Thursday 1 November 2012

James Franklin Fuller

& his work around Ballina, Co. Mayo

Errew Grange was constructed in 1872 by Granville Knox using the funds of his wealthy heiress wife. No expense was spared during its construction which led to Granville being declared bankrupt before it was completed.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

After the gas leak and fire in 1949, the house stood as a ruin for a number of years before its restoration began in the 1970s. Today the house is divided into a number of apartments that enjoy spectacular views of the nearby Lough Conn.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

After the departure of Granville Knox the, house was converted in to ‘The Lough Conn Hotel’ which was operated by Maurice Fitzgerald. He had hoped to attract English fishermen to the beauties of the locality but it is questionable whether the business was a success. The house served as a school between 1912 and 1916 after which it was again operated as a hotel until a disastrous fire in 1949.
Accreditation- The National Library of Ireland

Today Errew Grange has been restored and extended; its attic storey now includes numerous dormer windows which detract from the beauty of the original building which was designed by James Franklin Fuller.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

One of the more successful aspects of the restoration include this beautiful stained glass window over the front door of Errew Grange.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

The interior of Errew Grange was a gutted shell and has now been restored to a degree in a very enthusiastic fashion. The apartments never sold and now the building languishes waiting for a new use.

Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

The interior of the nearby Mount Falcon is a more reserved and restrained affair as the building was always in use since it was built it retains it original internal features.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

The entrance gate to Belleek Castle in Ballina which was also designed by James Franklin Fuller in the 1870s, for another branch of the Knox family.

Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

The impressive monument design by James Franklin Fuller and erected over the grave of Arthur Knox Gore who died in 1873. It is surrounded by a waterless moat and a rumour persists that he was buried with his horse.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks

Thursday 25 October 2012

Carriglass in Longford is for Sale


Yesterday when I seen that Carriglass Manor was for sale it reminded of when I met the original owners of this house at my book signing in Slane Castle a few weeks ago..  The developer that purchased this estate a number of years ago has left the main house in a terrible condition with half built houses and a hotel in the grounds. This house is an architectural jewel and has connections with Jane Austin.

Back in 2004 it was unveiled as the site for a new €100m tourism project which would have been the largest of its kind in Longford. Now the 605-acre Carrigglas Demesne is being put up for sale in the hope that a leisure operator might come up with a new vision or a farmer might return it to its former glory.

About two-thirds of the land is in farmland, parkland or mature woodland with the remainder containing buildings or various stages of the development with its Retief Goosen designed golf course. Agents Lisney have not declared a guide price.

In May this year another large Longford estate, the 214-acre Ardagh Demesne, sold at auction for €1.36m or about €6,355 per acre.

That average price was below the average of €7,500 per acre which smaller tracts of good land made in the county last year.

However, it is higher than the €4,000 to €5,000 per acre quoted for marginal land in the county.

At an average round price of €5,100 for farmland, Carrigglas could generate bids of around €3m, but about a third of the land is in various stages of development which means the value really depends on the ambitions of possible buyers.

Carrigglas is located only 4km from Longford town and it benefits from an attractive 11-bedroom manor house.

Two of the other five houses are in reasonable condition, while three of them, gate lodges, need refurbishment.

A 96-bedroom wing for a proposed hotel has been partly-built, as have 37 courtyard houses beside the R194 route, 59 village houses and a 21-hole championship golf course.

Foundations have been laid for a golf clubhouse. It also benefits from stables designed by the famous architect Gandon.

Lisney has set December 7 as the closing date for expressions of interest.

Originally the Kearns family company, Kearns Developments, had envisaged the leisure attraction including a four-star hotel, a romantic woodland walkway and a selection of exclusive homes.

In 2006, the then Finance Minister Brian Cowen performed the sod-turning ceremony for what its developers hailed as "one of the most important developments ever to take place in Longford".

- Donal Buckley

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Anyone who has or is going to purchase my book on Amazon I would be grateful if you could review the book on Amazon and help the book achieve 5 stars, which after 2 years of hard work I know it deserves.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Carriglass Manor Longford

Please click on the above link to see the current state of Carrigglass Manor in Co. Longford. The ancestral home of the Lefroy family. This weekend I was signing books at the Adams Country House Sale at Slane Castle and I had the pleasure of meeting its former owner Jeffery Lefroy who sold the estate in 2005. A number of items in the auction were some of the original contents of his former home in Longford which he was now reluctant to sell, however needs must. Jeffery was saddened by the current state of his former home which is now in the hands of Nama who are doing very little to protect the structure. The developer who purchased the property had the intention of developing a hotel in the house and building houses in the grounds of the estate. Neither of these enterprises succeeded and now the whole estate is a desolate place.

