As Faithlegg House Hotel plays host to the Fine Gael party this week, we thought we would delve into the history of the place. Hopefully this will prove of interest to guests and locals alike. As with many great country estates, the historical aspect of Faithlegg Estate is a long and colourful one.
The area where Faithlegg Church stands was called Coolbunnia. Faithlegg Castle also stood there which was the seat of the Aylward Family for 500 years. The Aylward family, from Bristol, had been granted Faithlegg (originally covering over 7000 acres of pastureland) by King Henry 11 in 1177 and held it until the armies of Oliver Cromwell dispossessed them during the invasions of 1654.The property was then granted to William Bolton. Over a century later, in 1783, the present house was built by Cornelius Bolton, who had inherited the Faithlegg Estate from his father in 1779. Financial difficulties followed and in 1819 the Bolton Family sold the house to the Power Family. Nicholas Mahon Power married Margaret Mahon and her dowry enabled him to buy Faithlegg House and Estate. The Powers were a wealthy merchant family from Waterford City and they adorned the estate with the stags head and cross, which was the Power family crest. It remains the emblem of Faithlegg to this day. On the death of Nicholas Power in 1873 his eldest son, Patrick Joseph (Pat) and his wife, Lady Olivia Nugent came to live in the house and commissioned Samuel Roberts to alter and enlarge the family mansion.
The house passed to Hubert Power, the only son of Pat and Lady Olivia, and in 1920 upon Hubert’s death, it passed to his daughter, Eily Power. In 1935 Eilyand her husband sold the House to the De La Salle order of teaching Christian Brothers after which it acted as a novitiate until the 1980’s.
The last remaining gap in history is from the 1980’s until 1998 when it was taken over by the Tower Hotel Group.
Many Rooms of History
Faithlegg’s policy in their naming of the key guest and function rooms is to convey the considerable history attached to the estate and the house itself over the centuries.
The Roseville Rooms – Restaurant
Before Cornelius Bolton built Faithlegg House Hotel in 1783 a smaller house stood on its site. Cornelius’s father rented it to the Penrose Family, who were the founders of the Waterford Glass Factory. They called the house Roseville.
The Minaun Room – the main function room
The Minaun name is the name of the hill that stands between Faithlegg and the village of Cheekpoint. It is nearly 150 metres high and the woodlands walks along its slopes provide spectacular river views. Five counties can be seen from its summit.
The Adelaide Blake Suite – large meeting room
Adelaide (1834-1907) was the youngest daughter of Nicholas and Margaret Power. The mayor of Waterford, John A Blake courted her, but her father thought the marriage was unsuitable and forbade it. After her father’s death, Mr Blake sought her hand again and her brother granted his permission (Adelaide was then 40 yrs of age). When Blake died thirteen years later, Adelaide commemorated him with a stained glass window in Faithlegg Church. She is remembered with fondness by the people of Cheekpoint, for whom she built a reading room.
The Main Guestrooms – The Cornelius Bolton
Cornelius Bolton (1751-1829) inherited the Faithlegg estate from his father in 1779. He built Faithlegg House in 1783. He was a very progressive landlord and did much to improve the lot of his tenants. He established a little port at the nearby village of Cheekpoint, where he built a textile factory and a hotel. He also started a cobalt mine in Faithlegg. Unfortunately all these enterprises failed and he went bankrupt in 1819. Faithlegg House was then bought by the Power family.
The Nicholas Power
Nicholas Mahon Power (1787 – 1873) inherited Ballinakill near Waterford and married in 1818 wealthy Dublin heiress named Margaret Mahon. Her dowry enabled him to buy Faithlegg from Cornelius Bolton. He built the Catholic Church there in 1824 adding the pretty steeple shortly before he died. A man of great wealth, he contributed generously to charities in Waterford and represented the country in parliament for 12 years.
The John Roberts
John Roberts (1714-1796) was a gifted Waterford architect who designed the city’s two cathedrals, city hall, chamber of commerce and infirmary. He leased land from Cornelius Bolton at Faithlegg where he built his own house which he called Roberts Mount. He built mansions for local gentry and was probably the builder of Faithlegg House in 1783.
Lady Olivia Jane Nugent was a daughter of the ninth earl of Westmeath. She married Pat Power in 1859. They lived first at Woodlands and from 1873 at Faithlegg. A keen gardener, it was she who laid out the grounds at both houses.
Samuel Ussher Roberts (1821-1900) was the great grandson of John Roberts, the probable builder of Faithlegg House. He built many great houses for the gentry of Ireland, most famously the magnificent Kylemore Abbey in Connemara. During the 1870’s he worked on Faithlegg House, transforming the Georgian residence of Bolton’s to a massive Victorian mansion, complete with the arms and the stags head crest of the Powers.
The Margaret Power
Margaret Power was the only daughter and heir to Nicholas Mahon of Dublin. She married Nicholas Power in 1818 and the couple came to live in Faithlegg. It was not a happy marriage and in 1860 she returned to live in Dublin, where she died in 1866. Her room was originally knows as the blue room. According to family tradition, her spirit occasionally returns to this room in search of her jewellery!
The New Geneva
In 1783, Cornelius Bolton was involved in a scheme to establish a colony of emigrant Genovese artisans and intellectuals near passage East. The architect James Gandon was employed to build the City of New Geneva to house them, including a university, by the way! If the scheme had been successful, the economy of the south of Ireland would have been transformed. It failed mainly due to capital shortages. The city of New Geneva became a military barracks and internment camp during the 1798 rebellion.
The adjacent demesne to Faithlegg is called Ballycanavan and the Bolton family lived there before building Faithlegg House in 1783. Parts of the old mansion house date back to the 15th century. It is now a ruin.
Failte go Faithlegg agus Port Lairge.