Raheens House Ruins & Obelisk

Raheens House Ruin
Mike Searle (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Raheen's Obelisk
Mike Searle (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Raheens, Castlebar, County Mayo

The shell of a country house erected for Hugh John Henry Browne (1800-68) represented an important component of the nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of Castlebar’s rural environs, with the architectural value of the composition of  ‘a neat cut stone building’ that included at least the footings of an eighteenth-century house as displayed a comparable footprint in the first edition of the ordnance survey. (surveyed 1838: published 1839)  The compact plan form centred on a classically-detailed breakfront.  The diminished scale of each floor’s openings produced a graduated visual impression with the principal ‘apartments’ with elegant bipartite glazed patterns.  Fragments of the original fabric included sleek plaster work refinements that highlighted the artistic potential of the building.  Included were an adjacent coach house-cum-stable outbuilding (see 31307809), a walled garden (see 31307810); private burial ground (opened 1868) then later the nearby ‘cenotaph’ (see 31307811) of the Browne family estate’s historic connections with Neal O ‘Donel Browne RM (1804-74) ‘late of Rahins County Mayo’ (Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1874, 59) also Dodwell Francis ‘The Judge’ Browne JP LLB (1841-1920) a pensioner Ceylon civil service late of Rahins ,Castlebar, (Calendars of Wills and Administrations 1920.)  House occupied 1901 & 1911 then vacated in 1932.   Closed in 1933 then sold during 1941 but again vacant in 1945.  By 1976 house was in ruins.  Registered number is 31307808.  Coordinates are 110416, 288811. (date recorded 3rd November 2010)  [i]

Detached three-bay two-storey over basement country house constructed during 1847/ 8 on an L-shaped plan centred on single-bay full-height pedimented breakfront.  Constructed with east two-bay or west three-bay full-height side elevations.  Constructed with hipped roof of cast-iron rainwater goods on cut-limestone stepped cornice. Coursed hammered limestone walls included drag edged cut-limestone cushion course on coursed hammered limestone base with tooled cut-limestone flush quoins to corners.  A square-headed central door in tripartite arrangement was approached by flight of three cut-limestone steps with cut-limestone monolithic surround to support ‘cyma recta’ or ‘cyma reversa’ cornice.  First floor square-headed window opening with drag edged dragged cut-limestone sill,  red brick block & start surround supported tooled cut-limestone voussoirs with two-over-two timber sash window.  Square-headed window openings in bipartite arrangement with drag edged dragged cut-limestone sills also red brick block & start surrounds to support tooled cut-limestone voussoirs with one-over-one on ground floor or two-over-two on first floor timber sash windows.  Remainer of square-headed window openings with drag edged dragged cut-limestone sills with red brick block-&-start surrounds with six-over-six timber sash windows.  Ground floor interior included central hall on a square plan with run moulded plasterwork cornice to ceiling.  House featured an east drawing room also an west dining room with elliptical-headed buffet niche. [ii]

Estate

Townland names associated with Raheens House near Castlebar maybe be referred to as Raheens, Rahins or Rehins.  John Wesley described an older structure as a fortified house with two turrets still in situ when it was demolished in approximately 1835 by Hugh John Henry Browne.  Raheen’s House was constructed in 1847.  It replaced an earlier house that existed on the site with the kitchen from that house incorporated into the new structure.  House was constructed solidly of chiseled limestone  in the centre of a beautifully wooded park within an estate that extended to one thousand acres.  The Browne family came into possession at the time of the Cromwellian Plantations allegedly in exchange for a white horse.  During the 1800’s estate was owned by Dodwell Browne who married Elizabeth Cuffe of Ballinrobe (her demise occurred in 1777 aged 44)  Dodwell married secondly Maria O’ Donel (daughter of Sir Nial O ‘Donel of Newport)  Several years following her marriage Maria became unwell & had to be transported to Dublin for treatment but her demise occurred.  Dodwell Browne erected an obelisk of twenty-five metres in height to her memory on the estate grounds. (David Hicks 2018)  [iii]

