Castle Gurteen de La Poer
Castle Gurteen de La Poer is a monumental Elizabethan Revival house of National Importance in Ireland, situated on the south bank of the River Suir, close to Kilsheelan and about 8 kilmometers east of Clonmel, in County Waterford.
The large Barional house was designed by Samuel Ussher Roberts (1821-1900), grandson of the famous 18th century Waterford architect John Roberts.
The design of Castle Gurteen was probably influenced by Scottish architect William Burn, an important architect for Tudor-Baroniel mansions in Britain. The construction began 1863 on top of the walls of the first castle from the fifteen-hundreds and was completed 1866.
After the completion of Castle Gurteen, Samuel Ussher Roberts also designed Kylemore Castle (Now Kylemore Abbey) in County Galway. Many features used at Gurteen were also used at Kylemore, and the same builder, Thomas Carroll, worked on both castles.
Castle Gurteen de la Poer retains its original form and massing together with important salient features and materials, both to the exterior and to the interior. The architectural quality of the house is enhanced by the complex arrangement of gables, towers and turrets, all of which enliven the skyline. The construction in limestone ashlar attests to high quality stone work, which is particularly evident in the fine detailing throughout.
The tower gives air to the entrance front, which faces across a forecourt of castled walls. The interior of Gurteen is spacious and in the centre of the house is a galleried top lit great hall divided by a screen of Gothic arches behind which is a staircase.
There are similar arches in the first floor gallery, which likes the staircase, has a balustrade of wrought Iron. The library-which is lined with bookcases and has walls deep red – the drawing room and ballroom open into each other along the garden front.
The dining room, on the other side of the hall, is one of the most perfect Victorian Barional interiors in Ireland. The walls are faded red, above a dado of warm brown oak panelling. The chimney piece of white marble is an important sixteenth-century fireplace, richly carved, originally from a Renaissance Palace in Italy.
A group of gateways to the grounds enhances the artistic design quality of the site, while a garden turret contributes to ornamental quality of the battlemented enclosure, itself augmenting the medieval tone of the grounds.
In the Great Hall features a large French 18th century tapestry, depicting Hercules and Omphale (Hercule et Omphale),
It shows Hercules fallen under the spell of Omphale, Queen of Lydia, and is reduced to spinning wool, spindle and distaff in hand. Omphale is wearing the hero’s lion skin and is clasping his club in an extremely suggestive manner. To the left of Hercules stands cupid, hinting the beginning of a love affair.
The Manor of Kilsheelan
The Manor lands were originally confined to the Tipperary side of the River Suir, but later extended into the county of Waterford, and Gurteen was included in this extension. Gurteen, or Gorteen, was at one time known as Gorteeni-Tonagh, in English ‘The little Gardens’, or fields, and is now called Gurteen de La Poer.
Richard Burgh, or Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, called The Red Earl
The Manor of Kilsheelan, was originally part of the possession of the Burghs, or Burks, under grant from Henry II.
Henry II, also known as Henry Court-manteau, Henry FitzEmpress or Henry Plantagenet, was King of England from 1154 until his death in 1189. He was the first king of the House of Plantagenet.
Richard Burgh, or Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, called The Red Earl, was one of the most powerful Irish nobles of the late 13th and early 14th centuries. He exchanged the Manor of Kilsheelan with the king, for lands in Ulster, and the Manor was then granted to Othon de Grandson.
Otton de Grandson
Sir Otton de Grandson (also Othon or Otto de Grandison ) sometimes numbered Otto I to distinguish him from later members of his family with the same name, (* around 1238, † April 1328) was a nobleman and military man from Savoy who was in the service of King Edward I, to whom he was the closest personal friend.
Because of his career at the English royal court and as one of the most experienced military men and diplomats of his time, he was already famous during his lifetime. There is hardly a character in English history who has had such a long life, traveled so far, and had such an adventurous and diverse career as Grandson.
In 1298 or 1299, Otto, Jacques de Molay of the Templars, and Guillaume de Villaret of the Hospitallers campaigned in Cilicia in order to fight off an invasion by the Mamluks. In his La flor des estoires d’Orient, the Armenian monk Hayton of Corycus mentions his activity on the mainland in Cilicia in 1298–1299: “Otto de Grandison and the Masters of the Temple and of the Hospitallers as well as their convents, who were at that time (1298 or 1299) in these regions (Cilician Armenia). . .”
Edward I rewarded Grandson’s services with numerous gifts, especially extensive donations of land in England, particularly in Kent and Ireland, amongst them Kilsheelan Manor. In 1275 the king appointed him governor of the Channel Islands , and two years later the office was given to him for life.
