Saturday, 13 June 2015

Markree Castle

THE FAMILY OF COOPER WERE THE LARGEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY SLIGO, WITH 34,120 ACRES

EDWARD COOPER (c1616-76), a cornet in Richard, Lord Collooney's regiment of dragoons, settling in Ireland, became possessed of a great estate in that kingdom.
Cornet Cooper was serving under Cromwell when his army defeated the mighty O’Brien Clan. O’Brien himself lost his life in this battle and Edward married his widow, Máire Rua (Red Mary). With her and her two sons he went to live at Luimneach Castle in Limerick, which is now a ruin. She had her two sons take the name of Cooper as protection from the English invaders.
Cromwell’s army marched on, further northwards in spite of the fact that he did not have the means to pay his officers. Instead, he gave them large pieces of land. Thus, he gave Markree Castle, near Collooney in County Sligo, and the surrounding grounds to Edward Cooper.
By Margaret his wife, daughter of Nicholas Mahon, of Ballinamulty, County Roscommon, he had issue,
Edward, dsp;
ARTHUR, his heir;
Richard;
Mary; Margaret.
The second son,

ARTHUR COOPER (1667-93), of Markree, County Sligo, heir to his brother Edward, married, ca 1693, Mary, daughter of Sir Joshua Allen, Knight, father of John, 1st Viscount Allen, and had issue,
JOSHUA, his heir;
Richard, dsp;
Mary; Elizabeth;
Anne; Eleanor; Margaret.
The eldest son,

JOSHUA COOPER, (c1696-1757), of Markree, who wedded, ca 1729, Mary, daughter of Richard Bingham, of Newbrook, County Mayo, and left two sons; the younger, Richard, of Bath; the elder,

THE RT HON JOSHUA COOPER, of Markree, MP for County Sligo, and a privy counsellor, married Alicia, only daughter and heir of the Rt Rev Edward Synge DD, Lord Bishop of Elphin, and had issue,
JOSHUA EDWARD, dsp;
Edward Synge, father of EDWARD JOSHUA;
Richard, dsp;
Jane, died unmarried.
His grandson,

EDWARD JOSHUA COOPER, of Markree, MP for County Sligo, married twice, though without male issue, was succeeded by his nephew,

THE RT HON EDWARD HENRY COOPER JP, of Markree Castle,
High Sheriff, 1871; lieutenant-colonel, Grenadier Guards; MP for County Sligo, 1865-68; married firstly, Sophia, third daughter of Henry P L'Estrange, of Moyestown, King's County, which lady dsp.
He married, secondly, Sarah Frances, daughter of Owen Wynne, of Haslewood, County Sligo, by whom he had issue,
Laura Frances;
Charlotte Sophie;
Emma Marie;
Selina Elizabeth;
Cicely Florence.
Mr Cooper died in 1863, and was succeeded by his nephew,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL THE RT HON EDWARD HENRY COOPER JP DL (1827-1902), of Markree Castle, who wedded, in 1858, Charlotte Maria, only child of Edward W Mills, of Hampshire, by whom he left issue,
Francis Edward, father of BRYAN RICCO;
Richard Joshua, CVO;
Arthur Charles;
Kathleen Emily;
Florence Lucy, twin with Arthur Charles;
Venetia Helen.
Colonel Cooper was succeeded by his grandson,

BRYAN RICCO COOPER TD JP DL (1884-1930), of Markree Castle;
educated at Eton College and Royal Military Academy, Woolwich; High Sheriff of County Sligo, 1908; MP for Dublin County, 1910; Connaught Rangers; Territorial Decoration; Member of Irish Free State, 1923-30.
He espoused, in 1910, Marion Dorothy, elder daughter of Edward Stanley Handcock, of Fulmer, Buckinghamshire, and had issue, his eldest son,

LIEUTENANT-COMMANDER EDWARD FRANCIS PATRICK COOPER RN, of Markree Castle (1912-), who married, in 1937, Elizabeth Mary, daughter of the Ven Charles Philip Stuart Clarke; educated at Royal Naval College, Dartmouth; fought in 2nd World War; retired from the Navy in 1945.

