Saturday 26 April 2014

Rappa Castle,
Co. Mayo

Co. Sligo

My interest in Irish country houses and castles stems from researching the history of my family and their connection with two houses, Rappa Castle in Mayo and Moyview in Sligo.

Rappa Castle in the 1890's(Picture David Hicks)

Rappa Castle lies in ruins today (Picture Copyright David Hicks)

In “ A Guide to Irish Country House”, Rappa Castle located near Crossmolina in Co. Mayo  is described as an early or mid-eighteenth century house consisting of a three storey centre block of four bays with two storey, two bay wings. The centre block and the side wings also had high pitched gable ended roofs, with tall chimneys in the gable ends. The castle was once home to the Crofton family with a castle being built on the site in the fifteenth century by the Burke family. It eventually came in to the ownership of a gentleman by the name of Francis Knox who was resident in the castle in 1798 and previously in 1786 the house was mentioned as being ‘the pleasant seat of Mr. Knox’. Francis Knox was the third son of Francis Knox of Moyne Abbey and Dorothy Annesley. Francis died in 1813 having married and produced six sons and six daughters. He was succeeded by his eldest son Annesley Gore Knox who died in 1839. He had married Harriett in 1793 who was the sister of Sir Ross Mahon. Harriett and Annesley had eight sons and five daughters.  The eldest surviving son inherited Rappa, also named Annesley who was succeeded by his son Captain Annesley Arthur Knox who was stationed in India with the army.

Harriet Knox, my great grandmother and the daughter of Captain Annesley Knox of Rappa Castle (Picture Copyright David Hicks)

This castle was once the home of my great grandmother Harriet Knox who was the daughter of Captain Annesley Arthur Knox, the landlord in the area at the time. It was said that Captain Knox mixed little in public affairs but in the hunting field his personality made a good impression with many people. In Harriet’s bible she records the death of her father at Rappa Castle on 8th April 1897. She obviously was very fond of her father as she refers to him as ' my own darling dad' which was extremely affectionate for the reserved times. Captain Knox was master of the North Mayo Harriers and soon after his death a meeting of its members was held in the Moy Hotel in Ballina to express their deep grief at losing their master.

The former gate lodge to Rappa Castle which survives today ( Picture Copyright David Hicks)

At the time of Griffith's Valuation the Rappa estate included six townlands in the parish of Bekan and one townland in parish of Aghamore, barony of Costello and at least three townlands in each of the parishes of Ardagh,Ballysakerry and Kilfian, barony of Tirawley, county Mayo. In 1876 the Rappa Estate consisted of 6,855 acres in county Mayo and 724 acres in county Galway The death of Captain Annesley Knox heralded the beginning of the end for Rappa Castle. His beloved daughter Harriet under the inheritance laws of the time was not allowed to inherit the estate. She was passed over in favour of the male line and as a result the estate passed to her uncle and his son, Ross and Ronald.

On the day of his funeral, the carriages of the local gentry began to assemble at the castle together with the tenants of the estate. His coffin was placed in the hall of the castle where on the mantelpiece were placed items associated with his love of the hunt. Of the many wreaths that’s were placed upon the coffin was one from his daughter stating –‘In fond and loving memory, from Harrie’. Captain Knox is buried on a hill near the castle, where many members of the family have been interred and their monuments exist today in a dishevelled state. One month after the death of Annesley Knox an auction was advertised under the instructions of the executors of the late Captain Knox, the entire outdoor effects of the castle, cattle, sheep, farming equipment, carts and carriages went under the hammer. After this auction the entire grazing of the estate was to be let for eleven months which extended to over 400 acres. Also sold were Captains Knox’s horses which he used for hunting and it was noted in the auction literature Captain Knox was one of the best judges of horses in the hunter class in the west of Ireland. On the day of the auction which was attended by over 300 people who were all served lunch. At the time of the 1901 census, the castle was occupied by Ross M. Knox, his wife Violet, son Ronald aged 10 and a daughter Una aged 6. Also present in the castle were a governess and two servants. By 1911 only Ross and his son Ronald are present in the castle together with four servants. 

Harriet and her husband Arthur Hicks ( Picture copyright David Hicks)

By 1901 Harriet aged 24 was living in Ely Place in Dublin and listed her birthplace as the exotic location of India and also lists herself as benefiting from a private income.  By the time of the 1911 census, Harriet had married Arthur Hicks and was living in Moyview at Rinroe in County Sligo with their three children and three servants. A year previously they had purchased the house and 159 acres for £1,210 where the family remained until the 1950’s. They first lived in Moyview Cottage but later built a two storey house nearby which survives today. Moyview Cottage was the former house of the Hon. Colonel Wingfield and from the 1850’s the house and estate was occupied by Robert Warren of Castlewarren in Cork. He was a leading expert on birds and during his time in Moyview he wrote extensively on this subject. 