The FitzGeralds of Desmond and the Butlers of Ormond.
Later the land of Gurteen passed on to the FitzGeralds of Desmond, and then by marriage to the Butlers of Ormond.
Margaret FitzGerald, Countess of Ormond, Countess of Ossory (born circa 1473-died 9 August 1542) was an Irish noblewoman and a member of the powerful FitzGerald dynasty also known as “The Geraldines”. She married Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond, by whom she had four sons and five daughters. She was a patron of schools and craftsmen and also played an active role in legal affairs pertaining to the Ormond estates. She is sometimes styled the ‘Great Countess of Ormond’, or by her Irish name of Mairgread Gerroid. She occupied herself in legal matters regarding her family and the Ormond estates, having worked with Piers in developing the estate, expanding and rebuilding manor houses, amongst them Castle Gurteen. She also established Kilkenny Grammar School. When her husband Piers died in 1539, Margaret was the sole executor of his will. She herself died on 9 August 1542 and was buried in St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny alongside Piers. Their effigies are on their tomb.
During the Cromwellian regime, Gurteen was confiscated, but under the Act of Settlement 1652, was restored to James Butler, First Duke of Ormond, and the Manor stayed in possession of the Ormonds till 1800.
In 1678 Edmond Power obtained a lease of Gurteen from the Duke, and the land was finally purchased in 1800 by Edmond Power’s descendent, William Power.
The Counts De la Poer
The le Poer or Power family claims descent from Sir Robert De Poer, who came to Ireland with Strongbow in 1172. King Henry II of England, who, by charter, granted to Robert the City of Waterford, with “the whole province thereabouts;” and made him marshal of Ireland.
By the mid-17th century, there were many branches of the Powers who owned landed estates in county Waterford. They were mostly Catholic, and most of them sided with the Irish rebels in the wars of the 1640s. Cromwell’s policy was to dispossess all Catholic landowners and transplant them west of the Shannon, where they would be given new estates. Of the 79 transplanters’ certificates issued for Co. Waterford, no fewer than 19 were issued to Powers.
The Powers of Gurteen lost their title, for the fact that their ancestor had been outlawed for serving in the army of James II.
In the mid-19th century, the claim was revived by Edmond Power of Gurteen (1841–1915). In 1863 he changed his name to De la Poer, as the older form of the name.
In order to justify his claim to the title 1st Count de la Poer, 18th Lord le Poer and Curraghmore, the Count commissioned a great deal of research into his family’s history.
Many of the documents he had copied were destroyed in the Irish Public Record Office in 1922. He died in 1915 before his claim could be put to the House of Lords, but his son John William Rivallon, 19th Baron and 2nd Count (1882–1939), did put in the claim in 1920. The House ruled as one would have expected – he was indeed the heir to the title, but that it was invalid because of the attainder of his ancestor.
Count Edmond de la Poer, a Knight of Malta and Private Chamberlain to Pope Pius X, commenced the building of the present castle in 1863 to replace an earlier house which itself had replaced an earlier house again.
His grandson, Edmond Robert Arnold, succeeded to the title of 20th Baron le Power and Curraghmore in 1939. He eventually ran out of funds and sold Castle Gurteen in 1979. He died on the 20th of November 1995.
In 1998, Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein purchased Castle Gurteen, and since then lives and works alternately between Ireland and Los Angeles.
In 2000 Gottfried Helnwein started an extensive restoration of the neglected, run-down castle and landscaped the gardens, which now feature the re-created lake and the arboretum, populated with some of the oldest and tallest trees in Ireland. Helnwein also restored and partially re-constructed the West-wing, the oldest part of the castle and uses the space as his studio. The state rooms serve as permanent exhibition area for his Art.
Since Helnwein took residence, the castle has hosted a number of guests, including Sean Penn, Sir Ben Kingsley, Lisa Marie and Priscilla Presley, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Michael Flatley, Beck, Dita Von Teese, Marilyn Manson, and others.
Visitors from political circles have included American ambassador to Great Britain William S. Farish, speaker of the German parliament Antje Vollmer, and President of the Seychelles James R. Mancham.
In December 2005, Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese were married in a private non-denominational ceremony at the castle. The wedding was officiated by surrealist film director Alejandro Jodorowsky, Gottfried Helnwein was best man. The wedding pictures appeared in the March 2006 edition of Vogue under the heading “The Bride Wore Purple”.
In December 2014 The New York Times Magazine featured a 3 page-article about the Helnwein family at Castle Gurteen, titled ‘The Helnwein’s will See You Now. The Real-Life Addams Family’.