Places to visit and stay in County Kilkenny, 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 Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482 

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt. 

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny  

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482 

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482 

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny

Places to stay, County Kilkenny

1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – wedding venue, B&B 

2. Blanchville Coachyard, Dunbell, County Kilkenny €

3. Butler House, Kilkenny, co Kilkenny – accommodation 

4. Clomantagh Castle, Co Kilkenny – €€ for two, € for 3-8

5. Grange Manor, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny B&B

6. Lyrath House, near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny – hotel 

7.  Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – hotel 

8. Shankill Castle, Co Kilkenny

9. Tubbrid Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 8

10. Waterside Guest House, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny

Whole House Rental County Kilkenny:

1. Annamult House, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny – whole house accommodation

2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 10

3. Castle Blunden, County Kilkenny – whole house accommodation

Places to visit in County Kilkenny:

1. Aylwardstown, Glenmore, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

contact: Nicholas & Mary Kelly
Tel: 051-880464, 087-2567866
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 9am-5pm Fee: adult €5, OAP €3, child/student free

2. Ballysallagh House, Johnswell, Co Kilkenny – section 482 

Ballysallagh House, County Kilkenny, February 2022.

contact: Geralyn & Kieran White
Tel: 087-2906621, 086-2322105
Open: Feb 1-20, May 1-31, Aug 13-21, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/student €5, child free, groups by arrangement

See my entry: https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/06/17/ballysallagh-house-johnswell-co-kilkenny/

3. Creamery House, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny – 482 

Creamery, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: John Comerford
Tel: 056-4400080
www.creameryhouse.com
Open: May 14-Sept 30, Friday, Saturday, and Sundays, National Heritage Week, Aug 13-21, 12 noon-5pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child under 18 free

4.  Kilfane Glen & Waterfall Garden, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – 482 – garden only

Kilfane, County Kilkenny, August 2021.

See my entry:

https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/12/16/kilfane-glen-waterfall-kilfane-thomastown-co-kilkenny/
contact: Susan Mosse
Tel: 056-7727105, 086-7919318 

www.kilfane.com

Open: July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 11am-6pm
Fee: adult €7, OAP/student €6.50, child €6, family €20

5. Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny – OPW

Kilkenny Castle, May 2018.

Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny City by Sonder Visuals for Failte Ireland 2014.

see my OPW entry, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

6. Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny – Design Centre on 482

contact: Aaron Quill
Tel: 064-6623331
www.kilkennydesign.com
Open: all year except Christmas Day and St Stephens Day, 10am-7pm Fee: Free

7. Kilrush House, County Kilkenny, ihh member, by appt. 

Kilrush House, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

William Robertson (1777 – 1850) was a native of Kilkenny where the patronage of Lord Ormonde stood him in good stead, since most of his work can be found in Kilkenny and the neighbouring counties of Laois, Tipperary and Waterford. When Richard St. George wished to move from his medieval castle at Kilrush near Freshford in 1820, Robertson was the obvious choice. His work is less exuberant than that of his namesake Daniel but he was a talented architect and produced an interesting early nineteenth century reinterpretation of the typical late-Georgian country house. 

The St Georges are a Norman family who ‘came over to England with the Conqueror’ and arrived in Ireland in the sixteenth century. They quickly became established here, with several branches in County Kilkenny and others in Galway, Leitrim and Roscommon.

The St Georges of Kilrush were active in political and cultural circles in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Richard St George was an M.P. in the Irish Parliament, with a town house at No. 8 Henrietta Street, while his cousin St George Ashe was the Provost of Trinity College and a close friend of Dean Swift. St. George was also a founding member of the Dublin Philosophical Society, which encouraged his numerous publications of scientific and national interest.

Richard considered moving out of his tower-house at Kilrush in the middle of the eighteenth century but this decision was left to his heirs, who built the existing house in the early nineteenth century. Kilrush has a three bay façade, a five bay garden front, a hipped roof with widely overhanging eaves, a single very large, central chimney-stack into which all the flues are diverted, and an interesting ground plan.

The cut-stone door case is a handsome arrangement of Doric half-columns and pilasters, supporting a deep entablature with swags beneath a semi-circular leaded fanlight. The ground floor windows to either side are set in shallow recesses with elliptical heads; otherwise the elevations are quite plain.

The most interesting internal space is the landing, a perfect Doric rotunda supporting a delicately glazed dome. This partly lights the inner hall below through a circular well in the floor. The dining and drawing rooms are both finely proportioned apartments, with many original fittings and furnishings, and their original wallpaper.

Kilrush looks out over mature parkland to a large mill, almost half a mile off.  The gardens contain a stupendous collection of snowdrops, there is a tower house, the former residence of the family in the attached yard, while an interesting early garden layout with connected canals has recently been identified and is currently in the course of restoration.” [1]

8. Rothe House, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny  

Rothe House, Kilkenny, photograph by Brian Morrison 2015 for Tourism Ireland [2]

Rothe House is a treasure, older than any house in Dublin! It was built around 1594-1610, by John Rothe FitzPiers (1560-1620) for his wife Rose Archer, and is the last merchant’s townhouse in Kilkenny surviving from the early post-medieval period. [3] The house, purchased by Kilkenny Archaeological Society in 1962, is open to the public as a museum displaying a selection of the historic artefacts collected by the Society since its founding in 1947.  The artefacts relate to Kilkenny heritage throughout the ages and some date from prehistoric times.  The adjoining garden has since 2008 been open to the public and is a faithful reconstruction of an early seventeenth-century urban garden. 

Garden at Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.

The National Inventory describes it:

Terraced five-bay two-storey over basement house with dormer attic on a U-shaped plan about a stone cobbled (east) courtyard with two-bay two-storey gabled central bay having jettied box oriel window to first floor, series of five round-headed openings to ground floor forming arcade, single-bay three-storey linking range to north-west, and three-bay three-storey parallel range to west (completing U-shaped plan about a courtyard) originally three-bay two-storey having round-headed carriageway to right ground floor. In use as school, c.1750. Restored, 1898, to accommodate use as Gaelic League house. Converted to use as museum, 1963-5. Restored, 1983. Restored, 1999, to accommodate use as offices.”

Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.

The Archiseek website tells us:

In 1594 a wealthy merchant called John Rothe built this magnificent Tudor mansion. Second and third generation houses were built around the cobelled courtyards and a well dating to 1604. The façade houses shops, one of them was John Rothe’s own. During the Confederation of Kilkenny, many dignitaries were entertained here by John Rothe and his cousin, the Bishop of Ossory. The building has been restored magnificently and is now home to Kilkenny Archaeological Society.” [4]

Rothe House, May 2018.
Rothe House, May 2018.
Plague Doctor! In 1348 there was Plague in Kilkenny. Friar John Clyn in the Franciscan Abbey across the road  recorded the effect of the plague on the town and the friary. He himself fell victim to the epidemic. 
Artefacts from the Confederation of Kilkenny.
Viking Sword.
“Pattens” – wooden shoes worn by women over their regular shoes to protect from mud.

9. Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny – section 482 

contact: Geoffrey Cope,
Tel: 087-2437125
www.shankillcastle.com
Open: Feb 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Mar 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Apr 2-3, 9-10, 16- 17, 23-24, 30, May 1, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22, 26-29, June 2-5, 9-12, 16-19, 23-26, 30, July 1-3, 7-16, 21-24, 28-31, Aug 3-6, 10-21, 24-27, 31, Sept 1-4, 8-11, 15-18, 22-25, 29- 30, Oct 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30, 31, Feb- Apr, 11am-4pm, May- Oct, 11am-5pm Fee: house & garden, adult €10 garden €5, OAP/student €8, gardens €4

The website tells us:

Situated near the ruins of an old church, Shankill Castle began life as a tower-house built by the powerful Butler family during the medieval period. In 1708, the house was rebuilt by Peter Aylward who bought the land from his wife’s family. The new Shankill Castle was constructed as a Queen Anne house, set in a formal landscape, vista to the front and canal to the rear.

Peter Aylward’s wife was Elizabeth Butler, daughter of Richard Butler, 2nd Baronet of Poulstown, County Kilkenny.

The website continues: “In the 1820s, the house was enlarged and castellated. Serpentine bays were added to the canal and an unusual polyhedral sundial given pride of place on a sunken lawn. A gothic porch bearing the Aylward crest and a conservatory were other additions. 

The stableyard and the castellated entrance to the demesne were built in 1850 and are attributed to Daniel Robertson.

10. Tybroughney Castle, Piltown, Co Kilkenny – 482 

Tybroughney, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

contact: Louis Dowley
Tel: 087-2313106
Open: Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, 10am-4pm Fee: adult €5, student €3, child/OAP free

11. Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum, Woodstock, Inistioge, Kilkenny, maintained by Kilkenny County Council

Woodstock Gardens, photograph from Lawrence Photograph Collections, National Library of Ireland, photograph from “In Harmony with Nature” exhibition at the Irish Georgian Society curated by Robert O’Byrne.

