Abandoned ireland


Grangemore House,

West Meath.

Documenting our Heritage

West Meath


Research and write up by Mark Thomas:

      By 1811-12 John Fetherston had a new house built at Grangemore.  It was stone, of three storeys and in a late Georgian style.  It is not clear who his architect was, nor who lived in the new mansion with him.  He is supposed to have spent more than £10,000 on the house and its out-offices.  The mansion was large enough to contain 13 bedrooms.  Externally it was certainly restrained but sober and impressive too.  John's neice Jane Briscoe of Riverdale and her husband Humphrey Bor of Ballindolan in co. Kildare were clearly delighted with it.  In 1822  Bor had a new house built at Ballindolan (still lived in by his descendants)*** to the same design!  On 29th June 1829, John died and his nephew and executor Edward Briscoe (b. 1799) took over the Grangemore estate with the house and all its furniture.

The Briscoes were from the much intermarried co. Westmeath gentry of this time.  They claimed descent from John Briscoe who had been A.D.C. to General Coote and fought in Queen Elizabeth I's army against Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone in the Nine Years War in Ulster.  In their pedigree 'Briscoe of Riverdale and Screggan' in Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland (1904) the family claimed that John was a Briscoe of Crofton Hall in Cumberland.  He seems to have married Eleanor Kearney of Scraghe Castle near Tullamore.  The new owner's father, Edward John Briscoe (1770-1815) had married Frances the daughter of Thomas Fetherstonhaugh of Bracklyn Castle. 

       Despite his family's long experience of Ireland, Edward Briscoe's tenure of Grangemore was a fraught affair.  He had married Hester Rynd, daughter of James Rynd of Derryvolan co. Fermanagh and Ryndville co. Meath in 1828.  Their families had known each other for at least ten years.  Edward's elder brother, William Thomas Briscoe of Riverdale (1792-1854) had married Hester's elder sister Maria Elizabeth in 1818.  The closeness of the families is shown in a newspaper article of September 8th 1832.  A week previously a large mob had warned the labourers on the Ryndville estate not to cut the corn "on pain of death".  Edward Briscoe responded to this by bringing in 300 labourers and 150 horsed carts himself.  He had all the ripened corn cut and brought in that day while Chief Constable Bagge kept watch at the scene with forty police.  In 1833 Edward served as High Sheriff of co. Westmeath.  He was clearly living dangerously because on 22nd April 1834 four men shot at him from a hole in a hedge while he rode up the avenue at Grangemore with his brother James.  This incident seems to have influenced Marquis Wellesley the Viceroy of Ireland's decision to proclaim the four Baronies of Farbil, Devlin, Moyashel and Magheradernon in co. Westmeath under the Disturbances (Ireland) Act of 1834 on 4th May. 

       Edward Briscoe did have some enjoyable times at Grangemore.  He was a noted breeder of oxen.  In the early 1830s, he was encouraging hare-hunting and using  Grangemore's kennels.  He was also by 1838 a keen supporter of the Westmeath Hunt.  The hunt liked the area and ran their own four and a half mile point-to-point race starting at Reynella church and ending at the spire of Killucan church.  However, stress and insecurity may have led to the collapse of Edward's health and he died in Gloucestershire in early 1842.  His eldest son, John Fetherstonhaugh Briscoe (b. 1830) eventually inherited Grangemore.


       The new owner may initially have spent quite long periods in England.  Thom's Directory of Ireland (1850) shows that Captain William Graham, J.P. was now using the house.  Meanwhile, in April 1852 at Folkestone in Kent, John married Katherine Rebecca Peareth.  She was the eldest daughter of the wealthy and well-connected William Peareth (1808-1854) of Usworth House, co. Durham.  William had two other mansions in Northampshire and Warwickshire.   His wife, another Katherine was the daughter of Thomas Law Hodges, M.P. of Hemsted Park, Kent.  On his return to Ireland, John set out to enjoy life.  He had a passion for hunting and became Master of the Westmeath Hunt from 1858-60.  He bought the Hunt's hounds from his friend George Augustus Rochfort-Boyd of Middleton Park.  He built kennels at Grangemore and bred dogs.  In its stables he bred ponies and set up a stud of hunters.

