Woodlawn House- the most Haunted House in Ireland?

Three schools projects that I am involved in 'swept the boards' at the recent annual Galway County Heritage Awards.

These awards are unique in Ireland and represent an important morale booster to the diverse range of communities and organisations involved in preserving and promoting our rich native traditions. Enthusiasts range from the big tourism business interests such as the 'Dartfield Horse Museum' through to little neighbourhood groups such as a village committee looking after the upkeep of their local graveyard.
The awards were the brainchild of the energetic Marie Mannion, probably the best Heritage Officer in the country. Since their inception four years ago, I have promoted the involvement of primary schools that I manage under the 'Fionn' Science programme. Named after a mythological Celtic hero, 'Fionn' provided the children and teachers with digital media training and technology for the production of yearly science documentaries. Yet I have always encouraged participants to take an interdisciplinary approach to science and allow the inclusion of art, drama, local history, music, public speaking, languages ... So not surpisingly many schools include heritage themes in their films. For instance traditional lobster fishing in Inis Óirr has both a science as well as a heritage element.
We have always done exceptionally well in these County Awards.
2006 (our last year sadly) was no exception:
a) Doorus National School won the top Schools prize for its fascinating film documentary on the Tidal-powered Mills that once were a major source of industrial power in south Galway until destroyed by a tsunami that hit the coast in the 17th century! b) Kiltartan Primary School was runners-up for its movie on the local Gort River. c) The tiny Woodlawn School (population: 12 pupils) won the special 'Merit Award' for its outstanding film on the history of 'Woodlawn House'- one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Ireland.
The Woodlawn school principal, Maureen Duhan (photo- in centre with family), is the wife of the famous singer-songwriter Johnny Duhan (writer of such classics as the Christy Moore song 'The Voyage'). She is also an excellent innovator and has over the years helped her pupils produce some vintage projects.
The locality is a quiet rural backwater dominated by the old demense and its awe-inspiring mansion now sadly falling into dereliction.
But in its heyday, Woodlawn was a hub of economic actvitity with its aristocratic owners possessing considerable wealth and political power. The estate was home to an army of specialised servants including coopers, blacksmiths, maids, cooks, chefs, gamekeepers, gardeners, stable boys and coachmen. Look at the size of these stables!
The most famous owner, the first Lord Ashtown, was powerful enough to have the new Dublin-Galway railway line diverted to go through his lands. He built a quaint railway station that is still in existence today. In fact his building programme included many other fine buildings of architectural beauty that still stand today including an Anglican Church, a Gamekeeper's Lodge, a family Mausoleum, an Ice House, artisan cottages and above all Woodlawn House itself. In fact over 150 years later, there are few other buildings of note in the area.
The team that produced the independent American film 'The Blair Witch Project' came to Ireland a few years ago to undertake a documentary on the most haunted houses in Ireland. They stayed in many but found Woodlawn House to be the scariest!

Still I don't think that Woodlawn will be a sleepy village for much longer. With the recently announced plans for the re-development of the railways in the West of Ireland and the selection of nearby Athenry as a transport hub, the locality is a prime location to re-emerge as a satellite town of Galway City. Woodlawn House may be recognised as a prime site for a hotel and golf club complex. Hopefully though the area's rural ambience is not destroyed in the process as is too often happening nowadays in Ireland.

Finally, check out my next article on Woodlawn House written as a result of some interesting corrispondence from Lord Ashtown's son


Anonymous said...

Just came across your story on Woodlawn House. Of great interest to me as it belonged to my family. The owner was in fact Lord Ashtown not Ashford. My father is the present Lord Ashtown. He turned 90 two weeks ago and lives in London. I had the mausoleum restored in 2001 and usually come over to Galway a couple of times a year. I am not so sure about Woodlawn being haunted. I always heard that Leap Castle in Offaly held that honour. My grandmother's family came from there.

Speedie's Blog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Speedie's Blog said...

I really appreciate your comment Roderick and made the necessary change on the aristocratic title. Sorry for my error!
Actually if you could send me your postal address, I would forward the local school's DVD on Woodlawn House plus the article from the Sunday Times (if I can find it) regarding the haunting.

Langdon said...