Mark Bence-Jones writes about Woodstock (1988):

p. 286. “(Fownes, Bt/EDB; Tighe/IFR) A house by Francis Bindon [for William Fownes, 2nd Baronet], probably dating from 1740s, which is unusual in being built round a small inner court, or light-shaft. Three storeys; handsomely rusticated entrance front of six bays with a central niche and statue above the entrance doorway…In 1770s Sarah Ponsonby lived here with her cousins, Sir William and Betty Fownes [born Elizabeth Ponsonby]; her friend, Eleanor Butler, having escaped from Borris, co Carlow, where she was being kept in disgrace, was let into Woodstock through a window, hiding herself in Sarah’s room for 24 hours before being discovered; shortly afterwards, the two friends left for Wales, where they subsequently became famous as the “Ladies of Llangollen.” Woodstock passed to the Tighes with the marriage of the daughter and heiress of Sir William Fownes to William Tighe, whose daughter-in-law was Mary Tighe, the poet, author of Psyche; she died at Woodstock 1810 aged 37, and Flaxman’s monument to her is in a small neo-Classical mausoleum behind the Protestant church in the village of Inistioge, at the gates of the demesne. There was also a statue of her in one of the rooms in the house. Woodstock was burnt ca 1920, and is now a ruin, but the demesne, with its magnificent beechwoods, still belongs to the Tighes.” [6]

The information board tells us that in 1804 flanking wings were added to designs by William Robertson (1770-1850). The house was burned in 1922 after being occupied by the Black and Tans.
The gardens at Woodstock, County Kilkenny, August 2021. The gardens at Woodstock, gloriously situated above the River Nore, were conceived on a grand scale by Colonel William Tighe (1794-1878) and Lady Louisa Lennox (1803-1900) as the centrepiece of a great estate.

The formal parterres were created in the 1860s by a Scotsman, Charles McDonald, for Colonel William Tighe (1794-1878) and his wife Lady Louisa née Lennox (1803-1900, daughter of Charles, 4th Duke of Richmond – she is not to be confused with Louisa Lennox (1743-1817) daughter of Charles 2nd Duke of Richmond, who married Thomas Conolly of Castletown, County Kildare). The parterre incorporates a shamrock motif. Robert O’Byrne tells us in his exhibition “In Harmony with Nature” at the Irish Georgian Society July 2022 that creating the parterres involved removing 200,000 cubic yards of earth and retention by a wall of cut granite quarried on the estate and ornamented by local craftsmen with stone finials, balls and vases.

Woodstock Gardens, photograph from Lawrence Photograph Collections, National Library of Ireland, photograph from “In Harmony with Nature” exhibition at the Irish Georgian Society July 2022 curated by Robert O’Byrne.

The estate passed to the daughter, Sarah, of William Fownes and Elizabeth Ponsonby, and Sarah married William Tighe (1738-1872) of Rossana, County Wicklow.

This information board tells us about the Arboretum at Woodstock, where a number of exotic trees were planted in the nineteenth century.
Entrance to walled garden at Woodstock.
Gardens at Woodstock, with reproduction Turner glasshouse.
“Turner bench” which matches the glasshouse at Woodstock.
The longest and oldest Monkey Puzzle Walk in Europe, at Woodstock.

Places to stay, County Kilkenny

1. Ballyduff, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny – wedding venue, B&B 

http://ballyduffhouse.ie/booking-enquiries/ 

Ballyduff House, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The website tells us:

Ballyduff House is a classic Georgian country house with a 14th century castle, steeped in Irish history and full of the warmest of welcomes.

The River Nore sparkles as it runs along Ballyduff’s riverbank while sheep and cattle graze the pasture either side.

Open fires, the book lined library and the comfortable bedrooms furnished with Irish antiques capture an early 18th century experience tempered by discreet 21st century comfort.

This is real Ireland – calm, green and beautiful, set alongside the picturesque village of Inistioge with Dublin only an hour away.

The National Inventory tells us:

A country house representing an important component of the mid eighteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Kilkenny with the architectural value of the composition, one abutting a “roofed down” tower house, confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on panoramic vistas overlooking broad parkland and the wooded River Nore; the compact rectilinear plan form centred on a restrained doorcase showing a simple radial fanlight; the diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a graduated visual impression with the principal “apartments” or reception rooms defined by Wyatt-style tripartite glazing patterns; and the slightly oversailing roofline. Having been well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior, including crown or cylinder glazing panels in hornless sash frames: meanwhile, contemporary joinery; restrained chimneypieces; and sleek plasterwork refinements, all highlight the artistic potential of the composition. Furthermore, an adjacent farmyard complex ; and a walled garden (extant 1839), all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a self-contained estate having historic connections with the Coghill family including Sir Josiah Coghill (1773-1850), third Baronet (Lewis 1837 II, 18); the Connellans of nearby Coolmore House (see 12403210); and Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick William John Shore (1844-1916), fourth Baron Teignmouth (NA 1901; NA 1911). NOTE: Given as the birthplace of Sir John Joscelyn Coghill (1826-1905) of Glen Barrahane in Castletownshend, County Cork (Dod’s Peerage Baronetage and Knightage 1865, 186); and George Leopold Bryan (1828-80) of Jenkinstown (Dod’s Parliamentary Companion 1875, 174).

2. Blanchville Coachyard, Dunbell, County Kilkenny

https://blanchville.ie/

Blanchville Coachyard, Dunbell, County Kilkenny, photograph from website https://blanchville.ie/

The Coach Houses & Gardener’s Cottage are, as the name suggests, part of the beautiful old stone building that was originally the Coach House at Blanchville. The building has been sensitively and extensively refurbished and now offers guests comfortable and inviting Self-Catering Accommodation in three self-contained Holiday Homes.

These Heritage Holiday Lets feature a cosy woodburning stove or open fire, fully fitted modern kitchen and relaxing bedrooms – the perfect requisite for an enjoyable weekend break or holiday in Kilkenny.

3. Butler House, Kilkenny, co Kilkenny – accommodation 

https://www.butler.ie

View to Butler House and Garden, Kilkenny Leo Byrne Photography 2015. (see [2])

The National Inventory tells us about Butler house: “Semi-detached three-bay three-storey over basement house, built 1786, with pair of three-bay full-height bowed bays to rear (east) elevation. Extended, 1832, comprising two-bay three-storey perpendicular block to right. Renovated, 1972. Now in use as hotel. One of a pair…An elegantly-composed Classically-proportioned substantial house built either by Walter Butler (1713-83), sixteenth Earl of Ormonde or John Butler (1740-95), seventeenth Earl of Ormonde as one of a pair of dower houses…Distinctive attributes including the elegant bowed bays to the Garden (east) Front contribute positively to the architectural design value of the composition while carved limestone dressings with particular emphasis on the well-executed doorcase displaying high quality stone masonry further enliven the external expression of the house in the streetscape.”

The house was home to Lady Eleanor Butler who lived here after the death of her husband Walter in 1783. Lady Eleanor Butler was the mother of John, the 17th Earl of Ormonde and her daughter, also Eleanor, was one of the famous “Ladies of Langollen”.

James, Earl of Ormonde (1777-1838, and 1st Marquess) resided in the house while the Castle was under reconstruction in 1831. A soup kitchen was run from here during the cholera epidemic of 1832.

The Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland held their meetings in Butler House in 1870. Kilkenny Design, the state design agency, restored Butler House in 1972. The decor and furnishings reflect a certain 1970s Art Deco style, which because of the muted colours and natural fabrics used, proved sympathetic to the original features of the house. In 1989, the Kilkenny Civic Trust acquired both Butler House and the Castle Stables. 

4. Clomantagh Castle, Co Kilkennyaccommodation, whole house on airbnb: €€ for two, € for 3-8

Clomantagh Castle, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/29346656?federated_search_id=050f383f-6e5e-45b5-9989-b166bfe7e70d&source_impression_id=p3_1650104926_er%2FjFSqCgEWzQLW5

The National Inventory tells us it is a farmhouse erected by John Shortal (d. 1857) or Patrick Shortal (d. 1858) representing an integral component of the mid nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Kilkenny with the architectural value of the composition, one occupying the site of a hall adjoining the fifteenth-century Clomantagh Castle.

Clomantagh Castle - was home to the [8th] Earl of Ormond, Pierce Ruadh (1467-1539). When he died in 1539 the castle along with other properties was passed to his son Richard Butler, first Viscount Mountgarret (1500-1571). The castle and its estate stayed in the Butler family until it was forfeited during the war with Cromwell to Lieutenant Arthur St. George [ancestor of the Kilrush family]. After the war the castle changed hands twice more and a farmhouse was added by the Shortall family, the owners in the 1800’s, before its last owner  Willie White a local vet. The property is now owned by a non profit making charity called the Landmark Trust who preserve historic buildings. 

The Landmark site tells us:

The name Clomantagh comes from the Irish “cloch mantaigh”, meaning missing tooth or gappy smile. Locals gave this name to the castle as the irregular castellation reminded them of someone smiling with missing teeth.  

It has been established that the tower and bawn were built in the 15th century (c.1430). The tower house has been modified and extended over the centuries, and in the early 19th century a farmhouse was added providing accommodation with comfort, rather than defence, in mind. In recent times, the bawn walls have sheltered the buildings of a 20th century working farm. It also has a rare clochán (small dome-roomed structure) knit into the bawn walls. Five other tower houses can be seen from the roof of Clomantagh Castle, and they were all strategically aligned for defence purposes.

Clomantagh followed mainstream castle design, emerging as an almost square building, six storeys high, with massive walls built from local limestone, and a corner staircase. Inserted high on the south wall is a Sheela-na-Gig. This pagan symbol was adopted by medieval builders and incorporated as the building was erected. High up the remains of the stepped battlement walls, the merlons can be seen – a specifically Irish feature whose inspiration is considered to be Venetian. Inside the battlements a wide walkway gave access to all sides of the building. In the north east corner, a high watchtower has been built. This is knows as Moll Gearailt’s Chair, after the particularly ferocious original mistress of the house, Maighréad nhee Gearóid, who used to sit watching over her fields to ensure that her labourers were not slacking at their work. The walkway, or Alure, was sloped outward to allow run off water through drainage holes and stone spouts. Generally, battlement walls have not survived well, their thinner construction and unstable sloping bases have contributed to their disappearance from tower houses.  [6]

5. Grange Manor, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny B&B

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.

http://grangemanorkilkenny.com

The website tell us: “Located in the heart of the Kilkenny countryside, this beautiful Georgian manorhouse is set into 26 acres of lush landscaped grounds. With the medieval city of Kilkenny just 20 mins drive, experience Irish culture at your own pace in in Grange Manor.”

