Wednesday 28 November 2018

Raheens House
Castlebar, Co. Mayo

The Entrance Front of Raheens House, once home to the Browne Family
     Copyright ICHC
The name of the townland which it is long associated with Raheens House near Castlebar , has a number of different spellings, it can be spelt Raheens, Rahins and Rehins. Over the years the size of this modest house has been exaggerated, some reports state that the house contained 35 rooms another 54, however the 1911 census revealed that the house  actually extended to a more modest 17 rooms. An advertisement for the sale of the contents of the house in 1933 indicates that it contained an Entrance Hall, Dining Room, Drawing Room, Kitchen and six bedrooms. The decline of the house was swift from the time after the departure of the Browne Family in the 1930's. A curious visitor to the  house in 1954 recorded that it had been in ruins by that point for several years.

The images above shows Raheens House prior to it descending in to ruins
The image below shows the house from a similar angle today 
     Copyright ICHC

Raheen’s House was built in 1847 during the Irish Famine and replaced an earlier house that existed on the site, however the kitchen from the earlier house was incorporated in to the new structure. An older residence on the site was pulled down around the year 1835 by Hugh John Henry Browne who built the present structure. John Wesley described the older structure as a fortified house with two turrets which were still standing in 1835. The Browne’s were said to have been visited by Wesley who founded the Methodist religion and who traveled Ireland on horseback in the 1780's. Wesley laid the foundation stone for the Methodist Church in Castlebar in May 1785. The house is built solidly of chiseled limestone and stands in the centre of what was once a beautifully wooded park.  The surrounding landscape was said to be exceptional pleasing when viewed from the Drawing Room window. This estate which surrounded the house extended to 1,000 acres and came into the possession of the Browne family at the time of the Cromwellian Plantations allegedly in exchange for a white horse. In the 1800’s the estate was owned by Dodwell Browne who married Elizabeth Cuffe of Ballinrobe who died in 1777 aged only 44. Dodwell married secondly Maria O’Donel, daughter of Sir Nial O’Donel of Newport. A few years after her marriage, Maria became unwell and had to be transported to Dublin for treatment. As she left her home at Raheens her condition worsened, and she was only a short distance from the house when the horses drawing her carriage came to a halt and would not move. Due to great efforts of the driver the horses eventually relented, and they continued on their journey to Dublin, where Maria died. In 1809, Maria’s husband erected an obelisk on the spot where the horses stopped on the day of her departure. The monument is 25 metres in height and can be viewed from the main reception rooms of the house, as an eye catcher or folly in the landscape.

The image above shows the monument to Maria Browne as it is today
The image of the monument below dates from 1880

In September 1910 it became necessary for repairs to be made to this monument which had become unstable. The London steeplejacks of Mr. Will Larkins of 18 Alfred Street, Bow, London were employed to rebuild the apex of the memorial obelisk. It is said at this time that the estate at Raheens was in exceptionally condition as the then owner Dodwell F. Browne had taken up permanent residence in recent years. The monument is built of tapering chiseled limestone that rises to a height of 70 feet that sits upon a plinth of 10 feet. Atop the monument sits a globe of limestone which had been blown off the monument in a storm in the 1890’s which had remained on the ground thereafter. It appeared that an iron dowel had rusted which allowed the apex of the monument to collapse during the gale.  The masonry had also suffered over the years when a mountain ash had become embedded high up on the obelisk that had began to dislodge loose stones and it became necessary to have it removed.  Mr. Larkin, who was employed to carry out repairs to the structure, supposedly began his career at the age of seven and during his working life he had never suffered any serious injury despite working at extreme heights. He had carried out repairs to the steeple of the Protestant Church in Athenry which was struck by lightning and it was from here that he spied the lady who became his wife. The work to the obelisk at Raheens was carried out by a Mr. Stacey and a number of assistants over three days. The apex was reached by the means of a telescopic ladder which was lashed to the structure. Thereafter a scaffolding was built around the apex which was supported by four small pieces of timber.  From this platform, the root of the tree was extracted and the damaged courses rebuilt. A copper dowel was inserted which allowed the fallen globe to be returned to its position on top of the monument. 
When the monument was built in 1809, a slab was placed on the obelisk inscribed with the words
‘ A Marie
Et A L’Armour
Par son Chere Epouse

Followed by another slab, which is inscribed

‘ To Gaiety

Higher on the monument is a profile of a women said to be that of Maria who in the decade prior to her death wrote to General Humbert who had just taken Castlebar in 1798. She allayed to him her concerns about the safety of herself and other aristocratic ladies in the community. The General replied assuring her of his protection and extended an invitation for Maria and her husband to dine with him. It is said that General Humbert visited the Browne’s at Raheen’s on three separate occasions.

The Entrance Front of Raheens House, once home to the Browne Family
     Copyright ICHC

Dodwell Browne died in the 1830’s and the estate was inherited by his son Hugh John Henry Browne who proceeded to plant a number of trees within the demesne including a number of trees along the original avenue. The new house was built at the height of the famine however elements of the original structure that existed on the site were retained such as the kitchen which formed part of the basement of the new house and the out buildings to the rear of the house were also retained. The expense of rebuilding the Browne family home left Hugh John Henry heavily indebted, after his death the encumbered estate passed to Henry’s brother Neil in 1870. Neil O’Donel Browne died on the 15th March 1874 at 8 Upper Mount Street Dublin and left an estate of less than £6,000. With his passing the estate at  Raheen’s passed to his son, Dodwell, who spent most of his professional life in the colonial service in Ceylon ( now known as Sri Lanka)  from where he returned to Raheens in 1905.  Dodwell had three sons, Dodwell, Keppel and O’Donnell and a daughter Norah Lucy. On the 19th February 1895 it was reported that the only daughter of Dodwell Browne, Norah Lucy Frances Dodwell married Thomas Yates Wright the younger son of C. Wright of Lower Oak, Tyldesley, Lancashire

