Ffrench Castle is a 17th century four-storey tower house that stands proudly in the countryside of Galway. Ffrench Castle has a rich and intriguing history, as well as a stunning architecture and a beautiful setting.
Ffrench Castle was originally built by the O’Kelly family, one of the oldest and most powerful clans in Ireland. The O’Kellys ruled over a large territory in east Galway and west Roscommon, and were known for their bravery and generosity. They built several castles and fortifications to defend their lands, including the one that would later become Ffrench Castle.
The O’Kellys lost their castle in the 17th century, when it was confiscated by the Cromwellian forces during the Irish Confederate Wars. The castle was then granted to the Ffrench family, who were loyal supporters of the English crown. The Ffrenches were originally from Normandy, and came to Ireland in the 12th century as part of the Anglo-Norman invasion. They settled in Galway and became one of the fourteen tribes of Galway, a group of wealthy merchant families that dominated the city’s trade and politics.
The Ffrenches renamed the castle after themselves, and added a plaque with their coat of arms and the date 1683 on the south wall. They also made some alterations to the castle, such as adding windows and fireplaces. The Ffrenches lived in the castle until the late 18th century, when they decided to build a new mansion nearby.
In 1779, Charles Ffrench, the mayor of Galway, commissioned the construction of a new manor house on the site of an earlier castle. The new house was designed by John Roberts, a prominent architect who also worked on Waterford Cathedral and Lismore Castle. The house was built in the Georgian style, with elegant proportions, symmetrical facades, and ornate plasterwork.
The house had 29 rooms, including a drawing room, a dining room, a library, and a chapel. The house was surrounded by century-old trees and lawns, and had a stone-walled cobbled courtyard with a guest cottage and a stable. The house also had some unique features, such as a barrel-vaulted semi-basement, marble fireplaces, wooden floors, and flagstoned hallways.
The house was listed as a Grade A protected structure by the Irish government, meaning that it was of national importance and had exceptional architectural and historical value. The house was also featured in several books and magazines, such as Country Life and Irish Houses and Castles.
The Ffrench family continued to own and live in the house until 2018, when they decided to sell it due to financial difficulties. The house was put on the market for €1.95 million ($2.2 million), but it did not find a buyer for several years. The house was then reduced to €1.25 million ($1.4 million), but still remained unsold.
The house was in need of some restoration and maintenance, as it had suffered from dampness, decay, and vandalism over the years. The house also faced some challenges from planning regulations, as any alterations or repairs had to be approved by the authorities and done in accordance with the original style.
The house was finally sold in 2020 to an anonymous buyer, who reportedly planned to restore it to its former glory and use it as a private residence. The buyer also agreed to preserve the historic features of the house and respect its heritage.
Ffrench Castle is not open to the public, but you can still admire it from afar or book a guided tour with a local historian or heritage group. You can also explore the surrounding area, which is full of scenic views, wildlife, and other attractions.
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