Places to visit and stay in Munster: County Waterford

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.

Waterford:

1. Ballynatray Estate, Co. Waterford – section 482

2. Ballysaggartmore Towers, County Waterford

3. Bishop’s Palace Museum, Waterford

4. Cappagh House (Old and New), Cappagh, Dungarvan, Co Waterford – section 482

5. Cappoquin House & Gardens, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford – section 482

6. Curraghmore House, Portlaw, Co. Waterford – section 482

7. Dromana House, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford – section 482

8. Dungarvan Castle, Waterford – OPW

9. Fairbrook House, Garden and Museum, County Waterford

10. Lismore Castle Gardens

11. Mount Congreve Gardens, County Waterford

12. The Presentation Convent, Waterford Healthpark, Slievekeel Road, Waterford – section 482

13. Reginald’s Tower, County Waterford – OPW

14. Tourin House & Gardens, Tourin, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford – section 482

Places to stay, County Waterford

1. Annestown House, County Waterford – B&B €

2. Ballynatray Estate, Co. Waterford – section 482

3. Ballyrafter House, Lismore, Co Waterford – https://www.dungarvantourism.com/ballyrafter-house-hotel/

4. Cappoquin House holiday cottages, County Waterford

5. Dromana, Co Waterford – 482, holiday cottages

6. Faithlegg House, Waterford, Co Waterford – hotel https://www.faithlegg.com

7. Fort William, County Waterford, holiday cottages

8. Gaultier Lodge, Woodstown, Co Waterford 

9. Richmond House, Cappoquin, Co Waterford – guest house https://www.richmondcountryhouse.ie

10. Salterbridge Gate Lodge, County Waterford

11. Waterford Castle, The Island, Co Waterford

Whole House Rental County Waterford

1. Ballynatray Estate, Co. Waterford – section 482

2. Glenbeg House, Jacobean manor home, Glencairn, County Waterford P51 H5W0 €€€ for two, € for 7-16 – whole house rental http://www.glenbeghouse.com

3. Lismore Castle, whole house rental

Waterford:

1. Ballynatray Estate, Co. Waterford – section 482 – gardens only

Ballynatray, Youghal, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [1]
Ballynatray, Youghal, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [1]

Postal address: Glendine, Youghal, Co. Cork

contact: Carmel O’Keeffee-Power
Tel: 024-97460
www.ballynatray.com
Open: April 1-Sept 30, 12 noon-4pm
Fee: adult €6, child OAP/student €3

Ballynatray, Youghal, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [1]

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988) of Ballynatray:

“[Holroyd-Smyth; Ponsonby and sub Bessborough] A house of 2 storeys over a basement and 11 bays, built 1795-97 by Grice Smyth [1762-1816], incorporating some of the walls of a much earlier house which itself was built on the foundations of an old castle; refaced in stucco and its principal rooms re-decorated early in the C19 by Grice Smyth; some work having been done ca 1806 by Alexander Deane. Entrance front with 3 bay recessed centre between 4 bay projections joined by single-storey Ionic colonnade with a statue in a niche at either end. Balustraded roof parapet with urns. Garden front, facing down the Blackwater estuary, with 3 bay pedimented breakfront and 4 bays on either side. 5 bay side elevations. Early C19 interior plasterwork. Frieze of bulls’ heads – as distinct from the neo-Classical ox-skulls or bucrania, a demi-bull being the Smyth crest – in hall. Unusual frieze of cues and billiard balls in billiard room. Wide arched doorways between most of the principal rooms. By means of these arches, the library runs right through the house, with windows facing both the river and the park. The house is gloriously situated at a point where the river does a loop. Woods sweep outwards and round on either side and continue up and downstream for as far as the eye can see. On the landward side of the house is a hill, with a deer park full of bracken. There is an extraordinary sense of peace, of remoteness from the world. A short distance from the house is a ruined medieval abbey on an an island which was joined to the mainland by a causeway built 1806 by Grice Smyth, who put up a Classical urn within the abbey walls in honour of Raymond-le-Gros, Strongbow’s companion, who is said to be buried here. Also within the abbey walls is a statue of its founder, St. Molanfide, which Grice Smyth’s widow erected in 1820. The second daughter of Grice Smyth was the beautiful Penelope Smyth, whose runaway marriage with the Prince of Capua, brother of King Ferdinand II of Two Sicilies, caused an international furore in 1836. On the death of Mr Horace Holroyd-Smyth 1969, Ballynatray passed to his cousins, the Ponsonby family, of Kilcooley Abbey, Co. Tipperary.” [2]

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us Ballynatray is:

A very fine, substantial late eighteenth-century Classical-style house, built by Grice Smyth (n. d.), composed on a symmetrical plan, which has been very well restored in the late twentieth century to present an early aspect, with important salient features and materials intact, both to the exterior and to the interior. Fine reserved detailing applied shortly after completion of construction to designs prepared by Alexander Deane (c.1760 – 1806) enhances the architectural and design qualities of the composition, and is indicative of high quality craftsmanship. Incorporating the fabric of an earlier house, and reputed to incorporate the foundations of a medieval castle, the house continues a long-standing presence on site, and is of additional importance in the locality for its historic associations with the Smyth (Holroyd-Smyth) family. The house forms the centrepiece of an extensive planned estate that contributes significantly to the visual appeal of the locality, while the gardens overlooking the River Blackwater are of some landscape design interest.” (see [1])

2. Ballysaggartmore Towers, County Waterford

Ballysaggartmore Towers, Lismore, photograph by Chris Hill, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]
The Towers, Ballysaggartmore, Lismore, Co Waterford Courtesy of Luke Myers 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]

Mark Bence-Jones tells us (1988): p. 27. “(Keily, sub Ussher/IFR, Anson, sub Lichfield, E/PB) A late-Georgian house built round a courtyard, on the side of a steep hill overlooking the River Blackwater, to which a new front was subsequently added… A seat of the Keily family. Arthur Keily [1777-1862], who assumed the name of Ussher 1843, built two remarkable Gothic follies in the demesne, to the design of his gardener, J. Smith; one of them a turreted gateway, the other a castellated bridge over a stream. The house was bought at the beginning of the present century by Hon Claud Anson, who sold it 1930s. It was subsequently demolished. The follies remain, one of them being now occupied as a house.” 

The National Inventory describes this bridge and its towers:

Three-arch rock-faced sandstone ashlar Gothic-style road bridge over ravine, c.1845, on a curved plan. Rock-faced sandstone ashlar walls with buttresses to piers, trefoil-headed recessed niches to flanking abutments, cut-stone stringcourse on corbels, and battlemented parapets having cut-stone coping. Three pointed arches with rock-faced sandstone ashlar voussoirs, and squared sandstone soffits. Sited in grounds shared with Ballysaggartmore House spanning ravine with grass banks to ravine…Detached five-bay single- and two-storey lodge, c.1845, to south-west comprising single-bay single-storey central block with pointed segmental-headed carriageway, single-bay single-stage turret over on a circular plan, single-bay single-storey recessed lower flanking bays, single-bay single-storey advanced end bay to right, single-bay single-storey advanced higher end bay to left, and pair of single-bay two-storey engaged towers to rear (north-east) on square plans….Rock-faced sandstone ashlar walls with cut-sandstone dressings including stepped buttresses, battlemented parapets on corbelled stringcourses having cut-stone coping, and corner pinnacles to central block on circular plans having battlemented coping. Pointed-arch window openings with paired pointed-arch lights over, no sills, and chamfered reveals. Some square-headed window openings with no sills, chamfered reveals, and hood mouldings over. Square-headed door openings with hood mouldings over….Detached five-bay single- and two-storey lodge, c.1845, to north-east comprising single-bay two-storey central block with pointed segmental-headed carriageway, single-bay single-storey flanking recessed bays, single-bay two-storey advanced end bay tower to right on a square plan, single-bay two-stage advanced higher end tower to left on a circular plan, and pair of single-bay two-stage engaged towers to rear (south-west) elevation on circular plans…Although initial indications suggest that the lodges are identical, individualistic features distinguish each piece, and contribute significantly to the architectural design quality of the composition. Well maintained, the composition retains its original form and massing, although many of the fittings have been lost as a result of dismantling works in the mid twentieth century. The construction in rock-faced sandstone produces an attractive textured visual effect, and attests to high quality stone masonry.”

