Castle Mary


….and the next estate is Castle Mary.

what lay beyond that doorway….who used this gate or was not allowed to use this gate………

what secrets would lie beyond……

Once again I had to find out who lived in this old property behind all these formidable walls. This story reads of Irish legendary ogres, marriage of convenience, death, Turkish baths,a dragon-fly and fire. So let me tell you about it….

The story the Castle Mary Estate begins with the Longfields: 


Longfield family motto:
Pacere sudjecti- to spare the dependant!

John Longfield (1620-1670) Came to Ireland from Denbeign in Wales and had a position in Dublin Castle.  His son John Longfield (1653-1730) was  a collector of revenue and married an heiress Mary Hawnby of Mallow in 1685 and purchased Carrigacotta from Richard Bent.  Not wishing the estate to be named Cott he renamed it Castle Mary either after his wife or the present queen.

Robert (1688-1765) his son married in 1731 a Dublin heiress named Margaret Geering or Deering. His son John (1733-1777) later became responsible for setting up linen mills, bleach mills and bleach greens on the grounds of Castle Mary.

Richard (1756-1779) MP of Donegal. Married Elizabeth of Callaghan the sister of the first Lord Lismore. Died at 24 and the estate went to his uncle Richard.  Richard (1734-1811) was very energetic and ambitious and sat on Parliament. In his youth he was celebrated as a patron of sports; hurling, bowls and cock-fighting. In 1756 he married Margaret White from Bantry. Because the marriage produced no heirs the ownership of Longfields property moved to his cousin Mountifort.

Castle Mary (see below) was built-in 1785.

Castle Mary

Castle Mary: An interesting three storey, late seventeenth century house with a recessed three bay centre flanked by single bay projecting wings. The walls of these wings at ground level have a very distinct “batter”(side slope). The predimented (low pitched roof over the doorway) doorcase was late eighteenth-century with engaged columns (column enbeded in the wall) having ‘Tower of the Winds’ capitals. The architect David Duckart is recorded as having designed a difficult roof for this house. Dominated by square-battlement towers with mullioned (divide window units) The house was much altered in the late nineteenth century, in the ‘baronial’ style. An avenue of Sycamore and Ash trees lead to the house.

Cousin Mountiford Longfield (1746-1819) MP of Cork.  Colonel of the City of Cork Militia. In 1790 Mr Longfield is mentioned as the wealthiest individual in the Cork area.   Here is a very colourful description of Mrs. Longfield:

Lady Longfield (Frances Bateman) had a manner as tarvelling with her many servants, two postilions (coach drivers) they were wearing her livery (uniform in the family colours), her dogs, her birds, parrots and and her hurdy-gurdy (instruments that sounds something like bag pipes)  exactly like the Sultan of Fontain’s Fables. What a sight she must have been coming down Cloyne’s country roads.

girl with a hurdy-gurdy

His son Robert (1785-1843) entered TCD in 1803 aged 18. Ordained as a priest in 1809 and served in Cloyne and other areas. In 1823 he came back to the estate in Castle Mary. In 1811 he married an heiress, Cherry Hugo and had five sons. He carried out various renovations converting the dungeons into wine cellars.

Mountiford (1813-1864)

Described as a very worldly unhappy man. (a bit of a JR of the family) Here he is depicted in a painting as a virile specimen of manhood.

Daniel Macdonald - Bowling 1847

The painting shows two local families battling it out at a game of road bowls. Abraham Morris is bowling and his opponent is Mountiford Longfield the match takes place at Castle Mary.

There are many stories told in the country side that crept into the folklore. Mountiford  is depicted as ill-natured and very selfish. He did not allow any to walk on his land and the story goes that a priest in the area would still always walk this way even in spight of the restrictions the story becomes something like Jack of the beanstalk and the giant. Children were not allowed to pass  through to get to school.The other story is that he rode over a child that was playing in the road with his horse when he was on his way to Ballycotton.

He was very hard on his tenants and evicted them if they were unable to pay the rent and destroyed their homes. 35 homes were demolished. In a newspaper article it states that 73 families were evicted that is 378 people. He also received criticism for contributing £5 to the famine relieve fund which he later denied.  Mountiford married Caroline Augusta in 1840 and had 13 children – only one son.