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory describes the doorcase: “Classically-detailed doorcase not only demonstrating good quality workmanship in a deep grey limestone, but also showing a pretty overlight.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory tell us: “Interior including (ground floor): central hall retaining carved timber surrounds to window openings framing timber panelled shutters on panelled risers with carved timber surrounds to opposing door openings framing timber panelled doors, and plasterwork cornice to ceiling on “bas-relief” frieze centred on “bas-relief” ceiling rose.”

Mark Bence-Jones writes (1988): p. 145. “(Lannigan, Stannard and Dowdall, sub Bancroft/IFR) An old farmhouse to which Georgian reception rooms were added, producing a house of two storeys and nine bays, with a three bay breakfront centre higher than the bays on either side. Fanlighted doorway; high-pitched roof. Room with Adamesque plasterwork incorporating oval painted medallions.” 

It was occupied (1751) by Captain James Warren (d. 1758). It was advertised for sale in 2021.

Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory describes: “double-height staircase hall (north) retaining carved timber surrounds to door openings framing timber panelled doors, moulded plasterwork cornice to ceiling, staircase on a dog leg plan with turned timber “spindle” balusters supporting carved timber banister terminating in volute, carved timber Classical-style surround to window opening to half-landing framing timber panelled shutters, carved timber surrounds to door openings to landing framing timber panelled double doors having overlights, and decorative plasterwork cornice to coved ceiling centred on “bas-relief” ceiling rose.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. Staircase hall with Adamesque plasterwork incorporating oval medallions.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021. The National Inventory tells us about the gate lodge: “A gate lodge erected by John Stannard (né Lannigan) (d. 1836) contributing positively to the group and setting values of the Grange House estate with the architectural value of the composition suggested by such attributes as the compact square plan form centred on a featureless doorcase; and the openings showing pretty lattice glazing patterns.”
Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.
The Nore at Grange Manor, photograph from myhome.ie 2021.

6. Lyrath House, near Kilkenny, County Kilkenny – hotel

Lyrath Estate by Colin Whittaker 2009, flickr constant commons.

https://www.lyrath.com

Mark Bence-Jones writes:

p. 184. “(Wheeler-Cuffe, Bt/PB1934; Tupper/LGI1958) Originally a Tobin castle, acquired by the Wheeler family C17. By 1826, the house here consisted of a simple two storey five bay pedimented front facing west, with two wings running back from it to enclose a small three sided office court; the entrance door being on the south side; under a Regency veranda. In 1861, Sir Charles Wheeler-Cuffe, 2nd Bt, married Pauline Villiers-Stuart, daughter of Lord Stuart de Decies [of Dromana House, County Waterford – see my entry], whose parents did not regard this house as grand enough for her; so in that same year he rebuilt the main western block on a larger scale and in a rich Italianate style, while leaving the two storey wings more of less as they were.; his architect being John McCurdy. The entrance was moved from the south side to the new west front, which is pedimented and of five bays like its predecessor, but not entirely symmetrical; having a pair of windows on the ground floor to the left of centre, but a single window on the right. Entrance door framed by Ionic columns carrying a balustrade, above which is a Venetian window framed by an aedicule with a segmental pediment. All the ground floor windows have semi-circular heads, while the heads of the windows of the upper storey – apart from the central Venetian windows – are cambered. The garden front to the north has two single-storey balustraded curved bows, the windows of which are treated as arcades supported by Romanesque columns of sandstone. There is another Romanesque column separated the pair of windows in the centre of the front. The windows in the bow are glazed with curved glass. The roof is carried on a deep bracket cornice and there are prominent string courses, which give the elevations a High Victorian character. Hall with imposing imperial staircase, the centre ramp of which rises between two fluted Corinthian columns. There is a similarity between the staircase here and that at Dromana, Co Waterford, Pauline Lady Wheeler-Cuffe’s old home; except that the Dromana staircase was of stone, whereas that at Leyrath is of wood, with ornate cast-iron balustrades. On the centre ramp of the staircase there is still a chair with its back legs cut down to fit the steps; this was put there in 1880s for Pauline when she became infirm. Hall has a ceiling cornice of typical C19 plasterwork in a design of foliage, and door with entablatures which still have their original walnut graining. To the left of the hall, in the garden front, are the drawing room, ante-room and dining room, opening into each other with large double doors’ they have ceiling cornices similar to that in the hall, and good C19 white chimneypieces, enriched with carving; the drawing room and ante-room keep their original white and gold wallpaper. In the south wing there are smaller and lower rooms surviving from before the rebuilding; while first floor rooms in this wing have barrel ceilings throughout and contain some C18 chimneypieces of black marble.” 

The website tells us more about the history:

The name Lyrath is thought to date back to Norman times when “Strongbow” settled in Ireland during the Norman invasion. The area was originally called Le Rar or Le Rath by the French speaking De Ponte family who during the 12th century lived in the Monastery which was once located within the grounds. There is also a mention of a castle which was once said to have been situated within the grounds.

Prior to 1653 the lands were owned by the Shortall family, who then rented the ‘old castle in repair’ and land to Thomas Tobin, Constable of the Barony of Gowran. In 1664, a gentleman named Thomas Mances, paid a sum of 4s ‘hearth money’ for the old castle.

Later in the Seventeenth Century the property was acquired by Richard Wheeler through his kinship to Jonah Wheeler the Bishop of Ossary. By then the original ‘Tobin’ castle had been demolished.

Richard Wheeler’s son, Jonah Wheeler, married Elisabeth Denny-Cuffe, a descendant of the Desart-Cuffe family who had extensive landed property in the Counties of Carlow and Kilkenny, on his marriage Jonah decided to adopt the name Cuffe.

In 1814 the grandson of Jonah, also named Jonah, was living in the house with his with Elisabeth Browne, from Brownes Hill in neighbouring Carlow. Sir Jonah died in 1853 and his elder son, Sir Charles Denny Wheeler-Cuffe succeeded him.

To redesign the house Sir Charles engaged the services of John McCurdy, a Dublin born Architect, whose other commissions with his partner, William Mitchell, include Kilkenny’s Knocktopher Abbey, Dublin’s famous ‘Shelbourne Hotel’ and the South City Markets.

The current house is one of the most important surviving country houses built by John McCurdy.

Sir Charles and Pauline had no children, so on the death of Sir Charles, his nephew Sir Ottway Fortesque Luke Wheeler-Cuffe inherited the baronetcy and demesne of Lyrath and became the primary resident. Sir Ottaway married Charlotte Isabel Williams in 1897. Lady Charlotte was the earliest known botanical explorer to reach the remote areas Burma and it was during these trips that she discovered several plants including two new species of Rhododendrons, Burmanicum, and Cuffianum (named after her). Cuffianum, the white rhododendron is extremely rare and has not been collected by any botanist since Lady Wheeler-Cuffe found in 1911.

Sir Ottway and Lady Charlotte stayed in Burma until Sir Ottway’s retirement in August 1921 when they finally returned to live at Lyrath. On her return to Lyrath, Lady Charlotte redesigned the gardens. The Conservatory adjacent to Tupper’s Bar in the new Hotel overlooks the Victorian garden designer by her which has been carefully restored to her original design (based on family records and drawings), they are also home to the ancient yew trees which are now protected by a preservation order.

Lady Charlotte lived in the house until her death in 1966 in her 100th year.

Following the death of Lady Charlotte, in 1967 the property was inherited by Lieutenant-Colonel G.W. Tupper whose grandfather had married Sir Charles’ sister in 1846. Reginald’s great nephew, Captain Anthony Tupper and his wife moved into the house and ran it as a traditional estate farm with a herd of Jersey cows, hens, and geese in the yard, calves in the haggard field and a big old-fashioned kitchen with dogs and cats which rambled in and out at will.

The Tuppers remained in the house until 1997.

When the Tuppers left, there was an auction at the house of all the furniture and the bits and pieces accumulated over several lifetimes laid out and labelled for sale. Fortunately, Xavier McAuliffe managed to obtain many of the items on auction that day, these items are now on display in the house and include to original large portraits hanging in the hallway and other paintings on display.

Xavier purchased the Estate in 2003 and developed the house into Lyrath Estate Hotel and Convention Centre, which opened its doors to the public in 2006.

7. Mount Juliet, Thomastown, County Kilkenny – hotel

Mount Juliet Gardens, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, photograph by Finn Richards 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. (see [2])
Drawing room of Mount Juliet, County Kilkenny, Date/ 2 November 1920 courtesy of National Library of Ireland NLI Ref./ P_WP_2886.

