Thursday, 16 July 2020

(423) Barton of Grove, Clonelly, The Waterfoot, Straffan House and Rochestown Castle - part 1

Barton of Grove, Straffan House etc.
This post is divided into two parts: this section includes the introduction to the family and the descriptions of the houses they built. Part 2 contains the biographical and genealogical details of the owners.

The Barton family were in origin English settlers in Ulster in the plantation period at the beginning of the 17th century. Thomas Barton, reputedly from either Norfolk or Lancashire, is said to have come to Ireland with the Earl of Essex's army, and to have been rewarded for his service with grants of confiscated lands in County Fermanagh. He became one of the first burgesses of Enniskillen, and his descendants - his son Anthony and grandson William (c.1630-93) - after some exchanges of lands with other settlers became possessed of lands centred on a farmhouse called Curraghmore on the northern shore of Lough Erne, which included at least part of the large island in the Lough known as Boa or Bowe Island. William divided his property between his two sons, Edward Barton (d. 1729), who inherited Boa Island, and William Barton (1658-1729), who inherited the mainland lands of Curraghmore. From Edward Barton there descended the minor gentry family of Barton of Greenfort and Portsalon (Co. Donegal), but the families considered below all descend from the younger son, William Barton (1658-1729).

William's eldest son was Thomas Barton (1694-1780), a bold and able young man who wanted more than a quiet farming life. He went travelling in the Mediterranean and in 1725 he settled in Bordeaux where he began a business exporting the local wines to England and Ireland, and later to the Low Countries and America as well. Known within the family as 'French Tom', within twenty years he had become the leading exporter of wines from Bordeaux and a trusted member of the merchant community in that city. His scale of operation made him wealthy and he first rented the Chateaux le Boscq in St. Estephe from 1749 and then laid out £30,500 on buying the lands of the Everard family at Fethard in County Tipperary in two transactions, completed in 1751 and 1757 respectively. The second of these transactions included the house known as Grove, south-east of the town, which Thomas seems to have rebuilt as a Palladian villa soon after he acquired it. He also bought additional land in Fermanagh, Leitrim and Donegal - including his uncle's property on Boa Island - to augment his paternal estate. His main home was always in Bordeaux, however, and he can have spent little time at Grove. His only child was his son, William Barton (1723-93), who was less than enthusiastic about the wine business and to have preferred the life of a country gentleman in Tipperary. William seems to have been a difficult character, who not only fell out with his father but also fought a duel over the parliamentary representation of Fethard, in which he was injured. When his father died at the advanced age of 86 in 1780, however, he was forced to take over the wine business, and he divided his time between Ireland and France thereafter. His eldest son, Thomas Barton (1757-1818) had already inherited the Grove estate (subject to William's right to occupy it for life) and his second and third sons divided the Fermanagh and Leitrim estates between them, building new houses at Clonelly and The Waterfoot to accommodate them in appropriate comfort. William's fourth son, Hugh Massy Barton (1766-1854) was the one earmarked to inherit the wine business, and he was working in France by 1782 and became a partner in 1786. The two youngest sons went into the army, where they made successful careers, and Dunbar Barton (1769-1848) married into the Rochestown House estate in Co. Tipperary.

