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Documentary on ‘The Big House’ to be broadcast on St Patrick’s Day

Documentary on ‘The Big House’ to be broadcast on St Patrick’s Day
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The Big House, a one hour radio documentary on abandoned stately homes in Louth and Meath, will be broadcast on LMFM Radio at 12 noon on St Patrick’s Day.

‘The Big House’ holds an important place in Ireland’s rich history and heritage, with many dating back to the 17th century. Many abandoned and destroyed ‘Big Houses’ still litter the countryside, full of memories and stories long since forgotten. Left victim to the elements and a shadow of what they once were, for many, these stately homes have become symbols of a former divided society.

Using interviews with locals and historians recorded on location at these now abandoned houses, this one-hour radio documentary will explore the personal narratives behind a selection of these ‘Big Houses’ throughout the counties of Louth and Meath, allowing their rich history to be captured before they disappear from our landscape forever. Recounting the stories of the families who lived there, along with their impact on their local communities, their unique place in local and national history will be captured and preserved.

The origins of the Big House in Ireland dates as far back as the Protestant Ascendancy, beginning in the 17th Century, which saw those loyal to the Crown, most of whom were English and Protestant, granted large quantities of Irish land by the British monarchy which, in turn, led to the Anglo-Irish class controlling all the political power in Ireland for several centuries. On these vast estates, these new landowners would erect extravagant, overwhelming ‘Big Houses’ that would then be passed down through generations of their family. These houses would proudly demonstrate the family’s power and wealth, a symbol of the key differences between the inhabitants within and those working for them.

The main house was usually the centre of a much larger estate and possessed immense power and influence over its surrounding community. However, as the centuries passed, these stately homes and their associated estates became symbols of a further divided society. Two major Land Acts in the early 1900s, along with many heirs to the estates losing their lives in World War 1, were all huge blows to the Big Houses and their owners. From 1919-1923, both organised campaigns motivated by the old Irish Republican Army, and isolated campaigns co-ordinated by locals, resulted in many of these houses being destroyed by arson attacks, as the independence movement sweeping the country at the time considered their very existence as a constant reminder of British rule.

Over 275 of these stately homes across the country were destroyed during this campaign and many of those that did survive have long since been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. This one-hour radio documentary will delve behind the bricks and mortar of these now skeletal but once palatial homes, to uncover the tales that lie within, focusing on three abandoned ‘Big Houses’ in each county of Louth and Meath.

These are:

  • Stephenstown House (Louth)
  • Carstown House (Louth)
  • Glyde Court (Louth)
  • Williamstown House (Meath)
  • Gibbstown House (Meath)
  • Summerhill House (Meath)

‘The Big House: Abandoned Stately Homes of Louth & Meath’ was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television License Fee and produced by Little Road Productions Ltd, based in Dundalk.

It will broadcast on LMFM Radio at 12noon on St Patrick’s Day.