The Scattering

When that chronicle of loss, Vanishing Country Houses of Ireland was published in 1988, it did not include Glyde Court, County Louth. There must have seemed no need to feature the place; the last member of the original family to own the estate had only died five years earlier and it would have been presumed another would now take over Glyde Court. Such assumptions proved incorrect and today the house is a skeletal ruin set in the remains of planned parkland. By the time the book’s thirtieth anniversary occurs, Glyde Court will most likely have vanished. The lands on which the remains of the house stand were acquired in the middle of the 18th century by John William Foster. He was a younger brother of Anthony Foster, responsible for building the main family residence elsewhere at Collon in the same county (for more on this house, see Mr Speaker, April 28th 2014). At the time Glyde Court was called Rosy Park and after John William’s death it passed to a nephew, John Thomas Foster, son of the Reverend Thomas Foster, Rector of Dunleer and first cousin of the John Foster who served as last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. In 1776, John Thomas married Lady Elizabeth Hervey, youngest daughter of Frederick Hervey, Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristol. (The Earl Bishop’s building exploits have been discussed in It’s Downhill All the Way, October 28th 2013 and Let the Door be Instantly Open, For there is Much Wealth Within, March 31st 2014).

Although they had three children, two of whom survived to adulthood, the marriage of John Thomas Foster and Lady Elizabeth Hervey was not a success and the couple separated after five years. What followed next is well known. Lady Elizabeth moved to England where in 1782 she met the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire in Bath. Soon she and the Duchess, the famous Lady Georgiana Spencer, had become close friends. Subsequently Lady Elizabeth became a mistress of the Duke with whom she had two children. Although both born elsewhere in Europe the pair were eventually brought to England and raised with the Devonshires’ own offspring. Lady Elizabeth is also believed to have been the mistress of several other notable figures including the Dukes of Dorset and Richmond, Count Axel von Fersen and the first Earl of Dunraven. In 1809, three years after the death of Georgiana, she married the Duke of Devonshire but within two years he too had died. Eventually she moved to Rome and remained there until her own death in 1824. As mentioned, John Thomas Foster and his wife had two sons, the younger of whom, Augustus John, became a diplomat, a career assisted by his mother’s relationship with the Duke of Devonshire. By 1811 he was Minister Plenipoteniary to the United States, although he returned to Britain the following year after the outbreak of hostilities between the two countries. He later became Minister Plenipotentiary successfully to Denmark and Turin, Kingdom of Sardinia before retiring in 1840; in 1831 he had been made a baronet. He died in 1848 after cutting his throat during a delirium caused by poor health. Two of Sir Augustus’ sons succeeded him as baronet, the elder Sir Frederick Foster dying unmarried in 1857 was succeeded by the next brother, Sir Cavendish Hervey Foster who spent over forty years as rector of a parish in Essex. The youngest son, Vere Foster, is remembered as a notable philanthropist beginning when he paid a visit to Ireland in 1847 and was shocked to see the effects of the country’s ongoing famine. As a result, he spent the next half century advocating better conditions for the poor including improved educational opportunities. When he died in Belfast in December 1900, he had effectively spent all his personal funds on helping others.
As for Rosy Park, following the death of John Thomas Foster in 1796 and given that his children were based in England, it appears the property was let for a long period to the Upton family. The original house was of typical late Georgian design with an extended two-storey facade. At some unknown date work began on extending and converting the building in the Jacobean style to the designs of an unknown architect. It may be that this development was initiated by Sir Augustus Foster after his retirement but then came to a stop on his death, or perhaps the Uptons undertook the project themselves. At some point during the lifetime of the third baronet (he died in 1890) the transformation of Rosy Park was completed, so most likely the job was undertaken by his son, Major John Frederick Foster since during the 1870s he was High Sheriff and Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Louth. As finished, the now-renamed Glyde Court incorporated the old house into a long slim range accessed by a three-arched porch at the north end. Its design gives an indication of what lay ahead thanks to the arched openings and vaguely Perpendicular-style ceiling. On either side rise blank gables, their curled tops underlining the Jacobean inspiration; the breakfront chimney breasts here carry the Foster coat of arms. The west, garden front has a five-bay centre flanked by deep flat-roofed, two-storey and three-bay bows, with another three bays on either side of these. Curling gables once more climbed above the roofline, several incorporating dormer windows while the east end of this block had an Oriel window with Gothic glazing (that elsewhere was of the standard sash window variety). Cement mouldings give surface interest to this facade, all of which looks in old photographs to have been white-washed. Immediately behind and to the south are red-brick ranges containing stables and other services, at least some of these including a handsome pedimented carriage arch, look to have been part of the original 18th century development. The house’s main reception rooms ran north to south, beginning with an entrance hall the same width as the porch. This leads to a passageway with a series of westerly openings into the former drawing and dining rooms (which featured the two large bow windows), library and so forth. From what remains, it appears the interior decoration was a mixture of 18h century classicism and 19th gothicisation: fragments of fallen plasterwork scattered about the place reveal a mixture of designs.