His youngest son,

CHARLES PHILIP COOPER, of Markree Castle (b 1948), educated at St. Columba's College, Dublin, lived in 1976 at Newport, County Mayo; formerly in hotel management.


MARKREE CASTLE, Collooney, County Sligo, originally a 17th century house, was rebuilt a century later; and, in 1802, Joshua Cooper commissioned Francis Johnston to enlarge this house and transform it into a castellated mansion.

The Castle was completely transformed and greatly extended with a new garden front and tower.


In 1866, the Castle was further enlarged again by Lt-Col E H Cooper MP, who added a massive, battlemented tower, increasing the size of the dining-room. A Gothic chapel was built.

The interior has a straight flight of stone stairs which lead up to the main floor under the porte-cochere, beneath a vaulted ceiling.


Beyond is a vast, Victorian double-staircase of oak, lit by a heraldic stained-glass window illustrating the Cooper family tree, with ancestors and Monarchs.

The large drawing-room was re-decorated in the mid-1800s in an ornate Louis Quatorze style, with abundant gilding and portly putti in high-relief supporting cartouches and trailing swags of fruit and flowers.


Brief Family History

Times remained turbulent and during an attempt by JAMES I to regain the throne, Markree Castle was occupied by the Catholic army and the Coopers had to flee.

After the battle of the Boyne in 1690, they returned and have been resident here ever since, except for a brief period during the Irish Civil War in the 1920s when Markree was again occupied, this time by the Irish Free State army.

The family was always politically involved and several ancestors represented the county at Westminster.

They did not always follow party policy (maybe because they were descended from the O’Briens) and opposed the Act of Union, which sought to dissolve the parliament in Dublin and centralise power in London, in 1802.

The Coopers’ opposition to the Act of Union cost them the peerage that they had been promised and it is for this reason that Markree is one of the very few castles in Ireland that is not owned by a titled family.

In 1922, the grandfather of the current owner, Charles Cooper, was one of the two members of the Westminster Parliament who were also elected as a TD to the first Irish Parliament after independence.

After the 2nd World War, Markree Castle fell on hard times and it stood empty and derelict for many years.

In the early 1980s it appeared on the front cover of a book entitled Vanishing Houses of Ireland, a testament to the sad state of decay in which many of Ireland’s great houses found themselves.

In 1989, Charles Cooper, having worked in the hotel business all his life, came back to Markree to renovate the castle and run it as a hotel.

Each generation left its mark on the estate, but the castle, as we can see it today, dates from 1802 with some changes made, mainly to the interior, in 1896.

Walking around the outside of the Castle you can see dates of completion carved in stone on the walls.

The stained glass window in the hall traces the Cooper family tree from Victorian times back to the time of King John.

The restaurant is an architectural masterpiece designed by Francis Johnston and executed by Italian craftsmen.

A conservation area, the estate holds an array of wild life from red squirrels, to otters, to kingfishers. It has proved inspirational and the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful was written here in the 1800s.

At the heart of Yeats’ Country, the poet W.B. Yeats was a guest here when the Castle was still a private residence.

More recently, the singer-songwriter Johnny Cash and the golfer Tom Watson have stayed there.

In June, 2015, the 300-acre Markree Castle estate was acquired by the Corscadden family for an undisclosed sum.

The hotel will undergo a €5 million restoration prior to re-opening in the spring of 2016.

First published in June, 2011.

4 comments :

Sandy said...

I've stayed there 10 or more years ago. Throughly recommend it - a wonderful air of genteel delapidation. More like staying in someone's house.

Anonymous said...

Speaking to a colleague in London today about this castle - he had been there for a wedding. Wonderful to have this magnificent resource here yet again for further information - TS.

Wee Gee said...

Stayed there March 2014. Unique experience. Had access to most of the castle. Food was good also! Hope refurb does not destroy the atmosphere.

Garvagh said...

One must applaud the coming reopening of the castle, but loss of the former atmosphere seems likely.