Ardsallagh House, County Waterford

Ardsallagh House (front of house, facing onto the River Blackwater) circa 1940.
Photo credit: Mrs. Geary, Ardsallagh via her son John.

Entry for Ardsallagh House in NUIG's Landed Estates Database; Ardsallagh House on Google Maps.

June 2022 update: after some additional research it appears possible that Ringville refers to a previous property in Ardsallagh townland. The Grand Jury map of Waterford from 1818 shows a property labelled "Ring" at about the same location where Ardsallagh House was subsequently situated, and the outline seems to correspond to the entryway and general grounds of Ardsallagh House. In addition, the CSORP contains a letter from "Dominick Ronayne, Ring Ville [Ringville], near Youghal, County Cork."; since the other Ringville is nearer to Dungarvan, it seems unusual at least to say it's near Youghal unless there's a second Ringville to consider. Finally, for good measure, Lewis says of the area, "The principal seats are [...] and Ring, of Dominick Ronayne, Esq." (published 1837)

November 2018 update: as a lure for further information, this page certainly worked! I was contacted by a descendant of employees of the Ronaynes who provided me with staff anecdotes, photograhps, and sketches of the house and its layout within the farm. John got in touch in February 2017 and we've spent almost two years putting his notes and photographs into a document to preserve some of the history of this house and the lives that were lived in it. (John did the hard work of coming up with the text; mainly I typed and worked on layout!) The resulting document is titled "Ardsallagh House, County Waterford, in the 19th and 20th Century." (PDF, 79pp)

Some time ago, I was bitten by the family history bug, and went digging. A few generations back, our family were basically miscellaneous peasants, and thus didn't appear in the news of the day even when they died. As a means of gathering more information, I took to investigating those who did make it into the papers, including a family who once owned the land occupied by the house I grew up in. I've picked up information from a lot of sources on this place, so I thought I'd write up what I've found for more public consumption (and hey, maybe some other people out there have some data they can send on.)

Ardsallagh House first makes an appearance in the Freeman's Journal, July 1832, when we are told that, "Dominick Ronayne and family decamp[ed] from Upper Rutland Street to Ardsallagh". Note, this doesn't refer to Ardsallagh House specifically, and several Ronaynes lived in the area; however, up to this point, Dominick Ronayne was living in Ringville, his father's house near Dungarvan[see updates], and in 1833 reference is made to Ardsallagh being "his seat near Youghal", so I think it's a reasonable assumption. Trying to hone in a little more closely on this, Ronayne writes a letter to the Tipperary Free Press in 1829 from Ringville, while in 1830 he writes another letter to The Pilot from Ardsallagh. So it's reasonable to assume he moved in around this time. Furthermore, Leet's Directory of 1814 has no entry for Ardsallagh House, suggesting the house does not exist at that point. However, one confounding element is that there were two Dominick Ronaynes in the area at the time, both with a middle initial "P", and both related, and the "wrong" one lived for a spell at Harbour View Cottage, which was at the entrance to Ardsallagh House.

Dominick Ronayne was a friend of William Tinsley, who was an architect. Tinsely's listed works start in 1826, some years before Ronayne was living in Ardsallagh. Tinsley worked on several "big houses" in Tipperary and Waterford, so it's possible he started out with a contribution to his friend Dominick. Curiously enough, Tinsley designed an almshouse for Youghal in 1828, which, while not built until 1838, is situated almost next to almshouses built by Maurice Ronayne of D'laughtane in 1740!

Ronayne himself had some connection to the Ronaynes of D'laughtane (precisely what connection I have yet to establish), and was also connected to James Ronayne of St. Patrick's Hill, Cork. The D'laughtane Ronaynes have a documented lineage going back to roughly 1139 (there may be a little fudging here), and a Maurice Ronayne, possibly of the D'laughtane Ronaynes, worked as an agent for Earl Grandison in the 1700s, managing the estate that includes the location of Ardsallagh House. Dominick Ronayne, in turn, supported Grandison's descendant, Henry Villiers-Stuart, in local politics in the 1820s and 1830s.

