My first piece of local history ‘research’ was on Charleville House in Enniskerry. As a student working there during summers, I was smitten with the elegant grandeur of the house and the stunning gardens, fabulously restored. Using Enniskerry Library as a research base, I punched out four pages, double spacing, on my Commodore Amiga and was ready to present it to my employers and the world. Luckily for me, them, and the authors of the books I had likely plagiarised from, the file corrupted before I could print it. Twenty years later, using similar techniques to the first time, I am going to try again…
The best view of Charleville House, Enniskerry is undoubtedly from Powerscourt Avenue. Here we see the Palladian villa nestled in its woodland setting. But its location, so close to Powerscourt begs an obvious question—how did such a grand house on its own estate end up being so close to Powerscourt? Why does Enniskerry have two great estate houses? Like many questions that arise about our locality, they are answered by Rev AE Stokes in his 1963 lecture. In this he asks;
How came it that Flower and his relations the Moncks managed to hold on to about a thousand acres at Glencap?
The answer, like most questions of land, go back deep in time, probably to post-Norman invasion. In the jostling of land ownership through the medieval era, the lands around the Dargle passed in and out of ownership of O’Tooles, then Strongbow’s man de Ridelesford, then de Cogan, and then crucially—part of the lands at least—to the Archbishop of Dublin. After a time when no records exist in the 15th and 16th centuries, the lands in the territory formerly known as Fercullen, were granted to Richard Wingfield who would become Viscount Powerscourt. However, Wingfield and his descendants had no claim to the lands south of the Dargle in this area, as they had been granted to the Archbishop of Dublin centuries earlier. After Cromwell, these lands were granted to Sir William Flower, one of his officers. One of Flower’s descendants, Agneta, married Charles Monck in 1705, who had inherited lands at Grangegorman in Dublin. It was they or their first son George Monck who built a house at Charleville, and the Moncks would be resident there for the next two hundred and fifty years.
The present house at Charleville was not the first house there. About 100 metres to the left of the house there is a large hollow in the ground where a previous house stood. This burned down in 1792 and practically nothing is known about it. The picture shown is attributed to Henry Brocas and is thought to be the original house, but it is not certain whether this is the case, or whether it is a plan for what the new house could look like. Desmond Guinness mentions in Irish Houses and Castles that the stables to the rear could pre-date the current house, so they may belong to the older one.
In any case, the present house at Charleville and its pretty gate lodges were built in 1797 by Charles Stanley Monck, the nephew of George, whose only son had died aged six. Having voted for the Act of Union, Charles became 1st Viscount Monck in 1801. Powerscourt, one of only five Lords who voted against Union can’t have been too pleased with his neighbour’s actions—he reportedly told one of the king’s messengers who came to offer him a marquess (roughly equivalent to an earldom) in return for support for the Union that he would not be bribed (one version of the story has Powerscourt kicking the messenger down the stairs!). Charles died the following year, and his son Henry continued improvements at Charleville; most notably significant development before the royal visit in 1821 in the hope that King George IV might visit when he came to Powerscourt. These developments provide the origins of the Regency interiors at Charleville. The king didn’t visit, which must have been disappointing, but Henry did become 1st Earl of Rathdowne the following year—not a bad compensation prize!
As Henry had no living sons (but 11 daughters), when he died in 1848, the Earldom went with him. His brother became 3rd Viscount for a year until his own death in 1849, and his son, Charles, became 4th Viscount for almost the remainder of the century, until 1894. Charles married his cousing—one of Henry’s 11 daughters who had lost out on their inheritance because of their gender. He was Governor General of Canada from 1861 – 1868. The last Monck to live at Charleville was Charles’ son, Henry, 5th Viscount who died in 1927. As he was pre-deceased by his two sons and his only brother, he was the last Viscount Monck. There are extensive files in the National Library for the Monck family.
What of the neighbourly relations between the Powerscourts and Moncks? It is improbable that Richard 4th Viscount Powerscourt (1762-1809) was on good terms with Charles 1st Viscount Monck (1754-1802) given their divergent views on Act of Union. It was Richard, 5th Viscount who secured the King’s visit in 1821 but who watched his neighbour become Earl in the following year. By the time of the 1825 Irish Education Enquiry, we have evidence to show that Lady (Countess) Rathdowne, wife of the 2nd Viscount Monck took a great interest in the education of their tenantry—specifically the religious education. She was friends with Lady Powerscourt, wife of the 6th Viscount and they both met regularly with Reverend Daly to discuss spiritual matters. The trio were a tour de force for evangelical religious education in the parish.
There are notes to suggest that in the middle of the 1800s, there was a land agreement between Monck (probably 4th Viscount) and Powerscourt (probably Guardians acting on his behalf) which caused some disquiet in the community. This may not reflect neighbourly relations though, more just good business sense. The long lives of Mervyn 7th Viscount Powerscourt and Charles 4th Viscount Monck means they must have had dealings with each other over the second half of the century. There was an incident recorded in the Powerscourt Guardian minute books in the 1850s regarding whether an additional public house should be allowed in the village. Monck (in favour) and Powerscourt (against) differed in their views.
However, other than what I have mentioned, I have come across very little about Moncks from the Powerscourt perspective. He is occasionally mentioned on lists of subscribers for local charities, and occasionally sat at Enniskerry Courthouse as Petty Sessions judge. But otherwise, he does not seem to have been much involved in village life. I suppose it can’t have been easy to do so, given Powerscourt was landlord of all around him, including the village.