Carlow History

Huntington castle, Clonegal, Co. Carlow

Huntington castle, Clonegal, Co. Carlow

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

Huntington castle lies on the edge of the village of Clonegal in County Carlow. The castle is a private house, yet it is open to the public for guided tours throughout June, July, August and September. It was the setting for Stanley Kubrick’s film Barry Lyndon.[1]

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Front facade of Huntington castle

The original tower house was built in the 15th century as a stronghold for the Cavanagh family.[2] In 1607, Richard Netterville, Corballies, Co. Dublin, owned part of Clonegal. In that year he entrusted all his Irish lands, including Clonegal, to Christopher Fleming and others for the use of Richard Netterville. On 4th September 1607 Richard Netterville died and was succeeded by his nephew Nicholas Netterville.[3]

In October 1641 the manor of Clonegal was held by Lawrence Esmond, Lord Esmond and his wife, Dame Ellis.[4] Lawrence Esmond was the second son of Walter Esmond of Johnstown, Co. Wexford, by his wife Margaret, daughter of Michael Furlong of Horetown. Lawrence Esmond was sheriff of Co. Waterford in 1607 and was constable of Duncannon fort, Co. Wexford from 1606 until his death in 1644 or May 1645; the year is different in various sources.[5]

In 1622 Lawrence Esmond was created Lord Esmond, Baron of Limerick. In 1628 he married Ellis, widow of successively John Sherlock and Sir Edward Gough, daughter of Walter Butler, 4th son of James Butler, Earl of Ormond. Although Lawrence Esmond at one time was Major General of all Royal forces in Ireland, Lord Esmond joined the Parliament cause in 1644 and defended Duncannon fort during a long siege by Confederate forces. The fort surrendered in March 1645. After his death with no children, his titles became extinct and administration of his estate was granted to his nephew, Richard Esmond.[6]

Clonegal passed in 1645 to Katherine Gough, wife of the late Patrick Esmond, for use during her life. Revenue from half the manor was assigned to the daughters of Patrick Esmond.[7] Due to the strategic importance of the village of Clonegal on the road between Dublin and Wexford, the castle was captured by Oliver Cromwell as he marched on Kilkenny in 1649.[8]

The Esmonde family laid out most of the gardens in the 17th century. In 1663, Lawrence Esmonde of Ballignestragh, Co. Wexford, filed a claim for various properties in Counties Wexford Tipperary, and Carlow including the manor of Clonegal. This Lawrence Esmond called the place Huntington castle after the ancestral home place in Lincolnshire and was the son of Sir Thomas Esmond, baronet.[9] Thomas Esmond was the son of Lawrence Esmond, Baron of Limerick, by his first wife Ailish O’Flaherty, a granddaughter of Grace O’Malley. Lawrence Esmond was an ardent Protestant while his wife was a devout Catholic and they disagreed on what religion their son Thomas should follow. One night Ailish left with the child and returned to Connacht and Lawrence Esmond subsequently married Ellis Butler. Thomas Esmond was declared illegitimate and excluded from inheriting the Barony of Limerick.[10]

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The Huntington castle gardens

The gardens at Huntington castle include the French limes on the avenue, the lawns to the side of the house, the fish ponds on either side of the centre walk through the wilderness and the majority of yew trees which comprise the Yew Walk.[11]

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In the second half of the seventeenth century, Huntington castle passed from the Esmond family on the marriage to John Durdin, a prosperous merchant from Essex who moved to Ireland in the 1630s. John Durdin enjoyed the good Carlow air and lived to the remarkable age of 108.[12]

In the eighteenth and nineteenth century further extensions were made around the original tower house at Huntington. Yet the house does not figure highly in the recorded social life of the Carlow gentry. In Edward Walford’s book of 1860 recorded the gentry families of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Huntington castle is excluded from the thirty-three gentry houses mentioned.[13] The house also escapes mention in the work of the Carlow gentry by Jimmy O’Toole.[14]

In 1875 Alexander Durdin of Huntington castle held 296 acres in County Carlow which was valued at £269. Rev. Alexander Durdin of Lower Mount Street in Dublin held 1,121 aces in County Carlow.[15]

Alexander Durdin made further improvements to the gardens at Huntington. A lake at the bottom of the wilderness garden at Huntington was built for ornamental purposes and next to it was constructed one of the earliest water turbine houses in Ireland, providing the castle with its own electricity as early as 1888.[16]

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In 1880, Melian Durdin married a Robertson. The Durdin-Robertson family have kept Huntington castle since that time.[17] In 1901 Helen Durdin-Robertson was living in the castle with her mother-in-law, Melian Durdin. Also there was Helen’s son, Magnus Robertson and her daughter, Helen Robertson with nine servants.[18] In 1901 there were 40 windows in the front façade and 22 rooms within along with 31 outbuildings.[19] In 1911 Arthur M. Haines rented Huntington castle from Herbert Robertson. The house then had 38 windows in the front façade and 25 rooms within with 30 outbuildings.[20] The castle today (2016) is still a private house, yet it is open to the public for guided tours throughout June, July, August and September.

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[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntington_Castle,_Clonegal accessed on 17 December 2016

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntington_Castle,_Clonegal accessed on 17 December 2016

[3] Margaret C. Griffith (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions formerly in the Office of the Chief Remembrancer of the Exchequer prepared from the MSS of the Irish Record Commission (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 1991), No. J1 54/35

[4] Geraldine Tallon (ed.), Court of Claims: Submissions and Evidence 1663 (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 2006), no. 415

[5] G.E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage (Alan Sutton, Gloucester, 1987), Vol. V, p. 112; Geraldine Tallon (ed.), Court of Claims: Submissions and Evidence 1663, no. 415

[6] G.E. Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, Vol. V, p. 112

[7] Geraldine Tallon (ed.), Court of Claims: Submissions and Evidence 1663, no. 415

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntington_Castle,_Clonegal accessed on 17 December 2016

[9] Geraldine Tallon (ed.), Court of Claims: Submissions and Evidence 1663, no. 415

[10] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_houses/hist_hse_huntington.html accessed on 17 December 2016

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntington_Castle,_Clonegal accessed on 17 December 2016

[12] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_houses/hist_hse_huntington.html accessed on 17 December 2016

[13] Edward Walford, The County Families of the United Kingdom (London, 1860), p. 812

[14] Jimmy O’Toole, The Carlow Gentry: What will the neighbours say! (Carlow, 1993)

[15] www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/16252/page/194438# accessed on 17 December 2016

[16] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntington_Castle,_Clonegal accessed on 17 December 2016

[17] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_houses/hist_hse_huntington.html accessed on 17 December 2016

[18] http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai000419807/ accessed on 17 December 2016

[19] http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai000419805/ accessed on 17 December 2016

[20] http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai001679594/ accessed on 17 December 2016

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