The Rear Elevation of Raheens House
     Copyright ICHC

In October 1908 in Naas, Co. Kildare the death occurred of Dodwell's son, Keppel Glenny Dowell Browne, who was unmarried and aged 35. He was a barrister and had been suffering from Leukaemia. He left £479 13s 4d in his will which was administered by his brother Dodwell F. Browne. His remains were interred in the family vault at Raheens with those of his ancestors. At the time of the census in 1911, Dodwell Francis Browne aged 69 is in living in the house at Raheen's together with his wife Annabelle aged 65, who was born in Co. Down. Their daughter Norah Lucy Dodwell Browne Wright aged 36 who was born in Ceylon and Dodwell’s granddaughter Annabelle Dodwell Browne, aged 6 are also present in the house together with three domestic servants.  After the death of Dodwell Senior in 1920, his wife Annabelle continued to live in the house. Her son, 
Dodwell, became the owner of the estate but he had emigrated to Australia where he remained permanently after 1923 and  was joined by his sister after the death of their mother in 1932.

The monument to Maria Browne when viewed from Raheens House
     Copyright ICHC

On the 4th December 1932, Annabelle Browne died who in her youth was said to be the envy of many young women when she made her debut on the social scene in London. She was received by royalty and was apparently a frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace. With the death of Annabelle, the Browne connection with Raheens came to an end. The contents of the house were advertised for auction which was carried out over two days in April 1933. The contents of the entrance hall offered for sale included Indian and Chinese ornaments together with mounted birds, exotic animal heads and antlers. What is interesting, is that the animal heads must not have held much appeal for anyone at the auction as it was noted in 1954 when the house was in ruins that these remained on the walls in the house. In the dining room there was a circular mahogany table with twelve chairs, an oak side board and a valuable collection of books contained in a number of bookcases. The drawing room contained a collection of ebony furniture, a grand piano, arm chairs and an Axminister carpet. Also offered for sale were the contents of six bedrooms and the auction was conducted by Robert Caldwell, an auctioneer from Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. Prior to the sale of the house, the Land Commission had acquired most of the Browne land in 1928 and divided it among the tenants.
Looking into the hallway of Raheens House, very little remains
     Copyright ICHC

In January 1940, the remaining lands of the estate were offered for sale which amounted to 168 acres, which was retained by the family after the bulk of their lands were divided by the Land Commission. In April 1941 it was announced that Reheens Demesne near Castlebar had been sold. It was at that time the property of Dodwell Browne who had been in Australia for some time at the time of the sale. It was said that the demesne had been purchased by a local man and prior to this Raheens had been abandoned with irreparable damage having been done to the woods surrounding the house. The mansion house at the centre of the estate at this time was said to have been in good condition and that the surrounding farm buildings were also in good repair. However, by 1954, the house was in ruins with its large reception room open to the sky and large amounts of rubble having collected in the basement.  A curious visitor to the house at this time, recorded what they had seen and mentioned that the roof was stripped from the house in 1947. At this time they noted that there was a strange gate post to be found on the avenue. It was actually the barrel of a seventeenth century cannon, one of four other cannons that once could be found in the grounds of Raheens House. Within walking distance of the obelisk, there is the Browne family vault where several the family members are buried. The last member of the family to buried there occured in 1940 approx. One mystery that is associated with the family vault are two interments whose deaths both occured on the same day.  Hugh John Henry Browne and Neal O'Browne both died on the 2nd October 1868, what tragedy befell the family on that day.

Raheens House descended into ruin after 1941 with its roof being removed in 1947
     Copyright ICHC

In recent years a planning application was lodged to restore the house, which is indeed a noble endeavor however at the point of writing this piece, no substantial works have been carried out. 

My 2019 Calendar 'Country Houses of Mayo' which features Raheens on the cover together with the history of other country houses in Mayo. It is now available to buy by clicking on the link below:

Sunday 2 September 2018

Templeview House
Easkey, Co. Sligo

Copyright ICHC

Templeview House located outside Easkey in Co. Sligo is a well-known property, glimpsed occasionally from the road through the gaps in the high stone wall that surrounds it. However most will find it surprising that this forgotten house in the Sligo countryside has a surprising connection, as the money that financed its construction originated in Mexico. Described as a gentleman’s residence with large distinctive bargeboards that give the house, what estate agents now call, ‘kerb appeal’. Admired by many who dream of restoring this house to its former glory. The rear elevation overlooks the Atlantic Ocean which was crossed by members of the Hale family from Easkey in the 1800s. They returned to their native homeland extremely wealthy men and displayed their affluence by building a house, which they named Templeview.