       Unfortunately over the next ten years John had a series of set-backs.  By Spring 1860 he had to give up the Mastership of the Westmeath Hunt.  Nominally he sold the hounds to Lord Vaux of Harrowden (who lived at Rossmead) and Rochfort Boyd. At the same time seven hunt members chipped in each buying a £50 share in the animals.  The £350 made from this also went to John.  On 29th June 1861, the 35 couples of hounds were transferred from Grangemore to Turbotstown House, home of Gerald Dease, new Master of the Westmeath Hunt.  But like so many Irish landowners in Victorian times, John's estate was becoming burdened with debt.   It is said that he borrowed £40,000 from the Magan family of co. Westmeath to keep afloat.

     On Saturday, March 17th 1866 the 'Freeman's Journal' advertised a massive sale at Grangemore of agricultural equipment, vehicles, sadlery and animals.  It was to be conducted by Ganly, Sons and Parker, auctioneers, Smithfield salesmasters, wool and grain brokers and farm agents in Dublin, Longford and Limerick.   Three years later another announcement made it clear that John now needed money fast.  A notice in 'Freeman's Journal' on March 12th, 1869 showed that the Grangemore Estate had been in the Landed Estates Court since February 5th that year.  The well-known land agents Stewarts and Kincaid of 6 Leinster St. Dublin were now managing the Grangemore estate. 

     There were three lots in the sale.  Lot 1 was part of the lands of Baskin High and of Baskin Low an area amounting to 377 acres held in 'fee simple'.  Lot 2  was the lands of Grangemore mansion and its grounds and Raharney Little with its flour and corn mill. These lands covered 2,154 acres and 56 acres respectively.  The Grangemore estate was held under a lease of 950 years from the year 1759.  Lot 3 was the lands of Williamstown containing 244 acres and was held under fee farm grant.  Thomas Tighe Mecredy of 26 South Frederick St. Dublin was managing the proceedings as John's solicitor.  On May 11th 1869 at the Landed Estates Court, Inns Quay only Lot 1 was put up for sale.  It remained unsold and the 'Freeman's Journal' of April 20th 1870 advertised the same lands as being to let. 

      The rest of John Fetherstonhaugh Briscoe's tenure of Grangemore must have been protracted and painful.  The estate's case returned to the Landed Estates Court on November 16th 1871 when before Judge Lynch, a Mr. Gibson asked on behalf of Mrs. Elizabeth Georgina Magan that an offer she had made of £43,000 for the Grangemore estate lands be accepted.  He stated that the estate now produced a yearly net rental of £2,100 subject to a jointure of £300 for the life of a lady now aged 60.  The judge ordered this.  After this it only remained for John to order the sale of his 'cattle and outdoor effects' at Grangemore and flog the contents of the mansion.  This took place almost four years later on 9th and 10th August 1875 and was conducted by James H. North, auctioneer, house and estate agent of 84 Abbey St., Dublin.  For potential buyers items like a 'costly inlaid ormulu mounted Walnut Work table', a 'splendid collection of Oil paintings by old and modern masters'  and sets of furniture made by Kerr & Co. of Stafford St., Dublin were just some of the array of fine things available.  After this humiliation John moved away from Grangemore.  He died in the Rathdrum area in the Summer 1882 aged 52. 

      The Briscoe family continued through John's second son Algernon Thomas Fetherstonhaugh (b. 1862). Algernon established himself at Curristown House, Killucan as a farmer and horse breeder.  He married Mary Elizabeth Moutray of Favor Royal co. Tyrone in the Summer of 1889.  Serving as a local magistrate, Algernon became prominent in co. Westmeath life, acting as a Poor Law Guardian on the Board of the Mullingar Union, a county councillor and as Hon. Secretary of both the County Council's Agricultural and Technical Instruction committee and the Mullingar Horse Show.  When he died in early 1944 the 'Westmeath Examiner' of February 5th 1944 paid tribute to him as "a man of the highest integrity actuated by motives of service to the community and in the best degree possessed of civic spirit". 

      Meanwhile, Grangemore House seems to have fallen into a kind of limbo.  Brigadier William Magan describes its new owners in his thoughtful and perceptive book "The Story of Ireland A History of an ancient family and their country"(2000).   Mrs. Elizabeth Georgina Loftus Magan (1796-1880) was a diminutive and dynamic manager of extensive family estates of around 20,000 acres.  However, trouble lurked over the horizon.  Her reckless and scary son William Henry Magan MP (1819-61) had predecessed her.  He died of what one relative termed 'devilment'.   Sadly, Elizabeth appointed her daughter Augusta Elizabeth Magan (b. c. 1825) as her heir.  William Magan describes the latter as lacking drive and determination as well as "managerial capability".  Augusta was now supposed to run holdings listed by Bateman in 1883 as 5,604 acres in co. Westmeath, 4,418 in co. Meath, 2,374 in co. Kildare, 1023 in King's County and 165 in co. Dublin.  This was a total of 13,584 acres. 

