Monart House, completed in 1740 by Nathaniel Cookman, a Hanoverian financier who assisted King George I, was occupied by his descendants until 2002. Surrounded by mature grounds, the mansion commands lovely views across County Wexford.
Now the Monart Destination Resort Spa, the property’s rather startling reincarnation is a generally well-reviewed 5 star relaxation venue for romantic lakeside weekends etc
Caim (Co. Wexford / West)
Caim / Caime (An Cheim – “way / step”, aka Caim a’ Speririn – “the outcrop of rocks from the mountain”) is a small village in the rolling countryside between the River Slaney valley and the slopes of Mount Leinster in the Blackstairs Mountains, with spectacular views of the latter.
The ruined chimney stacks and slag heaps of the lead and zinc mines that operated sporadically c.1818 -1846 remain in place. In times past, this area was known as the Black Country.
St John the Baptist church (RC) was built in 1858 by Fr Thomas Hore.
Killoughrim Woods is now a mere remnant of a large indigenous oak forest, where the “Babes in The Woods”, 1798 Rebellion insurgents who had taken refuge after their defeat at Vinegar Hill, killed some yeomen pursuing them at a place called Murdering Gap. The forest was later a favourite hiding place for the notorious highwayman known as Grant the Robber, who was captured in the mid-C19th at Poll na Camaim on the River Urrin.
Killanne (Co. Wexford / West)
Killanne / Killann / Killane (Cill Anna) is a rural crossroads community on the eastern slopes of the Blackstairs Mountains. The parish, which once formed part of the lands of Duiske Abbey in Graiguenamanagh, was long noted for an ancient Holy Well dedicated to Saint Anne.
Kelly the Boy from Killann
Kelly the Boy from Killann is a famous ballad and marching song commemorating the 1798 Rebellion, written by PJ McCall (1861 – 1916).
According to PA Donohoe`s booklet, The 1798 Rebellion, Kelly was a “giant with gold curling hair, 7ft 3in, aged 23 during the Rebellion of ’98. Very handsome. Fair complexion and wore his auburn hair long and flowing in curls to his shoulders. The noble qualities of this hero corresponded with the beauty of his person….. drew up battle plans for the taking of New Ross … badly wounded at Ross and later taken to Wexford Bridge where he was executed …. a soldier seen carrying the severed head by its long hair, swinging it as he marched. On reaching the market place he stuck it on a pike where it was exhibited for days. Finally the head was taken down … and kicked about like a football on Wexford’s Quayside by the brutal Orange mob“.
Not surprisingly, Loyalist accounts are somewhat different, representing Kelly as a low-browed Neanderthal thug. Another version holds that he was the verger of the local Protesant church, and saved several gentry families from the insurgents.
The Captain John Kelly buried in Killanne graveyard is probably not the man in the song, who some say died many years after the uprising.
St Anne’s church (CoI), first erected in 1756, was rebuilt in 1832, and described by Lewis (1837) as “a handsome edifice in the early English style, with some later details“.
Caher Roe’s Den
Caher Roe’s Den in the Blackstairs Mountains is an imposing outcrop of rock jutting from bleak tors commanding extensive views of County Wexford.
Caher Roe was a member of the midlands O’Dempsey clan, whose properties were confiscated by the Crown in the C17th, whereupon he turned rapparee and ran a large organisation that stole horses from this area and sold them at distant fairs. He was caught in 1735 and hanged at Maryborough in Queen’s County (Portlaoise in Co. Laois).
When the wind is blowing through the rocky teeth of his den it sounds like the ghostly neighing of his abandoned horses, and it is widely believed that his ill-gotten gains are still hidden in a secret cave somewhere on the mountain.
Rackards is a popular local pub.
Killane is not far from Kiltealy and the Scullogue Gap on ByRoute 4.
Woodbrook House, one of the most impressive Georgian country mansions in County Wexford, was built in the 1770s by the local Anglican Rector, Dr Arthur Jacob (1733 – 1786), who in 1752 had married Anna (née Clenehauster), a rich heiress, enabling him to purchase the extensive estate in 1755; he later became the Precentor of Armagh and Archdeacon of Leighlin. His only daughter Susanna married William Blacker, an army officer, in St Anne’s church, Killane, in 1784.
