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/

Places to visit and stay in Leinster: Longford, Louth and Meath

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 listings are for 10 or more people.

Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford, open by previous arrangement.

2. Maria Edgeworth Visitor Centre, Longford, County Longford.

3. Moorhill House, Castlenugent, Lisryan, Co. Longford – section 482

Places to stay, County Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford

2. Newcastle House Hotel, Ballymahon, County Longford.

3. Viewmount House, Longford

Louth

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

2. Castle Bellingham, Co. Louth 

3. Collon House, County Louth

4. Killineer House & Garden, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

5. Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, Co. Louth – section 482

Places to stay, County Louth:

1. Ballymascanlon House, Louth  – hotel 

2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth [also Oriel Temple] – B&B, plus guided tours 

3. Ghan House, Co Louth – accommodation 

4.  Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, Co Louth – accommodation

Whole House Rental, County Louth:

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482, €€€ for two, € for 6-12

2. Castle Bellingham, co. Louth 

Meath

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation and sometimes open for visits

2. Beau Parc House, Beau Parc, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

3. Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane, Chapel Street, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

4. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482

5. Dunsany Castle, Dunsany, Co. Meath – section 482

6. Gravelmount House, Castletown, Kilpatrick, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

7. Hamwood House, Dunboyne, Co. Meath – section 482

8. Kilgar Gardens, Kilgar house, Gallow, Kilcock, Co Meath W23E7FK

9. Killeen Mill, Clavinstown, Drumree, Co. Meath – section 482

10. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

11. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482

12. Oldbridge House, County Meath – Battle of the Boyne Museum – OPW

13. Slane Castle, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

14. St. Mary’s Abbey, High Street, Trim, Co. Meath – section 482

15. The Former Parochial House, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

16. Swainstown House, Kilmessan, Co. Meath – section 482

17. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

18. Trim Castle, County Meath – OPW

Places to stay, County Meath:

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation 

2. Bellinter House near Bective, County Meath – hotel and restaurant 

3. Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane, Chapel Street, Slane, Co. Meath

4. Clonleason Gate Lodge, Fordstown, County Meath: Hidden Ireland

5. Crow’s Hermitage, Ardcath, County Meath

6. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482

7. Highfield House, Trim, County Meath

8. Johnstown Estate, Enfield, Co Meath – hotel

9. Killyon manor, County Meath, holiday cottages

10. Killeen Mill, Clavinstown, Drumree, Co. Meath – section 482

11. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482

12. Rosnaree, Slane, Co Meath – accommodation 

13. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

14. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Whole house booking/wedding venues, County Meath

1. Boyne Hill estate, Navan, County Meath – whole house rental

2. Durhamstown Castle, Bohermeen, County Meath – whole house rental

3. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

4. Mill House, Slane

5. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford, open by previous arrangement:

https://castlecorhouse.com/

Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

I’ve been looking forward to staying in Castlecor house, after seeing a photograph of its incredible octagonal room.

Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

The website tells us:

The construction of this magnificent residence, as it stands today, spanned 300 years, originally built in the mid 1700’s as a Hunting Lodge with additions in the 19th & 20th century. 

The website continues: “It was built by the Very Revd. Cutts Harman (1706 – 1784), son of the important Harman family of nearby Newcastle House [which offers accommodation]. He was Dean of Waterford cathedral from 1759 and was married to Bridget Gore (1723-1762) from Tashinny [Tennalick, now a ruin, which passed from the Sankey family to the Gore family by the marriage of Bridget’s mother Bridget Sankey to George Gore, son of Sir Arthur Gore, 1st Baronet of Newtown Gore, County Mayo] in c. 1740.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (www.buildingsofIreland.ie) gives the building an unusually long appraisal which explains the unusual building:

It was originally built as a symmetrical two-storey block on octagonal-plan with short (single-room) projecting wings to four sides (in cross pattern on alternating sides), and with tall round-headed window openings between to the remaining four walls. The single wide room to the octagon at first floor level has an extraordinary central chimneypiece (on square-plan) with marble fireplaces to its four faces; which are framed by Corinthian columns that support richly-detailed marble entablatures over. The marble fireplaces themselves are delicately detailed with egg-and-dart mouldings and are probably original. This room must rank as one of the most unusual and interesting rooms built anywhere in Ireland during the eighteenth-century.

Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “The single wide room to the octagon at first floor level has an extraordinary central chimneypiece (on square-plan) with marble fireplaces to its four faces; which are framed by Corinthian columns that support richly-detailed marble entablatures over. The marble fireplaces themselves are delicately detailed with egg-and-dart mouldings and are probably original.” [1]
Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “The walls of the octagonal room are decorated with Neo-Egyptian artwork.” [1]
Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

The National Inventory continues: “The walls of the octagonal room are decorated with Neo-Egyptian artwork, which may have been inspired by illustrations in Owen Jones’ book ‘Decoration’, published in 1856. The inspiration for this distinctive octagonal block is not known. Some sources suggest an Italian inspiration, such as the pattern books of the noted architect Sebastiano Serlio (1475 – 1554) [Mark Bence-Jones suggests this [2]], or that it was based on the designs of the much larger hunting lodge (Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi) that was built for the Duke of Savoy, near Turin, between 1729 and c. 1731 (The later seems a highly fanciful idea but there are some similarities in plan, albeit on a much larger scale at Stupinigi); while Craig (1977, 15) suggests that the ‘inspiration is clearly the hunting lodge at Clemenswerth in Lower Saxony, Germany’, which was constructed between 1737 – 1747 to designs by Johann Conrad Schlaun for Prince Clemens August, a structure that Castlecor resembles in terms of scale and plan. However, it may be that the plan of this building was inspired by William Halfpenny (died 1755), an English Palladian architect who created a number of unexecuted designs for Waterford Church of Ireland cathedral and for an associated bishop’s palace from c. 1739. Interestingly, a number of these unexecuted plans for the bishop’s palace included a central octagonal block with projecting wings, while a number of the church plans included an unusual separate baptismal building attached to the nave, which is also on an octagonal-plan. The Very Revd. Cutts Harman may well have been aware of Halfpenny’s unexecuted designs, being Dean of the cathedral from 1759 and was probably associated with the diocese from an earlier date, and perhaps he used these as his inspiration for the designs of Castlecor. The central four-sided chimneypiece is reminiscent of the centerpiece of the Rotunda of Ranelagh Gardens, London, (built to designs by William Jones 1741 – 2; demolished c. 1803) albeit on a much reduced scale at Castlecor. The plan of Castlecor is also similar to a number of buildings (some not executed) in Scotland, including Hamilton Parish Church (built c. 1733 to designs by William Adam (1698 – 1748) and the designs for a small Neoclassical villa prepared by James Adam (1732 – 92), c. 1765, for Sir Thomas Kennedy. The exact construction date of Castlecor is not known, however the traditional building date is usual given as c. 1765. The architectural detailing to the interior of the original block, and perhaps the personal life of Very Revd. Cutts Harman (married in 1751 to a daughter of Lord Annaly of Tennalick 13402348; his duties at Waterford cathedral from 1759; Cutts Harmon leased out a number of plots of land in Longford from c. 1768) would suggest an earlier date of, perhaps, the 1740s. The architect is also unknown although it is possible that Harman designed the house himself (perhaps inspired by a pattern book or by Halfpenny’s unexecuted designs); while Craig (1977) suggest that the architect may have been Davis Ducart (Daviso de Arcort; died 1780/1), an Italian or French architect and engineer who worked extensively in Ireland (particularly the southern half of the island) during the 1760s and 1770s.” We saw Ducart’s work at Kilshannig in County Cork, another section 482 property, see my entry [3].

Castlecor House, County Longford, see the octagonal Great Hall in the centre of the house. photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1].
Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]
Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

The website tells us:”The Rev. Cutts Harman who had Castlecor built died without issue, it was inherited by his niece’s son [or was it his sister Anne’s son? If so, it was her son Lawrence Harman Parsons (1749-1807); she married Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet of Birr Castle. Her son added Harman to his surname when he inherited Castlecor from his uncle], Laurence Harman- Harman, later Lord Oxmantown, and finally Earl of Rosse. Peyton Johnston, the Earl’s nephew, rented the house during this time. Captain Thomas Hussey, Royal Marines; purchased Castlecor in c.I820. There is very little documentary evidence relative to Captain Hussey’s occupancy. He resided there from 1832/3 to 1856 and was High Sheriff of Longford.

Mark Bence-Jones adds: “To make the house more habitable, a conventional two storey front was built onto it early in C19, either by Peyton Johnston, who rented the house after it had been inherited by the Earl of Rosse, or by Thomas Hussey, the subsequent tenant who bought the property ante 1825. This front joins two of the wings so that its ends and theirs form obtuse angles. In the space between it and the octagon is a top-lit stair. Early in the present century, a wider front of two storeys and three bays in C18 manner, with a tripartite pedimented doorway, was built onto the front of the early C19 front. Castlecor subsequently passed to a branch of the Bonds, and was eventually inherited by Mrs C. J. Clerk (nee Bond).”

Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

The National Inventory continues to tell us the history of the house: “The building was extended c. 1850 (the house appears on its original plan on the Ordnance Survey first edition six-inch map 1838) by the construction of a two-storey block to the northeast corner of the house, between two of the wings of the original structure. The earlier wing to the west may have been extended at this time also. The lion’s head motifs to the rainwater goods throughout the building (built around and before c. 1850) are very similar to those found at the gate lodge serving Castlecor to the northwest, built c. 1855, suggesting that the house was altered at this time, possibly as part of wider program of works at the estate.”

The lion’s head motifs to the rainwater goods throughout the building: Castlecor House, County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

The National Inventory continues: “The projection to the south wing having the box bay window also looks of mid-to-late nineteenth century date and may also have been added at this time. The Castlecor estate was bought by the Hussey family during the late-eighteenth century following the death of Cutts Harman, and the first series of works may have been carried out when Capt. Thomas Hussey (1777 – 1866), High Sheriff of Longford from 1840 – 44, was in residence. However, the Castlecor estate was offered for sale by Commissioners of Incumbered Estates in 1855 when it was bought by a branch of the Bond family and, perhaps, the house was extended just after this date by the new owners. The Bonds were an important landed family in Longford at the time, and owned a number of estates to the centre of the county, to the north of Castlecor, and a branch also lived at adjacent Moygh/Moigh House (13402606) [still standing and in private hands] during the second half of the nineteenth century. Thomas Bond (1786 – 1869) [of Edgeworthstown] was probably the first Bond in residence at Castlecor. A John Bond, later of Castlecor, was High Sheriff of Longford in 1856. The last Bond owner/resident was probably a Mrs Clerk (nee Bond) [Emily Constance Smyth Bond] who was in residence in 1920. She married a Charles James Clerk (J.P. and High Sheriff of Longford in 1906) in 1901/2, and he was responsible for the three-bay two-storey block that now forms the main entrance, built c. 1913. This block was built to designs by A. G. C. Millar, an architect based on Kildare Street, Dublin. This block is built in a style that is reminiscent of a mid-eighteenth century house, having a central pedimented tripartite doorcase and a rigid symmetry to the front elevation. The house became a convent (Ladies of Mary) sometime after 1925 until c. 1980, and was later in use as a nursing home until c. 2007. This building, particularly the original block, is one of the more eccentric and interesting elements of the built heritage of Longford, and forms the centrepiece of a group of related structures.” [1]

The website tells us that the four wings adjoining the original octagonal hunting lodge align with the four cardinal compass points.

