Loftus Hall is a large mansion house on the Hook peninsula, County Wexford, Ireland. Built on the site of the original Redmond Hall, it is said to have been haunted by the devil and the ghost of a young woman.
In about 1170, Sir Alexander Redmond (de Raymond) with his kinsman, Raymond Le Gros, accompanied Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, to Ireland. He acquired certain lands in County Wexford on which he built The Hall, at Houseland near Portersgate. The Redmond family replaced their original castle with another in about 1350, during the time of the Black Death. This second castle was also known as The Hall or Redmond Hall and remained in their family until the 1650s.
Attack during the Irish Confederate Wars
In 1642, the future Loftus Hall – then still known as Redmond's Hall – was attacked by English soldiers loyal to Charles I of England. The Irish Confederate Wars had broken out in 1641 and hostilities commenced in Wexford in 1642. An English garrison of around 100 men under the command of Lord Esmonde was based at Duncannon Fort on Waterford Harbour. On 23 February, this garrison was reinforced by a further 200 soldiers under the command of Captain Anthony Weldon and Captain Thomas Aston along with six cannon.
On 19 June a party of these soldiers from the fort were attacked by a group of Irish Confederates under the command of Captain Rossiter and Major James Butler at Shielbaggan while their on way to Tintern. The English were routed and driven back to the fort. Redmond's Hall was clearly visible to the beleaguered garrison at Duncannon. The Hall's owner, Alexander Redmond, was known to be sympathetic to the rebels. The Hall was known as a place that gave assistance to the rebels. Captain Aston believed it could be easily taken and on 20 July 1642 took ship from Duncannon with around ninety men and two small cannon, landing near the Hall.
Although he was sixty-eight years old, Alexander Redmond barricaded the Hall and prepared to defend it. He was assisted by his sons, Robert and Michael, some of their tenants, two men at arms and an itinerant tailor who happened to be at work in the Hall when the attack took place. The defenders numbered ten in all and were armed with long barrelled fowling pieces. Captain Aston drew his men up in front of the Hall and demanded admission in the name of the King. Alexander Redmond retorted that Aston was welcome to come in provided only that he left his soldiers and weapons outside. A lengthy gun battle ensued. Aston discovered that his cannon were too small to make much impression on the main door. To add to his troubles about half his men abandoned him to pillage the countryside. As the fight dragged on a heavy sea-mist descended on the Hook Peninsula.
Meanwhile, the Irish Confederates under Captain Rossiter and Captain Thomas Roche were still encamped at Shielbaggan. Hearing of the attack they marched rapidly to the aid of the defenders and surprised the attackers under cover of the fog. About thirty of the English escaped to their boats and back to the fort. Captain Aston himself was one of those killed. Many of the others, including Lord Esmonde's two nephews Lieutenants John and Walter Esmonde were taken prisoner. Several of the English prisoners were hanged the following day on Thomas Roche's orders, probably at Ballyhack. On 20 August eleven others were hanged at New Ross including one of the Esmonde brothers (see also, Siege of Duncannon).
Dispossession and change of ownership
The official Redmond family pedigree (registered in the Ulster Office, Dublin Castle 1763) alleges that Alexander Redmond had to defend the Hall one or even two more times against soldiers of Oliver Cromwell in the autumn of 1649 during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. There is a tradition that the defenders used sacks of wool to block up breaches in the walls created by enemy cannon. These woolsacks and a representation of the Hall can be seen in the coat of arms issued to one of their members in 1763. It is alleged that Alexander Redmond received favourable terms from Cromwell and died in the Hall in 1650 or 1651 after which his surviving family were evicted, allowed only to retain a third of their original estates in County Wexford.
