Killruddery is considered one of the finest period houses in Ireland. It is owned by the Brabazon family, who have held the Earldom of Meath since the early 17th century, and has been their family home for over four centuries. King Henry VIII granted the lands of the Abbey of St. Thomas, which included the area around Killruddery, Bray Head and the Sugar Loaf, to William Brabazon in the 1530s. The first house on this site was built in the early 17th century but was burned during the Confederate Wars of the 1640s.
A new house replaced this in the 1650s but this structure was extended and significantly altered around 1820 by the 10th Earl. The work was carried out to a designed by the noted father and son architects, Sir Richard and William Vitruvius Morrison and the new residence was constructed in Elizabethan Revival style. The notable clock tower is a later addition and was completed in 1909. Its pendulum is powered by a jet of water. About one-third the house had to be demolished in the 1950s, including the tower with its cupola, due to an infestation of dry rot, but Killruddery retains many of it architectural features. The orangery with its domed glass roof contains many beautiful sculptures collected by the family during tours of Italy in the 19th century.
Killruddery sits in an 850-hectare demesne and the extensive formal gardens were first laid out in the late 17th century, making them the oldest gardens in Ireland which survive in their original form. A noted French landscape gardener, Bonet, was employed by the Earl to design the gardens, which are said to be modelled on those at Versailles. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the parallel twin ponds, each 187 metres long.
The name Killruddery derives from the Irish Chill Ruaidhrí meaning ‘Ruaidhri’s church’. The Ordnance Survey Letters tell us that when the house was being expanded in the 1820s, large quantities of bones were uncovered at the northern end of the house, which may indicate the site of this early church. The remains were reinterred on site.
Kilruddery House and Demesne has been used as a scene for many films and television series, including My Left Foot, Angela’s Ashes, The Tudors, and Camelot. Today it is a popular visitor attraction with guided tours available and a programme of regular events. It is also a working farm and much of the produce is used on site in the cafe.
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