Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Moynalty House

Co. Meath 

Moynalty House in the early 1900's with its wonderful glass house
(Copyright the National Library of Ireland)

Moynalty House today, Sadly its glass house is no more.
(Copyright Ellie Ross)

Moynalty House is located in a beautiful village that’s gave the house its name and yet again it is one of those houses that if last night's lotto number came up, I would be heading off to Meath with my cheque book. The Farrell family are responsible for the creation of this house that still retains its integrity despite the years taking their toll on some of its features. Since the black and white picture was taken the house appears aletred, its substantial glass house is gone and the adjoining room has become a garage.

 The story of this house begins in the 1820’s which coincided with the transformation of the entire village. Moynalty together with several other town lands were purchased in 1790 by James Farrell for £34,500. James was a Catholic brewer and moneylender from Dublin, who began to purchase land after the relaxation of Penal Legislation in 1782. James lived in Merrion Square in Dublin but carried out many improvements around Moynalty. James’s son John donated land in 1819 for the construction of a Catholic Church at the opposite end of the village to the existing Protestant church which was also being rebuilt at the time. After John married in 1829 he was given the Moynalty estate by his father. Around 1825, John turned his attention to building a home for himself and his wife and the resulting house was constructed in the Regency style, a three-bay, two-storey house with a shallow hipped roof and over sailing bracketed frieze. An imposing feature of this house is its Limestone Doric columns surmount the steps that lead to the front door, these give the house a stately presence despite its small size. Despite its proximity to the village and roads, the house is hidden from view by high walls and trees and the only indication of its presence to the outside world is its decorative irongate posts and beautiful gate lodge. The surrounding estate at its height extended to 4,790 acres.

 John did not restrict himself to just creating a home for himself and his wife but he also turned his attention to remodelling the whole village. The redevelopment of the village began in 1826 and was completed by 1837; this involved the removal of mud huts and other sub standard buildings. All the houses on the river side of Main Street were removed, creating a green area that sloped down to the river. Much was made over the years of the village of being “all to one side”, however in the 20thcentury buildings were constructed on the river side. The tradition of improving the village is something that has continued down through the years, with the village winning the “Tidy Towns” awards numerous times including being named as overall winner yet again in 2011.

John’s son Arthur who was born at the time of the construction of the house inherited the house and in 1860 he married Lucretia Pauline, the daughter of the 13th Viscount Gormanston. In the census of 1901, John Arthur Farrell was aged 75 and his wife Lucretia who was aged 62 and her profession is listed as a “daughter of a Peer of the Realm”. Living with them at this time were their three sons and a daughter. To see to their needs was a substantial staff listed as being part of the household which included a cook, house keeper, house maid, laundry maid, kitchen maid, coachman and footmen. When Arthur passed away in 1904 his son John Edward returned from Tasmania to run the estate but he sold it due to ill health. In the 1911 John Edward aged 49 is now listed as being the head of household, his wife is Harriet Susannah who was born in Kent in England. There two sons and four daughters and their governess are also in residence together with eight servants which includes a new position in the ranks of the staff from 1901, a ladies maid. Only one of John Edward’s six children was born in Moynalty, the other five were born in Hobart, Tasmania, the eldest child is 22.

In November 1928 under the instructions of Major V.J. Farrell to sell Moynalty House on Monday 19th November. The house is described as having 2 drawing rooms, dining room, library, hall, office, 4 bedrooms, bathroom and lavatory on the entry level, top floor consists of 6 bedrooms, lavatory, the basement contained kitchen, servants hall, pantries and dairy. The conservatory was still in situ at this time and is described as having its own heating, the remainder if the house was heated by central heating. The inner yard contained 6 loose boxes, hay shed, workshop, engine room, garage, oil shed and men’s quarters with lavatory. The farmyard consisted cattle shed, oats loft, laundry, stabling for 8 horses, boiler houses and turnip house. There were also two tennis courts, large garden, green houses, and gardeners store rooms, potting shed, gate lodge and sheds.


  1. That is a very interesting article.
    My father Gerry Farrell(RIP), was the first child in many generations not to have been born in Moynalty House. His two elder sisters Peggie and Frankie(RIP) were born there.His sisters Gertrude, Molly and Angela were all born in The Villa , Moynalty, as were his brothers Val and Brendan(RIP)
    Cecil was the elder child of John Edward and Harriet, and was not born in Tasmania.He is buried in Moynalty cemetery.
    I'm not sure that it is accurate to say that John Edward and Harriet had six children, I think there were more. I will look into it in a few weeks, Kind Regards,Helen

    1. Hi Helen, Tim Farrell here from NZ,my father is Archibald Edmund Joseph Farrell,his father was Cecil,my Dad is still alive,born in 1920,do you know when Cecil died, I have found a record of birth 21/9/1885,would be good to make contact,regards Tim.