Woodbrook was the birthplace of Charles Blacker Vignoles (1793 – 1875), who was orphaned very young; brought up in England, he served with the Royal Scots regiment in Holland, Canada and France, then worked as a surveyor in the USA before dedicating himself to the new steam train industry. He was the engineer-in-chief of the Dublin – Kingstown railway, inaugurated as an “atmospheric railway” in 1834, and later worked on important projects in Britain, Germany, Switzerland, the Ukraine, Spain and Brazil. His principal technological contribution was the promotion of the Vignoles rail. The house was substantially reconstructed by his descendants, who remained till the 1980s.
Since 1998 Woodbrook has been owned by Giles FitzHerbert, a former ambassador, and his wife Alexandra, an Anglo-Italian-Irish-Chilean, who run a working organic farm and an upmarket B&B / Guesthouse.
The hall features a spectacular flying spiral staircase supported by twisted chains, and the huge 1810 drawing room houses a great library of books to read whilst curled up in front of the fire. A large walled garden produces vegetables for the delicious evening meals. Guests can enjoy playing tennis on a “challenging” grass court, and there are lovely walks through the grounds and surrounding countryside. A summer weekend is devoted to the performances by the Opera a la Carte Company.
A pre-1914 visitor remembered Woodbrook as “..a large, square house-very comfortable, very solid, very unpretentious – it has an undulating park covered with fine old trees and beside it rise up the mountains as if in protection. There are beautiful woods there, full of huge beech trees and in some places near the river groves of silver birch. There are masses of rhododendrons everywhere and a little later the ground is covered with bluebells. A little river runs through the woods gurgling over the stones you can hear its music sounding all down the valley.”
A more recent guest wrote: “Staying here has the intellectual quality of a house party from the novels of Waugh, the humour of Wodehouse, all overlaid with the spirit of Somerville & Ross’s Irish RM.”
Rathnure (Co. Wexford / West)
Rathnure (Rath an Iúir – “Fort of the Yew trees”) (pop. 1000) is one of County Wexford’s hidden treasures.
Monksgrange House, built in 1769, incorporates parts of a medieval structure. Long owned by the Richards /Hill family, the property is run as a successful stud farm. The beautiful sculpture-filled gardens have frequently played host to performances of the Blackstairs Opera. The mansion is home to works by artists such as Harry Kernoff, William Scott, and Hilda Roberts, and the west wing houses the Norman Art Gallery.
Coolbawn House is a magnificent late C19th Tudoresque ruin. Apparently it belonged to a rich man called Francis Bruen, in preparation for whose potential visit “50 horses were shod every Friday“, but he seldom, if ever, came. The estate was run in his absence by a much-hated agent called Mr Routledge, who would pay the rent arrears of the Protestant tenants rather than let the land fall into the hands of Roman Catholics. The mansion met the usual sad fate at the hands of vandals during the Troubles. A good photo can be viewed here.
Clonroche (Co. Wexford / West)
Clonroche village, on the old coach road linking Wicklow Town and Waterford City, is thought to take its name from a mixture of Irish and French meaning rocky pasture, which best describes the nature of the shingle soil. The Clonroche area is the source of 80% of the strawberry, blackcurrant, and raspberry crops in the Republic.
Clonroche & the 1798 Rebellion
Clonroche was remarkable for not being caught up in the 1798 Rebellion, of which the local rector, James Bently Gorden, wrote a famous history.
He recorded that “not a Protestant was killed nor a house burned. They were admitted as converts to the Roman Catholic church by Rev Thomas Rodgers, the parish priest, a man of comparatively superior education who gave them privately to understand that he expected no more than an apparent conformity to please the multitude and seemed to have succeeded in his influence for their protection. Fr Philip Roche interposed in their favour whenever opportunity occurred. Much may be attributable also to the respect of the lower catholics to Mr Fitzhenry, a gentleman of their own religion, resident amongst them. Nor ought I omit that the peasantry here had not previously been irrigated by flogging and other violence, nor that Robert Shapland Carew, their landlord, had immediately before the insurrection made an impressive speech to the assembled people describing the evil consequences of the rebellion and the acts of atrocity they would draw on themselves from both sides. The Rev Samual Francis, my predecessor, was with family once forced to attend service in the Catholic chapel and removed afterwards unmolested but would be in danger of starving if he had not been supplied with provisions by Mr Fitzhenry and Father Rodgers.”
