Donegal’s landed gentry to be recalled in new exhibition

The days of the landed gentry in County Donegal are to be recalled in a new exhibition focusing on the big houses of the county.

Donegal county museum is looking for pictures and artefacts from the days when the British aristocracy ruled supreme in the county.

Museum spokeswoman, Caroline Carr said the new autumn exhibition “A Vanished World – the Landed Gentry of Donegal” would shine a light on a forgotten period of the county’s rich history.

“We talking about a time from just after the famine until partition when the big country houses still employed servants and the landed gentry were the only ones with time to spend on leisure,” she said.

Ms Carr said the entire county was at one time covered by large Downton Abbey-style houses which were home to British peers. While many of the houses have long since disappeared, others still exist although no longer as manor homes.

“Rockhill House (once an Irish Army barracks) in Letterkenny was home to the Stewarts and there was Oakfield Park and of course, one of the biggest of the lot, Glenveagh Castle (now a national park),” she said.

The titled gentry celebrate a wedding day at the Big House outside Letterkenny.

Many of the landed gentry sold up and left Donegal after partition and their offspring still maintain their titles throughout the world.

“One of the biggest was the Marquess of Cunningham (after whom the towns of Newtown Cunningham and Manorcunningham are named. He was a big player and owner of Shane Castle.

“There was the Marquess of Donegal and Lord Lifford and the Earl of Arran; they all had their country homes in Donegal,” Ms Carr said.

The museum already has many artefacts for the autumn exhibition. However, Ms Carr said it was keen to obtain more.

“We’d love pictures of the interiors of some of the houses; we know what they look like from the outside but not the inside,” she said.

Glenveagh Castle, one of the biggest Big…

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