The Ruined Gothic Revival Style Manor ‘Clifden Castle’ of Ireland

abandoned castle ruins overgrown farmland

The abandoned Clifden Castle can be found near the sea just off of Sky Road, in the Connemara Region of County Galway, Ireland.

The Clifden Castle was built in 1818 for John D’Arcy the founder of Clifden. The Gothic Revival Style castle was the main living place for the D’Arcy family. The land surrounding the castle was the first drained and reclaimed by John D’Arcy in the Clifden area.

Clifden Castle was built with fantastic features in the early 1800’s including an entry tower with two round turrets, a rounded tower to the southeast, and a square tower. The estate faces south and overlooks Clifden Bay. On the lands of the manor house to the west, there was a large enclosed farmyard, which included the worker’s cottages, stable, grain store, and coach house. Next to that was a walled garden, with a pond and a well near there. Also on the Demesne are the remains of a ‘marine temple’ made of sea shells on the stream to the east of the Castle. There is a large gateway on the property, built in 1815 in medieval style. D’Arcy had erected several standing stone on the property, four of which remain along the winding path between the gateway and Clifden Castle today. One stone is believed to be a genuine prehistoric worked stone, brought in from another place, but no one knows for sure. When the Eyre Family bought the estate 1850 some additional features were added including a new thatched roof, and other decorative features which can be seen in the dilapidated manor today. This also added a children’s graveyard to the north, originally for the 3 Eyre children who died in the 1880’s.

The history of Clifden Manor House goes as follows. John D’Arcy died in 1839, his eldest son, Hyacinth, inherited the Clifden Estate. Hyacinth did not run the property as well as his father, and when the 1845 famine struck it affected the D’Arcy family hard. The starvation, hunger, and fever incapacitated many people and the potato crop failed. As a result of this many people emigrated, which caused the rent income of the D’Arcy’s to fall. Sadly, by 1846 the tenants of Hyacinth D’Arcy gathered on the Clifden Castle front lawn begging for work and food on September 21. In the end it was all too much and the D’Arcy estate went bankrupt and Clifden was one of the properties the D’Arcy’s put up for sale in November of 1850.

Enter Thomas and Charles Eyre, brothers from London, who bought the Castle and most of the town and surrounding lands for 21,245 pounds. These were the mortgagees of the estates since the death of John D’Arcy. The Eyre family used the Clifden Castle as a holiday home. Thomas eventually bought his brothers share of the estate and in 1864 gave the Castle and estates of Clifden as a present to his nephew, John Joseph Eyre of Saint John’s Wood, London. The Eyre family were absentee landlords, but used Clifden Castle through John Joseph’s death. After he died in 1894, a trust was set up to administor his estate and other holdings in Britain. The trust ran all of his properties and John Joseph’s 6 kids and their descendants received income from all of them. After 1894, there was no individual owner of the Demesne and the Castle, and all was left to be run by the agents. The grounds were leased out for animal grazing to locals and attempts to sell the property were unsuccessful. The Castle then began to fall into disrepair as there was no one there to care for it.

In 1913, the land was offered to the Congested Districts Board at a price of 2,100 pounds. Farmers in the area were interested in the purchase but never made a decision. After 4 years had passed a local butcher, J. B. Joyce, purchased the Castle and its land in 1917. This caused outrage and controversy as numerous former tenants of small scale farms in the area had coveted the land of the Clifden Demesne to expand their own farms. A local Catholic priest Canon Patrick McAlpine started a volatile campaign against the purchase by Joyce. He denounced Joyce as a ‘land grabber’ and the whole town of Clifden turned against Joyce. Farmers drove Joyce’s cattle from his land, put their own animals in his fields, and barricaded the gates against him. A town meeting of this issue resulted in injured policemen and fights. Legal action went on until 1920, when a judge ruled and confirmed Joyce’s ownership. The tenants however, did not except this and again drove off his cattle. The political party of Sinn Fein supported J. B. Joyce and only after an arbitration court suggested an agreement did Joyce agree to sell the land. It was purchase for 2,300 pounds plus legal costs of 150 pounds for damages by trustees who were to set up the ‘Clifden Cooperative’. The agreement postulated that the wood and castle were to be ‘preserved as the property of the Clifden people’. Regardless, the tenants of the land divided it among themselves. In 1935, the land was given to the tenants including ownership of Clifden Castle, to be held jointly. The contents of the house had already been auctioned off previously, but no the windows, timber, roof, and lead were stripped away. Without a roof Clifden Castle became vulnerable to the world and now lies in crumbling despair.

Through greed from others who wanted larger farms this Castle is now in utter ruin. It is a disappointing that part if this castle manor is used now as a cow pen. Personally I believe that when the land was up for sale in 1913, and those farmers did not jointly decide to buy it, then any one should have been able too. I feel sorry for J. B. Joyce and am appalled at people’s behavior. I mean, they took the roof off, no respect for history, period. This property deserved a better life, I wish I could buy it all and re store it to its former glory.

As of 2013 Clifden Castle is now the ‘Stone Castle of Sheep’.

This is the enclosed Clifden Castle farmyard.

Where is Clifden Castle located? This sad ruin can be found with these coordinates. 53.491783,-10.056654. This image is from Google Street View on Sky Road.

Image 1 used under Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic. Image 1 by Bert Kaufmann / Flickr.
Images 2, 3 and 4 used under Creative Commons License Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported. Images 2, 3 and 4 by Drow69 / Wikimedia.

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