robert how his family fared during the famine, wondering whether they  had tenants. Robert explained to us that much of the land is bog, and that theirs was not a “big house.” This makes me curious as to how one defines a “big house.” According to Robert’s use, it must mean that a big house is a landlord’s.

IMG_1020

The side of the house, pictured above. Robert told us that a bath had to be brought to the upper floor via a window, which means the conservatory below it must have been built later than that although he wasn’t sure when. Bence-Jones writes that the main block is flanked by two 2 storey blocks at the back, and that these are joined to the back of the main block by lower ranges, enclosing a courtyard which is prolonged beyond them by walls, and enclosed at the opposite end to the house by an outbuilding.

IMG_1023
side of the house, showing wall at back joining the outbuilding

20190921_130120
view of the house from a different side

We headed out to the gardens. Robert explained that in the 1970s the garden was hit by a windstorm and many trees fell. Major replanting took place with the help of Sir Harold Hillier, an eminent English plantsman, so it now contains a collection of rare and unusual trees and shrubs in 15 acres of  garden and arboretum which experts travel from all over the world to see. The website details the plants through the seasons, with its constant display of colour. The greenhouse (see photo below) was restored.

IMG_1021

IMG_1030

IMG_1029

We were accompanied on our walk around the grounds by a lovely dog:

IMG_1022

IMG_1028

Paths have been created which enables wonderful wandering. We spent at least an hour walking around.

IMG_1024

IMG_1026

A walled garden contains an orchard:

IMG_1035

The corners of the walled garden have impressive towers:

IMG_1040

This tree below reminds me of the paperbark trees in Western Australia.

IMG_1038

Sculptures and garden furniture are studded romantically around the gardens:

IMG_1043

I could make out the artist’s name carved in to the leg of one of the rabbits, Kinsella.

IMG_1048

IMG_1046

Stephen particularly liked this statue, of what we assumed to be a Cavalier – we’re fond of the Cavalier soldiers of Charles II, with their flamboyant outfits.

IMG_1051

Stephen spotted this fascinating bird skull on the ground.

IMG_1052

Robert and his wife are creating an Arboretum.

IMG_1054

Within the demesne is romantic small Hiberno-Romanesque Revival Church of Ireland church, consecrated in 1885 by Archbishop Lord Plunkett, with a Round Tower and a High Cross. Its design derives from the 12th century Temple Finghin at Clonmacnoise on the River Shannon in County Offaly. There is still a service once a month in the church, and it can be booked for weddings and ceremonies. The interior, which unfortunately we did not get to see, has frescoes in Gaelic script, specially chosen by Dr. Douglas Hyde, first President of Ireland and a close family friend of the Wilson-Wrights. We tried to make out the pictures on the stained glass windows, dedicated to various members of the family, which are in the Celtic Revival style. This tiny complex, surrounded by trees and a dry moat, can be seen from the house and avenue. There’s also a small graveyard.

20190921_123605

20190921_123809
detail of the high cross in the small church yard

You can see more about the church with information and photographs of the windows on the Coolcarrigan website.

[1] 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.

[2] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Kildare%20Landowners?updated-max=2018-04-07T08:56:00%2B01:00&max-results=20&start=7&by-date=false

[3] http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Coolcarrigan

[4] https://www.irishlifeandlore.com/product/robert-wilson-wright-b-1956/

[5] https://www.thejournal.ie/explainer-irelands-sheriffs-541570-Aug2012/

[6] https://theirishaesthete.com/2020/05/11/daramona/

[7] for more on Dunardagh House, see https://www.youwho.ie/dunardagh.html

[8] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13400910/currygrane-house-currygrane-county-longford

[9] https://jramc.bmj.com/content/jramc/88/6/250.full.pdf

 

 

Tourin House & Gardens, Cappoquin, County Waterford

contact: Kristin Jameson
Tel: 058-54405, 086-8113841
listed website: http://www.tourin-house.ie [1]
Closed due to Covid 19. Listed open dates in 2020: April 1-Sept 30, Tue-Sat, National Heritage Week Aug 15-23, 1pm-5pm
Fee: house/garden: adult €6, OAP/student €3.50, child free.

DSC_0524
Tourin House

On Saturday 4th May last year (2019), after visiting Salterbridge, we crossed the Blackwater over an impressive bridge, to visit Tourin House, the house of the other Musgrave brother. As I mentioned in my entry for Salterbridge, Richard Musgrave of Wortley, Yorkshire, settled in Ireland. He had two sons. The elder, Richard, acquired land from the Earl of Cork and built Salterbridge House in about 1750. The younger, Christopher, settled in Tourin. The website states that Richard Musgrave purchased Tourin in 1780 – he was Christopher’s son.

The house we visited is not the house which Christopher lived in. That house still exists, and is known as Tourin Castle and it is part of the estate. This is a tower house that dates from 1450, according to the National Inventory of Architectural History. [2] Before the Musgraves, the land was owned by the Roches, and then the Nettles. The Roches lived in the towerbuilding (the Landed Estates database mentions a “Sir John Roch of Tourin”). They added a later house built at right angles on to the fortress in the 1600’s, where people who worked on the estate later lived, and today it is still occupied by people who work on the estate! The tower itself is unoccupied, and uninhabitable, I believe. John Nettles, originally from Hereford, settled in county Waterford in the mid 17th century. He was granted land in counties Cork and Waterford by patent dated 1666. The Nettles lived at Tourin and Mahallagh, county Waterford and at Beare Forest and Nettleville, county Cork. [3] John Nettles was High Sheriff of County Waterford in 1670. His heir, also named John Nettles, became a Major in the army and was also High Sheriff of County Waterford (1690-1). His son and heir, John Nettles of Tourin, Mahallagh (or Mahillagh) and Beare Forest, Co Cork, passed the properties to his son, John Ryves Nettles, who sold Tourin and Beare Foreste in around 1780. [4]

DSC_0557
Tourin Castle

DSC_0558
Tourin Castle

DSC_0556
The house built in the 1600s, onto Tourin Castle

DSC_0528
the view of Tourin Castle from Tourin House

Tourin Castle is part of the farmyard complex, which we visited after the house.

History of the Musgraves

According to the website of Timothy Ferres [5], Christopher Musgrave, the younger son of Richard Musgrave originally of Yorkshire who moved to Ireland, settled at Tourin and married Susannah, daughter of James Usher, of Ballintaylor. He was succeeded at his decease by his eldest son, Richard Musgrave (1746-1818), who was created a Baronet in 1782. He was Collector of Excise in the port of Dublin, MP for Lismore and sheriff of County Waterford, in 1778. As a political writer, he collected large amounts of information and evidence relating to the 1798 uprising, and published his findings in 1801 as Memoirs of the different rebellions in Ireland from the arrival of the English, with particular detail of that which broke out the 23rd of May, 1798; the history of the conspiracy which preceded it, and the characters of the principal actors in it. Although the work was detailed, Musgrave’s conclusions were sectarian and polemical. [6] He was fiercely anti-Catholic.

He married Deborah, daughter of Sir Henry Cavendish (who was also an MP in the Irish parliament for Lismore), but had no children, so the title devolved to his brother, Christopher Frederick Musgrave (1738-1826), 2nd Baronet, who married, in 1781, Jane, daughter of John Beere, of Ballyboy, County Tipperary. His son by Jane, Richard (1790-1859) was the heir.

The heir, Richard, 3rd Baronet, married Frances, daughter of the Most Rev. William Newcome Lord Archbishop of Armagh. It was Richard the 3rd Baronet who built the new house, Tourin House, in 1840. He also served as a Member of Parliament for County Waterford. His son Richard 4th Baronet, then his son Richard 5th Baronet, inherited. The 5th Baronet had no sons, so his elder daughter, Joan Moira Maud Jameson (née Musgrave) inherited the Tourin estate and her descendants live at Tourin today.

Tourin House

According to the website:

Tourin House is an Italianate style villa with classical proportions, Tourin House was finished in 1841. Tourin is a lived in House where one of the family welcomes groups and will give tours of the House and Garden.

