Fire guts Kilkeel stately home

May 20, 2013

More than 80 firefighters tackled a blaze which raged through Mourne Park House in Kilkeel last Saturday night.

Shortly before 10pm, fire crews were called to the scene at the large stately house, which is the ancestral home of the earls of Kilmorey and one of Northern Ireland’s grandest homes. The roof of the main part of the house had collapsed and firefighters fought to stop the flames spreading to adjoining wings of the building.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service are investigating the cause of fire, which is believed to have started in the roof.

Speaking after the blaze had been brought under control, NIFRS Area Commander John Allen said:

“Our priorities were, one, to prevent the fire from spreading to the adjoining wings of the building and two, to save as many of the artefacts in the building as we could.

“Not only the artefacts in terms of history and legacy, but also, this is a family home where a family with their children live and (our intent was) to save their items which were of sentimental value.”

The sprawling mansion boasts 17 bedrooms, along with 8 reception rooms and 7 bathrooms and has been on the housing market for several years.

The estate has a rich history with its ownership dating back to the middle of the 16th Century, when Nicholas Bagnall, the Marshall General of the Army in Ireland, was given extensive lands in Newry and Mourne by Edward VI.

The property was rebuilt in 1806, by its then owner, Francis Needham, who later became the first earl of Kilmorey.

Needham an Army officer turned politician, is remembered in history books for the military defence he mounted in Wicklow during the 1798 Irish rebellion.

Mourne Park was used as a holiday home by the Kilmorey family whose main estate was in Shropshire, England. They were known to throw lavish parties there, attended by many high profile guests including politicians and royalty.

During World War II, British and US regiments used the house before being deployed to France.

The last earl to live in the house died in 1961, and ownership of the house has since passed through the female line to the current owners