Raheens House was constructed on a site of an earlier eighteenth century house with historic connections to the Browne family.  During 1847 / 48 constructed  for Hugh John Henry Browne (1800-1868). Extant on the former estate are the original eighteenth century coach-house-cum-stable outbuildings also an obelisk monument.  Coordinates are WGS84: 53:50.4654N, 9:21.6873W.  Image of house ruin features on site by Mike Searle. [iv]

Built on the footings of an earlier eighteenth century house with historic connections to the Browne family Raheens House was constructed in 1847 / 48 for Hugh John Henry Browne. (1800-68)  Also extant on the former estate are the original C18 coach-house-cum-stable outbuildings.  An image features of house ruins at this site: https://www.geograph.ie/photo/5828685

Census

During October 1908 in Naas, Co. Kildare the demise occurred with leukaemia of Dodwell’s son barrister Keppel Glenny Dowell Browne (aged thirty-five & unmarried)  His remains were interred in the family vault at Raheens.  He left £479 13s 4d in his Will: it was administered by his brother Dodwell F. Browne.  On the 1911 Census Dodwell Francis Browne (aged 69) lived at Raheens House with wife Annabelle (aged 65 from Co. Down) their daughter Norah Lucy Dodwell Browne Wright (aged 36 born in Ceylon) & granddaughter Annabelle Dodwell Browne (aged 6) were present together with three domestic servants.  The demise occurred of Dodwell Senior in 1920.  His wife Annabelle continued to live at Raheens House. Annabelle was received by royalty & apparently was a frequent visitor to Buckingham Palace.  Her son Dodwell, became the estates owner but he emigrated to Australia where he remained permanently: he was joined by his sister during 1932.  Following Annabelle’s demise on 4th December 1932 the Browne connection with Raheens came to an end.  [v]

Auction / Sale

Prior to the sale of Raheens House the Land Commission acquired most of Browne’s land during 1928 then divided it among the tenants. An advertisement for the sale of the contents of the house during 1933 indicated it contained an entrance hall, dining room, drawing room, kitchen with six bedrooms.  (It was believed by local people that the house contained thirty-five  rooms or even  fifty-four!)  The 1911 Census revealed that the house extended to a modest seventeen rooms.  [vi]

During April 1933 contents of the Raheens House were advertised & an auction carried out over two days by auctioneer Robert Caldwell from Ballina.  Contents of the house included an entrance hall with Indian & Chinese ornaments also mounted birds, exotic animal heads & antlers. Dining room included a circular mahogany table with twelve chairs, an oak side board with a valuable collection of books & bookcases.  A collection of ebony furniture, a grand piano, arm chairs also an Axminister carpet in the drawing room.  The contents of six bedrooms were offered for sale.  [vii]

During January 1940 remaining estate lands were offered for sale at one hundred & sixty-eight acres. Reheens Demesne near Castlebar was sold by Dodwell Browne (living in Australia) with the Mansion House at the estate also the surrounding farm buildings were reported to have been in good condition.  It was recorded that the roof was stripped from the house during 1947.  However by 1954 the house was in ruins with its large reception room in the open also large amounts of rubble within the basement.  The barrel of a seventeenth century cannon (one of four cannons in the grounds of Raheens House was in use as a gate post)  Brown family vault was still visible.  Hugh John Henry Browne also Neal O ‘Brown’s demise occurred on 2nd October 1868.  The last family member buried there occurred in approximately 1940.  Raheens House ruins with obelisk are visible from Raheen Woods.  [viii]

Visitors

Famous visitors at Rahins included John Wesley Founder of the Methodists;  on at least three occasions within his diaries he referred to an event when George Robert Fitzgerald was hanged.  On another occasion he preached under the lime trees on the lawn outside the House.  His last visit was when he laid the foundation stone on the Wesleyan Church on the Mall, Castlebar on 2nd May 1785. (Brian Hoban[ix]

Maria Browne

During the decade prior to Maria  Brown’s demise she forwarded correspondence to General Humbert who had just taken Castlebar in 1798.  She allayed to him her concerns about the safety of herself & other aristocratic ladies within the community.  General replied to reassure her of his protection.  He extended an invitation for Maria with her husband to dine with him.  It was believed General Humbert visited the Browne’s at Raheen’s on three separate occasions.  [x]