Ballysaggartmore Towers, Lismore, photograph by Chris Hill, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]
Ballysaggartmore Towers, Lismore, photograph Courtesy Celtic Routes, 2020, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]
Ballysaggartmore Towers, Lismore, photograph Courtesy Celtic Routes, 2020, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]
Ballysaggartmore Towers, Lismore, photograph Courtesy Celtic Routes, 2020, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]
Ballysaggartmore Towers, Lismore, photograph by Chris Hill, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]

The National Inventory describes the gateway: “Gateway, c.1845, comprising ogee-headed opening, limestone ashlar polygonal flanking piers, and pair of attached two-bay single- and two-storey flanking gate lodges diagonally-disposed to east and to west comprising single-bay single-storey linking bays with single-bay two-storey outer bays having single-bay three-stage engaged corner turrets on circular plans…Limestone ashlar polygonal piers to gateway with moulded stringcourses having battlemented coping over, and sproketed finial to apex to opening with finial. Sandstone ashlar walls to gate lodges with cut-limestone dressings including stepped buttresses, stringcourses to first floor, moulded course to first stage to turrets, and battlemented parapets on consoled stringcourses (on profiled tables to turrets) having cut-limestone coping. Ogee-headed opening to gateway with decorative cast-iron double gates. Paired square-headed window openings to gate lodges with no sills, chamfered reveals, and hood mouldings over. Square-headed door openings with chamfered reveals, and hood mouldings over. Pointed-arch door openings to turrets with inscribed surrounds. Trefoil-headed flanking window openings with raised surrounds, and quatrefoil openings over. Cross apertures to top stages to turrets with raised surrounds. All fittings now gone. Interiors now dismantled with internal walls and floors removed.

An impressive structure in a fantastical Gothic style, successfully combining a gateway and flanking gate lodges in a wholly-integrated composition. Now disused, with most of the external and internal fittings removed, the gateway nevertheless retains most of its original form and massing. The construction of the gateway attests to high quality stone masonry and craftsmanship, particularly to the fine detailing, which enhances the architectural and design quality of the site. The gateway forms an integral component of the Ballysaggartmore House estate and, set in slightly overgrown grounds, forms an appealing feature of Romantic quality in the landscape.

The Gate Lodge, Ballysaggartmore, Lismore, Co Waterford Courtesy of Luke Myers 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]
Ballysaggartmore Towers, Lismore, photograph by Chris Hill, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]

3. Bishop’s Palace Museum, Waterford

Bishop’s Palace, Waterford, photograph from the National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988):

p. 282. “The Palace of the (C of I) Bishops of Waterford; one of the largest and – externally – finest episcopal residences in Ireland. Begun 1741 by Bishop Charles Este to the design of Richard Castle. The garden front, which faces over the mall and new forms a magnificent architectural group with the tower and spire of later C18 Cathedral, by John Roberts, is of three storeys; the ground floor being treated as a basement and rusticated. The centre of the ground floor breaks forward with three arches, forming the base of the pedimented Doric centrepiece of the storey above, which incorporates three windows. In the centre of the top storey is a circular niche, flanked by two windows. On either side of the centre are three bays. Bishop Este died 1745 before the Palace was finished, which probably explains why the interior is rather disappointing. The Palace ceased to be the episcopal residence early in the present century, and from then until ca 1965 it was occupied by Bishop Foy school. It has since been sold.” 

Bishop’s Palace, Waterford by Keith Fitzgerald, 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]

Archiseek adds: “It has now been extensively restored to showcase artefacts and art from Waterford’s Georgian and Victorian past. The two main facades are quite different: one having seven bays – the central bay having an more elaborate window treatment and a Gibbsian doorway; the other facade has eight bay with a more elaborate entrance and shallow pediment with blank niches.” [4]

The National Inventory explains about the designs of Richard Castle and John Roberts:

An imposing Classical-style building commissioned by Bishop Miles (d. 1740) and subsequently by Bishop Charles Este (n. d.), and believed to have been initiated to plans prepared by Richard Castle (c.1690 – 1751), and completed to the designs prepared by John Roberts (1712 – 1796). The building is of great importance for its original intended use as a bishop’s palace, and for its subsequent use as a school. The construction of the building in limestone ashlar reveals high quality stone masonry, and this is particularly evident in the carved detailing, which has retained its intricacy. Well-maintained, the building presents an early aspect while replacement fittings have been installed in keeping with the original integrity of the design. The interior also incorporates important early or original schemes, including decorative plasterwork of artistic merit. Set on an elevated site, the building forms an attractive and commanding feature fronting on to The Mall (to south-east) and on to Cathedral Square (to north-west).”

Bishop’s Palace, Waterford City Courtesy Leo Byrne Photography 2015, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]
Bishop’s Palace, Waterford by Keith Fitzgerald, 2014, for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [3]

4. Cappagh House (Old and New), Cappagh, Dungarvan, Co Waterford – section 482

Cappagh House, County Waterford, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

contact: Charles and Claire Chavasse
Tel: 087-8290860, 086-8387420
http://www.cappaghhouse.ie
Open: April, June, & August, Wednesday & Thursday, May & September Wednesday Thursday & Saturday, National Heritage Week, August 13-21, Oct 1, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: adult/OAP/student/€5, child under 12 free

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 56. [Ussher; Chavasse] “A 2 storey Victorian house built 1875 by R.J. Ussher [Richard John Ussher (1841-1913)] to the design of the engineer who constructed the railway from Cork to Rosslare [ the National Inventory tells us the designs were by James Otway (1843-1906) and Robert Graeme Watt]; replacing an earlier house, which was subsequently used as outbuildings. Camber-headed widows cutting through string-courses; 3 sided bow on principal front; roundheaded staricase window with Romanesque tracery; highish roof. Sold 1944 by Mr Arland Ussher, the writer, to Col Kendal Chavasse.” 

The National Inventory tells us it has historical connections with historic connections with the Ussher family including Beverley Grant Ussher (1867-1956) and Percival Arnold “Arland” Ussher (1899-1980); and Colonel Kendal George Fleming Chavasse DSO (1904-2001). [5]

Old house at Cappagh, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [6]
Old house at Cappagh, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [6]

The National Inventory tells us of Old Cappagh: “Detached seven-bay single-storey split-level country house, extant 1768, on a quadrangular plan with single-bay (two-bay deep) two-storey flush end bays; five-bay two-storey rear (north) elevation centred on single-bay two-storey breakfront on a bowed plan…A country house erected by Arthur Ussher (1683-1768) of Camphire House (Dean 2018, 229) representing an important component of the domestic built heritage of County Waterford with the architectural value of the composition confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on scenic vistas overlooking “The American Ground” and a wooded lake with a hilly backdrop in the distance; the quadrangular plan form centred on a Classically-detailed doorcase showing a pretty fanlight; the somewhat disproportionate bias of solid to void in the massing; the definition of the principal “apartments” by Wyatt-style tripartite glazing patterns; and the “book end” crow stepped gables embellishing the roofline. A prolonged period of unoccupancy notwithstanding, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where contemporary joinery; an elegant staircase; and decorative plasterwork enrichments, all highlight the artistic potential of the composition.” [6]

5. Cappoquin House & Gardens, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford – section 482

see my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/01/24/cappoquin-house-gardens-cappoquin-co-waterford/
contact: Sir Charles Keane
Tel: 058-54290, 087-6704180
www.cappoquinhouseandgardens.com
Open: July 1-2, 4-9, 11-16, 18-23, 25-30, Aug 1-6, 8-22, Sept 16-17, 19-24, 26-30, 9am-1pm

