Beatrice of Carnew Castle - a Life in Letters, 1888-1964

The life story of Beatrice Woodhouse (born Dowse) as told in letters, from 1891, when Beatrice was sent back to Ireland from Canada, to her death in 1964 in Dublin. Compiled and edited by her grand-niece Alana Stephens and published on this website in a series of chapters. 

CHAPTER SIX: An Inheritance and a Wedding

 Suddenly on July 1st, 1927 Edie Dowse died, and Beatrice began an important new chapter in her life. She came into an inheritance and became a wife within months of Aunt Edie’s death. Not only Beatrice, but her father as well came into possession of a substantial inheritance, as the following letter from the solicitor shows.


Collis and Ward


W. Stewart Collis, M.A.

George W. Beaumont

R. Dowse Wilson

Commissioners for Oaths

Telephone No. 61398

Tel. Address “Colward, Dublin”

                                                                                                    13 Clare Street 


                                                                                                13th July 1927


Mrs. E.S.M. Dowse

Dear Mr. Dowse,

            We regret to have to inform you that Mrs. Dowse, late of the Castle, Carnew, County Wicklow, died on the 1st inst after a very short illness. Possibly you have already heard this from your daughter, Miss Dowse, who resided with Mrs. Dowse.

            Our object now in writing to you is to inform you that Mrs. Dowse by her Will dated 5th March 1926 bequeathed to you a Legacy of 4,500 pounds and also left you an equal fifth share of the Residue of her Estate. We enclose for your information a complete copy of Mrs. Dowse’s Will of which you will see that our Mr. Wilson[1] and Captain Woodhouse are Executors. We are taking the necessary steps on their behalf to prove the Will and in due course will have to remit your Legacy to you, less Legacy Duty at the rate of 10%. We would like you to consider what steps we are to take on your behalf to remit the nett (sic) amount of your Legacy to you when the proper time comes or would you prefer to take a transfer of same of the late Mrs. Dowse’s Securities equal at the price of the day of transfer to the nett amount of your Legacy. Of course it will take some time before the details can be arranged but we should say that within three months all the Estate should be wound up, unless possibly the sale of the Castle and lands may cause some little delay. Please write us fully as you can as to your wishes so that we can get on as quickly as possible.

Yours faithfully,

[illegible signature]


Overnight, at 39 years of age, Beatrice had become a wealthy woman and could do whatever she liked with her life, and it quickly became apparent that she had big plans for herself and the new man in her life… Captain T. Hugh Woodhouse. Shortly after Beatrice inherited her fortune Hugh proposed, and Beatrice happily accepted his proposal. This sudden turn of events worried Beatrice’s parents, and they had many questions about this man who had so suddenly come into Beatrice’s life. Beatrice’s cousin (and solicitor), Robert “Bob” Dowse Wilson, gave them what assurances he could about Hugh’s character.


August 21, 1927

Dear Uncle Bill,[2]

I am on holiday and have just returned from Carnew where I spent a few days with Bea. We all, Bea, Woodhouse and I had great talks over future plans & ways & means by which Bea would be able to keep on the Castle as a going concern. At first sight I did not see how it could be done, but having regard to more recent developments, I now think that the idea is sound & possible, especially if you see your way to come to Bea’s assistance financially so that she can get a start! Once she gets this I have no doubt she will leave no stone unturned to make a success of her undertaking. Her argument is that owing to the position of the Castle (in the town) she has the market for dairy & garden at her door, in fact the customers call at the house for what they want.

            There is a Deed of Covenant by Uncle Dick[3] that if he or his successors wished to sell, the Coolattin Estates owner for the time being would have the option for 3 mos. to repurchase for 3000 pounds. The idea at the back of that Deed was to prevent the Castle passing into wrong hands in the future. We have all seen Mr. Doyne (the Agent) who has spoken to the Earl[4] informally & they have no objection to the Trustees of Aunt Edie’s  will conveying to Bea. My firm will now write Mr. Doyne stating the proposition & asking the Earl to waive his option in this occasion on condition that Bea, immediately after the Conveyance to him, signs a similar Deed of Covenant that if she sells the Earl is to have a similar option for 3 mos. at 3000 pounds.

            Now as to Woodhouse, of course I only know him as a guest at the Castle and as owner of the Carnew Motor Co., from which Co. I bought my little Rover. He is a very good sort & seems to be a keen businessman, but hitherto perhaps inclined to let sport interfere with business! He would do more if he were more on the spot.

            Now that he has asked Bea to marry him it will, I have no doubt, make the garage pay. In fact I saw many signs to that end when in Carnew last week. He will have to work hard, & I know Bea does, & will, to make the whole place (Castle & garage) a paying concern. No doubt people will say “Fortune Hunter”! Many a time Woodhouse has spoken to me of his admiration for Bea’s capabilities, but until she asked me “would I like a new cousin?” I had no idea he thought of her in any other way! I like Woodhouse but only know him as I have said above. I have heard him criticized & said to be too sharp in his business dealings, but I can only say I have no fault to find with my dealings with him.

