Sunday, 20 July 2014

 Granville's Folly

Errew Grange, Cossmolina, Co. Mayo

The house known as Errew Grange is located outside the town of Crossmolina in County Mayo on the West Coast of Ireland. Perched high on a hill, the building enjoys the duel aspect of overlooking Lough Conn in one direction and a full vista of Nephin Mountain in the other. When one stands on the site that Errew Grange now occupies and surveys its surroundings, it is easy to understand why Granville Knox decided to build a home here. The architect, James Franklin Fuller, who designed Errew Grange also designed a similar building located nearby. Another grand house known as Mount Falcon shares a number of exterior features in common with Errew Grange, such as a prominent corner tower. As the original interior of Errew Grange was lost in a fire, we must look to Mount Falcon to see what the original interior of Errew Grange would have looked like.

Errew Grange was constructed in 1872 by Granville Knox using the funds of his wealthy 
heiress wife. No expense was spared during itsconstruction which led to Granville being 
declared bankrupt before it was completed.   Copyright- The National Library of Ireland
 After the gas leak and fire in 1949, the house stood as a ruin for a number of years before
its restoration began in the 1970s. Today the house is divided into a number of apartments 
that enjoy spectacular views of the nearby Lough Conn.  Copyright- Photo by David Hicks
Granville Henry Knox was born in June 1840; he was the son of James Annesley and Mary Mina Knox of Netley Park near Crossmolina in County Mayo. In July 1862, Granville married Ellen, daughter of Richard Frederick Farrer. His new wife was a wealthy heiress and Granville used her funds to establish himself locally as an up and coming gentleman. He purchased lands at Errew in the parish of Crossmolina in the West of Ireland from Charles O'Donnell and by 1876 he owned 1,182 acres in County Mayo and 1,128 acres in County Sligo. In 1872, he started to erect a mansion in Errew and the contract price was settled at the princely sum of £5,000. Skilled workmen were brought from England and no expense was spared in turning Granville’s dreams in to a reality.

The architect of Mount Falcon and Errew Grange, James Franklin Fuller

During construction of his mansion, he proceeded to spend his wife’s fortune at a phenomenal rate. Materials were brought from Dublin, by rail, to Ballina and then brought by horse and cart to Errew. Granville’s mansion was built with freestone on the inside and cut limestone on the outer face, all the stone was brought from County West Meath for five shillings a ton. This robust construction is probably one of the reasons why the ruins of the house survived the fire in 1949 to be restored in later years. Granville’s extravagance and the numerous changes that were made during the construction meant that the final cost of the build far exceeded the £5,000 originally quoted. In fact some reports at the time estimated the amount to build the house at around £10,000 which was double the original estimate. The completed Victorian Gothic house now sat on a peninsula jutting out into Lough Conn, rather similar in architectural style to Mount Falcon situated on the opposite side of Ballina. The architect who designed both of these houses for the influential Knox family was James Franklin Fuller. He was the favorite architect of the gentry at this time and during his career he completed many well known commissions such as Kylemore Abbey and extensions to Ashford Castle
After the departure of Granville Knox the, house was converted in to ‘The Lough Conn Hotel’ 
which was operated by Maurice Fitzgerald. He had hoped to attract English fishermen 
to the beauties of the locality but it is questionable whether the business was a success. 
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

Today Errew Grange has been restored and extended; its attic storey now includes 
numerous dormer windows which detract from the beauty of the original building 
which was designed by James Franklin Fuller.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks
During the 1870s, Fuller carried out a lot of work for the Knox family in County Mayo. In 1871, he was involved with the construction of Mount Falcon for Utred Knox and in 1872; he also carried out work for the Knox’s of Belleek Castle near Ballina. For them he designed a new gateway to the castle and an impressive monument over the grave of Arthur Knox-Gore who died in 1873. It was during this period in the 1870s that he was also involved with the design and construction of Errew Grange for Granville Knox.

