Saturday, March 20, 2010

Muckross Estate - Killarney

The Herbert family had become owners of Muckross Estate in 1770, the result of amassing fabulous wealth from copper mining in the area. A descendant, Colonel Henry Arthur Herbert (married to watercolorist Mary Balfour), commenced building the present 65-room Muckross House in 1839. It was completed in 1843, just two years prior to the Great Irish Famine.

Certainly the most significant social event at Muckross House took place in 1861, when elaborate preparations were carried out for a Royal visit by Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Escort. Tapestries, mirrors, Persian carpets, silverware, musical instruments, linen, china and servants’ uniforms were specially commissioned for the occasion. The curtains, which still hang in the dining room, were specially woven in Paris for the occasion.

The precarious financial situation of the Herbert family in the late 19th century is probably a direct result of the outlay spent on that occasion. In 1897 the Herberts were refused any further loans from the Standard Life Assurance Company. A year later, the Estate was forfeited to that company and the long association of Muckross with the Herbert family ended.

In 1899 Lord Ardilaun, a member of the Guinness family, purchased the estate, but used it rarely; it was let out on an annual basis as a shooting and fishing lodge. In 1910 Muckross was rented to Mr. William Bowers Bourn, a wealthy American. He was owner of the Empire Gold Mine and Spring Valley Water Company of California. A short time after, his only child, Maud, married an Irishman, Mr. Arthur Rose Vincent of County Clare. Her father then purchased the Muckross property as a wedding present to them. From 1911-1932 enormous sums of money were lavished on the house and gardens. At the same time Mr. Bourn built a vast California estate house, Filofi*, near Stanford University, planting the gardens there with clippings from Muckross. After the death of his wife, Mr. Vincent and his parents-in-law, the Bourns, donated the entirety of Muckross Estate to the Irish State in 1932 in honor of his late wife Maud. At the time only the gardens were accessible publicly, until the manor house reopened in 1964.

Killarney National Park was formed from the Muckross Estate lands, and the park was substantially expanded by acquisition of acreage from the former Earl of Kenmare's adjacent estate. Muckross House, overlooking two of the Lakes of Killarney, is located four miles south of Killarney Town, gateway to the Ring of Kerry.

*Filoli, now a property if the National Trust for Historic Preservation (USA), was the house used as the Carrington mansion in filming the TV series, “Dynasty.”

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