King House, Main Street, Boyle, Co. Roscommon

Majella Hunt

Tel: 090-6637153 https://www.visitkinghouse.ie/

Open dates listed in 2022: April-Sept, Tue-Sat, Aug 15-23 National Heritage Week, 11am-5pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student /child €3, group discounts apply

It is hard to capture King House in a photograph.

Stephen and I visited King House during Heritage Week 2022. It is open to the public and is not longer a private home.

King House was built in 1720 for Henry King, 3rd Baronet. There was a house previously on the site built for his grandfather, Robert. It was used as a military barracks in later years. Now it is a museum that tells the story of the King family, the history of the military unit which occupied the building, and it also houses a collection of contemporary art, the Boyle Civic Art Collection and the McAleese Collection. You can take a “virtual tour” on their website.

John King arrived in Ireland from Staffordshire, England, in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Anthony Lawrence King-Harmon tells us in his book, The Kings of King House. His family originally came from Feathercock Hall in Yorkshire.

The land had been previously controlled by the MacDermott clan. A room in King House tells us a few stories about the MacDermott clan. They had a rare victory over Queen Elizabeth I’s forces in the pass in the Curlew Mountains, near Boyle.

John King fought along with Sir Richard Bingham in Connaught during the Nine Years War. [1] In 1603 Robert’s father John King (1560-1636) was given, along with John Bingley, the lease of Boyle Abbey and its surrounding lands, in recognition for services rendered to the Crown. The Abbey had been used as a military barracks since the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII.

Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.
Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon, August 2022.

He married Catherine Drury, grand-niece of Sir William Drury, Lord Deputy of Ireland. They were the parents of Edward King, who was memorialised in John Milton’s poem, Lycidas, after he drowned in the Irish Sea. The King’s townhouse is now the home of the Society of Irish Pipers, Na Píobairí Uilleann, 15 Henrietta Street. A ceiling in the house features a bust of Milton, commemorating his poem to Edward King.

The King House website tells us that John King’s main residence was in Dublin, in Baggotrath near what is now Baggot Street, but he built a “great castle” in 1607 in Boyle. By 1618 he had obtained an outright grant to the Abbey and and its 4127 acres. King-Harmon tells us that an “apocryphal” story claims that the title “Lay Abbot” gave the right to have more than one wife! He adds that this was not a privilege of which John King availed.

He was made “Muster General” of Ireland responsible for calling up personnel to assist with maintaining law and order in Ireland. At the time that he built his castle in Boyle, the population of Boyle was around 300, of whom thirty were English workmen or traders. Sir John was buried in Boyle Abbey.

As Muster Master, John King was in charge of weapons such as those above: a pike, musket, lance and sword.

Unfortunately we did not have time to visit Boyle Abbey this time, though we stopped to take a few photographs from the road – we will have to visit Boyle again.

King House, August 2022.

Sir John’s daughters married well – Mary married William Caulfeild, 2nd Baron Caulfeild of Charlemont, County Armagh, who became the Master-General of the Ordnance for Ireland. Her sister Dorothy married Arthur Moore, son of Garret, 1st Viscount Moore of Drogheda.

John’s eldest son, Robert (d. 1657) was a supporter of Oliver Cromwell, and offered his services to the Parliamentarians. He fought in battles and has been credited with victory in the battle of Ballintubber. He was MP in the Cromwellian parliament in England, representing Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim. He lived mostly in his home in Baggotrath in Dublin but built a house on the site of the present King House in Boyle. He died the year before Cromwell died, and the Kings immediately switched sides to support King Charles II.

Robert King married twice (although not at the same time, so didn’t avail of the Lay Abbot’s rights!): first to Frances Folliott, daughter of Henry Folliott, 1st Lord Folliott, Baron of Ballyshannon (her sister married Richard Wingfield and was mother of 1st Viscount Powerscourt). Secondly, he married the widow of Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledon, Sophia Zouche. Edward Cecil was the grandson of Queen Elizabeth I’s right hand man, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley.

Robert’s eldest son, John (1638-1676) first fought with the Cromwellians but then became a supporter of King Charles II. He married Catherine Fenton of Mitchelstown, County Cork. Her brothers predeceased her and she was heir to vast estates. John was created 1st Baron Kingston, of Kingston, County Dublin, in 1660, when he was also appointed as Privy Counsellor in Dublin.

Mitchelstown, County Cork, photograph courtesy of the National Library of Ireland. An older castle was demolished and it was rebuilt, as we see in this photograph, in the 1770s by Caroline Fitzgerald and her husband Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston.
Mitchelstown, County Cork, photograph courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

The land of Mitchelstown in County Cork passed into the hands of Maurice Fitzgibbon, the first White Knight, in the early part of the 14th century. The title of White Knight was an Anglo-Norman hereditary title in Ireland, one of three, the others being the Black Knight, or Knight of Glin, and Green Knight, or Knight of Kerry.