In 2009, the current owners Loretta Grogan and Brian Ginty set about purchasing the house, with the aspiration to restore Castlecor House, its grounds, native woodland and walled garden with pond and orchard to its former glory, opening it to the public by appointment and also welcoming guests.

2. Maria Edgeworth Visitor Centre, Longford, County Longford.

https://www.discoverireland.ie/longford/the-maria-edgeworth-visitor-centre

Maria Edgeworth Visitors Centre, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford, photo by Dympna Reilly 2020 ©Longford County Council, Ireland’s Content Pool (see [15])

The Maria Edgeworth Centre, in County Longford, is located in one of Ireland’s oldest school buildings that opened in 1841. Using a combination of audio, imagery and interactive displays, the centre tells the story of the Edgeworth family and the origins of the National School system. You will also learn about the role the family played in the educational, scientific, political and cultural life in Ireland. Maria Edgeworth was a notable pioneer of literature and education, a feminist and a social commentator of her time. Audios and displays are available in seven languages.”

3. Moorhill House, Castlenugent, Lisryan, Co. Longford – section 482

contact: Michael O’Donnell
Tel: 047-81952
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-29, 9.30am-1.30pm
Fee: adult/OAP/student/child €8

Moorhill House, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.[4]

The National Inventory describes it:

Detached three-bay two-storey over basement house on L-shaped plan, built c. 1815, having two-storey-storey return to rear (northwest) with pitched slate roof. Two-storey extension attached to the northwest end of rear return. Recently renovated. Possibly incorporating fabric of earlier building/structure. …This appealing and well-proportioned middle-sized house, of early nineteenth-century appearance, retains its early form, character and fabric. Its form is typical of houses of its type and date in rural Ireland, with a three-bay two-storey main elevation, hipped natural slate roof with a pair of centralised chimneystacks, and central round-headed door opening with fanlight. The influence of classicism can be seen in the tall ground floor window openings and the rigid symmetry to the front facade. The simple doorcase with the delicate petal fanlight over provides a central focus and enlivens the plain front elevation. The return to the rear has unusually thick walls and a relative dearth of openings, possibly indicating that it contains earlier fabric. This house forms an interesting group with the entrance gates to the southeast, the outbuildings (13401509) and walled garden to the rear, and the highly ornate railings to the southwest side featuring a sinuous vine leaf motif. The quality of these railings is such that their appearance is equally fine from both sides, the vine leaves being cast in three dimensions. They are notable examples of their type and date, and add substantial to the setting of this fine composition, which is an important element of the built heritage of the local area. Moorhill was the home of a R. (Robert or Richard) Blackall, Esq. in 1837 (Lewis). The Blackalls were an important family in the locality and built nearby Coolamber Manor c. 1837 [built for Major Samuel Wesley Blackhall (1809 – 1871)…to designs by the eminent architect John Hargrave (c. 1788 – 1833). Hargrave worked extensively in County Longford during the 1820s and was responsible for the designs for the governor’s house at Longford Town Jail in 1824; works at Ardagh House in 1826; the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Church of Ireland church at Newtown-Forbes; the remodelling of Castle Forbes, nearby Farragh/Farraghroe House (demolished); Doory Hall now ruinous; St. Paul’s Church of Ireland church, Ballinalee; and possibly for the designs of St. Catherine’s Church of Ireland church at nearby Killoe. …and [Coolamber Manor] may have replaced an earlier house associated with the Blackall family at Coolamber (a Robert Blackall (1764 – 1855), father of the above, lived in Longford in the late-eighteenth century)].

Moorhill House “was possibly the home of Robert Blackall, the father of Samuel Wensley, who was responsible for the construction of Coolamber Manor and later served as M.P. (1847 – 51) for the county before serving as Governor of Queensland, Australia from 1868 until his death in 1871. Moorhill may have been the residence of a Francis Taylor in 1894 (Slater’s Directory).”

Places to stay, County Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford – see above

https://castlecorhouse.com/

2. Newcastle House Hotel, Ballymahon, County Longford

https://www.newcastlehousehotel.ie

Newcastle House (now a hotel), County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

Newcastle House is a 300-year-old manor house, set on the banks of the River Inny near Ballymahon, in Co. Longford.

The website tells us; “Standing on 44 acres of mature parkland and surrounded by 900 acres of forest, Newcastle House is only one and half hour’s drive from Dublin, making it an excellent base to see, explore and enjoy the natural wonders of Ireland. So whether you are looking for a peaceful place to stay (to get away from it all) or perhaps need a location to hold an event, or that most important wedding, give us a call.”

The website previously included a brief history of the inhabitants of Newcastle:

Newcastle Wood was once part of Newcastle Demesne, an estate of some 11,000 hectares run by the King- Harman family in the 1800’s. The beautiful, historic nearby Newcastle House was where the King- Harmans lived and there are many features and place names in the woodland which refer back to that time.

We came across Lawrence Harman Parsons (1749-1807) who became the 1st Earl of Rosse, and who added Harman to his surname to become Lawrence Harman Parsons Harman, when he inherited Castlecor in County Longford. He married Jane King, daughter of Edward Thomas King, 1st Earl of Kingston, from Boyle, County Roscommon. They had a daughter, Frances Parsons-Harmon, who married Robert Edward King (1773-1854), 1st Viscount Lorton of Boyle, County Roscommon. Their second son, Lawrence Harman King assumed the additional name of Harman to become Lawrence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875). It was his family who lived at Newcastle Wood.

The old website continued: “The King- Harmans were generally regarded as good landlords by the local populace. They employed many local people in all sorts of trades. The last of the King- Harmans died in 1949. King- Harman sold lands to the Forestry Department in 1934 and over the following two years it was planted with a mixture of coniferous and broadleaf trees.

Newcastle House (now a hotel), County Longford, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [5]

Then National Inventory describes the house:

Detached double-pile seven-bay three-storey over basement former country house, built c. 1730 and altered and extended at various dates throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century, having curvilinear Dutch-type gable to the central bay and later gable-fronted single-bay single-storey entrance porch with matching curvilinear Dutch-type gable to the centre of the main block (southeast elevation), built c. 1820. Advanced three-bay single-storey over basement wing flanking main block to northeast, and advanced four-bay two-storey over basement wing flanking main block to southwest, both built c. 1785. Recessed single-bay single-storey over basement Tudor Gothic style addition attached to northeast elevation having gable-fronted rear elevation and chamfered corners at ground floor level having dressed ashlar limestone masonry , built c. 1850, and two-storey extension to southwest, built c. 1880. Possibly incorporating the fabric of earlier house(s) to site c. 1660. Later in use as a convent and now in use as a hotel…Round-headed door opening to front face of porch (southeast) having carved limestone surround with architrave, square-headed timber battened door with decorative cast-iron hinge motifs, wrought-iron overlight, and having moulded render label moulding over.Painted stuccoed ceilings and ceiling cornices, some with a neoclassical character, a number of early panelled timber doors and marble fireplaces survive to interior...” [5]

Newcastle House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Round-headed door opening to front face of porch (southeast) having carved limestone surround with architrave, square-headed timber battened door with decorative cast-iron hinge motifs, wrought-iron overlight, and having moulded render label moulding over.” The Inventory tells us that the carved coat of arms is probably of the King family. [5]
Newcastle House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage: “Painted stuccoed ceilings and ceiling cornices, some with a neoclassical character.” [5]

Before belonging to the King-Harman family, Newcastle belonged to the Sheppard family. It came to the King-Harman family through the marriage of Frances Sheppard (d. 1766) daughter of Anthony Sheppard of Newcastle to Wentworth Harman (d. 1714) of Moyle, County Longford.

The National Inventory adds:

The lands and house at Newcastle were successively in the possession of the Chappoyne/Chappayne/Choppin, the Sheppard, the Harman and the King-Harman families. The earliest mention of the estate is references to an Anthony Chappoyne at Newcastle in 1660, although this may have been the site of an earlier ‘castle’ from as early as the fourteenth century (as the placename suggests). In 1680 a Robert Choppayne appears to have purchased/consolidated the lands of Newcastle from Gerald Fitzgerald, 17th Earl of Kildare. Dowdall (1682) describes the site as ‘..on the southside of the river is Newcastle, the antient Estate of the Earl of Kildare now the estate and habitation of Robert Choppin Esqr where he hath lately built a fair house and a wooden bridge over said river’. The estate passed into the ownership of Anthony Sheppard (born 1668 – 1738), heir (son?) of Robert Chappoyne, c. 1693, who served as High Sheriff of County Longford in 1698. His son, also Anthony, was M.P. for Longford in 1727. The estate later passed by marriage into the ownership into the Harman family at the very end of the seventeenth century. Robert Harman (1699 – 1765; M.P. for Longford c. 1760 -5) [son of Wentworth Harman and Frances Sheppard] was in possession of the estate of much of the middle of the eighteenth century and it is likely that he was responsible for much of the early work on the house. The Very Revd. Cutts Harman, who built the quirky hunting/fishing lodge at nearby Castlecor, inherited the house c. 1765 following the death of his brother Robert. The estate later passed into the ownership of Lawrence Parsons-Harman (1749 – 1807) in 1784 (M.P. for Longford 1776 – 1792; Baron Oxmantown in 1792; Viscount Oxmantown in 1795; Earl of Rosse 1806; sat was one of the original Irish Representative Peers in the British House of Lords) and he greatly increased the Newcastle estate, and by his death (1807) its size had doubled to approximately 31,000 acres in size. It is likely that he was responsible for the construction of the side wings to the main block and general improvements to the house from 1784. The estate passed into the ownership of his wife Jane, Countess of Rosse (who partially funded the construction of a number of Church of Ireland churches and funded a number of schools in County Longford during the first half of the nineteenth century), who left the estate to her grandson Laurence King-Harman (1816 – 1878) after falling out with her son. Laurence King-Harman has probably responsible for the vaguely Tudor Gothic extension to the northeast elevation. The brick chimneystacks also look of mid-nineteenth century date and may have been added around the same time this wing was constructed. The King family had extensive estates in Ireland during the nineteenth century, owning the magnificent Rockingham House (demolished) and King House [also a Section 482 property which I hope to visit later this year], Boyle, both in County Roscommon; as well as Mitchelstown Castle in County Cork, burnt in 1922 (memorial plaques and carved stone heads from Mitchelstown Castle were built into the northeast elevation of Newcastle House c. 1925, but have been removed and returned to Cork in recent years). The estate reached its largest extent in 1888, some 38,616 acres in size, when Wentworth Henry King-Harman was in residence. The estate was described in 1900 as ‘a master-piece of smooth and intricate organisation, with walled gardens and glasshouses, its diary, its laundry, its carpenters, masons and handymen of all estate crafts, the home farm, the gamekeepers and retrievers kennels, its saw-mill and paint shop and deer park for the provision of venison. The place is self supporting to a much greater degree than most country houses in England’. The estate went in to decline during the first decades of the twentieth century, and with dwindled in size to 800 acres by 1911. The house and estate remained in the ownership of the King-Harman family until c. 1951, when Capt. Robert Douglas King-Harman sold the house to an order of African Missionary nuns (house and contents sold for £11,000). It was later in use as a hotel from c. 1980.” [5]

3. Viewmount House, Longford

http://www.viewmounthouse.com

Viewmount House, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [6]

The website tells us:

Discover this boutique gem, a secret tucked away in the heart of Ireland. This magnificent 17th century manor is complemented by its incredible countryside surroundings, and by the four acres of meticulously-maintained garden that surround it. Within the manor you’ll find a place of character, with open fires, beautiful furniture, fresh flowers and Irish literature. The manor retains its stately, historic charm, and blends it with thoughtful renovation that incorporates modern comfort.

