Stradbally Hall

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Stradbally Hall is a large house in Stradbally, County Laois, Ireland. It is owned by the Cosby family and is positioned in the heart of Stradbally, around ten minutes from Portlaoise on the N80.[1] The estate has hosted the Electric Picnic boutique arts and music festival since it began in 2004 and also hosts other events such as the National Steam Rally.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

During the English colonial plantations of Laois and Offaly, Elizabeth I of England took possession of the Franciscan religious house in Stradbally, which she then gave to Francis Cosby[2] as a reward for his part in suppressing the native Irish.[3] The family rebuilt large parts of the estate and landscaped it to their tastes and desires, including the addition of a hermitage.[3] Encountering financial difficulties, the family left Ireland for the city of Bristol, England in the early eighteenth century.[3] An account written at the time described how the family returned rather quickly to Stradbally "not all of us liking England".[3]

Stradbally Hall has been rebuilt several times, most recently in 1860 by Charles Lanyon, who rebuilt it in an Italianate style complete with a ballroom.[3]

Early 20th century[edit]

Enid Elizabeth Cosby lived in the house for seventy years until her death at the age of ninety-three in 2008.[3] In 1934 at the age of nineteen, she married into the Cosby family when she took Maj Errold Ashworth Sidney Cosby as her husband.[3] At her death, The Irish Times remembered her as "a strikingly beautiful figure" whilst attending the Laois Hunt Ball at the Hall dressed in emeralds owned by the family.[3] She was also known for organising parties during the Christmas season and bred and also judged Welsh ponies.[3]

During World War II, Maj Errold Ashworth Sidney Cosby rejoined his regiment and, being fluent in the Russian language, performed the role of interpreter in the Persian Gulf.[3] Mrs Cosby remained at Stradbally Hall to tend to the couple's children for the duration of the war. She opened a girls school in the house during the 1950s, allowing the girls to board and to tend to their ponies on the estate.[3] Three governesses were responsible for their education.[3]

Late 20th century[edit]

The British Prime Minister Edward Heath was invited to address a conference of young members of his country's Conservative Party at Stradbally Hall on one occasion.[3] This was later cancelled at short notice.[3]

In the latter decades of the twentieth century, a financial struggle ensued over the maintenance of Stradbally Hall.[3] Buckets were positioned under leaks to prevent rainwater damaging the main reception rooms.[3] Paintings and emeralds were sold off to raise much needed funds.[3]

Maj Errod Ashworth Sidney Cosby died in 1984 and passed the estate on to his eldest son, Adrian.[3] Adrian farmed the estate before passing it on to his son, Thomas.[3] Thomas initiated the annual Electric Picnic music festival which began in 2004.[3][4]

References[edit]