Categories of Special Interest
Archaeological, Architectural, Artistic, Historical
In Use As
1660 - 1865
Detached Gothic style six-bay two-storey over raised basement castellated country house/castle on irregular plan, built c. 1830, extensively remodeled/rebuilt c. 1860, and incorporating the fabric of earlier seventeenth century structure(s). Remodeled c. 1925, following fire damage. Comprises central block with advanced single-bay four-storey breakfront on square-plan (having a chapel to the top storey), five-stage tower on circular-plan (with battered base) attached to the south corner and recessed two-bay block attached to the north end. Lower two-storey service wing attached to north (set back from principal block), four-bay elevation to south with lower connecting corridor joining three-bay wing block, and incorporating seventeenth century structure built c. 1660 and remodeled c. 1830. Internal and external remodelling undertaken c. 1925. Hipped natural slate roofs with cut limestone chimneystacks, chamfered crenellations, machicolations (with stepped moulded corbels) and corner turrets. Snecked limestone and granite walls with cut limestone and granite trim, now largely ivy-clad. Cross pommée motifs to top stage of tower. Paired and tripartite cusped, pointed and round-headed window openings with cut stone surrounds, tracery and hood mouldings to main body of building with one-over-one pane timber sliding sash and replacement windows. Quadripartite pointed arch window opening above main entrance (at first floor level) with limestone tracery and mullions under hood moulding. Paired pointed arch window openings to tower with plate limestone tracery under hoodmoulding; paired cusped lancet openings with quatrefoil detail over at first floor level. Round-headed door opening to advanced central block with carved limestone surround and double-leaf glazed doors with wrought and cast-iron detailing. Doorway reached by flight of cut stone steps. Set within its own grounds with adjoining entrance tower to north (13303002) and stable block (13303003) to rear. Located in extensive mature landscaped grounds/demesne to the northwest of Newtown-Forbes. Lough Forbes and River Shannon form western boundary of Demesne.
This imposing country house is important not only for its imposing architectural style but also for the personalities associated with it. It largely dates to the nineteenth century (c. 1830 and c. 1860), but it contains fabric dating from the seventeenth, and probably the eighteenth century, creating a complex and confusing chronology. The style of this building is typical of a number of large castellated Gothic houses built and/or extended in Ireland during the first half of the nineteenth century, including the Knockdrin Castle, Tullynally Castle and Killua Castle, all in neighbouring County Westmeath. Castle Forbes has been the home of a branch of the Forbes family (later Earls of Granard from 1684), originally from Scotland, since the early-seventeenth century. The design of Castle Forbes is similar to that of its namesake in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, built in 1815 (by a branch of the Forbes family), in that it has a central breakfront containing the main entrance and a massive tower on circular plan attached to one end of the principal elevation. Arthur Forbes (later baronet of Nova Scotia) was originally granted extensive lands in County Longford c. 1620 and built a residence (on L-shaped plan and possibly incorporating the fabric of an existing castle) soon after. This house/castle was later heavily damaged by a siege during the rebellion of 1641. This house was described by Dowdall (1682) as a 'fair aid spacious house with lovely gardens of pleasure'. Eighteenth century fabric survives to the interior of Castle Forbes, suggesting that it was altered during this century. A devastating fire in 1825 destroyed much of the original seventeenth century house, and the 6th Earl of Granard's family was accommodated in the surviving wings, which were remodeled by John Hargrave (c. 1788 – 1833) of Cork in the late 1820s. It would appear that the rebuilding of the main house/castle was undertaken by the 7th Earl, George Forbes and his Roman Catholic wife, Jane Colclough, c. 1860. They chose the rising architect J. J. McCarthy (1817 – 1882) to execute the building in the Gothic Revival style, a style with which he was familiar due to his church commissions from the Roman Catholic Church. A number of the window openings, particularly the paired lancets to the main body of the building and the paired cusped lancets with quatrefoil detailing to the tower, are distinctly ecclesiastical in character and were probably inspired by McCarthy’s numerous church commissions. Further remodelling was undertaken following a fire in 1923 by F.W. Foster of London, under the directions of the then Countess, Beatrice Mills. The execution of the interior and exterior features is testament to the skill of the craftsmen involved and to the architect's design. Set within private grounds Castle Forbes forms the centrepiece of a complex group of buildings, which still serve a working demesne. Castle Forbes has the largest demesne in County Longford and is one of the most important elements of the architectural heritage of the county. The Forbes family is important in the history of Longford and indeed the wider history of Ireland. In 1661, the Manor of Mullingar was granted to Sir Arthur Forbes, whose family would own/control the town for 200 years. The 1st Earl of Granard (title created 1684), Sir Arthur Forbes (1623 – 1695), served as a lieutenant general in the British Army and was later Lord Justice of Ireland (in office 1671 and 1673). The 3rd Earl of Granard, George Forbes (1685 - 1765), was an admiral in the Royal Navy. The sixth Earl, George Forbes (1760 - 1837), was made Baron Granard in 1806, a title that gave the Earls an automatic seat in the House of Lords. The 8th Earl, Bernard Arthur William Patrick Hastings Forbes, held junior office in the Liberal administrations of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H. H. Asquith and was later a member of the Irish Senate from 1922 to 1934.