Thursday, 1 April 2021


The Episcopal Residence
Ballina , Co. Mayo

The Episcopal Residence, also known as the Bishop’s Palace in Ballina, Co. Mayo, has for generations been recognised as the home of the Catholic Bishop of Killala. Many believe that this house was built for that sole purpose however it was actually a bespoke luxury home built for a local businessman in the early 1900’s. This house was once known as Highfield which aptly describes its elevated location on Howley Street on the banks of the River Moy.

Highfield was built in 1909 for Thomas John Reid, a Presbyterian by faith and owner of the Gas Works on Shambles Street in Ballina. Thomas or T.J., as he was known locally, was born on the 6th February 1872, his father, James was the manager of the gas works. At the time of the 1901 census, Thomas was unmarried and living in a six roomed house on Mill Street in Ballina with his mother, Jane, a widow, and his two sisters Martha and Jessie. Jane Reid died in 1903 and left an estate valued at £335, probate of her estate was granted to John Armstrong (a Jeweller) together with Martha and Jessie Reid, spinsters.  By 1911, Thomas John Reid, aged 39, had married Florence Eleanor Mathews aged 31, the union had produced three children, two daughters Beryl and Phyllis together with a son Robert Ivan. By the time of the 1911 census, the family are living in their new home, Highfield, which extended to fourteen rooms and twenty outbuildings.

The Episcopal Residence soon after it was purchased by the Diocese in 1927

Thomas’s wife whom he married in 1902 was originally Florence Mathews from Manchester, whose father originated from Castlebar. T.J. Reid built Highfield in 1909 to the design of an eminent Manchester architect, however despite his eminence, he remains unnamed. It is interesting to note that T.J. Reid’s wife also hailed from Manchester, so this architect may have been a relative or a business associate of the family. The house had a copper-covered flat roof which is not visible behind the parapet, reflective of the Italianate style popular during the Edwardian period. The construction of the building was carried out under the supervision of the owner who stated that the house was built on gravel subsoil which was overlaid with one foot of concrete and pitch. Over this substructure was laid a floor of thick pitch pine and hardwood. The grounds surrounding the property once extended to 7 acres and included a walled kitchen garden stocked with fruit trees etc.

The interior of the house comprised of a large entrance hall, dining room, breakfast room, kitchen and pantry. On the first floor there were two large bedrooms with bay windows to the front of the property and four smaller bedrooms to the rear serviced by a large bathroom. Behind the house there was a courtyard that accommodated the wash house, servant’s w.c., lumber room, dairy and coal house. Adjacent to the courtyard was a walled in yard which contained the coach or motor house, harness room and a large hay shed. Nearby the kitchen garden were cow houses and other outbuildings. The house had many innovations for the time such as copper piping throughout for hot water and inspection boxes were provided for drains which discharged into the nearby river. Gas and water were provided from the town supply and there was a large reservoir for the storage of water. St. Muredach’s College is an impressive building located beside Highfield, it was completed in 1906 having been commissioned by Reverend John Conmy (1843-1911), Bishop of Killala. In January 1917, Mrs. Reid placed an advertisement in The Western People looking for a governess to teach lessons and piano to a ‘little’ girl. In June, 1920, Mrs. Reid was seeking a general cook and a parlour maid highlighting that they would be accommodated in a very comfortable house with high wages.

The Reid family’s time at Highfield came to an end after just over one decade, when in February 1920, it was announced that Highfield would be sold by direction of T.J. Reid. It was stated that the residence and grounds were held under a lease of 999 years from the year of 1908, at the yearly rent of £15. By July 1921, the contents of Highfield were sold and several years later in 1927 the house was sold for £4,053.4s.9d to the Diocese to provide a new home for the Bishop of Killala. In today’s terms the sale price would amount to €2.1 million, I would imagine there would be consternation if this happened today however it did happen in a poor West of Ireland parish in the 1920’s. Highfield now became known as the Episcopal Residence, replacing the former home of the Bishop located in Ardnaree which overlooked the town. The first resident of the new Episcopal Residence was Bishop James Naughton, born in 1865 and a native of Ballina. He was appointed Bishop of Killala in November 1911 and was consecrated in Ballina in January 1912.  He died in 1950 and is buried in the grounds of St. Muredach’s Cathedral. The Reid family after their departure from Highfield now took up residence at Carramore House just outside the town of Ballina, following the departure of its former owner, Dr. Vaughan Jackson.

The Gas Works in Shambles Street, Ballina

In March 1920, a public meeting was held in the Ulster Minor Hall in Belfast of the newly formed Irish Flax Growers Association to demand immediate ‘’decontrol’’ of the 1919 Irish flax crop in order to provide ‘’a fair living for those that produced it’’. Apparently in 1919, the Irish flax crop was handed over to private firms for less than half its open market value. T.J. Reid from Ballina attended this meeting and was part of a deputation of flax growers from Mayo and Sligo. He spoke at this gathering and said that the long distance that they had travelled was an indication of the ‘measure of the interest which they attached to the new association’’. He finished his address by saying ‘’we will hold our flax until such time as it is free from all control’’. Growers in France and the UK were receiving over £5 a stone whereas the Irish producer received less than £2. T.J. Reid in partnership with St. George Laing had set up the Ballina Flax Mill Company and distributed flax seed at cost to encourage flax growing in the locality by small farmers. The changing and unsettled time in Ireland’s history is made apparent when in October 1920, T.J. Reid claimed £550 for his fishing huts destroyed by fire at Binghamstown.

In 1924, T.J. Reid being the owner of the local gas works prepared a paper on ‘’ The Position of the Gas Industry in Ireland, with Special Reference to Electrical Competition ‘’. Mr Reid indicated that during the past decade about a dozen works had been closed as a direct result of wars at home and overseas, industrial strife and unfair competition from electricity. Gasworks that had survived were still suffering difficulties. Possibly, became of this reason, TJ. Reid diversified and in 1930, he was awarded the contract for laying the new town water main costing £13,100 despite the lowest tender being that of another company from Co. Down.

  The chimney of the Gas Works seen on the right of the photograph

In December 1935, it was announced that the marriage would take place of T.J. Reid’s son, Ivan to Ethel Lenora Brown at Christ Church, Rawalpindi, India. Unfortunately, by February 1936, T.J. Reid died suddenly at his residence Carramore House. He was aged 64 and it was stated at the time that he was still the proprietor of the Ballina Gas Company and was an uncle of Mr. W. Reid, the manager of the Gas Works in, Athlone. The day before his death he had attended the auction at Castlereagh outside Killala, a home of the Knox family. Thomas John Reid was buried in the church yard of St. Michael’s Church Ardnaree where his headstone can be seen today. He was respected as an authority on all matters pertaining to gas works and was sought as a speaker at meetings of gas managers that took place all over the UK. It was noted that after the death of Mr. Reid, his daughter Miss Beryl Reid would continue as manageress and that the gas works would operate as it always had. However, one year later in 1937, J. Molloy & Sons, Building Contractors from Ballina acquired the Ballina Gas Works owned by the late T.J. Reid.

