This second post in the series focusing on abandoned historic buildings in Ireland focuses on Curragh House in Carnaross, Co. Meath. This large and grand building was the former home of my Great Great Great Uncle and his family. This is its story.
Curragh House, Carnaross, County Meath
Curragh House is located near Carnaross in County Meath. The house was built between 1829-1841 as it appears on the Ordnance Survey map of this time, although it could actually be older than this.
As you can see from the photo above it is a substantial property and very uncommon for Irish housing at the time. It is a two-storey house, double-fronted with ten windows and it appears as though it has always had a slate roof. Inside it features 10 rooms and the three chimney breasts show that the house would have been well-heated. Significantly when the house was abandoned in the 1950/60s it even had a plumbed in bathroom.
Historically the property falls into two parishes; Dulane and Loughlan. Here is a description of Dulane parish as it was in 1837 when Samuel Lewis recorded it in his Topography of Ireland:
“DULEEN, or DULANE, a parish, in the barony of UPPER KELLS, county of MEATH, and province of LEINSTER, 2 ¼ miles (N.) from Kells, on the road to Moynalty; containing 1503 inhabitants. It comprises 4150 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: the land is generally of good quality; and the system of agriculture is improved. There is a sufficient quantity of bog for fuel, and there are quarries of limestone and freestone…In the R. C. divisions it is the head of a union or district called Carnaross, comprising also the parish of Loghan, in each of which is a chapel; the chapel of Duleen is a neat edifice. There is a private school, in which are about 50 children. There are some ancient crosses in Kiern churchyard, said to have been placed there by a saint of that name, which are held in great veneration by the peasantry.”
Mid- 19th Century
The first traceable resident of Curragh House is revealed through Griffith’s Valuation and Land Survey of 1854. The land and house are owned by the Lord Thomas Taylour, the Marquis of Headfort and the buildings are valued at £32 (over £2600 in modern currency).
The tenant of the property is John Porter and he farms 53 acres of land. This is as much of John Porter as I’ve been able to trace. As the Irish censuses for 1821-91 were destroyed (with only fragments for specific parishes surviving from 1821/31/41/51) and Irish genealogical records being less acessible online, I do not know what happened to John Porter or any family he may have had. Or indeed any families that inhabited Curragh Hose after him.
However I do know that by 1901 Matthew Mulvany (1867-1951) and his wife Margaret (1873-1950) are living there. The couple also had ten children; Mary Josephine (b.1897), Luke (b.1899), Laurence (b.1901), Thomas Joseph (1903 – died in infancy), Patrick Gerard (b.1904), Jane Agnes (b.1905), Michael (b.1907), Rose and Bridget (b.1910 – twins).
Matthew descended from the Mulvany’s, a wealthy farming family of Edenburt, a few miles up the road into County Cavan. Matthew’s older sister Rose was my Great Great Grandmother. All of Matthew’s siblings prospered, they were well educated and could read both English and Irish, at a time before compulsory schooling. His sisters married relatively well-off men and Matthew and his brothers owned large farms, Matthew ended up at Curragh House.
In both the 1901 and 1911 censuses, the Mulvany family at Curragh House employed a farm servant. In 1901 this was 47 year old Patrick Kiernan and in 1911 it was 24 year old Charles Smyth. The farm had several outbuildings consisting of: a stable, a cow house, a fowl house, a boiling house, a barn and a turf house.
The Mulvany family were quite wealthy and a little eccentric too. In the late 1940s a cousin of my Grandmother stayed at Curragh House for a while. She remembered being aghast that the chickens had free run of the house. Matthew’s youngest daughter, Bridget, trained as a nurse and during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s she joined General Eoin O’Duffy’s ill-fated campaign to fight in Spain.
In their latter years residing at the property, the family was marked by tragedy. In 1918 the eldest daughter Mary Josephine became a victim of the Spanish Flu epidemic, which killed about 23,000 people in Ireland alone (and 40 million globally).
Then in 1938 Jane Mulvany was tragically killed in a car accident when cycling to her aunts house. The rural roads would have seen very little traffic from cars at this time, which is probably why the story made it into the newspapers. In October 1950 Bridget Mulvany died aged 40, two months later her mother Margaret died and three months after this in March 1951, Matthew Mulvany passed away.
Curragh House Today
Curragh House was eventually inherited by Matthew’s granddaughters, but today it lies abandoned and has been for many years, as the height of the grass in front of the building shows. A new house has been built a couple of hundred of yards in front of the old one.
The photographs below are from my visit there in 2011:
Overall Curragh House represents a rare type of Irish household at the dawn of the 20th century, one in which Catholic farmers were finally able to progress in society after centuries of repression. This new wealth is reflected in larger farms and homes like Curragh House.
Yet Curragh House is still an anomaly within Irish society at the time. In 1841, roughly when Curragh House was built, 40% of homes in Ireland were one-roomed mud cabin. Even 70 years later these living conditions and fractions within society had not completel disappeared. In fact a comparison can be made using Curragh House. In 1911 when my Great Grandfather was visiting his wealthy uncle at the twelve-roomed Curragh House, his future wife lived in Co. Mayo and her uncle, his wife and eight children lived in a cottage comprising of one single room.
Perhaps if Curragh House was located closer to a more urbanised Irish town or city it would not lie in its current state of disrepair, as it would make an amazing family home once again. However out in the countryside it is simply too large, too old and needs too much work doing to it to make it into an inhabitable and affordable home. So it sits as a decaying reminder of Ireland’s past.
- Ian Maxwell, Everyday Life in 19th Century Ireland, (Dublin: The History Press, 2012)
- Old Maps – http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/
- Topography of Ireland, 1837 – http://www.libraryireland.com/topog/D/Duleen-Upper-Kells-Meath.php
- Photographs from my own personal collection