Humphrys genealogy

Genealogy research by Mark Humphrys.

My wife's ancestors - Fitzwilliam - Contents

Mount Merrion House, Co.Dublin

Mount Merrion House, Mount Merrion, Co.Dublin.
Seat of the Fitzwilliam family and their descendants from 1711 (with many breaks) to 1918.
See maps.

Mount Merrion House, must be c.1800, by William Ashford.
From the W (the park), looking E down the avenue.
(Left to Right): The main block, the lodge, the avenue, the stables.
Used here with the kind permission of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Also here.


The lands of Mount Merrion came into the possession of Fitzwilliam of Dundrum in the mid-late 14th century.
The N part of Mount Merrion was called "Owenstown".
The S part of Mount Merrion was considered as part of Kilmacud.
The Fitzwilliam seat was at Merrion Castle, and they used ride up to the hill at Mount Merrion to hunt the deer. Eventually they built their new seat up here.

Mount Merrion House was built in 1711 as a new seat by the 5th Viscount Fitzwilliam on the hill at Mount Merrion,
on the site of a small hunting lodge [Mount Merrion 300],
with a N avenue and an E avenue leading to it.

The (now vanished) main block and the (surviving) stables were built in 1711.
They have the same late 17th century - early 18th century style.
And the 1711 stone was on the RHS block of the stables.
[Ball, vol.2, 1903] says: "In its style of architecture the original house resembled the existing stables, which bear the date 1711".
1711 is about as old as a private house in Dublin will get. The starting point for "ordinary" buildings in Ireland is 1691. Due to the troubled state of the country, there are very few unfortified buildings in the whole of Ireland before that date.

The Lodge has a different style, and was built c.1727, by the 5th Viscount.
[Wilkinson, 1925] describes Mount Merrion as a Georgian mansion built "in 1727 or thereabouts as an addition to the existing stone hall".
Pat Sheridan had heard that The Lodge "was built originally as a ballroom".

The Fitzwilliam family left for England around 1726-27.
For the next 200 years various members of the Fitzwilliam-Herbert family would live in Mount Merrion at different times.
At other times it was rented out.

After 1727

John Wainwright rented Mount Merrion 1732 to 1741.
The philosopher George Berkeley was a guest of Wainwright at Mount Merrion, and is said to have written a number of his important texts there.
Robert Jocelyn, 1st Viscount Jocelyn lived at Mount Merrion 1741 to 1756.

The agent to the 6th Viscount since at least 1749 [Pembroke Estate papers] was Bryan Fagan of Usher's Quay, Dublin.
The 6th Viscount returned to live in Mount Merrion after 1756.
He landscaped the Deer Park behind it.
When Bryan Fagan died in Jan 1761, his widow Elizabeth Fagan became agent for the 6th Viscount.
6th Viscount died at Mount Merrion 1776.

Elizabeth Fagan continued as agent to the 7th Viscount.
John FitzGibbon, 1st Earl of Clare lived at Mount Merrion 1789 to 1793. The Prince of Wales (future George IV) was a guest of his there.
Elizabeth Fagan died Oct 1789, on Usher's Island, Dublin. [Walker's Hibernian Magazine, 1789, p.560] describes her as "many years agent to the late and present Lord Viscount Fitzwilliam".
After her death, her daughter Barbara Fagan [Catholic, born 1752] was agent to the 7th Viscount.
Barbara Fagan married Richard Verschoyle [Protestant, born c.1751, son of Joseph Verschoyle of Donore, Co.Dublin]. See VERSCHOYLE in [Burkes Irish, 1976].
Richard Verschoyle became joint agent with his wife.
After FitzGibbon left Mount Merrion in 1793, Richard and Barbara Verschoyle lived at Mount Merrion.

Peter La Touche lived at Mount Merrion 1802-06.
The landscape painter William Ashford made a number of views of Mount Merrion for the 7th Viscount in around 1800 to 1806.

After La Touche left Mount Merrion in 1806, Richard and Barbara Verschoyle again lived at Mount Merrion.
[Ball, vol.2, 1903] says: "the seat is still shown in Mount Merrion where that lady used to sit and watch for her husband coming up the straight drive".
[Wilkinson, 1925] says this was an outdoor seat, under the Obelisk in the Deer Park (which survived until 1960).
Barbara Verschoyle organised the building of the new Catholic church at Booterstown by the 7th Viscount 1812. A plaque inside the church commemorates her and the 7th Viscount.
Richard and Barbara Verschoyle were living at Mount Merrion House as at 1816.