Carramore House Today

Beryl Reid, was obviously an entrepreneur like her father and had various enterprises at Carramore, the new Reid family home after Highfield.  Visitors to the house were amazed at her achievements in the garden as she had created intricate planted beds in front of the house. Miss Reid appears to have been an enterprising woman for her time as she had constructed three large glass houses, one alone measured 125 x 30 foot and this was in addition to the two older smaller glasshouses that already existed on the site. In July 1935, she had over 2,000 tomato plants growing and 10,000 chrysanthemums plants waiting to go to market. In the 1930's Carramore was also advertised as a guest house, so it appears Miss Reid was doing everything possible to make an income from the property as due to Thomas Reid’s death. In 1939, the house suffered a fire, one bedroom was destroyed and it was reported that two sisters Phyllis and Beryl and their invalid mother, Florence, were present in the house at the time. The fire, started by a wireless set, was fought by the sisters for three hours on their own with buckets of water. In April 1944, Beryl's and Phyllis's mother died and she was buried in St. Michael's Church in Ballina.  In August 1946, Carramore House was advertised in the national press for auction under the instruction of the representatives of the late Mrs. Florence Eleanor Reid, in the advertisement the house is described as 'a Magnificent Gentleman's Residence'. The accommodation of the house extended to four reception rooms, lounge, front hall, kitchen and twelve apartments (which must mean bedrooms). The grounds included a walled garden, coach house and tomato houses with room for 3,000 plants. A person who visited the house in the 1940's recorded that the family had only retained forty acres around the house and that the library of Carramore contained over 3,000 books.  In November 1957, it was reported that Carramore was to be demolished as it had recently been purchased with its land by two local farmers. By 1980, it was reported in the local press that Phyllis and Beryl Reid were living in Jersey.

The Reid’s former home Highfield has been the Bishop of Killala’s residence for nearly 100 years and remains one of the most recognisable landmarks in the town. The Reid Gas Works now long gone, were located on the site beside the river where the Ballina Manor Hotel is now built today. The Reid connection and contribution to the development of Ballina is largely forgotten however Highfield House endures as a lasting testament to the ambition of Thomas John Reid.

Friday, 13 November 2020

 Belleek Gate
Ballina , Co. Mayo

The surviving gate lodge of Belleek Castle is found on the aptly named Castle Road in Ballina, Co. Mayo. It is one of the most distinctive and recognisable features of the once great demesne of the Knox-Gore family that existed beyond. Few may know that this gate served as an architectural prototype for the main gate of one of the most famous castles in the world, Ashford Castle. Recently the recovery of the original timber gates of this stately entrance has awoken renewed local interest in preserving the rich architectural heritage of our town. Originally this entrance was not intended to be located on Castle Road but situated closer to the town centre in a similar fashion to Adare Manor in Limerick. It will also be a surprise to many that this architectural treasure came close to being demolished at a time when its value was not recognised.

The main gate at Belleek, also known locally as the Belleek Arch and the Tower Gate, was the prototype for the grand main gate at Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo. Both were designed by the same prolific architect, James Franklin Fuller, who was favoured by the upper classes such as the Guinness’s.  The main gate at Belleek was built in the early 1870’s which preceded the construction of the main gate at Ashford Castle, constructed around 1880. Fuller carried out alot of work for the Knox family in County Mayo in the 1870’s. In 1871, he was involved with the construction of Mount Falcon for Utred Knox and in 1872 and he also carried out a number of projects for the Knox-Gore’s of Belleek Manor. For them he designed this new gateway to the manor 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. It is known from the tender drawings signed for the construction of nearby Mount Falcon, that Fuller’s builder of choice was a Meath man by the name of Henry Sharpe. As Sharpe was involved with the construction of Mount Falcon, it is possible that he also built Belleek Gate. Sharpe worked with Fuller on numerous projects and operated from Bective Street in Kells, Co. Meath. He was obviously successful, for when he passed away in 1905, he was listed as living at 12 Ailesbury Rd., Dublin which is now the Polish Embassy. It is also recorded that the construction of the main gate at Belleek was supervised by Mr. Pery of Coolcronan.

The inner facade of Belleek Lodge, note the number of windows, Copyright ICHC

In this decade, James Franklin Fuller was extremely prolific and was elected to a Fellowship by the Royal Institute of British Architects. When one looks at the gate lodge at Belleek, elements can be seen that are common not only to the gate lodge at Ashford but also elements of the castle situated beyond the gates in Cong. One can see familiar details when one compares the towers of Belleek Lodge and the towers found at Ashford Castle. Belleek Manor once had gate lodges at Castle Road and Killala Road, where gates were used to control access to the demesne or the private lands of the estate. These extended to pleasure grounds around the manor, the walled garden, the stables, outbuildings and even private family burial grounds. The main gates had an associated lodge, where the person ( and their family) resided that were tasked with opening and closing the gate. Impressive castellated gate lodges such as the one at Castle Road in Ballina were built to impress many and express the dominance in the community of the family that lived beyond. Like the grand houses of the upper classes, the designs of these gates lodges also followed the architectural fashion that was prevalent at the time. The gate lodge on Castle Road had accommodation at ground floor level with further rooms on the upper floor accessed by a stair accommodated in the tower. Interestingly all the windows in these rooms are on the inner fa├žade of the gate lodge looking back towards Belleek Manor, keeping an eye out for the master approaching.  From an examination of the some elements that remain on the entrance gate today there appear to be a number of metal brackets that possibly supported a wire which was attached to a bell, that alerted the lodge keeper that someone was outside the gate. There are also the clasps and sockets found on the inner reveal of the arch of the entrance gate that the metal frame of the recovered gates would have been attached to.

Fuller was the architect for both Ashford Castle and Belleek Lodge,
Note the similarities between the tower of Ashford (above) and the tower of Belleek ( Below)
Copyright ICHC

The house beyond the main gates was known as Belleek Manor, once Belleek Abbey and is now known as Belleek Castle. Located on the banks of the river Moy, it was home to a branch of the Knox family, a Mayo dynasty who could all trace their roots back to Rappa Castle near Crossmolina. The family held many grand properties and extensive estates that extended across the county. Francis Arthur Knox-Gore inherited the property at Belleek at the age of fifteen, so improvements to the estate did not occur until 1837 with the completion of the Tudor Gothic mansion that sits at the centre of the demesne. Costing in the region of £10,000, its riverside location proved useful for the transportation of materials for its construction. Stone for the new mansion was ferried from a nearby quarry in Moyne, located further down the River Moy. It is quite possible that this same location was used to supply stone for the construction of the gate lodge in the 1870’s. When Sir Francis Arthur Knox-Gore of Belleek Manor was planning his estate at Belleek, it is said that he wished to have his main entrance gate opening on to one of the main streets of Ballina. Unfortunately, there was one field standing in the way of this ambition which belonged to Lord Arran. He refused to co-operate and was said to be jealous of Sir Arthur and his grand intentions. As a result, the proposed avenue was never completed, and the main gate was eventually relocated to its present position on Castle Road to replace an earlier structure. The gate lodge at Belleek was built to replace an arched access on the site which is known to have dated from before 1837.  This gate lodge was replaced by his son, Sir Charles James Knox- Gore, the second and last Baronet who succeeded to the estate in 1873. The second entrance was located along the Killala road, where the entrance to the Coca Cola factory is found today. It was demolished a number of decades ago but the iron gates, known as the black gates, still survive in a park nearer the town of Ballina.

