Sunday, 19 June 2016

Moydrum Castle

THE VISCOUNTS CASTLEMAINE WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY WESTMEATH, WITH 11,444 ACRES

WILLIAM HANDCOCK (c1631-1707), of Twyford, County Westmeath, descended from a family of considerable antiquity in Lancashire, MP for that county in the first parliament after the restoration of CHARLES II, was nominated one of the council of Connaught, and obtained a patent in 1680, to erect his estates into a manor, under the designation of the manor of Twyford, with ample privileges.

Mr Handcock married, in 1652, Abigail, sister of Sir Thomas Stanley, by whom he had, with other issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
William (Sir), Knight; Recorder of Dublin;
Stephen (Very Rev), Dean of Clonmacnoise;
Matthew (Ven), Archdeacon of Kilmore;
Stanley, drowned;
Hannah; Sarah; Elizabeth.
The eldest son,

THOMAS HANDCOCK MP, of Twyford, was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM HANDCOCK, who married Miss Warburton, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM HANDCOCK, who espoused Elizabeth Vesey, second daughter of the Rt Rev Sir Thomas Vesey Bt, Lord Bishop of Ossory; but by her having no issue, he was succeeded by his brother, 

THE VERY REV RICHARD HANDCOCK, Dean of Achonry, who had a numerous family and was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE RT HON AND VERY REV WILLIAM HANDCOCK MP (1761-1839), Dean of Achonry, privy counsellor, governor and constable of Athlone.

Dean Handcock espoused Sarah, only daughter and heiress of Richard Toler, of Ballintore, County Kildare, by whom he had,
WILLIAM, 1st BARON CASTLEMAINE;
Richard;
Sarah; Susanna; Dorothy; Mary; Elizabeth; Anne.
Dean Handcock was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE RT HON WILLIAM HANDCOCK MP (1761-1839), who was elevated to the peerage, in 1812, as Baron Castlemaine; and advanced to a viscountcy, as VISCOUNT CASTLEMAINE, in 1822.

On his lordship's death the viscountcy expired, though the barony passed to his brother.
The heir apparent is the present holder's only son, the Hon Ronan Michael Handcock. 
The 5th Baron was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Westmeath, from 1899 until 1922.

 Roland Thomas John [Handcock], 8th and present Lord Castlemaine, MBE, lives at Salisbury, Wiltshire.

The heir is the present holder's son, the Hon Ronan Michael Handcock (b 1989).


MOYDRUM CASTLE, near Athlone, County Westmeath, was a seven-bay, two-storey over basement castellated country house, rebuilt ca 1812 (incorporating the fabric of an earlier house built c1750), having an advanced three-storey breakfront/gate tower (offset) to the west side of centre.

There were turrets on an octagonal plan to the corners of an advanced tower and to the west end of the front façade (north); a turret on square plan to the east end.


The house is now out of use, derelict and partially collapsed to the west side.

There were rough-cast, cement-rendered walls, now failing and exposing limestone rubble construction below, with cut stone plinth to base.

Clasping buttresses between bays to the east side of tower; extensive decoration to walls with incised cross loop motifs, cut stone quatrefoils and cut stone hoodmouldings over window openings.

The walls are now largely overgrown with ivy.


Square-headed openings to main body of structure, originally having cut stone surrounds and cut-stone tracery.

Tudor Gothic-arched doorcase to front face of tower, inset within a Tudor-Gothic arched recess and originally with cut stone surrounds (now gone).

Pointed-arched window over doorcase to first storey, originally with Geometric tracery.

Set back from road in extensive mature grounds with remains of a walled garden and ancillary structures to the rear.

These remain impressive and picturesque ruins of a large-scale, Gothic-Revival, castellated country house.

The scale and the attention to detail are still apparent, despite its ruinous condition; and fragments of the early cut stone detailing are still evident to a number of openings from behind the extensive ivy growth.

This important Gothic-Revival essay was built to designs by Sir Richard Morrison (1767-1849), who was commissioned by William Handcock to rebuild an existing house befitting of his new status as Lord Castlemaine, c.1812.

The house was burnt in 1921 and has remained a ruin ever since.
Moydrum Castle, given its status as the seat of HM Lord-Lieutenant of County Westmeath and a member of the House of Lords, was chosen as a suitably symbolic target for Irish republican reprisals: On the night of July 3rd, 1921, an assembly of IRA members marched on the castle.

The 5th Baron was out of Ireland at the time, but Lady Castlemaine and their daughter, together with several servants, were in residence and were woken from their sleep by knocking at the door.

They were given time to gather together a few valuable belongings before the building was set alight. The blaze completely destroyed the castle.
Following the establishment of the Irish Free State, much of the land belonging to Lord Castlemaine was acquired by the Irish Land Commission.

The Castlemaines were never to return to Moydrum.

These impressive and romantic ruins have been much photographed since and a picture of the remains featured on the cover of the U2 album 'The Unforgettable Fire'.

These ruins have now become almost a place of pilgrimage for U2 fans and the interior walls are now covered with graffiti relating to the band, giving this site a new cultural significance.

Castlemaine arms courtesy of European Heraldry.  First published in May, 2012.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Perhaps 'The Unforgivable Fire' would have been a more appropriate title. VC