I was also interested in the article. I am interested in the Trench family, of Woodlawn. Alexander Trench removed to South Carolina, America, where he was a Landgrave. in his will, proved in 1733, he left his estate in America to his only son, Frederick. He also left estate called Woodland, in Galway, to is son, Frederick. Frederick left a will leaving his estate in South Carolina to his son. He also left land in Dublin and England to his sons. Frederick's will was proved in 1797, by Francis, Thomas and Charles Trench. If anyone knows anything about these members of the Trench family and/or the South Carolina connection, I would love to hear about it.
Virginia Beach, VA, USA

Ina O' Murchu said...

Hi Brendan,

I have to say that i am AMAZED by the place.
I also found out a lot about the entire area that as a Galwegian that I never knew about!
Apart from The Turoe stone and all the tombs here are some other very,very interesting facts about the area..

Ptolemy’s 1st Century A.D. map of Ireland shows a Royal site in Galway.

The Turoe Stone, the best Celtic stone artwork in Europe, was found in Galway.

Ireland’s oldest origin legends tell of the Fir Belg invasion through the Iron Age seaport near Clarinbridge and the establishment of a Royal site in Galway.

Ptolemy’s ‘most illustrious city in all Britannia’ was in Galway.

Galway is indeed a very,very special place.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brendan,

This is now my 3rd attempt to post to your site, hopefully this time I've got it right.

I am extremely interested in the Trench family, since up till a year ago I owned Castle Oliver, in Co. Limerick. As you may know, 2nd Lord Ashtown, whose portrait you published, owned Castle Oliver and died there. It passed to his grandson, William Cosby Trench, then to William's son Walter Trench. I have published a book about the castle, which has rare photographs of the Trench family, as well as lots of photos of the castle and the restoration I undertook. If anyone is interested, it's available at Lulu.com/mynick

In reply to Langdon's post, I have heard that there are Trench descendants in the deep South, among many other places- including of course Trenchtown, Jamaica. By a strange coincidence, my aunt's neighbours in Canada are black Trench descendants from the Caribbean. There were numerous Fredericks and Charles's in the Trench family, but I think Langdons were of the 1st Lord Ashtown's generation. You may find my website interesting, it's www.castle-oliver.com

Hi Roderick, if you're reading this!

Congratulations Brendan on an interesting site, keep up the good work.

Nick Browne

Speedie's Blog said...

Thanks for that Nick. Could you write to Langdon- your information could prove invaluable to him?
Considering the interest in the Trench family, I will see if it was possible to source some heritage funding or support locally in order to undertake a more detailed research project.
The Woodlawn National School will upload their award-winning film onto their new website once it is completed in June.
Finally, I have deleted Roderick Trench's email from the comments section - my mistake. Sorry!

Pepperdine Student Jeffrey B. said...

Great Article! My family and I visited the Woodlawn House this past fall. What an amazing home. My great uncle worked for Lord Ashton as a young boy, and I still have a lot of family in the area. If you wouldn't mind pointing me towards the DVD you mentioned in your article, it would be greatly appreciated.


Anonymous said...

To whom it concerns,

Did you know that in the name of protecting it, The Irish Government have decided to move The Turoe Stone from its rural home environment to a museum in Galway City. Since protection of the stone can be done in situ (as in Scotland and Denmark), we in the locality think that this will detract from the authenticity of The Stone. We would prefer to see proposals to develop an acclaimed Celtic Attraction site in Rural West of Ireland. This would retain the integrity of The Stone and support Rural Development.

By signing the ONLINE PEPITION at the address below you will be helping us to retain the Turoe Stone in Turoe, where it belongs. Please forward this petition address to anybody that may be interested.

Thanks for your support.


Kieran Jordan

Unknown said...

Interesting article. During the summer I surveyed the buildings structural integrity and I'm sorry to say that it's not in good nick. Salvageable though. The western wing (right hand side as you look at it) is very badly damaged but the eastern wing is quite good. As for haunted...well i spent 3 working days there and, although a little creapy, I wouldn't go as far to say haunted. It has an eerie look internally and for such a large house with high ceilings to be completely empty makes it all the more daunting. I hope this magnificent building is restored to its former glory.

mifren said...

Woodlawn House interests me as I understand from p482 "A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry" I'm descended from Anne, eldest daughter of Frederick Trench, Esq. of Woodlawn. m. Annette-Constantia, Boresford, and had Robert, of Woodhouse.

