Lost History


All across Ireland there are buildings about which little is now known, their histories somehow mislaid between the date they ceased to serve their purpose and the present. Sometimes snippets of a story evolves into a legend which, like a version of Chinese Whispers, bears little relation to the original truth. But on other occasions, the history disappears altogether, as though presaging the fate of the building itself. Kilcrea, County Cork has been mentioned here before, both in relation to the former Franciscan friary (Lo Arthur Leary, November 2nd 2015) and the nearby former McCarthy tower house (With Panoramic Views, June 11th 2016), both of which date from the 1460s and have reasonably well-chronicled histories. However there is a third building in the same area about which little appears to be known, even though it is of more recent construction. This is Kilcrea House, a view of which is shown above (the tower house can be seen in the background on the extreme right of the photograph).

A little information about Kildrea House can be gleaned from that always helpful website http://www.landedestates.ie. In 1750 Charles Smith’s The ancient and present state of the county and city of Cork reported that Kilcrea, formerly the seat of the Earls of Clancarty, had been purchased by Captain Hedges from the Trustees of the Hollow Blade Company. In 1786 William Wilson’s The Post-Chaise Companion noted the ruins of the friary and castle, near to which was a house called Snugborough, the residence of a Mr. Keeffe. By the time of Griffith’s Valuation in the 1850s Robert Gibbons was given as the occupier of Kilcrea House. He held the building (valued at £20) as part of a parcel of land leased by John Hawkes. Yet strangely in March 1851, and again in July 1853, the estate of William Edward Ellis at Kilcrea, including the house and 422 acres, was advertised for sale. It would seem the Hawkes family acquired this, and further land, since by the 1870s the estate of John Devonsher Hawkes of Kilcrea is given as amounting to 2,029 acres.

Of course this information, while helpful, tells us nothing about Kilcrea House itself, when it was built and by whom. The place is now a shell, but this decline would appear to have occurred only relatively recently. While the floors have given way and most plaster come off walls, there are still traces of the wooden window frames and joists. Of two storeys over basement, the house looks north towards the tower house and the breakfront on this side has tumbled down. Constructed of rubble and brick, it has arched ground floor windows of cut limestone, also seen in the single-storey bows on the east and west sides of the building: it would appear these bows were added at a later date. The east side has a short flight of stone steps which gave access to the house while the south and west fronts retain traces of the slates with which they were once covered. Stylistically the house would seem to date from the late 18th century (with subsequent additions) but it is now so far deteriorated that conjecture must be to the fore. It seems strange that despite its size and prominent location there appears to be little knowledge of Kilcrea. Another example of lost history. Below is a view of the house from the nearby tower house.


10 comments on “Lost History

  1. Finola says:

    Thanks for this – I certainly wondered about this house, on our visit to Kilcrea. There was another one close by as well, but it appears to have been demolished.

  2. crissouli says:

    I have included your blog in Interesting Blogs on Friday Fossicking at


    Thank you, Chris

  3. Mary Irish says:

    “In 1786 William Wilson’s The Post-Chaise Companion noted the ruins of the friary and castle, near to which was a house called Snugborough, the residence of a Mr. Keeffe.”

    I just checked my photos, Thomas O’Keeffe has a massive grave in Kilcrea Friary, it says he died in 1796, also says on who’s land this Abbey is built.

    My uncle believes our O’Keeffe line comes from Kilcrea, but not been as yet able to link it.

  4. Jim Hawkes says:

    My Grandfather John Devonshire Hawkes, grew up in Kilcrea House. The reason there is so much confusion about Kilcrea House is that there were three houses called Kilcrea in the immediate area. On the Historical Maps the house you have featured here is referred to as “Kilcrea House” and is to the west of Kilcrea Friary. There is another house called just “Kilcrea” to the east of the Friary. And to the south of these is a house called “Kilcrea Upper House” sitting on a hill. My Family lived in “Kilcrea House” and “Kilcrea Upper House”. The other “Kilcrea” was never a part of our family’s estate. Kilcrea House was still in good shape up to about 1959 when the farmer who owned the field it was in took the roof off of it so he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on it. It has disintegrated rapidly since then. I have a great picture of what the house used to look like in it’s glory if you would like it.

    • Thank you for getting in touch with that very helpful information. I should much like to see a photograph of the house still intact and will email you now directly about the matter…

      • Jim Hawkes says:

        Sorry, I just saw this request. I am happy to share a phot I believe to be from about 1935 of the house intact. It was beautiful. Please email me again and I will replay with the photo.

      • Sue Bramley says:

        Hi Jim, I saw your replies re photos of Kilcrea House. If it is possible I would love a photo of the house. I couldn’t see a way to email you via this site. Would it work to message me via my WikiTree profile (https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Bramley-72) so that I can email you with my email address or, if there is another way, please let me know.

    • Clare says:

      Hi Jim. Unsure if you are still on here. I would love to find out more info on this house if you have any and would love to see your photo of it if possible. I live near this house and married to a decendant of a previous owner.

      • Jim Hawkes says:

        I am happy to share all the information and the photo. Please mail me and I will send the photo and the information I have on the house.

  5. susanlilias says:

    Thank you, Jim (and theirishaesthete) for the information about Kilcrea House. I would love a picture of the house if you are able to send one. John Devonsher Hawkes’ father, John Hawkes was my 3x great-grandfather and I believe that he lived in Kilcrea House also. He married Frances (Fanny) Nettles. There are many stories about him in Irish newspapers. I am descended from John’s son Richard Nevill Nettles Hawkes, (John Devonsher’s brother), who came from Ireland to New Zealand via Australia.

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