About Strokestown Park
Strokestown Park is an 18th century Palladian house in County Roscommon, Ireland. It is also home to the National Famine Museum.
History of Strokestown Park
The area fell into the hands of the Pakenham Mahons following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in the 1650s – within 150 years, the Mahons owned around 11,000 acres in County Roscommon, and in 1800, the then-owner, Maurice Mahon, was made Baron Hartland.
Strokestown is most well known for its notorious role in the Great Famine. Denis Mahon inherited on the eve of the famine in 1845. The estate was around £30,000 in debt, and there was chronic overcrowding in an attempt to raise income. Mahon began a policy of land clearance, evicting over 3000 tenants and paying for (and thus effectively forcing) emigration to Canada for further tenants. Of the 1,432 he initially paid passage for, around a quarter died en route – those back at home were in uproar.
Mahon was assassinated in 1847 and it’s said tenants began cheering and lighting bonfires in celebration. His daughter and heir, Grace, refused to ever return to her ancestral seat as a result. She married Henry Pakenham, heir to vast estates in Longford, Westmeath and Roscommon, and her new wealth saved the estate from ruin. Despite the change in fortunes, the family continued to force emigration and clear land.
Olive Pakenham Mason sold Strokestown in 1979: by this point, only 300 acres of the original estate were left. Jim Callery, the new owner, spent and raised large sums in order to restore the house. During this process, large quantities of records and material relating to Mahons’ management of the Strokestown Estate during the famine years came to light.
A comprehensive National Famine Museum was created in out buildings, and remains one of the best repositories of famine material in Ireland.
Strokestown Park today
The house is accessible via guided tour only: it lasts around one hour and leaves at semi-regular intervals. The Famine Museum is comprehensive and harrowing in parts: expect to spend a minimum of one hour, if not two.
The 6 acres of garden have also been heavily restored, and are well worth whiling away some of the afternoon in.
Getting to Strokestown Park
Strokestown is on the N5 – the house is clearly signed in the village, down a long drive. There’s ample parking on site. Bus 22 runs from Dublin (Busaras) to Ballina through much of central Ireland: you can hop off at Strokestown and walk the 500m drive to the house and museum.