- Sherwood Park
- By Jimmy O’Toole quoted from his book 'The Carlow Gentry'
Baillie of Sherwood Park
A period Georgian residence built circa 1700
by Arthur Bailie,
Robert Baillie had an
all-consuming passion for acceptance as a country squire. From a
financial base created through a successful business, he set his
sights on establishing a seat in the country, and along the way, he
hoped to win the approval and respect of the upper echelons of the
gentry', through a no less august body than the members of the two
houses of parliament in Dublin. It was a grand plan that went
seriously wrong. Baillie ended up in bankruptcy and the family moved
to live in County Carlow where his youngest son, Arthur, financed
the building of Sherwood Park, with a combined dowry and legacy of
£450 left to his wife.
The Baillie story started in
Dublin where the family had a prosperous upholstery business in
Abbey Street and Capel Street. William Conolly had a fine town house
in Capel Street which he occupied while the Castletown mansion was
being built on the estate bought by the Conollys in 1709. As a
result of their acquaintance in the city, Baillie decided, around
1718, to rent property from Conolly in Celbridge and, by 1720,
Robert had completed the building of his new country home,
Kildrought House. He was regarded as one of the estate's most
improving tenants, and eventually became middleman on several pieces
of land and houses in the area.
William Conolly was impressed with
the enterprise and success of his new tenant, and when Baillic
decided to ask his landlord, then Speaker of the Irish House of
Commons, to support a proposal that he be given a commission for six
tapestries for the new parliament building then under construction,
he was confident his proposal would win Government approval. On 4th
April, 1728. the commission was approved for two tapestries,
depicting the Battle of the Boyne and the Siege of Derry. The quoted
price of £3 each - not a great deal even in those days - was based
on an understanding that Baillie would get the contract to furnish
new building. He was given four
years to complete the tapestries, a commission it seems that had
more to do with prestige than profits.
Bureaucracy got to work (a
contradiction in terms), and two years later. Robert was still
waiting for the dimensions of the two pieces. At the same time,
costs were mounting because he had engaged the services of designer
Johann van der Hagen, a landscape, marine and scene painter working
in Dublin, and weaver John van Beaver. Eventually, the tapestries
were completed and placed in position on 10th September, 1733, in
the House of Lords, where they can still be seen. Financially, the
project was a fiasco. Baillie did not get the contract for the
furniture, and in lieu of reducing the number of tapestries from six
to two, the M.P.s voted an additional payment of £200. The final
balance of £136.6s.3d was not paid until September, 1735.
Within five years, Baillie was
facing financial difficulties, and by 1749, after several judgements
had been obtained against him, he had sold Kildrought House, and
some of his land to Dublin brewer Thomas Welsh for £300. The family
then moved to Carlow, where in 1751, Arthur Baillie leased 1,402
acres at Kilbride from John Palmer of St. Ultan-in-the-Fields,
Middlesex, for an annual rent of £70, and on a renewable
21-year-lease. In 1753, Arthur married Williamina Katherina Finey,
daughter of his next door neighbour in Celbridge, George Finey, who
was Conolly's agent. When Mrs. Katherine Conolly died in 1752, she
left Williamina a legacy of £150; her father died the same year
leaving her £300. It was to his youngest son that the task of
sorting out Robert Baillie's financial affairs fell. Robert died in
1761, and his wife Suzanna died in 1767.
On his Sherwood Park estate, The
Freeman's Journal reported that Arthur Baillie was a vast improver
and employed a greater number of poor folk than any other gentleman
in that county. His employees proclaimed him to be a kind master and
a most fair magistrate. Matters in dispute were for the most part
amicably settled before the disputing parties left the yard.
Williamina also got the approval of the 'Journal' - "Mrs. Baillie is
a fine woman, abounding with every generous and sympathetic virtue,
and is avowedly allowed to be the standard of politeness; none of
that stupid insipid ceremony prevails."
Two of Robert Baillies five sons,
Richard and William, pursued military careers. But it was as a
result of his hobby as an engraver that Captain William Baillie won
international fame. The second eldest of the family, William, born
5th June, 1723, was eighteen when he entered the Middle Temple in
London to study law, but he dropped out after a short time and
accepted a commission in the army, against his father's wishes. He
fought as an ensign in the 13th Regiment of Foot at the Battle of
Culloden; he served in Germany and in 1756, he was a captain in the
51st Regiment of Foot at the Battle of Minden. In failing health, he
later sold his army commission and took the office of Commissioner
of Stamps, a post from which he retired in 1795.
In an article in Carloviana in
1969, Hilary Pyle said Baillie seemed to have regarded himself as an
amateur, and undertook his work through sheer enthusiasm and without
any pretensions to genius. He even described his engravings on his
book-plate as "amusements of Captain Will Baillie". He published
over one hundred plates, including engravings depicting the works of
such masters as Rembrandt. Frans Hals, and Rubens. He died at his
Lisson Green home in Paddington, London, on 22nd December. 1810, at
the age of eighty-eight.
A large part of the Baillie estate
was sold in 1833, to George Rous K'eogh. following the death of Mrs.
Jane Baillie, widow of George Baillie, who died in 1827. In the 1871
census, a John M. Bailey (presumably a descendant) was listed as
owning 603 acres at Sherwood Park. Another variation on the spelling
of the name was Bayly. The house and part of the land was sold about
1890 to the Webster family, who lived there until the late 1960s.
After a year in the ownership of the Crowley family, Sherwood Park
was sold to its present owners. Paddy and Maureen Owens.
This delightful Georgian farmhouse next to the
famous Altamont Gardens is listed by Maurice Craig, the foremost
authority on Ireland's architectural history, and beautifully
located, with sweeping views over the countryside.