Places to visit and stay in Leinster: Offaly and Westmeath

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

Accommodation is in red. Section 482 properties are in purple.

For places to stay, I have made a rough estimate of prices at time of publication:

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing;

€€ – up to approx €250 per night for two;

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

Whole house accommodation is for more than 10 people.

Offaly:

1. Ballindoolin House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

2. Ballybrittan Castle, Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

3. Birr Castle, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

4. Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly

6. Clonony Castle, County Offaly

7. Corolanty House, Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

8. Crotty Church, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly section 482

9. Gloster House, Brosna, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

10. High Street House, High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

11. Leap Castle, County Offaly

12. Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

13. Springfield House, Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

14. The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

15. Woodland Cottage Garden, Birr, Offaly, IE 

Places to stay, County Offaly

1. Kinnitty Castle (formerly Castle Bernard), Kinnity, Co Offaly

2. Loughton House, County Offaly

3. The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

Whole house rental, County Offaly:

1. Ballycumber, County Offaly – whole house rental

Westmeath:

1. Athlone Castle, Co Westmeath – ruin, open to visitors 

2. Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, County Westmeath

3. Lough Park House, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

4. St. John’s Church, Loughstown, Drumcree, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath – section 482

5. Tullynally Castle & Gardens, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

6. Turbotstown, Coole, Co. Westmeath – section 482

7. Tyrrelspass Castle, Co Westmeath – restaurant and gift shop 

Places to stay, County Westmeath: 

1. Annebrook House Hotel, Austin Friars Street, Mullingar, Co.Westmeath, Ireland, N91YH2F.

2. Lough Bawn House, Colllinstown, Co Westmeath – accommodation €€

3. Mornington House, County Westmeath – accommodation 

Whole House Rental/wedding venue, County Westmeath:

1. Bishopstown House, Rosemount, Westmeath – whole house rental https://www.bishopstownhouse.ie

2.  Middleton Park, Mullingar, County Westmeath – available to rent http://mph.ie

Offaly:

1. Ballindoolin House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Rudolf Prosoroff
Tel: 0043 676 5570097
Open: April 4-8, 19-28, May 2-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-26, 30-31, June 1-2, 6-9, 13-16, 20- 23, 27-30, Aug 13-21, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult €10, student /OAP/child €5

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

An article in the Irish Times by Gemma Tipton in March 2014 tells us that Ballindoolin near Edenderry is the old demesne of the Bor family. The Humphrey Bor family lived on the estate from 1620 untill the 1890s brought them financial difficulty and their land agent William Tyrell took over the demesne when they vacated it. The house was built in 1822.  

When Robert Moloney inherited it in 1993, he and his wife Esther began a huge project of renovation and restoration, including reroofing, replumbing and rewiring.  

Outside, with the help of Fáilte Ireland and some EU funds, the original large walled gardens were returned to their exact and former glory, as one of 26 chosen under the Great Gardens Restoration Scheme.

The house was again on the market in 2021. Gemma Tipton writes tells us a bit more about the house in the August article in the Irish Times: The Bor family were Dutch bankers, whose origins in the Dutch East India Company might be seen in the Hindu Gothic style plasterwork in the hallway.

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie. Tipton tells us that the gate lodge is designed originally by  William Morrison for the Duke of Abercorn.
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

Tipton writes:

Robert and Esther used documents and diaries to ensure the restoration, inside and out, was in-keeping, later donating 40 boxes of account books, ledgers and records to the archives at NUI Maynooth for safe-keeping.  

These reveal a wealth of stories about the day-to-day running of the house, although it is just as easy to imagine them coming alive as you wander through the rooms. There is the wide, stone-flagged hallway, and the cosier, but still imposing back hall. The drawing room has its original wallpaper and chandelier; the marvellous fireplaces are intact. ”

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie. Gemma Tipton writes that The Bor family were Dutch bankers, whose origins in the Dutch East India Company might be seen in the Hindu Gothic style plasterwork in the hallway.

Tipton tells us:

Ballindoolin last sold in 2017, to an Austrian businessman, who fell in love with the house, its enviable position (less than an hour’s drive to Dublin city centre) and its stories. His plan was to lavish it with care and attention, and ultimately move over with his family. The first part worked out beautifully – Ballindoolin is in showpiece condition, but the family’s plans changed, and so it is now on the market.

Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie
Ballindoolin House, County Offaly, from myhome.ie

2. Ballybrittan Castle, Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly – section 482

Ballybrittan Castle, County Offaly, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Rosemarie
Tel: 087-2469802 

www.ballybrittancastle.com

Open: Jan 30-31, Feb 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, Sept 21-30, 2pm-6pm.
Fee: Free – except in case of large groups a fee of €5 p.p.

The National Inventory describes it: “Detached four-bay two-storey house, built c.1750, with return and extension to rear and adjoining outbuildings to north. Set within own grounds…Modest in design, this fine house retains its original character with minimal intervention. The simple well proportioned façade is enhanced by the survival of its sash windows and door, while the finely executed door surround forms a subtle adornment. The outbuildings to rear, along with the iron-mongery to the front, complete this appealing domestic complex.” [1]

3. Birr Castle, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Alicia Clements Tel: 057-9120056

www.birrcastle.com

Open: May 17-Aug 31, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-2, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student €20, child free

Birr Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [2]

Our tour guide was young but thoroughly knowledgeable. He walked a group of us over to the castle, across the moat, which he told us had been created, along with the walls surrounding the castle demesne, and the stone stable buildings, which are now the reception courtyard, museum and cafe, in 1847 when the owners of Birr Castle provided employment to help to stave off the hunger of the famine. 

Gates made by Lady Rosse, Mary Field, wife of the third Earl of Rosse, with the family motto, “For God and the Land to the Stars.” The motto was originally for God and King but, unhappy with the monarch’s response to the famine, the family changed their motto.

I was intrigued to hear that the gates had been made by one of the residents of the castle, Lady Mary Field, wife of the third Earl of Rosse. She was an accomplished ironworker!! She brought a fortune with her to the castle when she married the Earl of Rosse, which enabled him to build his telescope. But more on that later. 

Birr Castle, photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

More on Birr Castle soon!

Birr Castle, photograph by Liam Murphy, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website tells us:

In Anglo Norman Times, the Castle was built on the motte. The gate tower of this led into the castle bawn (courtyard) which is now the centre of the present building. The Central Gate Passage with its 12 foot walls can be seen in the lower floor of the present building.

The castle or fortress of Birr was re occupied by the O’Carroll’s who held it until the 1580s when it was sold to the Ormond Butlers. In 1620 the now ruined castle was granted to the Parsons family by James I.  Rather than occupy the tower house of the O’Carrolls, the Parsons decided to turn the Norman Gate Tower into their ‘English House’. Building on either side and incorporating two Flanking Towers.  Sir Laurence Parsons did a large amount of building and remodelling including the building of the two flanking towers, before his death in 1628. This is all accounted for in our archives.