Copyright ICHC
Templeview in the nineteenth century was associated with the Hale family and was built by Peter Hale, a native of Easkey in Co. Sligo who had emigrated to Mexico. His will dating from 1864 gives an interesting insight in to the wealth of the man who built Templeview. It states that he leaves all his real and personal estate in New Orleans, Louisiana and Mexico to his nephew James Hale of Matamoras, Mexico except for five thousand pounds that was to be distributed amongst his relatives and charitable purposes. Peter Hale had lived in the Republic of Mexico for more than twenty years and for a majority of that time between 1837 and 1851 he managed Hale & Co. at Matamoras which had been established over forty years earlier. After his retirement Peter was succeeded by James Hale, his nephew, who manged the company for a further ten years. Hale & Co. was one of the first companies to establish cotton factories in Northern Mexico and at the time of Peter’s death the company still had considerable interests throughout the country. The Hales were a wealthy and well-connected family, who were cousins of the Milmo family who owned the banking house of D. Milmo & Co., Webb County in Texas. A cousin of the Hale family, Patrick Milmo eventually became the President of the Bank of Mexico.  It is said that James Hale traveled from Easkey out to Mexico a number of years prior to the death of his rich and unmarried uncle. Peter Hale had returned to Easkey in Sligo in the 1850’s and purchased the Irwin estate in the townland of Killeenduff in the Landed Estate Court for £4,100. In 1855, Peter built the house that came to be known as Templeview however due to his early death, his estate in Ireland as well as Mexico also passed to his nephew James. The demesne around Templeview in Easkey extended to 54 acres which was surrounded by a high wall accessed by the nearby gate and adjacent gate lodge that reflects the style of the house. Peter Hale’s estate in Ireland at the time of his death amounted to £7,000.00 which was a sizeable sum for the time but did not reflect the substantial assets held by the deceased outside of Ireland. After the death of his Uncle, James returned to Ireland, married and initially settled in Dublin before relocating to Templeview in Sligo. In May 1866, the birth of James Hale’s son, Edward Joseph is recorded as having taken place at 32 Waterloo Rd. It is noted on the birth certificate that James’s wife, Jane, was formerly a member of the Howley family, a family who also originated in the locality surrounding Easkey. In June of the same year, an Edward Howley of Belleek Castle in Ballina died, his widow is mentioned as being Priscilla Howley of Stone House in Dunleer in Co. Louth. Jane Hale is mentioned as being one of the respondents of the will together with her husband James. It was around this time that the philanthropic nature of the Hale family came to the fore when they established a schoolhouse for the benefit of the local children near Templeview. James managed the school, which was unusual for a time as most schools had a religious connection. This arrangement became more unusual for the times when his wife Jane took over after his death.

The Franciscan Abbey in the heart of the town of Easkey where members of
the Hale Family of Templeview are interred          Copyright ICHC

In April 1869, the death occurred at Templeview of Edward Joseph, the three-year-old son of James Hale who  was ,at that time, the High Sheriff for the county of Sligo. However, this tragedy was followed the following year in April 1870 by the birth of a daughter to James and his wife at Parry’s Hotel in Monkstown, Dublin. In May 1871 another son named Edmund James was born to the Hales at Templeview followed in July 1872, by a daughter whom they named Adelaide. The family at this time were also living in Woodpark in Upper Rathmines and James profession is listed as a landed proprietor. In 1876, the Templeview estate extends to 2,952 acres however despite being a sizable estate the neighbouring estate of Fortland was substantially larger extending to 6,730 acres. Sadness was never far away from Temple View as James Hale died in March 1875. His obituary mentions that in his youth he was educated in the ‘highest Catholic schools and colleges’ and during his lifetime that nearly every school and chapel in the Dioceses of Killala ‘can testify to the substantial aid he rendered towards their creation.’ He gave £1,300 to the Convent of Mercy in Ballina and £250 towards the building of a chapel in the College of Maynooth which was once his alma mater. His funeral mass was presided over by the Bishop of Killala, the Most Reverend Dr. Conway and fourteen priests, indicating that the Diocese of Killala was grateful for James Hale’s benevolence over the years. He was laid to rest within the walls of the Franciscan Abbey in the heart of the town of Easkey where his memorial stone is still visible on the wall today. The following month it was announced that the representatives of the late James Hale had instructed for the cattle, sheep and horses to be auctioned on the 24th April afterwards it was noted that James’s Irish estate amounted to under £35,000.00.

The memorial stone of James Hale who died in 1875 and his
young son who died a number of years earlier
Copyright ICHC

After his death James’s widow was held up as an ‘noble example’ of a landlord in the local press as she had made a reduction of twenty percent on the rent of her tenants and ten percent to the leaseholders. In August 1887, Mrs Hale’s second son Edmund James passed his examinations in the first division from Beaumount College. Edward was the youngest taking the examination being only a few days over the age of 16. In July 1888, it was further demonstrated the high esteem in which the Hale family were held in by the local community when a reception was given by the local tenantry on the accession of James Hale to the property left to him by his father, James was said to be the second eldest son. The tenants of the estate proceeded to Templeview House for the purpose of paying their respects to the new landlord. The tenants were accompanied by large contingents from the neighbouring properties as well as deputations from the Easkey branches of the National League and Gaelic Athletic Association. At Templeview, James Hale was presented with a ‘happily worded address’ on behalf of the tenantry. Mr. Hale thanking them for their kindness and that he hoped ‘the cordial relations that has always existed between his family and the tenants would continue’. It is also said that the present proprietor of Templeview was related on his mother’s side to Colonel Howley of Cooga Lodge which was located nearby. In September 1888, Mrs. Hale and her youngest daughter were involved in accident when returning to Easkey from Enniscrone when their pony and trap became unmanageable. When crossing the bridge at Easkey, the pony caused the trap to collide with the side of the bridge causing the trap to capsize, throwing the occupants to the ground. The ladies were unconscious, but a doctor soon arrived on the scene and in several days, they had recovered. In April 1894, Alice Hale, daughter of James Hale married, in Florence, to Mr. Charles M. O’Connor from Roscommon. After the mass there was a reception at the residence of the bride’s mother after which the happy couple departed for Rome.

From 1900 onwards it appears that the Hale family had departed the house and at the time of the 1901 census, John Quinn aged 30 and his 35 year old wife Anne are resident in the house. John born in Sligo and is a general labourer while his wife Anne is a domestic servant. In October 1906, more than 700 acres of the Hale Estate was vested in the Congested Districts Board, after this, the house served many purposes including being the home of the parish priest, a police barracks and a dispensey. By the time of the 1911 census, John and Anne Quinn are still living in Templeview. John is now aged 41 but strangely the age gap between him and his wife has extended to ten years, it is also recorded that they have been married nineteen years. John is now listed as a steward are they are living in the sixteen roomed house owned by James Hale.