The Musgraves moved from Tourin Castle to their new house built on higher ground. Mark Bence-Jones describes the new house as a square two storey house with an eaved roof on an unusually deep and elaborately moulded bracket cornice, which is echoed by a wide string-course. The entrance front, as you can see in my photograph, has three bays between two end bays, each of which has a one storey projection with a door and pilasters. The four bay garden front has triple windows in both storeys of outer bays, and a single-storey curved bow in the centre (see my photograph below). [7]

DSC_0560
the back of Tourin House, with single-storey bow and triple windows at either end, both top and bottom storey

The Irish Aesthete writes:

when the Musgraves gave up living in the old tower house and its additions at Tourin, County Waterford, they moved into a new residence on higher ground. Dating from the early 1840s the house’s rendered exterior, its design sometimes attributed to local architect Abraham Denny, is relieved by wonderfully crisp limestone used for window and door cases, quoins, pilasters, cornice and stringcourse. [8]

The eldest daughter (Joan Maura Maud) of the fifth Baronet Musgrave inherited Tourin and married Thomas Ormsby Jameson (of the Jameson whiskey family) in 1920. Their son Shane Jameson inherited, and married Didi Wiborg, a Norwegian. Their three daughters then inherited, and now own, the estate.

We were privileged to meet two of the sisters: Kirsten and Tara. The third, Andrea, an artist, was giving an art class. We were greeted at the door, after we rang the bell, by Rose. She used to live in the gatehouse, and works in the gardens. She gave us an introduction to the house and took our photo in the front hall, and showed us photos of the house as it was before some additions, done, I think, by the current residents’ mother, Didi, who also chose the paint colours for the walls, which are maintained, and planted many of the trees in the garden.

DSC_0525
splendid bifurcating staircase of oak in the front hall

In the sitting room  we came across one of the sisters, Tara. She was vacuuming. They were in the process of trying to fix one of the curtains, as a fixture had come loose from the wall. To rehang the curtain, the entire pelmet must be taken down – it gives one an idea of how much effort is required to maintain a heritage house. We had a lovely chat about the area. We explained that it’s our first time in the area, and she gave us several recommendations, including Foley’s on the Mall in Lismore, where we consequently decided to go for dinner!

I was disappointed not to be shown the upstairs of Tourin House. The owners were so kind, however. We met Kirsten in the hall and she told us of an art exhibition they’d had in the house, where several artists, including her sister Andrea, had two years to produce a piece in the garden, which were then exhibited in the house. The next exhibition of the group will be in Birr Castle.

We then headed out to the gardens, and to the enormous walled garden. The gardens were laid out at the beginning of the 20th century by Richard Musgrave, with the help of his friend, the Cork brewer Richard Beamish [5]. We were accompanied by an affectionate Red Setter. We learned later that one of the sisters breeds and shows Irish setters, and we met more in their kennels. They are lovely natured dogs.

DSC_0539

According to the website:

“A long formal Broad Walk leads from the House to the pleasure grounds and beyond there to the walled garden, which belonged originally to the tower house. Successive generations of the Musgrave and Jameson family (Joan Jameson married Tommy Ormsby Jameson in 1920) have left their mark on the garden. The present owners’ mother, Norwegian born Didi Jameson, was a keen plants woman and the fine collection of trees and shrubs that she planted has now reached maturity.

The Broad Walk leads to the more informal path of the pleasure garden past a colourful array of plants, shrubs and a rock garden to the walled garden, which has supplied the family with fruit and vegetables for generations. Today the Walled Garden is a mix of ornamental and productive planting and is at its best and most colourful in midsummer.

The gardens at Tourin cover over 15 acres including the main garden, walled garden, and extended broad-leaved woodland walks, which lead to the banks of the Blackwater river and Tourin Quay.”

DSC_0529

DSC_0532
the Rock Garden

DSC_0533

Near the entrance to the walled garden are some farm buildings, one of which holds Andrea’s art studio.

DSC_0544

DSC_0545

DSC_0559

DSC_0538

DSC_0543
by the entrance to the walled garden, wisteria.

DSC_0548
the walled garden, with beautiful irises of many varieties

DSC_0546

DSC_0549

DSC_0550

At the end of the walled garden we went through a gate and wandered into a breathtaking copse of bluebells.

DSC_0551

DSC_0553

DSC_0554

After the copse of bluebells, we ran into Kirsten out gardening. The sisters maintain the garden, which is often open to the public. She recommended that we walk to the river. We headed back out but her directions were not exact, and we took three wrong paths before heading back onto one we had already traversed! We met a woman walking her dog and she confirmed that we were on the correct path. She was the mother of the man who now lives in the old house next to the tower.

DSC_0536

We had been only metres from the river already but had trekked left rather than going over a small hillock to the river! Corrected, we found the Quay of the Blackwater, and indeed it was worth it!

DSC_0561

DSC_0562

[1] www.tourin-house.ie

[2] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22902916/tourin-castle-tourin-demesne-co-waterford

[3] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=2841

[4] Burke, John. A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland. 

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

[6] https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/learning/biographies/sirrichardmusgrave,1stbaronet(c1755-1818).aspx

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

and architectural definitions

[8] https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/06/18/to-new/

The Irish Aesthete’s “to new” title makes sense when we see his previous entry, “From Old,” which discusses the tower: https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/06/15/tourin/

Powerscourt House & Gardens, Enniskerry, County Wicklow

Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow

contact: Sarah Slazenger

Tel: 01-2046000

www.powerscourt.ie

Closed due to Covid-19. Section 482 listed open dates in 2020: All year, closed Christmas day and St Stephens day, 9.30am-5.30pm, ballroom and garden rooms Sun, 9.30am-1.30pm

Fee: Mar-Oct, adult €11.50, OAP €9, student €8.50, child €5, family ticket €25, Nov-Dec adult €8.50, OAP €7.50, student €7, child €4, family ticket 2 adults + 3 children €18, children under 5 free

DSC_1230.JPG
10th December 2009, my Dad and Stephen, when we went to Powerscourt to celebrate my birthday.

DSC_1234.JPG
Triton Lake. The winged horses form part of the family coat of arms and were made by Professor Hugo Hagen in Berlin in 1869.

I haven’t revisited Powerscourt Estate this year but I have been there many times, and as the lockdown continues for Covid 19, I will write another entry from previous visits and research. I want to write about Powerscourt in continuation of our Wingfield run!

I have hardly any pictures of the house, as it used to be that one went to the estate to see the gardens, since the house was gutted by fire in November, 1974, and remained closed for many years. Since then, it has been gradually renovated. Nowadays inside is a shopping mecca and lovely Avoca cafe, with a growing exhibition about Powerscourt estate itself. My family has been visiting Powerscourt estate since I was a child. The ultimate in romantic, with terraces, groves of trees, stone sculptures, nooks, the mossy labyrinth in the Japanese gardens, the “secret” boat house with its view onto the surface of the lake, and the Versailles-like Neptune fountain, the memory of its purple and grey dampness havs been an aesthetic touchstone for me when I have lived in hot, dry, bright,  Perth and California.

DSC_1235.JPG

powerscourt-lake by Jane Flanagan
view of Triton Lake from the boathouse. Photograph by Jane Flanagan.

The estate is named after previous owners of the land, the Powers, or Le Poers. The site was a strategic military position for the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century, and by 1300 the Le Poers had built a castle there. In 1609 the land was granted to Richard Wingfield, Marshall of Ireland. Richard Wingfield appealed to James I for the land in order to secure the district from the incursions of native Irish lords and the families who had previously occupied the land, such as the O’Tooles. [1]

The later Richard Wingfield, who became Viscount Powerscourt of the 3rd Creation, incorporated some of the old building in a new residence he had built in 1728. According to Sean O’Reilly in Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life, the 1974 fire exposed the fabric of the history of the house. He writes:

“The original structure consisted of a low range incorporated in the two bays to the left of the entrance. This appears to have been a long, two-storey, rectangular block, raised to a third storey in later development, and retaining, in one corner, a cross-shaped angle-loop. The vaulted room on the ground floor in this range survived into later remodellings. This earliest block, which dates from no later than the fifteenth century, was extended by a connecting block now incorporated in the garden front and, finally, by a third rectangular range fronted by the two bays on the right of the entrance, creating a U-plan.” [2]

powerscourt 2 flickr commons by Francesco Severi July 14 2013
The front centre block of Powerscourt, taken from flickr commons (photograph by Francesco Severi July 14 2013).

