The Story Of Cabra Castle Hotel

1699 - 1964

The original Cabra Castle - the ruins of which still stand on high ground above the Wishing Well, not far from Cromwell's Bridge - was situated to the west of the Kingscourt-Carrickmacross Road.

The castle, and the land surrounding it, is believed to have belonged to the O'Reilly family until it was confiscated in the mid-17th Century by Cromwell's orders and given to Colonel Thomas Cooch, grandson to Sir Thomas Cooch KC; who had migrated to Donegal in the 17th Century, having been granted 1,000 acres by James I.

Colonel Thomas Cooch, first owner of Cabra Estate, married Elizabeth Mervyn, sister of Audley Mervyn (Speaker of the Irish House of Commons), and they had an only daughter and heiress, Elizabeth.

Her first marriage ended when she was widowed in 1685 and Elizabeth then married Joseph Pratt, who lived not far off at Jaradice, Co. Meath, a property which he received when he migrated from Leicestershire to Ireland in 1641. This marriage (which was also Joseph Pratt's second) took place in 1686 and a son, Mervyn Pratt, was born in 1687.

At this time, Colonel T. Cooch was still the owner of Cabra but in 1695, he made a will leaving all his property to Mervyn Pratt, his grandson, and when the Colonel died in 1699, the Cabra property came into the possession of the Pratt family.

Mervyn Pratt was then only 12 years old. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin and married Elizabeth Coote, daughter of Sir T. Coote, Judge, and lived at Cabra near the Wishing Well.

The castle had been destroyed during the Cromwellian War and the Pratt Family continued to reside near the Wishing Well, occupying Cabra land, including the site of the present town of Kingscourt.

There was an old village of Cabra near the site of Kingscourt, but in 1780 Mervyn Pratt (grandson of Captain Mervyn Pratt and son of the Reverend Joseph Pratt, who succeeded Captain Marvyn Pratt as owner of Cabra) laid out a new town of Kingscourt - an Anglicisation of Dún a Rí.

He leased town plots with one rood of garden adjoining each, for 999 years, for one guinea a year per acre.

This scheme was continued by Mervyn Pratt's brother - another Reverend Joseph - and it was during his time that the Kingscourt Rectory was built in 1816 with a gift of £100, the site, and a loan of £825 from the Braid of First Fruits.

During this period, the land on the opposite side (East) of the Carrickmacross Road (where the present Cabra Castle stands) was owned by the Foster Family - whose main seat was at Dunleer. This land contained an old round tower castle, called Cormey Castle. The main building was in ruins, destroyed during the Cromwellian War, however, its adjacent courtyard remained in good repair.

In 1795, this land and castle belonged to John Tomas Foster but he died leaving two young sons, both minors (Augustus being the eldest), who went to live with their mother (the Dowager Duchess of (Devonshire) in England.

Mr Henry Foster, cousin of the late John Foster, was appointed their Trustee and Executor, and in 1808 he rebuilt Cormy Castle. In doing so, he exhausted the personal estate of his ward Augustus and incurred debts, which made it necessary for the castle and land to be sold.

At that time (1810), Colonel Joseph Pratt was the owner of Cabra Estate. Born in 1755, he was the son of Rev. Joseph Pratt the second, referred to previously. His aunt, Ann Pratt, sister of Rev. Joseph Pratt, had married another Foster and had lived at Cormy at a slightly earlier period - therefore, there was a also link between the Pratts and the Fosters.

It also seems possible that Colonel Pratt lent Mr Henry Foster money prior to his insolvency. There was an enquiry and Mr Henry Foster was declared insolvent. The remains of the estate were taken over by Mr Augustus Foster, the rightful heir.

Colonel Joseph Pratt bought Cormy Castle with about 400 acres of Cormy Land from Mr Augustus Foster in 1813 and moved from Cabra House (near the Wishing Well) to the castle in that year. For a few years, he continued to use the original name of Cormy Castle for his new home, but later - in about 1820 - Colonel Pratt renamed it Cabra Castle, and it has been known by this name ever since.

Colonel Joseph Pratt had married Jamina, daughter of Sir James Tynte, and had ten children. The eldest - Mervyn, born in 1807 - married Madeleline Jackson, only daughter and heiress of Colonel Jackson of Enniscoe, Co. Mayo. They inherited this property when Colonel Pratt died.

He succeeded his father, Col. Joseph Pratt, as owner of Cabra in 1863, but from this time onwards, the interests of the Pratt Family were divided between Cabra in Co. Cavan and Enniscoe in Co. Mayo. Mervyn Pratt died in 1890 and was succeeded on his death by his eldest son - Major Mervyn Pratt, in 1927.

Major Mervyn Pratt was badly wounded in the Boer War and never married. He lived permanently at Enniscoe and left Cabra unoccupied. His younger brother, Colonel Audley Pratt, was killed in the First World war and also was unmarried.

Major Mervyn Pratt died at Enniscoe in December 1950 and left Cabra to his nearest male relative - Mervyn Sheppard, a Malayan Civil Servant. The burden of death duties, taxation, rates, cost of repairs to the castle, and farm losses made it impossible for him to live there. In 1964, he reluctantly disposed of the property, 265 years after Cabra land first came into the family possession.

In 1964, a local family - the Brennan Family, bought Cabra Castle. They renovated the building and converted it into a 22-bedroom hotel.

It was in their ownership up until 1986, when it was then sold to a group of Arabs. They closed down the hotel, finished off prebooked functions and then kept the building as a private house.

Having closed the castle, with a view to retaining it as a private house, political and economic circumstances in the Middle East prevented the new Arab owners from further enjoyment and development of the property.

It effectively lay idle until 1991, when it was purchased by its present owners, the Corscadden family, who re-opened it as a hotel.

Since then, the property has been extensively refurbished and expanded from 24 bedrooms, to incorporate the former Courtyard and Gate Lodge. Six cottages were also built on the estate, bringing the total number of bedrooms to 105.

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