In 1608 Edmond Fitzgibbon the 9th White Knight died, as did his son Maurice, and it is said that they were poisoned. The inheritance of Mitchelstown passed to Edmond’s youngest granddaughter Margaret, who married Sir William Fenton. The castle then passed to Catherine Fenton, who brought the estate into the King family.

It was the descendants of John’s second son, Robert (abt. 1640-1707), who lived in County Roscommon, since descendants of the eldest son John 1st Baron Kingston lived in Mitchelstown Castle. John gave his younger brother Robert considerable lands in what was to become Rockingham, outside Boyle. John predeceased his brother Robert, dying in 1676, leaving two sons, who became 2nd and 3rd Barons Kingston.

Robert held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Ballyshannon between 1661 and 1666. He built a sumptuous house at Rockingham in 1673, after he married Frances Gore, daughter of Lt.-Col. Henry Gore, around 1670. She had been previously married to Robert Choppyn of Newcastle, County Longford.

Robert was created 1st Baronet King, of Boyle Abbey, Co. Roscommon [Ireland] on 27 September 1682. He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Roscommon between 1692 and 1699. He was also appointed Privy Counsellor in Ireland, and he held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Boyle between 1703 and 1707.

Inside King House today.

Robert’s brothers’ sons, the 2nd and 3rd Barons Kingston, still owned the property in Boyle. Robert King, 2nd Baron Kingston, and his uncle Robert 1st Baronet King of Boyle Abbey both supported William III, whereas most English families in Counties Sligo and Roscommon supported King James II. Both Robert Kings became heavily involved in military operations. Robert 1st Baronet King played a major role in the Battle of Aughrim. Anthony Lawrence King-Harman tells us that it was during this battle that Robert saved the life of the head of the MacDermot family, the original owner of Rockingham.

To add to complications of the time, Robert 1st Baronet of Boyle Abbey’s son John (1673-1720) supported King James II. He sat in King James’s parliament in Dublin. Fortunately he later escaped retribution from William III when William was made King, and his father must have forgiven him also as he was his father’s heir. John became 2nd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey.

The brother of Robert 2nd Baron Kingston, John (abt. 1664-1727/28), or Jack as he was known, eloped with a servant girl from King House named Peggy O’Cahan (or Kane). They moved to France and married, and he joined court of “The Pretender,” son of James II, also known as James III. Jack converted to Catholicism. His brother did not have children so Jack would have been his brother’s heir. However, due to his Catholicism, his family took legal action to disinherit him. Robert 2nd Baron Kingston instead changed his will so that his uncle Robert, 1st Baronet King of Boyle Abbey, would inherit the Mitchelstown estates and the estate in Boyle. Jack, however, disputed this. King-Harmon tells us in The Kings of King House that Jack, with the support of James II and Catholic circles in London, launched a legal action to show that the actions of his family were in contravention of the marriage settlements of his father, and before that of William Fenton, his mother’s father. He was successful and he obtained possession of Mitchelstown in 1699, but not the estate lands. Jack, who had become 3rd Baron Kingston after his brother’s death, also achieved a Royal pardon from William III for his previous support of King James II and his son.

Jack’s actions threatened the Baronets of Boyle Abbey and their ownership of Rockingham. However, they managed to hold on to their estate and the threat receded somewhat with the accession of William and Mary to the throne. Jack, with an eye to their future, raised his children as Protestants in Mitchelstown.

Robert 1st Baronet of Boyle Abbey’s daughter Mary married Chidley Coote of Cootehall, County Roscommon, son of Richard Coote 1st Lord Coote, Baron of Colloony, County Sligo. His son John, who became 2nd Baronet of Boyle Abbey upon his father’s death, married Elizabeth Sankey, but he had no children. Elizabeth went on to marry secondly, John Moore, 1st Baron Moore of Tullamore and thirdly, Brabazon Ponsonby, 1st Earl of Bessborough. Her mother, Eleanor Morgan, was from Cottlestown, County Sligo, a property added in 2022 to the Section 482 list, which we have yet to visit.

The 2nd Baronet moved from Rockingham back to the house in Boyle, which by this time may have been known as King House. He died in March 1720 and his brother Henry (1681-1739) became 3rd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey. It was Henry who built the King House that we see today. Rockingham burnt down, probably sometime shortly after the death of the 1st Baronet. King House in Boyle was destroyed by fire in 1720, so Henry immediately started to rebuild. King-Harman tells us he hired either Edward Lovett Pearce, or William Halfpenny, an assistant to Edward Lovett Pearce, as architect. The newer house may incorporate walls of the earlier house. A pleasure garden was created across the river, and it is now a public park. It contains a plinth that used to hold a statue of King William III but that statue disappeared!

Henry (1681-1739) 3rd Baronet King of Boyle Abbey, by Robert Hunter.
The museum in King House is less certain as to who designed it, suggesting it could have been Edward Lovett Pearce, Richard Cassel (or Castle), or William Halfpenny.