The Hicks's came to live in Moyview in County Sligo, first in Moyview Cottage shown above and later built a two storey house nearby shown below (Pictures copyright of David Hicks)

The Knox’s left Rappa Castle in the 1920’s afterwards it was lived in by the Gillespie family. The upkeep of the castle became too great and it was dismantled in 1937 and now survives in a ruined state. One of the fireplaces from Rappa was installed in one of the homes of the Knox’s in nearby Killala.


  1. Hello David
    Robert Warren was my GrGr Uncle. I have been in the area a number of times.
    I have a photo of the cottage Moyview and one of the barn. I think they were used in the book: Castleconnor Parish, An Historical Perspective - Pre 1900.

    Anne Warren

    1. Anne,

      Great to hear from you, there is a local lady researching your ancestors and has been trying to track down descendants of the Warrens such as yourself. My email address is, I would be grateful if you could forward me your contact details so I could both of you in touch. Also I would love to see the pictures you have of Moyview Cottage.

      Kind Regards
      David Hicks

  2. Hello David Hicks, I have found this blog to be extremely informative and educational. I have a few questions and I am hoping that you can answer or guide me in some way. I have a 2x great grandfather who lived in Knockaseehaun, Fortland, Mayo, Ireland in 1901 as a carpenter. His wife and children reside on the property as well. The census list Anesly Knox as the landlord. His eldest son Michael lives in Lauvlyer in 1911 with his family and is also listed as a carpenter. This census list Reginald Knox as landlord. Back in the Griffith's Valuation a Luke Walsh is listed as a carpenter on the Knockaskeehaun lands for the Knox family. Now I am wondering if the Knox family would keep a family like the Walsh's to live and work in subsequent generations like that. I am just not sure of what the landlords preference would have been. I hope you can help with these many answers. Regards, Theresa Walsh Resino

    1. Hi Theresa, Many Thanks for your comment, Annesley Knox was a member of the Knox Family who owned thousands of acres of land around Mayo and Galway and who resided at Rappa Castle. Annesley Knox died in 1897 but the estate is still listed in his ownership in 1901 as it was inherited by a young nephew. The Knox family were split up into a number of different families, all mostly cousins who owned a number of estates, for instance in Crossmolina, there would have been Rappa Castle, Errew Grange, Thornfield, Netley etc and here in Ballina there would have been Belleek Castle and Mount Falcon and in Killala there would have been Cill Alithe House, The Lodge, Castlereagh, Castle Lacken etc. so as you can see there was a long list of estates and families and I have probably forgotten a few. Most people were usually tenants of a particular landlord and tenancies were usually passed down through the generations from father to son and in some instances tenancies of land could have been split between family members. Annesley Knox's estate was inherited by his nephew Ronald Annesley Knox who died in 1918 but by then most of the estate was sold to the Land Commission. The Irish Genealogy website is good for tracking down relatives ie. birth, marriage and death certificates, please find the link below:

  3. Hi David! I am glad to report that I am a Gillespie. My grandmother was the daughter of William Gillespie, and was born and raised there in Rappa Castle (and later the home my great grandfather built in front of it). I had the opportunity to go back ten years ago, and will likely be returning this September. The Gillespies still live in the surrounding area, including the house just across the road. As I understand it, the Gillespies were the servants to the Knox family, or worked on the land (I once heard William worked specifically with the pig pen, but, of course, stories grow imaginative over time). I wondered if you had any more knowledge of the relation between the Knox family and the Gillespies? I'm in New York, but will be in in Ireland this September for two weeks, as mentioned, if you'd like to get together ( I'm particularly interested in learning about opportunities for restoration, especially given the Land Commission's involvement. Look forward to hearing from you!

  4. Do you know anything about a William Knox and his wife Elizabeth Crofton who have some early 18th century connection to this land? They are some of my ancestors

  5. Hi David. Just wondering if there could be a connection.

    If there is a connection it would be through a marriage between John Singleton Darling & Isabella Jane Knox 14/05/1880. All I have is that her father was Capt Annesley Knox. Isabella was born in Cork 1855c
    They had 2 children
    Ivy Isabella Knox 1881-1953 who founded Glengara Park School Dun Laoghaire

    Maurice Annesley Knox 1884-1904. Apparently died in Canada.

    It'd be interesting to see if we are related.

    If you could let me know either way, so I'll know you've received message.

    Kind regards

  6. Greetings David,
    I found your blog to be very helpful, thanks you. Like others, I have a link to the area near Rappa Castle. My great great grandfather , Michael Walsh was I am told, the main butler for many years at the castle. I have dug up birth certificates for several of his children, and on those documents they ask what the father's occupation was. For Michael Walsh it was servant, then butler. This was from the period 1865-1890. I am told he was employed at Rappa Castle, and his town was listed as Bunaneraghtish. Since you seem to have a wealth of information on the castle, I wondered if you know of any family documents that might confirm Michael Walsh as butler, and perhaps any other bits of information? My wife and I are planning a visit to Ballina and the area 8 May - 12 May. Coming from Virginia, US.
    Excellent work, all the best,
    John Seyna