In 1961 the estate was sold by the 9th Viscount, Mervyn Patrick Wingfield, to Mr. Ralph Slazenger, and the Slazenger family still own it. [3] Coincidentally, my Dad used to play tennis with one of the Slazengers, who must have been a daughter of Ralph, when she was a girl. The same family owned Durrow Abbey near Tullamore in County Offaly (which they purchased in 1950, but it now belongs to the OPW). [4][5]

The Wicklow house built for Richard Wingfield, who was a Member of Parliament and whose descendent had Powerscourt Townhouse in Dublin built, was designed by Richard Castle (or Cassels), who had worked with Edward Lovett Pearce. Both Lovett Pearce and Cassels favoured the Palladian style, and Cassels took over all of Lovett Pearce’s commissions after his untimely death aged just 34. Cassels worked on Carton, designed Russborough House (another section 482 house which I will write about) and Leinster House. Powerscourt consists of a three storey centre block (see photograph above) joined by single-storey links to two storey wings, in the Palladian style. Borrowing from Mark Bence Jones’s description in his Irish Country Houses, the centre block has nine bays [6] and the entrance front is made of granite. There is a five bay breakfront in the centre of the middle block front facade, with a pediment of six Ionic pilasters (Ionic pillars have scrolls) standing on the bottom storey, which is, according to Bence-Jones, treated as a basement, and rusticated (rustication is the use of stone blocks with recessed joints and often with rough or specially treated faces, which is generally confined to the basement or lower part of a building). [6] One can see a good photograph of the front facade pediment, and the attic level above it, which ends in long scrolls, on the website of the National Inventory of Buildings [7]:

photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Buildings of Ireland. The pediment contains the arms of Richard Wingfield and his wife Dorothy Rowley

Bence-Jones continues in his description: between the pilasters on the breakfront are “rondels” containing busts of Roman emperors. The four bay links as well as the central block have balustraded parapets. The wings have four bays, “and the facade is prolonged beyond them by quadrant walls, each interrupted by a pedimented Doric arch and ending in an obelisk carrying an eagle, the Wingfield crest” (see the photograph below). [8]

This photograph shows the entire front facade of Powerscourt, including the centre block, the two four bay wings, and the quadrant walls beyond each wing that prolong the length of the front, and end in an obelisk on either end topped by an eagle. The quadrant walls contain an arch. photo from https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16400717/powerscourt-house-powerscourt-demesne-enniskerry-co-wicklow

the garden front, photo from https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16400717/powerscourt-house-powerscourt-demesne-enniskerry-co-wicklow

The garden front, pictured above, has seven bays between two bows on either end, and the bows are topped with copper domes. One side has a two storey wing. The garden  slopes down to a lake in a magnificent series of terraces. Powerscourt was built with sixty-eight rooms!

garden front of Powerscourt flickr commons by Francesco Severi July 14 2013
garden front of Powerscourt, from flickr commons (photograph by Francesco Severi July 14 2013). The fountain in this lake is based on the fountain in the Piazza Barberini in Rome and completes the splendid vista from the house down to the lake.

DSC_1231.JPG
Stephen and my Dad, Desmond, 2009

DSC_1225.JPG
the view down the terraces to the lake, Sugarloaf Mountain in the background.

DSC_1223.JPG
me and Stephen, 2009.

DSC_1228.JPG
Italian terrace, created by Daniel Robertson around 1842.

From 1842 onwards, the 6th Viscount of Powerscourt employed Daniel Robertson of Kilkenny to improve the gardens. Robertson created Italian gardens on the terraces, with broad steps and inlaid pavement, balustrades and statues. In the fountain below the “perron” of the main terrace, Mark Bence-Jones tells us, there is a pair of bronze figures of Eolus, “which came from the Palais Royale in Paris, having been sold by Prince Napolean 1872 to the 7th Viscount [Mervyn Edward Wingfield], who completed the garden.” [8]

DSC_1229.JPG
bronze figure of Eolus, from Palais Royale in Paris, sold by Prince Napoleon 1872 to 7th Viscount, Mervyn Edward Wingfield.

The garden work was continued by F.C. Penrose when Daniel Robertson died in 1849  while working on the gardens at Lisvanagh, County Carlow. Apparently Robertson was often the worse for wear during his work, as he was fond of the sherry. He took to directing from a wheelbarrow, as he had gout and difficulty walking – maybe not just due to the gout! The 7th Lord Powerscourt sought to create gardens similar to those he had seen in the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna and at the Palace of Versailles. His task took twenty years, completed in 1880.

There are many more elements of the garden to explore, such as the Japanese gardens, the pet cemetery, the pepperpot tower, and the walled gardens. I only recently discovered the pepperpot tower! When I visited the gardens with my parents, we must have always been too tired as a family, after exploring the rest, to walk up from the Japanese gardens to the pepperpot tower!

powerscourt-fountainby Jane Flanagan
the dolphin pond, with fountain brought from Paris by the 7th Viscount (photograph by Jane Flanagan)

powerscourt-walledgarden by Jane Flanagan
the walled garden (photograph by Jane Flanagan)

I have always loved the Japanese gardens, which remind me of the Japanese tea gardens in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. I have a lovely memory of having a cup of tea and a fortune cookie in San Francisco’s Japanese gardens, and the cookie contained the fortune I’d seen photographed earlier that day in a large photograph on display in a museum: “You will have many interesting and artistic people to your home.” It seemed too much to me at the time to be a coincidence – and it would be, I thought, at the age of about twenty, a dream come true. I sellotaped the fortune onto a small bookshelf on my desk, hoping it would come true. And indeed it has!

DSC_0952
our friends Helen and Grace playing at the Japanese gardens in Powerscourt, in June 2012. The Japanese gardens were created by the 8th Viscount Powerscourt, Mervyn Wingfield, and his wife, in 1908.

DSC_0951
part of my favourite part of the garden, the Grotto. The Grotto is one of the oldest parts of the garden, and is next to the Japanese gardens. It was created in 1740 by the 1st Viscount, and is made of fossilized sphagnum moss, taken from the banks of the nearby river Dargle.

DSC_1224.JPG

Bence-Jones writes of an incident about Powerscourt Waterfall, which is further out on the estate:

“the waterfall, the highest in the British Isles, which, when George IV came to Powerscourt 1821, was dammed up in order that the monarch might have an even more exciting spectacle; the idea being to open the sluice while the Royal party watched from a specially-constructed bridge. The King took too long over his dinner and never got to the waterfall, which was fortunate; for when eventually the water was released, the bridge was swept away.”

Powerscourt Waterfall with Larry, May 2008
Powerscourt Waterfall. There is a separate entrance now to the waterfall than there is to the rest of the estate.

The collection of statues, and the wrought iron gates, are beautiful.

Bamberg Gate in the Walled Garden, with its “vista” view of columns. Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Buildings of Ireland.

The Irish Aesthete tells us that the Bamberg Gate:

“was originally constructed in Vienna in 1770 and installed in Bamberg Cathedral, Northern Bavaria. Probably in the late 1820s, when all Baroque additions were stripped from the building, the gate was removed and sold: around 1870 Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt bought it from a London dealer and placed it in the present position. On the opposite side of the walled garden is the so-called Chorus Gate, the design supposedly based on a 17th century original (although this has not been found) and likewise purchased in London. Its intricate ironwork features myriad winged seraphim blowing trumpets. Both gates have recently been cleaned and re-gilded.” [9]

The National Inventory has two good pictures of the interior of the house, which is gradually being restored since the 1974 fire:

photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Buildings of Ireland. I cannot recall seeing this room. Is it because the house is now so full with everything going on, that I didn’t notice the decorative pillars and ceilng? That is quite possible! The columns and arches lead me to believe that this was the saloon, comparing it to archival photographs from before the fire, as seen in Sean O’Reilly’s book.

