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Johnstown Castle

We headed off on one of our family summer trips to visit the wonderful Johnstown Castle and estate on the Rosslare Road outside Wexford Town on Monday July 17th 2023. The weather was good, but we brought sufficient rain gear in case of bad weather.

Having paid our entrance fee, we got our guide maps, and our first port of call was the restaurant for the morning coffee and scone while the juniors enjoyed the delight of dark chocolate muffins with soft drinks.

Having finished here we headed for the great outdoors in this 120-acre estate, but imminent rain changed plans and we headed indoors into the vast Irish Agricultural Museum full of machinery from earliest to recent times.

We saw the great grass cutting machines from scythes to sickles and then on to hand pushed lawnmowers, till finally we viewed the start of the engine driven lawn mowers. One very interesting piece of machinery was a horse drawn thistle, bracken, docks cutting machine bought new about 1917 and used on a farm in Laois until 1971.

There was a very interesting section on the tinsmiths of Ireland who repaired vessels like cups, lanterns. plates, kettles, tubs, buckets, and fancy cake tins. They carried all the tools off their trade around with them in a box called a budget.

We saw the huge red shining threshing machine with the lite lift attached for lifting out the straw. This lift won the silver medal at Devon Show in 1932.These machines travelled from farm to farm so that people could get their wheat for flour making.

There was a huge 1915 steam rolling machine which was used by the Marquis of Waterford in maintaining private roads on his estate.

We saw a selection of old tractors including the little grey Fergie or Massey Ferguson tractors dating back to 1933. One of the biggest orders for these machines was placed by Bord na Mona in 1953 when it ordered 500 tractors for turf harvesting.

They were also used by Sir Edmond Hilary in the Trans Antarctic Expedition in 1958.Harry Ferguson died in 1960 aged 76.

Johnstown also has a huge display of all sorts of carts from handheld turf carts to bread and meat delivery carts, traps for ponies and traps for mass. I loved the sprung cart or trap used for carrying light farm loads or going to town for the messages, The sprung cart made travelling more comfortable for the occupants.

Then we had the side laced or flat sided cart as they were known in Wexford. They were used for ferrying goods in the cart and people sat on the flat sides.

Having sated ourselves on farm machinery the juniors in the gang were reaching their boredom threshold so it was time for a change of scenery and a brief visit to the great outdoors and so we headed for the walled garden. These beautiful gardens were originally laid out between 1844 and 1851.At present the old glass houses are being re furbished.

On the way back we passed the Rathlannon Castle, The Castle and Garden lakes which were truly very beautiful and calming places. I loved the Statue Walk and its pure water stream feeding into the lake.

Another feature of life down here were the huge numbers of peacocks, pea hens and ducks. We had bought some feed for them in the well-stocked shop, so our juniors had some great fun feeding peacocks and the ever-present ducks. They must be the best fed fowl in Ireland, and all looked perfectly happy and contented with themselves.

As we fed the permanent residents the tummies of the visitors were beginning to rumble, and the energy levels were sapping so it was time to replenish the energy supplies. We headed for the appropriately named Peacock Restaurant where we snacked on the limited enough menu. And so, following a visit to the facilities it was time for the playground.

We manoeuvred our way over the well-preserved bridge and into the playground which was divided into a junior and senior section. The boys really enjoyed this especially the see saw with granny.

There was much screeching from granny and peals of laughter from two very happy grandchildren as they bumped up and down. After a go on the zip wire and a few more pieces it was time to move on.

Interestingly we learned that in World War 1 a sea scout air ship was based here at the playground. It gathered intelligence on and tried to bomb German ships and U boats.

Now we ventured back along the previously traversed path along by the lake feeding peacocks and taking a few photos of the day for family memorabilia.

When we arrived back at the museum it was time to explore the world of furniture. We saw old children’s cots, beds, settle benches and tables. There were some lovely examples of the development of washing clothes from the washing board and bath to twin tub electric machines.

We saw tilly lamps, cranes over open fires and chicken coups in kitchens. There were three lovely, recreated kitchens, living rooms with looms in some of them. We were all fascinated by the huge array of furniture on display.

Reluctantly we had to leave and head for the modern lift which seemed a wee bit out of place in the repository of such beauteous relics of our past.

We found evidence of the swift project where they are trying to encourage swifts to nest and breed,

Finally, we took a stroll down by the beautiful Johnstown Castle built by Geoffrey de Esmonde in the 12th century which is being restored to its former glory. He was one of 30 Norman knights who came to Ireland with Strongbow in 1169. The current castle was handed over to the Irish state in 1945 because the Grogan family couldn’t pay their taxes.

Before we left, we also visited the ornate sunken gardens originally built in 1840.

It is truly a remarkable place to visit with such a rich history dating back to 1169 when the first Norman s arrived in Baginbun.

We will be back to visit the castle when it is all complete.

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Jul 22, 2023


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