Mark Bence-Jones points out in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses (1988) that King House is not situated in a demesne but in the centre of a town. It is surrounded by thick walls. He describes it as a large “u” shaped mansion of two storeys over basement with a partly gabled attic. [2]

This overhead shot of King House is taken from the website. As you can see, it’s an unusual house.
The entrance to King House, it is surrounded by these imposing walls.
The round-headed ground floor windows with keystones and blocking.
River-facing facade of King House, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [3]
Model of King House, which is inside the house: river facing facade.
River facade of King House during repair by Roscommon County Council. Work began in 1989 and took over four years, with renovation works designed and supervised by Dublin architects Shaffrey Associates.

The photograph from the National Inventory, above, shows the eleven bay garden front which faces the river, with its three bay pedimented breakfront and large central Venetian window in the upper storey.

The side facades have three Venetian windows, one on top of another, the top being within a gable.

King House, August 2022: side facade with three Venetian windows, the top one being within a gable.

Bence-Jones points out that: “As at Ballyhaise, County Cavan and King’s Fort, County Meath, there is vaulting in other storeys than just the basement; in fact, all four storeys are vaulted over. This was, according to Rev Daniel Beaufort, a fire precaution, Sir Henry King having naturally been fire-conscious after the fire in the earlier house.

Two wings project from the main centre block of the house, and are each two bays wide. The centre block is three bays wide with a centre triangular gable. Bence-Jones describes the deep cornice over the wings, and the round-headed ground floor windows with keystones and blocking.

The front of King House before repair.

On the front facade Bence-Jones describes a “plain massive doorway.” I find the entire centre front surprisingly plain with few windows, except the large arched ones either side of the doorway and the fanlight over the door, and two dormer windows in the roofline. Inside the museum, in a description of the building it is suggested that the front facade was not completed.

The National Inventory adds that there is “a seven-bay three-storey extension to south-west with pitched slated roof with piecrust cornice and red brick chimneystacks. Single-storey roughcast-rendered outbuildings to front. Site bounded by rubble stone wall with carved stone gate piers and cast-iron gates.

The second side facade, with its Venetian windows one on top of another and gable windows in the roof.
Single-storey roughcast-rendered outbuildings to front.
The side facade and basement.

Inside the front door is a long and narrow hall or gallery with lovely flagstone floor, which is original to the house. You can see also the vaulted ceiling, and wood panelling on the walls.

The long gallery front hall, which has the Venetian windows of the side facades of the house at either end.
Fireplace in front hall. There are two in this hall, one is of Kilkenny marble and the other is a replica.

Sir Henry King, 3rd Baronet of Boyle Abbey, served as MP for either Boyle or County Roscommon for thirty three years. He married Isabella Wingfield, daughter of Edward Wingfield of Powerscourt, County Wicklow (her brother was the 1st Viscount of Powerscourt). Henry died in 1739 and was succeeded by his son Robert (1724-1755), 4th Baronet of Boyle Abbey. Robert became MP for Boyle also and was created Baron Kingsborough in 1748. It was he who bought the house in Henrietta Street in Dublin. He became Grand Master of the Freemasons in Ireland. He died unmarried. On his death, the Barony of Kingsborough became extinct.

Robert (1724-1755), 4th Baronet of Boyle Abbey, by Robert Hunter.
Frances King, by Robert Hunter. The portrait is in King House. Thus could be a portrait of Robert’s sister Frances (1726-1812) who married Hans Widman Wood of Rossmead, County Westmeath.

On his death the entailed parts of the estate went to his younger brother Edward (1726-1797), who became 5th Baronet of Boyle Abbey. He was also a Grand Master for the Freemasons and MP for County Roscommon, and Privy Counsellor in Ireland. He inherited King House and large parts of the Sligo and Roscommon estates. However, a later will of his brother was found after his brother’s death, and all the unentailed land was left to their younger brother Henry. Henry did not marry but the dispute over inheritance led to lawsuits and caused family rifts, King-Harmon’s book The Kings of King House tells us.

Edward King (1726-1797), 5th Baronet of Boyle Abbey and eventually, 1st Earl of Kingston.

Edward the 5th Baronet married Jane Caulfeild, daughter of Thomas Caulfeild of Donamon Castle, County Roscommon (still standing, it now belongs to the Divine Word Missionaries). Edward was ambitious and when his cousin James King 4th Baron Kingston died in 1761 with no sons, he applied for a peerage and was granted it, becoming the 1st Baron Kingston of the second creation. He built a second mansion in Rockingham, which he called Kingston Hall.

He arranged with 4th Baron Kingston that his son would marry the heir to Mitchelstown, Caroline Fitzgerald. The 4th Baron Kingston’s son William predeceased him in 1755, dying childless. The 4th Baron’s daughter Margaret married Richard Fitzgerald, son of the 19th Earl of Kildare. Their only child was a daughter, Caroline (1754-1823). By marrying into the family of the Barons of Kingston, Mitchelstown came into the family of the Baronets of Boyle Abbey. Caroline and Edward’s son Robert were to marry when just 15 and 16 years old.

