1820 – Gormanston Castle, Balbriggan, Co. Meath



The present Gormanston Castle was built ca 1790-1820, on the site of the castle first built in 1372, as a three-storey castellated building with a quadrangular plan and with a tower at three of the four corners. The central part of the frontage is flanked by two narrow castellated towers on either side of the entrance.

Gormanston Castle remained the seat of the Preston family until 1947. The writer Evelyn Waugh, author of Brideshead Revisited, described Gormanston as “a fine, solid, grim, square, half-finished block with tower and turrets… The ground floor rooms were large and had fine traces of Regency decoration…. There were countless bedrooms, many uninhabitable, squalid plumbing, vast attics”. Waugh was contemplating bidding for the house when it was announced that Butlins planned a holiday camp nearby. He changed his mind and the castle and the estate were sold to the Franciscans, who opened Gormanston College in 1954.

From; J.P. Neale, Views of the seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, vol.VI, London, 1823
“GORMANSTON CASTLE is situated in the County of Meath, about eighteen miles distant from Dublin, and about a mile and half from the Sea, of which there is a pleasing view from the windows of the principal rooms. The upper grounds in the Park command a fine view of the House in the foreground, with a more distant and extensive one of the Bay of Dundalk , bounded by the lofty mountains of Mourne and Carlingford.

The Park is large and handsome, and has some fine old timber, with very extensive woods. The Pleasure-grounds near the house are tastefully laid out and well planted. There is still in preser vation a curious Yew Garden , of great antiquity, the original appearance and form of which was intended to represent the cloisters of a Monastery. The outer walls, and open arches towards the centre being of clipt yew, and the space, so surrounded, answering to the quadrangle laid out as a flower garden.

The Castle is of very great antiquity , and originally belonged to the Knights Templars. The present Viscount Gormanston has made some well-judged alterations, and changed the Front of the Edifice from the East to the South, by which the grandeur of its external appearance is considerably increased, and its interior more commodiously arranged. The great Entrance Hall is forty feet by twenty-three, and twenty-nine feet high, with a fine groined ceiling, springing from ten large hand some carved corbels ; at the farther end it acquires an additional width , obtained by a recess fourteen feet square on each side, connected, and opening on it by wide pointed arches, from one of which recesses you enter the Dining- room, from the other, the Library and Drawing-room . The Library is thirty-six feet by twenty-four. The Drawing-room , forty feet by twenty-three. The Dining-room , thirty-six feet by twenty-four, with other excellent apartments.”