A Little Gorey History

A little History of the Estates of Gorey and the Surrounding Areas in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Ramsfort House,[1] the only one of the four landlord estate houses still standing, is described as a detached three-bay (two-bay deep) two-storey country house, extant 1820, on a U-shaped plan with single-bay full-height bows on engaged half-octagonal plans. The House was very lavishly erected for Stephen Ram, descendant to Bishop Ram, founder of the town, whose body is interred at the old cemetery at Market Square, Gorey[2].  The Ramsfort Estate contributed to the construction of many landmark buildings in the town including the National School, Church of Ireland, the Court House, the Market House, many of the buildings on Main Street, the Workhouse and the Fever Hospital.

The second estate is that of the Esmonde family who were established at Ballynastragh, Gorey, from the mid-17th century. Thomas Esmonde was created a baronet in 1629. The main estates of this family were located in counties Wexford and Wicklow but they also held land in counties Tipperary, Kilkenny, Longford, Meath and Waterford. Ballynastragh House was built in the seventeenth century but was enlarged by Sir Thomas Esmonde circa 1767 and stood three storeys over basement.  The Esmonde family were and still are a staunch Roman Catholic family[3] and contributed to the building of St Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Gorey.

Courtown (Kiltennel) was founded in 1291 when Andrew Avenal had a lease of the Manor of Curtun.  It was later transferred by the crown to Sir Edward Fisher.  When Fisher died in 1631 it carried on down through family members until the lands and environments passed to James Stopford in 1711.  When Stopford inherited the land there was a stone house in disrepair on the property[4]. His son James was created baron of Courtown in 1758 and Viscount Stopford Earl of Courtown in 1762[5].  It was the third Earl James (1765-1835) who built the eighteenth century mansion on the estate.  The house was looted and damaged in 1798 but not destroyed.  Courtown house after modification in the mid nineteenth century had a five bay centre and one bay at the end of each projecting wing.  It had two storeys and a dormered roof.  As did the other landlords in the area, the fourth Earl of Courtown contributed monies to the famine stricken peoples of the 1840s.

Another estate in North Wexford is that of the infamous Hunter Gowan at Mount Nebo, near Craanford. The house of Hunter Gowan was destroyed in the late eighteenth century.  The house that now stands comprises a detached three-bay, two-storey country house on a U-shaped plan with single-bay full-height advanced end bays. It was later re-christened Mount Saint Benedict as the Benedictines founded a college there where many former politicians were educated. The college closed in the early 1920s.


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Mary-Kate Cahill

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