  2. Hi Helen, Many Thanks for your comment and I look forward to hearing from in due course with any further information that you have in relation to this house. This was a chapter that I was developing for my previous book but it did not make it in to the final draft which was published in September 2012. I am currently working o my second book Irish COuntry Houses- Portraits and Painters. Moynalty is such a beautiful house and it would be great to see the wonderful glass house restored as well. As regards the information in relation to the family members it mostly came from a page in the 1911 census which only lists a number of children and their birthplaces etc. in fact you are correct if there were older children that were not present in the house or if there were children born after 1911 I wouldnt have been aware of them as they wouldnt have been mentioned. We visited the house in 2011 but there was an elderly lady living there and we didnt want to trouble her so my investigations came to a dead end. Please find a link below to the page in the 1911 census that relates to Moynalty House

    Kind Regards
    David Hicks

  3. Hello.
    My great grandfather, Henry Brown and his wife Helena , were employed on the estate in and around the 1880s. Evidently the lived in a place called Rathminoe or Rathminoo. They were originally from Northern Ireland. A boy, John, was born to them on the estate. I would love to know where they lived. I have visited Moynalty, but of course this is [funnily enough] 2 centuries later. Just wondering if any estate records exist. I believe Henry was a game keeper and Church of Ireland.. and was less than well received by the locals. Would appreciate any information. Regards Sean

  4. Hi Sean,

    Im afraid I dont have any further information, this piece on Moynalty was a chapter I was developing for the first book but it didnt make it into the final draft so I put it up on my blog.

    I had a quick look on the Irish census website but I didnt turn up anything, I dont know if you had a look at this, link below:

    I will be in a number of archives and libraries over the next few weeks working on my second book and Ill see if I can find anything suitable. If you have a date of death for anyone connected with Henry, the National Archives in Dublin may have a copy of their will which can be full of information.

    If I find anything I will be in touch

    David Hicks

  5. In August 1984 I published a book on Moynalty with a chapter devoted to my family and their part in its history./ It's called "Not so much to one side" currently out of print. At a recent auction a copy reached the astronomical sum of £200. Many of the details mentioned on this site are new to me and it strikes me that some of the questions being asked here are probably answered in my book.
    Val Farrell - Great Great Great grandson of James Farrell, a Brewer from Blackpitts, Dublin who BOUGHT the Moynalty estate from Lord Farnham (family name MAXWELL0 in March 1790.

  6. My father is Archibald Edmund Joseph Farrell(Ned),his father was Cecil,his mother was Jane Elanor Toomey(Nel), my father remembers being at Moynalty when he was young they then bought a house called Enniscoffey in Bog Rd,Milltown Pass, my father emigrated to New Zealand in 1957,he will be 96 this year,I am Timothy Edmund Farrell, his son I am coming to Ireland later this year,my email address David is,can you get in touch,regards.

  7. I am doing a project about Moynalty house for college as my great-grandfather is Valantine Joseph Farrell. If you have information as to what happened to the estates, why they were sold, what they did on the estates, etc. I would be very grateful. Thank you, Daragh.

  8. I am doing a project about Moynalty house for college as my great-grandfather is Valantine Joseph Farrell. If you have information as to what happened to the estates, why they were sold, what they did on the estates, etc. I would be very grateful. Thank you, Daragh.

  9. Hi Daragh,you should talk to Val Farrell,he is the son of Valentine Joseph Farrell,regards.

  10. Hi Darragh, my uncle Val Farrell was the author of "Not too much to one Side" he is a wealth of knowledge regarding Moynalty of years gone by. His email is
    Good luck

  11. My name is Billie Mallett ( but born Gillian Farrell. Billie is a nickname! I am doing some research on the family and coming up with all sorts of questions . My father was John William Joseph Valentine Farrell ,he was the son of John Arthur Farrell who was born in Tasmania along with many siblings , He returned with the family to moynalty house and later married my grandmother Joan Mary Jameson living at Drogedah at the time , they moved into Platen house where my father was born . Sadly they divorced in 1928 and I know very little about him as he was never spoken of . If you have any info on him or anyone else from the families I would love to have it. Thanks for this blog very interesting

  12. Billie,contact Tony Farrell,thanks,email

  13. Billie,contact me on,regards

  14. My name is Peter Barton. My grandmother was Gertrude Farrell born in Tasmania.. this much I know about her. She had my mother in 1926 (possibly out of wedlock). She ran a hotel with her sister Molly in the south of France in the 1930s. I don’t know the name of the hotel and any info would be appreciated. Her married name was Murphy but I do not know when or where or who. Any info on this would also be appreciated. She was a widow as long as I new her. She was awarded an MBE during the war and we had that in the family until it went back to Ireland (long story). She died in 1982 and is buried in St Mary Cemetery Moynalty next to her sister

  15. Thank you for this information. My mother is the 1st Cousin 2 removed of Lucretia Pauline Preston, the wife of John Arthur Farrell. I enjoyed learning the history.