            I do wish you could come over we could talk you deaf & hoarse over all we have bottled up! I hope you are getting better after your illness of which we were all sorry to hear.

            I have spoken to Bea & given her the best advice I have as to taking care of her capital & not to allow it out of her own keeping – pointing out that it is much easier to lose it than to put it together again.

            Shortly after Aunt Edie’s death I wrote you (Collis & Ward’s letter) as to your legacy of 4500 pounds & 1/5th of residue (which included the Castle). On a very rough estimate the 1/5th of residue should be worth 1000. If Bea is able to buy the Castle she would have to pay 4/5th of the market value (she herself owning the remaining 1/5th). The market for such a place is small & the value now not more than 2000 pounds I expect.

            When you are able you will let us hear as quickly as possible from you as we cannot really [illegible] till you have had your “say”!

            With kindest regards to my Aunt & all the cousins that I never met.

                                                                                    Your [illegible],

                                                                                    Bob Wilson


May Dowse to “Bob” Wilson, Sept. 12, 1927


My Dear Bob,

            You will have heard before this reaches you of your Uncle’s serious attack of pneumonia immediately following his return home[5], which was accomplished with great care, & in fact we have reason to believe he had already contracted it in hospital. However, with the care of a good Dr. & two nurses, he is slowly regaining the little strength he had picked up during his convalescence but has a long way to go still. He cannot write for some time but will do so when fit & in the meantime thank you for your letter.

We were certainly very much surprised to hear of Bea’s engagement to Capt. Woodhouse & think it strange he only seemed to think of it after her Aunt’s death. Surely he must feel that he should put up a portion of the amount required for the purchase of the castle. Of course we know nothing about him or his affairs beyond Uncle’s meeting him as a guest while over there[6], however he will be willing that payment of his 1/5 of the residue be deferred until Bea is in a position to repay him later on – but beyond that I do not think he can possibly venture.

            Also Uncle asks me to say he would like you to realize his amount of his Legacy instead of taking over any Securities.

            With our kindest regards,

                        Believe me,

                        Yours very sincerely

Marion Dowse


The Doctor said this morning that Uncle would have to go away for the Winter to a warmer climate, preferably California, as he will be delicate & subject to a relapse for at least a year. The old country trip would be too long & the climate too damp we fear.


William had been too ill to deal with any of the legal matters concerning his legacy from Edie Dowse, and in fact was not even aware of it, as a rough draft of a letter to Collis & Ward, dated Sept. 14, 1927 shows:

             In reply to your letter of July 13th. I regret to say Mr. Dowse has been unable to write owing to his long & serious illness during which time he knew nothing of his Legacy – business of all kinds being debarred. Mr. Dowse now wishes me to say he would like the amount of his Legacy realized as soon as possible.

Before Beatrice could realize her dream of taking over the Castle she had to buy out the other legatees – her father, and three of her Wilson cousins. Her father deferred the payment until such time as Bea would be able to pay him back, and the others agreed to the following proposal.

 A legal letter from Collis & Ward of Sept. 27, 1927 gives the details of the transaction:


Collis & Ward                                                                                     Solicitors

R. Dowse Wilson

13 Clare Street


September 27, 1927

Mrs. E.S.M. Dowse deceased

Dear Mr. Dowse,

Referring to our letter of the 13th July last. No doubt your daughter, Miss Beatrice Dowse, will have already told you that she wishes to take over the Castle, Carnew and part of the lands of Umrigar and the site of the burned out Barracks[7] from the other Residuary Legatees at a valuation to be made by Mr. Hammond, Auctioneer, Carnew.

This Valuation has been made by Mr. Hammond who values the 82 acres 2 roods 18 perches of Land with the Castle at 15 pounds per statute acre – namely                                                                                                                                                1239.3.6

Add Value of buildings                                                                 600.0.0


 He values the 25acres or 37perch of Umrigar which is mostly rough Grazing Land at 7.10.0 per acre                                                                  


And values the Site of the burned out Barracks at                           70.0.0


or in round figures a sum of 2100 pounds.

At this figure Miss Dowse is prepared to take over the three lots if the other four Residuary Legatees are satisfied.

We have heard from the Reverend R.O. Wilson and Miss P. Wilson that they are satisfied. Our Mr. R.D. Wilson is also satisfied. It now remains to obtain your sanction, as the remaining Residuary Legatee. If you agree would you kindly cable as follows: “Colward, Dublin. Agree Proposal. Dowse.” When we hear from you to this effect we will have the necessary Deeds prepared for execution.

