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Killiney History | January 18, 2022

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Rochestown House

Rochestown House
NameRochestown House
AddressRochestown Avenue
Year Builtc. 1750
On 1888 mapYes
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2021 | author

Description by Peter Pearson (1998)

Peter Pearson ‘Between the Mountains and the Sea‘ (1998), pp 63-65

Rochestown House photograph by Thomas Mason in Ball, F.E. 1902. A History of the County Dublin. Volume 1. Alex. Thom & Co. Ltd.: Dublin.

Rochestown House, had it survived, would almost certainly have had the distinction of being the oldest house in Killiney. It stood almost exactly on the path of Avondale Road, not far from the present Killiney shopping centre, and is almost completely forgotten. The house was built close to the ruin of Rochestown Castle, a fragment of which was still standing in about 1900, and which was photographed by Thomas Mason for Ball’s A History of the County of Dublin. The ivy-clad ruin was shown on the first Ordnance Survey map as an ‘ivy turret’. John Rocque’s map of County Dublin, made in 1757, shows the house as the most significant residence in the area, with extensive outbuildings, a large walled garden and a well-wooded  demesne. 

Ball informs us that the mansion was built by John Malpas whose name, family arms and the date of 1750 appeared on a carved stone high up in the pediment of the house. This stone is said to have fallen during a storm, shortly before the house was demolished, but its whereabouts, if it survives, are unknown. The photograph of Rochestown published in Ball’s History shows a gracious, mid-eighteenth-century, five-bay, three-storey house with tall Georgian windows. Ball says that the house had its own ‘brewery, and a pigeon house, enclosed in a court yard, and close by there were gardens, pleasure grounds, orchards, and a bowling green’. Gaskin informs us that the nineteenth-century occupants of Rochestown, the O’Kellys, had the house furnished with many curiosities, including a portrait of Squire John Malpas and a large collection of Irish shells.

Detail from copy Sherrard map of 1787 courtesy of Partners-at-Law

A beautiful map of the Malpas estate at Rochestown was made by Thomas Sherrard in 1787. This hand-coloured map, now in the National Library, illustrates the extent of the property, running from Kill of the Grange as far as Killiney Bay. It also gives an impression of how well planted it all was, for all the roads are lined with trees on both sides. A large formal garden and a kitchen garden are shown close to the house, and a laneway, which now provides access to the golf club, is also marked.

The order of John Malpas’s estates at Rochestown contrasts with the wilder appearance of the hills at Killiney, and this idea of the wild romantic landscape, where nature is organised by man but appears to flourish at will, must have appealed to Malpas and his eighteenth-century friends.

Today’s Rochestown Avenue already existed at the time of Rocque and, as its name suggests, was laid out as part of a grand approach to the Malpas residence.


Francis Elrington Ball. History of the County of Dublin (1902) pp 52-56

The fine old mansion, known as Rochestown House, was evidently in former times the residence of some family of position, and indicated until lately by its high roof and pointed gables, that it was a structure of the early part of the eighteenth century. Near it there is a great gateway and remains of a stately drive, which show that the demesne was in keeping with the house. On the lawn, in front of the mansion, there is a fragment of a castle, similar to those which stood at Seapoint and elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