In March 1919, it is reported that James Howley Hale of 152 Ashley Gardens, London died in Kingstown Dublin, it is said in his death notice that he originated from Templeview and was the last surviving son of James Hale. On the 5th June 1919, the death occurred of Jane Hale, a widow, formerly of Templeview, Easkey, Co. Sligo and 32 Clarinda Park, East, Kingstown, in Dublin. Her daughter is mentioned as being Adelaide Hale, a spinster and that Jane has left £200 for Masses to be said for the repose of her soul and £100 for the benefit of the poor of the Diocese of Killala. In March 1920, an advertisement appeared stating that Templeview House and demesne in Easkey was to be sold with immediate possession. The lands around the house extended to 54 acres, while the house contained four reception room and seven family bedrooms. The advertisement states that all furniture and effects in the house at this time are to be sold also.

In September 1937, Templeview appeared on the market again under the instructions of the executors of the late Dr. P.J. O’Connor. The house now stands in 17 acres and 10 perches and includes a ‘well laid out’ kitchen garden and orchard while the entire house and grounds are enclosed within solid masonry walls. It is said that the house is designed and built regardless of cost and presents ‘a very pleasing appearance’. The house is listed as having an entrance hall, large dining room, drawing room, eight bedrooms, servant’s quarters, kitchen and scullery together with bathroom and lavatory accommodation.  The house was to be sold by auction and the contents of the house were to go under the hammer afterwards. Also offered in the sale was a 12-horse power motor car, a Wolsley Hornet.  In August 1938, the owners of Templeview House have offered a portion of the premises and two acres of land as a site for Easkey Vocational School for £600. The offer was considered but turned down however it was suggested that maybe the house should be first rented for establishing a school to see if it would have been a successful venture. However, when two inspectors from the department visited the house, it was found to be unsuitable.

Copyright ICHC
In May 1939, it was reported that Mr. James Devaney, Fortland, Easkey was the purchaser of Templeview House and lands. After 1940, the wing to the rear of the house was demolished due to the level of rates imposed on the property. In December 1950, Adelaide Howley Hale, a spinster aged 76 died at 68 Merrion Rd., it is noted that she is of independent means she was a daughter of James and Jane Hale of Templeview in Easkey.
In 2004, Templeview appeared on the market now situated in just seven acres, the house did not sell and appeared on the market again in 2010 with a guide of €350,000. The house has continued to languish in its derelict state and in recent years the decline of this once magnificent property has accelerated. With each passing winter the state of the roof becomes more precarious with larger and larger holes allowing the ingress of water, eroding whatever is left of its original interior.

Saturday 18 August 2018

Farmhill House
Rathreagh, Killala, Co. Mayo

The only trace of Farmhill House to be found in the landscape near Kilfian, Co. Mayo are the high walls of its large walled garden. When mentioned, even today, the name of Farmhill and that of its most infamous occupant Harriette Gardiner, still conjure stories of her cruelty that reverberate locally. Farmhill was home to the Gardiner family, the last male member to live there was Major John Gardiner.  He was born in October 1797, the son of John Gardiner and Anne Gildea and was known to be the grandson of Charles Gardiner of Tonroe and Maria Bourke of Heathfield near Ballycastle. In May 1819, John married Elizabeth, the daughter of James Cuff, Lord Tyrawley who is associated with Deel Castle and Castle Gore near Crossmolina. This union produced a daughter in 1821, named Harriette, who became notorious after inheriting the estate from her father.

The Entrance Front of Farmhill House
Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
By 1876, the Farmhill estate extended to over 4,000 acres which was not entailed and as a result Harriet inherited everything when her father died in in 1850’s. The house at Farmhill was a two storey residence with a large entrance hall, drawing room, dining room, seven bedrooms and other ancillary areas for servants including the kitchen. Relatives recorded that Harriette was known as ‘Hassie’, and most people who knew her thought her to be mentally unstable and an alcoholic. Whether this is true or not, it is said that Harriet had a masculine appearance, she supposedly dressed as a man and had her hair cut in a mannish fashion. Her course language was matched by her bad manners and she seemed to relish an opportunity to cause trouble for the tenants of her estate. Her family decided that maybe a companion would help placate Harriette and she would mend her ways. A lady, Miss Susan Pringle, who was known to be extremely religious arrived at Farmhill. However, the plan backfired, instead of Susan having a calming influence on Harriette, the debauched Miss Gardiner corrupted Miss Pringle. Soon the new arrival to Farmhill was a seasoned drinker and the duo became notorious in the local towns for causing trouble. 