Clonroche was founded c.1670, not long after the Cromwellian wars, by Robert Carew, a Welshman, who purchased the lands from Andrew Ram. His grandson Robert married Elizabeth Shapland, daughter of a wealthy Wexford tin merchant. Their eldest son, the first Shapland-Carew, died in 1740, and their second son, a Dublin barrister, returned to take over the family estate at Ballyboro, changing the townland’s name to Castleboro (now Castlebora).
Castleboro House on the north side of the Forestalstown River was originally built in 1770. (Photo by saintinexile)
Robert Shapland-Carew was elected to the Irish Parliament several times between 1776 and 1800 for Waterford City; a Liberal, he campaigned against the Act of Union, and after 1801 represented county Wexford at Westminster for two terms. His son, also called Robert, served as Lord Lieutenant of County Wexford, and became the first Lord Carew of Castleboro in 1838.
The house was accidentally destroyed by fire in 1840; the famous Kilkenny architect Daniel Robertson incorporated the surviving west wing into the new building, resembling a Venetian Palace, with expert craftsmanship throughout and four terraces of manicured grass banks descending to an artificial lake; a majestic fountain stood in the centre of the third, flanked by two smaller fountains with pools on the immediate upper terrace.
During the Troubles the Shapland-Carews sold off the furniture and effects and lived full time in England. The last holder of the title died without heir in 1926.
Local vandals burned the mansion on February 5th 1923. The derelict remains have been described as “the most imposing ruin in all of Ireland“; with the Blackstairs Mountains as a backdrop and rolling green pastures around it, this is a wonderful place to visit.
Fr Thomas Hore, born locally in 1796, spent six years in Richmond Virginia. He was parish priest of Annacurra in south Wicklow during the Great Famine, and decided the only way to alleviate the people’s distress was to emigrate to America. In 1850 he and a large number of men, women and children sailed on the Ticonderoga from Liverpool to New Orleans and made the 400-mile trip up the Mississippi to Arkansas, hoping to settle in Little Rock, but were unable to find suitable places. Most of the party stayed in St Louis while Fr Hore searched in Iowa, eventually buying some 2000 acres in Lafayette and Taylor. However, only 18 families joined him in March 1851, built new homesteads and named the area Wexford. Fr Hore returned to Ireland and spent some time in Caim before being appointed parish priest to Cloughbawn, where he died in 1864 and is buried under the floor of the parish church.
John Harrison, born in 1832 at Castleboro, the son of a carpenter on the Carew Estate, joined the Royal Navy when he was 18 years old. As a Leading Seaman serving in the Indian Mutiny he won the Victoria Cross in 1857. He later obtained a post in Customs & Excise but a wound sustained during the relief of Lucknow left a mark on his health, and he died unmarried in London in late 1865.
Clonroche is within easy reach of Bree and connected by main road to New Ross, both on ByRoute 2.
Adamstown (Co. Wexford / South)
Adamstown (Maigh Anraidhe / Arnaí – ‘The Plain of the Berries’) is a small village. From the late C12th the district was held by Earl Marshal and his descendants, who knew it as Magheranevin or Matherneyuin, subsequently corrupted to Murnevin, a denomination still in use until 1600.
Adamstown Castle was erected in 1418 by Adam Devereux, after whom the community was renamed, and rebuilt by Sir Nicholas Devereux of Balmagir. A curiously carved slab above the entrance gate bore the family coat of arms and an inscription in Latin which translates “Pray for the souls of Nicholas Devereux, knight, and of the Lady Catherine Power, his wife, who built this manor house in the year of the Lord 1556.” The stone is still preserved in the hall of Adamstown House, former residence of the Downes family and now lived in by the Rothwells. (Photos here)
Adamstown is not far from