A few years ago I shared some photographs I took of Moore Hall in my Moore Hall Photo Essay. I’m very lucky to live only a few miles from this beautiful ‘Big House’ and I have fond memories of walking around the estate and having picnics as a little girl with my family. I thought it was time to share some of its history with you.
Moore Hall is situated to the south of the village of Carnacon in Co. Mayo, lying on Muckloon Hill over looking Lough Carra. It was once the home of George Moore and his family. The Moores were originally from Ashbrook House near Straide and were New English in Ireland and Protestant. However, some became Roman Catholic; with George’s father, John, marrying the Catholic Jane Athy of Renville, Co. Galway. George moved to Spain for a time and once he made his fortune he returned to Ireland. He inherited Ashbrook House as his brother died and planned on rebuilding and enlarging the house. He never got around to this as he was tempted by another prospect; the site on which he was to build Moore Hall. He purchased the land from the MacDonald’s for £800. Building began in 1792 under the architect John Roberts. Roberts also designed Waterford Cathedral and Tyrone House, Co. Galway.
The building is a detached five-bay, three-storey over part raised basement country house. It’s built on a symmetrical plan, centred on a single-bay full-height breakfront with a prostyle tetrastyle Doric portico to ground floor. It had a hipped roof with paired limestone ashlar central chimney stacks on axis, with the ridge having cut-limestone stringcourses below the capping, supporting yellow terracotta or terracotta octagonal pots. The walls are made up of tooled cut-limestone chamfered cushion course on a fine roughcast base with drag edged rusticated cut-limestone quoins. There is a dragged cut-limestone “ Cyma Recta” or “Cyma Reversa” cornice on the blind frieze below the parapet that’s centred on the inscribed dragged limestone ashlar “die” date stone. There are “Venetian Windows” on the first floor with drag edged dragged cut-limestone sills, and cut-limestone surround with pilasters supporting the “Cyma Recta” or “Cyma Reversa” cornice which is centred on the archivolt. On the top floor there is a square-headed window, opening in a tripartite arrangement with drag edged dragged cut-limestone sills, and cut-limestone surround with stop fluted pilasters on fluted consoles supporting a “Cavetto” cornice.
Facing the house is a circular gravel sweep, where a number of coaches could turn easily. Three flights of limestone steps led up to a high pillared portico, where a massive oak door opened into a hall with a beautiful Adam ceiling. Above that was the summer room with its balcony, boasting the best view of the lake. A long corridor stretched the length of the ground floor, terminating in a fine staircase. From here the corridor doors opened into a series of apartments designed for guests staying at Moore Hall. At the front, on either side of the hall, were the dining and drawing room, and at the top of the house the suite of rooms included a private chapel. The roof was encircled by a stone balustrade, and in the centre directly above the hall door was a slab engraved with the motto: Fortis cadere cedere non potest. There was much Italian plasterwork inside Moore Hall, remnants of which still remain today. As with most big houses of that time Moore Hall had be self-sufficient. A bakery, a laundry, a forge, greenhouses and living quarters for servants were constructed. At the back of the house a large stone wall enclosed a collection of sculleries and outbuildings. From this courtyard, double doors opened into a long dark tunnel which led to the stables, the coach house, other farm buildings and to the garden.
The Moore Family
Many members of the Moore family became well-known in Irish and international events. John Moore, who was George’s son, was born in 1767. He was educated in France and became a lawyer in Dublin and London. He took part in the 1798 Rebellion and was honoured with the rank and title of Citizen John Moore, President of the Republic of Connaught by General Humbert. He was sentenced to death for his part in the rebellion but it was later reduced to deportation thanks to his father spending £2,200 defending him. On December 6th 1799, John Moore died of an illness and obstinate disorder at the Royal Oak Tavern hospital in Waterford.
John’s brother, George Moore II was born in 1770 and was the historian of the family. He married Louisa Browne, who was a niece of the second Earl of Altamont. This displeased his mother greatly as Louisa’s cousin, Denis Browne, had prosecuted John Moore in the Castlebar trials. Louisa bore him three sons, George Henry, John and Arthur Augustus.
George Henry was born in 1810 and was educated at Oscott in England and Cambridge. He had a great interest in horses. In 1847 he was M.P. for Mayo and was a founder of the Irish Party in Westminster. George is buried at Kiltoom on the Moore Hall Estate and Fr. Lavelle, The Land League priest, delivered his graveside oration.
George Augustus was born 1852. In the early 1900s he became a distinguished writer with many of the literary greats such as Lady Gregory and W.B. Yeats visiting Moore Hall. Ester Waters, Hail and Farewell, The Lake, and Confessions of a Young Man are among some of his most important work. In later life he spent much of his time travelling the Holy Land for his book The Brook Kerith. George was cremated and his ashes are laid to rest on Castle Island on Lough Carra.
Maurice was born in 1854 and served with the Connaught Rangers in the Boer War. He also became involved in human rights issues. In 1920 he was appointed as envoy to South Africa.
