Friday, 21 June 2013

Rossmore Castle, Co. Monaghan

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that a good number of the featured houses and castles no longer exist. Some have been demolished, some burned deliberately, while others have simply been victims of neglect. So when finding a country house that you did not know had existed there is always that initial sense of awe and excitement, tinged with a little sadness. This unfortunately was the case with this week's featured entry, Rossmore Castle. To be honest I was completely unfamiliar with it, and came across it by chance when looking for images of the more well-known Castle Leslie. It was a pleasant surprise though. The beautiful castle was situated on the outskirts of Monaghan Town. The castle seen below was built in two stages, and both date from the nineteenth century. Rossmore was built for Warner Westenra (1765-1842), the second baron Rossmore. The Westerna's, whose lineage was Dutch, had inherited the title upon the death of the first baron, Robert Cunninghame (d. 1801). The house continued as the principle residence of the Westernas until the 1950s, when dry rot eventually forced the family to relocate to another property within the grounds. The house was ultimately doomed, being demolished in 1974. 

Lord Rossmore commissioned William Vitruvius Morrison to erect a new home. Morrison might be familiar to readers of this blog, having designed both Glenarm Castle and Templemore Abbey. Work commenced in 1829, with Tudor Gothic the chosen style. Much of this earliest house can be seen on the  left of the picture above, in the form of the large square turreted tower and adjoining wing. Significant additions were made in the 1850s, this time in the Scots baronial style, making it one of the largest country houses in the lakeland counties. 

While the quality of this image is not perfect it really does illustrate the size of the castle well. It also shows more clearly the two buiulding stages, with the ealrier Tudor style house on the left, and the Scots baronial wing to the right. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Lough Eske Castle, Co. Donegal

Now renowned as a luxury hotel, the Lough Eske estate has a long and rich history stretching back centuries. The present castle and estate traces its heritage to the early seventeenth century and the Plantation of Ulster. The area had long been a stronghold of the O'Donnell family, one of the leading aristocratic Gaelic Irish families. In the wake of the defeat of the Gaelic Irish at the Battle of Kinsale, and the subsequent Flight of the Earls in 1607, the area was settled by a large numbers of Scots settlers, who were given large swathes of land. One of these families was the Knox family, who built a large house there, probably in the 1620s. Through marriage the estate and house passed into the Brooke family in the early eighteenth century. The Brooke's replaced the Jacobean mansion in the 1750s with a new house, which was in turn replaced in the later nineteenth century by the present Lough Eske Castle. 

In 1859 Thomas Brooke commissioned Fitzgibbon Louch (1826-1911) to design his new home. Louch, who originally hailed from Co. Tipperary, was at this time relatively unknown, but subsequently went on to design the impressive Magee College at nearby Derry. Louch's design was essentially Elizabethan with elements of Tudor, a fanciful design influenced heavily by the Romantic movement. Most fanciful was the tower, reminiscent of a medieval tower house or castle, with its turrets and crenelations. Its steep pitched roof and tall chimney stacks were more Elizabethan or Tudor than medieval, as were the large bay windows.

In 1894 the castle and estate were sold to General George White. In 1930 the castle was reinvented as a hotel, a relatively short lived incarnation which lasted only until 1939, when it was disastrously destroyed by fire.The ruined house then remained derelict until 2007, when it was restored. It now functions as a luxury five star hotel.

A view of Lough Eske 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Swiss Cottage, Cahir, Co. Tipperary

Up to now the majority of houses and castles featured in this blog have been reasonably conventional. Most have been nineteenth century neo-Gothic, with the the occasional Elizabethan and Jacobean example thrown in for good measure. Today, however, I thought to include something a little more fanciful, in the form of Swiss Cottage. Perched along the banks of the River Suir, the cottage is situated on the outskirts of the small town of Cahir. Well-known for its large medieval castle, Cahir owes much of its history to the Butler family, the barons Cahir. 

Swiss Cottage was built in the early 1810s by Richard Butler, the tenth baron Cahir and soon to be earl of Glengall (1816). Butler employed the talents of the eminent English architect, John Nash. When commissioned, Nash was already highly sought after, having been appointed the architect to the regent, George, Prince of Wales in 1806. Nash undertook monumental commissions such as Regent's Street and Regent's Park in London. For Butler to secure Nash's services was, therefore a major coup. Building on the cottage commenced in 1810, and took around four years to complete. The house was not designed to be lived in, but rather as somewhere to entertain family and guests. In that sense it can be described as a cottage ornĂ©e. These type cottages, which exuded an overt rustic quality, had become popular in the late eighteenth century. The largest and possibly most well-known is Marie-Antoinette's Hemeau de la Reine at Versailles, near Paris. 

The cottage's deliberately asymmetrical look and the curvature of lines was designed to make it appear at one with nature. The balconies and verandas included exposed tree trunks, all included to add authenticity and oneness with its surrounds. Inside the cottage was fitted out suitably for the purpose it was built, with a music room and various entertaining rooms, all highly decorated in a rustic style. 

A view of the River Suir with the cottage visible in the distance