Munster’s counties are Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford.
I have noticed that an inordinate amount of OPW sites are closed ever since Covid restrictions, if not even before that (as in Emo, which seems to be perpetually closed) [these sites are marked in orange here]. I must write to our Minister for Culture and Heritage to complain.
1. Ennis Friary, County Clare
2. Scattery Island, County Clare
3. Askeaton Castle, County Limerick
4. Desmond Castle, Adare, County Limerick – currently closed
5. Desmond Banqueting Hall, Newcastlewest, County Limerick
6. Lough Gur, County Limerick
1. Ennis Friary, Abbey Street, Ennis, County Clare:
General Enquiries: 065 682 9100, email@example.com
“The O’Briens of Thomond, who once ruled much of north Munster, founded this medieval Franciscan friary. It grew quickly into a huge foundation, with 350 friars and a famed school of 600 pupils by 1375. It was the very last school of Catholic theology to survive the Reformation.
The building contains an exceptional wealth of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century sculptures carved in the local hard limestone, including one of St Francis himself displaying the stigmata. An arch between the nave and transept bears a remarkable image of Christ with his hands bound.
Don’t forget to visit the sacristy, an impressive structure with a ribbed, barrel-vaulted ceiling. Take especial note of the beautiful east window, with its five lancets, as it lights up the chancel.” 
“Off the northern bank of the Shannon Estuary lies Scattery Island, the site of an early Christian settlement founded by an extraordinary man.
St Senan, who was born in the area, built his monastery in the early sixth century. It included a mighty round tower, which at 36 metres is one of the tallest in Ireland.
There are six ruined churches on the site too. The Church of the Hill stands on a high spot, the very place where, legend has it, an angel placed Senan so that he could find – and then banish – the terrible sea-monster called the Cathach. It is believed that Senan is buried beside another of the medieval churches.
Scattery was invaded many times over the centuries. The Vikings in particular believed that the monastery held many riches and returned several times to ravage it.
A short boat trip will take you to the island, where you can explore its multi-layered, 1,500-year history.“
3.Askeaton Castle, County Limerick:
General information: 087 113 9670, firstname.lastname@example.org
“In the very heart of this County Limerick town stand the impressive remains of a medieval fortress. Askeaton Castle dates from 1199, when William de Burgo built it on a rock in the River Deel.
Over the centuries, the castle proved itself key to the history of Munster. It was the power base of the earls of Desmond after 1348. In 1579 it held out against the English general Sir Nicholas Malby, an incident that helped spark the second Desmond Rebellion.
The banqueting hall is one of the finest medieval secular buildings in Ireland. The tower is partly ruined, but some fine windows and an exquisite medieval fireplace have remained.
The early eighteenth-century building nearby was used as a Hellfire Club. These clubs were rumoured to be dens of excess in which wealthy gentlemen indulged in drink, mock ritual and other nefarious activities.“
The Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond, held the castle for over 200 years and ruled Munster from it.
4. Desmond Castle, Adare, County Limerick:
General information: 061 396666, email@example.com
“Desmond Castle Adare epitomises the medieval fortified castle in Ireland. It is strategically situated on the banks of the River Maigue, from where its lords could control any traffic heading to or from the Shannon Estuary.
The castle was built for strength and security. A formidable square keep forms its core; the keep stands within a walled ward surrounded by a moat.
Desmond Castle Adare changed hands several times before becoming a key bastion of the earls of Desmond in the sixteenth century. During the Second Desmond Rebellion, however, it fell to the English after a bloody siege. Cromwellian forces laid waste to the building in 1657, although restorers have since helped to recall its former glory.
Guided tours are now available for anyone who wants to walk in the footsteps of the FitzGeralds and experience their courageous spirit.“
This castle belonged to the Earls of Kildare for nearly 300 years until the rebellion in 1536, when it was forfeited and granted to the Earls of Desmond who gave the castle its present name.
5.Desmond Banqueting Hall, Newcastlewest, County Limerick:
General information: 069 77408, firstname.lastname@example.org
An inquisition of lands in 1298 describes the manor of Newcastle as containing the New Castle with buildings inside and outside the walls and the mill of Newcastle.
“Many of Ireland’s surviving medieval halls are in west Limerick. The Desmond Banqueting Hall in Newcastle West is one of the most impressive among them.
It was begun in the thirteenth century by Thomas ‘the Ape’ FitzGerald, so named because of the story that an ape took him from his cradle to the top of Tralee Castle – and delivered him safely back again.
However, most of the spacious, imposing structure was created in the fifteenth century, at the height of the Desmond earls’ power, and used as a venue for frequent and lavish banquets.
The oak gallery, from which musicians would provide a raucous soundtrack for the revelry below, has been fully restored.“
The prefix “Fitz” is taken from the Norman-French “fiz” son of. Early members of the family were known by their father’s name, ie. Fitzmaurice or Fitzthomas, but eventually the name settled to be Fitzgerald.
The Fitzgeralds were Anglo-Norman and came to Ireland at the time of King Henry II in 1169. After the initial colonisation of Ireland in the southwest and east, the Fitzgeralds and some others pushed into the southwest, the information boards tell us.It was only after the death of Donal Mór Ó Brien, King of Thomond, in 1194 that the Fitzgeralds and other Normans took over most of Limerick. By 1215 they held the towns of Cork, Limerick and Waterford and had built a castle in Dungarvan.
The surviving buildings are Desmond Hall and Halla Mór. This is possibly the site of the earliest castle foundations and remnants of the early walls are found underground today. The Desmond hall shows more than one phase of development. Embedded in the exterior of the south wall are vestiges of four early thirteenth century sandstone lancet windows. The fifteenth century development of the hall by the 7th Earl of Desmond introduced many changes including the addition of a projecting tower with small chambers and a stairwell to the Northwest corner.
The lower level of the banqueting hall has an excellent display of boards telling us more about the history of the Fitzgerald Earls of Desmond. An old fireplace is set in one wall, it seems to be from 1638.
The visitor centre lies in a building across the courtyard, and another building is being refurbished.
The first claim to the land of Desmond was obtained by the Fitzgeralds when John Fitzthomas married the co-heiress Margery FitzAnthony and was granted in 1251 a share in her father’s lands described as “all the lands of Decies and Desmond and custody of the castle of Dungarvan.” This land was added to the Fitzgerald landholdings in Limerick and North Kerry. In 1292 King Edward I (d. 1307) granted Thomas Fitzmorice (Fitzgerald) and his wife Margaret Berkeley, who was a cousin of the king, “joint custody of Decies and Desmond.” It’s interesting that the wife was given joint custody, and that daughters could be heirs, which as we know was not always the case.
A leaflet from the castle tells us that by 1298, a strong stone castle stood overlooking the Arra River in Newcastle West. Curtain walls with defensive towers surrounding the main buildings, a variety of simple thatched houses and byres for cattle as well as fishponds. The Normans immediately began to consolidate their position by negotiating with the local Gaelic families, while driving the poorer Gaelic peasants into the mountains. By the time of Maurice Fitzthomas Fitzgerald (abt. 1293-1356), the O’Briens to the north had become firm allies of the Fitzgeralds. In 1329, Maurice was created 1st Earl of Desmond, the term “Desmond” being derived from the Irish Deas mnumhain meaning south Munster. By this time the Fitzgeralds were using the Irish language in their daily lives and had taken on many of the values and habits of the Irish culture.
The 1st Earl plotted against the King of England, and allied himself with the Gaelic lords. They pillaged many settlements in the south of Ireland. He is said to have written to the Pope to say that King Edward III of England had no right to the lordship of Ireland. It is also claimed that he wrote to the kings of France and Scotland to form an alliance. During a campaign against him he lost his castles at Askeaton and Castleisland. However, the King pardoned him and made him Chief Justiciar of Ireland in 1355.
Gearóid Iarla (c. 1338-1398) became the 3rd Earl of Desmond in 1356. He was an expert mathematician and apparently, the leaflet tells us, a magician! He was also a poet and introduced the idea of courtly love into Gaelic poetry. He also served as Justiciar. He married Alianore, or Eleanor, Butler, daughter of James 2nd Earl of Ormond.
Despite the marriage alliance between the Desmonds and the Ormonds, they still battled. A fifteen day conference at Clonmel in 1384 led to a treaty between the families.
Thomas the 8th Earl of Desmond (c. 1426-1468) was made Lord Deputy of Ireland 1464-67. During his time the Desmonds fought again with the Ormonds, including during the War of the Roses when they took opposing sides. The Ormonds supported the victorious Lancasters.
The 8th Earl was however thought to side with the Irish still and was executed by the next Lord Deputy.
The information boards give us more history about Desmond family. The Earls of Desmond fell out of favour after the 8th Earl was executed in 1468.
After the execution of the 8th Earl of Desmond in 1468, the later Earls withdrew from contact with England. The leaflet from the site tells us that the arrival of new settlers in Munster as well as Catholic mistrust of the Protestant state set off risings by the Earls in 1567-73 and 1579-83. Earl Gerald (15th Earl) was declared an outlaw and Munster was laid waste by Crown forces. The rebellion was a failure and Gerald was captured and killed during a cattle raid. The Desmond lands were taken and distributed to English settlers.
This takes us up to the fifteenth century and the time when the Hall would have been used, as we see it today. The information board tells us that the Hall was where the Lord held court, and that this has two meanings: it was the court of judgement as well as the court of entertainment and dining.
The Banqueting Hall was restored in the early 19th century, the ruined battlements were taken down and a new pitch pine roof was put on. The original hooded stone fireplace had collapsed and a seventeenth century replacement, the one we now see in the lower vault, was installed, taken from a house in Kilmallock. The Banqueting Hall was used as a Masonic lodge and later as a general purpose hall for the community.
The leaflet tells us that when the 17th century fireplace was taken down for repair and cleaning, enough of the original hooded fireplace remained that it could be reconstructed with reasonable accuracy.
There was evidence for a timber screen at the west end of the hall, and this has been replaced by a musician’s gallery made of oak.
I was surprised to hear that the windows facing the village would have had glass in the fifteenth century. The other side, away from public view, would not have had this expensive luxury.
The later history of Desmond Hall is after the lands of Gerald the 15th Earl of Desmond were seized.
After the Earls of Desmond has lost their land, it was given to some prominent and wealthy Englishmen who would develop the Munster Plantation. These men, called “Undertakers,” would undertake to establish English families on the land they were given. Sir William Courtenay (or Courtney) (1553-1630), 3rd Earl of Devon, was granted 10,000 acres at Newcastle. He was originally from Devon in England, and he was given land on condition that eighty English colonists would be housed on his property.
Newcastle passed to William Courtenay’s son George Courtenay (d. 1644), who in 1621 became 1st Baronet Courtenay of Newcastle, County Limerick. The sign boards tell us that in 1641 English settlers crowded into the protection of the walled castle, but after a long seige it fell to General Purcell of the Confederate forces. The Confederates where an amalgamation of Gaelic Ulster families and Anglo-Norman families who were dissatisfied with assurances given to them by King Charles I about their freedom to practice their Catholic faither, and they feared the militant intolerance of the English Parliament.
The Courteney’s built an mansion to replace the destroyed castle. George’s son Francis inherited, but as he had no offspring, Newcastle passed to his cousin, William Courtenay (1628-1702) 5th Earl of Devon and 1st Baronet Courtenay. The property remained in the family but they did not live there, and finally it was sold in 1910.
In 1777 William 2nd Viscount Courtenay (1742-1788) built a Church of Ireland church between the Banqueting Hall and the main square of the town. It was demolished in 1962 as it had fallen into disrepair. The 2nd Viscount was 8th Earl of Devon and 4th Baronet Courtenay.
In 1922 the main building, then known as Devon Castle, burnt, and was replaced by a house nearby. The Desmond Hall was sold to the Nash family, and finally the Land Commisson took over the land. Desmond Hall was used for town social events and the Halla Mór as a cinema. The Hall became a National Monument in 1981. Restoration began in 1989.
6.Lough Gur, County Limerick:
The Irish Homes and Gardens website tells us that Ireland’s first settlers arrived around 8000BC. The introduction of farming in 4000BC saw a move to a more settled lifestyle and the building of farmsteads, with both circular and rectangular house styles being used. The first rectangular house and the largest concentration of Neolithic structures were found in Lough Gur dating back to 3500BC.
Although none of these houses remain, the lasting legacy from this period on the Irish landscape is the megalithic tomb: the Dolmen or Portal tomb with its huge capstone or lintel, balanced on smaller stones and the Passage tombs, with their dry-stone passages leading to corbelled ceilings (circular layers of flattish stones closed with a single stone at the top). [ https://www.irishhomesandgardens.ie/irish-architecture-history-part-1/ ]
“Lough Gur is a site of international significance due to the area’s rich archaeology and environment. It is home to Ireland’s oldest and largest stone circle and the only natural lake of significance in South East Limerick. Lough Gur also has an abundance of ancient monuments in State care with a reported 2,000 archaeological monuments in a 5km radius. Visitors to Lough Gur Lakeshore Park will find a hillside visitor centre where you can take part in a guided or self guided tour of the exhibition. There is also an option to take a full outdoor guided tour of the archaeological monuments. Tours are tailor made and can range from 30 minutes to 3 hours. The Lakeshore Park and tours are run by Lough Gur Development Group.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 61. (Archdale/IFR) “A noble house of 1773 on the shores of Lough Erne, built by Colonel Mervyn Archdall in 1773 to replace a “Plantation castle” originally built by John Archdale 1615.