The castle survived two sieges in the 17th century, leaving the family impoverished at the beginning of the 18th century. This led to little was done to the 17thcentury house.  However, sometime between the end of that century and the beginning of the 19th century, the house which had always faced the town, was given a new gothic facade, which now faces the park.  The ancient towers and walls, now the park side of the castle, were swept away, including the Black Tower (The Tower House) of the O’Carroll’s, which had stood on the motte. Around 1820 the octagonal Gothic Saloon overlooking the river was cleverly added into the space between the central block and the west flanking tower.

After a fire in the central block in 1836 the centre of the castle was rebuilt, with the ceilings heightened, a third story added and also the great dining room. In the middle of the 1840s a larger work force was employed during the famine times in Ireland. The old moat and the original Norman motte were flattened, and a new star-shaped moat was designed, with a keep gate. This was financed by Mary, Countess of Rosse. This period of remodelling was also overlapped with the construction of the Great Telescope, The Leviathan. Which was completed in 1845.

The final work on the castle was completed in the 1860s when a Square Tower at the back of the castle on the East side was added. This now contains nurseries on the top floor which have a great view over the town of Birr.”

Birr Castle gardens, photograph for Tourism Ireland, 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website also gives us a good history of the family:

The Parsons family arrived at Birr in 1620. They acquired the ruined fortress of Birr. It had been an O’Carroll castle, but had for some twenty years belonged to the Ormond Butlers. Sir Laurence [1576-1628], one of four brothers living in Ireland at the beginning of end of the 16th century, had been working with his cousin Richard Boyle the great Earl of Cork,(to whom he was related through the Fenton family, in Youghal). Laurence died suddenly in 1628 and was succeeded by his second son, William, ably supported by his mother, Anne, née Malham, a Yorkshire woman related to the Tempest family.

Sir Laurence’s elder brother, also William, became Surveyor General of Ireland and founded the elder branch of the family, living in Bellamont, Dublin. This branch died out at the end of the 18th century.

The 17th century was a turbulent one for the Parsons family in Birr. The castle was involved in two sieges, the first in the 1640s where the family moved for a time to London, before returning at the end of the Cromwellian period. In 1690 the castle was besieged again, by Sarsfield [Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan].This time the Castle held out and Sarsfield moved on.

The 18th century was a quiet period for the family who were left with little money and returned to improving their estates at Birr and living off the land. Towards the end of the century Sir Laurence, [1758-1841] 5th baronet, became a politician and friend of Flood and Grattan. He was praised for his honesty. He opposed the Act of Union. He became 2nd Earl of Rosse in 1807 when he inherited the title from his Uncle [Lawrence Harman Parsons-Harman, 1st Earl of Rosse, who had inherited Newcastle, County Longford].”

Birr Castle, this is the only photograph I can find of the inside as one cannot take photographs! photograph by Chris Hill 2018, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website history of the family continues:

The 19th century saw the castle become a great centre of scientific research when William Parsons, 3rd Earl built the great telescope. (See astronomy).His wife, Mary, whose fortune helped him to build the telescope and make many improvements to the castle, was a pioneer photographer and took many photographs in the 1850s.  Her dark room – a total time capsule which was preserved in the Castle – has now been exactly relocated in the Science Centre.

Their son the 4th Earl also continued astronomy at the castle and the great telescope was used up to the beginning of the 2nd world war. His son the 5th Earl was interested in agriculture and visited Denmark in search of more modern and successful methods. Sadly he died of wounds in the 1st world war.

His son, Michael the 6th Earl and his wife Anne created the garden for which Birr is now famous. (see the gardens and trees and plants) Anne, who was the sister of Oliver Messel the stage designer, brought many treasures to Birr from the Messel collection and with her skill in interior decoration and artist’s eye, transformed the castle, giving it the magical beauty that is now apparent to all.  Michael was also much involved in the creation of the National Trust in England after the war.

Their son Brendan, the present Earl, spent his career in the United Nations Development Programme, living with his wife Alison and their family in many third world countries.  He returned to Ireland on his father’s death in 1979.  Brendan and Alison have also spent much time on the garden, especially collecting and planting rare trees.  Their three children are all passionate about Birr and continue to add layers to the story for the future.

Patrick, Lord Oxmantown currently lives in London and is working on plans to bring large scale investment into Birr which will enable him and his family to move back to Ireland.

Alicia Clements managers the Birr Castle Estate and lives in the sibling house of Tullanisk.

Michael Parsons, works in London managing a portfolio of properties for the National Trust and is a board member to The Birr Scientific and Heritage Foundation.”

4. Boland’s Lock, Cappincur, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Martin O’Rourke
Tel: 086-2594914
Open: June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 12 noon-4pm Fee: adult €2, student/child free, family €5

Boland’s Lock, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Designed by Michael Hayes of Tullamore Harbour.

The National Inventory describes it: “Oval-shaped four-bay two-storey lock keeper’s house, built c.1800, with a projecting bow to the front and rear. Located at the 26th lock on the Grand Canal.”

5. Charleville Forest Castle, Tullamore, County Offaly

Charleville Castle, August 2018.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 82. “(Bury/IFR) The finest and most spectacular early C19 castle in Ireland, Francis Johnston’s Gothic masterpiece, just as Townley Hall, Co Louth, is his Classical masterpiece. Built 1800-1812 for Charles William Bury, 1st Earl of Charleville, replacing a C17 house on a different site known as Redwood. A high square battlemented block with, at one corner, a heavily machicolated octagon tower, and at the other, a slender round tower rising to a height of 125 feet, which has been compared to a castellated lighthouse. From the centre of the block rises a tower-like lantern. The entrance door, and the window over it, are beneath a massive corbelled arch. The entire building is cut-stone, of beautiful quality. To the right of the entrance front, and giving picturesque variety to the composition, is a long, low range of battlemented offices, including a tower with pinnacles and a gateway. The garden front is flanked by square turrets. The interior is as dramatic and well-finished as the exterior. In the hall, with its plaster groined ceiling carried on graceful shafts, a straight flight of stairs rises between galleries to piano nobile level, where a great double door, carved in florid Decorated style, leads to a vast saloon or gallery running the whole length of the garden front. This is one of the most splendid Gothic Revival interiors in Ireland; it has a ceiling of plaster fan vaulting with a row of gigantic pendants down the middle; two lavishly carved fireplaces of grained wood, Gothic decoration in the frames of the windows opposite and Gothic bookcases and side-tables to match. The drawing room and dining room, on either side of the hall, are also of noble proportions, the dining room  has a coffered ceiling and a fireplace which is a copy of the west door of Magdalen College chapel, Oxford. Staircase of Gothic joinery leading to the upper storeys, with Gothic mouldings on walls. Small octagonal library in octagon tower; charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star. Very heavily oak-wooded demesne, with grotto and serpentine walks; castellated entrance gateway. With the death of 5th Earl of Charleville 1875, the title became extinct; Charleville Forest passed to a sister of 4th Earl [Emily Alfreda Julia Bury, who married Kenneth Howard who added Bury to his surname], then to her son [Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury], and then to the grandson of another of 4th Earl’s sisters. After standing empty for many years, the castle has been let to Mr M.G. McMullen, who has restored it.” [3]

The entrance door, and the window over it, are beneath a massive corbelled arch.

