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Lough Cutra Castle ~
Lough Cutra Castle and Estate has a long and
varied history. The countryside surrounding Lough Cutra contains much evidence
of a history dating back to the Tuatha Da Danaans.
Evidence of old churches, cells and
monasteries are prolific in the area and a number of the islands on the lake
contain the remnants of stone alters. The history of the estate can be traced
back as far as 866 A.D.
The country around Lough Cutra contains evidence
of the tribal struggle between the Firbolgs and the Tuatha De Dannan (the
Firbolgs and the Tuatha De Dannan were tribes said to have existed in Ireland).
These are from around the times of the Danish invasion. The local area is rich
in remnants of churches, cells and monasteries due to the introduction of
Christianity. A number of the islands on the lake contain the remnants of stone
alters. It is quite likely that St. Patrick passed Lough Cutra on his travels
and St. Coleman MacDuagh was a relative of Gort's King Guaire. A holy well with
a cross with the date 1745 lies on the Eastern shore of Lough Cutra.
The ruined church of Beagh on the North West
shore was sacked by the Danes in 866 A.D. and war raged through the district for
nearly 1000 years.
In 1601 John O'Shaughnessy and Redmond Burke
camped on the shores of the lake while they plundered the district.
In 1678, Sir Roger O'Shaughnessy inherited from
Sir Dermot all the O'Shaughnessy's Irish land - nearly 13,000 acres, and this
included Gort and 2,000 acres around Lough Cutra and the lake itself. Following
the revolution during which Sir Roger died of ill health, the Gort lands were
seized and presented to Thomas Prendergast. This was one of the oldest families
in Ireland. Sir Thomas came to Ireland on King Williams's death in 1701 and
lived in Monaghan. The title to the lands was confused, but was in the process
of being resolved when Sir Thomas was killed during the Spanish Wars in 1709.
His widow, Lady Penelope let the lands around the lake and the Islands. On these
Islands large numbers of apple, pear and cherry trees were planted, and some
still survive today. The O'Shaughnessy's still tried to lay claim to the lands
that had been taken from them by King William. In 1742 the government confirmed
the Prendergast title, but it was not until 1753 that Roebuck O'Shaughnessy
accepted a sum of money in return for giving up the claim.
Following Sir Thomas's death John Prendergast Smyth inherited the Gort Estate.
It was John who created the roads and planted trees, particularly around the
Punchbowl where the Gort River disappears on its way to Gort and Coole. John
lived next to the river bridge in Gort when in the area - this area is now known
as the Convent, Bank of Ireland and Glynn's Hotel. When John died in 1797 he was
succeeded by his nephew, Colonel Charles Vereker who in 1816 became Viscount
Gort. The estate at this time was around 12,000 acres.
When the estate was inherited by Colonel Vereker in 1797 he decided to employ
the world renowned architect John Nash to design the Gothic Style building known
as Lough Cutra Castle. Colonel Vereker had visited Nash's East Cowes Castle on
the Isle of Wight and was to taken with it that he commissioned the construction
of a similar building on his lands on the shore of Lough Cutra. Nash also
designed Mitchelstown Castle, Regents Park Crescent, his own East Cowes Castle,
as well as being involved in the construction of Buckingham Palace.
The Castle itself was built during the Gothic revival period and is idyllically
situated overlooking the Estate's 1000 acre lake. The building of the castle was
overseen by the Pain brothers who later designed and built the Gate House at
Dromoland. The original building included 25 basement rooms and the cost of the
building was estimated at 80,000 pounds. While the exact dates of construction
are not known the building commenced around 1809 and went on for a number of
years. We know that it had nearly been finished by 1817.
The Viscount Gort was forced to sell the Castle and Estate in the Late 1840s
having bankrupted himself as a result of creating famine relief. The Estate was
purchased by General Sir William Gough an eminent British General. The Gough's
set about refurbishing the Castle to their own taste and undertook further
construction work adding large extensions to the original building, including a
clock tower and servant quarters. Great attention was paid to the planting of
trees, location of the deer park, and creation of new avenues. An American
garden was created to the South west of the Castle. The entire building
operations were completed in 1858 and 1859.
A further extension, known as the Library Wing, was built at the end of the
nineteenth century to house the war spoils of General Sir William Gough by his
Grandson. This was subsequently demolished in the 1950s and the cut stone taken
to rebuild Bunratty Castle in County Clare.
In the 1920s the family moved out of the Castle as they could not afford the
running costs. Some of the stables in the Courtyards were converted into a
residence for them. The Castle was effectively closed up for the next forty
years, although during WWII the Irish army was billeted within the Castle and on
The Estate changed hands several times between the 1930s and the 1960s when it
was purchased by descendants of the First Viscount Gort. They took on the task
of refurbishing the Castle during the late 1960s. Having completed the project
they too were bankrupted and were forced to sell up. At that time it was bought
by the present owner's family.
In more recent years there has begun another refurbishment programme to the
Castle and the Estate generally. In 2003 a new roof was completed on the main
body of the Castle, with some of the tower roofs also being refurbished. There
has been much done also to the internal dressings of the Castle bringing the
building up to a modern standard. Around the Estate there has been
reconstruction and rebuilding works in the gate lodges and courtyards. There has
also begun extensive works to some of the woodlands in order to try and retain
the earlier character of the Estate.
Castles in County Galway