Following the retreat of the British from Castlebar in 1798, Maria O Donel Browne corresponded with the French Commander General Humbert to request protection as several of the aristocratic ladies felt under threat.  She received the following reply:  Liberte Egalite Au quartier general, a Castlebar, Ie 13 Fructidore, au 6 an de la Republique Francaife une a indivisible: Le General Humbert,  Ordonne au tout officiers, sous-officiers & soldats, composant son armee de proteger de tout leur pouvoir le Citroen Browne demeurant a Rahins.  Pour le Gl. Humbert, Heutte, Aide-de Camp.  [xi]

The next correspondence was in the General’s own handwriting: Castlebar, 17 Fructidor, An 6. ‘The General Humbert’s compliments to Mrs. Browne is fully sensible of her very polite and proper conduct, takes this opportunity of telling her so and also of assuring her his protection; hopes Mrs. Browne will be able to succeed in tranquilizing the minds of the other ladies, and also that she will be so good as to have his horse taken care of. The General depends on the promise of Mr. and Mrs Browne of having the honour of their company at dinner this day at one o’clock.’  (Source: Mayo Examiner 24/09/1898)  In another letter he stated how much he valued the horse as it had once saved his life.  He also persuaded Mrs. Browne to provide laundry service for him.  It was reported that General Humbert visited the Browne’s on at least three occasions.  [xii]

Illness

A few years following her marriage Maria became unwell & had to be transported to Dublin for treatment.  As she left her home at Raheens her condition worsened.  She was a short distance from the house when the horses drawing her carriage stopped then would not move.  Due to great efforts of the driver the horses eventually relented: they continued on their journey to Dublin.  But unfortunately Maria’s demise occurred.  [xiii]

Obelisk

This obelisk commemorates Maria Browne (née O ‘Donel) (her father Sir Neal O ‘Donel lived at Newport House)  During 1797 she married Dodwell Browne (his second wife)  Maria Browne’s short life ended with her demise during 1809 in a Dublin hospital.  Her husband constructed a monument to her memory in the middle of a field of the Raheen Demesne. It was a tapered column with a height of eighty feet from base to an ornamental urn.  Rubble was used in the construction with four sides of quoins of cut limestone.  A large plaque on the base (written in old Irish) translated as ‘This is to your memory my friend. Oh my loyal beloved, gone forever, your presence forever lost to me.’  Beneath this in English the inscription ‘This cenotaph was built in memory of Maria O ‘Donel Browne, second daughter of Sir Neal O ‘Donel.’   Higher on the obelisk a second plaque was inscribed with ‘À Marie Et À L’Amour Par Son Cher Époux Dodwell, 1809.’  Further up is an oval disc that contained Maria Brown’s profile & her name.  The opposite side featured another plaque with an inscription of ‘To Gaiety and Innocence.’  (A blank space above it suggests that a further tribute inserted may have been removed)  Several images of obelisk feature at this site.  [xiv]

Dodwell married Maria O Donel (a Catholic & his second marriage)  She was daughter of Sir Nial O ‘Donel of Newport.  Several years following her marriage Maria became ill: she travelled to Dublin for medical attention but her demise occurred shortly afterwards.  Her husband Dodwell constructed a cenotaph in her memory.  Monument was an imposing structure approximately eighty feet in height also topped with an ornamental globe carved out of local limestone.  On a polished slab six foot from the base an epitaph was inscribed in English & Irish.  The Irish Version was ‘cramped Irish’ as ‘SIORD THU DOD CUIMHNE M’CARA O MO MUIRNIN DILIS D’IMTHIGH COIDHCHE DO LAITHIR GO BRATH A IARADH UIRM.’  ‘This cenotaph was built in memory of Maria Browne O Donel, second daughter of Sir Neal O Donel.’  Another smaller slab was inscribed in relief  ‘A Marie Et A L’Amour Par Son Cherrepoux Dodwell, 1809.’  Higher up is a round slab the  profile of a woman with the following epitaph in relief ‘Maria O Donel Browne’ & on the other side was the inscription ‘To Gaiety and Innocence.’  [xv]