[Eleanor Fitzgerald, dau and heir of G.[arrett] Fitzgerald of Lisquinlan, m. Maurice Uniacke, Esq of Youghal of Thomas Uniacke, of Youghal, by Helena his wife of Maurice Fitzgerald, of Lisquinlan, and nephew Uniacke, Esq of Mount Uniacke, and had a son.

Thomas Uniacke, Esq, M.P., who m. Helena, co-heir of Christian Borr, Esq. of Borr Mount, on ...
and had,

1. Borr, of Woodhouse, who m. in 1750.

Kind regards, Matthew Robert Fowler
grandson of Robert FitzGerald Bourne
http://www.ozemail.com.au/~ozytours/Ancestors which includes Browne, Judkin Fitzgerald, Glin & Kerry Knights

Speedie's Blog said...

Greetings Matthew,
Thanks for your comment on Woodlawn House. I have passed on your posting and details to Roderick Trench and to Dr. Bill Grealish who is in the process of purchasing this magnificent mansion in an effort to bring it back to its former glory days.

Anonymous said...

My own ancestors were from Killane Parish which supposedly was on or near the Trench Estate. I can't find much record of it. I'd be very interested to hear from anyone with more information about Killane parish or nearby graveyards.

Patrick Killelea

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. keep it up. I hope I can get some to have some pictures of it. =)

Speedie's Blog said...

Thanks for the last comment & best wishes with your own 'haunted' theme park project! I will more photos of Woodlawn House next month

Reijn of the Elfin Muse said...

I am also a descendant of the Trench family. My mother came from the side that left the "mother land" and went to Jamaica, then up to the Americas into Texas, where most of that side of the family still resides: Texas/Oklahoma. My mother, me and my younger brother are the only direct linage still residing in Texas.

I would love to learn more about my family history.


Unknown said...

I am a final year design student at GMIT. As part of my final year I must put together an exhibition of my work. I am designing my fabric based on the traditional gentleman. I am constructing mens garments suitable for the modern young gentleman and need to do a photoshoot to present my work in the most professional way I can. I would LOVE to shoot my clothes on my model at Woodlawn House. I've been trying to find out who to contact to get permission for this and Im hoping someone here can help? It would mean so, so much to me, it is such a beautiful setting and it would be just more than perfect for my work. If anyone has any information I would be so grateful to receive it. Looking forward to hearing from anyone with information.
Many thanks
Mark Burke

Anonymous said...

hi, a ghost hunting team an myself are interested in doing an investagation on woodlawn house and was wondering who we need to ask for permission and research on the property. we are hopeing to visit the house in august 2010, please feel free to email me on (thewriter15@hotmail.com)and we can hopefully arrange something.
kind regards

Anonymous said...

Hi was looking for woodlawn house today and found it just as it got dark....saw it as a child and i think it is just amazing i LOVE the house and all the history around it. Its a shame that it is not restored and still up and running but i kind of like that it is out of bounds though as it adds to its mystique....its the kind of house i could only dream of owning i wonder how much it would be now? as far as being haunted goes who knows???


Ursula said...

Hi! very interesting article! there are some FABULOUS photos of WoodLawn House on www.abandonedireland.ie. I noticed no one mentioned the website here, but it is an excellent website. Not sure myself who runs it, or takes the photos but it is definitely worth a look!! especially for Mark T, the design student. Anyway, love the article and would love to see the house myself someday! Looks scary! :-)

Anonymous said...

I have loved this house from the minute I set eyes on it, someday I am going to win the euro millions and restore it to its former glory. Watch this space....

Anonymous said...

Hey, good blog. My grandfather (William Clarke) was from New Inn and worked for Roderick Trench's grandfather from 1913 until 1922 at Woodlawn. Woodlawn is not haunted, it is just a beautiful old house that has seen better days.

Anonymous said...

Hello anyone , i will be in Ireland in 2014 and would love to learn everything I can about this home , I saw it for the first time in some photos and I can not get it out of my head , haunted I'm not sure what to think of that all I can see is its beauty even though its been through so much , can only imagine the parties and good times that's this house and grounds have seen . Thank you Connie

Connie said...