After 1816

The Fitzwilliam estates were inherited by the 11th Earl of Pembroke in 1816.
Barbara Verschoyle continued as agent for the Pembroke estate.
RDS says the Verschoyles were joint agents until 1821.
Richard Verschoyle died 1827.
Mount Merrion was occupied for a time after 1832 by Sidney Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Lea (born 1810).
The entry for Mount Merrion in [Pettigrew & Oulton, 1834] lists "Mrs. Verschoyle" as the occupant.
Shortly before her death in 1837, Barbara Verschoyle persuaded Sidney Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Lea, to support the establishment of a convent and school at Booterstown.

Sir Thomas Talbot Power, 6th Baronet (born 1863, succ 1916) lived at Mount Merrion around 1901.
He was of the Powers whiskey family. He later lived Roebuck House, now in Leinster Lawn, Clonskeagh (see street view). His brother the 5th Baronet lived Leopardstown Park (now Leopardstown Park Hospital).
See entry for Mount Merrion House in 1901 census. 18 windows in front of house. 30 rooms. 24 out-buildings. Occupied by Thomas Talbot Power (not Baronet yet).

Sir Nevile Wilkinson and his wife Lady Beatrix Herbert lived in Mount Merrion 1903 to 1914.
He planted on the lawn there cuttings from the cedars of Lebanon at the Herbert's ancestral home Wilton House. These do not survive.
See entry for Mount Merrion House in 1911 census. 9 windows in front of house (perhaps only counted Lodge front). 23 rooms. 23 out-buildings. The Wilkinson family are away. There are just two housemaids in occupation.
Sir Nevile is listed in 1911 census as visiting the 4th Marquess of Headfort at Headfort Hall, Co.Meath. His family must be in England.

After WWI

The estate at Mount Merrion started to be sold off to property developers 1918.
[Letter of 1918] says Mount Merrion House is sold in 1918 by the Herberts, to be handed over on 1 Jan 1919.
[Mount Merrion Estates booklet, 1925-26] shows the new housing estate being planned, as this area of Dublin rapidly built up with suburban housing in mid-20th century.
First houses on the estate were built on Mount Anville Rd side in 1928.
Development was slow until John Kenny of Irish Homes Ltd bought the Mount Merrion estate 1933 and then the real development began.
No.1 The Rise built 1934.
See ad for new houses in "Mount Merrion Park", Sunday Independent, 5 January 1936. Posted here.

Mount Merrion House itself was sold to the Catholic church 1935.
The Lodge was converted for use as a Catholic church for the new local population.
The new church in the Lodge was blessed by Archbishop Byrne on 17 May 1936. It was dedicated to St Therese of Lisieux.
The main block became a primary national school, opening Sept 1939 [Mount Merrion 300].
The Catholic parish of Mount Merrion and Kilmacud split off from Dundrum parish 29 April 1948.
The church in The Lodge was replaced by the grand new Catholic church 1956.
Foundation stone of new church laid by Archbishop McQuaid on 28 June 1953.
New church blessed and opened by Archbishop McQuaid on 19 February 1956.
The primary school in the main block was replaced in Sept 1963 with a new school built beside the new church (see plaque on new school).
The parish of Mount Merrion split off from Mount Merrion and Kilmacud in 1964.

The RHS block (the N block) of the stables was used as a school room for children of the Pembroke estate [O'Kelly, 1989], [Mount Merrion 300],
[Harrington, 1981] refers to this RHS block as "the former steward's quarters". However there was a Chief Steward's Lodge some distance to the S of this.
[Cockburn and FitzGerald, 2000] refers to it as "the barracks".
It was used for dances and parish events.
The RHS stable block (or just the upstairs room of it) was known as "The Ballroom" in the 1930s-40s.
Pat Sheridan says it was used as the parish hall, and also for dances, in the 1950s.
Alan Donaldson uses the name "The Old Barn" for the 1950s dance venue in the RHS block. David Neary in [Mount Merrion 300] calls it "The Barn".
Pat Sheridan says the dance venue moved out of the RHS stable block to the Lodge (now no longer a church): "In 1960 this old hall, built in 1711, was condemned and we moved across the car park to what had been the old church, and was now known as the new hall."

