A Brief History
The demesne consists of the ancient townlands of Kilmainham, Ardgillan and Baltray. The district was originally controlled by the Gaelic O’Casey family and later the Earl of Tyrconnell. However, the period 1600 – 1700 saw great changes in the pattern of land ownership in Ireland due to the confiscation and redistribution of land after the Cromwellian and Williamite wars (1640’s and 1680’s respectively).
In 1658, the “Down Survey” records that Ardgillan was owned by a wine merchant, Robert Usher of Crumlin, Dublin and by 1737, the property had been acquired by the Reverend Robert Taylor, one of the Headfort Taylors, whose grand-father had collaborated with Sir William Petty on the mid 17th century “Down Survey of Ireland”.
Ardgillan remained the family home of the Taylors (later changed to Taylour) for more than two hundred years and until 1962 when the estate was sold to Heinrich Potts of Westphalia, Germany. In 1982, Dublin County Council purchased Ardgillan Demesne and it is now managed by Ardgillan Castle Ltd. under the auspices of Fingal County Council.
Although referred to as a Castle, the residence at Ardgillan is a large country-styled house with castellated embellishments. Originally named “Prospect”, the central section was built in 1738 by Robert Taylor, with the west and east wings added in the late 1700’s.
Initially the site was heavily wooded, the name Ardgillan being derived from the Irish “Ard Choill” meaning High Wood. It was cleared out by service soldiers and itinerant workers in return for one penny a day, sleeping accommodation and one meal.
The house consists of two storeys over a basement which extends out under the lawns on the southern side of the building. When occupied, the ground and first floors were the living accommodations while the west and east wings were servant’s quarters and estate offices.
The basement was the service floor, the kitchen and stores. The Castle has now been restored and the ground floor rooms and kitchens are open to visitors for guided tours. Tea-rooms located off the main reception area and serving light snacks are open in conjunction with the castle opening times.
Upstairs, the former bedrooms are used for classes and exhibitions including a permanent and unique exhibition of the “Down Survey” colour maps and text. Rooms are available for small group meetings and workshops.
The Lady's Stairs
This is a pedestrian footbridge which crosses the Balbriggan/ Skerries Road and the Dublin- Belfast Railway Line, which runs along the north-eastern boundary of the demesne. It was constructed by the Dublin and Drogheda Railway Company and it links the demesne to the beach at Barnageera. The name derives from reports that the ghostly figure of a “Lady” is seen here from time to time.
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