The Entrance Front of Belleek Manor, Ballina, Co. Mayo
     Copyright ICHC
The wooden gates of the main lodge at Belleek were recently recovered from the riverbed of the River Moy. Messer’s Fagan & Sons, Great Brunswick Street in Dublin furnished gates for the main lodge at Ashford Castle which were based on designs prepared by James Franklin Fuller, the architect. Therefore, it is quite possible that Fagan’s also supplied the gates for Belleek, however it should be noted the gates currently found at Ashford are iron. In recent weeks, the original gates of Belleek Gate in Ballina, Co. Mayo have been recovered from their watery slumber on the bed of the River Moy, a project pioneered by Paul Carabine and the committee of Ballina Community Clean up. In the 1950’s, these gates were used to create a jetty on the river but were lost during a storm and sank to the riverbed. After their recent recovery, samples of the timber were sent to Queen’s University in Belfast to identify the species and origin of the timber. The tests revealed that the timber is Scots Pine: Pinus Sylvestris imported from Scandinavia or Russia in the 1870’s which may indicate that they were made further afield than Ballina. It is also quite possible for an estate such as Belleek, which was largely self-sufficient at this time, that the gates could also have been made by local craftsmen. The estate at one time employed over seventy people who tended to the kitchen garden, the sawmill, estate lands and a large kennel of hounds kept for hunting. The recovered gates comprise of a metal frame which the outer timber elements are bolted to. Traces of the original paint are visible, one area has a patch of red paint still remaining. From viewing the pair of gates recovered, one can appreciate the detail and scale of these relics. One gate is better preserved than the other having been shielded by the worst excesses of time and tide on the riverbed. The committee involved in their recovery now hope to restore and reinstate the gates back at Belleek Arch, an initial step in the process to eventually restore the whole structure.
The gates that once hung at the lodge at Belleek,
which have recently been recovered from the River Moy
     Copyright ICHC
Sir Charles James Knox Gore, 2nd Baronet of Belleek Manor, died on the 22nd December 1890, unmarried with a personal estate valued at £70,339 2s 2d. As Sir Charles had died with no male heirs, the title of Baronet died with him, having only been awarded to his father twenty-two years earlier. The estate at Belleek Manor and its land near Ballina, was entailed under the terms of Charles's fathers will, and was thus divided between his older sisters. In the 1870's the Knox Gore estate extended to over 22,000 acres of land in Mayo with a further 8,500 in Sligo which was mainly inherited by Charles’s sister Matilda. Charles upheld the family tradition and is buried in the grounds of the manor house near the river with his dog Phizzie, where modest headstones mark both their graves. Matilda married Major General William Boyd Saunders of Torquay who adopted his wife’s additional surnames to ensure their continuance to the next generation. In 1896, tickets of admission had to be acquired to enter past the main gates on Castle Road. The wooden gates of the lodge, now recovered, ensured that the demesne of Belleek remained private and secure for the Knox Gore family. These tickets which could only be obtained by letter to Major Saunders Knox Gore and used for limited access on certain days throughout the year. 
The sale of the contents of Belleek Manor in 1942

During the famine, the Knox Gores were benevolent landlords and in the 1920s the manor was unharmed during the worst excesses of the ‘The Troubles’. Attitudes began to change toward the residents of Belleek Manor in the 1930’s. In 1938, it was reported in the press that two or three years previously, Colonel Saunders Knox Gore had offered the estate to the Land Commission, but they had not chosen not to purchase the estate for division. This had angered members of the local community who had wanted the estate divided and resulted in several cattle drives, where livestock were driven off the lands of the Belleek Estate. The demesne lands at this time extended to over 1,000 acres and this land was leased for grazing. In 1942, the sale of the contents of Belleek Manor took place at the instruction of Col. Saunders Knox-Gore. It is noted that the sale included the contents of the Dining Room, Study, Front Hall, Library, Boudoir, Drawing Room, 10 bedrooms, Servant Rooms and Kitchen. It is also recorded that admission was by catalogue only which were offered for sale at the entrance lodge to the manor. Traps would operate from Knox’s Street to the manor on the date of the sale. In the same year, the manor house and its lands of 415 acres, 105 in pasture and 275 in lawns and plantations, were eventually purchased by the Beckett family. They had the intention of converting the estate into an equestrian focused business. The Beckett’s restored the manor but due to an unfortunate death in the family, their proposed scheme was never realised.

In 1948, Dr. Noel Browne, Minister for Health visited Belleek and in the following year, it was being discussed about the possibility of Belleek Manor being acquired by the state. However, it was said that he was ‘not strong about it’. Members of the Urban District Council at the time wanted the state to press ahead with the purchase of Belleek in the belief that it would bring business to the town. At the same meeting, a resolution was passed to ask the government minister to amend his decision and acquire Belleek in the interests of the county. By 1950, the estate had been sold to the Land Commission and in 1955, the issue of acquiring part of the Belleek for public use, still rumbled on.  The Land Commission proposed the sale of 20 acres of Belleek for the sum of £1,400.00 so the land could be used as a public park. The offer had an expiration period of one month and the Urban District Council would be responsible for putting up fences and maintenance.  Members of the Urban District Council felt that the price was inflated and would not be achievable on the open market. It was also the belief at the time that the Land Commission knew the Urban District Council could not accept the offer because of high rates. Previously in 1946, the Land Commission were prepared to accept an offer of £421 10s for 72 acres of land. 

In the 1950’s the manor was purchased for use as a sanatorium by the County Council, while the Land Commission and the Department of Forestry purchased most of the land that made up the estate. The interior of the castle was whitewashed, and the reception rooms now housed female patients who were suffering with tuberculosis. Several years later the manor was abandoned as a sanatorium and was briefly used as a barracks. The manor now faced an uncertain future as the County Council considered removing the roof to avoid rates and demolishing the remaining walls. By 1957, Belleek Manor was described as derelict with only 23 acres of land. There was an effort at this time to turn the manor into a nursing home, but this notion failed. It was hoped that an American millionaire might purchase Belleek and restore it in a similar fashion to what had occurred at Muckross House in Killarney. It is recorded that the main gate on Castle Road was continuously lived in until it was vacated in 1959, its condition having possibly deteriorated. 

In 1961, it was reported that Ballina Urban District Council refused to sell the main entrance gate lodge on Castle Road to Mr. Marshal Doran, a hotelier from Jersey who had recently purchased Belleek Manor, which he intended to convert into a hotel. It was argued by members of the council that the gate lodge was located beside the town park and formed its main entrance so it was thought that it should remain in the ownership of the council. The main tower of the gate lodge with its battlements is what first attracted Mr. Doran to purchase the manor. At the time of purchasing the Belleek property, Mr. Doran had hoped to acquire the main gate on Castle Road but when the sale matured, it was discovered that the transaction did not include the entrance structure. Many on the U.D.C. believed at this time that the lodge, having become derelict, should be demolished and its cut stone sold. For many, then and even today, structures such as this grandiose gate lodge were seen as symbols of oppression and exclusivity. For some their loss would not be mourned.