Meanwhile Edward, after intense lobbying, had become Viscount Kingsborough in 1767 and Earl of Kingston in 1768.

Edward, now Earl of Kingston, and his family moved into Kingston Hall in 1771, and King House was kept as a second residence, but following a fire in 1778, Edward decided to dispose of it. It was bought by the British army in 1795, and became the depot of the Connaught Rangers until taken over by the Irish army in 1922. It was abandoned and in ruins by 1987 when bought by Roscommon County Council, and it was restored and opened to the public in 1995.

Information in King House about Boyle in the 1700s.

Edward Earl of Kingston’s daughter Jane married Laurence Harman Parsons (1749-1807), son of Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet, who was later created 1st Earl of Rosse, and Anne Harman.

The 1st Earl of Kingston’s daughter Francis married Thomas Tenison, and their son Lt.-Col Edward King-Tenison lived in Kilronan Castle in County Roscommon and his wife, Lady Louisa Mary Anne Anson, was the origin of the use of the word “loo” for toilet! (according to The Peerage website). I’m not sure why! (Kilronan Castle is now also a hotel, https://www.kilronancastle.ie/

His daughter Eleanor died unmarried in 1822.

Henry’s daughter Eleanor, who never married, and James Stewart, a grandson of Henry.
Eleanor King, died 1822, unmarried, painting by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.

Edward’s heir, Robert (1754-1799) became the 2nd Earl of Kingston and married his cousin Caroline Fitzgerald of Mitchelstown when he was just 15. They had nine children but later separated. When young, they lived in London, and toured the world, until they took up residence at Mitchelstown Castle. Mary Wollstonecraft, who later died after giving birth to Mary Shelley née Godwin who wrote Frankenstein, was tutor to the 2nd Earl of Kingston’s children. Mary Wollstonecraft later became a writer, intellecutal and radical, spending time in Paris during the French Revolution, and wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, as well as several novels. She remained friendly with King’s daughters, who imbibed Mary’s feminism. Caroline, unhappy in her life with Robert, moved to England, and Robert took a lover, Elinor Hallenan, who bore him two more children.

On 18 May 1798 Robert 2nd Earl of Kingston was tried by his peers in the Irish House of Lords for the murder of Colonel Henry Gerald Fitzgerald, who had seduced the Earl’s daughter. He was acquitted as no witnesses came forward – a benefit of being in the House of Lords was that one was not tried in a general court, but tried in a court consisting of the other members of the House of Lords.

Colonel Henry Gerald Fitzgerald was the illegitimate son of Caroline’s half-brother. Her father had remarried after her mother died. Caroline raised Henry Gerald along with her own family. Caroline brought her daughter Mary with her when she separated her husband and moved to England. It was Mary who was seduced by her cousin, despite him having a wife. As Mary Wollstonecraft later had lovers, perhaps young Mary King was influenced by her governess’s romantic nature. Colonel Fitzgerald regularly visited Caroline and Mary in their new home in London. One day, Mary disappeared, and was found installed in a lodging house, regularly visited by her lover, Colonel Fitzgerald. King-Harman tells the story in The Kings of King House. Her father shot and killed Colonel Fitzgerald.

Another daughter, Margaret, married Stephen Moore, 2nd Earl Mountcashell. Also influenced by Mary Wollstonecraft’s radicalism, she supported the United Irishmen and Anthony Lawrence King-Harman writes that she may have been with Edward Fitzgerald when he was mortally wounded in Dublin. She left her husband for George Tighe (1776-1837) of Rossana, County Wicklow, an Irishman living in Rome, and became close friends with Wollstonecraft’s daughter Mary Shelley. She wrote children’s books and treatises on pre- and post-natal care.

Dining room, King House.

Robert’s son George (1770-1839) became the 3rd Earl of Kingston upon his father’s death in 1797. Robert left the Boyle properties to his second son, Robert Edward (1773-1854), who later became Viscount Lorton, the name chosen from a local place-name.

Brothers George, 3rd Earl of Kingston, Robert, 1st Viscount Lorton, and Admiral James William King, by Hugh Douglas Hamilton.
This large portrait in the dining room is General Robert King (1773-1854), 1st Viscount Lorton, who was the son of Robert King, 2nd Earl of Kingston.

Robert Edward King (1773-1854) inherited Kingston Hall at Rockingham. He joined the military and distinguished himself in the Caribbean. When he inherited in 1797, he returned to Ireland and joined the Roscommon Militia and worked his way up to become a General. With Rockingham, however, came debt. In 1799 he married his first cousin, Frances Parsons Harman, daughter of his aunt Jane who had married Lawrence Parsons Harman (1749-1807), who owned the Newcastle Estate in County Longford. Robert worked hard to reduce the debt, and was a tough landlord, evicting many tenants.

In the centre, Frances née Parsons Harman (1775-1841) who married Robert Edward King (1773-1854). She is flanked by their daughter Jane King, who married Anthony Lefroy, and Frances King, who married Right Reverend Charles Leslie of Corravahan.