Three storeys over a basement; a six bay entrance front with a two bay breakfront centre; and a tripartite doorway with Ionic pilasters, entablature and pediment, the latter breaking forwards on two Ionic columns to form a porch, which appears to have been a subsequent alteration.
The side elevation was of three bays, the bottom storey having Venetian windows with Gothic astragals in its outer bays. The quoins were rusticated and bold; with a solid roof parapet. Derelict since 1959 and now ruinous.” 
Built in about 1618 by Sir James Balfour, a Scottish planter, the castle was in continuous occupation until the early 19th century. Open all year.
Timothy William Ferres tells us: “CASTLE BALFOUR formed the nucleus of the town [Lisnaskea]. It stands beside the parish church, in the graveyard. The Castle was built with local stone ca 1618 by Sir James Balfour. Sandstone was used for the quoins and dressings. The main block consists of a rectangular block, 78 feet by 24 feet, with a large wing projecting to the east and west, comprising two L-shaped units. The northern block has three storeys with attics. The kitchen is vaulted, with a fireplace and oven. Corbelled turrets and gun-slits are a feature.
During the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Castle Balfour and the village were burnt but later reoccupied. In 1689, the Castle was again badly damaged by the Jacobite armies but was repaired after the Williamite victory at Limerick. About 1780, Castle Balfour was sold to the 1st Earl of Erne, and the Balfours subsequently left County Fermanagh.
The last person to inhabit the Castle was James Haire (1737-1833), of Nutfield, who leased the Castle from Lord Erne. James Haire and his family ceased to occupy the castle after it was destroyed by an arson-based fire in 1803 (his mother, Phoebe, was killed in the rubble caused by the fire).
Thereafter the Castle remained ruinous, until it was placed in state care by the 6th Earl of Erne in 1960.
Major conservation work was carried out between 1966-68 and again during the late 1990s.” 
“Castle Coole is one of the greatest neo-classical country houses in Ireland. Home to the Earls of Belmore, it was commissioned and built to impress by the first Earl of Belmore by Amar Lowry Corry, 1st Earl Belmore (1740-1802) and furnished largely by Somerset Lowry Corry, 2nd Earl (1774-1841).
Castle Coole boasts some of the finest neoclassical architecture, interiors, furniture and Regency furnishings in Ireland. Original drawings by the architects, the building records, inventories and invoices recording the daily work of the joiners, plasterers and painters in the 1790s and the furnishing of the house 1807 to 1821 helped guide the restoration of Castle Coole in the 1980s. This combination of place, collection and archival record must be unique in Ireland where so many records and collections have been dispersed. It speaks of careful husbandry by generations of the family who cherished the past.
John Corry, a merchant from Scotland, bought land in Fermanagh in 1655 that had previously belonged to one of the participants in the Ulster Plantation. John’s son, James, supported William of Orange in his Irish war with James II, during which the old castle at Coole was burnt down. A replacement was built in c1707 – not a fortified castle but a brick building with sash windows and tall chimneys, signalling a period of peace and prosperity in Ulster after years of unrest.”
The estate was inherited by Colonel James’s grandson, Leslie (named after his mother, who was Sarah Leslie. Sarah Leslie’s sister Martha married Reverend William Armar, Archdeacon of Connor and Margetson Armar was their son), in 1726 when he was still a minor. The estate was then managed by his cousin, Margetson Armar, who had been brought up at Castle Coole and who married Leslie’s sister Mary in 1736. Leslie Corry died young and so Margetson continued to manage Castle Coole. He brought about improvements of the farm and house and his wife was a talented gardener. They had no children so the house passed to their nephew, Armar Lowry-Corry. Armar was the son of Sarah Corry, a sister of aforementioned Leslie Corry who died young and Galbraith Lowry, who added the name Corry to his surname in 1764, on condition that his son would inherit the Corry estates. Armar Lowry-Corry’s sister Anne married into the Cole family of Florence Court in County Fermanagh (see below).
The website continues: “Through marriages and connections, the combined estates of the Lowry, Corry and Armar families (amounting to over 70,000 acres of tenanted land by 1779) were all inherited by Armar Lowry Corry in 1779 [he inherited after the deaths of Margetson Armar (1773), Mary Armar (nee Corry, died in 1774) and Sarah Lowry-Corry (nee Sarah Corry, she married Galbraith Lowry, and she died in 1779]. Armar, MP for Tyrone, was raised to the peerage as Lord Belmore in 1780 (and earl in 1797) and began to plan a new house, more suited to contemporary taste and his position in society. Architect Richard Johnston from Dublin was employed in 1789 but Belmore switched to James Wyatt, then at the height of his career and particularly skilled in the neoclassical style. Wyatt never visited the site, sending all his drawings from England. Much of the building work was carried out by skilled Irish builders and craftsmen and some of the furniture designed by Wyatt was made by the Irish joiners, including a great mahogany sideboard, and a large wine cooler for the dining room. The house is faced with Portland limestone from England; specialist plasterers under Joseph Rose created the decoration to the ceilings and walls; marble chimneypieces were commissioned from Richard Westmacott and Domenico Bartoli created scagliola columns and pilasters.
The ground floor of the central block contains the principal receptions rooms. The wings and first floor bedrooms were the family’s private quarters. The vast basement contains service rooms with separate areas governed by Housekeeper, Butler and Cook, who could come and go via a large service tunnel that connected the basement to the service yards.“
One is not allowed to photograph inside, because the furnishings are owned by the present 8th Earl. You can see photographs of the sumptuous interiors on the website. The house was handed to the National Trust by the 7th Earl in 1951 but the family still occupy a wing.
Armar Lowry-Corry married Margaret Butler, daughter of Somerset Butler, the 1st Earl of Carrick. They had a son, Somerset, who became the 2nd Earl of Belmore. She died young, and Armar remarried, this time to Lady Henrietta Hobart, the daughter of the Earl of Buckinghamshire, who was Lord Lieutenant at the time. Henrietta however was not happy at Castle Coole and was twenty two years younger than her husband so they divorced, which would have been unusual at the time. He married a third time, this time to Mary Anne Caldwell, in 1794, from nearby Castle Caldwell in County Fermanagh (now a ruin). It was Armar who built the house we see today. He had it built in a new location, at the top of the hill, since he suffered from rheumatism so wanted to avoid damp. The old house burned down in 1797 while the new house was being built.
The website continues: “The 2nd Earl [Somerset (1774-1841)] had campaigned fiercely against the Act of Union of 1800 which led to the abolition of the independent Irish parliament. He lost his parliamentary seat, only becoming a representative peer in the British House of Lords in 1819. In the meantime, he concentrated on the furnishing of Castle Coole, commissioning John and Nathaniel Preston of Dublin to supply complete rooms of furniture from 1807 onwards. Inspired no doubt by the interiors he saw in London where he had a house, Castle Coole was as lavishly furnished as the greatest Regency interiors.
To add to the splendour the Second Earl of Belmore commissioned furniture from Preston’s of Dublin in 1807, in lavish French Empire style. Preston’s also made the most extravagant piece of furniture in the house, the State bed, which was commissioned for the visit of George IV in 1821, although in the end he never visited Castle Coole meaning the ornate decoration has stayed in perfect condition.
Perhaps to escape creditors, Somerset took his family away for a 4-year tour of the Mediterranean in 1816, visiting Malta, Egypt and the Holy Land. He acquired a paid position as Governor of Jamaica [appointed by his friend the Duke of Wellington, who was prime minister at the time] in 1828 finding himself in the middle of a highly volatile situation. Leading up to the abolition of slavery, the British government sought to improve the living conditions of the [300,000] enslaved people, but this was resented by the plantation owners who dominated the local assembly [in Jamaica]. Belmore’s attempts at moderation were not welcomed by either side. In December 1831 many of the enslaved people rebelled, martial law declared, and the leaders executed. Belmore was blamed for mis-handling the situation and recalled to London. His conduct was subsequently vindicated, but it must have been a bitter end to his posting.“
Somerset’s son Armar Lowry-Corry (1801-1845) became the 3rd Earl of Belmore but died a few years after his father and his brother Somerset (1835-1913) succeeded as the 4th Earl.
The website continues: “The 4th Earl, Somerset (1835-1913), rescued the family’s finances by selling land, reducing the estate to some 20,000 acres, enabling a partial redecoration of Castle Coole. In 1867 Somerset was appointed Governor General of New South Wales, where he supported the development of the railways. The 5thEarl never married but lived on modestly at Castle Coole with five unmarried siblings [one of whom was his brother Cecil the 6th Earl]. By the time the 7thEarl [a great nephew of the 4th Earl, grandson of the 3rd Earl, Major Galbraith Lowry-Corry (1913-1960)] inherited in 1949, the burden of taxes and the expense of maintaining the house led to the house and 70 acres of land being transferred to the National Trust with a grant from the Ulster Land Fund, the contents remaining on loan.
The present 8th Earl lives nearby and continues to take an active interest in the house and demesne.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 64. “(Lowry-Corry, Belmore, E/PB) The most palatial late C18 house in Ireland, built 1790-98 by 1st Earl Belmore to the design of James Wyatt, who adapted earlier designs by Richard Johnston, and also showed himself to be much influenced by Stuart and Revett’s Antiquities of Athens, so that the house is an unusually perfect example of late C18 Hellenism, massive and unrestrained; yet keeping certain Palladian features such as Venetian windows and a balustraded roof parapet; and following the traditional Palladian plan of a centre block and wings. The centre block of two storeys and nine bays, with a pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns on the entrance front, and a curved central bow lined with giant fluted Ionic columns on the garden front; the wings single storey and consisting, on the entrance front, of deep colonnades of fluted Doric columns ending in small Doric pavilions, and on the garden front of five bay links and end pavilions with Venetian windows. The ends of the wings have central features of four fluted Doric columns and are as perfectly finished as the major elevations; all being of beautifully cut masonry in a pale silvery Portland stone which was brought here at great expense, being shipped to Ballyshannon, taken overland to Lough Erne, shipped to Enniskillen and taken the last two miles in bullock carts.“
Bence-Jones continues: “It was no less expensive getting English plasterers to come here under the supervision of Joseph Rose; and it seems that the austerity of the interior plasterwork was to some degree for reasons of economy; though in fact it is entirely suited to the Grecian purity of the house. The single-storey hall is of great depth and dramatic simplicity, its only adornments beinga Doric frieze, a pair of small Doric chimneypieces by Westmacott facing each other on either side and a screen of Doric columns in porphyry scagliola at the inner end. The splendour is reserved for the oval saloon in the middle of the garden front, which is lined with grey scagliola Corinthian pilasters and has a frieze of swags and delicate ornament on the flat of the ceiling; it is flanked by the drawing room and the dining room, forming a magnificent enfilade. The library, which has its original delicately moulded bookcases, is on one side of the hall, separated from the drawing room by the staircase hall, which contains a double stone staircase of great length, leading up to a landing with a screen of yellow and brown scagliola Doric columns. The first floor lobby, lit by glass domes, rises into an attic storey which is not visible from the outside of the house; and is surrounded by a gallery with a colonnade probably inspired by the interiorsof the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon at Paestuum. In 1797, just before the present house was completed, the earlier house, which was small, built 1709 and with a rather heavy pediment, was burnt to the ground. The earlier family pictures and furniture were probably lost in this fire, which would explain why the house contains comparatively few portraits, making for large stretches of unrelieved wall, again very much in keeping with the Grecian simplicity. As a contrast, however, there is the sumptuous gilt Regency furniture in the saloon, introduced by 2nd Earl, and the bed, festooned with flame silk, in the state bedroom, said to have been decorated for George IV, who, however, never slept here. The garden front of the house overlooks a lake on which there is the oldest nonmigratory flock of greylag geese in the British Isles; it is said that if ever they go, the Belmores will also go. There are some wonderful trees in the park, and fine stables by Sir Richard Morrison. Castlecoole has been maintained by the Northern Ireland National Trust since 1951 and is open to the public.”
The house is very cleverly surrounded by tunnels for the servants, which run along the basement level outside the house. The tunnels allow light to reach down to the tall sash windows of the basement. There is a special entrance for horse riders, where they can enter the tunnels after their hunt to go into the basement of the house where a special area for changing and washing was created in the basement with a unique Roman bath-style plunge pool down a few steps for the home owners and their guests, which would be filled by the servants with heated water. The changing area is beautifully designed and the tunnels are covered with grills which let in the light, so that the basement lets in the sunlight.
Another underground tunnel leads down to the Grand Yard. It was created in order to avoid a servants’ entrance at ground level. Deliveries could be made by driving up the tunnel to a back door into the basement area.
“The Grand Yard was designed by Richard Morrison for the 2nd Earl of Belmore in 1817. The area was used for several purposes including dairy, stables, laundry house, candle factory and servants accommodation quarters [including the Steward’s House, which is still owned by Lord Belmore, as well as the farm yeard].