The Loftus family were English planters who had owned land in the neighbourhood from around 1590 when Sir Dudley Loftus was granted the lands around Kilcloggan. Nicholas Loftus acquired the Manor of Fethard-on-Sea in 1634 and Fethard Castle became the family residence, that ironically was afterwards occupied by the Redmond family after they were evicted from The Hall which now Loftus Hall. After the end of Cromwell's campaign Nicholas Loftus was given extensive lands in the south of County Wexford and purchased the Hall from 'several Adventurers and soldiers', but it was only in 1666 when his son Henry moved to the Hall from Dungulph that it became the principal residence of the Loftus family. To establish the new name of his property he had the following inscription inscribed in stone on the entrance piers at Portersgate: ' Henry Loftus of Loftus Hall Esq. 1680'. Nonetheless, the old name remained in use till the end of the century. In 1684 Henry Loftus carried out extensive repairs to the Hall, which presumably needed repairing after the turbulent events of the previous decades. The Loftus family rose in the peerage over the following centuries. In 1800 the then owner of the Hall, the first Earl of Ely, previously Baron Loftus of Loftus Hall, was created Marquess of Ely.It was his descendant, the 4th Marquess, who demolished the old Hall and built the present house, in about 1870.
The Redmond family had disputed the claim of the Loftus family in court but without success. In 1684 they were compensated with lands in the Barony of Ballaghkeene in the north of County Wexford. Some of their descendants joined the movement of the Wild Geese and served in a number of foreign armies most notably that of France. Others were involved in banking and politics, and became a prominent local political dynasty in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in support of the Irish Party of Isaac Butt and Charles Stuart Parnell. The most famous of these was John Redmond who led the party till his death in 1918.
Loftus Hall today
The building that exists today was not built between 1870 and 1871 as many people believe. The Hall was in fact renovated extensively before a visit by Queen Victoria. The Queen then did not turn up. In 1917 Loftus Hall was bought by the Sisters of Providence and turned into a convent and a school for young girls interested in joining the order. In 1983, it was purchased by Michael Deveraux who reopened it as "Loftus Hall Hotel", which was subsequently closed again in the late 1990s.
It was privately owned by Deveraux's surviving family until late 2008, when it was sold to an unnamed buyer, rumoured to be Bono of U2 fame. It is currently owned by the Quigley family. The name 'Loftus Hall' is also applied to the townland surrounding the mansion. The entire townland of Loftus Hall, including the building itself, can be overlooked from Hook Lighthouse. The staircase in Loftus Hall is one of only three of that design in the world, one is at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean as the Grand Staircase in The Titanic and the other is in Vatican City.
Charles Tottenham and his family came to mind the mansion in 1766 while the Loftus family were away on business. Charles Tottenham, his wife and daughter, Anne, were all taking care of the mansion. Charles came for a long stay in the house with his second wife, and his daughter Anne from his first marriage. During a storm, a ship unexpectedly arrived at the Hook Peninsula, which was not far from the mansion. A young man was welcomed into the mansion. Anne and the young man became very close. One night, the family and mysterious man were in the Card room playing cards. In the game, each player received 3 cards apart from Anne who was only dealt 2 by the mystery man. A butler serving the Tottenham family at the table was just about to question the man when Anne bent down to pick another card from the floor which she must have dropped. It is said that when Anne bent over to pick up the card, she looked beneath the table to see that the mysterious man had a cloven foot.
It was then that Anne stood up and said to the man you have a cloven foot and the man went up through the roof, leaving behind a large hole in the ceiling. Soon Anne became mentally ill. It is believed that the family were ashamed of Anne and locked her away in her favourite room where she would be happy yet out of everyone's view which was known as the Tapestry Room. She refused food and drink and sat with her knees under her chin looking out the Tapestry Room window across the sea to where Dunmore East is today waiting for her mysterious stranger to return until she died in the Tapestry Room in 1775. It is said that when she died, they could not straighten her body as her muscles had seized and she was buried in the same sitting position in which she had died.
A rumour states that the hole could never be properly repaired, and it is alleged that even to this day, there is still a certain part of the ceiling which is slightly different from the rest. Meanwhile it was believed that the stranger with the cloven hoof returned to the house and caused persistent poltergeist activity. A number of Protestant clergymen apparently tried and failed to put a stop to this. The family, who were themselves Protestants, eventually called on Father Thomas Broaders (a Catholic priest, who was also a tenant on the Loftus Hall estate) to exorcise the house.