Gardens open all year, 9am-6pm, closed Sundays except July 17, August 14, 21, 28, Fee: house/garden €15, house only €10, garden only €6

6. Curraghmore House, Portlaw, Co. Waterford – section 482

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/01/curraghmore-portlaw-county-waterford/
contact: Vanessa Behal
Tel: 051-387101
www.curraghmorehouse.ie
Open: 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

7. Dromana House, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford – section 482

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/02/06/dromana-house-cappoquin-co-waterford/
contact: Barbara Grubb
Tel: 086-8186305
www.dromanahouse.com
Open: June 1-12, 14-19, 21-26, 28-30, July 1-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19-24, 26-31, Aug 13- 21, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student, house and garden €15, house €10, garden €6, child under 12 free, groups of 100 or more house/garden €12, garden €5, house €9

8. Dungarvan Castle, Waterford – OPW

See my OPW write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/19/office-of-public-works-properties-munster/

9. Fairbrook House, Garden and Museum, County Waterford

https://www.fairbrook-housegarden.com/

The website tells us: “Fairbrook House garden and museum, Kilmeaden, Co.Waterford, Ireland X91FN83 A romantic walled garden at the river Dawn laid out between ruins of the former Fairbrook Mill (since 1700). OPEN MAY – SEPTEMBER”

10. Lismore Castle Gardens

Lismore Castle from the Pleasure Grounds in the Lower garden, by George Munday/Tourism Ireland 2014 (see [3])
Lismore Castle Gardens, Co Waterford, photograph Courtesy of Celtic Routes 2019 for Tourism Ireland (see [3])

https://www.discoverireland.ie/waterford/lismore-castle-gardens

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Lismore Castle:

p. 186. “(Boyle, Cork and Orrery, E.PB; Cavendish, Devonshire, D/PB)…Now predominantly of early C17 and C19; but incorporating some of the towers of the medieval castle of the Bishops of Lismore which itself took the place of a castle built by King John [around 1185] where there had formerly been a famous monastery founded by St. Carthagh and a university which was a great centre of civilisation and learning in the Dark Ages. The first Protestant Bishop, the notorious Myler McGrath, granted the castle and its lands to Sir Walter Raleigh; who, however, seldom lived here, preferring his house in Youghal, now known as Myrtle Grove.”

Lismore Castle, photograph Courtesy Patrick Brown 2014 for Tourism Ireland (see [3]).

Mark Bence-Jones continues the history of the castle: “In 1602, Raleigh sold Lismore and all his Irish estates to Richard Boyle, afterwards 1st Earl of Cork, one of the most remarkable of Elizabethan adventurers; who, having come to Ireland as a penniless young man, ended as one of the richest and most powerful nobles in the kingdom. From ca 1610 onwards, he rebuilt Lismore Castle as his home, surrounding the castle courtyard with three storey gabled ranges joining the old corner-towers, which were given Jacobean ogival roofs; the principal living rooms being on the side above the Blackwater, the parlour and dining-chamber in a wing projecting outwards to the very edge of the precipice, with an oriel window from which there is a sheer drop to the river far below. On the furthest side from the river Lord Cork built a gatehouse tower, incorporating an old Celtic-Romanesque arch which must have survived from Lismore’s monastic days. He also built a fortified wall – so thick that there is a walk along the top of it – enclosing a garden on this side of the castle; and an outer gatehouse with gabled towers known as the Riding House because it originally sheltered a mounted guard. The garden walls served an important defensive purpose when the castle was besieged by the Confederates 1642, the year before the “Great Earl’s” death. On this occasion the besiegers were repulsed; but in 1645 it fell to another Confederate Army and was sacked.”

Lismore Castle, photograph Courtesy Chris Hill 2015 for Tourism Ireland (see [3]).

Mark Bence-Jones continues the fascinating history: “It was made habitable again by the 2nd Earl of Cork – James II stayed a night here in 1689 and almost fainted when he looked out of the dining room window and saw the great drop – but it was neglected in C18 and became largely ruinous; the subsequent Earls of Cork, who were also Earls of Burlington, preferring to live on their estates in England. Through the marriage of the daughter and heiress of the architect Earl of Burlington [Charlotte Elizabeth Boyle (1731-1754), daughter of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, 4th Earl of Cork] and Cork to the 4th Duke of Devonshire [William Cavendish (1720-1764], Lismore passed to the Cavendishes. The 4th and 5th Dukes took no more interest in the castle than the Earls of Burlington had done; but the 6th Duke [William George Spenser Cavendish (1790-1858)] – remembered as the “Bachelor Duke” – began work at Lismore as soon as he succeeded his father 1811.”

Lismore Castle Gardens, Co Waterford, photograph Courtesy of Celtic Routes 2019 for Tourism Ireland (see [3])

I love the story of the Bachelor Duke: “By 1812 the castle was habitable enough for him to entertain his cousin, Lady Caroline Lamb [nee Ponsonby], her husband William, and her mother, Lady Bessborough, here. Caroline, who had been brought to Ireland in the hope that it would make her forget Byron, was bitterly disappointed by the castle; she had expected “vast apartments full of tattered furniture and gloom”; instead, as Lady Bessborough reported, “Hart handed her into, not a Gothic hall, but two small dapper parlours neatly furnished, in the newest Inn fashion, much like a Cit’s villa at Highgate.” Hart – the Bachelor Duke [He succeeded as the 6th Marquess of Hartington, co. Derby [E., 1694] on 29 July 1811] – had in fact already commissioned the architect William Atkinson to restore the range above the river in a suitably medieval style, and the work actually began in that same year. Battlements replaced the Great Earl of Cork’s gables and the principal rooms – including the dining room with the famous window, which became the drawing room – where given ceilings of simple plaster vaulting.

Lismore Castle Gardens, Co Waterford, photograph Courtesy of Celtic Routes 2019 for Tourism Ireland (see [3])

The Bachelor Duke, who became increasingly attached to Lismore, began a second and more ambitious phase of rebuilding 1850, towards the end of his life. This time his architect was Sir Joseph Paxton, that versatile genius who designed the Crystal Palace and who, having started as the Bachelor Duke’s gardener, became his close friend and right hand man. During the next few years, the three remaining sides of the courtyard were rebuilt in an impressive C19 castle style, with battlemented towers and turrets; all faced in cut-stone shipped over from Derbyshire. The Great Earl’s gatehouse tower, with its pyramidal roof, was however, left as it was, and also the Riding House. The ruined chapel of the Bishops, adjoining the range containing the Great Earl’s living rooms, was restored as a banqueting hall or ballroom of ecclesiastical character; with choirstalls, a vast Perpendicular stained glass window at either end, and richly coloured Gothic stencilling on the walls and the timbers of the open roof. The decoration of the room was carried out by John Gregory Crace, some of it being designed by Pugin, including the chimneypiece, which was exhibited in the Medieval Court at the Great Exhibition. The banqueting hall is the only really large room in the castle, the interior of which is on a much more modest and homely scale than might be expected from the great extent of the building; but in fact one side of the courtyard was designed to be a separate house for the agent, and another side to be the estate office. Subsequent Dukes of Devonshire have loved Lismore as much as the Bachelor Duke did, though their English commitments have naturally prevented them from coming here for more than occasional visits. From 1932 until his death 1944, the castle was continuously occupied by Lord Charles Cavendish, younger son of the 9th Duke, and his wife, the former Miss Adele Astaire, the dancer and actress, who still comes here every year. The present Duke and Duchess have carried out many improvements to the garden, which consist of the original upper garden, surrounded by the Great Earl’s fortified walls, and a more naturalistic garden below the approach to the castle; the two being linked in a charming and unexpected way by a staircase in the Riding House.” 

Lismore Castle, photograph Courtesy Chris Hill 2006 for Tourism Ireland (see [3]).

