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KILDARE OBSERVER MARCH 1891 REPORTS ON DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT HARRISTOWN

 
Kildare Observer, March 7th 1891
 
Destructive Fire at Harristown
 
Mr. John La Touche’s Mansion Burned Down
 
On Thursday the magnificent mansion at Harristown, the residence of the La Touche family for generations, was almost entirely destroyed by fire. The house was probably the finest of its kind in the County Kildare, in which there are so many splendid country seats. It stands in the centre of a magnificent demesne, heavily timbered, with beautiful grounds laid out in the most tasteful manner. The house is built upon an eminence, at the foot of which the River Liffey flows, and the residence was in every respect worthy of its picturesque situation. It was built almost 120 years ago, entirely out of stone outside, solid and substantial as well as beautiful in structure. The fire was discovered about two o’ clock in the afternoon, the flames being near the roof and apparently proceeding from one of the servant’s rooms in the upper storey. How the ignition occurred is unknown, but it is conjectured that it was caused by one of the fires. This is the explanation current at Harristown, all others have been discussed and negatived. The alarm was given at once. Telegrams were dispatched from Brannoxtown to the Curragh Camp and surrounding places for assistance, and in the meantime every effort was made to save the furniture and valuables at the mansion. Favoured by a strong wind that was blowing, the fire which had got well underway when discovered, increased with astonishing rapidity, and in an incredibly short space of the time the whole building was in flames. The servants, farm labourers and people from the neighbourhood, headed by Mr. McClean, the agent, got to work to remove the furniture, as the flames proceeded downwards from the roof. Fresh aid arrived every moment, and valuable assistance was rendered by Mr.Cramer-Roberts, D.L. Sallymount; Mr. G. Ronaldson. J.P.Stonebrook; Rev Mr. McCaig, Mr E. Moore, Captain Moore, Sergeant Flanagan, and the police from Kilcullen, and Sergeant Hutchinson and the available force from Ballymore Eustace. Most of the furniture, in the bedrooms, drawing-rooms, library, study, dining room, hall, &c, was brought out, and Messrs Cramer-Roberts and Ronaldson, with Sergeant Flanagan and others, succeeded in getting out on the lawn a large quantity of very valuable marble statuary, marble mantelpieces and other very costly and very heavy articles. The fire brigate arrived from the Curragh Camp in prompt reply to a telegram despatched, but the flames had taken complete possession of the building, and the soldiers devoted themselves chiefly to saving the effects. Mr. J.L Emerson, Provost Marshal, Capt Breen, in charge of the Fire Brigade, Capt Rock, Wiltshire Regiment, and several other officers were indefatigable in their efforts and Mr. Emmerson particularly worked hardest in getting out the furniture, and seeing it safely disposed of. The fire burned all night, and the volunteer forces all remained up assisting in the saving of property.
          A representative of our paper visited the scene of the fire on Thursday morning. The place had a most melancholy and depressing appearance. The gaunt walls of the noble mansion were standing, the interior being filled with smoking and charred debris, while the joists in the wall were smouldering and burning away with what may be called a subdued fierceness. Most of the furniture had been removed to the farm-yard buildings adjacent, but a considerable quantity was still under marquees on the grounds near the house. Everywhere were scattered pieces of statuary, marble mantelpieces, mirrors, bric-a-brac and more or less injured furniture. On the lawn in front stood a massive billiard table, the top of which had not been rescued. A beautiful recumbent marble statue, “The Sleeping Beauty” lay uninjured close by, and a short distance away was a magnificent “Diana” in marble, saved intact by the efforts of the gentlemen already named. A “Psyche”, several busts, and other people were also saved, but a beautiful group in Carrara marble which stood at the end of the hall was badly mutilated and nearly destroyed. A strennous effort was made to save this group, which has a history, and which intrinsically as a work of art was very valuable. They succeeded taking it from its position to the entrance door almost beneath the portico, with infinite difficulty, as it weighed more than a ton and a half. Here they were obliged to leave it, and it was almost buried beneath the brick work and debris that fell from above. The damage done was enormous, and very difficult to estimate. The carved woodwork, the moulded ceilings, and the many costly fixtures, would cost a very large sum to replace. Fortunately the plate, glass and valuables in the lower rooms were saved. Twelve thousand pounds worth of injury it is estimated has at least been caused, and, though the place was insured, the insurance only partially covers the loss. Great sympathy is felt for Mr. La Touche, who is extremely popular in the county, and who spent the 77 years of his life in the magnificent home of his fathers that he now sees completely destroyed.
                                                    The scene was visited by a number of people on Thursday, anxious to render any assistance in their power to the family. Mr. Peroy La Touche, who was in London when the occurrence took place, has returned. Architects and engineers have examined the ruins, and it is stated that the mansion, or at least a portion of it, will be rebuilt as soon as possible.

The Kildare Observer, March 7th 1891 reports that the magnificent mansion at Harristown, the residence of the La Touche family for generations, was almost entirely destroyed by fire. Our thanks to Roy O'Brien.


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