The interior of Powerscourt before the fire was magnificently sumptuous and slightly crazy! Fortunately photographs exist, and some are in the National Library archives:

powerscourt nli ref L_ROY_00401
the entrance hall of Powerscourt before the fire. Photograph from the National Library archives, on flickr commons.

I have never seen shells on a ceiling decoration such as these, although I know the famous letter writer Mary Delaney made similar decoration on a fireplace as well as filling an outdoor shell house, similar to the one at Curraghmore. The Wingfields must have prided themselves on their military connection, with their display of armour and guns, and their hunting prowess, with all the deer head and antler trophies and the skin rugs. There is even an antler chandelier, which Sean O’Reilly tells us is called an Austrian “Lusterweiblen.” Some of the antlers were made of papier-mache! O’Reilly published other old photographs of the interior in Irish Houses and Gardens, including of the saloon, which he explains is more in the Roman Renaissance than Palladian style, which is reflected somewhat in the rest of the house. (see [1])

I wrote about the history of the Wingfield family briefly in my entry for Powerscourt Townhouse. [10] As I noted there, the title of Viscount Powerscourt did not descend directly from the 1st Viscount, and the Richard Wingfield who had the house at Powerscourt built much as we now know it was the 1st Viscount of the 3rd creation of the title. He married, first, Anne Usher, daughter of Christopher Usher of Usher’s Quay, but they had no children. He married secondly Dorothy, daughter of Hercules Rowley of Summerville, County Meath. Their son, Edward, became the 2nd Viscount. When he died in 1764, Richard, his brother, became 3rd Viscount. Seven years after inheriting the title, Richard 3rd Viscount began the building of Powerscourt Townhouse, so that he had a grand Palladian home in Dublin for residing and entertaining, when not living in his estate in Wicklow. He married Amelia Stratford, daughter of John Stratford, the 1st Earl of Aldborough. For the rest of the Wingfield successors, see [11] and also the Powerscourt website.

The house was occupied by the Slazenger family in 1974 when the fire broke out on the top floor, leaving the main building completely destroyed. They had purchased the house complete with all of its contents. Fortunately, nobody was injured. The house was left abandoned for twenty years, but they opened the gardens to the public. In 1996 the family started the renovation process with a new roof and restoration of the windows. [12] (Surely not) coincidentally, Ralph Slazenger’s daughter Wendy (Ann Pauline) Slazenger married Mervyn Niall Wingfield, the 10th Viscount Powerscourt, in 1962. They divorced, however, the same year as the fire, in 1974.

Christies held a sale of the rescued contents of Powerscourt in 1984. Many of the belongings were purchased by Ken Rohan, owner of nearby Charleville House. When I visited Charleville, another section 482 house, the tour guide pointed out the grand decorative curtain pelments purchased in the Powerscourt sale.

Finally, there is a Bagot connection to the Wingfields, albeit indirectly, and I haven’t found any connection (yet!) of my family with this Irish Bagot family. Christopher Neville Bagot (1821-1877) married Alice Emily Verner. When Christopher died, he left a large estate. His son was born less than nine months after he married, and his brother contested the will, claiming that the son, William Hugh Neville Bagot (1875-1960) was not really Christopher Bagot’s son. Alice Emily and her son won the trial to the extent that her son inherited Christopher’s money, but Christopher’s brother inherited the land. Alice Emily came from a well-connected family. Her mother was a Pakenham. Her grandmother was Harriet Wingfield (1801-1877), a daughter of Edward Wingfield (1772-1859), who was the son of Richard Wingfield, 3rd Viscount Powerscourt – the one who built Powerscourt Townhouse!

[1] O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Arurum Press Limited, London, published 1998, paperback edition 2008.

[2] p. 111, O’Reilly, Sean.

[3] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Wicklow%20Landowners

[4] A Bagot married into the Herbert family, who owned Durrow Abbey before the Slazenger family. John Bagot married Mary Herbert, daughter of the 2nd Baronet of Durrow Abbey in 1728.

[5] For more on the ownership of Durrow Abbey, see the Irish Aesthete: https://theirishaesthete.com/2018/04/23/in-limbo-2/

[6] architectural definitions

[7] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16400717/powerscourt-house-powerscourt-demesne-enniskerry-co-wicklow

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

[9] https://theirishaesthete.com/2017/09/13/another-perspective/

[10] Powerscourt Townhouse, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2

[11] For the continuation of the Wingfield line who lived in Powerscourt, I refer to Burke’s Peerage, and to the website of Timothy William Ferres, otherwise known as Lord Belmont:

http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Wicklow%20Landowners

The Wingfields married well. The 3rd Viscount’s son inherited the title and estate: Richard Wingfield, 4th Viscount (1762-1809).

He married firstly, in 1789, Catherine, second daughter of John Meade, 1st Earl of Clanwilliam, by whom he had his successor, Richard.

RICHARD, 5th Viscount (1790-1823), married Frances Theodosia, eldest daughter of Robert Jocelyn, 2nd Earl of Roden, and their son, Richard, became his successor.

RICHARD, 6th Viscount (1815-44), who married, in 1836, his cousin, the Lady Elizabeth Frances Charlotte Jocelyn, daughter of Robert Jocelyn, 3rd Earl of Roden. He was succeeded by his son, Mervyn Edward Wingfield.

MERVYN EDWARD, 7th Viscount (1836-1904), KP, Privy Counsellor, who wedded, in 1864, the Lady Julia Coke, daughter of Thomas William Coke, 2nd Earl of Leicester (of the seventh creation!). According to Turtle Bunbury [13], Mervyn published two books: “Wingfield Memorials” (1894) and “A History of Powerscourt” (1903). He was elected president of the Royal Dublin Society and was also a member of the Royal Irish Academy of Science. He was made a Knight of the Order of St. Patrick in 1871. He was later appointed to the Privy Council of Ireland, acting as one of the Lord Justices of Ireland in 1902.

Mervyn Edward and Julia’s son, Mervyn Wingfield (1880-1947), become the 8th Viscount and succeeded to Powerscourt. The 8th Viscount was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Wicklow, from 1910 until 1922. After Irish Independence, he was elected by W.T. Cosgrave to serve as a Senator in 1921. His son, Mervyn Patrick Wingfield (1905–73) became the 9th Viscount.

The 9th Viscount followed in the family’s military tradition and served in WWII and was captured and became a prisoner of war. According to wikipedia [14], he suffered from shell shock. His wife and children moved to Bermuda during the war and returned to Powerscourt afterwards but their marriage fell apart, and Mervyn Patrick sold Powerscourt.

According to Turtle Bunbury, Richard Wingfield 1st Viscount had a daughter, Isabella, who in 1722 married Sir Henry King, MP for Boyle and Roscommon, who built King House in County Roscommon, another section 482 property. [13]

Turtle Bunbury also tells us that the 6th Viscount Powerscourt purchased Luggala, also in County Wicklow, in 1840, from the “financially challenged” La Touche family. We will come across the La Touch family when I write about Harristown, another Section 482 property.

[12] http://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Wicklow/Powerscourt-House.html

[13] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_powerscourt.html

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mervyn_Patrick_Wingfield,_9th_Viscount_Powerscourt

Salterbridge House and Garden, Cappoquin, County Waterford

Contact: Philip & Susan Wingfield
Tel: 058-54952, 086-8223005
www.salterbridgehouseandgarden.com
Closed until further notice due to Covid 19. [Listed open dates in 2020: Apr 17-30, May 1-31, June 1, Aug 15-28, 9am-1pm but it is NOT open]
Fee: house/garden €10, house or garden only €5, child/student half price, OAP free

47065893434_aab36c29f5_o

This morning (Saturday 4th May 2019) we headed out to Salterbridge. We took an extremely scenic wrong turn, going up hairpin bends on a road, around county roads and back down via further hairpin bends!   I never knew that Waterford is so beautiful! I joked with Stephen that everyone who lives in Waterford has to swear to keep it a secret how beautiful it is! Everyone I mention it to here says it’s the hidden county! Thank goodness for gps. We found Salterbridge with the gps, and turned into a long driveway.