In recent years the lodge at Belleek has been illuminated
which shows off the true magesty of the structure.
     Copyright ICHC
By 1961, the condition of the gate lodge had become so precarious that it now concerned the members of the Urban District Council. ‘It is a scandal and a great source of reflection on the town that this fine structure was ever allowed into a dilapidated condition’ said Mr. Jack Clarke. Again Mr. Marshall Doran, the owner of Belleek Manor, put forward his offer to purchase the lodge and the adjoining land still held by the council. Mr. Doran was now in the process of converting the manor into a hotel and was concerned about the ‘fine parkland’ being developed in the vicinity of the main entrance. He stated that ‘There must be many Ballina people who would like to see this not built over and preserved in perpetuity for the town and its sporting activities’. The opinion was expressed by the council members that they should maintain ownership of the building however they would consider leasing it. The Town Clerk decided the best thing would be to permit the owner of Belleek Manor to put up a sign on the entrance gate and charge him a rental for it. The town council did not want to lease the gate lodge as there were ‘legal snags involved’.  The purchase of the land by Doran was thought by the U.D.C. to have some merit as it was a way of ‘getting out of Belleek’ which they had seen as a liability. The U.D.C. decided that they would not allow the land to fall into private hands as then they would have no control over its future development. Mr. Doran’s sole interest was to preserve the land as parkland.  By 1983, Marshall Doran enquired again to use the gate lodge and submitted a request with Ballina UDC. If the request was granted, he intended to maintain the lodge lawns, erect flag poles and provide flood lighting. He wished to use the lodge to erect advance signage for the hotel at Belleek Manor. He was clear that it would not be used for residential purposes but possibly as a museum to display artifacts he had acquired. The U.D.C. again ruled out the sale of the lodge but agreed to investigate the possibility of leasing it however this proposal was not realised.
The interior of the lodge at Belleek is long gone since it was vacated in the 1950's
     Copyright ICHC

The structure of this lodge has stood the test of time and in recent years it has been impressively illuminated at night. The most pressing issue threating its future is increased traffic flowing through its arch each day and the unchecked growth of ivy. Belleek Arch is a superb addition to the architectural heritage of the town and should be valued as such. Efforts are now being made to restore this structure and develop it for public use. Despite the residential development of the area surround the lodge in recent decades, no efforts have been made to reroute the public road and protect this structure from possible damage from traffic. Rerouting traffic would allow the structure to be developed, possibly in connection with the Landmark Trust or possibly become the museum that Marshall Doran had proposed decades before.

Brackets and sockets that once held the main gates in place are still evident 
on the structure. It is hoped that the main gates now recovered will return to
their original position.

     Copyright ICHC


Friday, 26 July 2019

Clogher House
Carra , Co. Mayo

Clogher House in Co. Mayo was built in the 1770’s and existed for nearly 200 years until it was destroyed by fire in 1970. This house and estate were once part of a community of 'Big Houses' that existed in the Ballyglass area which included the Moores of nearby Moore Hall and the Blakes of Towerhill House. These land owning families were Catholic and in the 1860's the tenantry of Moore Hall, Clogher and Tower Hill would meet at mass in the neabychapel at Carnacun. George Moore recalled that 'they all collected around the gateway of the chapel to admire the carriages of their landlords'. The Moore family pew was the first seat on the right hand side of the church with the Clogher pew behind it. However the landed families sat on the upper level of the church while the tenants sat in the main body of the church below them. Moore would also recall that the Clogher 'girls' Helena, Livy, Lizy and May used to sit there. He also fondly remembered going to Clogher to gather cherries and how his father George Henry Moore was impressed by the inventiveness of the Clogher 'girls' when they made a hearth rug for their dolls house from the skin of  dead mouse. In 1914, George Moore said that 'a last Lynch lives his lonely life in Clogher' and also suggested that Clogher would make a fine home for the Franciscans. He thought this course of action was a good idea as 'Lynch is a Roman Catholic: he has no children, what better could he do.' The 'last Lynch' as referred to by George Moore was James Fitzgerald-Kenney, who in 1913 stated that his ancestors, the Lynch Blosses, came to Clogher in 1720 from Castle Carra, a junior branch of the Lynch Blosse family baronets. They obtained leases of the Clogher estate, in the parishes of Burriscarra , Drum, Carra, Tagheen, barony of Clanmorris  in the County of Mayo, for 999 years from Sir Henry Lynch Blosse, 8th Baronet in 1788. James Fitzgerald-Kenney, in 1913, also referred to the old house of Clogher, inhabited by his ancestors up to 1780. He said that the Penal Laws at the time only allowed Catholics to live in houses of no more than one storey high so the laying of the foundations of the present Clogher House coincided with the relaxation of the these laws. The Lynch family of Clogher House had the rare privilege of having Papal authority to celebrate the ceremony of Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament in their house, it was said at the time to be a privilege enjoyed by very few.

A photo of the house possibly taken in the 1960's
from the Facebook page of Lost Buildings of Ireland who received it from William Fitzgerald Kenney
Originally a smaller house when first built,  a storm in January 1839 resulted in a number of changes being made to the structure. The roof of the mansion was torn off in the storm known as ‘The Big Wind’ despite it being covered in heavy stone slates. As Clogher was left roofless, the opportunity was taken to remodel the house, add another story while replacing the roof. In 1844 Samuel Nicholson described Clogher House as "amongst the largest and the best in the Country, and appears to be kept in excellent order". Clogher sat in a demesne of  640 acres, the structure was three-storey over part raised basement, with six bays on the entrance front incorporating a two bay break-front with tripartite pediment and fan lighted door-case. Internally, the house comprised of twenty-eight rooms incorporating a drawing room, library and chapel. The main reception rooms had ceilings of fine Adamesque plaster work and the front hall featuring an elaborate curved ceiling, which can be seen in some photographs below.

Some surviving photos of the entrance hall of the house where the circular ceiling can be seen
Copyright: The Architectural Archive