Thomas Barton (1757-1818) inherited Grove, as we have seen, and it seems likely that it was he who substantially remodelled the house in the early 19th century. It is suggested below that the remodelling took place in about 1807, to the designs of Sir Richard Morrison, who was one of the most successful architects of his generation in Ireland. Thomas was very heavily engaged in the public life of Fethard, which he represented in the Irish parliament for nearly fifteen years, and served as 'Sovereign' (i.e. Mayor) on four occasions. His son and heir, William Barton (1790-1857) was also Sovereign six times between 1816 and 1830, but his first love seems to have been foxhunting, in pursuit of which passion he founded the Tipperary Foxhounds in 1820. William's eldest son, Thomas Barker Barton (1816-71), was unmarried and leased Grove to tenants, but his younger brother and successor, Samuel Henry Barton (1817-91) moved back into the house and lived there until shortly before his death. When he left, it was to move to his wife's family home in Cheltenham (Glos), then a fashionable watering place popular with retired army officers and colonial civil servants. He did not marry until he was forty-five and his children were therefore still minors when he died, so he bequeathed Grove to his widow, and it remained let until about 1917 to the redoubtable Richard Burke MFH, who continued the foxhunting tradition. After the First World War, Samuel's widow handed over Grove to her younger son, Charles Robert Barton (1877-1955), who moved in during 1919 and lived there for the rest of his life. He died without issue, and bequeathed the estate to his kinsman, Henry Jeffrey Ponsonby (1930-2018), whose son, Joe Ponsonby, is the present owner.

The second son of William Barton (1723-93), his namesake, William Barton (1758-1835), inherited his grandfather's estates in Fermanagh, Leitrim and Donegal, and in about 1805, and built himself a new house called Clonelly near Pettigo. William was a man of simple tastes and scholarly interests who did not really want the burden of running such a large estate. With his father's agreement, he therefore passed the western portion of the property to his next brother, Lt-Gen. Charles Barton (1760-1819), who built a house at The Waterfoot on the banks of Lough Erne. William's children were an unlucky bunch, as although all the six sons who are known lived to adulthood, only two of them survived their father and only one of them, Folliott Warren Barton (1798-1870) survived for a normal lifespan. Even he was lucky to do so, for in 1845 while riding home from dining with his cousin at The Waterfoot he was ambushed and shot in what was taken by the authorities at the time to have been another anti-landlord 'atrocity' of a type becoming increasingly common as the Potato Famine took hold. No one was ever convicted of the crime, and modern research has shown that it was in fact a more personal attack: a case of direct action against a sexual predator by an enraged relative who was subsequently protected by the local community and also, to an extent, by the local gentry who were more concerned to avoid scandal than to prosecute the would-be assassin. Folliott Barton never married, but left several illegitimate children, the youngest of whom, Edward Barton (1848-85), inherited Clonelly from his father. He too was unmarried, and on his death the estate passed to his eldest sibling, Hugh Barton (1834-1902), who had emigrated to Colorado, where he had married and and become an American citizen. He came back to Ireland and was re-naturalised as a British subject in 1893. When he died, Clonelly passed to a nephew, Folliott Warren Barton (1876-1922), who was born and brought up in New South Wales but moved to Ireland to take up his inheritance. He had no children, and at his death the estate passed to his Australian wife, who sold to the Land Commission in 1928, although she continued to occupy the house until her death in 1944; Clonelly was demolished soon afterwards.

Lt-Gen. Charles Barton was an officer in the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards, whose duties kept him largely in London. For this reason his grandfather, Thomas, bought him a large house in Piccadilly, which was his main home. The house he built at The Waterfoot can have been little more than a holiday home and estate office, at least until his last years. His eldest son and heir, Lt-Col. William Hugh Barton (1800-70) followed him into the army but retired in 1829 and soon afterwards considerably enlarged The Waterfoot to make it a permanent residence, capable of accommodating his large family. Of his seven sons, three went into the army and one into the navy, a fifth became a civil engineer, and a sixth was a tea merchant in London. The heir was Charles Robert Barton (1832-1918), who was a leading Orangeman and a founder of the Fermanagh Protestant Defence Association, and two of whose daughters became preachers for an obscure Protestant sect. Soon after his death, in 1922, The Waterfoot, which stands in a highly strategic position at the point where a tongue of County Donegal reaches down to Lough Erne and divides County Fermanagh into two, was the scene of a pitched battle between British soldiers and Irish republicans. Somehow, despite its location and ownership by a British army officer, Lt-Col. William Hugh Barton (1874-1945), The Waterfoot escaped being burned by Irish nationalists, and the family continued to occupy it until in 1970 it passed through the female line to Mr Bertram Loane, whose widow is the present owner.

