Historical Houses

Enfield and Rathmolyon Historical Houses
by Noel French

Johnstown House

Johnstown house is located just outside Enfield in the south of the county. In fact the village of Enfield is in the townland of Johnstown. Jim Prendergast, who was born in Johnstown House in 1940, has written a history of the house.

The house was erected in the middle of the eighteenth century and altered in the middle of the nineteenth century. A square blockish house the house has a pedimented doorcase and four chimneystacks. One room contained a good plasterwork ceiling. There is an extensive range of stone built stabling and farm buildings.

Francis Forde, originally from Co. Down, attended Trinity College, Dublin and then joined the army. His regiment, the 39th, were the first of the King’s regiments to be sent to India. When his regiment was recalled to England Forde was invited to take charge of the East India Company's army in Bengal. Robert Clive had met Forde in the Carnatic in 1756 and his high opinion of Forde’s military abilities was shared by others. Forde fought the French successfully to oust them from the Northern Circars and Forde's expedition had contributed to the failure of the French siege of Madras. Forde's successes against the French were repeated against the Dutch. In 1760 Forde returned to England, where he was reunited with his wife and his children. Colonel Francis Forde purchased the lands at Johnstown in 1761 and erected the house. In 1769 he was appointed one of three supervisor to the administration of India. The ship carrying the three men disappeared in December 1769.

In 1770 a Dublin merchant, James Halpin, purchased the house and the lands of Innfield. James Halpin died in 1822 leaving the estate to his sister, Constance, who was married to Andrew Roarke. Andrew’s son, James Halpin Rourke inherited the estate in 1826. Following the famine and its economic consequences Rourke was forced to lease the house and lands to Rev. James Rynd. Rev. Rynd converted one of the rooms into an oratory.

James Rourke Junior inherited the property in 1860 but within four years he was bankrupt and the estate had to be sold under the Encumbered Estates Court. The estate totalling 3071 acres included lands at Castlemartin, Tankardstown and Johnstown, Co. Meath and Tyrrellstown, Blakestown, Hartstown, Co. Dublin and Newtown, Co. Kildare.

Col. John Ennis M.P. purchased the house and some of the estate in 1864 for his daughter, Margaret, and her husband, Edmund Waterton. John Ennis was a Dublin merchant and a Governor of the Bank of Ireland.

Michael Colgan purchased the house and property in 1896. Seven years later in 1903 Thomas Ruttledge purchased the house. House and estate were sold to the Land Commission in the early 1920s and it was expected that the house would be demolished. Patrick Prendergast purchased the house in 1927. When the Prendergast family purchased the house in the 1920s there were many stories about the house being haunted so a priest was asked to say Mass in the house. Patrick died in 1966. The upkeep of the house was too expensive and the property was sold in 1985. The house passed through a number of owners before being developed as a hotel.

Balyna House

Balyna House is now part of the Moyvalley Hotel and Golf Resort.

Balyna Estate was granted in 1574 by Queen Elizabeth I to Calogh O’Moore because their lands in Laois had been confiscated. Calogh’s father, Rory Og O’More, had led a rebellion against the queen in the 1560s and 1570s. In 1577, the government invited the O’Mores to a peace conference at Mullaghmast near Ballitore, Co. Kildare. When the forty O’Mores arrived the English opened fire with their muskets and killed them all.. Rory O’More is said to have fled into the woods at Balyna when Cromwell’s soldiers approached. To ensure that he found his path to the woods he plunged his walking stick into the ground. Managing to elude his enemies he exited the wood where he had placed his walking stick only to find it had begun to grow. It grew into a tall Scots pine and a legend grew in that family that as long as the tree was healthy the Mores would stay at Balyna. In 1957 the tree declined and died and shortly afterwards the family left Balyna.

In 1779 Balyna passed to Letitia O'Moore who was married to Richard O’Ferrall. As Catholics a number of the O’Ferralls of Balyna served in foreign armies on the Continent. The estate was a refuge for bishops and priests for centuries and Dr. Forstall, Bishop of Kildare, ordained priests here in the year 1678-1680.

Major Ambrose O'Ferrall commenced construction of a new house at Balyna in 1815, which survived until 1878 when it was destroyed by fire and replaced by the current house. His daughter, Letitia, a nun in the Sisters of Charity, gave £3,000 for the purchase of a house in St Stephen's Green, Dublin, which grew to be one of Dublin's largest hospitals, St Vincent's. His eldest son, Richard More O'Ferrall, was appointed Governor of Malta in 1847.