Another family involved with the history of Clogher House was the O'Crean family, who were said to be of great antiquity. They possessed large estates in Co. Sligo but lost them during the time of religious persecution. The O'Creans formed alliances with many families and Henry Crean born in 1670, married in 1703, Catherine, daughter of Thomas Blake of Bolebeg, Co. Mayo. This union produced Andrew Crean, who in 1751 married Mary, daughter and heiress of Dominick Lynch, Newborough, Galway. Andrew assumed the additional name of Lynch. His only surviving son, Dominick Crean-Lynch married in 1784, Julia, the daughter of Martin Brown of Cloonfad, Co. Roscommon. Their eldest son, Andrew Crean-Lynch of Hollybrook married in 1811 Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Patrick Lynch of Clogher House and in 1818, Clogher House is referred to as the house of the 'late' Patrick Lynch. It is also recorded that Andrew Crean-Lynch bought the Clogher estate from his brother-in-law Patrick Lynch. Andrew and Elizabeth's union produced five children, Dominick born 1812 but died young, Patrick born 1814, Joseph born 1828 together with two daughters Mary and Ann. Patrick Crean-Lynch succeeded and lived at Clogher House. In 1828, an Edward Lynch of Clogher House is recorded as having died  followed in 1844 by Joseph Crean-Lynch who died aged only 17 years of age. His remains were interred at Thagheen Chapel near Hollybrook, Claremorris. During the Famine in 1847, it was said that no tenant of the estate died of hunger, however many did die of fever which then raged through the country. By the 1860's ,Patrick Crean-Lynch was in financial difficulties and advertised for sale both his Hollybrook and Clogher estates. Part of the Hollybrook estate was in the parishes of Kilbennan and Kilconla, barony of Dunmore, county Galway. The Irish Times reported details of the purchasers of some lots in this sale though other lots were adjourned. Patrick Crean-Lynch was a Justice of the Peace, District Lieutenant, High Sheriff and a Major in the South Mayo Militia. He married in 1845, Marcella, the daughter of Sir Michael Dillion Bellew, this marriage produced four daughters but no male heir. 
The tripartite pediment and fan lighted door-case 
Copyright: The Architectural Archive
In August 1870, one of Patrick's daughters, Helena Mary, married James Charles Fitzgerald-Kenney of Kilclogher, County Galway. so it was necessary that a marriage alliance was arranged between the Crean Lynchs and the Fitzgerald-Kenney's. This marriage produced a number of children beginning  in June 1871, when  Marcella Jane Antonia Mary de Kenne was born in Number 2 Merrion Square. She was followed by William, born in November 1872, who was baptised William Lionel Crean Nicholas De Kenne in December of the year of his birth. In February 1875, at No. 2 Merrion Square,it was reported that a daughter, Helena Julia Olivia was born to James C. Fitzgerald-Kenney and his wife. She was baptised Helena Julia Olivia Anna De Kenne at St. Andrews Church on Westland Row. On Sunday, September 24th 1876 at Merrion Square, the wife of James Fitzgerald-Kenney Esq. of Kilclogher, Co. Galway and Clogher House, Co. Mayo gave birth to a son.  However tragedy struck when James Christopher Fitzgerald-Kenney, the husband of Helena Mary, died on the 31st October 1877 at Clogher House. He left an estate valued under £14,000 and it is noted that he is late of Clogher House, Co. Mayo, Kilclogher, Co. Galway and No. 2 Merrion Square, South Dublin. He was aged 58 at the time of his death. In November 1877, a newspaper notice was published which advertised an auction at Clogher House to include the extensive sale of 183 head of cattle sheep and horses together with carriages, hay and farming implements. Also offered for sale was the entire furniture of the house noted as formerly being the residence of Major Crean-Lynch.  The auctioneers also noted that they have been favoured with instructions from the representatives of the late J.C. Fitzgerald-Kenny. The man who go on to have a successful legal and political career in 20th century Ireland , was actually born after the death of his father. In April 1878, James Fitzgerald-Kenney was born in No. 2 Merrion Square and it is noted on his birth cert that his father was deceased. He was baptised James Christopher de Kenne Fitzgerald-Kenney on the 9th May 1878 in St. Andrew's Church Westland Row.

The breakfront and steps to the house
Copyright ICHC
On June 14th, 1894, Harry James Christopher Kenney died aged 20 as the result of an accident. He was the second son of the late J.C. Fitzgerald Kenny of Kilclogher Co. Galway and Merrion Square Dublin. He was described as popular young gentleman and was returning from the Ballinrobe Racces when the accident occurred. He had attended the races and had won two events but his lifeless body was found the following morning on the roadside near Clogher House. His horse standing on the roadside with its reins still in the hands of the deceased. After mass was celebrated in Clogher House, the cortege left the house at 3pm for interment in the family vault at Drum, a graveyard found within a mile of Clogher. It was reported that the house was' literally besieged during the days of mourning , and was a telling proof of the affectionate regard in which this old Catholic family is held, the room in which the remains were laid, was constantly thronged with the old and young of the neighbourhood'. As the coffin was borne out of Clogher House ' the vast multitude around gave expression to their feeling in a loud burst of sorrow. The large cortege of carriages, cars and the numerous peasantry that followed the remains, filled the avenue from the house to the entrance gate'. The coffin was carried all the way to the graveyard on the shoulders of the tenantry who wore white scarves. Present at the funeral was the Archbishop of Tuam, a number of clergy from surrounding parishes and the Monks of Errew Monastery. Later in the month, a letter appeared in 'The Western People' owing to the false rumours regarding the death of Harry and stated that his death was as a result of a fall from his horse. It was also stated that the victim had a weak heart from childhood and was prone to sudden faintness or dizziness which may have caused the fatal fall.However the rumour that abounded at the time was that Captain Blake of nearby Towerhill and Harry had been drinking at the local pub in Carnacon. Captain Blake stated that he wished to marry Harry's older sister, Harry let it be known that the Blake family were not thought of as being suitable to marry into his family. A number of hours later Harry was found dead on the side of the road near his home.
The Rear Facade of Clogher House
Copyright ICHC
Prior to 1894, there appeared to be good relations between the Fitzgerald-Kenney's and their tenants. However one year later in 1895, there were a number of hearings for ejectments to carried out on the estate for the recovery of rent arrears due to Mrs. Fitzgerald-Kenney of Clogher House. In the 1901 census the house is listed as being owned by Helena Fitzgerald-Kenney and that it extended to 28 rooms.  Residing in the house at this time is Helena, a widow aged 53, her daughter also named Helena aged 24, son James aged 22, a practicing barrister together two servants. It is noted that all Helena's children were born in Dublin. In May 1903, Helena Fitzgerald-Kenney late of Clogher House died and  the probate of her will was granted to James Fitzgerald Kenney B.L. in the amount of £ 1,335 16s 2d. Clogher House and its lands passed to her son James. By 1911, James Fitzgerald-Kenney is still living in Clogher House with another sister Marcella who is a Local Government Board Inspector. In 1920, a long running dispute between the tenants of the estate and James Kenney came to sad conclusion. From 1913 there had been constant trouble around the Clogher estate and the RIC had to provide protection to the Fitzgerald-Kenney family members. James Fitzgerald-Kenney had refused to sell any of his lands to local tenants after which, the locals resorted to a boycott of the estate. The manager of the estate Michael  O'Toole had nine children and could not afford to stop working for the Fitzgerald-Kenneys and received a warning from the tenants of the estate.  As a result O'Toole and another man named Michael Ferrangher were attacked and beaten. O'Toole died of his injuries but Ferrangher survived for a short period before he succumbed. Michael Ferragher had worked on the estate for 26 years prior to his death as a coachman. The suspects who were thought to have carried out the beating were eventually released without charge. The families of the deceased men received compensation for their loss, yet the murders remained unsolved to this day.