Sean O’Reilly tells us in rish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life: “Bury’s intention, as he wrote in his own unfinished account of the work, was to ‘exhibit specimens of Gothic architecture’ adapted to ‘chimneypieces, ceilings, windows, balustrades, etc.’ but without excluding ‘convenience and modern refinements in luxury.’ This recipe for the Georgian gothic villa had already been used at Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill in London, and Bury’s cultivated lifestyle in England certainly would have made him aware of that house and its long line of descendants.” [4]

My camera battery died before I had time to take photographs when I visited so please excuse these blurry pictures taken on my old phone. For much better pictures and more information, see the website of the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne, https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/10/14/charleville/

In the hall, with its plaster groined ceiling carried on graceful shafts, a straight flight of stairs rises between galleries to piano nobile level, where a great double door, carved in florid Decorated style, leads to a vast saloon or gallery running the whole length of the garden front.

O’Reilly tells us: “Charleville Forest’s patron, Charles William Bury, from 1800 Viscount and from 1806 Earl of Charleville, was a man well versed in contemporary English taste and style. He inherited lands in Limerick, through his father’s maternal line, and in Offaly. His great wealth, lavish lifestyle and generous nature allowed him simultaneously to distribute largesse in Ireland, live grandly in London and travel widely on the continent…[p. 139] Charleville’s lack of success in his search for a sinecure proved ill for the future of the family fortunes for, continuing to live extravagantly above their means, they advanced speedily towards bankruptcy. On Charleville’s death in 1835, the estate was ‘embarrassed’ and by 1844, the Limerick estates had to be sold and the castle shut up, while his son and heir, ‘the greatest bore the world can produce’ according to one contemporary, retired to Berlin.

O’Reilly continues to tell us of the history of ownership: “The 3rd Earl [Charles William George Bury (1822-1859)] returned to the house in 1851, but with a much reduced fortune; the property was then inherited by his grand-daughter Lady Emily Howard-Bury, after whose death in 1931 it remained unoccupied.”

Charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star.
Charming little boudoir in round tower, with plaster vault surmounted by an eight-pointed star.
It has a ceiling of plaster fan vaulting with a row of gigantic pendants down the middle.
The ceiling, with its coffered panels, sports family emblems of the Moores and the Burys, all supported on a light Gothic crested frieze, dating to 1875 and a remnant of William Morris’s only Irish commission. (see [5]) The oak forest and lands were gifted by Queen Elizabeth I to Moore, Earl of Charleville in 1577. Due to the lack of male heirs in the Moore family the land was inherited by Charles William Bury who was the grand nephew of the last Earl [Charles Moore (1712-1764), 1st Earl of Charleville] just six months old.
Staircase of Gothic joinery leading to the upper storeys, with Gothic mouldings on walls.

6. Clonony Castle, County Offaly

https://www.visitoffaly.ie/Things-to-do/Culture-Heritage/Clonony-Castle/

The website tells us:

Clonony Castle, built in the 1490’s by the Coghlan Clan, was seized by Henry VIII during the war of dominion by England. He ceded it to Thomas Boleyn, making him the Earl of Ormond, his daughter, the ill-fated Ann, a countess and marriageable by a king. When Henry tired of Ann and the Boleyns fell from grace, two ladies, Mary and Elizabeth, were sent back to Clonony and remained for the rest of their lives. Their tombstone lays beneath a tree in the castle bawn.

Following the ladies demise, a merchant, Sir Matthew de Renzi, wrote to Queen Elizabeth of the great significance of the castle and begged to be awarded it. These DeRenzi letters have become very important as they tell us what life was like in the 16th Century in the midlands. Possessing a great facility for language, speaking and trading with many countries, he wrote the first English/Irish dictionary.

Today the castle has been sensitively restored to reflect the way of life through this historical period and now is open to the public casually from 12 to 5 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through summer and anytime by appointment on 0877614034. There is no fee, but donations toward the maintenance of the castle is greatly appreciated. In June, the castle will open on weekends for glamping (glamourous camping). Early booking is essential.”

7. Corolanty House, Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

Corolanty House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Siobhan Webb
Tel: 086-1209984
Open: Jan, Feb, July, Aug, Sept, daily 2pm-6pm Fee: Free

The National Inventory tells us it is: “Detached five-bay three-storey over basement country house, built c.1730, with two-storey addition to north. Set within its own grounds….Corolanty House displays some of the characteristics of a typical eighteenth-century Irish country house, which include its form and scale, the finely tooled Gibbsian door surround and the curiously concealed tooled limestone architrave surrounds to the window openings. The symmetrical form of the house is maintained by the inclusion of blind windows to the rear elevation, but this is somewhat disrupted by the two-storey addition to the north-facing side elevation. The retention of many original features, including the staircase, decorative plasterwork to the ceilings of the principal rooms and the interior joinery, contribute to the character of the house and its architectural and artistic significance. The remains of Corolanty Castle to the yard contributes an archaeological interest.” [5]

8. Crotty Church, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly section 482

contact: Eoin Garry
Tel: 086-3286277
Open: all year, 1pm-5pm Fee: Free

9. Gloster House, Brosna, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Tom & Mary Alexander
Tel: 087-2342135
Open: Jan 3-28, Mon-Fri, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 9am-1.30pm Fee: adult/student/child/OAP €7

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

Just east of the road between Birr and Roscrea, Gloster is County Offaly’s most important remaining eighteenth century house. The formal facade, overlooking the steeply terraced garden, is unusually long and low, and is very grand. Thirteen bays wide and two stories high, the house is constructed in blue-grey limestone with a wealth of early architectural details in warm contrasting sandstone. The interior is equally splendid, especially the two principal rooms; the richly decorated double-height entrance hall and the great barrel-vaulted hall, or landing, on the piano nobile. 

The Lloyd’s ancestor came to Ireland from Denbighshire, to serve in the army of King Charles I, and he acquired the estate in 1639 through  marriage with an heiress, Margaret Medhop. Presumably they and their descendants lived in an earlier dwelling, of which no trace remains, until the present house was completed sometime after 1720. The architectural historian Maurice Craig, who edited the book of Pearce’s drawings, observed that, “Gloster has features which can hardly derive from anyone other than Sir Edward Lovett Pearce” (c.1699-1733). Craig also believed that, while Pearce may well have provided a design for his cousin, Trevor Lloyd, he almost certainly left the execution to others since “for all its charm, it is provincial in almost every respect”.

The central breakfront is relatively plain, apart from the typically 1700s hooded door case with pilasters to either side, while two recessed bays at either end of the facade are treated as wings, with Pearcean blind niches in place of windows on the upper storeys. Meanwhile the three intervening bays to either side are further divided by vertically paired pilasters, Doric below the string course and Corintian above, and their positions are reflected in the cornice, the parapet and in the intervals of the balustrade.