Ronayne occupied the house until his death in January 1836, and his funeral cortége (comprised, so the reports of the day said, of some 100,000 mourners) followed a route from the gates of Ardsallagh House along the banks of the Blackwater to Youghal Bridge, and from there onward to Clashmore. This is a little curious, since contemporary maps show that a more direct route would have been to go left from the gateway to the house, directly up the hill to meet the Clashmore road, shaving about a mile off the distance to be covered. On the other hand, the longer route allowed mourners from the nearby town of Youghal to join in at the Waterford side of Youghal Bridge, so perhaps that accounts for the route chosen.

Griffith's Valuation shows Ardsallagh House surveyed in 1848; Dominick's wife Olivia is listed as the occupant, and Lord Stuart De Decies - a friend of Dominick's, and a descendant of Lord Grandison - is listed as the immediate lessor, and the rent £75 yearly.

Thomas Lacy, in Sights and Scenes in Our Fatherland (published by Simpkin, Marshal & Co., 1863), wrote:

"Several fine seats appear in this neighbourhood, among which may be mentioned Ardsallagh House, a nice fanciful structure, at this time the residence of Mrs. Ronayne, widow of the late Dominick Ronayne, Esq., M.P." (Chapter XXIII, p.663)

Two of Ronayne's children, Tobias and Ellen, predeceased his wife Olivia (née Sinnott, died 1856), but a third child, James Uniacke Sinnot Ronayne, appears from the Cancellation Books to have inherited the property around this time. Olivia's entry in the Will Calendars makes no reference to this transfer explicitly, only mentioning John Ronayne "of the same place ... the surviving Executor". John was a first cousin once removed of Dominick, and a second cousin of James; confusing matters further, John's father was also James (of Patrick's Hill, Cork). James-of-Dominick died in October 1876 - almost exactly 20 years after his mother - and in the 1877 Cancellation Books the property had passed to John. Interestingly, Olivia's will was not proved by John until 1879, so perhaps there was a tussle over ownership?

In any event, John lived in the house until his death in 1885, and conducted a good deal of business with the town of Youghal (as a council member) using Ardsallagh House as his official address. After his death, the house passed to his wife, Alice (daughter of Francis Kennedy of Ballinamultina House, Clashmore) who possessed it until her death in 1906; by 1908 ownership had passed to her son James Francis. James was the owner and principal resident until his death in 1945; the property briefly passed to his brother Robert, who died later in 1945, and ultimately to their sister Gwen - the last of the Ardsallagh Ronaynes. She passed away in 1961, at which point the property was handled by trustees (Stephenson, who appears in the 1901 census for the house as a relative; subsequently married Murphy); it appears to have been sold to a solicitors' firm in Dublin in March 1963 who sold it on to the Koerner family in 1965.

At this point it seems that the house had fallen somewhat into disrepair, and the Koerners initially sought to renovate it; however, not being local to the area, they were quoted an assortment of exorbitant prices and ultimately found it cheaper to demolish the main building and replace it with a brand new construction circa 1967. The stables and some other non-residential buildings remained intact and were used by the Koerners as farm buildings, and they built an additional house for their son on the propery. They sold the entire property some time around 1999, and since then, the various buildings have gradually fallen into disrepair.

After Koerners a consortium of five took over and got planning permission for a 72 room nursing home, then put approximately 52 acres of the farm up for sale. The remaining acreage was retained by the son of one of the five (Maurice Power) who had bought out the other four.

The next owner was Connolly who bought Harbour View, a neighbouring house, at the same time and ran them as one holding. NAMA or receivers took this over and advertised it all for auction in September 2015; at this point, the sale description noted that, "There are two dwelling houses on the land and numerous outbuildings, all of which are derelict. One property is known as Ardsallagh House and another as Harbour View."

(Given the proximity and connections, I may need to do another page for Harbour View!)

Sources: The Irish Newspaper Archive, the newspaper archive at Find My Past, the National Archives of Ireland Calendars of Wills and Administrations website, the Griffiths Valuation books available on the NAI site and other locations, Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, and some personal contacts via and including my father.