Mourners arriving at Glasnevin Cemetery for the burial service of Michael Collins in 1922.
 Future Minister for Justice James Fitzgerald-Kenney of Clogher House, Co. Mayo is on the far left. 
In 1918, James Fitzgerald-Kenney proved counsel for Mr. Edward Martyn of Tulira Castle, Galway in an injunction that he took against a local farmer that was trespassing on this demesne. In 1934, it was reported that Miss Helena Fitzgerald-Kenney had placed her beautiful and ancient residence at the disposal of the Mayo Branch of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children for the branch's annual general meeting. Helena J. Fitzgerald-Kenney was a member of the Mayo Executive of the I.S.P.C.C. and was a council member of the N.S.P.C.C. During Christmas 1949, an invitation was extended from Miss Helena Fitzgerald-Kenny for Midnight Mass to be celebrated at Clogher House. The mass was held in the drawing room which was transformed into an oratory for the occasion. The congregation was made up of staff and people from the area surrounding Clogher.  After his mother's death Clogher was home to James Fitzgerald-Kenney, Cumann na nGaedheal TD for South Mayo 1927-1944 and Minister for Justice 1927-1932. He had inherited Clogher through his mother’s family and made it his home until his death in 1956 together with his siblings. He was educated in Clongowes Wood College and University College Dublin were he graduated with a BA in 1898 and was called to the Irish Bar in 1899. He built up an extensive practice in Dublin and on the Connaught Circuit and was called to the Inner Bar in 1925. He joined the Irish National Volunteers in 1914 and was for a time an Inspecting Officer for South Mayo. In 1927, he was elected to the Dail, and shortly afterwards, following the shooting of the first minister for Justice, Kevin O'Higgins, he was appointed Secretary to the Minister for Justice. After the elections of September 1927, James was re-elected for South Mayo and became Minister for Justice. After his retirement in 1944 from politics, he resumed his legal practice and eventually retired to his farm at Clogher. James Fitzgerald- Kenney died aged 78 in 1956 in a Dublin hospital and his remains were removed from Dublin to Carnacon Church near Clogher with burial taking place in Drum graveyard near the house. James was predeceased by his brother, in August 1954, the death occurred of William Lionel Fitzgerald-Kenney at Clogher House. After his father's death and being the eldest son, while still a minor, he inherited his father's property at Kilclogher and Keelogues near Glenamaddy, Co. Galway. In 1900, he sold all his property having previously married in 1896, Josephine Delmas, the daughter of one of the foremost and best known lawyers, Delphin M. Delmas of San Francisco. William emigrated to California in 1902 to be near his wife's relatives and lived there until he returned to Clogher House in 1949 where he lived until his death. James surviving sisters continued to live at Clogher House after his death. In October 1957, James's sister Helena died , the chief mourners at her funeral were her sister Miss Marcella Fitzgerald-Kenney and Mrs. John Sweetman from Kells.  The Kenney-Fitzgerald family association with Clogher came to an end with the death of Marcella Fitzgerald-Kenney, who died in 1965 at the County Hospital in Castlebar. All the family members are buried at the nearby Drum graveyard.

James Fitzgerald Kenney
As a result of the death of the last Kenney-Fitzgerald sibling to live in the house, two years later in 1967, the contents of the Clogher were offered for sale at auction. This included the contents of the library that extended to over 3,000 books together with both Celestial and Terrestrial globes. The contents of the house was obviously extensive as it took four days to conduct the sale. In the auction catalogue from 1967, the following rooms and area's in the house are mentioned,  the Library, the back drawing room, entrance hall, inner hall and staircase, four bedrooms and the top floor which had a full size billiard table. The house had an extensive library as the sale of its contents accounted for one full day of the four day auction. The books amounted to 3,000 copies that covered topics such as history, law, architecture,  medicine, agriculture, forestry, gardening, travel, trade and religion. There were books written by George and Maurice Moore who had lived on the neighbouring estate together with books by Douglas Hyde and Yeats. There was a copy of ' The Trials of George R. Fitzgerald and others held at Castlebar , taken from the notes of  a Gentleman' dating from 1786. The architecture books appeared to contain a number of volumes regarding designs for ornamental cottages, rural cottages,  small villas, labourers cottages and farm cottages. Some of the medical books dated from the mid 1600's and a large number of books dated from the 1700's featured in the sale, which means they predated the house. As the books were so numerous, a large quantity were not listed, with some being sold by the shelf. The library also had a collection of maps which included an Atlas with geographical and historical accounts of the empires printed for Daniel Brown in London in 1721. There were also fifty sheets of maps of the maritime aspect of County Mayo. After the auction the house was sold to a timber merchant but unfortunately having survived the turbulent 1920's in Ireland,  in January 1970, Clogher House was destroyed in a fire. At the time the house stood on 200 acres having once been surrounded by a demesne of 640 acres. Despite the efforts of fire brigades from Claremorris and Ballinrobe the house was reduced to ruins. It was said that strong gales on the night of the fire hampered efforts to save the house. Clogher was unoccupied at the time and was looked after by a caretaker who lived nearby. Today the house languishes in ruins and is slowly being reclaimed by nature.

Clogher House after it was destroyed by fire in 1970

Friday, 1 February 2019

Cill-Alaithe House
( Killala House) 
Killala, Co. Mayo

The Entrance Front of Cill-Alaithe House, once home to Augusta Gertrude Knox Gore
Photo dates from August 2020
     Copyright ICHC

Cill-Alaithe House is situated near the town of Killala, in Co. Mayo and was designed and built for Miss Augusta Gertrude Knox Gore in the 1890's, a remarkable expression of independence considering the few rights that women had at this time. The house was constructed on the land of the nearby former Bishop's Palace which had been purchased by her brother Sir Charles James Knox Gore, 2nd Baronet of Belleek Castle in 1874. Sir Charles died on the 22nd December 1890, unmarried with a personal estate valued at £70,339 2s 2d. As Sir Charles had died with no male heirs, the title of Baronet died with him, having only been awarded to his father twenty two years earlier. The estate at Belleek Manor and its land near Ballina, was entailed under the terms of Charles's fathers will, and was thus divided between his older sisters. In the 1870's the Knox Gore estate extended to over 22,000 acres of land in Mayo with a further 8,500 in Sligo.  However it was Sir Charles's sizable personal fortune, which was not entailed, that provided Augusta with the independent means with which to build her own home. 

The grave of Charles James Knox Gore and his dog Phizzie buried nearby
in the demense of Belleek Manor overlooking the River Moy. It was the death
of Charles and the money that Augusta inherited from him that allowed her to
construct her home in Killala
     Copyright ICHC

Under the terms of this will Charles appointed a number of executors which included his sister Augusta Gertrude Knox. She was well provided for under the terms of the will, she received all her brother's silver plate, linen, china, books, wines, liquors, furniture, household effects, guns together with all his carriages and horses in Belleek Manor. However he also left her a large sum of money, in the amount of £20,000, which would allow Augusta to construct the house in Killala. Charles also recorded in his will that he desired to be buried in the demesne around Belleek Manor, in an area that he had pointed out previously to Augusta. It is obvious that Charles held his sister in high regard, as once the finances of his estate were settled after his death, any residue was to be placed in a trust and the income paid to Augusta. She was the only trustee of her brother's estate who had the power to appoint new trustees and it was she who had the final say over her deceased brothers investments, Charles also stated that Augusta had the right to reside at Belleek Manor for a period of six months after his death to allow her to make arrangements for a new residence for herself. Charles had left to his sister, Mrs Saunders ( who inherited Belleek Manor under the terms of her father will), the Warwick vase, two candelabra and the oak furniture in the castle. However if Augusta was refused by her sister the period of six months residence in the manor, Mrs. Saunders forsook these items, which causes one to think that relations were not good between the sisters.