The Grand Yard is surrounded by stables and coach houses. The stables and coach houses not only housed the family’s work horses, coach horses and coaches but also had space available to accommodate visitor’s horses and coaches – Strangers Stables and Coachhouses as they were referred to on plans.“
For more about the wonderful interior of the house, of which one can take a tour, see the website. The tour takes in the centre block. On the ground floor are the library, drawing room, dining room, morning breakfast room, and the round impressive Saloon with its bow front. Upstairs above the saloon is the bow room (decorated with Chinese style wallpaper, curtains and covered furniture, this room was used by the ladies during the day for sewing, reading and playing cards), a lovely double-height lobby that has more pretty plasterwork, and the state bedroom decorated for King George IV (with a particularly beautiful tester bed with gorgeous folded swags of curtains, original tassels and fringes, pleated sunburst lining and a generous rosette of scarlet silk above the bed inside the curtains. Bed steps flank the bed, like the ones we came across and used during our stay in “Norman’s Room” in Castle Leslie, and the bed is topped with gold coronets and gilt poles), as we have come across before in other houses (Charleville in County Wicklow and Loughton in Offaly). The lobby is lit by an impressive oval skylight and two further circular skylights. On the upper, attic, floor, that one can see from the lobby, are more Doric columns painted to look like marble, and a iron balustrade that matches the staircase. Doors off the lobby lead to the bow room and the state room, and two doors either side lead to the four principal bedrooms in the corners.
Also upstairs is the Library, which has a particularly impressive pelmet which end with what our guide told us have been called griffin heads but she thinks, and I agree, that they look more like camels, reflecting the 2nd Earl’s passion for travel. He travelled extensively in Egypt, travelling up the Nile, and he sponsored excavations and began a collection of Egyptian antiquities. He sold some of these later to the British Museum in 1842 to pay off debts. The unusual tentlike ceiling of the kitchens is made of a special fireproof material as it is underneath the room where the 2nd Earl stored his treasures.
The stair hall has a staircase that breaks into two, to create a “floating” imperial staircase, with iron balusters that contain gilded rosettes, with a slim mahogany handrail. At the bottom of the stairs is a table with many lamps for the residents and guests to bring up to their room at night.
The castle is still in private hands but the grounds are open to the public.
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 95. “(Crichton, Erne, E/PB) A large castellated mansion combining Baronial and Tudor-Revival elements, by the side of one of the many inlets of Upper Lough Erne, built 1829 to the design of Edward Blore. The entrance front has a gabled projection with a corbelled oriel at each end, but they are not entirely similar; while the tall, battlemented entrance tower, which incorporates a porte-cochere, is not central but to one side, against the left hand gable. The adjoining garden front is symmetrical, dominated by a very tall central tower with slender octagonal turrets, inspired by various Tudor gatehouse towers in England, but without a doorway. On either side of it is a gable and oriel. In the park are the ruins of the earlier Crom Castle, a Plantation castle of 1611, destroyed by fire in 1764.”
The website tells us: “Enniskillen Castle, situated beside the River Erne in County Fermanagh, was built almost 600 years ago by Gaelic Maguires.
Guarding one of the few passes into Ulster, it was strategically important throughout its history. In the 17th century it became an English garrison fort and later served as part of a military barracks. This historic site houses two museums, Fermanagh County Museum and The Inniskillings Museum.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 121. (Cole, Enniskillen, E/PB) A large and impressive fortress at one side of the island in the River Erne on which the town of Enniskillen is built; with walls enclosing a ward of courtyard, an inner keep and a tall and frowning water gate with two conical-roofed bartizans. Until C18 the castle stood on a small island of its own, separated from the rest of the island by a ditch of water crossed by a draw-bridge. The castle was originally built C15 by the Maguires; it was granted 1607 to Captain William Cole, who rebuilt the keep as a house for himself, and renovated all the fortifications; the water gate probably dates from his time. The Coles continued to live on and off at the castle until 1739; afterwards, they established themselves permanently at Florence Court. The castle then became barracks, and the keep was rebuilt once again. The buildings remain in good repair.”
“Florence Court epitomises the Irish country house: a grand and elegant house in a romantic setting with self-sufficient demesne complete with gardens, parkland, woodland, and supporting buildings. The beauty and peacefulness of Florence Court bely the sometimes turbulent lives of those who lived and worked here during the course of its 300-year history.
Captain William Cole came to Ireland as part of Elizabeth 1’s army of colonisation in 1601. He oversaw the creation of Enniskillen at its strategically important location on Lough Erne and lived in Enniskillen Castle, becoming Provost and then Governor. Many generations of the family continued to be involved in the governance of the area and as members of parliament. A century later, his descendant Sir John Cole (1680-1726) built a lodge to the south west of the town, and named it after his wife, Florence [Wray]. The house he built in the 1720s was not fortified as the early 1700s were a time of relative peacefulness in Ulster compared to the previous century. The present Florence Court house we see today was built by Sir John’s son, also called John Cole, who was raised to the peerage as Lord Mount Florence in 1760. The house was still unfinished at the time of young John’s death. The colonnades and pavilions were completed by his son, William Willoughby Cole (1736-1803) who became Earl of Enniskillen in 1789.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 125. “(Cole, Enniskillen, E/PB) A tall, early to mid-C18 block of three storeys over a basement and seven bays, its front heavily enriched with rustications, balustrades, pedimented niches and other features; joined by long arcades with rusticated pilasters to pedimented and pilastered single-storey pavilions. The centre block was probably built by John Cole, MP, afterwards 1st Lord Mountflorence, whose mother was the Florence after whom the house is named; the name was probably originally given to a shooting-box built here in the days when the family lived at Enniskillen Castle. The arcades and pavilions seem to date from ca 1770, and would have been added by William Cole, 1st Earl of Enniskillen; they were possibly designed by Davis Duckart. They blend perfectly with the centre block, and the whole long, golden-grey front has a dream-like Baroque beauty that is all the greater for being somewhat bucolic. The centre block has a three bay breakfront with a central pedimented niche between two windows in the top storey, a Venetian window between two niches in the storey below, and a pedimented tripartite doorway on the ground floor. The rear elevation has a central three sided bow with rusticated window surrounds, but there is nothing like the lavish ornament here that there is on the front. Curved sweeps join the back of the house to outbuildings.”
The only room we were allowed to photograph inside was the Colonel’s Room, which is in one of the pavilions and which is where the tour begins.
Mark Bence-Jones continues, describing the inside of Florence Court: “The interior contains some wonderfully vigorous rococo plasterwork, in the manner of Robert West and apparently dating from 1755. In the hall, which is divided from the staircase by an arch, the decoration is architectural, reflecting the outside, with banded pilasters and a Doric frieze. Through the arch and up the staircase of splendid joinery with its handrail of tulip wood, the plasterwork becomes more rococo: great panels of foliage on the walls, and a cornice of pendants and acanthus. From the half landing one gets a view downwards to the hall and upwards through two arches at the top of the stairs to the Venetian Room, lit by the great Venetian window, which has what is probably the finest ceiling in the house; with a swirl of foliage and eagles and other birds of prey in high relief. The drawing room, to the right of the foot of the staircase, has a cornice of acanthus foliage, masks of “Tragedy” and “Comedy,” baskets of fruit and and birds. The ceiling of the dining room, on the other side of the staircase hall, is more elaborate, with foliage and birds and a central panel of cherubs puffing from clouds. There was formerly a delightful ceiling in the nursery on the top floor, with drums, rocking horses and other toys incorporated in the ornament. The park, which is dramatically overshadowed by the sombre mountains of Benknocklan and Cuilcagh, contains the original Irish or Florence Court yew. The 5th Earl and his son, the late Viscount Cole, gave Florence Court to the Northern Ireland National Trust in 1953. Two years later, the centre of the house was severely damaged by fire; fortunately the staircase and much of the plasterwork was saved, and most of what was lost was restored under the direction of the late Sir Albert Richardson. No photographic record existed of the nursery ceiling, which was among those destroyed, so this was not reinstated. Florence Court is open to the public.”
The website tells us: “The house is a bit of a mystery: the architect or architects are unknown and in some of the main rooms superb decorative plasterwork survives though there is no record of who the skilled plasterers were. The main block probably dates to the 1760s and its colonnades and wings to the 1770s. These hide extensive yards and service buildings, grouped cleverly around the back of the house.
At around the same time, the formal landscape of the 1720s was re-designed by William King, one of the great landscape gardeners of the late 18th century, who planted belts of trees to provide shelter and woodland, and clumps of trees in open parkland, where sheep, horses and cattle could graze. The mass of Benaughlin mountain provides a dramatic backdrop to the composition. The demesne provided the immediate needs of the household and employment for staff, servants and farm labourers, with grazing for cattle, sheep and horses, a large deer park, arable land for crops and woodlands for timber. A major restoration of the 19th century walled garden is underway through the dedication of volunteers and staff. The vegetable and fruit garden is full of activity once again, giving a sense of Florence Court as the hive of industry that enabled it to be largely self-sustaining.”
“At its height, it was further supported by nearly 30,000 acres of tenanted farmland, which provided much-needed rental income. The latter part of the 19th century in Ireland was dominated by the Land Wars: a period of unrest and reappraisal of the historic form of land tenure and landlord- tenant relations. Like most other estates, Florence Court’s estate was significantly reduced by various Land Acts brought in by the British government in around 1900 to deal with the situation. In so doing, many houses in Ireland lost their main source of income from tenanted land and began a gradual decline in fortune. With the impact of the 1st and 2nd World Wars and rising taxes, Florence Court eventually proved impossible for the family to maintain and the house was transferred to the National Trust in 1954.”
The website tells us: “Through the 19th century the 3rd and 4th Earls of Enniskillen continued the work of their ancestors by investing in and developing the land and the estate. William, 3rd Earl, was also a keen palaeontologist, and gathered a large collection of fossil fish which he eventually sold to the British Museum. As Grand Master of the Orange Lodge of Ireland he was also involved in many civic duties. William’s first wife, Jane Casamaijor, laid out the American garden with rhododendrons and azaleas on the slopes south of the house. William invested heavily in the estate and demesne. The 3rd Earl also built a Tile, Brick and Pottery Works which turned local clay into drainage pipes, bricks and tiles (no longer extant). The sawmill transformed trees into everything from coffins to fence posts, railway sleepers, furniture and gates.”
“After a devastating fire in 1955 the interiors of the house were quickly rebuilt and repaired. The contents had been on loan from the family and many had miraculously survived the fire. They were removed by the 6th Earl in the 1970s, when he and his wife went to live elsewhere but were generously returned by his widow, Nancy, in the 1990s. This breathed renewed life back into the house and the Trust continues to restore the gardens and demesne buildings so that all can enjoy this remarkable house, gardens and demesne and hear the story of those who created them.“
Places to stay, County Fermanagh
1. Belle Isle Courtyard cottages and castle accommodation, Lisbellaw, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh Northern Ireland€(self-catering)
“Belle Isle provides an outstanding mix of natural beauty and authentic heritage on a private 400 acre estate designated a Special Area of Conservation with a range of accommodation options including castle rental, luxury cottages and self-catering apartments. Whether you are looking to host your wedding, enjoy a private event with friends and family or just have a relaxing weekend with your pets, we have something for everyone. Enjoy a Summer Getaway to the Belle Isle Estate with one of our great special offers.
Belle Isle has a rich history dating back to before the 15th century as the place where the Annals of Ulster were written. Belle Isle Castle was built in the early 17th century as the home to many generations of nobles and has been hosting events since as early as 1760. In 1991, the castle was fully refurbished to open its doors to more visitors. Belle Isle Estate stretches over 470-acres across Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It is a private estate with access to its estate grounds and trails open solely its visitors. If you are looking for the ultimate experience in luxury, Belle Isle Estate is one of the best hotels Fermanagh can offer.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 38. “(Gore, Bt/PB; Porter, sub Baird/IFR) A house beautifully situated on an island in Upper Lough Erne; the seat of a distinguished C18 soldier, Sir Ralph Gore, 6th Bt, 1st and last Earl of Ross and Viscount Bellisle, who was C-in-C in Ireland 1788. Bought early in C19 by Rev. J.G. Porter. The present house appears to incorporate a two storey C18 range with a three sided bow at one end, to which a range of 1820-30 was added at right angles, with a staircase hall, top-lit by an octangular lantern, in the re-entrant. The house was re-modelled post 1880 in the plain English Tudor manor house style made popular by Norman Shaw and his disciples; producing a gable entrance front with mullioned windows, a projecting porch and a tall, church-like battlemented tower at the corner of th 1820-30 range. The latter range, which is the garden front facing the lough, remains unaltered apart from having Victorian plate-glass windows; at one end is the end bow of C18 range, with Georgian astragals. Inside the house, arches were opened up between the staircase hall and the rooms at either end of it, to make a much larger hall; the staircase hall was also widened at the expense of the rooms in 1820-30 range, the old wall being replaced by a massive oak beam. An oak staircase with barleysugar balusters replaced the original stairs; the walls were panelled in oak, or decorated with half-timbering. The octangular ceiling lantern, however, was left undisturbed. The drawing room, in 1820-30 range, was redecorated, having been reduced in width, and given a chimneypiece of old oak carving, possibly of more than one period and nationality. The room extending into the bow of C18 range, which is now the drawing room, was given a stone Tudor fireplace; but it still keeps its original doors with shouldered C18 architraves. In 1907 the entrance front was prolonged by a wing in Tudor style containing a long and lofty gallery, with a timbered roof, an elaborate Tudor fireplace and overmantel and a minstrels’ gallery, the balustrade of which has slender turned uprights and would appear to be late C17 or early C18 woodwork brought from elsewhere. At this end of the entrance front stands a pedimented and gable-ended office wing which would appear to date from quite early C18. After the death of N.H.A. Porter 1973, Belle Isle was inherited by his niece, Miss Olivia Baird.”
