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Stillorgan Obelisk..... A Hidden Gem.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:43 am
by stillorgan boy
Growing up in Stillorgan on a road named Allen Park which was named after Lord Allen, I had always heard of the Stillorgan Obelisk but had never seen the monument. Only last week my partner Sue and I took it upon ourselves to go and see the obelisk and we certainly weren’t disappointed.

Following a famine in 1727, and the death of Lady Allen, Lord Allen commissioned the Stillorgan Obelisk. This avant-garde, neo-classical, granite monument stands at over 100 feet high and was probably the first obelisk built in Ireland. The obelisk contains in its base a large vaulted hall from which rises a staircase leading to a viewing platform. Legend has it that the second Viscount of Stillorgan, Joshua Allen, had his favourite horse buried beneath the obelisk.

It was built on the grounds of Stillorgan Park House at the behest of Lord Allen who commissioned the eminent architect Edward Lovett Pearce to design it. Pearce also created a brick grotto on the estate which I believe still stands in the garden of a house on what is now Stillorgan Park Avenue. Edward Lovett Pearce was one of the leading architects of his time and it was he who designed the original Houses of Parliament on College Green.

Pearce was living in the parish at this time in a house known as The Grove. This large house (subsequently known as Tigh Lorcáin Hall) was unfortunately replaced by the Stillorgan Bowling Alley in 1963. He was knighted on the 10th March 1732 and awarded the Freedom of the Dublin on 6th April 1733. Pearse died 'of a violent cholick in his stomach' at Stillorgan, on 7 December 1733. He was buried on 10 December at Donnybrook cemetery, where his grave is no longer identifiable. Keep an eye out for free guided tours of Donnybrook cemetery.

The gardens surrounding the Obelisk have since disappeared, together with the splendid views and today the obelisk sits on a green which overlooks a housing estate. The Obelisk seems restraint in its current environ, longing for the liberation of wide open spaces sweeping down to the sea. Standing tall, it still holds a great presence and provokes thoughts of the past; but it seems to have become a victim of tremendous suburban growth, choking its relevant dominance and grandeur. Maybe now it stands as a testament to the contrasts of the past and indeed what we have lost in our perceived gain. If you have never seen the Stillorgan Obelisk, it is definitely worth checking out. The entrance is at Carysfort Woods, Carysfort Avenue.

Re: Stillorgan Obelisk..... A Hidden Gem.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 12:18 pm
by Rocker
That is a great bit of history. Before all those houses were built we used to get in around the Obelisk...for the life of me I can't remember just how but, I think it was off Stillorgan Park (there was a farm at the end of the houses). In those days fences or gates weren't a problem to children. I never knew the history of the place.

Re: Stillorgan Obelisk..... A Hidden Gem.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 12:44 pm
by bugrock
Brilliant article. loved it hellllo

Re: Stillorgan Obelisk..... A Hidden Gem.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 8:33 pm
by Toss
Thanks for that Stillorgan Boy ..... I knew where it was and had seen it from a distance many a time in my youth, but you have given it a new life and I hope to take a closer peek next time I'm in the area.

wuu wuu wuu

Re: Stillorgan Obelisk..... A Hidden Gem.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2017 8:34 pm
by Strum
I had only heard of it but that's brilliant. Great story, thanks SB.


Re: Stillorgan Obelisk..... A Hidden Gem.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 4:46 pm
by masterblaster
May I add my sincere thanks to stillorgan boy for a wonderful post.A real pleasure indeed.

Stillorgan House.....Stillorgan’s Camelot.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 3:31 pm
by stillorgan boy
The period house that stands on the site of the day centre at Park House, Stillorgan was built in the 1800’s but, for 200 years before that, another fine stately house stood prominently on this site. This was owned by the renowned Allen family of Stillorgan. This grand and stately home called Stillorgan House was built originally in 1695 by Colonel John Allen (1661-1726). The Allen family were Lords of Stillorgan, in the seventeenth century but their male line died out in 1745. The residence replaced an older manor house that once stood on the site. Stillorgan House was a two story house over a basement which also had an attic floor. It had two connecting wings on the north side whilst on the south side the facade was compiled of twenty one windows. The house was famous for its gardens, fish-ponds, carriageways, manicured hedges and ponds. The gardens and conservatories were famous for their rare plants and flowers.

John Allen was the son of Joshua Allen, a successful businessman and prominent citizen of Dublin. Sir Joshua Allen (died 1691), became a merchant in Dublin and rose to be Lord Mayor of the City in 1673. It was he who amassed the wealth from which subsequent generations benefitted, and who wisely invested the proceeds of his long career in land. He bought among others the Stillorgan estate and lands at Bullock. It was he who acquired the Stillorgan estate in 1684. When James II came to the throne he anticipated trouble in Ireland and moved to Ashton for a few years, from where he helped to organise the transport of King William III's troops to Ireland. His estates in Ireland were sequestered under the General Act of Attainder, but restored before his death in 1691. Although he had obtained adequate permission’s to enclose a demesne and a deer park, unfortunately he did not live long enough to do so. His son John inherited the estate and it was he that was responsible for building a plain but dignified new house, Stillorgan House and laying out the formal grounds there in 1695, only four years after his father’s passing.

Col. John Allen (1661-1726) served under William III in Ireland and became a MP in the Irish Parliament in 1692. He further developed the family estates, buying the Arklow estate in Wicklow which passed to his elder surviving daughter and her husband. He served in the House of Commons for 25 years and as an MP for Dublin, Wicklow and Carlow. He married the sister of the 9th Earl of Kildare and had three sons. They followed their Dad into Parliament, indeed at one stage John and his three sons all sat in parliament at the same time. He became Baron Allen of Stillorgan and Viscount Allen of Kildare in 1717. He died in London in 1726.

