RESTORED ireland


Castle Oliver,

Co. Limerick.

Documenting our Heritage

Captain Robert Oliver, born in Kent, England served in Cromwell's army in 1649. For his services Captain Oliver was granted 'all the land he could see from Seefin' in the Ballyhoura Mountains, County Limerick and also some land in County Kerry. Initially consisting of some 1,950 acres, Oliver went on to build his holding up to 20,000 acres. In 1661 he was elected a Member of Parliament for County Limerick and set about establishing his family at Clonodfoy House a short distance away from the current Castle Oliver.

In 1776 according to Arthur Young, the British Agriculturist who toured Ireland, the Olivers had done a magnificent job forming the estate - more than 80 labourers worked on the farm with 45 horses and 10 oxen used for ploughing.

The Olivers continued to reside at Clonodfoy until 1812 when Richard Oliver inherited the estates of his father-in-law, Sir Thomas Gascoigne at Parlington in Yorkshire. Richard Oliver had married Sir Thomas Gascoigne's adopted daughter Mary, and as a condition to his inheritance changed his name to Richard Oliver-Gascoigne.

The Oliver-Gascoignes packed up and moved to Yorksire, England, leaving the Clonodfoy estate in care of their agent James Galloway.

By 1837 the estate was reported as being in ruins, with Galloway being blamed for letting this happen. His ghost is said to still haunt the demesne today.

Richard and Mary Oliver-Gascoigne remained in England and had four children. Two of the children died leaving Mary Isabella and Elizabeth Oliver-Gascoigne to inherit the family estates in 1843.

Castle Oliver as it stands today was built by Mary & Elizabeth starting in 1845. Built of red sandstone in an Irish version of the Scottish Baronial style. It has a huge tower like keep, many stepped gables and corbelled oriels. A terrace with a pierced Jacobethan parapet featuring heraldic beasts runs along the two principal sides of the castle. The framework of the high pitched roof was made of iron, which was considered very much ahead of it's time.

The construction of the castle brought great relief to the area by providing employment to the local tenants during the famine years. According to names and dates found high on the ceilings, Elizabeth & Marry were still finishing Castle Oliver 12 years later.

The architect George Fowler Jones who had carried out a number of substantial commissions for the sisters in previous years in England was employed to design Castle Oliver, his monogram can be seen on the gable end of the castle.

Jones went on to name his first child 'Gascoigne' after the Oliver-Gascoigne sisters. As well as an architect he was also a keen photographer in the very earliest days of the medium. He became a pupil to William Fox Talbot, inventor of the negative/positive process. A vast body of his photographic work, dating from the very earliest days of photography, now resides at the National Media Museum, Bradford, England.

The sisters were highly accomplished artisans, designing and executing both the stained glass work and verre eglomise (back-painted glass panels) which ornamented the ballroom fireplace.

Mary was a highly skilled wood-turner who in 1842 published a book "The Handbook of Turning" under a male pseudonym.

Both sisters married members of the Trench family of Woodlawn, County Galway.

In 1850 Mary married Captain Frederick Charles Trench, and then in 1852 Elizabeth married her brother-in-laws cousin Captain Frederick Mason Trench 2nd Baron Ashtown. The Trench coat of arms and family motto appears on stained glass and fireplace tiles throughout the castle.

In the 1900s the Land Commission divided much of the original land amongst the local farmers. Mrs Lynn Trench who was the last member of the Trench family to live at Castle Oliver sold the property to the Millstreet racing driver Billy Coleman in 1978.

Suffering vandalism and theft the castle fell into a period of decline until in 1998 Nick Browne became the owner.

In 2006 Declan and Emma Cormack bought Castle Oliver and set about restoring it to it's former glory.

Castle Oliver now looking more resplendent than ever is one of most impressive properties in Ireland.

Please note: Castle Oliver is not open to the public but is available to hire.

Castle Oliver - restoration video

For further information:

Nick Browne's book "Castle Oliver & the Oliver Gascoignes"

Co. Limerick