Loftus: The Hall of Dreams
“There had stood a great house in the centre of the gardens, where now was left only that fragment of ruin. This house had been empty for a great while; years before his—the ancient man’s—birth. It was a place shunned by the people of the village, as it had been shunned by their fathers before them. There were many things said about it, and all were of evil. No one ever went near it, either by day or night. In the village it was a synonym of all that is unholy and dreadful.”
~ William Hope Hodgson, The House on the Borderland
III. The House of the Dead
The mansion stood proudly at the end of the new driveway 1, on the other side of the iron gates that the woman had come to know so well. A house once much loved, it had been abandoned and cursed, as a corpse buried in unholy ground 2. The wistful abode, derelict and desolate, is at present a decaying beauty of an era long past. A true work of art of the finest 19 th century craftsmen, no expenses were spared in its re-construction. This, however, would ultimately result in its downfall. All efforts were to be in vain for darkness and fear still continue to reign, side by side, within its walls. And its soul now lies hidden, behind boarded up windows, which prevent light and life from entering it. If any occupants still linger, they’re anything but human.
This Hall of Dreams has changed names and hands many times throughout its existence although it has never been truly owned; at least, not by mortal beings. In addition to the Redmonds of Norman origins and later, the fortunate Loftus family, it has housed two Catholic orders. The Benedictines (1917-1935), who renamed the Hall as the Convent of St. Mary’s and educated Novitiate nuns and the Sisters of Providence of the Rosminian Order (1937). The latter turned the abandoned Hall into a convent and school for young girls and set up a chapel for locals to attend weekly mass. However, like all mortal residents, their stay at the Hall would be a short one embedded with bitter memories of death.
Once again, the Hall would be abandoned until it was bought in 1983 by Michael Devereaux; it would re-open its doors as the Loftus Hall Hotel. However, Michael’s life was taken in this house. His wife, Kay or Kitty, continued to reside in the Hall until it told her to leave. And so she did, in great haste, leaving even clothes and personal belongings. Never to be seen again. It seemed the Hall may have spared her life. And empty, yet again, we continued to be held hostage.
Seemingly vacant upon first glance though evil and death were and always have been the only permanent residents. As eternities of darkness, they passionately devoured any life that came to exist within its walls.
Loftus Hall was also home to two notable families that shaped and contributed to the history of County Wexford, The historic home now harbours countless ghosts and trapped spirits, as well as a much older tenant. The woman had felt this darker, older energy the day I first saw her, when she felt me as we both stood by the present gates. She was not entirely sure of what it was, but she could not forget the feeling of dread and oppression that conquered her; the absolute darkness. She was convinced that it was an ancient force; previous to the existence of the current Hall, or for that matter, any of the buildings ever built on this star-crossed land. The woman was well aware that Loftus Hall, occupied a “most unusual site for a country mansion as the bleak and exposed landmark which dominates the landscape on the Hook peninsula”.
The current building is one of three family residences that were built within the area that came to be known as the Loftus Hall Demesne. The term “Demesne” evolved from “demayn” or “demeyn” in the 14th century, when it was borrowed from Anglo-French property law. At that time, the Anglo-French form was “demeine”. A “Demesne” can be described as the land surrounding a house or manor, retained by the owner for his or her own personal use; it contained buildings, gardens, farmland and woods. The deer park was the most distinctive feature of early demesnes, stocked mostly with fallow deer introduced in Ireland by the Anglo-Normans. It was also the site of the Holy Well of of Dubhán’ (also known as Duffin’s well). It was accessed by our beloved cliff walk, windswept and overlooking the rocks and eroding waves that pounded Hall Bay. The well was about “one-half mile north from Hook Church and quite close to the cliffs at the corner of the Deer park adjoining the Rathfield no. 13 on the Demesne Land Map9.” And of course, North from Loftus Hall, and on a straight track, was the circular burial mound or ring barrow I had feared as a child and which can still be seen today.
The residence of the noble Redmond family had only ended in the hands of Henry Loftus, through plunder and disloyalty and even more bloodshed. This unfortunate place that I had known so well had been a grand 17th century home. Its outbuildings, including the coach house and our walled garden, have outlived us all. The house was gable-ended with two storeys and nine bays. It was covered by a dormer roof and a steep pedimented gable. The two stone eagles that watched us then, were to be perched on new lookout posts of this place of torment. The residence had a forecourt with tall stone piers surmounted by ball finials which still remain and can be seen today. It also had a haunted tapestry room. Haunted indeed by our love; unable to die, it still resided within its cold and now lifeless walls.
Anne’s home then, was already centuries old and though beautiful as it was, I cannot say I had ever felt at ease in the Great Hall. Shadows, creaks and groans as well as whispers and growls have forever lived within its walls. Evil was part of its foundations and even then, the rambling mansion harboured many souls and secrets. This is something inevitable in a place as old as Loftus Hall. Old homes are enigmatical. It is a given that historic properties always come with countless invisible guests and much that remains hidden. They become alive through the people that reside in them. They breathe, love and dream much the same way mortals do. Awakening, with every heart beat and regretting every tear as they scream in silence. And if we listen carefully, we may be able to understand the meaning of such unexplainable noises. In time, walls deteriorate and their splendour fades. All that remains then is their skeletal structure and soul; the eternal memories of all those who lived and died within. And that is, in essence, what ghosts truly are. Shadows of what we once were, yet somehow refusing or unable to cease in existence. But some things are just not meant to last forever; it is unnatural. As unnatural and inhuman as what we’ve become. And along with such things are demons and monsters. This… is how dreams become nightmares…
All images are copyright of Steve Meyler and published with permission.
1 Having looked at the original maps of the Loftus Hall Demesne as they appeared in the 1771 Survey by Fritzell, we believe that the original entrance to the previous Hall was through a driveway from Portersgate. The previous gate would have been located where the walled gardens are as evidenced by the hinges which still remain to show where the gate would have been, now bricked up
2 Area possibly inhabited by druids believed to have been sacrificial grounds, but on which a Norman castle was later built in 1180. Norman constructions like churches were often built on pagan grounds and it is possible they may have been blessed in much the same way then, baptised in blood, following customs to avoid ill-fate.