Monday, 7 March 2016

Castletown House

THE FAMILY OF CONOLLY OWNED 2,605 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY KILDARE

 THE RT HON WILLIAM CONOLLY, of Castletown, Speaker of the House of Commons in Ireland, in the reign of QUEEN ANNE, First Lord of the Treasury until his decease, during the reign of GEORGE II, and ten times sworn one of the Lords Justices of Ireland, espoused, in 1694, the Hon Katherine Conyngham, sister of Henry, 1st Earl Conyngham, by whom he acquired large estates in Ulster.
Speaker Conolly was born in 1662 at Ballyshannon, County Donegal. 
His father, Patrick Conolly, was attainted by JAMES II's Irish Parliament of 1689: otherwise little is known of Patrick Conolly and his wife, Jane, except that they owned an inn or alehouse and must have conformed to the established church at some stage before Conolly's birth. 
Old Irish Christian names like Terence, Phelim and Thady, predominate among his relatives. Conolly appears to have been the oldest of the family, and was early apprenticed to the law in Dublin. 
In 1685, when his sister Jane was only one year old, he was already qualified as an attorney and attached to the Court of Common Pleas.
Speaker Conolly dsp 1729 and was succeeded by his nephew,

THE RT HON WILLIAM JAMES CONOLLY (1706-54), of Castletown, County Kildare, and Stratton Hall, Staffordshire.

He married the Lady Anne Wentworth, eldest daughter of Thomas, 1st Earl of Strafford, KG, son of Sir Peter Wentworth, and nephew of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, who was beheaded in the reign of CHARLES I.

By this lady, Mr Conolly had issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
Katherine, m Ralph, Earl of Ross;
Anne, m G Byng; mother of Earl of Strafford;
Harriet, m Rt Hon John Staples, of Lissan;
Frances, m 5th Viscount Howe;
Caroline, m 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire;
Lucy; Jane.
The Rt Hon William James Conolly was succeeded by his son and heir,

THE RT HON THOMAS CONOLLY (1738-1803), of Castletown, a member, like his father, of the Privy Council in Ireland, one of the deputation appointed by the Irish Parliament to offer the Regency to the Prince of Wales, on the first indisposition of GEORGE III.

This gentleman wedded, in 1758, Lady Louisa Augusta Lennox, daughter of Charles, 2nd Duke of Richmond and Lennox, KG etc, and dsp.

By his will he devised his estates to his widow for life, and at her death, which occurred in 1821, they devolved upon his grand-nephew, EDWARD MICHAEL PAKENHAM, who, assuming his surname and arms of CONOLLY in 1821, became

EDWARD MICHAEL CONOLLY (1786-1849), of Castletown, County Kildare, and Cliff, County Donegal, Lieutenant-Colonel, Donegal Militia, and MP for County Donegal.

He espoused, in 1819, Catherine Jane, daughter of Chambré Brabazon Ponsonby-Barker, by Lady Henrietta Taylour his wife, daughter of Thomas, Earl of Bective, and had issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
Chambré Brabazon, d 1835;
Frederick William Edward, d 1826;
Arthur Wellesley, 1828-54;
John Augustus,
VC;
Richard, d 1870;
Louisa Augusta; Henrietta; Mary Margaret; Frances Catherine.
Mr Conolly was succeeded by his eldest son,

THOMAS CONOLLY JP DL (1823-76), of Castletown and Cliff, High Sheriff, 1848, and MP for County Donegal, who married, in 1868, Sarah Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph Shaw, of Temple House, Celbridge, County Kildare, and had issue,
Thomas (1870-1900), killed in action at S Africa;
William, 1872-95;
EDWARD MICHAEL, of whom hereafter;
CATHERINE, Baroness Carew; mother of
6th BARON CAREW.
Mr Conolly was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

EDWARD MICHAEL CONOLLY CMG (1874-1956), of Castletown, Major, Royal Artillery, who died unmarried, when Castletown passed to his nephew,

William Francis (Conolly-Carew), 6th Baron Carew.

The Conolly Papers are held at PRONI.


CASTLETOWN HOUSE, near Celbridge, County Kildare, is not only the largest, though also the earliest Palladian house in Ireland.

It was built in 1722 for the Rt Hon William Conolly, Speaker of the Irish house of commons, who rose from relatively humble origins to become a man of colossal wealth and power.

Speaker Conolly accumulated his massive fortune by dealing in forfeited estates.

He refused to accept a peerage, preferring instead to remain, like his descendants, as plain "Mr Conolly of Castletown".

He desired a residence within easy reach of Dublin, and purchased land near Celbridge, County Kildare, in order to build the grandest, finest Palladian house in Ireland.

Castletown was designed by the Italian architect, Alessandro Galilei and also partly by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce.

It is said that Castletown's design was an influence on that of The White House in Washington DC, USA (built between 1792 and 1800).


The main block comprises three storeys over a basement, with thirteen bays.

The centre block is joined by curved, Ionic colonnades to two-storey, seven-bay wings.

The entrance hall, designed by Pearce, rises to two storeys.

Lady Louisa Conolly (daughter of 2nd Duke of Richmond and sister of Emily, Duchess of Leinster) and her husband, Tom Conolly, employed the Francini brothers to embellish the walls of the staircase hall with rococo stucco-work.

The refurbishment of the house was mostly supervised by Lady Louisa (notably the Print Room, and the magnificent Long Gallery on the first floor).

The Long Gallery

Lady Louisa had the Long Gallery (eighty feet in length and one of the most beautiful rooms in Ireland) decorated with wall paintings in the Pompeian style by Thomas Riley in 1776.

The Long Gallery and other principal rooms face the garden front and a two-mile long vista to the Conolly Folly, an obelisk elevated on arches erected by Speaker Conolly's widow in 1740.

This obelisk stands on ground belonging to the Earls of Kildare (later Dukes of Leinster) at Carton House.

The Conolly Folly
The Print Room was conceived by Lady Louisa in the 1760s, likely with assistance from her close friends, probably as a diversion on rainy days.

The Print Room

The Conolly family continued to own Castletown until 1965.

In 1967, it was purchased by the Hon Desmond Guinness for £93,000 as the GHQ of the Irish Georgian Society.

Thereafter, Castletown was restored, and in 1994 it was transferred to the Irish government's Department of Public works.

Former estates ~ The manors of Castletown and Leixlip, in County Kildare; of Rathfarnham, in County Dublin; of Ballyshannon and Parkhill, in County Donegal; besides estates in County Roscommon and the King's County, all purchased by His Excellency the Rt Hon William Conolly, Speaker of the House of Commons in Ireland, and Lord Justice of Ireland.

Former town residence ~ 20 Grosvenor Square, London.

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