Mount Falcon in Ballina and Errew Grange in Crossmolina, Co. Mayo were designed by 
James Franklin Fuller who was the fashionable architect of the day. The original architectural 
drawings of Mount Falcon have survived and were found by the current owner Alan Maloney 
in the attic of the house after he purchased it.       Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

 Fullers original architectural drawings are now displayed in the bar of Mount Falcon 
which now run as a successful country house hotel
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

One of the original Mount Falcon drawings is signed by the architect 
James Franklin Fuller and the client Utred Knox.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks
By the time the house was complete; Granville had spent his wife’s fortune and was heavily over extended financially.  As a result, neither he nor his family could afford to live in the large house and Errew Grange remained empty, a monument to one man’s self indulgence. Members of the Knox Family who had lent money or guaranteed loans were now pursued for Granville’s debts. They christened the house ‘Knox’s Folly’ and eventually Granville was declared bankrupt and ended up in the Encumbered Estates Court. On July 10, 1886 the Sheriff’s bailiff took control of the property and Granville Knox was last seen on his way to the train station in Ballina to emigrate to Nova Scotia where he died in 1894.  Afterwards he sent for his family and it is believed that they enjoyed more success in their adopted homeland having possibly learned hard lessons in Errew. In May 1891, Maurice J. Fitzgerald proposed to rent Errew Grange for £55 a year from the Land Court and open it as a hotel to attract fishermen from England. It was argued by a local landowner, Paget Bourke, that a rent of £120 should be imposed as there were forty acres of prime land attached to the building. Paget was informed by the Judge that it was better that the house be rented for £55 a year, then for the building to lie empty for ten years. In 1893, Errew Grange now entered a new stage in its life when an advertisement appeared for winter shooting at the Lough Conn Hotel. The proposed endeavor must not have been a success as a Maurice J. Fitzgerald of the Lough Conn Hotel, Errew, Crossmolina was judged bankrupt on November 29, 1895. What ever happened after the 1895 bankruptcy, by the time of the 1901 census, Maurice J. Fitzgerald is still in residence and in his position as hotel proprietor. There were eight persons occupying the hotel which included Maurice, his wife Joan, his daughters Alice and Geraldine together with four servants. The house is listed as having twenty-five rooms, fifteen windows across its entrance front and only four outbuildings.

Mount Falcon was built by Utred Knox so he could demonstrate his love for his future 
wife Nina Gore of nearby Belleek Castle. The house was commissioned in 1871 and took
 five years to build. Mount Falcon is now one of the leading Irish Country House Hotels 
which is now operated by Alan Maloney to an exceptional standard.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

The tower and bay window to the side of Mount Falcon bear a striking 
resemblance to Errew Grange. The plaques on either side of the tower
 record the date of completion of the house in 1876 and the crest of 
the Knox family.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

The wonderful interior of Mount Falcon retains all its original
 features and gives an insight into what the original interior of
 Errew Grange would have looked like.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks
In 1905, a court case was heard relating to the former Granville Knox estate and the mansion at its core. The case involved a decision being put before the court in regard to who was fully entitled to purchase Errew Grange, which was still tenanted by Maurice Fitzgerald. The rest of the Granville Knox estate had been sold to tenants over the years but the part containing Errew Grange and 80 acres was left out. From my reading of the situation both Maurice J. Fitzgerald and Paget Bourke wished to buy the property. Mr. Fitzgerald had been using the residence as a hotel and he had spent a lot of money on its improvement. His solicitor argued, unsuccessfully, that Maurice J. Fitzgerald as tenant should have been allowed to purchase the property at a lower price of £1,100. The judge found in Paget Bourke’s favour and he was allowed purchase the property for the higher amount of £3,000. After this decision Maurice J. Fitzgerald closed his hotel as by time of the 1911 census there is no mention of him or his enterprise at Errew. In the 1911 census there is a building listed that bears a similar description to Errew Grange which is now occupied by John Watters and the owner is listed as Harry Bourke, a solicitor based in Ballina. Harry or H.C. Bourke, as he was known, inherited the house from his father Paget Bourke. The house must been empty at the time of the census as there is no return for John Watter and no details relating to the interior of the house are recorded.

A beautiful stained glass fanlight over the entrance to Errew Grange
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks
Another phase in the history of Errew Grange commenced when three sisters from a French order of nuns arrived in Mayo in 1912. After they had received permission from the local Bishop, they began to search for a house that would be suitable for use as a school. They leased Errew Grange from H.C. Bourke and the sisters were soon joined by other members of their order. In November of that year they opened their school at Errew with twelve day pupils and four boarders. By 1916 the number of students had increased dramatically and the school moved to a larger property called Gortnor Abbey nearer to the town of Crossmolina. I am pleased to say that this school is still in existence and has recently celebrated one hundred years since it was established at Errew Grange. After the departure of the school, the house was later leased to Mary (Molly) Canavan who continued to run it as a hotel attracting fishermen to the nearby Lough Conn. The hotel was described as a sanctuary, as loud boisterous talk would not find place among the finely furnished reception rooms. In 1948 disaster struck when Michael Gibbons, a servant, inspected a gas leak with a match. There was a terrible explosion, leaving the hotel a blaze in minutes. Neighbours and locals helped rescue what they could and fight the conflagration but the loss was enormous. Due to the prominent position of Errew Grange on the hill above the lake, the fire could be seen for miles around. Within hours the hotel and its contents were reduced to blackened walls and ash. For many years the ruins of Granville Knox’s dream home stood on top of the hill, open to the elements. In later years when the land was divided by the land comission and the burnt out shell came in to the ownership of a local family. In January 1978, they began to restore the house and over the following years they succeeded in re-roofing the entire building. In November 1997 a new owner sought permission to convert Errew Grange into apartments and a full restoration of the interior of the building was instigated. In the year 2000, fourteen luxury apartments were offered for sale seeking offers in the region of £130,000 to £205,000.

