Eastham House

Eastham House, Bettytown was built about 1760, possibly for the Shepheard family who owned Bettystown. In the 1830s the house was occupied by F. Anderson. A three storey house, it still has its original front railings and gates. There is a walled garden to the rear. The outbuildings have been replaced with modern guest houses.

Elmsgrove House

Elmsgrove house, Killaconnigan, Ballivor was the residence of the Browne family. In 1794 the Bishop of Meath, Dr. Plunkett dined at Mr. Brown’s of Killaconikan on his visitation of parishes. In  1815 Bishop Plunket confirmed Mr. Browne’s youngest daughter on his visit to Elmsgrove. Bishop Plunkett stayed at Elmsgrove again in 1816. The Brownes of Elmsgrove were connected to the Brownes of Clongowes Wood. In the 1830s the house was the residence of Mr. Browne, J.P. A fine house, it was described as being  pleasantly situated with the attached grounds pleasantly planted. Contiguous to the house is a graveyard. In 1876 Anthony Browne of Elm Grove held 1,017 acres in County Meath.

Killaconnigan Graveyard is about ½ mile from the small town of Ballivor off the Mullingar Road.  It is situated on a fort and has some considerable earthworks around it.  The Elmgrove demesne surrounded it in the old days but Elmgrove House was demolished some years ago and the land divided.  This demesne had south and west entrances with gate-lodges; and on the east wall of the south gate lodge there still  exists the coat of arms of the Browne family which was an eagle displayed.  Unfortunately the head of the bird is no longer to be seen.  The Brownes were the owners of the Elmgrove demesne in years gone by.  A footpath leads up to the graveyard from the bye-road and a circular path encloses the slight remains of Killaconnigan church and the graves. 

Eureka House

Situated in Townparks Eureka House occupies a commanding position at the entrance to Kells from the Navan side. Its date of construction is not recorded but local sources place it at 1882 but there are also records of occupation from a decade earlier. In 1867 the Marquess of Headfort commissioned an architect to design an agent’s house and so the building might date from 1868. P. Sharpe, Navan, was the contractor.

Eureka is described as a detached three-bay two-storey former house, with Tuscan portico. The regular form of this building is enlivened by the fine Tuscan portico, which was clearly executed by skilled craftsmen. The building contained spacious hall, four reception rooms, cloakroom, four principal bedrooms, with dressing rooms off two, four servant’s apartments, bathroom, kitchen, pantries, scullery, butler’s room and servants’ hall. The Courtyard contained a groom’s house, eight loose boxes, two stalls, two coach houses, harness and saddle room and a cow shed.

Eureka 1941

Edward Tuite Dalton was a descendant of the family which owned the Newcastle estate in Meath. He was landwaiter of customs at Dublin Port. Edward was a close friend of the poet Thomas Moore and well-known composer. In 1810 he married Olivia Stephenson in St. George’s Church, Dublin. Edward died in 1820 leaving a widow and three children. Olivia re-married Thomas Taylour, 2nd Marquess of Headfort, in London in 1822 and Edward’s children were brought up by the Taylour/Headfort family. Gustavus, Edward and Adelaide Tuite Dalton were aged eleven, seven and three at the time and grew up in Kells regarding the Marquess as their father. Their mother, Olivia, died of cholera in 1834 having had six more children. Headfort remarried in 1854 and died in December 1870, aged 83.

The younger son Edward (1815-1880) joined the Indian regiment of the British army and rose to become General of the Bengal Lancers. His letters home to his father recount his exciting adventures in India. He wrote an anthropology book in 1872 entitled The Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, regarded as ‘influential’ and ‘an invaluable account of various tribes of Northeast India’. A town in India, Daltonganj, was named after him (now Medininagar).

The daughter, Adelaide (1819-1895), married young. At the tender age of 15 she married John Young, Baron Lisgar, who later became Governor General of Canada. After her first husband’s death, she re-married in 1878 his private secretary, Sir Francis Charles Fortescue Turville, who was twelve years her junior, and not the alleged 24 years given in some sources.

The eldest, Gustavus (1811-1879), went on to become an agent on his stepfather’s estate in Meath and Cavan. Being the editor of the Anglo-Celt newspaper, he was greatly interested in politics and produced at least two pamphlets:  The English Press on the Irish Question and an Irishman’s View of it and Irish Peers on Irish Peasants: An Answer to Lord Dufferin and the Earl of Rosse. He told a government enquiry in 1870 that as an agent for more than twenty years he had never had “to eject a tenant for non-payment of rent.” Gustavus married Frances Katherine Kneller in 1837 at Paris. Frances died at Headfort in 1845. Gustavus with an address at Fenner, Co Meath, married Lucy Fanny Smith on 4 May 1848, they lived at Kilnahard House on the borders of Lough Sheelan until 1859 when they put the house up for let, and moved to The Warren in Kells.

In 1853 Gustavus was appointed private secretary to Sir John Young, Chief Secretary of Ireland. In 1854 he took to the stage in a series of plays at the Chief Secretary’s Lodge, including ‘You can’t marry your grandmother’ and ‘Twice Killed’. In 1857 Gustavus was appointed agent over the Headfort estates in both Cavan and Meath and resigned his commission as Major of the Cavan Militia. Lord Headfort held 7,544 acres in Meath and 14,251 acres in Cavan. Lucy died suddenly on 3 November 1867 aged 44 at Bailieborough Castle.

In all Gustavus had thirteen children. His son, Reginald Tuite-Dalton, was born in Cavan on the 29th April 1850. At the age of 23, in June 1873, he enlisted to the 10th Hussars. Listed as Gentleman, he was accepted to Sandhurst Officers College, where after a short period of cadet training, he was gazette to be Sub–Lieutenant. On 16th July 1873 he would be appointed to the 10th Hussars, whereupon he would join his regiment in Muttra in the East Indies. Another son, George John, died in Trinidad in 1879. Cecil Wilfred went to India where he served as Assistant Superintendent of the Police. Another son, Robert Prendegast died in Plevna, Montana in 1922.  Gustavus taught at the Bailieborough Sabbath School and also worked with the choir. He was presented with a bible when he moved back to Kells to reside at Eureka in 1868. Gustavus was one of the executors of the Marquis’ Will who left over £90,000 in personal estate.

In 1867 the Marquess of Headfort commissioned an agent’s house in Kells and he may have had done this to provide his adopted son, Gustavus, with a permanent home.Thomas Taylour, 3rd Marquess of Headfort, succeeded his father as Marquess of Headfort in 1870 and presumably would have had a good relationship with Gustavus Tuite Dalton as they were of similar age and raised together. Gustavus was one of the executors of the Marquess’s will who left over £90,000 in personal estate.

Gustavus died 20 January 1879 at Eureka, Kells and was buried at St Columba’s Graveyard, Kells. There was a plaque on the old lectern in Kell’s church which reads “The Bible and Brass Lectern in this Church are a memorial to Major Gustavus Tuite Dalton who died 20th January 1879, and are the gift of his family.”

Matthew Weld O’Connor succeeded Tuite Dalton as agent for the estate. O’Connor resided at his wife’s home at Baltrasna, Oldcastle, so it is unclear as to who lived in Eureka House. O’Connor was a Magistrate for the three counties of Longford, Cavan, and Meath and operated as a land agent for as many as forty six estates. Weld seems to have run into trouble with his running of estates. In one case he charged the land owner for labourers as he had attested wrongly that the landlord’s labourers were boycotting the work on the estate. The Chief Secretary Arthur Balfour said that story “was conclusive proof that the particular land agent was a scoundrel” in the House of Commons.

Matthew Weld O’Connor was the last Worshipful Master in one of the last Orange lodges active within the county boundary of Meath. LOLl 596 was based in Beltrasna (Baltrasna) near Oldcastle where O’Connor’s wife came from. The lodge worked within the Ballyjamesduff District of County Cavan and ceased operating in 1896. Matthew Weld was declared a bankrupt in 1897 and this caused a major loss to the estate.

Geoffrey Thomas Taylour, 4th Marquess of Headfort, succeeded his father in 1894 at sixteen years of age.   Lord Headfort was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards on 4 January 1899, and promoted to lieutenant on 7 March 1900. He resigned from the regiment in May 1901. Rose Boote (1878-1958) was, according to Sotheby’s, “the daughter of a comedian from Nottingham and a straw hat sewer” although a report in The Irish Times at the time of her death claimed she was “Irish and was educated in the Ursuline Convent, Thurles”. Rosie achieved great fame as one of the Gaiety Girls – the chorus-line girls who sang in musical comedy spectacles at the Gaiety Theatre on the Strand, London. The girls attracted the attention of aristocratic young men – known as “Stage Door Johnnies” Rose in “The Messenger Boy” in 1900 under her professional name of Miss Rosie Boote, and so charmed the young Marquess that he married her on 11 April 1901. Their marriage was unusual: Rose was a Catholic from a humble background, while her husband was a Protestant aristocrat. He caused a sensation when he converted to Catholicism for their marriage. The Marquess’s widowed mother, Emily, was horrified but not surprised at her young son’s fatal attraction for the stage beauty. She had already locked him up in a room in her London mansion to prevent an earlier engagement to another ‘Gaiety Girl’ – who was then paid £7,500 for ‘breach of promise’ (about €250,000 today). The couple lived at Headfort House in Ireland and had three children together. Geoffrey fought in the First World War between 1915 and 1918, where he was mentioned in despatches. From 1922 to 1928, he served as a Senator of the Irish Free State. By the time Rosie died in 1958, aged 80, she was hallowed and honoured by all: she had proved to be an excellent wife, very popular with the local people and had helped her husband recover from the debts with which the estate was encumbered, by good management and retrenching.

The estate was managed by the executors until 1896 and by trustees until Geoffrey came of age in 1899. George Hurst Fowler was the Marquess of Headfort’s agent from 1896 until his death in 1928. Mr. Fowler was a member of an old Co. Meath family, being third son of the Robert Fowler, Rahinstown, Enfield, and was about sixty-two years of age when he died. He was educated at Cheltenham College and afterwards at the Agricultural College, Cirencester, where he studied land agency. He was also agent for Lord Holmpatrick, and for various other estates in Ireland.  He married Mabel, daughter of J. Blackiston Houston, of Orange Field, Belfast, by whom he had two sons and one daughter. His elder son was a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force and the younger was in the Royal Horse Artillery. His death evoked widespread regret, more especially in Kells, where he took a deep interest in the town.

The estate lands were sold off to tenants during the 1903-23 period through the Irish Land Commission. Fowler presided over the sale of the estate which had approximately five hundred tenants in 1870 to about twenty farms by 1920.   

In 1930 the Marquess of Headfort sold Eureka House and twenty seven acres to Matthew McDonnell, merchant, Cross Street, Kells. McDonnell’s wife, Anna Maria, was a sister of Professor Agnes O’Farrelly, M.A., the noted Irish scholar, and of Professor Alphonsus O’Farrelly. National University.  Three sons of the McDonnells were doctors and a fourth a Solicitor. Mrs. Anna Maria McDonnell died 1941 and the property was sold by auction in January 1942 to James C. Fitzsimons who owned the bakery.  The family lived there until 1952.

Monsignor MacCullen bought it from the Fitzsimons family in 1954. It was intended to use it as a Parochial House but this use proved to be unsuitable. Given the expanding number of pupils in both the primary and secondary schools Monsignor MacCullen, decided to make Eureka House available to the Sisters for use as a new secondary school. It was renovated and adapted to suit a school at a cost of £4,000. The existing secondary school accommodation was then handed over to the primary school.

The Kells Convent was founded by the Dempsey Bequest for charitable and educational purposes. In 1844 the Sisters of Mercy undertook the running of the local girls’ school which had been established in 1840 by the parish priest. By 1924 a secondary school was opened. A new school was built in the grounds in 1934. This was eventually handed over to the primary school as Eureka House was made available for use as a secondary school by the parish.

