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.  In 1911, 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.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Deel Castle 

& Castle Gore
Crossmolina, Co. Mayo

Castle Gore is a shell of an eighteenth century building that is located between the towns of Crossmolina and Ballina in County Mayo. While strictly not a castle but a large house, it inherited the moniker of being a castle from the older sixteenth century tower house nearby. While both structures are often confusingly referred to as Castle Gore, for simplicity I shall refer to the sixteenth century tower house as Deel Castle and the eighteenth century mansion as Castle Gore.  Deel Castle is situated beside the river from which it took its name and was erected by the Burkes in the sixteenth century. It was occupied by that family up until the seventeenth century after which Sir Arthur Gore was granted possession of Deel castle and its lands. In the following years the castle was enlarged and improved with the addition of a large eighteenth century wing which possibly incorporated a seventeenth century range.
Very few pictures exist of Castle Gore and in this previously unpublished 
view, the garden front of Castle Gore can be seen which overlooked the
 gardens and the river beyond. The house was built in 1791 by James Cuff,
 the first and last Lord Tyrawley and to the left of the picture can be seen 
the service wing which was accessed by a tunnel from the road below.
Accreditation- Photo from Maurice Knox
Near the end of the eighteenth century, the Gore family leased Deel Castle and its lands to James Cuff of Ballinrobe. In 1791, James Cuff, the first and last Lord Tyrawley built a new mansion a short distance from the old Deel Castle, on the opposite side of the road overlooking the river. It was a substantial Georgian block of a house with three stories over a basement. It had a three bay entrance front which contained an impressive tripartite entrance door which had Tuscan columns on either side that supported a large pediment. The five bay garden front of the house faced the river and well tended gardens surrounded the house. The access arrangements for the servants were located on this side of the mansion and a tunnel from the road led under the manicured lawn to a courtyard and servants entrance. Arrangements like this were common, as often the upper-class residents of the house did not like the sight of servants and delivery carriages traipsing across their lawns and interrupting their view of the formal gardens. To the side and rear of the house was a low service wing and office court which housed all the ancillary parts of the household. Kitchens, laundries and areas for administration of the estate such as the Stewart’s office were all located here. James Cuff who built the house was directly related to the Gore Family, from whom he leased the lands, by his mother Elizabeth. She was the sister of Arthur Gore, the first Earl of Arran (1703-1773) and daughter of Sir Arthur Gore, second Baronet Gore of Newtown Gore (1685 -1742). In the peerage, both of these gentlemen are listed as living in Deel Castle during their life times.

Mary Delany visited Deel Castle in 1732 and recorded her impressions, ‘tis an old castle patched up and very irregular, but well fitted up and good handsome rooms within. The master of the house, Arthur Gore, a jolly red-faced widower, has one daughter, a quiet thing that lives in the house with him; his dogs and horses are as dear to him as his children, his laugh is hearty, though his gests are course’. Whether it was James Cuff’s uncle or grandfather living in Deel Castle at this time, I can’t be sure. The Gore family’s occupation of Deel Castle may have been the reason behind the construction of the new mansion in 1791. James Cuff married Mary Levinge in 1770 and he was created first Baron Tyrawley of Ballinrobe on November 7, 1797. In the late eighteenth century, Daniel Beaufort and his wife Mary visited Castle Gore, here they met ‘several gents of the neighbourhood’ and ‘Dinner here was plain & good & well served, but one course & no desert but apples. They kill a beef every fortnight, two sheep per week, feed forty-five people daily and have a French maitre d’hotel’. 