The once beautiful dining room that contains lots for sale in the Adams Auction

The Drawing Room
Located five kilometers north of Longford Town on the T15 stands stately Carrigglas Manor. A once beautiful Gothic Revival style Manor house built by Thomas Lefroy in 1837 and was the Lefroy family seat until 2005. Chief Justice Thomas Lefroy who built the house was a one time love of the novelist Jane Austen, it being frequently suggested that the character Darcy in Pride and Prejudice was modelled on him. Carrigglas Manor was built to designs by Daniel Robertson (died 1849). The stableblock situated near the house was designed by the famous architect James Gandon. However these structures are not protected by the state and are now falling into dereliction, how can this be allowed to happen. Have we not learned from the mistakes from previous generations, do we have to wait for Carriglass to be be a roofless ruin before we lament its loss? Action needs to be taken now.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Castle Bernard, Bandon, Co. Cork the morning after the fire that destroyed it in 1921. The elderly Earl of Bandon was kidnapped and not released until three weeks later. On the lawn in front of the castle can be seen items of furniture still owned by the Bernard Family today.
Histories and photographs of this overlooked building can be seen in my first book
 - Irish Country Houses - A Chronicle of Change
now published by the Collins Press, please find a link to their website below.
Also I will be in Bandon this Saturday 29th September 2012 at 2pm signing books in the local bookshop Bandon Books. The town of Bandon has always been influenced by the Bernard family and today decedents of the Bernard family still live in the grounds of Castle Bernard.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Castle Neynoe, Sligo

Castle Neynoe
Co. Sligo

This grainy black and white picture was taken in the 1920s
is the only photograph that survives of the castle before
 its roof was removed in the 1930s.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Kearns whom the copyright is credited to

The entrance front of the castle has been decimated since some
 of its materials were re-used in the building of a local school.
 Accreditation- Photograph by Ellie Ross

A drawing of how the original exterior of the entrance front of Castle Neynoe
 once appeared. The two-storey main block of the building had a projecting
 central tower and was flanked on either side by single storey wings.
 Accreditation- Picture by David Hicks

Castle Neynoe is not a large house in comparison with other mansions but should be recorded for the curiosity of having all the features of a castle but on a much-reduced scale. The house is described as a three bay, two-storey over basement mansion with a central projecting tower. The house was built on the site of an earlier castle or fort in the 1790s and was designed with a Regency Gothic influence. The facades of the house are decorated with crenellations, arched windows and gothic crosses together with hood mouldings above regular sash windows. It was designed by Robert Robinson and his signed but undated architectural drawings still exist today. A flight of curved steps that wrapped around the base of the projecting curved tower led to the front door of the house. Once inside you would have found yourself in an elliptical hallway with niches on either side of an archway that lead to the inner hall. This area of the house contained the main staircase that was lit by a tall window on the half landing. The house was made up of four reception rooms which included two drawing rooms on the entry level and five modest bedrooms on the floor above. An adjoining single storey wing incorporated a cellar while the basement of the main block of the house contained the kitchen. It is said that there was once a glasshouse attached to Castle Neynoe which was located on the south side of the house overlooking the wooded landscaped grounds. The rear of the building overlooked a courtyard that was surrounded by the various outbuildings that served the needs of the household. The entrance gates and lodge to the demesne still exist but like the main building, they are clinging to some vestige of their former appearance. Three sets of gates are arranged among four pillars, the large central gates provided access for a horse and cart while the smaller gates on either side provided access for workers, servants and the occupants of the gate lodge. The lodge has a hipped roof and is a simple building bearing little resemblance to the main house found at the end of the long winding avenue. Here, Castle Neynoe faced the mountains and overlooked the landscaped grounds that for a time included a lake which was drained in later years
The ruined remains of the Neynoe family mausoleum in the
nearby Kiltycloghan graveyard. This monument which dates from 1828 should
be restored as many of its original pieces lie scattered on the ground.
The Neynoe family crest is featured on the surviving end of the structure.
 Accreditation- Picture by David Hicks

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Castle Freke Mirrors turn up for sale in Bandon

If you have a spare couple of grand, two mirrors from Castle Freke have turned up in Bandon. They were sold during the auction of the castle's contents in 1919. I wonder if the current owner of the castle would be interested in buying them back.