On 26th April 1956 the new school was officially opened and blessed by Monsignor MacCullen. The name “Eureka” was retained on his recommendation. The sisters recall walking down the road from the old school carrying blackboards, easels, chalk and dusters. There were six classrooms, music, typewriting and reception rooms capable of catering for 150 pupils, all in Eureka House. The school was heated by electric wall-heaters and a big coal and turf stove off the main hallway. Sr. Evangelist was Principal of the school. The cloakroom was heated so wet coats were dried in a comparatively short time. There was also a bicycle-shed.

Both enrolment and the school continued to expand and with the addition of three new classrooms and numbers reaching 282, a pre-fab block was erected adding 4 more classrooms and toilets. The area at the back of the house was changed from grass to tarmac to provide tennis courts and playing areas. In 1969 a second floor was added to the 1962 building, giving four more classrooms.

The boarding school, situated on the convent grounds, was called St. Catherine’s. The number of pupils residing in the boarding school varied from year to year. In the early days, pupils came from as far as Dublin and Donegal as well as Meath, Cavan and Westmeath. As bus services improved and secondary schools opened in other towns, the number of boarders slowly decreased, until in 1980 St. Catherine’s was closed. The building was demolished in 1983.

In 1968 the first male teacher, Mr. Leonard Noone, joined the staff. By 1980 enrolment had reached 444. On May 24th 1981, the 25th Anniversary of opening of Eureka was celebrated with Mass concelebrated by priests of the parish, followed by tea in Eureka hall. In 1983 an upstairs room in Eureka House was converted into an oratory. The school continued to grow and in 2019 the school moved to a new campus on the other side of Kells leaving Eureka House vacant.


Ferrans, Gallow, Kilcock was home to the North and Bomford families. Quite a considerable amount of information is available on the Bomford website.

The lands were held by the Bomford family from as early as 1672 but the big house not erected until the 1820s. The house was erected by Isaac North. The cost of the house was probably paid by North’s uncle, Isaac Bomford, a Dublin attorney who actually owned the land. Ferransville was described in 1835 as being a neat two storey slated house  occupied by Mr. North who later changed his surname to North-Bomford in order to inherit Gallow, 596 acres and Ferrans, 412 acres. Isaac was made a Justice of the Peace for county Meath and was a member of the Board of Guardians for Trim workhouse. When his uncle died in Dublin Isaac North inherited his house in Dominick Street, Dublin. Isaac’s wife, Belinda Emily died in 1852 leaving her husband with a young family of seven ranging in age from 18 down to about 3, with one daughter married. Isaac North-Bomford’s eldest son was named  Isaac. Born in 1834 he became a Captain in the 59th Regiment and served in China, dying unmarried in 1862. The years 1856 to 1860 were the period of the Second Foreign War of China, sometimes called ‘the Second Opium War’, and Isaac almost certainly took part in this war, at any rate up to the Treaty of 1858. Isaac North-Bomford senior died in 1866 and was succeeded by his son, John, who was born in  1838.

John North-Bomford joined the army and served in Burma and Bengal before returning home to take up his father’s estates, following the death of his elder brother. John  married twice. He died in 1905 aged 67. His son, John George North-Bomford, was born in 1883 and reached the rank of major in the service of the Royal Fusiliers. He served in both World Wars, being at Gallipoli in 1916 and serving with the RAF from 1940.  He married twice, firstly in 1909 to Hilda Frances Munn and secondly in 1961 to Elizabeth Susan Armstrong. His son with Hilda Frances, David John, was born in 1912 and died in 1949. Major North-Bomford died in 1965 aged 81.

The house was enlarged in the 1860s. A lodge was constructed in 1867. The house was destroyed by fire in 1923 in an attack by the IRA, although the owner also had had a dispute with one of his herds. It was re-built.

The house was occupied by the North-Bomford family until John George North-Bomford died in 1965. The property was sold in 1967 and seven years later the house was burned again and rebuilt again.

Ferrans is now operated as a stud farm by Juddmonte Farms. The stud farm is owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah, a member of the Saudi ruling family and one of the biggest bloodstock and racehorse owners in the world. He was the first Arab owner to win an English Classic when his now famous green colours with white sleeves, pink sash and cap, were carried to victory by Known Fact, who took the 1980 2,000 Guineas.

Firmount House

Firmount House, Stackallen was described in 1835 as a modern two storey farm house in good repair.  Dating to about 1780 Firmount was a gentleman farmer’s residence erected by Lord Boyne. A two storey house there was a small plantation between the house and the road in the 1830s. It was vacant for a period in the late twentieth century until it was reconstructed and restored in 1984. Captain Michael Crinion farmed at Firmount for  a period after the First Wold War.

Firpark House.

Firpark House, Diamor, Oldcastle was a gentleman’s residence and the property of Mr. Wade in 1835. A neat stone house it was occupied by the steward of the estate. In 1855 William B. Wade was the landlord of Firpark. A modern entrance from the south has now been constructed and the woods around the house been removed.

Fosterstown House


Fosterstown House is located just outside Trim on the Summerhill Road.  A plain two storey house, the date June 1843 is carved on the base of one of the columns flanking the doorcase.  However the house probably dates to the late eighteenth century and was reputedly home to Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, in the 1790s when he was MP for Trim.  Fosterstown house was known as Wellington for a period.

A thatched gate lodge guards the entrance to Fosterstown. It is unusual to have such a common-place building as a gate lodge to a demesne. The two windows on the south elevation of the lodge  are the only windows in the house.

Captain William Foster lived at Fosterstown in the late eighteenth century and it is he who may have erected the house. In 1770 Rev John Achmuty, Rector of Trim, was living at Fosterstown.

In the late eighteenth century the house was the property of the Carshore family. Adam Carshore was portreeve (mayor) of Trim on six occasions between 1780 and 1800. William Carshore who was recorded as residing in Fosterstown in 1802 was portreeve of Trim on four occasions between 1789 and 1799. William Carshore was a captain in the Trim Yeomanry Corps succeeding in the active command its first Captain, his maternal uncle, Adam Carshore, of Kilcooley, Co. Meath. In 1801 Edward Elliot Chambers of Crowpark married Elizabeth, only-surviving daughter and heiress of William Carshore, of Fosterstown and Trim.

The Chambers family are recorded in Wexford  in the 1650s. A descendant of the family, Joseph, married the eldest daughter of Rev. Stafford Lightbume, of Trim. Their son, Edward Elliot Chambers, lived at Crowpark and married Elizabeth Carshore. In 1835 Fosterstown was described as a good dwelling house with offices. The  house and ninety one acres were the property of  Mr. Chambers. Edward’s son, Richard Edward Elliot Chambers of Fosterstown, became an artist in England. He married into a wealthy family – Chandos-Pole-Gell of Hopton Hall. His bride was 36 when they married. Richard travelled the world painting in such places as California, Mexico, Canada, New Mexico, Sahara, Algeria, Middle East and  South Africa. The family also had a residence in Devon.


Foxbrook is located in the townland of Ballymulmore, Ballivor. A late eighteenth century gable-ended house its name is derived from its owners, the Fox family.

In 1802 Matthew Fox and his family were living at Foxbrook. Matthew was born in 1745, died in 1808, and married Elizabeth Grierson of Doolistown, Trim. Buried at Laracor, Matthew was succeeded by his son, James D’Arcy Fox, who lived until 1850. James Fox married Harriet D’Arcy of Hyde Park, Westmeath in 1803 and appears to have taken the name D’Arcy as a second surname.

The original parkland features surrounding the house and avenue have been removed.

Frankville House

Frankville House was erected on the western end of Athboy town on the Delvin road.

In 1836 it was described as a neat house of two stories and basement, the residence of Francis Walsh.

A two storey three bay house of late Georgian appearance with Wyatt windows and an enclosed porch the seat of the Walsh family before becoming a Convent for the Sisters of Mercy.

The house was originally called Greenville but its name was changed to Frankville. The Earl of Darnley was the owner of the property and  the house was used to accommodate his land agents. The Coggle family resided in the house for a period.  The manager of the Athboy branch of Ulster Bank resided in the house until the 1940s when the premises was acquired by the Sisters of Mercy who ran a secondary school in the building and then erected a school in the grounds. This school became a community school and the Sisters disposed of the house in 1998.

Fraine House

Fraine or Frayne House is located about a mile from Athboy town on a road to Ballivor. Frayne was the property of the Scurlock until they were dispossessed in the seventeenth century. A medieval castle sits on the opposite side of the road to the remains of Frayne House. In 1775 James Taylor held Frayne Castle.

The two storey over basement house was erected in the early eighteenth century, modified in the middle of that century and a new wing added about 1850. In 1836 Fraine House was described as a neat house of two stories, the residence of William Hopkins. The townland was the property of Sir Thomas Chapman of St. Lucie, Clonmellon. In the 1850s William Hopkins was still occupying the house and lands. Henry Hopkins then occupied Fraine but he was dead by 1880. In 1901 Eleanor Fawcett, a native of Sligo, was living at Fraine House. In 1911 her nephew, George Ernest Moore, a native of Fermanagh was living at Fraine. The house had fifteen rooms, five windows to the front and eleven outbuildings. George Moore married Beryl Cockle of Swinford, Co. Mayo in 1924. Dr. Moore became a well known Meath historian. George Moore died in 1968. Fraine House fell into disrepair.  

Freffans House

Freffans House is about two  miles southeast of Trim, in Little Freffans townland and the parish of Laracor. Freffans is a two storey over basement house. The four bedroom house also has a two bedroomed lodge and a courtyard of outbuildings. Erected by the Battersby family about 1823 the house was described as an excellent dwelling in the 1830s. The grounds were nicely planted and ornamented.

William Battersby was born in 1764, the son of John Battersby of Lakefield. He married Frances Preston of Swainstown and settled at Freffans. Their four eldest sons died unmarried and without heirs. Their fifth son, Arthur Henry, had a son and a daughter. Their daughter, Anna Henrietta, married Lambert Disney of Rock Lodge, the neighbouring property. William died in 1848. In 1852 Arthur Henry Battersby was living at Freffans. In 1854 Fanny Battersby was living at Freffans.

In 1901 William Watson, an estate agent, his wife and family were living at Freffans. In 1911 Anne Evelyn Hope Johnstone, a widow, was living at Freffans with her family. The house had sixteen rooms, thirteen windows to the front and fifteen outbuildings.

Freffans was purchased by William Potterton in 1912 and remained in the hands of his son and grandson for most of the twentieth century. Henry Norman Potterton became heir when his elder brother, William Hubert, was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Henry Norman died in 1980 and his son, Scott Potterton, held the house for about ten years before selling it about 1990.

Gallow House

Gallow Hill House was located near Gallow Graveyard on the Summerhill-Kilcock road. In 1794 Mr. Flanagan lived at Gallow. In 1835 Mr. W. Maher lived in Gallow House, a two storey slated building. Mr. Bomford was the owner of the land and the property was leased to Mr. Maher. In 1854 Patrick Maher was leasing a house and 377 acres at Gallow from Rev. John Potterton and a house and 451 acres from Isaac N. Bomford. The first house may have been Clarkestown and the second Gallow. The house was in ruins by 1900. A complex of farm buildings now stand on its site.

Galtrim House

Galtrim House

Galtrim House is located south of Trim off the Dublin Road on a side road to Summerhill.

