The name Lyrath is thought to date back to Norman times when “Strongbow” settled in Ireland during the Norman invasion. The area was originally called Le Rar or Le Rath by the French speaking De Ponte family who during the 12th century lived in the Monastery which was once located within the grounds. There is also a mention of a castle which was once said to have been situated within the grounds.
Prior to 1653 the lands were owned by the Shortall family, who then rented the ‘old castle in repair’ and land to Thomas Tobin, Constable of the Barony of Gowran.
In 1664, a gentleman named Thomas Mances, paid a sum of 4s ‘hearth money’ for the old castle.
Later in the Seventeenth Century the property was acquired by Richard Wheeler through his kinship to Jonah Wheeler the Bishop of Ossary. By then the original ‘Tobin’ castle had been demolished.
Richard Wheeler’s son, Jonah Wheeler, married Elisabeth Denny-Cuffe, a descendant of the Desart-Cuffe family who had extensive landed property in the Counties of Carlow and Kilkenny, on his marriage Jonah decided to adopt the name Cuffe.
In 1814 the grandson of Jonah, also named Jonah, was living in the house with his with Elisabeth Browne, from Brownes Hill in neighbouring Carlow. Sir Jonah died in 1853 and his elder son, Sir Charles Denny Wheeler-Cuffe succeeded him.
To redesign the house Sir Charles engaged the services of John McCurdy, a Dublin born Architect, whose other commissions with his partner, William Mitchell, include Kilkenny’s Knocktopher Abbey, Dublin’s famous ‘Shelbourne Hotel’ and the South City Markets.
The current house is one of the most important surviving country houses built by John McCurdy.
An Austrianlian lady, Baroness Pauline Prochazka, who was Lady Stuart de Decies’ great-granddaughter by her first marriage came to live at Lyrath House in 1886 as Sir Charles’ Housekeeper. He described her as his ‘half-neice’.
Pauline Prochaska lived at the house until her death in 1928. She passed away from a stroke, brought on by dancing a waltz to the tune of ‘The Blue Danube’ being played on a gramophone.
Sir Charles and Pauline had no children, so on the death of Sir Charles, his nephew Sir Ottway Forteque Luke Wheeler-Cuffe inherited the baronetcy and demesne of Lyrath and became the primary resident. Sir Ottaway married Charlotte Isabel Williams in 1897. Lady Charlotte was the earliest known botanical explorer to reach the remote areas Burma and it was during these trips that she discovered several plants including two new species of Rhododendrons, Burmanicum, and Cuffianum (named after her). Cuffianum, the white rhododendron is extremely rare and has not been collected by any botanist since Lady Wheeler-Cuffe found in 1911.
Sir Ottway and Lady Charlotte stayed in Burma until Sir Ottway’s retirement in August 1921 when they finally returned to live at Lyrath. On her return to Lyrath, Lady Charlotte redesigned the gardens. The Conservatory adjacent to Tupper’s Bar in the new Hotel overlooks the Victorian garden designer by her which has been carefully restored to her original design (based on family records and drawings), they are also home to the ancient yew trees which are now protected by a preservation order.
Lady Charlotte lived in the house until her death in 1966 in her 100th year.
Following the death of Lady Charlotte, in 1967 the property was inherited by Lieutenant-Colonel G.W. Tupper whose grandfather had married Sir Charles’ sister in 1846. Reginald’s great nephew, Captain Anthony Tupper and his wife moved into the house and ran it as a traditional estate farm with a herd of Jersey cows, hens, and geese in the yard, calves in the haggard field and a big old-fashioned kitchen with dogs and cats which rambled in and out at will.
The Tuppers remained in the house until 1997.
When the Tuppers left, there was an auction at the house of all the furniture and the bits and pieces accumulated over several lifetimes laid out and labelled for sale. Fortunately, Xavier McAuliffe managed to obtain many of the items on auction that day, these items are now on display in the house and include to original large portraits hanging in the hallway and other paintings on display.
Xavier purchased the Estate in 2003 and developed the house into Lyrath Estate Hotel and Convention Centre, which opened its doors to the public in 2006.