Power family era of Faithlegg House

In 1819, newlyweds Nicholas Power and Margaret nee Mahon moved into their new home, Faithlegg House.  It was bought from a financially insolvent Cornelius Bolton. They were the first Catholic landlords of the area since the Norman era Aylward family, who were dispossessed following the Cromwellian siege of Faithlegg castle in October 1649. 

Nicholas adopted his wife’s surname and they became more commonly known as the Mahon Power’s, a useful distinction with such a common name in Waterford at the time, as now!.  Margaret was a wealthy heiress, her father made money from textiles but while she settled into a life of raising a family, her husband developed his land and farming interests, took an active role in politics and was a contributor to many good causes.

Faithlegg House.
Faithlegg House, Co Waterford. circa 1969. Photo by Brendan Grogan

Politically he organised support for catholic political interests throwing his weight behind the campaigns of the “great liberator” Daniel O’Connell and the campaign for Catholic emancipation and repeal.  O’Connell is known to have visited the house on at least two occasions and once described Power as “the right kind of agitator” He took on a variety of political and administration roles including Justice of the Peace, High Sheriff, chair of many organising committees and a Catholic MP for Waterford between 1847 – 1859. 

One of his first actions on the estate was to build a chapel of ease for the catholic community beside the old Norman churches in 1824 at Coolbunnia.  Prior to this Catholics had to walk to Passage East for mass.  There was also a tradition of mass rocks on the Minaun area during penal times.  He was a benefactor to Edmund Rice and apparently bore the major cost of establishing the first of his schools, Mount Sion, in Waterford. 

The first official boys school was established in Faithlegg in the 1830’s, free as it was organised by the government, girls parents had to pay privately for their education.  This however changed in the 1870’s when the new Faithlegg School was established again with the support of the Power family, catering for boys and girls.  Little is known of the famine era in the area, but locally it was considered to be less of an issue, perhaps because of a catholic landlord, the richness of the land and the use of fish in the local diet. 

Faithlegg Churches
Faithlegg Churches

Margaret and Nicholas were divorced in 1860 and she died not long after in Dublin.  Before his death Nicholas Mahon Power paid for the construction of the spire, belfry and organ loft to be seen at the front of Faithlegg Church.  This was completed in 1873 the year he died.  He is buried inside the church.

His son Patrick Joseph Mahon Power inherited the property on his father’s death.  His wife was Lady Olivia Jane Nugent, daughter of the Earl of Westmeath.  From 1873-5 he and his wife were responsible for the alterations and extensions to Faithlegg House, changing it from a Georgian building to a Victorian mansion.  The changes included 2 storey, 2 bay wings on either side of the existing building, on to which a single storey extension was added to both sides.  The single storey on the left was an oratory whilst the right was a school room.  The front of the building was refaced, with segmented hoods over the ground floor windows.  A portico with square piers was also added and St Hubert’s Deer was added to the front of the house.  Internally the plastered ceilings were the work of Italian craftsmen.

Externally there were modifications too; including planting, laying out of terraces at the rear and the building of pleasure grounds.  A shell house was constructed to the left of the main house.  This was replaced with a grotto in the 1940’s when it was destroyed by a fallen tree.

Faithlegg Harriers at Faithlegg House
The Faithlegg Harriers outside the main door of the house. AH Poole photo

Pat Power was an active landlord never employing a steward in the running of the estate.  He was a huntsman and was master of the hounds for Gaultier and later for east Waterford; apparently because Lord Waterford had been banned by the Land League for hunting on its members land.  The Faithlegg Hunt was known as the Harriers and Pat prided himself on providing good sport to any visiting hunts, preserving the Minaun as a fox covert. 

Leisure seems to have been a regular feature of their era.  A cricket team met in the grounds and played into the 1950’s.  A Hurling team also featured made up of many who worked in the house or on the farm. 

He was also an avid yachtsman, and the family regularly sailed European waters from the British Isles, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.  The Power family yacht was regularly on hand for local regattas and Pat was listed as a committee member in organising same.