Galtrim house was constructed about 1800 as a glebe house for Rev. Vesey Dawson, rector of Galtrim, whose wife was the daughter of Blayney Townely of Townley Hall.  Galtrim House was designed by the noted Irish architect, Francis Johnston. A two storey over basement house, the main building is flanked by single storey over basement wings. Bence–Jones described Galtrim as ‘the finest of Francis Johnstown’s smaller houses’ and having ‘an interior of great subtlety.’  Dr. Maurice Craig said Galtrim’s decoration ‘is of the coolest kind imaginable.’ Craig wrote that “Galtrim is probably the best of Francis Johnston’s smaller houses.”  Casey and Rowan described Galtrim as  a delightful miniature country house with a formal stable court. The stable court has the style and charm of a village market house. The stone lions bear the date 1802. The L-plan single-storey gate lodge, was erected at the same time as the house. The gate lodge was an object to be looked at across the park.

Vesey Dawson was rector of Galtrim from 1794 to 1806. Dawson was married to a daughter of Blaney Townley who employed Johnston to design Townely Hall, near Drogheda. Townley Hall, erected in 1793, was Johnston’s best large house according to Maurice Craig. In 1802 Mrs. Dawson had a straw hat factory which gave considerable employment to the neighbourhood especially to young women and girls. Rev Dawson killed when a horse bolted on him. In his will he left a sum of money for the poor of Galtrim.

Matthew Fox from Foxbrooke purchased the house in 1813 from the Dawsons. A new glebe house for the parish clergyman was erected 1815.  Matthew Fox who settled at Galtrim was born in 1745 married Elizabeth Grierson of Doolistown and died in 1808 leaving issue James, John, Joseph and William and five daughters. Matthew held the title, ‘The Fox’. Tadhg O Catharnaigh was chiefain of Teffia in the eleventh century and, for his wily ways, became known as ‘An Sionnach’ The Fox. His descendants became proprietors of the entire barony of Kilcoursey in Co Offaly and acquiring the title ‘Barons Kilcoursey’, they adopted his nickname as their own surname in place of O Catharnaigh, and the chief of the family took on ‘The Fox’ as a title. The current holder of the title, John William Fox, The Fox, Chief of his Name, lives in Australia.

Matthew’s eldest son, James, at Foxbrooke and Galtrim. He is buried in Laracor. His youngest son, Matthew Fox, was curate at Clonard, 1837 and vicar at Galtrim, 1838-43. In 1837 Galtrim House was described as a handsome residence in a well planted demesne and the seat of the Fox.

Matthew’s son, James, succeeded at Galtrim. James George Hubert Fox born 1842, served as a lieutenant in the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, lived at Galtrim, and died 1919. In 1906 Edward John French, solicitor, of Dublin married Georgina Frances Fox daughter of James George Hubert Fox of Galtrim House.

James was succeeded by his son, Major Brabazon Hubert Maine Fox who was born in 1868. The family also had connections to Tipperary. Major Brabazon Fox was educated at Trinity College, served with Royal Irish Rifles and was a member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. The Society members were guests of the Major at Galtrim when they came to examine the motte. Major Fox served in Malta, India and during the First World War. His son, Nial, also served in the First World War. Major the Fox died 1940.

The Eustace family purchased Galtrim 1936 from the Foxes. John Frank Fawcett Eustace, lived at Galtrim. He was married in 1936 to Natalie Annette Diamond, daughter of John Ernest Ardron, their children being, Mary Fawcett, born in 1938, and John Edwin, born in 1947. He sold the house in 1969 to Eileen Mount Charles.

Eileen Mount Charles was the daughter of Captain Charles Wren Newsam and Eileen Ussher, Ashfield, Beauparc. Captain Newsam was the founder of Navan Carpets. Eileen married  Frederick Conyngham, 7th Marquess Conyngham of Slane in 1950.

In medieval times Galtrim was associated with the Hussey family.

Garballagh House

Garballagh is located on the Navan road out of Duleek. The house appears to date from the middle of the nineteenth century. A courtyard stands near the house. In the 1830s there appears to have been a small village at Garballagh. The von Homrigh family seem to have owned Garballagh but the Saurin family lived there.

Michael Saurin married Brigid Matthews. Two of their daughters became Carmelite nuns, a son, Matthew, became a Jesuit priest and a son, Patrick, became a lawyer. Their youngest child, Susan Saurin,  was born at Garballagh House in 1829. She entered the Baggot Street Convent of Mercy in 1850 and was professed a nun in 1853 taking the name, Scholastica. She was sent to new convents at Clifford and Hull in England. Her superior was unhappy with her performance and Sr. Scholastica refused to reveal what she said to a priest in confession. Her superior tried to have her dispensed from her vows while the Saurin family wanted the local bishop to investigate the treatment of Sr. Scholastica. A commission of enquiry was appointed. Saurin was the only nun to be interviewed and cross-examined on twelve charges of faults against obedience, poverty, charity, and truth. Saurin was required to leave the convent. Her family was furious and vowed to seek justice in the courts. Saurin refused to leave the convent. The nuns confined her in a room in the attic and refused to provide adequate food. In May 1867 she left the convent quietly. A court case was taken and began in February 1869. The case lasted a record twenty-one days and became known as ‘The Great Convent Case’. Her superiors were found guilty of wrongfully and maliciously compelling Saurin to leave the convent and of subjecting her to various indignities, assaults, persecutions, and annoyances, including trying to libel her before the bishop. Five years after the case, Saurin entered the Visitation Convent in Bristol under the assumed name of Mary Brown. She remained there until her death in 1915 aged eighty five years. Maria G. McClelland has written an article on Saurin’s life and the case proceedings were published.

Michael Saurin held  a house and lands from John von Homregh in the 1850s. In 1876 Michael Saurin held 393 acres in County Meath. Michael Saurin died in 1880 aged 86. Patrick M.V. Saurin lived at Garballagh in the 1850s and 1880s. Patrick M.V. Saurin, bachelor, died in 1895 aged 61.

Michael Saurin bred horses at Garballagh but in 1900 he decided to cease breeding and sold all his horses. In 1901 Michael J.J. Saurin, his wife, Casandra, and family were living at Garballagh. The house had sixteen rooms, five windows to the front and twenty six outbuildings. In 1911 his son, Michael, and wife, Rosanna, nee Maguire, were living at Garballagh.

Michael Saurin of Garballagh house died in 1922 and is buried in Duleek. Michael Crispin Anthony Saurin died June 1976.

Gaulstown House

Gaulstown is located between Duleek and Balrath Cross. Gaulstown House probably dates to the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1854 Anne Green was leasing the house and 245 acres from William Gibson. In 1876 Mrs. Greene of Gaulstown, Duleek held 303 acres. in 1901 John Greene and his family were living at Gaultsown House. The house had eleven rooms, nine windows to the front and twenty one outbuildings. In 1911 Henry William Greene, son of John, was resident in the house with his family. The Land Commission acquired the property in 1967.

Gerrardstown House

Gerrardstown, sometimes Geraldstown,  House or Castle was located 5 miles from Navan, between Garlow Cross and Kentstown. The neighbouring property was Staffordstown House. In 1835 Gerrardstown house and demesne was the property of Mr. Corbally. The house is near the Nanny river. Attached to the house was a fine lawn, a good garden and a fishpond. In front of the house was the site of a castle and nearby was a mound, possibly a motte.

In 1854 Rev. Dr. Frederick Nolan was leasing Gerrardstown House and 369 acres from Matthew E. Corbally of Corbalton Hall. Nolan was a theologian. He was ordained in August 1806, and served in parishes in England. Nolan was an extreme theological conservative. He died at his home, Geraldstown House, on 16 September 1864, and was buried in the ancestral vault in Navan churchyard.

Captain William Shirley-Ball, 8th Hussars,  lived at Abbeylara, Co. Longford and Gerrardstown, Navan. Captain William Shirley Ball married Jane Wilton and they had two sons, Thomas and Arthur William. William Shirley Ball died in 1866. Arthur William was a lieutenant in the 59th regiment.

Cecilia Letitia Humphrys of Ballyhaise married Arthur Shirley Ball, of Geraldstown in 1869. Arthur was High Sherrif of Longford about 1874. Races were held at Gerrardstown in the 1870s. A new red brick house was erected at Gerrardstown in 1872.  The hosue had six sitting rooms and fourteen bedrooms.

In 1901 and 1911 Cecelia Letitia Shirley Ball, widow,  lived at Gerrardstown. The house had twenty five rooms, eleven windows to the front and twenty seven outbuildings. Mrs. Shirley Ball died in 1924 at Gerrardstown. Gerardstown was purchased by Mr. John Carlin, a Dublin cattle dealer. The house was demolished after the Land Commission took over the estate.

Gibbstown House

Memorial at Donaghpatrick to Thomas Gerrard

Gibbstown House was situated south-east of Kells near Clongill. The lands originally belonged to the Plunketts but came into the ownership of the Gerrard family. Thomas Gerrard settled at Gibbstown and died in 1719. His son, John, was his heir at Gibbstown. Another son, Thomas, lived at Liscarton. A third son, Samuel, lived at Clongill. Samuel was a friend and correspondent of Swift and Pope. In 1780 Arthur Young called at Gibbstown, where Mr. Gerrard had one of the most considerable farms in the country. Mr. Gerrard explained his system of management to Young who recorded it in his book which he hoped would help improve agriculture in Ireland.

John Gerrard married Margaret Flood of Castleknock and was succeeded by his only son, Thomas. His eldest son, John, succeeded him but the property then went to Thomas, the son of the third son who had settled at Boyne Hill. John had married Marcella, daughter and heiress of Frederick Netterville of Longford, Co. Galway but they had no children. Marcella Gerrard eventually came to inherit a large estate in county Galway. As she died in 1865 without an heir the Courts decided that her estates should be divided into three portions for different relatives. In 1837 Gibbstown was described as a gentleman’s seat situated in a well-planted demesne of about 1270 statute acres.

Thomas succeeded his uncle and went on to be High Sheriff of Meath in 1863 and of Cavan in 1893. Thomas died in 1913 and as he had no children his two sisters, Mrs. Johnstone and Mrs. Collins inherited.

Thomas Gerrard replaced the original house with a very impressive Italianate house, constructed 1871-72. The house complete with a campanile was constructed of Ardbraccan limestone. Designed by W.H. Lynn of Belfast the house had 63 bedrooms and a terraced garden. The house was badly damaged by fire in 1912 and re-built 1912-14. The Dublin Fire Brigade came to put out the fire, travelling the thirty six miles in one hour and twenty minutes. It took seven and a half hours to put out the fire, the top floor was destroyed but the ground floor saved. It was the first major use of motorised fire brigade in the county.

A new church at Donaghpatrick was constructed in 1895, funded  by Thomas Gerrard and his sisters, Mrs. Collins and Mrs. Johnston, of Gibbstown House. The medieval tower was incorporated into the new structure.

Major Thomas Collins-Gerrard bred Troytown, winner of the Grand National in 1920. The win was celebrated by bonfires in Navan and on the road to Gibbstown. Gibbstown was designated a Gaeltacht area in the 1930s when migrants from Mayo, Kerry, Donegal and Cork Gaeltachts settled in the area. The house was demolished in 1965 and the fabric of the house was purchased by the monks at New Mellifont, Collon who intended to reconstruct the entire building. The stones were numbered for re-erection but the project never took place. A cast-iron aviary from the house was re-erected in the West End arcade in Drogheda. An extensive farmyard complex of stone and brick buildings, a red-brick gate house and two semi-detached red brick houses erected by Thomas Gerrard, and a number of cottages survive from the estate. The grandiose set of circular cast-iron gates at the entrance to the house is now a protected structure.

There is a Gibbstown in New Jersey and an ale called ‘St. Peter’s beer’ was first brewed by an innkeeper named Thomas Gerrard at Gibbstown near Philadelphia.

Gormanston Castle

Gormanston Castle is situated just south of Drogheda, near the border with county Dublin and just off the main Dublin road. Gormanston castle dates from about 1363.  The old Manor house at Gormanston was low and gabled with a ‘long blue parlour’ stretching along the whole length of the ground floor.  A chapel adjoined the building. The old chapel had a date of 1687 in panel above the doorway and a cruicifix. The Yew Walk was laid out in early 1800s as an approach to the chapel.

