Thursday, 10 August 2017

Lough Fea House

THE SHIRLEYS WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY MONAGHAN, WITH 26,386 ACRES

This is a branch of the noble and ancient family of Shirley, EARLS FERRERS, springing from

SIR ROBERT SHIRLEY, Knight, 1st EARL FERRERS (1650-1717), who married firstly, Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Lawrence Washington, of Garsdon, Wiltshire; and secondly, in 1699, Selina, daughter of George Finch.

The third, but, eventually, eldest surviving son of his second marriage,

THE HON GEORGE SHIRLEY (1705-87), of Ettington Park, Warwickshire, Captain, 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, wedded Mary, daughter of Humphrey Sturt, and had issue,
GEORGE, his successor;
EVELYN, succeeded his brother;
Selina; Margaret.
He was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE SHIRLEY, of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, County Monaghan, who espoused Phillis Byam, daughter of Charlton Wollaston, and had issue,
EVELYN JOHN;
Charles;
William;
James;
Horatio;
Arthur George Sewallis;
Selina; Mary; Frances; Emily Harriet.
Mr Shirley was succeeded by his eldest son, 

EVELYN JOHN SHIRLEY (1788-1856), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, who wedded, in 1810, Eliza, daughter of Arthur Stanhope, cousin to the Earl of Chesterfield, sometime MP for County Monaghan and South Warwickshire, and had issue,
EVELYN PHILIP;
Arthur;
Sewallis;
George Edward;
Walter Devereux;
Selina; Louisa.
His eldest son, 

EVELYN PHILIP SHIRLEY DL (1812-82), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, MP for South Warwickshire and County Monaghan, had issue,

SEWALLIS EVELYN SHIRLEY JP DL (1844-1904), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, MP for County Monaghan, 1868-80, High Sheriff of Warwickshire, 1884, who had issue,

EVELYN CHARLES SHIRLEY JP DL (1889-1956), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea; High Sheriff of County Monaghan, 1914; Lieutenant-Colonel, Major, the Warwickshire Yeomanry; Lieutenant-Colonel, the General Staff, whose only son,

JOHN EVELYN SHIRLEY (1922-2009), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, Major, King's Royal Rifle Corps.

He lived in 2003 at Ormly Hall, Ramsey, Isle of Man.

He had issue,
Philip Evelyn Shirley, b 1955;
Emily Margaret Shirley, b 1957;
Hugh Sewallis Shirley, b 1961.

The Shirley estate is based at Lough Fea, near Carrickmacross in County Monaghan.

It had an area of some 40 square miles, in the western half of the barony of Farney, County Monaghan, in the period 1576-1960.

The Shirley Papers are deposited at PRONI.

The Shirley Association has written a history of Lough Fea.

The Shirleys were semi-absentee landlords. Their main seat was Ettington Park in Warwickshire.

Evelyn Philip Shirley visited Lough Fea several times a year.

The estate was formerly in the ownership of the Earl of Essex, though underwent the first of several partitions: It passed in two halves to Essex's co-heirs, the Marquess of Hertford and Sir Robert Shirley.

Sir Robert himself died in 1656, imprisoned in the Tower of London for supporting the Royalist cause in the English Civil War.

His son and heir was Sir Seymour Shirley, on whose death in 1667 the estate and the rest of the family inheritance passed in turn to his second and only surviving son, Sir Robert Shirley.

Sir Robert entered the House of Lords in 1677, as Baron Ferrers of Chartley, and in 1711 was further ennobled as 1st Earl Ferrers and Viscount Tamworth.

This last title related to the family seat of Ettington in Warwickshire.

About 1750, the Shirleys built a house near Carrickmacross for their occasional visits.

It was not until 1826 that Robert's grandson, Evelyn John Shirley, laid the foundations of a mansion house worthy of the family and estate, near the banks of Lough Fea.



LOUGH FEA is a very large and unusual Tudor-Gothic house by Thomas Rickman, the English architect and architectural writer who invented the terms "Early English", "decorated" and "perpendicular" to describe the different periods of Gothic architecture.

Unlike most houses of its period and style, Lough Fea has no battlements and few gables, but a solid parapet which conceals much of the roof.

There are also hardly any projecting bows or oriels, but rather small, mullioned windows under hood mouldings; so that the elevations, of pinkish-grey ashlar, have a solid effect.

There are several slender, square turrets with sprocketed, pyramidal roofs; also a polygonal lantern and a small tower and polygonal turret at the end of one wing; but no major tower; so that he house seems low and wide-spreading.

The entrance front, facing the lough, is flanked on one side by the chapel and on the other by a great hall, which together form a three-sided court.

The interior is of great complexity, with many corridors and ante-rooms.

There is a hall divided by a stone arcade, its walls hung with an early 19th-century wallpaper.

There is a large and handsome library, the famous library of EP Shirley, son of the builder of the house.

The chapel is on the scale of a sizeable church, with two pulpits and a gallery.

The clou of the house is, however, the great hall: vast and baronial, with a lofty hammer-beam roof, a minstrels' gallery and an arcade at first-floor level.

It was added after the rest of the house was completed.

According to the story, Mr Shirley and Lord Rossmore vied with one another as to which of them could build the bigger room.

Lord Rossmore enlarged his drawing room at Rossmore Park five times, but in the end Mr Shirley won the contest by building his great hall.

The garden front of the house faces along a vista to an immense Celtic cross.

The demesne is noted for its magnificent woodlands.

At the end of the 19th century the estate comprised 26,386 acres, but these lands had to be sold due to the Irish Land Acts before the First World War.

The estate now has less than 1,000 acres of grass and woodland.

After the sale of the land, which had been rented to tenants, large mansions such as Lough Fea became white elephants with little revenue coming in.



In 1904, when Major Shirley’s grandfather died, his father moved from his Ettington Park home in Warwickshire to Carrickmacross, County Monaghan.

Between 1904 and 1977, Major Shirley’s father and his family lived there permanently.

There was a serious fire at the house in 1966, which did quite a lot of damage.

In 1977, the family moved to the Isle of Man and thus reverted to its 19th Century role of absenteeism; though because Major Shirley and his sons were brought up on the estate they have a great love of the place and they do their best to keep the main parts of the building waterproof.

First published in June, 2011.

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