Castle Gore was burnt down in September 1922 and has remained
 a ruin since. In the 1950s the local council dynamited the building
 in order to demolish it, but they only succeeded in blowing off one 
corner of the building.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks
During the rebellion of 1798, the house was severely damaged and the original staircase destroyed. Lord Tyrawley’s wife died in 1808 followed by the death of Lord Tyrawley and his title on June 15, 1821. He is listed as having died without legitimate issue but he left Castle Gore to his illegitimate son, Colonel James Cuff who scandalized the county by keeping a French mistress in the new mansion. Colonel James also left his mark on the estate, as a short distance from the ruins of Deel Castle and Castle Gore are the walls of a small church. According to local tradition it was never fully completed and only one service was ever held there. It is said that Colonel Cuff had his parentage questioned by Daniel O Connell and after this incident he cut himself off from polite society and retired to Castle Gore. The church was erected for his private use and still survives today in a ruined state surrounded by modern houses. The entrance gates to the Castle Gore demesne were located in this area but no traces of them can be found today. Colonel James Cuff died in London on July 29, 1828 and the mansion at Castle Gore returned to the ownership of the Gore family.
The church that was said to have been erected by
 Colonel James Cuff for his private use in the early 1800's. 
The gates to the estate were said to be situated nearby
 but no trace of them exists today. Only one service was 
ever thought to have been held in this ruinous building.
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks
In the early 1800s, the sixteenth century Deel Castle was occupied by Colonel St. George Cuff. He was born in 1796 and was said to be the second surviving son of James Cuff. His name does crop up in the national press over the years in connection with Deel Castle; in October 1861, Colonel Knox from Ballinrobe is listed as returning from a visit to Deel Castle the home of Colonel St. George Cuff and in 1876, Colonel St. George Cuff of Deel Castle is recorded as owning 3,205 acres in County Mayo. He was married to Louisa Maria, a daughter of James Knox Gore from Broadlands Park in County Mayo. Louisa Maria’s mother, was the daughter of the second Earl of Arran, thus another union that cemented the ties between the two families of Cuff and Gore. By July 1880, Colonel Cuff who is still living in the castle is described as a ‘feeble old man’ and ‘a most indulgent landlord’. By June 1883 it is recorded in the national press that he passed away in the previous years. Now the lands, Deel Castle and the mansion house were under the control of the Earl of Arran and the Gore Family. One of the people who is most associated with the new mansion at Castle Gore was Arthur Saunders William Charles Fox Gore, fifth Earl of Arran who was born in 1839 in Bath, Somerset England.

This is what remains of the formal landscape that Castle Gore
once overlooked which is situated by the banks of the River Deel
Accreditation- Photo by David Hicks
In the years from 1892 to 1894, the architectural partnership of Millar & Symes carried out work for the fifth Earl of Arran at Castle Gore. It is also noted during the same period they were making regular visits to nearby Mount Falcon, a home belonging to a branch of the Knox family. A visitor to Castle Gore in August 1898, at the invitation of the Earl and Countess of Arran, recorded an interesting account of what they seen in the house. The Countess received her guest in the drawing room and afterwards the Earl conducted a tour of Deel Castle. The lawns around the house are described as ‘velvet’ and that they ‘undulate towards the river’. The visitor to Castle Gore describes a rich collection of works of art that were housed in the drawing room. There were two Gainsboroughs, a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds together with a landscape by Constable and many items of interest such as a marble burst of the Countess Sudley. In the dining room there was a painting of ‘A Large Hound’ by Velasquez, set in a carved gilt frame that hung over the mantel piece. There were numerous other paintings hanging in this room including another by Reynolds. The entrance hall of the house had a delicate frieze of late Georgian plasterwork off which there was a long and narrow staircase lit by a very tall round headed window with decorative plasterwork. The drawing room had niches on either side of the fireplace and tall windows overlooked the formal gardens and the River Deel beyond. 

The sixteenth century tower house that is named Deel Castle 
and is located near the ruin of Castle Gore.
Copyright- Photo by David Hicks
It was customary for the tenants of the estate to make presentations to the Earl of Arran and his family on various milestones in their lives. In July 1894, Lady Esther Gore, the daughter of the fifth Earl of Arran, married William Frederick Danvers Smith, second Viscount Hambleden. She visited Castle Gore in the autumn to be presented with a wedding gift by the Earl of Arran’s tenants, who all had subscribed to the presentation. In January 1901, the home coming of Lord Dudley, son of the Earl of Arran, from the War in South Africa was also marked with gifts from the tenantry. The tenants presented him with an address of welcome and a silver cup, while the estate workmen and outdoor servants presented a silver inkstand as a mark of their personal esteem. Lord Dudley’s carriage was met at the entrance gate by the tenants and workmen, where a triumphal arch had been erected. The men removed the horses from the carriage and pulled it up to the front of house where it was warmly welcomed by the assembled mass of tenants and those employed on the estate. The Earl of Arran and his son were in the carriage and upon their arrival at the front door of Castle Gore; they were addressed by Rev. Perdue. The clergy man spoke on behalf of the tenants and expressed gratification of being able to welcome Lord Dudley back again. A tenant on the estate by the name of John Mc Givney read an illuminated address decorated in an artistic manner by James McConnell of Sackville Street in Dublin. The silver cup was presented by Christopher Armstrong on behalf of the tenants and both it and the accompanying ink stand were engraved with inscriptions recording the event. In the 1901 census, the mansion at Castle Gore is listed as being inhabited by five people and having thirty-one rooms, ten windows in its entrance front and fifteen outbuildings. Living in Castle Gore at this time is the Dunbar Family from Scotland, with James Dunbar listed as a farm stewart, his wife Jessie, daughter Hannah and two other servants. These persons living in the house at this time were probably acting as caretakers as the Earl and Countess of Arran had other homes in England that they divided their time between. 