Gormanston castle

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the 12th Viscount rebuilt the house as a three storey Gothic Revival castle. A four storey building it has castellated towers. The building was rebuilt and extended about 1820 and is now entirely nineteenth century in appearance. The entrance hall, rising two storeys, has late 19th century wood panelling and a massive chimney piece decorated with a series of Preston shields. The Library has simple classical plasterwork and Ionic chimney piece. The 12th Viscount intended to erect a larger castle but he ceased all works when his wife died in 1820. ‘This day the light of my life has gone out’ he wrote in his diary on the day of her death. It is thought that Thomas Wogan Brown and Sir Richard Morrison were both involved in the design of the building at different times. The noted Irish architect, Francis Johnson, is also credited with the design of the castle. Part of the castle was damaged on the night of the Big Wind in 1839.

Sir Robert Preston served as Lord Chancellor of Ireland and was created Baron Gormanston. The title, Viscount Gormanston, was created in 1478 and as the bearer of the oldest title in Ireland they are regarded as the Premier Viscount in Ireland. In 1611 the Prestons of Gormanston received lands confiscated in Ulster following the Flight of the Earls. The Prestons supported the king against Cromwell in the 1640s  but their lands were restored in the 1660s when Charles II became king. The title was lost after the Battle of the Boyne as the Prestons took the side of James but it was restored in 1800. The family remained Roman Catholic.

The local foxes gather and hold a vigil when the head of the Preston family is dying.  This is said to be in thanksgiving for the deliverance and protection from maurauding predators of a vixen and her young by a previous Lord Gormanston. The crest and supporter of the Viscounts Gormanston are a fox proper. As foxes are solitary by nature for them to congregate in any number is most unusual. In 1860 when the 12th Viscount Gormanston died the foxes came in pairs and sat under the bedroom window where they barked and howled all night. They were constantly driven away but returned. On the day of the funeral the foxes were seen walking towards the graveyard in the woods but then disappeared. When the 14th Viscount died in 1927 the foxes surrounded the chapel where his body was lying and despite all efforts to remove them they would not budge until daylight.

The fourteenth Viscount Gormanston, Jenico Preston, was appointed governor of the Leeward Islands in 1885 and two years later he became governor to the larger colony of British Guiana. In 1893 Gormanston was made governor of Tasmania where a mining settlement was named Gormanston in his honour. The family also held lands at Whitewood and in Nobber. The thirteenth Viscount was created Baron Gormanston of Whitewood, Co. Meath in 1868. In 1883 Lord Gormanston held 9,657 acres in Meath and 1,300 in Dublin making a total estate of 10,957 acres.

Lady Elizabeth Butler came to live with her daughter in Gormanstown Castle in the 1920s. Lady Butler was a noted artist specialising in military scenes. The 16th Viscount who succeeded in 1925, went missing in action in 1940, presumed killed during the Second World War and his widow asked an acquaintance what would he do with the castle. He replied “I’d give it away with a pound of tea.” The writer, Evelyn Waugh, visited the house as a prospective buyer.

In 1947 Gormanston Castle and demesne was acquired by the Franciscan Order from Mrs. Pamela O’Connor, whose husband was the sixteenth Viscount Gormanston.  The Franciscans transferred their school from Multyfarnaham to Gormanston and  opened it as a secondary school in 1954. The present college buildings were built in 1955-6.  Distinguished past pupils include Charlie McCreevy and Colin Farrell.

Jenico Preston, 17th Viscount Gormanston, succeeded to the titles in 1940 at the age of seven months after his father was killed during the Battle of France. The Gormanstowns now live in London. The present Lady Gormanston is Lucy Fox, the daughter of Edward Fox, the actor.

The Meath Archaeological and Historical Society was given a guided tour of grounds by Brendan Matthews.

Grange House

Grange is located at Derrypatrick on the Trim-Dublin road near the cross for Dunsany. In 1835 Grange townland was the property of Mr. Hopkins, Athboy from which Mr. George Murphy of Braymount, Trim held the whole for 31 years at 28s per acre. At the time Grange House was nearly in ruins and occupied by a herd but nearby a new good house was being built.  James George Murphy was living at Grange in 1849, his eldest son, George Fitzgerald was born in 1850. In 1854 James G. Murphy held the townland of Grange amounting to 505 acres. In 1884 George F. Murphy married Lady Mary L. Plunkett, daughter of the Earl of Fingal. In 1876 George F. Murphy was living at Grange. George F. Murphy attended a Unionist convention in Dublin in 1892.

In 1901 and 1911 George F. Murphy, his wife and his brother  were living at Grange. The house had thirteen  rooms, nine windows to the front and fifteen outbuildings.

The stables at Grange were burned in 1905.

In the early twentieth century Lady Mary Murphy lived at Grange. She died in 1927 and her niece Mrs. Kitty Baggally succeeded and lived there until her death in 1955 in a motor accident in France. Richard Romer Claude Baggally married Kathleen (Kitty) Constance Charlotte FitzGerald Murphy in 1910. He had an interesting life. He fought in the First World War and then became Military Secretary to Lord French, the Viceroy of Ireland in 1919. He was commandant of the Alien internment camps, Isle of Man between 1940 and 1942. In 1922 he re-married and died in the mid-1970s. Kitty was buried in France. Her son, Denis Baggally, then lived at Grange. In 1959 the Agricultural Research Institute – An Foras Talúntais took over the estate of 550 acres. It was the base for an AI centre and then a research centre. In 1997 Grange was chosen as site for the EU Veterinary Centre.

Gravelmount House


Gravelmount House  is equidistant from Navan, Kells and Ardee. The late Georgian house is a three storey over basement. The central door leads to a large hall. To rear is a single storey stone cut courtyard.

In the 1700s Gravelmount was the seat of the Weldon family, one of whom married a daughter of Lord Kenmare. Nicholas Weldon of Gravelmount married Lucy Gorges of Kilbrew, she had previously been married to Lord Howth.  William Weldon of Gravelmount had an only daughter, Helen, who became the third wife of John Nugent, heir to the title Earl Nugent of Westmeath in 1748. 

On 30 April 1776 William Weldon renounced the Catholic Church and became a Protestant at the parish church of St. Peters. William died after 1802. J.H. Weldon held Gravelmount in 1812 and also had a city residence at 42 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin.

In the 1830s the house belonged to the Rev. R. Langfield and was occupied by John O’Connor. In 1837 it was described as a spacious and handsome house with the demesne comprising about 160 statute acres and the grounds were tastefully laid out. John O’Connor inherited an estate at nearby Ardlonan. O’Connor, son of Rev. George O’Connor of Castleknock,  was a graduate of Trinity College and bred horses at Gravelomount.

Charles Yelverton O’Connor was born at Gravelmount, Castletown on 11 January 1843, the youngest son of John and Elizabeth (nee O’Keefe) O’Connor.  He was educated at home by his aunt initially. In 1850 the family moved to Waterford, where Charles was educated at the Waterford Endowed School. He was apprenticed to John Chaloner Smith, a railway engineer. At the age of 21 he emigrated to New Zealand. In 1866 he was appointed assistant engineer in Canterbury Province and following steady promotion he became Under-Secretary of Public Works in New Zealand in 1883. He married Susan Letitia Ness and they raised a family of seven. In 1890 was appointed marine engineer for the whole of the colony.

In April 1891 O’Connor took up the position of Engineer-in-Chief of Western Australia. He was responsible for the construction of Freemantle Harbour and the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. O’Connor proposed the development of the harbour at the entrance to the Swan river despite opposing expert opinion. Work began on the new harbour in 1892 with the first overseas passenger ship berthing in 1897 and the works being completed in 1903.  In 1897 O’Connor was invited to London where he was made a companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George by Queen Victoria.

O’Connor was engineer-in-chief of the railways, and new lines had to be built. The number of miles of railway was trebled in the first five years he was in office.

O’Connor constructed the Goldfields Water supply system which carried water 330 miles from Perth to Kalgoorlie. A gold rush in the barren desert area of central; Western Australia caused a population explosion, necessitating a water supply be provided. O’Connor’s proposals were attacked by the press and many Members of Parliament. He was accused of corruption.

The attacks in the press resulted in O’Connor committing suicide. O’Connor took his own life on 10 March 1902 by shooting himself, while riding his horse into the water at a beach south of Fremantle. The beach where O’Connor died was named after him and a statue of O’Connor was erected in the water there. Less than a year later the Goldfields Water Supply was commissioned.

In 1901 William Hopkins lived at Gravelmount. John Rankin McKeever moved from Wilkinstown to Gravelmount and about 1907 he married his wife, Barbara. John Rankin McKeever died in 1940. His memorial plaque in Kilshine church was moved to Kells church when Kilshine was closed.


Gravelstown House is located on the Ardee road from Carlanstown. Gravelstown House was purchased from Nathaniel Manning by Patrick Lynch in 1812 and the Lynch family continued to reside there until 1918. On the night of the Big Wind, 6 January 1839 the roof blew off Gravelstown Hosue. The house had to be thatched for a number of years until slates could be purchased. In 1854 Honoria Lynch was leasing a house, a herd’s house and 211 acres of lands from the Earl of Howth. In 1901 Luke Lynch, aged 82, his wife and family were living at Gravelstown. Luke Lynch was a member of the Board of Guardians for Kells Workhouse. He died in 1906.  His son, Thomas Bernard, was aged 23. The house had ten rooms, five windows to the front and fourteen outbuildings. T.B. Lynch was a local councillor and chairman of the Board of Guardians in Kells in the early part of the twentieth century. The house then came into the hands of the Farrelly family.

Green Park

Green Park is in the townland of Jealoustown, civil parish of Trevet, Dunshaughlin. There is a lodge at the entrance to the avenue.

Philip Grierson lived at Green Park. His father, James Grierson of Doolistown, disinherited him even though he was the eldest son. Philip’s mother, Mary Anne, lived at Green Park after the death of her husband. Philip later moved to Kildare where he died in poor circumstances. 

The main family associated with Green Park were the Garnetts. Henry Garnett, son of John of Balgeeth, established the family at Green Park in the eighteenth century. 

In 1837 Green Park was the residence of Cope Garnett. In the 1850 Henry Garnett lived at Green Park and was one of the guardians of Dunshaughlin Workhouse. Cope Garnett alos held lands at Green Park in the 1850s. In  1876 Mary Garnett held 362 acres in County Meath while  Mrs. H. Garnett held 152 acres and Cope Garnett of Monkstown, Co. Dublin, held 92 acres. In 1880 W.P. Garnett was living at Green Park.

In 1901 William Yourell held Green Park. The house had fifteen rooms, four windows to the front and twelve outbuildings.  In 1911 the Garnett family were again in possession but the house was unoccupied.

 Grennanstown house

Grennanstown House is located to the west of Athboy town. To the north-west of the house there was a ring fort. A large house was recorded in the townland in the Civil Survey of 1656-7.In the middle of the eighteenth century Miss Colt, sister to the wife of Lord Trimleston. married Barnaby Barnwall, kinsman of the lord and settled at Grennanstown, Athboy.

In 1836 the house was the property of Mr. P. Barnewall and was described as a good house of two stories and basement with extensive offices. The townland was the property of the Earl of Darnley. In 1854 James Delaney was leasing Grennanstown House and  668 acres from Richard O’Reilly. In 1876 John R. Delaney of Grennanstown held 265 acres in County Meath.

In 1901 Thomas J. Studdert, a horse dealer from Clare, was living at Grennanstown.  The house had twenty rooms, sixteen windows to the front and thirty outbuildings. The house appears to be vacant in 1911.

