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

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