The Entrance Front of Belleek Castle, Ballina, Co. Mayo
The home of Augusta Knox Gore before she built her home in Killala
     Copyright ICHC

Augusta Gertrude Knox was born circa 1846 and was the daughter of Sir Arthur and Lady Sarah Knox Gore of Belleek Manor outside Ballina, Co. Mayo. Augusta's mother, Lady Sarah, whom Arthur Knox Gore married in 1829, was the daughter of Colonel Charles Nesbitt Knox of Castle Lacken near Killala. Arthur and Sarah's marriage produced a family of two sons and six daughters. Sir Arthur, who became a baronet in 1868, brought the railway to Ballina and vowed that he would travel on the first train to arrive in the station in the town. He was true to his word, but he arrived contained within a coffin as he died in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin in 1873. Augusta was said to have be treated badly by her mother who preferred her other daughters and often let it known to the staff of Belleek Manor that the needs of her other daughters came before the needs of Augusta’s. As a result of this treatment in her childhood she grew up to be a very disagreeable woman in later life. It appears that Augsuta's mother, Lady Sarah thought herself better than others in the extended family and landed classes in the locality at the time.  Augusta's sister and Lady Sarah's daughter, Agnes Frances Nina Knox Gore of Belleek Manor married Utred Knox of nearby Mount Falcon in 1875. However her mother Lady Sarah, in her estimation considered Utred's family home, Hollywood House (also known as Mount Falcon as it was its predecessor), not suitable as a residence for her daughter having grown up in Belleek Manor. Utred had inherited £7,000 from his father but had to borrow a further £14,000 in order to complete a new house for his new bride. The new home was designed by the architect James Franklin Fuller, however the debt that Utred incurred worried himself and Nina for the rest of their married life. When Lady Sarah died aged 77 at Mount Falcon in 1888, she made no provision or bequest in her will to her daughter Augusta despite leaving an estate valued at £6,822 which passed in most part to her daughter Agnes Frances Nina Knox. Lady Sarah's funeral was strictly private, was held at 4 am in the morning when she was buried with her husband in Belleek Wood under the monument designed by Fuller. Therefore Augusta, possibly in awe of her sister's home at Mount Falcon and having grown up in Belleek Manor, would have had plenty of inspiration when it came to designing her own home in Killala. It is quite possible that Augusta had inherited her mother's conceit and pretentious nature which now could be expressed with the inheritance received the from her brother. Augusta probably felt that the new house in Killala was necessary for someone of her social class considering the other homes of family members such as Belleek Manor and Mount Falcon.

Mount Falcon, Ballina, Co. Mayo, the home of Augusta's sister Nina who married Utred Knox. 
Nina's mother declared that a new house of stature had to be built as Utred's previous home 
was not suitable for her daughter. Mount Falcon was therefore built by Utred in the 1870's
 to keep his mother-in-law happy. Copyright ICHC

On the 16th May 1891, it was reported,in The Western People, that the contract had been awarded for the construction of a house for Miss Knox Gore in Killala at a cost of £8,000. What is interesting about the date is that is within the six month period mentioned in Charles’s will. In the same paper in the same month, a John Goode, a contractor based in Killala, placed an advertisement looking for a number of masons and stone cutters to help with the construction of an 'extensive villa at Killala'. At this time Miss Knox Gore was lobbying the Board of Guardians of the nearby workhouse. Her solicitor, Mr. Garvey, told the board that Miss Knox Gore was ' anxious to attach portion of the workhouse grounds for the villa residence she intends to build on her property near the town'. While the board seen no issue with the request, they were concerned that it might have some effect on a proposal to turn the workhouse into an industrial training school in the near future. 
Cill-Alaithe House outside Kilala was built in the 1890's to Augusta's specification
Photo dates from August 2020
     Copyright ICHC

One year later in June 1892, The Western People, reported that ' the handsome mansion which Miss Knox is building for herself near Killala is drawing rapidly to a finish. It is a very imposing structure, and commands unrivaled marine and land views. We wish Miss Knox Gore many years to enjoy her new home'. The architectural firm who are are said to have designed the house were Millar and Symes, who were an architectural partnership based in Dublin, formed in 1874. It was recorded by the architect, R.C. Millar, in his diary that he made visits to other Knox homes, Mount Falcon and Castle Gore between 1892 and 1894. The house in Killala is said to have been built between 1893 and 1894, however as we can see from reports in the local press that the house was built between 1891 and 1892 however it could have been 1894 by the time the gardens and courtyard were completed. It is recorded that the architect was staying with the Knox family while he oversaw his West of Ireland commission. It is said that the Knox Gore’s instructed the architect to visit and incorporate ideas from ten of the stateliest houses in England. However the architect may have been inspired by the Knox’s own homes in Mayo, as the interior of the completed Cill Alaithe contains a chimney piece from Rappa Castle together with items from other Knox homes in Ballina. One of the fireplaces came from the residence of the Colonel King in Ballina, which is now the offices of Mac Hales Solicitors in the town. However over the years, I have heard other architectural historians imply that the house may have been the work of James Franklin Fuller, who had completed a number of projects for the Knox family in the previous years. Also the entrance gates to Belleek Castle were commissioned by Augusta’s brother, Charles, from Fuller the architect in the 1870’s together with a monument over the grave of their father. It should be noted that Charles purchased the land in Killala on which Augusta’s new house would be built in 1874. Would it be possible that Fuller had provided an outline design at that time in the 1870's for the house in Killala which was later developed by Millar and Symes when it came to building the house in the 1890's . However this is just conjecture as Fuller was notorious for destroying his own records.

The top lit walnut staircase of the house in Killala was said to have been modeled on another Knox Family home at Castlereagh which was demolished in the 1930’s. The completed house in Killala is in the Italianate architectural style which would have been the height of fashion at the time. The house was named Cill-Alaithe, which is the Irish for the name of the town of
Killala. At the time of the 1901 census, Augusta Gertrude Knox Gore is aged 54 and living in the house with a large number of servants, her income is derived from dividends and land, with her religion being described as Plymouth Brethren. Present in the house on the night of the census is Joseph Valentine Russell, a land steward, aged 31 and member of the Church of Ireland from Sligo. There is a headstone along the side avenue to the house in memory of Joseph who died in 1912 and is said to have been more than just a close friend of Miss Knox Gore, however one thinks this is unlikely considering the age difference. Joseph died on the 27th March 1912 , his death certificate records that he died of heart failure and that a Martin Divine was present at his death which occurred in Killala, he was aged 42 and his profession is listed as being a carpenter, Also present in the house at the time of the 1901 census were James Devine from Mayo aged 40, a butler, Mary Devine aged 47, the cook, Jane March aged 18, the house maid, Kate Reape aged 17, a laundress and Anne Canning aged 17, a dairy maid. All the servants were from Mayo and Catholic. The house is recorded at this time extending to 18 rooms with 41 outbuildings. By 1911, Cill Alaithe was inhabited by the Scott family, the head of the family John Scott is described as a labourer. Augusta at this time was residing with her sister in Coolcronaun near Foxford.

The Entrance Hall of Kilala House
Photo dates from August 2020
Copyright ICHC

From reading newspaper reports from the time, it appears that Miss Knox Gore established a stud farm at Cill Alaithe which expanded rapidly from 1898 after the construction of the house. In 1901, it was reported that a horse by the name of Vertigo, bred by Miss Knox Gore, won the Aintree Feather Plate at the Liverpool meeting making this its third win in succession. In August of the same year, Miss Knox Gore's horses, St. Moritz and Vertigo also won at the Windsor races. In 1906, a horse named Royal Arch ran at Kempton Park was bred by Miss Knox Gore. It was noted at the time that she was a famous horse breeder and had bred successful horses named Glenamoy and Nausicaa, who won at Lingfield in 1905. It was said that the sea air near Cill Alaithe was the reason behind the successful horses she bred.