Here, you will unwind into the exceptionally relaxing atmosphere, a restful world where all you hear is peace, quiet and birdsong.

This house was advertised for sale in recent years. The National Inventory describes it:

Detached three-bay three-storey house, built c. 1750 and remodeled c. 1860, having single-bay single-storey porch with flat roof to the centre of the front elevation (north). Renovated c. 1994. Formerly in use as a Church of Ireland charter school (c. 1753 – 1826)…This elegant mid-sized Georgian house is a fine example of the language of classical architecture reduced to its essential elements. It retains its early character and form despite recent alterations….Set in extensive mature grounds, this fine structure is a worthy addition to the architectural heritage of County Longford….This house was the home of the Cuffe family during the first half of the eighteenth century. It was later inherited by Thomas Pakenham (later [1st] Baron Longford [of Pakenham Hall, or Tullynally, County Westmeath, another section 482 property, see my entry]) following his marriage to Elizabeth Cuffe (1714-94) in 1739 or 1740. It is possible that Viewmount House was constructed shortly after this date and it may have replaced an earlier Cuffe family house on or close to the present site. The house was never lived in by the Pakenham family but it was used by their agent to administer the Longford estate, c. 1860. It was apparently in use as a charter school from 1753 until 1826, originally founded under the patronage of Thomas Pakenham. There is a ‘charter school’ indicated here (or close to here) on the Taylor and Skinner map (from Maps of the Roads of Ireland) of the area, dated between 1777 – 1783. A ‘free charter school’ at Knockahaw, Longford Town, with 32 boys, is mentioned in an Irish Education Board Report, dated 1826 – 7 (Ir. Educ. Rept 2, 692 – 3).” [6]

Louth

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

Barmeath, County Louth, October 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/10/23/barmeath-castle-dunleer-drogheda-county-louth/

contact: Bryan Bellew
Tel: 041-6851205
Open: May 1-31, June 1-10, Aug 13-21, Oct 1-10, 9am-1pm Fee: adult /OAP/student €5, child free

2. Bellingham Castle, co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits: open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26)

Castle Bellingham, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.[11]

https://www.bellinghamcastle.ie

The website tells us:

At Bellingham Castle, the welcome is warm, the facilities luxurious and the memories, eternal. Nestled in the medieval village of Castlebellingham in County Louth along Ireland’s Ancient East, Bellingham Castle is an elegant and spacious 17th Century authentic Irish Castle available for exclusive hire, to allow you become King or Queen of your very own castle for a truly memorable experience. The Castle opens for overnight stays on select dates throughout the year, but is predominantly a venue for spectacular Weddings, conferences or events.

Set at the gateway to the Cooley mountains and on the banks of the glistening River Glyde, Bellingham Castle is the centrepiece of a 17-acre estate that includes a weir and man-made river island where you can create memories that last a lifetime. The opulent 17th Century Irish castle is bursting with rich history, splendour and old-world luxury.

Fully refurbished, yet retaining all of its character and charm, Bellingham Castle prides itself on elegance and sophistication, intimacy and cosiness, luxury and exclusivity – all just 50 minutes from both Dublin and Belfast.

We wanted to create something different at Bellingham Castle, an exquisite combination of a welcoming atmosphere and luxury castle experience. From dreamy and palatial bedrooms, to magnificent reception rooms and meticulously manicured gardens, we ensure each guest enjoys high-quality, bespoke service in an idyllic and inspirational location.

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

p. 62. “The original castle here, called Gernonstown, which was acquired by Henry Bellingham [1622-1676] mid C17, was burnt by King James’s soldiers before the battle of the Boyne, when its then owner, Colonel Thomas Bellingham, was fighting for King William. Col Bellingham built a new house 1690/1700 [the National Inventory says 1712] and named it Castle Bellingham; it had a high-pitched roof and is said to have resembled Beaulieu, in the same county. Mrs Delany described it (1745) as “one of the prettiest places I have seen in Ireland.” The house was remodelled in later C18, when a third storey was added, and again in early C19, when it ws given a battlemented parapet, some turrets and a few other mildly dedieval touches. The final result was not so much a castle as a castellated house, with plain Georgian sash windows. The nine bay entrance front, which appears to be only of two storeys owing to the higher ground on this side; the entrance, through a Gothic porch not centrally placed, is, in fact, on the first floor, where the principal rooms are situated. The oppostie front, which also just misses being symmetrical – with three bays on one side of a shallow, curving bow and two bays and a turret on the other – which also has a curved bow. Simple, pleasant rooms; a small staircase in a narrow hall at right angles to the entrance. Garden with terraces overlooking the river Glyde, formerly adorned with statues brought from Dubber Castle, the seat of another branch of the Bellinghams; vista to shrine of the Virgin Mary, ereced by Henry Bellingham, a convert to Catholicism during the later years of the Oxford Movement. Straight avenue aligned on the entrance front of the house, terminated at the opposite end by a castellated gatehouse facing the village green. Having been sold by the Bellinghams ca 1956, Castle Bellingham is now an hotel.” 

The website gives a further history of the castle:

Bellingham Castle served as one of the ancestral homes for the Bellingham family from the 17th Century until the 1950s. The original castle was built around 1660 by Sir Henry Bellingham, who was a cornet in the Army during the Civil War.

He purchased the lands of Gernonstowne, Co. Louth, from a fellow soldier who had been granted them in lieu of arrears of pay. The purchase was confirmed by King Charles II.

There is some variation on the spelling of Gernonstowne. On various maps and other documents, it is spelled Gernonstowne, Gernonstown, Gernon’s-Town, Gormanstown, Germanstown, Garlandstown and Garland.

Irish road signs show the English as Castlebellingham, while the Irish translation still refers to Baile an Ghearlanaigh – or Gernonstown. It was not called Castlebellingham for at least 40 years after the purchase. The name does not appear on any document before the year 1700. Around 1710, it began to appear in journals and other sources as Castlebellingham.

The castle was occupied by troops and burned down in the autumn of 1689 by King James II, in revenge for Colonel Thomas Bellingham [son of Henry? 1645-1721?] being a guide for William III, prior to the Battle of the Boyne. It is said that King William’s armies camped the night before the Battle of the Boyne in the grounds of the castle.

Thomas Bellingham had two sons. The estate passed to his grandson Alan Bellingham (1709-1796). It then passed to his son, another Alan (1740-1800). Alan’s brother William married  Hester Frances Cholmondeley, daughter of Rev. Hon. Robert Cholmondeley and was created 1st Baronet Bellingham, of Castle Bellingham, co. Louth. His nephew Alan (1776-1827), son of Alan, became 2nd Baronet Bellingham of Castle Bellingham, County Louth.

The website continues: “Over time, Castlebellingham became an important gathering point in the county. Fairs were held there every year and a church was constructed next door to the castle, along with a graveyard that houses the Bellingham family vault. The Bellinghams became one of the most powerful and influential families in the county; for over 100 years, a Bellingham held the seat in Parliament for County Louth.

Records also note Castlebellingham for having ‘the best malt liquor’ in Ireland. A brewery was built on site about 1770 and belonged to an O’Bryen Bellingham [a son of Alan Bellingham]. For a number of years, a brewery partnership ran their liquor business. The brewery is still there but now houses the ‘button factory’ or Smallwares Ltd. The brewery was the main supplier of drink to the Boer War troops.

A history of the parish, dated 1908, states that the impressive Calvary standing at the entrance to Bellingham Castle was erected by Sir Henry Bellingham as a monument to the memory of his first wife, Lady Constance.

A collection of inset religious panels can be seen on the upper facades of many of the village buildings. These are also a reflection of Sir Henry’s religious sentiments, and they are unique in Ireland. In addition to the many panels, there are biblical quotations cut into the stone window sills of some buildings. North of the castle is a carefully preserved group of ‘widows’ dwellings’, built from charitable motives by Sir Henry.

In 1905, Bellingham Castle was the venue for the romantic wedding celebrations of Augusta Mary Monica Bellingham, daughter of Sir Alan Bellingham [1846-1921], 4th Baronet ; to the 4th Marquis of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart.

The Marquis, who was one of the wealthiest men in the British Isles at the time, spared no expense and treated his bride and guests to a lavish celebration, including chartering the Princess Maud steamer to take their guests and the Isle of Bute pipe band across the Irish Sea to Bellingham Castle for the wedding. As the society event of the year, the wedding attracted worldwide media attention, from California to New Zealand.

Footage from the wedding celebrations still exists. This remarkable film is believed to be the one of the earliest wedding films in the world. Bellingham Castle is clearly depicted in the footage, together with scenes at nearby Kilsaran Church and the village of Annagassan, from where the wedding party and their guests arrived and departed by steamer.

Castlebellingham was the ancestral home of the Baronetcy until the late 1950s. The last Bellingham to live there was Brigadier General Sir Edward Bellingham, born in 1879, who was the last Lord Lieutenant and Guardian of the Rolls (Custos Rotulorum).

It was purchased by Dermot Meehan in 1958 from the Irish Land Commission for £3,065.00. Mr Meehan spent several years converting the house into a hotel. The Meehan family sold the hotel and 17 acres in 1967 for £30,636.61 to Mr John Keenan and under the Keenan family stewardship, the castle prospered over the following four decades.

In December 2012, the castle – including the 17 acres – was acquired by the Corscadden family. The family also own Ballyseede Castle in Tralee, Co. Kerry; Cabra Castle, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan, and Markree Castle, Co. Sligo.

The next chapter in the history of Bellingham Castle has begun, as an exclusive venue for private weddings, civil ceremonies, conferences, meetings and corporate events.

Bellingham Castle is a building of intrinsic historical and architectural interest and is open to the public between the hours of 1pm and 3pm, Monday to Friday for viewing year-round. Please call in advance to ensure there is somebody at the castle to show you around! (Closed December 24, 25 and 26).

3. Collon House, County Louth

Collon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [7]

https://www.collonhouse.com

The website tells us:

Collon House, steeped in history, is full of character and charm; its gracious rooms are exquisitely furnished with period antiques and paintings, retaining the atmosphere of early Georgian living, making this a rare opportunity to experience less than one hour from Dublin City Centre, thirty minutes from Dublin Airport and just five miles from historic Slane.

Collon House is a perfect location from which to enjoy the wonderful treasures of the Boyne Valley. Bru na Boinne (Newgrange) prehistoric megalithic sites, The Battle of the Boyne visitors centre at Oldbridge, Slane Castle, Old Mellifont Abbey and Monasterboice High Crosses are all less than twenty minutes drive from Collon House.