Mark Bence-Jones writes of Mount Juliet:

p. 214. “(Butler, Carrick, E/PB; McCalmont/IFR) A mid to late C18 house built by the 1st Earl of Carrick [Somerset Hamilton Butler, 8th Viscount Ikerrin and 1st Earl of Carrick (1719-1774)] across the River Nore from the former family seat, Ballylinch Castle on an estate which he had bought ca 1750 from Rev Thomas Bushe [1727-1795], of Kilmurry; traditionally named by him after his wife [Juliana Boyle, daugher of the 1st Earl of Shannon]. Of three storeys over basement, front of seven bays between two shallow curved bows, each having three windows. One bay central breakfront, with Venetian windows in the two upper storeys above tripartite pedimented and fanlighted doorway. Centre window in two lower storeys of bows roundheaded. Perron and double steps in front of entrance door, with iron railings. High pitched roof and massive stacks. Sold 1914 by 6th Earl of Carrick to the McCalmonts who had leased the house for some years. Major Dermot McCalmont made a new entrance in what had formerly been the back of the house, where the main block is flanked by two storey wings, extending at right angles from  it to form a shallow three sided court, and joined to it by curved sweeps. The interior of the house was richly decorated by 2nd Earl of Carrick 1780s with plasterwork in the manner of Michael Stapleton. The hall, which is long and narrow, is divided by an arcade carried on fluted Ionic columns, beyond which rises a bifurcating staircase with a balustrade of plain slender uprights; the present entrance being by way of a porch built out at the back of the staircase. The rooms on either side of the hall in what was formerly the entrance front and is now the garden front have plasterwork ceilings; one with a centre medallion of a hunting scene, another with a medallion of a man shooting. One of these rooms, the dining room, also has plasterwork on the walls, incorporating medallions with Classical reliefs. One of the wings flanking the present entrance front contains a ballroom made by Major Dermot McCalmont 1920s, with a frieze of late C18 style plasterwork; it is reached by way of a curving corridor. The demesne of Mount Juliet is one of the finest in Ireland, with magnificent hardwoods above the River Nore ; it includes the Ballylinch demesne across the river. There is a series of large walled gardens near the house Mount Juliet is famous for its stud, founded by Major Dermot McCalmont 1915. Sold 1987.” 

8. Shankill Castle, Co Kilkenny – see above

9. Tubbrid Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 8

https://www.tubbridcastle.com/

Tubbrid Castle, photograph courtesy of https://www.tubbridcastle.com/

and https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/29598290?adults=2&category_tag=Tag%3A8047&children=0&infants=0&search_mode=flex_destinations_search&check_in=2022-06-05&check_out=2022-06-10&federated_search_id=6eebbe51-3470-4008-be61-4228d4019473&source_impression_id=p3_1652359358_O%2F1m3ENyNNeiOZ%2Bf

The entry tells us:

Tubbrid Castle is a unique 15th-century tower house, uninhabited for the last century and now restored to its former glory. We’ve highlighted original features to let you step back in time and added luxury touches so you can indulge your inner prince or princess.

Heritage

Tubbrid Castle stands at an important point on the borders of the ancient kingdoms of Laighean and Mumhan. Built as a defensive structure to protect the territory of the Butlers of Ormond, the tower house was home to generations of families allied to the Butlers of Kilkenny Castle. The architectural significance of Tubbrid Castle is denoted by its designation as a National Monument and a Protected Structure.

In 942 AD, Muircheartach, King of modern-day Ulster, marched his army of 1000 Leather Cloaks south to avenge his allies, who had been attacked by Callaghan, King of Cashel. Muircheartach’s bard, Colmanach, recorded the journey in an epic poem, Circuit of Ireland, in which he praised the beauty of Osraí (now Kilkenny), and the hospitality of its people. At the edge of enemy territory and on the cusp of battle, Muircheartach’s army set up camp in Tubbrid, on a plain that a millennium later is still called Bán an Champa (the Field of the Encampment). The King himself is thought to have slept at the fort where Tubbrid Castle now stands. A thousand years later, the people of Kilkenny still pride ourselves on our warm hospitality and from the top floor bedroom of Tubbrid Castle you can survey Bán an Champa and enjoy lodgings befitting a king.

Tubbrid Castle, photograph courtesy of https://www.tubbridcastle.com/

The website tells us that Margeret Fitzgerald, 8th Countess of Ormond, is supposed to have had the castle built. When the Countess visited Tubbrid, she is said to have slept at the castle’s highest point, to keep her safe from enemy attackers. She is buried with her husband Piers Butler (8th Earl of Ormond) under elaborate effigies at St Canice’s Cathedral, in Kilkenny City.

A detailed written description of the castle comes from James Mease in 1851, writing for the Transactions of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society. Mease claims that, according to locals at the time, there were three ditches surrounding the castle, which had been dug away for manure. Supposedly a cannon ball was found during these works. No trace of these outer fortifications survives today. Mease believed that the castle may have been built on an ancient mound or rath, and perhaps at an old habitation site that might have been the location where the King of Aileach, mentioned in the poem of 971 camped. The ground and second floor were wicker-vaulted and at the time this paper was written, some of the wicker was still in place. We know from the Griffith Valuation that this castle was owned at the time by Arthur St. George, Esq. and leased to Catherine Campion.

Around the turn of the 19th century, the roof was removed from Tubbrid Castle, leaving it open to the elements and accelerating structural decay. By the turn of the millenium, the corners were crumbling and floors were sagging.

John Campion Snr began working on the tower house, aiming at first simply to prevent its collapse. Over several years he repointed the facade and applied a traditional lime mortar, known as harling. The tower house was re-roofed in green oak, in the same style as the original, with no nails or screws.

In 2016, John Campion Jnr took over the restoration of Tubbrid Castle. Following archaeological impact reports, and with input from the National Monuments Office, John completed the restoration and fit-out of the tower house, turning it into a three-bedroom home.”

10. Waterside Guest House, Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny

https://www.watersideguesthouse.com

Phone: (059) 9724246

Email: info@watersideguesthouse.com

Waterside Guesthouse Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, photograph courtesy of website.

This is set in a beautiful old 19th century granite corn store on the River Barrow in Graiguenamanagh.

Whole House rental, County Kilkenny:

1. Annamult House, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny – whole house rental 

Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.

https://annamultcountryhouseestate.com

Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.

The website tells us:

Annamult County House Estate is a lovely Grade I listed ancient Manor House in the heart of the countryside in Kilkenny with parts dating back to the 16th century. But unlike other grand old homes, Annamult Country House Estate is warm, friendly and welcoming with unlimited hot water, central heating and log fires throughout with beautiful antiques. A uniquely beautiful Country Estate. It’s light, bright and airy. And the moment you step through the door it feels like home.

The website describes the accommodation as 7 Bedrooms, 1 on the lower ground floor, 1 wheelchair accessible bedroom on the ground floor and 4 very large formal bedrooms upstairs and our Japanese Bedroom at the heart of the house . 4 Bedrooms are ensuite with the Bed 1 and 2 sharing a Bathroom nestled between them

Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.

The National Inventory describes Annamult: “Detached four-bay two-storey double gable-fronted Tudor-style country house, c.1825, incorporating fabric of earlier house, pre-1771, with three-bay single-storey flat-roofed projecting open porch to centre ground floor, three-bay two-storey side elevations, and five-bay three-storey lower wing to left having single-bay (two-bay deep) two-storey connecting return to east...Forming a picturesque landmark rising above a mature wooded setting on a bank at the confluence of the Kings River and the River Nore a large-scale country house exhibiting a robust Tudor theme represents an important element of the architectural heritage of County Kilkenny. Having origins in an eighteenth-century range the architectural design value of the composition is identified by elegant attributes including the porch displaying high quality stone masonry reminiscent of a similar treatment at the contemporary (c.1825) Shankill Castle (12306002/KK-16-06-02), the Classically-inspired Wyatt-style tripartite openings, the enriched parapet, and so on: the wing incorporating minimal surface detailing is comparatively demure in quality. Having been carefully maintained to present an early aspect the house makes a significant contribution to the character of the locality. The house remains of additional importance for the associations with the Prim, the Nevill (Neville), and the Bayley families.

Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.
Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.
Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.

“You can dine inside or outside in luxury
you can picnic on the island , the riverside or in the woods .
You can relax or play on the lawns .
Climb trees
Boules on the lawns
Croquet on the lawns
You can swim in the river
You can fish in the river
You can walk in the woods
You can relax in the silence
You can star gaze at the firepit
You can play loud music
Great exploration for kids
you can birdwatch and spot some fab wildlife like our buzzards and hawks .
You may come across the deer in the woods
Watch out for badgers … Its ok they are nocturnal only .
Various local suppliers will run group activities on the grounds from yoga to tag archery.”

Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.
Annamult House, courtesy of Annamult website.

2. Ballybur Castle, County Kilkenny €€€ for two, € for 10

http://www.ballyburcastle.com/

Photograph courtesy of Ballybur website.

The website tells us:

Ballybur Castle is the ancient seat of the Comerford clan, built by Richard Comerford around 1588. Despite the violent times, it seems to have maintained a fairly peaceful existance. It was one of the seats of the powerful Comerford family, the only one remaining.

Ballybur Castle is typical of the single family castles of that period, built primarily for protection against warring groups travelling the countryside. They were usually surrounded by more temporary structures where the farm labourers lived and livestock were kept.

When trouble was brewing, a roofwatch was kept and at the sight of any hostile group, labourers and livestock were gathered into the castle.

The Comerford castles flourished in the 1500s and well into the 16th century, all three castles were clustered in this area. (There were two more castles near Ballybur Castle belonging to the Comerford clan).

One can imagine the social standing of the Comerfords, the entertainment and grand parties that took place in their castles were renowned. The Comerfords occupied Ballybur Castle during the confederation that took place in Kilkenny in 1641.

“And so it happened that the papal Nunco, Cardinal Rinnuncini on his way to Kilkenny stopped at Ballybur Castle where a reception was held in honour of him and many important personages came to pay their respect.”