The lands appear to have been originally included under those of Dalkey, and were probably the lands of that place for which the Talbot family rendered annually to the Crown, in the thirteenth century, a goshawk, or its value, 6s. 8d.,—a substantial sum in those days. On account of their use for falconry, hawks were then much prized, especially Irish ones, and the goshawk was one of the largest birds used in the sport. Sometimes the value of the bird was paid, but the owner of Rochestown, in 1369, rendered his rent in kind, and had the effrontery to deliver a useless goshawk, for which he was fined by the Court of Exchequer. The tithes were paid to the Priory of the Holy Trinity, which was no less careful than the Crown to protect its rights, and employed an agent to see that the full amount of corn was delivered into its granary at Dean’s Grange. About the middle of the sixteenth century, the lands, which were occupied by a son of the owner of Loughlinstown, James Goodman, and on which a castle then stood, were held by the Talbots of Belgard, under another branch of the family, described as of Rathdown, and, possibly, were “the castle and lordship of Yenah called Dalkey,” which, in 1563, was assigned by Robert Talbot, of Belgard, to Matthew Birsell and Thomas Lawless.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century the lands of Rochestown, to which those of Scalpwilliam were joined, and on which there were, besides the castle, a number of houses and a wood of considerable extent, had come into the possession of John Fagan, of Bullock, who held them under the Talbots. They were probably assigned by him to Alderman Robert Kennedy, who, before his death, in 1624, had purchased them in fee. Kennedy was a friend of John Pagan’s father, and owned much property in Dublin, including a celebrated mansion called Carberry House, in Skinner’s-row, in which he resided. He left a number of sons, and strictly entailed his real estate on his heirs male, but in the troublous times the family became extinct in the male line, and Rochestown was claimed, on the Restoration, by Patrick Mapas, the son of his youngest daughter.

The Mapas family was of great antiquity in the County Louth where, in the fourteenth century, one of the name had been the victor of Edward Bruce. During the eighteenth century, first as Roman Catholics, and afterwards as Protestants, the owners of Rochestown occupied a leading place in the County of Dublin. Patrick Mapas, whose father was one of the first of the family to settle in Dublin, died while the claim to Rochestown was before the court, but the proceedings were carried on by his widow, on behalf of their eldest son, Christopher, then a minor, and a decree was given in his favour. The occupant of the Castle, Matthew Boyce, was obliged to vacate it, and the Mapases came to reside there. Soon afterwards, in 1674, Christopher Mapas made an alliance with the leading Roman Catholic family of the county, the Fitzwilliams of Merrion, by his marriage to a daughter of the third viscount, a lady who is said to have been “an extraordinary wife, mother, and family woman, most pious and truly charitable.” In spite of the fact that his name and that of his brother, Lieutenant John Mapas, of Dongan’s Dragoons, appear in a list of persons attainted by William III., Mapas contrived to retain his property, and was amongst the few Roman Catholics allowed to carry arms and to keep a sword, a case of pistols, and a gun. He was a gentleman of “the most worthy and honest character, and of unknown charity,” and his death, which took place in 1719, caused great lamentations among the poor. His mother, who had married as her second husband, Mr. Edward Taylor, died a few years before her son, in 1711, leaving in her will a shilling to each poor widow in Rochestown, and in the neighbouring townlands; and his widow, the Hon. Rose Mapas, survived him until 1745, when she died at Rochestown, “in all the odour of sanctity,” at a very advanced age.  

Rochestown had undergone great improvements in the time of Christopher Mapas, and a modern house had been built; but the present one was probably erected by his eldest son, John Mapas, whose name, with the family arms, and the date 1750, it bears. To it were attached numerous offices, chief amongst these being a brewery and a pigeon-house, enclosed in a courtyard, and close by there were gardens, pleasure grounds, orchards, and a bowling-green. John Mapas is said to have succeeded, on his father’s death, to an estate of considerable value, and, like his father, made a good alliance, marrying a daughter of the seventh Baron of Louth. On his death, which took place in 1756, at his town house, in St. Stephen’s Green, he was succeeded by his eldest son, Christopher. The latter, who resided abroad, died, in 1765, in Germany, and Rochestown then came into the possession of his eldest son, John Mapas, who had married, in 1757, a daughter of a successor in the title conferred on Sir Gerald Aylmer, of Monkstown. She died three years later, and the house was let to Mr. Edward Nicholson, M.P. for Old Leighlin, who was connected by marriage with the Earls of Inchiquin.  

