Curraghmore House

The Stag and the Dragon II

Curraghmore House

As I already said in my previous post, July is a special month to visit the Curraghmore House as it marks the union of the Stag and the Dragon – the marriage of Catherine de la Poer to Sir Marcus Beresford. Sir Marcus was 23 and Lady Catherine 15 at that time, 300 years ago. Despite of different religious upbringing, by the end of the 18th century they produced the most powerful political dynasty in Ireland, raised a large family and rebuilt this beautiful house and gardens. There is a very important lesson to learn from the story about the Stag and the Dragon: we are much better off when we realise that our differences make us strong only when we are united.

During the reign of Catherine and Marcus the best architects and craftsmen were summoned, among them John Roberts ( a very interesting person, worth to look up) who later went to build both the Catholic and the protestant Cathedrals in Waterford. The great courtyard was built, the medieval part of the house was redesigned and restyled. Creative and artistic, Lady Catherine carried out a splendid project. She designed and decorated the Shell House – a small quatrefoil building with curved walls all covered with seashells.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Exotic and rare shells from the distant beaches along with the local clams and cockles adorn the walls creating sophisticated patterns of color and texture. Lady Catherine personally visited the Waterford Harbour and commissioned the captains of ships to collect shells for her. This project took 261 day to complete.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

A fine marble statue of Lady Catherine, commissioned by her loving husband and sculpted by John van Nost, stands in the middle of the house. It shows Catherine holding a shell and a piece of parchment with the inscription: “In two hundred and sixty one day these shells were put up by the proper hands of Catherine Countess of Tyrone, 1754”. Lady Catherine was in her fifties at that time.

Curraghmore House

They died in 1763 and 1769 respectively. There is a large group portrait in the House, painted in 1760, depicting Sir Marcus and Lady Catherine surrounded by their nine adult children. The beautiful monument below was erected in the Clonegam church in their memory. A hundred years later, another beautiful monument was erected at the opposite wall – the one dedicated to Lady Florence.

Let’s take a walk around the gardens.

Curraghmore House

From here, the hunting parties would leave the courtyard.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

The tranquility of this place is surreal – you know that there are people somewhere not far from you, but the sounds feel muted and distant.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

A monstrous gall on the tree trunk has to be photographed 🙂

Curraghmore House

From the other side of the pond we look past the House. Somewhere there on the hill slope Mother Brown is looking back at us.

Curraghmore

Someone is looking at us right here too…  😉

Curraghmore House

I hope you like the story of the Stag and the Dragon. More about the Curraghmore House and the Beresford family some other time.

www.inesemjphotography.com Have a wonderful week!

The Stag and the Dragon I

Curraghmore House

After having seen Mother Brown we are going to walk straight to the place she is looking at – the Curraghmore House.

This July I visited Curraghmore House hoping to see a portrait of Lady Florence. Unfortunately the only portrait they have is upstairs in the private quarters. Otherwise, it was an amazing visit. If you go to Ireland, make sure you contact the tour guides and book yourself a €15 tour of the main reception rooms, Shell House and the garden. I promise you, it will be the highlight of your visit.

I do my best to remember everything that our guide is telling. Photography is not allowed in the House, and for the same reason I can not give you a detailed account on what I have seen, but I still can share some stories. Like the story about the Stag and the Dragon.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House was built by the la Poer family after their arrival in Ireland with the Norman invasion in the 12th century. It was a tower house with thick walls, and its facade was adorned with the family crest they brought from Normandy – a sculpture of a St Hubert Stag with genuine antlers, and the crucifix. Later a new house was built around the original tower, and a new stag sculpture carved by Sir Richard Boehm.

In 1701 a girl was born, Catherine, the only child of James Power, 3rd Earl of Tyrone and his wife Anne Rickard. The Earl soon died and left her all the family lands. The Earldom discontinued and her father’s cousin was supposed to move in the house and inherit the Barony, but it came out that he was a Jacobite, and Catherine and her mother were allowed to stay for a while to deal with them later. They stayed in the house until Catherine was fifteen and then the marriage was arranged with her cousin Sir Marcus Beresford, a Protestant, Freemason and politician. He became the man of the house. They got married exactly 300 years ago, on July 16 1717.

Lady Catherine gave birth to 15 children 9 of whom reached adulthood. Their firstborn, George, was made the first Marques of  Waterford.