The entrance tunnel for servants, which used to run under the 
front lawn of Castle Gore that faced the garden and the river. 
Servants and goods entered the courtyard to the rear of the house 
in order not to disturb the beauty of the formal landscape above.
 Today sections of this tunnel have collapsed and the remainde
is used for the storage of farm vehicles. 
Copyright- Photo by David Hicks
Winifred, Countess of Arran, the wife of the fifth Earl of Arran, spent many months every year in residence at Castle Gore. She was the second wife of the fifth Earl and step mother to the future sixth Earl of Arran. The Countess was a former Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Christian and was in attendance on Her Royal Highness when she had accompanied Queen Victoria on her final visit to Dublin. In 1892, the philanthropic Countess of Arran established a knitting industry with a capital of £3 which provided employment to the women and girls from around the locality of Castle Gore, The work was so good that one hundred girls were kept in employment with orders for knickbockers from both England and abroad. The work was sent from Castle Gore on approval, so people could judge for themselves the merits of the work. In June 1902, an advertisement appeared in The Irish Times informing people that hand knitted socks could be procured from the Knitting Industry, Castle Gore, Ballina. The stockings fetched as much as 4s 6d a pair in London and bales of them were frequently sent to France and Italy where the work commanded very favourable prices. The Countess spent time every year, mainly during summer months, at Castle Gore until she died in November 1921. Arthur Saunders William Charles Fox Gore, fifth Earl of Arran, died on March 14, 1901 aged 62. He had homes in Hertford Street and Mayfair London in addition to his estate at Castle Gore in the west of Ireland. He left £100 to his butler Frederick Bax and his nurse Martha Hill. His diamond star of the Order of St. Patrick he bequeathed to his daughter, Lady Winifred Helena Lettice Gore together with £5000. The residue of his property went to his son Captain Arthur Jocelyn Charles Gore, Viscount Sudley, now the sixth Earl of Arran with a request that he give a keepsake to each of his children. The Earls estate was valued at £44,608 4s 6d and he was buried at Windsor CemeteryBerkshireEngland.  

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Jocelyn Charles Gore
who inherited Castle Gore after the death of his
father in 1901.
Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Jocelyn Charles Gore succeeded his father as the sixth Earl of Arran and in the early 1900s and the new Earl and Countess of Arran divided their time among their homes in Ireland and England. During the years between 1900 and 1906 the house in County Mayo was only occasionally visited and it appears that the new Earl was not as attached to Castle Gore as his father had been. The house was only occupied during the spring and summer months and remained closed the rest of the year. Eventually it was visited less and less, as both the Earl and Countess of Arran seemed to prefer to spend a lot of time at their villa in Cowes, an English seaport town on the Isle of Wight. In the spring of 1905, they closed up Castle Gore and spent the remaining months at the villa in Cowes with the Earl returning to London on occasion for business. Castle Gore was then used for entertaining friends and family on occasion. In January 1908, the Earl of Arran entertained some friends at Castle Gore for a woodcock shoot. The best days shooting was much spoilt by bad weather, but an excellent bag was secured, namely 72 woodcocks, 130 pheasants, 3 wild ducks, 2 snipe, 16 rabbits and 2 hares. In the summer of 1910, the Earl and Countess of Arran stayed at Hyde Hall in Hertfordshire and Castle Gore was let to the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and his wife, Lady Walker. By the time of 1911 census, the mansion at Castle Gore was only inhabited by Thomas Vaughan and his wife Mary. Thomas has listed his profession as a steward and caretaker and Mary is described as a house keeper. Unusually at the time, he has listed his religion as Church of England whereas his wife is a Catholic. The mansion of Castle Gore is recorded as having thirty-two rooms, eight windows on its entrance front and fourteen out buildings. At the time of the 1911 census, the ancient sixteenth century Deel Castle was uninhabited and remained so until its roof was removed in the 1930s.