11. Mount Congreve Gardens, County Waterford – currently closed for renovations

https://mountcongreve.com/

Mount Congreve House and Gardens, Co Waterford Courtesy Celtic Routes 2019 for Tourism Ireland (see [3])

The website tells us: “Mount Congreve House and Gardens situated in Kilmeaden, Co. Waterford, in Ireland’s Ancient East is home to one of “the great gardens of the World”. Mount Congreve House, home to six generations of Congreves, was built in 1760 by the celebrated local architect John Roberts.

The Gardens comprise around seventy acres of intensively planted woodland, a four acre walled garden and 16 kilometres of walkways. Planted on a slight incline overlooking the River Suir, Mount Congreve’s entire collection consists of over three thousand different trees and shrubs, more than two thousand Rhododendrons, six hundred Camellias, three hundred Acer cultivars, six hundred conifers, two hundred and fifty climbers and fifteen hundred herbaceous plants plus many more tender species contained in the Georgian glasshouse.

The house was built for John Congreve (1730-1801), who held the office of High Sheriff of County Waterford in 1755. He married Mary Ussher, daughter of Beverly Ussher, MP, who lived at Kilmeadon, County Waterford.

Mount Congreve, Co Waterford Courtesy Sonder Visuals 2017 for Tourism Ireland (see [3])

Mark Bence-Jones tells us of Mount Congreve (1988):

p. 213. “(Congreve/IFR) An C18 house [the National Inventory says c. 1750] consisting of three storey seven bay centre block with two storey three bay overlapping wings; joined to pavilions by screen walls with arches on the entrance front and low ranges on the garden front, where the centre block has a three bay breakfront and an ionic doorcase. The house was remodelled and embellished ca 1965-69, when a deep bow was added in the centre of the entrance front, incorporating a rather Baroque Ionic doorcase, nd the pavilions were adorned with cupolas and doorcases with broken pediments. Other new features include handsome gateways flaking the garden front at either end a fountain with a statue in one of the courtyards between the house and pavilions. The present owner has also laid out magnificent gardens along the bank of the River Suir which now extends to upwards of 100 acres; with large scale plantings of rare trees and shrubs, notably rhododendrons and magnolias. The original walled gardens contains an C18 greenhouse.” 

Mount Congreve Estate Gardens, Co Waterford Courtesy Sonder Visuals 2017 for Tourism Ireland (see [3]). In April 2011 Mr. Congreve was in London en route to the Chelsea Flower Show, aged 104, when he died. His ashes were returned to Mount Congreve and placed in the temple overlooking his gardens and the River Suir below.

The Woodland gardens at Mount Congreve were founded on the inspiration, generosity and encouragement of Mr. Lionel N. de Rothschild. He became arguably, the greatest landscaper of the 20th Century and one of the cleverest hybridists. He died in 1942. The original gardens at Mount Congreve had comprised of a simple terraced garden with woodland of ilexes and sweet chestnuts on the slopes falling down to the river. The Gardens are held in Trust for the State.

The original gardens at Mount Congreve had comprised of a simple terraced garden with woodland of ilexes and sweet chestnuts on the slopes falling down to the river. Ambrose Congreve began planting parts of these in his late teens but it was not until 1955 that he began to make large clearings in the woodlands to create the necessary conditions where his new plants would thrive. With the arrival of Mr. Herman Dool in the early sixties, the two men began the process that would lead to Mount Congreve’s recognition as one of the ‘Great Gardens of the World’. Up to the very last years of his life, Mr Congreve could be found in the gardens dispensing orders and advice relating to his beloved plants.

Mount Congreve Estate Gardens, Co Waterford Courtesy Sonder Visuals 2017 for Tourism Ireland (see [3])

Mount Congreve Gardens is closed at the moment for new development works. An article by Ann Power in the Mount Congreve blog, 22nd Sept 2021, tells us

Grand opening of the House & Gardens set for 2022.

The 70-acre Mount Congreve Gardens overlooking the River Suir and located around 7km from the centre of Waterford City will close on October 10th 2021. The closure is to facilitate the upcoming works on Mount Congreve House and Gardens as it will be redeveloped into a world-class tourism destination with an enhanced visitor experience which is set to open for summer 2022.

Funding of €3,726,000 has been approved under the Rural Regeneration Development Fund with additional funding from Failte Ireland and Waterford City & County Council for the visitor attraction, which is home to one of the largest private collections of plants in the world. The redevelopment and restoration of the Estate is set to provide enhanced visitor amenities including the repair of the historic greenhouse, improved access to grounds and pathways, and provision of family-friendly facilities. Car parking & visitor centre with cafe & retail.

The project is planned for completion in 2022 and will create a new visitor centre featuring retail, food and beverage facilities, kitchens, toilets, and a ticket desk while also opening up new areas of the estate to the public including parts of the main house which has never been accessible to the public before.

Estate Manager Ray Sinnott says, “There are exciting times ahead for the historic Mount Congreve House and Gardens and we are very much looking forward to working on and unveiling the new visitor experience in 2022.

Unfortunately for now, in order to facilitate the redevelopment of Mount Congreve House and Gardens, we will be closed for a number of months. This is to facilitate a number of restorative and construction works in the different areas of the gardens and at the main house.

We apologise for any inconvenience and look forward to welcoming all of our visitors old and new when we reopen next year.

12. The Presentation Convent, Waterford Healthpark, Slievekeel Road, Waterford – section 482

The Presentation Convent, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Michelle O’ Brien
Tel: 051-370057

www.rowecreavin.ie
Open: Jan 1-Dec 31, excluding Bank Holidays, 8.30am-5.30pm, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21
Fee: Free

The National Inventory tells us it is a:

Detached ten-bay two-storey over basement Gothic Revival convent, built 1848 – 1856, on a quadrangular plan about a courtyard comprising eight-bay two-storey central block with two-bay two-storey gabled advanced end bays to north and to south, ten-bay two-storey over part-raised basement wing to south having single-bay four-stage tower on a circular plan, eight-bay two-storey recessed wing to east with single-bay two-storey gabled advanced engaged flanking bays, six-bay double-height wing to north incorporating chapel with two-bay single-storey sacristy to north-east having single-bay single-storey gabled projecting porch, and three-bay single-storey wing with dormer attic to north…

An attractive, substantial convent built on a complex plan arranged about a courtyard. Designed by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812 – 1852) in the Gothic Revival style, the convent has been well maintained, retaining its original form and character, together with many important salient features and materials. However, the gradual replacement of the original fittings to the openings with inappropriate modern articles threatens the historic character of the composition. The construction of the building reveals high quality local stone masonry, particularly to the cut-stone detailing, which has retained its original form. A fine chapel interior has been well maintained, and includes features of artistic design distinction, including delicate stained glass panels, profiled timber joinery, including an increasingly-rare rood screen indicative of high quality craftsmanship, and an open timber roof construction of some technical interest. The convent remains an important anchor site in the suburbs of Waterford City and contributes to the historic character of an area that has been substantially developed in the late twentieth century.” [7]

13. Reginald’s Tower, County Waterford – OPW

See my OPW write-up:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/01/19/office-of-public-works-properties-munster/

14. Tourin House & Gardens, Tourin, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford – section 482

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/30/tourin-house-gardens-cappoquin-county-waterford/
contact: Kristin Jameson
Tel: 086-8113841
www.tourin-house.ie
Open: April 1-Sept 30, Tue-Sat, National Heritage Week Aug 13-21, 1pm-5pm
Fee: adult €6, OAP/student €3.50, child free.

Places to stay, County Waterford

1. Annestown House, County Waterford – B&B €

Annestown House, County Waterford, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

http://homepage.eircom.net/~annestown/welcome.htm 

Mark Bence-Jones tells us of Annestown:

p. 5. “(Palliser, sub Galloway/IFR) Rambling three storey house at right angles to the village street of Annestown, which is in fact two houses joined together. The main front of the house faces the sea; but it has a gable end actually on the street. Low-ceilinged but spacious rooms; long drawing room divided by an arch with simple Victorian plasterwork; large library approached by a passage. Owned at beginning of 19C by Henry St. George Cole, bought ca. 1830 by the Palliser family, from whom it was inherited by the Galloways.”