      It is hard to discover what was actually done at Grangemore under Augusta's tenure. In 1898, Dease described the mansion as 'now one of the empty houses of co. Westmeath'. It is described as uninhabited on the 1901 Census.  Some security may have been afforded to the empty house by the fact that that the Gatehouse on the Raharney to Devlin road was occupied by Patrick Colclough (b.c. 1814) a farmer with a wife and seven daughters. According to the Colclough Family Pedigree he was living there by 1879.  He was still there as owner-occupier in 1901 when he was 79 and his wife Anne, 68 along with his daughter Julia, 23 and son Michael,  21.  In the 1911 Census Michael Colclough, 31 is shown occupying the Gatehouse with his sister Julia.  A three room house on the demesne was also occupied. 

     When Augusta died on 26th October 1905 at 80 Marlborough Road, Dublin she left the Magan family properties in a mess which it would take years of work to clear up.  She had been kindly but impractical.  For example she had adopted many unwanted ponies and bullocks, put them on her land but then failed to get them properly looked after.  She had not only been a hoarder and 'shopaholic'.  She had never had areas she occupied cleaned or tidied.  Her bedroom at Killyon Manor in co. Meath took weeks to clean.  Kitchen equipment, coins and un-cashed cheques decades old and rubbish were strewn across the floor.  Much of her house at 77 St. Stephen's Green in Dublin was so full as to be impassable. 

    When Augusta's will was finally found at Killyon six weeks after her death, it dated from 1881.  It appointed two executors.  One was a second cousin of hers, Captain Frederick Gore who lived in England.  Another was Thomas Tighe Mecredy of Monte Vista, Dalkey - a man already met in this story.  Though a solicitor he failed to see the huge difficulties her will (which did not name an heir or heirs to her property) would cause.  The will asked that with her assets three hospitals be built in Ireland.  One was to be established in memory of her mother Elizabeth Georgina Magan.  A second was to be in set up memory of Augusta's personal physician Dr. Fleming.  A third one was to be built in memory of her friend Col. Richard Wellesley Bernard (d. 1877). 

     As soon as people examined her properties (Augusta had owned or used seven houses) they discovered scenes of chaos.  So when the contents of 77 St. Stephen's Green and of  Killyon Manor in co. Meath were valued it was decided to sell the contents of whole rooms off as single lots in 1906.  On January 26th 1907 an advertisement was placed in the 'Irish Times' asking any creditors of not only Augusta but also of her mother Elizabeth Georgina to come forward.  What followed was like a long drawn out legal soap-opera.  On November 8th the 'Irish Times' reported that more than £3000 worth of additional claims had been made on the Magan estate.  These included the unpaid wages of Augusta's land steward Charles Loftus Doyle of Ballyclare co. Meath.  He was eventually paid £941 in back salary and £280 for his purchase of 80 Marlborough Road. 

    Naturally the question of who would inherit the Magan estate loomed large.  Soon two claimants had presented themselves.  These were Captain Arthur Tilson Magan (the closest male heir) who did not live in Ireland and Mrs. Georgina Elizabeth Bartlett.  The latter was the only daughter of Captain Arthur Magan, R.N. (1794-1858) of Brighton.  She had been married three times (to a surgeon, a sea captain and a carpenter).  She was now widowed, aged 88 and living in Devon.  The assets had to be administered and on 29th February 1908 the 'Irish Times' reported that the Master of the Rolls had appointed Arthur Tilson Shaen Magan (b.1880) as interim receiver of the Magan estates.  On May 19th in the King's Bench Division Court Justices Madden and Kenny fixed the value of Augusta Magan's estate at £26,784, her real estate at £160,827 and decided that £1,765 0s. 1d estate duty should be paid on it.  The courts now ruled that Mrs. Bartlett's claim on all chattels and real property be accepted.  In the case of Gore v. Magan the court ruled that she was the sole heiress of Augusta.    Mrs. Bartlett now gave Captain A.T.S. Magan the right to act for her and a charge of £20,000 on the estates.