Richard More O’Ferrall is reputed for having been responsible for the erection of the Celtic cross which now stands to the rear of the house. It is said that this Cross, along with another was transported from Europe, the two being encased in wooden crates and towed behind the ship on a barge. Legend has it that one was lost at sea, but the second survives to this day.

Balyna was sold in 1960 and was owned by Bewley’s Oriental Cafes Ltd until 1983. The milk and cream in the Cafes came from the pedigree Jersey herd at Balyna. In 1984 the estate was sold to Justin Keating; it was sold again in 1990-1991 to George Grant. Moyvalley was developed into a Hotel and Golf Resort in 2007.

Ballinderry House

Ballinderry House is located between Longwood and Enfield. In the 1830s Ballinderry House was described as a handsome dwelling, the residence of Mr. F.C. Murphy who in 1836 was making extensive improvements in the way of drainage etc. The house was described as standing on a good site and was sheltered by some trees around it. Murphy held the townland of Ballinderry, 491 acres, from Lord Langford. In the 1850s William Walsh held the house and over 200 acres from Richard T. Rowley. In 1901 and 1911 William Walsh and his family resided at Ballinderry House, probably a son of the William who held the lands in the 1850s.

Ryndville House

Ryndville House stood in the parish of Rathcore, near Enfield in southwest Meath. The house was demolished in the 1970s.

The Rynd family originated in the Enniskillen area of Co. Fermanagh. James Rynd Grange Beg, Westmeath and Miss Hester Fleetwood of Parktown, Meath, were married on 3 December 1793. They settled at Ryndville. Hester, daughter of Robert Fleetwood, was his third wife. James died in 1814. His widow died in 1850, surviving her husband by thirty six years. Their son, Robert Fleetwood Rynd was born 1798. The family were buried in Rathcore.

Robert Fleetwood Rynd married Maria Longworth Dames of Greenhills, Co. Offaly (then King’s County) in 1831. The thatched church of the Roman Catholic community at Jordanstown was situated on the Ryndville Estate. In 1832 Robert Fleetwood Rynd gave the sum of twenty pounds towards the erection of a new chapel at Jordanstown.

In 1835 the townland of Jordanstown, Rathcore parish – the townland was the property of Robert Fleetwood Rynd, his demesne was called Ryndville which comprised about half the townland. The remaining half he tilled himself. The townland has 472 acres. Mr. Rynd also held 800 acres from Mr. Kettlewell in Possextown townland. Half of this was in pasture with the other half in tillage.

Robert Fleetwood Rynd died in 1875 while his widow Maria died in 1893. In 1876 the representatives of R. F. Rynd, of Ryndville held 1,426 acres in County Meath. Their only son, James Fleetwood Rynd, was a colonel in the Leitrim Rifles, received a B.A. from Trinity and was called to the Irish Bar. He died in 1908 aged 75 years. His sister, Maria Jane, married Frederick Cockayne Elton who reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the British army. He was also one of the earliest recipients of the Victoria Cross. Elton received the award for the bravery he displayed while fighting the Russians in the Crimea in 1855. Robert and Maria’s daughter Elizabeth married Arthur Hume while another daughter, Emma Arabella, married Major Francis Topping in Toronto, Canada.

As James Fleetwood died without an heir the estate went to his sisters. Maria Jane lived at Ryndville after her brother died. Maria Jane died in 1924 aged 90. Elizabeth Hume, lived at 63 Dawson Street, Dublin and she died in 1936, aged 101.

A related Rynd family held lands nearby at Mount Armstrong in county Kildare. A possible relative was Francis Rynd who invented the hypodermic syringe in 1844. Relatives of the Ryndville family now live in Wales.

Ryndville House by Pat Holton - Pat the Painter, who has painted a number of views of the house for the Mahon family. (By kind permission P. Holton)

Rahinstown House

Rahinstown is located in south Meath close to Rathmolyon. The original Rahinstown House dated from the eighteenth century. A drawing of the houses in the 1830s shows a six bay house of three storeys over a basement. The front door was not centred but to the left, suggesting that the original house may have been added to. About 1870 the old house burned down and was replaced by a large Italianate house and farm buildings. Sandham Symes was the architect for the construction of the new buildings for Robert Fowler in 1871. The house has a three bay front in cement with sandstone dressings and bow windows with curved glass.

