Abandoned ireland

 

Eyrecourt Castle,

Co. Galway.

Documenting our Heritage

Eyrecourt Castle was built by John Eyre in 1660. Colonel John Eyre an English nobleman, had arrived in Ireland during the Cromwellian Wars and was granted large tracts of land in East Galway for his service to Cromwell. He settled on the site of an O'Madden castle and set about building his mansion and founding the village of Eyrecourt. In 1679 the land consisting of about 10,500 acres was consolidated into a manor with the right to hold a weekly market and two fairs annually. John Eyre was described as a 'Great patron of the town and evincing a lively anxiety for it's prosperity'.


Eyrecourt became a significant centre in East Galway and landowners visited to see the model plantation village.


The house, considered a very early example of a classical county house, was two storeys over basement, seven bay entrance front with three bay pedimented break front and seven bay side. Built of brick and faced with rendered rubble. The house featured a broad roof, high chimneys and windows with 18th century Gothic glazing. Built on a symmetrical pattern with a central staircase and hall taking up nearly a third of the overall space. The interior was considered particularly fine.


The most striking features of the house were its wood-carvings, massive doorcases and a famous baroque staircase, one of the first grand staircases in Ireland. Gloriously scrolled with acanthus leaves issuing from grotesque masks rolling down the banisters, the staircase is considered to be by far the most exuberant piece of wood carving surviving from the 17th century. The staircase was carved by Dutch craftsmen and transported from Holland.


The Eyrecourt Castle estate was offered for sale in the Land Judges court in July 1883 when the Eyres were considered an insolvent debtor in the sale notice. By the 1920s the house was falling into decay.


Around 1950 the staircase was purchased by William Randolph Hearst and the house was left to collapse. The staircase still exists in crates in storage at the Detroit Institute of Arts.


The house had a motto over the door to the main hall saying "Welcome to the house of liberty"


The demesne gates were bought and restored by the National Heritage Council in the 1990s.


One of the only two important mid 17th Century Irish houses to ‘survive’ Eyrecourt Castle barely still exists today as a collapsed, overgrown ruin.


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