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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Oak Park House

Co Carlow

Oak Park
Oak Park c.1900
Oak Park c.1890
Oak Park
Oak Park Gate looking towards Carlow town.
Source: Google Street Map.

OSi map of Oak Park House.
Oak Park Gate looking towards the estate.
Source: Google Street Map
Oak Park front entrance.
Source: Jim Horan

Oak Park & Oak Park House

Oak Park House in Carlow town is probably the finest 18th/19th Century house in south east Ireland. The house itself is of huge architectural and historical significance. There are 700 acres of woodland and open pasture including a lake.

The history of Oak Park (once known as Painestown) has been known since 1775 when the park was in the possession of the Bruen family, until the death of Arthurn Bruen in 1954. In 1960 it was sold to the Irish Land Commission and opened the National Teagasc Tillage Research Centre there. Farmers from the west of Ireland bought small pieces of land to farm, thanks to loans. So every year the farmers had to pay back the Land Commission a sum on the size of their holding.

The Bruen Family purchased Oak Park, formerly known as Painestown around the year 1775. In 1832, Henry Bruen commissioned William Vitruvius Morrison to redesign the house. It is remodelled in the classical style and retains the existing house as its central component. The front façade features a two-storey Ionic portico set on a pedestal. Today Oak Park House and demesne is the property of Teagasc – the agricultural research body. It has recently become the administrative headquarters for Teagasc.

Source: Carlow County Library Source &

Oak Park House - rear view

Oak Park Estate, now Teagasc Research Institute, is situated about two miles from the centre of Carlow town. The photograph shows the rear of the house which looks towards the gardens. This side the house had three central windows and single-storied bow windows to either side. These were situated on the ground floor and were balustrade. To the left of the entrance were found the service wing and the offices.

Source: Carlow County Library

Oak Park Farmyard Complex c1750-1780

Stable complex, built c1765, comprising two-storey cut stone building with round-headed blind arches and three-bay gable-fronted buildings opposite. Renovated, c1985, with openings remodelled.

The Mausoleum

The Mausoleum is a large structure located in the woods, approximately 500 metres north-west of Oak Park House. It was designed in 1841 by the architect John B. Keane in the style of a Greek Peripteral Temple. Keane was initially a draughtsman with the Morrisons and probably got the commission because of this. The exact purpose for its construction is unknown but it is possible that Henry Bruen II commissioned it as a memento of his victory over Daniel O‟ Connell Jnr. In the Westminster election of 1841. The Temple was never completed and it was later used as a Mausoleum. The last two Henry Bruens and their wives are buried in the Mausoleum.

The Graveyard

OSi map of Painstown church ruin in Oak Park

Painstown Graveyard and church in ruin Oak Park

Bing map of Painstown church ruin in Oak Park

Painstown Church. in Oak Park Estate (in ruins).

Here lyeth ye Body of RICHARD LYNAM and Family he Died March 1768 Aged 20 years
Here Lieth the Body of EDWARD LYNAM Father to the Above RICHARD who Depd this Life November the 6th 1791 aged 75 years Also his wife MARGRETH LYNAM Alias CROW who Depd this Life January 9th 1795 Aged 75 years Lord have Mercy on their Souls Amen."

JPMD, Vol V., Issue 1901, 02 , 03, CARLOW, Page 310.

The Graveyard and Church are located in the Farmyard about 400 metres south of Oak Park House. The origin of the small ruined Church is uncertain. It is most likely that some stage it was used as a private Chapel for early Coke (or Cooke) landlords who were Catholic. An engraved stone slab with the date 1670 was found during a clean-up but according to some experts there are indications that part of the ruins date to an earlier period. Two table-tombs within the ruins contain the remains of some of the Coke who owned Oak Park.


The Ice House

The Ice House is located just north of Oak Park House. It appears as a raised mound covered with tall beech trees. It consists of a brick-lined, egg-shaped chamber, about 6 metres deeps and 4 metres in diameter at its widest point. It was constructed around the year 1810 and its function was to store ice that was collected from the Figure 10: The Grand Arch at Oak Park lake during the winter. Because the chamber is subterranean and well-insulated, the last of the hard-packed ice did not finally melt until the middle of the following summer. Before the era of refrigeration, it was the only method by which it would be possible to preserve perishable foods for any length of time. Meat or other perishables were lowered onto the ice from the entrance using a pulley system. Icehouses were an integral part of most large estates from the late 1700s.

Source: Carlow County Library

Oak Park Arch, Oak Park (Painestown), Carlow

The Arch, Oak Park, designed by William Vitruvius Morrison which is at the entrance to Oak Park House and demesne. It remains to this day a magnificent example of a Triumphal Arch. The arch is flanked by paired Ionic columns on the front elevation with Doric columns on the back flank of the Arch. The columns are raised on pedestals. Both sides of the Arch carry a full entablature. On the approach from the Carlow side, is a carriage turn surrounded by a high granite wall.

Source: Carlow County Library

Picture courtesy of Kathleen Haven (nee Browne). Early 1900s ?, pictured at Oak Park estate, Carlow are some of the workers on the staff of the estate. The last man sitting on the right is John Browne of Carlow.
Source: Michael Purcell
I wonder if any of our readers can name any of the other men pictured here?
Please send names to

Revealing the story of Oak Park House

By Suzanne Render

This item was previously published in the Nationalist 10th March 2000.

ONE NEVER fails but to be impressed by the grandeur and splendour of Oak Park House. Imposing itself on the landscape amid hundreds of the country's most fertile agricultural acres, its reputation as a centre for agricultural research is unrivalled.

But what of the origins of Oak Park House?

Continuing in its series of fascinating lectures, the Old Carlow Society will host an evening devoted to Oak Park House and lands on March 15 at 8pm.

The lecture will be given by Paddy Comeford, a retired station manager at Oak Park who will discuss the building itself, the families that live there and the house's progression from the seat of a landlord's family to a modern research centre run by Teagasc. An interesting aspect of the lecture is that it will be held in

Oak Park House itself, thus adding atmosphere to the occasion.

Having worked in Oak Park House from 1961 to 1998, Paddy's interest in the building's rich history quickly developed. Over the years he has extensively researched the families who lived in the house and the development of the estate which originally consisted of approx. 1600 acres.

Paddy will guide those who attend the lecture through the history of Oak Park House, first lived in by the Cooke family and from 1775 onwards five genera­tions of the family of Henry Bruen.

The original Oak Park property purchased by the first Bruen consisted of 6000 acres, by 1843 this had increased to 21,000 acres.

Paddy will reveal that when the last Henry Bruen died in 1954 he left the property to his first cousin Francis Bruen, a move zeal­ously contested legally by his daughter.

A court case ordered everything to be sold and the proceeds divided evenly between both parties, thus leading to the end of Oak Park House at a residence.

At the auction the land was purchased by Brownshill Farms which a number of years later was taken over by the Land Commission. In the division that followed, An Foras Taluntais purchased the building. In subsequent years An Foras Taluntais joined with Acot to form Teagasc.

Today the exterior of Oak Park House remains the same as when it was occu­pied by the Bruens. The inside, however, has changed substantially, with most of the upstairs converted into offices and laboratories.

Source: The Nationalist 10th March 2000. & Michael Purcell

[ Henry Bruen ] [ Destructive Fire at Oak Park. ]

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© 2001 County Carlow Genealogy IGP