Soon after Hugh Massy Barton (1766-1854), the fourth son of William Barton (1723-93), took over the family wine business in 1786, the trade was severely disrupted by the French Revolution. During the Reign of Terror in 1793 Hugh was arrested and imprisoned, and his father was placed under house arrest during which he died. Family legend has it that Hugh's wife smuggled some women's clothing into the gaol where he was being held, allowing him to escape by simply walking out with the visiting wives and daughters, but it would appear that, less romantically, he was simply released after a few weeks' detention. He then returned to Ireland, leaving the firm in the hands of a trusted French manager, Daniel Guestier, with whom he corresponded regularly until 1802, when he deemed it safe to return to France. He then took Guestier into partnership, and the two families remained in partnership in the firm for well over a century. The complementary abilities of the partners ensured that from 1802 onwards, and especially after the permanent peace between France and the UK in 1815, the business grew rapidly and generated substantial profits. Hugh invested his share in property in the time-honoured fashion, acquiring Château Langoa at St. Julien in the Medoc in 1821 and part of the Château Léoville estate in the same parish in 1826. Both were wine-growing estates, allowing Hugh to produce and sell his own wine as well as exporting for other producers, and the quality was excellent: the 1855 wine classification ranked Ch. Langoa as a third growth and Ch. Léoville-Barton as a second growth. Although Hugh remained passionate about his business ventures and was sometimes known in the family as 'French Hugh', he divided his time between France, Ireland and England. In England, he lived at first in London, but in the 1820s he leased Battle Abbey in Sussex from the Webster family. In Ireland he purchased the fine Straffan estate in Co. Kildare in 1831. Some accounts suggest the existing house of the Henry family at Straffan had then recently been damaged by fire, but whether or not this is the case, Hugh rebuilt it to the designs of Frederick Darley. As Hugh got older, Battle Abbey seems to have been given up, and over the next century or so the family developed the pattern of spending the summer at Straffan and the winter months at Ch. Langoa in France, where the climate was milder.

Shortly before his death in 1854, 'French Hugh' estimated his wealth as £1m, which if accurate would have made him one of the richest men in the UK. He was succeeded in 1854 by his eldest son, Nathaniel Barton (1799-1867), who lived chiefly in France in the 1820s and 1830s, but whose chief interests seem to have been hunting and homeopathy. Nathaniel's eldest son, Hugh Lynedoch Barton (1824-99) spent ten years in the army as a young man, and although he retired just before his father inherited the family property, he continued to be much preoccupied with military matters. He also remodelled the house built by his grandfather at Straffan in the Italianate taste. He married his first cousin in 1855, but they had no children, and when he died in 1899 his property passed to his younger brother, Bertram Francis Barton (1830-1904) who had lived in Surrey for most of his life. H.L. Barton's widow, the Hon. Anna Barton, moved out of Straffan House to make way for her brother-in-law and his family, and rented Luttrellstown Castle until her death in 1907. Bertram Francis Barton was succeeded in the Irish and French estates by his son, Bertram Hugh Barton (1858-1927), who carried on the lifestyle of his predecessors with little heed to increasing costs and taxes or the fact that the provision made for younger sons and daughters by previous owners of the estate had whittled away the fortune built by 'French Hugh'. At his death he divided his property between his two sons, leaving the elder, Derrick Barton (1900-93) the Straffan estate and the younger, Ronald Barton (1902-86), the French vineyards and Château Langoa; his share in Barton & Guestier was divided between them. When Derrick Barton inherited Straffan in 1927 he thus had a much smaller income than his father had enjoyed and was horrified to find the extent to which expenditure was exceeding income. He withdrew from an active political career and took drastic steps to try and redress the position. He tried to sell land, but found few takers, and in 1937 he reduced the size of the house at Straffan by two-thirds, so as to minimise future maintenance and running costs. Even these measures were insufficient to make the estate viable, however, and in 1949 he sold it entirely and moved to a suburban house in Dublin. His eldest son, who stood to inherit Straffan before the sale, emigrated to Australia, and his younger son, Anthony Barton (b. 1930), moved permanently to France to work for the family company. By the 1950s, Barton & Guestier required capital investment and marketing expertise to compete with better-financed businesses, and they asked the Seagram group to take a stake in the business. While Ronald Barton remained Chairman until 1984, Joseph E. Seagram & Sons took majority ownership  upon Ronald's death in 1986. Anthony Barton had left the company in the 1960s and founded his own firm, Vins Fins Anthony Barton in 1967. In 1986 he inherited the Chateau Langoa and the Ch. Léoville-Barton estates from his uncle Ronald, and strengthened the reputation of their wines for quality. His daughter, Lilian Barton Sartorius (b. 1956) now manages both the vineyards and her father's company.

