Friday, 4 November 2016

Blessington House

Blessington arms
THE MARQUESSES OF DOWNSHIRE WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY WICKLOW, WITH 15,766 ACRES

BLESSINGTON HOUSE, County Wicklow, was one of the largest late 17th century houses in the Kingdom of Ireland.

It was built ca 1673 by the Most Rev and Rt Hon Dr Michael Boyle DD, Lord Archbishop of Armagh and the last ecclesiastical Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

This divine had been granted the manor of Blessington in 1669 by CHARLES II, and laid out the town.

His Grace's eldest son,

MURROUGH BOYLE, was created Baron Boyle and VISCOUNT BLESSINGTON in 1673.

He wedded firstly, Mary, daughter of the Most Rev Dr John Parker, Lord Archbishop of Dublin.
By her he had issue an only daughter, who espoused, in 1684, Sir John Talbot Dillon Bt, by whom they had issue a daughter, Mary, married in 1708 to Captain Dunbar; who dying without issue, in 1778, left his estate to Lord Hillsborough, Lord de Vesci, and Lord Longford, as descendants of Lord Primate Boyle.
His lordship married secondly, in 1672, Anne, daughter of Charles Earl of Mountrath.


BLESSINGTON HOUSE comprised two storeys with a dormered attic in its high-pitched roof.

The principal front had a five-bay centre recessed between two, three-bay projecting wings joined by

a balustraded colonnade.

The house stood at the end of an avenue in an exquisite demesne with a deer-park.

The Blessington estate passed through marriage to the 1st Marquess of Downshire, whose great-grandmother was a daughter of Archbishop Boyle.

In her article about Blessington and the Downshire connection, Kathy Trant tells us that Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire, was a great-grandson of Archbishop Boyle's daughter Eleanor, who had married William Hill of Hillsborough.

Thus began the Downshire association with Blessington, which continued until 1908, when the tenants bought out their holdings under the Wyndham Land Act.

The estate stretched from the Kildare boundary to the uplands of the Wicklow mountains comprised 36 townlands, 31 of which were in County Wicklow and five in County Kildare.

Blessington House was burnt by the insurgents in 1798.

The raids on Blessington continued into September but by then many of the tenants had left the estate.

The town was now in ruins and the surrounding countryside devastated.
When life gradually returned to normal, people began assessing the damage to their property and many submissions were made to the commission established by the Government to consider the claims of those who had suffered losses during the rebellion.
Lord Downshire received over £9,000 for the destruction to his property but he never rebuilt the mansion.

On the Downshire estates, the question now was not whether but when the landlord would sell to the tenants.

This happened on the Blessington estate under the 6th Marquess, who had inherited in 1892, and the sale was completed by 1908.

In reality, the connection between the Downshires and Blessington had virtually ceased four decades earlier upon the death of the 4th Marquess.

The once great dynasties of the Boyles and the Hills, which for so long had dominated the lives of the people of Blessington, quietly came to an end.


Today, the principal reminders of their reign in Blessington are St Mary's Church; the agent's house (until recently, the Downshire Hotel); the Market House (now Credit Union House); the Inn (now the Ulster Bank).


The monument in the square commemorates the coming of age in 1865 of Lord Hillsborough, later 5th Marquess of Downshire.

First published in August, 2012.  Blessington arms courtesy of European Heraldry.   Excerpts of The Blessington Estate And The Downshire Connection, by Kathy Trant.

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