The Historic Houses of Ireland (HHI) website tells us:

Anthony Foster [1705-1778], Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, purchased the Collon estate in 1740 and chose to build in the centre of the County Louth village, now a market town on the road from Dublin to Derry. His early Georgian house was extended in the 1770s to form a substantial L-shaped dwelling, set back from the street at the central crossroads. The original dwelling is long and low but the later building is taller and more generous in scale with more elaborate interiors and a “handsome half-turn stair” that gives access to the upper floors.” [8]

Anthony Foster married Elizabeth Burgh of Bert House (now called de Burgh Manor, available as a whole house rental, see my entry www.irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/), County Kildare.

The HHI website continues: 

Anthony’s son John [1740-1828] was elected to the family borough of Dunleer and became the member for Louth in 1768 at the age of twenty-one. Considered ‘the best informed man in the house’ he was briefly Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer before his election as Speaker of the Irish Commons. He held office from 1785 until 1800, when Parliament was dissolved for ever under the Act of Union, a measure which Foster had strenuously opposed. As Speaker he pronounced the final words at the closing session, choosing to retain his official mace ‘for future contingencies’. Mr. Speaker Foster was returned to Westminster after the Union and was finally rewarded with a UK peerage in 1821 (his wife had previously been granted two Irish titles) after an illustrious political career that spanned more than sixty years. 

In ‘A Tour of Ireland published in 1780, the agronomist Arthur Young mentions Foster whose improvements on the Collon estate “were of a magnitude that I have never heard of before.” These included Oriel Temple, an elaborate and chastely classical lakeside folly, which was subsequently enlarged to form the principal family seat. Foster’s son Thomas married an heiress, Harriet Skeffington, and the family moved to Antrim Castle when she succeeded as Viscountess Massereene.”

For more about the Foster family see my Cabra Castle entry, www.irishhistorichouses.com/2021/03/28/cabra-castle-kingscourt-county-cavan/ 

The HHI website continues: “Collon House has been altered over the intervening years but the building retains many fine Georgian interiors, now greatly enhanced by sympathetic restoration, fine furniture, glass, porcelain, pictures and objects. Their rich decoration makes a striking contrast with the plain exterior.

The gardens have also been restored with inspired and authentic planting. The entrance overlooks a sunken garden with an intricate box parterre, while the herbaceous border in the ornamental garden leads to a classical summer house in the Grecian style.” [8]

Collon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [7]

The National Inventory tells us it is a: “Corner-sited attached five-bay three-storey house, built c. 1770. Rectangular-plan, extended by two-bays into two-storey terrace to east, three-bay two-storey wing to north, extended former mews buildings surrounding courtyard to north, single-storey flat-roofed entrance porch to west elevation…This imposing house, the principal home of the Foster family, at the heart of Collon, has historical associations with John Foster, the last man to speak in the Irish House of Commons. It contains many details of interest, such as stone window dressings. Its prominence at the heart of the village is of intrinsic importance to the architectural heritage of Collon.”

4. Killineer House & Garden, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482

Killineer, Drogheda, County Louth, June 2021.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/08/10/killineer-house-county-louth/
contact: Charles & Eithne Carroll
Tel: 086-2323783
www.killineerhouse.ie
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-15, June 1-10, Aug 10-24, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult/OAP/child/student, house: €4, garden €6

5. Rokeby Hall, Grangebellew, Co. Louth – section 482

Rokeby, County Louth, September 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/08/17/rokeby-hall-grangebellew-county-louth/
contact: Jean Young
Tel: 086-8644228
www.rokeby.ie
Open: May 1-31, Mon-Sat, Aug 13-21, Sept 1-30, Mon-Sat, 10am-2pm Fee: adult/OAP €7, child/student €5

Places to stay, County Louth:

1. Ballymascanlon House, Louth  – hotel

 https://www.ballymascanlon.com

Ballymascanlon House, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [9]

The website tells us: “The Ballymascanlon House is set on 130 acres of beautiful parkland, this impressive Victorian House forms the heart of this Hotel. It is one of the most remarkable historical estates in Ireland dating back to 833 A.D. Steeped in history, Ballymascanlon estate is located in Ireland’s North East on the Cooley Peninsula in close proximity to the Irish Sea and Mourne Mountains. Less than 1 hour from Dublin and Belfast, and 20 minutes from the medieval town of Carlingford. We are delighted to welcome you to our beautiful luxurious venue, ideal for both Business and Leisure.”

Ballymascanlon House is a multiple-bay two-storey over basement with attic Tudor-Revival house, built in 1863 for James Wolfe McNeill, incorporating fabric of earlier building, with gables, mullioned windows, hood-mouldings and a recessed doorway.

2. Collon House, Ardee Street, Collon, Louth – see above

3. Ghan House, Co Louth

 https://www.ghanhouse.com

The National Inventory tells us: “Built in 1727 by William Stannus, this building, with its unadorned façade and finely-balanced elegant classical proportions, is a handsome representative of architectural developments during the Georgian era. It retains a large amount of original and early fabric, including handsome boundary walls, corner tower and carriage arch.”

4.  Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, Co Louth

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/11738928?source_impression_id=p3_1574613728_Shdh4WSLqYmh5i8M

Hatch’s Castle, Ardee, County Louth, March 2022.

The airbnb entry describes the little castle:

Hatch’s Castle has many beautiful features including the Dome Hall,  the original spiral staircase, and a wonderfully restored drawing room on the first floor, where you can sit down and relax. 
We’re situated in the lovely town Ardee, which is surrounded by many historic places such as the Jumping Church and Newgrange. There are few restaurants around Ardee and several shops.
 

Walking inside Hatch’s castle on the Main Street of Ardee is a feeling of space and tranquility. From that moment you know you have entered a castle that is waiting to be explored.  There are four floors, each boasting character and an ambiance of true charm and comfort.  Ground floor entrance hall with dome ceiling is also used as a dining room. The 1st floor has the drawing room with an open fire. Here you can help yourself to a drink, relax, read and unwind. Breakfast can be served here in the large window over looking the Main Street. The 2nd and 3rd floor have a bedroom and private bathroom each.  

It is possible to see Ardee and its surrounding countryside from the roof.  There is a cobble stone yard to sit in and a walled garden to enjoy during the summer months. 

The entire castle is here for you to explore and enjoy. There is a front door entering the castle from the main street.

The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster (1993) has an entry for Hatch’s Castle:

p. 117. “Rectangular four storey tower house with rounded corners and a façade only one window wide. C15 or C16 and for centuries a property of the Hatch family. Two semicircular turrets project at rear. The castle is sandwiched between ordinary two and three-storey houses on the main street. In 1837 it was described by Lewis as ‘recently fitted up as a dwelling by Wm Hatch,’ which probably accounts for the new battlements, windows and hoodmouldings. Quaint interior, with timber panelling in the barrel-vaulted hall and a carpeted turret stair.” [10]

Whole House Rental, County Louth:

1. Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, Co. Louth – section 482, see above, €€€ for two, € for 6-12

2. Bellingham Castle, co. Louth – for weddings, and open to public for visits 

Castle Bellingham, County Louth, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.[11]

https://www.bellinghamcastle.ie

See above

Meath

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation and sometimes open for visits

www.balrathcourtyard.com

The house is open to the public from January 9th – February 3rd and from May 1st – June 9th, daily from 9.00am – 1.00pm.

Fee: Adult €8
OAPs / Students / Children €4

The website tells us:

Balrath House & Courtyard, County Meath is a superb Georgian family home built in c. 1760 – the traditional architecture of which echoes a sense of the past. Yet nothing can prepare you for the beautiful and inviting warmth of the interior design...

The house is set in 1.5 acres of stunning & elegant gardens in a mature setting surrounded by 20.5 acres on the River Nanny which will assure you both privacy and tranquility...

The current owners Ray and Frances O’Brien have renovated the old out houses which were used at one time for milking cows, shoeing horses, housing animals and coaches to cosy, bright self catering cottages...

The cottages are located beside the classical style Georgian house that was built for the Walsh family. The Walsh’s wealth was created from their milling business,  and historical records show that in 1654 there were over 100 corn mills in County Meath. The substantial remains of one such corn mill are situated in the lower garden where it is still possible to see the site of the former mill wheel and mill race.

There is a strong history associated with the house and many of the original features still remain, for example the original Lock and key and the Adam plasterwork.

The estate is an ideal location for walking and offers splendid views of the “forty shades of green” which Ireland is famous for.”

Art Kavanagh tells us about the Aylmer family who lived in Balrath, in his book The Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, volume 1 (published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005). Gerald Aylmer (c. 1485-1560) of Balrath was Chief Justice of Ireland. As a leading figure in the Dublin administration he co-orchestrated the military campaign that defeated Silken Thomas, and he escorted Silken Thomas and his five uncles to London when they were captured.

He assisted Lord Deputy Leonard Grey in his campaign against the O’Neills of Ulster and was rewarded with the manor and lordship of Dollardstown in County Meath. His elder brother Richard Aylmer of Lyons, County Kildare, received the manor house at Donadea. [p. 3, Kavanagh].

The Aylmers of Balrath descended from Nicholas Aylmer (1541- c. 1608). He married Margaret Plunkett, third daughter and co-heir of Christopher Plunkett 7th Lord Killeen and by this marriage, Balrath came into the ownership of the Aylmer family.

Christopher Aylmer (1615-1671) signed a document swearing loyalty to the King, repudiating the power of the Pope over the king, asking, however, for repeal of the laws against Catholics. He was made a Baronet shortly afterwards. His son Gerald, 2nd Baronet, a staunch Catholic, joined the Jacobite forces. He was imprisoned and his brother Matthew, a Protestant, petitioned to be granted his land. Matthew was later created Lord Aylmer, Baron of Balrath.

Gerald had some of his estates returned to him. He was succeeded by his son John, 3rd Baronet, who was succeeded by his brother the 4th Baronet. The 5th Baronet died unmarried and Balrath was divided between his sisters: Mabel, who married James Strong and received Balrath as part of their settlement; Margaret who married twice, to Robert Luttrell a Dublin merchant then to Robert Netterville fo Cruicerath; and Catherine who married John Malpas but had no family. [p. 10, Kavanagh].

2. Beau Parc House, Beau Parc, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Emer Mooney
Tel: 041-9824163, 087-2329149
Open: Mar 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 10am-2 pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student/child €8

More soon!

3. Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane, Chapel Street, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Alan Haugh
Tel: 041-9884444
www.boynehouseslane.ie
Open: all year, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: Free

The website tells us: “Boyne House Slane is a former rectory dating from 1807, magnificently renewed, whilst retaining much of its original features to offer luxury accommodation comprising 10 guest bedrooms offering exceptional levels of comfort and style, the perfect retreat for the visitor after exploring 5,000 years of history and culture in the area.

Discreetly tucked away behind the centrally located Village Garden and recreation area, ‘Boyne House Slane’ is set in its own grounds, comprising a small patch of woodland with well-aged Copperbeech, Poplar and Chestnut trees.

