Steeped in history

Baldwinstown Castle has links back to Norman times, as well as recent British Royalty, writes Rose Martin.

THIS pretty, Co Wexford property is steeped in Irish history — from the Norman Invasion to Cromwell’s bloody march to Parnell’s heady days of power — and even more curiously, to the reigning monarch of England, and visitor next week to these shores, Queen Elizabeth 11.

And there is one strong family connection to Baldwinstown Castle — the Staffords of Co Wexford.

One of the old Norman names, the family is intricately bound up with the Georgian house in Co Wexford and lived there up to the early 1980s when the last of the line, Maureen Stafford, died.

She was nurse and midwife to Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1948, when she delivered Prince Charles, thus having in a small way a hands-on connection to future British monarchs also.

But for all that, the Stafford family who date back to the Normans, were Catholic and held on to their religion throughout the turbulence of Irish history.

Baldwinstown dates to 1195, (shortly after the Norman Invasion), when the Keating clan built a defensive tower on the lands outside of Kilmore Quay and it’s now one of the oldest Norman keeps in Ireland.

It was lived-in up until the time of the Cromwellian invasion and after a siege in 1649, during which the castle was burned, the Keatings were dispossessed.

The castle and its lands were then divided between two Roundhead soldiers, and one of them, John Swan, bought out the other and then eventually sold the land and castle within a short time to Nicholas Stafford for 40 shillings. In the early 1700s, the family built a house adjoining the castle and gentrified it with a Georgian addition on the front in 1810, with financial support from a Father William Stafford, who was a cleric in Rathmines at the time.

The family prospered and were pillars of the Irish Parliamentary party, so much so that they entertained Parnell at Baldwinstown on many occasions.

For the last number of years the property has been owned by the O’Reilly Hyland family who have now decided to sell the property, along with 18 acres of ornamental gardens and paddocks.

It’s on the market with estate specialist, John Shelley of Shelley and Purcell, who is seeking offers in the region of €1 million.

The agent describes it as a ‘tidy Georgian house’ which is in great condition and easy to keep.

The main entrance has a low-key, staircase hallway giving access to a sitting room and drawing room on either side. Both rooms are 7m by 4m and come with antique fire pieces and shuttered, sash windows.

The dining room, which is to the rear, has a bow fronted window, and leads onto a conservatory/ sunroom and then to a warm, country kitchen.

Here, the old Aga, wide fire-breast and big, country table look perfect in their setting and there’s a good range of units, as well as large adjoining utility.

On the first floor, there’s the en suite guest bedroom, three double rooms served by a main bathroom that takes a French country approach, and finally, a master suite that includes a bow-fronted window.

Another good selling point is the attached apartment.

The stable yard includes an American barn, loose boxes and other outbuildings

The nearest town is Kilmore Quay, which has good restaurants and other amenities.

VERDICT: A commoner’s castle in the sunny south east — and with room for regiments of ponies.

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