Pat died in 1913, predeceased by his wife in 1903.  The estate past to his eldest son Hubert, who died in 1920.  Following this the house was unoccupied save for a maintenance team of servants. It was finally sold to the De La Salle Order as a junior novitiate in 1936.

For more blogs on Faithlegg:

Next week we go all Christmassy.  Did you know too much turkey can be a bad thing?  It certainly got me and my brother Robert in trouble in 1985!

Faithlegg Spire – a spire that spiralled out of control

Over the past month I have commenced a new part time role with Faithlegg House Hotel.  Under the direction of the hotels senior management team we have initiated a process including amongst other elements, gathering the stories of the residents/employees of the estate. This will assist in the current heritage re-brand of the hotel which seeks to showcase the amazing history of the area. To whet appetites here is just one story that has emerged giving a greater insight into the building that is Faithlegg Church.

Early 20th Century postcard of the two churches via Tomás Sullivan

We have spoken before about Faithlegg Church, built in 1824 under the direction of the new landlord to Faithlegg, Nicholas Mahon Power. Nicholas died 1873, which corresponded to completion of a refurbishment, similar in most respects to the church that we see today including its impressive spire and belfry. But the work was not without it’s problems and thanks to a legal squabble afterwards(1), we can now look more closely into the project.

Faithlegg church was originally a much smaller, more modest building which was intended as a chapel of ease for the workers and tenants of the Faithlegg estate. However on the 27th June 1871 the local Landlord contracted a builder from Portlaw Co Waterford, Michael Broderick, to make some additions to the building at an agreed tender of £1,170
A modern view of the spire.  Photo credit Hannah Doherty

As often occurs, not long into the building project new ideas surfaced. It was claimed the Power sisters, Nicholas’ daughters, cajoled their father into extending the build. The plan for an 80 foot spire was increased to 120 foot. It was claimed in court that this was to compete with a neighbouring church and to ensure Faithlegg would be more beautiful, more imposing and to ensure it would outshine it. Nicholas it was said was not known for “being liberal when it came to improvements” but the ladies got around him to “flatter their tastes”.

According to an additional tender of January 1872 the costs then rose to £1,620.  In June the Power ladies were at it again apparently. At this stage a request was made to add a private seating area or chapel as it was referred to in the spire, and a gallery, new altar and a sacristy to boot!  A sum of £165 was requested, but after the intervention of the families head gardener and land steward, Thomas Power, a lesser sum of £145 was agreed.(2)
The gallery and behind the doors the private seating area of the Power family.
Photo credit Hannah Doherty

But the demands were not yet finished.  Apparently a belfry was an after thought. As it was at this point a new bell was requested costing £75 and an extra £10 to hang it.  And still more adornments to to the spire costing £44 12s, which one imagines must have been the alteration and louvered timbers to emit the sound. The work was completed by a new mausoleum to the family and a walled in space to set it apart from the rest. This was said to cost £30. Still to be seen on the right as you walk in the main gates. 

It would appear that Nicholas never lived to see the entire project completed, he died in February 1873.  But in 1876 Broderick took a case against the estate to secure monies owed from the drawn out and every changing refurbishment.  His day in court saw him demand a sum of  £207 10s 1d as a balance of his account.  A decision was returned in his favour, but for a sum of £160.

Although some of his workmanship was called into question in court the Buildings of Ireland has stated in their appraisal “…The construction of the tower attests to high quality local stone masonry and craftsmanship, which is especially evident in the fine carved detailing throughout…” And whatever the claims in court in relation to the wants and desires of Nicholas’ daughters, and the spire that spiralled out of control, their vision and resolve to cajole their aging father has left us a building that is a gem and has become one of the countries wedding venues of choice.

If you have a story, an insight or a family connection to Faithlegg or the house you can contact me by emailing russianside@gmail.com 

(1) Waterford Standard 19th July 1876. P.2.
(2) For the work described this seems a small sum.

My book on growing up in a fishing village is now published.     