The cardinal presented a very ornate rosary to Richard and Mary Comerford. This rosary was passed on through generations of the castle’s owners at Ballybur. It was presented to Rothe House by father Langton Hayward who said he was given the rosary by the Marnell sisters in 1970, who still occupied the castle.

John Comerford, son of Richard Comerford, was the last Comerford to reside at Ballybur Castle. He was banished to Connaught in 1654 and forfeited his castle and lands to Brian Manseragh during the Cromwellian distribution survey of that period. Interestingly, this Brian Manseragh is a forefather of Martin Manseragh, the present T.D. from Tipparary who was the Taoiseach’s special advisor for the north during the current peace negotiations.

We know little about the period between 1655 until 1841 when it is stated that Thomas Deigan was the occupier of Ballybur.

I found a photograph in the National Library of Ireland that seems to tell us that a James Murphy lived in Ballybur, who had a daughter, Kathleen. Carol Maddock provides an extract from the Kilkenny People on the day: “… in the O’Loughlin Memorial Church in St. John’s Parish, when Chevalier Thomas O’Loughlin, Killarney Villa, Ballarat, Australia, was united in marriage with Miss Kathleen Murphy, fifth daughter of Mr. James Murphy, Ballybur Castle, Co. Kilkenny. Chevalier O’Loughlin (or Count O’Loughlin, as he now is[…]) is a prominent figure in the Catholic world in Ireland and Australia. A native of Kilkenny and the inheritor of a vast fortune in the Southern Continent … The wedding ceremony was fixed for 8 o’clock…[about thirty priests con-celebrated the mass, even some from Australia!] … followed by her sisters, the Misses Daisy and Sheela Murphy…”

Chevalier O’Loughlin wedding, large family group, 27 September 1911 (date of wedding) Photographer: A. H. Poole of Poole Photographic Studio, Waterford National Library of Ireland Ref POOLEWP 2350a

Locally it is known that the Marnell sisters married into the Deigan family. They occupied Ballybur until Frank and Aifric Gray bought it in 1979.

“The Grays at Ballybur By Ruan Gray

When mum and dad bought Ballybur in 1979, there was no roof on the castle as it is said that; “Cromwell blew it off with a cannon at the end of Ballybur lane.”

At the time when my parents bought the castle, it was in a very poor state of repair. It was their intention to spend five years on it’s restoration. They received grant aid from the Kilkenny County Council to replace the windows, some help towards the rebuilding of the roof from the Heritage Council and from Barrow Suir Development to complete the renovation.

It is now 25 years since the work began, and it has been mostly accomplished by dad and some local builders. Now it is completely refurbished and open to visitors. It truly has been a labour of love.

3. Castle Blunden, County Kilkenny – whole house rental

hhiref@castleblunden.com https://www.castleblunden.com/

Castle Blunden courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

A few miles from the cathedral city of Kilkenny, Castle Blunden stands on an elevated site in the midst of mature parkland. Dating from the 1750s, and still owned by the Blunden family, this pretty seven-bay building is typical of County Kilkenny houses from the mid-Georgian period. The house is rendered, with a profusion of cut limestone decoration and details, and a handsome sprocketed roof, while the later Doric porch compliments the symmetry of the facade. The basement is concealed by a ramped gravel approach, which makes the house appear both lower and wider than is actually the case, while the small lakes to either side add to the overall air of enchantment.” [7]

The National Inventory tells us:

Representing an important element of the mid eighteenth-century architectural legacy of County Kilkenny a Classically-composed substantial country house built to designs attributed to Francis Bindon (c.1698-1765) in a manner reminiscent of the contemporary (1737) Bonnettstown Hall (12401909/KK-19-09) nearby has been very well maintained to present an early aspect with the original composition attributes surviving in place together with most of the historic fabric both to the exterior and to the interior. Sparsely-detailed the external expression of the house is enlivened by limestone dressings including a somewhat squat portico displaying high quality stone masonry. Forming the centrepiece of a large-scale estate the resulting ensemble having long-standing connections with the Blunden family makes a pleasant contribution to the visual appeal of the local landscape.”

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

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

[3] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/12000025/rothe-house-15-16-parliament-street-gardens-st-johns-par-kilkenny-co-kilkenny

[4] https://archiseek.com/2010/1594-rothe-house-kilkenny-co-kilkenny/

[5] 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.

[6] https://www.irishlandmark.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Clomantagh_castle.pdf

and http://kilkennyarchaeologicalsociety.ie

[7] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Castle%20Blunden

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

Borris House, County Carlow

contact: Morgan Kavanagh, 087 245 4791

www.borrishouse.com
Open dates in 2022: Apr 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28, May 1, 3-5, 8, 10-12, 15, 17-19, 22, 24-26, 31, July 10, 12-14, 17, 19-21, 24, 26-28, Aug 2-4, 14-25, 30-31, Sept 1, 6-8, 13-15, 20- 22, 27-29, 12 noon-4pm

Fee: adult €10, child €6, OAP/student €8

Borris House, Carlow, photograph by Suzanne Clarke, 2016 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.

I had been particularly looking forward to visiting Borris House. It feels like I have a personal link to it, because my great great grandmother’s name is Harriet Cavanagh, from Carlow, and Borris House is the home of the family of Kavanaghs of Carlow, and the most famous resident of the house, Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh, was the son of a Harriet Kavanagh! Unfortunately I don’t think there’s a connection.

We were able to park right outside on the main street of Borris, across from the entrance. My fond familial feelings immediately faded when faced with the grandeur of the entrance to Borris House. I shrank into a awestruck tourist and meekly followed instructions at the Gate Lodge to make my way across the sweep of grass to the front entrance of the huge castle of a house.

We brought our friend Damo along with us – here he is with Stephen at the entrance arch. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us that this entrance was designed by Richard Morrison, in around 1813. It has an arch opening with crenellations, flanking turrets and buttressed walls. [1]
A view of the arched entrance from inside the demesne.

Unlike other section 482 houses – with the few exceptions such as Birr Castle and Tullynally – Borris House has a very professional set-up to welcome visitors as one goes through the gate lodge. The website does not convey this, as it emphasises the house’s potential as a wedding venue, but the property is in fact fully set up for daily guided tours, and has a small gift shop in the gate lodge, through which one enters to the demesne. Borris House is still a family home and is inhabited by descendants of the original owners.

Approach to the front of the house from the gate lodge
Standing at the front of the house looking to our left at the beautiful landscape

Originally a castle would have been built in the location on the River Barrow to guard the area. From the house one can see Mount Leinster and the Blackstairs Mountains. The current owner, Morgan Kavanagh, can trace his ancestry back to the rather notorious Dermot MacMurrough (Diarmait mac Murchadha in Irish), who “invited the British in to Ireland” or rather, asked for help in protecting his Kingship. The MacMurroughs, or Murchadhas, were Celtic kings of Leinster. “MacMurrough” was the title of an elected Lord. Dermot pledged an oath of allegiance to King Henry II of Britain and the Norman “Strongbow,” or Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, came to Ireland to fight alongside Dermot MacMurrough against Dermot’s enemies. As a reward, Dermot MacMurrough offered Strongbow the hand of his daughter Aoife. Succeeding generations of MacMurrough family controlled the area, maintaining their Gaelic traditions.

In the late 14th century, Art mac Murchadha was one of the Irish kings who was offered the a knighthood by King Richard II of England. Henry VIII, in the 1500s, sought to reduce the power of the Irish kings and to have them swear loyalty to him. In 1550 Charles MacMurrough Kavanagh (the Anglicised version of the name ‘Cahir MacArt’ MacMurrough Kavanagh) “submitted himself, and publicly renounced the title and dignity of MacMorrough, as borne by his ancestors.” [2] (note the various spellings of MacMorrough/MacMurrough).

We gathered with a few others to wait outside the front of the house for our tour guide on a gloriously sunny day in July 2019. Some of the others seemed to be staying at the house. For weddings there is accommodation in the house and also five Victorian cottages. We did not get to see these in the tour but you can see them on the website. Unfortunately our tour guide was not a member of the family but she was knowledgeable about the house and its history.

The current house was built originally as a three storey square house, in 1731, incorporating part of an old castle. We can gather that this was the date of completion of the house from a carved date stone. It was built for Morgan Kavanagh, according to the Borris House website, a descendent of Charles MacMurrough Kavanagh. [3] It was damaged in the 1798 Rebellion and rebuilt and altered by Richard and William Vitruvius Morrison into what one can see today. According to Edmund Joyce in his book Borris House, Co. Carlow, and elite regency patronage, it was Walter Kavanagh who commissioned the work, which was taken over by brother Thomas when Walter died in 1818. [4]. The Morrisons gave it a Tudor exterior although as Mark Bence-Jones points out in his Guide to Irish Country Houses, the interiors by the Morrisons are mostly Classical.

The Morrisons kept the original square three storey building symmetrical. Edmund Joyce references McCullough, Irish Building Traditions, writing that “The Anglo-Irish landlords at the beginning of the 19th century who wanted to establish a strong family history with positive Irish associations were beginning to use the castle form – which had long been a status of power both in Ireland and further afield – to embed the notion of a long and powerful lineage into the mindset of the audience.” In keeping with this castle ideal, the Morrisons added battlemented parapets with finials, and the crenellated arcaded porch on the entrance, with slightly pointed arches, as well as four square corner turrets to the house, topped with cupolas (which are no longer there). They also created rather fantastical Tudor Gothic curvilinear hood mouldings over the windows, some “ogee” shaped (convex and concave curves; found in Gothic and Gothic-Revival architecture) [5]. These mouldings drop down from the top of the windows to finish with sculptured of heads of kings and queens. These are not representations of anyone in particular, the guide told us, but are idealised sculptures representing royalty to remind one of the Celtic kingship of the Kavanaghs. As well as illustrating their heritage in architecture, Walter commissioned an illustrated book of the family pedigree, tracing the family tree back to 1670 BC! It highlights the marriages with prominent families, which are also illustrated in the stained glass window in the main stairwell at Borris.