DSC_0518

I had emailed in advance and they knew we were coming. We were greeted by Susie and her son Edward. Susie gave us a quick run down as to why there are many estate houses in the area: it’s because of the Blackwater River. It runs in from the sea and Cappoquin is strategically situated. Salterbridge and Tourin, nearby, were owned by a pair of brothers, the Musgraves. The original house on this site was built in about 1750 by Richard Musgrave on land which had been acquired from the Lismore Castle Estate, from the Earls of Cork. [1] Richard was the elder son of Richard Musgrave of Wortley, Yorkshire, who settled in Ireland, whose younger son was Christopher, who settled at Tourin. We visited Tourin later that afternoon.

47065894064_81ff455617_o
front, with three bay projecting centre, and one of the two wings. The projecting centre has a glazed porch, a parapet, and plain pilasters between the bays which rise the height of the two storeys.  The wings are one bay, and have a one-storey three sided bow.

Mark Bence Jones describes Salterbridge in A Guide to Irish Country Houses as a two storey house of 1849, built onto the front of an earlier house. [2] It is not known how much of the original house has been retained. Richard Musgrave died in 1785 (an information leaflet which Susie’s husband Philip gave us, tells us that Richard Musgrave’s memorial, by William Paty of Bristol, can be seen in Lismore Cathedral). Musgrave’s daughter Janet, who had married Anthony Chearnley (1716-1755 [3]) of Affane (County Waterford), inherited the property. The house, which in the nineteenth century was at the centre of an estate of over 18,000 acres, passed in turn to their son Richard Chearnley, and it remained in the  ownership of the Chearnley family until 1947, when it was bought by Susie’s husband’s family, the Wingfields of Suffolk.

The 1849 front was built for Richard Chearnley, but the builder or architect is not known. The house is in the “Regency Picturesque” style. Bence-Jones writes that the house extends around three sides of a courtyard, enclosed on the fourth side by a screen wall with an arch. I wouldn’t have been able to tell that the house forms a u-shape, it’s not obvious from the ground. We went around the side after our house tour, to see the courtyard and arch. The arch shows the date of 1849, seen when looked at from inside the courtyard.

DSC_0516

DSC_0517
inside the courtyard

The 1849 front consists of a three bay centre, with a parapet (a low protective wall along the edge of a roof, bridge, or balcony) and tall grey limestone pilasters between the bays (a pilaster is a flat rectangular pier or column projecting slightly from the wall – the Irish Aesthete describes these ones as Tuscan) [4][5]. There are three cut limestone steps up to the projecting front door porch, which is single bay, single storey with a flat roof. The house has two storey one bay wings with eaved roofs and single storey three sided bows, as Bence-Jones describes, and Wyatt windows were installed. A Wyatt window, according to Bence-Jones, a rectangular triple window, named after the English architect, James Wyatt (1747-1813).  The porch is glazed and in the Classical style. The wings have pilasters at their front end similar to the four limestone pilasters of the centre block and the bow parapets match parapet of the central porch and block.

The National Inventory website tells us that one side has six bays (west) and the other, four bays. [6]

47065892854_70bfbe780a_o
four bays on the east side

DSC_0504
six bays on the west side

The interior shows its early Victorian origin. The date 1884 is carved into the oak panels in the hall. You can see the carved oak panel with the date, and the marvellous wooden carved fireplace complete with cherub, on the Irish Aesthete’s website [7] The hall has a bifurcating oak staircase behind a screen of dark wood Corinthian columns.

Susie showed us a quirky feature : the rooms were panelled and there’s a gap between two doors, which her children called “the elevator.” That is, on leaving one room you can close the door behind you, and the room you are entering has another door, so if both are closed, you stand in a little space like an elevator! We first entered the dining room, and her husband Philip then joined us. His parents, the Wingfields, bought Salterbridge House. They came from England, and were cousins of the Wingfields of Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry. [8] Philip pronounced it “Poerscourt” because apparently it was initially named after the de la Poer family, who lived in Wicklow.

We next entered the drawing room, which has ceiling decoration of scrolls and shields.

In 1916 Captain Henry John Chearnley (1882-1935) succeeded to the estate, from Major Henry Philip Chearnley (1852-1916), who was a Justice of the Peace and a Deputy Lieutenant. He died in 1935. In 1940, Philip told us, the house was requisitioned for the army: being in such a strategic position made it vulnerable to an invasion by the Germans. Mrs. Chearnley and her son were given just twenty-four hours notice to leave the house.  In 1947, it was sold to the Wingfields.

Philip showed us features of the house. I told him of my blog. He told us of the history of the house and of his family, the Wingfields. We were delighted to learn that he is distantly related to Thomas Cromwell (see my Powerscourt townhouse entry)! Naturally this current indirect descendent Philip read Hillary Mantel’s books, Wolf Hall and its sequel, and he told us a third is to follow! Fantastic! I can’t wait, as I read and loved them too, after watching the brilliant rendition of Cromwell by Mark Ryland! [9]

Another ancestor of Philip’s, on his paternal grandmother’s side, the Paulets, or Pouletts as they later spelled it, from Somerset, was involved in the unification of Scotland with England in the time of Queen Anne. “Not under James I?” I asked. No, I learned, they were still two separate  countries then. It was under Anne that the Scots agreed to unification, as they had run out of money, Philip told us. It’s lovely to learn history in such a conversational way, chatting with home owners about their ancestors. We were shown some beautiful rooms upstairs,  then we headed out to explore the gardens.

DSC_0508

We have been blessed with the weather. We admired the flowering rhododendrons, magnolias and camelias. According to a website, the trees include most notably four splendid Irish yews, a cork oak, an Indian horse chestnut and a single leaved ash.

DSC_0507

DSC_0509

 

DSC_0513

DSC_0512

DSC_0510

The house has a gorgeous view, and a road used to run along the front of the house, as one can see by the fantastic bridge to one side of the front of the house – the bridge for which Salterbridge was named.

40888692253_3e46098c64_o

40888691283_7bb6e8000c_o
the bridge of Salterbridge, a single arched bridge over a stream

It was nearly 2pm at this stage so we fetched our bagels from the car, sat on the bridge to lunch. Stephen rang ahead to Tourin House to let them know that we were coming for a visit.

[1] http://www.lismoreheritagetown.ie/comunity/salterbridge-house-gardens/

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

[3] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/2014/08/salterbridge-house.html

Anthony Chearnley left Salterbridge to his son, Richard. Richard died childless in 1791, so the estate passed to his brother, Anthony (1762-1842). He was High Sheriff of County Waterford. His first son died unmarried and his second son, Richard (1807-1863), succeeded to the estate in 1842 and also followed in his father’s footsteps to become High Sheriff of County Waterford. He married Mary, daughter of Henry Cotton, Archdeacon of Cashel. It is this Richard who built the addition to Salterville. Their oldest son, Richard Anthony Chearnley, died young, and was only thirteen years old when he inherited the property. He died at the age of 29 in 1879, and was succeeded by his younger brother, Henry Philip Chearnley (1852-1916). He too was High Sheriff of County Waterford, and a Major in Waterford Artillery Militia. He was succeeded by his son, Henry John Chearnley, who died in 1935. In 1940, when the house was requisitioned, it must have been Henry John’s wife, Dora, daughter of Henry Lamont, who lived in the house, along with their children.

[4] https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/02/27/a-blackwater-beauty/

[5] architectural definitions

[6] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22902114/salterbridge-house-salterbridge-cappoquin-co-waterford

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/08/29/salterbridge/

[8] see my entry for Powerscourt Townhouse, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2

[9] There is more about the Wingfield family on the Powerscourt estate website
https://powerscourt.com/bid154226the-lineage-of-the-wingfield-family-at-powerscourt-estate-wicklow

It says:

The Viscounts Powerscourt were the second largest landowners in County Wicklow, with over 40,986 acres. Prior to coming to Ireland, the family lived at Wingfield Castle in Suffolk in the U.K. Sir Richard Wingfield (1550-1634) was made Marshal of Ireland by Elizabeth I; and by James I, for his military achievements and was created Viscount Powerscourt in 1618.

