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Strokestown Park House is a Palladian villa in Strokestown, County Roscommon set on approx. 300 acres. The entrance leads directly from the town of Strokestown reputedly one of the widest streets in Ireland (along with O'Connell Street, Dublin and Main Street, Templemore). The house is open to the public all year round, as is the Famine Museum on the grounds.
The house was the family home of the Cromwellian "adventurer" family - the Pakenham Mahons - from the 1600s until 1979.
By the early eighteenth century, the estate comprised over 11,000 acres, scattered throughout north east Roscommon, put together from the later seventeenth century as a result of land acquisitions by Captain Nicholas Mahon around 1660. Later, his great-grandson, Maurice Mahon, purchased several additional lands, following elevation to the Peerage of Ireland as the first Baron Hartland in 1800.
Many evictions of poor tenant farmers occurred during the Great Famine. The Mahon family alone in 1847 evicted 3,000 people. After the assassination of Major Denis Mahon in November 1847, at the height of the Famine, his only daughter, Grace Catherine, vowed never to return to her ancestral seat. She was on honeymoon at the time, having been married only weeks earlier, to Henry Sandford Pakenham, son of Dean Henry Pakenham of Tullynally, and heir to the vast Pakenham and Sandford estates in counties Longford, Westmeath and Roscommon. Grace Catherine never returned to Strokestown, but her marriage undoubtedly saved the estate from bankruptcy. On the eve of the Famine, the estate was in debt with over £30,000 having accrued as a result of family settlements and expensive land purchases which had gathered from the second half of the eighteenth century. The marriage alliance (by which Henry Sandford Pakenham assumed the additional surname of Mahon), united the estates of both families to comprise over 26,000 acres, and the Strokestown estate remained one of the largest in Roscommon until his death in 1893. The Pakenham fortune also enabled large scale investment in various estate improvement projects on the Strokestown estate, including drainage, turf cutting and agricultural schemes, development of the urban market in the town of Strokestown, and assisted emigration of tenant families to the United States. Since then, Strokestown Park has been owned by a Roscommon based company, the Westward Group which has restored the house and gardens using largely original furnishings. The 4-acre walled pleasure garden was officially opened in 1997 by the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, having been faithfully restored to its original splendour with the assistance of an ERDF grant through the Great Gardens of Ireland Restoration Programme and a FAS scheme.
Strokestown Park House was the setting for TV3's 2013 documentary, The Big House.
Strokestown park contains some of the best records from the time of the Famine. The Museum was built by the Westward Group and all the documents on display in the Museum are from the estate. The Museum aims to explain the Great Irish Famine and to draw parallels with the occurrence of famine in the world today.
- Official website
- History of Ireland (2008), History Ireland, Volume 16 (No.6 (November–December 2008))
- History Ireland, Volume 3, Issue 4.
- S. Hood, "Through the gates—power and profit in Strokestown, County Roscommon", in Finn-Einar Elissen and Geir Atle Ersland (eds.), Power, profit and urban land.
- Strokestown Park - official site