Robert Edward was created Baron Erris of Boyle, County Roscommon in 1800 and in 1806, Viscount Lorton of Boyle, County Roscommon. His support of the Act of Union in 1800 would have helped in his rise within the Peerage.

Viscount Lorton decided to build a new house on the Rockingham estate, which is a few kilometers from Boyle. Robert O’Byrne tells us that the previous house, Kingston Hall, remained in use and became known as the Steward’s House. [4] The new house was designed by John Nash and was ready by 1810. Lorton also modernised the estate. Landscaper Humphrey Repton helped with the design of the outbuildings, gate houses and demesne. The house no longer exists, and the demesne is now part of Lough Key Park. An impressive gate lodge remains, and a chapel built by Lord Lorton in 1833 on the site of a 17th century church also built by the Kings. An icehouse, gazebo called the Temple and a tunnel which ran from the mansion to the lake and was used by tradesmen is open for visitors.

Rockingham.
Rockingham.
Rockingham.
Model of Rockingham House created by Leaving Certificate students of Ballinamore Vocational School Fergal Conefrey, Conor Lee and Declan Sammon with construction teacher Mr. Tommy Flynn.
The interior of Rockingham.
The interior of Rockingham.
Looking out from Rockingham.

It was a time of trouble with tenants, as outlined in The Kings of King House. Robert evicted Catholic tenants due to uprisings. In famine years, however, he lowered rents and provided work.

Viscount Lorton’s daughters married well. Jane married Anthony Lefroy of Carriglass Manor, County Longford. Jane Austen had been in love with his father, Thomas Lefroy, and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice may have been based upon him. Caroline married Robert Gore-Booth, 4th Baronet, of Lissadell, County Sligo (another section 482 property). Frances married Right Reverend Charles Leslie, who we came across when we visited Corravahan, another Section 482 property, in County Cavan.

Viscount Lorton’s heir was Robert (1804-1869). He had an unhappy marriage, and his wife, Anne Gore-Booth, daughter of Robert Newcomen Gore-Booth, 3rd Baronet of Lissadell, had an affair which produced a son. Robert and his father sought to make sure that this son would not inherit the King estates.

The Kings of Rockingham were a “cadet branch” of the family of the Kings of Mitchelstown, County Cork. Viscount Lorton’s older brother inherited the Mitchelstown estate and the title of 3rd Earl of Kingston. Let’s make a diversion and look at what was happening at the Mitchelstown estate.

After her husband Robert 2nd Earl of Kingston’s death, Mitchelstown remained in the hands of Caroline (née Fitzgerald), and she returned to run the estate for a further twenty-five years. She kept her son George at arm’s length, King-Harman tells us.

George King (177901839), later 3rd Earl of Kingston, painting by Romney.

George did not inherit Mitchelstown until he was 53 years old. He was godson of King George III and was a friend of the Prince Regent who later became King George IV. He had several illegitimate children with a lover when he was in his twenties, with whom he lived in the Bahamas. He went on to marry Helena Moore, daughter of Stephen, 1st Earl of Mountcashell, County Tipperary. Before his father died, he was titled Viscount Kingsborough between 1797 and 1799, and he held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Roscommon between 1797 and 1799. He became Colonel of the local Militia, the Mitchelstown Light Dragoons, part of the North Cork Militia.

When his father died, he succeeded as the 3rd Baron Kingston of Rockingham, Co. Roscommon, the 3rd Viscount Kingston of Kingsborough, Co. Sligo, 3rd Earl of Kingston, and 7th Baronet King, of Boyle Abbey, Co. Roscommon.

George 3rd Earl of Kingston’s eldest son, Edward, predeceased him. Edward, who was Viscount Kingsborough, became interested in Mexico while in Oxford and devoted his life and finances to the production of a monumental work, The Antiquities of Mexico. He fell into debt, partly because his father did not allow him enough to run Mitchelstown, and was imprisoned in Ireland, where he developed typhus and died in 1837. In his lifetime he presented a number of antiquities to Trinity College Dublin.

It was therefore George’s second son, Robert Henry (1796-1857) who became 4th Earl of Kingston in 1839. By 1844 the Mitchelstown estate had been taken over by the Encumbered Estaes Court. Outstanding debts went back to James 4th Baron, King-Harman tells us. Despite this, Robert Henry’s life continued at Mitchelstown in rather high style, also despite the famine. Sadly, parts of the estate were sold off bit by bit and eventually Robert Henry had a mental breakdown and ended up in an asylum in England. [for more about the 4th Earl of Kingston see the Irish Aesthete’s blog. [5]

His younger brother James became the 5th Earl of Kingston, but died two years later without issue, and with him the Barony of Kingston of Mitchelstown became extinct. He married Anna Brinkley from Parstonstown (Birr), who was thirty years his junior, and King-Harman tells us that she “was destined to play a major role in the affairs of Castle [of Mitchelstown] right through to the present century.” They had no children, so the estate would have gone to the Viscounts Lorton of Boyle.

