Muckross House was built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the water-colourist Mary Balfour Herbert. This was actually the fourth house that successive generations of the Herbert family had occupied at Muckross over a period of almost two hundred years. William Burn, the well-known Scottish architect, was responsible for its design. Building commenced in 1839 and was completed in 1843.

Originally it was intended that Muckross House should be a larger, more ornate structure. The plans for a bigger servants’ wing, stable block, orangery and summer-house, are believed to have been altered at Mary’s request. Today the principal rooms are furnished in period style and portray the elegant lifestyle of the nineteenth century landowning class. In the basement, one can imagine the busy bustle of the servants as they went about their daily chores.

The Standard Life Assurance Company placed Muckross House and Estate for sale at auction in Dublin on the 21st November 1899. However, bidding was slow and the vendors withdrew the property. Then, on November 29th, it was announced that Lord Ardilaun, a member of the Guinness family and a prominent Irish Unionist, had finally purchased the Estate.

Lord Ardilaun was related through marriage to the Herbert family. His wife Olivia was a daughter of Jane, Countess of Bantry. Jane was the youngest sister of Colonel Henry Arthur Herbert. The Ardilauns spent very little time at Muckross and it was let out on an annual basis as a shooting and fishing lodge.

House Gallery

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Enjoying the Parterre at Muckross

The Gardens at Muckross

During the 1850s, the Herberts undertook extensive garden works in preparation for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861. Later, the Bourn Vincent family continued this gardening tradition. They purchased the estate from Lord and Lady Ardilaun early in the twentieth century. It was at this time that the Sunken Garden, Rock Garden and the Stream Garden were developed.

‘Muckross is a very remarkable gift, a very generous gift and a very princely gift.’

William T. Cosgrave, Dáil Éireann, 7 Dec. 1932

In 1910 Muckross was let to a wealthy American, Mr William Bowers Bourn. He was owner of the Empire Gold Mine and Spring Valley Water Company of northern California. A short time after, Mr Bowers Bourn’s only child, Maud, married Mr Arthur Rose Vincent of Summerhill, Cloonlara, Co. Clare. Her father purchased the Muckross property as a wedding present for them.

Maud and her husband, Arthur Rose Vincent, had two children, Elizabeth Rose (1915 – 1983) and Arthur William Bourn (1919 – 2012). The family travelled extensively, but Muckross was their home.

During the years of Bourn and Vincent ownership, between 1911 and 1932, over £110,000 was lavished on improvements to the Estate. In 1915 the Sunken Garden, designed by Wallace and Co. of Colchester, was laid out. The Rock Garden was developed on a natural outcrop of Carboniferous limestone and the Stream Garden was also landscaped.
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