Would love to visit this house when I get to Ireland in 2014 , love all the history , now not sure about haunted I just see beauty , I see all the beautiful parties and the land is awesome . Would love to learn more thank you

Michael BEHAN said...

My mum, Norah Behan from New Inn, worked at Woodlawn house when she was about 14 (1936). I have found some photos and a YouTube clip but would love to get a copy of the DVD, or any other information.

Michael BEHAN said...

My mother, Norah Dolan from New Inn, worked for Lord Ashtown in Woodlawn House when she was about 14 (1936). I will show her the posts and pictures but I would also love to find out more about the house around that time. She said that a lot of the land was taken and given to local people and that the family moved to Scotland so a lot of people were laid off. Fortunately my mother stayed on to look after the man that looked after the saw mill.
Michael Behan

Speedie's Blog said...

Greetings Michael,
It was wonderful that your mother had such a strong Woodlawn House connection. Would you have any photos of your mother in Ireland at that time? If so, could you email me some that I could place up on an Irish heritage site that we have. The images could be from Woodlawn, the locality, the school, the home etc. My email is speediecelt@gmail.com. In answer to your query of Woodlawn/New Inn at the time your mom lived there, best person to contact would be Marie Mannion, Galway county council Heritage Officer. She may be able to help or put you in contact with someone that can. Marie's email is mmannion@galwaycoco.ie. Finally could you email me your email address? Thanks agus Beir Bua, Brendan

Speedie's Blog said...

Greetings Michael,
It was wonderful that your mother had such a strong Woodlawn House connection. Would you have any photos of your mother in Ireland at that time? If so, could you email me some that I could place up on an Irish heritage site that we have. The images could be from Woodlawn, the locality, the school, the home etc. My email is speediecelt@gmail.com. In answer to your query of Woodlawn/New Inn at the time your mom lived there, best person to contact would be Marie Mannion, Galway county council Heritage Officer. She may be able to help or put you in contact with someone that can. Marie's email is mmannion@galwaycoco.ie. Finally could you email me your email address? Thanks agus Beir Bua, Brendan

The Paranormal said...

Haunted houses have long appeared in literature. Haunting to the spirits of the dead and the effect of violent or tragic events in the building's past such as murder.

Michael Cahill said...

Is there any late news on Woodlawn House - Nov. 2014?
My grandfather and his ancestors lived at Beefield next to Woodlawn, attended Woodlawn School, went to Mass in New Inn, the family is interred at Killaan Cemetery. An uncle worked for Lord Ashtown - until he was evicted. I still have some relations in the area, though many moved to Galway town. I visited and took photos at Woodlawn in 1983, 1987, 1994, 1999, and 2009.
Michael P. Cahill
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Anonymous said...

Hi all I come from Woodlawn and live beside Woodlawn house I remember it in its glory days and have yet too see anything like it, truly magnificent. I don't no if anyone would remember its surroundings it was breathtaking its lake, the bridge , it's out buildings at the back entrance etc I can assure it's not haunted.

Joe Kelly said...

I wonder if Robert Ashton, the author of the 1728 play "The Battle of Aughrim" is of the same family?

Unknown said...

Would somebody please save this fantastic building. Its a major part of our history and should not be let fall into ruin. The state should take it over and rescue it if no private company can afford to do it. Just my opinion but surel
y it can and should be saved.

Unknown said...

Interestingly Lord Ashtown also owned other estates including one close to me here in Bracknagh, co.Offaly,rather modest compared to Woodlawn though.

Anonymous said...

Very interested in Woodlawn House. My great aunt was the housekeeper there. We visited many times when the house was at its most splendid.I have vivid memories, it was not a dark gloomy house, it was a bright, imposing mansion. Outside it had an artificial lake, a working forge and extensive glasshouseswhere one could pick oranges. I cannot believe the ruin it has become. My aunt always told us it was haunted. This didn’t bother her in the slightest as she moved about her daily life. My aunt loved living here and had an excellent relationship with last Trench owner. She was treated very well. However, as an adult, I think there was a darker side, exploitation of workers, with poor pay and conditions. Pretty much the usual Irish story where landlords made as much as they could from the labour of poor people. That being said, the house itself was simply fabulous, as children, my brother and I wandered it’s entirety. I would like to see it restored and open to the public.