2. Colebrooke gate lodge,Colebrooke Park, County Fermanagh€ for 4
Colebrooke Estate in Co. Fermanagh, N.Ireland offers guests a haven of peace and privacy with over 1000 acres to play in. The 5 star Whitehill Cottage and 5 star Woodcock Corner Cottage are sensitively restored original Estate workers cottages. Rossbeg Cottage is located in a stunning part of Co. Donegal, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We are proud of all the properties, which offer high standards of comfort, with all the modern conveniences you would expect to find in quality accommodation.
“A converted farm building with a spacious living area and views of the Lough Erne.
Erne View is the largest in a row of holiday cottages on the shores of Lough Erne. The cottage boasts stunning views, an open fire and a wet room on the ground floor.
Enjoy a coffee whilst taking in the view over to the Island of Inishfendra before heading down to the nearby jetty for a stroll along the shoreline.
Adventurers might want to take advantage of the Lough Erne Canoe Trail which offers guided trips and canoe hire. Further afield, the pretty town of Enniskillen, with its historic castle, is just 20 miles away.“
5. Florence Court, County Fermanagh – Butler’s Apartment
Butler’s Apartment served as living quarters for the male servants at Florence Court, the 18th-century mansion next door to the holiday home. This atmospheric first floor apartment overlooks the laundry courtyard and adjoining woodland garden. Inside, you’ll find many historical quirks such as the period fireplaces, large sash windows and wooden floorboards.
6. Manor House Hotel (formerly Killadeas Manor and before that, Rockfield), County Fermanagh
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 168. “(Irvine/LGI1912) A two storey Victorian Italianate house, in a splendid position on the shores of Lough Erne. Entrance front with pediment and porch in the form of a three arched loggia, flanked by a square tower with glazed belvedere and urns on its parapet. Now a hotel.”
A younger son of the Irvines of Castle Irvine [now dilapidated but you can visit the grounds], John Irvine, acquired the estate in 1660. It was known as Rockfield. The website tells us it remained as Rockfield until it was rebuilt in 1860 by Colonel John Gerard Irvine (1823-1902), who brought workmen from Italy to do the interior decoration which exists to this day.
The name of Rockfield was changed to Killadeas Manor House by Major John Irvine who succeeded to Killadeas in 1835 and died in 1860. It was his son, Colonol John Gerard Irvine, who rebuilt Killadeas, incorporated some parts of the old house into the new mansion.
The website adds that in a directory of Fermanagh, published in 1879, the author states that Rockfield was built in 1710, and greatly altered and added to in 1868 by Colonel Irvine under the direction of that able and artistic architect, Mr Armstrong of Belleek. There are some obvious similarities between the architecture of the Belleek Pottery and The Manor House not least the unusual narrow, arched windows.
During the 1939-45 war it was requisitioned by the Government and was for a time used by the American Forces. The house itself was used as an Officers’ Mess and Headquarters for the Seaplane base of Killadeas. It was a plane from this base which sighted the ‘Bismarck’ and consequently resulted in the destruction of this mighty battleship. The Manor House remained in the Irvine family until 1957 when it was acquired for a Hotel.
Ashbrooke is the Dower House for the Colebrooke Estate it has been in the Brooke family for over 200 years. Formerly the home of Viscount and Viscountess Brookeborough the house has recently been fully restored and renovated to provide luxurious accommodation.
Mark Bence-Jones writes of Colebrook Park in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 89. “(Brooke, Brookeborough, V.PB) An austere Classical house of 1825 by William Farrell; built for Sir Henry Brooke [1770-1834], 1st Bt of 2nd creation. Two storey nine bay front, with a pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns; three storey irregular side; eaved roof. Of cut-stone, with a sprinking of red sandstone ashlars which gives the elevation a pleasant reddish tinge. Large entrance hall; double staircase in back hall. Drawing room with original white and gold damask wallpaper. Sitting room with C19 arabesques. Large dining room, which Lord Craigavon, 1st Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, christened “Golgotha” on account of the numerous deer skulls covering the walls. The home of Sir Basil Brooke, 5th Bt and 1st Viscount Brookeborough, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland 1943-63; he and the late Lady Brookeborough made an attractive sunken garden at one end of the house. The house stood empty for some years after the death of 1st Viscount, 2nd Viscount living in Ashbrooke, a smaller house on the estate. But the present Lord and Lady Brookeborough have moved back into Colebrook.”
2. Belle Isle Courtyard cottages and castle accommodation, Lisbellaw, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh Northern Ireland
1. Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Co. Monaghan– see my write-up:
2. Hilton Park House, Clones, Co. Monaghan– section 482
contact: Fred Madden Tel 047-56007 www.hiltonpark.ie (Tourist Accommodation Facility) Open: April- Sept House and garden tours available for groups Jan 31, Feb 1-4, 7-11, 28, Mar 1-4, 7-11, May 3-6, 8-20, June 2, 13-17, 20-24, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, Sept 11, 18, 25, weekdays, 9am-1pm, Sunday, 1pm-5pm Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €8, child €5
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 153. “[Madden] (formerly Maddenton). A large late-Georgian house of 2 storeys over a basement, 11 bay entrance front with the 5 centre bays breaking forward; rebuilt after a fire 1804. In 1872 the basement was excavated so that it became in effect a ground floor, as at Montalto, Co Down, and the house was refaced with Dungannon stone; with a pierced roof parapet and pediments over the windows of the principal storey. At the same time, a handsome Ionic porte-cochere was added, with coupled columns in the centre; and the principal reception rooms were given decorative ceilings.”
The website has a detailed history of the Madden family:
“The family is descended from the princes of Oriel and in particular from Maine, who left Clogher in the 5th Century to find less populous lands, for they were a quarrelsome breed and were always warring and fighting among themselves. Maine settled a large area astride the Shannon and became the progenitor of the tribes of Hy-Many. From Anmchadh, son of Eoghan Buac, fourteenth in descent from Maine, sprang the tribe of O’Madden, who were the chiefs of Siol Anmchadha. Our line almost certainly comes from John O’Madden, great grandson of Eoghan O’Madden, the celebrated Lion of Birra and Chief of Siol Anmchadha, (1323-47). Two of John’s elder brothers were Chiefs of the clan from 1411 to 1451 and one of their sons, Cobthach, killed his two elder brothers, Brasil and Diarmuid, to claim their birth right, but the third brother, Eoghan Carregh, killed him first to claim the chieftainship. From this constant quarrelling and frequent fratricide, John appears to have fled to England, where he settled at Bloxham Beauchamp in Oxfordshire. From parish records we know that he was in humble circumstances, but each generation seems to have improved their lot until four generations later, in 1599, Thomas marries Elizabeth Pettifer of a well-established local family: it must be presumed that the family became Protestant during the Reformation. Thomas Madden, the name having become anglicised, then becomes Comptroller to Sir Thomas Wentworth, later Earl of Strafford, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, returns to Ireland and takes up residence at Baggotsrath.
In 1635 his son John, attorney to HM Court of Castle Chambers, General Solicitor for Parliamentary Sequestrations, of Maddenton in Co.Kildare, married Elizabeth Waterhouse, heiress of Manor Waterhouse in Co.Fermanagh, thus contracting the second advantageous marriage in successive generations.
His son John, who was three times President of the Irish College of Physicians and clearly a most cultured man as he had a very valuable collection of early Irish and English historical manuscripts, married Mary Molyneux, sister of William Molyneux, who in 1684 founded the Dublin Philosophical Society to ‘the design of the Royal Society in London’. [a Baggot whom I hope was an ancestor of mine, Mark Baggot (d. 1718 and buried in St Audoen’s, Dublin) was also a founding member of the Dublin Philosophical Society, and the only Catholic member).]
It is not surprising that the next generation produced a remarkable philanthropist in the Rev. Samuel Madden DD. His brother John and his uncle, Sir Thomas Molyneux of Castle Dillon, in Co.Armagh, were founders of the Dublin Society and Samuel joined them within the first year and he set the agenda for encouragement of improvements in the Arts, Agriculture and Manufacturing by guaranteeing an annual sum for premiums from his own pocket, provided they were matched by the society; for this, as well as for giving premiums to Trinity College, Dublin, he earned the soubriquet ‘Premium’. Such was his generosity, Mrs. Delaney recalls in one of her contemporary letters, that his wife, who was something of a shrew, would not let him go out with any money on his person as he would give anything he had to any poor that he met. It was through Madden’s friendship with the Earl of Chesterfield that the Dublin Society received its Royal Charter. He was a collector of works of art and left Trinity 20 of his best paintings at their choice to hang in the Provost’s House for ever.
Madden wrote a number of books and plays, not always putting his name to them. The most interesting are ‘Reflections and Resolutions proper to the Gentlemen of Ireland’, which amongst many exhortations states that raw materials should not be exported to England, but rather that ‘value should be added at home’, and ‘A Memoir of the Twentieth Century’. A thousand copies of the latter were printed in 1735, but were destroyed prior to publication on the order of the government; only a half dozen copies survive. Two of his books, ‘Memoirs’ and ‘Boulter’s Monument’, published 1745, were dedicated to Frederick, Prince of Wales, to whom he had been tutor. It is interesting to speculate what influence this literary, cultured man may have had on the young prince, who contrary to the martial and philistine Hanoverians that spawned him, became the greatest royal patron of the arts and architecture since Charles the Second and who was left at home in Hanover for the first 20 years of his life, whilst his grandfather and his father ruled Britain.
A member of Swift’s circle and a kinsman of Oliver Goldsmith, Madden was particularly admired by Dr. Johnson, who said of him, ‘his is a name Ireland ought to honour’.
On the home front, Samuel was rector of Newtownbutler and kept a fine garden at Manor Waterhouse; in particular he was an expert in growing fruit and his manuscript catalogue and plan for ‘fruit trees planted in espalier hedges at Manor Waterhouse’ in 1740 is in the Hilton library. Tragically, all his manuscripts were left to his son, John of Hilton and they were lost in the fire 40 years later.
In 1734 he purchased the Hilton Estate, then comprising some 4000 acres, for his third son and around the same time bought an estate at Spring Grove, Rosslea, for his youngest son. As both his elder sons failed to bring children to majority, the Manor Waterhouse estate fell to John Madden of Hilton, but it appears to have been largely uninhabited after Premium Madden died in 1765 and the house hardly seems to have existed by the start of the 19th century. The old castle had been sacked in the Jacobite wars and it may be that the new one had not been well built.
The next generation, Colonel Samuel Madden of the Monaghan Militia, nearly finished the Maddens at Hilton, for this man was nothing like his namesake grandfather. He turned out to be a gambler and bon viveur and there is a vivid account of his excesses throughout the 1790s, culminating in the fire of 1803, the arrival of his creditors in 1812 and his expiry in 1814. His son, Colonel John [1756-1814] of the Monaghan Militia was left to pick up the pieces, about £5 million in today’s terms. Colonel John’s good fortune was a rich and prudent cleric, the Rev. Charles Dudley Ryder, for a grandfather, who seeing the calibre of his son in law, had kept most of his fortune from his daughter, knowing her husband would gamble all away. Dudley Ryder was the son of the Rev. John Ryder, Archbishop of Tuam, and had married Catherine, last of the Charnell family of Snarestone Hall in Leicestershire. The Snarestone Estate was made over to Colonel Sam by 1795 and would appear to have been sold soon after 1802; thereafter Dudley Ryder kept his powder dry until after old Sam’s demise. Colonel John appears to have worked hard and played hard. He took much of his lands on the Monaghan and Fermanagh estates in hand and became a noted breeder of Shorthorn cattle and hackney horses. So successful was he at the latter that long after his death people would come looking for horses of the ‘old Hilton strain’. He built the Ride, a colonnade for exercising horses on wet days under his study window. During an election, he even found time to fight a duel with the Lord Rossmore of the day, wounding the peer in the leg. He had always kept a yacht in Dublin Bay, with a skipper and crew of four but this was swapped for a smaller boat when he inherited his father’s debts. A member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, he won a race right round Ireland in the Ganymede and sailed off to the Mediterranean, bringing back from Naples one of the fine chimney pieces. He also built a villa at Sandycove to accommodate his sailing activities, where he eventually died in 1844, leaving a young widow and three sons, the oldest of whom was only seven, which resulted in the young heir being made a ward of Chancery. Sydney Anne, the young widow, was daughter of old Admiral William Wolseley, an old salt who had spent much of his life at sea and who had the distinction of being the only captain to share prize money with Nelson in the Mediterranean. Wolseley’s son, whilst serving as a midshipman on the flag ship HMS Superb, had the distinction of being presented to the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon had put himself under the protection of the British navy after Waterloo and he was taken aboard HMS Bellopheron on which vessel he was to be taken into exile at St.Helena. Napoleon was invited to breakfast with Admiral Hotham on the Superb, where he was treated with full honours and insisted on being presented to all the officers.
