DiCamillo Companion
Ireland

Lyons House (Lyons) (Lyons Demesne) (Castle of the Aylmers)

  • Earlier Houses: A 17th century house built for Nicholas Lawless, 1st Lord Cloncurry, was originally on the site of the current house.

    House & Family History: Lyons was built to the designs of Oliver Grace for Nicholas Lawless, 1st Lord Cloncurry, who purchased the Estate from the Aylmer family, who had owned it since the Norman invasion. Lord Cloncurry was a wool merchant and banker who was created a baronet in 1776 and elevated to the peerage as baron Cloncurry in 1789. The most famous resident of Lyons was probably Valentine Brown Lawless, son of the 1st Lord Cloncurry and later 2nd Lord Cloncurry, who held advanced political views for his time, the most prominent result of which was his close association with the United Irishmen (who favored ending British rule over Ireland and the founding of an independent Irish republic). His close links with the United Irishmen resulted in Valentine being imprisoned in June 1798 and being held in the Tower of London until March 1801. After his release from the Tower Lord Cloncurry (his father had died in 1799 and Valentine had inherited the title) employed Richard Morrison to design an extensive remodeling of Lyons (the only major country house of this date to feature bow windows on the main façade), which cost the enormous sum of £200,000 (equivalent to approximately £226 million in 2016 inflation-adjusted values using the labour value commodity index). Then Lord Cloncurry embarked on an especially extravagant Grand Tour, buying vast quantities of antiquities (including a valuable collection of antique sculpture that was displayed at Lyons); a boat laden with more treasures on its way from Italy to Ireland sunk of the coast of Wicklow in 1804; though some sculpture was later recovered, most of the valuable cargo was lost. Lord Cloncurry settled in Rome, where he leased the Palazzo Accaioli and married Eliza Morgan. In 1804 he purchased four 12-foot granite columns, three of which came from Nero's Golden House (Domus Aurea) in Rome, and one of which came from the Baths of Titus. Lord Cloncurry had these four columns shipped to Ireland, where Morrison incorporated them into the new entrance portico, topped by the family's coat of arms (in 1810 matching two-story wings were added). It was during his Grand Tour that Lord Cloncurry met Gaspare Gabrielli and brought him (in 1805) to Ireland, where he commissioned him to paint the famous Music Room at Lyons. In 1807 Lord Cloncurry brought a famous lawsuit against Sir John Piers, who had seduced Lady Georgiana Cloncurry for a bet (the seduction had been witnessed by the painter Gabrielli while he was at work at Lyons). The Lyons Estate remained in the Lawless family until the death in 1958 of The Hon. Kathleen Lawless, the last of the family. Kathleen left the Estate to her cousin, Mark Winn, who sold the House in 1962 to University College, Dublin, who used it for decades as a school of agriculture (the University even installed the entrance gates, which were taken from Browne's Hill, Co. Carlow). In 1990 University College sold the Estate to Michael Smurfit, who returned Lyons to a private residence. In 1996 Lyons was purchased for 4.4 million euros by Tony Ryan, founder of Ryanair and Guinness Peat Aviation, who reputedly spent €100 million restoring the Estate. After Ryan's death in October 2007, the 598-acre Lyons Estate was privately listed for sale in June 2009 for €80 million, reduced to €50 million in May 2010 for a public sale. In 2016 Ryan's son, Shane Ryan, purchased Lyons for an estimated €18 million. In 1815 Lyons was the setting of a famous duel between Daniel O'Connell and John D'Esterre.

    Collections: A Neoclassical design for a fan by Gaspare Gabrielli (1770-1828), originally at Lyons, was sold at the Christie's sale of some of the contents of Glin Castle, May 7, 2009 for £1,188, against an estimate of £1,000-1,500. The 2nd Lord Cloncurry met Gabrielli during his Grand Tour and, in 1805, brought him to Ireland and commissioned him to paint the famous Music Room at Lyons. Lord Cloncurry also formed at Lyons a large collection of antiquities, including a valuable collection of antique sculpture.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: The pedimented Entrance Gate, complete with rusticated doorways and recumbent lions, was moved here from Browne's Hill, Co. Carlow, by University College, Dublin.

  • Architect: Richard Morrison

    Date: 1802-05
    Designed: Remodeled House in classical style for 2nd Lord Cloncurry, including replacement of curved sweeps with straight colonnades.

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    Architect: Oliver Grace

    Date: 1785
    Designed: House for Nicholas Lawless, 1st Lord Cloncurry.

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  • John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. I, p .81, 1854.

    John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. II, 1825.

  • Title: Great Irish Houses and Castles
    Author: O'Brien, Jacqueline; Guinness, Desmond
    Year Published: 1992
    Reference: pg. 188
    Publisher: New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
    ISBN: 0810933659
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Companion Guide to Ireland, The
    Author: Lehane, Brendan
    Year Published: 2001
    Reference: pg. 141
    Publisher: Suffolk: Companion Guides
    ISBN: 1900639343
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Christie's Auction Catalog: Glin Castle: A Knight in Ireland, May 7, 2009
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 2009
    Reference: pg. 100
    Publisher: London: Christie's
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Houses of Ireland: Domestic Architecture from the Medieval Castle to the Edwardian Villa, The
    Author: de Breffny, Brian; ffolliott, Rosemary; Mott, George
    Year Published: 1975
    Reference: pg. 144
    Publisher: New York: Viking Press
    ISBN: 670381020
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Irish Houses & Castles
    Author: Guinness, Desmond and Ryan, William
    Year Published: 1971
    Reference: pg. 19
    Publisher: New York: Crescent Books
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Unknown

    Park Listed: Unknown

  • Seat of: Shane Ryan; here since 2016.

    Past Seat of: Michael Aylmer, 18th century; Aylmer family here from 1066 until 1796. Nicholas Lawless, 1st Lord Cloncurry, late 18th century; Valentine Brown Lawless, 2nd Lord Cloncurry, early 19th century; Lawless family here until 1958. Mark Winn, 1958-62. Michael Smurfit, 1990-96. Tony Ryan, 1996-2007.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

  • House Open to Public: No

    Awards: Europa Nostra and Institut International des Chateaux Historiques joint award for refurbishment, 2001.

    Historic Houses Member: No