History of the Golden Mile

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1775 – St. George’s Rent Role. County Library, Island House. Galway.

This record is a survey of the Headford area in 1775. The survey is signed by Charles Fritzell Junior. The St. George Family had been land owners in the area for over 100 years. Its lists the occupiers and tenants of Headford town as well as a description of the property occupied or leases. The documents are full of recommendations on how the whole estate could be improved – from the fertility of the land to the prosperity of the town.

Suggestions were:

• To establish a good ‘Inn’ to attract travellers.

• The return of the sessions (court) which had been removed because of the remoteness of the area.

• The building of a road across Headford Bog.

• To encourage linen manufacturers ( the use of looms).

Headford Castle

1702 – There is a stone dated 1702 beside the ruined castle

1715 – Lord St. George of Headford was raised to the peerage in 1715. . His forebears replaced the Catholic Edmund Skerrett. St. George had built for himself a manor house in the Elizabethan styles where he resided occasionally as he had been appointed Governor of Galway City and Vice Admiral of Connacht.

Lt. General Richard St. George of Carrick on Shannon was married to Lady Elizableth Coote, but died without any legitimate heirs. He owned the castle later and he left it to his natural daughter, Mary St. George.

1749 – Mary married Capt James Mansergh of Macroney Castle, Kilworth Co. Cork. Their son Col. Richard Mansergh of Headford assumed the name St. George in order to inherit the castle and lands. He married Anne Stepney of Durrow. His portrait, in which he is depicted in 1794 mourning over the tomb of his wife Anne, was painted by Hugh Desmond (or Douglas) Hamilton, and acquired by the National Gallery, Dublin. A portrait of his wife, Anne Stepney was painted by the famous artist George Romney and is in the Heckscher Museum in Huntingdon, Long Island, New York. Col. Richard fought in the American War of Independence, and has suffered severe head injuries, which required him to wear a black silk cap for the rest of his life. He suffered from dark brooding moods and became increasingly obsessed, even paranoid about the spirit of insubordination and rebellion.

1797 – In 1797 he went to Cork with an armed escort determined to nip rebellion in the bud, issuing dire and improvident threats against his own tenants, having burned down one house, a supposed place of assembly. As an act of bravado he let it be known that he was staying without a guard over night with his agent Joseph Uniacke. They were both attacked and killed in Carey’s Lodge, Araglin.

The Col and his wife had two sons. Mr Richard James Mansergh St. George 1789-1857 married Elizabelth Sophie Shaw in 1812 and had no children. Cap. Stepney St. George 1791-1847 married Fanny L’Estrange in 1833 and they had seven children.

1840 – The St. George’s were staunchly Protestant and did not look kindly on the building of Catholic Churches on the estate. Thatched chapels were accepted for there was on at the corner opposite the Grand Gates. Mr. St. George gave the site free as well as a donation for the present corner chapel which was to be built away from the Grand Gates.

Capt. Stepney St. George was Chairman of the Relief Committee during the famine, and wrote several letters to the Relief Commission Offices at Dublin Castle requesting boilers for soup making and other help. Soup kitchens were set up in his office and stores. Stepney died during the famine – possibly a fever victim.

1838-1891 – Richard James St. George inherited the castle. He was the eldest son of Stepney and married Mary A. Henley.

From C. Ottway’s Tour of Connacht. “ The Demesne of Mr. St. George which contains 700 acres is well planted, well kept, and altogether bespeeks the residential care of an intelligent and improving Landlord. Stopping at this rather pretty village to breakfast, I took occasion to see Mr. St. George’s house and pleasure grounds, and nothing could be better kept than the whole. The house is built in the fashion of a mansion of the Elizabethan days where some of the defences of a castle are still maintained, without the discomfort of a fortress. Accordingly here, though in looking from the house you see no obstruction and all the well ordered pleasure grounds lie expended before you, yet you are in fact surrounded by a fosse, and no entrance can be had except by an old ruined castle which forms a sort of barbican or oat work in excellent keeping all around.

I merely entered the hall, for I detest the process of seeing great houses. My object was to look ion the portrait of Colonel Mansergh St. George who about 40 years ago was murdered by the Defenders in Co.Cork. I remember the cruel slaughter of this brave and eccentric man. I remember also to have seen him, a fine soldier like gentleman of the old school. The picture is good – the mournful attitude of the man tells as it were its own story, and I don’t wonder that he who inherits along with Col. St. George’s virtues, his unshaken loyalty and Protestantism, should wish to have a fosse and ramparts around his dwelling”.

1874 – The Landed Estates Court ordered the sale of the Houses of Headford.

1895– Some lands were sold to McDonnell, Merchants of Dunmore. The castle was occupied by a McDonagh family, relations of the Mc Donnell’s who had bought the castle and town in around1903-1907. The town was later sold to Killursa Co-operative and then the houses were purchased by the tenants. The castle and the lands were taken over by the land commission and were divided out.

We would like to convey our thanks to Mary O’Connor, a local historian, for the information above.

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