The apparent success of Father Broaders' exorcism did not end the ghostly visitations at Loftus Hall. The ghost of a young woman, presumed to be Anne Tottenham, was reported to have made frequent appearances in the Hall and has been reported to have been seen on the tour, opened in 2011. Interest in the ghost story has remained strong and many aspects of the story seem to have attached themselves to the house. Also mentioned in a documentary about the mansion many years later after the last owners had gone had said that there were reports from staff that had previously worked at the mansion, that they have seen Anne's ghost walk down the stairs, and that horses can be heard around the building.
A partially independent documentary film was made by Waterford man Rick Whelan, which was released in 1993 as The Legend of Loftus Hall. This film details the story, dramatising certain parts, such as the card game, with actors.
The documentary was well received, with Whelan now seen locally and nationally as a figure of authority on the history of Loftus Hall. The Legend of Loftus Hall stars Elaine Lumley as Anne and Jim O'Mara as Broaders. It also features a full supporting cast of all the characters from the legend, with Liam Murphy as Loftus and Frank Coughlan as Charles Tottenham.
A new feature film, simply titled Loftus Hall was announced in early 2006 and development began on the project in 2007. Actors Keith Duffy, Samantha Mumba and Adelaide Clemens have reportedly been in talks at various stages to appear in the film. Samantha Mumba appeared in Dublin in January 2010 to promote the film. Duffy reportedly left the project mid way through 2010 due to prior contractual commitments that would have interfered with the film's proposed schedule. In a recent interview at the launch party of Frilogy.com, Samantha Mumba stated that details on Loftus Hall were being kept top secret. After suffering financial difficulties throughout 2010 that stalled the production, it was announced during a questions and answers session at the 2011 Galway Film Fleadh that funding had been secured and the project was being completely rebooted to make it much darker and grittier. It was also stated that the resulting film will be much more accurate and faithul to the source material. The release date was originally set as 1 October 2012, which was later pushed back to 2013. It has been confirmed that Loftus Hall will be the first Irish film to be released in 3D.
In April 2011, an unrelated amateur production was announced, simply entitled 'Loftus'. A full theatrical trailer was produced as a funding and marketing tool for the project. The project is a joint venture between the Wexford based production company Highwind Films and Sunrise Innovations. The project is currently in the funding process with a target release date in summer 2012. Further information regarding the project and its progress can be found at www.loftusthemovie.com.
- Entry of Redmond of Killoughter in Burkes Landed Gentry 1847
The fullest account of the 1642 attack is in Volume Four of 'History of Wexford' by Hore pub.1904.
Shorter accounts of the attack can be found in The Promontory of Hook by Billy Colfer (1978) and in History of Loftus Hall Part One by Thomas P Walsh in the Journal of Old Wexford Society (1971) as well as 'Military and Political Memoirs of the Redmond Family' by J Raymond Redmond in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society. Also the events are described in the book True Ghost Stories written by Marchioness Townshend and Maude Ffoulkes (first published in 1936)
'History of Loftus Hall Part Two' by Thomas P Walsh in the Journal of Old Wexford Society (1971) gives a very detailed account of the ghost story and several alleged apparitions in the old Loftus Hall. According to Vol 4 of 'History of Wexford' by Hore a version of the ghost story was printed in the Cork Examiner 11 August 1888 and was related to Queen Victoria by the Marquess of Ely towards the end of 1860.
- Sir Bernard Burke, Landed Gentry, London, 1863. (vide sub-Tottenham).
- "Loftus Hall Wexford"
- Rick Whelan's "The Legend of Loftus Hall"
- Article discussing the new film in the New Ross Standard
- Recent photos of the dilapidated interior of Loftus Hall
- Description and analysis of the Tottenham ghost story
- Article in the Irish Times, October 23, 2008: "Mystery buyer for haunted house"
- The fate of Irish stately homes.
- RTÉ Pat Kenny podcast
- LoftusHall.com – Official website for new owner