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Dromana House

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One of the many sights along the #MunsterBlackwater is Dromana House.

The medieval castle of Dromana occupied a spectacular site, high above the River Blackwater. From the 13th century this was the seat of the FitzGeralds, Lords of the Decies, a junior branch of the Earls of Desmond.

In the 1670s the FitzGerald heiress, Katherine, the ‘Lady of the Decies’, ward to King Charles II, married Col. Villiers, son of Lord Grandison. Their descendants succeeded as Earls Grandison until 1800, when the only child of the 2nd Earl (of the second creation) married Lord Henry Stuart, younger son of Lord Bute. Their son was subsequently created Lord Stuart de Decies, a title that recalled his long family connection with the region.

The castle of Dromana was attacked and damaged in the wars of the 1640s and 50s, though its base can still be identified from the river, and indeed is still inhabited. In about 1700, instead of rebuilding the castle, two new ranges were built at right angles to one another along the courtyard walls. Work on a larger new house commenced in about 1780, directly in front of the longer 1700s range. Together these three buildings faithfully followed the line of the original courtyard.

The interior was elaborately fitted out for Lord Stuart in the 1840s, with a suite of very grand reception rooms and a massive imperial staircase but by the 1960s Dromana had become something of a white elephant. The estate was sold and subdivided, and the house bought by a cousin who demolished the 1780s block and reduced it to more manageable proportions. James Villiers-Stuart was able to repurchase the house in the 1980s. His widow Emily still lives there, along with her daughter and family.

The steeply sloping riverbanks are covered with oak woods and the important mid-eighteenth century garden layout, with its follies, the Rock House and the Bastion, is currently being restored. To the north of the estate, on a bridge across the River Finisk, is the renowned Hindu-Gothic lodge, originally erected to welcome the owner and his bride on their return from honeymoon in 1826. They were so taken with this temporary structure in the latest Brighton Pavilion mode, that they had it rebuilt in more durable materials.

Images include those taken by photographer Robert French (principle photographer of the Lawrence Collection, a collection of 40,000 glass plate negatives taken by from 1870-1914). Check out the collection at National Library of Ireland