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Curraghmore House & Gardens celebrates landmark 300th anniversary July 16

A MARRIAGE of distant cousins that changed Irish history will be commemorated and celebrated next weekend as one of the country’s most majestic country estates opens its gates and doors to the public for a very special event.

Curraghmore House and Gardens in Portlaw, to the west of Waterford City, has remained in the same family for at least six centuries. For the last three hundred years it has been the seat of the Beresfords, Marquesses of Waterford.

On Sunday July 16, the tercentenary of the union of these two families and the marriage of two distant cousins from opposite ends of the country, Catherine Power and Marcus Beresford, will be celebrated as part of the annual Comeraghs Wild Festival.

To commemorate the landmark anniversary, Lord and Lady Waterford and their family are hosting a series of talks in the upper hall and using the dining room for morning coffee and afternoon tea between talks. Celebrations close with ‘Pride and Prejudice’ performed by Chapter House Theatre Company on the front lawn.

Tickets for Pride and Prejudice are available from Curraghmore and from Carter Lane Arts Centre while tickets for the walks and talks are available directly from Curraghmore of from Lismore Heritage Centre on 058-54975.

Local historian, Julian Walton, is one of a number of experts who will be involved in the commemorations. “On 16 July 1717, Catherine was married to an Ulster cousin, Sir Marcus Beresford of Coleraine, Baronet, whose ancestor had come to Ireland over a hundred years previously as an official of the Plantation of Ulster. It was his 23rd birthday; Catherine was aged fifteen and a half. This marriage united two families and two landed estates from opposite ends of the country and produced what was effectively, by the end of the 18th century, the most powerful political dynasty in Ireland.

“Sir Marcus was created Earl of Tyrone in 1746, and after his death Catherine successfully claimed the title Baroness la Poer in right of her medieval ancestors. They died in 1763 and 1769 respectively and are commemorated by a huge monument in Clonegam Church.

“During their reign the great courtyard was built to the design of John Roberts. It is the biggest in Ireland and rivals that of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. The room over the entrance hall, the medieval tower, was redecorated at this time, with stucco work by the Lafranchini brothers. They also had a residence in the capital – Tyrone House in Marlborough Street, now owned by the Department of Education. Lady Catherine was busy too: she built the pretty shell-house in the grounds, the finest in Ireland, putting up the shells with her own hands in 261 days in the year 1754.

“Marcus and Catherine had a large family – of their fifteen children, nine survived to adulthood, three sons and six daughters. When you enter the outer hall at Curraghmore, your eye is immediately caught by the huge group portrait that occupies most of the left-hand wall. Painted in about 1760 by John Astley, it depicts the ageing Sir Marcus Beresford, Earl of Tyrone, and his wife Lady Catherine Power, surrounded by their nine children, all now well into adulthood.

The 300th anniversary commemoration opens with a morning lecture on ‘The Powers of Curraghmore’ by Mr Kenneth W Nicholls, one of the most widely respected Irish historians of the twentieth century. The second lecture, ‘16th of July 1717: A Marriage that changed Irish History?’ by Julian Walton is set to be a big hit. Julian has delighted radio listeners with historical anecdotes about things that happened in and around Waterford.

Afternoon lectures start at 2pm and focus on ‘The evolution of the gardens and demesne at Curraghmore’ by Willie Fraher, Curator Waterford County Museum, followed by Afternoon Tea in the Dining room. It will be followed by a walk through the gardens with head gardener, Michael Murphy, and Willie Fraher. This will be a great opportunity to ask questions and get an insight into managing the gardens and plans for the future. A service follows at Clonagam Church, the resting place of Marcus and Catherine.

Chapter House Theatre Company close the evening with Pride and Prejudice on the front lawn from 6pm.

For more on the 300th anniversary celebrations, log on to: http://www.curraghmorehouse.ie

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