Friday, 7 September 2007

My Trip To Ireland

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!

Thursday morning I headed straight to the National Library and spent most of the day there. After I left, I went to nearby St Ann’s Church to find the graveyard as we learnt before my trip that Mary Paul (Tom’s wife) and other members of her family are buried there. I wanted to pay my respects but upon my arrival I realised that there was no graveyard in sight. I knocked on the door of the church and was told that there was no graveyard. I was baffled but determined to pursue it so I rang the Vicar of the church! He came to the church to meet me (I cannot explain how wonderful Irish people generally are, they always want to help) and told me the terrible story that 20 years ago permission was given to build a car park where the original graveyard was! Predictably there was a public uproar and it was agreed that the remains would be put in a vault within the church. The story gets worse; they did not identify the names of the bodies before placing them in the vault. Therefore Mary is most certainly there (I know she is!) but there is no mention of her name within the church. I personally think it is disgraceful and it made me very sad.

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).

Here is a picture of the house with the original door. Another delightful man, one of many!

On my way back I took some photos of Trinity College; Tom’s university. It is such a magnificent set of buildings. I sat for a long time and contemplated my day, trying to imagine how different the college would have looked 200 years before. I really wanted to be transported back in time and have a conversation with Tom….oh how many questions I would have to ask!

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.
I wanted to get a clearer copy of the records from the burial book so I went to the public library (Gilbert’s Library on Pearce Street) and viewed a microfilm there to print. Here is the document.

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.

Saturday morning I caught a train to Bray and got a taxi asking for either ‘New Court’ or ‘Ardmore Studios’. I was looking for the house that Tom lived in and died in after he retired from his post as Lord Chief Justice in 1866. He lived in Bray for three years and died 4th May 1869. To be honest I was rather unsure what I was looking for. We had references to ‘a villa in New Court’ based on the letters sent from Tom during his time in Bray. I found references to ‘Ardmore’ during my searches at the library and Icha spotted a link in the Huguenot paper of JAP Lefroy (1979) to a country club. So a very uncertain me presented the dilemma to the nicest person I met on my visit, the taxi driver. He so desperately wanted to help me so I couldn’t believe my luck when he drove me to a little book shop in Bray. The owner, Henry, is a local historian who has written many books on Bray. He did not know which house it was and is now also on a mission as I think I have now made him very intrigued! He gave me three possibilities though which I visited and here are the pics. What do you think? Do you think any of these houses were Tom’s?

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.

I noticed that the area of trees in the grounds of the house would have been perfect for the Selbourne Wood scene. What do you think? The tour guide said that the trees were over 300 years old so it would have been accurate- I do hope that it was filmed there, it was such a perfect location.

I know that this is a very long post but I really wanted to share my adventure and pictures with all of you. It was so special and I feel even closer to Tom and Jane than I did before. I think I was guided on this trip and I think I know who by…..

Pic 1: St Ann's Church

Pic 2: 18 Leeson Street

Pic 3: Original Door at Leeson Street

Pic 4+5: Trinity College

Pic 6: Church at Mt Jerome Cemetery

Pic 7: Vault of Tom Lefroy

Pic 8: Burial Records Book

Pic 9: Gate at the King's Inns

Pic 10+11: Glass with inscription of Thomas Lefroy

Pic 12: House 1- Once called 'New Court'

Pic 13: House 2- Inside Ardmore Film Studio's

Pic 14: House 3- At Ardmore Park

Pic 15: Kilruddery House

Pic 16: Kilruddery Gardens

Pic 17: Woods in the grounds of Kilruddery House


Anonymous said...

Oh, what a wonderful time you must have had and what a fascinating article! This is a real treat-thank you.

Icha said...

Do you believe it Jane, when Rachel reported to us that she didn't find MUCH? Did not find much?! Hello... Lady Detective! I could not have done it like this myself!

I think she will return to Ireland again, though... Rachel's tied to that place! ;-) Oh, and Kari's trip to Ireland will be easier... for she has these first hints now!

Anonymous said...

Rachel, Your report is absolutely lovely. You have outdone yourself! I felt as if I were there with you every step of the way! Thank you so much.

Yrs aff'ly,
Linda the Librarian

Michelle said...

Wow ... just WOW! I really have nothing useful to add to the conversation, except that I am speechless! Fantastic article; you must have had an INCREDIBLE time! Thank you so much for sharing - I felt like I was there! I honestly didn't realise that these historical places (Tom's home/s, etc) had not been clearly mapped out before. I'm quite surprised! And I'm disgusted with the "missing graveyard". :-0

Tina said...

Wow, how great, thank you for this. I can't wait to go.

Anonymous said...

On my first read through the article, I'm already ecstatic with all the information and beautiful photographs. Thank you so much for sharing your fabulous story! I'm at work (again) so can't devote as much time to savoring it as I would like to, so will read it again when I get home. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

WOW! Thank you so much Rachel! Your report and pics are so amazing that I truly cannot wait to go in the Spring and pick up where you have left off!

I need to read everything again! : )

My expereince too, is that the Irish are so helpful and welcoming. I am sure you wish to go back sooner than later. It's such a different feeling when you get to walk the same paths as Jane and Tom!

Arnie Perlstein said...

Glad you had such a memorable trip, Rachel!!

Unknown said...

Hi Rachel,

Great story! My Mum is really into Jane Austen & next time she comes to see us in Dublin I'll bring her round these places in your footsteps. We never knew about all these connections.

Could you help me with something - do you remember roughly where Tom's grave is within Mt Jerome cemetery? If you do, could you perhaps post or email directions? It's such a big place! I was there yesterday for a friend's funeral and I looked for the grave to no avail.



Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved the romantic film Becoming Jane. I really love the different Georgian architecture and Kilruddery House and garden is absolutely gorgeous. I will definatelt have to visit it when I am next in Ireland. Thanks

Icha said...

Thanks for dropping by, Cam. Let us know how your Ireland trip fares, one day!

Ireland County Clare tours said...

It is affable to know about your Ireland expedition. And I also hope that your trip spent well and you have much fun during your stay out there. I like to hear about you trip because it makes me remembered of mine one.