Thursday 12 February 2015

 Hope Castle 
 Co. Monaghan

Hope Castle can be found near the town of Castleblayney in County Monaghan. Perched high on a hill overlooking an expanse of water known as Lough Muckno, the castle is hidden by trees and accessed from the town through impressive entrance gates. The town of Castleblayney is the third largest in County Monaghan and its development is closely linked to the influential Blayney family. From the late 1700s the Blayneys were responsible for the creation of local industry and the construction of a number of the public buildings in the town. A few months after I began to compile this piece, I learnt that the castle had been deliberately burnt to the ground. As a result of the loss of this building I felt I had to highlight its history and beauty, in the hope it would rally local people to ensure that it is restored. It is also fascinating that the family that gave their name to the worlds most famous gem stone also lent their surname to this castle in Monaghan.

The entrance front of Castle Hope with its large extension added by Henry 
Thomas Hope in the 1860s. The Hope family crest is emblazoned
 on the castle in the centre of this facade.
 Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland
In the 1600s, the lands around Lough Muckno were owned by the Blayney family who built the original castle that preceded the existing building. The eleventh Baron Blayney, Lord Andrew Thomas Blayney eventually built a new castle near the site of the original ancestral seat. It is little wonder that the site for the new castle was chosen as it enjoys one of the most spectacular views of Lough Muckno and the surrounding countryside. Robert Woodgate who designed the new castle in 1799 had previously served as an apprentice to the architect John Soane in London. In the same year, he also set up his Irish practise in Dublin and secured the commission from Baron Blayney in County Monaghan. Woodgate wrote to Soane, his former employer, in November 1799 and enclosed a sketch of Castle Blayney. The grateful apprentice recorded the following in the accompanying letter- 'Sketch of the first house I ever built as a small tribute due for your former kindness to me'. The completed three storey, five bay block of Castle Blayney now stood on the hill overlooking the lough but its completion would also mark the end of the Blayneys connection with the estate. The eleventh Baron was a generous man and in 1814 he donated a painting of St. Sebastian to be used as an alter piece in the local Catholic Church which stood on land that he had donated in 1803.During the time that the eleventh Baron Blaney succeeded to the Monaghan estate he did much to improve the town of Castleblayney and he was responsible for its streetscape and development of local industry. Lord Blayney died on April 8, 1834 and was succeeded by his son Cadwallader Davis Blayney, the twelfth and last Lord Blayney. In 1853, the Hope family purchased the remainder of the Blayney estate under the Encumbered Estates Act 1849 for £180,000

The castle is now boarded up since it was destroyed by fire in 2010. The 
substantial wing built by Henry Thomas Hope was demolished around the 
time the castle was renovated  in the 1980s leaving the building as it 
appeared when it was first built.
 Accreditation- Photograph by Ellie Ross

The most famous diamond in the world which shares its name with a castle 
in Monaghan once owned by Henry Hope

A niche on the rear elevation of the castle still contains a statue that 
once overlooked a formal garden.
Accreditation- Photograph by Ellie Ross

The estate had been sold to Henry Thomas Hope of Surrey who was a member of the Scottish-Dutch banking family, famous for their ownership of Hope Diamond.
The diamond was a supposedly cursed jewel that had passed through both the French and British Royal families and had supposedly brought ruin to whoever owned it. Henry Thomas Hope had the building in Monaghan refaced and embellished during the 1860s which included the addition of the Hope family crest to the parapet of all the facades of the castle. A large extension was added to the building which now became a modern country retreat for the extremely affluent family. Inside a large collection of art treasures were amassed which included a gallery of pictures by the Dutch and early English masters. Henry Thomas Hope died in 1862 and the castle eventually passed to his grandson, Lord Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton. Between 1900 and 1904, Hope Castle was occupied by the Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria, during his appointment as Commander in Chief to Ireland. It was said at the time that the Duke and Duchess experienced a great deal of difficulty in finding an Irish home as they did not wish to spend all their time in the official residence at the Royal Hospital in  Kilmainham, Dublin. The Irish residence associated with the office of Commander in Chief was not thought to be suitable for habitation by such high ranking royals as the grounds of the residence were far from private and its location was thought to be in an inferior part of the city. The residence of the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary in the Phoenix Park would have been suitable but neither of these residents could vacate those houses. The large administrative staffs associated with these official roles could not be moved easily without huge disruption. Several other houses such as Castletown House in Kildare were considered before the Duke settled on Castle Hope in Monaghan which he leased from Lord Henry Francis Hope. 