Charleville Forest Castle
Tullamore, Co. Offaly

The imposing entrance front of the castle with its asymmetrical towers placed on either side of the main block designed for the first Earl of Charleville

 Copyright David Hicks

Charleville Forest Castle, located near Tullamore in County Offaly, Ireland, is a building that was designed to provide a dramatic backdrop to the trials and tribulations of the lives of the Earls of Charleville. Its majestic exterior, with soaring towers and turrets, conceals an amazing array of theatrical spaces. Here for a number of years on the walls of its dining room hung an immense painting with an amazing story.

Upon entering the castle’s entrance hall a staircase rises majestically before you. This leads directly to the impressive gallery which is one of the largest rooms in the castle and contains one of the most beautiful plaster ceilings in Ireland.
Copyright by David Hicks

Charleville Forest Castle began as the vision of one man named Charles William Bury, who became a Baron in 1797, a Viscount in 1800 and the Earl of Charleville in 1806. As the result of inheritance, he was a man of independent means which allowed him to keep a house in London, mix in polite society and travel the continent. When the time came for him to build a home on ancestral lands in Offaly, he had various ideas and he wanted to create a truly grand vision of a new ancestral seat for his family. Charles William Bury dabbled in architecture and wanted a stately pile to project a grandiose image for himself. He had toyed with the idea of constructing a new house for a number of years and had amassed a collection of unexecuted plans by various architects. By the 1790s Charles’ taste had turned to the Gothic Revival and he began to make crude sketches of a fantastical castle. Around the year 1800, it was the architect-de-jour, Francis Johnston who took Charles’s ideas and fleshed them out. Johnston took his clients crude sketches and combined them with his own architectural genius to produce the building that we see today.

The unexpected grandeur of the ceiling of the gallery that greets you at the top of the stairs from the entrance hall.One of the most impressive features of the gallery ceiling are the plunging plaster bosses. These large decorative features seem to defy gravity, suspended from the ceiling above.
 Copyright  David Hicks

While the castle was being built, expensive tours were made of the continent with items being purchased to fill the cavernous rooms of the castle back in Offaly. As a result of his spending, the coffers of the family fortune were being depleted at an alarming rate and Charleville Forest was not fully completed until 1812. When Charles William Bury, the first Earl of Charleville, died in 1835 his estate was described as being ‘embarrassed’ from a financial perspective. The second Earl of Charleville died in 1851, and his son Charles William George Bury became the third Earl and returned to the castle to live with his family. Eight years later in 1859, the third Earl died and his son, Charles William Francis Bury, who was only aged only seven became the fourth Earl of Charleville. The title of the Earl of Charleville never seemed to rest too long with any of its recipients and in 1874 was again relinquished to another. The fifth and final Earl of Charleville was an uncle of the fourth Earl, brother of the third Earl and son of the second Earl. Alfred Bury inherited his title in 1874 but died one year later in 1875 aged 46, without issue. In the space of just under seventy years the title of the Earl of Charleville had passed through five members of the Bury Family and was now extinguished. Charleville Forest Castle was inherited by Lady Emily Alfreda Julia Bury, a daughter of the third Earl and it was she who made a number of further improvements to the castle. She had married in 1881 Captain Kenneth Howard, who died four years later. He had assumed the additional surname of Bury to ensure that it would be passed on to their son. Charles Kenneth Howard Bury inherited the castle in 1931, after the death of his mother but chose to reside at the more manageable Belvedere House in a neighbouring county. The contents of the castle were sold in 1948 and when its interiors were photographed in 1962 for Country Life, the empty rooms were filled with furniture from Belvedere House. Charles Kenneth Howard Bury died in April 1964 and estate then passed to a cousin.