Rahinstown is the story of two families the Bomfords and the Fowlers. The Bomfords developed the estate in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century when it was taken over by the Fowler family who already had interests in the area.

Laurence Bomford of Clonmahon died in 1720 aged 103. Sir Arthur Langford of Summerhill let the lands of Baronstown and Rahinstown, 903 acres, to Thomas Bomford. Laurence’s eldest son, Thomas, settled at Rahinstown and was Secretary to the Court of Claims in the reign of Charles II. Thomas died in 1740 and left the estate to his brother, Stephen of Gallow. Stephen was succeeded by his son, also Stephen, in 1756. Stephen married Elizabeth Sibthorpe of Dunany, Co. Louth in 1745.

Stephen Bomford died in 1808. His second son, Robert, served as a captain in the Bengal Infantry in the East India Company before returning to Ireland to marry Maria Massy-Dawson in 1792. When his elder brother Thomas died Robert became heir to Rahinstown and succeeded to the estate of 2358 statute acres in 1808. Robert died nine years later in 1817 and was buried at Rathcore. When Robert died Maria his wife was aged 48 and all her seven children were under 21, the youngest being only 7. Maria Massy Bomford has a memorial in Saint Ann’s, Dawson Street, Dublin. She died in 1848 aged 79 years. The family regularly lived at No 7 Upper Merrion Street. The estate was taken over by their eldest son, Robert George Bomford when he came of age. Born in 1802 he served as High Sheriff of Meath in 1832. Robert George married Elizabeth Kennedy of Annadale, Co. Down in 1826. In 1836 Rahinstown Demesne the demesne was well planted with fir and other trees and the house was described as a very good one but the pleasure grounds appeared very much neglected. It was the residence of Mr. R.G. Bomford. He died without an heir in 1846 and his widow married Marcus Gervais Beresford, Archbishop of Armagh. After the death of Robert’s mother in 1848 the estate was sold and the proceeds divided among his sisters. Peter Bamford has a very extensive website devoted to the Bomford family.

The Fowlers came to Ireland from England. Robert Fowler was born in 1724 at Skendleby, Lincolnshire. Educated at Cambridge he was appointed chaplain to George II in 1756. Fowler was appointed bishop of Killaloe and Kilfenora in 1771 and in 1779 was translated to the archbishopric of Dublin. He resided at Tallaght while archbishop. He was the first chancellor of the Order of St Patrick in 1783.

In 1766 Fowler married Mildred Dealtry of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. They had a son, Robert, who succeeded him, a daughter Mary (Countess of Kilkenny) and a daughter, Frances, who married Richard Bourke, Bishop of Waterford 1813 to 1833.

In 1789 Fowler voted with fourteen other peers against the Irish House of Lords calling for the Prince of Wales to be made regent during the illness of George III.

Fowler died suddenly on 10 October 1801 at Bassingbourn Hall, Cambridgeshire, where he had resided for two years for his health. He was buried in Takeley churchyard but there is no memorial to him.

Robert’s eldest son, Robert was Bishop of Ferns and Ossory 1813 to 1841. Born about 1767 Fowler was educated at Oxford. He married Louisa Gardiner, daughter of Luke Gardiner, Viscount Mountjoy in 1796. Gardiner was a property developer, laying out Mountjoy Square and Gardiner Street. In 1848 Louisa was buried in the family vault in St. Thomas’s Church, Dublin next to her husband.

Their eldest son Robert Fowler was born in 1797 and married twice. He settled at Rahinstown. He married Jane Anne Crichton in 1820 and secondly Lady Harriet Eleanor Wandesforde-Butler, daughter of John Butler, second Marquess of Ormonde. He died in 1863. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Robert, who was Deputy Lieutenant, Justice of the Peace and High Sheriff of Meath in 1871. He married Laetitia Mable Coddington of Oldbridge in 1856. He died in 1897.

John Sharman Fowler, the second son of Robert Fowler, joined the Royal Engineers in 1886. Serving on the frontiers of India, South Africa and Ireland Fowler became director of Army Signals. At the outbreak of the First World War, he became Director of Army Signals of the British Expeditionary Force, a position he held throughout the war. By the end of the war Fowler was commanding 70,000 men. Fowler remained in the army after the war, serving in the British Forces in China until 1925.