The modern era

The RHS stable block ("The Ballroom") was damaged or destroyed in a fire in the 1970s.
It was demolished must be 1975 or 1976.
The new scout hall was built 1976 on the site.
It was opened by Bishop James Kavanagh on 15 Feb 1976 [Cockburn and FitzGerald, 2000].
The rest of the stables survive.

The main block was used as the old scout hall before 1976.
In the 1970s it fell into disrepair.
It was demolished in the second half of 1976 [Cockburn and FitzGerald, 2000].
A new Community Centre was built on the site in late 1976.
It was officially opened by Bishop James Kavanagh on 15 Oct 1977 [Cockburn and FitzGerald, 2000].

The Lodge was used for dances and parish events in the 1960s-70s.
It adopted the name "The Barn" (or "The New Barn") after dances moved over to it from the RHS stable block.
After the new Community Centre was built 1976, the Lodge was less used.
It was used as a youth centre, and became very run down in the 1990s.
It was nearly demolished, but was finally restored and re-opened in 2003 as part of the new community centre.
Opened by President Mary McAleese 16 May 2003.
It was the centre for the Mount Merrion 300 celebrations in 2011.

Parts of the high old demesne wall survive around the housing estates.
The Chief Steward's Lodge survives, S of the house, between The Rise and Trees Ave, entrance off Trees Rd.

Mount Merrion House, 1934.
From Mount Merrion Historical Society. Used with permission.

Mount Merrion House.
Street view showing the surviving building (The Lodge).
From the W (the park side). Click to rotate.
From Google Street View.
See street view from the other side (the E avenue).

The 1711 stone

This stone with the date "1711" used to be built into the RHS block (the N block) of the stables.
[Ball, vol.2, 1903] says it was the stables that bore this date: "In its style of architecture the original house resembled the existing stables, which bear the date 1711".
[Mount Merrion 300] says it was "The keystone over the entrance" to the RHS block.
David Neary in [Mount Merrion 300] recalls the 1711 stone on "The Barn" (the RHS block) where dances were held: "Dour, repressed 1950s? Not at the Barn! The nights I remember were full of excitement, light, joy in being an adolescent, and that new, exciting music. Even the date above the window outside - 1711 - had something exotic about it."

When the RHS block was demolished and scout hall built 1976, the stone was taken and built into the new wall in front of the Community Centre.
In winter 2002-03 the stone was removed from the wall and mounted above the old (S) front door of the Lodge (now a window) as part of the restoration.

The stone with the date "1711" at Mount Merrion.
Built into the new wall in front of the Community Centre.
Photos 1999.

The 1711 stone now mounted in the wall of the Lodge.
Photo 2012. See full size and close-up.

The 1711 stone.
From Mount Merrion 300. Used with permission.

How could Mount Merrion House be demolished?

The old block of Mount Merrion House, built 1711, was among the earliest unfortified country houses in Ireland. The building of unfortified country houses only really took off after 1691. It had an old fashioned 17th century look about it.

It was the childhood home of Mary Fitzwilliam, wife of the 9th Earl of Pembroke and ancestor of my wife and children. It was my English wife's most recent Irish ancestral home. Her ancestors lived in Ireland for centuries before leaving - from this house - around 1726-27.

It was demolished in 1976. How could something as beautiful as Mount Merrion House be demolished? The simple answer is that it was not seen as beautiful. Until the 1980s or so, buildings like this were regarded normally with indifference, and were at worst regarded as symbols of Anglo-Irish oppression.

The anonymous anti-British writer "Fear Cualann", in his [Angry article against the Fitzwilliams in 1925], expresses the unfortunately common contempt for Ireland's Anglo-Irish heritage after 1922 that led to so much of it being destroyed. About Mount Merrion House, he says: "Why, it was about the ugliest and mis-shapen lump of stone and mortar that ever was built by the Protestant landlords in Ireland: and that is saying a good deal, for they did construct hundreds of hideous structures. There is no pibroch note, no lament, in the Irish Times article, about the coming break-up, or throwing down, of that repulsive building. ... As for Mount Merrion, we welcome its disappearance and we rejoice over what will replace it".

My wife's Irish ancestral home:
The N side of the main block of Mount Merrion House (built 1711, demolished 1976).
Photo published in [Irish Country Houses]. Picture credit Rolf Loeber.
Used here with permission of Rolf Loeber.
I was in this house as a child in winter 1975-76.


Sources yet to be consulted

Mount Merrion House - Map

Mount Merrion House - Model based on map of 1762

Mount Merrion House - From the air

Mount Merrion House - Video


Mount Merrion Historical Society


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