By this time, the castle was empty and its rooms were devoid of their contents however one large survivor remained. An immense painting hung on the end wall of the dining room where it remained forlorn after the clearance of the castle’s contents. It was the paintings vast size at nearly 10 ft high by 20 ft wide was the reason for its abandonment after it remained unsold in the 1948 auction. Some unwanted visitors to the castle in the following years left their mark in a very permanent way by vandalising and slashing the canvas’ lower extremities.  There it remained for twenty-two years until a gentleman by the name of Graham Gordon opened a door of the empty dining room in this abandoned Irish castle.  As he entered the darkened space, a beam of sunlight spread across the corner of a large painting on the opposite wall. As he traversed the room, his heartbeat quickened as he now stood in front of the large expanse of blackened canvas. He began to wipe away years of dust from the bottom of the gilded frame and there inscribed before his eyes were the words ‘ No. 52 King Henry VIII, Act 5, Scene 4, W.Peters’.  Here in this forgotten castle, Graham had discovered a long lost masterpiece that dated from 1789 painted by the artist Matthew William Peters. This painting depicted the christening of Princess Elizabeth I, from the Shakespearian play Henry VIII. It was originally commissioned by John Boydell in 1786 when he engaged the greatest artists of the day to produce paintings that illustrated the works of Shakespeare. These paintings were then displayed in a gallery that he had built in London in 1789. The Boydell Gallery eventually contained 170 works, however the locations of only forty-five of these are known today. The Charleville painting was featured in a catalogue from 1790 from the Boydell Gallery where it was named as No. 52 in the series, hence the relevance of the number 52 that appeared on the inscription on the frame. 

Painting No. 52 as it appeared in the Boydell Catalogue

The Boydell Gallery experienced financial difficulties and eventually the paintings were consigned for sale to Christies. They were displayed together publicly for the last time in May 1805 and then the collection was dispersed. The No. 52 painting was sold by James Christie for twenty-three pounds, two shillings to a London art dealer who was enlisted to help furnish the newly built Charleville Forest Castle. The painting was shipped to Offaly and is depicted in a drawing of the room from 1812. Here William Peter’s masterpiece remained for 165 years until its eventual discovery by Graham Gordan.

An image of the dining room from 1812 shows a large painting on the end wall that was purchased by the first Earl in 1805.
 Charleville Castle Collection

The painting that Graham Gordon discovered in the dining room of Charleville Castle in 1970. The castle at this time had been abandoned for over two decades since an auction in 1948 had cleared the castle of its contents leaving only this painting.
Copyright  Graham Gordon

The large rolled up painting leaves Charleville Castle in 1970 for the first time since it arrived 165 years previously. It was one of the last items that had a direct association with the first Earl of Charleville who built Charleville Forest Castle.
Copyright  Graham Gordon

Major Hutton he owner of the castle, agreed to sell the painting to Graham as at that time the future of both it and the castle were uncertain. The removal of the painting from the castle was something that had never been attempted since its arrival 165 years before. Luckily, the frame behind the painting had been designed for disassembly with large bolts holding the corners together. After the frame and stretchers had been removed, the rolled up painting was carried out of the door of the castle and placed on to the trailer of a waiting tractor. The last item that had a tangible connection with the first Earl of Charleville was now leaving the castle to be packed and shipped to Canada.  Upon arrival in Canada, the canvas was in a bad condition, years of dirt, grime and a thick layer of varnish gave the painting an extremely dark appearance. The size of the painting meant that the servants in Charleville Castle never ventured beyond cleaning the bottom of the frame. Over two years its slash marks were repaired and the sections of the painting which had been lost were renewed. Once restored the true beauty of William Peter’s work could be appreciated. Today the painting resides far away from Charleville and is currently on loan to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Canada.

The restored painting by Matthew William Peters (British, 1742-1814) of King Henry VIII. Act Five, Scene Four, The Christening of Princess Elizabeth, late eighteenth century, oil on canvas 2.85 x 6 metres. Private Collection
Copyright The Beaverbrook Gallery

Today Charleville Castle is run by the Charleville Castle Heritage Trust which was created in 1994 as a voluntary non-for-profit organisation. The castle is managed and maintained by Dudley Stewart who is aided by a team of volunteers who come from all over the world and help conserve and restore the castle. The castle in recent years has tried to earn its keep in many ways, such as the Castlepalooza Music Festival that takes place in its grounds each year. Other revenue streams include the castle being used as a setting for television productions which focus on its ghostly inhabitants. It has featured on Living TV’s Most Haunted and Fox TV’s Scariest Places on Earth both of these productions have tried to give the castles reluctant ghosts their five minutes of fame. This aging dowager of a castle is now also a film starlet, having recently had starring rolls in BBC’s adaptation of Northanger Abbey and also in the 2007 Hollywood film Becoming Jane.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Cast a Cold Eye