     Within a few months, on 6th February 1910 Mrs. Bartlett died aged 90 in Devon and her daughter Mrs. Blanche Toppin inherited her property.  She was married to Alfred Toppin (d. 1930) a commercial clerk who lived in Brighton.  Blanche died in Sussex later in 1910 but her family asked Arthur Tilson Shaen Magan and his sister Violet to continue to administer the estates on their behalf.  On 22nd March 1910, the 'Irish Times' reported that by order of Mr. Justice Ross the estate of Augusta Magan now faced a £14,000 encumbrance vested in its executors.  On February 7th 1911 the 'Irish Times' reported that there was not enough money in the residue of Augusta's personal estate to pay for the hospitals she had intended.  By November 29th it was decided that the money should go to four hospitals:  the Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, the Meath Hospital, the Adelaide Hospital and the Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital.  By this time £14,000 in estate and succession duties had been paid.  The mismanagement of the estates under Augusta Magan and the trouble it had caused had cost thousands of pounds.  It effectively destroyed the Magan family as estate owners in Ireland though Arthur Tilson Shaen Magan later bought Killyon Manor back from the Land Commission. 

     At Grangemore worked continued on the agricultural part of the estate.  Within days of Augusta's death, the 'Westmeath Examiner' of December 2nd 1905 carried an advertisement of a sale at Grangemore House on 16th December.  307 head of cattle were being sold and leases on 1,800 acres of grasslands were offered at the order of A.T.S. Magan.  The auctioneer being used was William Casey of Kilucan and Delvin.  However, on April 8th 1908 the 'Westmeath Examiner' reported that members of the Raharney U.I.L. (United Irish League) were being taken to court by the estate's receiver A.T.S. Magan.  Michael Shaughnessy, the estate's under-steward was now under notice to quit his cottage and garden.  Against Magan's strict orders, Shaughnessy, Nicholas White and others had been involved in bringing in 49 people with 7 ploughs to cultivate the land at Grangemore.   Magan who had established an estate office at Athlone with his sister Voilet was a member of the Irish Agricultural Society.  In Spring 1910 he was advertising Grangemore along with Killyon to rent for their shooting, hunting and fishing.  He offered pheasant, ,woodcock, snipe and rabbit and there was a 'first class full furnished shooting lodge' available.  However in the Census of 1911 Grangemore House appears to be still empty. 

     In the aftermath of the First World War, the Grangemore estate seems to have been broken up.  On April 17th 1920 Freeman's Journal advertised an auction on April 24th of 146 acres of its lands containing wooded areas of beech, oak, sycamore, deal, scotch pine and spruce at Mullingar's Greville Arms.  William Casey and Sons auctioneer and cattle salesman of Haskington, Killucan and Dublin along with solicitor T.J. Farley of 15 College Green Dublin were handing the sale.  During World War Two, Gerald Foley used the big house.  The 'Westmeath Examiner' of October 6th 1945 however reported that the Meath Agricultural Committee had now made him its Assistant Agricultural Instructor.  Born around 1918 Foley had arrived in Ireland from Argentina in 1926.  He was a natural teacher, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.  With his new job he moved to Newhaggard, Trim.  He married Rita Quirke of Clondalee House, Hill of Down in Autumn 1952 and had children.  He eventually became co. Meath's Chief Agricultural Officer and died in October 1983 one of the most respected men in Irish agriculture. 

      Like so many Irish mansions in the post-war period, Grangemore was now regarded as redundant and a burden.  On Saturday, March 22nd 1958 the 'Westmeath Examiner' ran an advertisement for its "demolition sale" by auction on March 25th.  The auctioneer was to be Edward J. King of Killucan and Mullingar.  The real scale of the house is shown in items like its thousands of Blue Bangor slates, 10,000 feet of floorboards, 5,000 feet of pitch pine and yellow pine joists, 2000 feet of rafters, its various marble fireplaces and its several hundred window sashes.  The dismembering of the house must have ressembled a scene from one of Molly Keane's novels. 

***  See 'Family of Bor of Holland and Ireland' communicated by J.F. Fuller esq. F.S.A., Dublin in "Miscellanea Genealogica Et Heraldica" 4th series vol. 4, published London (1912) pp. 363-378.

For earlier history of the Grangemore estate see < here >

Many thanks to Mark Thomas for his excellent research and write-up of Grangemore House.

Mark can be contacted through Mark@AbandonedIreland.com  


J.F. Briscoe

Grangemore House