Rewind - Is Loftus Hall the most haunted place in Ireland?

By Sean Heffernan 

As you are reading this I will be sunning myself in the Sunny South East in a place I visited two years ago, that also has a close link to where Rathfarnham is located.

So we will take the 27 bus from Tallaght Village and we will get off at stop 496 Beresford Place-Busáras.

Rewind 1

Loftus Hall

From here we will hop on Bus Éireann Route No. 5 to Wexford Town, and the Wexford Local-Link Hook Peninsula Summer Service to Loftus Hall, reputedly the most haunted place in all of Ireland.

This eerie building is located on the Hook Peninsula and it is said that it is from this area a very famous saying ‘By hook or by crook’ originated – The saying goes that when seeking to take Waterford, Oliver Cromwell was reputed to have said the famous remarks and it pertained to ‘The Hook’ on the Wexford side and the town of Crook on the Waterford side of the estuary.

The first known dwelling on the site was built by the Norman knight Raymond Le Gross in 1170, who was one of the troop of soldiers that travelled to Ireland under the command of the infamous Strongbow, who in turn was invited over by Diarmuid MacMurrough who was seeking to regain lands he had lost in battles.

Around 1350, his descendants, who had adopted the surname Redmond to better blend in with the locals, replaced the castle with the first instalment of what is the house we see today.

Around a century later they lost control of the building and its lands as the Loftus family were granted them by Cromwell as a thank you for helping him in his battle against King Charles 1.

They were closely related to the Loftus’s who as we saw in a previous instalment of this column, built and owned Rathfarnham Castle.

Indeed in 1812 the family who were living in the now Dublin 16 building vacated it and moved lock, stock and barrel to the big house in this sliver of Co Wexford that is bordered on both sides by the Irish Sea.

One of the most notable residents in the house was Henry Loftus the 1st Earl of Ely who at one stage held the very prestigious role of Sheriff of Co Wexford as well as the position as an MP in the Irish Parliament for the ‘Bannow’ constituency.

 It’s also this family that Ely Place, just off St Stephen’s Green in Dublin city centre is named after.

The large dwelling had extensive renovations and extensions added to it from 1872 and 1879 by the 4th Marquess of Ely, John Wellington Graham, as his mother was Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria for a time and her son got a notion that if the house was done up they would be granted a visit by the Queen on any further visits to Ireland.

Such a visit would open up many financially rewarding doors for the family, but, alas, the visit never happened and they were almost bankrupted in the process.

It is also said that Lady Jane Loftus was also friends of Queen Sophie of The Netherlands and Empress Eugenie of France.

 When you think about it, it’s a tad ironic that one of the most influential persons in the English Court was by the 1850s living cheek by jowl alongside the ordinary folks whose descendents were the fiercest fighters in the 1798 Rebellion for independence from British rule.

Probably the most famous story to emanate from the large property was one where no less than the Devil himself (!) was said to have visited.

The Loftus’s were known for their hospitality to sailors whose boats got into difficulty on the Hook Peninsula which saw them stranded on the Wexford Coast.

One particular night a young man – some say he claimed he was Spanish – made an unexpected knock on the door and after telling his story of his boat allegedly running aground was immediately afforded hospitality.

One of the daughters, Lady Anne Tottenham, grew very close to the new visitor and they would often spend a large amount of time in each other’s company before joining the other family members and visiting friends at the card table.

It was at one of these such gambling sessions that Lady Anne accidentally let one of her cards fall and bent down to pick it up.

What she saw across the table made her howl with terror – for where her suitor was sat was a man with the cloven hooves of the devil!

At this point Satan is said to have fled like a fireball through the roof and was never seen again, with Anne developing severe mental shock from which she was to never recover.

Such was her delusional antics that the family soon decided the only thing for it was to keep her hidden away in the Tapestry room which was locked whenever any visitors came.

In 1917 the house was bought by the Benedictine nuns who resided and taught children in makeshift classrooms for 18 years before a Michael Deveraux bought it and turned it into a hotel.

The hotel closed in the mid ’90s and after lying derelict for a while was sold on to the Quigley family who have turned this famous residence into the excellent tourist attraction it is today.

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