The bust of Maecenas at Coole Park, Galway
Picture Copyright David Hicks

In the gardens of Coole Park In Galway, Ireland can be found the large bust of Maecenas, a statesman and a distinguished patron of the arts in Ancient Rome. He is one of the few objects that remain at Coole that has a direct connection with Lady Augusta Gregory, its former owner. The bust was brought to Coole from Italy early in the nineteenth century and was placed in the stables before a place could be found to display it. Coole Park in Galway was the home of Lady Augusta Gregory who will forever be associated with the poet W.B. Yeats and the literary revival movement in Ireland in the early twentieth century. Another key person in this movement was Edward Martyn, who helped found the Abbey Theatre. He lived nearby in Tulira Castle, which unlike Coole still survives today. Edward was initially a friend of Lady Gregory’s husband but after the death of Sir William Gregory, Augusta felt as if she had inherited Edward who was known to be very set in his ways. Lady Gregory had an association with another local Galway estate, as she was an aunt to John Shawe Taylor who lived at nearby Castle Taylor in Ardrahan which survives today only as a ruin. Coole Park was built in the late 1700's in the Georgian style by Robert Gregory.

Lady Augusta Gregory

After its time in the stables, the bust of Maecenas was displayed in the bathroom of Coole. Lady Gregory said she grew tired of him in the house and one day it was decided that it would be more suitable if the bust was placed in the grounds. It took four men to carry the bust to the walled garden where it was placed in the pet cemetery before deciding to place it against the east wall. Lady Gregory recorded that ‘ The sun….shines with special warmth as it seems on the colossal marble bust of Macaenas (sic) at the end of the flower bordered gravel walk. Kiltartan tradition says this image was carried across Europe  on wagons  drawn by oxen; but it likely the width of the land between its birthplace and an Italian seaport is a truer measure of its journey; and I know not from what harbour in Ireland it was carried to its resting place here’.

Coole Park in Galway in 1887, the home of Lady Gregory which was demolished in 1941

After the death of Augusta’s much older husband in 1892, the estate was held in trust for their son Robert. He was a pilot but was killed in 1918 during the First World War. He had married and his young son Richard became heir to the estate. Lady Gregory tried to maintain Coole Park for her grandson until he came of age but costs were rising as Lady Gregory’s income was falling. Coole Park was eventually sold to the Irish State in 1927 but under an agreement Lady Gregory remained there until her death in 1932. The house stood empty for a number of years and was then sold to a building contractor who demolished it for its materials in 1941. Today nothing of the big house at Coole Park remains but its gardens and outbuildings have been restored. One of the stable buildings contains a museum relating to the history of the estate and Lady Gregory.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Faces at the Window

Whenever, today, we are taking pictures of country houses or castles whether in ruins or not, it always arouses people's curiosity. They want to know what the picture is for or they may have some interesting story, whether true or not. It appears that nothing has changed in the last 120 years or so judging by the images below. The quality of the images in the collection of the National Library of Ireland is wonderful. Considering that these photographs were taken when the art of photography was in its infancy, it is truly amazing that a picture can be enlarged so as to see faces at the windows of these houses.

This image of the entrance front of Woodstock in Co. Kilkenny is from before 1900 as the statue of a classical figure can be seen in the niche over the front door. After 1900 this statue was replaced with a large granite urn.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

On the upper floor of Woodstock can be seen a face, as this was the top floor of the house it is possible that this person is a servant, as this is where their sleeping quarters were.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

The entrance front of Wilton Castle, in Co. Wexford between 1890 and 1900. The castle was designed by Daniel Robertson and built between 1837 and 1844 for Harry Alcock.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

When one enlarges of Wilton Castle the image, we can see this bemused man, little did he know his image was being captured for posterity.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

The departure of some Royal visitors after visiting the Dunravens at Adare Manor in Limerick in 1897
 Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

A maid and other leans out through a first floor window to get a glimpse of the royal visitors below as they leave Adare Manor
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

Clonbrock in Galway in the early 1900's
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

In the days before Health and Safety, here we see two men who appear to be cleaning windows with no safety harness or ladder.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

Woodstock House

Instioge, Co. Kilkenny

 This image of the entrance front of the house is from before 1900 as the statue of a classical figure can be seen in the niche over the front door. After 1900 this statue was replaced with a large granite urn.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

The remains of Woodstock House can be found above the quant village of Inistioge in County Kilkenny. The entrance gates to the grounds of the demesne look the same as they did when the estate was in its prime but despite Woodstock House languishing as a ruin; its gardens are experiencing a renaissance. The gate piers are surmounted by the head of a wolf, a symbol of the Tighe family who once owned the surrounding lands for miles around. These lands formed the core of the Woodstock Estate that once extended to 21,763 acres, dispersed over six counties. It was the income from the tenants that lived on these lands that provided the revenue for the creation of the house and gardens for the powerful Tighe family of Inistioge.