Young John,(1837-1902) left more of a mark on Hilton than all his predecessors except the first. At 19 he sank the well, from which we still get our water, 135 feet into the ground under his own superintendence. At 21 he celebrated throwing off the yoke of the Court of Chancery by erecting the bell tower, which at around 70 feet meant that he had covered 200 feet up and down in two years. At twenty-four he travelled for months on horseback through the eastern states of America up to the Great Lakes; this only a year before the Civil War. Back home he joined Isaac Butt’s Home Rule Party, but failed to get elected in the three elections he fought. Disappointed, and particularly so when he saw Parnell take over the Home Rulers, he reverted to Toryism. The rest of his life he devoted to travel, improving – first the park, then the gardens and pleasure grounds and finally the house and all the time writing . He kept a diary from 1868 onwards and published his magnum opus, The Wilderness and its Tenants in three volumes in 1897; this meticulous work is an inventory of the natural world prior to the industrial revolution. Having read widely of the early travellers and hunters, he found during his own travels in the latter half of the 19th Century that much had been altered since the start of the century; that the great herds of buffalo had been reduced, that the Sahara had moved and he wanted to set down a yardstick by which future depredations could be assessed. The public were not sufficiently concerned to buy his book and his warnings went unheeded. Of particular interest to the family, is his journal, which records details of the estates in Monaghan, Fermanagh and Leitrim during and before his time. Another record of immense intrinsic value is the photographic record of his younger brother, Charles Dudley Ryder, who obtained a camera in 1858 when only 19 and his albums, up until his death in 1874 at Cork Barracks of typhoid fever, show the park, house and gardens as they were before being improved. Charles and his brother, William Wolseley, both served in the 8thKing’s Liverpool Regiment and both died within 5 weeks of each other, William in Brighton. William was very involved in the loyal orders and built the Protestant Hall in Scotshouse. There is some mystery about him because, from his brother John’s diary, it is clear that he was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm and he served two years in Strangeways Gaol, Manchester. One can only surmise that some loyalist fracas led to his conviction, but it should also be remembered that a letter of his instructing Protestants not to interfere with Fenian processions had much to do with defusing local tensions.
John appears to have been serious to a fault and to have had a highly developed sense of his own rectitude. He ‘laid an information’ in court in Dublin against the Fenians’ who he was convinced were going to contravene the Party Processions Act at an imminent rally, which he thought unreasonable as his side had kept that law at a recent event. His case was not accepted and to prove his point, he marched, at no little risk to himself, in the Fenian rally and was no doubt delighted to be proved correct. He was a Magistrate, a Deputy Lieutenant for two counties and High Sheriff. On being appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Leitrim, he refused the honour saying that he was no longer prepared to serve an administration that had presided over a complete breakdown in law and order. He was summarily stripped of all his honours and appointments ‘for this studied insult to the Queen’. He at least had the satisfaction that all the magistrates in Ireland signed a petition in favour of his reinstatement.
He married the niece of the 3rd Earl of Leitrim, known as the ‘wicked’ Earl who was popularly believed to exercise his seignorial rights on his tenants’ daughters, in particular on their wedding night. He was murdered in 1878. The funeral took place at St.Michan’s in Dublin and such was Leitrim’s reputation that a mob turned out and overturned the hearse and the mourners had to be rescued by the police.
Owing to Lord Leitrim’s unfortunate will, which all but disinherited his successor and left all to his elderly, well off cousin, who would gladly have renounced his right, litigation loomed again for John Madden, whose children had a reversion under the will. Madden felt it his duty to protect his minor children’s interest and so litigation commenced causing Lady Dartrey to write of him ‘…(he) is a semi-madman, who stood as a Tory Home Ruler for Monaghan in 1868 and wrote such outrageous letters that he was struck off the list of JPs’. It may of course be that her staunch Whig politics had something to do with her opinion.
And so to the 20th Century and Lt.Col. John Clements Waterhouse Madden, ‘Jack’, (1870-1935). Called to the English Bar in 1895 and the Irish Bar in 1897, he had the task of winding up the estates as a result of the Land Acts, Acts which probably caused greater damage to the stock of great country houses in Ireland than all other events. Prior to Independence he held the usual posts that went with his rank, JP, High Sheriff, DL. He was a Standing Committee Member of the Ulster Unionist Council and a Deputy Grand Master of Ireland in the Orange Society. Incensed, however, by the activities of Craig and Carson whereby they engineered the setting up of the Boundary Commission and so tore up the agreement that the nine Ulster counties would remain under the Crown, he resigned from the Orange Order, disgusted that the Belfast Loyalists were loyal only to themselves. He made his own submission to the Boundary Commission, that the border should be a visible water boundary, coming in the estuary of the Erne in the west and exiting at the mouth of the Fane in the east. Whatever sense this may have made, it was a self serving device to try to ensure that Hilton remained north of the line and that the works of the Great Northern Railway, on the north bank of the Fane in Dundalk, would do likewise.
After Independence he was elected a Monaghan County Councillor. During the Troubles of 1920-1922 he took certain defensive measures at Hilton, that were designed to protect his property in the event of attack, no doubt comforted by his father’s foresight in installing steel shutters half a century before. The Colonel was of massive frame and utterly without fear. He was a hard taskmaster and much disliked at Clones railway station where he never found things to his liking as a director of the Great Northern Railway, expecting standards of turnout from railwaymen more appropriate to that of guardsmen.
On one occasion he crossed swords with General Eoin O’Duffy of Blueshirt fame. Jack had been to Belfast by train on GNR business and on his return to Clones station found his car gone. He was told it had been commandeered in the name of the State by General O’Duffy and was thus forced to walk the 4 miles home in pouring rain.
He wrote complaining at this high handed treatment and he asked the General to tell him if his government wished people such as he to leave the country. The reply was non commital, non apologetic and cited national business. Jack married Agnes Tate, daughter of Sir William Henry Tate, Bt. and granddaughter of the donor of the Tate Gallery. His brother Gerald, who was killed commanding a battalion of the Irish Guards in World War 1, married Mabel Macpherson-Grant of Ballindalloch. Sister Sydney, romantic poet and publisher of ‘Rose Petals- for those who love me’, married Chandos, Marquess of Ailesbury and in later life had the misfortune to entertain Queen Mary and her waspish companion, Osbert Sitwell, at Savernake . Misfortune because Sitwell remembered her as a romantic girl pursuing some German princling at a ball and was struck sufficiently by the change wrought by the years so as to describe her in a book as ‘standing like a pillar of red granite’. It would be kinder to remember her by her portrait at Hilton, depicting the romantic young girl holding her dog.
Jack’s eldest son, John William Ryder (1913 – 1996), was educated at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he was an accomplished oar. After university he joined the Irish Guards, serving in Palestine in 1937-8. He was in the party that took the Dutch Royal family and Cabinet off the Hook of Holland in 1940 and was in the thick of the bloody fighting that took place after the Boulogne landing in 1941. He then joined the 2nd Bn. Irish Guards, which was to form part of the Guards’ Armoured Division, with whom he landed in Normandy in 1944 but was wounded some 3 weeks later at La Marvindiere, losing a leg, which forced his retirement with the rank of Major. He brought his family to live at Hilton in 1945 and himself took a refresher course in agriculture at Cirencester. Encouraged by a neighbour, Jack Gibson, he established a Hereford herd, which became famous all over Ireland. Owning a great deal more land than the average in Ireland at that time, he saw it as his duty to use every square yard and to employ as many as possible on the land. He became a great innovator, introducing silage making to the area and planting orchards, Christmas trees, which he exported to Britain and Dutch bulbs; at one time in the 1950s there were five acres of daffodils, gladioli and tulips as well as onions. Subsequently he built up a dairy herd and became a considerable expert on forestry. He advised a number of friends on their woodlands on a regular basis. His great strength was thorough research, wherein he consulted all the experts and read all the books, before starting on a project. He was a keen sailor of small boats and kept two ‘Snipe’ at Crom and sailed most weekends throughout the summer. A lifelong afficionado of motor racing, he competed three times in the Circuit of Ireland Rally in Morris Minors. A first class shot, it was easy to forget that he had but one leg. He married Nita Mellor in 1937, daughter of Brigadier-General J.Seymour Mellor CBE DSO MC and Betty Marquand, a granddaughter of Henry G. Marquand who made the original endowment to the picture gallery of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, of which he was President: she was also related to the Robeson family, big plantation owners in the Carolinas, from whom the singer Paul Robeson is said to have taken his name. Seymour Mellor was a distinguished soldier who fought in the Boer War, and the First World War, with the KRRC. In 1920 he went for two years to Poland to reorganise their police force; his ‘Letters from Warsaw’, which were compiled by his wife are a fascinating document of the times there. Thereafter he became a King’s Messenger on the Constantinople run and during the Second World War was Provo Marshal UK and Chief Constable of the War Department Constabulary.“
The website tells us more about the house:
“Hilton Park is one of the great surviving houses of Ireland. Built in 1734 the house combines elegant historical grandeur with contemporary country house comfort. Located in the remote and unspoilt drumlins of County Monaghan yet just 90 minutes from Dublin and Belfast Airports, Hilton is perfect for corporate groups or families and friends seeking the intimacy and exclusivity of a stunning property set amidst 400 acres of undisturbed natural beauty. The house has magnificent reception rooms, including one of the country’s finest dining rooms that is the perfect setting for those special occasion dinner parties. The house also features a more informal living spaces with stunning vaulted ceilings, a classic country house kitchen for self-catering groups. The house also a table tennis room, billiard room and library. Outside there is croquet and lawn games, fishing on both lakes (plus wild swimming), a rowing boat and complimentary golf on the next door 18 hole course. A stay at Hilton will feel like you’re a million miles from anywhere. But for those in search of a truly authentic Irish pub, fear not for Connolly’s Pub a mere fifteen-minute walk through the estate serves up a truly great pint beside a roaring fire. The intriguing history of the house by Johnny Madden
There has been a house at Hilton Park since the early 17th Century, although its earliest name was Killshanless until changed to Maddenton, presumably in recognition of the earlier Madden property in Co. Kildare and was finally changed to its present name at the end of the 18th Century. When Samuel Madden purchased the estate for his third son in 1734, he built a house incorporating the original building. In 1803 a servant, answering a call of nature or the bell to lunch, history does not relate which, put down a bucket of glowing coals from a cleaned-out grate and burned down the house. It is said to have burnt for two days the glow being seen in Clones. The main and upper floors were completely gutted, many works of art and furniture perished and most of Samuel Madden’s archive, then housed at Hilton, was lost.
The house was rebuilt over the following 15 years or so, it is believed to the design of James Jones; meanwhile the family lived in the male servants’ quarters over the stables. The two principal bedrooms and the dining room remain intact from this rebuilding, as does the north end. The dining room has a fine ‘Nelson’ ceiling of ropes and oakleaves, reflecting no doubt that Admiral Lord Nelson had fallen at Trafalgar in 1805 and that Colonel John Madden’s father-in-law, Admiral William Wolseley, had been Admiral of the Red in his fleet.
The next John Madden, a true Victorian ‘improver’, set about transforming his house in the 1870s into an Italian ‘palazzo’, with the technical assistance of the young, local architect, William Hague, who became well known as architect of many fine Roman Catholic churches, including the cathedral in Monaghan. This involved digging out the basement, so that it became the ground floor, introducing a new hall, inner hall, staircase and gallery, as well as a ballroom and boudoir. The exterior was encased in cut Dungannon sandstone; enrichments and a handsome ‘porte-cochere’ were added. The house was then virtually fortified with steel shutters and a massive front door in deference to the Land League, who by then could smell the blood of the landlords.
The Hilton that John Madden bequeathed is today substantially as he altered it, except that it is electrified, centrally heated, every bedroom has its ‘en suite’ bathroom and the ballroom has been divided to make two drawing rooms.
As a ‘piano nobile’ the main floor commands outstanding views over the park, parterre and lake. Hague’s fine watercoloured architectural drawings for these works can be seen on the way downstairs to the breakfast room. Madden records in his diary that he consulted Sir Charles Lanyon, but it is probable that he engaged Hague because he was cheaper and more likely to accept the influence of his patron than the older man. The house is furnished with period pieces that have been here for generations and musical guests are encouraged to play the splendidly original ‘Erard’ concert grand piano, which is contemporary with Chopin and is exactly the piano he might have played. There is also a fine chimney piece that Colonel John brought back from Naples in his yacht in the first decade of the 19th Century. Through the back windows the colonnaded ride that he built can be seen, under which his horses were exercised on wet days – it is believed to be unique in Ireland.“
The Flat Lakes festival used to take place on the grounds of Hilton Park, and we attended in June 2011.
3. Mullan Village and Mill, Mullan, Emyvale, Co. Monaghan– section 482
contact: Michael Treanor Tel: 047-81135 www.mullanvillage.com Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 2pm-6.30pm Fee: €6
“Blessingbourne Estate came into the Montgomery family by marriage to the Armar family in the early 18th century. The builder of Blessingbourne was a man of taste; Hugh De Fellenberg known as “Colonel Eclipse”, Montgomery, grandfather of Captain Peter Montgomery.
Blessingbourne originally belonged to the Armars. The Estate came to the Montgomerys in the eighteenth century when Elizabeth Armar married Hugh Montgomery [b. 1692], of Derrygonnelly Castle in Fermanagh.
The first Montgomery to live at Blessingbourne was another Hugh. Hugh was born in 1779 and known for some reason as “Colonel Eclipse”. His portrait, which he gave to his old school, Eton, shows him to have been very handsome. However, he was unlucky in love.
He vowed he would never marry and built himself a bachelor retreat at Blessingbourne, a romantic thatched cottage. He also built the charming little Gate Lodge (transformed to the present day 5 star Gate Lodge)
But his bachelorhood ended after a few years, for he married a Spanish girl and had a son. His son’s godmother was Lady Byron, who remained a close friend and was greatly attached to his sister Mary, a key figure in the development of Blessingbourne.
It descended in the family to Peter Montgomery, Vice-Lord Lieutenant of Tyrone, who died childless, after which it passed to a cousin. The property was ultimately the inheritance of Captain Robert Lowry, a direct descendant of Colonel Eclipse, and now belongs to Colleen and Nicholas Lowry.