Inside, the elaborate double-height entrance-hall has a series of bust-filled niches while there is very grand upper hall on the piano nobile. This is approached by twin staircases and overlooks the entrance-hall though a series of round-headed openings with a profusion of architectural detail.

Samuel Chearnley may have had a hand in designing the gardens, which contain a canal, a lime avenue and a pedimented arch, flanked by obelisks in the manner of Vanburgh, while a series of later terraces in front of the house descend to a small lake.

Gloster was sold in 1958 and became a convent and nursing home, with a new school complex built on the site of the former stables. The school closed shortly after 1990 and the house fell into considerable disrepair. Happily Tom and Mary Alexander purchased the house and have carried out a thorough and sympathetic restoration.

Famous visitors to Gloster include John Wesley, who preached here in 1749, while the famous Australian “diva” Dame Nellie Melba sang from the gallery in the upper hall early in the 20th century.” [6]

10. High Street House, High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: George Ross
Tel: 086-3831992

www.no6highstreet.com

Open: Jan 4-31, Mon -Fri, May 1-18, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-24, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult/student €5, OAP €4, child under 12 free

11. Leap Castle, County Offaly

https://www.visitoffaly.ie/Things-to-do/Culture-Heritage/Leap-Castle/

Sean Ryan of Leap Castle, insisted that he doesn’t fabricate when telling the story of what he and his wife see and hear at their home. Where most would refer to these apparitions as ghosts, Sean prefers to call them spirits. He describes the regular visions as people with a haze around them. Sometimes there is a lot of activity; other times less so. The sounds they hear are footsteps, doors opening and closing and crowds talking. However, on occasions that he has gone in the direction of the noise, nothing is apparent there, with the location of the spirits always out of reach. There is spirit, though, a lady, who touches off people. A lot of guests to the castle have also felt her presence. The remarkable thing Sean told us was that this experience never seems to alarm his guests, rather they always remain very calm, something that surprises them! Sean doesn’t regard his home as haunted and, as far as he is concerned, the spirits he sees and hears have as much right to live there as he does. Sean is happy to continue to live alongside them as he has done since 1994, when restoration on the castle began.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The Leap Castle website gives us more information: http://leapcastle.net

Built in the early 1500’s under the supervision of the powerful and warring O’Carroll clan, Leap Castle has been the centre of much bloodshed.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The O’Carrolls were a fierce and brutal clan, continually struggling for power and supremacy. They were known to be particularly violent and cunning in the attempts for domination. John O’Carroll was thought to be the first Prince of Ely who lived at Leap Castle. It is very probable that it was he who was responsible for the construction of the earliest sections of Leap Castle. John O’Carroll died at Leap Castle, suffering from the plague. John O’Carroll was succeeded by his son named Mulrony O’Carroll.
Mulrony O’Carroll was renowned for his strength, bravery and valour and was considered a great leader. The Great Mulrony as he was known died (most likely) at Leap in 1532 after a rulership of forty two years. Mulrony was succeeded by his son Fearganhainm.

The website continues with the history of one brother after another killing each other for supremacy.

The website tells us:

In 1629 John O’Carroll, nephew of Charles O’Carroll was given the official ownership of the Leap Estate.
The year 1649 the property of Leap Castle was handed over to the first of the Darby line, Jonathon. He was a soldier of the Cromwellian forces and was handed the property and land in lieu of pay.

1664 saw the property handed back to John O’Carroll due to his continued loyalty to Charles the 1st. This arrangement was unfortunately reversed in 1667 due to the differing views of Charles the 2nd. The Leap Castle was once again back in the hands of the Darbys.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

Jonathon Darby the 2nd, a Cromwellian soldier obtained Leap Castle in 1649. This was lieu of payment for his services. Jonathon and his wife Deborah had a son also named Jonathon.

The estate was passed through a line of Jonathan Darbys.

“Jonathon Darby the 5th maintained the Leap Estate until his death in 1802. As Jonathon fathered no male children, Leap Castle was passed on to his younger brother Henry. 

Henry d’Esterre Darby, born in 1750 climbed through the Naval ranks to become Admiral Sir Henry d’Esterre Darby in 1799. Henry died in 1823 bearing no children of his own. Upon Henry’s death, the Leap Castle estate was inherited by his brother John Darby. 

John Darby married Anne Vaughan and died in 1834. He was succeeded by their sons William Henry, Christopher, George, Susan, Jonathon, Horatio d’Esterre, John Nelson and Sarah Darby.

William Henry Darby inherited Leap Castle died in 1880.  His eldest son had died in 1872 aged 45 so the Leap Estate was passed on to his grandson Jonathon Charles Darby.

Jonathon married Mildred Dill aka Mildred Darby in 1889.

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

In the early hours of Sunday morning, 30 July 1922 a party of eleven raiders set fire to the Leap totally destroying the North and larger wing and its valuable contents.  Giving evidence in the claims court Richard Dawkins said that on 30 July 1922, he was living in the Castle as caretaker with his wife and baby. They were the only persons in the castle that night. Richard Dawkins stated that at 2.20am there was a knock on the door. He opened the window, put out his head, and saw men outside who stated that they wanted a night’s lodging. They ordered him to open the door. He went down and opened the door and was subsequently held at gunpoint. The raiders then stated that they were going to burn the castle.  Dawkins asked for time to get his wife and child out and was given twenty minutes to do so. The raiders then went into the castle and poured petrol over the rooms, and set them on fire. They kept the family outside from 2.30am to 5.00am. Each of the men had a tin of petrol, and all were armed. Some had trench coats and other had bandoleers over their civilian clothes. The men broke furniture before setting the castle on fire.

In a newspaper report Jonathan Darby said that it looked as if there were explosives used in the destruction of the castle he had found some dynamite in the cellar where the raiders got so drunk they could not explode it.  He said that it was the locals who burned the castle.” 

–          Noel Guerin

Leap Castle by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

13. Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co. Offaly – section 482

Loughton House, County Offaly, May 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/01/loughton-house-moneygall-county-offaly/
contact: Michael Lyons 
Tel: 089-4319150
www.loughtonhouse.com
Open: May 10-June 30, Tue-Sunday, Aug 2-7, 9-21, 11am-3.30pm
Fee: adult €5, OAP/student €4, child €3 (under 12 free), family (2 adults & 2 children over 12) €15

14. Springfield House, Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly – section 482

contact: Muireann Noonan
Tel: 087-2204569
www.springfieldhouse.ie

Open: Jan 1-9, 1pm-5pm, April 15-19, May 21-29, June 10-12, 17-19, July 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, Aug 13-28, 2pm-6pm, Dec 26-31, 1pm-5pm
Fee: Free

Write-up coming soon!

