The House and its Location
Ballinderry Park is a mile south of the village of Kilconnell, seven miles west of Ballinasloe. The village of Aughrim (site of the only battle of European significance fought on Irish soil) is about three miles to the south-east.
The house is set on top of an esker ridge, surrounded by mature trees, facing eastwards towards the Kilconnell-Aughrim road and the hills of south Roscommon in the distance beyond. Although it has lost the outer demesne (and the outer portion of the avenue towards the main road) the surrounding parkland is largely intact. This is mainly in rough pasture studded with fine park trees through which the avenue winds its way northwards before swinging west to join the main road.
Originally, the fields along the outer avenue very heavily timbered and were described as Ballinderry Wood – the name Baile an Daoire means town, or town-land, of the oak trees – on early 20th century maps. Unfortunately these trees were felled when the land was subdivided in the 1940s.
The house dates from the first half of the eighteenth century and is largely unaltered, with the exception of a two-storied return at the rear. Two stone-built stable ranges, one mid 19th century and the other considerably earlier, form an enclosed courtyard behind the house, with a pair of tall gates at either end.
Ballinderry is a comparatively small building; seven bays (windows) wide and of two stories over a basement. The steeply pitched roof has end gables and hides a third storey, lit by small windows high in the gables. Unusually, the roof over the full-height central bow is taken right up to the level of the main ridge, rather than being returned at a lower level. This gives the house the appearance of having a central tower, rather like a small French chateau. Apart from the heavy cornice at the eaves and the fine pedimented door case, the façade is free from decoration.
The blank monotony of the end elevations is relieved by the massive stacks, while the rear has been considerably altered, probably on several occasions. In front, the basement is below ground, with its windows opening onto a sunken area like a Dublin town house, but it is several feet above the level of the yard at the rear.
As befits a house of this size the interior is plain, with good shouldered architraves, panelled doors and shutters of heavy 1750s joinery. The staircase, while slightly lighter in style, is the finest internal feature and appears to be original. Were it not for this one would be tempted to suggest that the house could even be earlier, perhaps dating from the 1730s, and this may even be the case.
Ballinderry’s chief interest lies in the main façade and in the arrangement and details of the staircase and principal rooms – solid rural grandeur in a miniature scale.
The History of Ballinderry
Galway was always county of extremes. The vast estates and great houses of the large landed magnates formed a stark contrast with the more humble farms and dwellings of their tenants, especially in the remote western regions. In the east the land is better and tenant farmers were usually more prosperous. Even so, Ballinderry is a rare example of the residence of a more important tenant, whose descendants eventually became minor landlords, quietly hidden away in the trees and sandwiched between the two great estates of Woodlawn and Clonbrock. Somehow, despite being abandoned over half a century, Ballinderry has survived when both these houses have disappeared, for Woodlawn is largely ruinous and Clonbrock a burnt-out ruin.
In former times the land of Ballinderry belonged to the friars of Kilconnell, a Franciscan foundation established by the local chieftain William O’Kelly after 1410. The beautiful tower of their late 15th century church still dominates the village and provides a fine vista at the end of the avenue. Kilconnell Friary continued in operation well into the 17th century (when a number of the Catholic gentry transplanted from the pale by Cromwell were buried in the church) but the land was subsequently granted to William Calthorpe and eventually came into the possession of the Church of Ireland (Protestant) Diocese of Clonfert. It was then leased to the Stanford family (Henry Stanford had been a revenue collector at Kilconnell in the 1680s) who originally were resident but subsequently sub-let, before they finally died out in the 1830s.
Their tenants were the Wards of Ballymacward, a family of Catholic gentry whose fortunes had declined under the Penal Laws. We have been unable to establish who built the present house, but the Stanfords seem the most likely candidates, since the Ward family were not recorded as being “of Ballinderry” until the present house was forty or fifty years old.
By 1786 the tenant was Lewis Ward, whose sister Sabina married Andrew Comyn, the tenant of a small property at Ryefield, near Elphin in Co. Roscommon. In 1814 Lewis was still in residence but, by 1830, J. P. Ward – most probably another brother – had taken over the lease. At this stage the Wards had become direct tenants of the Church of Ireland; the Stanford family had died out and Ballinderry, which was surrounded by a demesne, was described as the only “good” house in the parish.
Andrew and Sabina’s son Nicholas, inherited the tenancy on his uncle’s death and, after the Church of Ireland was disestablished, purchased the freehold of Ballinderry on 547 acres. His son, another Andrew, married Mary, daughter of John O’Connell and grand-daughter of “The Liberator”, and their descendants farmed at Ballinderry until 1947.
On their departure they were obliged to sell out to the Irish Land Commission, who subdivided the land among farm workers and others, while the house, yards and a small portion of the land was bought by Mr. Callanan, a local man. Eventually it was purchased by Mr. Patrick Carty, who farms in the vicinity, and he in turn sold it Susie and George Gossip in 2001.