An ogee shaped hood moulding.

The guide pointed to the many configurations of windows on the front facade of the house. They were deliberately made different, she told us, to create the illusion that the different types of windows are from different periods, even though they are not! This was to reflect the fact that various parts of the building were built at different times.

The crest of the family on the front of the house on the portico features a crescent moon for peace, sheaf of wheat for plenty and a lion passant for royalty. The motto is written in Irish, to show the Celtic heredity of the Kavanaghs, and means “peace and plenty.”

The Morrisons also added a castellated office wing, joining the house to a chapel. This wing has been partially demolished.

View of the chapel from the front of the house, and beyond, the path leads to the gate lodge. In between the chapel and the house you can see the wall which once housed the kitchen, with the octagonal chimney stack built into the wall.
Side of Borris House, with the later wing that was added, that stretches toward the chapel
The square tower contained the nursery, the guide told us.
Side of Borris House with the chapel in the foreground.

Charles MacMurrough Kavanagh’s son Brian (c. 1526-1576) converted to Protestantism and sent his children to be educated in England. One of them, Sir Morgan Kavanagh, acquired the estate of Borris when he was granted the forfeited estates of the O’Ryans of Idrone in County Carlow. When Protestants were attacked in 1641 by a Catholic rebellion, the MacMurrough Kavanaghs were spared due to their ancient Irish lineage. Later, when Cromwell rampaged through Ireland, they were spared since they were Protestant, so they had the best of both worlds during those turbulent times.

The tour guide took us first towards the chapel. She explained the structure of the house as we trooped across the lawn. She pointed out the partially demolished stretch between the square part of the house and the chapel. All that remains of this demolished section is a wall. The octagonal towerlike structures built into the wall were chimneys and the demolished part was the kitchen. The square tower that joins the house to the demolished kitchen contained the nursery. The wing was demolished to reduce the amount of rates to be paid. The house was reoriented during rebuilding, the guide told us, and a walled garden was built with a gap between the walls which could be filled with coal and heated! I love learning of novel mechanisms in homes and gardens, techniques which are no longer used but which may be useful to resurrect as we try to develop more sustainable ways of living (not that we’d want to go back to using coal).

As I mentioned, the house was badly damaged in 1798, when the United Irishmen rose up in an attempt to create an independent Ireland. Although the Kavanaghs are of Irish descent and are not a Norman or English family, this did not save them from the 1798 raids. The house was not badly damaged in a siege but outbuildings were. The invaders were looking for weapons inside the house, the guide told us. The Irish Aesthete writes tells us: “Walter MacMurrough Kavanagh wrote to his brother-in-law that although a turf and coal house were set on fire and efforts made to bring ‘fire up to the front door under cover of a car on which were raised feather beds and mattresses’ [their efforts] were unsuccessful.” [6]

Edmund Joyce describes the raid in his book on Borris House (pg. 21-22):

“The rebels who had marched overnight from Vinegar Hill in Wexford…arrived at Borris House on the morning of 12 June. They were met by a strong opposing group of Donegal militia, who had taken up their quarters in the house. It seems that the MacMurrough Kavanaghs had expected such unrest and in anticipation had the lower windows…lately built up with strong masonry work. Despite the energetic battle, those defending the house appear to have been indefatigable, and the rebels, ‘whose cannons were too small to have any effect on the castle…’ the mob retreated back to their camps in Wexford.”

The estate was 30,000 acres at one point, but the Land Acts reduced it in the 1930s to 750 acres, which the present owner farms organically. The outbuildings which were built originally to house the workings of the house – abbatoir, blacksmith, dairy etc, were burnt in one of the sieges and so all the outbuildings now to be seen, the guide told us, were built in the nineteenth century.

It is worth outlining some of the genealogy of this ancient family, as they intermarried with many prominent families of their day. Morgan Kavanagh who probably commissioned the building of the 1730s house, married Frances Esmonde, daughter of Laurence Esmonde of Huntington Castle (another section 482 property I visited). His son Brian married Mary Butler, daughter of Thomas Butler of Kilcash. Their son Thomas (1727-1790) married another Butler, Susanna, daughter of the 16th Earl of Ormonde. It was the following generation, another Thomas (1767-1837), who is relevant to our visit to the chapel.

This Thomas was originally a Catholic. He married yet another Butler, Elizabeth Wandesford Butler, in 1825. At some time he converted to Protestantism. It must have been before 1798 because in that year he represented Kilkenny City in Parliament and at that time only members of the Established Church could serve in Parliament. His second wife, Harriet Le Poer Trench, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Clancarty, was of staunch Scottish Protestant persuasion [7]. When he converted, the chapel had to be reconsecrated as a Protestant chapel. According to legend, Lady Harriet had a statue of the Virgin Mary removed from the chapel and asked the workmen to get rid of it. The workmen, staunch Catholics, buried the statue in the garden. People believed that for this act, Lady Harriet was cursed, and it was said that one day her family would be “led by a cripple.”

The story probably came about because Harriet’s third son, Arthur, was born without arms or legs. As she had given birth to two older sons, and he had another half-brother, Walter, son of Thomas’s first wife, it seemed unlikely that Arthur would be the heir. However, the three older brothers all died before Arthur and Arthur did indeed become the heir to Borris House.

Arthur MacMorrough Kavanagh, M.P., (1831-1839), Politician and Sportsman Date after 1889 Engraver Morris & Co. Photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland.

The plasterwork in the chapel, which is called the Chapel of St. Molin, is by Michael Stapleton.

While we sat in the chapel, our guide told us about the amazing Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh. When her husband Walter died, Harriet and her children went travelling. They travelled broadly, and she painted, and collected objects which she brought back to Ireland, including a collection of artefacts from Egypt now in the National Museum of Ireland. When Arthur was 17 years old his mother sent him travelling again, to get him away from his high jinks with the local girls. Arthur kept diaries, which are available for perusal in the National Library. I must have a look! I have a special interest in diaries, since I have been keeping my own since I was twelve years old. Some of Arthur’s adventures include being captured and being cruelly put on display by a tribe. He also fell ill and found himself being nursed back to health in a harem – little did the Sultan or head of the harem realise that Arthur was perfectly capable of impregnating the ladies!

Arthur’s brother and tutor died on their travels and Arthur found himself alone in India. He joined the East India Company as a dispatch rider – he was an excellent horseman, as he could be strapped in to a special saddle, which we saw inside the house, now mounted on a children’s riding horse! I was also thrilled to see his wheelchair, in the Dining Room, which is now converted into a dining chair.

Arthur MacMurrough’s saddle in mounted on the rocking horse. Photograph by Paul Barker, 2011, for Country Life.

When Arthur came home as heir, he found his mother had set up a school of lacemaking, now called Borris Lace, to help the local women to earn money during the difficult Famine years. The lace became famous and was sold to Russian and English royalty. The rest of the estate, however, was in poor shape. Arthur set about making it profitable, bringing the railway to Borris, building a nearby viaduct, which cost €20,000 to build. He also built cottages in the town, winning a design medal from the Royal Dublin Society, and he set up a sawmill, from which tenants were given free timber to roof their houses. He set up limekilns for building material, and also experimented (unsuccessfully) with “water gas” to power the crane used to built the viaduct. His mother built a fever house, dower house and a Protestant school, and Arthur’s sisters built a Catholic school. There is a little schoolhouse (with bell, in the picture below) behind the chapel.

Arthur seems to have had a great sense of humour. On one of his visits to Abbeyleix, he remarked to Lady De Vesci, “It’s an extraordinary thing – I haven’t been here for five years but the stationmaster recognised me.”

Arthur married Mary Frances Forde-Leathley and fathered six children. He became an MP for Carlow and Kilkenny, and sat in the House of Commons in England, which he reached by sailing as far as London, where he was then carried in to the houses of Parliament.

He lost when he ran again for Parliament in 1880, beaten by the Home Rule candidates. He returned from London after his defeat and saw bonfires, which were often lit by his tenants to celebrate his return. However, this time, horrifically, he saw his effigy being burned on the bonfires by tenants celebrating the triumph of the Home Rule candidates. He must have been devastated, as he had worked so hard for his tenants and treated them generously. For more about him, see the Irish Aesthete’s entry about him. [8]

Jimmy O’Toole’s book gives a detailed description of politics at the time of Arthur’s defeat and explains why the tenants behaved in such a brutal way. Elections grew heated and dangerous in the days of the Land League and of Charles Stewart Parnell, when tenants hoped to own their own land. In the 1841 election, tenants of the Kavanaghs were forced to vote for the Tory candidate against Daniel O’Connell Jr., despite a visit from Daniel O’Connell Sr, “The Liberator” who fought for Catholic emancipation. The land agent for the Kavanaghs, Charles Doyne, threatened the tenants with eviction if they did not vote for his favoured candidate. In response to threats of eviction, members of the Land League forced tenants to support their cause by publicly shaming anyone who dared to oppose them. People were locked into buildings to prevent them from voting, or on the other hand, were locked in to protect them from attacks which took place if they planned to support the Tory candidate. Not all Irish Catholics supported the Land League. Labourers realised that landlords provided employment which would be lost if the land was divided for small farmers.

