Building of the Month - November 2023

Monalty House, MONALTYBANE Td., Carrickmacross, County Monaghan

Revisiting Monalty House from the perspective of the owner Alan Hughes:


Monalty House dates to the 1760s although evidence of an earlier house on the site comes in the form of a survey (1735) commissioned by Viscount Weymouth where it is shown as a dormered single-storey house approached by a tree-lined avenue.  The original layout of Monalty House is fully intact with sixteen rooms across three storeys, a central hallway divided into two, and a full basement.  A three-storey bathroom return was added in 1910 by the well-known architect and engineer, William Samuel Barber (1877/8-1941), and includes seven stained glass windows in a simple Art Nouveau style.

Monalty House is of historical interest.  The Gartlan family, distillers and members of the emergent Catholic class, took a lease of the house in 1805.  Thomas McEvoy Gartlan (1800-86) hosted Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847) in April 1843 on the eve of a monster meeting held in Carrickmacross to muster support for the repeal of the Act of Union.  Some years later the Gartlans offered labour to the local community during the Famine (1845-9).  A local historian, Laurence McDermott, notes how the family ‘did its utmost to relieve the suffering of the poor and destitute’ while Professor Terence Dooley of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, Maynooth University, recalls how the family ’employed labourers, provided spades and paid them one penny a day to dig the front park’: archaeological evidence of this privately-funded Famine Relief Scheme survives today.

Thomas Aloysius Gartlan (1837-91) purchased Monalty House under the provisions of the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1885, and added an orchard and iron gates of delicate design to its designed landscape.  The estate was a hive of activity with agricultural labourers living locally in houses built for them by the family.

Monalty House, which is approaching its tercentenary, has been occupied by only three families: the Steeles, the Gartlans and the Hughes.  The last named family purchased Monalty House in 1930 when plans (1928) by the Monaghan County Board of Health and Public Assistance to adapt it as a hospital or nursing home came to nothing.  Professor Dooley notes how the Hughes family have ‘spent their lives maintaining the residence, its out-offices, and its woodland, adhering to best practice, using original material to maintain the original architectural integrity, for example, recycling original slates and using local stone of the maintenance of the surrounding entrance walls’.

Monalty House – A Photographic Tour

An extract from the Survey of Farney (1735) commissioned by Viscount Weymouth.  The map illustrates the Monalty estate bordered by Monalty Lough to the north and wetlands to the south.
An aerial view of Monalty House in its setting which, in addition to farmland, orchards, paddocks and woodland, includes a lime kiln and the remains of a racecourse where meetings were held until 1950.  The estate was bisected in 2005 by the N2 bypass and, addition to the removal of sections of the original boundary walls, the gate lodge is now stranded, derelict and unoccupied, on the side of a busy dual carriageway.
Monalty House is located at the top of a tree-lined avenue which forks to give access to the forecourt to the front and the courtyard to the rear.
Monalty House which, three storeys high and five windows wide, is a prominent landmark in the outskirts of Carrickmacross.
An overhead view of the roof whose deep central valley is framed by multi-flued chimney stacks.  The central valley fed rainwater into tanks which supplied the house with water prior to the construction of the bathroom return in 1910.
The central doorcase is of local limestone and the original oak door boasts a remarkable twenty panels.  The large nine-over-four sash windows on either side fill the dining room and drawing room with light.
The fanlight over the door brings much needed light into the deep hall behind.  Kevin Mulligan in The Buildings of Ireland: South Ulster (2013) describes ‘the Doric frieze with its triglyphs and rosettes repeated in the architrave [sic] around the delicate webbed [sic] fanlight’.
Light from the fanlight and sidelights fills the hallway at the front of the house.  Doorways on either side open into the dining room and drawing room.  The hall also leads directly to the staircase hall at the rear of the house.
Kevin Mulligan offers significant detail on the staircase with its generous landings on each floor.
The mahogany handrail finishes in a beautifully formed elliptical spiral.  The stained glass windows in the bathroom return feature a simple Art Nouveau design.
The drawing room is restrained but features a ceiling rose of life-like plasterwork feathers.
The courtyard is host to a two-storey stable block on a “T”-shaped plan.  Kevin Mulligan singles out for attention the ‘two adjoining varied façades with interesting round-headed windows’.  The stable block boasted the latest in equine-related technology, most of which survives intact, including a warm water radiation system designed to keep leather harnesses supple.
Monalty House has long been at the forefront of agricultural reform.  Its earliest owner, Norman Steele (1753-1801), was a noted reformer and Very Reverend Lorcán Ó Mearáin remarks how ‘the Farney countryside of today owes much to [him].  It was he who first shaped Farney into a pattern of farms and fields.  It was he who first moulded its people into a farming community with a tradition of industry and good husbandry’.
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