Prince Arthur, 1st Duke of Connaught 
(The National Portrait Gallery, London)

The garden front of the castle that overlooks Lough Muckno, the large 
drawing room of the house was contained behind the large projecting
 bay window that can be seen in this picture.
Accreditation- Photograph from The Irish Historical Picture Company

Leonie Leslie 

It is believed that Castle Hope was chosen as it was located near the home of Leonie Leslie, a prominent socialite at the time, who lived at Castle Leslie. She was a close friend of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught but it is alleged that she was a closer friend of the Duke. The royal couple arrived in Castle Blayney in June 1900 and received a warm welcome from the local people; both the gates to the castle and the whole town were decorated with bunting and flags. The Duke had taken the castle for the summer season in 1900 with an option of leasing it for a further five years.  It was thought at the time that Castle Hope would become an official royal residence and that Queen Victoria would visit her son here. She never graced Castle Hope with her presence before her death in 1901 and the Duke of Duchess of Connaught ended their association with the castle in 1904. 

The entrance gates to the castle  in the 1900s around the time that Duke and 
Duchess of Connaught were in residence. The presence of police officers 
also gives credence to this assumption.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland.

Today the handsome gates piers and adjoining lodges are a distraction 
surrounded by parked cars, incongruous signage and electric wires.
Accreditation- Photograph by Ellie Ross

Lord Henry, the castle’s owner, lived beyond his means which eventually led to marriage troubles and financial woes. He was forced to sell the Hope Diamond in 1901 for £29,000, which would be over two million pounds in today’s money, but this was not sufficient to plug the gapping hole in his finances. Lord Henry Francis Hope had mortgaged the estate in Monaghan heavily and ceased to live there from 1914. After this, the castle was occupied by every army that the country had seen since 1919 which included the Auxiliaries, Black and Tans and the Free State Army. It was also recorded that after the ratification of the treaty that the Crown forces were evacuated from Hope Castle on January 16, 1922.

Lord Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton
(The National Portrait Gallery, London)

 None of these occupants had caused serious damage to the stately pile’s contents and in 1926, an auction of the property of Lord Henry Francis Hope was announced. The contents of the castle consisting of antique furniture, paintings, china and the entire furnishings contained in the billiard room, drawing room, boudoir, library, smoking room, bedrooms, servant’s quarters and kitchen were to be auctioned. The sale of the furniture was the final severance of the connection that the Hope Family had with the town of Castleblayney and the auction attracted a huge attendance for the sale of the 1,400 lots. A lot of the large antique furniture sold quite cheaply due to its large size not being suitable for the average family home of the time. Items dispatched for sale included a grand piano and a billiard table which were sold to the nearby Hope Arms Hotel. Over the following years, the castle remained empty and unoccupied until it was used as a temporary hospital between 1932 and 1937 while the new county hospital was being built. It again lay idle for a number of years until it was purchased by a Franciscan Order of nuns who lived there from 1942 until the early 1970s. The Franciscan Sisters had purchased their new home in Monaghan as their previous convent in London had been lost in the blitz during the Second World War. They sought permission to come to Monaghan in December 1941 and secured a loan of £6,000 to establish their convent in Castleblayney. In 1951 the lands of the Hope Estate was taken over by the Land Commission and divided up among the former tenants of the estate. In later years the Franciscan Sisters ran the castle as a guesthouse and they had converted the ballroom into a chapel.

