Blennerhassett Family Tree
Genealogy one-name study      by Bill Jehan
Blennerhassett Inscriptions etc at
Ballyseedy Castle (formerly Elm Grove)
Ballyseedy, near Tralee, Co.Kerry
Ballyseedy is pronounced "Ballysheedy" (Bail ó Sioda = O'Sheedy's Town).
Ballyseedy townland is a small part of the larger Ballyseedy civil parish (= Ballyseedy Church of Ireland parish)


Ballyseede Castle hotel sign 2010, on the Tralee-Killarney Road at Ballyseedy Wood
One of a pair of earlier Ballyseede Castle hotel signs 2004, on each side of the entrance gate, now overpainted white 
The House
 "Elm Grove" or "Elmgrove", later to be named Ballyseedy House then Ballyseedy Castle, was built on flat land by the River Lee at the eastern end of Ballyseedy Wood. Constructed in 1721 by "The Great Colonel John" Blennerhassett or his family, it eventually replaced the older, 17th century, family seat at Ballyseedy, built by an earlier John Blennerhassett adjacent an ancient Geraldine fort (the original "Ballyseedy Castle") just inside the western end of Ballyseedy Wood. The two houses were both occupied by Blennerhassetts up to 1777 and later, but by 1821 the older house appears to have begun its slow decay into the picturesque ruin seen today. Some writers have stated the new house was constructed “during the middle of the 18th Century” or “about 1760”, but they appear to be mistaken.
It is uncertain if "Colonel John" ever lived in the new house; he may have remained in old Ballyseedy until old age caused him to retire to his daughter's house, "Oak Park" near Tralee, where he died in 1775.  One of the finest country houses in Ireland, Ballyseedy Castle has been remodelled three times. The first was an extensive rebuilding commenced by John's youngest son William Blennerhassett Sr. and completed c1788 by his son William Blennerhassett Jr. The second change was a north wing added by Arthur Blennerhassett, completed in 1821 exactly 100 years after the house was built (see illustration). The third was a Victorian "mock castle" refacing executed for Major Arthur Blennerhassett in the 1880s, by Kerry architect, local historian and Blennerhassett descendant James Franklin Fuller, producing the impressive (if not so elegant as before) house that stands today. Until this final remodelling, the present front face and main entrance had been the rear of the house.
Ballyseedy Castle was the principal seat of Blennerhassetts in Ireland from its construction until sold out of the family in 1967, to become the "Ballyseede Castle" hotel. A new west wing providing additional hotel bedrooms is currently planned.
Within the north wing is a banqueting hall, at one end of which is a fireplace with primitive but beautiful 17th century carved dark oak surround, displaying separately the Blennerhassett crest and coat-of-arms. In the wall above the fireplace, set into a semi-circular recess, is a large "foundation stone", above which (on the keystone of the recess arch) is carved a small but romantic "heart within a heart".
photo: courtesy Julie Walker
B    R
T  I 
8 :
Y :
1 3 :
7        2
 Warning If this inscription or the initials     B R     S     T I     mean something to you, please Contact us
The fireplace and "Foundation Stone" may not be in their original location, perhaps having been moved during one of the three rebuilding phases (1788, 1821, 1880s); it is probable the oak surround was brought here from "Old Ballyseedy", rescued as that house as it fell into ruin. 
The date 1721 is believed to represent the date of building the house "Elm Grove" (later to be renamed "Ballyseedy Castle") but the meaning of the inscription as a whole is obscure.
Mark Humphrys in his genealogy website asks if the inscription could refer to eight years passed since Col. John Blennerhassett's marriage to Jane Denny in 1713 - the "heart within a heart" on the keystone does appear to be telling us it is a marriage commemoration.
What else could it mean? Y 13 could perhaps commemorate the 13 years passed since "The great Col.John" inherited the Ballyseedy estate from his father in 1708. His father's will was written in January 1708 but proved May 1709; or 8 could mean 1708, telling us the year building commenced, 13 years before completion in 1721. All of these feel a little like clutching at straws...
It has been suggested there may be a masonic connection, but that is speculation.

stone broken, upper part missing, inscription lost 
Warning What was this inscription?
FEB 10 1953
Approaching Ballyseedy Castle, a short distance inside the main gate close to the driveway on the left side,
may be seen three headstones marking graves of Hilda Blennerhassett's dogs

click image to view surroundings
photo: courtesy of Julie Walker
click on image to enlarge
photo: courtesy of Julie Walker
click on image to enlarge
A . B
One of two identical shields set into exterior walls of the north wing of Ballyseedy Castle, one by each of the carriage entrances into the stable yard.
These record the remodelling by Arthur Blennerhassett (b.1-Jan-1799 d.23-Jan-1843) in 1821, exactly 100 years after the house was built and the time it ceased to be known as "Elm Grove".
Framed copy of an original poster of 1916 hanging in Ballyseedy Castle library (now the hotel bar).
These posters were displayed to publicly communicate the proclamation of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic, as read out by Padraic Pearce (in the porch of the General Post Office) following the 1916 Easter Rising.
In Loving Memory
of Our Dear Son,
Pte. Douglas T. Rich

Who died of wounds received in action in France
ON APRIL 28th 1918.
Aged 20 Years.