“The title ‘Viscount Powerscourt’ expired in 1634, on Lord Powerscourt’s death, without any male children; but was conferred, in 1665, on his male heir, Folliott Wingfield (1642-1717), 1st Viscount of the 2nd creation; who also died without male issue, in 1717, when the title became extinct. Then, Powerscourt Estate descended to:

“Edward Wingfield, ESQ, knight, of Carnew, County Wicklow,
A distinguished soldier under the Earl of Essex, and a person of great influence and power in Ireland. He married Anne, daughter of Lord Cromwell and sister of Thomas, 1st Earl of Ardglass.

 

Powerscourt Townhouse, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2

IMG_1954

Contact: Mary Larkin

Tel: 01-6717000

www.powerscourtcentre.com

Open in 2020: All year except New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Day & Bank Holidays, Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm, Thurs, 10am-8pm, Sundays, 12 noon-6pm

Fee: Free

 

This house was built for the 3rd Viscount Powerscourt, Richard Wingfield (1730-1788), in 1771, as his city residence. He already owned the Wicklow estate and grand house of Powerscourt in Enniskerry. I came across the Wingfield family first on my big house travels last year, when Stephen and I visited Salterbridge House in Cappoquin, County Waterford, which is owned by Philip and Susan Wingfield (Philip is the descendent of the 3rd Viscount Powerscourt, by seven generations! [1]).

Kevin O’Connor writes in his Irish Historic Houses that “The palazzo was originally laid out around an open square. This has now been fitted (and covered) in to provide a centre specialising as a grand emporium for crafts, antiques, shopping and restaurants.”

IMG_1706

I am writing this blog during the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020! I started to take pictures of Powerscourt townhouse last December, when it was in its full glory inside with Christmas decorations, knowing that it is listed in section 482. Today I will write about the history of this house and share my photographs, although I have not yet contacted Mary Larkin, who must manage the Townhouse Centre. Last week before the lockdown, when most of Ireland and the world were already self-isolating and most shops were closed, Stephen and I walked into town. It was a wonderful photographic opportunity as the streets were nearly empty.

IMG_1970

The French Connection entrance side is opposite the Westbury Mall.

IMG_1967

The grander side is opposite from Grogans, and next to the old Assembly House which is now the headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society. The walkway by Grogans leads down to the wonderful Victorian George’s Arcade buildings.

IMG_1950

IMG_1971

IMG_1975
South City Markets, by Lockwood & Mawson, 1878-81.

IMG_1957

Above, by the wall of our favourite pub, Grogans, is the picture of the James Malton engraving (1795) of the neo-Palladian Powerscourt Townhouse. This sign tells us that the house was begun in 1771 and completed in 1774 and cost £8000. It was designed by Robert Mack, who was an amateur architect and stonemason, for Richard Wingfield, 3rd Viscount Powerscourt.  The west front of the house. Malton tells us, is faced with native stone from the Wicklow estate, with ornament of the more expensive Portland stone, from England. Inside the mansion are elegant rooms, and in the Dining Room and Drawing room are slabs of the lava from Mount Vesuvius, mounted in gilt frames and placed as Pier tables between the windows. The staircase is mahogany, with richly carved balusters.

 

The house is historically and architecturally one of the most important pre-Union mansions of the Irish nobility. The Wingfields, Viscount Powerscourt and his wife Lady Amelia Stratford (daughter of John, Earl of Aldborough), would have stayed in their townhouse during the “Season,” when Parliament sat, which was in the nearby College Green in what is now a Bank of Ireland, and they would have attended the many balls and banquets held during the Season.

 

Richard was the younger son of the 1st Viscount Powerscourt, and he inherited the title after his older brother, Edward, died. He was educated in Trinity College, Dublin, and the Middle Temple in London. He served in the Irish House of Commons for Wicklow County from 1761-1764. In 1764 he became 3rd Viscount after the death of his brother, and assumed his seat in the Irish House of Lords.

IMG_1955

Archiseek tells us that it was Richard Cassells (or Castle) who designed the building. [2] Architectural historian Christine Casey describes it as  reminiscent of Richard Castle’s country-house practice, although she writes that it was designed by Robert Mack. The arch to the left of the house was a gateway leading to the kitchen and other offices and there is a similar gateway on the right, which led to the stables.

 

The house has four storey over basement frontage to South William Street, with “stunted and unequal niched quadrants” (see this in the photograph above, between the main block of the house, and the gateway) and pedimented rusticated arches. [3][4] According to Christine Casey, the nine bay façade is faced with granite and has an advanced and pedimented centrepiece crowned by a solid attic storey with enormous volutes like that of Palladio’s Villa Malcontenta [4]. This was the observatory. The ground floor has round-headed windows, while the piano nobile has alternating triangular and “segment-headed” pediments [“Piano nobile” is Italian for “noble floor” or “noble level”, also sometimes referred to by the corresponding French term, bel étage, and is the principal floor of a large house. This floor contains the principal reception and bedrooms of the house]. There is a Venetian window and tripartite window over the doorcase [Wikipedia defines the Venetian window: “the Venetian window consists of an arched central arched light symmetrically flanked by two shorter sidelights. Each sidelight is flanked by two columns or pilasters and topped by a small entablature”].

IMG_1961

When one walks up the balustraded granite steps leading to the front door, through the hall and past the mahogany staircase, one enters what was the courtyard of the house.

IMG_1701

The garden front is of seven bays rather than nine, and has a broader three-bay advanced centrepiece.

IMG_1969

Inside just past the entrance hall, we can still mount the staircase and see the wonderful plasterwork by stuccodores James McCullagh assisted by Michael Reynolds.

 

The decoration on the upper walls consists of panels decorated with arabesque work interspersed with urns, acanthus scrolls [4], palms and portrait medallions. I haven’t discovered who is pictured in the portraits! Neither Christine Casey nor the Irish Aesthete tell us in their descriptions.

 

The mahogany staircase rises in three flights to the first floor. The balusters are probably the most elaborately carved in Ireland, and the handrail ends in a large volute or “monkey’s tail” at the base of the stairs (see photograph below). The woodwork carving is by Ignatius McDonagh. I need to go back to take a better picture of the balustrade. We saw an even larger “monkey tail” volute end of a staircase in Barmeath, more like a dragon’s tail than a monkey, it was so large!

IMG_1716
see the “monkey tail” wooden volute at end of stairway

IMG_1717

IMG_1719

IMG_1720

IMG_1721

IMG_1722

IMG_1723

Ionic pilasters frame two windows high up in the east wall – we can see one in the photograph above. The lower walls are “rusticated in timber to resemble stone,” Casey tells us. I didn’t notice this! I would have assumed that the brickwork was of stone, not of timber.

 

The Wingfield family descended from Robert, Lord Wingfield of Wingfield Castle in England, near Suffolk. The first member of the family who came from England was Sir Richard Wingfield, who came under the patronage of his uncle, Sir William Fitzwilliam, the Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1561 to 1588. In 1609 King James I granted Richard Wingfield, in reward for his services to the Crown, the lands of Powerscourt in County Wicklow. Richard was a military adventurer, and fought against the Irish, and advanced to the office of Marshal of Ireland. In May 1608 he marched into Ulster during “O’Doherty’s Rebellion” against Sir Cahir O’Doherty, and killed him and dispersed O’Doherty’s followers. For this, he was granted Powerscourt Estate, in 1609. [5]

 

In 1618 James I raised Richard to the Peerage as Viscount Powerscourt, Baron Wingfield. The family motto is “Fidelite est de Dieu,” faithfulness is from God.

