18 April 2018
Clarina Lodge tells the story
of a long-lost country house
As I was exploring the village of Clarina last weekend, I came across Clarina Lodge, an unusual architectural survival from the Victorian era. This is a surviving gatehouse from the Elm Park estate of Massey, and while Elm Park has been demolished and the former gate lodge has been converted into a private house, it offers an insight into an era that has long passed.
The title of Baron Clarina was created at the Act of Union in 1800 for Eyre Massey (1719-1804), the sixth son of Hugh Massy of Duntrileague, Co Limerick, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of George Evans and sister of George Evans, 1st Lord Carbery.
Eyre Massey and his branch of the family inserted an ‘E’ into their family name to distinguish themselves from the Duntrileague branch of the family. As prominent general in the 18th century, he was known for commanding the expedition to Niagra in North America and for his successful action at La Belle-Famille during the French and Indian War.
He was MP for Swords, Co Dublin, before being made a peer in 1800 with the title of Baron Clarina of Elm Park, Co Limerick. The title and the estate passed in turn to his son, Nathaniel William Massey (1773-1810), 2nd Baron Clarina, and his grandson, Eyre Massey (1798-1872), 3rd Baron Clarina, who held the title for 62 years in the 19th century.
This 3rd Lord Clarina married Susan Elizabeth Barton in 1828. She was an 18-year-old heiress, and her father was the Irish-French wine baron, Hugh Barton.
Lord Clarina celebrated his marriage by builing a new house at Elm Park in 1833-1836, at a cost of £50,000 and with an abundance of towers and castellations. The house and the former gate lodge were designed by the Limerick-based architect James Pain (1779-1877) and his brother George Richard Pain (1793-1838).
At the time of Griffith’s Valuation, the main part of Lord Clarina’s estate was in the Parish of Kilkeedy and the Barony of Pubblebrien, Co Limerick. This estate included Elm Park, and the buildings were valued at £90. In the 1870s, the estate of Lord Clarina came to 2,012 acres.
Following the death of Lionel Massey (1837-1922), 5th Lord Clarina, the estate was sold in 1923. Td the title became extinct in 1952 with the death of his son, Eyre Nathaniel Massey (1880–1952), 6th Baron Clarina.
Meanwhile, Clarina Castle or Elm Park and the estate were bought by Patrick King in 1925. They were offered for sale again in 1946, when the house was described by AJ Sexton, Auctioneers, in the Limerick Leader in July 1946, as a ‘gentleman’s residence, on 54 acres of land.’ The accommodation included a reception hall, drawing room, dining room, six bedrooms and bathrooms.
The house was due for auction at 12 noon on Saturday 13 July 1946. However, Clarina Castle or Elm Park remained the home of the King family until 1956. Later, the house was completely demolished in the 1960s.
Clarina Lodge was once one of the two gate lodges built around 1828 by the architect brothers James and George Richard Pain for the Massey family. The carriageway in the former gate lodge has been enclosed to increase accommodation in the house. It is one of the few surviving buildings from the estate and give a tantalising hint of the appearance of the lost house.
This handsome and impressive former gate lodge includes a single-bay, two-storey slightly projecting centre-bay, with lower and recessed single-bay, two-storey wings to the north and south, and a single-bay, single-storey entrance block in the south wing, on the south side.
There are cut limestone crenellations along the roofline, with rendered chimney-stacks, and a projecting parapet to centre-bay. The building has ashlar limestone walls, with a limestone plinth course and buttresses to the centre-bay. There are blind cross loops to the north wing, the first floor and the projecting parapet. The window openings include square-headed openings and bipartite square-headed openings.
A notable feature is the elliptical-headed former carriage arch with cut limestone voussoirs and an inset segmental-headed opening with a glazed overlight over the timber panelled door with flanking sidelights.
The shallow pointed arch opening on the south block has a rusticated limestone block-and-start surround and double-leaf timber battened doors.
The sweeping crenellated limestone walls to the north and south terminate in a pair of crenellated round-profile limestone piers.
Although it is no longer in use as an entrance, the gate lodge is a reminder of a time in Irish history that is long gone and an insight into the former status of the Elm Park estate. The use of Gothic Revival details and dressings, seen as the crenellated bays and the cross-loop details, is a tribute to the craftsmen of the past.