No mother's care did him attend,
Nor o'er him did a father bend,
No sister by to shed a tear,
No brother by his words to hear
Sick, dying, in a foreign land,
No father by to take his hand,
No mother by to close his eyes,
Far from his native land he lies.
Thought by some to have been photographed inside Ballyseedy Castle, this is a memorial to Private Douglas Tom Rich, Service No. 14851, "D" Company, 9th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
Son of Alfred and Annie Rich, of 64 North Clive St. Grangetown, Cardiff.
Buried at Esquelbecq Military Cemetery, Esquelbecq, France, a village near the Belgian frontier, 24km south of Dunkirk.
Warning It has been suggested to me that this 2005 photograph of a private WWI memorial was taken inside Ballyseede Castle Hotel, but in 2010 I could not find the memorial and staff cannot not recall ever having seen it.
As there is no known connection between the Rich family and Ballyseedy, I suspect this memorial is elsewhere. If you recognise this memorial please contact us



The Monument and Monument Wood
Ballyseedy Wood was once the private timber producing woodland of the Ballyseedy estate. After one hundred years of being an isolated, atmospheric and little visited woodland ecosystem, it was recently threatened with destruction by a section of a new Tralee-Killarney road. After several years of discussion and controversy, in 2007 Ballyseedy Wood was saved, the road took a slightly different route and Ballyseedy Wood became a public woodland park, with dedicated carpark and pedestrian access. From the inside the edge of the wood a fine rear view of Ballyseedy Castle is obtained, far grander than the view from the front entrance driveway, a reminder that the rear of the property was designed as the front and was used as such until the refacing of Ballyseedy Castle in 1880.
A short distance from Ballyseedy Castle is Monument Wood, shown on Ordinance Survey Maps of the late 19th century to be much as it remains today, a small area of woodland separated from Ballyseedy Wood by open fields. The two woods were once one-and-the-same, before timber cutting in the early 19th century created the fields that now separate them. Monument Wood occupies a small hill, the only piece of high ground in the vicinity, part of Ballyseedy Castle Farm. This is a working farm and private property, with strictly no public access except by permission of the owner.
Late 19th century Ordnance Survey maps indicate a monument stood inside "Monument Wood", but this has long since fallen or been pulled down. Remaining evidence suggests the monument may have been an obelisk, erected on a natural stone outcrop that forms the summit of the hill.
Local historian Frank Blennerhassett (R.I.P. 2008) told me that c1944 he saw what he then believed to be "12 gravestones in good condition” in the undergrowth of the northern part of the wood, all or most of these stones having inscriptions. When revisiting the wood c1994 he found only one inscribed stone remaining, this "...having an inscription mentioning a Blennerhassett who died at Bath...". The presence of these stones gave rise to a local belief of some years standing that "...there is an old graveyard within Ballyseedy Woods..." and more recently that "...the graveyard near the wood at Ballyseedy was completely demolished by the new owner of the land...". Quarrying activity a few years ago (now ceased) did cut into the northern edge of Monument Wood hill and this has, it appears, caused the loss of many of the stones seen by Frank c1944. No graveyard at Monument Wood is recorded or marked on any map, and Ballyseedy old churchyard, containing the family vault of the Blennerhassetts of Ballyseedy, is close by. The belief of some local people that worked stones on Monument Hill were gravestones is understandable, because of the inscriptions; but it is clear these were not gravestones but fragments of a monument to one or more of the Blennerhassett family.
On visiting the hill in 2002 by kind permission of the owner I found only three worked stones, one of these inscribed as related by Frank Blennerhassett c1994. The three stones lie a short distance within the northern perimeter of the wood, close to the quarry edge but in situations that suggest they have not been more than a few years in their present positions. These three survivors are a four-faced pyramid apex stone (perhaps the tip of a small obelisk), a carved base stone, and a moss covered inscription stone.
Warning Does a photograph, drawing or note exist showing the complete monument or other inscriptions?
click on image to enlarge
 two uninscribed stones 
the inscribed stone - before and after...
Arthur Blennerhassett
Esq. of Ballyseedy Born
Decbr 4th 1779
Died at Bath Novbr 1st 1815
The inscribed stone, perhaps the complete monument, was placed here in memory of Arthur Blennerhassett of Elm Grove (b.4-Dec-1779 d.1-Nov-1815) who succeeded to the Ballyseedy estate in 1810. He died at Bath and lies buried in a crypt under the fine Georgian church of St.Swithin’s Walcot, Bath.
Two others named "Arthur Blennerhassett of Ballyseedy" died at Bath and they also lie in the crypt of St.Swithin's. These are Arthur Blennerhassett of Ballyseedy & Elm Grove (b.19-Feb-1719  d.3-Jun-1799) and Col. Arthur Blennerhassett of Arabella (b.5-Aug-1731 d.20-Nov-1810).
IMPORTANT NOTE: Monument Wood and surrounding farmland are private property and must not be visited without express permission from the owner.

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