History of The Johnstown Estate
The story of Johnstown House is like that of many country houses in Ireland, with Irish history etched in its tale. Luckily, unlike so many other grand houses which stand no more, the Johnstown House remains and is in use to this day as The Johnstown Estate Hotel and Spa.
Johnstown House was built in 1761 by Colonel Francis Forde and well described as "a large handsome house built on high ground overlooking the river Blackwater and the village of Johnstownbridge." Like similar large Irish country houses built during that period, Johnstown House had two primary functions: to project the status of the owner and to entertain and accommodate important guests. Its upkeep and the lifestyle enjoyed by its owner financed by the large estate of some 3,000 acres including the demesne and his other lands.
A study of Taylor's Map of Kildare 1783 and Griffith's Valuation Map 1854 shows that Johnstown House boasted all the characteristics of the typical country gentleman's house and demesne, including orchards; walled gardens; fishponds; fox coverts; parklands providing grazing for cattle and horses; and woodland in which game was nurtured.
Johnstown House was based on the design for a "Country Gentleman's House". A five bay, three-storey block with gables and big chimneys, its design is typical of many houses built in North Leinster in that period. The family lived and entertained in the main block. The South wing housed the kitchens, larders, washhouses and staff quarters, while the coach house was located in the North wing.
Architectural Features of Johnstown House
Contemporaneous and modern reports highlight certain architectural embellishments at Johnstown House not commonly found in country houses. These include the finely worked freestone of the main entrance and early 18th century Memel pine staircase.
The architectural highlight of the house is the 18th-century dining room, now the hotel's reception with highly ornate doors, architraves and plasterwork ceiling. The ceiling is rococo, with elaborate ornamentation, depicting a dolphin, a bow, an arrow and quiver, a bird, and a boy playing the bugle. The ceiling and its cornice are highly ornate. The architraves and door heads are original late 18th century with fluting pattern and Grecian urn on the centre overhead.
The Johnstown Estate
Today, the house has been reconditioned back to its former glory, under the watchful eye of the Meath County Council as the house is a Grade One listed building. The hotel was bought by its new owners at the beginning of 2016 and rebranded The Johnstown Estate. The Estate now features 126 four star bedrooms, 40 self-catering luxury lodges, a state of the art conference centre and wedding venue, leisure club and award winning spa.