It was Arthur’s grandfather, Thomas, who undertook much of the renovation work at Borris in the 1800s, with money brought into the family by his wife, Susanna Butler. [9] Under her influence, Italian workmen were employed and ceilings were decorated and Scagliola pillars installed. After hearing the stories about amazing Arthur, we returned across the lawn to enter the main house.

The front hall is square but is decorated with a circular ceiling of rich plasterwork, “treated as a rotunda with segmental pointed arches and scagliola columns; eagles in high relief in the spandrels of the arches and festoons above,” as Mark Bence-Jones describes in his inimitable style [see 5, p. 45]. We were not allowed to take photographs but the Irish Aesthete’s site has terrific photographs [see 3]. The eagles represent strength and power. There are also the sheafs of wheat, crescent moons and lion heads, symbols from the family crest. Another common motif in the house is a Grecian key pattern.

Photograph by Paul Barker, 2011, from Country Life picture library.
Photograph by Paul Barker, 2011, from Country Life picture library.
Side of the house

The craftwork and furnishings of the house are all built by Irish craftsmen, including mahogany doors. There is a clever vent in the wall that brings hot air from the kitchens to heat the room.

We next went into the music room which has a beautiful domed oval ceiling with intricate plasterwork. It includes the oak leaf for strength and longevity.

The drawing room has another pretty Stapleton ceiling, more feminine, as this was a Ladies’ room. It has lovely pale blue walls, and was originally the front entrance to the house. When it was made into a circular room the leftover bits of the original rectangular room form small triangular spaces, which were used as a room for preparing the tea, a small library with a bookcase, and a bathroom. The curved mahogany doors were also made by Irish craftsmen in Dublin, Mack, Williams and Gibton.

The dining room has more scagliola columns at one end, framing the serving sideboard, commissioned specially by Morrison for Borris House. It was sold in the 1950s but bought back by later owners. [10]The room has more rich plasterwork by Michael Stapleton: a Celtic design on the ceiling, and ox skulls represent the feasting of Chieftains. With the aid of portraits in the dining room, the guide told us more stories about the family. It was sad to hear how Arthur had to put an end to the tradition of the locals standing outside the dining room windows, and gentry inside, to observe the diners. He did not like to be seen eating, as he had to be fed.

We saw the portrait of Lady Susanna’s husband, whom her sister Charlotte Eleanor dubbed “Fat Thomas.” Eleanor formed a relationship with Sarah Ponsonby, and they ran away from their families to be together. As a result, Eleanor was taken to stay with her sister’s family in Borris House, and she must have felt imprisoned by her sister’s husband, hence the insulting moniker. Eleanor managed to escape and to make her way to Woodstock, the house in County Kilkenny where Sarah was staying. Finally their families capitulated and accepted their plans to live together. They set up house in Wales, in Llangollen, and were known as The Ladies of Llangollen They were visited by many famous people, including Anna Seward, William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott, Charles and Erasmus Darwin, Sir Arthur Wellesley and Josiah Wedgewood.

Mark Bence-Jones describes an upstairs library with ceiling of alternate barrel and rib vaults, above a frieze of wreaths that is a hallmark of the Morrisons, which unfortunately we did not get to see. We didn’t get to go upstairs but we saw the grand Bath stone cantilevered staircase. The room was originally an open courtyard.

We then went out to the Ballroom, which was originally built by Arthur as a billiard room, with a gun room at one end and a planned upper level of five bedrooms. The building was not finished as planned as Arthur died. It is now used for weddings and entertainment.

In 1958 the house faced ruin, when Joane Kavanagh’s husband, Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Macalpine-Downie, died, and she decided to move to a smaller house. However,her son, Andrew Macalpine-Downie, born 1948, after a career as a jockey in England, returned to Borris, with his wife Tina Murray, he assumed the name Kavanagh, and set himself the task of preventing the house becoming a ruin. [11]

We were welcomed to wander the garden afterwards.

I was delighted with the sheep who must keep the grass down.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/10400804/borris-house-borris-borris-co-carlow

[2] p. 33, MacDonnell, Randal. The Lost Houses of Ireland. A chronicle of great houses and the families who lived in them. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. London, 2002.

[3] https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/11/04/an-arthurian-legend/

The Borris website claims that the 1731 house was built for Morgan Kavanagh, but the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne writes that the 1731 house was built by Brian Kavanagh, incorporating part of the fifteenth century castle. I have the date of 1720 as the death for Morgan Kavanagh and he has a son, Brian, so it could be the case that the house was commissioned by Morgan and completed by his son Brian.

[4] Joyce, Edmond. Borris House, Co. Carlow, and elite regency patronage. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2013.

[5] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/18/architectural-definitions/

and 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.

[6] https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/11/04/an-arthurian-legend/

This entry also has lovely pictures of the inside of Borris House and more details about the history of the house and family.

[7] p. 130. O’Toole, Jimmy. The Carlow Gentry: What will the neighbours say! Published by Jimmy O’Toole, Carlow, Ireland, 1993. Printed by Leinster Leader Ltd, Naas, Kildare.

[8] https://theirishaesthete.com/2013/11/04/an-arthurian-legend/

[9] for more on the Butlers see John Kirwan’s book, The Chief Butlers of Ireland and the House of Ormond, An Illustrated Genealogical Guide, published by Irish Academic Press, Newbridge, County Kildare, 2018. Stephen and I went to see John Kirwan give a fascinating talk on his book at the Irish Georgian Society’s Assembly House in Dublin.

[10] p. 115. Fitzgerald, Desmond et al. Great Irish Houses. Published by IMAGE Publications Ltd, Dublin, 2008.

[11] p. 134. O’Toole, Jimmy. The Carlow Gentry: What will the neighbours say! Published by Jimmy O’Toole, Carlow, Ireland, 1993. Printed by Leinster Leader Ltd, Naas, Kildare.

The Old Rectory, Killedmond, Borris, Co Carlow

contact: Mary White

Tel: 087-2707189

https://www.blackstairsecotrails.ie/

Open dates in 2022: July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €6, child free.

A five bay two storey Tudor-Gothic Revival house with three dormer windows and a loggia.

This is such a pretty house, a “cottage ornée,” a little like a gingerbread house! According to the Irish Historic Houses website, the Old Rectory in Killedmond, near Borris in County Carlow, is:

“a mid-19th century house in a restrained Tudor-Revival style, which looks out over the valley of the River Barrow to the Blackstairs Mountains beyond. Designed by the architect Frederick Darley for the Kavanagh family of nearby Mount Leinster Lodge, the house is an accomplished and dramatic arrangement that uses gables, dormer windows, bargeboards and finials to produce a symmetrical five-bay façade. The three central bays on the ground floor are recessed behind a glazed loggia, flanked by the end bays, which break forward and terminate in wide gables.” [1] [2]

I arranged with Mary White to visit in the first week that the Covid 19 lockdown lifted. Mary and her husband Robert run a business, the Blackstairs Eco Centre, from their home, as can be seen on the lovely wooden sign outside their gates. They have four sweet “shepherds huts” for overnight stays, and hold tree trail walks and wild food courses on the property. [3]

In the article in the Irish Times which first prompted me to embark on the project of visiting Section 482 houses, there was a picture of Mary swimming in her own lake. That to me looked like heaven. We had a few minutes to wander in the gardens around the house before we met Mary so I was delighted to find and photograph the small lake, which is fed by mountain streams. It lies in front of the house.

One can walk all around the lake, and cross the stream on one of the several small granite bridges.

We were greeted warmly by Mary. We walked around the gardens before entering the house.

Mary and her husband moved into the property about forty years ago, and have done massive amounts of work on the garden (and on the house). On the left, when facing the house, through a lovely old arch, is a fruit garden.

IMG_2107

On the right hand side, facing the house, toward the front of the property, is a vegetable growing area complete with a wonderful large polytunnel.

I envied the White’s long, productive asparagus patch.
The greenhouse, with a herb garden to one side.

I have an allotment so Mary and I bonded swapping notes on our vegetable production.  Their production is all organic and they even use a “vegan” manure! I had to think hard to picture what that must be – no animals involved of course!

The trees near the vegetable growing area can be identified by the time they were planted. In forty years, the Whites have built up an interesting tale in their trees. One was a wedding present. One was planted when their daughter was born. Another is the “election tree” when Mary was elected to be a Green TD in government.

Beyond the vegetable garden, the shepherds huts sit dotted carefully around a lawn, each positioned in such a way that their windows don’t look into another hut so each is supremely peaceful and private.

The website describes the huts:

“The Shepherds Huts are centrally heated and very cozy with a double bed in each – suitable for two. Each Hut has three windows including a half door to look out onto a completely natural wooded area set beneath the Blackstairs Mountains. All you will hear is the soft cooing of wood pigeons!”

We peered into one, which was prepared to receive guests at the weekend, and it looked lovely. You can see photographs of the interior of the huts on the website. [see 3] It is a short distance to the barn, which is also a protected historic structure but which has been fully adapted for use as a kitchen, toilets, sitting room and demonstration area for wild food preparation. It has been carefully refurbished maintaining historic structure, with recycled materials, natural wooden furniture, cedar doors and ecological heating and electricity, which also provide the house.

The wildflower meadow next to the barn.
Inside the barn: the kitchen and demonstration area, with large tables for gatherings including hen parties, which can be fully catered. The kitchen can be used by those renting the shepherds huts, as well as the relaxation and reading areas.
Inside the barn.
Upstairs in the barn, a place for visitors to relax.

