Irish aristocrats' mansion torched in 1923 set for renovated

Destroyed by fury and fire… reclaimed by nature: Irish mansion that was home to wealthy family until they were driven out is set to be renovated after becoming completely overgrown by forest

  • Moore Hall in County Mayo was built by famed Irish politician George Moore between 1792 and 1795 
  • His relative Col. Maurice George Moore was a pro-treaty Senator in the newly formed Irish Senate in 1923
  • Anti-treaty IRA torched the ancestral seat that year – the paramilitaries were against the Anglo-Irish treaty
  • The mansion was never to be occupied again and drone footage has captured how it has become overgrown 

An Irish mansion that was home to an aristocratic family before they were driven out is set to be renovated after becoming completely overgrown by the surrounding forest.

Moore Hall in County Mayo was built by famed Irish politician George Moore between 1792 and 1795 and was a bustling family home until it was destroyed by the anti-treaty Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the civil war in 1923.

Abandoned and left to rot, drone photographs show its overgrown ruins sitting on Muckloon Hill overlooking Lough Carra, after the local council bought it last year for £350,000.

At the time of the fire Colonel Maurice George Moore, a former British Army officer, was a Senator in the newly formed Seanad Éireann of the Irish Free State, Ireland having gained its independence from Britain with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921.

During the Irish Civil War, waged between those who were for the treaty and those who were anti-treaty, the IRA were attacking homes belonging to Senators and on February 1, 1923, the ancestral Moore home was torched.

The owner was not, in fact, Colonel Moore, but his brother, the novelist George Moore, who wrote a letter to The Morning Post two weeks later quoting a description of the drama: ‘I was sitting in my lodge reading when armed men who were perfect strangers to me came to the door and demanded the keys … 

Moore Hall was built by famed Irish politician George Moore between 1792 and 1795 and was a bustling family home until it was destroyed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the civil war in 1923 (pictured: an aerial photo of the overgrown estate taken with a drone)


At the time of the fire Colonel Maurice George Moore, a former British Army officer, was a Senator in the newly formed Seanad Éireann of the Irish Free State, Ireland having gained its independence from Britain with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 (pictured: the mansion is covered in foliage and surrounded by dense forest)

During the Irish Civil War, waged between those who were for the treaty and those who were anti-treaty, the IRA were attacking homes belonging to Senators and on February 1, 1923, the ancestral Moore home was torched (pictured: greenery can be seen across the roof of the mansion and dense woodland all around) 

Describing the drama two weeks after the fire, the novelist George Moore, wrote: ‘I was sitting in my lodge reading when armed men who were perfect strangers to me came to the door and demanded the keys … I had no option but to give up the keys, and suspecting what was on I pointed out to the leader that the house was not Colonel Moore’s property. This had no effect.’ (pictured: the once pristine lawns of the mansion are surrounded by foliage)

‘I had no option but to give up the keys, and suspecting what was on I pointed out to the leader that the house was not Colonel Moore’s property. This had no effect. 

‘I sat up all night hoping that when all would be clear I could save even a portion of the library. At four o’clock I heard four loud explosions. At five I went to the place and found the whole house was seething in a mass of flames. I at once saw that all was hopeless.’ 

At the time of the fire, the owner was Colonel Moore’s brother, the novelist George Moore, who wrote a letter to The Morning Post two weeks later describing the drama

Once surrounded by pristine manicured lawns and neat gardens, the photos show how trees have slowly crept up to and inside the mansion.

It was bought by Mayo County Council last year for 400,000 euro with promises of turning it into a tourist destination.

The images were captured by local supermarket delivery driver Tsung Ho Lam, 32, who enjoys aerial photography in his spare time.

The father-of-four said: ‘We were just passing by in the car and I had the drone with me so I decided to take a look.

‘The photos are beautiful and I’m really proud of them. The house is important in Irish history.

‘It just shows the power of nature.’

After the fire the Moore family abandoned their ancestral home and in the 96 years it has stood empty – has been lost to the surrounding forest.

Abandoned and left to rot for almost a century – the house will be brought back to life thanks to a council-backed multi-million-euro restoration project.