Originally named Cillghrian Glebe, the property was built in 1807 as a rectory or Glebe. The name Cillghrian, sometimes anglicised as Killrian, derives from the words ‘cill’ for church and ‘grian’ which translated as ‘land’ giving the house the simple name ‘church land’. The house retains many of its original features complete with excellent joinery, plasterwork and chimneypieces.”

4. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482

Dardistown Castle, County Meath, July 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/dardistown-castle-county-meath/
contact: Lizanne Allen
Tel: 086 -2774271
www.dardistowncastle.ie
Open: Jan 8-31, July 1-23, closed Sundays, August 8-28, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €6, student/OAP/child €3

5. Dunsany Castle, Dunsany, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Randall Plunkett
Tel: 046-9025169
www.dunsany.com
Open: June 24-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-22, 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €25, OAP/student/12-18 years €15, child under 12 years free, National Heritage Week €10, under12 years free

Dunsany Castle, County Meath, June 2019.
Dunsany Castle by Alexander Campbell ‘Monkey’ Morgan National Library of Ireland.

6. Gravelmount House, Castletown, Kilpatrick, Navan, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Brian McKenna
Tel: 087-2520523
Open: Jan 2-15, May 10-30, Aug 13-22, Sept 1-15, 9am-1pm Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

7. Hamwood House, Dunboyne, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Charles Hamilton
Tel: 086-3722701
www.hamwood.ie
Open: Apr 1-Sept 25, Fri-Sun, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 10am-7pm Fee: adult €10, child under 12 free

Hamwood House, County Meath, photograph from Country Life.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

Hamwood is a smaller Palladian house of the 1770s, near the town of Dunboyne on the borders of Meath and Kildare, with a central block joined to little octagonal ‘pepper-pot’ wings by elegantly curved sweeps. Unusually, the left hand wing contains the main entrance, since it is said that the house was so cold when built that the family decided to move the hall door as far from the main rooms as possible. The resulting effect is interesting, since the principal facade lacks a central feature and looks more like a garden front. Internally this has allowed the creatiion of a double drawing room that runs along the entire length of the facade, an unusual feature in a house of this size.” [12]

The Hamwood website tells us:

Hamwood House sits surrounded by wooded gardens in unspoilt countryside between Dunboyne and Maynooth in Kildare, and is unique in having been occupied by the same family since it was built almost 250 years ago. Hamwood so called due to its creators Charles Hamilton I *[1738-1818] (see below) and his wife Elizabeth Chetwood [from Woodbrook, County Laois] amalgamating their last names, not on account of its wooded surroundings. On arrival at this area at the time one would have been both in awe of the far reaching views towards the Dublin mountains and the ferocious winds which battered this high point in the landscape, being 300 feet above sea level. There was good reason for choosing such a site however, in that the land was amongst the best in Ireland but also it fell naturally from where the house stood allowing good natural drainage. Most importantly too the House was built on rock, the best of foundations. 

While works were progressing on the house the family occupied Courthill -an attractive Georgian  house in Dunboyne . Mr Hamilton became the agent serving the then Duke of Leinster at Carton estate , a role that passed from father to son through all generations up til Charles VI in the 1960’s , although the Estate had already been sold. The relationship between the Hamilton family and the Leinsters was a special one and they took an active interest in the development of Hamwood , donating such features as the pair of granite steps to the front of the house ,  thinnings to form the woodlands and various shrubs and ornamental trees. For such an exposed site it was crucial to protect the house from the strong winds which explains the heavily wooded surroundings. Charles I formed the front door and hallway to where now is the back door. His son added the two Palladian wings and the front entrance placed at the end of the west wing at his wife’s insistence that the draughts were kept well away from the main living areas. 

Many new additions and developments were carried out by different generations including the walled garden and pine walk where visitors can see an abundance of well established shrubs , plants and ornamental trees amongst the relics of former days when there were several men working the gardens.” 

The website has a terrific description of the family who lived in Hamwood and still occupy it today, so I will quote verbatim!

Hugh Hamilton 1572-1655 
The Hamiltons had been established in Scotland for some 300 years before arriving in Ireland. Our Scottish ancestor Sir James Hamilton of Evendale had 4 sons, the youngest of whom Hugh emigrated to Ireland as part of the colonisation known as the Ulster plantation. In 1616 Hugh became ‘denizen’ of Ireland (an Irish citizen). He settled at Lisbane near Bangor in Co.Down. 
He died aged 83 and is buried in the churchyard at Bangor. 

Alexander George Hamilton 1640-1676 
Son of Hugh, settled at Killyleagh, Co Down. Married Jean Hamilton. 
Their daughter Jane married William Sloane brother of Sir Hans Sloane whose Collections formed the British Museum. 

Hugh Hamilton 1664-1728 
Son of Alexander. Married Mary Ross of Rostrevor, an heiress. They lived in Ballybrenagh, Co Down. 
He had 3 daughters and 2 sons, George and Alexander. 

Alexander Hamilton 1690-1768 
Settled at Knock Co Dublin and married Isabella Maxwell of Finnebrogue. Became M.P. for Killyleagh from 1730-1761. Became wealthy owning town lands worth £50,000. 

Of his children his eldest son Hugh became Dean of Armagh then Bishop of Ossory. 
George became M.P. for Belfast 1769-1776, settled at Hampton Hall, Balbriggan, and built the fishing village into a flourishing town with cotton mills, and a trading port which he had built as well as a lighthouse. The firm Smyth and Co traded for 200 years and Queen Victoria was a client. George was made a Baron in the Court of Exchequer Belfast. 
Anne, one of the daughters married Colonel Henry Caldwell, who fought in Canada under General Wolfe and they settled near Quebec. As Wolfe’s ADC he was sent to England to announce news of the victory over the French at Quebec, where Wolfe died in battle. 

Charles Hamilton I   1738-1818 | Builder of Hamwood 

Youngest son of Alexander. Educated at Blackrock College and then at a new school at Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan founded by Lord Bath. 
He married Elizabeth Chetwood and they had 15 children, though some died young. According to her daughter in law, Elizabeth “never consulted a physician except in childbirth and still lived till she was 79.” 
Charles started working life as apprentice to a wine merchant by the name of Mr Crummie of Port Stuart mainly trading in claret. He subsequently started his own store and moved to Mount Venus near Marlay to be nearer Dublin. While here he became a member of the notorious Hellfire Club becoming the toastmaster. The gavel he used is still at Hamwood. While at Mount Venus he met Miss Chetwood who he subsequently married and they called the house they were to build by taking the first and last syllables of their names – Ham wood. Charles’ brother Robert married the other Miss Chetwood [Hester]. 

Charles was left a townland in the North of Ireland which he sold for £7,000 and bought land from a Mr James Hamilton of Ballymacoll where he built Hamwood house. Ballymacoll, between Maynooth and Dunboyne right on the Kildare border with Meath, had a reputation from the 1950’s as one of the best stud farms in the world breeding such majestic horses as Arkle who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup three times in succession 1964-1966, and countless Classic winners including the Derby. 

Before moving in to Hamwood Charles I rented a house in Dunboyne – Courthill – so he could oversee the building works, until the house was completed in 1777. 
When he and his family moved to Hamwood he decided to pursue a different way of life and took on Agencies, firstly for the Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Lansdowne. In 1798 came the Rebellion following the American and French revolutions and it was dangerous times for those who owned landed estates. Charles was taken down to Dunboyne with others including the Agent to the Duke of Leinster to face the rebel firing squad. Happily thanks to the intervention of a respected local man O’Reilly, whose family still practice as blacksmiths in the area, asked that Mr Hamilton be spared as “he was more useful (to them) alive than dead.” It was said that this was probably in recognition of his moral, learned and industrious character. 

The position of agent to the Duke of Leinster now being vacant, Charles asked the then Duke if he might consider him as his Agent and this was granted. The creation and running of Carton, the seat of the Leinster family, thereby began its long history. The position of Agent to the Leinster Estate stayed with the Hamiltons passing from father to son for 150 years right until the last heir died and the Estate was finally acquired by Lord Brocket in the 1950’s. 

Charles II 1772-1857 

Educated at Blackrock College and then at a new school at Carrickmacross in Co Monaghan founded by Lord Bath. He was a classics scholar and completed his education at Trinity College Dublin before being called to the Bar in 1792. He spent some years in London while practicing as a lawyer before returning to Ireland. In 1801 he married Caroline Tighe of Rosanna Co Wicklow, and in 1802 their son Charles William was born. 

Charles 11 and Caroline set about making major improvements to Hamwood, extending the existing house and adding the wings, and also the interior adding ornate furniture wall coverings etc. Much of the furniture was procured for the house, some of it specially designed and fitted. 

He was responsible for laying the foundations of the Gardens. 

Charles William III 1802-1880 
He married Letitia Charlotte Armstrong in 1841. 
He had a keen interest in Agriculture and was deeply involved in the Royal Dublin Society. He was particularly concerned about the state of Agriculture in the country prior to the Famine of 1845 and he urged the Repeal MP William Smith O’Brien to set up agricultural societies and colleges throughout Ireland to instruct farmers in modern methods. He corresponded frequently with Prime Minister William Gladstone about the terrible conditions caused by the potato blight and deplored the lack of assistance given. Although the effects were not nearly so bad in Leinster, soup kitchens were available to those who needed it, one being at Hamwood. 
One of Charles William’s passions was painting and he toured extensively, visiting Scotland and France, where he was arrested by the French whilst painting a warship in Antibes harbour. Presumably he convinced them he was simply an artist and no spy and was released! 
At Hamwood he planted the Pine Walk ca 1860, at a time when trees were becoming available from across the globe particularly from North America and the Himalayas. A Monterey Pine still stands among various Cedars, Sequoia and large Pines lining this Walk. 

Charles Robert IV 1846-1913 
Married Louise Brooke in 1874 who had 10 children, of whom 2 boys died in infancy, one being the first born and heir. The two chestnut trees in the Lawn field were planted in their memory. There were 6 daughters among whom were the exceptional artists Letitia and Eva, and of the boys Gerald Charles the future heir, and Freddie . 
Charles Robert was educated at home by a governess and at the age of 17 he went to Trinity to study law. He was a member of the Kildare Street Club and was passionate about the garden at Hamwood, where he transformed the Walled Garden, and in order to create an impact he employed a head gardener from Kew Gardens in London. He gained a great deal of help from his large family particularly Connie (Constance) who took up landscaping professionally. 
Charles Robert travelled with his wife to the continent frequently and at times further afield to visit relations in Canada near Montreal. 

Gerald Francis Charles V 1877-1961 
Educated at Haileybury and Downton Agricultural College. Became Land Agent to Estates in Gloucestershire , including Dodington Estate (now owned by the inventor James Dyson) before returning to Hamwood upon his father’s death. Became Justice of the Peace (J.P.). Married Violet Travers Hamilton daughter of Robert Craigie Hamilton (of the Hawkesbury Hamiltons) and Charlotte Lewis also from Canada. Both Violet and Francis Charles descended from the same great-great-grandfather so were distant cousins. Violet came to England to visit and ‘do the season’ as it was known. Francis Charles was ‘directed’ by his father to look after his Canadian cousin during the Cheltenham festival which he probably thought was a bit of a chore … until he met her. After that he managed to find plenty of time to accompany her to the various social events of the Summer. Eventually Violet returned to Canada and subsequently travelled to India but after some persistence Francis Charles persuaded her to return to Cheltenham and in 1911 they were married. They had three children, Esme a wonderful writer of children’s books who had the artist Lionel Edwards to illustrate them, and Betty who was an exceptional horsewoman and BHS qualified, and Charles the heir. 
Tragically Violet died prematurely in 1947. A few years later Francis Charles married Rosamund Bauer who built up Hamwood’s dairy herd and helped see the estate through some difficult times during post war depression. Francis Charles took on the Agencies of the Leinster Estate whose seat was Carton located only a few miles away near Maynooth. 
Francis Charles died in 1961 and left the estate to his son Charles. 

