Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Fort William House


This family is supposed to have been originally from Kent, but the period of its settlement in Ireland is unknown.

Ballygarran Castle and Manor, beautifully situated on the River Blackwater, near Lismore, County Waterford, were purchased about 1695 by

RICHARD GUMBLETON, of Castle Richard, otherwise Ballygarran, County Waterford, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1732, who married, in 1704, Anne Crook, daughter of Wallis Warren (ancestor of Sir Augustus Warren Bt, of Warren's Court), and had issue,
Anne; Elizabeth; Susanna; Mary.
Mr Gumbleton died in 1757, and was succeeded by his only son,

RICHARD JOSEPH GUMBLETON (1721-76), of Castle Richard, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1772, who wedded, in 1743, Elizabeth, daughter of Daniel Conner, of Bandon, and sister of William Conner, MP for Bandon, 1761-66, and had issue,
Henry Conner;
Richard, of Castle Richard;
George Conner;
ROBERT WARREN, succeeded his brother;
Anne; Susanna; Catherine; Sarah; Jane; Mary; Elizabeth.
The eldest son,

WILLIAM CONNER GUMBLETON (1750-1815), died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

ROBERT WARREN GUMBLETON (c1753-1834), of Glanatore, County Cork, who espoused, in 1787, Margaret, daughter of John Bowen, of Oakgrove, County Cork, and had issue,
Richard, his heir;
Robert, dsp;
JOHN BOWEN, of whom we treat;
George (Rev), of Belgrove; father of WILLIAM EDWARD GUMBLETON;
Diana; Margaret; Mary Anne; Frances Lavinia; Catherine; Jane; Eliza.
The third son,

JOHN BOWEN GUMBLETON (1796-1858), of Fort William, County Waterford, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1845, married Ann, daughter of Henry Everard, and had issue,
Robert, dsp;
Henry Everard, died in infancy;
John Henry, died at sea; dsp;
Richard, died in infancy;
Mary; Margaret; Anne; Meliora;
FRANCES, of whom hereafter.
The youngest daughter,

MISS FRANCES GUMBLETON (1837-1914), was the last of the family to live at Fort William House.

FORT WILLIAM HOUSE, Glencairn, Lismore, County Waterford, was built in 1836 in the Tudor-Revival style.

About 1695 the Gumbleton family purchased the estate, beside the River Blackwater, a few miles upstream from Lismore.

William Conner Gumbleton inherited a portion of the estate and built a house named Fort William, following the example of his cousin, Robert Conner, who had called his house Fort Robert.

The estate passed to his nephew, John Bowen Gumbleton, who commissioned a new house by James and George Richard Pain, former apprentices of John Nash with a thriving architectural practice in Cork.

The present house is a regular building of two storeys in local sandstone with an abundance of gables, pinnacles and tall Elizabethan chimneys.

The interior is largely late-Georgian in style and Fort William is essentially a classical Georgian house with a profusion of mildly Gothic details.

Mr Gumbleton’s son, John Henry Gumbleton, died at sea, and his daughter Frances eventually leased the house to Colonel Richard Keane, brother of Sir John Keane from nearby Cappoquin House.

The Colonel was much annoyed when his car, reputedly fitted with a well-stocked cocktail cabinet, was commandeered by the IRA so he permitted Free State troops to occupy the servants’ wing at Fort William during the Irish Civil War, which may have influenced the terrorists' decision to burn his brother’s house in 1923.

Colonel Keane died in a shooting accident, the estate reverted to Frances Gumbleton’s nephew, John Currey, and was sold to a Mr Dunne who continued the tradition of letting the house.

His most notable tenant was Adele Astaire, sister of the famous dancer and film star Fred Astaire, who became the wife of Lord Charles Cavendish from nearby Lismore Castle.

In 1944 the Gumbleton family re-purchased Fort William but resold for £10,000 after just two years.

The new owner was Hugh, 2nd Duke of Westminster.

Fort William is in good hunting country with some fine beats on a major salmon river, which allowed the elderly Duke to claim he had purchased an Irish sporting base.

Its real purpose, however, was to facilitate his pursuit of Miss Nancy Sullivan, daughter of a retired general from Glanmire, near Cork, who soon became his fourth duchess.

His Grace made extensive alterations at Fort William, installing the fine gilded LOUIS XV boiseries in the drawing-room, removed from the ducal seat, Eaton Hall, in Cheshire, and fitting out the dining-room with panelling from one of his yachts.

The 2nd Duke died in 1953, but his widow survived for a further fifty years, outliving three of her husband's successors at Eaton Hall in Cheshire.

Anne, Duchess of Westminster, was renowned as one of the foremost National Hunt owners of the day.

Her Grace's bay gelding, Arkle, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on three successive occasions and is among the most famous steeplechasers of all time.

Fort William was briefly owned by the Drummond-Wolfe family before passing to an American, Murray Mitchell.

On his widow’s death it was purchased by Ian Agnew and his wife Sara, who undertook a sensitive restoration before he too died in 2009.

In 2013 the estate was purchased by David Evans-Bevan who lives at Fort William today with his family, farming and running the salmon fishery.

Select bibliography ~ Irish Historic Houses Association.

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