James King (1800-1869), 5th Earl of Kingston, who married Anna Brinkley.
Anna, wife of the 5th Earl of Kingston, who lived in Mitchelstown.

Robert, who was to become 2nd Viscount Lorton, and his wife Anne née Gore-Booth, had a son, Robert (1831-1871), and a daughter, Frances. Anne then had a son, Henry Ernest, with her lover, Vicomte Ernest Satgé St Jean. 1st Viscount Lorton tried to take action to ensure that Henry Ernest would not inherit.

In order to avoid Henry Ernest from inheriting Mitchelstown, they had to break the entail on Mitchelstown and James the 5th Earl of Kingston promised money from the Mitchelstown estate to the 3rd Viscount Lorton, for signing away the entail. Instead, Mitchelstown was left to his wife. The money promised to 3rd Viscount Lorton formed a debt, falling to Anna Brinkley, which gave her much difficulty later.

Before continuing, I must mention the youngest son of 1st Viscount Lorton, Laurence Harman King (1816-1875). He married Mary Cecilia Johnstone of Alva, Scotland. His father drew up a settlement which in the event that the 2nd Viscount’s legitimate son did not have an heir, Rockingham would go to his younger son, Laurence Harman, who in 1838 had legally changed his name to Laurence Harman King-Harman.

Laurence Harman King-Harman also inherited the estate of Newcastle in County Longford. He was chosen for the inheritance in preference to his dissipated brother. Lawrence’s mother, recall, was Frances Parsons, daughter of Laurence Harman Parsons and and Jane King (daughter of 1st Earl of Kingston). Laurence Harman Parsons’s father was Laurence Parsons, 3rd Baronet of Birr Castle, County Offaly, and his mother was Anne Harman, whose family owned Newcastle, County Longford.

The property of Newcastle had belonged to the Chappoyne family. A daughter of that family married Anthony Sheppard, and the property passed into the ownership of the Sheppard family. It then passed via a daughter, Frances Sheppard, who married Wentworth Harman (c. 1635-1714). On Frances’s death in 1766 the property passed to her son Reverend Cutts Harman (1706-1784), Dean of Waterford. He had no children, so he left the property to his nephew, Laurence Parsons, who had married Jane King. In return, Laurence Parsons added the name Harman to his surname in 1792 to become Laurence Harman Parsons-Harman.

Laurence Harman Parsons was created 1st Baron Oxmantown, Co. Wexford in 1792, and 1st Earl of Rosse in 1806.

Laurence and Jane had a daughter, Frances, and no son. Frances married Robert Edward King, 1st Viscount Lorton in 1799. Laurence left all of his property to his wife Jane, which included Newcastle and two houses in St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. Upon the birth of Frances and Robert Edward’s second son, whom they named Laurence Harman King, Lady Rosse decided to leave Newcastle to him. In 1838 when Lady Rosse died, just a year after Laurence Harman King’s marriage, he inherited Newcastle. At that time he also added Harman to his surname to become Laurence Harman King-Harman. [6]

One can now stay in Newcastle House, see https://www.newcastlehousehotel.ie/

Irish Army Artillery Dress Uniform c.1935: This uniform would have been worn by a Lieutenant Colonel. A military uniform would consist of the following: shako, tunic, slacks, black patent boots and spurs, white doe-skin gloves, cape, sword-belt complete with two scabbard slings and dress sword, sword knot and sword belt.
Dining room of King House.
The Honourable Laurence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875).
Laurence Harman King-Harman (1816-1875). The information tells us that he was the second son of Edward King, 1st Viscount Lorton. He inherited the Newcastle estate in County Longford in 1838 from his grandmother the Countess of Rosse, and lived there until his death. He succeeded to the Rockingham estate after the death of his brother Robert, 6th Earl of Kingston, in 1869.
Mary Cecilia, 6th daughter of Thomas Reymond Johnstone of Alva, Scotland. Married in May 1837 Laurence Harman King-Harman, 2nd son of Robert Edward 1st Viscount Lorton. She lived at Newcastle until her husband’s death in 1875 and then in London when she died in 1904.

Let us go back, however, to his brother Robert, who was upon his father’s death to become 2nd Viscount Lorton. The reason that 1st Viscount Lorton was worried about the second, illegitimate grandson inheriting, is that the first grandson, Robert Edward, had suffered a serious illness and had only one child, a daughter.

The 1st Viscount Lorton died in 1854 and was buried in the family vault in Boyle Abbey.

Obituary for 1st Viscount Lorton.

The 1st Viscount Lorton’s son Robert had been a long time waiting to come into his inheritance and had meanwhile spent his time dissipating the family’s money and by the time of his marriage, according to The Kings of King House, had a reputation for drinking too much alcohol. In the same year that she was proven to have an affair, Robert became semi-paralysed, perhaps after severe attack of delirium tremens from his drinking.

Robert and his wife Anne moved to Frankfurt in 1840 and his health improved somewhat. However it was here that his wife met Vicomte Ernest de Satgé St Jean. He too was married. He and Anne accumulated debts at the gaming tables which Robert had to pay, and when his wife left him, Ernest de Satgé St Jean moved into the home of the Kings in Frankfurt!

