Killruddery in Black and White

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Photographs of Killruddery, Bray, County Wicklow - Click on the images for larger views

        The Brabazon family, Earls of Meath, has lived at Killruddery, near Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland, since 1618. The Brabazon pedigree commences with Jacques le Brabancon, said to have lived about the eleventh century but almost certainly a legendary figure. The first of the family to settle in Ireland was Sir William Brabazon in the time of Henry VIII, who rose to the positions of Vice-Treasurer and Lord Justice. Sir William died in 1552 and was buried in St Catherine's Church, Thomas Street, Dublin, but his monument does not appear to have survived the rebuilding of that church in the 1760s. Sir William's son Edward was created Baron Ardee in 1616, and his grandson, also named William, was created first Earl of Meath in 1627 (see the 107th Edition of Burke's Peerage).
        In addition to extensive lands in County Wicklow, the Brabazons were granted the former St Thomas's Abbey in the area of south-west Dublin City known as 'the Liberties', where the family's influence is remembered in street names such as Brabazon Street, Ardee Street and Meath Street. In 1876 the Earl of Meath owned 14,700 acres of land in County Wicklow and 28 acres in Dublin City. Bray Town Hall was built in 1882 by the Brabazons and is now somewhat incongruously mainly given over to a McDonald's fast food restaurant. The 12th Earl of Meath (1841-1929) and his Countess were renowned for their philantropic work. The 15th Earl of Meath currently resides in Killruddery with his family. The substantial 700-acre remnant of the estate between the Little Sugarloaf Mountain and Bray Head is run as a working farm, tourist attraction and centre for cultural activities, including concerts and a film festival.

        The present Killruddery House was constructed in the 1820s to designs by father and son architects Richard and William Morrison, being somewhat reduced in size in the 1950s. While augmented in the nineteenth century, Killruddery's gardens retain many elements of their original seventeenth-century layout, attractive features including tree-lined avenues and walkways, ornamental ponds, fountains, classical statuary, interesting plants and a walled garden. The Brabazon coat of arms features three martlets (swallows) on the shield, a falcon crest and two wyvern (dragon) supporters, with the motto 'Vota vita mea' ('My life is devoted'). There are many examples of armorial decoration both on the exterior and in the interior of Killruddery House, one of which can be viewed in detail in the above image gallery.
        Killruddery has been used for location work on a number of films and television programmes, including Excalibur, My Left Foot and The Tudors. Killruddery Gardens are open to the public from April to October each year (weekends only April and October), the House from July to September and at other times the estate is the venue for specific events and functions (see official website). The broad acres and political dominance of the landlord class in Ireland are long gone, but the surviving big houses and demesnes are an attractive feature of the landscape, an important part of the national heritage well worth visiting and supporting.

Sean J Murphy
Centre for Irish Genealogical and Historical Studies
E-mail (remove 'SPAMOUT')
27 March 2010, last revised 27 March 2015