As regular readers of the fansite probably know, I went to Ireland for three days last week on a mission to seek more information about the Lefroy’s, the Austen’s and the Paul’s (Tom’s wife Mary’s family).
I spent most of my time in the National Library of Ireland and the National Archives, both in Dublin reading various manuscripts and trying to gather as much information as possible. The bits and bobs that I did find will be posted in articles in the coming weeks but I thought that I would use this post to take you through what I did, what I felt, the people I met and the pictures I took along the way.
Wednesday late afternoon I arrived in Dublin. I had booked a hotel in the centre of the city so I settled myself then went for a wander! It really is a wonderful city. I love the people and their welcoming and friendly nature always makes me feel humble about the general attitude in England at times. I have to confess I spent the first evening enjoying the electric atmosphere of Temple bar!
I next went to Leeson Street where we know that Tom and Mary lived. We were unsure of the specific house but I went to Ireland thinking that it was now a convent. I was mystified when I could not see a convent (much like the feeling of the missing graveyard!) I walked up and down and clearly must have looked lost, or even crazy to the passers by. I noticed a Catholic School run by priests so I thought that must be my best hope of locating the missing convent. I saw an old man walking down the steps. He thought I was a nun which led to a very interesting conversation! The man was a priest and has lived near Leeson Street all his life. He told me that in the 1980’s they closed the convent and showed me the original building (i.e. Tom’s house).
Friday morning I visited Mt Jerome’s cemetery. It is huge and I was baffled about how I was going to find the grave of Tom Lefroy. Another nice person in the office helped me by retrieving a very large, very old book which had hand-written accounts of all the burials. It was so amazing and again I took a photo of the book. Tom was buried in a vault with other relatives so there is no headstone. What I found interesting was that in 1861 two coffins were moved from the city to this vault. I am not sure who these two people were. I found the vault and to my dismay there was a lorry parked in front delivering horses, yes horses, and there was no driver in sight! I thought that this situation was highly amusing considering the connections between horse riding and the Lefroy family! The plaque on the front of the vault refers to the last person to be buried in there. I had a good chat with Tom (although I am sure the others were all listening too) and asked him nicely to help us on our quest to find out the truth. It was a surreal moment and I know this sounds odd, but I felt very privileged to be there.
It was to the National Archives next where I met with a genealogist. She was really nice but again had very little on the Paul’s which was a shame. Lastly on Friday I went to Henrietta Street to the King's Inns. I was in pursuit of a glass window with the inscription of Tom Lefroy’s name. I met a man who said that he had been looking at the glass every day for years without much knowledge of its significance. It is beautiful! It was a real treat to the end of the day. On the window were the Coat’s of Arms of all the relevant people in the history of Irish law. Of course the Chief Justice, our Tom, was presented, in the bottom right hand corner. This picture is of the outside gate and as Icha suggested, it may well have been the same gate in the scene where Tom was late and rushing towards court; the scene when the wonderful Bond Street Airs is played.
Henry explained that in the 1850’s there was a family called the Putnam’s who owned a house called ‘New Court’. To me this seemed to be the most probable house as we have seen letters which stated ‘New Court.’ I mentioned the Ardmore link and he said that there are two more possible houses that existed at that time. One is actually in the complex of the Ardmore Film Studio’s which is very odd considering that Ardmore Studio’s were used in the production of Becoming Jane. The final house is in Ardmore Park. It was such a fascinating part of my trip. I have to say that my gut feeling was the house that he called ‘New Court’ but we shall see.
In the afternoon before my flight home I went to Kilruddery House in Bray. Parts of Becoming Jane were filmed there and we at the fansite have always thought it was very coincidental that some of the film was shot in the place where the real Tom Lefroy died. Especially considering that Bray is such a small town. Kilruddery House is utterly beautiful and I hope that this is reflected in the pictures.