The two youngest sons of William Barton (1723-93), Gen. Sir Robert Barton (1768-1853) and Dunbar Barton (1769-1848) both entered the army, but whereas Sir Robert was a career officer, his younger brother retired on his marriage in 1798 to Elizabeth Riall, who was the heiress to the Rochestown estate in County Tipperary. By 1807 they had largely rebuilt the house to the designs of Sir Richard Morrison. They had four sons, three of whom became lawyers and one an army officer. The eldest son, Samuel William Barton (1803-55), was one of the lawyers, and had aspirations to be an MP, but his Conservative politics were not in tune with the sentiments of the Tipperary electorate. When he died, quite young, in 1855, he left two sons and five daughters. Both the sons pursued military careers which left them little time for estate management, and his heir, Lt-Col. Christopher Barton (1834-1913), never married. As a result it is little surprise that in 1866 Christopher sold the Rochestown estate to C.W. Wise; he lived latterly in the Army & Navy Club in London and died almost penniless. 

Dunbar Barton's youngest son, Thomas Henry Barton (1816-78) shared his elder brother's interest in politics, and stood for Parliament in Clonmel in 1853, but was also unsuccessful. It was left to his son, the Rt. Hon. Sir (Dunbar) Plunket Barton (1853-1937), 1st bt., who like his father trained as a lawyer, to make a mark in Parliament, where he represented Mid-Armagh from 1891-99 and became Solicitor-General for Ireland. In 1900 he was appointed as a High Court judge and he filled various judicial roles until his retirement. He devoted his later years to historical and literary research and writing, focusing on the careers of Carl Johann Bernadotte, King of Sweden and Norway, and William Shakespeare, but he was also active in many other institutions and organisations and spent a good deal of time on the golf course. His only son predeceased him, so the baronetcy which was granted on his retirement in 1918 became extinct on his death.

Grove, Fethard, Co. Tipperary

The estate of the Everard family at Fethard was bought by Thomas Barton (1694-1780) in two transactions, in 1751 and 1757. Since he was based in Bordeaux, he probably bought the estate sight unseen, and all the negotiations for the purchase were conducted through Robert Marshall, a Dublin lawyer. The total cost of the purchase was £30,500, a substantial sum but one that Thomas could well afford. The present house was probably begun soon after the purchase of the Grove estate was concluded in 1757. It was a pedimented two-storey 18th century house with lower wings, of which one pedimented elevation survives in altered form, facing onto a later service court.

Grove, Fethard: the surviving elevation of the original house, seen through the archway of the stable court. 

Grove descended to 
Thomas Barton's grandson, also Thomas Barton (1757-1818), who was probably responsible for substantially rebuilding the house, effectively replacing the central block (except for the facade to the service court) with a two-storey villa with an eaved roof.
Grove, Fethard: block plan of the house
from the 1st edition 6" map of c.1842.