Curraghmore House

Sir Marcus wanted a bigger house and Catherine knew that he would eventually remove the la Poer family crest and replace it with the Beresford family crest, a Dragon head pierced through the neck with a broken spear. She convinced her husband to rebuild the house so that the front faced Comeragh Mountains, and it was where the Dragon was placed. Until these days, the guests arrive to the front of the house, which is in the back, and both the Dragon and the Stag are still here, standing back to back. But it is not the whole story.

In 1922, during the Civil War, the order was given for this house to be burned. Some men came in the middle of the night, put the straw and left to return before the sunrise and finish the job. When they came back with the torches, the clouds suddenly parted, a full moon came out and the crucifix had cast a shadow on the ground. The men were terrified that they almost burned a Catholic house. They hurried away, and burned the Woodstock House shortly after.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

View of the Comeragh Mountains from the front porch.

Curraghmore House

Statues in the courtyard.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

In these apartments there used to be a doctor’s surgery and a teacher’s quarters.

Curraghmore House

Retired butler is still living here.

Curraghmore House

The Stables.

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Curraghmore House

Tea Rooms.

Curraghmore House

Next weekend we resume our walk around the Curraghmore House.

inesemjphotography Have a wonderful week!

Mysteries of Clonegam

Clonegam

This is one of the most peaceful views in the country. You are slowly driving uphill watching for pheasants and cars coming in the opposite direction, and when you finally reach the top of the hill you stop for a second to take in the view of the green fields dotted with ancient trees – a pastoral landscape rolling towards the Comeragh Mountains. Curraghmore Demesne, beautiful like a picture.

Clonegam

I parked my car at the Clonegam Church gate and used the stony steps to get on the other side of the wall. The whole herd of cows stopped grazing and stared at me. I crept along the wall and tried to blend with background. My target was too far away, and I didn’t want any cow companion to follow me. First I had to reach this group of trees encircled with stones.

Clonegam

If you enlarge this picture, you will see the object I was heading to in the distance.

I am getting closer.

Clonegam

Finally there. Good afternoon, Mother Brown!

Clonegam

No one really knows what Mother Brown is. She is not listed in the Archeology inventory, and majority think that she was made 300 years ago. Not me. I am sure that her presence right near the stone circle and the grove of beech trees, which make you think of druids, has a meaning. If you still believe that all of this – the Mother, the trees and the stones are a folly, you have never stood in the grove, and never looked in Mother Brown’s face.

Clonegam

Clonegam

Clonegam

Mother Brown looks down the valley at the Curraghmore House, the ancestral home of Lords Waterford. I will write about my visit to the house later in November.

Clonegam

Clonegam

I fight the temptation to touch Mother Brown. How can I be sure she won’t find it disrespectful. I also mumble my apologies when I am taking pictures of her. Wishing her well, I retire to the beech trees and step over the stone circle fighting my doubts that I might get it all wrong again. But suddenly I feel peace and know that I am not offending anyone by standing there. I pat the tree trunks and we have a small chat.

Clonegam

I take a few photographs from the grove.

Clonegam

There are many tree stumps at various stages of decay.

Clonegam

Clonegam

Some of them are quite recent.

Clonegam

I have a thing for beech trees. Not only are they majestic and beautiful, but they also feed an army of wild creatures. They are like an autonomic world, an entity that will function long after we are all gone.

Clonegam

In the picture below you see the Clonegam church I have already written about.

Clonegam

As I was walking between this point and the church, many things happened.

First of all, I came across two sheep corpses of which I took pictures but won’t display them in this blog. I am afraid that the sheep died due to the complicated labor, and wild foxes and other predators finished the job. Sad.

Then I investigated the wall trying to figure out what was that sound that scared me on my visit last year. I didn’t find any answers on this side of the wall and decided to go to the graveyard again since it was still light. I have never forgotten that knocking sound. I know that at the steps of the church there is a footprint from goat, and it is haunted. Was that the sound of goat’s hooves clicking on the stone path?

To my surprise, the back gate was closed, and there was a small horse trailer standing at the front porch. I thought that was very strange. I kept walking towards the hole in the wall to climb over to my car when just behind my shoulder, someone said “huh” twice.

I jumped in the air and turned around. There was no one.

Slightly shaken, I walked faster, and then there was another ‘huh’. This time I realised it was coming from above. I lifted up my face in horror, and saw a group of goats looking down at me.

Clonegam

Clonegam

I was never so happy to see a goat…

The goats came running to the front gate where I stood. I think they were left in the graveyard to clear it of weeds, and thought I brought them some snacks to add to their boring diet. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any goat snacks with me.