The National Inventory gives us more detail on its construction: “Detached six-bay two-storey house with dormer attic, c.1820, retaining early fenestration with single-bay two-storey gabled entrance bay, single-bay two-storey gabled end bay having single-bay two-storey canted bay window, three-bay two-storey wing to north originally separate house, c.1770, and three-bay two-storey return to west. Extended, c.1920, comprising single-bay single-storey lean-to recessed end bay to south.

Annestown House, County Waterford, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

2. Ballyrafter House, Lismore, Co Waterford –

https://www.dungarvantourism.com/ballyrafter-house-hotel/

I’m not sure if this is still a hotel as it was advertised for sale in 2020. The Myhome website tells us: “Ballyrafter House was built circa 1830, on the commission of the Duke of Devonshire, one of the wealthiest men in England, whose Irish Seat is the nearby Lismore Castle. Initially intended for the Duke’s Steward, it soon became a hunting and fishing lodge for his guests.

3. Cappoquin House holiday cottages

www.cappoquinhouseandgardens.com

4. Dromana, Co Waterford – 482, holiday cottages

www.dromanahouse.com

5. Faithlegg House, Waterford, Co Waterford – hotel €€

https://www.faithlegg.com

Faithlegg House Hotel, Co Waterford, Courtesy Colin Shanahan_ Faithlegg House Hotel 2021, for Tourism Ireland. (see [3])

Mark Bence-Jones describes Faithlegg House (1988):

p. 123. (Power/IFR; Gallwey/IFR) A three storey seven bay block with a three bay pedimented breakfront, built 1783 by Cornelius Bolton, MP, whose arms, elaborately displayed, appear in the pediment. Bought 1819 by the Powers who ca 1870 added two storey two bay wings with a single-storey bow-fronted wings beyond them. At the same time the house was entirely refaced, with segmental hoods over the ground floor windows; a portico or porch with slightly rusticated square piers was added, as well as an orangery prolonging one of the single-storey wings. Good C19 neo-Classical ceilings in the principal rooms of the main block, and some C18 friezes upstairs. Sold 1936 by Mrs H.W.D. Gallwey (nee Power); now a college for boys run by the De La Salle Brothers.” 

The Faithlegg website tells us that the house was probably built by John Roberts (1714-1796): “a gifted Waterford architect who designed the Waterford’s two Cathedrals, City Hall, Chamber of Commerce and Infirmary.  He leased land from Cornelius Bolton at Faithlegg here he built his own house which he called Roberts Mount. He built mansions for local gentry and was probably the builder of Faithlegg House in 1783.”

The website tells us of more about the history of the house:

Faithlegg stands at the head of Waterford Harbour, where the three sister rivers of the Barrow, Nore and Suir meet.  As a consequence, it has been to the fore in the history of not just Waterford but also Ireland. For it was via the harbour and these rivers that the early settlers entered and from the hill that we stand under, the Minaun, that the harbour was monitored. Here legend tells us sleeps the giant Cainche Corcardhearg son of Fionn of the Fianna who was stationed here to keep a watch over Leinster.

A Norman named Strongbow landed in the harbour in 1170 and this was followed by the arrival of Henry II in October 1171.  Legend has it that Henry’s fleet numbered 600 ships and one of the merchants who donated to the flotilla was a Bristol merchant named Aylward.  He was handsomely rewarded with the granting of 7000 acres of land centred in Faithlegg. The family lived originally in a Motte and Baily enclosure the remains of which is still to be seen.  This was followed by Faithlegg Castle and the 13th century church in the grounds of the present Faithlegg church dates from their era too. The family ruled the area for 500 years until they were dispossessed in 1649 by the armies of Oliver Cromwell. The property was subsequently granted to a Cromwellian solider, Captain William Bolton. 

Over a century later in 1783 the present house was commenced by Cornelius Bolton who had inherited the Faithlegg Estate from his father in 1779. Cornelius was an MP, a progressive landlord and businessman. Luck was not on his side however and financial difficulties followed. In 1819 the Bolton family sold the house and lands to Nicholas and Margaret Mahon Power, who had married the year before. It was said that Margaret’s dowry enabled the purchase. The Powers adorned the estate with the stag’s head and cross, which was the Power family crest. It remains the emblem of Faithlegg to this day.”

Margaret, the website tells us, was the only daughter and heiress of Nicholas Mahon of Dublin. She married Nicholas Power in 1818 and the couple came to live in Faithlegg.  It was not a happy marriage and, following a legal separation in 1860, she returned to live in Dublin where she died in 1866.  

The House passed to Hubert Power, the only son of Pat & Lady Olivia Power, and in 1920 upon Hubert’s death, it passed to his daughter Eily Power, in 1935 Eily and her husband sold the House to the De la Salle order of teaching brothers after which it acted as a junior novitiate until 1986. 

The last remaining gap in history is from 1980’s until 1998 when it was taken over by FBD Property and Leisure Group.

6. Fort William, County Waterford, holiday cottages

Fort William, County Waterford, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

www.fortwilliamfishing.ie

Mark Bence-Jones tells us of Fort William (1988):

p. 126.  “Gumbleton, sub Maxwell-Gumbleton/LG1952; Grosvenor, Westminster, B/PB) A two storey house of sandstone ashlar with a few slight Tudor-Revival touches, built 1836 for J. B. [John Bowen] Gumbleton to the design of James & George Richard Pain. Three bay front with three small gables and a slender turret-pinnacle at either side; doorway recessed in segmental-pointed arch Georgian glazed rectangular sash windows with hood mouldings. Tudor chimneys. Other front of seven bays; plain three bay side elevation. Large hall, drawing room with very fine Louis XI boiseries, introduced by 2nd Duke of Westminster, Fort William was his Irish home from ca 1946 to his death in 1953. Afterwards the house of Mr and Mrs Henry Drummond-Wolff, then Mr and Mrs Murray Mitchell.” 

Fort William, County Waterford, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The Historic Houses of Ireland gives us more detail about the house, including explaining its name:

In the early eighteenth century the Gumbleton family, originally from Kent, purchased an estate beside the River Blackwater in County Waterford, a few miles upstream from Lismore. The younger son, William Conner Gumbleton, inherited a portion of the estate and built a house named Fort William, following the example of his cousin, Robert Conner, who had called his house in West Cork Fort Robert. The estate passed to his nephew, John Bowen Gumbleton, who commissioned a new house by James and George Richard Pain, former apprentices of John Nash with a thriving architectural practice in Cork. 

Built in 1836, in a restrained Tudor Revival style, the new house is a regular building of two stories in local sandstone with an abundance of gables, pinnacles and tall Elizabethan chimneys. The interior is largely late-Georgian and Fortwilliam is essentially a classical Georgian house with a profusion of mildly Gothic details. 

Gumbleton’s son died at sea and his daughter Frances eventually leased the house to Colonel Richard Keane, brother of Sir John from nearby Cappoquin House. The Colonel was much annoyed when his car, reputedly fitted with a well-stocked cocktail cabinet, was commandeered by the IRA so he permitted Free State troops to occupy the servants’ wing at Fortwilliam during the Civil War, which may have influenced the Republican’s decision to burn his brother’s house in 1923. 

When Colonel Keane died in a shooting accident, the estate reverted to Frances Gumbleton’s nephew, John Currey, and was sold to a Mr Dunne, who continued the tradition of letting the house. His most notable tenant was Adele Astaire, sister of the famous dancer and film star Fred Astaire, who became the wife of Lord Charles Cavendish from nearby Lismore Castle. 

