The scant remains of Lixnaw Court, County Kerry. From the mid-13th to the late 18th century, this was a seat of the FitzMaurices, Barons Kerry. In 1723 the 21st Baron, Thomas FitzMaurice, was created first Earl of Kerry: 30 years earlier, he had married Anne Petty, only daughter of Sir William Petty. The earl was a proud and arrogant man: according to his grandson, the first Earl of Shelburne, he ‘did not want the manners of the country nor the habits of his family to make him a tyrant. He was so by nature. He was the most severe character which can be imagined, obstinate and inflexible…His children did not love him, but dreaded him; his servants the same.’ This provincial plutocrat transformed Lixnaw where, wrote his younger son John FitzMaurice, he spent ‘great sums building and furnishing a very large mansion-house’ along with making many other improvements in the gardens and demesne. However, all his work had started to fall into decay even before the end of the century thanks to the disinterest and extravagance of the third Earl of Kerry. Following the latter’s death in 1818, what remained of the estate was inherited by a cousin, Henry Petty-FitzMaurice, third Marquess of Lansdowne, whose Kerry base was in the south of the county. In consequence, the once splendid house and gardens at Lixnaw were left to moulder, as can be seen in Cornelius Varley’s painting of 1842. Today, a few outer walls survive and, in the surrounding countryside, evidence of the first earl’s great landscaping enterprises, not least a long canal which would once have been a feature of the formal Baroque garden.
Kay Caball’s book on the fall of the Fitzmaurices is a very interesting read
Very interesting Robert. Do you know anything about the other house in the distance in the painting?
I think the building on the right is what’s known as ‘the castle’ but might have been outbuildings originally: it’s in the grounds of the local GAA. And the building on the left was the FitzMaurice Mausoleum, blown up in the late 1950s by the county council which wanted to use the stone for road building…
Blowing up a mausoleum for road building seems a bit cavalier. What happened to the inhabitants of the mausoleum?