As the front gate was closed, I tried to stick out my lens between the rails, but it didn’t work well and my pictures came out ‘framed’. Still, it was a fun photo session.

Clonegam

Clonegam

Clonegam

This one was a true sweetheart. He was standing and looking at me after all the other goats left. He pressed his forehead to the rails, and I was scratching his head and patting his back, and he loved it.

Clonegam

One of the Clonegam mysteries was solved.

inesemjphotography Have a wonderful weekend!

The Tower

Curraghmore Tower

This 65 ft round tower was “erected in the year 1785 by George, Earl of Tyrone, to his beloved son, his niece and friend”.

Marcus, the eldest son of 1st Marquess of Waterford was killed while jumping his horse over courtyard paling. He was only twelve. It is difficult to tell who was the niece, since George De La Poer Beresford was the eldest of fifteen children. The friend was Marcus’ French tutor Charles Polier de Bottens who died shortly after the tragic accident.

Over the years, there were people who came to this tower at their darkest moments. It is a mile long walk from the main road. Wish they had turned back.

I pass the entrance to the Curraghmore estate and drive up the hill. Gorgeous pheasant steps out of the grass and walks right in front of my car. I am trying to match the speed of the bird to take pictures.

Curraghmore Tower   Curraghmore Tower

I park and start walking through the conifer forest. The path is quite muddy – timber felling is in progress and the trucks have damaged the road. I turn around the corner. Here used to be Clonegam school, but it was burned down during the Civil War.

The Tower is inspired by the medieval Irish round tower. They say that the walls are about seven feet thick which I cannot confirm. I would rather say that the distance between the walls is about 10 feet. It was intended to build it 120 feet high, but it was left unfinished at the height of 70 feet.

Curraghmore Tower

Hanging around the tower I have a chat with a young man who used to climb to the roof and read books in solitude. Armed with some tips I start climbing the 92 step spiral stairway.

Curraghmore Tower

The door offers some light but further up there is a dark stretch until I reach the first window.

Curraghmore Tower

Curraghmore Tower  Curraghmore Tower

It is how I climb – from window to window.

Curraghmore Tower

Finally I see the sky. On the top there is a flat roof with a hole in the middle and a low parapet with some stones missing. I don’t dare to climb to the roof. The day is very windy so I just stay on the steps and look around.

Curraghmore Tower Curraghmore Tower

I have found a fantastic drone shot by Jamie Malone. It is what the roof looks like.

The view from the Tower is stunning. I see the Curraghmore House and River Suir.

Curraghmore Tower    Curraghmore Tower

This is Croughaun Hill and Comeragh Mountains.

Curraghmore Tower

It is the time to climb down when I realise that it is possible that someone is making their way up right now, oblivious to me being there. I don’t like the thought, but I cannot stay here forever. I start my descent and finally reach the door and quickly get out.

Curraghmore Tower   Curraghmore Tower

There is a loop walk, but I take the same road because I have spotted some photogenic timber. Next time I will visit Curraghmore House and a special historical object that I want to share with you.

Curraghmore Tower Curraghmore Tower Curraghmore Tower

Here are three links to my previous blogs about Clonegam and the De la Poer family that I wrote last year.

https://inesemjphotography.com/2016/10/09/abbeys-and-churches/

https://inesemjphotography.com/2016/10/22/lady-florence-and-clonegam-church/

https://inesemjphotography.com/2016/10/27/circumstance-observes-no-preference/

 

wwww.inesemjphotography.com Have a wonderful weekend!

Curraghmore House – another visit

Curraghmore House

On my second visit to the Curraghmore estate near Portlaw I found this tiny beautiful waterfall. Here are some more pictures from that day.

Horse riders at the entrance to the estate.

Curraghmore House

A road yet to be explored.

Curraghmore House

Amazing play of light in the tree branches.

Evergreen ivy.

Wild plums in bloom.

Ferns growing on the tree branches.

I saw many pheasants, but they didn’t let me come close. Except this one.

Young pheasant hen didn’t mind me either.

This is not a monster but a pheasant hen taking off.

Good for her. This one was not as careful – pheasants have many natural predators.

Curraghmore House, the residence of  Henry Nicholas de la Poer Beresford, 9th Marquess of Waterford.

Curraghmore House

Farm buildings.

Curraghmore

The Tower, or Steeple, in the distance. I visited this sad monument in March.

Steeple

I will share more pictures from my walk to The Tower next week.

wwww.inesemjphotography.com Have a wonderful weekend!