This website is designed to provide the viewer with an insight into the factual history of the Duckett family, Duckett’s Grove Demesne, while also incorporating local knowledge and stories from the period. The website will be updated with additional articles periodically and will hopefully grow over time. If any reader would like to submit corrections, information, documentation or photographs for the website they can do so by emailing (info @ duckettsgrove.ie)
This website and the John Sweeney Archive was founded in 2018 by James Doyle, launched on 09th April 2019 and is dedicated to his grandfather, John Sweeney (1889-1939), Kneestown, Duckett’s Grove, Co. Carlow (formerly from Friarstown, Bennekerry, Co. Carlow). John Sweeney was employed by the Duckett family as Head Gardener of Duckett’s Grove in the early 1900s, was founding Secretary of Duckett’s Grove Land Committee and one of the 28 Beneficiaries of Duckett’s Grove Estate in 1921 when Duckett’s Grove Land Committee purchased Duckett’s Grove demesne with a loan of £32,000 from the Bank of Ireland. According to a local source, John Sweeney was held in very high regard by the Duckett’s and the only Roman Catholic Maria Georgina Duckett trusted. John Sweeney continued to work for Maria Georgina Duckett for a period in Dublin after her departure from Duckett’s Grove. He was appointed Caretaker of Duckett’s Grove Mansion House and lands in 1930 and saved some historical documents and photographs from destruction. These are now preserved for future generations and form part of the “John Sweeney Archive”. His love for Duckett’s Grove as a place of natural beauty and solace lives on.
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Rainstown, Palatine, Co. Carlow.
Duckett’s Grove; considered to be one of the finest Gothic Mansions and demesne in Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries, consisted of twelve thousand acres spread across five counties.
Originally a Georgian house of which traces can still be observed in the entrance block and front facade; it stands majestically in the rural landscape of Rainstown, Palatine, Co. Carlow with its orchestration of turrets, castellated parapets, tall chimney pots and crenellations. This now Gothic ruin contributes to a romantic atmosphere with a picturesque fantasy-line evocating a medieval world, creating an incidental and musical composition to the Carlow skyline.
Duckett’s Grove replaced a smaller house (Kneestown House) which still exists today as a private residence and is situated close to where Duckett’s Grove now stands. Duckett’s Grove gothic mansion was built circa 1745 and re-designed by British born architect Thomas A. Cobden at the request of John Dawson Duckett circa 1830 at which stage the profound ornamentation, arches, turrets and crenellations were added. The last of the Duckett blood line to live in the mansion was William (Dawson) Duckett who died in 1908. His second wife, Maria Georgina Thompson Duckett moved to Dublin in 1916 closing the estate and leasing the land.
As recorded on an Indenture, dated 12th July 1921, representatives of the Duckett’s Grove Estate had signed over Duckett’s Grove Mansion and the estate to Thomas Murphy of Straboe (Farmer), Michael Doyle, Tullow Street, Carlow (Merchant), Rev. Father Edward Campion (Tinryland & Bennekerry Parish), – R.C. Curate and Rev. Father John Kelly (Rathoe Parish). All four were acting as Trustees of the Duckett’s Grove Land Committee representing 28 farmers and labourers from the locality. Failure of the committee to agree the division of the land and keep up repayments to the Bank of Ireland resulted in The Land Commission taking over the Estate, clearing the debt and divided the Estate among the members of Duckett’s Grove Land Committee. However, the bank retained ownership of the Mansion and eleven acres of land.
In 1931 the bank sold the Mansion and the eleven acres to Frederick George Thompson of Hanover Engineering Works, Carlow for the sum of £320.00. Frederick Thompson demolished some of the outbuildings and the granite was re-used to build the Christian Brothers primary school in Carlow which still stands today. The horse and deer heads can bee seen on the granite entrance to Carlow Shopping Centre where Thompsons Engineering once stood and the organ from the Mansion is located in St. Clare’s church, Graiguecullen on the Carlow/Laois border.
Duckett’s Grove was destroyed by fire in the early afternoon of Wednesday 19th April 1933, much of the nineteenth century statuary and grandeur is now lost. Gradual decay continues to create a more medieval yet romantic effect. Frances Brady occupied the mansion from 1976 where she established an animal sanctuary and horse riding school until her demise on 9th July 2004. The skeleton of this Gothic Mansion with its tranquil walled gardens were acquired by Carlow County Council in 2005. Following this acquisition the refurbished and replanted gardens were re-opened to the public in July 2007 with an official opening on 28th September 2007 performed by former Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley T.D. The gardens are currently open to the public.