In 1964 the arable farm of 504 acres at Grennanstown was sold.  The lands were acquired by the Land Commission and divided. In 1971 Grennanstown  became an experimental combined farm with four farmers sharing a  farm of 236 acres.

The Grove

The Grove is located at Balrath, Kentstown. Casey and Rowan describe the Grove as a pleasant Regency style gabled house with a single bay extension at each end. The house has a pretty fanlight and a Doric door case. The house dates to about 1740. The house has eight bedrooms and six bathrooms. The entrance hall has Prince of Wales feather plasterwork with the old-style period fanlight.

In the 1830s the Grove was the residence of Mr. Walsh. In 1911 Francis Douglas Osborne, a mining engineer was living at The Grove with his family. The house had twenty five rooms and fourteen windows to the front. The house has had many occupants including Tandys, Hollonds, Ormabyes, Nichols, Barretts, Graham-Tolers, Chain-Nixons and Carvills. Mrs Graham-Toler of Durrow Abbey lived at The Grove in the 1950s.

Michael Meade Carvill served as a captain in the Irish Guards and resided at The Grove in the 1970s. The house featured in the 1970s U.S. mini-series, ‘The Mannions of America.’ The house was re-furbished in 1986 and again in the 1990s.


Gunnocks is located near Dunboyne in south Meath near the Dublin border. Gunnocks was originally a thatched house said to date from 1806 when it was constructed by Laurence Ward. Described as a Georgian front of two storeys and there bays the house has a wing at the side set back.

The Wards came to Gunnocks about 1700 from Whitetown, near Oldtown, Co. Dublin. Laurence Ward was born at Whitestown in 1760 and died at Gunnocks in 1833. John Ward held Gunnocks in the 1850s. Christopher Ward held Gunnocks for a period. His son, Laurence Ward, was born in 1847. Laurence Ward was a member of the Grand Jury of Meath and a Justice of the Peace. He was chairman of the Dunshaughlin Board of Guardians. Laurence died in 1938 and was buried at Loughsallagh.

His son, Joseph Lawrence Ward, was born in 1909. Joe Ward married Lilla Doyle of Limerick in 1938. Lilla was a great-great-granddaughter of Daniel O’Connell and spent some of her formative years in Nazi Germany. Following the death of her mother Lilla was dispatched by her aunts to Germany to complete her education. Arriving in September 1932 the Weimar Republic was on its knees. Hitler and the Nazis were coming to power. She witnessed the destruction of the school library by the Nazis. After a year she returned to Ireland. She began working in Dublin where romance blossomed with Joe Ward, whose mother had been a school friend of Lilla’s mother.  Lilla settled into life as a farmer’s wife. She died in December 2007.

“Strong Farmer – The memoirs of Joe Ward”, edited by Ciaran Buckley and Chris Ward was published by Liberties Press. His memories recount not only his own story of life as a cattle dealer in Co Meath, but also give an account of the trade in the days of his father and grandfather. Cattle and sheep were taken to markets all over the country. Full of stories the book also describes the Economic War of the 1930s. One story tells of a man and wife dressed as nuns who successfully extracted “charity” from towns and villages all over the country, until one of them was discovered one morning shaving.

Hamwood House


Hamwood House

Hamwood is a mid Georgian house erected for Charles Hamilton in 1779 at a cost of £2500. A simple square three-storey house was constructed but it was so cold and draughty that it was decided to erected pavilions and curving corridors to serve as entrances to the house. The timber was imported from Memel in Russia and it was one of the first houses in Ireland to be roofed with dry slating. Hamilton’s employer, the Duke of Leinster, supplied some thinnings of his plantation to make a shrubbery and the wood. Another family of Hamiltons settled at Ballymacoll, Dunboyne.

The first Hamilton to live at Hamwood was Charles, the fifth son of Alexander Hamilton, who was a major landowner near Balbriggan, north County Dublin. Charles, a Dublin wine merchant, acquired lands at Dunboyne and also lands in Westmeath. The name Charles was repeated in each generation of the family for the next two hundred years. The first Charles became land agent for the Dukes of Leinster after the 1798 rebellion, a position held by each succeeding generation until 1975. The Dukes of Leinster lived at Carton about three miles away in county Kildare.

The Hamiltons had a trading business base in Liverpool. Due to Napoleon their timber supply from the Baltics dried up. George Hamilton, the third son of Charles, became a lumber baron and government official in Canada. He and his brother William established themselves in the timber trade, exporting lumber and supplying shipbuilders. Backed by the prestige of the Liverpool firm, George had been welcomed quickly into upper-class Quebec society. His model of local leadership was the English squire, which did not go down well with the democratic Americans who lived locally. Timber was a source of conflict and there were major disputes between the Hamiltons and other loggers about the legality of their activities. George Hamilton was among the first of the great timber barons who played an important part in the public life of British North America in the 19th century.

Hamwood is a treasure trove of artefacts with most of its original contents intact. The diaries of Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsoby  were discovered in Hamwood. The two ladies who met in Kilkenny eloped to Wales in 1778 where they purchased a cottage and became known as the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’. They become a celebrated example of ‘retirement’, leaving society for a rustic idyll. One of the interesting items on display in the house is the gavel of the Hell Fire club. This group met in the Dublin mountains to the south of the city and were reputed to worship the devil and participate in great banquets and orgies. One of the Hamiltons attended these events until divine intervention resulted in the building being struck by lightning and burning to the ground. The ruins still stand today. In the small sitting room there is a view of Dunboyne and the ‘Big Tree’ by Eva Hamilton.

During the Famine there was a soup kitchen at the gates of Hamwood to feed the starving. Later in the nineteenth century Mrs. Hamilton made up cures for people living in the locality.  Medicines were concocted to treat rheumatism, chest complaints, lumbago, burns and other ailments.

G.J. Hamilton, grandson of Charles Hamilton of Hamwood, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1935 for conspicuous gallantry in the face of the enemy, on the North-West Frontier of India. This area would approximate to Pakistan which continues to be unsettled to this day. Hamilton led two platoons of soldiers against an attack of massed tribesmen. A relative of his Walter Hamilton was awarded the Victoria Cross in the 1870s. Another relative had died in the Indian mutiny of 1857-8 as an officer of the Bengal light cavalry.

Hamwood was the home of the artists, Eva and Letitia Hamilton and today its walls are covered with their paintings. They both studied at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and in London at the Slade School of Fine Art.  Letitia won a bronze Olympic medal for a sports painting in 1948. Letitia and Eva are buried in the Church of Ireland graveyard at Dunboyne.

The gardens contain a rare collection of trees and shrubs collected in the nineteenth century. The gardens are divided into three parts: a pine walk, a rose garden and a walled garden with a lily pond. The pine walk contains giant Californian redwoods and Japanese maples. The rock garden which has been restored dates from 1802. The pine walk, one of the most notable features of Hamwood, was laid out in the 1860’s. There were seven glasshouses, and two vineries all of which had to be heated by a central boiler. In the nineteenth century workmen were sent to the bog of Prosperous to bring back peat to fill beds created with cobbles and slate for the growing of rhododendrons and azaleas.

 Harbourstown House

Harbourstown House, sometimes called Herbertstown House is located in east Meath, in the parish of Stamullen and near Balbriggan.

Harbourstown  House was described by Bence-Jones as a handsome two storey late-Georgian house. Dating to probably the early 1800s the house stood on grounds developed in the 1760s suggesting that there was an earlier house. The house was demolished in the 1940s.  A group of derelict outbuildings with a carriage entrance and bellcote and the remains of a walled garden dating from about 1760 survive today. A hexagonal-plan gazebo, is set on an artificial mound, occupying a prominent position in the surrounding landscape. The demesne was split into smaller holdings.

The burial tomb of the Caddell family is in the old Stamullen churchyard. Thomas Cadell was vicar of Stamullen in the 1530s. His brother Edward Caddell was listed as one of the major gentry of Meath at the time.

The Caddells family were long established at Harbourstown and the Naul, being recorded there in the late 1500s. The will of Thomas Caddell of Harbourstown was proved in 1588. The Caddells lost their estates temporarily during the Cromwellian period. Richard Caddell of Harbourstown died in 1742. He was succeeded by his son, Thomas, who married Celia Farrell of Roscommon, who became heir to the estate of Ulick Burke of Galway.

Mr. Cadell of Harbourstown took Fr. Michael O’Hanlon, curate at Slane, as his chaplain on a tour of the Continent. While staying at the Irish college in Paris they heard that a Colonel Conyngham was being held by the authorities. O’Hanlon spoke at the Military Tribunal and Conyngham and his family were spared. In 1796 Colonel Conyngham succeeded to the inheritance of Slane. Fr. O’Hanlon went to congratulate him but was turned away at the door. When the Colonel remembered who O’Hanlon was he gave him the site for the church in Slane.

Thomas’s son, Richard, succeeded to the estate at Harbourstown but also to the estates in Sligo, Roscommon, and Galway of his uncle James Farrell, and assumed the name Farrell. Richard died unmarried in 1811 and his brother Robert Caddell Farrell succeeded him. Robert died in 1818 and was succeeded by his son, Richard O’Ferrall Caddell, who was born in 1780.   The Caddells sold their county Galway estate of 4,816 acres in the Encumbered Estates’ Court in 1858. In 1806 Richard O’Ferrall Caddell married Paulina Southwell, daughter of the 2nd Viscount Southwell of Castle Mattress, Co. Limerick. In 1837 Harbourstown was described as the property of Mr. O’Farrell Caddell, a handsome modern mansion with demesne comprising more than 400 acres tastefully laid out and well planted, and commanding an extensive view from the summit of a tower within the grounds, which forms a conspicuous landmark for mariners.

Richard and Paulina died in 1856. The only son, Robert Caddell, was High Sheriff of Meath in 1873 and died unmarried in 1887. Robert O’Farrell Caddell held 1372 acres in county Meath, 3464 in Sligo, 3341 in Roscommon and 7 acres in Dublin, a total estate of 8184 acres. He was succeeded by his sister, Sophia Mary Margaret.

Another sister, Cecilia Mary Caddell, was born at Harbourstown. A lifelong invalid, she became an author of religious and historical fiction written from a Catholic point of view. Her most popular work was Blind Agnese or Little Spouse of the Blessed Sacrament.

Sophia Mary Margaret Caddell married Admiral Arthur William Jerningham in 1836. Their children were Paulina, Agnes Mary and Cecilia Mary. Admiral Jerningham died in 1889 as did his wife. Paulina became a nun. Agnes Mary inherited Harbourstown in 1899 following the death of her mother. She was married to Stanley Edward George Gary, of Devon and assumed the name Caddell by Royal Licence in 1900. Cecilia married Captain Iltyd Thomas Mansel Nicholl in 1862.

Lt. Cdr. Robert Nicholl-Cadell was born in 1900 in the Assam, India where his father Bernard was District Commissioner. In 1920 Robert inherited Harbourstown from his grandmother, Cecilia Nicholl.  Robert was not interested in Harbourstown. Robert had three children, Bernard and two girls. Robert’s grandson now lives in Australia. Robert served in the Navy in both World Wars, working on radar in the Second World War. Robert gained the rank of Lieutenant-Commander and was killed in action in 1941. The trees in the estate were cut for timber and the house pulled down in the mid 1940s.

Harbourstown House

Photo Courtesy of Benton & Curtis Collection © 2002.

Harcourt Lodge

Harcourt Lodge is located in the townland of Bellewstown in the parish of Trim, to the west of the town.  Nearby stands Higginsbrook and Waterloo Lodge. Possibly dating to 1760 Casey and Rowan describe Harcourt Lodge as a small and very charming two-storey gabled house.

Rev. William Lightburne, Dean of Derry (1593-1671) married a daughter of Nicholas Stafford, Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin. They had three sons, Richard, William and Stafford. Richard was born in 1670 and became curate of Killucan and vicar of Kilclonfert and later Killaderry. William Lightburne, born 1654 at Trim, became rector of Kilberry and died in 1689 at the camp in Dundalk where the Williamite army was overwintering before marching south.