15. The Maltings

Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly Eoin Garry
Tel: 086-3286277 

www.canbe.ie

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

16. Woodland Cottage Garden, Birr, Offaly, IE 

https://www.gardensofireland.org/directory/42/woodland+cottage+garden/

Contact: Anne Ward 

Tel: +353 (0) 57 912 1215 

Mobile: +353 (0) 86 305 1697 

Email: nanoward@eircom.net 

Web: www.loughderggardens.com 

Places to stay, County Offaly

1. Kinnitty Castle (formerly Castle Bernard), Kinnity, Co Offaly https://www.kinnittycastlehotel.com/index.html

Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his 1988 book of Kinnitty Castle, formerly named Castle Bernard: p. 62. [Castle Bernard]: “[Bernard 1912; De la Poer Beresford, Decies] A Tudor-Revival castle of 1833 by James and George Pain [built for T. Bernard]. Impressive entrance front with gables, oriels and tracery windows and an octagonal corner tower with battlements and crockets; all in smooth ashlar. Subsequently the home of 6th Lord Decies [Arthur George Marcus Douglas De La Poer Beresford (1915-1992)], by whom it was sold ca. 1950. Now a forestry centre.” 

Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

The website used to include a history, which told us:

The present building was originally built by William O’Carroll on the site of the old Abbey in 1630.  The English Forces, as part of the plantation of Offaly, or “Kings County” as it was renamed, confiscated this in 1641.  In 1663 Colonel Thomas Winter was granted 2,624 acres by King Charles II for military services rendered.  The Winter family sold the building in 1764 to the Bernards of County Carlow.  This building was reconstructed as a castellated mansion in 1811 by the famous Pan Brothers at the commission of Lady Catherine Hutchinson, wife of Colonel Thomas Bernard.  The building was burned in 1922 by Republican forces and rebuilt by means of a Government grant of £32,000 in 1927.  The building became the property of Lord Decies in 1946.  He in turn sold it and the estate to the Government of Ireland on 12th December 1951.  The State used the castle as a Forestry Training centre from 1955 until it was purchased in 1994 and turned into a 37 bedroom luxurious hotel for all guests both locally and internationally to enjoy.

Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])
Kinnitty Castle Hotel, 2014, photographer unknown, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])

2. Loughton House, County Offaly – see above

https://loughtonhouse.com

3. The Maltings, Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

contact: Eoin Garry
Tel: 086-3286277 

www.canbe.ie

(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

Whole house rental, County Offaly:

1. Ballycumber, County Offaly – whole house rental

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/21064152?source_impression_id=p3_1646848147_zcYarfp2zhDKFdHo

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us about Ballycumber:

Originally built as a castle in 1627 and remodelled at a later date, the regular from of this well proportioned house is enhanced by architectural detailing such as the finally executed doorcase and attractive, steeply-pitched hipped roof. The building retains many notable features and materials such as the timber sash windows with the date plaque, which adds historical interest to the site. The related outbuildings and walled garden create an interesting group of agricultural structures, while the folly and landscaped tree-lined river walk make a positive contribution to the setting of the house, reflecting the era of the large country estate.

The Offaly history blog tells us more about the occupants of Ballycumber:

Ballycumber House was bought by Francis Berry Homan Mulock in 1899 from the Armstrong family who had been in possession of the estate for successive generations. Originally built as a castle in 1627 by the Coghlan family, it was extensively remodelled by the Armstrongs in the eighteenth century into a detached five-bay two storey over basement country house, much as it is today.” [7]

I would love to stay at Ballycumber because the Bagot family of County Offaly intermarried with the Armstrong family who owned Ballycumber. I’m not sure if my own Baggot family is related to the Bagots of Offaly but there is a good possibility!

Westmeath:

1. Athlone Castle, Co Westmeath – ruin, open to visitors http://www.athlonecastle.ie/ 

Cruising by Athlone Castle, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Fennell Photography 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

The website tells us: “Trace the footprints of the generations who shaped this place. From early settlements and warring chieftains to foreign invaders and local heroes. This site on the River Shannon is the centre of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

Over the centuries it has been the nucleus of the Anglo-Norman settlement; a stronghold of the rival local families the Dillons and the O’Kelly’s; the seat of the Court of Claims; the residence of the President of Connaught and the Jacobite stronghold during the sieges of Athlone.  After the Siege of Athlone it became incorporated into the new military barrack complex.  It remained a stronghold of the garrison for almost three hundred years.

In 1922 when the Free State troops took over the Barracks from their British counterparts, they proudly flew the tricolour from a temporary flagpole much to the delight of the majority of townspeople.

In 1967 the Old Athlone Society established a museum in the castle with a range of exhibits relating to Athlone and its environs and also to folk-life in the district.  Two years later when the military left the castle it was handed over to the Office of Public Works and the central keep became a National Monument.

In 1991 to mark the Tercentenary of the Siege of Athlone the castle became the foremost visitor attraction in Athlone.  Athlone Town Council (then Athlone UDC) made a major investment in the castle creating a multi-faceted Visitor Centre as it approached its 800th Anniversary in 2010. A total of €4.3million euro was invested in the new facility by Fáilte Ireland and Athlone Town Council and was officially opened by the then Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring T.D. on Tuesday 26th February 2012.

Athlone Castle Visitor Centre is now a modern, engaging, fun and unique family attraction which harnesses most significant architectural features, such as the keep, to act as a dramatic backdrop to its diverse and fascinating story.

It houses eight individual exhibition spaces, each depicting a different aspect of life in Athlone, the Castle and the periods both before and after the famous Siege. Fun, hands-on interactives, touchable objects and educational narratives immerse visitors in the drama, tragedy and spectacle of Athlone’s diverse and fascinating story. 3D maps, audio-visual installations, illustrations and artefacts bring the stories and characters of Athlone to life and The Great Siege of Athlone is dramatically recreated in a 360-degree cinematic experience in the Keep of the castle.

As part of Westmeath County Council’s commemoration of Ireland’s world-renowned tenor, John Count McCormack, a new exhibition dedicated to the celebrated singer was opened at Athlone Castle in October 2014.

Athlone Castle, Athlone, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Ros Kavanagh 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

Archiseek tells us about Athlone Castle: “Towards the end of the 12th century the Anglo-Normans constructed a motte-and-bailey fortification here. This was superceeded by a stone structure built in 1210, on the orders of King John of England. The Castle was built by John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich. The 12-sided donjon dates from this time. The rest of the castle was largely destroyed during the Siege of Athlone and subsequently rebuilt and enlarged upon. In the early 1800s, during the Napoleonic Wars, the castle was rebuilt as a fortification to protect the river crossing, taking the form we largely see today. The machicolations of the central keep are all nineteenth century. In the interior is an early nineteenth century two-storey barrack building. The modern ramp up to the castle has a line of pistol loops. The castle was taken over by the Irish Army in 1922 and continued as a military installation until it was transferred to the Office of Public Works in 1970.” [8]

Athlone Castle, Athlone, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Ros Kavanagh 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.
Athlone Castle, Athlone, Co Westmeath_Courtesy Sonder Visuals 2021 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

2. Belvedere House, Gardens and Park, County Westmeath

Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Belvedere in his 1988 book:

p. 39. “(Rochfort, sub Belvedere, E/DEP Rochfort/LGI1912; Marlay/LGI1912; Howard-Bury, sub Suffolk and Berkshire, E/PB; and Bury/IFR) An exquisite villa of ca 1740 by Richard Castle, on the shores of Lough Ennell; built for Robert Rochfort, Lord Bellfield, afterwards 1st Earl of Belvedere, whose seat was at Gaulston, ca 5 miles away. Of two storeys over basement, with a long front and curved end bows – it may well be the earliest bow-ended house in Ireland – but little more than one room deep.”

Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021.
Robert Rochfort (1708-1774) 1st Earl of Belvedere.

Bence-Jones continues: “The front has a three bay recessed centre between projecting end bays, each of which originally had a Venetian window below a Diocletian window. Rusticated doorcase and rusticated window surrounds on either side of it; high roof parapet. The house contains only a few rooms, but they are of fine proportions and those on the ground floor have rococo plasterwork ceilings of the greatest delicacy and gaiety, with cherubs and other figures emerging from clouds, by the same artist as the ceilings formerly are Mespil House, Dublin, one of which is now in Aras.

Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021: “The house contains only a few rooms, but they are of fine proportions and those on the ground floor have rococo plasterwork ceilings of the greatest delicacy and gaiety, with cherubs and other figures emerging from clouds, by the same artist as the ceilings formerly are Mespil House, Dublin, one of which is now in Aras.
Hallway, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
Belvedere, County Westmeath, August 2021.
The portrait is of Charles Howard-Bury, who was one of the owners of Belvedere.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath. The Dining Room occupies one end bow of the house, and has a Venetian window overlooking Lough Ennell.

In Belvedere, dining was an opportunity to impress guests not only by the room bu tby the sumptuous meals, presented by immaculately dressed servants. The rococo ceiling of puffing cherubs and fruits and foliage is attributed to Barthelemji Cramillion, a French stuccodore.

The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath: The rococo ceiling of puffing cherubs and fruits and foliage is attributed to Barthelemji Cramillion, a French stuccodore.
The Dining Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.

Bence-Jones continues: “The staircase, wood and partly curving, is in proportion to the back of the house.

The Venetian window that lights the stairs, on the back facade of the house. The wooden porch below is an entrance into the basement of the house.
Drawing Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath. The drawing room occupies one of the bows of the house, and has a Venetian window overlooking the terrace and Lough Ennell.

Information boards tells us that the Drawing Room was the place for afternoon tea, after-dinner drinks, music and conversation. Belvedere’s last owners, Charles Howard-Bury and Rex Beaumont would have passed many happy hours relaxing and reminiscing about their wartime experiences and travels across the world, as well as planning trips to Tunisia and Jamaica.

Ceiling of the Drawing Room, Belvedere, County Westmeath.
The kitchen is in the vaulted basement of Belvedere and has an interesting ghostly display of servants.

Bence-Jones tells of the house’s occupants; “Soon after the house was finished, Lord Bellfield’s beautiful wife [Mary Molesworth, daughter of Richard, 3rd Viscount Molesworth of Swords, Dublin] confessed to him that she had committed adultery with his brother; whereupon he incarcerated her at Gaulston, where she remained, forbidden to see anyone but servants, until his death nearly thirty years later; while he lived a bachelor’s life of great elegance and luxury at Belvedere. Another of his brothers lived close to Belvedere at Rochfort (afterwards Tudenham Park); having quarrelled with him too, Lord Belvedere, as he had now become, built the largest Gothic sham ruin in Ireland to blot out the view of his brother’s house; it is popularly known as the Jealous Wall. In C19, the Diocletian windows in the front of the house were replaced with rectangular triple windows; and the slope from the front of the house down to the lough was elaborately terraced. Belvedere passed by inheritance to the Marlay family and then to late Lt-Col C.K. Howard-Bury, leader of the 1921 Mount Everest Expedition; who bequeathed it to Mr Rex Beaumont.” (see [3])

“The Jealous Wall,” Belvedere.

The jealous wall is rather disappointingly attached to the visitor centre of Belvedere at the entrance to the park.

Visitor centre attached to the Jealous Wall, Belvedere.
Visitor centre attached to the Jealous Wall.

Robert Rochfort managed to have children despite his antipathy toward his wife. George Rochfort (1738-1814), 2nd Earl of Belvedere inherited Belvedere and other estates when his father died in 1774. He also inherited debts, and sold Gaulston House, the house where his mother had been imprisoned by his father. Unfortunately Gaulston House was destroyed by fire in 1920. George Rochfort built an extension onto the rear of Belvedere but spent most of his time in his townhouse, Belvedere House in Great Denmark Street, Dublin.

The 2nd Earl of Belvedere had no children. His wife inherited his Dublin property but his sister Jane inherited Belvedere. Jane married Brinsley Butler, 2nd Earl of Lanesborough. She inherited Belvedere when she was 77 years old! She had married a second time and the income from the estate allowed herself and her second husband to live in fine style in Florence. The male line of the Earls of Lanesborough died out after two more generations. Jane’s son Robert Henry Butler (1759-1806) 3rd Earl of Lanesborough married Elizabeth La Touche, daughter of David La Touche and Elizabeth Marlay, whom we came across when we visited Harristown, County Kildare (see my entry) and Marlay Park in Rathfarnham, Dublin. The estate passed down to their son, Brinsley Butler, 4th Earl of Lanesborough. The estate then passed through the female line. The 3rd Earl’s sister Catherine married George Marlay (1748-1829), the brother of Elizabeth who married David La Touche.

Catherine and George Marlay had a son, George, who married Catherine Tisdall, and the estate passed to his son, Charles Brinsley Marlay (1831-1912). He was only sixteen when he inherited Belvedere from his cousin the Earl of Lanesborough. It was Charles Brisley Marlay who built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later. He spent many hours planning the 60 metre long rockery to the side of the terraces, and also built the walled garden. He was known as “the Darling Landlord” due to his kindness to tenants, and for bringing happiness and wealth back to Belvedere. He was cultured and amassed an important art collection, as well as improving the estate.

Charles Brisley Marlay built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later. The terraces are said to have been inspired by the terraces at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, the home of his sister.
Charles Brisley Marlay built the terraces leading down to the lake, in the late 1880s. The twelve stone lions were added later.

The inheritance of Belvedere continues to be even more complicated. It passed via Catherine Tisdall’s family. Her mother Catherine Dawson had married twice. Catherine’s second husband was Charles William Bury (1764-1835), the 1st Earl of Charleville. We came across him earlier, as an owner of Charleville Forest, in Tullamore, County Offaly. Belvedere passed to his descendent, Lt. Col Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1963). The 3rd Earl of Charleville, Charles William George Bury (1822-1859) had several children but the house passed to the fourth child as all others had died before Charles Brinsley Marley died. It was therefore the son of Emily Alfreda Julia Bury (1856-1931) who inherited Belvedere. She married Kenneth Howard, who added Bury to his surname. Their son was Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury.

Charles Howard-Bury brought a bear back from Kazakhstan!

