Update May 2013
I am delighted to be able to add to this page some black and white photos of Paradise, taken by Brigadier Frank Henn in 1936 and 1938.
This has come about through the kindness of Seán Matthews, who made the arrangements. In a Comment (see the bottom of this page) Seán said:
My grandmother Hester Mahon and my father Michael Matthews, and his sister Geraldine, were visitors to this house in 1936. Hester’s sister Geraldine Mahon married William Henn — and they were some of last occupants of the house.
Brigadier Frank Henn is the son of Geraldine Henn (née Mahon). The photo below shows the following people (L–R):
- Geraldine Matthews
- Geraldine Henn (née Mahon)
- Frank Henn
- Margaret Henn
- Michael Matthews
- Hester Matthews (née Mahon).
Seán says that Geraldine Henn and Hester Matthews were sisters; they were photographed on the steps of Paradise in the summer of 1936.
The copyright in the black and white photographs on this page belongs to Brigadier Frank Henn; I am extremely grateful both to him and to Seán Matthews for making it possible for me to use them on this page. The black and white photos show, better than my colour pics do, why this place was called Paradise.
Paradise in 1837
In his Topographical Dictionary of 1837, Samuel Lewis wrote this of County Clare:
But the best soil is that of the rich low grounds called corcasses, which extend along the rivers Shannon and Fergus, from a place called Paradise to Limerick, a distance of more than 20 miles, and are computed to contain upwards of 30,000 acres.
That may have been based on Hely Dutton’s Statistical Survey of the County of Clare of 1808:
The low grounds on the rivers Shannon and Fergus, called corcasses, are equal to the fattening of the largest sized oxen; these fine grounds extend from Paradise to Limerick, an extent of upwards of twenty miles, following the course of the Shannon and Fergus, and are computed to contain upwards of 20,000 acres, some say only about 10,000; they consist of a deep dark-coloured earth, generally over a blueish or black clay, or moory substratum, producing, from the greatest neglect, amongst the most luxuriant herbage, a great quantity of rushes and other pernicious weeds.
The Parliamentary Gazetteer of 1846, writing about the parish of Kilchrist, says that:
The villas of Fort Fergus, Cornfield, Cloonakilla, and Paradise, the last the seat of Thomas Arthur, Esq., occupy beautiful sites on the east border of the parish, and command charming views of the aqueous expanse and the large fertile islands of the Fergus.
Paradise is marked on the Google map.
Paradise House is not named on the modern Ordnance Survey map, but if you switch to the Historic 6″ you can see the outline of the original house, with the later outline on the Historic 25″.
According to the Irish Times of 18 January 1960, one Richard Henn bought the lands from the Earl of Thomond in 1685. According to a genealogical website, a later Richard Henn died, at some unspecified date, without issue, and the house passed to his wife’s brother, Thomas Arthur. Samuel Lewis, in his Topographical Dictionary of 1837, listed:
… Paradise, the residence of Thos. Arthur, Esq., beautifully situated on the Fergus, of which and the surrounding scenery it commands a most extensive view […].
He also said:
On an eminence in the demesne of Paradise is an ornamental building, called the Temple, which forms a conspicuous landmark in the navigation of the river.
Arthur’s family sold the property, in the mid 19th century, to a Henn who was a distant cousin of the original owners. The house seems to have been rebuilt in 1863. The two significant dates are shown on the front of the house.
Paradise was not burnt out in the War of Independence or the Irish Civil War. After the death of Mrs Frances Henn, the house lay unoccupied for 24 years until her son, Col William Henn, late Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, sold it in 1960 to Herr Kurt Linnebach, a German millionaire commercial film maker (Irish Times op cit). It was destroyed around 1970.
The Yeats scholar Thomas Rice Henn was the younger brother of Col William Henn; he write about the house in FIVE ARCHES: A Sketch for an Autobiography and Philoctetes, and Other Poems, which was reviewed by Benedict Kiely in the Irish Times [whose punctuation of the title I reproduce] on 25 October 1980. The title probably refers to Ballycorick Bridge, over the creek of the same name, rather than to the nearby pub.
There is an older photo of the bridge in John Bickerdyke’s Wild Sports in Ireland, whose preface is dated 1897, most of which was written at Paradise.
Kiely quotes Henn:
Whatever the wrongs of past history on either side, this civilisation that I had known as a boy was founded on something approaching serfdom. […] There might be, and was, friendship, great loyalty, an age-old concern with blood and race; but inescapably the Big House was built on wealth, privilege and the large revolutions of politics and religion. But it seemed to me as I write, that the Anglo-Irish race to which I belonged had been sliding down for a very long time.
But that original Richard Henn had an eye for a view; his name for his new home was well chosen.