Carstown House is located on the Cartown Road, about 5km outside of Drogheda. You access it by walking up through a corn field and through a small wood. It appears in a small clearing, its windows boarded and cemented over, green ivy hanging from the walls. It is quite beautiful.
My husband played in the surrounds of the house when he was a kid and it was occupied until the 90s. His sister even attended a house party there. Wish I had that claim! There is something quite magical about the house, set in the peaceful countryside, abandoned, yet with a story to tell.
The first building you’ll notice on approach is this gorgeous featured house which was blown to smithereens. I’m not sure how, when or why, but exploded houses aren’t that common this side of the border, so I’d love to know more about the story behind this lodge house. Makes for a good spooky Halloween venue though, doesn’t it?
The old driveway up to Carstown House is mostly a muddy track, cut out by the thick wheels of tractors. But once you get into the small woods, it takes on the magical feel; one where you might see teddy bears peeping out from behind the trees with their picnics at any time. The road has narrowed and been covered over with leaves. You have to use your imagination to imagine carriages and carts travelling up and down it.
When the woods end, you come out into a small clearing. Carstown House is on your left, looming and a little eerie. There are crows landing on the trees above your head and there’s no way you’d catch me up here on my own or any time at night. Not on your nellie. My husband told me of a legend that when Oliver Plunkett was being captured here, he ran into the woods and the birds gave away his hideaway. He put a curse on the woods that no bird would ever nest there again, and apparently it remains true today.
What stands out most about the house on approach are the windows placed within the roof. The dormer style seems unusual for this type of house and as you round the house you can see the various extensions and style changes it’s experienced over the years.
The front door is also off centre and located more to the right. The steps are now broken and dilapidated, but as I ran up and down them with my daughter I imagined the well heeled shoes and boots that must have crossed this threshold over the past centuries.
The Irish Aesthete has a wonderful blog on the history behind the building and you can read the full account here. It discusses evidence that a home (most likely a Tower House) was built here in 1612 belonging to Oliver Plunkett (his relative of the same name would later be executed and have his head put on display to this day in Drogheda. No seriously) and his wife Katherine Hussey. There are also theories that there was a building here even before that time of a medieval house of a similar structure we see today.
Beside the house is a beautiful red brick archway leading to the outbuildings and old farmyard. It’s one of the prettiest structures on the whole property. When you pass under the arch you find the house extends far out the back, with many adds ons and strange looking additions, particularly the two foot narrow wall structure that runs along the house and pictured below. What the hell is it?
I was very taken with the farm buildings. They’re quaint and so well crafted, criss cross windows and red bricks around the doors and windowsills. We’ll ignore the graffitti in one of the outhouses that said ‘don’t call the priest’. Eeek! The buildings look more like houses than somewhere to store farm equipment or food. Funny, I felt like we were being watched while we were here. Maybe we were.
We enjoyed snapping the pictures of the windows and doors trying to get the holes in the roof to show through. The walls are strong but most of the roofs are gone, not helped by the theft of lead from them over the years.
What struck me about this property was how close it all sits together. There is no big separation between what would have been the stableyard or working farmyard. When you walk right up the back the garden is small – not the big sweeping fields or garden you might imagine.
Everywhere you looked the buildings stood out as beautiful, covered in green ivy, soft carpet of grass underneath. It’s a place you would have played as a child, imagining you were king or queen of the manor – avoiding the ghosts that still lurk there, among the rubble.
It is of course, devastating to see it as a wasteland, decaying bit by bit, year on year. When we came out of the field, having left the house behind, we met a relation of ours who said she was shocked to see if fall into such disrepair so quickly in the past decade. If there’s been a home here since the early 1600s, why now in the early 21st century have we turned our back on such a historical and beautiful manor?
In researching this piece, The Irish Aesthete gave me some information for anyone interested in ensuring Carstown House is permanently protected. Micheál Mc Keown said:
Co. Louth Archaeological and Hist. Soc. of which I am a council member are actively engaged in ensuring Carstown House is permanently protected. The problems are locating the owner and getting a commitment to restore it or to raise funding to ensure it is safe from vandalism and plundering.
Anyone interested in getting involved or finding out more can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And to show you what has been lost, here is a picture of the house in its original glory.
Note: We refer to the house as Cartown House, but it seems the official name is Carstown House which I have used here for search purposes.