The Classic Tour encompasses everything well loved about the Estate. Current estate owners Nicholas and Colleen Lowry host all Tours personally. This tour includes a walk through the Victorian gardens, with their majestic setting overlooking the beautiful Lough Fadda. As well as, a private tour of main ground floor rooms of the impressive Manor House. The Manor House was built in 1871-74 and designed by Pepy’s Cockerall a close friend of William Morris. After that, enjoy a guided stroll around the extensive Coach , Carriage and Costume Collections from yesteryear.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 44. “(Montgomery/IFR) There was originally no house at Blessingbourne, an estate which came to the Montgomerys through marriage early in C18; the family seat being Derrygonnelly Castle in County Fermanagh, which was burnt later in C18 and not rebuilt. The family lived for some years at Castle Hume, which they rented; then, at the beginning of C19, a romantic thatched cottage was built by the side of the lough at Blessingbourne by Hugh Montgomery (known as Colonel Eclipse) as a bachelor retreat for himself after he had been crossed in love. His bachelorhood ended in 1821, when he married a Spanish girl; but during the next 50 years the family lived mainly abroad, so that his cottage was all they needed for their occasional visits to County Tyrone. The present Victorian Elizabethan house was built by his grandson, Hugh de Fellenberg Montgomery, between 1870 and 1874, to the design of F. Pepys Cockerell. Pepys Cockerell, son of the better-known C.R. Cockerell, as an artist as much as an architect; his patron and his patron’s wife were also people of tate; so that Blessingbourne is an unusually attractive and successful example of it style and period. The grey stone elevations are not overloaded with ornament; such as there is had restraint: caps on the chimneys, small finials on the gables, curved and scrolled pediments over some of the mullioned windows. The interior of the house is comfortable, with great character. The hall has a staircase incorporated in a screen of tapering wooden piers. Through glazed arches one looks across an inner hall to the lough and mountains. The principal rooms have chimneypieces of carved sone in a Tudor design, flanked by niches for logs: some of them being decorated with William de Morgan tiles. The dining room still keeps its original William Morris wallpaper of blue and green grapes and foliage; while there is another original Morris paper in the library. The late owner, Capt P. S. Montgomery, former President of th Northern Ireland Arts Council, stylishly redecorated much of the interior, which houses his collection of modern Irish art. Blessingbourne has passed to his nephew, Captain R.H.Lowry.”
“The O’Neills were perhaps the greatest of the Irish clans, whose origins date back as far as the 10th century and whose lineage includes two High Kings of Ireland.
Hugh O’Neill became leader of the clan in 1595 and as such was known as The O’Neill. A charismatic, even romantic figure, he had a long, tempestuous and complicated relationship with the English Crown, a relationship largely of convenience – for both parties. It was characterised by double-crossing by each side, building and abandoning strategic alliances. And ultimately, by all-out war.
In this story Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone and the last inaugurated chief of the O’Neills, plays the central role. Dungannon was at the eye of an international political storm from 1594 to 1603, during which time The O’Neill would lead mighty armies, would win and lose battles, and create problems for at least four monarchs.
And the repercussions were serious. Some might say that the consequences are still being felt today. When Hugh O’Neill was ultimately outmanoeuvred, his defeat paved the way for two connected seismic events that would forever transform his kingdom.
The O’Neill was a military genius who repeatedly got the better of the Crown’s generals in Ulster. However, after a bitter defeat at the Battle of Kinsale, he was driven to bid farewell to the Hill of the O’Neill and the lands he ruled over.
O’Neill’s departure for Spain, with the Earl of Tyrconnell and 90 followers, became known as the Flight of the Earls. It was a pivotal event in Irish history, effectively marking the end of the Gaelic way of life.
With The O’Neill and his followers effectively gone into exile, the way was clear for the organised colonisation of their lands by wealthy settlers, largely from Scotland and England under King James I. This was known as the Plantation, a plan conceived to subdue, control and ‘civilise’ the wayward Irish. Instrumental in managing the process and distributing the lands was the Lord Deputy of Ireland – Arthur Chichester, who had defeated Hugh O’Neill in the Nine Years War. (Chichester would go on to become a major figure in the founding of Belfast.)
The Plantation is the point that marks the shift in Ulster from an ancient Gaelic tradition to a new Anglo-Scottish ethos. It is in effect, the beginning of another age in the history of Ireland, Ulster, Dungannon and, of course, of the Hill.
“Killymoon castle sits in picturesque surroundings overlooking the Ballinderry River on the outskirts of Cookstown just 50 miles from Belfast by car. The castle is a grade A listed building designed by the famous John Nash who also designed the Regent Street area of London and its most famous landmark Buckingham Palace. The castle was originally built in 1600 for James Stewart, six generations of the Stewarts lived in the castle until 1852. It was described in the Irish Penny Journal of 1841 ‘as one of the most aristocratic residences in the province of Ulster’.”
“The original castle, built in 1671 by James Stewart on the substantial demesne had been granted to him under the Plantation Settlement. Stewarts ancestors had come from Scotland during the plantation to settle in Cookstown, and in 1666 James bought the land lease for the castle site from Alan Cooke – the founder of Cookstown. The castle was destroyed by fire in 1801 and in 1802, Colonel William Stewart had a new, more imposing castle built, designed by John Nash, the famous London Architect.
Killymoon was Nash’s first castle in Ireland, and reputedly cost £80,000 to build (about £7.4 million today). It was described in the Irish Penny Journal of 1841 as “one of the most aristocratic residences in the province of Ulster”, with state apartments consisting of “a breakfast-parlour, dining room, ante-room and drawing-room, all of which are of noble proportions and their woodwork of polished oak”.
The Killymoon estate remained the property of the Stewart family for six generations; however, their extravagant lifestyle caused the Stewart family to fall on hard times, especially during the years of the Irish famine. The estate was sold in 1852 for £100,000. In 1857, the castle had again been sold to the Cooper family; and, in 1865, Colonel Bolton, an English gentleman, purchased the castle.
A mere ten years later, Mervyn Stuart Thomas Moutray JP, became the owner of Killymoon Castle until 1916, when Gerald Macura bought the castle and town of Cookstown for almost £100,000. By 1918, Macura was also in financial difficulties and was compelled to sell off his assets. John Coulter bought the castle and grounds in 1922 and it remains the home of the Coulter family to this day.
Take a tour of Killymoon Castle and step back in time. Visit Lady Molesworth’s morning room, the oval dining room whose restrained plasterwork and marble fireplace show the dignity of their Georgian origin. Ascend the magnificent cantilever style staircase and admire the fragile plasterwork like sugar spires on an inverted wedding cake .
Colonel Stewart was only 27 when this castle was built and it must have been a truly wonderful fairy tale to bring his beautiful bride to this romantic spot.
Fortunes and families rise and fall and this fabulous fairy dwelling which cost £80.000 to build in 1807, was gambled in a game of poker and sold for an unbelieveable sum in the 1920’s
Group tours can be arranged by clicking the button below and filling out a request form. Private tours also available.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 173. “(Stewart/LGI1912; Moutray/LGI1912) One of John Nash’s earliest castles, built ca 1803 for William Stewart, MP, incorporating part of the previous house which was burnt ca 1800. A building with a romantic silhouette in a glorious position above the Ballinderry river with a backdrop of sweeping woods and parkland. The principal front dominated by an almost central battlemented and machicolated round tower and turret; at one end, an octagonal battlemented and machicolated tower; at the other, the profile of the square tower in the adjoining front, the base of which is arched to form a porte-cochere. The latter tower has slender octagonal corner turrets, with cupolas. Pointed windows grouped together under segmental hood-mouldings, which were regarded by Nash and his contemporaries as Saxon. Good interior planning with square, circular and octagonal rooms fitted together. Hall with double staircase, lit by Gothic lantern on plaster fan-vaulted ceiling. Drawing room with plain gilt plasterwork cornice of wreath and honeysuckle design. Library in form of Gothic chapel, with stained glass windows. Sold after William Stewart’s death 1850. Subsequently the seat of the Moutray family.”
5. Lissan House, Drumgrass Road, Cookstown, County Tyrone, BT80 9SW.
The house is open from Easter to mid September on Saturdays and Sundays, and during July and August it is open Thursday to Sunday. Opening hours are from 12:00 – 17:00. 3 guided tours per day at 12:30, 14:00 and 15:30.
“Lissan House is an enchanting country residence set within a 260 acre demesne of ancient woodland and forestry.
The estate was created in the 17th century and remained the home of the Staples family for nearly 400 years. Lissan came to prominence in 2003 when its popularity helped it reach the final of the BBC Restoration programme.
Following extensive redevelopment, the house opened its doors in spring 2012 to reveal modern interactive exhibits and original family furnishings which take you on a unique journey through the history of the estate and the family characters that have shaped it. Children will be kept entertained in the house with the teddy bear treasure hunt. The demesne also features a challenging adventure playground for children, a wooded picnic area, walled garden.“
Mark Bence-Jones writes in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988):
p. 188. “(Staples, Bt/PB) A plain three storey 9 bay Georgian house with later additions. At one end, a single-storey wing with a three-sided mullioned bow. At the other, a gable-ended office range. And in the middle of the entrance front, a single-storey protuberance of unusual depth, embodying a porch and a bow-fronted porte-cochere with windows. Some time post mid-C18, a garden was laid out here by the architect, Davis Duckart; with an “artificial sheet of water with cascades, and a picturesque bridge.”
Nestled in the heart of the estate’s historic courtyard the collection of 5 award-winning self-catering apartments are ideal for family breaks, romantic breaks and groups. Guests can enjoy a relaxing country estate experience.
Guests can choose from 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom self-catering accommodation, all of which are pet friendly. Experience a home from home environment with the apartment’s warm and inviting décor. All apartments feature open plan Living, Dining and Kitchen areas. On-site laundry facilities are available.
5. Cobblers Cottage Omagh, County Tyrone(sleeps 5)€
The lovingly renovated Cobblers Cottage has a cosy living/kitchen/dining area, 2 spacious bedrooms (sleeps 5) & a bathroom.
Enjoy the simplicity of this recently renovated 200 year old traditional Irish cottage in peaceful surroundings of Tyrone at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains between Omagh and Cookstown, in the area of Creggan.
Stay with us in our Castle Lodge, located in the grounds of Killymoon Castle on the banks of the Ballinderry River, offers the most tranquil of breaks. Only a short distance from Cookstown town centre and a one hour drive to the north coast, Donegal or Belfast. With Killymoon golf club and the Ballinderry River on your doorstep what better way to relax.
9. The Lower House Rooms, Donaghmore, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, BT70 3EZ€
Located in Donaghmore in the heart of Mid-Ulster, the conversion of The Lower House into 7 rooms of accomodation has been our pride and joy. Renovated with the finest fixtures, fittings and decoration, a stay at The Lower House rooms is an experience full of character and luxury.
4 Stunning self catering family cottages situated in the Dungannon countryside, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland
 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.
contact: Sarah Slazenger Tel: 01-2046000 www.powerscourt.ie Open in 2022: all year, closed Christmas Day and St Stephens Day, 9.30am-5.30pm, ballroom and garden rooms Sun, 9.30am-1.30pm Fee: Mar-Oct, adult €11.50, OAP €9, student €8.50, child €5, family ticket €26, Nov- Dec, adult €8.50, OAP €7.50, student €7, child €4, family €18
I haven’t revisited Powerscourt Estate this year but I have been there many times, and as the lockdown continues for Covid 19, I will write another entry from previous visits and research. I want to write about Powerscourt in continuation of our Wingfield run!
It used to be that one went to the estate to see the 47 acres of landscaped gardens, since the house was gutted by fire in November, 1974, and remained closed for many years. The fire was probably due to a chimney fire that ignited. Since then, it has been gradually renovated. The Slazenger family, living in the house at the time of the fire, moved into a section of the wing that was not destroyed by the fire. Nowadays inside is a shopping mecca and lovely Avoca cafe, with a growing exhibition about Powerscourt estate itself. My family has been visiting Powerscourt estate since I was a child. The ultimate in romantic, with terraces, groves of trees, stone sculptures, nooks, the mossy labyrinth in the Japanese gardens, the “secret” boat house with its view onto the surface of the lake, and the Versailles-like Neptune fountain, the memory of its purple and grey dampness was an aesthetic touchstone for me when I lived in hot, dry, bright, Perth and California.
In 1974, David Hicks tells us in his Irish Country Houses, a Chronicle of Change, only months before the fire, Stanley Kubrick filmed Barry Lyndon in the house, and the film shows the interiors of the house before they were destroyed.
The estate is named after previous owners of the land, the Powers, or Le Poers. The site was a strategic military position for the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century, and by 1300 the Le Poers had built a castle there. In 1609 the land was granted to Richard Wingfield, Marshall of Ireland.
Richard (1697-1751) 1st Viscount Powerscourt (of 3rd creation) built Powerscourt, designed by Richard Castle (or Cassells) in 1728.
In 1961 the estate was sold by the 9th Viscount, Mervyn Patrick Wingfield, to Mr. Ralph Slazenger, and the Slazenger family still own it.  The same family owned Durrow Abbey near Tullamore in County Offaly (which they purchased in 1950, but it now belongs to the OPW). 
According to the Dictionary of Irish Biography, Wingfield, Sir Richard (1551?–1634), 1st Viscount Powerscourt and soldier, was eldest son of Sir Richard Wingfield, governor of Portsmouth, and his wife Christian Fitzwilliam of Milton. He was born into a family with a strong martial tradition: his brothers and uncles bore arms for the crown in the Low Countries, France, and Ireland. He came to Ireland c.1573 to serve as a soldier under his uncle Sir William Fitzwilliam (1526-1599) who was twice Lord Deputy of Ireland. Richard then returned to fight overseas but returned to Ireland, where he fought with the rebel forces of Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone.