In 1944 the Gumbleton family repurchased Fortwilliam but resold for £10,000 after just two years. The new owner was Hugh Grosvenor, second Duke of Westminster and one of the world’s wealthiest men. His nickname ‘Bend or’ was a corruption of the heraldic term Azure, a bend or, arms the Court of Chivalry had forced his ancestor to surrender to Lord Scroope in 1389 and still a source of irritation after six hundred years. Already thrice divorced, the duke’s name had been linked to a number of fashionable ladies, including the celebrated Parisian couturier Coco Chanel. 

Fortwilliam is in good hunting country with some fine beats on a major salmon river, which allowed the elderly duke to claim he had purchased an Irish sporting base. Its real purpose, however, was to facilitate his pursuit of Miss Nancy Sullivan, daughter of a retired general from Glanmire, near Cork, who soon became his fourth duchess. 

They made extensive alterations at Fortwilliam, installing the fine gilded Louis XV boiseries in the drawing room, removed from the ducal seat at Eaton Hall, in Cheshire, and fitting out the dining room with panelling from one of his sumptuous yachts. He died in 1953 but his widow survived for a further fifty years, outliving three of her husband’s successors at Eaton Lodge in Cheshire. Anne, Duchess of Westminster was renowned as one of the foremost National Hunt owners of the day. Her bay gelding, Arkle, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on three successive occasions and is among the most famous steeplechasers of all time. 

Fortwilliam was briefly owned by the Drummond-Wolfe family before passing to an American, Mr. Murray Mitchell. On his widow’s death it was purchased by Ian Agnew and his wife Sara, who undertook a sensitive restoration before he too died in 2009. In 2013 the estate was purchased by David Evans-Bevan who lives at Fortwilliam today with his family, farming and running the salmon fishery.

7. Gaultier Lodge, Woodstown, Co Waterford €€

http://www.gaultierlodge.com 

The website tells us that

Gaultier Lodge is an 18th Century Georgian Country House designed by John Roberts, which overlooks the beach at Woodstown on the south east coast of Co. Waterford in Ireland. Enjoy high quality bed and breakfast guest accommodation next to the beach and Waterford Bay. Relax and unwind in the tastefully decorated rooms and warm inviting bedrooms. Enjoy an Irish breakfast each morning.”

8. Richmond House, Cappoquin, Co Waterford – guest house 

https://www.richmondcountryhouse.ie

The Earl of Cork built Richmond House in 1704. Refurbished and restored each of the 9 bedrooms feature period furniture and warm, spacious comfort. All rooms are ensuite and feature views of the extensive grounds and complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access is available throughout the house. An award winning 18th century Georgian country house, Richmond House is situated in stunning mature parkland surrounded by magnificent mountains and rivers.

Richmond House facilities include a fully licensed restaurant with local and French cuisine. French is also spoken at Richmond House. Each bedroom offers central heating, direct dial telephone, television, trouser press, complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access, tea-and coffee-making facilities and a Richmond House breakfast.”

9. Salterbridge Gate Lodge, County Waterford

https://www.irishlandmark.com/property/salterbridge-gatelodge/

See my write-up about Salterbridge, previously on the Section 482 list but no longer:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/16/salterbridge-house-and-garden-cappoquin-county-waterford/

and www.salterbridgehouseandgarden.com

10. Waterford Castle, The Island, Co Waterford €€

https://www.waterfordcastleresort.com

Waterford Castle Hotel, photo by Shane O’Neill 2010 for Tourism Ireland. (see [3])

The Archiseek website tells us that Waterford Castle is: “A small Norman keep that was extended and “restored” in the late 19th century. An initial restoration took place in 1849, but it was English architect W.H. Romaine-Walker who extended it and was responsible for its current appearance today. The original keep is central to the composition with two wings added, and the keep redesigned to complete the composition.

The National Inventory adds: “Detached nine-bay two- and three-storey over basement Gothic-style house, built 1895, on a quasi H-shaped plan incorporating fabric of earlier house, pre-1845, comprising three-bay two-storey entrance tower incorporating fabric of medieval castle, pre-1645…A substantial house of solid, muscular massing, built for Gerald Purcell-Fitzgerald (n. d.) to designs prepared by Romayne Walker (n. d.) (supervised by Albert Murrary (1849 – 1924)), incorporating at least two earlier phases of building, including a medieval castle. The construction in unrefined rubble stone produces an attractive, textured visual effect, which is mirrored in the skyline by the Irish battlements to the roof. Fine cut-stone quoins and window frames are indicative of high quality stone masonry. Successfully converted to an alternative use without adversely affecting the original character of the composition, the house retains its original form and massing together with important salient features and materials, both to the exterior and to the interior, including fine timber joinery and plasterwork to the primary reception rooms.”

Waterford Castle Hotel and Golf Resort 2021 County Waterford, from Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])
Photograph Courtesy of Waterford Castle Hotel and Golf Resort, 2021, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [3])
Waterford Castle Hotel, photo by Shane O’Neill 2016 for Tourism Ireland. (see [3])

Whole House Rental County Waterford

1. Glenbeg House, Jacobean manor home, Glencairn, County Waterford P51 H5W0 €€€ for two, € for 7-16 – whole house rental http://www.glenbeghouse.com

The website tells us: “Tranquil historic estate accommodating guests in luxury. Glenbeg, a historic castle which has been sensitively restored, preserving its historic past, whilst catering to the needs and comforts of modern living.

Glenbeg Estate is the maternal home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who visited during his life time and wrote some of his early work while visiting with his family here. You and your party will have exclusive use of the property during your stay.

2. Lismore Castle, whole house rental

www.lismorecastlegardens.com

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22903712/ballynatray-house-ballynatray-demesne-co-waterford

[2] 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.

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

[4] https://archiseek.com/2009/1746-bishops-palace-waterford/

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22903010/cappagh-house-cappagh-d-wt-by-co-waterford

[6] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22903010/cappagh-house-cappagh-d-wt-by-waterford

[7] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22829002/presentation-convent-slievekeale-road-waterford-city-waterford-co-waterford

Wilton Castle, Bree, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford (and a trip to Johnstown Castle)

contact: Sean Windsor
(Tourist Accommodation Facility)
Tel: 053-9247738
www.wiltoncastleireland.com
Open: all year

Wilton Castle.

We treated ourselves to a stay in Wilton Castle in November in 2021. Having been gutted in a fire in 1923, it stood as a dramatic ruin until the Windsors purchased and began to refurbish it into luxurious accommodation. The current restoration was completed in 2014. So far just half of it has been rebuilt, the rest has been stabilised but remains empty and without a roof. The work which has been done by the Windsors is incredible – it seems to have been rebuilt to a very high standard. I’m not sure if they intend to continue to rebuild the rest of the castle.

Wilton Castle was designed for Harry Alcock (1792-1840) by Daniel Robertson (d. 1849) in 1836-38, subsuming parts of an earlier castle and house.

The area was previously known as Clogh na Kayer (The Castle of the Sheep). Herbert Hore writes in History of the Town and County of Wexford that an ancient Castle of Cloghnakayer was built in the fourteenth century. The De Dene family owned the land until 1354, when an only daughter married Philip Furlong whose descendant, Sir Fulke Furlong, knight, of Horetown, built a castle around 1410. 

The land then passed to the Butlers of Mountgarret. Edward Butler, Baron of Kayer (eldest son of Pierce, second son of Richard 1st Viscount Mountgarret) rebuilt and restored the ancient Castle, and added a mansion house to it in 1599. [1]

The view from our suite.

Edward Butler’s son, Pierce, inherited. Pierce Butler was a Catholic and a supporter of the monarchy and his land was confiscated by the Cromwellian parliament in 1655 and granted to a Cromwellian soldier, Captain Robert Thornhill. Captain Robert’s son sold the estate in 1695 to William Alcock (d. 1705) of Downpatrick, County Down. [2]

Herbert Hore tells us that William Alcock rebuilt the castle, and called it Wilton. It was this castle that was subsumed in Daniel Robertson’s design for Harry Alcock. Herbert Hore writes that “the late Colonel Alcock [Harry, (1821-93)] told me that some of the walls of the ancient Castle of the Butlers are incorporated in the present building.”