The Barn is separated from the house by a cobble courtyard. The guests also have use of an outdoor eating and barbeque area:

I had to stop to have a go on the swing, hanging from a large beech tree.

We definitely want to return to stay in one of the huts, and to walk the Celtic tree trail. The property has an example of each of the 21 trees native to Ireland. The sculpture of an ogham stone, by sculptor Martin Lyttle [4], has the cut line lettering representing each type of native Irish tree. As part of the Tree Trail we will get to see the sixteen minute film that has been made about the trees on the property.

Ogham is the earliest form of writing in Ireland and dates to the fourth century A.D. The alphabet is made up of a series of strokes along or across a line. The letters each relate, also, to a species of tree. The letters were carved on standing stones often as a memorial to a person, using the edge of the stone as a central line. The letters are read from the bottom up. [5]

We noticed the electric car charger near the barn when wandering the gardens:

I was also thrilled to see a solar panel array in a field:

Mary and her husband cultivated a rose garden, surrounded by a small canal, forming a “parterre” or patterned garden.

Canal by rose garden. See the granite bridges, and the barn in the background.

In the rose garden, we admired the sculpture of Dionysus, sculpted by her friend in college, Alice Greene, and presented to Mary as a birthday gift. [6]

The property contains wooded area with walking trails, which we didn’t explore as it was rainy and we were heading to my cousin’s house nearby for lunch!

According to the Irish Historic Houses website:

“Two other fronts are virtually identical, with the exception of a half-octagonal bay window on the Eastern side, while the vertically paired windows, culminating in a series of matching gables, create an illusion of symmetry that is greatly enhanced by a profusion of plants and creepers on the walls. Their openings all have simple chamfered granite dressings while the sash windows retain their heavy mullions and delicate marginal glazing bars.” [note: “chamfered” means an edge between two faces, usually at a 45 degree angle.] [2]

The Whites carried out extensive repairs on the house over the years. The wooden bargeboards and finials were rotting and had to be repaired. The house was completely reroofed with expensive blue Bangor slates. The windows have thirty six panes, and when windows were repaired the original glass was retained. Mary pointed out where someone has scratched their name onto the window pane – there was a tradition of scratching names into glass in the past, and Mary dates this scratch to about 1905. It reads “W. Pennyfeather” and “Nicholas Pennyfeather.” Nicholas was rector of the parish from 1900 and lived in the house. I have come across several occasions of scratching names on window panes in my reading, and saw a short film that refers to the tradition, “Words on a Window Pane,” by Mary McGuckian, made in 1994, an adaptation of a play by W.B. Yeats about Dublin spiritualists visited by the ghosts of Jonathan Swift and the two women associated with him, Vanessa (Esther Vanhomrigh) and Stella (Esther Johnson).

There is a more unusual scratched illustration on the glass in a bedroom upstairs. Someone has used a diamond to carve the profile of a girl into the window, but has written “Sidney is a very ugly girl”! The girl in the portrait is not ugly though! I suspect some sister came along to mar the effect, out of jealousy, or maybe Sidney herself was feeling extremely fed-up and self-deprecating one day.

We walked back around to the front of the house, past the herbaceous border, to have a tour inside.

The herbaceous border.
The herbaceous border and to the left of the photograph, the “flower tower” or Echium plant.

The Irish Historic Houses (IHH) website mentions the “loggia” at the front of the house. This is a conservatory-like structure, a Victorian sort of folly. Wikipedia describes a loggia as a covered exterior gallery or corridor, where the outer wall is open to the elements and is usually supported by a series of columns or arches. This one does not have a wall open to the elements but as described, it is not meant for an entrance but as an out-of-door sitting room. A loggia differs from a veranda in that it is more architectural in form and is part of the main edifice of the house.

According to the IHH website, the loggia is supported by cast-iron brackets on slender granite columns while the upper level of the central section is treated as an attic storey with tall, gabled dormer windows in the steeply sloping roof. The loggia, Mary told us, is wonderfully warm, and a lovely place to sit.

The house was designed by Frederick Darley (1798-1872), whose father was also an architect and builder. Frederick Darley built many buildings in Trinity College Dublin, as well as many civic and church buildings (including Lorum church, nearby [7]). He built New Square in Trinity, where my husband Stephen lived for a year! His father served as Alderman in Dublin and as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1808-09. His mother Elizabeth Guinness was the eldest daughter of Arthur Guinness (1725-1803), founder of the Guinness brewery, of Beaumont House, Drumcondra (now the Beaumont Convalescent Home behind Beaumont Hospital). In 1843 Frederick Darley Junior was the Ecclesiastical Commission architect for the Church of Ireland diocese of Dublin. He was a pupil of Francis Johnston, and lived on Lower Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin. [8]

The house a hunting lodge for the Kavanagh family who owned nearby Mount Leinster Lodge. I haven’t been able to find out more about James Kavanagh who owned the house. In Victorian times the house became the rectory for nearby Killedmond Church but was sold in the early twentieth century. Subsequently it passed through a succession of different families. Mary told us that a former owner was a Captain Temple Bayliss, who was a Captain in the Royal Navy, with his wife Patricia and daughter, Philippa, both of whom are accomplished artists. [8]

The historic houses website tells us that the interior is largely original, with good joinery, chimneypieces and plasterwork, and stained glass panels in the original front door. I took a photograph of the beautiful stained glass in the door:

The front hall is floored with beautiful tiles original to the house:

The rooms are a nice size with high ceilings and the sitting room with a bay window, and plaster ceiling decoration in the form of a border with decorative rondelles. The chimneypieces are indeed lovely and as Mary pointed out, they have the traditional white for the drawing room and black for the dining room. I had never heard of that before!

The bay window of the Drawing room.

The current owners have two lovely studies, with built-in bookcases and a display of books that Stephen and I admired – Mary and her husband are also book-lovers, and I admired a lovely bound set of Virginia Woolf essays.

The flagstones in the back hallway are also original, and had to be lifted to install geothermal heating.

Mary makes great use of her larder, which was a place formerly used for storing milk and butter, the flagstones keep it cool. Large saucepans hang from original hooks in the ceiling, ready for making jams and chutneys from the garden produce.


I like the style of the kitchen with repurposed cupboards discarded from a local school, and an old Aga cooker. Mary told us that the Aga company contacted her as they keep records of where they installed their cookers, and hers is rather rare. The feature that distinguishes it from less rare versions is, wonderfully, a “full stop” at the end of the warning on its lower door: “Keep tightly closed.”

We got on so well with Mary and had so much to talk about that our tour lasted for two hours! I look forward to a return visit.

Addendum: We returned in August in 2021, to stay a couple of nights in a shepherd’s hut! We stayed in the red hut.

We learned a little more about the shepherd’s huts, which Mary had custom-built, from a book left in the hut for us to read.

We met lovely people staying in the other huts – our first night, only one other hut was occupied, and the second night, a mother and daughter occupied the third hut. We enjoyed trading tips and stories when we met in the barn, for breakfast or when making our dinner. The others went cycling by the Barrow River – one can rent bikes – and also canoeing/kayaking.

One of the couples went kayaking at Clashganny – in 2019, I went swimming there.

From our base at Mary’s, we made trips to Kilfane gardens and waterfall and to Woodstock gardens, both in nearby County Kilkenny. I will be writing a separate entry about our trip to Kilfane, since the gardens are listed in the Revenue Section 482.

Woodstock House, outside Inistioge, County Kilkenny, built in 1745-47 for Sir William Fownes by architect Francis Bindon. The house was burnt in 1922.

In the 1770s Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831) lived at Woodstock with her cousins William and Betty Fownes (nee Ponsonby), when her dear friend Eleanor Butler (1739-1829) made her way here from from Borris House in Carlow and the two young women escaped their families to go to live in Wales, where they became known in literary circles as the “Ladies of Llangollen.” (see my entry on Borris House).

William Fownes had only one child, a daughter, Sarah, who married William Tighe of Rossanagh House, County Wicklow, thus Woodstock passed in to the Tighe family. William Tighe’s grandson, also named William, married Louisa Lennox, the great-niece of Louisa Lennox of Carton House, and it was she who did much work to create the gardens at Woodstock.

The gardens of Woodstock include an Arboretum of exotic trees planted in the nineteenth century. It includes Montezuma pines, California redwoods, Wellingtonia, cypresses and cedars, as well as beech, chestnut, and an avenue of monkey puzzle trees. The gradual restoration of the gardens began in 1996 under the Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration Programme.

Monkey puzzle tree walk,trees planted in 1861-62 (replacing trees planted in 1845).
The Walled Garden at Woodstock is 1.9 acres
The Turner Conservatory at Woodstock, designed by Richard Turner.
The Turner bench.
Woodstock Gardens.

And finally, on our last day at the Old Rectory in Killedmond, I was able to imitate the photograph that started me on this whole wonderful adventure of exploring historic houses, the photograph that was in the Irish Times of Mary White swimming in her own lake.

Me swimming in the lake at the Old Rectory.

[1] http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Killedmond

[2] architectural definitions

[3] https://www.blackstairsecotrails.ie/

[4] https://lithicworks.com/

The fact that Martin Lyttle’s sculpture stands on the property is perfect, as Martin’s family lived in the Old Rectory for seven years before Mary White acquired it!

[5] http://www.megalithicireland.com/Ogham%20Stones%20Page%201.htm

[6] https://www.dralicegreene.com/phdi/p1.nsf/supppages/greene?opendocument&part=7

[7] Record of Protected Structures, County Carlow

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Darley_(architect)

[9] https://philippabayliss.art/