When 1st Viscount Lorton heard of the shenanigans, he sent an old friend to bring his son and his son’s wife back to Ireland. He did not succeed, and the story of Robert’s wife’s debts reminds me of “Buck” Whaley’s, with the Vicomte entering in convoluted schemes in order to try to gain money to pay off his debts, as described in The Kings of King House.

When the 1st then 2nd Viscounts Lorton died, the 2nd Viscount’s legitimate son Robert Edward (1731-1771) came into ownership of Rockingham, and became 3rd Viscount Lorton and 7th Earl of Kingston. He died two years later, after felling large quantities of timber at Rockingham to pay off his debts.

In the meantime, the younger son, Henry Ernest Newcomen King (named Ernest after his birth father) had not been legally recognised as illegitimate. Therefore when his brother died, he became 8th Earl of Kingston, although he did not inherit as much land as he could have, since the entail on Mitchelstown had been broken, and his uncle Laurence Harman inherited Newcastle and Rockingham. He joined the Connaught Rangers, which were housed in the old King home, and he gained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and was a representative Irish peer in the House of Lords. He married Florence, daughter and co-heir of Colonel Edward King-Tenison of Kilronan Castle in County Roscommon. He changed his name to surname King-Tenison in 1883. He held the office of Lord-Lieutenant of County Roscommon between 1888 and 1896.

The Coronation Robe and Crown in the dining room of King House belong to his son the 9th Earl of Kingston’s wife, Ethel Lisette, made to be worn at the coronation of King Edward VIII in 1936, which did not happen since he abdicated the throne.

On the death of the 7th Earl of Kingston, the 1st Viscount Lorton’s youngest son, Harman King-Harman, inherited Rockingham and the Boyle estates as life tenant. He remained living in Newcastle, County Longford. He had six sons and his eldest Edward King-Harman (1838-1888) would inherit Rockingham and Newcastle.

This painting just identifies the sitted as Mrs King-Harman. She is probably Laurence Harman King-Harman’s wife Mary Cecilia née Johnstone, in later life.
Vanity Fair entry and picture, about Edward Robert King-Harman (1838-1888), son of Laurence Harman King-Harman. He inherited Newcastle in County Longford and Rockingham in Roscommon.

To continue with the story of Mitchelstown, in 1873 Anna née Brinkley, wife of James 5th Earl of Kingston, remarried, to William Webber. King-Harman writes that Webber allowed his relationship to the tenants to deteriorate. Meanwhile, the old debts were paid off by selling off tenanted lands under the Wyndham Land Acts. Anna, the Countess of Kingston, expressed a wish that upon her husband’s death, Mitchelstown should revert to the King family, in the person of Lt Colonel Alec King-Harman of Newcastle, great grandson of the 1st Lord Lorton. However, the castle was burnt by the IRA during the Civil War in 1922, and Alec sold off the estate.

The 2nd Earl of Kingston laid out much of the town of Mitchelstown. King Square includes Georgian houses of Kingston College and its Protestant chapel and family vault built by James, 4th Baron Kingston, and the square also includes the building where James founded the first Grand Lodge of Freemasons in Ireland. The 3rd Earl erected a drinking fountain in the square. The inn at Kilworth where Colonel Fitzgerald was shot is now a private residence. [The Kings of King House]

Edward Robert King-Harman (1838-1888), son of Laurence Harman King-Harman, inherited Newcastle in County Longford and Rockingham in Roscommon. He joined the military and fought in the siege of Dehli during the Indian Mutiny, then returned to Ireland in 1859 and became Honorary Colonel of the 5th Battalion of the Connaught Rangers whose depot was now in King House. He developed an interest in politics and the cause of Home Rule and was returned to the House of Commons in Ireland as a Conservative Home Ruler for County Sligo. He moved from Newcastle into Rockingham. He managed to leave Rockingham to his daughter, Fay, although her brothers contested this. She managed to keep Rockingham, however, along with her husband, Dr. Thomas Stafford, who was a Catholic. Fay’s son took the name Edward Stafford King-Harman.

Meanwhile Edward’s younger brother Wentworth (1840-1919) inherited Newcastle from his brother. He joined the military in Britain. When he inherited, he immersed himself in running Newcastle. It was his son Alec who inherited Mitchelstown. Alec also joined the military. He left Newcastle to a cousin Douglas King-Harman, and by that time the estate was reduced to just 50 acres, and he sold it in 1951. Before leaving Newcastle, Douglas set aside most of the family records and took them to England with him and published a book in 1959, Kings Earls of Kingston.

Edward Stafford King-Harman died in WWI. His father was raised to the British peerage as 1st Baronet Stafford in 1914. Edward married Olive Pakenham Mahon from Strokestown in Roscommon – I will be writing about it soon as it is also a Section 482 property.

