Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Journey Through Time: A Glimpse into Johnstown Castle's Upstairs Downstairs.

 Journey Through Time: 

A Glimpse into Johnstown Castle's Upstairs Downstairs.

Ready for dinner? Ashworth Soup Tureen

Johnstown Castle in Wexford isn't just a historic landmark; it's a time capsule whispering tales of bygone eras. My recent visit, fueled by a curiosity sparked by a €7.5 million renovation project, was an eye-opening adventure into Ireland's rich past.

A food safe was quite common, usually made of timber

 with a tight mesh over the front to deter flies and so on 

and was often hung on outside walls. 

A Glimpse into Gilded Age Gastronomy

Imagine a lavish feast fit for royalty. Our journey begins with a

peek at a menu from 1850, when Norwich's Mayor Henry Woodcock and his entourage dined at Johnstown Castle in celebration of the queen’s birthday. "Rognons saute au Vin de Champagne" (kidneys sauteed in champagne wine)and "Ris de Veau au champignons" (veal sweetbreads with mushrooms) tantalise the taste buds, while "Currie Rabbit" hints at the exotic influences of the time. But a shadow lurks beneath the opulence.

The menu

The Servants' Sacrifice

While the gentry revelled, the staff toiled tirelessly. Despite their reputation as good employers, the Grogan family, who owned the castle in the 19th century, still relied on a workforce that laboured long hours, six and a half long days a week (according to our guide). An 86-meter-long servants' tunnel, a hidden passage beneath the castle, speaks volumes about the separation between the classes.

A Modern Look at a Medieval Marvel

Fast forward to the present. The €7.5 million facelift is evident on the tour. The scars of history – the eviction of the Esmonds by Cromwell in 1649 – are intertwined with the romantic Neo-Gothic makeover undertaken by the Grogan family.

Our guided exploration unveiled the castle's fascinating past, leaving us hungry for more (quite literally!).

A tempting lunch offering, if not quite up to the menu for the Mayor of Norwich!

A Refreshing Snack and a Haunting History Lesson

A delightful light lunch in the bright and comfortable Peacock Café, complete with a scone, pastry, and excellent coffee, satiated our appetites. While peahens strutted about among the outside tables in search of tidbits, we savoured the moment.

Next stop: the sprawling Agricultural Museum. Here, a bygone era unfolded before our eyes. From horse-drawn carts to a vintage Kenwood Chef, each exhibit whispered stories of rural life. The "Great Famine Exhibition" was particularly poignant, a stark reminder of a time when the potato sustained and ultimately betrayed a nation.

Lost in the Beauty of the Gardens

Stepping back into the sunshine, we embarked on a walk through part of the castle's gardens. Lush greenery and 140 unique tree species provided a tranquil escape. The three lakes – Lost Lake, Castle Lake, and Garden Lake – and the gardens each offered a serene vista, occasionally punctuated by the flash of a peacock's majestic plumage.


Here's a baker's cart in the Agricultural Museum which is spread over old farm buildings  from 1810.

A Castle Waiting to be Explored

Johnstown Castle, while still a work in progress under the guidance of the Irish Heritage Trust, is a treasure trove waiting to be unearthed. This glimpse into its history merely scratches the surface. So, take my advice: book a guided tour, pack your walking shoes, and prepare to be swept away by a place where time itself seems to stand still. Just remember, those swans might not take kindly to uninvited guests on their grassy haven! Don't get between the cygnets and the parents.

Get all the info you need here.

The milk delivery floats often had an open-backed design
 so the milkman could step in and out easily.

Kenwood Chef, an old reliable, at the heart of kitchens for over 70 years

The castle was featured on RTE's Nationwide last evening (17th June 2024); if you missed it, look out for it on the RTE Player.

Also on this trip to Wexford:

La Côte 


La Vista  

X - @johnstowncastle

Facebook - @JohnstownCastle

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Web: https://johnstowncastle.ie/ 

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