Mountiford had a turkish bath installed in Castle Mary after being impressed by the work of Dr Barter. The system worked by pumping hot air into an enclosed space so that the body could sweat out trapped toxins while washing.

Dr Richard Barter

Mountiford’s health problems were described as paralysis (loss of muscle control) , rheumatism having an excitable disposition(joint pains, and a tendency to inflammation) and prone to headaches.  And for these symptoms the Turkish Irish baths were ideal. On the day of his death he had severe pain in his back and it was this fact that made his wife look into the sweat room after he was away for an hour. He has lying on his back in the bath dead. There was an inquiry after his death but the verdict was death by natural causes.

After his death some of his livestock was sold “Gem of the Sea” one of his prized horses was sold. Gem of the Sea won the Ascot Cup in 1864.The horse was kept in England and sold for £800. At Castle Mary was stabled well-known horses such as “Mag on the wing”, “Caprice” and “Coquette”.

“Gem of the Sea”- caused an upset in 1864 at the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot by winning at odds of 40 to 1

Ascot- 1864

Many of the livestock was sold on the Castle Mary estate  and lunch was served in a large room over the stables with dishes of beef, mutton, venison and fowl and lined with bottles of champagne, sherry, port and strong liquor. Of the 42 animals a quarter failed to be sold.   Before the sale began three of the best-loved horses were walked past the house so that Mrs Longfiels and the daughters could say good-bye and take their leave.  The proceedings also had its drama when the auctioneer asked everyone to check their purses as a pick pocket was noticed. When those present stated checking one gentleman revealed that he was robbed of £500. Although the police was present the thief had escaped.

Mountiford (1858-1929) educated in Eton and Oxford. He married Alice Elizabeth Mason (1865-1946) in 1891 who had a sizable dowry.(She is often described as being forceful)  In 1920 on Sunday night 19 September the estate was burned. Allegedly by the IRA from the village Ballinacurra. The possible reasons mentioned – Col Longfield did not contribute to the IRA war fund. Or that the estate may be used as military barracks or tit-for-tat burnings. The Longfields were not at home at the time and there was only a small staff present, losses were £50,000.  Apparently the family was devistated as the three girls considered themselves as Irish girls. With his death the male line of Longfields came to an end. After his death much of the estate was sold. Mountiford was very disappointed when his third daughter was also a girl as he wanted a son and heir but she – Cynthia was lively and pretty. Of his three daughters Cynthia Longfield became world renown for her research on dragonfly’s.

Madam Dragonfly- Cynthia Evelyn Longfield ( 1896-1991)

Cynthia Longfield

Born in Belgavia London. She spent her time between her London home and Castle Mary.  She was about to become a debutant and have a London season when the first world war broke out. She could drive so she joined the army service corps in London. Later she worked  in an aeroplane factory building Tommy Sopwith famous planes. She tought herself zoology and biology from books provided by her mother. In Cloyne she roved the gardens, fields, upper park and coastlines collecting flowers and insects. In 1921 her parents sent her on a voyage to South America with a family friend there her travel lust was born. Her diary was full of  observations and humourous anecdotes from the people she met ( doubtlessly awoken in Ireland) In 1923 her mother took her to Egypt it coincided with the opening of the Tutankhamen tomb. although interested she showed more interest in the Nile birds. She went to the Pacific Island as assistant to Cyril Collenette an entomologist. For a year and a half they sailed from island to island and also fell in love.In 1925 she returned to London a trained

Cyril and Cynthia on the St George

entomologist. In 1927 she left with Cyril to Brasil this time chaperoned by Gwen Dorrien Smith. The trip took 5 months and was very succesful.

The question of marriage, Cyril told his family it was because she was more well off than he. But Cynthia confided that it was because he had a common law wife in Malaysia as well as a child.

She rode on horse back trough the Rockies  with her sister.