The resulting building has strong similarities with a number of villas designed by Sir Richard Morrison
(in particular Bearforest, 1807-8; Bellair c.1807; Cangort Park 1807; Castlegar, 1801 onwards; Hyde Pk c.1807; Kilpeacon, undated; Mount Henry, undated; and Weston c.1807-09), and Grove is likely to be another Morrison house. It may well be that Thomas Barton was impressed by the work Morrison had done for his brother at Rochestown House, which had been completed before 1807. Since it is clear from the other buildings listed above that Morrison was exploring the possibilities of this plan form around 1807, that may well be the date of the remodelling at Grove. The addition has a five bay elevation opposite the pedimented front which forms a symmetrical composition with the earlier wings. However, the principal fronts of the new block, were made at right angles to the earlier house in order that the principal living rooms command the exceptionally beautiful view down the valley. The entrance front is of three bays, with the ground floor windows of the outer bays being set in arched recesses. A single-storey Ionic portico was added in about 1836, to the designs of William Tinsley of Clonmel, who seems also to have remodelled the wings of the original house to form ranges enclosing a service court.

Grove, Fethard: the entrance front of the remodelled house, here attributed to Sir Richard Morrison and probably dating from c.1807.

Inside, the house has a compact and satisfying plan, with the main rooms lying on three sides of a long central top-lit staircase hall with a vaulted ceiling carried on columns and a circular gallery, above which rises a delightful little rotunda of columns and pilasters and a dome decorated with plasterwork that has a glazed oculus at the top. The dining room has alcoves at both ends; there are two drawing rooms, decorated en suite; and a library with classical reliefs.

Descent: James Long Everard sold 1751-57 to Thomas Barton (1694-1780); to son, William Barton (1723-93); to son, Thomas Barton (1757-1818); to son, William Barton (1790-1857); to son, Thomas Barker Barton (1816-71); to brother, Samuel Henry Barton (1817-91); to widow, Mary Elizabeth Barton (1837-1927); to son, Charles Robert Barton (1877-1955); to kinsman, Henry Jeffrey Ponsonby (1930-2018); to son, Julian Henry Ponsonby (b. 1963). In the late 19th and early 20th century the house was leased to tenants including William Heffernan (fl. 1868) and Richard Burke MFH (fl. 1890-1917).

Clonelly, nr. Pettigo, Co. Fermanagh

Clonelly, Pettigo: plan of the estate from a mid 19th century Ordnance Survey map. 
An 'elegant gentleman's house' built for William Barton (1758-1835) in 1805. The estate is said to have been sold to the Lands Purchase Commission in 1928 but the house remained in family occupation until 1944, after which it was demolished. No trace remains of the house or its demesne as the lands have been forested. No image of the house has been found.

Descent: sold 1754 to Thomas Barton (1694-1780); to son, William Barton (1723-93); to son, William Barton (1758-1835); to son, Folliott Barton (1798-1870); to illegitimate son, Edward Barton (1848-85); to brother, Hugh Barton (1834-1902); to nephew, Folliott William Barton (1876-1922); to widow, Margaret Davis Barton (1867-1944); sold and demolished after death.

The Waterfoot, nr. Pettigo, Co. Fermanagh

The house stands in a sensitive location at the point where a tongue of County Donegal (and thus of the Irish Republic) reaches down to Lough Erne and separates two parts of County Fermanagh (in the United Kingdom). As a result of its strategic location, it was one of the places where British and Irish republican forces fought the Battle of Pettigo and Belleek in May and June 1922.

The Waterfoot: the original house is in the centre of the picture, with the later wing on the left and the service range behind. Image: Patricia Barton.