Stafford, born in 1662, graduated from Trinity College in 1679 with a B.A. and died in 1697. Stafford Lightburne was portreeve or mayor of Trim in 1677, 1682-4, 1686 and 1691. Stafford is listed as one of the Justices of the Peace for Meath in 1667. Stafford Lightburne was Member of Parliament for Trim 1692-3 and 1695-7.

His son, Stafford, born 1690, was curate at Laracor 1722-1733, Rector of Churchtown 1733-47 and vicar of Rathgraffe 1747-51. Rev. Stafford Lightburne was also curate of St. Michans Dublin 1716-21. In 1704 he married Hannah, second daughter and co-heiress of Willoughby Swift of Hereford and Newcastle, Co. Meath, a first cousin of Dr. Jonathan Swift. Swift employed Stafford Lightburne, as curate at Laracor from 1722-1733. He was in line for a substantial estate but it was tied up in litigation. Swift appealed to the Lord Lieutenant on behalf of Stafford and also intervened with the House of Lords on his behalf successfully so that Stafford inherited the estate. Stafford Lightburne was buried at Trim. His children included Willoughby, Harcourt, John, Stafford, Deborah and Mary Hannah. Willoughby was Lord Mayor of Dublin 1773-4. Stafford was vicar of Rathgraffe from 1751 and died at Trim in 1759.

In 1809 Joseph Lightburne is listed at Harcourt Lodge. In 1810 he married Miss P. Meadows of Newbury, Co. Wexford. Joseph Lightburne of Harcourt Lodge died in 1831 aged 73 years and was buried at Trim. His daughter, Ellinor Olivia, died 1842 aged 11 years. Maria Lightburne, who was born 1812 at Harcourt Lodge, married Mark Leland Tew of Trim in 1840 and emigrated to Canada where she died in 1892.

Stafford Lightburne graduated from Trinity College, emigrated to Canada where he was called to the bar. He then moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Stafford Lightburne stated that he had seen Roger Tichborne in St. Louis in 1860. In that year the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Newcastle visited St. Louis and Lightburne and a number of witnesses visited the Duke with the story.

Roger Tichborne

Roger Tichborne was born in 1829 in Paris into a prominent and wealthy Catholic Hampshire family. Raised in France he joined the British army and served with the 6th Dragoon Guards in Dublin. Leaving the army Tichborne went to South America.  In April 1854 Tichborne boarded the ship “Bella” bound for New York.  The ship sank with apparently no survivors. Tichborne’s mother refused to believe he was dead and launched an international hunt for him. In 1865 she received a letter from an Australian lawyer claiming to have found Tichborne, living as a butcher in Wagga Wagga. The man was brought to England where his mother accepted him as her son. However a number of the family did not. When Tichborne’s father died the man from Australia claimed his inheritance but a trial was held to establish his right to the estate. The civil and criminal trials which followed held the record as the longest court case in British legal history until the 1990s. The country was divided, with the Establishment opposing the claimant but many ordinary people supporting a man who they regarded as being deprived of his rightful inheritance. Following a very celebrated trial the man was found to be a fraud and was imprisoned.

In the 1850s Harcourt Lightburne held lands at Townspark North while Penelope Lightburne held lands at Bellewstown and at Chambers Street and Scarlet Street in Trim town. In 1850 Harcourt Lightburne had a house at 19 Talbot Street, Dublin and in 1862 Mrs. Harcourt Lightburne is listed as of 66 Gardiner Street. Harcourt Lightburne was a contributor to the memorial clock in the church tower in Trim in memory of Dean Butler.

Jemima Lightburne lived at Harcourt Lodge. A couple of Potterton sisters lived with her there. There is a chalice and paten in St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland cathedral which were gifted to the church by Mrs Mary Lightbourne and Mrs. Jane Lightbourne.

Today Harcourt Terrace in Trim commemorates the family. Harcourt Terrace is a small stretch of the street between Emmet Street and Watergate Street.

Harlinstown House

Harlinstown House is located near Slane. In 1836  it was described as a neat ground floor slated farmhouse at the intersection of the road from Slane to Drumcondra and at a crossroads called Harlinstown. There was a village of a few mud walled cabins nearby in the 1830s.

The house originally belonging to the Slane Castle estate. In 1854 John Bolton was leasing the house and 140 acres of land from the Marquis of Conyngham.  It was purchased by the Macken family in 1939 from the estate of the Dowager Marchioness Conygham after her death. The Slane Farm Hostel has been developed at the farm in recent years by the Macken family.

Harristown House

Harristown House is located near Castlejordan, Kinnegad. In the 1830s the townland was owned by the Marquess of Landsdowne and leased to tenant farmers.  Harristown House is a two-storey over basement house, erected about 1850. The farm courtyard also dates from about 1850. On the Ordnance Survey map of the early 20th century there is another house also called Harristown House to the west of the one being dealt with.

In the 1920s Robert H. Smith lived at Harristown House. In 1934 George G. Smith of Harristown House died. In the 1950s George E. Smith and family lived at Harristown House. In 1981 Harristown House on 227 acres of land was put for sale.

Hayes House

Hayes is situated to the east of Navan, not far from Yellow Furze and Beau Parc. Casey and Rowan describe Hayes as an attractive smaller country house from about 1770.  The porch dates to the nineteenth century. A large white marble chimneypiece was brought to Hayes from Sommerville House. Gardens and pleasure grounds surrounded the rough cut stone, two storey, over basement house.

The Bourke family, whose head was the Earl of Mayo, held the estate of Hayes. In 1781 John Bourke was created Viscount Mayo of Moneycrower and in 1785 Earl of Mayo. The seat of the Earls of Mayo was Palmerstown House, Naas, County Kildare.

In 1876 the Earl of Mayo owned 559 acres in county Mayo, 4915 acres in county Kildare and 2360 acres in county Meath. In 1836 Haystown Demesne was the seat of R. Bourke. The house was described as being in the north of the townland and being a  good dwelling house.

Henry Lorton Bourke, seventh son of Robert Bourke, 5th Earl of Mayo, lived at Hayes. Born in 1840 he married Constance Una Elizabeth Lambart of Beau Parc. He died in 1911 and was succeeded by Henry Legge-Bourke. Henry was born 1889,  the only son of Sir Henry Legge and his wife Amy Gwendoline Lambart, daughter of Gustavus Lambart of Beauparc. Henry assumed the name when he succeeded to the estates of Henry Bourke of Hayes and assumed the name Bourke in 1911. Their son, Nigel Walter Henry Legge-Bourke was killed in action 30 October 1914 during the First World War.  

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke

His son, Major Sir Edward Alexander Henry Legge-Bourke was born on 16 May 1914. Queen Alexandra was sponsor at his baptism. Known as Harry Legge-Bourke, he held the office of Page-of-Honour to HM King George V between 1924 and 1930. He fought in the Second World War and served as Aide-de-Camp to the Ambassador to Egypt between 1941 and 1944. After the war he became a Conservative M.P. In all the twenty eight years he spent in the House of Commons he never spoke a word. Conor Brennan recalled that when Harry Bourke stayed at Hayes, he was a bit of a tyrant and the local clergyman said it was a disgrace the language he shouted at decent people.  In the early 1960s the Legge-Bourke family decided to sell Hayes and the Land Commission acquired the lands. 

His grand-daughter, “Tiggy” Legge-Bourke was nanny, later companion, to Princes William and Harry and a personal assistant to Prince Charles from 1993 to 1999. Princess Diana did not like Tiggy and even accused her wrongly of having an affair with Charles.

Colonel Stephen Hill Dillon was tenant at Hayes in the mid-twentieth century. The Colonel kept a stable of racehorses.  One of his horses, “Yellow Furze,” won the Galway Plate in 1935. The Colonel sold Devon Loch, the horse which fell in the Grand National. The Queen Mother’s Devon Loch sprawled spectacularly 50 yards from the post in the Grand National of 1956. Jockey Dick Francis subsequently went on to become one of the most prolific thriller writers of all time. The mystery of why the horse stopped has never been solved but has led to many theories. Devon Loch was trained at Hayes House before being sold. Devon Loch ran twice as a five-year-old, both outings in January 1951. Lord Bicester selected and bought Devon Loch for the Queen Mother. The chief work rider at Hayes is said to have recalled that the horse had sprawled on a rideout shortly before the horse went to England.

When Hayes was sold in the 1960s the Hill-Dillon family left..

Headfort House

Headfort House

Headfort House is located just outside the town of Kells on the banks of the Blackwater River. The house has always attracted criticism for its very plain exterior while its Adam’s interior has been highly regarded. Headfort House was erected in the 1760s by Sir Thomas Taylor, first Lord Headfort, based on the designs of George Semple, a Dublin-based architect and engineer. The interiors were designed by the famous Scottish architect, Robert Adam. Headfort is Adams’s only significant surviving work in Ireland and therefore the interiors hold a unique place in Ireland’s architectural history.

The fourth Duke of Rutland, Viceroy of Ireland, described Headfort in 1795 as ‘a long range of tasteless building” while three years later it was described as “more like a college or an infirmary” than a private home. Bence-Jones described it as a large and severely plain house while Casey and Rowan said Headfort was “straightforward to the point of monotony.”

The house is immense with the main front, including the wings, running for 150 metres. The main part of the house is three storeys over basement with the east wing being single-story over a basement and the west wing being two storeys.

The house is no longer a private residence with the main building and one of the wings now housing Headfort School, the stable yard developed for residences and the parkland as a golf course. A book on Headfort House by M.D.C. Bolton gives a good description of the house and grounds as well as a history of the family.

Originally from Sussex, Thomas Taylor assisted William Petty in surveying Ireland so that Cromwell could allocate lands to his supporters. After the mapping was complete the two surveyors, Petty and Taylour, were two of the biggest landowners in Ireland. Thomas Taylour purchased the town of Kells from a Cromwellian soldier who did not wish to take up his grant in Ireland. By 1660 Taylor had secured 21,000 acres of land in Cavan and Meath, and settled outside Kells.

In 1692 Thomas Taylor’s estate was inherited by his son, Thomas, who consolidated his father’s wealth and elevated the family’s status in post-Cromwellian Irish society, serving as a Member of Parliament for Kells for 15 years. In 1704 the family received their first title when Thomas Taylor was designated a baronet of Ireland. His grandson, the third Baronet, Thomas, also sat for Kells in the Irish House of Commons. In 1760 Thomas, the third Baronet was raised to the peerage of Ireland as Baron Headfort, of Headfort in the County of Meath. Two years later he was created Viscount Headfort and in 1766 he was even further honoured when he was made Earl of Bective.

No trace remains of the first house constructed by the Taylors but from 1750 onwards plans were under way to build a new country seat suitable for the family’s rising status.

The plans were created for Headfort House by the leading eighteenth and early nineteenth century Irish and British architects.  The first architect consulted was Richard Castle who made proposals for the new house as did John Ensor, neither of the plans were executed. The second baronet did not like Richard Castle’s plans and noted on them – “Mr Castle’s plan and a damn bad one.’ Richard Castle is now regarded as one of the leading architects of the time. Another noted architect, Sir William Chambers, was paid 40 guineas for the unexecuted designs for a house. Thomas Cooley may have acted as overseer for George Semple and designed a bridge in park. Francis Johnson designed battlemented bridge over Blackwater and made design for proposed gothicisation of house.