In the 1901 census Robert H. Fowler, retired Army Captain and Justice of the Peace, his wife, their two sons, two visitors and thirteen servants were in residence at Rahinstown. Robert Henry served as High Sheriff of Co. Meath in 1899. In 1908 a number of cattle drives took place on the estate of Captain Fowler of Rahinstown.

Robert Henry Fowler was the longest lived international cricketer, living to within a month of his hundredth birthday. Born in 1857, attended Sandhurst, joined the Army in 1878 and died in 1957. He married Mabel Glyn in 1890 and they had two sons. His son Robert St Leger Fowler, was also a highly regarded cricketer, being captain of the Eton team while at school there. Joining the army Robert St Leger served as a captain in World War 1, winning a Military Cross during the defence of Amiens against the last German offensive of 1918. He died from leukaemia at Rahinstown in 1925. George Glyn Fowler, the second son, was killed at the battle of Loos, 26 September 1915 aged 19. There are a number of memorials to this hero in Rathmolyon church including the wooden cross originally erected at Lapugnoy Military Cemetery.

The estate then passed to Bryan John Fowler, son of George Hurst Fowler, third son of Robert and Laetitia Mable Fowler.

Bryan John Fowler of Rahinstown served during World War I being awarded the Military Cross and also won a Distinguished Service Order for his efforts in World War II. Brigadier Fowler was at Fairyhouse Races on Easter Monday 1916 and was summoned away to maintain control in Drogheda. He later became instructor at the Army Equitation School in Weedon. He competed for Britain in polo in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, winning a silver medal. On returning from England, the family lived for a while at Culmullen House before moving to the family estate at Rahinstown.

His son, John Fowler, was a well known horse trainer. He represented Ireland in the Mexico Olympics of 1968. In December 2008 John Fowler was killed in a tree-felling accident on his farm.

Hotwell House

Hotwell House, Ballinakill, Enfield was built in 1838 by Henry Purdon, a farmer and Justice of the Peace. Henry came from Ardrums and the family were also connected to the Winters of Agher. The family may have originated at Lisnabin, Killucan, Co. Westmeath Lisnabin House was until quite recently the residence of the Purdon family (descendants of William the Conqueror’s barber!), who came from Cumbria to Ireland in 1533. Edward Purdon, Esq, born in 1709 settled at Lisnabin. Lisbin House was erected in 1819 after their former dwelling was burned down as a result of an overturned candle. The 400-acre estate has been home to a pedigree herd of Hereford cattle since 1824. Branches of the family were also at Kilcooley and Tullyard, Trim and Drumlargan, Summerhill.

According to one biography of Katherien Purdon the Purdon family came from Cork. Henry Purdon acquired Ardrums in 1800 but built a new house at Hotwell. Henry Purdon Esqr of Hotwell died in 1845 aged 66 years and was buried at Agher. His wife, Catherine, had died in 1821 aged 35 years. The couple had at least two sons, Henry Edward and Bartholomew.

Bartholomew of Ardrums, 1818 - 1904, in 1848 married Maria a daughter of Doctor David Trotter of Summerhill at Laracor. Their descendants were at Ardrums until well into the twentieth century.

Henry Edward succeeded to the estate at Hotwell. Henry died in 1873 and his wife Sarah died in 1874 and they were buried in Agher graveyard. The estate at Ballinakill was 395 acres. Their son, Edward, died in 1862 aged 6. Their eldest son, Henry, died in 1909 while their third son, James, died in 1891.

Katherine Frances Purdon was born at Hotwell in 1852 and educated in England and Alexandra College, Dublin. She lived at Hotwell until her death in 1920. Her play, The Candle and The Crib, (written 1914) was performed in the Abbey Theatre in 1918. She contributed to Irish and English periodicals, her first appearing in Irish Homestead; published The Folk of Furry Farm an affectionate account of local kindness and eccentricity displaying great love of animals. Her many writings for children included her first two books, The song of the lark and The fortunes of Flot: a dog story, mainly fact. Her stories were illustrated by Jack B. Yeats. George Russell thought she wrote perfect English. Her first novel, The folk of Furry Farm, proved an immediate success, welcomed as a rare venture into the genre by a writer associated with the literary revival, and for giving a voice to the Irish midlands, a region largely neglected by other writers. Set like many of her stories in the fictional townland of Ardenoo, the book, with its affectionate portrayal of a diverse cast of characters, bespeaks her close observation of the idiom, manners, and folkways of the small-farmer class along the Meath–Kildare borders. In her second novel, Dinny of the doorstep (1918), she depicts the lives of poor children in the squalid Dublin tenements, indicting without stridency the indifference of the affluent to their circumstances. She was involved in the Gaelic Revival movement alongside luminaries such as W.B. Yeats and her works were illustrated by well known artists such as Jack B. Yeats and Arthur Rakham. Purdon had a strong interest in the Irish Language movement and was in contact with noted activists like Thomas MacDonagh, one of the signatories of Ireland's Proclamation of Independence in 1916. However, by her own admission she only had a few words of Irish. Purdon was one of the founding members of the the Irish Countrywomen’s Association under its original name of the United Irishwomen.