The Waterfoot: site plan from the 1st edition 6" map of c.1842. 
The core of the house is a white harled Georgian range of about 1791 built for Lt-Gen. Charles Barton (1760-1819) after he was given the western portion of the family estate by his brother William. The house was probably little more than a holiday home and estate office at first, with a main front of five bays (perhaps originally four bays) and two storeys overlooking Lower Lough Erne. To this house, Col. H.W. Barton (1800-70) added a taller two-storey block at the west end and a kitchen wing in about 1831, to the designs of J.B. Keane. turning the house into a permanent residence of adequate size for his large family. The kitchen wing has a charming circular larder projecting from it. Inside, the rooms in the older part of the house have pretty doorcases decorated with the boar's head from the family coat of arms as a recurrent motif, and simple plasterwork ceilings. North of the house there is a horseshoe-shaped walled garden, laid out in the later 19th century. The house has received little attention in the last hundred years and now requires significant repairs if it is not to fall into dereliction and eventual ruin.

Descent: sold to Thomas Barton (1694-1780); to grandson, William Barton (1758-1835), who gave it c.1790 to his brother, Lt-Gen. Charles Barton (1760-1819), who built the house; to son, Lt-Col. Hugh William Barton (1800-70); to son, Charles Robert Barton (1832-1918); to son, William Hugh Barton (1874-1945); to widow, Ardyn Marion Barton (d. 1970); to nephew, Bertram Reginald Barton Loane (1924-2003); to widow, Ineke Loane (fl. 2013).

Straffan House, Co. Kildare

The first significant house on this site was probably built by Hugh Henry, a merchant, banker and MP, who purchased the Straffan estate in 1731. His house consisted of a central block of nine bays and three storeys, with a central three-bay breakfront, connected by quadrant links to pavilion wings. The elevations, which have been compared to those of Oakley Park at Celbridge (attributed to Thomas Burgh, 1724), are recorded in a drawing of 1808 by Benjamin Hallam, that shows the floors separated by plat bands, with tall sash windows set in unmoulded architraves, and a modest front door. The plan had a corridor running the width of the house through the back of a double-height entrance hall, from which it was separated by a screen of columns. Two generations later, John Joseph Henry, who married a daughter of the Duke of Leinster, remodelled the house. According to a mid 19th century account 'the alterations were made upon no settled plan or design, but from a medley of designs, drawn by some half dozen of Henry's friends, whom he set to work as amateur architects, one wet day when they happened to be visiting'. More professional assistance was sought from Benjamin Hallam, who produced in 1808 a coherent plan for demolishing the quadrant links and wings in favour of compact pedimented neo-classical wings, a design which may have been derived from plate IV of Thomas Rawlins' Familiar Architecture (1768). It seems unlikely that Hallam's plan was executed, although the demolition of the quadrant links and wings may well have been carried out, and it is not known what the house looked like after the alterations. The major survival of the 18th century house is actually its stable court, with eight-bay elevations and blocked rustication around the windows. Inside the courtyard there is ashlar arcading along the ground floor, now largely filled in to form additional hotel suites.

J.J. Henry got into debt and in 1831 sold the Straffan estate to Hugh Massy Barton (1766-1854), a successful Bordeaux wine merchant. According to some accounts, the 18th century house was burned down shortly before the sale, and it is notable that the sale particulars of 1828 talk about its situation and scale, but say nothing about its condition. It was rebuilt to the designs of Frederick Darley, who advertised for tenders in 1832, but whether this was a complete rebuilding or more in the nature of a reconstruction of a fire-damaged property is uncertain: the latter is perhaps more likely as the house was fit for the reception of visitors by the end of 1833.
Straffan House: block plan soon after the rebuilding of the 1830s.
Once again, there seem to be no views of the resulting building before Hugh Lynedoch Barton (1824-99) employed Sir Charles Lanyon to remodel the house in the 1860s in the Italianate style. He gave the house a granite eaves cornice and a balustraded parapet, behind which was a high mansard roof and pedimented dormers lighting an attic storey. The lower floors were coated in a cement render, which was channelled on the ground floor to give a rusticated effect. The first floor windows were given moulded architraves with pulvinated friezes and pediments, and the central window was made tripartite, with a segmental pediment over the central light. A fine granite porch, with steps and fluted columns, dignified the main entrance. The garden front was similar to the entrance front, except that there was no porch and instead a full-height shallow bow window in the centre of the facade. A service wing was built to the east, with a tall thin four-storey tower in a rather 
debased Italianate style rising abruptly on its north side.