Joshua Allen, the 2nd Viscount Allen (1685-1742), inherited Stillorgan House from his father Colonel John Allen. The 2nd Viscount Allen wanted a grander and more fashionable house. He commissioned the foremost architect in Ireland in the early 1700’s, the young architect, Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, to design a remodel of the house and estate, but for the most part this was never carried out. Nonetheless some changes were made to the gardens, including the construction of a grotto and the famous Stillorgan obelisk.

In the grounds to the south of the house there were three rectangular fish ponds. I remember what was possibly one of those fishponds just across the old Stillorgan Road down across from Merville. We used to catch tadpoles in it. It was a kind of creepy spot. The lands surrounding Stillorgan House were extensive and park-like. To the north of the house there was a long narrow tree lined avenue stretching as far as the South County Hotel (as we remember it). To the south then a deer park that extended to Newtownpark Avenue. Joshua Allen liked to party and entertained lavishly at Stillorgan and it is possible that Lord Allen was already running through the money accumulated by his grandfather. Joshua, 2nd Viscount Allen, died in 1742 and was succeeded by his only surviving son, John Allen.

John Allen (1708-45), 3rd Viscount Allen. John survived his father by only three year. He is said to have been mugged in Dublin City Centre one night in 1745. Although he fought off his attackers (reputed to have killed one of them), he received a wound to his hand which subsequently became infected and as a result he died one month later. He has no brothers therefore when the 3rd Viscount died in 1745 the title passed to his Kildare cousin John Allen (d.1753), a grandson of the 1st Viscount, who had inherited a small estate at Punchestown. The Stillorgan estate and other property in Ireland passed to his two surviving sisters, later Lady Carysfort and Lady Newhaven. His mother moved to London where her eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married John Proby. John became the 1st Baron of Carysfort; taking his title from lands owned by the Allens in Wicklow. Elizabeth Allen and her husband John Proby eventually inherited sole control of Stillorgan and may have lived in Stillorgan House between 1745 and 1754. The estate was gradually broken up and sold for building from 1777 onwards, Carysfort House and the Carysfort Avenue houses were built around this time. Stillorgan House continued to be occupied until 1860 and the ruins were not finally demolished until 1887.

After the Allen family moved to England, Stillorgan House was leased to the Right Honourable Philip Tisdal in 1754. From 1739 to 1776 he was an MP in the Irish House of Commons and was Solicitor General from 1751 to 1760. He was appointed Attorney General in 1760 and Principal Secretary of State in 1763. In 1764 he was appointed to the Privy Council of Ireland.

Upon the death of Philip Tisdal, James Hewitt an Englishman from humble origins rented Stillorgan House (as his country residence). He was an MP for Coventry from 1761 to 1766 and was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1767. Nicolas La Fevre was the next occupier of Stillorgan House but fell upon financial difficulties and consequently the condition of the house deteriorated during his occupancy. In 1803 John Verschoyle became the next person to live in Stillorgan House, where he resided until his death in 1840.

Following the death of John Verschoyle in 1840, Arthur Lee Guinness came to live in Stillorgan House. He was the grandson of Arthur Guinness the founder of Guinness Brewery. At 23 years of age he was made a partner in the brewing firm. After being caught up in a scandal he was removed from James Gate and some records survive to show that he was given £12,000 from the business to purchase Stillorgan house. Arthur Lee Guinness’s life after he left the brewery still remained lavish and Stillorgan House had the best of everything. When he owned the house, the fantastic interior decor included embroidered silk, ivories, carved teak and bronze artefacts. Guinness had a blind harpist, who had flowing white hair and beard and played his harp every afternoon; it is said that Arthur Lees fondness of the harp le the Guinness firm to use it as its logo. Arthur Lee Guinness never married so lived at the house with his cousin, Eliza O’ Grady. Eliza acted as hostess to the many lavish parties there, whose guest lists were mostly aristocratic.

Arthur Lee Guinness was the last occupier of Stillorgan House and after he left in it fell into disrepair. The house was demolished some years after Arthur Lee Guinness left and by 1888 a new house was being built in its place. This house, we know today as Park house now stands in its place to this present day. Park House was occupied by the Monahan family, then the Hendron family (who had a hardware and machinery business in Dublin). The Hendon’s stayed until 1961. In 1963 the house was purchased by the Trustees of the Polio Fellowship of Ireland. In 1986, this organisation merged with Rehab but Park House continued to be a place of rehabilitation for people with disabilities. The house in now run by the Rehab and is the home of their day centre.

The history of Stillorgan House, beguiles the senses: the charming stately home, the prominent residents and visitors, its demesne and its beautiful sprawling, lavish gardens; its tunnels, grotto, ponds and obelisk; the opulence, lavish parties and scandals starkly contrasting with the benevolence and high office of many of the residents. Weaved with the social history of its timeline, it has left us an elusive and fading legacy. Nonetheless we are richer for it.

Re: Stillorgan Obelisk..... A Hidden Gem.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 11:16 pm
by Rocker
Stillorgan boy,
A fabulous piece of history. All names I have heard of but never questioned. Proby, Carysfort and Allen. We lived in a part of Blackrock that was the Vance Estate but nearby houses were part of Carysfort and Lord Proby's Estate. I didn't know they were related. I'm going to read it again. Thanks stillorgan boy wuu wuu

Re: Stillorgan Obelisk..... A Hidden Gem.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2017 9:23 am
by Denis Cromie
Makes for great reading Stillorgan Boy, we never stop learning on this site. wuu wuu wuu.