A site layout showing Farmhill House
Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
In the 1880’s the local and national press often carried stories of evictions, tenants being imprisoned and families being dispatched to the workhouse under the instruction of Miss Gardiner. Harriette was ruthless as she pursued her goal of clearing as much of her land of as many tenants as possible which she seen as a nuisance. Local shop keepers were so disgusted by Harriette, that they banned her from entering their premises. She retorted by threatening to shoot them with the gun she carried at all times. Her need to be armed stemmed from an incident in 1869, when an attempt was made on her life. On Christmas night in 1869, she was shot through a window while sitting at her own kitchen table and received seven or eight grains of shot to her head. It was reported that she would have been killed if there weren’t two of her servants present at the time of the shooting. This was supposedly an act of retribution as she had evicted a large number of tenants over the preceding six months. As a result of this attack the RIC erected a temporary police barracks opposite the gate to Farmhill. After this  it is said that Miss Gardiner spent little time at Farmhill, making it hard for any would be attacker to know where she was in order to stage another attempt on her life. The pettiness of Miss Gardiner was illustrated by a case that appeared before the courts in 1881. Harriet had three of her tenants before the Ballina Petty Sessions Court for the removal of mud from a nearby bog. The tenants were using the mud as manure for their farms, which had been allowed in Harriet’s father’s time however Harriet stated that if they wanted the mud, they would have to pay for it. Miss Gardiner announced to all present in the court that ‘ I do not care what my father did. He chastised you with rods, but I will chastise you with scorpions’. One wonders about the origin of this statement as there couldn’t have been too many scorpions found in Kilfian in the 1800’s. In one week in 1885, she evicted 12 families from their homes aided by the sheriff and his bailiffs. The report of this event concludes that ‘the only prospect that now lies before them is the detested workhouse’. Harriet and her accomplice Susan Pringle now had a reputation that preceded them and both became known as ‘The Witches on the Warpath’.

Harriet Gardiner died aged 71 on the 24th July 1892 at her cottage in Tully, Belcarra near Castlebar where Miss Gardiner also had extensive land holdings. Her remains were removed from Belcara at 7 o’clock in the morning to Castlebar Train Station and from there transported to Ballina for interment in Rathreagh. It appears from newspaper notices that Miss Pringle was in residence at Farmhill at this time. The Connaught Telegraph reported that ‘a weird and grotesque figure, and a baneful one, has passed away from this mortal stage’. The reports continued that’ She will long be remembered in County Mayo not alone for her semi-masculine attire and her repulsively eccentric ways, but for the Pharaoh–like and utterly unfeminine hardness of heart which she exhibited for years towards a most miserable and poverty stricken tenantry……She occupies an unique niche, even in the temple of that dark pantheon which is filled with the ghosts of  landlordism’.

An advertisement for the sale of the contents of Farmhill in 1910
Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC

Harriet Gardiner left all she owned to Miss Pringlle who intended to continue Harriet’s campaign of evictions however the Land Acts that were introduced  ‘clipped’ her wings. Afterwards Miss Pringle began a period of self-improvement, she drank less, no longer smoked her pipe in public and also began to look more presentable in the local town. She became a member of Killala District Council and a chairman of the Board of Guardians. Susan Pringle died on the 20th July 1910 and her will was proved by Robert William Christie of 21 Elgin Road, Dublin and Charles Ball Fitzgerald of Provincial Bank House, Nenagh in Tipperary. The entire contents of Farmhill were offered for sale in November of 1910. Farmhill contained a lot of valuable furniture, some of which originated in Deel Castle in Crossmolina as Harriette’s mother was a member of the Cuffe family. The hall contained half a dozen mahogany chairs with the Cuffe family crest and another two chairs with Lord Tyrawley’s crest together with a set of chairs with the Gardiner crest. The house contained a collection of oil paintings made up of family portraits and landscapes. Full particulars of these paintings were given in catalogues by the eminent London expert, Mr. J.L. Rutledge of The Reynolds Gallery, Great Newport St., London which gives us an indication of the importance and value of the art on sale. Two Sheraton inlaid sideboards, 12 feet long had been removed to the coach house for the sale .Over 500 books were also offered for sale which included volumes on history, travel and a large number of novels. The auctioneer for the sale was Henry G. Black from Westport as possibly no local auctioneer would handle the sale due to the reputation of the Farmhill and the women who lived there. Some items of furniture which were purchased went to some of the large country houses in the area such as Palmerstown House near Killala. Afterwards Farmhill became the parochial house for the local parish priest who lived there until 1953, after which it was demolished, the land of the estate was previously divided among the local tenants. Today nothing is left of Farmhill, but the infamous name of Harriet Gardiner appears to live on well over one hundred and twenty years after her death.

Monday 26 February 2018

Cooper's Lodge
Dromore West , Co. Sligo

The Haunted House on the Hill?

Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
Situated in the Townland of Crowagh or Dunneill Mountain near Lough Easky in Co. Sligo, can be found the remains of a structure now known as Cooper’s Lodge but was once known as Croagh Lodge. This shooting lodge appears on the 1837 OS Map and was owned by the wealthy and powerful Cooper Family of Markree Castle in Co. Sligo, hence it became known as Cooper's Lodge. All that remains today of this building are its bedraggled gables that are in a state of gradual collapse in the stark setting of the surrounding bog land. There are long forgotten stories associated with these ruins that have now come to light since I became aware of this building a number of weeks ago. Cooper’s Lodge was once home to a number of game keepers over the years who were in the employment of the Cooper family, including one unfortunate individual who met a violent end in 1880. Is this the restless spirit that supposedly haunts these ruins and is this the reason for which this house was abandoned?

Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
In 1869, it was reported that Colonel Cooper’s game keeper, William Nichol, shot a fine female golden eagle on Dunowl Mountain near Lough Easky in Sligo with one charge of No. 06 shot. The bird measured seven and a half feet from tip to tip of its wings and it was said to be the largest of its kind that had ever been seen in the area. William Nichol and his family lived nearby at Croagh Lodge, known locally as Cooper’s Lodge, which they maintained for use by Colonel Cooper of Markree and his guests.  A number of years later, in 1880, William Nichol’s name would again appear in the headlines of the local newspaper, however on this occasion, William would be one that would die at the hands of another. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1880, William Nichol was assaulted by persons unknown and the injuries inflicted were so severe that he died a number of days later on the 23rd of March. He had been found lying on the road leading to Dromore West having been severely beaten, he was removed to the nearest Constabulary Barracks and was then moved to the hospital located in the nearby workhouse. William’s death certificate recorded that he was aged 60 and had died as a result of ‘violence with several injuries’ and ‘inflammation of the brain’. A reward of £200 was offered for any information on the attack on William but none was forthcoming.

Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
William’s widow Anne and their son aged 17, also named William, applied to the Grand Jury of Sligo for compensation of £250 for the suspicious death of the head of the Nichol Family. It is said a number of years before the murder there been a dispute over land. Former tenants blamed William for their land being taken from them and resentment had been brewing over the intervening years. It was reported at the time that ‘It was Nichol who advised the Colonel to take in the plantation. I heard he incautiously said he would take in the whole valley’. Another possible explanation for the attack on William is he was alleged to have passed information to the police about illicit poteen distilleries in the proximity of the shooting lodge. In October 1882, an application for compensation was made to the Lord Lieutenant by Anne Nichol. As part of this process, William and Anne’s children were named as Matthew, Alexander, William, Charles, Mary and Jane. As part of the application, it was said that William was murdered from being beaten by a party of men and as a result of the injuries he sustained, he died a number of days later. It is also recorded that he had been murdered as a result of an ‘unlawful association’ but this is never elaborated on. The Lord Lieutenant intended to open an investigation into the murder within one week of the application however it did not result in any conviction. During the application for compensation held in Tubbercurry in 1883, it was noted that William, as Colonel Cooper’s gamekeeper, was paid €140 per annum and had the use of Croagh Lodge. His widow Anne was eventually awarded £700 for the wrongful death of her husband which was payable by the Barony of Tireragh however no one was brought to justice for the murder of William Nichol.

Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
At  the time of the 1901 census there is a house listed in the townland of Crowagh as having nine windows in its entrance front, nine rooms in its interior and a slate roof. This is most definitely Cooper’s Lodge as it is listed as being owned by The Right Honorable Edward Henry Cooper of Markree Castle, in Co. Sligo.  In 1901, the game keeper in residence was Robert Walton Winters aged 46, a Presbyterian, born in Sligo who could speak both Irish and English. He was married to Isabella aged 36, a house keeper born in Sligo and also resident in the lodge was Francis Mc Hugh, aged 18, a Roman Catholic, born in Sligo and who was listed as being a servant. The owner of the lodge was Lieutenant Colonel, the Right Honorable Edward Henry Cooper who died soon after the census being carried out on the 26th February 1902 aged 74. He had been Lord Lieutenant for Sligo, was late of the 7th Hussars, Grenadier Guards and had been a Member of Parliament for Sligo from 1865. Among the many bequests in his will was £2,000 to be kept in trust for the repair and maintenance of the observatory at Markree Castle. 

Markree Castle Co. Sligo, the ancestral home of the Cooper Family 
who owned Cooper's Lodge
Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC

By 1911, the house was now owned by Captain Byran Ricco Cooper, the grandson of Edward Henry Cooper, the house is recorded as having eight out offices, ten windows in its entrance front and ten rooms in its interior. Byran had inherited the impressive Markree Castle in Co. Sligo, which according to the 1901 census had 104 rooms, sat in a demesne of a 1,000 acres in addition to a deer park of 200 acres surrounded by estate lands that extended to 30,000 acres. The more modest shooting lodge near Lough Easky at this time was home to Nathan Campbell, aged 51 from Donegal, a gamekeeper and his wife Anna Selina aged 48 from Cork who have been married for 23 years. They had six children but only five are living in 1911. Four sons are present in the house at the time of the census, Robert Cecil aged 17, Richard Maxwell aged 17, Frederick James aged 15 and Nathan Percival aged 8. The two elder sons were born in Mayo while the younger pair were born in Sligo. The name of the house being Croagh Lodge is confirmed from an advertisement that appeared in 1907, when Nathan Campbell was selling his pony, harness and trap and it mentioned that these can be viewed at ‘Croagh Lodge’

Lieutenant Colonel, the Right Honorable Edward Henry Cooper 
who was the owner of the lodge in 1901.
Picture ( above)  Copyright The National Portrait Gallery, London

Major Bryan Ricco Cooper died at his residence in 1930 in Dalkey, Co. Dublin, the exotically named Khyber Pass. He was born in India in 1884, the son of Major F.E. Cooper and the grandson of Col. Edward Henry Cooper. He was educated at Eton and Woolwich, he became Second Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery in 1903. In 1905, he resigned and was gazetted to the Duke of Connaught’s own Sligo Militia as Captain. In 1914, he resigned and was gazetted as Captain to the 5th Battalion of the Connaught Rangers. In 1910 he was elected as a Unionist M.P. for South County Dublin, he was a Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff for Sligo while also becoming Press Censor in 1919. In 1923, he was returned to the Dail as an Independent candidate for Dublin and again in 1927. A marriage in 1910 produced four children but ended in divorce in 1920. Bryan died at the young age of 46 in 1930 and after bequests were made, the residue of his estate passed to his son, Edward F. Cooper.

The remains of Cooper's Lodge are found in the
 isolated bog land near Lough Easky in Co. Sligo
Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC

In December 1938, a young girl, named Maggie Ann Mullarky, recorded a story told to her by her grandfather about the lodge being haunted. What is interesting about this story is that it mentions that the lodge is in ruins at this time. Newspaper reports from the 1930’s may provide a reason why the idea of the house being haunted was promoted. At various times, people were arrested for keeping poteen stills near the house which was then referred to as ‘Byran Cooper’s famous shooting lodge’. Tales of a ghost would have kept curious onlookers away from the house and left those distilling there undisturbed.  In 1939 another individual was arrested for unlawful distilling and he was found ‘near an old shooting lodge on the mountain’. Markree Castle has recently passed out of the ownership of the Cooper family and their former shooting lodge outside Dromore West will soon cease to exist. The few weather beaten walls still standing, bear little testament to the local civil unrest nearly 140 years ago that resulted in the death of William Nichol. 