Straffan House: the entrance front in c.1900, showing the Italianate remodelling of the 1860s by Sir Charles Lanyon.

Although the Bartons were seriously wealthy in the mid 19th century, their tendency to have large families and to provide generously for younger sons and unmarried daughters diminished their capital rapidly. When Capt. Derrick Barton (1900-93) inherited the estate in 1927 he found that he could not afford to maintain it, and after selling some land as a first expedient, he demolished the western two-thirds of the main block in 1937-39, leaving a three-by-three bay block attached to the service range with its tall tower. On the western side of the house the demolition scars were carefully hidden behind a simply-detailed new elevation with a new entrance and doorcase. 

Straffan House: garden front in c.1978, showing the fragment of the house left after partial demolition in 1937.
Straffan House: the garden front in 1982, soon after the rebuilding of the main block.
Thus the house remained until about 1980, when it was once more extended to the dimensions of the 1860s to the designs of Brian O'Halloran. In the course of the reconstruction, the original Italianate design was somewhat simplified, with the omission of the porch, the balustraded parapet, the entablatures and brackets on the ground floor windows, and three of the great chimneystacks across the roof. In 1988 the house became the centre of an exclusive hotel and golf resort, and the main block was extended to the west, with a new hotel lobby entrance being formed just west of the reconstructed main block, to which a portico taken from the ruins of Francis Johnston's Ballynagall House (Co. Westmeath) was applied. The screen of columns from the hall at Ballynagall is also said to have been moved and installed in the former entrance hall at Straffan. The lobby building runs back into a tall canted pavilion block on the garden front, beyond which the original garden front is duplicated by a further nine-bay block echoing the design of the rebuilt house, but here bent around an obtuse angle. The modern hotel additions were further extended in 2004-06, with another, lower, Italianate tower and an even larger new block beyond it. At the same time a completely new, more Palladian style house was built in 2006 further north, which is confusingly now known as Straffan House, in distinction to the main building, now referred to as the K Club hotel. 

Straffan House: the greatly extended house which forms the present hotel complex. The surviving fragment of the original house is on the right.

The house once had a charming park, through which the River Liffey winds on its way to Dublin and the sea. There are two islands in the river just below the house, to one of which a suspension bridge of 1849 provided access. Today, the whole of the demesne on both sides of the river has been sacrificed to make championship standard golf courses, although some mature trees remain.

Descent: sold 1731 to Hugh Henry (d. 1743); to son, Joseph Henry (1727-96); to son, John Joseph Henry (d. 1846); sold 1831 to Hugh Massy Barton (1766-1854); to son, Nathaniel Barton (1799-1867); to son, Hugh Lynedoch Barton (1824-99) to brother, Bertram Francis Barton (1830-1904); to son, Bertram Hugh Barton (1858-1927); to son, Derrick Barton (1900-93) sold 1949 to John Ellis; sold 1960 to Stephen O'Flaherty; sold 1973 to Kevin McClory; sold 1977 to Nadar Djhanbani (executed 1979); sold 1979 to Patrick Gallagher; sold 1981 to Alan Ferguson; sold 1988 to Sir Michael Smurfit (b. 1936), kt., who converted the house and demesne into the present hotel and golf complex.

Rochestown House, Co. Tipperary

The house stands in a fine position on the east bank of the R. Suir between Cahir and Ardfinnan, and has an irregular plan, reflecting its development over several centuries. The core is the south circuit of a medieval bawn with a square tower house of c.1450 at its south corner. This may be on the site of an earlier 12th or 13th century fortification, as there is a ruined cylindrical keep of that date, with a semi-circular staircase annex, north-east of the house. The tower house is of four storeys with two-bay side elevations, and has pitched slate roofs with stepped crenellations on the walls, and the marks of former dripstones over the windows are visible on the south and east sides.

