The Bingham Mausoleum, near Ardrahan in County Galway, is an impressive structure which was built in the late 19th century to house the remains of a prominent Anglo-Irish family, the Binghams, but it also stands within the walls of an ancient church and an early Christian site. 

The Binghams were a wealthy and influential family who owned large estates in Galway and Mayo. They traced their ancestry to Sir Richard Bingham, an English soldier and administrator who was appointed governor of Connacht by Queen Elizabeth I in 1584. He was notorious for his harsh treatment of the native Irish population, and he was involved in several conflicts and rebellions.

The Binghams continued to play a prominent role in Irish politics and society for centuries, holding titles such as Baron Clanmorris, Viscount Mayo, and Earl of Lucan. They were also involved in military affairs, such as the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, and the Boer War. Some of them were also noted for their artistic and literary pursuits, such as Lady Augusta Gregory, a famous playwright and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre, who married Sir William Henry Gregory, a grandson of John Bingham, 1st Baron Clanmorris.

The Bingham Mausoleum was erected to house the remains of John Charles Robert Bingham, 4th Baron Clanmorris, who died in 1876. He was a politician and a soldier who served in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. He was also a patron of the arts and a friend of Oscar Wilde. The mausoleum was erected by his widow, Sarah Selina Persse who was also interred there following her death in 1907.

The mausoleum was also intended to be the burial place of his brother, George Charles Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan, who died in 1888. He was a famous general who commanded the cavalry charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854. He was also a controversial figure who was accused of incompetence and brutality during the war. He married Anne Brudenell, a daughter of the 7th Earl of Cardigan, who led the charge, in 1839. They had six children, but their marriage was unhappy and they separated in 1859. However, the Earl of Lucan was never buried in the mausoleum, as he had expressed his wish to be buried at Laleham in Middlesex, where he had lived for many years.

The remains that were interred in the mausoleum were removed in 1945 for reburial in Ardrahan churchyard.

The mausoleum is a Gothic Revival style building that consists of two parts: a gable-fronted entrance vestibule to the south-east, and an adjoining lower hipped-roofed chamber to the north-west. The chamber has a cut limestone roof, while the vestibule has a slate roof with limestone coping. The walls are made of rubble limestone, except for the front elevation, which has coursed tooled limestone with a plinth course and a carved limestone crest. The crest features the Bingham coat of arms and motto: “Spes Mea In Deo” (My hope is in God).

The entrance vestibule has a pointed arch recessed panel on its south-west side, which may have been intended for an inscription or a plaque. The entrance itself has a pointed arch opening with a chamfered cut limestone surround and cut limestone steps. The door is made of double-leaf cast-iron with decorative hinges and handles. The interior of the vestibule has a tiled floor and may have had some fittings or furnishings originally.

The chamber is accessed through an opening on its south-east wall, which has no door. The interior of the chamber is plain and has no windows. It may have had some coffins or sarcophagi inside, but they are no longer there.

The mausoleum is located in Cregaclare Demesne, near Ardrahan, in County Galway. It is set within the walls of a ruined late medieval church, which itself is within an early Christian ecclesiastical enclosure. The church dates from the 15th or 16th century and has a nave and chancel with a tower at the west end. The enclosure is circular and has a diameter of about 50 metres. It may have been associated with St. Colman, a 6th century saint who founded several monasteries in Ireland.

The mausoleum, the church, and the enclosure are all protected as national monuments and are under the care of the Office of Public Works. They are accessible to the public and can be visited at any time. The Bingham Mausoleum is a hidden gem of Galway’s history that offers a glimpse into the lives and deaths of a remarkable family. It is also a striking architectural feature that contrasts with the ancient and medieval surroundings.


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Bingham Mausoleum



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