Lough Easky found a short distance from Cooper's Lodge
Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Glenlossera Lodge
Ballycastle , Co. Mayo

Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
Glenlossera Lodge found outside Ballycastle in Co. Mayo on the West Coast of Ireland is an object of desire for some, many have dreamed about rescuing this structure from ruin but may not have deep enough pockets to do so. Sitting high on a hill on a steep bend on the road to Belmullet, the house enjoys unrivaled views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding dramatic countryside. What may surprise some is that this house was once home to a woman who had connections with numerous historical figures namely Queen Victoria, her servant John Brown, Oscar Wilde and Alfred Douglas. Lady Florence Dixie, who made Glenlossera her home for four months in 1882 was the aunt of Alfred Douglas whose relationship with Oscar Wilde led to a trial that dominated the headlines of Victorian Britain. Lady Florence is also said to have suffered the wrath of Queen Victoria who blamed her for the death of her faithful servant, John Brown. When one enjoys the panoramic view from the front of the house, one can understand why Zachary Mudge picked this spot to construct his hunting lodge here in the 1850’s. However this is an isolated, cold and unforgiving spot which receives the full brunt of the weather blown in from the Atlantic Ocean, so Zachary's pioneering spirit in the 1850's has to be admired. The longevity of Glenlossera Lodge will soon be curtailed with the speedy acceleration of its decline in recent years. A glimmer of hope was offered in 2008 when planning permission was granted for its restoration, however since then its decline has been swift with the loss of large amounts of the surviving roof structure and the collapse of a number of its chimney stacks. The property has been on the market for a number of years however a willing saviour has yet to come forward.
Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
The story of Glenlossera Lodge begins in November 1853, when it was recorded that Mr. Zachary Mudge purchased at auction,  'Lot 30 - Glenglassera' containing 1,191 acres with a net annual rent of six pounds sixteen shillings and two pence for £775. In the same sale Mr. Mudge also purchased Lot 26, 'Sralagagh West' containing 1,662 acres for £1,065 and Lot 27 containing 181 acres situated at 'Glenora'. Zachary Mudge was the son of Admiral Mudge who died in 1852, meaning Zachary was in possession of his inheritance when he purchased the lands in Mayo. He was born in 1813 and was educated in Oxford where took an M.A. in 1840. He became a barrister but did not practice as he succeeded to the family property. His principle property was Sydney House in Devonshire and South Pill in Cornwall together with the lodge he would build in Ballycastle Co. Mayo. His heir was his son Arthur Mudge, a Lieutenant in the Second Queen's Royal Regiment. It would appear that soon after the land was purchased, the lodge was constructed. It would appear that the Mudge family only spent certain times of the year, such as Autumn, in the lodge and never lived there on a full time basis. At times a game keeper was retained however it would appear that the lodge was often leased to various people, the most interesting and notable of these was Lady Florence Dixie.

Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
In September 1882, Lady Florence Dixie (1855-1905), a daughter of the 8th Marquis of Queensberry, was in residence at Glenlossera Lodge in Ballycastle, Co. Mayo. She was the sister of the 9th Marquis of Queensbury and aunt to the Alfred Douglas who were both involved in the scandalous trial of that century with Oscar Wilde. After marrying in 1875, Florence combined her love of sport, travel and writing when she journeyed across Patagonia from 1878-9 where she hunted big game and publishing a book about her adventures called 'Across Patagonia' in 1880. A woman fond of adventure, in 1879 she was the war correspondent for The Morning Post, covering the Zulu war in Southern Africa. She had strong views on African politics, publishing  ‘ The Land of Misfortune' in 1882. In Britain she was a keen writer of letters to newspapers on a range of liberal issues. She had forthright views on women, equality of the sexes in marriage and divorce. In the 1890s, in a distinct turn-around from Patagonia, she condemned as cruel the blood sports she had once so greatly enjoyed, in 'The Horrors of Sport (1891)'. 
Lady Florence Dixie
Picture ( above)  Copyright NPG
In 1875, aged 19, Florence Douglas had married Sir Alexander Beaumont Churchill Dixie, 11th Baronet. However according to his new wife, Alexander was  "a spendthrift, a hopeless gambler, a heavy drinker" and as a result the family estate of Bosworth in Leicestershire had to be sold in 1885. Florence wrote "For some time past I have been fighting against the terrible consequences of my husband's immense losses on the Turf and at gambling . . It was a great blow to me to find that the last remnant of a once splendid fortune must at once go to pay this debt. Ruin ... Beau ... has been so accustomed to have heaps of money at his command that he cannot understand that it is all gone .... By selling Bosworth and the property these (debts) could be met.' Their marriage produced two sons, born in 1876 and 1878. 