On 27 January 1600 he was made marshal of the Irish army and was a member of the Irish privy council by 24 March. He played a key role in organising the royal army during the latter part of the Nine Years War.
He played a prominent role in both the siege and battle of Kinsale in late 1601. He was granted the lands of Rebane, Queen’s County, in March 1602. After the final suppression of the rebellion, he was granted in October 1603 a 21-year lease of the district of Ferncullen (formerly held by the O’Tooles) in north Co. Wicklow. He established his residence there at Powerscourt castle. 
Richard Wingfield appealed to James I for the land in order to secure the district from the incursions of native Irish lords and the families who had previously occupied the land, such as the O’Tooles.  In 1609 the King granted him full ownership.
He also received 1,000 acres at Ballnabarney as part of the Wexford plantation in November 1613. He sat as MP for Downpatrick in the 1613–15 parliament after being rejected by the largely Scottish electorate of Co. Down, acting as one of the chief government spokesmen in the house of commons. On 1 February 1619 he was created Viscount Powerscourt, having paid £2,000. He died on 9 September 1634. [see (4)]
He had no children so his cousin Edward Wingfield (d. 1638) succeeded him. Although they are both Wingfields they were actually cousins through the Cromwell line. Richard had married Frances Rugge, widow of 3rd Baron Cromwell. Edward Wingfield married Anne Cromwell, daughter of the 3rd Baron Cromwell and Frances Rugge.
Edward Wingfield and Anne Cromwell had two sons: Lewis and Richard (d. 1644).
Richard (d. 1644), married Elizabeth Folliott daughter of Henry, 1st Lord Folliott, Baron of Ballyshannon, and they had a son Folliott Wingfield (1642-1717) who was created 1st Viscount Powerscourt in 1664/65. Folliott married Elizabeth, daughter of Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery. On his death, his title became extinct as they had no children.
The other son of Edward Wingfield and Anne Cromwell, Lewis, had a son Edward (d. 7 January 1728). Edward lived at Powerscourt, and was MP for County Wicklow. I suspect he moved to Powerscourt when Folliott Wingfield died. He married Eleanor Gore, daughter of Arthur, 1st Baronet Gore, of Newtown Gore, Co. Mayo. Their son Richard (1697-1751) was created 1st Viscount Powerscourt, of Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow in 1733/34. Their daughter Isabella married Henry King, 3rd Baronet of Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon [we will come across the King family when I write about King House in County Roscommon, a section 482 property.] Their daughter Sidney married Acheson Moore of County Tyrone. 
Richard (1697-1751) 1st Viscount Powerscourt was MP for Boyle, County Roscommon between 1727 and 1744, and was created a Privy Counsellor in 1746. He married twice. His first wife was Dorothy Ussher, daughter of William Ussher of Ussher’s Quay in Dublin. She died childless in 1723, and then he married Dorothy Rowley, daughter of Hercules Rowley of Summerhill, County Meath.
It was Richard, who built the Powerscourt house we see today. He incorporated some of the old building into a new residence he had built in 1728. According to Sean O’Reilly in Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of Country Life, the 1974 fire exposed the fabric of the history of the house. He writes:
“The original structure consisted of a low range incorporated in the two bays to the left of the entrance. This appears to have been a long, two-storey, rectangular block, raised to a third storey in later development, and retaining, in one corner, a cross-shaped angle-loop. The vaulted room on the ground floor in this range survived into later remodellings. This earliest block, which dates from no later than the fifteenth century, was extended by a connecting block now incorporated in the garden front and, finally, by a third rectangular range fronted by the two bays on the right of the entrance, creating a U-plan.” 
The Wicklow house built for Richard Wingfield, who was a Member of Parliament and whose descendant had Powerscourt Townhouse in Dublin built, was designed by Richard Castle (or Cassels), who had worked with Edward Lovett Pearce. Both Lovett Pearce and Cassels favoured the Palladian style, and Cassels took over all of Lovett Pearce’s commissions after his untimely death aged just 34. Cassels worked on Carton, designed Russborough House(another section 482 house https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/11/08/russborough-house-blessington-county-wicklow/ ) and Leinster House.
Powerscourt consists of a three storey centre block (see photograph above) joined by single-storey links to two storey wings, in the Palladian style. Borrowing from Mark Bence Jones’s description in his Irish Country Houses, the centre block has nine bays and the entrance front is made of granite.  There is a five bay breakfront in the centre of the middle block front facade, with a pediment of six Ionic pilasters (Ionic pillars have scrolls) standing on the bottom storey, which is, according to Bence-Jones, treated as a basement, and rusticated (rustication is the use of stone blocks with recessed joints and often with rough or specially treated faces, which is generally confined to the basement or lower part of a building). (see ) The pediment contains the arms of Richard Wingfield and his wife Dorothy Rowley.
Between the pilasters on the breakfront are rondels containing busts of Roman emperors, and a female in the centre rondel. The 7th Viscount called the bust in the middle “Empress Julia” after his wife. He purchased the busts of Caesar in London. They came from Maidenhead, Buckinghamshire, and once belonged to the Duke of Sussex.
The four bay links as well as the central block have balustraded parapets. The wings have four bays, and the facade is prolonged beyond them by quadrant walls, each interrupted by a pedimented Doric arch and ending in an obelisk carrying an eagle, the Wingfield crest. 
The garden front, pictured above, has seven bays between two bows on either end, and the bows are topped with copper domes. One side has a two storey wing. The garden slopes down to a lake in a magnificent series of terraces. Powerscourt was built with sixty-eight rooms!
Richard and Dorothy had two sons. The first, Edward, 2nd Viscount Powercourt, died childless, so his brother, Richard (1730-1788), became 3rd Viscount Powerscourt.
I wrote about the history of the Wingfield family briefly in my entry for Powerscourt Townhouse.  Seven years after inheriting the title, Richard 3rd Viscount began the building of Powerscourt Townhouse, so that he had a grand Palladian home in Dublin for residing and entertaining, when not living in his estate in Wicklow. He married Amelia Stratford, daughter of John Stratford, the 1st Earl of Aldborough. For the rest of the Wingfield successors, see  and also the Powerscourt website and see my entry about Powerscourt Townhouse https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/02/powerscourt-townhouse-59-south-william-street-dublin-2/
Richard and Amelia’s son Richard 4th Viscount Powerscourt was brave enough to vote against the Act of Union in 1800, upsetting his neighbours. He married, firstly, Lady Catherine Meade, daughter of John Meade, 1st Earl of Clanwilliam County Tipperary, who gave birth to the heir and “two spares.” After her death, he married Isabella Brownlow, daughter of William, MP for Armagh, and they several more children.
From 1842 onwards, the 6th Viscount of Powerscourt employed Daniel Robertson of Kilkenny to improve the gardens. Robertson created Italian gardens on the terraces, with broad steps and inlaid pavement, balustrades and statues. In the fountain below the “perron” of the main terrace, Mark Bence-Jones tells us, there is a pair of bronze figures of Eolus, “which came from the Palais Royale in Paris, having been sold by Prince Napolean 1872 to the 7th Viscount [Mervyn Edward Wingfield], who completed the garden.”
The garden work was continued by F.C. Penrose when Daniel Robertson died in 1849 while working on the gardens at Lisnavagh, County Carlow. Apparently Robertson was often the worse for wear during his work, as he was fond of the sherry. He took to directing from a wheelbarrow, as he had gout and difficulty walking – maybe not just due to the gout!
Quote above from “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.See below also.
Robert O’Byrne tells us that Daniel Robertson was born in America, and that he was one of the most influential garden designers to work in Ireland in the second quarter of the 19th century.
Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt sought to create gardens similar to those he had seen in the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna and at the Palace of Versailles. His task took twenty years, completed in 1880. He enlisted the help of Alexander Robertson.
There are many more elements of the garden to explore, such as the Japanese gardens, the pet cemetery, the pepperpot tower, and the walled gardens. I only recently discovered the pepperpot tower! When I visited the gardens with my parents, we must have always been too tired as a family, after exploring the rest, to walk up from the Japanese gardens to the pepperpot tower!
I have always loved the Japanese gardens, which remind me of the Japanese tea gardens in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. I have a lovely memory of having a cup of tea and a fortune cookie in San Francisco’s Japanese gardens, and the cookie contained the fortune I’d seen photographed earlier that day in a large photograph on display in a museum: “You will have many interesting and artistic people to your home.” It seemed too much to me at the time to be a coincidence – and it would be, I thought, at the age of about twenty, a dream come true. I sellotaped the fortune onto a small bookshelf on my desk, hoping it would come true. And indeed it has!
Bence-Jones writes of an incident about Powerscourt Waterfall, which is further out on the estate:
“the waterfall, the highest in the British Isles, which, when George IV came to Powerscourt 1821, was dammed up in order that the monarch might have an even more exciting spectacle; the idea being to open the sluice while the Royal party watched from a specially-constructed bridge. The King took too long over his dinner and never got to the waterfall, which was fortunate; for when eventually the water was released, the bridge was swept away.“
The collection of statues, and the wrought iron gates, are beautiful.
The Irish Aesthete tells us that the Bamberg Gate:
“was originally constructed in Vienna in 1770 and installed in Bamberg Cathedral, Northern Bavaria. Probably in the late 1820s, when all Baroque additions were stripped from the building, the gate was removed and sold: around 1870 Mervyn Wingfield, 7th Viscount Powerscourt bought it from a London dealer and placed it in the present position. On the opposite side of the walled garden is the so-called Chorus Gate, the design supposedly based on a 17th century original (although this has not been found) and likewise purchased in London. Its intricate ironwork features myriad winged seraphim blowing trumpets. Both gates have recently been cleaned and re-gilded.” 
The National Inventory has two good pictures of the interior of the house, which is gradually being restored since the 1974 fire:
The interior of Powerscourt before the fire was magnificently sumptuous and slightly crazy! Fortunately photographs exist, and some are in the National Library archives:
I have never seen shells on a ceiling decoration such as these, although I know the famous letter writer Mary Delaney made similar decoration on a fireplace as well as filling an outdoor shell house, similar to the one at Curraghmore [see my entry about Curraghmore]. The Wingfields must have prided themselves on their military connection, with their display of armour and guns, and their hunting prowess, with all the deer head and antler trophies and the skin rugs. There is even an antler chandelier, which Sean O’Reilly tells us is called an Austrian “Lusterweiblen.” Some of the antlers were made of papier-mache! O’Reilly published other old photographs of the interior in Irish Houses and Gardens, including of the saloon, which he explains is more in the Roman Renaissance than Palladian style, which is reflected somewhat in the rest of the house. (see )
The house was occupied by the Slazenger family in 1974 when the fire broke out on the top floor, leaving the main building completely destroyed. They had purchased the house complete with all of its contents. Fortunately, nobody was injured. The house was left abandoned for twenty years, but they opened the gardens to the public. In 1996 the family started the renovation process with a new roof and restoration of the windows.  (Surely not) coincidentally, Ralph Slazenger’s daughter Wendy (Ann Pauline) Slazenger married Mervyn Niall Wingfield, the 10th Viscount Powerscourt, in 1962. They divorced, however, the same year as the fire, in 1974.
Christies held a sale of the rescued contents of Powerscourt in 1984. Many of the belongings were purchased by Ken Rohan, owner of nearby Charleville House. When I visited Charleville, another section 482 house, the tour guide pointed out the grand decorative curtain pelments purchased in the Powerscourt sale. [see my entry on Charleville House https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/18/charleville-county-wicklow/
Finally, there is a Bagot connection to the Wingfields, albeit indirectly, and I haven’t found any connection (yet!) of my family with this Irish Bagot family. Christopher Neville Bagot (1821-1877) married Alice Emily Verner. When Christopher died, he left a large estate. His son was born less than nine months after he married, and his brother contested the will, claiming that the son, William Hugh Neville Bagot (1875-1960) was not really Christopher Bagot’s son. Alice Emily and her son won the trial to the extent that her son inherited Christopher’s money, but Christopher’s brother inherited the land. Alice Emily came from a well-connected family. Her mother was a Pakenham. Her grandmother was Harriet Wingfield (1801-1877), a daughter of Edward Wingfield (1772-1859), who was the son of Richard Wingfield, 3rd Viscount Powerscourt – the one who built Powerscourt Townhouse!
 Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses.[originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978]; Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.
The Wingfields married well. The 3rd Viscount’s son inherited the title and estate: Richard Wingfield, 4th Viscount (1762-1809).
He married firstly, in 1789, Catherine, second daughter of John Meade, 1st Earl of Clanwilliam, by whom he had his successor, Richard.
RICHARD, 5th Viscount (1790-1823), married Frances Theodosia, eldest daughter of Robert Jocelyn, 2nd Earl of Roden, and their son, Richard, became his successor.
RICHARD, 6th Viscount (1815-44), who married, in 1836, his cousin, the Lady Elizabeth Frances Charlotte Jocelyn, daughter of Robert Jocelyn, 3rd Earl of Roden. He was succeeded by his son, Mervyn Edward Wingfield.
MERVYN EDWARD, 7th Viscount (1836-1904), KP, Privy Counsellor, who wedded, in 1864, the Lady Julia Coke, daughter of Thomas William Coke, 2nd Earl of Leicester (of the seventh creation!). According to Turtle Bunbury , Mervyn published two books: “Wingfield Memorials” (1894) and “A History of Powerscourt” (1903). He was elected president of the Royal Dublin Society and was also a member of the Royal Irish Academy of Science. He was made a Knight of the Order of St. Patrick in 1871. He was later appointed to the Privy Council of Ireland, acting as one of the Lord Justices of Ireland in 1902.