Monday 3 September 2012

The first preview copies of my book are arriving tomorrow. I cant wait to see it. Im so nervous and excited at the same time.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Thursday 2 August 2012


 The 11th Baron Carbery 1920-2012
The death has occured of the the 11th Baron Carbery, who died on the 28th July aged 92. Peter Ralfe Harrington Evans-Freke born in 1920 was the son of Ralfe who was the brother of the 10th Baron, John. He succeeded to the title in 1970 however the ancestral family seat Castle Freke had been sold by the 10th Baron in the 1920's. Stephen Evans Freake, a son of the 11th Baron purchased the castle in the 1990's and it is currently being restored.


Sunday 29 July 2012

Oscar Wilde's house is up for sale

The home of Oscar Wilde, wit and playwright is coming to the market. In this tall, red brick house in Tite Street, Chelsea, he wrote all his most famous plays, became a fin-de-siècle celebrity and faced his spectacular downfall. He moved here during 1884 with his new wife, Constance, when the street was distinctly bohemian, full of painters and writers. Today it is among the most expensive addresses in the country.  Wilde also comissioned Edard Godwin to design the interiors of the house. Godwin designed Dromore Castle in Limerick and Wynne sCastle in Kerry which is featured in my forth coming book - 'Irish Country Houses- A Chronicle of Change'
In a buttercup-yellow room on the ground floor, Wilde sharpened his wit and wrote his scandalous novel The Picture of Dorian Grey, and plays including Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest. Passers-by are made aware of the history within by a blue plaque on the exterior. The same ground floor, now a flat with one big bedroom, scrubbed oak floors and high ceilings, is for sale for £1.295 million

He commissioned the architect Edward Godwin and the artist Whistler to help him with the interiors of his new home, to put what he preached into practice.
“I have,” he wrote, “a dining room done in different shades of white, with white cushions embroidered in yellow silk: the effect is absolutely delightful and the room beautiful.” His study was full of oriental divans, Japanese prints and other Eastern touches, though he used this for smoking rather than writing in. He wrote downstairs at the front of the house in a yellow room with red-lacquered woodwork, a statue of Hermes beside him and pictures by Monticelli and Simeon Solomon.
The drawing room décor had more of a woman’s touch from Constance, with a ceiling of blue, painted with dragons, two brilliant peacock feathers set in the plaster, blue and white William Morris curtains, black and white bamboo chairs, and Whistler’s Venetian studies on the walls.

Friday 27 July 2012

Mount Falcon today

The wonderful hand drawings of James Franklin Fuller
which now hang in the bar of Mount Falcon

One of the orginal drawings which date from the 1870's

The signature of James Franklin Fuller, the architect of Mount Falxon and his client Utred Knox
James Franklin Fuller was the favourite architect of the gentry at this time and during his career he completed many well known commissions such as Kylemore Abbey and extensions to Ashford Castle. During the 1870s he carried out a lot of work for the Knox family in County Mayo. In 1871, he was involved with the construction of Mount Falcon for Utred Knox and in 1872; he also carried out work for the Knox’s of Belleek Castle near Ballina. For them he designed a new gateway to the castle and an impressive monument over the grave of Arthur Knox-Gore who died in 1873. It was during this period in the 1870s that he was also involved with the design and construction of Errew Grange for Granville Knox. Mount Falxon is now a luxury hotel, please use this link to visit their website :

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Quinville Abbey, County Clare is currently for sale for €2.5 million please find a link to this wonderful building below, this would certainly be the top of my shopping list if my number come up on the lotto tonight.

This was the home of the Singleton Family. John Singleton, built Quinville and after some years commissioned it to be redesigned in 1830 by the Pain brothers, two innovative architects who had designed nearby Dromoland Castle for Lord Inchiquin. An 18th century house, Lewis writes that it was rebuilt in the early 19th century in the Elizabethean style, home of the Singleton family. In 1906 Quinville was in the possession of James Butler Ievers. The property was bought by the McCausland family of Drenagh, county Derry in the 20th century. In the late 1990s the house was undergoing a major restoration by the owners, the Houlihan family who offered it for sale in 2012.
Its getting exciting now here is a link to my book on Amazon and the Collins Press website, its going to be printed soon and is due to be on the shelves on the 30th September 2012.

