Ashfield Hall, Arles

by Brendan Ward

Gales, Fishbournes and Jeffers

Ashfield Hall is situated about two kilometers south west of the village of Arles. It is described in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage as a detached five bay Palladian style house with a dormer attic and a pedimented advanced entrance bay. It is dated as c 1750.

Ashfield Hall, Arles

At the time of the survey in 2004 it was described as derelict but I’m pleased to report that this is no longer the case.

Ashfield Hall was occupied by members of the Gale family up until the 1850’s and they have in fact given their name to two other features in the locality: Gale Hill at the back of the house and Gale’s Bridge over the River Douglas about four kilometers away near Castletown.

The Gales were descendants of Colonel Oliver Gale who came to Ireland in the time of Henry VIII from Thrintoft in North Yorkshire.  After the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland Anthony Gale was granted the former Crottentegle lands in Laois, forfeited by the Keating family – these amounted to 415 acres. He went on to marry into the Wandesforde family of Castlecomer. His son Samuel in turn married Alicia daughter of Oliver Grace. The latter was a member of the Privy Council of King James II a Chief Remembrancer (a type of registrar) of the English Exchequer and an MP for Ballinakill Co. Laois. Oliver Grace is buried in a mausoleum just beside Arles church and the family lived in Gracefield near Ballylinan.

It was probably Anthony, the son of Samuel, who built Ashfield Hall. He also served on the Queen’s County Grand Jury. Anthony’s son Peter (1736 – 1780) continued the family tradition by marrying into the Browne family of Brownsehill House who were one of the biggest landowners in Carlow. Peter’s son Samuel like his father was a graduate of Trinity College but his grandson Peter also went on to secure a Masters from Trinity.

OS Map 1840
By 1890 the formal gardens had gone

Peter Gale, (1803 – 1857), was the last of the Gales to live in Ashfield. He was the author in 1834 of a book titled “An Enquiry into the Ancient Corporate System in Ireland” which outlined how the system of municipal government was corrupt and suggested reforms.  He ran for election himself as a Liberal candidate for the Queen’s county in 1832 when Sir Charles Coote was returned for the Tory party along with the Repeal candidate Patrick Lawlor.  Known as honest Gale he co-operated with the anti-tithe campaign and was appointed High Sheriff in 1838. However he was forced to sell his estate in 1851 under the Encumbered Estates Act. Even though he also owned a house in Tullow St., Carlow, Peter Gale is buried in Cork.  He was married to Anna Maria Harriet Fleeson in 1837.

For more on the Gale family see Alison Stewart’s DubStewartMania blog.

Ashfield passed through the Incumbered Estates Court in 1851 Act[i].

Dublin Evening Post 4 Oct 1851

Ashfield Hall then came into the possession of Joseph Fishbourne. There exists a lease dated 18th Nov. 1850, for the lives of the three eldest children of Her Majesty the Queen, or 31 years from 1st November 1850 from Peter Gale to Joseph Fishbourne, “a highly respectable tenant”   The Fishbournes were prominent land dealers and property owners in the Carlow area who had been renting Peter Gale’s house in Tullow Street, Carlow since 1776.

Kaye Cole has written an excellent history of the Fishbourne family in Carloviana 2013

The earliest Fishbourne, who came to Carlow in 1738, was his g g grandfather, Joseph Fishbourne, a glazier from Monasterevan. One of his sons was a watchmaker in Carlow and an earlier Robert Fishbourne in Monasterevan was a saddler.  Joseph Fishbourne died in 1888. Listed as living in the house at the time of the 1901 census are Humfrey Fishbourne 39, Sidney Fishbourne a sister 44, and three servants Michael Mooney 42, Bridget Corcoran 40 and Mary Kate Kinsella. There is a great photo belonging to Performing Arts Images of Joseph’s son Robert Moore Fishbourne standing beside George Bernard Shaw at the piano.

By the time of the 1911 census Sidney Fishbourne is listed as the head of the household along with her sister Katherine aged 51. Also present along with Michael Mooney were Kathleen Palmer 43, a hospital nurse and two servants Mary Anne Hipwell, 23 and Mary Houlihan 22.

Their son Charles Edward Fishbourne became a Lieutenant Colonel of the Northumberland Fusiliers and was killed in action at the Battle of The Somme.

Ashfield Hall was put up for sale and was bought in 1919 by Arthur William and Rosanna Jeffers.  He was from Tinryland, the son of a farmer, and she was a Rose from Kilmeany.    It was stated in a newspaper add at the time that £1,000 had just been spent on putting in bathrooms and hot and cold running water.

It is not known when the Jeffers took up occupation of the house but it is more likely than not that it was Ashfield Hall rather than the Ashfield in Ballybrittas that was occupied by 150 IRA men for two weeks training in October 1921. Terence Dooley refers to this incident in his book The Decline of the Big House in Ireland.

The Jeffers family lived in Ashfield Hall until the mid 1980’s. By the time the current owners bought it it had been unoccupied for about ten years. In that time the condition of the building had obviously deteriorated and it had also been ransacked by vandals. They have undertaken substantial renovation work as well as operating it as a farming enterprise and hope to do more.

Finally mention should be made of the gate lodge into Ashfield Hall. Built by Peter Gale around 1835 it is described by Dixie Dean, who has spent a lifetime documenting all the gate lodges on the entire island, as “the most exceptional of Tudor Gothic English Cottage lodges”. It features an attic oriel window and three tall octagonal chimneys. Dean concludes his description by stating that it is a sleeping fairy tale cottage awaiting its Prince Charming.  Tierney in The Buildings of Ireland suggests that it is inspired by P F Robinson’s “Rural Architecture” (1822).   Since the accompanying photograph was taken ten years ago the cottage has lost some more of its charms but it is the intention of the current owners to restore it at some stage.

[i] The sale was on the suit of General Thomas Popham Luscombe, buisnessman, banker and moneymaker, of Killester House, Dublin, that had been the home of the Newcomens and was burnt down in 1919

One thought on “Ashfield Hall, Arles

  1. Anna Maria Harriet Fleeson who married Peter Gale in 1837 was the widow of Peter Lynch who had rebuilt Ballycurrin House on Lough Corrib. The last of the Lynchs of Ballycurrin, Charles Lynch, a land leaguer, died in 1897 and the house was sold. It was ultimately bought by Lt Col Claude Beddington, a tobacco merchant who had changed his surname from Moses. He did not believe in educating women, and forbad his daughter, who became Lady Powerscourt, from reading. He left Ballycurrin, (which he had renamed as Ower House) during the war of Independence and it was burnt down in 1921, for which he received £5670 compensation from the local ratepayers. Lady Powerscourt later inherited Bellair House, Offaly from mother’s sister. The ruins of Ballycurrin were resurrected within the last 20 years by Frank Higgins, and it is now available to rent on airbnb


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