Charles Robert Francis VI 1918-2005 
Educated at Twyford prep school and Stowe, subsequently Sandhurst Military Academy. Shortly after, war broke out and he served in the Indian Cavalry primarily with Probyns Horse. For most part he was based near Gilgit in Kashmir keeping control of the tribal factions over an area the size of Wales. He relished the life there where he partook in the local sport, pig-sticking, bear hunting, fishing and game hunting, and particularly polo. He later played at Phoenix Park, Dublin and captained Ireland. 

He remained in India until 1947 and was asked to take on the role of Political Agent to assist in the transition of Partition, but this coincided with news that his mother was dying and he returned to Ireland just in time to be at her side. 

He managed farms and estates in England before returning to Ireland in the mid 50’s when he met Anne Spicer from Carnew, Co. Wicklow but originally from Wiltshire, and they married in 1958. The Major as he was known, carried on the Agency work which included Slane and Clonbrock in Galway, before taking over Hamwood in 1961. They had two children Annabelle and Charles VII both born on the same day but one year apart. 

Many exceptional women have passed through Hamwood’s doors. The following are but a few and some may be omitted through lack of information. 

Caroline Hamilton (1777-1861), née Tighe, married Charles II and was responsible for decorating and furnishing the house in the style of the time. She came from a fine house in Wicklow, called Rossanagh.  Her grandparents were Sir William and Lady Elizabeth Fownes, owners of Woodstock, from where Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler, the Ladies of Llangollen, made their escape to a life together in North Wales, causing a certain amount of uproar at the time. Woodstock was burnt to the ground in July 1922 by the IRA. 

Caroline spent much of her younger years in London and took lessons in art from the notable printmaker and portrait painter John Spilsbury (1737-1812) who had taught at Harrow where her brother was at school, and later Maria Spilsbury  (1776-1820), his daughter. She became a skilled artist, especially in creating pen and ink drawings of Irish society of the day, using a satirist angle on  such subjects as religion, education and the ruling classes.  

After rearing and educating her six children, Caroline dedicated her time to the improvement and development of Hamwood House and its gardens, her art and, in particular, her writing. Her Memoirs are one of the most significant records of Irish life of the time, and in addition, she became heir to the diaries of the Ladies of Llangollen, which are now in the collection of the Hamwood papers held in the National Library, Dublin. Caroline’s cousin, Mary Tighe (1772-1810), was an accomplished poet best known for her poem, Psyche. Her artistic talent and to some extent, that of her husband, Charles III, passed down to her great-grandchildren, Eva and Letitia. 

Eva Henrietta Hamilton (1876-1960) was born and reared at Hamwood, as was her sister, Letitia. One of five sisters and two brothers, only one sister, Lily, got married, with Eva and Letitia becoming established artists. Both fought for recognition in a society where art was considered as a male preserve and women artists were not treated as equals. Eva was an exceptional portrait artist having studied under Sir William Orpen ( 1878-1931) at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art (DMSA) which she entered in 1907 at the age of 31 and later, under Henry Tonks, at the Slade in London. Many of her portraits were commissioned by members of her extended family and their social circle. Normally painted against a simple background, Eva’s skill was in reading the character of her sitters and transferring that on to her canvas. With the coming of independence in Ireland in 1922, the market for these type of portraits was much reduced and Eva switched her attention to landscapes which although not particularly innovative in their production were attractive and well observed.  

Eva was the first of the sisters to exhibit her work, showing a portrait and a figure subject in 1898 at the annual exhibition of the Water Colour Society of Ireland (WCSI). Watercolours were then seen as an acceptable medium for women artists. Her works were shown in London, Paris and Brussels as well as the Irish International Exhibition in Dublin in 1907. She first exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in Dublin in 1904 where she continued to exhibit until 1945. 

With the death of their mother in 1922, Eva assumed much of the housekeeping role and had less time to devote to her painting. The sisters lived together for most of their lives, in their later years in a series of large rented houses. Among these was Fonthill in Palmerstown, now the offices of the Ballymore construction company. In 1946, they made their final move to Woodville in Lucan, an eighteenth century house designed by the architect, Richard Castle (1690-1751). Fondly known as ‘the Aunts’ nest’ they continued to give memorable parties in their rather eccentric lifestyles. A tree with many sweeping branches stood in the garden from where old umbrellas hung, and in a rather artistic way resembled a tree with huge drooping fruit! 

Eva did produce some stunning works, one of which, The Piper, featuring the village of Dunboyne c. 1911, was chosen by the then Taoiseach, John Bruton, for his Christmas card to send to dignitaries around the world. She would have been delighted! Another of her works, “Ceilidh at Dunboyne’, dating from c. 1910, was included in the  A Time and Place. Two Centuries of Irish Social Life exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland in 2006. 

Letitia Marion Hamilton (1878-1964) was a talented and prolific landscape artist who, like her sister, studied under Open in the DMSA. Compared to Eva, she remained less influenced by him and more by the works of European artists that she saw during her time abroad.  An inveterate traveller, she made trips to France, Belgium and Holland before the war in Europe curtailed these visits. During WWI she volunteered as a nurse but, in reality, seemed to spend most of the time rolling bandages in the Irish War Hospital Supply Depot which was located in Moore Abbey, Monastervin which had been converted into a recuperation centre for wounded soldiers. The family lived in one of the estate houses in the town where Letitia painted scenes of the town square, nearby Portarlington and the area of bog in between.  

With the cessation of hostilities, Letitia’s travels recommenced with trips abroad, often accompanied by Eva, and during the 1920s, she travelled widely in France, Italy and Yugoslavia. She visited Venice for the first time in the autumn of 1923 and during the 1930s made regular visits to the city and northern Italian lakes. Fascinated by the interplay of light on the buildings and water, this area was to provide the subject matter for numerous paintings. Many of these featured the Venetian canals with their bridges, lined by closely packed buildings. Using a brightly coloured palette to create atmosphere, these were amongst the most original and successful canvases she produced.  

Frustratingly, it is difficult to date her work exactly as she left her pictures undated and returned to the same subject matter on a number of occasions, often using the same title.  Letitia signed her early paintings ‘MH’ (she was known as May by her family), reverting to the more familiar ‘LMH’ from about 1920 onwards.  

With the onset of war again in Europe in 1939, Letitia switched her attention to her home country and produced a large body of work depicting the local landscapes and seascapes. Frequent visits to Roundstone and Glengarriff gave rise to a series of paintings of the area. More muted in tone, these often featured the rugged landscape and big skies of the locality. With an increasing use of impasto (layering of paint on the canvas), colour was applied in a broad sweep using a palette knife.  

With horses central to the Hamilton family way of life, it was inevitable that equestrian scenes would form an important part of Letitia’ work. Scenes of riders and packs of hounds from the local hunts were prominent as were depictions of local fairs and race meetings. It was for one of these that Letitia won the bronze medal in the paintings section in the Sport in Art competition of the XIVth. Olympiad (Olympics) in 1948 in London. It featured an image of the pre-race parade of horses at the Meath point-to-point meeting. In fact, she became the last person to win such an award as Art was subsequently excluded from Olympic ‘sports’. (The current whereabouts of the painting, medal and diploma are unknown). 

Letitia was a serial exhibitor – no sooner was one exhibition completed, then she was out painting for the next one. She was a founding member of the Society of Dublin Painters in 1920, along with Jack Butler Yeats, Paul Henry and Mary Swanzy. This provided a forum for the exhibition of more impressionist and avant-garde works away from the more conservative environment of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA). She remained a member throughout its existence; Eva became President in 1948. She did also become a member of the RHA, one of its earliest female members, becoming an Associate Member in 1934 and full member in 1944. Only missing two years, 1927 and 1931, Letitia exhibited in the annual exhibition in the RHA every year from 1909 to 1964. Her crowning glory was a series of exhibitions in the Dawson Gallery in Dublin from 1958 to 1963. The last one was held the year before her death – these sell-out shows confirmed her popularity with the buying public. Recently, her painting of A Fair Day, Clifden was included in the ‘Birth of Modernism in Irish Art’ exhibition in Dublin Castle.  

During her final years, Letitia’s sight began to fail and she developed a slight tremor in her hand. Nevertheless, she continued to paint, concentrating on smaller canvases, often studies of beach scenes in Dublin and equestrian scenes of hunting and polo which she finished rapidly but still managed to retain a sense of movement and life. Following a fall in Woodville, she died in the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin on 9 August 1964, aged 86. 

There has been a debate as to which of the sisters was the better artist but their differences in style and technique makes this difficult to assess. Letitia produced a significant body of work with her characteristic layering of paint on the canvas making it readily identifiable. Much of Eva’s early work was portraiture, a genre in which she excelled but this was an arena that Letitia seldom ventured in to. What is certain was they both blazed a trail for women artists in Ireland at a time when it was dominated by their male counterparts such as Sean Keating, Paul Henry and Jack Yeats. Eva and Letitia’s images of pre-war Europe and scenes from Irish towns and villages preserve a way of life that has now vanished for ever.

8. Kilgar Gardens, Kilgar house, Gallow, Kilcock, Co Meath W23E7FK

www.kilgargardens.com

The website tells us: “A stunning series of gardens set over 3 acres just outside Kilcock, Co. Meath. Kilgar Gardens & Tea Rooms is open May to September for visitors and group tours.”

9. Killeen Mill, Clavinstown, Drumree, Co. Meath – section 482

Killeen Mill, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Dermot Kealy
Tel: 086-2619979
(Tourists Accommodation Facility) Open: April 1- Sept 30

10. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

Ruins of Loughcrew House, 22nd May 2010.

Contact: Emily Naper
Tel: 049-8541356
(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

www.loughcrew.com

Garden: all year, 11am-5pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP €6, student €5, child €3.50, group concessions

The website tells us:

Loughcrew is an estate made up of 200 acres of picturesque rolling parkland complete with a stunning house and gardens. It provides the perfect family friendly day out as there is something to suit all ages and interests.

The House and Gardens within at Loughcrew Estate date back to the 17th century – making it a landscape of historical and religious significance. Here, you’ll find a medieval motte and St. Oliver Plunkett’s family church among other old buildings. You’ll also find lime and yew avenues, extensive lawns and terraces, a water garden and a magnificent herbaceous border.There is a Fairy Trail for children and a coffee shop too!”

11. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482

Moyglare House, County Meath, June 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/02/15/moyglare-house-county-meath/
Postal address Maynooth Co. Kildare
contact: Angela Alexander
Tel: 086-0537291
www.moyglarehouse.ie
Open: Jan 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31, May 1-21, 23-27, 30-31, June 1-2, Aug 12- 21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student/child

12. Oldbridge House, County Meath – Battle of the Boyne Museum – OPW

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

13. Slane Castle, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Slane Castle, County Meath, April 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/slane-castle-county-meath/
contact: Jemma Smith
Tel: 041-9884477
www.slanecastle.ie
Open: Jan 16, 23, 30Feb 6, 13, 20, 27, Mar 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, April 2-3, 9- 10, 16-18, 23-24, 30, May 1-2, 6-8, 13-15, 20-23, June 3, 6, 10, 17, 24, July 1, 7-8, 14-15, 22, 28, 31, Aug 1, 4-5, 11-21, 25-26, 28, Sept 4,18, 25, Jan- Apr, and June 10am-4pm, May, Fri-Sat, 10am-4pm, Sunday, 12 noon 4pm, July, Thurs-Sat, 10am- 4pm, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm, Aug, Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm, Sept, Sunday, 12 noon-4pm

Fee: adult €14, OAP/student €12.50, child €7.50, concession family ticket (2 adults and 2 children €39, additional adults €1, additional children €6

14. St. Mary’s Abbey, High Street, Trim, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Peter Higgins
Tel: 087-2057176
Open: Jan 24-28, 31, Feb 1-4, 28, Mar 1-4, 7-11, May 7-22, June 27-30, July 1, 4-8, Aug 13-22, Sept 27-30, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student/child €2

St. Mary’s Abbey, County Meath, photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

15. The Former Parochial House, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

contact: Alan Haugh
Tel: 087-2566998
www.parochialhouseslane.ie
Open: May 1-Sept 30, Mon-Sat, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: adult 5, child/OAP/student €3

The website tells us:

‘Parochial House’, The Square, Slane, Co. Meath is one of the 4 landmark buildings within the centre of the historic village of Slane known as the Square although formed in actuality of an Octagon. This central ‘Square’ is formed of four symmetrically placed houses set a 45 degrees to the main crossing.

A dwelling house of three bays and three storeys, it was constructed c. 1768, and was the second of the four houses to be built to form the ‘Square’. In the Buildings of Ireland – North Leinster by Christine Casey and Alistair Rowan it is noted that the plot on the north east corner was granted to one Henry Fischer with the stipulation:

‘House to be built within 5 years, same plan as new inn opposite recently built, also the other houses same plan as laid down for building in the said town of Slane.’

The determination was evident from the beginning that this set-piece of rural town planning would be of the same uniformity and quality as its more urban equivalents. The house essentially retains its original features with excellent joinery, plasterwork, and some original chimneypieces extant.

Parochial House is a three bay three storey over basement stone dwelling with hipped roof and gable chimneystacks. Stonework is coursed and squared limestone rubble with cut limestone dressings to openings. The entrance doorway is variously described as a’block and start’ doorway or more commonly a Gibbsian style doorway after James Gibbs. The door is raised on limestone stones with the exposed portion of the basement acting as a plinth. Remaining facades are rendered.

The proportion of window to wall favours the masonry lending the houses a certain austerity. As a formal composition the grandeur of the Square has rarely been equalled in rural Ireland. Nineteenth-century enclosing walls were added to better define the private and public realms in the Square. The principal entrance door is a nine-panelled door although the present unpainted finish seems too modern.

To the rear, the elevation is rendered in a medium aggregate dash, likely of modern installation. Window dressings are set recessed behind the plain of the render and are tooled and hammered with a simple keystone. Cills are quite slight in proportion in comparison with the cills used on the front elevation. The roof is finished in natural slate and the stacks appear to have been rebuilt from centre upwards in red machine made brick.

16. Swainstown House, Kilmessan, Co. Meath – section 482

Swainstown House, County Meath, August 2019

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/10/10/swainstown-house-kilmessan-county-meath/
contact: Caroline Preston
Tel: 086-2577939
Open: Mar 7-8, 10-11, April 4-5, 7-8, May 2-8, June 6-12, July 4-10, Aug 13-21, Sept 5-16, Oct 3-4, 6-7, Nov 7-8, 10-11, Dec 5-6, 8-9, 11am-3pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child free

17. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Tankardstown House, County Meath, August 2019.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/11/tankardstown-estate-demesne-rathkenny-slane-co-meath/
contact: Brian Conroy
Tel: 087-2888925
www.tankardstown.ie
Open: all year including National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm Fee: Free

18. Trim Castle, County Meath – OPW

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

Places to stay, County Meath:

1. Balrath, Kells, Co Meath –  accommodation  www.balrathcourtyard.com – see above

The website tells us:

You will find an oasis of rural luxury set in the Boyne Valley- the most historically rich area of Ireland’s Ancient East – offering the seclusion of a Georgian courtyard – yet only 20 minutes from Dublin Airport and 10 minutes from Newgrange.

The house is set in 1.5 acres of stunning & elegant gardens in a mature setting surrounded by 20.5 acres on the River Nanny which will assure you both privacy and tranquility.

The self-catering accommodation in the courtyard is of 4 Star Fáilte Ireland approved standard.

The current owners Ray and Frances O’Brien have renovated the old out houses which were used at one time for milking cows, shoeing horses, housing animals and coaches to cosy, bright self catering cottages.

There are eight cottages to choose from each offering something unique, decorated to modern living while still maintaining features of its past.

The cottages are located beside the classical style Georgian house that was built for the Walsh family. The Walsh’s wealth was created from their milling business,  and historical records show that in 1654 there were over 100 corn mills in County Meath. The substantial remains of one such corn mill are situated in the lower garden where it is still possible to see the site of the former mill wheel and mill race.

There is a strong history associated with the house and many of the original features still remain, for example the original Lock and key and the Adam plasterwork.

The house is open to the public from January 9th – February 3rd and from May 1st – June 9th, daily from 9.00am – 1.00pm.

Fee: Adult €8
OAPs / Students / Children €4

The estate is an ideal location for walking and offers splendid views of the “forty shades of green” which Ireland is famous for.”

2. Bellinter House near Bective, County Meath – hotel and restaurant www.bellinterhouse.com

Bellinter House, photograph for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [15]

The website tells us:

A magnificent 18th century Georgian house, located in the heart of the Boyne Valley, less than 5 minutes of the M3 and under 30 minutes from Dublin City centre and Dublin airport.

A property designed originally by Richard Castles for John Preston [1700-1755], this house was once used as a country retreat for the Preston Family, to abscond from the city for the summer months.

Following over 270 years of beautiful history the purpose of Bellinter House remains the same, a retreat from ones daily life.

On arriving, you will find yourself succumb to the peacefulness and serenity that is Bellinter House.

The National Inventory tells us about Bellinter House:

Designed by the renowned architect Richard Castle in 1751. Bellinter is a classic mid eighteenth-century Palladian house with its two-storey central block, linked to two-storey wings by single-storey arcades, creating a forecourt in front of the house. This creates a building of pleasant symmetry and scale which is of immediate architectural importance. The building is graded in scale from ground to roofline. It gets progressively lighter from semi-basement utilising block and start windows on ground floor to lighter architraves on first floor to cornice. The house forms an interesting group with the surviving related outbuildings and entrance gates.” [13]

Art Kavanagh tells us in his The Landed Gentry and Aristocracy: Meath, Volume 1 (published by Irish Family Names, Dublin 4, 2005) that John Joseph Preston (1815-1892) had only a daughter, and he leased Bellinter House to his friend Gustavus Villiers Briscoe. When John Joseph Preston died he willed his estate to Gustavus.

Much of the land was dispersed with the Land Acts, but Bellinter passed to Gustavus’s son Cecil Henry Briscoe. His son George sold house and lands to the Holdsworth family, who later sold the land to the Land Commission. The house was acquired by the Sisters of Sion in 1966, who sold it in 2003.

[See Robert O’Byrne’s recent post, https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/05/21/crazy-wonderful/ for more pictures of Bellinter.]

3. Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane, Chapel Street, Slane, Co. Meath – see above

contact: Alan Haugh
Tel: 041-9884444
www.boynehouseslane.ie

4. Clonleason Gate Lodge, Fordstown, County Meath: Hidden Ireland www.clonleason.com

Our 18th century riverside cottage has been converted into an elegant one bedroom hideaway for a couple. Set in blissful surroundings of gardens and fields at the entrance to a small Georgian house, the cottage is surrounded by ancient oak trees, beech and roses. It offers peace and tranquillity just one hour from Dublin.

A feature of the cottage is the comfy light filled sitting room with high ceiling, windows on three sides, an open fire, bundles of books and original art. The Trimblestown river, once famous for its excellent trout, runs along the bottom of its secret rose garden. Garden and nature lovers might enjoy wandering through our extensive and richly planted gardens where many unusual shrubs and trees are thriving and where cyclamen and snowdrops are massed under trees. The Girley Loop Bog walk is just a mile down the road.

The bedroom is luxurious and the kitchen and bathroom are well appointed. There is excellent electric heating throughout.

5. Crow’s Hermitage, Ardcath, County Meath

https://www.crowshermitage.com/

The website tells us: “A place to wind down and relax or a base to explore all that Ireland has to offer. Make yourself at home in our secluded, romantic cottage, nestled in the beautiful countryside of the Royal County. 

We offer luxury self-catering accomodation in an idyllic setting. Our self-sufficient cottage, furnished and fitted to a high standard, sleeps 2 and boasts a kitchen, a wetroom w/c with a power shower plus ample relaxation space, all kept warm and cosy by a woodburning stove.

Ideally suited to couples who are looking for a luxurious, romantic break in the peaceful and beautiful countryside of Ireland.

6. Dardistown Castle, Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath – section 482, see above

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/dardistown-castle-county-meath/
contact: Lizanne Allen
Tel: 086 -2774271
www.dardistowncastle.ie
Open: Jan 8-31, July 1-23, closed Sundays, August 8-28, 10am-2pm Fee: adult €6, student/OAP/child €3

7. Highfield House, Trim, County Meath

https://highfieldguesthouse.com

The website tells us:

Highfield House is an elegant, 18th century residence run by Edward and Geraldine Duignan and situated in the beautiful heritage town of Trim. Known as the birthplace of Ireland’s Ancient East, Trim is renowned as one of Ireland’s most beautiful towns. The award winning accommodation boasts magnificent views of Trim Castle, The Yellow Steeple, and the River Boyne. 

Guests can book Highfield House for their overnight stay while visiting the area, or book the entire property as a self catering option in Meath.

The house was built in the early 1800’s and was opened as a stately maternity hospital in 1834 and remained so up to the year 1983, making it 175 years old. A host of original, antique interior features still remain. Spend the morning sipping coffee on our patio, relax with a book in our drawing room or wile away the afternoon people watching from our garden across the river.”

8. Johnstown Estate, Enfield, Co Meath – hotel

 https://thejohnstownestate.com

The website tells us:

The original manor – or The Johnstown House as it was known – is as storied as many other large country house in Ireland.  Luckily, the house itself has stood the test of time and is the beating heart of the hotel and all its facilities which together form The Johnstown Estate. 