Charles Howard-Bury left Belvedere to his friend, Rex Beaumont. Eventally financial difficulties caused Mr Beaumont to sell the property, and it was acquired by Westmeath County Council. Two years previously, in 1980, Mr Beaumont sold the contents of the house – I wonder where those things ended up?

The estate is a wonderful amenity for County Westmeath, with large parklands to explore with several follies, as well as the walled garden.

Belvedere garden folly, Courtesy of Westmeath County Council (www.visitwestmeath.ie), photograph by Clare Keogh,2019.
The Octagonal Gazebo, Belvedere. It was once panelled with wood on the walls, floor and ceiling adn was used for summer picnics, where guests would be waited on by servants.
Lough Ennell.

3. Lough Park House, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

contact: Liam O’Flanagan
Tel: 044-9661226
Open: Mar 16-22, Apr 15-18, May 1-4, June 1-7, July 14-24, Aug 1-7, 13-22, Sept 1- 7, Oct 28-31, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €4

4. St. John’s Church, Loughstown, Drumcree, Collinstown, Co. Westmeath – section 482

contact: Billy Standish
Tel: 044-9666570
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 2pm-6pm
Fee: adult €4, child/OAP/student €2

5. Tullynally Castle & Gardens, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath – section 482

Tullynally, County Westmeath, August 2021.

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/19/tullynally-castle-and-gardens-castlepollard-county-westmeath/
contact: Octavia Tullock
Tel: 044-9661856 

www.tullynallycastle.com
Open: Castle, May 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28, June 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 23-25, 30, July 1- 2, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30, Aug 13-21, 25-27, Sept 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 10am-2pm Garden: Apr 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, May 1-2, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29, June 2-6, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, July 1-3, 7-10, 14-17, 21-24, 28-30, Aug 1, 4-7, 11-21, 25-28, Sept 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29-30, 11am-5pm

Fee: adult, castle/garden €16, garden €8.50, child, castle/garden €8, garden €4 (over 10 years only admission to castle) families (2+2) garden €22

6. Turbotstown, Coole, Co. Westmeath – section 482

contact: Peter Bland
Tel: 086-2475044
Open: July 22-31, Aug 1-31, Dec 1-20, 9am-1pm Fee: adult/student €8, child/OAP €4

7. Tyrrelspass Castle, Co Westmeath – restaurant and gift shop https://www.facebook.com/tyrrellspasscastle/ 

Places to stay, County Westmeath: 

1. Annebrook House Hotel, Austin Friars Street, Mullingar, Co.Westmeath, Ireland, N91YH2F.

https://www.annebrook.ie/gallery.html

The family run Annebrook House Hotel Mullingar opened its doors February 2007.  Originally an Old Georgian residence for the local county surgeon, Dr O’Connell, the historic Annebrook House Hotel was purchased by the Dunne family in 2005. With his experience in hospitality and construction Berty Dunne set about creating a hotel as unique as the man who owns it. The Annebrook’s central location, its diverse range of accommodation from 2 bedroomed family suites to executive doubles has made it a very popular location for those coming to experience all that the midlands has to offer.

Situated in the heart of Mullingar overlooking 10 acres of parkland, the Award Winning 4 star Annebrook House Hotel presents a modern day styling coupled with 17th century heritage.  As a family run hotel the Annebrook prides itself on quality and high standards of customer service, working as part of one team to ensure all guests of their best and personal attention at all times. Annebrook House Hotel is steeped in history and enjoys the enviable advantage of being one of the most centrally located hotels in Mullingar town. This unique venue mixes old world charm with modern comfort and has established itself as one of Westmeath’s top wedding venues and was recently voted Best Wedding Venue Ireland by Irish Wedding Diary Magazine. With accommodation ranging from executive hotel rooms, family suites, luxurious champagne suites and apartments, the Annebrook has much to offer those visiting Mullingar. Offering a range of dining options from Berty’s Bar to fine dining in the award winning Old House Restaurant.  The four star Annebrook House Hotel offers an excellent service to both its corporate & leisure guests. The hotel is accessible by car just 50 mins from Dublin and is only 10 minutes from the local Train Station.

2. Lough Bawn House, Colllinstown, Co Westmeath – B&B accommodation €€

http://loughbawnhouse.com

A classic Georgian house in a unique setting. Lough Bawn house sits high above Lough Bane with amazing sweeping views. Nestled in a 50 acre parkland at the end of a long drive, Lough Bawn House is a haven of peace and tranquillity.

The house and estate has been in the same family since it was built in 1820 by George Battesby, the current occupier, Verity’s, Great Great Great Grandfather. The house is being lovingly restored by Verity, having returned from England to live in the family home. Verity ran her own catering and events company in Gloucestershire for over 20 years. Her passion for cooking & entertaining shines through. Guests enjoy an extensive and varied breakfast with much of the ingredients being grown or reared by Verity herself, and delicious dinners are on offer. Breakfast is eaten in the large newly restored dining room, with wonderful views over the lough and of the parading peacocks on the rolling lawns.

Both of the large, en-suite rooms have fine views down the length of Lough Bane and over the wooded hills while the single room and the twin/double room have sweeping views of the surrounding parklands. Guests are warmly welcomed and encouraged to relax in the homely drawing room in front of a roaring fire or to explore one of the many local historical sites, gardens, walks or cultural entertainments on offer.

Several areas of the estate have been classified as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC‘s) due to the incredibly varied and rare flora. Wild flowers can be found in abundance and a charming fern walk has been the created amongst the woodland near the house.

3. Mornington House, County Westmeath – B&B accommodation 

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

Mornington House, a historic Irish Country Manor offering luxury country house accommodation located in the heart of the Co. Westmeath countryside, just 60 miles from Ireland’s capital city of Dublin. Tranquility and warm hospitality are the essence of Mornington, home to the O’Hara’s since 1858.

Mornington House is hidden away in the midst of a charming and dramatic landscape with rolling hills, green pasture, forests with ancient, heavy timber and sparkling lakes, deep in an unexplored corner of County Westmeath. Nearby are ancient churches, castles and abbeys, and delightful small villages to explore, away from all hustle and bustle of 21st century life, yet just 60 miles from Dublin.

There has been a house at Mornington since the early 17th century but this was considerably enlarged in 1896 by Warwick’s grandparents. It is now a gracious family home with a reputation for delicious breakfasts which are prepared in the fine tradition of the Irish Country House and really set you up for the day ahead.

A special place to stay for a romantic or relaxing break Mornington House’s location in the centre of Ireland just an hour’s drive from Dublin and Dublin Airport makes it ideal for either a midweek or weekend country break. Guests can walk to the lake or wander round the grounds. Excellent golf, fishing, walking and riding can be arranged. The Hill of Uisneach, the Neolithic passage tombs at Loughcrew and Newgrange and the early Christian sites at Fore and Clonmacnoise are all within easy reach, as are the gardens at Belvedere, Tullynally and Loughcrew.

Whole House accommodation, County Westmeath:

1. Bishopstown House, Rosemount, Westmeath – whole house rental https://www.bishopstownhouse.ie

The website tells us of the history:

Bishopstown House is a three-storey Georgian house built in the early 1800s by the Casey family. After he passed away, the original owner, Mr. J Casey left Bishopstown to his two daughters, who then sold the house to Mr Richard Cleary in 1895.