A storm in 2001 caused the collapse of the central section of the entrance front of the house. A metal supporting structure was put in place to secure the perimeter wall from further collapse and possibly allow the house to be restored in the future.
Accreditation- Picture by Ellie Ross

The extensive mansion that once existed among these beautiful grounds was three-stories high over a part-raised basement. A country house in the classical style, built between 1745 and 1747 for Sir William Fownes to designs prepared by Francis Bindon. Bindon also had provided a master plan for the laying out of the formal landscape around the mansion which set out the frame work for the gardens we see today. Sir William had inherited the estate in 1735 and four years later he married Elizabeth Ponsonby, daughter of the first Earl of Bessborough. It was her dowry of £4,000 that assisted in building of the central block of the house at Woodstock.  Their only daughter Sarah married William Tighe of Rosanna and upon the death of her parents she inherited the house and estate. Sarah eventually transferred Woodstock to her eldest son William, who had been raised there by his grand parents and had a natural affiliation with the property. He married in 1793 and with his new wife, Marianne; they carried out extensive works on the house between 1804 and 1806. They extended the mansion on either side with the addition of single storey wings that increased the floor area of the basement to incorporate additional staff facilities. Services yards to the rear of the house were also constructed at this time to facilitate the needs of this large and affluent household. The architect for this stage of the project was a local man called William Robertson who completed a number of projects in the Kilkenny area. William Tighe died in 1816 at his house in St. James Place in London and his eldest son William Frederick Fownes Tighe, who was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1794, inherited the Woodstock Estate. The house in Inistioge that William inherited was a glorious place, the panelled library was filled with rare leather bound books and the other reception rooms were vast spaces decorated with works of art and antiques. William’s future brother-in-law, Lord William Pitt Lennox, visited the house in 1865 and recorded “I will merely say that the house contains a valuable library and some good paintings. The gardens can find no equal in the United Kingdom….”
In this image the wide external staircase can be seen that was designed by Richard Turner in 1850. By adapting one of the drawing room windows it allowed Lady Louisa to descend gracefully to the gardens below.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

While some of the infrastructure such as the pathways have been put in place, the restoration of the panels of the original winter garden will be an arduous task. The ruin of the house has been made inaccessible to the general public due to its fragile state.
Accreditation- Picture by Ellie Ross

Today the interior of Woodstock House is a dangerous place, where walls and chimneys have collapsed, leaving the external perimeter walls unstable. Trees and other foliage have grown up inside the ruin, leaving some parts of the structure indiscernible from the trees that surround it. The simple floor plan of the house was formed by thick internal walls that extended up through the building from the basement to the attic floor, creating rooms of similar dimensions on each level. Due to the depth of the house, a central light well was necessary to fill corridors, situated near the centre of the house, with natural light. The entrance front was the most decorative external section of Woodstock, designed in a fashion to make a lasting first impression on arriving guests. Over the front doorway was a niche that once contained a statue of a classical figure but it was later replaced with an urn around the year 1900. Upon entering the house you would have found yourself in a wide hall where a life-size marble statue of Mary Tighe stood surrounded by brass guard rails. She was born Mary Blachford in 1772 and at the age of twenty-one she married her first cousin Henry Tighe. She later became known for her works of poetry, which culminated in the publication of Psyche in 1805. In that same year she contracted tuberculosis and spent her declining years as an invalid at Woodstock, the home of her brother-in-law. She died aged only 38 in March 1810 and was buried in the local churchyard in the village. The statue was commissioned in 1820 from an Italian sculptor called Lorenzo Bartolini but was sadly lost in the fire that destroyed Woodstock in 1922. 

