It may be a ruined shell, but Ducketts Grove still portrays a picturesque and somewhat romantic beauty. With its towers and turrets, oriels and niches this castle even in ruin stands out as an architectural masterpiece.
Located in Rainstown, Co. Carlow, Duckett Grove was home to the Duckett Family and centrepiece to their 12,000-acre estate. The Ducketts resided here since Cromwellian times, but it was John Dawson Duckett in 1818 who transformed a modest two-story Georgian house into this gothic revival style castle.
The first phased was designed by architect Thomas Cobden and completed in 1830, with a further development carried out in 1840 under the architectural workmanship of John Macduff Derick. At its peak, the house required 11 staff to maintain it.
The castle was a showcase to the wealth of the region's richest family.
Regardless of their status among the gentry, the Ducketts lived by their family motto "Spectemur agendo" meaning "Let us be judged by our actions".
Unlike many other landlords of the day they were well respected by the locals for their generosity and overall decency towards their staff and tenants.
The family hosted many festivals including one celebrating the second marriage of William Duckett (John's son) and the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Although the 'well to do' of the 19th-century aristocracy were present, the estate employees and their families were also invited to the celebrations. Some events included luxuries like fireworks which attracted crowds from the farthest corners of the estate. The estate's gates were always open to visitors to roam the gardens. However, the gates were closed in 1902 when the family begun to feel this hospitality was been exploited.
William Duckett passed away in 1908, and with no heir, the Duckett estate was left to his second wife, Maria. Maria remained in the castle until 1916 when she moved to Dublin. This marked an end for the Duckett dynasty.
The castle and 1,300 acres of land was sold to a group of local farmers five years later for a price of £32,000. (A multi-million euro transaction in today's money) Due to quarrels over distribution, the group failed to repay loans to the bank and as a result, the castle and a surrounding 11 acres of land was repossessed by the bank. The other 1,289 acres were bailed out by the Land Commission who redistributed it to another group of 48 farmers.
The remaining lands of the 12,000-acre estate had already been sold off to tenants. Most likely a result of the Irish Lands Acts which founded the Land Commission. The Land Commission was responsible for redistributing lands from landlords to tenants. This Act was the result of the land wars in the late 1800s, a period of civil unrest in rural Ireland over the need to reform tenant rights.
The castle remained abandoned for most of the 1920s, during which the local IRA used it as a training camp. It was finally sold to a local businessman in 1931 for £320. But on April 20th 1933, a fire gutted the building leaving nothing but a shell. There were reports of fire the week previous and such fires were extinguished, thus leading to a whirl of speculations as to the cause of the fire.
However, it was never determined what happened.
The castle was yet again abandoned for a further 70 years until the local council purchased it in 2005 and have since opened the grounds to the public.
As of today two walled gardens and much of the surrounding amenities have been restored. It's uncertain if there is a plan to restore the castle itself, however, many consider its current state to be a thing of beauty, not requiring further restoration. But who knows what the next chapter of Duckett Grove will entail.
Returning to the Ducketts; In 1939, two years after Maria's death a high court hearing shone a light on a violent relationship between Maria and her daughter Olive O'Grady (From a previous marriage) which explained why Olive the only 'next to ken' was disinherited and left the "angry shilling." After 12 long days, Olive was granted the 'interest for life' on a £7,000 war stock which the capital reverting back to her mother's estate upon Olive's death. The estate valued at just under £98,000 was divided among the will's 18 beneficiaries, all of whom were British based charities. Thus closing the final chapter in the Duckett family legacy.
As a side note, apparently, there have been sightings of a Banshee, ghosts of some Duckett family members and other supernatural happenings around the ruins of the castle. Wither true, the tale caught the attention of cable network SyFy's show "Destination: Truth" which featured in an episode back in 2011.
Since then, Duckett Grove has become a must-see for paranormal enthusiasts.