            Mr. Hammond in his Valuation makes some remarks as follows:

  1. “I have placed the full figure on the Lands. The actual area of the Farm is considerably less than 82 acres if one deducted Ornamental grounds, shrubberies, yards, lanes and waste. The building of the Castle is about 300 years old and requires continual attention and outlay. The Water Supply for a residence the size is decidedly inadequate. Poor Law Valuation 136 pounds is very high and the Rates totaling 36.14. 0 per annum is a material burden.
  2. The Lands of Umrigar are principally Bog but tend to make Lot 1 an economic holding and in consequence of their complimentary value to this Lot 1 have placed what would otherwise be an extremely high value on them.
  3.  I believe this lot (the R.I.C. Barrack) is worth about as much as it was in 1921. The walls of course have perished since by exposure but the Site is necessary to Lot 1 to protect or control the amenities of the holding.”

In sending our instructions to Mr. Hammond for the Valuation we pointed out to him that Major Reynolds, who at one time lived in the Castle, might possibly purchase it again, and also one other party we heard of, but neither of these parties was approached as the interested parties would sooner see Miss Dowse in the castle than a stranger. Mr. Hammond in his report says – “Neither Major Reynolds nor the other party referred to would compete with the occupying Buyer, Miss Dowse”.

If there was a sale by Public Auction Earl Fitzwilliam would elect not to exercise his Option, but would, if he saw fit, buy in at the market value at the Action[8]. We do not think under any circumstances the Castle and 82 Acres is at present worth 3000 pounds.

We were extremely sorry to hear you have been so ill and trust by the time this letter reaches you you will have recovered.

Yours faithfully,



 Feeling a sense of responsibility as Beatrice’s cousin and solicitor, “Bob” Wilson again approaches Beatrice to ascertain if she is certain of the path she is embarking on, and her reply is recorded in Bob’s letter of Sept. 30, 1927 to his aunt May Dowse.


My dear Aunt,

I have given Bea all the best advice I can think of about her future plans & this I may say was at the risk of losing her friendship for I had to put things pretty bluntly! The position was worrying me & I thought it was “up to me” to take it on myself to talk to her so as if I did not tell her all I know, I might be blamed at a later date for having kept silent.

            The first question I too asked when she told me Capt. Hugh had asked her to marry him was “How long has this been going on for?!” Aunt Edie told me in her [illegible] that the Capt.’s terms at Castle was as a paying guest, that was not able to pay!  She (Aunt Edie) kept a book showing amount due, but she knew she would never get it.  The only money she got was a pass book that was kept at the garage (Hugh’s garage) & this was written off paid each month – no money passing. This debt was increased by 150 pounds lent by Aunt Edie to Hugh.

I have roughly made of this [illegible] & find almost 700 due by Hugh to the Estate!  There is no chance of this ever being repaid & we 3 (& of course Beatrice) agree that it be treated as a “bad debt” as far as the Estate is concerned. Uncle Bill is also encumbered to this to the extent of 1/5 (part of the residue). I hope he will agree to wipe out – please ask him this & let me know? I hate to have to mention this but as one of the 4 [illegible] I have to & cannot wipe it out without consent of all 5 residuary legatees. I am not telling you this to put you against Hugh. He is a nice fellow, but it is unfortunate he has not got money. I have spoken to Bea and warned her that she will have to take great care of her means, as if dissipated, it could never be put together again. I can do no more & my hope is that I have not done too much!

            Now. I want to be perfectly clear before dividing up the Estate. I cannot get any further till I get that cable saying my uncle agrees to the proposed sale at 2100 & to wipe out 700 debt.


                                                                                    Yours sincerely

                                                                                    Bob Wilson

PS. I should add that during my last “talk” with Bea she said that no matter what I said she was determined to marry Hugh. I assured her that my object in talking straight to her was not to prevent her marriage but to warn her to be careful of the disposal of her means.

The next we hear of Beatrice and Hugh is a mention of their impending wedding in a letter of Beatrice’s mother, May Dowse, dated Nov. 8, 1927.

 I would have liked very much to have sent a cable to Beatrice tonight for her Wedding Day tomorrow some time. I hope she is happy anyway, and she must feel great freedom from restraint and can go and come as she pleases, and have her visitors to stay with her any time they can. Pearlie[9] was busy today, and her helpers. Likely Beatrice has been up sometime and brought up all necessary goods for tomorrow, a peep in would be grand!

 On November 9, 1927 Beatrice Dowse became Beatrice Woodhouse and so began her happy marriage to the man she loved.


Beatrice and Hugh’s wedding day, Nov. 9, 1927






[1] William’s nephew, Robert Dowse Wilson, second son of Rev. Peter and Emma Katherine Wilson (born Dowse)

[2] Robert “Bob” Dowse Wilson addresses his uncle, William Robert Dowse, as “Bill”.

[3] Richard Morton Dowse

[4] Fitzwilliam

[5] From a hospital in Winnipeg. Manitoba, Canada

[6] In 1923/24

[7] The name of a farm originally belonging to Edie’s family – the Goodissons

[8] Auction?

[9] Pearl Wilson, Beatrice’s cousin. Beatrice and Hugh were married in Dublin.

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