Robert O’Byrne writes: “William Alcock built a new residence for himself on the site of an old castle, and this was occupied by his descendants for several generations. A handsome classical doorcase of granite with segmental pediment above fluted pilasters survives on the façade of the former steward’s house at Wilton to indicate the appearance of the original Alcock house, dismissed by Martin Doyle in his 1868 book on the county as being ‘in the dull style of William and Mary.’ ” [3]

A handsome classical doorcase of granite with segmental pediment above fluted pilasters survives on the façade of the former steward’s house at Wilton to indicate the appearance of the original Alcock house.”
The former steward’s house, in the stable yard below Wilton Castle.

A daughter of William and his wife Jane nee Bamber of Bamber Hall of Lancaster, England, married Patrick Lattin and was the mother of the famous Jack Lattin of Morristown Lattin, County Kildare, who danced himself to death!

The estate passed to William Alcock’s son, another William Alcock (1681-1739), then to his son, Col. William Alcock (d. 1779) (Colonel in the Waterford Militia). He married Mary Loftus of Loftus Hall, County Wexford, daughter of Nicholas Loftus, 1st Viscount Loftus of Ely and his wife Anne Ponsonby, daughter of William Ponsonby, 1st Viscount Duncannon.

Loftus Hall, the home of Mary Loftus, wife of William Alcock (d. 1779). Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Wilton then passed to his son, Henry Alcock (d. 1811). Henry Alcock married Elizabeth Katherine Ussher, daughter of Beverly Ussher of Kilmeadon, County Waterford, who was a long term MP for County Waterford. Henry Alcock also served as an MP for Waterford. Elizabeth Katherine’s sister Mary also married an MP, John Congreve of Mount Congreve in Waterford (which has beautiful gardens open to the public, although temporarily closed – I wonder if the house is to be opened also?).

The estate then passed to his son, William Congreve Alcock (1771-1812). William competed in the general election of 1807 against John Colclough of Tintern Abbey (son of Vesey Colclough, MP for County Wexford). Unfortunately they decided to settle a dispute by a duel, and William shot and killed John. John had been engaged to a sister of William’s. William was tried for murder but acquitted. He never got over the incident however and it affected his mental health and he died five years later. [4] Thus Wilton Castle passed to his brother, Harry Alcock (1792-1840).

In 1818 Harry Alcock married Margaret Elinor Savage, daughter of James Savage of Kilgibbon, County Wexford (this house is now a ruin). He then engaged Daniel Robertson in 1837 to renovate Wilton House, which became Wilton Castle. The newer house was built in front of the older Wilton House.

The older Wilton House, covered in weather-slating, is visible at the back of Wilton Castle.

The details of Daniel Robertson’s training are not known. He struggled with bankruptcy for a large part of his life and moved from working in Oxford in England to Ireland, at the urging of his father-in-law. The Dictionary of Irish Architects tells us:

From the early 1830s he did no further work in Britain but received a series of commissions in Ireland, mainly for country house work in the south eastern counties. Most of these houses or additions were in the Tudor style, which, he asserted in a letter to a client, Henry Faulkner, of Castletown, Co. Carlow, was ‘still so new and so little understood in Ireland’. For some of them he used Martin Day as his executant architect. In spite of his success in attracting commissions, when he was working at Powerscourt in the early 1840s he was, in the words of Lord Powerscourt, ‘always in debt and…used to hide in the domes of the roof of the house’ to escape the Sheriff’s officers who pursued him. By then he was crippled with gout and in an advanced state of alcoholism; at Powerscourt he ‘used to be wheeled out on the terrace in a wheelbarrow with a bottle of sherry, and as long as that lasted he was able to design and direct the workmen, but when the sherry was finished he collapsed and was incapable of working till the drunken fit had evaporated.’ In at least two instances – at Powerscourt and at Lisnavagh – he lived on the premises while work was in progress, and it seems that from the 1830s until the year of his death his wife and family never settled for any time in Ireland… Robertson was overseeing the completion of Lisnavagh, Co. Carlow, where he had been living intermittently since the start of building in 1846, when he fell seriously ill in the spring of 1849” and died in September of that year. [5]

Ballydarton House, County Carlow, also designed by Daniel Robertson, in 1830. Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.
Dunleckney Manor, County Carlow, by Daniel Robertson, 1835. Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Daniel Robertson also designed the nearby Johnstown Castle in County Wexford. We visited Johnstown Castle also but unfortunately it was closed the only day we were in Wexford, as they were taking down Hallowe’en decorations from a special event! Such a pity we weren’t able to see the inside of the castle yet, but we shall certainly visit again.

Johnstown Castle is described in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “the construction in a blue-green rubble stone offset by glimmering Mount Leinster granite dressings not only demonstrating good quality workmanship, but also producing a sober two-tone palette.” [6] Wilton Castle also has Mount Leinster granite dressings. It was covered however in white lime plaster – which has been reinstated on the renovated part of the castle.

The lakeside facade of Johnstown Castle, County Wexford, built 1836-72 for Hamilton Knox Grogan Morgan (1808-54), MP, also by Daniel Robertson – it has remarkable similarities to Wilton Castle. It envelops a seventeenth-century house (perhaps by Thomas Hopper) [7] remodelled (1810-4) by James Pain (1779-1877) of Limerick.
Johnstown Castle overlooks a beautiful lake.

Harry’s daughter Henrietta married William Russell Farmar who also had a house built by Daniel Robertson: Bloomfield in County Wexford.

Bloomfield, a country house erected for William Russell Farmar JP (1802-71) to a design by Daniel Robertson. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Another daughter, Sarah, married Thomas John Fetherston, 5th Baronet, of Ardagh, County Longford (the house is now in use as training college, St. Brigid’s Training College, by the Sisters of Mercy).

Harry’s son, another Harry Alcock (1821-93), inherited Wilton Castle and the estate. He served as High Sheriff of Wexford in 1846 and was Lt-Col. of the Wexford Militia.  He continued the building work, which finished in 1844, adding the large square four storey tower with its elaborate balconies. He also improved the surrounding estate. He increased the plantation of trees and implemented a programme of road construction, fence building and draining of land which was carried out as Famine relief work. [8]

Wilton Castle, when designed by Daniel Robertson, consisted of a three-storey main block and two-storey wing, all dominated by a tall square tower at one end and a tall polygonal tower and turret at the other, and it is heavily machicolated and battlemented. It is the two storey wing which has been renovated for accommodation.

The tall square tower is at one end of Wilton Castle, on the three storey section.

Harry Alcock died unmarried in 1893 and the estate (some 7,000 acres in the 1870s) passed to his nephew, Philip Clayton Alcock (1861-1949), son of Harry’s brother Philip Savage Alcock (1828-86) of Park House on the Wilton estate and his wife Katherine Annette Browne-Clayton of Carrickbyrne Lodge in County Wexford. Philip Clayton Alcock was a Captain in the Gloucestershire Regiment, and in 1900 High Sheriff of Wexford, but by 1922 he felt it was too dangerous to remain at Wilton and moved to England. In 1923 his fears about his Irish property were justified when Wilton Castle was burned by arsonists. [9]

A contemporary account in the Irish Times, 7 March 1923 tells us about the burning: “Wilton Castle, the residence of Captain P.C. Alcock, about three miles from Enniscorthy, was burned by armed men on Monday night. Nothing remains of the beautiful building but smoke-begrimed, roofless walls, broken windows, and a heap of smouldering debris. The Castle was occupied by a caretaker – Mr. James Stynes – the owner, with his wife and family, having gone to England about a year ago. Shortly after 9 o’clock on Monday night the caretaker was at the Steward’s residence…when he was approached by armed men, who demanded the keys to the Castle. When he asked why they wanted the keys, one of the armed men said: “We have come to burn the place. We are sorry”. The raiders told the caretaker that he could remove his personal belongings from the part of the Castle that he occupied, but they would not allow him to remove the furniture. Fearing that the Castle might be burned, however, Captain Alcock had removed the most valuable portion of his furniture some weeks ago, but a good many rooms were left furnished. When the caretaker had removed his property he was ordered back to the Steward’s house. Soon the noise of breaking glass was heard. It appears that the armed men broke all the windows on the ground floor, and having sprinkled the floors with petrol, set them alight. They did not hurry over their work of destruction, and they did not leave the Castle until near 12 o’clock, when the building was enveloped in flames. About thirty men took part in the raid. After the raiders left, the caretaker and Steward, with what help they could procure, tried to extinguish the flames, but their effort was hopeless”. [10]

Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage of Wilton Castle before renovation.
The tall polygonal tower and telescoping turret at the other end of Wilton Castle, on the two storey section of the castle, which has been renovated and faced in a creamy white lime plaster to distinguish it from the section which remains a ruin.

