In 1818 Solomon Richards, an eminent Dublin Surgeon, bought Ardamine estate from Sir Walter Roberts of Courtlands Devon. What was described as a ‘smallish white square house which was used by the family as a seaside holiday home’ existed on the site and would later become Ardamine house. In the 1820s and 1830s Solomon Richard’s son, John Gobbard Richards, added extensively onto the building. In 1835, Lewis in his topographical dictionary of Ireland, referred to how ‘the grounds have been recently embellished with thriving plantations and other improvements’.
After John’s death the estate passed onto his son, Solomon Augustus and then to his son Bernard John, who died young and unmarried in 1879. As Bernard had no family it subsequently became the property of his brother, Major Arthur William Mordaunt Richards, who was high sheriff, a justice of the peace, and deputy lieutenant for county Wexford.
On the 8th of July 1921 Ardamine House, the residence of Major Richards, was burned to the ground. The major was not resident in the house at the time of the incident, instead residing in England for some years before. In preparation for the operation the surrounding roads were blocked with felled trees and outposts set up to impede the arrival of crown forces. Only the gardener and his wife were in the building on the night when about 80 raiders arrived. Once they gained admission inside the mansion some of them asked to be led to the garden house where they took the watering cans and filled them with petrol, which they then sprinkled around the house. After three hours the beautiful building was burned to the ground.
The raiders were complimented for the courtesy, apologising as they left the burning building, but said they had to carry out their instructions. It was estimated to cost at least £50,000 to rebuild the house which boasted its own electric plant. A compensation claim of £35,000 was later lodged.
James O Toole, in his withness statement to the bureau of military history, recalled years later that Major Richards was a signatory of the death warrants of the 1916 rising leaders. It had been their intention to also destroy Courtown house of the same night but they received countermanding orders at the last minute. The North Wexford brigade activity files state the operation was undertaken by the Courtown and Riverchapel company as a reprisal for the destruction of several houses by British forces following the ambush at Inch outside Gorey in May that year in which an RIC constable was shot dead.
After the destruction of Ardamine house Major Richards considered rebuilding before later abandoning the idea and returning to live in England. The estate was sold out to the land commission in 1922. The only remnants of the estate today are some woods, stables, a complex of workers houses, the walls of the walled garden and a sundial which still stands on which is inscribed ‘I give all men warning how the shadows fly. All men are shadows and a shadow am I. A hotel currently occupies the site.
Ardnamine House and Ballyrankin (located near Bunclody) were the first ‘Big Houses’ to be destroyed in the county with many others falling victim to the Civil War that was yet to come.
Bureau of military history witness statement, Jame O Toole #1084
Enniscorthy Guardian, 16th July 1921, p5
North Wexford Brigade Activity Files.
Houses of Wexford, 2016 by David Rowe & Eithne Scallan, Ballinakella Press #15.