Abandoned ireland


Tyrone House

Co. Galway

Documenting our Heritage

Tyrone House was built in 1779 by the enterprising Christopher French St. George (1754-1826), part of an old Co. Galway family with Norman Irish roots. The family's centuries long success at good marriages expanded their properties and developed important blood connections to other large land owning families.

Bolstered by his ever expanding prosperity, St. George chose John Roberts (1712-1796), the esteemed Co. Waterford architect, to design Tyrone House.

Built in the Palladian style, the house reflected the growing Irish passion for beauty and sensitive artistry in domestic residences. It was fashioned for sea views and Galway Bay sunsets, the grandest in Europe. A big solemn house, three stories high, Tyrone is dramatically located atop its ocean promontory and dominates the landscape for miles around. Within the house, no expense was spared for high detailed design or for whimsy. High in the massive front hall stood the image of the family's fortune and good luck, a life-size white marble statue of the second Lord St. George, arrayed in the regalia of a Roman emperor. From his niche, he was a constant reminder of family bloodlines and the classical taste of the age. Emblazoned above the statue was the St. George family coat of arms, replete with the baronial coronet.

Entering the estate along the main avenue in its heyday, the visitor would first pass the old tower house, Kilcolgan castle, the old ruined abbey at Drumacoo, the gate lodge, and finally the deer park, where deer were plentiful until the end of the 19th century. Beyond the big house was the great yard, the gardens, the turf yard, and the quay along the Kilcolgan River. Tyrone's front faces south, and its northern side is protected by a thick, dense wood.

The gardens were enlivened by the soft warmth of the subtropical Gulf Stream. Within the garden's 12-foot limestone walls, groves of peaches and pears grew in abundance beside apple and cherry trees. Hothouses were in use as early as 1838, and here black Hamburg grape and white grapes were grown up to the 20th century. Roses were a signature flower of the house.

The story of Tyrone House is the tale of a wondrous classical Irish dwelling of note. Its art, craftsmanship, and sophisticated design demonstrate an Irish mastery of high architectural development.

Later Tyrone House became a center of foxhunting in season. The St. Georges were a family of flamboyant huntsmen and grandson Christopher St. George (1810-1877) was involved in the economic and sporting affairs of local life. He went on to create one of the finest hunting packs in Ireland. In 1839, he helped to establish the raucous hunt known as the Galway Blazers, which to this day remains Ireland's premier hunt. His passion for horse racing was so keen that he developed a famous stud farm at the Curragh in Co. Kildare, the ancient home of Irish horse racing. Closer to home, he helped to establish the Galway Races.

So devoted to their horses were the St. Georges that one master of Tyrone had his horse, Barebones, placed in a solid bronze casket when it died. The horse, it seemed, had once saved his life. (Unfortunately, a later owner of Kilcolgan castle, Martin Niland, threw it into the Kilcolgan River).

An intense interest in marine farming moved Christopher St. George to establish large oyster beds along the Galway coast near Tyrone that today are among Europe's choicest.

As long as the St. Georges were in residence at Tyrone and Kilcolgan, the people treated the family with the old respect. But the forces of history and the subsequent wearing away of an old way of life took their toll on Tyrone, as on many other Irish country homes. The St. Georges left Tyrone following the death of Honoria Kane St. George, the widow of the second Christopher St. George,in 1905. By then, the fortunes of the St. George family lay elsewhere - in Dublin for some and in the U.S. for others. The treasure of the house, its paintings, silver, furniture, and the accumulation of centuries of living there, were divided and dispersed among the family.

At the time of Griffith's Valuation, it was in the possession of Christopher St.George and was valued at £50.

The house was torched by the IRA during the War of Independence in 1921 when the house was rumoured to be a base for the Black & Tan army during the War of Independence. An elderly and bed-bound caretaker was reputed to be inside at the time, but the IRA carried his bed, bedding and furniture downstairs, put him in one of the out-offices and then set the place alight.

The Irish Georgian Society attempted to acquire Tyrone House in the early 1970s but this unfortunately never came about.

Corner stones, original fireplaces, window frames, balustrades and other valuable architectural features have been removed - some of which were recovered during an investigation several years ago by gardai.

Galway County Council had attempted to purchase the building from its current owner on behalf of the national monuments section of the Department of the Environment.

In March, 2004 it was agreed with Galway County Council that compulsory purchase powers under the Planning and Development Act 2000 would be applied.

However the Government has no longer allocated any funds for the purchase of Tyrone House.

Co. Galway