Wilton Castle was built on a moated platform surrounded by parapet walls and sham fortifications.

The moated area, in front of the castle.
One of the little fortification towers along the moat in front of the castle.
Area in front of the castle, with another of the fortification towers and the moated area (not filled with water) lies on the far side of the low wall.
The windows of Wilton Castle are arched and paired and have hood mouldings; the roof has crenellations.
The side of Wilton Castle. Note the fine stone chimneys. The octagonal turret on the south west corner of Wilton Castle is built entirely of Mount Leinster granite and contains 182 cubic ft of stone or approx 13.5 ton in weight. [11]

In the three storey section of the castle, there is a beautiful carved doorcase, and an oriel window over it with delicate stone tracery and crenellations on top of the windowframe. Mark Bence-Jones defines an oriel window as “a large projecting window in Gothic, Tudor, Gothic-Revival and Tudor-Revival architecture; sometimes rising through two or more storeys, sometimes in an upper storey only and carried on corbelling.” [12] There is a similar oriel window at Johnstown Castle, which is only one storey high.

The beautifully carved Tudor-style doorcase at Wilton Castle.
The carved doorcase and oriel window of Wilton Castle.

At Wilton Castle there are double sets of sidelight windows either side of the doorcase, with arched carved window frames.

The Oriel window at Johnstown Castle, similar to that at Wilton Castle though the one at Wilton Castle is double-height.

I was most excited to discover that we could explore the ruined part of the castle as it has been stabilised securely. It was wonderful to explore the detail.

The tower of the ruined part of Wilton Castle. It has wonderful balconies on heavy stone corbels with Gothic tracery windows.
The oriel window and doorcase as seen from inside Wilton Castle.

We kept discovering more. Pictures from the front of the castle do not do it justice. The land drops down behind the castle to the River Boro, to reveal beautiful pastoral views from the back windows of the castle.

The view over the river from inside the ruin of Wilton Castle.
The River Boro running along the back of Wilton Castle.
There are lots of stone corbels.
The spiral staircase inside the round tower at the back of the castle which joins the older Wilton House to the rest of the Castle.
The view from the interior spiral staircase inside the ruin, of the river side of the castle and down toward the steward’s house.

One can walk down to the river and more of the detail of the castle is revealed from behind. We found a warren of tunnels to one side on a level below the castle.

The tunnel from the castle level down to the farmyard.
In this photograph you can see the side of the castle, and the path below. The river lies below that.
The tunnels to the side of Wilton Castle, at the lower level.

The tunnels provided quick access for servants to different parts of the castle, stable yard and grounds. There were cellars for wine and storage areas for food. Cast iron grilles let natural light and air into the tunnels. [13]

The entrances to the tunnels are in this stone wall.
Entrances to the tunnels, in the stone wall.
The riverside facade of Wilton Castle. The three storey section in the back – which is part of the older Alcock house – is covered in weather-slating tiles. The round tower contains the spiral staircase which I climbed inside the ruin.
It was only when we explored around the river side of Wilton Castle that we realised the extent of its size and the beauty of its surroundings.
The older section of Wilton Castle, formerly Wilton House.
From the path along the river side of the castle, one can climb back up these stairs, to discover a picnic area!
The picnic area.
From the picnic area, you can see the full height of the square tower.
More wonderful balconies and tracery windows in the square tower, seen from the river side.

After the fire, the Alcocks were unable to rebuild as the house had not been insured. The lands were redistributed by the Irish Lands Commission, and the castle and land was purchased by local farmer, Sean Windsor.

When we arrived we were welcomed and brought inside the renovated section of the castle. It opens into a nicely tiled hallway.

The accommodation consists of four suites, one of which has a large entertaining space. Two suites are upstairs and two downstairs, with the large one being downstairs. Our accommodation was upstairs.

The upstairs hallway.

Our accommodation was a suite, with sitting room, fully stocked kitchen, bathroom with walk-in shower, and bedroom. The sitting room and bedroom have beautiful wallpaper.

Our bedroom had a lovely Chinese style wallpaper.

Our bathroom was in the round tower of the castle!

While our suite had a walk-in shower, the suite in the floor below has a bath.

Our host showed us the larger suite downstairs that has room for a party. The double doors in the room open up to the view of the river below, onto a fine sweep of steps.

The double doors from the entertainment suite.
The larger entertainment suite.

The accommodation is more pricey than we can usually afford but for a romantic getaway it is hard to beat! It’s very quiet. There seemed to be one other suite occupied when we were there, but we never saw or heard the inhabitants. The Windsors live in a house next door. We chose to have breakfast provided, which was brought to us on a tray in the morning. We used the kitchen facilities one evening to make our dinner, and the next night, ordered a delivery from nearby Enniscorthy, which was delivered to the castle!

[1] p.560-561, Hore, Herbert. History of the Town and County of Wexford, Volume 6, ed. Philip Hore, pub. 1901-1911. Reference from http://butlerancestryireland.blogspot.com/2012/11/butlers-co-wexford-ch1-richard-1stviscount-mountgarrett.html

There is also an excellent history of the early days of the area on the Bree Heritage website, https://breeheritage.com/2015/02/27/the-early-history-of-wilton-castle-bree-co-wexford/

[2] https://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/search/label/Wexford

[3] https://theirishaesthete.com/2018/05/21/wilton-castle/

[4] For more on this, see the chapter in The Wexford Gentry by Art Kavanagh and Rory Murphy. Published by Irish Family Names, Bunclody, Co Wexford, Ireland, 1994.

[5] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/4570/ROBERTSON%2C+DANIEL#tab_biography

[6] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/15704226/johnstown-castle-johnstown-fo-by-co-wexford

[7] https://www.archiseek.com/2014/johnstown-castle-county-wexford/

[8] p. 130, Hicks, David. Irish Country Houses: A Chronicle of Change. The Collins Press, Cork, 2012.

[9] https://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/search/label/Wexford

[10] https://www.archiseek.com/2015/1838-wilton-castle-co-wexford/

[11] Note taken from the Wilton Castle facebook page, where you can see the progress of restoration that took place. https://www.facebook.com/WiltonCastleIreland

[12] 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.

[13] p. 130, Hicks, David. Irish Country Houses: A Chronicle of Change. The Collins Press, Cork, 2012.

Here are more photographs from our visit to Johnstown Castle, also designed by Daniel Robertson.

The clock tower side of Johnstown Castle.
The front entrance of Johnstown Castle – clock tower side on the right.
Inside the front arch of Johnstown Castle.
The front entrance of Johnstown Castle.
Spectacular doorway arch to one side of Johnstown Castle.
The doorway arch at Johnstown Castle features a border of carved stone heads.
Carved stone heads at Johnstown Castle.
Window surround detail and tracery at Johnstown Castle.
A workman at Johnstown Castle.