A wood had existed at Rochestown from early times, as we have seen, and though clearances had been made round the house, which a contemporary writer condemns for its want of view, some fine trees still remained. Through their estate, which afforded attractive building sites, the Mapases made the existing roads, and other houses began to be built. The first of these was Granitefield, which was occupied for many years by Sir John Macartney, M.P. for Fore, who was knighted, and subsequently made a baronet, in recognition of his efforts to promote inland navigation in Ireland. In his time Granitefield was remarkable for its myrtles and arbutus trees, and for its vineries and hothouses. At Rochestown, which had a reputation as a health resort, the Right Hon. William Burton Conyngham, the great patron of Irish antiquities and art of his day, was staying, shortly before his death, in 1796, and there a gentleman, on calling to see him, found a battalion of physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries in attendance upon him. Mr. Mapas, who soon returned to live at Rochestown House, married again—a Miss Wheatley, of Cheshire—and had by her an only surviving daughter. The latter married, in 1789, Mr. Richard Wogan Talbot, who succeeded to the peerage of Talbot of Malahide, conferred upon his mother, and upon Mr. Mapas’s death, in 1797, they became the owners of Rochestown House, which has undergone many vicissitudes during the last century.

Extract from Some residents of Monkstown pertaining to Rochestown House and the Malpas family (1899)

By Francis Elrington Ball from: The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland , Sep. 30, 1899, Fifth Series, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Sep. 30, 1899), p. 241

We come next to Rochestown House, temporarily occupied, I think, by Mr. Edward Nicholson, collector of excise for the city of Dublin, who is married to a granddaughter of the third Earl of Inchiquin. It is a fine mansion, the largest in the neighbourhood, and the well planted demesne is one of much beauty. We admire the stately drive, and the great gates, and listen to the pleasant music of the tinkling bells which the sheep carry round their necks. It is the seat of the Malpas family, to whom nearly the whole of Rochestown belongs. This family settled at Dundalk in very early times. At the close of the sixteenth century, three brothers, sons of Walter Malpas of Dundalk, came to Dublin. One of them married a daughter of Alderman Robert Kennedy, who had purchased Rochestown from the Talbots, its original owners. Kennedy had five sons, but they died without issue, and under a decree of innocence, his great-grandson, by the marriage of his daughter to Francis Malpas, succeeded to the property. He married a daughter of the third Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion ; and it was his son who built the obelisk on Killiney Hill, and his great-grandson, Mr. John Malpas, who is in possession of the property at the time of our visit.

See Wilson’s “Description of Dalkey” in Exshaw’s Magazine for 1770, p. 489; Gaskin’s “Irish Varieties,” p. 198; and Dublin Journal, Nov. 10-14, 1741, for advertisement of the demesne of Rochestown, consisting of 34 acres divided into six parks, with house in good order, and extensive stabling and offices, including brew house and grillroom, with a good hopper, malt-house, kiln, and very good pigeon house; also gardens, orchard, pleasure garden, and bowling green. The house, which still exists, bears a tablet with the Malpas arms, and underneath ” John Malpas, Esq.,1750.”

A member of the family-Sir John Malpas-was the victor of Edward Bruce in the battle of Faughart, near Dundalk, in the fourteenth century. The Malpas succession, so far as relates to the ownership of Rochestown, is as follows:-Francis Malpas married Mary, daughter of Alderman Kennedy. His son, Patrick, married, and died in 1662-3. His eldest son, Christopher, married, in 1674, Rose, daughter of William, 3rd Viscount Fitzwilliam, and died in 1718. His eldest son, John, who built, in 1741, the obelisk on Killiney Hill, married Frances, daughter of Matthew, 7th Baron of Louth, and died in 1756. His eldest son, Christopher, married, and died in Germany in 1765. His eldest son, John, married, 1st, in 1757, Catherine, daughter of Sir Andrew Aylmer, Bart., and 2ndly, in 1762, Martha, daughter of Thomas Wheatley of Ashton, Cheshire, and died in 1793. His only surviving child (by the second marriage) and heiress, Catherine, married, in 1789, Richard Wogan Talbot, afterwards created Lord Talbot de Malahide, and the Rochestown estate thus passed again to the Talbots. See D’Alton’s “King James’s Irish Army List,” p. 292; “History of St. Audoen’s Church,” in the Irish Builder for 1886-87 passim; Prerogative and Dublin Consistorial Wills; Dublin Grants; and Funeral Entries in Ulster’s Office.