Moore Hall During An Gorta Mór
An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger) hit Ireland in 1845. Subdivision and bankruptcy of tenant farms, dependency on the potato, and blight were some contributing factors. The state provided Indian meal to feed the starving and set up grants of public works to help the unemployed. The Poor Law had already been extended to Ireland and the repeal of the Corn Laws was rushed through Parliament by Peel. This proved to be inadequate. The public grant was badly administered and had to be converted into a load to be repaid by each district. This angered Nationalists and Democrats because a new Coercion Act had been passed. This called for an embargo on all foodstuffs from Ireland and described the exports from Ireland as rent extracted by landlords from their starving tenants.
George Henry Moore was over Moore Hall at this time. Between 1846-1847 he was trying in earnest to enter Parliament. T. F. Conway, parish priest of Partry wrote to George Henry about the plight of some people in the Mayo district. Success came to George Henry in 1846 with his horse Corunna winning the Chester Cup. He won £17,000. £1,000 was lodged into his mother’s account and he gave her instructions to use £500 so that every one of his tenants should receive immediate relief. The other £500 would go to the poorest people in Moore Hall in the form of a cow or some article of necessity.
In 1849 George Henry collaborated with is friend Lord Sligo in acquiring a huge cargo of meal from America to distribute throughout the famine stricken areas of Mayo. The two spent the winter travelling around twenty-seven counties and met with leading men to see what could be done to save a stricken people. It is still remembered that no one died on the Moore estate during the famine and no evictions were recorded.
The Burning of Moore Hall
On 1 February 1923 Republican forces burned Moore Hall to the ground during Ireland’s Civil War. It’s an incident that sparks controversy to this day, with conflicting views on the reasoning behind such an act. The common view is that the anti-treaty forces wanted to prevent the newly formed National Army (pro-treaty forces) from using Moore Hall as a military barracks. This had happened at Castlemacgarret near Claremorris.
It was also anti-treaty policy to burn the houses of senators, as they were seen to have taken the side of the pro-treaty government by accepting a nomination to the Senate. Ironically Senator Maurice Moore had become estranged from his brother George Augustus Moore, the actual owner of Moore Hall. The loss of Moore Hall was the loss of a huge piece of Irish history and the loss of an important piece of Irish architecture.
Restoration of Moore Hall
In 2018 Mayo County Council bought the estate with a view to restoring the house and the grounds. It’s hoped the estate will restored by 2022 in time for the centenary of Irish self-governance.
Abandoned Ireland (2015). Moore Hall. [Online] Hyperlink: http://www.abandonedireland.com/Moorehall.html Accessed 1st December 2015.
Bence-Jones, Mark (1996). A Guide to Irish Country Houses. Constable, London.
Buildings of Ireland (2015). Moore Hall. [Online] Hyperlink: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=MA®no=31310009 Accessed 1st December 2015.
Craig, Maurice (2006). Classical Irish Houses of the Middle Size. Ashfield Press, Dublin.
Curl, Stevens James (2006). Oxford Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Oxford University Press, UK.
Healy, John (2018). Moorehall’s Fortunes Come Full Circle. [Online] Hyperlink: https://www.mayonews.ie/comment-opinion/down-memory-lane/31441-moorehall-s-fortunes-come-full-circle Accessed 12th August 2020.
Hone, Joseph (1939). The Moores of Moorehall. John Cape, London.
Landed Estates NUI, Galway (2015). Moore (Moore Hall). [Online] Hyperlink: http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie:8080/LandedEstates/jsp/family-show.jsp?id=119 Accessed 1st December 2015.
Mayo Ireland (2015). Moores of Moorehall. [Online] Hyperlink: http://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/carnacon/history/moores-of-moorehall.html Accessed 1st December 2015.
McGreal, Edwin (2018). Moorehall House May Be Restored After Council Purchase. [Online] Hyperlink: https://www.mayonews.ie/news/31393-moorehall-house-may-be-restored-after-council-purchase Accessed 12th August 2020.
The Connaught Telegraph (2020). Major Transformative Works Progressing At Historic Mayo Estate. [Online] Hyperlink: https://www.con-telegraph.ie/2020/06/25/major-transformative-works-progressing-at-historic-mayo-estate/ Accessed 12th August 2020.
Artist’s impression of Moore Hall overlooking Lough Carra. [Online] Hyperlink https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/carnacon/history/moores-of-moorehall.html Accessed 15th August 2020.
Corunna, George Henry Moore’s horse, winner of the Chester Cup. [Online] Hyperlink http://www.historicalballinrobe.com/page_id__169.aspx?path=0p2p Accessed 15th August 2020.
Facade of Moore Hall. [Online] Hyperlink https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/06/30/when-moore-is-less/ Accessed 15th August 2020.
Flag of the United Irishmen and the 1798 Rebellion, which John Moore participated in. [Online] Hyperlink https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_United_Irishmen#/media/File:Green_harp_flag_of_Ireland.svg Accessed 15th August 2020.
George Augustus Moore (Novelist). [Online] Hyperlink https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/carnacon/history/moores-of-moorehall.html Accessed 15th August 2020.
George Henry Moore (Politician). [Online] Hyperlink https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Henry_Moore_(politician)#/media/File:George_Henry_Moore_(1810-1870)_(Cropped).jpg Accessed 15th August 2020.
Maurice Moore (Soldier). [Online] Hyperlink https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/carnacon/history/moores-of-moorehall.html Accessed 15th August 2020.
Ruin of Moore Hall. ©Marteen Lane