Major John Frederick Foster died just months before his father, so both the baronetcy and the Glyde Court estate passed to the next generation. Sir Augustus Vere Foster was seventeen when he came into his inheritance and four years later he married Charlotte ffolkes whose father, like his grandfather, was an Anglican clergyman based in Norfolk. In 1907, after thirteen years of marriage, the couple agreed to have their portrait painted by William Orpen, the commission coming via Hugh Lane who had met the Fosters a few years earlier when looking for pictures for an exhibition. He underwrote the portrait to the tune of £100 because the Fosters pleaded poverty: when Lane advised her on how best to redecorate Glyde Court, she warned, ‘Honestly, at most I am sure £40 is the outside of what ought to be spent on our drawing room.’ Lane also took a portrait of Lady Elizabeth Foster by Sir Thomas Lawrence, as part-payment for the Orpen picture: the Lawrence is now in the National Gallery of Ireland. The execution of Orpen’s painting seems to have been fraught from the start. The artist went to stay at Glyde Court which was being updated at the time and on the first floor candles were the only form of lighting. Sir Vere was impatient and preferred to go out shooting while his highly-strung wife (‘Vere hates the idea of “sitting” and will only do so as a favour to me’) fussed and fluttered. ‘All seems strange here,’ Orpen wrote to his wife, ‘They seem like two children playing at being married.’ Although several years the junior, he also commented ‘I feel years older than Sir Vere or Lady Foster and find myself giving them advice on how to manage their servants, etc. and children.’ By this date they had two daughters who were also to be included in the picture, together with a donkey (Lady Foster had a passion for the animals). Although summer, the weather was cold and wet, and so sometimes the donkey had to be brought into the drawing room for its sittings. The elder girl Philippa, then aged nine, liked to imagine she was really a boy and insisted on being called John and wearing a knickerbocker suit of brown velvet. In fact, Lady Foster was then pregnant with the couple’s much longed-for son, Anthony who was born the following February but as a result of her condition, she regularly disappeared to bed for days, making Orpen’s task even more difficult. When he finally completed the picture, Lady Foster wrote to Lane complaining that she and the other members of the family had been given the same expressions as the donkey: ‘If you knew of all the idiotic comments that tinkle through to us about the group, you would in a way understand my touchiness on the subject.’
In the aftermath of the first World War, the War of Independence and the Civil War, the Fosters remained on at Glyde Court, although Lady Foster’s propensity for remaining in bed grew more and more pronounced and she was inclined to hibernate throughout the winter months. The couple’s son Anthony appears to have been more lively and in 1931 he revived an annual midsummer festival called the ‘Patrun’ or Pattern in the nearby village of Tallanstown. On the first occasion he initiated proceedings by blowing on a trumpet, while a local band played and a symbolic bough was set up in the centre of the village. Singing and dancing followed, together with humorous sketches and ‘recitations’ and, in the evening, the performance of a play, after which Anthony Foster once more blew on his trumpet. The festival continued to be held even though for much of the time thereafter he was in India, a subaltern in the British army. From there he wrote to his sisters in late 1933, asking them to advise his parents that for Christmas, ‘Let them put thirty shillings aside for my return, when we can have a dance to which the band, the Patrum Committee and all my friends are invited and that will pay for their refreshments. That’s what I’d love most in the world.’ It was not to be. The following September after his regiment had moved to Khartoum, he was found dead in what have been described as ‘tragic and mysterious circumstances’, contemporary newspaper announcements declaring they would be releasing details of what had happened. Lady Foster died four years later but her husband lived on until 1947, when he left Glyde to his younger daughter Dorothy. In 1940 she had married Colonel Arthur May and the couple thereafter lived in her family home. The older sister, still calling herself John and distinguished by her cropped hair and mannish dress, lived in the same county with a cousin, Miss Evelyn ffolkes until her death in 1962. Dorothy May survived another twenty-one years but had no children and with her passing, the Foster link with Glyde Court came to a close. Still, that is less than thirty years ago and one might have thought the house would today still stand. Instead, it is about to disappear, absorbed into the landscape. The nation’s already sparse architectural heritage will be further diminished.


31 comments on “The Scattering

  1. Mairtin says:

    What a pity. Thank you for the lovely photos and great post. Louth seems to have been hhit particularily hard; what with Drogheda, Louth Hall, Carstown, and above.

    • Thank you. Actually, I’m not sure that Louth has been any worse assaulted by destruction and neglect of the built heritage than any other county – I just seem to spend more time there of late…

  2. James Canning says:

    What a tale. The outcome for the house is all too sad.
    Great piece.

  3. Finola says:

    The first and last images are particularly evocative.

  4. Sally Clements says:

    What a shame, it looks as though it was a beautiful house.

  5. Karena says:

    Situations such as this really sadden me, there are so many important properties lost due to lack of funding and lack of family or interest.

  6. This was the house mentioned by Augustus Foster’s cousin, Letitia North, in a letter to her sister, Henrietta, dated 11 March 1829: ‘I am very glad that Augustus & you are the same dear friends … Is it possible Mrs Augustus thinks of living in the Co. of Louth and what house will she get. I am sure she will not like it.’ N. C.F. De Salis (ed.), Letters to the Countess (, 2014).