Rochestown House: the ruins of the house in recent years. Image: National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

In 1798 the heiress Elizabeth Riall married Dunbar Barton (1769-1848), and they added a four-bay three-storey block to the north side of the tower, apparently to the designs of Sir Richard Morrison, since it was advertised to let in 1807 as "'lately built by Mr Morrison and fit for the immediate reception of a nobleman or Man of Fortune".  
Rochestown House: block plan of the house before the 1860s additions. 
A further two-storey block was added to the west of this in 1867 for C.W. Wyse to the designs of Sir Thomas Newenham Deane, and at the same time the existing main block was given a mildly Italianate dress. Deane's new wing 
presents a one-bay elevation to the front and a two-bay elevation to the rear. At the same time a lower canted single-bay two-storey entrance link was built between the 18th and 19th century additions. The link block is echoed in the rear elevation by an angular one-bay three-storey block. The east elevation of the 18th century block has a crow-stepped parapet, while the west end has simple crenellations and the 19th century western addition has stepped battlements.

The house has square-headed window openings with rendered label-mouldings on the south and west elevations of tower house and the front and rear elevations of the 18th and 19th century rangles. The south and east sides of the tower have pointed single- and two-light windows, with chamfered limestone surrounds, and also a slit window on the east side. The west side of the tower also has an ogee-headed window and a pointed window with hood-moulding. The house has a mix of sash and casement windows. The pointed arch entrance doorcase still has a studded timber battened door and metal strap hinges. The house was accidentally damaged by fire in 1918, and then more comprehensively burnt in 1923 during the Irish civil war, since when it has been a ruined shell.  A smaller new house is said to have been built on the estate.

Descent: Col. Lawford Miles; to daughter Elizabeth, wife of Rev. Samuel Riall (fl. 1770); to daughter Elizabeth (d. 1853), wife of Dunbar Barton (1769-1848); to son, Samuel William Barton (1803-55); to son, Lt-Col. Christopher Barton (b. 1834), who sold 1866 to C.W. Wise... Francis H. Wise (fl. 1906); burnt 1918 and 1923.

Principal sources

Burke's Irish Family Records, 1976, pp. 77-82; A. Rowan, The buildings of Ireland: North-West Ulster, 1979, p. 453; M. Bence-Jones, A guide to Irish country houses, 2nd edn., 1990, pp. 146-47, 266, 282, 302-03; J.B. Cunningham, 'The Investigation into the Attempted Assassination of Folliot Warren Barton near Pettigo, on 31 October 1845', Clogher Record, 1990, pp. 125-45; E.M. Johnston-Liik, History of the Irish Parliament, 2002, iii, pp. 144-45; T. Blake, Abandoned mansions of Ireland, 2016, p. 298; J.A.K. Dean, The gate lodges of Leinster: a gazetteer, 2016, p. 203; J.A.K. Dean, The gate lodges of Munster: a gazetteer, 2018, pp. 200-01, 215; A. Tierney, The buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster, 2019, pp. 603-05;

Can you help?

  • Can anyone provide a photograph or drawing of Clonelly House, or more accurate information about when it was demolished?
  • Can anyone provide early views of Straffan House, showing it before the Italianate makeover of the 1860s, or any views of the interiors prior to the reduction of the house in 1937-39?
  • Any additions or corrections to the account given above will be gratefully received and incorporated. I am always particularly pleased to hear from members of the family or current owners of the properties discussed who can supply additional information for inclusion.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 16 July 2020. I am grateful to Aidan O'Boyle for the suggestion that Sir Richard Morrison may have designed the remodelling of Grove; to Patricia Barton for information and images, and to Mrs Rosemary Ponsonby of Grove and Harriet Landseer for their suggestions and information.

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Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.