Details of online purchases, local stockists or ebook store available here
         

Faithlegg House – a brief history

Faithlegg House was built in 1783 by Cornelius Bolton, then landlord of the Faithlegg/Cheekpoint area of east Waterford. Known as a progressive businessman and politician one can presume he intended Faithlegg as not just his home but a statement of his stature in the community and in Waterford society as a whole.  
Well he might have been in his assumptions of power. The family had been involved in many different enterprises down the years, and the estate at Faithlegg which he inherited was several thousand acres. Enterprises included; Mail packet station at Cheekpoint, Cottage textile industry, Brick making factory, Rope walk, Draining of and reclaiming of Marshes including containing walls, Daisybank house as a hotel for the mail packet, construction of a new quay at Cheekpoint, Realignment and improvement to main road to Waterford, Slate quarrying, Cobalt mining and he was one of the investors in the New Geneva enterprise at Crooke.
The house in 1969/70 via Brendan Grogan, the open parkland,
mature trees and imposing driveway in evidence

The architect was believed to be John Roberts. Roberts was responsible for some of the finest buildings in Waterford at the time including the two Cathedrals, City Hall, Theatre Royal and my own favourite the Chamber of Commerce Building at the top of Gladstone Street. As Roberts had a country home in the Glen in Faithlegg at the time, it would have been relatively easy for him to oversee the work. Although Faithlegg House was more extensive than the building is now, it was described in Burkes Peerage as “a 3 storey, 7 bay block with a three bay pediment break-front”…Bolton’s arms are “…elaborately displayed…in the pediment”

There must have been many fine balls and worthy visitors to the house at that time, and the old Ice House gives a hint to the entertainments used to impress. However, pride comes before a fall they say and unfortunately for Bolton all his investments failed and he finally had to sell off his home at Faithlegg.  He retired to a residence in the city where he died in 1829 and is buried in old Faithlegg Church.
Nicholas Power was the next owner of the house and lands of Faithlegg and Cheekpoint. At the time he was reputed to be the richest commoner in the land. Nicholas Power came from a wealthy merchant family from Ballinakill in the city and had married Margaret Mahon of Dublin, herself from a wealthy family.
Nicholas was a staunch Catholic and on moving into the Faithlegg Estate one of the first actions was to build a church for the catholic community beside the old Norman churche in 1824. He was a benefactor of Edmund Rice and apparently bore the major cost of establishing the first of his schools in Mount Sion in Waterford. He was also a supporter of Catholic emancipation and Daniel O Connell who referred to to him as “…the right kind of agitator” Both men were reputed to have been regular visitors. Nicholas was elected to parliament in 1847 and topped the poll in subsequent elections until retirement in 1859.  Before his death he paid for the construction of the Spire, Belfry and Organ loft. This was completed in 1873, the year he died.
His son Patrick Joseph Power 1826- 1913 inherited the property on his fathers death. His wife was an heiress, Olivia Jane Nugent, daughter of the Earl of Westmeath. The couple were responsible for the later additions to Faithlegg House. These included 2 storey, 2 bay wings on either side of the existing building, to which single storey extensions were added. The single storey on the left was an oratory whilst the right was a school room. The front of the building was refaced, with segmented hoods over the ground floor windows. A portico with square piers was also added and St Huberts Deer was added to the front of the house. Internally the plastered ceilings were the work of Italian craftsmen. Externally there were modifications too; including planting, laying out of terraces at the rear and the building of pleasure grounds including a shell house.
Faithlegg Harriers assembling outside the house in the late 19th C
Patrick Power is assumed to be the man in the centre.  A.H.Poole NLI

The Power family sold on Faithlegg House to the De La Salle Brothers in 1936 and they used it as a junior seminary. Young lads of secondary school age who thought they might join the order came to live in the house with the brothers. They lived the life of a Christian brother, took a mini bus in to school in the De La Salle and although they went to classes with the other boys, they took their meals with the brothers and went back to the house in the evenings to study and sleep. The order in turn sold it on to developers in 1985. Eventually the house was refurbished and now operates as a four star hotel, known far and wide as Faithlegg House Hotel whilst its parkland has been converted into a golf course.

An advert for a public auction to sell off the contents of the house

To find out more about the house and the surrounding area join us on a free walk this coming Monday 5th June, departing from Faithlegg House at 11am.  More details on our Facebook event page here

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
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