Friday, 22 January 2016

Gormanston Castle

THE VISCOUNTS GORMANSTON WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY MEATH, WITH 9,657 ACRES

The first member of this very ancient and distinguished family which is found upon record in Ireland is

PHILIP DE PRESTON, whose grandson,

ROGER DE PRESTON, was justice of the court of Common Pleas in the first year of EDWARD III; and in 1331, one of the justices of the Court of King's Bench.

The son and heir of this learned person, 

SIR ROBERT PRESTON, who was knighted in the field, in 1361, by Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and obtained a grant forever of the manor of Gormanston, in counties Dublin and Meath, was Lord Preston in Lancashire, and filled the office of LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND.

Being possessed of Carbury in County Kildare, he made that the chief place of his residence.

This gentleman was elevated to the peerage some time between 1365-70 as Baron Gormanston.

His lordship married Margaret, daughter and heir of Walter de Bermingham, and dying in 1396, was succeeded by his only son,

CHRISTOPHER (c1354-1422), 2nd Baron, who was imprisoned in the castle of Trim for corresponding with the prior of Kilmainham.

He wedded Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of William de Londres, feudal baron of Naas in right of his mother, Emma, daughter of William FitzMaurice, 1st Baron of Naas (so created by HENRY II), and his wife, Helen, sister of Richard, Earl of Pembroke (by which marriage the Prestons obtained the barony of Naas).

His lordship was succeeded by his only son,

CHRISTOPHER, 3rd Baron, who espoused Jane, daughter of Sir Jenico d'Artois, Knight, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT (1435-1503), 4th Baron, who was appointed deputy to Sir John Dynham, Lord Chancellor of Ireland; and Richard, Duke of York, youngest son of EDWARD IV, being constituted Lord Deputy of Ireland, in 1478, Sir Robert was appointed that prince's deputy (he being a minor), with power to elect a deputy to himself.

In 1478, his lordship was advanced to a viscountcy, by the title of VISCOUNT GORMANSTON.

His lordship sat in the parliament of 1490, and in that of 1493.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM, 2nd Viscount, who filled the office of deputy to Sir James Ormonde, Lord Treasurer of Ireland in 1493.

In 1504, his lordship attended the Earl of Kildare, the Lord Deputy, to the famous battle of Knocktough, in the province of Connaught, where, with Lord Killeen, he led the wings of the bowmen; and in 1525, he was appointed Lord Justice of Ireland.

His lordship died in 1532, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JENICO (1502-69), 3rd Viscount, who was succeeded by his eldest son,

CHRISTOPHER (1546-99), 4th Viscount, who left, with several daughters, three sons, namely,
JENICO, his heir;
Thomas, created Viscount Tara;
William.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JENICO (1584-1630), 5th Viscount, who left (with a daughter) a son and successor,

NICHOLAS (1608-43), 6th Viscount, who wedded Mary, daughter of Nicholas, 1st Viscount Kingsland, and had issue,
JENICO, his successor;
Nicholas, father of 8th and 9th Viscounts.
This nobleman sided with the rebel Irish Roman Catholics, 1641-42, and acted as their General-in-Chief; for this he was outlawed after his death and posthumously exempted from Cromwell's pardon, 1652.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

JENICO, 7th Viscount, who having adhered to his legitimate sovereign, JAMES II, was indicted for high treason, and outlawed upon that indictment in 1691.

His lordship dying, however, in 1691, without male issue, was succeeded by his nephew,

JENICO, de jure 8th Viscount (1640-1700); but the title was not acknowledged, although borne by his lordship and his three immediate successors.

He was succeeded by his brother,

ANTHONY, de jure 9th Viscount, who espoused, in 1700, Mary, only child of his uncle, Jenico, 7th Viscount, and was succeeded by his only son,

JENICO, de jure 10th Viscount (1707-57), who wedded, in 1729, Thomasine, eldest daughter of John, 11th Lord Trimlestown; and had, with other issue,
ANTHONY, his successor;
James;
Jenico;
John;
Catherine; Frances; Bridget; Elizabeth Margaret.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

ANTHONY, de jure 11th Viscount, who espoused Henrietta, daughter of John Robinson, of Denston Hall, Suffolk; and dying in 1786, left issue by her,

JENICO, 12th Viscount (1775-1860), who, in 1800, obtained the removal of the outlawry of his predecessors and had a writ of summons to take his seat in the Irish House of Lords, but owing to the final prorogation of that House he did not have the opportunity to do so, took an active part in the cause of Catholic Emancipation.