A Dublin based builder and self taught architect, George Semple, designed such buildings as St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin and became the chosen architect. The house has near similar front and rear elevations of grey Ardbaccan stone only relieved by the pedimented doorways. In 1771 Thomas Taylor requested the Scottish-born architect Robert Adam to produce decorative schemes for a suite of rooms in the newly completed Headfort. Adam, who never visited the country, designed the dining room, hall and stairs, plans which was partly executed for Taylor. The Eating Parlour (ballroom) is the largest of the principal rooms, accommodating about 200 people seated. As well as the ceiling, the walls of the Eating Parlour also show Adam decorations. The room itself was formed from four smaller rooms, two from the floor above, where there are blocked windows visible on the south front of the house.

Thomas Taylor, the third Baronet, died in 1795 and he was succeeded by his son, yet another Thomas.  He had represented Kells in parliament from 1776 to 1790. In 1800 he was made Marquess of Headfort. The Tower of Llyod was designed by Henry Aaron Baker for the first Earl of Bective in memory of his father Sir Thomas Taylor and is sometimes described as the only inland lighthouse in the country.

Thomas, Lord Headfort, was an officer in the Meath Miltia and served in Limerick. While there he made the acquaintance of the Rev. Charles Massey and his beautiful young wife. Despite a thirty year age-gap an affair took place and one Sunday morning just after Christmas 1803 while Rev. Massey was away conducting church service Mrs. Massey and Lord Headfort eloped. Mr. Massey took a case for damages against Lord Headfort and won compensation of £10,000.

The second Marquess assumed the surname of Taylour in lieu of Taylor; the family did not wish to be associated with the more common name. Lord Headfort served as a Government whip during the government of Lord Melbourne from 1837-41 and was also Lord Lieutenant of Co. Cavan from 1831 -1870. The Headforts held a considerable amount of lands in Cavan, particularly around Virginia. In 1883 the Marquis of Headfort held 7,544 acres in Meath, 14,251 in Cavan and also lands in England totalling in all 42,754 acres.

The Taylour family mausoleum was constructed at Headfort in 1869 just a year before the death of the second Marquess of Headfort.  An austere octagonal shrine the building was consecrated by the Bishop of Meath in 1870.

Geoffrey Thomas Taylor inherited the title and estates in 1894. He served as a Senator in the Free State parliament from 1922 to 1928.  In 1900 he married Rose Boote, a showgirl of the chorus of the Gaiety Theatre in London, which caused a sensation. The match was widely opposed, including by Queen Victoria. The Marquis was deprived of his commission as a lieutenant in the First Life Guards as a result of the marriage just as he was about to embark for South Africa to fight in the Boer War. However, Rosie conducted herself in a faultless manner and was soon accepted by society. There was a tremendous welcome in Kells for the couple.

After the Second World War the 5th Marquess made a self contained house in one of the wings and he leased the remainder of the house as a preparatory school, keeping the state rooms for entertaining. 

The 6th Marquess of Headfort was educated at Stowe and served as a 2nd lieutenant in the Life Guards before going up to Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he joined the university air squadron. He become a fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and also qualified as a commercial pilot.

In 1958 he married Elizabeth Nall-Cain, the only daughter of Lord Brocket, with whom he was to have a son and two daughters. After his first marriage collapsed in 1968, he became embroiled in legal disputes with members of his family that were to last for the rest of his life. For a time Marquess Headfort lived in Hong Kong, where he was an honorary Inspector of Police and in his latter years he moved to the Philippines, the home of his second wife, Virginia Nable, a friend of Imelda Marcos, whom he married in 1972. He established himself on Lugan Island, and was active in the coastguards.

Headfort’s interest in Irish politics led him to run for the Senate on the improbable nomination of the Irish Georgian Society in 1973, but he got only a handful of votes. He came to wider attention when he was escorted by police from the Isles of Scilly, after what was claimed to be an abortive attempt to murder Harold Wilson. In 1982 he disposed of Headfort for a sum in excess of £1 million to a Canadian multi-millionaire B.J. Kruger. He died in 2005 at the age of 73 and was succeeded by his son, Thomas, 7th Marquess Headfort.

After Mr Kruger’s death, the estate was split into three lots, a farm, the woodlands and the school and its environs. In 1994 the estate was purchased by a consortium. The school now own the building with the exception of the east wing and 66 acres of land. The farmyard has been developed as housing.

“The Butcher Boy” was filmed at Headfort. In 2004 the World Monuments Fund placed the house on its list of 100 most endangered sites. During 2008 the movie “Cracks” was made at Headfort. The Eating Parlour was restored with aid from the Irish Georgian Society and other groups and re-opened in 2009.

Higginsbrook House


Higginsbrook House is a Georgian house, on the banks of the River Boyne, upstream from Trim town. It is located in the townland of Bellewstown.

The house was erected in 1743 by Ralph Higgins. A corn mill was situated nearby. Joseph Higgins was a local magistrate in the 1770s. Joseph Higgins of Higginsbrook died in 1798.

In 1835 Higginsbrook was  the residence of Mr. Joseph T. Higgins, coroner for the county and owner of the corn mill.

Frederick Higgins, the son of Joseph and Anne Higgins, was born in 1804. In 1854 Frederick Higgins held a house, outbuildings and 53 acres of lands from Patrick Russell. Frederick Higgins married Frances Anne Mooney in 1855. Frederick Higgins died in 1882.

In 1901 and 1911 Higginsbrook was home to Frederick and Elizabeth Higgins and their six children. Frederick George Higgins was born in 1857 to Frederick and Frances Anne Higgins. Frederick George married Elizabeth Daly about 1888. Frederick was listed as a farmer. The house had seven rooms, five windows to the front and eleven outbuildings. Frederick died in 1926.

The house was home to Frederick Robert (F.R.) Higgins. Higgins was born in Foxford, Co. Mayo, the son of  Joseph Higgins of Higginsbrook and Annie French. Higgins grew up in county Meath. He became a poet and was a close friend to W.B. Yeats. He became Managing Director of the Abbey in 1935. In his poem ‘Auction’ he writes about Higginsbrook.  Higgins died in 1941 and is buried in Laracor churchyard.

In 1982 Eleanor Higgins of Higginsbrook, aged 82, died and was buried in Trim.

Higginsbrook was used as a film location for the movie ‘Becoming Jane’. The film tells the story of a possible relationship between Jane Austen and an Irishman, Jeffrey Lefroy. Higginsbrook also featured in the ITV series ‘Northanger Abbey’.

Hilltown House

Hilltown House was located near Bellewstown in east Meath. A two storey house Hilltown had a courtyard of outbuildings and stables dating from a similar period as the house. Bence-Jones described Hilltown as a well proportioned house of two storeys erected by Nicholas Boylan about 1810 although another source dated a  house at Hilltown to 1760. One of the demesne gates opened directly onto the Bellewstown Racecourse.

Hilltown Grotto

Opposite the gates to Hilltown House is the entrance to the well and grotto which was erected by the Boylans after the apparitions at Lourdes in 1858. Busloads of holiday makers from the Red Island holiday camp at Skerries regularly visited the well during their summer vacations in the 1950s and 60s. 

Hilltown house was vacated by the Boylans in the 1980s and fell into disrepair. The Bellewstown Heritage Group recorded that the house was dismantled stone by stone. One of conference rooms in the Customs House, Dublin contains the plaster work from the library of Hilltown House.  A modern house was erected on the site of the original house.

According to ‘The parish of Duleek and over the ditches’ the Boylan family came from Cavan and initially resided in a house at Ratholland, which is now in ruins. Thomas Boylan of Hilltown died in 1720. His eldest son was Thomas who was succeeded by his son, Patrick. Patrick was succeeded by his son, Nicholas. In the early 1800s Nicholas Boylan of Hilltown was a close friend of Daniel O’Connell, who presented Nicholas with a framed hand-written address describing him as “a patriot and a truehearted Irish gentleman.” The mass repeal meeting on the Hill of Tara held on 15th August 1843 was chaired by Nicholas Boylan.

Nicholas Boylan of Hilltown was succeeded by his eldest son, Thomas, who was born in 1808. Thomas served as High Sheriff of Meath in 1862. A year earlier, in 1861 Thomas married Charlotte Mary Thunder, the marriage was conducted by Dr. Cantwell, Bishop of Meath. They were succeeded by their eldest son, Thomas, who married Cecilia Mary Cary. Educated at King’s College, London, he served as High Sheriff of Meath in 1894. In 1876 Thomas Boylan of Hilltown House held 2,914 acres in County Meath. He died in 1926 and was succeeded by his son, Brigadier Edward Thomas Arthur George Boylan, who had been born in 1894.

There is a story that when one of the Boylans lay dying he had all his valued possessions gathered about him and even his herd of cattle brought up to the lawn where he could see them through the bedroom window and cried “Hilltown, oh Hilltown! How can I ever leave you! Heaven can never be like Hilltown…”.  After his death the house was haunted by his ghost. A priest was called and he confined the restless spirit to an outhouse on the estate.

Edward Boylan served in the First World War where he was mentioned in dispatches. He was awarded the Military Cross and Companion, Distinguished Service Order in 1918. Edward retired from the military in 1927 on the death of his father but he re-joined at the start of the Second World War, being evacuated from Dunkirk. Promoted to Brigadier in 1942 he landed in France shortly after D Day and was with one of the first British corps to cross the Rhine in 1945.  He retired from the military in 1945 and was invested a Commander, Order of the British Empire in 1946. He was Keeper of the Match Book to the Irish Turf Club from 1945. Brigadier Boylan died in 1959 aged 65. He was succeeded by his son, Major Edward Anthony Boylan.  Born in 1925 Edward was educated at Ampleforth College, Yorkshire and gained the rank of Major in the service of the Royal Artillery and King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. He followed his father’s interest in equine matters and became a successful showjumper, winning the Badminton Horse Trials in 1966. Eddie Boylan passed away in 2005. Hilltown farm had a large dairy and sold bottled milk into the Dublin market. The estate was wound up in 1975 and the lands divided. Part of the lands were put up for a prize in a raffle which was said to be the first time this had been done in Ireland.

Hotwell House

Hotwell House

Hotwell House, Ballinakill, Enfield was built in 1838 by Henry Purdon, a farmer and Justice of the Peace. Henry came from Ardrums and the family were also connected to the Winters of Agher.  The family may have originated at Lisnabin, Killucan, Co. Westmeath  Lisnabin House was until quite recently the residence of the Purdonfamily (descendants of William the Conqueror’s barber!), who came from Cumbria to Ireland in 1533. Edward Purdon, Esq, born in 1709 settled at Lisnabin. Lisbin House was erected in 1819 after their former dwelling was burned down as a result of an overturned candle. The 400-acre estate has been home to a pedigree herd of Hereford cattle since 1824. Branches  of the family were also at Kilcooley and Tullyard, Trim and Drumlargan, Summerhill.

According to one biography of Katherien Purdon the Purdon family came from Cork. Henry Purdon acquired Ardrums in 1800 but built a new house at Hotwell. Henry Purdon Esqr of Hotwell died in 1845 aged 66 years and was buried at Agher.  His wife, Catherine, had died in 1821 aged 35 years.  The couple had at least two sons, Henry Edward and Bartholomew. 

Bartholomew of Ardrums, 1818 – 1904, in 1848 married Maria a daughter of Doctor David Trotter of Summerhill at Laracor.  Their descendants were at Ardrums until well into the twentieth century.  

Henry Edward succeeded to the estate at Hotwell. Henry died in 1873  and his wife Sarah died in 1874 and they were buried in Agher graveyard. The estate at Ballinakill was 395 acres.  Their son, Edward, died in 1862 aged 6. Their eldest son, Henry, died in 1909  while their third son, James, died in 1891.