During 1809 Maria’s husband erected an obelisk on the spot where the horses stopped on the day of her departure.  A slab was placed on the obelisk inscribed with the words ‘A Marie Et A L’Armour Par son Chere Epous Dodwell 1809.’  Followed by another slab inscribed ‘To Gaiety and Innocence.’  Higher on the monument is a profile of a women, (possibly Maria)  The monument is twenty-five metres in height.  Monument was constructed of tapered chiseled limestone with a height of seventy feet that sat upon a plinth of ten feet.  Atop the monument a globe of limestone had been blown off in a storm during the 1890’s which had remained on the ground.  It appeared that an iron dowel had rusted, that allowed the monument’s apex to collapse during the gale.  Masonry had suffered over the years when a mountain ash had become embedded high up on the obelisk so it became necessary to have it removed.  During September 1910 it became necessary for repairs to be made to stabilize the obelisk.

Repairs

The London Steeplejacks of Mr. Will Larkins Company of 18 Alfred Street, Bow, London were employed to rebuild the apex of the memorial.  Mr. Larkin was employed to carry out repairs to the structure.  The work to the obelisk at Raheens was carried out by Mr. Stacey with a number of assistants over three days.  The apex was reached by the means of a telescopic ladder which was lashed to the structure.  Scaffolding was constructed around the apex supported by four small pieces of timber.  From this platform the root of the tree was extracted  then the damaged courses rebuilt.  A copper dowel was inserted that allowed the fallen globe to be returned to its monument’s top position.  [xvi]

Her husband Dodwell Browne engaged the services of Mr. Will Larkins steeplejack to repair the monument during 1910.  (Some ash seedlings had become embedded in the masonry: as it grew it displaced several of the stones)  Steeplejacks erected scaffolding then replaced the urn & globe by use of steel cables.  The work was completed within a few days: https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/castlebar/history/the-brownes-of-raheens.html

Further Information

An urn-topped obelisk as a cenotaph to Maria O’Donel Browne was erected in 1809: https://raheenswood.weebly.com/raheens-estate.html

Obelisk may be viewed at this site: https://www.geograph.ie/photo/5828723)

Image by Liam Lyons (194 Lyons 0013112) of obelisk at Rehins Castlebar, September 1986. (Erected by Dodwell Browne in memory of his wife Maria Browne O’Donel): https://library.mayo.ie/media/Lyons%20Collection/Lyons%20Photographic%20Collection/album/Mayo%20places/Castlebar/Castlebar/index.html

An image of the obelisk during 1800’s with a modern version feature at this site: http://davidhicksbook.blogspot.com/2018/11/raheens-house-castlebar-co.html

Video re obelisk may be viewed on the Irish Aesthete YouTube Channel (see (2) Follies Part 2-YouTube): https://theirishaesthete.com/tag/county-mayo/

In The Connaught Telegraph 27th December 2022 (page 3) information was sought re contents of Raheen’s House from Sarah Murphy Queensland National Trust with images of Dr. Dodwell Brown also one of the tables from the house. She would be interested if viewers have photographs.

Footnotes

[i] Raheens House (https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/31307808/raheens-house-raheens-carr-by-county-mayo-2) [Assessed 28th June 2021]

[ii]  Ibid

[iii] Raheens House (http://davidhicksbook.blogspot.com/2018/11/raheens-house-castlebar-co.html) [Assessed 28th June 2021]

[iv] Raheens House (https://www.geograph.ie/photo/5828685) [Assessed 28th June 2021]

[v]   Ibid

[vi]  Ibid

[vii]  Ibid

[viii] Ibid

[ix] The Browns of Raheens (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/castlebar/history/the-brownes-of-raheens.html) [Assessed 12th January 2021]

[x] Raheens House (http://davidhicksbook.blogspot.com/2018/11/raheens-house-castlebar-co.html) [Assessed 28th June 2021]

[xi] The Browns of Raheens (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/castlebar/history/the-brownes-of-raheens.html) [Assessed 12th January 2021]

[xii] Ibid

[xiii] Raheens House (http://davidhicksbook.blogspot.com/2018/11/raheens-house-castlebar-co.html) [Assessed 28th June 2021]

[xiv] Obelisk (https://theirishaesthete.com/tag/county-mayo/) [Assessed 12th January 2021]

[xv] Ibid

[xvi] Ibid

 

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