Sunday, 3 October 2021

Clogher Palace

THE parliamentary gazetteer of Ireland, dated 1844, tells us that

"The diocese of Clogher affects to have been founded by St Patrick,  rather earlier than that of Armagh; but the authorities respecting its pretended early origin are even more suspicious than those respecting the city's antiquities."

"The diocese of Clogher very long remained complete, uniform, and separate, before the passing of the Church Temporalities Act; but it is now united to the diocese of Armagh."

"The dignitaries of the cathedral ... are the Dean, benefice of Clogher; the Archdeacon, benefice of Clontibret; the Precentor, benefice of Enniskillen; the Chancellor, benefice of Galloon; and the prebendaries of Kilskeery, Donacavey, Tyholland, Devenish, and Tullycorbet."

The see stretches 78 miles from north-west to south-east by a breadth of 25 miles.

The diocese comprises some portion of five counties, viz. Fermanagh, Tyrone, Monaghan, Donegal, and Louth.

THE PALACE, Clogher, County Tyrone, is a large and handsome edifice adjacent to the Cathedral, on the south side of the village, and consists of a central block with two wings.

The entrance, on the north front, has an enclosed portico supported by lofty fluted columns. 

It is built throughout of hewn freestone, and standing on elevated ground commands extensive views over a richly planted undulating country. 

It was built by the Most Rev and Rt Hon Lord John George de la Poer Beresford, Archbishop of Armagh, when he was Bishop of Clogher.

The building was completed in 1823 by the Right Rev Lord Robert Ponsonby Tottenham, Bishop of Clogher.
Attached to the palace was a large and well-planted demesne of 566 acres, encircled by a stone wall; and within it are the remains of the royal dwelling-place of the princes of Ergallia, a lofty earthwork or fortress, protected on the west and south by a deep fosse; beyond this, to the south, is a camp surrounded by a single fosse, and still further southward is a tumulus or cairn, encircled by a raised earthwork.

Mark Bence-Jones describes the house as a restrained, cut-stone classical mansion of 1819-23, begun by Lord John Beresford (Lord Bishop of Clogher 1819-20; Lord Archbishop of Dublin, 1820-22; Lord Archbishop of Armagh, 1822-62; Bishop of Clogher again in 1850).

Building work continued under the next prelate, the Rt Rev and Hon Percy Jocelyn; and was finally completed by Lord Robert Tottenham between 1822-50. 

The former episcopal palace has a centre block of three storeys over a high basement, with lower wings.

The entrance front, which stands off the main street, has an enclosed portico of fluted columns.

The garden front, which overlooks the demesne, consists of six bays in the central block, which has a lofty, arcaded basement. 

The walled demesne was set out for the 18th century bishop’s palace.

The present house, entrance and lodge replaced an earlier 18th century house and is a very fine one, though constricted by the road through the village of Clogher on the north side, the cathedral to the west and a steep slope on the south side.

It was designed by Warren and built between 1819 and 1820, possibly retaining earlier wings.

Although the house is no longer a bishop’s palace, the landscape park retains an elegance of proportion and planting that compliments the house.

There are very fine mature lime clumps around a beech encircled fort.

Parkland trees have been felled and many are now ageing but a few new trees have been added near the pond.

Mrs Delany visited the previous house in 1748 and commented on the steep slope, a basin of water with swans and expressed delight at a proposed grotto.

In a later era of garden history, there is a mention in Robinson’s Garden Annual & Almanac of 1936.

436 acres were sold by the Church of Ireland in 1853 for a private residence and during the 1970s the site was a convent.

There is a deer park, now farmland, and a walled garden that is used for agricultural purposes.

An Ice House remains, as does the man-made pond and indications of earlier water features.

There are two gate lodges: a classical one by Warren ca 1820 and a later lodge of ca 1890.

In 1850, a very curious coincidence occurred.

In that year the bishopric of Clogher was merged with the archbishopric of Armagh (which it remained until 1886). 

In 1874, Clogher Palace was bought by the Rev Canon John Grey Porter, who sold it to his kinsman, Thomas S Porter, in 1922.

Thus Mr Porter had seized the opportunity to buy the now abandoned palace and demesne, and re-named it Clogher Park.

Paradoxically, Bishop Porter himself had had nothing to do with the building of Clogher Park: it had been built, in the period 1819-1823, by the three bishops who succeeded him.

It was presumably his son, the Rev John Grey Porter, who made the alterations to the building of 1819-23 which were noted by Evelyn Barrett.

She describes Clogher Park as having,
'... a pillared portico above a flight of steps and two wings added in Victorian times [presumably by the Rev. John Grey Porter]. Classic restraint was relieved by a balcony running the length of the south front ..., in summer smothered in purple clematis and red and yellow climbing roses ..., like the warmth of a smile on the formal façade.'
By his will, made in 1869 and subsequently much embellished with codicils, Porter left BELLE ISLE, Clogher Park and effectively all his landed property to his son and heir, John Grey Vesey Porter, with the proviso that his widow should enjoy Clogher Park for her life, together with the very large jointure of £3,000 a year.

The Rev John Grey Porter presumably lived at Clogher Park, when not at Kilskeery, until his death in 1873, when he was succeeded there by his widow until her death in 1881.

The demesne comprised 3,468 acres of land in 1871.

By 1890, it was the seat of John William Ellison-Macartney, MP for County Tyrone, 1874-85, who had married Porter's third daughter, Elizabeth, in 1851.

Eventually, Clogher Park was to pass to the Ellison-Macartneys' second son, and their occupation of the house must have been a grace-and-favour or leasehold arrangement anticipating this outcome.

This supposition is made the more probable by the fact that their second son, Thomas Stewart Ellison-Macartney, had assumed the name Porter as early as 1875.

The Roman Catholic Church purchased Clogher Park in 1922. According to this article:
I helped to prevail on Bishop McKenna, of Monaghan, to buy Clogher Palace and grounds for £20,000 [£886,000 in 2010], as it was the ancient seat of St. Macartan, patron of the diocese. 
This enraged the Orangemen, and as it is within the Tyrone border, the day after the Bishop took possession, it was commandeered by the Belfast Specials without notice! 
To bring an injunction the Bishop would have to sue in Belfast, and they have got a military authorization, ex post facto. The malice of this is deplorable. 
Clogher Park is now a residential care home.

I'm seeking old images of Clogher Palace for the blog.

First published in August, 2011.

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