Garbally House is a country house built by the Lord Clancarty in the 19th century. It has two floors and fine views over Ballinasloe, a town in County Galway. It is situated beside Garbally College, which is an all boys secondary school run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clonfert. The house and its grounds have a rich and fascinating history, as well as some intriguing features and stories.
The house was designed by Thomas Cundy, an English architect who also worked on Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. It was completed around 1819 and replaced an earlier mansion that was destroyed by fire in 1798. The house has a classical style, with a symmetrical facade, a portico with four columns, and a pediment with the coat of arms of the Le Poer Trench family, who were the Earls of Clancarty.
The Le Poer Trenches were a prominent Anglo-Irish family who owned large estates in Galway and Tipperary. They were involved in politics, diplomacy, and the arts. One of the most famous members of the family was William Le Poer Trench, the second Earl of Clancarty, who was a leading figure in the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland in the 1800s. He was also a patron of the painter William Turner, who visited Garbally House and painted some landscapes of the area.
The estate also has other interesting features, such as a pond, steps (nicknamed the 40 steps), and a system of tunnels (that are now closed). The pond was used to store ice before the invention of refrigeration. The ice was collected from nearby lakes and rivers during winter and stored in an icehouse, a structure that kept it cool throughout the year. The ice was used to preserve food or make drinks for the guests at Garbally House.
The steps were one of many entrances into the vast estate, which covered over 10,000 acres at its peak. The steps led to a bridge over a stream that ran through the parkland. The bridge was demolished in the 1960s, but the steps remain as a reminder of the past glory of Garbally House.
The tunnels were part of a network that connected different parts of the estate, such as the house, the stables, and the gardens. They were also used as escape routes or hiding places during times of trouble or war. Some people believe that there are still treasures or secrets hidden in the tunnels.
In 1921, after the Irish War of Independence, Garbally House and its surrounding land were sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clonfert for £6,750. The following year, St. Joseph’s College, the diocesan second-level school of Clonfert, moved its premises to Garbally Park and became known as Garbally College. The college is still operating today and has produced many notable alumni, such as politicians, sportsmen, writers, and musicians.
Garbally House is now owned by the diocese. The house is not open to the public, but the parkland is accessible and offers scenic walks and views. The house is also a protected structure and a part of the architectural and cultural heritage of Galway. Once a mansion valued at €1.8 million, Garbally House has been put up for sale for just €1, but there have been no buyers to date. It is believed that a full restoration of the house could cost a potential buyer upwards of €4 million.
Garbally House is a historic gem in Ballinasloe that deserves to be appreciated and preserved. It is a witness to the history of Ireland and the lives of the people who lived there.
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