The medieval castle of Dromana occupied a spectacular defensive site, and one that is no less dramatic today. The house perches precariously on the edge of a cliff above the wooded valley of the River Blackwater a few miles downstream from the town of Cappoquin in County Waterford. Two connected ranges were built along the bawn wall in the early 1700s and the resulting house formed the nucleus of an ambitious, important and highly original early layout that is illustrated in a beautiful map of the demesne, dating from 1755.
From the 13th century Dromana was the seat of the FitzGeralds, Lords of the Decies, a junior branch of the earls of Desmond. In the 1670s the FitzGerald heiress, Katherine, the ‘Lady of the Decies’ and a ward to King Charles II, married Colonel Villiers, the son of Lord Grandison. Their descendants succeeded as earls Grandison until 1800, when the only child of the 2nd Earl (of the second creation) married Lord Henry Stuart, a younger son of the Marquis of Bute. Their son was subsequently created Lord Stuart de Decies, a title that recalled his long family connection with the region.
The castle of Dromana was attacked and damaged in the wars of the 1640s and 50s, though its base can still be identified from the river. The 1700s reconstruction created an L-shaped dwelling for occasional occupation, and the only external decoration is a robust, pedimented block and start door-case in the manner of James Gibbs.
Work on a much larger new house commenced in about 1780, directly in front of the longer 1700s range. The principal façade was of two storeys and nine bays, quite plain, with a parapet and a rather curious segmental-headed armorial doorcase. The river façade, which is actually an extension of the shorter arm of the L-shaped building of 1700, contained a shallow full-height bow.
The interior was elaborately fitted out for Lord Stuart in the 1840s, with a suite of very grand reception rooms and a massive imperial staircase, but by the 1960s Dromana had become something of a white elephant. The estate was sold and the demesne subdivided, and the house bought by a cousin who demolished the 1780s block and reduced it to more manageable proportions.
Happily, James Villiers-Stuart was able to repurchase the house in the 1980s and his widow Emily still lives there, with her daughter Barbara and husband Nicholas.
Address & ContactDromana, Villierstown, Cappoquin, Waterford
t: +353 24 96144
m: +353 86 818 6305
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Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the gardens are currently open by appointment only.
The house will be open by appointment during Heritage Week, restrictions permitting.
Self-catering accomodation is open and can be booked through Airbnb.
Arrangements for tea may be made in advance