 

Richard the 3rd Viscount Powerscourt succeeded to the title in 1764. He was not a direct descendant of the 1st Viscount Powerscourt. Richard the 1st Viscount had no children, so the peerage ended with the death of the 1st Viscount. The Powerscourt estate in Wicklow passed to his cousin, Sir Edward Wingfield, a distinguished soldier under the Earl of Essex (Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex), and a person of great influence in Ireland. [6] Essex came to Ireland to quell a rebellion that became the Nine Years’ War. Sir Edward Wingfield married Anne, the daughter of Edward, 3rd Baron Cromwell (descendent of Henry VIII’s Thomas Cromwell). [7]  It was this Edward Wingfield’s grandson Folliot (son of Richard Wingfield), who inherited the Powerscourt estates, for whom the Viscountcy was revived, the “second creation,” in 1665. [8]

 

However, once again the peerage expired as Folliot also had no offspring. Powerscourt Estate passed to his cousin, Edward Wingfield. Edward’s son Richard (1697-1751) of Powerscourt, MP for Boyle, was elevated to the peerage in 1743, by the titles of Baron Wingfield and Viscount Powerscourt (3rd Creation).

 

This Richard Wingfield was now the 1st Viscount (3rd creation). He married, first, Anne Usher, daughter of Christopher Usher of Usher’s Quay, but they had no children. He married secondly Dorothy, daughter of Hercules Rowley of Summerville, County Meath. Their son, Edward, became the 2nd Viscount. When he died in 1764, Richard, his brother, became 3rd Viscount. Seven years after inheriting the title, Richard 3rd Viscount began the building of Powerscourt Townhouse.

 

An information board inside the house quotes the “Article of Agreement” between Lord Powerscourt and the stonemason Robert Mack:

 

Two shillings for each foot of the moulded window stooles and cornice over the windows, two shillings and eight pence for the Balusters under the windows… three shillings and three pence for the great cornice over the upper storey. Three shillings for each foot of flagging in the Great Hall to be of Portland Stone, and black squares or dolles, one shilling and six pence for each yard of flagging in the kitchen and cellars of mountmellick or black flagges.”

 

This information board also tells us that the original setting of the house would have been a garden to the rear of the house, laid out in formal lawns with box hedging and gravel walks.

IMG_1707

The attic storey originally contained an observatory, from which one could see Dublin Bay. The ground floor contained the grand dining room, the parlour, and Lord Powerscourt’s private rooms. Ascending to the first floor up the magnificent staircase, one entered the rooms for entertaining: the ballroom and drawing room.

 

No expense was spared in furnishing the house. As well as the rococo plasterwork on the stairs there was neo-Classical work by stuccodore Michael Stapleton. According to the information board (pictured below), much of the more sober neo-Classical work was cast using moulds, no longer created freehand the way the rococo plasterwork was done. The neo-Classical work was called the Adams style and in Powerscourt Townhouse, was created between 1778-1780. Stapleton’s work could have been seen in the Dining Room, Ballroom, Drawing room and Dome Room.

IMG_1709

IMG_1711

IMG_1712

You can see the entrance hall to one side of my picture, through the door. I didn’t take a proper picture of the entrance hall as it is now occupied by a flower shop and is always busy!

IMG_1715

You can just about see the “trompe l’oeil” floor in the entrance hall in the photo above, made up of black Kilkenny marble, grey and white limestone.

IMG_1724

I didn’t visit the areas in which you can see the neo-Classical work – I shall have to go again once the Covid-19 lockdown is over! So please do check for an update to this entry in a few weeks (or months, depending on when this lockdown ends!). The ceiling in a room now occupied by The Town Bride, which was the original music room, and the ballroom, now occupied by the Powerscourt Gallery, contain Stapleton’s work.

 

The townhouse website tells us that Richard Wingfield was known as the “French Earl” because he made the Grand Tour in Europe and returned wearing the latest Parisian fashions. He died in 1788 and was laid out in state for two days in his townhouse, where the public were admitted to view him! His son Richard inherited the title and estates.

 

After the house was sold by the Powerscourt family the gardens were built over between 1807 and 1815, when the house became the home of the Government Stamp Office. After the Act of Union, when the Irish Parliament was abolished and Ireland was ruled by Parliament in England, many Dublin mansions were sold. In July 1897 Richard 4th Lord Powerscourt petitioned Parliament to be allowed to sell his house to the Commissioner of Stamp Duties. The house was described as black from “floating films of soot” produced by the city’s coal fires. I can remember when Trinity was blackened by soot also before smoky coal was banned from Dublin, and extensive cleaning took place.

 

Several alterations were made to make the house suitable for its new purpose. This work was carried out by Francis Johnston, architect of the Board of Works, who designed the General Post Office on O’Connell Street. He designed additional buildings to form the courtyard of brown brick in Powerscourt townhouse, which served as offices. This consisted of three ranges of three storeys with sash windows. He also designed the clock tower and bell on Clarendon Street.

 

In 1835, the Government sold the property to Messrs Ferrier Pollock wholesale drapers, who occupied it for more than one hundred years. It was used as a warehouse. I’m sure the workers in the warehouse enjoyed going up and down the grand staircase!

 

In 1981 the buildings were converted into a shopping centre, by architect James Toomey, for Power Securities. The courtyard was glazed over to make a roof.

IMG_1708

IMG_1703

IMG_1704

Despite the very helpful information boards, I find it impossible to imagine what the original house looked like. I took pictures walking around the outside of the shopping centre.

IMG_1962

IMG_1963
There’s an art deco feel to the curved middle projection on the upper storey at the side.

IMG_1964
Perhaps the detailing to the sides – the inset pillars and medallions – of this side entrance to the shopping centre are by Francis Johnston (who trained under Thomas Cooley, creator of Rokeby Hall, also on Section 482).

IMG_1965

IMG_1966

Powerscourt Townhouse was one of my haunts when I first moved to Dublin in 1986 (after leaving Dublin, where I was born, in 1969, at eight months old). I loved the antique stores with their small silver treasures and I bought an old pocket watch mounted on a strap and wore it as a watch for years. My sister, our friend Kerry and I would go to Hanky Pancakes at the back of the town centre, downstairs, for lemon and sugar coated thin pancakes, watching them cook on the large round griddle, being smoothed with a brush like that used to clean a windshield. For years, it was my favourite place in Dublin. Pictured below is the pianist, an old friend of Stephen’s, Maurice Culligan. My husband bought my engagement ring in one of the antique shops!

IMG_1710 (1)
Maurice Culligan playing piano in Powerscourt Townhouse

DSC_1117.JPG
my engagement ring, purchased in Powerscourt Townhouse

[1] I traced the genealogy of the owner of Salterbridge, Philip Wingfield. I traced him back to the owners of Powerscourt Townhouse. Richard 4th Viscount Powerscourt (1762-1809) has a son, Reverend Edward Wingfield (his third son) (b. 1792). He marries Louise Joan Jocelyn (by the way, he is not the only Wingfield who marries into the Jocelyn family, the Earls of Roden). They have a son, Captain Edward Ffolliott Wingfield (1823-1865). He marries Frances Emily Rice-Trevor, and they have a son, Edward Rhys Wingfield (1848-1901). He marries Edith Caroline Wood, and they have a son, Captain Cecil John Talbot Rhys Wingfiend. He marries Violet Nita, Lady Paulett, and they have a son, Major Edward William Rhys Wingfield. It is he who buys Salterbridge, along with his wife, Norah Jellicoe. They are the parents of Philip Wingfield.

[2] http://archiseek.com/2010/1774-powerscourt-house-south-william-street-dublin/

[3] Casey, Christine. The Buildings of Ireland: Dublin. The City within the Grand and Royal Canals and the Circular Road with the Phoenix Park. Founding editors: Nikolaus Pevsner and Alistair Rowan. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2005.

[4] architectural definitions

pediment: “Originally the low-pitched triangular gable of the roof of a Classical temple, and of the roof of a portico; used as an ornamental feature, generally in the centre of a facade, without any structural purpose.”

portico: “an open porch consisting of a pediment or entablature carried on columns.”

entablature: “a horizontal member, properly consisting of an architrave, frieze and cornice, supported on columns, or on a wall, with or without columns or pilasters.”

architrave: “strictly speaking, the lowest member of the Classical entablature; used loosely to denote the moulded frame of a door or window opening.”

frieze: “strictly speaking, the middle part of an entablature in Classical architecture; used also to denote a band of ornament running round a room immediately below the ceiling.”

cornice: “strictly speaking, the crowning or upper projecting part of the Classical entablature; used to denote any projecting moulding along the top of a building, and in the angle between the walls and the ceiling of a room.”

pilasters: “a flat pillar projecting from a wall, usually with a capital of one of the principal Orders of architecture.”

volute: “a scroll derived from the scroll in the Ionic capital.”

