Garryhill House was built by the Earl of Bessborough between 1740 and 1760 – Earl of Bessborough is a title in the Peerage of Ireland. The first Earl was called Brabazon Ponsonby who lived from 1679 – 1758 and he was promoted to Earl in 1739 from Viscount Duncannon and given lands in Ireland. Lord Bessborough owned 23,967 acres in Co. Kilkenny with an official evaluation of £15,484 and 10,578 acres in Co. Carlow with an official evaluation of £5,522 of which Garryhill was a part. The principal seat was at Bessborough House, Piltown Co. Kilkenny.

A number of diary entries over the years are noteworthy e.g. in 1881 Edward the 8th Earl says: ‘Uncle Frederick (6th Earl) lent us Garryhill to live in during my holidays’ ‘In 1886 he built two new rooms over the office and an extra room on the top floor for us. Many improvements were subsequently made in the garden by making some paths etc. to form some sort of pleasure grounds’. These additions can clearly be seen at Garryhill House to this day. Edward 8th Earl married Blanche Vere Guest in 1875 and succeeded to the title on the death of his father Walter in 1906. Blanche started the Cottage Industry at Garryhill of which there are more details below. In another entry Edward says: ‘On the death of my uncle Frederick in 1895 my father (Walter) who was then about 74 years of age made over all the property which came to him by Uncle Frederick’s will to me.’ Vere the 9th Earl married Roberte Newflize in 1912 and succeeded to the title on the death of his father in 1920. Again we have reference to the Garryhill Estate ‘My mother died at Bessborough on Oct. 11th 1919. On the day of her death Roberte and I were at Garryhill We had been spending the holidays there for the first time since 1914 my father having given me the Garryhill estate on my marriage in 1912’.

The Earls of Bessborough were considered enlightened landlords though the house at Pilltown was burned in 1923 by the I.R.A. The doors of Garryhill house were heavily re-inforced to provide protection for its inhabitants, all of which is still evident today. The 9th Earl of Bessborough left Ireland in 1924 and bought Stansted Park, Hampshire which is now the family seat but the Bessboroughs ran the Garryhill Estate until the late 1940’s early 1950’s. The 10th Earl was a member of the European Parliament who had one daughter but no sons and on his death in 1993 the earldom of Bessborough became extinct though the family seat remains at Stansted Park in Rowlands Castle in Hampshire.


The Nationalist & Leinster Times carried an article in 1898 entitled ‘Cottage Industry at Garryhill’ which mentioned that an exhibition had opened at Brook Street London in connection with Viscountess Duncannon’s cottage industry at Garryhill, Co. Carlow. In a statement the Viscountess said that she started the industry with her niece Mrs. Hallam Murray, and Fraulein Martha Ludwig at that time the Governess in the autumn of 1884. They began it in quite a small way, with only three women, whom they had to their house every day for a week just before returning to England. They were, she said, at Garryhill, Lord Bessborough’s property in Carlow three months in the year and whilst there, they held weekly classes. By 1907 she reported having about 30 regular workers on the Garryhill Estate. The work was immensely popular and was entirely done in the cottages. Many of the girls were field labourers before joining the industry, and one girl in particular she remembered by name - Kate Ryan who used to weed potatoes at 6d a day became one of her best workers and could do any kind of elaborate work. One feature of the industry was the extraordinary cleanliness of the work – none of it was ever washed or cleaned, not an easy matter when one considers what an Irish cabin was like in those day. A woman’s wage as a field labourer was about 3s 6d a week whereas the lace workers, when they had plenty of orders for them, could earn from 10s to 15s a week in their own homes. In 1907 the Garryhill Industry had its own stand with a display of embroidery, drawn work and sprigging in the Embroidery Court of the Home Industries Section at the Irish International Exhibition and in the list of industries represented it is shown as employing 42 hands and having a ready market for goods. All the designs and materials were sent by Viscountess Duncannon direct to Garryhill. The exhibitions had been a repeated success. Her majesty the Queen was among those who purchased specimens of their work.

Although still a noble building with the dignity of antiquity the house is today a very welcoming home with the delight and laughter of a young family - the D’Arcy family. Laurance and Colette bought the house about four years ago from the previous owners Ruprecht Van Deym who had lived there for approx 18 years. It had been owned prior to that by another German family and prior to that by Patrick O’Connell.

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