Katherine Frances Purdon was born at Hotwell in 1852 and educated in England and Alexandra College, Dublin. She lived at Hotwell until her death in 1920. Her play, The Candle and The Crib, (written 1914) was performed in the Abbey Theatre in 1918. She contributed to Irish and English periodicals, her first appearing in Irish Homestead; published The Folk of Furry Farm an affectionate account of local kindness and eccentricity displaying great love of animals.  Her many writings for children included her first two books, The song of the lark and The fortunes of Flot: a dog story, mainly fact. Her stories were illustrated by Jack B. Yeats. George Russell thought she wrote perfect English. Her first novel, The folk of Furry Farm, proved an immediate success, welcomed as a rare venture into the genre by a writer associated with the literary revival, and for giving a voice to the Irish midlands, a region largely neglected by other writers. Set like many of her stories in the fictional townland of Ardenoo, the book, with its affectionate portrayal of a diverse cast of characters, bespeaks her close observation of the idiom, manners, and folkways of the small-farmer class along the Meath–Kildare borders. In her second novel, Dinny of the doorstep (1918), she depicts the lives of poor children in the squalid Dublin tenements, indicting without stridency the indifference of the affluent to their circumstances. She was involved in the Gaelic Revival movement alongside luminaries such as W.B. Yeats and her works were illustrated by well known artists such as Jack B. Yeats and Arthur Rakham. Purdon had a strong interest in the Irish Language movement and was in contact with noted activists like Thomas MacDonagh, one of the signatories of Ireland’s Proclamation of Independence in 1916. However, by her own admission she only had a few words of Irish. Purdon was one of the founding members of the the Irish Countrywomen’s Association under its original name of the United Irishwomen.

In February 1882 George Homan Lennon of Newcastle married Eleanor Martha Purdon, daughter of Henry Purdon, at Rathmolyon, and the house later became home to the Lennon and Purdon family. George’s occupation was salesmaster and land agent. George Haunly Purdon, son of Henry and his mother continued to live in the house. Geroge and Eleanor had a son George born in December 1882. The house was sold after H.M. Lennon died about 1975.

Hotwell House gains its name from a warm spring on the property known as St. Gorman’s Well. The Hotwell at nearby Hotwell House was said by some to have been dedicated to St. Brigid but is more generally called St. Gorman’s Well. According to one source Hotwell at Ballinakill is dedicated to St. Brigid and 15th August is its Patron Day. It was known up to a generation ago by its Irish name of Tobar a’ Gora. Its water is reputed to be always warm even when the surrounding country is under frost and snow. This well was once dedicated to St. Ultan. Ballina­kill was the last home of the Kindelans -the O Ciondealbháin – former Kings of Laoire and patrons of St. Ultan’s monastery at Ardbraccan. It is natural that they should have dedi­cated the well at Ballinakill to the same patron. Since having been driven into exile in Spain in the seventeenth century they have kept the name and devo­tion to Ultan alive from generation to generation. In recent years members of this great old Gaelic family have visited both Tobar a’ Gora and St. Ultan’s Well at Ardbraccan. The well is one of the hot wells which occur in south Meath. The water is cool in the summer and can be as warm as 16 degrees Celsius in the winter. The well provided a cure for deafness and ear troubles. It flows from November until May each year with water bubbling to the surface at a balmy 25 degrees Centigrade. There is a large stone in the water with two indentations in it, which are said to be the knee prints of St. Gorman, a hermit who had come here from St. Finian’s Well at Clonmacnoise.  The well has been an important place of pilgrimage since pre-Christian times and the waters are believed to have healing properties. Devotees bathed in the well, then pinned a piece of their clothing to the old elm tree that grew beside it. When the cloth fell from the tree, they would be cured of what ailed them.

There were a number of proposals that the warm water be used to generate heat for the local communities and even further afield.

The Wilkinsons moved to Hotwell House in 1980. I visited the house in recent years when the well was open to the public and we had a talk by a geologist.

Some information for Dictionary of Irish Biography and also Hotwell House Website.

Hurdlestown House

Hurdlestown house is on the Kells-Navan road west of Bloomsbury cross. In 1835 Hurdlestown was described as good two storey house, the residence of Mrs. Rothwell. In 1854 Arthur Radcliff was leasing the house and 258 acres of lands from James W. Cusack. In 1901 William Perkins Radcliff, his brother, Reginald, and sister, Lydia, were living at Hurdlestown.  The house had thirteen rooms, nine windows to the front and fifteen outbuildings. William Perkins Radcliff died in November 1910. His coffin was carried from Hurdlestown House to Marty graveyard by the people of  the locality. In 1911 Reginald Radcliff was living at Hurdlestown. In August 1920 Reginald died from fright when he was confronted by armed raiders looking for arms.   The property was acquired by Michael Foley. Michael Foley died in 1985.

Jenkinstown House

Jenkinstown House is located on the Summerhill-Dunboyne road. In 1835 Jenkinstown house was described as a good farm-house, two storeys high and slated, the residence of Mr. Gannon. Mr. Gannon held about 106 acres. In 11854 Patrick McGerr was leasing a house and 169 acres from Henry White at Jenkinstown. In 1911 W. G. Jamieson was the land owner and the house was occupied by groom, Robert Charles and his family. The house had ten rooms, six windows to the front and eight outbuildings.

Johnsbrook House

Johnsbrook house is located near Fordstown, Kells. It is just to the north of Drewstown House. Casey and Rowan described Johnstown as a handsome gentleman farmer’s house of 1770 but much altered and extended at rear. There was supposed to be a secret room in the attic for hiding priests during the penal times.

In 1800 John Tandy lived at Johnsbrook. In 1802 Thomas Tandy of Johnsbrook, married Mary Tighe at St. George’s Church, Dublin. In 1828 Thomas Tandy of Johnsbrook supported the speedy resolution of the Catholic question. The Act of Emancipation was passed a year later.

In 1835 Johnsbrook House was described as a neat house of two storeys and basement with a small demesne attached. It was the residence of Mr. John Tandy. There was a small lake of four acres is in the southern part of the townland. In 1854 Thomas Tandy held the house and the entire townland of Johnsbrook, amounting to 172 acres.

In 1864 J. Tandy held Johnsbrook.

In 1876 Thomas Tandy, address Jonesbrook, Clonmellon, held 623 acres in county Meath. In 1879 Thomas Tandy was shot dead as he was entering his house. The killing was thought to be associated with land agitation.

In 1901 Sarah M. Tandy, widow, aged 81, was living at Johnsbrook. Commander Dashwood Goldie Tandy R.N. died in 1883. His son, Reginald Dashwood Tandy, inherited Johnsbrook.  In 1911 Reginald, his wife, young son, his mother and uncle were residing at Johnsbrook. The house had twenty one rooms, fourteen windows to the front and seventeen outbuildings.  Reggie served as High Sheriff of Meath in 1912. In 1906 he had married Valerie Wellesley. Captain Tandy leased the lands rather than farmed them. Major Tandy served with the Derbyshire Territorial Hussars during World War I.

In 1934 Colonel Tandy’s estate of 307 acres was taken over by the Land Commission. Reginald Dashwood Tandy died in 1944 in Jersey. Matthew Lynch purchased the house. The house and forty six acres was purchased by the Sweetman family about 1941. In 1947 the house was burned to the ground leaving a shell. At the time it was the residence of Patrick J. Sweetman, solicitor, his wife and five children. Eleven year old Michael Sweetman smelled smoke at 3 a.am. and raised the alarm. The front stairs were impassable and the family escaped by the back stairs. Mrs. Sweetman was a member of the La Touche family, which founded the Bank of Ireland. The house was subsequently rebuilt.

Johnstown House

Johnstown House

Johnstown house is located just outside Enfield in the south of the county. In fact the village of Enfield is in the townland of Johnstown. Jim Prendergast, who was born in Johnstown House in 1940,  has written a history of the house.

The house was erected in the middle of the eighteenth century and altered in the middle of the nineteenth century. A square blockish house the house has a pedimented doorcase and four chimneystacks. One room contained a good plasterwork ceiling. There is an extensive range of stone built stabling and farm buildings.

Francis Forde, originally from Co. Down, attended Trinity College, Dublin and then joined the army. His regiment, the 39th, were the first of the King’s regiments to be sent to India. When  his regiment was recalled to England Forde was invited to take charge of the East India Company’s army in Bengal.  Robert Clive had met Forde in the Carnatic in 1756 and his high opinion of Forde’s military abilities was shared by others. Forde  fought the French successfully to oust them from the Northern Circars and Forde’s expedition had contributed to the failure of the French siege of Madras. Forde’s successes against the French were repeated against the Dutch. In 1760 Forde returned to England, where he was reunited with his wife and his children. Colonel Francis Forde purchased the lands at Johnstown in 1761 and erected the house. In 1769 he was appointed one of three supervisor to the administration of India. The ship carrying the three men disappeared in December 1769.

In 1770 a Dublin merchant, James Halpin, purchased the house and the lands of Innfield. James Halpin died in 1822 leaving the estate to his sister, Constance, who was married to Andrew Roarke. Andrew’s son, James Halpin Rourke inherited the estate in 1826. Following the famine and its economic consequences Rourke was forced to lease the house and lands to Rev. James Rynd. Rev. Rynd converted one of the rooms into an oratory.

James Rourke Junior inherited the property in 1860 but within four years he was bankrupt and the estate had to be sold under the Encumbered Estates Court. The estate totalling 3071 acres included lands at Castlemartin, Tankardstown and Johnstown, Co. Meath and Tyrrellstown, Blakestown, Hartstown, Co. Dublin and Newtown, Co. Kildare.

Col. John Ennis M.P. purchased the house and some of the estate in 1864 for his daughter, Margaret, and her husband, Edmund Waterton. John Ennis was a Dublin merchant and a Governor of the Bank of Ireland.

Michael Colgan purchased the house and property in 1896. Seven years later in 1903 Thomas Ruttledge purchased the house.  House and estate were sold to the Land Commission in the early 1920s and it was expected that the house would be demolished. Patrick Prendergast purchased the house in 1927. When the Prendergast family purchased the house in the 1920s there were many stories about the house being haunted so a priest was asked to say Mass in the house. Patrick died in 1966. The upkeep of the house was too expensive and the property was sold in 1985. The house passed through a number of owners before being developed as a hotel.

Julianstown House

Julianstown House is located in the townland of Julianstown West, on the Laytown Road from Julianstown, opposite the church. This house is a two storey house erected about 1760. The house appears on the Taylor and Skinner maps of 1783 and was the seat of the Moore family. In 1835 Julianstown House was the residence of William Moore. In 1854 William Moore was leasing a house and lands from Anne M. Disney. In 1901 Richard Drew and his family lived at Julianstown House. The house had twelve rooms, seven windows to the front and eleven outbuildings.

Julianstown House, Nobber

Julianstown is a big rubble farmhouse, probably early 19th century, three bay, two storey over basement with attic accommodation. The house has a hipped gable roof with two chimney stacks. Overlooking the river Dee, it has a modern projecting porch.

The Owens family lived at Julianstown House in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Thomas was at Julianstown in the mid eighteenth century. His son, Simon, married Christina McGeogh in 1796 at St Mary’s, Dublin. Christina’s father was an Armagh merchant. In 1837 Julianstown was the residence of Simon Owens and he was a subscriber to Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. He died about 1838 at Julianstown, Nobber. His son, Simon, married Mary Anne Hinds at Trim in 1840. In 1854 Simon Owens held 466 acres from Henry Smyth at Julianstown. The house valued at £30 was surrounded by trees and had a number of different avenues. A mill was located on one of these avenues. Simon died in 1879 and was buried in Ardbraccan where his gravestone is to be seen. The house then went to Simon’s brother, Edward and then to his son, Simon Edward. Just across the road was Rockfield House, the residence of the Hopkins family. In 1854 John Hopkins held 244 acres from Henry Smyth in Julianstown townland with a house worth £20.

Dublin butcher, James Evans, purchased Julianstown before 1911. Born in England Evans purchased the property which included a weir, mill race, cornmill, farmyard and large walled garden.  Roddy Evans wrote of his childhood in the house in his book “Glimpses into the past: Memoir of an Irish Anglican.”