The life size marble statue of Mary Tighe which was sculpted by Lorenzo Bartolini stood in the front hall of Woodstock House until it was lost in the fire in 1922.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

On either side of this hall there were two large reception rooms; one was the boudoir and the other a library. The boudoir was the preserve of the mistress of the house and was essentially her private sitting room. This room would have been decorated in a feminine fashion and housed a desk, where the lady of the house could deal in private with her daily correspondence. The presence of numerous comfortable sofas and armchairs also meant that that this room could be used for entertaining female friends. Both this room and the library had wooden panelling, marble fireplaces and elaborate plaster ceilings. The entrance hall terminated in a long corridor which traversed the centre of the house in a perpendicular direction. This lengthy passageway provided access to the main staircase and the east wing of the house. From this artery corridor, two central, symmetrical hallways extended around the central light well and allowed access to the rooms at the rear of Woodstock overlooking the gardens. Here on the garden front were located two drawing rooms which were joined by folding doors that could be opened or closed depending on the size of the social occasion. A study, for the master of the house was also situated in this suite of rooms that overlooked the fabulous winter gardens below. The dining room was located on the entrance front side of the house in the east wing. This room could be easily accessed from the basement kitchen by a stairs across the adjacent hall. A billiard room and two bedrooms for single male guests were also to be found in this area of the house which was named the “Bachelors Gallery”. The kitchen and servants quarters were arranged between the entire basement and a floor above in the west wing. Small back staircases from the basement penetrated up into the floors above, to allow the servants access to the various reception rooms and bedrooms. These stairs were independent of the main staircase, so that the Tighe family would not meet the laundry or ashes from the many fireplaces being ferried up and down through the house by the servants. These utilitarian back staircases, which were used constantly by the servants, kept the main staircase in pristine condition. The main staircase in Woodstock was a large highly decorative affair designed to be as impressive as possible and was lit by a large tripartite window on the half landing.

 This view from 1890 illustrates that the gardens were not only planted with elaborate schemes but were also decorated with numerous architectural elements such as statues.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland
Over the years since the fire the original features of the gardens have disappeared and are now replaced by modern replicas. The original wide pathways around the garden allowed two ladies in large dresses to walk side by side.
Accreditation- Picture by Ellie Ross

William Frederick Fownes Tighe married Lady Louisa Lennox, the daughter of the Duke of Richmond, on the April 18, 1825. One of Louisa’s greatest contributions to the estate was the development of the gardens within the grounds of Woodstock House. The creation of these wonderful outdoor spaces began in 1840 when the grotto and gardens were first laid out. The centre window of the garden front elevation of the house was altered during the 1850s to allow access from the drawing room to the garden below. This direct access to the gardens was possible with the installation of a cast iron staircase that was designed by Richard Turner. He was also responsible for the majestic glass house which stood in the terraced flower garden that was laid out between 1854 and 1856. During his lifetime Richard Turner designed and built conservatories for a number of country houses and many of these survive today, such as the beautifully restored example at Ballyfin in County Laois. In 1845 Turner was responsible for the creation of a glass house on a grand scale when he completed the famous curvilinear glass houses of the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin in Dublin. By 1860, a Scottish man by the name of Charles Mac Donald came to Woodstock as the head gardener. He was responsible for the establishment of the winter garden which was composed of four large sunken flower beds to be found on the south side of the house. These sunken areas provided a micro climate and protection to the plants from the worse effects of the winter weather. In each of the panels, there was a coloured gravel and miniature conifers laid out in different geometric patterns. The drawing rooms on the garden front of the house, being situated on a floor above the garden, would have been able to take full advantage of the view of these artistic creations

This view taken from the stairs outside the drawing room of Woodstock House shows the sunken parterres of the winter garden. Each was surrounded by box hedging and had designs of shamrocks and other geometric shapes created out of miniature conifers.
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Each panel of the winter garden had a different design composed of coloured gravel and miniature conifers.
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Each sunken panel provided a protective area for the delicate shrubs such as the conifers to grown. A glimpse of the view beyond the gardens through the trees gives an indication of how many have been lost over the years.
Accreditation- Picture by Ellie Ross

Louisa and William had only one child, a daughter named Charlotte who was born in 1838 but died aged only 3 months. Her death was supposedly due to neglect by her two nurses, who were found to be drunk on the night of the child’s death. As a result of having no living children, William left Woodstock upon his death in 1878 to his nephew Frederick Edward Bunbury Tighe, son of Daniel Tighe of Rossana, County Wicklow.  Lady Louisa erected a monument to her husband’s memory in the centre of the village of Inistioge, which can still be seen today. William had amended his will in April 1874 giving his wife a jointure of £3,600 per annum together with the right of residence at Woodstock until her death. Her husband obviously recognised Louisa’s great affection for Woodstock, as ordinarily the house would have passed directly to his recognised heir. In 1899, The Duke and Duchess of York (later George V and Queen Mary) visited Woodstock where they had luncheon and toured the gardens. This quick royal visit to Inistioge was as a result of the notoriety of the famous gardens which had spread far and wide. Lady Louisa’s joy at the royal visit would be short lived, as a number of months later in March 1900, she passed away. It was said in her obituary that she was present at a ball given by her mother, the Duchess of Richmond, in Brussels on the night before the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. The article also claimed that it was Louisa who buckled on the sword and made the finishing touches to the uniform of the Duke of Wellington before he went in to battle. Lady Louisa’s death was news worthy enough to be carried in all the newspapers in Ireland and England and even further afield when the story appeared in the New York Times.