The above map which dates from before 1913 shows the extent of
the estate and also the proximity of Deel Castle and Castle Gore

The end for Castle Gore came September 3, 1921, when a band of masked and armed men surrounded the house with the intention of burning it down. The caretaker said that sixteen men arrived at the door of the castle at 2 o’clock in the morning. When he answered the door, he was faced by a number of revolvers and placed under guard. The masked men proceeded to saturate the building with petrol and paraffin oil which ignited quickly. In a few moments the mansion was a mass of flames and by day break was in ruins. A newspaper report from the time said that the castle contained very valuable antiques and oil paintings. There were 350 paintings supposedly lost in the fire and the damage to the house was estimated at £100,000. Later the same month a claim for compensation in the amount of £30,000 was lodged with the Provisional Government by the Earl of Arran for ‘deconstruction of premises’ at Castle Gore. Given the low amount of compensation sought, possibly a lot of paintings and items from Castle Gore had been removed to England for safe keeping. This was a decision taken by many landlords at the time as they were all too well aware of the threat posed of having their houses in Ireland burnt down. As Castle Gore was let out on occasion and with the small amount of time the Earl spent there, I would imagine that the majority of personal effects and valuable items left the mansion in Crossmolina long before the fire occurred in 1921. The house continues to stand in the landscape but its gaunt walls bear little resemblance to the house that existed before 1921. The ancient Deel Castle, the Castle Gore ruins and the estate lands were eventually sold to the Land Commission who divided them up among former tenants of the estate. The Earls of Arran maybe gone from County Mayo but the estate did have a connection with another great house in Ireland. Lady Beit of Russborough House in County Wicklow was the grand daughter of Mabell, Countess of Airlie, who was a daughter of the fifth Earl of Arran, who had grown up at Castle Gore. In more recent times the ruins of the house were to suffer another indignity, when in the 1950s the local authority tried to dynamite the ruin in the interests of public safety. This act of further vandalism on Castle Gore only resulted in one corner being blown off, leaving the truncated hulk that we see today.

Deel Castle is named after the river on whose
banks on which it is situated
Copyright- Photo by David Hicks

Friday, 18 April 2014

Milford House


Milford House was the substantial residence the Mc Crum family, who owned the firm Mc Crum Watson and Mercer Ltd - world famous linen manufacturers. The house was built in 1880, and was said to be the first house in Ireland to be lit with hydro-electricity. The house sat at the centre of a forty acre demesne, and the surrounding gardens contained an ornamental lake and a two tiered fountain. The Mc Crum family suffered serious financial losses with the Wall Street Cash in 1929 and as a result in October 1930, Milford House was advertised to let by Probert and Mc Mahon, St. Stephens Green.

The house was described as a well equipped residence on two floors with electric light, central heating, 4 reception rooms,  8 principle bedrooms, 4 servants rooms, fixed hot and cold basins in all, 8 bathrooms, garden and conservatories, good garage, stabling, cow byre and fowl house.  Later in the month, the valuable furniture and effects of Milford House were offered for sale at Public Auction by the representatives of R.G. Mc Crum to commence on Wednesday 12th November 1930 and continuing until the 15th November. The contents of the dining room, drawing room, morning room, billiard rooms, house keeper’s room, servants hall, kitchen scullery and laundry. Included in the sale were antique furniture, books, paintings, engravings, the contents of 12 bedrooms and the sale was conducted by MA Bell Armagh.

The house was leased, became a school and opened in September 1936. Despite initial dissatisfaction with the property, the school bought the house and estate in 1940 from for £3,000. In June 1964 a new wing was added to the house but by 1966 it was announced that the school would close.  

Milford was sold in 1967 to the Northern Ireland Hospital Authority for £22,500 and it became the Manor House Special Care Hospital. In 1984 the lake was drained and piped when two patients nearly drowned and soon after the house became derelict with closure of the hospital in 1988.

Milford House is a Grade B1 listed building and is one of the listed buildings in Northern Ireland at most serious risk in Northern Ireland. The fountain which was stolen in 1996 is also listed on the register. The house is currently in private ownership and it is hoped that a sustainable use can be found for Milford