It was his second son, Cecil Stafford King-Harman, who inherited Rockingham and became 2nd Baronet Stafford. Having taken a degree in Agriculture in New Zealand, Cecil was able to bring the estate back into good working order. Unfortunately, Rockingham was destroyed by fire in 1957 and although most of the furniture and pictures were saved, Cecil decided to sell. The house was demolished, and half the estate became Lough Key Forest Park. On Cecil’s death the baronetcy became extinct.

Part of a set of china rescued from the fire in 1957.
This room in King House describes the fire at Rockingham. Over the fireplace is a picture of Lady Eleanor King, and one of her nephews, brothers George, 3rd Earl of Kingston, Robert, 1st Viscount Lorton, and Admiral James William King.

In an upper storey of the King House there is a step-by-step description of the 1989-94 renovation of the house.

Inside the attic of King House.
Vaulted ceiling of the attic.
Display of builders’ paraphernalia in the attic.

King House is used to host art exhibitions, as well as weddings and events.

The Main Salon on the first floor. This room was used for formal dining and entertaining. It contains two fireplaces and decorative cornicing.

When used as a Barracks, the military erected a mezzanine level in the Main Salon. After Independence, in the 1940s the Irish army used the room for dances every Wednesday.

Henry King b. 1733 by Hunter. He was a son of Henry King who built King House.

King House is now home to the Connaught Rangers museum as well as the Boyle Civic Art Collection, and the house also plays host to musical, dramatic and cultural events. 

The displays about the Connaught Rangers are very moving, and remind of us that horrors of war.
Connaught Rangers dress helmet (1878-1922). Regimental buttons on uniforms had a harp and crown surrounded by a shamrock leaf, and on the collar was a brass Indian elephant.

The barracks in King House served as a recruitment centre. We can see some of the posters that encouraged Irish men to join the British Army during the wars.

As home to the Connaught Rangers, Robert O’Byrne tells us that the house was able to accommodate 12 officers and 260 non-commissioned officers and private foot soldiers, as well as a 30-bed hospital and stabling for horses. [7]

During the War of Independence, the Barracks was strongly garrisoned and the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Black and Tans were stationed outside the barracks near the main gate. Many arrests of Irishmen fighting for Independence were made, and prisoners were held in the barracks. Two prisoners managed to escape, James Molloy and Michael Dockery.

Prison cell in the basement of King House.
A drawing depicting the escape from King House.

Sadly, reflecting the turbulent times in Ireland, Michael Dockery was later killed by anti-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War that took place after Ireland gained Independence (the Civil War occurred because many did not agree with the Treaty signed to give Ireland independence since the British kept six counties in Ulster, leading to the division of the island of Ireland). When the new Republic of Ireland continued to use King House as a barracks it was called Dockery Barracks after Michael Dockery.

A couple of rooms in King House now contain the gifts which were given to President Mary McAleese, which is a lovely collection of the crafts of various nations.

Based in the courtyard, Úna Bhán Tourism Co-operative runs a traditional craft shop showcasing locally produced crafts as well as operating an accommodation booking service and at weekends there is a farmers market in the courtyard.

[1] Connolly, Paul. The Landed Estates of County Roscommon. Published by Paul Connolly, 2018.

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

[3] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31804023/king-house-military-road-knocknashee-boyle-co-roscommon

[4] https://theirishaesthete.com/2022/08/22/kingston-lodge/

[5] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/09/01/god-bless-the-kings/

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

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/tag/king-house/

Places to visit and stay in County Longford, Leinster

On the map above:

blue: places to visit that are not section 482

purple: section 482 properties

red: accommodation

yellow: less expensive accommodation for two

orange: “whole house rental” i.e. those properties that are only for large group accommodations or weddings, e.g. 10 or more people.

green: gardens to visit

grey: ruins

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

As well as places to visit, I have listed separately places to stay, because some of them are worth visiting – you may be able to visit for afternoon tea or a meal.

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

€ = up to approximately €150 per night for two people sharing (in yellow on map);

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

€€€ – over €250 per night for two.

For a full listing of accommodation in big houses in Ireland, see my accommodation page: https://irishhistorichouses.com/accommodation/

Places to visit in County Longford:

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

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

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

Places to stay, County Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford

2. Newcastle House Hotel, Ballymahon, County Longford.

3. Viewmount House, Longford

Places to visit in County Longford:

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

https://castlecorhouse.com/

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

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

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

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The National Inventory describes it:

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

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

Places to stay, County Longford:

1. Castlecor House, County Longford – see above

https://castlecorhouse.com/

2. Newcastle House Hotel, Ballymahon, County Longford

https://www.newcastlehousehotel.ie

Newcastle House (now a hotel), County Longford, photograph from Newcastlehousehotel.ie
photograph from the Newcastlehousehotel.ie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then National Inventory describes the house:

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

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

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

The National Inventory adds:

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

photograph from the Newcastlehousehotel.ie

3. Viewmount House, Longford

http://www.viewmounthouse.com

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

The website tells us:

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

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

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

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

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

[2] p. 66. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

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

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

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

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