The family of NAPER or NAPIER claims descent from the ancient Scottish Earls of Lennox, raised to that dignity by King MALCOLM III, about the year 1057:
The claim is sustained by the certificate of SIR ARCHIBALD NAPIER, knight, of Merchiston, Deputy Treasurer of Scotland, and of the Privy Council to CHARLES I, enrolled in the College of Arms, by Sir William Segar KG, at the desire of Sir Robert Napier, knight and baronet, of Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire.ALEXANDER NAPIER, son of Sir Alexander Napier, and brother of Sir Archibald, came to England in the time of HENRY VIII and settled at Exeter.
JOHN NAPIER ESQ, a younger son of Sir Alexander Napier, knight, of Merchiston, the common ancestor of the LORDS NAPIER, and of the Napiers or Napers (of whom we are about to treat), came into England in the reign of HENRY VII, and settled at Swyre, Dorset, where he lies interred.
His 2nd, or, by some accounts, 3rd son,
JAMES NAPIER ESQ, of Baglake or Punknoll, Dorset, espoused a lady named Hilliard. The youngest son,
SIR ROBERT NAPIER, an eminent lawyer, was constituted, by ELIZABETH I, Chief Baron of the Exchequer in Ireland, in 1593, and received the honour of knighthood.
Sir Robert's descendant,
Colonel James Naper, took possession of half the barony of Fore in 1653 for £800, or sixteen shillings per acre, "for his services to the Crown" and Lord Protector Cromwell.
The Colonel`s son, James, was appointed High Sheriff of Meath in 1702, a post that several of his descendants would also hold. His son, James Lennon Naper Dutton, took his mother`s maiden name but another son, William, resumed the Naper surname and commissioned the important 1778 map of the district.James Lennox William Naper (1791-1868) commissioned the building of Loughcrew House in 1823, a year after he was appointed High Sheriff of Meath.
A busy landlord and writer, he served as chairman of the Poor Law Guardians during the Famine years and subsidised the emigration of tenants to Canada in the 1830s.
His son, William Lenox Naper, was awarded the Military Cross for services in the Royal Horse Guard during World War One but he died without issue and his widow Adela married the colourful adventurer, Rodney Matthews in 1946. His spending seriously impacted on the estate before he disappeared in his plane in the Irish Sea in 1953.A cousin of William Lenox, Merrick Naper, died in Africa that same year before he could inherit and Merrick`s brother, Nigel, inherited the 1,500-acre estate before suffering two major fires in the house in 1959 and 1964.
Emily and Charles Naper have converted the old conservatory, pavilions, servant quarters and stables into the current living area, school of gilding and studio area.
Emily Jane Dashwood was born in 1958, eldest child of Sir Francis John Vernon Hereward Dashwood Bt (Premier Baronet of Great Britain). She married Charles William Lennox Naper in 1981.They have revived the 17th century gardens and established Loughcrew Garden Opera.
Weddings, exhibitions and craft workshops have also been held in the large rooms within the courtyard buildings.
Remaining within the Naper family from the 17th Century to the present day, Loughcrew has had a turbulent and fascinating history.
Originally the seat of the Plunkett family, its most famous member being St Oliver Plunkett, whose church still remains today on the estate, the first Loughcrew House was built in the 1600s by the Naper family, where the current formal gardens exist, amidst an awesome 180,000 acre estate.
Subsequently destroyed by fire, the next Loughcrew House was designed by Charles Cockerel in 1821 for the Naper family.
Mark Bence Jones, in his guide to Irish Country Houses, describes the vast stones and fallen capitals of the 1820's neo-classical house, designed by Cockerell, once strewn about the ground like the remains of some lost city of antiquity.
It currently comprises two principal reception rooms, including a particularly fine drawing room, two sun-rooms, kitchen, 5 bedrooms, basement and a guest wing with three further bedrooms.
The result is a stunning combination of vistas, with water and archaeological features and many unusual trees, shrubs and flowers.
The surviving 17th century features include a magnificent yew walk, foundations of a longhouse and a walled garden from which a canal and a parterre have been relocated in replica.
A large, log-cabin-style visitor centre with car park is located at the entrance to the gardens. This contains a spacious coffee shop on the ground floor with small kitchen and lavatories.
First published in June, 2011.