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Killiney History | December 10, 2022

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Duke of Dorset Monument

Duke of Dorset Monument
NameDuke of Dorset Monument
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 | historian
Photo courtesy of Pól Ó Duibhir

From an article by Pól Ó Duibhir

Read to the Old Dublin Society, 16th March, 1977

Although the area was beginning to become more a residential than an open hunting area at this stage, Lord Powerscourt’s pack were still hunting in Ballybrack in 1815. It was on one of these outings that the fourth Duke of Dorset, then only 21 years of age, was killed in a fall from his horse in the grounds of what is now St. Columba’s. the Freeman’s Journal carried a report of the incident two days later explaining that the Duke’s horse had come a cropper on some loose stones but preserving his ducal dignity even to the end by informing the public that His Grace had come to the ground on his breast. The young Duke was held in such respect by those who knew him, says the reporter, that had he lived he would no doubt have succeeded his stepfather Lord Whitworth as Viceroy. The report ends with a verse from an already well worn poem:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power

And all that station all that wealth ere gave

Await alike the inevitable hour

The paths of glory lead but to the grave

A substantial obelisk was erected to mark the spot where the Duke met his untimely end.

A more fitting tribute might have been to have quoted from the hundred and twelve line poem which Byron wrote to the Duke when he was the poet’s fag at Harrow. Byron’s advice to the Duke was to shun those who would make up to him for his rank, and while respecting his forbears, make a career for himself through his own efforts. Fine sentiments but alas in vain. Byron’s poem, while written in 1805, was not published till much later and was perhaps fortunately not around at the time of the Duke’s death to embarrass his family with memories of the warm relationship which had existed between the two boys ten years earlier. With the Duke’s death, however, came the end of an era for Ballybrack. The “Developers” were already moving in.

The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 3, No. 150 (May 16, 1835), p. 364

Newspaper reports of the fatal riding accident

Freeman’s Journal 16 February 1815


It becomes our painful duty to state that Tuesday, about two o’clock, the Duke of Dorset was killed by a fall from his horse.

The circumstances which have attended this very sad calamity are very nearly as follows:- The Duke had been, since Monday, on a visit to Lord Powerscourt and Tuesday joined a hunting party in the vicinity of Killiney. His Grace entered warmly into the spirit of the chase towards its close, and when his horse was a good deal fatigued he leaped a small stone wall, at the opposite side of which, loose stones had been collected. The horse effected the leap, but fell among the stones, and his rider was consequently thrown off. His Grace came to the ground on his breast. He was unconscious of having been materially injured, for in reply to a question from Lord Powerscourt, who was near at the time of the accident, “if he was much hurt”, his Grace said, ” he believed not”. He was immediately taken to the house of Mr. Oxley, from which a messenger was instantly dispatched to town, for Surgeons Crampton and Macklin. Before their arrival, however, his Grace had expired. The Hon. Mr. Wingfield and Mr. Oxley, were with him when he died.

The Lord Lieutenant and the Duchess of Dorset, had been acquainted with the melancholy catastrophe as expeditiously as practicable, and set off for Powerscourt, where they expected to have found his Grace. Not meeting with him, or learning anything certain respecting the injury, they moved rapidly on towards Killiney, where his excellency was apprised of the extent of the calamity which had happened, timely enough to prevent the Duchess of Dorset from being a witness of it. Overwhelmed with the poignancy of their feelings, they returned to the Castle, where the body of the Duke was conveyed in Lord Powerscourt’s carriage.

His Grace was born in Nov 1793, was the fourth Duke and eleventh Earl of Dorset; the title devolves to the present Lord Viscount Sackville’s son to the celebrated Lord George Germaine.

The Family of Sackville came over with the Conqueror, and have ever since been distinguished. Jourdan D’Sackville was one of the persons elected by the Barons to compel King John to observe the charter. His grandson was one of the rebellious Barons taken prisoner by Prince Edward at the battle of Evesham. The family was ennobled by Elizabeth though at that time Catholic.

The Earldom was conferred by the first of the Steuarts, and the Dukedom by the first of the Brunswick family. The new Duke is a near connection of the Glendore family, and the Herberts of Kerry.

The amiable character and conciliating manners of this young Nobleman, have made his death the subject of general regret. He was distinguished for a peculiar affability, and was much beloved by the poor of the neighbourhood in which he resided. Had he lived, it is very probable he would have succeeded his stepfather, Lord Whitworth as Viceroy.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power And all that station all that wealth e’er gave Await alike the inevitable hour The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

What appears to be a more accurate description of what unfolded on the day appeared over a year later in The Gentleman’s Magazine, September, 1816.

HE (the Duke of Dorset) had resided in Ireland about a year and a half when he met with the fatal catastrophe. On February 13th 1815, he went to pay a visit to his friend and schoolfellow, Lord Powerscourt, meaning to stay till the Thursday, on which day he was to return to the Castle for a drawing- room (reception). On the 14th, he went out with Lord Powerscourt’s harriers, mounted on a well-trained active Irish mare, and accompanied by his Lordship and Mr. Wingfield. Having been out for several hours without finding anything they were actually on the point of returning home, when unfortunately a hare sprang up, and the chase commenced. The hare made for the enclosures on Killiney Hill. They had gone but a short distance when the Duke, who was an excellent and forward horseman, rode at a wall, which was in fact a more dangerous obstacle than it appeared to be. The wall stands on the slope, and what is immediately on the other side cannot be discerned. The wall itself is perhaps no more than three feet and a half in height, and two in breadth, but on the other side there lay a range of ponderous stones. It would have been safer to scramble over such a fence than to take it in the stroke. The Duke’s mare, however, attempted to cover all at one spring, and cleared the wall, but lighting among the stones on the other side threw herself headlong and, turning in the air, came with great violence upon her rider, who had not lost his seat, he undermost, with his back on one of the large stones, and she crushing him with all her weight on his chest and struggling with all her power to re-cover her legs. The mare disentangled herself and galloped away. The Duke sprang upon his feet, and attempted to follow her, but soon found himself unable to stand, and fell into the arms of Mr. Farrel, who had run to his succour, and to whose house he was conveyed. Lord Powerscourt rode full speed for medical assistance, leaving his brother, Mr. Wingfield, to pay every attention possible. Life was extinct before any surgeon arrived.


From Dublin Evening Post 21st February 1815

Ordnance Survey map of 1888 showing the location of the monument