Edward Kenrick Bunbury-Tighe now inherited Woodstock House together with its contents and gardens. His father who had inherited the estate from Louisa’s husband had died in 1891.  In the 1901 census Woodstock House was only occupied by two Scottish maids, it had thirty-eight rooms and thirty-two outbuildings. By the 1911 census, the house is owned by E.K.B. Tighe and is now listed as having fifty-four rooms and forty-nine windows. The outbuildings have grown to fifty-nine which now includes a garage to house a motor car which was a sign of the changing times. Again in 1911 none of the family seems to be in residence and only five servants are present. Edward Kenrick Bunbury Tighe met an unfortunate end in 1917 when he was killed by a burglar in London. The house and estate in Kilkenny passed to his second son Bryan who succeeded to the estate as his elder brother had died previously in 1911 aged only 7.

By May 1922, the Tighe family had removed many items of furniture from Woodstock House to their home in London but the large number of leather bound books remained in the library and the statue of Mary Tighe remained in the hall. The house was empty when it was occupied by a sizeable number of Black and Tans, footage of them marching up the hill from the village to Woodstock House was incorporated in to the 1996 film ‘Michael Collins’. They moved any remaining furniture to the downstairs reception rooms and placed sand bags in the ground floor windows. They used the cellar as a holding area and the large reception rooms for the interrogations of locals who were thought to be involved with the I.R.A. As Woodstock was now being used as a headquarters for the Black and Tans, an order was passed to burn the house. The rumour that the mansion was to be burnt soon spread among the locals and any remaining contents were quickly removed by them. On the night of the fire, it was said that the local people passed books out of the windows of the library which were ferried away by horse and cart. Occasionally some of theses books still turn up with inscriptions that can be attributed as having come from the Woodstock library. When the men did arrive to burn the house, the doors and windows were left wide open, the rooms were deserted and left in disarray. The house was doused with petrol and the flames quickly spread until the fire could be seen for miles around. People from the village seen the orange glow on the horizon and rushed up the steep hill to the house. They saw that nothing could be done so they gathered on the lawn to watch the final moments of the once great house which culminated in the collapse of the roof and internal floors. The fire continued to burn for two days and the remains of the interior lay in a heap that smouldered for weeks. The east wing which was built in the early 1800s survived the fire and became a home for a number of years to the Tighe's former house keeper. In December 1924, compensation was sought by the trustees of the Woodstock Estate for its destruction. They were acting on behalf of Bryan Tighe who had not reached the age of majority at the time of the fire and therefore could not instigate a claim. It had been decided that the house would not be rebuilt, so only £3,378 was awarded in respect of the furniture lost in the fire. When the Tighe Family were in residence they employed about sixty local people, so the loss of the house had an immediate economic effect on the village of Inistioge.

The blackened walls of Woodstock House stood until 2001 when the central section of the entrance front collapsed during a violent storm. A steel support structure was quickly put in place to limit further collapse of the fragile building. In 2006, a report was prepared by Paul Arnold Architects for Kilkenny County Council which proposed a number of uses for the house, if its restoration was to take place. An approach of this nature should be lauded as I feel it is better to restore this house to some degree so that can serve a useful purpose similar to Powerscourt House in County Wicklow. In the current economic climate Woodstock will probably remain as it has done since 1922 but the gardens have been wonderfully restored by Kilkenny County Council. Since the time the house became derelict the gardens had gradually deteriorated and a lot of their features had disappeared. In 1998 work began and has continued over the years to return the gardens to the condition that they previously enjoyed in the photographs from the National Library which were taken from over one hundred years ago.

The glasshouse and bench made by Richard Turner are interesting focal points for this view of the terraced flower garden in the 1800s.
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The replication of the Turner’s elaborate glasshouse and the intricate planting of the garden are a triumph by anyone’s estimations.
Accreditation- Picture by Ellie Ross