Curraghchase House, Limerick, Ireland

Curraghchase House is a large mid 18th century structure located in what is now a forest park between Adare and Askeaton in County Limerick. An earlier house was situated on this site, built by John Hunt in 1657, Hunt was an officer in Oliver Cromwell’s army and was granted 380 acres at Curraghchase as part of the Cromwellian Plantations, the land was originally owned by a John Fitzgerald. John Hunt traced his lineage through the Earl of Oxford and back to the time of William the Conqueror, one of his ancestors being Aubrey de Vere I, a tenant in chief of William the Conqueror in 1086. The Hunt lineage eventually changed their family name when the 2nd Baronet altered his surname by royal licence to de Vere in 1833. The house had originally been called Curragh (meaning marshy plain in Irish) it was also the 2nd Baronet who changed the name to Curraghchase. The house was built between 1750 and 1760. The Hunt/De Vere family resided at Curraghchase for 300 years and were known as poets, the 2nd Baronet, a noted poet in his own right was the father of Aubrey Thomas De Vere a renowned poet and critic who died in 1902. De Vere was a great admirer of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, with whom he stayed with during a visit to the lake district in England. The English Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson was a family friend and visited Curraghchase. The house was destroyed by a fire in December 1941 and was never reoccupied, it was bought by the state in 1957.

As with many of these things a legend has grown around the destruction of the house by fire. It relates to an artificial lake on the eastern side of the house, maps of the time showed a ‘Lady’s Island’ on the lake. It was during one of Tennyson’s visits that he said he saw an arm rising from the lake, the legend of the Lady of the Lake was born. A century later during a Christmas party a the house, on a windy night, the family heard a loud scream of anguish that rose above the storm. They looked out to the lake and saw the figure of a woman, surrounded by a red glow, with one arm outstretched pointing to the house. As the storm raged the branch of a tree crashed through one of the windows, knocking over candelabra and creating the fire that destroyed the house. It is said that on every Christmas Eve the burning figure of a woman is seen floating on the waters of the lake.

The house now stands as the centrepiece to the forest park and though derelict its basement serves an important purpose, as the hibernation area for the Lesser Horseshoe Bat, its lakes and fens also provide a very suitable foraging site for these bats.

GPS: 52.58975, -8.87099

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