His lordship wedded, in 1794, Margaret, eldest daughter of Thomas, 2nd Viscount Southwell, by whom he had issue,
EDWARD ANTHONY JOHN, his successor;
Arthur Anthony;
Jenico Charles;
Robert;
Charles;
Edmund;
Matilda.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

EDWARD ANTHONY JOHN, 13th Viscount.
The heir apparent is the present holder's eldest son, the Hon Jenico Francis Tara Preston (b 1974).

The Viscounts Gormanston are the premier viscounts of Ireland.



GORMANSTON CASTLE, Balbriggan, County Meath, is situated near Drogheda, about sixteen miles north of Dublin.

Mark Bence-Jones states that the old Manor at Gormanston was low and gabled, adjoined to a chapel where Mass was said all through the Penal times.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the 12th Viscount rebuilt the house in the Gothic-Revival style.


Gormanston Castle is an impressive castellated building with a quadrangular plan with a tower at each corner except the north-west corner. The main building is three storeys.

The central part of the frontage is flanked by two narrow castellated towers on either side of the entrance.

The 12th Viscount intended the Castle to be much larger, though building work ceased when his wife died in 1820.

Gormanston is renowned for the foxes which are said to collect at the Castle when the head of the family is dying or has died; indeed the family crest is a fox.

Foxes are claimed to have gathered followed the deaths of the 12th and 14th Viscounts.

The author Evelyn Waugh was interested in purchasing the estate in 1946 and even bid for it.

He described it as "A fine, solid, grim, square, half-finished block with tower and turrets".

On learning that Butlins were opening a holiday camp in the vicinity, he promptly changed his mind.

The castle grounds were developed in the 1950s with the building of a boys' secondary school adjacent to the Castle.

The Franciscans have been in Gormanston since 1947, when they purchased Gormanston Castle, the ancestral home of the Preston Family since ca 1300.

In 1954 a Preparatory School for the College in Multyfarnham was opened in the Castle.

New plans resulted in the building of a new college and the transfer of the Multyfarnham College to this new location.

Gormanston College today is a thriving secondary school, with 500 students.

Gormanston arms courtesy of European Heraldry.   First published in January, 2012.

7 comments :

Anonymous said...

14th Lord Gormanston, while Governor of British Guiana, opened the new City Hall in Georgetown in July 1899. A large Gothic wooden structure with iron columns, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alas, it is now in a lamentable state and much of it is abandoned. Georgetown is also home to one of the tallest (150 feet) free-standing buildings in the world in St. George's Cathedral. It, too, now suffers from neglect. H.S.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with what Anonymous said. I live in Georgetown. The statue of Queen Victoria at City Hall is missing her left hand. The building obvsiouly was magnificent in its day and apparently they're "planning" restoration (which has been in the planning stages for a very long time now) but it's disintegrating.

Anonymous said...

Above comment about St. George's Cathedral (second-last sentence) is missing the word 'wooden' between free-standing and buildings. H.S.

Christopher said...

I used to live not three miles from Gormanston Castle. The Preston family certainly have a very distinguished history. This is quite an entertaining account of their association with the foxes.
http://christopheranton.hubpages.com/hub/Truth-that-really-is-stranger-than-fiction#

Anonymous said...

It is said that my great or possibly great great grandfather was the land agent to Lord Gormanston . Not sure of the dates .

Seamus Martin said...

I was one of the 40 boys who boarded in Gormanston Castle before the main buildings of Gormanston College were completed. We later became known at the 40 Thieves.

Seamus Martin said...

I remember the interior very well. The entrance hall was oak panelled. We would see it during visits by our parents. Off to the the left was a large room, also oak panelled which was used as the study hall. A similar room off to the right was used as a chapel. The refectory was at the back of the building on the ground floor, the classrooms on the second floor and the dormitory on the third floor.
The grounds included an arched yew-trree walk designed for a member of the Gormanston family who was a nun (the Prestons were the oldest titled RC family in Ireland). There was a little cemetery for the Gormanston family dogs nearby.
The wooded avenue included two cork oaks, a rarity in Ireland, and the undergrowth consisted largely of wild garlic which gave the grounds a pungent odour.
The river Delvin ran through the grounds with its right bank in County Dublin and left bank in County Meath.
These memories are from more than 60 years ago. Perhaps I am in my "anecdotage."