A gravel path led directly from the French doors of the drawing room,
down to the shores of Lough Muckno and a boat house.
 Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland.

The boarded up windows of the drawing room of the castle once overlooked
 Lough Muckno which is considered to rival the famous Lakes of
 Killarney in County Kerry.
Accreditation- Photograph by David Hicks

In 1979, the castle and the remaining estate lands were offered for sale which extended to 1,000 acres but only fifty-five acres were deemed to be agricultural land as over 900 acres were occupied up by Lough Muckno and its twelve islands. The castle was described as having a floor area of 22,500 sq.ft. which included five reception rooms, twenty-six bedrooms and four bathrooms. There were also coach houses, stables, two gate lodges, farm buildings and a boat house. An asking price of £500,000 was sought and eventually in the 1980s the castle and surrounding lands were purchased by Monaghan County Council.
The nineteenth century additions built by Henry Thomas Hope were demolished and the surviving main block of the building was renovated. The eighteenth century castle was leased and operated as a fourteen bedroom hotel for the next number of decades. 
A niche on the rear elevation of the castle still contains a statue 
that once overlooked a formal garden.
Accreditation- Photograph by Ellie Ross

The castle once was surrounded by gardens that contained elaborate
 planting, statues and stone balustrades topped with flower filled urns.
Accreditation- Photograph From the National Library of Ireland

In 2010, the townspeople of Castleblayney were shocked to hear that a fire had swept through Hope Castle which caused extensive interior damage. The alarm was raised by Gardai who were on an early morning patrol when they discovered a huge fire was raging inside the building. Fire units from all the neighboring towns were called but serious damage had been done, the castle had been unoccupied at the time and the fire was started maliciously by trespassers. The blaze ripped through the building leaving large sections of the castle destroyed and many of the antiques that furnished its reception rooms were also lost. For the moment Hope Castle remains cordoned off behind a high fence that shields it from public view. Behind this hoarding is a scene of desolation of broken windows and blackened walls, a view reminiscent of the house burnings of the 1920s. I sincerely hope that this building is restored as a resource that can be enjoyed by the local community and the tourists of Castleblayney. Surely this building could become a place where the history of the many famous people associated with this castle could be recorded. How many buildings in Ireland have their history’s interwoven with the world’s most famous diamond and members of the British Royal family?

As a result of the fire, the castle is now surrounded by hoardings that 
prevents public access but this also inhibits the replication of the above
 historical image. Architecturally, the facades of this side of the building
 remain relatively unchanged.
Accreditation- Photograph by Ellie Ross

Comparing the aerial photograph above and the period ordinance survey 
map below illustrates the reduction in size of the Castle 

Copyright OSI


  1. I'm glad I got to see it before it burned. - Shannon Blayney in Texas

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  4. Is it still owned by the County Council? What is the property currently valued at and would they sell it?
    James Blaney (Pittsburgh)

  5. I visited the castle in 1969 as the "guest" of the local constable who overheard my running down the quality of fishing in Ireland. He stopped his day to run home and change into fishing gear. The castle was run by the nuns who gave us a key to the boathouse. It looked capable of unlocking a city. The boathouse was the size of a small house. The massive lock clicked .....there was a barely capable of two dingy.
    He insisted on rowing.I WAS to fish ...... fish till every ounce of Irish pride was accounted for.
    Wind, sheets of rain hit us almost at once and all day. We're fishing! Listen we can go in when you're able or tired of rowing. Not yet son, keep enjoying your success! No amountof fun was goingto stop our fun.
    It's a precious memory of a lovely place and people. My heart aches for the castle's condition. When such things are lost so goes countless memories. Not casles die worlds die in them.

  6. One of the two gatehouses was recently restored and extended for €5m to become the town's library -