As we all know this area has grown and grown and grown over the last few decades with particular acceleration over the last 10/12 or so years. This side of the city was first opened up with the building of the bridge over the Pill linking the Mall to Lombard Street and creating the first development at ‘this side’ of William Street. Towards the river was a hive of industrial and maritime activity; to the west was a great marsh. Over the course of that century the new road was developed south-eastwards along what has become its course today. Previously all traffic bound for the key port of Passage East went via John’s Hill and then along the obviously named Passage Road. The new park was opened in 1857 which has been undergoing a total redesign and should be already to celebrate its 150th two years ago. Much needed in its day and was also a sign of the city’s development beyond its ancient walls. The likes of the Wyse’s were probably the first to establish to establish a Big House in this new ‘frontier’ to which they gave or was dubbed the name of Wyse’s New Town. I reckon that house was built circa 1740; south of the Passage road was/is a Geoff’s Newtown. A macadamise surface was laid out on the Newtown Road as early as 1815 – Battle of Waterloo and all that. So from then on the famous or infamous, depending on your perspective, Dunmore Road opened up. Back then it could not have been envisaged the sheer extent of development that has taken place and that the Ardkeen area has become almost a town itself even tough the name Ardkeen has no official designation as an area. Officially this general area is comprised of the townlands/electoral areas Farranshoneen, Ballinakill and Ballymaclode. The current population of these three areas stands at about 12,000. Ardkeen has become a somewhat of a shorthand for the area.

Ardkeen and Others

In fact, Ardkeen was the name of a big house situated on the lands where Ardkeen Hospital stood and which was later developed as the WRH. Only its splendid gate lodge remains. Ardkeen is the anglicised spelling of the Irish Ard Chaoin – pleasant height or mount which in turn inspired a neighbouring estate or was it vice-versa? Anyhow, I thought it would be interesting to bring you the story of big houses of note in the area which opened up this part of town, some are still inhabited as homes, others have become offices of solicitor practices or accountancy firms, others who had substantial lands attached were bought and developed as housing estates. Some of the latter bare the former landowner’s name like Collins, or Earls, while others the name of the big house or estate like Glenville, Viewmount, Leoville, Mountpleasant. Pat Kenny did an interesting item on Irish Big Houses last Monday, so let’s have a look at some of ours locally.

Ardkeen House or ‘Elva’ as it was originally called, was a two storey house. It was built by John Malcomson from the large Quaker family of of ship builders who settled in Waterford in the 17th century and who also founded the cotton mills in Portlaw.

It was later owned by the de Bromhead family and now is part of the Waterford Regional Hospital. The original house was demolished in 1994 to build a laundry and labs.

Ardkeen House was an Italianate house and was built by J.S. Mulvany between 1864-1866. It would have been painted white, lined and rendered with a west front of five bays and two storeys with a parapet. The main house was flanked by quadrant walls with gates and pavilions.

The Malcomson Family of Quakers came to Waterford from Scotland in the late 17th Century and by the end of the 18th century they were emerging as the new entrepreneurs and industrialists in Waterford. The Quakers consolidated their business and trade locally and nationally their trade became rich and diverse prospering as traders, merchants and ship owners.

The founder of the Malcomson business empire in Waterford was David Malcomson. The Malcomsons were master ship builders and also founded the cotton mills in Portlaw. In the 1850s and 1860s The Malcomsons were reputed to be the largest steam-owners in the world. During the years 1860 and 1861 the Malcomson Brothers built many big houses in or near Waterford. 

Glenville House

Glenville House on Maypark Lane, Waterford was a 19th century house built in a Italianate style. Annabel Davis Goff wrote of Glenville where she grew up “Glenville was an Italianate mid-nineteenth-century house about a mile and a half outside of Waterford, overlooking the river Suir. It was not architecturally beautiful in the way that many Irish houses are. Its date was wrong for that but it was large and pleasant. Apart from the main house and the walled garden, there were two lodges – one at the front gate, one at the back – a couple of fruit gardens, good stabling, small kennels and enough paddocks for grazing a few hunters and a cow or two. It was not an estate or even a farm. It was described thus: “It was a carefully thought-out, upper-middle-class residence for a family that had civilized tastes and plenty of money to indulge them”. I brought you this story about 8/9 years ago, which I had summarised from her book ‘The Walled Garden’. It gave a wonderful insight into life at the time. Her father Sir Ernest would have driven the first ever car along the Dunmore Road – look at what you started, Sir! Glenville was damaged by fire and it was sold in 1957 to Snowcream. Now that too has moved on.

Little Island and Waterford Castle

Waterford Castle. I described its history in detail before – here follows a brief summary from medieval times.

In early times the island housed a Lazar House for the cure of leprosy. In the 13th Century it was owned by a merchant Henry the Briton (and known as Henry’s Island) it was later owned by the Ormondes and the Fitzgeralds. The Fitzgeralds built an ancient castle, a Norman Keep with strong stone walls. In the 15th Century a second castle was constructed this structure was enlarged over the years and in 1900 it was remodelled and modernised and had large wings added to it.

In the 18th Century Mary Frances Fitzgerald, an extravagant socialite lived in the castle, her son Edward is famous for his translation of Omar Khayyam’s Rubajyat in 1859. Mary Fitzgerald (the great great niece of Edward) was the last Fitzgerald to own the castle, she married an Italian Prince, Prince Caracciolo and settled in Dublin. In 1958 she sold the island and castle to the Igo family from Rhodesia, who produced fruits, the island passed to the Farren brothers and was bought by Roger Shipsey in 1987 Eddie Kearns bought the island and developed it into a luxury hotel. The Castle and Island are now owned by a business consortium and have been operating as the luxury Waterford Castle Hotel and Golf Club. Today the interior is Baronial and lavish Edwardian – Elizabethan with walls of Portland stone and Gothic arches.

And Beyond

Other notable houses in the Dunmore road area include, Rockville; Weston; Chatford Summerville House (I don’t have dates for these); Ballycar-1900; Aisling House- 1890;Leoville House- 1880; Annaville House- 1870; Bishop’s Court Lodge; Blenheim Lodge -1800; Blenheim House -1760; Prospect House goes well back well before Newtown House to -1670. The latter being the familial seat of the Jephson’s, a well known and long established family who have resided here for generations, in what is the oldest house on the Dunmore Road. Great houses indeed, but like beauty it’s all in eye of the beholder as most people today live in great houses and each person’s home is their castle.

Go Seachtain Eile, Slan.