Mervyn Edward and Julia’s son, Mervyn Wingfield (1880-1947), become the 8th Viscount and succeeded to Powerscourt. The 8th Viscount was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Wicklow, from 1910 until 1922. After Irish Independence, he was elected by W.T. Cosgrave to serve as a Senator in 1921. His son, Mervyn Patrick Wingfield (1905–73) became the 9th Viscount.
The 9th Viscount followed in the family’s military tradition and served in WWII and was captured and became a prisoner of war. According to wikipedia , he suffered from shell shock. His wife and children moved to Bermuda during the war and returned to Powerscourt afterwards but their marriage fell apart, and Mervyn Patrick sold Powerscourt.
According to Turtle Bunbury, Richard Wingfield 1st Viscount had a daughter, Isabella, who in 1722 married Sir Henry King, MP for Boyle and Roscommon, who built King House in County Roscommon, another section 482 property.
Turtle Bunbury also tells us that the 6th Viscount Powerscourt purchased Luggala, also in County Wicklow, in 1840, from the “financially challenged” La Touche family. We will come across the La Touch family when I write about Harristown, another Section 482 property.
In the past, in August 2016, I visited Huntington Castle in Clonegal, County Carlow.
Contact person: Alexander Durdin Robertson, Tel: 086-0282266 www.huntingtoncastle.com Open dates in 2022: Feb 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Mar 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Apr 2-3, 9-10,16- -18, 23-24, May 1-31, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, Oct 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-31, Nov 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Dec 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 11am-5pm Fee: house/garden, adult €12, garden €6, OAP/student, house/garden €10, garden €5, child house/garden €6, garden €3, group and family discounts available
It’s magical! And note that you can stay at this castle – see their website! 
Huntington Castle stands in the valley of the River Derry, a tributary of the River Slaney, on the borders of Counties Carlow and Wexford, near the village of Clonegal. Built in 1625, it is the ancient seat of the Esmonde family, and is presently lived in by the Durdin-Robertsons. It passed into the Durdin family from the Esmonde family by marriage in the nineteenth century, so actually still belongs to the original family. It was built as a garrison on the strategically important Dublin-Wexford route, on the site of a 14th century stronghold and abbey, to protect a pass in the Blackstairs Mountains. After fifty years, the soldiers moved out and the family began to convert it into a family home. 
A History of the house and its residents
The castle website tells us that the Esmondes (note that I have found the name spelled as both ‘Esmond’ and ‘Edmonde’) moved to Ireland in 1192 and were involved in building other castles such as Duncannon Fort in Wexford and Johnstown Castle in Wexford (see my entry for places to visit in County Wexford). Laurence Esmonde (about 1570-1646) was a convert to Anglicanism and served in the armies of British Queen Elizabeth I and then James I. He fought in the Dutch Wars against Spain, and later, in 1599, he commanded 150 foot soldiers in the Nine Years War, the battle led by an Irish alliance led mainly by Hugh O’Neill and Tyrconnell (Hugh Roe O’Donnell) against the British rule in Ireland. In reward for his services, he was raised to the peerage in 1622 as Baron of Limerick (I was confused about this, but there is a Limerick, or Limbrick, in County Wexford, and it is now called Killinierin), and it seems that a few years after receiving this honour he built the core of the present Huntington Castle: a three-storey fortified tower house, which forms the front facing down the avenue, according to Mark Bence-Jones in A Guide to Irish Country Houses. 
This original tower-house is made of rough-hewn granite. The first alterations and additions to that core were made around 1680 by the grandson of Laurence, also a Sir Laurence Esmonde. In her discussion of marriage in Making Ireland English, Jane Ohlmeyer writes that for the Irish, legitimacy of children didn’t determine inheritance, and so attitudes toward marriage, including cohabitation and desertion, were very different than in England. She writes that the first Baron Esmonde behaved in a way reminiscent of medieval Gaelic practices when he repudiated his first wife and remarried without a formal divorce. Laurence met Ailish, the sister of Morrough O’Flaherty (note that Turtle Bunbury tells us that she was a granddaughter of the pirate queen Grace O’Malley!) on one of his expeditions to Ulster, and married her. However, after the birth of their son, Thomas, she returned to her family, fearing that her son would be raised as a Protestant. Esmonde went on to marry Elizabeth Butler, a granddaughter of the ninth earl of Ormond (daughter of Walter Butler, and she was already twice widowed). He had no children by his second marriage and despite acknowledging Thomas to be his son, he did not admit that his first marriage was lawful and consequently had no official heir and his title Baron of Limerick became extinct after his death. Although his son did not inherit his title, he did inherit his property.  Baron Esmonde governed the fort of Duncannon from 1606-1646 when he died after a siege of the fort by General Thomas Preston, 1st Viscount Tara, of the Confederates, who considered Esmonde a defender of the Parliamentarians (i.e. Oliver Cromwell’s men, the “roundheads”). 
Thomas Esmonde did not inherit his father’s title but was himself awarded a Baronetcy, and became Baronet Esmonde in 1629. He married well, and twice: first to a daughter of the Lord of Decies, and second to a daughter of the 11th Earl of Ormond.
It was the 2nd Baronet, Laurence, who made the first additions to Huntington Castle around 1680, and who named it “Huntington” after the Esmonde’s “ancestral pile” in England . A wing was constructed by the latter’s grandson (yet another Sir Laurence, 4th Baronet) around forty years later in 1720. The castle, as you can see, is very higgeldy piggedly, reflecting the history of its additions. The 4th Baronet had no heir so his brother John became the 5th Baronet. He had a daughter, Helen, who married Richard Durdin of Shanagarry, County Cork. The went out to the United States and founded Huntington, Pennsylvania. He had no sons, and died before his brother, Walter, who became the 6th Baronet. Walter had no sons, only daughters.
Brendan O’Neill tells us in his book Irish Castles and Historic Houses that the property was inherited by Alexander Durdin (1821-1892) in 1849, whose grand-uncle had married the two daughters and co-heirs of Baronets Esmonde, as his two successive wives. This is how the house passed from Esmondes to Durdins. 
According to the Irish Historic Houses website, the Durdin family were long established in County Cork, where they had acquired the estates of William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania) [see 2]. In 1880, Helen, the Durdin heiress who inherited the castle, married Herbert Robertson, Baron Strathloch (a Scots feudal barony) and MP for a London borough. Together they made a number of late Victorian additions at the rear of the castle while their professional architect son, Manning Durdin-Robertson, an early devotee of concrete, carried out yet further alterations in the 1920s.
Manning Durdin-Robertson married Nora Kathleen Parsons, from Birr Castle. She wrote The Crowned Harp. Memories of the Last Years of the Crown in Ireland, an important memorial of the last years of English rule in Ireland . I ordered a copy of the book from my local library! It’s a lovely book and an enjoyable rather “chatty” read. She writes a bit about her heritage, which you can see in my entry on another section 482 castle, Birr Castle. She tells us about life at the time, which seems to have been very sociable! She writes a great description of social rank:
The hierarchy of Irish social order was not defined, it did not need to be, it was deeply implicit. In England the nobility were fewer and markedly more important than over here and they were seated in the mansions considered appropriate…. The top social rows were then too well-known and accepted to be written down but, because a new generation may be interested and amused, I will have a shot at defining an order so unreal and preposterous as to be like theatricals in fancy dress. Although breeding was essential it still had to be buttressed by money.
Row A: peers who were Lord or Deputy Lieutenants, High Sheriffs and Knights of St. Patrick. If married adequately their entrenchment was secure and their sons joined the Guards, the 10th Hussars or the R.N. [Royal Navy, I assume] Row B: Other peers with smaller seats, ditto baronets, solvent country gentry and young sons of Row A, (sons Green Jackets, Highland regiments, certain cavalry, gunners and R.N.). Row A used them for marrying their younger children. Row C: Less solvent country gentry, who could only allow their sons about £100 a year. These joined the Irish Regiments which were cheap; or transferred to the Indian army. They were recognised and respected by A and B and belonged to the Kildare Street Club. Row D: Loyal professional people, gentlemen professional farmers, trade, large retail or small wholesale, they could often afford more expensive Regiments than Row C managed. Such rarely cohabited with Rows A and B but formed useful cannon fodder at Protestant Bazaars and could, if they were really liked, achieve Kildare Street.
Absurd and irritating as it may seem today, this social hierarchy dominated our acceptances.
I had the benefit of always meeting a social cross section by playing a good deal of match tennis…. The top Rows rarely joined clubs and their play suffered….There were perhaps a dozen (also very loyal) Roman Catholic families who qualified for the first two Rows; many more, equally loyal but less distinguished, moved freely with the last two.
Amongst these “Row A” Roman Catholics were the Kenmares, living in a long gracious house at Killarney. Like Bantry House, in an equally lovely situation.…
We were not allowed to take photos inside, except for in the basement, but you can see some pictures on the official website  and also on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete .
There were wonderful old treasures in the house including armour chest protections in the hallway along the stairs, which was one of the first things to catch my attention as we entered. We went up a narrow stairway linked as Bence-Jones describes “with wainscot or half-timbered studding.”
There are some noteable structures inside the building, as Robert O’Byrne notes. “The drawing room has 18th century classical plaster panelled walls beneath a 19th century Perpendicular-Gothic ceiling. Some passages on the ground floor retain their original oak panelling, a number of bedrooms above being panelled in painted pine. The dining room has an immense granite chimneypiece bearing the date 1625, while those in other rooms are clearly from a century later.” 
Another drawing room is hung with tapestry, which would have kept the residents a bit warmer in winter. There are beautiful stuccoed ceilings, which you can see on the website.
O’Neill adds that Huntington was one of the first country houses in Ireland to have electricity, and in order to satisfy local interest a light was kept burning on the front lawn so that the curious could come up and inspect it.
I loved the light and plant filled conservatory area, with a childlike drawing on one wall. The glass ceiling is draped in grape vines.
We were allowed to take photos in the basement, which used to house dungeons, and now holds the “Temple of Isis.” It also contains a well, which was the reason the castle was situated on this spot. In the 1970s two of the four children of Manning Durdin-Robertson, the writer and mystic Olivia Durdin-Robertson, who was a friend of W.B. Yeats and A.E. Moore, and her brother Laurence (nicknamed Derry), and his wife Bobby, converted the undercroft into a temple to the Egyptian Goddess Isis, founding a new religion. In 1976 the temple became the foundation centre for the Fellowship of Isis . I love the notion of a religion that celebrates the earthy aspects of womanhood, and I purchased a copy of Olivia Durdin-Robertson’s book in the coffee shop. The religion takes symbols from Egyptian religion, as you can see in my photos of this marvellous space:
Turtle Bunbury has a video of the Fellowship of Isis on his website ! You can get a flavour of what their rituals were like initially. Perhaps they are similar today. The religion celebrates the Divine Feminine.
After a tour of the castle, we then went to the back garden. According to its website,
The Gardens were mainly laid out in the 1680’s by the Esmondes. They feature impressive formal plantings and layouts including the Italian style ‘Parterre’ or formal gardens, as well the French lime Avenue (planted in 1680). The world famous yew walk is a significant feature which is thought to date to over 500 years old and should not be missed.
Later plantings resulted in Huntington gaining a number of Champion trees including more than ten National Champions. The gardens also feature early water features such as stew ponds and an ornamental lake as well as plenty to see in the greenhouse and lots of unusual and exotic plants and shrubs.
The Irish Aesthete also discusses this garden in another blog entry . He tells us that the yew walk, which stretches 130 yards, dates from the time of the Franciscan friary in the Middle Ages! The “stew ponds” would have held fish that could be caught for dinner.
After the garden, we needed a rest in the Cafe.
I was also thrilled by the hens who roamed the yard and even tried to enter the cafe:
There is space next to the cafe that can be rented out for events:
A few plants were for sale in the yard. A shop off the cafe sells local made craft, pottery, and books. The stables and farmyard buildings are kept in good condition and buzzed with with the business of upkeep of the house and gardens.
 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.
 The line of inheritance looks very convoluted. I have consulted Burke’s Peerage. John Durdin migrated from England to Cork in around 1639. His descendant Alexander Durdin, born in 1712, of Shanagarry, County Cork, married four times! His second wife, Mary Duncan of Kilmoon House, County Meath, died shortly after giving birth to her son Richard, born in 1747. Richard married Helen Esmonde, daughter of the 4th Baronet, according to Burke’s Peerage. Their son Alexander predeceased his father. Richard then married Frances Esmonde, daughter of the 7th Baronet.
The Alexander who married four times then married Anne née Vaux, widow of the grandson of William Penn the founder of Pennsylvania. Finally, he married Barbara St. Leger, with whom he had seven more sons and several daughters. It would seem that Richard (b. 1747) who married the two daughters of Baronets Esmonde, inherited Huntington Castle. However, he had no children so the estate seems to have passed to a brother, William Leader Durdin (1778-1849). He married Mary Anne Drury of Ballinderry, County Wicklow. Their son Alexander (1821-1892) inherited Huntington. It was his daughter Helen who inherited Huntington, and married Herbert Robertson.
 Robertson, Nora. The Crowned Harp. Memories of the Last Years of the Crown in Ireland. published by Allen Figgis & Co. Ltd., Dublin, 1960.