Castlemacgarrett in Ireland

Castlemacgarrett in Ireland

Castlemacgarrett Estate
Castlemacgarrett Estate

Geoffrey Browne built a house on the site of Castlemacgarrett in 1694 to replace a house built by the Prendergast family. His wife Mary Prendergast was a descendent of Maurice de Prendergast who came to Ireland with Strongbow during the Norman invasion in 1169. Geoffrey’s house was burnt down in 1811. Dominick Browne, 1st Lord Oranmore and Browne, in turn built a Tudor Gothic house on the site.

The Brownes can trace their ancestry back to one of the tribes of Galway. The archway in Eyre Square, Galway, inscribed 1627 was the doorway of the Galway townhouse of the Brownes.

In the early 20th century the 3rd Lord Oranmore and Browne built extensive additions in an Edwardian baronial style faced in cement. The result is a large rambling house reaching around three sides of a forecourt. An elaborate pillared, pedimented and part balustraded porch was added at this time. The entrance hall is ostensibly Edwardian with a timber staircase and gallery. Plasterwork swags of the late 17th century manner adorn the walls. A large drawing room and dining room contain Adamesque ceilings by Dublin craftsmen.

The Brownes owned 13 country houses throughout Connaught including Ashford Castle at nearby Cong. Their estates totalled 54,000 acres. Dominick Browne was made a Privy Councillor for Ireland at 1834 and became one of 28 elected representative Irish peers. He spent vast sums of money on electioneering, allegedly £40,000 on one election alone. His lavishness combined with the onslaught of the Great Famine brought about his downfall. He sold off all the properties except Castlemacgarrett and 2,000 acres.

The 3rd Lord Oranmore and Browne however was more grounded than his grandfather and successfully managed the estate. At the turn of the 20th century Castlemacgarrett experienced its Indian summer. Agricultural enterprises and a saw mill funded shooting parties in November and January. The River Robe running through the estate ensured continual supply of fresh trout.

The 4th and last Lord Oranmore and Browne to live on the estate was married three times. Also named Dominick, his second wife was Lady Oonagh Guinness. They had two children, the Honourable Garrett and Tara. His son Tara was killed in a car accident. His third wife was Sally Gray, a film star. Dominick died in 2002 aged 100.

In the 1960s the estate ran into financial difficulties again and it was auctioned off to the Irish Land Commission. The castle and farm were bought by nursing sisters and it became Castlemacgarrett Nursing Home until it was sold once more for development in 2006. It now lies empty. A ghost estate in a country of ghost estates.

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