At the age of 38 she set of to Africa for 6 months and brought back a substantial amount of specimens. She published a book “Dragon flies in the British Isles” She set of again for Africa and this time bought a car and drove from SA to Kenya via Uganda, Zaire and Zimbabwe. Transport was very slow and white woman travellers very unusual.  She travelled with Cecil John Rhodes niece Georgia and their paths parted in Kenya. Cynthia admired the tall figures of the Masai people but especially loved the Ugandese and even wanted to buy a coffee plantation. She also went to the South of Sudan until on a safari in the Bwamba region of the central rain forest she contracted Malaria and left home with a raging fever. I really admire the woman I have lived in the South of Sudan and have been to the areas that are mentioned above and it is not easy the roads even now are still so bad. I had malaria a few times and  I take my hat of  to for her to have faced all this on her own. And she is right Uganda is truly the most friendly African  country.

On arrival back in London in 1938 World War 2 had begun. During the war she was posted to a fire station and when a bomb fell in the Botany department of the museum she controlled the fire and saved the museum from destruction. At the age of 60 she returned to a house at the edge of  Castle Mary. She still travelled to Holland, Greece, Malta, Moscow and Australia to various entomological conferences. She died 27th June 1991 and was buried in St Coleman Church of Ireland.

Rita Longfield (1891-1977) Rita the eldest daughter inherited the Castle Mary estate. Eager to have a roof over her head Rita engaged the services of  an architect to advise her on changing the out buildings into a habitat. She married Major Cyril Myles Ponsonby in 1911 and had one son Arthur. Cyril her husband was born in 1881 and served in the SA Boer war and WWI and was killed in action in 1915. Rita married again in 1918 Neville Flower (1884-1931) by whom she had Anne. Neville lost an arm in the great war and was killed in a car accident on Good Friday 1931. After his death Rita returned to Castle Mary.

Her son Arthur Ponsonby served as Captain of  the Welsh Guards and married in 1939 to Patricia Minnigerode from Virginia. He died a premature death at Park House in Sept 1952.  Castle Mary was sold in 1978.

After reading up about the family and the house once again I had to see the Castle. I know that it was burned but I had to see it. Was there any trace of the Turkish Irish bath… how much of the structure was left… is there any trace left of the family that lived there… are the mills still standing….? Well so here goes… as I drive around the corner I see it..  like a big black ghost looking at me. I have to stop myself from walking closer… it’s just here in front of me…

But no I do the right thing and walk to the house to ask if I can take some photos for this blog. After stumbling over my words to explain what I am doing I am told …..no…. still I persist…can I take a photo and from that do a sketch to place on the blog….still no….I had no choice but to walk away….the temptation so big just to take a quick photo and run…but not what a real lady with manners. would do so…

Despite the rejection and the opportuntiy to record a bit of local history and culture, I did find this photo from an internet site that documents trees in Ireland in the distance you can see the Castle.

so where to next…..

The door to Castle Mary

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About Annemarie Foley

I'm a house-historian that researches and documents the history of a house and the people that lived there. I bring together a snapshot of the story behind the house. This information is used by a variety of people from Historians to Architects, Estate agents, Ancestors or those generally concerned about the heritage of the property.

5 Responses to “Castle Mary”

  1. Deirdre O'Sullivan Reply October 11, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Walk in from the SAleen end Annemarie…pass the old pub, up the hill a bit and over the wall and along the driveway. We walk it all the time with the dogs, as do many others. Cynthia lived in the first house you come across up on the left. As ignorant children we referred to her as Mrs Sinty and the village lads tried “robbin’ the apples”. I was at the castle walls last week. It is built entirely of red brick – we were wondering where the brick came from? And the remains of the terraced gardens run down the hill behind the ruin. Amazing stuff all over our land…there’s a druidic altar in the field below the house (Saleen side) The farm manager has waved several times from his tractor / quad bike…

  2. you have the wrong crest….

  3. Geraldine Murphy Reply August 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I as a child played on the grounds many a time. I remember going to a garden fate in the early 60 and of course picking potatoes.

  4. If it is any consolation to Annemarie, I too sought permission from the lady of the house for the same purpose, just to take some photos of the house exterior – but was politely refused on “privacy” grounds.

  5. Interesting how Mounty Longfield’s legacy of unwelcomeness lives on to this day. I approached the current residents about placing a couple of beehives in their woods. I was politely told “We don’t do that”.
    Excellent and fascinating research.

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