Built in 1761, The Johnstown House (as it was then known) was the country residence of Colonel Francis Forde [1717-1769], his wife Margaret [Bowerbank] and their five daughters. Colonel Forde was the 7th son of Matthew Forde, MP, of Coolgraney, Seaforde County Down, and the family seat is still in existence in the pretty village of Seaforde, hosting Seaforde Gardens.

The Colonel had recently returned from a very successful military career in India and was retiring to become a country gentleman.  Enfield – or Innfield as it was then known –  satisfied his desire to return to County Meath where his Norman-Irish ascendants (the de la Forde family) had settled in Fordestown (now Fordstown), Meath, in the 13th century. Enfield was also close to Carton House in Maynooth, the home of the Duke of Leinster – at the time the most powerful landowner in Ireland.

After 8 years completing the house and demesne and establishing income from his estates, Colonel Forde left for a further military appointment in India. His boat, The Aurora, touched the Cape of Good Hope off Southern Africa on December 27th, 1769 and neither he, nor the boat, were heard from again.

Thereafter the house was owned by a variety of people including a Dublin merchant, several gentlemen farmers, a Knight, another military man, an MP and a Governor of the Bank of Ireland.  In 1927 the Prendergast family bought the house and Rose Prendergast, after whom ‘The Rose’ private dining room is named, became mistress of Johnstown House for over fifty years.

The house was restored to its previous glory in the early years of the new millennium and a new resort hotel developed around it to become The Johnstown House Hotel.  In 2015, under new ownership, the hotel was extensively refurbished, expanded and rebranded to become The Johnstown Estate.

9. Killyon Manor, County Meath, holiday cottages and weddings

https://www.killyonmanor.com/

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

The Loftus family were resident on the Killyon Manor estate at the far western edge of County Meath from the 16th century, possibly in a tower house within the house that ‘Loftus the Magnificent’ built in the mid-18th century. Rather unusually the house remains one room deep, although a ballroom was added at the rear sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century; there is also a perpendicular wing – the oldest part of the Georgian building. The façade was redone c. 1800 and a small Ionic portico added as well as long flanking screen walls with blind arches. It passed to the Magan family in the 1850s when William Henry Magan of Clonearl in County Offaly married the heiress Elizabeth Georgina Loftus. Their combined fortunes included 20,000 acres in Westmeath, Offaly and Shankill, Co. Dublin in addition to a house on St Stephen’s Green, where their daughter Augusta, jilted as an unsuitable match, is said to have left her wedding breakfast uncleared for 30 years (and as such was possibly the inspiration for Miss Haversham in Great Expectations). Over her lifetime, she became a hoarder and by the time of her death had filled the ballroom to waist-height with her impulsive, largely unopened purchases. A protracted decade-long legal battle over Augusta’s bizarre will ultimately led to the loss of much of the fortune. It was sold out of the family in the 1960s by Brigadier Bill Magan, who in retirement published a well-regarded memoir called ‘Umma-More’, which tells the story of the various houses owned by the family. Currently owned by the Purcell family, the estate, on a tributary of the River Boyne, is being rewilded and has become an important biodiversity zone.” [14]

10. Killeen Mill, Clavinstown, Drumree, Co. Meath – section 482, see above

contact: Dermot Kealy
Tel: 086-2619979
(Tourists Accommodation Facility) Open: April 1- Sept 30

11. Moyglare House, Moyglare, Co. Meath – section 482, see above

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/02/15/moyglare-house-county-meath/
Postal address Maynooth Co. Kildare
contact: Angela Alexander
Tel: 086-0537291
www.moyglarehouse.ie
Open: Jan 3-7, 10-14, 17-21, 24-28, 31, May 1-21, 23-27, 30-31, June 1-2, Aug 12- 21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student/child

12. Rosnaree, Slane, Co Meath – accommodation

https://www.facebook.com/theRossnaree/ 

The website tells us: “This stylish historic country house in Slane, County Meath, offers boutique bed and breakfast with magnificent views across the Boyne Valley and the megalithic passage tomb of Newgrange.

Rossnaree (or “headland of the Kings”) is a privately owned historic country estate in Slane, County Meath, located only 40 minutes from Dublin and less than an hour from Belfast.

An impressive driveway sweeps to the front of Rossnaree house, standing on top of a hill with unrivalled views across the River Boyne to Ireland’s famous prehistoric monuments, Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange.

Rossnaree has been transformed into a boutique bed and breakfast, offering four luxury rooms for guests and also an original venue for special events and artistic workshops.

13. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

https://www.ross-castle.com

See my County Cavan entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/03/county-cavan-historic-houses-to-see-and-stay/

14. Tankardstown House, Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath – section 482

Tankardstown, County Meath, August 2019.

www.tankardstown.ie
See my entry above.

Whole house booking/wedding venues, County Meath

1. Boyne Hill estate, Navan, County Meath – whole house rental

https://www.boynehillhouse.ie

Set in 38 acres of pretty gardens and parklands and just 35 minutes from Dublin, this stunning country house estate becomes your very own private residence for your special day.

2. Durhamstown Castle, Bohermeen, County Meath – whole house rental https://durhamstowncastle.com

Durhamstown Castle is 600 years old inhabited continuously since 1420. Its surrounded by meadows, dotted with mature trees. We take enormous pleasure in offering you our home and hospitality.

The website tells us that in 1590:

The Bishop of Meath, Thomas Jones [1550-1619], who resided in next door Ardbraccan, at this time, owned Durhamstown Castle & we know from the records, that he left it to his son, Lord Ranelagh, Sir Roger Jones; who was Lord President of Connaught. Thomas Jones was witness & reporter to the Crown on negotiations between the Crown Forces & the O’Neills. He was known to be close to Robert Devereux, The Earl of Essex – Queen Elizabeth’s lover. (Later, executed for mounting a rebellion against Her.) Letters are written – copies of which are in the National Library – from Devereux to the Queen both from Ardbraccan & Durhamstown (“the Castle nearby”).

Roger Jones, 1st Viscount Ranelagh (before 1589 – 1643) was a member of the Peerage of Ireland and lord president of Connaught. He was Chief Leader of the Army and Forces of Connaught during the early years of the Irish Confederate Wars. In addition to Viscount Ranelagh, he held the title Baron Jones of Navan.

Jones was the only son of Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland, Thomas Jones, and his wife Margaret Purdon. He was knighted at Drogheda on 24 March 1607. In 1609, he married Frances Moore, the daughter of Sir Garret Moore, eventual 1st Viscount Moore of Drogheda. Jones was a member of the Parliament of Ireland for Trim, County Meath from 1613 to 1615. In 1620, he was named to the privy council of Ireland. He was the Chief Leader of the Army and Forces of Connaught and was Vice President of Connaught from 1626.

In 1608 his father became involved in a bitter feud with Lord Howth, in which Roger also became embroiled. His reference to Howth as a brave man among cowards was enough to provoke his opponent, a notoriously quarrelsome man to violence. In the spring of 1609, Jones, Howth and their followers engaged in a violent fracas at a tennis court in Thomas Street, Dublin, and a Mr. Barnewall was killed. The Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, an enemy of Howth, had him arrested immediately, though he was never brought to trial.

On 25 August 1628, Jones was created Baron Jones of Navan and 1st Viscount Ranelagh by King Charles I. He was made Lord President of Connaught on 11 September 1630 to serve alongside Charles Wilmot, 1st Viscount Wilmot.

Jones was killed in battle against Confederate forces under the leadership of Owen Roe O’Neill in 1643.

An Uncle, Colonel Michael Jones, was the military Governor of Dublin at the time and supported Cromwell’s landing at Ringsend, after the Battle of Rathmines. Troops assembled at Durhamstown to fight on Cromwell’s side. When they marched on Drogheda they laid the place waste & murdered all before them. They brought the severed heads of the Royalist Commanders to Dublin. The Jones’ generally seem to have been a bloodthirsty lot; & were known to be unrelenting in their enforcement of the new Credo. Michael Jones even had his own nephew executed. Roger Jones’ son, Arthur was also embroiled in huge controversy when, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was supposed to have diverted all the taxes to pay for the King’s Mistresses!

[From 1750] From this time onwards we think the Thompsons lived here. One of the Thompsons was said to have died from septicaemia as a result of an apoplectic rage caused by his Irish labourers refusing to knock down the Church of Durhamstown. He is alleged to have grabbed the shovel & attempted the work himself ; only for the shovel to bounce back & bury itself in his leg, or in some recordings it hacked off his leg; which subsequently became septic & “he died miserably from his wounds” But the stones & spire were taken to build Ardbraccan Church.

In 1840 “One of the Thompsons married a Roberts from Oatlands just at the back of Durhamstown, & they lived here up until 1910. A couple of years ago Janice Roberts, from America, called to the House but we were out!! Luckily Ella, a neighbour realised the importance of it & arranged for her & her husband to call back. We had a fascinating afternoon going through old photographs & records & tramping quietly round the nearby graveyards with them, filling in the blanks. She promised us a photograph of an oil painting of the Castle intact. Her grandfather lived in Durhamstown & later he sold it, taking some of the furniture & artefacts to his house in Dalkey, called Hendre.

In 1996 Sue (Sweetman) & Dave Prickett buy Durhamstown Castle. “And we have been working on it ever since! We have re-roofed the entire Castle & the majority of the Buildings in the Yard. It was in a ruinous state when we bought it.

3. Loughcrew House, Loughcrew, Old Castle, Co. Meath – section 482

Contact: Emily Naper
Tel: 049-8541356
(Tourist Accommodation FacilityOpen: all year

www.loughcrew.com

4. Mill House, Slane:

https://www.themillhouse.ie

The Mill House, Slane, March 2022.

The website tells us:

Built in 1766, The Millhouse and The Old Mill Slane, the weir and the millrace were once considered the largest and finest complex of its kind in Ireland. Originally a corn mill powered by two large water wheels, the harvest was hoisted into the upper floor granaries before being dried, sifted and ground.

Over time, the Old Mill became a specialised manufacturer of textiles turning raw cotton into luxury bed linen. Times have changed but this past remains part of our history, acknowledged and conserved.

​In 2006, The Millhouse was creatively rejuvenated, transformed into a hotel and wedding venue of unique character – a nod to the early 1900’s when it briefly served as a hotel-stop for passengers on pleasure steamer boats.”

5. Ross Castle, Mountnugent, County Meath whole castle €€€ for 2, € for 10 or self-catering accommodation €

https://www.ross-castle.com

See my County Cavan entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/03/county-cavan-historic-houses-to-see-and-stay/

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13402608/castlecor-house-castlecore-longford

[2] p. 66. 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] www.irishhistorichouses.com/2020/12/10/kilshannig-house-rathcormac-county-cork/

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13401508/moorhill-house-castlenugent-longford

[5] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13402709/newcastle-house-newcastle-newcastle-demesne-longford

[6] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13007038/viewmount-house-knockahaw-longford

[7] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13828001/collon-house-drogheda-street-ardee-street-collon-collon-louth

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

[9] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13900756/ballymascanlon-house-ballymascanlan-ballymascanlon-louth

[10] p. 117, Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[11] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13826003/bellingham-castle-castlebellingham-castlebellingham-castlebellingham-louth

[12] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Hamwood

[13] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14403107/bellinter-house-ballinter-meath

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

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