Mr Richard Cleary, formally from the famed lakeside Cleaboy Stud near Mullingar, planned and erected Bishopstown House and Stud. In his younger days he rode horses at Kilbeggan, Ballinarobe, Claremorris and other Irish meetings with varying degrees of success, but as a trainer he knew no bounds. In his later years he devoted his time to breeding and training, and in time he became one of Ireland’s most famous trainers, breeding some excellent horses, including the winner of the 1916 Irish Grand National, Mr James Kiernan’s All Sorts!

Other famous horses from the Bishopstown stud include Shaun Spada and Serent Murphy who both won the Aintree Grand National in England. Another horse called Dunadry won the Lancashire Steeple Chase. Other stallion winners include Sylvio III, Lustrea and Irish Battle who frequently had their names in the limelight throughout Irish and English racecourses.

After being left fall into a dilapidated state, the stud farm and house was purchased by Paddy and Claire Dunning, the owners of the award-winning Grouse Lodge Recording Studios and Coolatore House and members of the Georgian society. It was restored to its former glory in 2009 and is now available for rent.

2.  Middleton Park, Mullingar, County Westmeath – available to rent http://mph.ie

Middleton Park House featured in The Great House Revival on RTE, with presenter (and architect) Hugh Wallace. The website tells us:

Carolyn and Michael McDonnell, together with Carolyn’s brother Henry, joined together to purchase this expansive property in Castletown Geoghegan. Built during the famine, the property was last in use as a hotel but it had deteriorated at a surprisingly fast rate over its three unoccupied years.

Designed by renowned architect George Papworth, featuring a Turner-designed conservatory, Middleton Park House stands at a palatial 35,000sq. ft. and is steeped in history. Its sheer scale makes it an ambitious restoration.

The trio’s aim is to create a family home, first and foremost, which can host Henry’s children at the weekends and extended family all year-round. Due to its recent commercial use, the three will need to figure out how to change industrial-style aspects to make it a welcoming home that is economical to run.

Henry will be putting his skills as a contractor and a qualified chippy to use, and Michael will be wearing his qualified engineer’s hat to figure out an effective heating system. Carolyn will be using her love of interiors to work out the aesthetic of the house, and how to furnish a property the size of 35 semi-detached houses in Dublin.

The trio have now made the house available for accommodation and as a wedding venue.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14911023/ballybrittan-house-ballybrittan-co-offaly

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

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

[4] p. 136. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998. 

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14942001/corolanty-house-curralanty-offaly

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

[7] https://offalyhistoryblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/sun-too-slow-sun-too-fast-ethel-and-enid-homan-mulock-of-ballycumber-house-by-lisa-shortall/

[8] https://archiseek.com/2009/athlone-castle-co-westmeath/

Curraghmore, Portlaw, County Waterford

contact: Vanessa Behal
Tel: 051-387101
www.curraghmorehouse.ie
Open in 2022: May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Thurs-Sun and Bank Holidays, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21,10am-4pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student, house/garden/shell house tour €20, house €15, garden & shell house €12, garden €7, child under12 years free

DSC_0564

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

DSC_0563
entering Curraghmore, via servants’ quarters either side of courtyard. Approaching the courtyard front of the house, where the “original Castle is encased in a spectacular Victorian mansion” with flanking Georgian ranges housing servants, stables, etc. [1]

I didn’t take as many photos as I should have, so here are a few from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, of the range that fronts the house: [2]

national inventory 1
Servants’ quarters in the courtyard, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
national inventory 2
This is the view looking back the way we drove in, with our backs to the house, and the buildings of the courtyard on either side. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
national inventory 3
Arch through which we went, in order to explore the gardens, and also through which one goes to see the rest of the outside of the house.

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

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

DSC_0607
When one enters the garden through the arch, one walks along the side of the house to the garden front, which originally held the front door of the house. Originally visitors would drive up to the house through the courtyard and then the horse and carriage would go through the arch to the garden front, to enter through the front door facing the gardens.
DSC_0612
Back of the castle, with windows now where there was the original door for guest entrance.
DSC_0613
The house is seven bays wide and seven bays deep.
DSC_0623
DSC_0652
DSC_0635
DSC_0610
DSC_0616
DSC_0611
DSC_0619
DSC_0618

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

DSC_0609
DSC_0608
DSC_0621

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

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

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

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

DSC_0625 (1)

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

According to the website:

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Bence-Jones writes that:

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

DSC_0565
St. Hubert’s Stag on top. The crown below is the coronet of a Marquess.

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

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

Baron –  female version: Baroness

Viscount – Viscountess

Earl – ? what’s the female version?

Marquess (Marquis) – Marchioness

Duke – Duchess

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

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

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

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

nli curraghmore house waterford
photograph from flickr commons, National Library of Ireland.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


We were lucky to be able to wander around.

DSC_0606
There were some interesting looking machines in sheds. Perhaps some of this machinery is for grain, or some could be for the wool trade. Turtle Bunbury writes of the wool trade in the 18th century and of the involvement by the de la Poer family in Curraghmore. [6]

Other buildings were stables, or had been occupied as accommodation in the past, and some were used for storage.

DSC_0592
amazing vaulted ceilings for stables!
DSC_0597
The buildings above are behind the stables of the courtyard.

There must have been a whiskey distillery at one stage:

DSC_0587
DSC_0583
the Butler’s house, the first house in the courtyard nearest the main house. The Butler lived in the main house until he married, when he then was given the house in the courtyard. There was a Butler in the house until just two years ago, and he lived here until he retired.
household staff of Curraghmore House, Portlaw, Co. Waterford, ca.1905, National Library of Ireland
Household staff of Curraghmore, around 1905, courtesy of National Library of Ireland.

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

DSC_0648
dragon from the Beresford crest

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

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

IMG_0992
see the St. Eustace stag in the Newbridge College crest

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

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

DSC_0584

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

DSC_0626
the Shell Grotto
DSC_0627
inside the shell grotto, statue by John van Nost of Catherine Le Poer Beresford.
DSC_0630
DSC_0631

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

THE INTERIOR OF THE HOUSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MARQUESSES OF WATERFORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the Hunt, Curraghmore House
The Hunt, January 11, 1902, courtesy of National Library of Ireland
Otter Hunt, Curraghmore
According to the National Library, this is an Otter Hunt! At Curraghmore, May 14, 1901

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

THE GARDENS AND OUTBUILDINGS

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

DSC_0594
DSC_0596
DSC_0601
DSC_0602
the Forge – see the bellows in the corner of the room.

According to the website:

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

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

DSC_0615
DSC_0617
The Lake was designed by James Wyatt

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

DSC_0645
Built in 1205, this stone-arched structure, spanning the Clodagh River, is the oldest bridge in Ireland.
DSC_0646

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

DSC_0636
DSC_0638

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

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

[3] http://curraghmorehouse.ie/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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