This image of the gardens surround Cill-Alaithe were featured in Country Life magazine in 1902,
what is interesting above this image is that it would show the gardens soon after they were completed
     Copyright ICHC

The grounds surrounding the house are now in the process of being re-established after being over grown for decades but were once envied throughout Ireland and England. Miss Knox Gore had one of the finest collections of rare and exotic trees and at one stage employed four gardeners to keep it in check. Her collection of plants were in the landscaped grounds which she named her Italian garden was featured in Country Life Magazine in 1902. In the magazine, the garden was referred to being eight years old, which would indicate that it was complete by 1894. It was necessary when the garden was being constructed, that the perimeter was surrounded with a double beech hedge to provide protection to the plants from harsh weather. In the garden was planted magnolias, aralias, cordylines, hydrangeas, fuchsias and myrtles. When the French sailed into Killala in 1798, they brought three canons with them. One was left in Killala while the other two travelled with the French to Castlebar, and ended in the grounds of Raheen's House in Castlebar, subject of an earlier post. It was said that up until the Civil War in Ireland this cannon sat on the lawn of Miss Knox's house. However it was confiscated during the troubled times of the 1920's in the mistaken belief that it could still be of some use. The man said to be responsible for the design of the gardens around Augusta’s house in Killala was Mr. John Leybourne, who was once the head garden in Belleek Manor prior to the death of Augusta’s brother Charles. After the departure of Augusta in the 1920's from Cill-Alaithe, John continued to live in Killala until his death in 1930 and is buried in Ballysokeery graveyard.

This is possibly an image of Augusta Knox dating from 1902 in the garden of Cill-Alaithe House
     Copyright ICHC

By early 1919, Miss Knox Gore was beginning to divest herself of her holdings of land around Killala and in February of that year, the sale of eight farms owned by Miss Knox was advertised. W.M. Boland was instructed to sell lands at Public Auction at the Courthouse in the town on the 8th of February. It is also mentioned that farm implements and machinery in the yard of Cill Alaithe would also be sold. It says that the implements are by the best manufacturers and are only one year in use. James Gilvarry, a wealthy local man returning from the U.S. bought the house from  Augusta in 1923. She moved to Hadfod, Lon Llandegfan , Menai Bridge Anglesey in Wales and died there in October of 1924 and she is buried in Llandeyfan, Anglesey in Wales. Her will was probated in London in January 1925 by Frederick Hellewell Mills, a barrister and Ethel Theodora Pery. Miss Knox Gore's estate was valued at £13,492 1s. When Augusta left Killala in 1923 she transported all her belonging from Killala in an old boat, and it is said that when it reached its destination, on the other side of the Irish Sea, that it had barely been unloaded when it heeled over and sank.

The Italian garden beside Cill-Alaithe, the bottom photo dates from after the 1950's
as the palm trees ,present in the above photograph, are missing as they collapsed in a storm
     Copyright Richard Longfield

James Gilvarry did not live in the house on a full time basis but a man by the name of Michael Gilvarry, James's brother, was in residence on occasion. James and his family did return from America to the house on numerous occasions during the summer months and their visits were often recorded in the press. In 1935, James's daughter Mary Elizabeth was married in the chapel in Killala with the reception taking place afterwards in Cill Alaithe. During one summer in the house, the family entertained the Taoiseach W.T. Cosgrave, whom they also previously entertained in New York. On one occasion, Cosgrave on his return to Ireland from the United States had shamrocks picked from the grounds of Cill Alaithe and sent to James in Amercia as a thank you for his hospitality. In the newspaper The Brooklyn Daily Eagle in June 1936, it was reported that Mrs. James H. Gilvarry and her daughter, Miss Peggy Gilvarry of 66 Maple St., Brooklyn had sailed for Ireland on the Cunard Liner Britannic ( sister ship to the Titanic), to visit their summer home Cill Alaithe in Killala, Co. Mayo. They were to be joined by James H. Gilvarry Jr. who was a student of medicine at Trinity.  Mrs Gilvarry's husband James would sail later in the month and would spend most of August in Ireland and on the continent. In 1938, James made front page news in New York when he was abducted by two armed men and his car stolen. The property in Killala then passed to James' daughter Mary Flynn, who often listed the house as her address when advertising pedigree livestock for sale. She had married a man from Leitrim and was based in Ireland on a full time bases. Her father, James, possibly had to curtail his visits to Killala from America as a result of the outbreak of the Second World War. James H. Gilvarry died in 1947  at the age of 71, it was noted in his obituary that he was a lawyer and real estate broker, he died of a heart attack in the Court House in Manhattan.  

This OS Map shows the location of August's Italian garden which occupied
an area to the side of the house.
     Copyright OSI

In early 1941, the Sisters of the Marist Order arrived from France, Belguim and England  at the house in Killala to take refuge as their own convents had been damaged in the bombings during the Second World War. The house was occupied until 1942 by the group of nuns,when it was purchased by Alexander Knox Miller. He maintained the house in a good condition and was always happy to let anybody visit the house and grounds, provided they had asked permission. For a number of years, a local priest Father Guckian lived in the house in Killala, in a small flat. He looked after the house as Mr. Miller lived mostly in Millbrook, Co. Derry, where he still practiced the family profession that gave rise to his surname. In June 1954, there was a dispersal sale of livestock, which was advertised as taking place at Cill-Alaithe under Mr. Miller's instruction. At the sale, one of the yearling heifers swapped one salubrious residence for another when it was purchased by Mr. P. F. Cooper of Markree Castle in Sligo. The last wedding to take place in this lovely house took place on 7th September, 1963, between Mr. Miller’s daughter, Felicity, and Richard Longfield, whose forebears came from Mallow, Co. Cork. Both groom and bride were graduates of Trinity College, Dublin. 

The green house that once existed to the rear of Cill Alaithe
     Copyright Richard Longfield

Side Elevation
Copyright ICHC

In 1970, Asahi, a local factory, purchased Cill Alaithe House, who intended to maintain the property for use by its employees. In 1988 Asahi granted Killala Community Council permission to lease the house to An Oige for use as a youth hostel. Over the following years the house changed owners a number of times. In 1997 the house appeared on the market for around €320,000 but after a number of bids it was sold to Johnny Mc Carthy for €400,000. During the time that the house was owned by Asahi, its condition deteriorated and original features were lost including the substantial glass house to the rear of the property. Mr. Mc Carthy restored the house, spending over €1 million euros, and placed it back on the market in 2003 for €1.5 million. In 2004, a planning application was lodged by the new owners to Mayo County Council to link the house with the stable block and also construct 72 bedrooms in an effort to turn the house in to a hotel. This plan never materialized and the house appeared again on the market in 2010. New owners were not forth coming as Ireland was in the midst of a financial crisis. In October 2014, the house was sold for €765,000 and the new owners have embraced the prospect of owning a property of this nature and have reinvigorated the house, stables and the gardens in a lavish fashion.  Daniel Mc Auliffe and Anoj Don have renovated the house, restored the many derelict outbuildings and created a haven for a menagerie of animals since bringing the extensive grounds under control after years of neglect. Today the interior of the house is decorated with heritage colors, antiques and a number of items that display the humor of its new owners. This country house could not have hoped for better owners, for they do not want to turn this house into a hotel but simply want to make it a home. If the ghost of Augusta Knox Gore takes a walk through the grounds today, I'm sure she would approve of the work done and be happy that her legacy is in safe hands.

NOTE :Please note that the text of this article or any of the photograph's contained within may not be reproduced without the permission of David Hicks