Gemma Grant visits Johnstown Castle in Wexford
Described as Gothic-Revival, Johnstown castle and estate is now Ireland’s leading research centre for soils and the rural environment under Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority. The castle was presented to the nation in 1945, by Maurice Victor Lakin, the last of the Grogan line associated with the castle.
Subject to considerable inheritance tax, Maurice sold most of the contents at auction and with the money moved to France, leaving his family’s castle to the people of Ireland. What his grandmother, Lady Jane Frances Maurice Fitzgerald, who died in 1942, would have thought of losing her ancestral home, remains to be seen.
Lady Fitzgerald, we are informed, enjoyed surveying the grounds of her domain while soaking in a tub, strategically placed in an upper room of the castle, affording her tremendous views of the grounds.
The Grogan family occupied the castle from its acquisition through marriage in 1692 when John Grogan, described as a Wexford merchant, became not the first, but one of the family names most associated with Johnstown castle.
During the Cromwellian plantation, Johnstown was forfeited and given to an officer in Cromwell’s army by the name of Overstreet, before making its way into the Grogan family line. The family enjoyed relative peace until Irish nationalism came knocking on the door, yet again.
Wexford of 1798, saw its fair share of fighting during the rebellion of the United Irishmen, who rose in defiance against British rule in Ireland. In June of that year, Cornelius Grogan, eldest son of the family, joined the ranks as commissary-general.
Cornelius was protestant and High Sheriff of county Wexford and M.P. for Enniscorthy. For his part in the rebellion, he was hanged and beheaded on Wexford Bridge. His headless body, along with that of two other landlords was thrown into the Slaney river.