Saturday, 23 April 2016

Mitchelstown Castle

THE EARLS OF KINGSTON WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY CORK, WITH 24,421 ACRES

The family of King was originally of Feathercock Hall, near Northallerton, Yorkshire, and the first of its members we find upon record in Ireland is

SIR JOHN KING, Knight, who obtained from ELIZABETH I, in requital of his military services, a lease of Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon; and, from JAMES I, numerous valuable territorial grants, and several of the highest and most lucrative political employments.

He married Catherine, daughter of Robert Drury, and grand-niece of the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir William Drury, and was succeeded at his decease by his eldest son,

SIR ROBERT KING, Knight, muster master-general of Ireland, who wedded firstly, Frances, daughter of Sir Henry Folliott, 1st Baron Folliott, of Ballyshannon, and had, with other children,
JOHN;
Henry;
ROBERT.
The eldest son,

JOHN KING, who received the honour of knighthood, and, although an active Cromwellian, was elevated to the peerage by CHARLES II, for his zeal in inspiring the monarchy, in 1660, in the dignity of Baron Kingston.

His lordship married Catherine, daughter of Sir William Fenton, of Mitchelstown, County Cork, and granddaughter of Sir Geoffrey Fenton, principal secretary of state.

By this lady Lord Kingston's family acquired the estate of Mitchelstown.

His lordship died in 1676, and was succeeded by his elder son,

ROBERT, 2nd Baron, who dsp in 1693, having settled his estates to his uncle, Sir Robert King, in consequence of his brother, and the inheritor of his honours,

JOHN, 3rd Baron, having conformed to the church of Rome; but this nobleman appears afterwards to have enjoyed the estates.

He was appointed a gentleman of the privy chamber to King JAMES II, and following the fortunes of his master into France, was outlawed; but after his father's death, returning into Ireland, he had a pardon from the crown.

His lordship died in 1727, and was succeeded by his only surviving son,

JAMES, 4th Baron, who married twice; but dying without male issue, in 1761, the BARONY EXPIRED, while an estate of £6,000 a year, and a large personal fortune, devolved upon his only surviving daughter, MARGARET.

Sir Robert King's youngest son,

THE RT HON ROBERT KING, of Rockingham, County Roscommon, MP for that county, and a privy counsellor in Ireland, was created a baronet in 1682.

Sir Robert wedded Frances, daughter and co-heir of Colonel Henry Gore; and dying in 1708, was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR JOHN KING, 2nd Baronet, MP for County Roscommon, who dsp in 1720, when the title devolved upon his brother,

THE RT HON SIR HENRY KING, 3rd Baronet, MP for County Roscommon, and a privy counsellor.

This gentleman espoused, in 1722, Isabella, sister of Richard, Viscount Powerscourt; and dying in 1740, was succeeded by his eldest son, 

SIR ROBERT KING, 4th Baronet, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1748, as Baron Kingsborough; but died unmarried in 1755, when that dignity expired, while the baronetcy devolved upon his lordship's brother,

SIR EDWARD KING, 5th Baronet, who was created Baron Kingston, of Rockingham, in 1764; Viscount Kingsborough, in 1768; and EARL OF KINGSTON in 1768.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son Charles Avery Edward King-Tenison, styled Viscount Kingsborough (b 2000).

MITCHELSTOWN CASTLE was the ancestral seat of the Earls of Kingston.

It was one of the largest Gothic-Revival houses in Ireland, a noble and sumptuous structure of hewn stone, in the castellated style, erected after a design by Mr Pain, of Cork, at an expense of more than £100,000.

Mitchelstown is about thirty miles north of the city of Cork.


The buildings occupied three sides of a quadrangle, the fourth being occupied by a terrace, under which are various offices.

The principal entrance, on the eastern range, was flanked by two lofty square towers rising to the height of 106 feet, one of which was called the White Knight's tower, from its being built on the site of the tower of that name which formed part of the old mansion.

At the northern extremity of the same range were two octagonal towers of lofty elevation.

The entrance hall opened into a stately hall or gallery, eighty feet in length, with an elaborately groined roof, richly ornamented with fine tracery, and furnished with elegant stoves of bronze, and with figures of warriors armed cap-a-pie; at the further extremity was the grand staircase.

Gallery

Parallel with the gallery, and forming the south front and principal range, were the dining and drawing-rooms, both noble apartments superbly fitted up and opening into the library, which was between them.

Entrance Hall

The whole pile had a character of stately baronial magnificence, and from its great extent and elevation formed a conspicuous feature in the surrounding scenery.

Near the Castle was a large fish-pond, and from a small tower on its margin, water was conveyed to the baths and to the upper apartments of the castle, and across the demesne to the gardens, by machinery of superior construction.

The gardens were spacious and tastefully laid out, the conservatory 100 feet in length and ornamented with a range of beautiful Ionic pilasters.

The parkland, which comprised 1,300 acres, was embellished with luxuriant plantations, and included a farming establishment on an extensive scale, with buildings and offices of a superior description, on the erection of which more than £40,000 was expended.

It was estimated that the castle, with the conservatories, farm, and the general improvement of the demesne, cost its noble proprietor little less, if not more, than £200,000 (£8.3 million today).

"Big George", the 3rd Earl, was renowned for his extravagant hospitality.

The 4th Earl continued to entertain his visitors regally at Mitchelstown.

One of the under-cooks  was a young man called Claridge.

Lord Kingston suffered a financial downfall: His lordship - and house guests - locked the doors against the bailiffs and were besieged therein for a fortnight, until finally the Castle was possessed, creditors satisfied and much of the estate was sold.

What remained of the estate was inherited by the 5th Earl's widow. Thereafter, Economy reigned.

The house was looted and burned in 1922 by the IRA, which had occupied it for the previous six weeks.

The order to burn the building, to prevent the newly established Irish Free State army from having use of it, was made by a local Republican commandant, Patrick Luddy, with the approval of General Liam Lynch.

It is clear that one of the motivations for the burning was to try to cover up the looting of the castle's contents, including large amounts of furniture, a grand piano, paintings by Conrad, Beechy and Gainsborough.

Many of these objects have come up for sale in recent years and some, such as the piano, are still kept locally.

The Castle was severely damaged by the fire.

However, it is clear from documents in the National Archives of Ireland that, for example, in places where the fire had not reached, 'mantelpieces had been forcibly wrenched from the walls and carted.'

As this episode took place at the height of the Irish Civil War, there was no appetite afterwards to prosecute anyone for their role in the looting and burning.

The ashlar limestone of the castle was later removed to build the new Cistercian abbey at Mount Melleray, County Water.

The site of the building is now occupied by a milk powder processing plant and the surrounding 1,214 acre demesne (private park) of the castle has been destroyed.

Lord Kingston's town residence between 1826-32 was 3 Whitehall Place, London, now part of the Department of Energy & Climate Change.

Kingston Arms courtesy of European Heraldry.   First published in February, 2012.

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