In February 1882 George Homan Lennon of Newcastle married Eleanor Martha Purdon, daughter of Henry Purdon, at Rathmolyon, and the house later became home to the Lennon and Purdon family. George’s occupation was salesmaster and land agent. George Haunly Purdon, son of Henry and his mother continued to live in the house. Geroge and Eleanor had a son George born in December 1882. The house was sold after H.M. Lennon died about 1975. Hotwell House gains its name from a warm spring on the property known as St. Gorman's Well. The Hotwell at nearby Hotwell House was said by some to have been dedicated to St. Brigid but is more generally called St. Gorman’s Well. According to one source Hotwell at Ballinakill is dedicated to St. Brigid and 15th August is its Patron Day. It was known up to a generation ago by its Irish name of Tobar a' Gora. Its water is reputed to be always warm even when the surrounding country is under frost and snow. This well was once dedicated to St. Ultan. Ballina¬kill was the last home of the Kindelans -the O Ciondealbháin - former Kings of Laoire and patrons of St. Ultan's monastery at Ardbraccan. It is natural that they should have dedi¬cated the well at Ballinakill to the same patron. Since having been driven into exile in Spain in the seventeenth century they have kept the name and devo¬tion to Ultan alive from generation to generation. In recent years members of this great old Gaelic family have visited both Tobar a' Gora and St. Ultan's Well at Ardbraccan. The well is one of the hot wells which occur in south Meath. The water is cool in the summer and can be as warm as 16 degrees Celsius in the winter. The well provided a cure for deafness and ear troubles. It flows from November until May each year with water bubbling to the surface at a balmy 25 degrees Centigrade. There is a large stone in the water with two indentations in it, which are said to be the knee prints of St. Gorman, a hermit who had come here from St. Finian’s Well at Clonmacnoise. The well has been an important place of pilgrimage since pre-Christian times and the waters are believed to have healing properties. Devotees bathed in the well, then pinned a piece of their clothing to the old elm tree that grew beside it. When the cloth fell from the tree, they would be cured of what ailed them.

There were a number of proposals that the warm water be used to generate heat for the local communities and even further afield.

The Wilkinsons moved to Hotwell House in 1980.

Posseckstown House

Posseckstown house is just outside Enfield on the road to Trim. In the civil parish of Rathcore it was the property of Mr. Kettlewell in 1835 and leased to Mr. Rynd and Mrs Domegan, Enfield. The red brick house was probably built about 1870. William Potterton purchased the property in 1923 and when his son died the property passed to his sister, Alice Weld, and then to her daughter, Mona Foster.

Cherryvalley House

Cherryvalley House is located just outside Rathmolyon on the Ballivor Road. In the 1850s Robert Fowler held the townland of Cherryvalley. A two storey farm house was erected at Cherryvalley in 1877. In 1901 Daniel Douglas, widower, and his son William were living at Cherryvalley. The house had twelve rooms, five windows to the front and thirteen outbuildings. In 1911 William Douglas owned the house but it was lived in by Richard Douglas and his wife. Today the housing estate of Cherryvalley is located to the east of the house.


Trammon is located near Rathmolyon. Casey and Rowan describe Trammon as a small early Victorian Hansel and Gretel house. Trammon was erected by James Williams who died in 1853 and is buried in Rathmolyon. James was the only son of Thomas Williams, St. Catherine’s Park, Leixslip. A single storey building with a steeply pitched roof Trammon has decorative bargeboards and red and yellow brick patterning. Marie Anne, wife to James, died in 1894.

In 1901 the house had fifteen rooms, four windows to the front and thirteen outbuildings. The house was owned by Florence Williams but resided in by Kate Labertouche. In 1911 Henrietta Williams was living at Trammon.