  7. Gregory ffolkes Walsh says:

    Sad to see the result of neglect. My mother told me of her visits there with Uncle Vere and Aunt Charlotte in the thirties. My great Aunt Evelyn (ffolkes) lived for many years with Philippa Foster.

    • Thank you for getting in touch and if you have any further information I should love to have it. The condition of Glyde Court today is indeed very sad, but by no means unusual: across the country there are many such instances of historic buildings being permitted to fall into ruin…

      • Gregory ffolkes Walsh says:

        I remember some stories of my mother’s visit there. She spent her vacations there from Brugges where she attended finishing school. Aunt Charlotte was dressed her whole live by a servant. Aunt Evelyn moved back to Canada (Port Hope) in the sixties after Phillipa’s death. Mother remembered there were more servants than the Fosters. It was a beautiful house in its day.

  8. Sylvia Wright says:

    What a great great shame. What a WASTE!

  9. Emma says:

    Is there a picture of the house in its hay day? I’d love to see it in all its glory.

  10. I have now emailed you and look forward to hearing back in due course…

  11. Philomena Alam says:

    My father Edward Filgate from Louth Village died earlier this year aged 102. He was a TD for a while and told me many stories of the Fortescues, Lisrenny Filgates (we were the poor relations) and de Vere Fosters. Particularly Anthony who is mentioned in this piece. I am confused about dates and would love to know more/ Apparently Anthony used to visit my grand father (james Filgate father of Edward ) whenever he was home from abroad. Looking through my father’s old letters, papers etc ( and there is much) I find a letter from Anthony to my grandfather dated Khartoum 1934 – included is a photo of a young man in army dress and with a monkey on his shoulder. I know this is Anthony because my father told me. I am hoping I can find some further communication as my search progresses. Would love to know more especially about Anthony – i go home from London almost monthly and every single time visit Glyde Court with which I have fallen in love – but unfortunately only view from the road as permission to get any closer (danger??) is not forthcoming. Thank you for this piece I would love to hear from you.

    • Thank you for getting in touch and I should be most interested to see the material relating to Anthony Foster: such a mysterious young man. I am familiar with the Filgates, Richard as you know only died relatively recently, and with their links to the Fosters. I hope that you will find more material that might be of interest both to you and to me…

  12. Philomena Alam says:

    Thank you for replying to my post. No I am unaware of the death of Richard Foster – and I can find no history of him on the internet – was he known as Foster or de Vere Foster? What relation was he to Anthony? Where can I find more information re the Fosters generally? I would be so grateful if you could let me know. Are there any Fosters remaining? What is “mysterious” about Anthony?
    Thanking you

  13. Micheál Mc Keown says:

    I was reared in in Mullacrew near Louth village and as a young fellow aged 10 or so (1952) I was at the last two Tallanstown Patterns. (Patruns) The MC. on the stage was Phillipa (Biddy) Foster. As kids we thought her mens clothes were hilarious. Women just did not wear men’s clothes in those days. I remember she drove an old Riley car. The pattern was mostly traders, fairground side shows and traditional music. It was there that I heard uilleann pipes for the first time and have loved them ever since. I was at Glyde Court once with one of my aunt’s farm helpers when the two sisters were away and the maid (Miss Mc Ardle) took me all around the house. It was fabulous but in need of TLC. Wallpaper and paint peeling in places and the carpets threadbare and covered with cheap mats and bits of lino . Several years ago I got a commission from the then owner (the late Phil Monaghan ) to paint a picture of the house. Needless to say i had to use a lot of artistic licence because the grounds were overgrown with weeds and briars and a few windows broken. I was around the house again two year ago and it was falling down. Parts of the roof had collapsed and some of the buildings in the back had been knocked down for some stupid reason.
    I should remark that I remember one of your correspondents , Phil. Filgate from the “Flaggerbog” the local school. I remember her father well.

  14. Gareth McMahon says:

    Hi having grew up in nearby Castlebellingham with our house along the banks of The Glyde I find your pieces on my home county evocative , am living in London, I used to visit Kilsaran House a lot as a young boy with the lovely Mrs. Freida Walshe which is now sadly a total ruin too.
    Keep up the good work.

  15. garethmcmahon76 says:

    Hi what a fascinating account. I grew up in Castlebellingham our house backed onto The Glyde so I love reading these pieces on my home county, I live in London. As a child I spent a lot of time in Kilsaran House as my parents were friendly with Mrs. Frieda Walshe now sadly lost too.
    Keep up the good work.

  16. Aoife says:

    Hi, I’m a film student looking to film around a location like this on the 19th March, I was wondering do you know who i can contact with getting permission to film here or could i turn up and shoot?

    • Thank you for getting in touch. I visited the house some years ago and did telephone the owner of the site beforehand, but I’m afraid that I can’t recall now what is/was his name. And there is often lifestock in the fields around so turning up might not be a success…

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