Mayo County Council plans to transform the house and it’s huge 80-acre estate into a nature reserve and major visitor attraction of ‘national importance’.

Officials say a master plan for the project will be completed by the end of the year and work to bring the site back to life will begin within months.

It is not accessible to the public due to its poor condition and these incredible photos reveal how the abandoned ruins look today.

The photos were captured by Tsung Ho Lam, 32, who runs the Aerial Photography Mayo business as a hobby.

Work to transform the site will get underway within a matter of months, according to Padraig Philbin, head of tourism at County Mayo Council.

He has said whilst work on the restoration of the historic site is yet to get underway, a masterplan for the estate’s review is only weeks away from completion.

The council has – so far – acquired 450,000 euro worth of funding for the seven figure project.

Once completed, the restoration will see the development of a recreational park and restoration of the estate’s historic walled garden.

The acquisition includes the house, a courtyard and a walled garden, along with 80 acres of woodland.

The surrounding forest and woodland area will be preserved and protected for the creation of a huge nature reserve. 

Padraig Philbin, of County Mayo Council, said: ‘We hope to have the plan finished by the end of the year.

‘We already have the funding to restore the walled garden and it is a long-term project.

‘But some of the work will start within a matter of months. The plan is very close to approval. It will be a multi-million-euro restoration.

‘It is an incredibly important project for the area. It’s a nationally important project and is part of bigger plans around tourism for the area.’

Tsung, who took the photos in August, added: ‘I do this in my free time and try to get around as many places as I can around Mayo.

‘I love to explore the historic sites and landmarks.

‘It’s such a gorgeous area but you definitely get a different perspective from the sky.’

George Moore’s letter to The Morning Post: 

February 14, 1923.

Letters to the Editor.

The Burning of Moore Hall.

All Was Hopeless.

To the Editor of the Morning Post.

Sir, – So many trite and colourless descriptions have appeared in the newspapers of Irish bonfires that it occurs to me you might like to publish the few lines which I quote telling of the burning of Moore Hall on the first of this month:

I was sitting in my lodge reading when armed men who were perfect strangers to me came to the door and demanded the keys. I asked what for, and was told that a column was going to be put up there for the night. I wanted to go over, but would not be allowed; other armed men were patrolling the road from Annie’s Bridge to Murphy’s Lodge. I had no option but to give up the keys, and suspecting what was on I pointed out to the leader that the house was not Colonel Moore’s property. This had no effect. I sat up all night, hoping that when all would be clear I could save even a portion of the library. At four o’clock I heard four loud explosions. At five I went to the place and found the whole house was seething in a mass of flames. I at once saw that all was hopeless. A fire brigade would be powerless, so firmly had the flames gripped the entire building. I could do nothing but stand by and await the end with the same feelings that one has when standing by the open grave of a very dear friend. I do not say this in the ‘Uriah Heepish’ way, for I really loved that old house. To me it was a modern edition of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. At six o’clock the roof fell in with a terrific crash. When the fire died down I got ladders up to the library windows, hoping to save a few books, but nothing living could enter, so fierce was the heat. When Mr Ruttledge returns I would like to have instructions as to what is to be done. There is several feet of litter on the ground floor. I don’t know if it be worth while to remove this – except  steel or iron one cannot hope to find anything. In one sense, perhaps, the house had outlived its usefulness, but still it would be a pity even now to let it become a real ruin. If nothing can be done I would suggest building up the lower windows to prevent people trafficking in and out as they please.

These lines will seem to many too simple to be considered as ‘literature’; the many like ornament. But the simple directness of the lines appeals to me; I doubt if the story of the burning could have been better told; and if they recall to others, as they did to me, Virgil’s celebrated words, sunt lacrimae rerum, they will justify their publication. – Yours, &c.,

George Moore

121, Ebury Street, London S.W. 1,

Feb. 13

Mayo County Council plans to transform the house and it’s huge 80-acre estate into a nature reserve and major visitor attraction of ‘national importance’ (pictured: the colossal estate stands overrun by woodland today)

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