Strokestown Park House, County Roscommon

Members of the Irish nobility sometimes had rather grand notions, and so it was at Strokestown where the second Lord Hartland laid out a street he wanted wider than the Ringstrasse in Vienna. At one end of this tree lined mall lies a magnificent Gothic arch that leads to Strokestown Park House, one of Ireland's finest Palladian houses and seat of the Pakenham Mahon family from 1660 to 1979. It now belongs to James Callery of Westward Garage, who purchased the property complete with its contents, saving it from almost certain demolition. He has subsequently carried out a major restoration programme and opened it to the public.

From the front, the house looks enormous with its central block linked by curved quadrants to wings that are prolonged by screen walls with niches and pedimented archways. The main house has seven bays with three storeys over a basement and seems largely to date from 1696 - the date carved on a stone by the front door. The top storey and balustrade were added later probably around 1740 when the architect Richard Castle built the wings for Thomas Mahon (1701-82) MP for Roscommon for forty-two years.

His son Maurice, who became Baron Hartland upon accepting a Union peerage in 1800, made further additions and modifications to the house, including the inlaid mahogany doors, chimney-pieces and cornices as well as the library. In 1819 Lieutenant General Thomas Mahon second Lord Hartland, employed the architect J. Lynn to carry out some more improvements, such as the addition of the porch and giant pilasters to the front. Except for the gardens, few changes were later carried out at Strokestown and it remained the centre of a vast 30,000-acre estate until the present century.

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