Panoramic views of the surrounding area
Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
Alexander and Florence shared a number of interests however their love of alcohol earned them the nickname of "Sir Always and Lady Sometimes Tipsy''. Florence was the author of a number of books for both children and adults and wrote many letters to newspapers on a number of issues in particular Irish Home Rule. Her article ' The Case of Ireland' was published in Vanity Fair in May 1882.  It had been the assassination of the Secretary and the Under Secretary for Ireland in May 1882 that prompted Lady Florence to come to Ireland where she resolved to do all she could for the poor suffering tenants. In August 1882, she together with her husband, Beau and brother Jim came to Ireland for a number of months. Despite receiving death threats before her trip and being begged by members of her family not to go to Ireland, she persisted and came to County Mayo to stay at Glenlossera Lodge. When she was only one month in Ireland in September 1882, she received a letter bomb, whether this was sent to Glenlossera we cannot be sure. During her sojourn of four months in Glenlossera Lodge, she wrote to numerous newspapers to highlight to the British public the great poverty amongst the small farmers on the west coast of Ireland. She appealed for donations to assist her in the formation of a fund which would help her to alleviate the suffering of the truly unfortunate, destitute and those unfairly evicted. Her appeal was generously responded to and contributions were received from within Ireland, England and Scotland. However she stated publicly that she would not engage with the Land League nor donate any of the funds raised by her to them. She felt they received adequate funds from the Irish in America and she did not agree with their violent methods. In 1883, a visitor to Ballycastle recorded that on the road between Ballycastle and Belmullet ' there are a few miserable hovels thinly scattered and one or two hunting lodges of English gentlemen. During a great portion of the year these lodges are closed up, the owners living elsewhere.' It is also recorded that 'on this road one passes Glenossery Lodge, together with the houses of the chief and under gamekeepers...... In this lodge, which belongs to an Englishman named Mudge, resided in for sometime Lady Florence Dixey.' Lady Florence continued to be critical of the Land League after her departure from Ireland. Near Windsor she was reportedly attacked by them in March 1883 however some doubted whether this attack had actually taken place. Lady Florence had alleged that she was attacked by two gentlemen dressed as women who tried to stab her and only for the quick actions of her St. Bernard dog she would have been killed. This led to another extraordinary connection, as the attack happened near Windsor Castle, Queen Victoria sent her faithful servant John Brown to investigate. During his investigations carried out in exceptionally cold weather, John Brown caught a cold from which he never recovered and died soon after. As a result Queen Victoria is said to have blamed Lady Florence for the death of her faithful servant.

Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
In January 1877, a man representing himself as Captain Baggot of Glenlossera Lodge ordered goods to the amount of £39 in the town of Killala. He said at the time that he had bought the lodge from Captain Wilde who was a tenant of Captain Mudge. A few weeks later, despite never having paid for the goods, Captain Baggot returned to Killala and informed the shop keeper that he had become a landlord after purchasing a large property at Newport. He was going to London to pay for it and needed funds prior to his trip. He withdrew funds of £25 on the basis of a letter stating that he was £1,000 in credit with his bankers in London. However it appears that Captains Baggot's stories were all a fabrication and he was arrested for his dishonoured bank drafts.  By December 1887, a Miss Priestly (or Mrs. Mudge), was in residence in Glenlossera where she advertises a recommendation for her Governess in order for her to find work in alternative employment in the New Year. In 1893, a meeting was held in Ballycastle in relation to the extension of the railway line from Killala to Ballycastle. A large number of people attended the meeting including the large land owners of the area, and Mr. A.J. Mudge of the lodge. 

Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC
At the time of the 1901 census, the lodge is described as having 15 rooms, being occupied by William Lynch and owned by Arthur J. Mudge. William Lynch was a Game Keeper, a member of the Church of Ireland and from Cork City. He lived in the lodge with his wife, three sons and one daughter.  His youngest two children were born in Mayo with the elder of these children is one year old meaning the family had come to the area around 1900. The eldest children of the family were all born in Cork as was his wife. By 1911, William and his wife are still in residence in the lodge but they now have another child named Walter aged 8. By 1923, the lodge was still the home of the Lynch family, in May of that year, a party of National troops came to Glenlossera Lodge and asked for permission to be put up there. This was granted with the stipulation that none of the troops were to enter the family bedrooms. However later in October, a case was mentioned in the press where the larceny of property from the house had taken place. A solider was later sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for the thief of the jewelry.  The Lynch's were still in residence in the lodge by 1926, which is confirmed by a number of notices that appeared in the local paper from that time. However it would appear that the Lynch's tenure of the lodge ended in 1927 when it was sold. The Mudge family reduced their holding in Mayo gradually over the previous decades with the sale of 2,731 acres taking place in 1927 to the Irish Land Comission.

Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC

In 1931, F.H. Martin-Atkins passed away and left an estate of £ 11,130.00 and it was noted that he was formerly of Glenlossera Lodge, Ballycastle, Co. Mayo. In 1934, Glenlossera was advertised for sale, fully furnished with 906 acres. The interior is described as having three sitting rooms, five bedrooms, two servant’s rooms and kitchen which was all available for the price of £1,000 however due to lack of interest this was reduced to £500 one year later. In 1956, it was advertised that instructions had been received by James King, who had now taken up residence in Galway, to offer for sale  the property known as 'Glenlossera Lodge' on 7 acres of arable and woodland with boat-houses and slips at Belderrig and Glenlossera lakes. The lodge is described as a ' beautiful cut stone structure of the Bungalow type erected on dry elevated ground in perfect structural and decorative order. It contains large entrance hall, sun lounge, 2 reception rooms, kitchen, kitchenette, cold room and pantry with tiled floors, 5 well appointed bedrooms, bathroom, W.C.' The sale was to be carried out by John Moran and the price included all furniture. In 1964, Albert Stephen Fallon was in residence in the lodge, and when in 1992 Mr. Fallon passed away in Clomel and his death notice stated that he was formerly of Glenlossera Lodge. The lodge has become derelict over the years but full planning permission for its restoration was granted in 2008. Despite being on the market with seven acres for a number of years, for offers in the region of €125,000. there have been no takers. As I am familiar with the house I have noticed recently that a number of the chimney stacks have collapsed and the decline of the lodge has accelerated. However one still hopes that someone might be brave enough to save this unique house with a surprising connection with a number of historical figures.

A large number of the chimneys and external walls of the
 lodge have unfortunately collapsed.
Picture ( above)  Copyright ICHC