Beautiful and historic parcel of land at Rookwood

A beautiful parcel of land located in a picturesque riverside setting is currently for sale with Property Partners Earley in Roscommon.  The parcel of 88 acres once formed part of the beautiful Rookwood estate near Athleague. Rookwood has a rich and varied history and these lands, which have a price tag of €2.5 million, have an echo of the rolling parkland so beloved of 19th century landowners. The land is of top quality, and located adjacent to the river Suck. The property also features the site of Rookwood House. Rookwood House was a magnificent late Georgian fifty-room mansion. The façade of the three-storey house featured four Ionic columns and the central bay was surrounded by a flight of stone steps led up to the front door. A long winding avenue swept up to the road from the house. Rookwood House was vacated in 1940 and was demolished in 1941 or 1942. Much has been written about Rookwood House and more importantly, its inhabitants, in particular Sarah Kelly, about whom a book and play have been written. The Rookwood site originally belonged to the O’Kelly’s but was granted to the Ormsbys during the 17 th century confiscations. Arthur Ormsby, grandson of the notorious Robert (Na Gligernach) Ormsby built the elegant Georgian fifty-two roomed mansion in 1728. Major Robert Waller, husband of Jane Ormsby, owned the house in 1778 and Edmund Kelly from Kiltoom purchased the property in 1800 from his uncle. In 1828 Edmund Kelly married Sarah Birch. Because he was thirty-five years her senior and worth £250,000, their marriage was the subject of much gossip. Two years after the marriage, the couple arrived to a refurbished Rookwood. The marriage was not welcomed by Kelly’s relatives, who were not impressed by the fact that Sarah had been abducted in England and taken to Ireland where she had a baby which was subsequently abandoned. In a law case the scoundrel who had ruined Sarah was ordered to pay £3,000 in damages, but the money was turned over to a person who went bankrupt and so she never saw a penny of it. In 1838 Sarah discovered that there was no record of her previous marriage to Edmund Kelly and both witnesses were dead. She decided they should go through another ceremony. An ailing Edmund was brought to Dublin but the Minister judged the seventy three year old Kelly, who was listless and unaware of what was happening, unfit to be married. He had to be reminded by his bride who he was. Despite his misgivings, Sarah found another Minister and a marriage ceremony was performed on Easter Sunday morning.  A few days later, Kelly had his third will drawn up in which he made Sarah sole legatee. In 1840 he bought Lord Clonbrock’s 1500 acre estate at Ballinderry, near Moate, but continued to reside in Rookwood. Following his death in February 1845, Sarah found herself a wealth widow at forty-four years of age. After Kelly’s death, all hell broke loose at Rookwood. Stock was taken from the land by relations and the police had to be called. The legal wrangling then began and continued for a decade, featuring famous legal giants of the day. The legal battle ended in February 1853, by which time the Kelly relatives were penniless. Sarah’s next project, the building of a country mansion at Ballinderry, near Moate, Co. Westmeath, then got underway and she went to live there on its completion in 1854. Numerous tenants were evicted from the Ballinderry estate on Sarah’s instructions. Deaths and great misery resulted and tenants began to meet in secret to organise Sarah Kelly’s assassination. On a cold afternoon in April 1856 Sarah was walking in the fields, accompanied by her nephew George Strevens and her solicitor Christopher Campion, when two men wearing masks and women’s clothes approached her. She ran towards home, tripped and fell and was shot in the head by both of her pursuers. Thus ended the ‘strange story of Sarah Kelly’, a story which included elopements, desertion, penury, romance, riches, and a violent death. The esteem in which she was held in the community was reflected in the numbers which attended her funeral – three. The saga doesn’t end there. Sarah’ nephew Robert Bayley, a thirty-two year old living in Rookwood, now found himself the beneficiary of Sarah’s loot – over half a million pounds – and he was overnight transformed into one of the country’s most eligible bachelors. He was elected High Sheriff of Roscommon and was appointed Director of the Great Midlands Railway to which his aunt Sarah had lent £150,000 before her death.  These were colourful times in Rookwood. Bayley lived in spectacular style, enjoying wine, women and song, along with racing, hunting and shooting. Despite the huge sum he was left the Bayley’s found it necessary to sell Rookwood at the end of the century. In the 1920s pressure was put on by the Land Commission for the lands to be divided. The Commission purchased the whole property, but kept the Big House and one hundred acres and divided the rest among local tenants. After the house was demolished in the 40s, the cut stone Ionic pillars were used as part of a refurbishment of Athleague Church. Some of the cut stone was used to improve a road into Cappagh bog. Many of the fine oak and ornamental trees were cut to the ground and the glass houses, horse stables and ice house were all demolished. To arrange a viewing of this fine property, call Property Partners Earley on (090) 66 26579.