RESTORed ireland


Lough Cutra Castle,

Co. Galway

Documenting our Heritage

Colonel Charles Vereke succeeded his uncle John Prendergast Smyth as the second Viscount Gort in 1817. Along with the titles Baron Kiltarton and Viscount Gort he also inherited the Lough Cutra estate lands which at this time amounted to some 12,000 acres. Colonel Charles Vereke was Colonel of the Limerick City Regiment and from 1807 to 1810 the Lord of the Treasury for Ireland. He was also the last person to hold the ancient feudal office of Governor and Constable of the Castle of Limerick.

Colonel Vereke planned to build himself an Italian style mansion on a spot called Situation Hill, however during a visit to East Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight, Colonel Vereke accompanied by the Prince Regent, exclaimed to his host John Nash "How I wish I could transport this Castle to the banks of Lough Cooter !"

"Give me fifty thousand pounds and Til do it for you," replied Nash.

From that day Colonel Vereke employed John Nash to build him his Castle at Lough Cutra, though eventually the cost would exceed seventy thousand pounds. The location for the Castle was not Situation Hill but on the opposite side of the Lough.

John Nash, one of the finest architects of the time also went on to work for the Prince Regent, designing Marylebone Park, Regent Street, Brighton Pavillion and remodelling Buckingham Palace. Nash's work in Ireland included country houses such as Caledon House and Killymoon Castle.

The building of the Castle was overseen by the Pain brothers. On the 21st October 1817 an article in the Limerick Gazette details how Mr James Pain had been surveying the Castle from scaffolding at a height of four stories when the scaffolding gave way. Mr Pain was initially thought to have been killed by the fall, however he was revived by the Surgeons Franklin and Gibson and went on to make a full recovery.

It was expected that Colonel Charles Vereke had also inherited a significant fortune from his uncle John Prendergast Smyth, however the extravagant bachelor had left debts of sixty thousand pounds. This along with the cost of building Lough Cutra Castle put the estate under considerable financial strain. Colonel Charles Vereke died in November 1842 and was succeeded by his son John Vereke, third Viscount Gort. The third Viscount's efforts to restore the fortunes of the estate were frustrated by the famine of 1847, during which he refused to collect rents and provided employment in the area by expanding the Castle stable and farmyards and also building a Protestant church in the nearby village. The church went unused by the Catholic villagers and in later years was used as the village school. Eventually under mounting debt the Castle and demesne were offered for sale in 1851 by order of the Encumbered Estates Court.

The estate was broken up into smaller properties and the Castle and demesne were purchased by the Religious Order of Loretto, Dublin for the price of seventeen thousand pounds.

The Viscount Gort lost his Irish property and moved back to England. However ten years later, the third Viscount Gort became, by marriage, the possessor of East Cowes Castle where his relative had first employed John Nash to build Lough Cutra Castle.

For a short period of time Lough Cutra Castle became a convent school. However in 1854 Viscount Gough called upon the Superior, a Mrs Ball with an offer to purchase Lough Cutra Castle. Lord Gough paid twenty four thousand pounds and also brought much of the original estate land, restoring the demesne to almost its original size. Viscount Gough extended and improved the Castle by building the American garden and clock tower at the south west end of the Castle. In 1858 when the castle improvements were complete Viscount and Lady Gough decided they were too old to take up residence at the castle and handed the property over to their son, Captain the Hon. George Gough, who afterwards became the second Viscount Gough. George Gough employed Mr Crace, a distinguished artist of the period, to complete the furnishing and decoration of the castle. Mr Crace went on to also decorate the House of Lords at Westminister. In 1900 the castle was again extended by the third Viscount Gough who added a large wing to house his collection of treasures collected in his services to his country in China and India. This wing was later demolished with the cut stone being taken to rebuild Bunratty Castle in County Clare.

Troops were billeted in the castle during World War II, during this time the castle fell into a period of decline. After the war, when the castle had become almost derelict, it was finally sold by the Gough Family in 1952. It was bought by the seventh Viscount Gort and became home to his great niece the Hon. Elizabeth Sidney, who restored it, even having the original Cole wallpaper reproduced from the original blocks. Having completed their project the castle was again put on the market when Elizabeth Sidney parted from her husband. At that time it was brought by the present owner's family.

In more recent years the Castle has continued to be improved with the addition of a new roof in 2003, and much work carried out to bring the castle interior up to a modern standard. Today Lough Cutra Castle stands more magnificent than ever, retaining much of the original estate grounds it surely must be one of the most remarkable properties in Ireland.

Lough Cutra Castle is private property, however the castle is available to hire for weddings and other special events.

Lough Cutra
Co. Galway