Ionic Order: “the second Order of Classical architecture.”

Acanthus – decoration based on the leaf of the acanthus plant, which forms part of the Corinthian capital

[5]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wingfield,_1st_Viscount_Powerscourt_(first_creation)

[6]http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Wicklow%20Landowners

I did further research in Burke’s Peerage to discover the exact relationship of these cousins.

https://ukga.org/cgi-bin/browse.cgi?action=ViewRec&DB=33&bookID=227&page=bp189401283

Lewis Wingfield of Southampton married a Ms. Noon. He had a son Richard who married Christiana Fitzwilliam, and a son George. Richard the 1st Viscount who moved to Ireland is the son of Richard and Christiana. Edward Wingfield, who inherited Powerscourt Estate from Richard 1st Viscount, was the grandson of George (son of Lewis of Southampton), son of Richard Wingfield of Robertstown, County Limerick, who married Honora O’Brien, daughter of Tadh O’Brien (second son of Muragh O’Brien, 1st Lord Inchiquin).

[7] There was much intermarrying between the Cromwells and the Wingfields at this time! 1st Viscount Richard Wingfield, of the first creation, married Frances Rugge (or Repps), daughter of William Rugge (or Repps) and Thomasine Townshend, who was the widow of Edward Cromwell, 3rd Baron Cromwell. Frances Rugge and Edward Cromwell had two daughters, Frances and Anne. Frances Cromwell married Sir John Wingfield of Tickencote, Rutland, and Anne Cromwell married Sir Edward Wingfield of Carnew, County Wicklow. Anne and Edward’s grandson Folliott became the 1st Viscount Powerscourt of the 2ndcreation.

[8] Wikipedia has a different genealogy from Lord Belmont’s blog. Folliott Wingfield, 1st Vt of 2nd creation (1642-1717), according to Wikipedia, is the son of Richard Wingfield and Elizabeth Folliott, rather than the son of Anne Cromwell and Edward Wingfield of Carnew, County Wicklow, as the Lord Belmont blog claims. Burke’s Peerage however, agrees that Folliott Wingfield, 1st Vt 2nd Creation is not the son of Edward Wingfield of Carnew.

According to Burke’s Peerage, Edward Wingfield of Carnew, who married Anne Cromwell, and who inherits Powerscourt Estate, dies in 1638. They have six sons:

I. Richard is his heir;

II. Francis

III. Lewis, of Scurmore, Co Sligo, who married Sidney, daughter of Paul Gore, 1st Bart of Manor Gore, and they have three sons: Edward*, Lewis and Thomas. This Edward inherits Powerscourt Estate.

IV. Anthony, of London

V.  Edward, of Newcastle, Co Wickow, d. 1706

Richard (d. 1644 or 1645), the heir, married Elizabeth Folliott, and is succeeded by his son Folliott Wingfield, who becomes 1st Vt, 2nd Creation. When he dies, the peerage ends again. However, his first cousin, Edward* inherits Powerscourt. Edward Wingfield Esq, of Powerscourt, Barrister-at-Law, marries first Eleanor Gore, daughter of Arthur Gore of Newtown Gore, County Mayo, and by her has a son, Richard. Richard inherited Powerscourt, became an MP and was elevated to the peerage in 1743, and became (1st) Viscount Powerscourt of the 3rd creation.

 

Slane Castle, County Meath

Contact: Pamela Ryan. Tel: 041-9884477

Open in 2020: Jan 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29, Mar 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29, 12.15pm-4pm, April 1-30, May 1-31, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, Oct 1-31, 11.15am-5.15pm, Nov 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29, Dec 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, 12.15pm-4pm

Fee: adult €12, €14 from Feb, OAP/student €10.80, €11from Feb, child €7.20

Today (Saturday 27th April 2019) we made our first official blog trip, my husband Stephen and I.  We started in the “ancient east,” going to Slane Castle. 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]

DSC_0503
The view of Slane Castle from just inside the gate, driving in

DSC_0504
coming closer to the Castle

DSC_0505
the view over the beautiful River Boyne

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 Building of Slane Castle

Our tour guide was a young very pleasant man named Matthew, who seemed very knowledgeable about the castle and its history and the history of the Conyngham family, who have owned the castle since it was built in 1785 for the second Lord Conyngham, 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!). Our guide told us that the castle was reconstructed and enlarged by William Burton Conyngham. 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 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 Conygham’s son, although our guide told us the 2nd Lord Conyngham never married and the castle was inherited by his nephew. It was this nephew, who later became the 1st Marquess Conyngham, who completed the building. 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 Court in County Laois. Francis Johnston designed the General Post Office in Dublin, and Townley Hall, a grand house in County Louth. Another architect consulted was a favourite of King George IV, the English Thomas Hopper.

DSC_0507
Stephen in front of the Castle

DSC_0511
the intertwined “C” is the symbol of the Conyngham family

 

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. [2] The Flemings had their land confiscated 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.

Before moving to Slane, the Conynghams came from Donegal, and before that, they came from Scotland. They 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 had been taken from the Flemings before Christopher’s time, in 1641, when William Fleming, the 14th Baron, 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. [3] Many estates that had been confiscated by Cromwell’s parliament were restored when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660.

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!

DSC_0512
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. He was appointed dean of Raphoe in 1631. He settled at Mount Charles, 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 grandson Henry purchased the land in Slane in 1703. Brigadier Henry Conyngham’s father 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. Henry Conyngham built himself a residence, Conyngham Hall, on the foundations of an older castle formerly belonging to the Flemings.

Henry fought first in James II’s army, but then persuaded his regiment to transfer their loyalty to William III. Henry’s son William inherited the Slane estate. William 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, Francis Pierpoint Burton (his sister Mary had married Francis Burton). On inheriting the title and estate, Francis took the name Conyngham [4]. He 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.  It was Francis Conyngham who continued the building of Slane Castle which his uncle William had begun.

The castle and estate passed to Francis’s son Henry. Henry served as politician and moved quickly up the ranks of the peerage and was Lord Steward of the Royal household  between 1821-30.

In 1821 King George IV spent time in the Castle with his lover, the wife of Conyngham, Elizabeth Denison. In return the king made Conyngham a Marquess [5]. 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!

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.’” [6]

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. We had lunch in the bar after the tour. The food was delicious! Stephen had bread with buttery mushrooms and creme fraiche, and I had Thia carrot lentil soup. With good strong Americanos our meal came to €24 with tip, the same price for entry for two adults to the Castle Tour.

DSC_0516
the menu in Browne’s Bar, which gives an explanation of the name, telling of the housekeeper

DSC_0518
the music theme of Browne’s Bar is reflected in the gramophone horn lampshade

DSC_0519
me in Browne’s Bar

DSC_0523
entrance to the bar and Gandon Restaurant

DSC_0509
outer entrance to the bar and Gandon Restaurant

But, back to our tour! 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.

DSC_0513
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

DSC_0514
lovely picture of Phil Lynnott of Thin Lizzy carrying a child at Slane

DSC_0515
memorabilia from music events: I think the guitar was signed by Phil Lynott (it was signed, anyway)

DSC_0517

However, there was a disasterous fire in the castle and roof and one third of the castle was destroyed.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.

DSC_0525
newspaper clippings about the fire, in the entry to pub and restaurant

DSC_0524

DSC_0522
a bit of history, on the walls going to the dining area

DSC_0521

DSC_0520

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 [7].

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.”

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!

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.

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.” [8]

DSC_0543
the stables, designed by Capability Brown, now a whiskey distillery

DSC_0527
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! [9]

 

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

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

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

[4] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Meath%20Landowners?updated-max=2018-06-15T13:05:00%2B01:00&max-results=20&start=7&by-date=false

[5] 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.”

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

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

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

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

Irish Historic Homes