Sunday 15 April 2012

From the Irish Times by Michael Parsons
Contents of Mount Congreve Waterford to be Sold

One of Ireland’s greatest unknown and unseen collections of art treasures has finally been revealed with the announcement of the sale of the contents of the Mount Congreve mansion in Co Waterford.
Mount Congreve, in the village of Kilmeaden, was the home of millionaire Ambrose Congreve, who died aged 104 last summer while in London to attend the annual Chelsea Flower Show.
International auctioneers Christie’s said “Ireland’s secret collection” would be sold in a two-part sale this summer in association with Irish firm Mealy’s. The sale – one of the most significant Irish country house auctions in a generation – is expected to raise millions of euro.
Mr Congreve was the last member of an Anglo-Irish family that had lived in the house – designed by Georgian architect John Roberts – for more than 250 years. His father was an army major and his mother the daughter of an earl. He was educated at Eton, where he shared a room with Ian Fleming, later the author of the James Bond novels. During the second World War he served with British Intelligence and later became a successful businessman. His friends included Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onassis and Lionel de Rothschild.
Although he had a house in London next door to Prince Charles, Mr Congreve kept his ancestral home in Waterford, which was reputedly the last house in Ireland to employ liveried servants. Over the past 60 years he added to the lavish collection of art and antiques at Mount Congreve. He acquired many important paintings, pieces of furniture and silver and porcelain at auctions of aristocratic house contents in England after the second World War. Ironically, some of these items will now be shipped back to London and are likely to attract interest from collectors worldwide.
Christie’s and Mealy’s said the contents of the house would be sold in two stages. Firstly, a selection of about 120 lots of furniture, paintings, silver and Chinese and European porcelain will be auctioned in London on May 23rd. On July 10th and 11th, a larger range of works will be offered in a two-day auction – expected to draw large crowds to west Waterford – in a marquee on the Mount Congreve grounds.
Mr Congreve also planted a vast, internationally acclaimed woodland garden at Mount Congreve – now open to the public – which employed 70 people and won 15 gold medals at Chelsea.
The gardens include 3,000 varieties of rhododendron. Mr Congreve’s gardening achievements were acknowledged by Queen Elizabeth, who awarded him a CBE for services to horticulture, and by Trinity College Dublin, which granted him an honorary doctorate.
Mr Congreve, who was pre-deceased by his wife and had no children, died on May 24th last. He had transferred the house and gardens to a trust, the ownership of which will eventually pass to the State.
Expressing the Government’s condolences last year, Brian Hayes, Minster of State for the Office of Public Works, said the gardens at Mount Congreve would “serve as a permanent living memorial to his [Mr Congreve’s] passion for the world-renowned gardens he created, and to his memory”. It is unclear what the Government plans to do with the house.
Catalogues for the Mount Congreve London and Kilmeaden sales will be published shortly. A Christie’s spokeswoman in London said the highlights would include a pair of side tables designed by Robert Adam (estimated at £200,000 to £300,000); a “magnificent George II” mirror, more than 7ft tall, which was originally in the Earl of Coventry’s mansion (also estimated at £200,000- £300,000), and a pair of French Louis XV cabinets – estimated at £120,000-£180,000 – that once adorned the Knightsbridge home of the “Nitrate King”, George Lockett, who made his fortune in the Chilean nitrate trade.
Charles Cator, deputy chairman of Christie’s International, said the collection was a “testament to the discerning taste and connoisseurship exercised”.


In the poem The Planter’s Daughter” by Austin Clarke he descibes the house of the planter being “known by the tress”. I thought this was an apt desciption of the “Big House”’s relationship with the landscape and the surrounding community. The trees that protected the privacy of the occupants of the “ Big House” lent them an air of mystery but this detachment also created suspicion and resentment. These same trees today have become the guardians of these houses, now that their original owners have long since departed.

Whenever I see the ruin of a once great house I am always filled with a natural curiosity to see what it would have looked like in its prime. Over the years I have often cross-referenced the black and white images from when these houses were at the height of their powers with the down at heal realities that remain today. One cannot comprehend what has been lost in terms of our heritage until you compare and contrast the period and contemporary photographs which will be contained in my book.

The history of all these houses share common threads, the social, political and economic forces of the time sealed their fate. The stories of the people that built, inhabited and loved these houses are often highly entertaining, their exploits would often test believability if included in a Hollywood script.

Family feuds, bad business decisions, careless heirs, World Wars, inheritance tax, stock market crashes, land wars, political unrest, recession and depression ensured that only the most resourceful or lucky houses survived. Stories of the implosion of many family’s and their fortunes were played out in the rooms of these mansions that now only echo with the sound of birdsong