Tulfarris House derives its name from the land it is situated on. Tulfarris comes from the Gaelic ‘Tulach Fherghuis’ meaning Fergus’ Hill. A section of the Leinster Genealogies mentions Fergus Mac Duniaing whose territory corresponds with the area known today as Tulfarris. The ‘tulach’ refers to a partially ruined burial mound to the left of Tulfarris House.
In March 1988, prehistoric bone fragments dating from between the stone and iron ages were found at the mound. The mound is preserved by the National Museum and will be excavated when public finances permit. Dr. Brendan O’Riordan, Director of the National Museum cautions that ‘although he expects to find much material of archaeological interest….it will not be of monetary value’.
According to ‘Memories of the Liffey Valley’, ‘Tulach Fhorasoie’ meaning Forest country , Tulfarris is found on the edge of the territory which was called coilleadh (woodland) and this may have given rise to the belief that the name Tulfarris refers to Forest Country.
The earliest written reference to Tulfarris is in 1192 in the red book of Ormond. The spelling evolved from Tylathcarthes to Toilaghferghus (1260), Tulachferghus (1280) Tillaghferous (1326) and to the present Tulfarris.
From a document known as the Faints, which contains legal judgements from the Tudor period, it is clear that the lands known as Tulfarris were included with the manor of Rathmore, Co. Kildare. This estate was in the possession of Gerald Fitzgerald (Garret Oge), 9th Earl of Kildare. Until 1534, the Fitzgerald dynasty dominated both the lands and events that occurred in much of Ireland. The rebellion of Gerald’s son Thomas, popularly known as Silken Thomas, resulted in the confiscation of the entire estate by the crown. In 1541, the crown to Walter Troot, Vicar of Rathmore, leased the manors of Rathmore, including Tulfarris.
Shortly afterwards in 1545, the lands were granted in full to Sir John Travers, a knight from Monkstown, Co. Dublin. Sir John Travers had an heir by his first marriage, Henry. Henry married Gennet Preston, daughter of the third Viscount of Gormanstown. Henry however, died young leaving two daughters, Mary & Catherine. Sir John’s second wife Cecile had a son Robert Piphoe by a previous marriage.
Gennet, Henry’s widow, married Robert Piphoe, his stepbrother, and had a second family. John Travers died in 1562 and the lands were inherited by Henry’s daughters, Mary & Catherine.
Mary married James Eustace, 3rd Viscount of Baltinglass. After James played a leading role in the Desmond Rebellion of 1579, The Baltinglass estate including Mary’s share of Rathmore, were confiscated by the crown. Mary managed to have her share of the estate returned to her in her husband’s lifetime.
Her sister Catherine married John Cheevers of Macetown, Co. Meath. Catherine’s share of the Rathmore Estate included Tulfarris and was inherited by Catherine’s son Henry. Henry in turn married Catherine Fitzwilliam and their son Walter inherited the title to Tulfarris. Inquisitions dated 24th September 1640, detail the size of the estate at the time of Henry Cheever’s death. According to this document, Tulfarris contained one ruined Castle, 20 messuages, 70 acres of land and a manor.
Tulfarris’ turbulent history continued and in a list of outlaws intended for the House of Lords and dated 1641-1647, five entries for Tulfarris were found. During that time, the crown again confiscated Tulfarris.
Tulfarris and other properties were granted to Colonel Randall Clayton on 15th October 1667, in trust for the officers of the Cromwellian soldiers of 1649. Tulfarris was subsequently granted to Captain John Hunt of the Cromwellian soldiers of 1649. His son, Vere Hunt, later sold the land to John Borrowes of Ardenode, Co. Kildare. In 1713, Robert Graydon of Russellstown held Tulfarris. The means of transfer of ownership between Borrowes and Graydon is uncertain, however, Borrowe’s niece and granddaughter both married Graydons.
Much of the house’s more recent history is associated with the Hornridge family who held the land from the early eighteenth century until the 1950’s. James Hornridge came to Ireland from Gloucseter with Cromwell’s parliamentary Army in 1659 and settled in Colemanna in Co. Carlow.
The Historical information regarding how the Hornridge’s came to own Tulfarris is unclear. His son Richard Hornridge married Hester Hogshaw of Burgage, Blessington Co. Wicklow in 1699. It is most likely that Tulfarris came into the Hornridge’s possession through this marriage.
The present Tulfarris House was build in the 18th century. Many of the country houses and most of Dublin’s finer buildings were built during this era. It is a period associated with great literary and political figures like Swift, Burke and Grattan.
The Hornridge family had firmly settled in Tulfarris by the time Richard Hornridge’s death in 1740. Richard left Tulfarris in his will to his son Richard. In 1759 Richard married Mary Wetherelt and their son, also Richard inherited the estate. Richard, a major, was active in Wicklow Yeomanry at the time of the 1798 rebellion
An 1830 ordnance Survey Field book tells us of Tulfarris it contained 449 acres, 38 perchs out of which 9 acres, 2 rods, 13 perchs water and 12 acres, 4 perchs, plantations of fir, and ash and beech trees.
Ownership of Tulfarris passed to Major Richard’s eldest son, Richard Joseph (1803-1859). Tulfarris and its inhabitants from that era are regularly referred to in the Irish Journals of Elizabeth Smith, 1840-1850,
The Hornridges, like the other local gentry, were frequent guests at Baltyboys and Russborough, and socialised regularly with their neighbours. This social circle included the Marquis of Downshire, owner of Blessington and one of the principal landlords in the country.
Richard Joseph was succeeded by his brother Edward (died in 1874) and then by Edward’s son, also called Richard Joseph (1863-1911). Captain Edward Stuart Hornridge (1887-1965), Richard Joseph’s son was the last of the line at Tulfarris. In the late 1950’s, he moved to Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin with his second wife, Thelma Stannus, sister of the choreographer Dame Ninnette De Valois, who celebrated her 100 birthday in 1998, and the author of the ballet photographer Gordan Anthony, all of whom were born at Baltyboy’s House.
All were great grand children of Elizabeth Smith whose diaries are referred to above.
It was while Edward Hornridge was resident at Tulfarris in March 1940 that the Electricity Supply Board flooded the Liffey Valley to create the lake. In her book, Come Dance with me, a memoir 1898-1956, Dame Ninnette recalls her childhood at Baltyboys and describes how much the new lake had changed the area on a return visit in 1955. On this occasion, she returned with her sister Mrs Edward Stuart Hornridge who was once again living in Wicklow.
Although the Hornridge’s no longer reside at Tulfarris, the lineage does continue through Edward Stuart Hornridge. He had a son by his first marriage to Evelyn Stuart Hornridge of Tinode, Blessington, Co. Wicklow. Born in 1915 his son Richard Douglas Hornridge was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and later at Stanford University. He served in World
War 11 as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Navy. In 1944, he married Martha Betsy Travis of Stauton Virginia. The Hornridge family are now living in Andover, Massachusetts.
The last family to occupy Tulfarris purely as a private house were the Mullens. Dr. Karl Mullen is a famous rugby player who captained Ireland to Triple Crown success. Tulfarris was sold in 1987 and after extensive renovation, was converted into a 4 star Hotel & Country Club.
The hotel is now owned and operated by Irish hotel management company - PREM Group.