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History

The story of Kylemore Abbey is a truly remarkable one that spans over 150 year of tragedy, romance, innovation, education and spirituality. Built as a breathtaking Castle in 1868,it is now the Abbey and home of  the Benedictine community of nuns.

The Benedictine nuns arrived at Kylemore in 1920 after their Abbey in Ypres, Belgium was destroyed in the early months of  World War I. Settling at Kylemore, the Benedictine Community opened a world renowned boarding school for girls and began restoring the Abbey, Gothic Church and Victorian Walled Garden to their former glory.

The Benedictine nuns invite visitors to discover the magic, beauty and peacefulness of Kylemore Abbey. Visit Kylemore Abbey and discover what makes it one of Irelands’ best-loved and most iconic attractions. For more about the history of Kylemore Abbey, please click on the panels below.

History Blog May 2020

Welcome to our new History Blog from Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden, we hope to cover all kinds of topics relevant to the history of Kylemore. We are absolutely spoilt for choice with over 150 years of history to speak of, and hundreds more years if we look back at the history of the Benedictine Community and indeed local and regional historical happenings. Each month we will focus on favourite images or artifacts from the Kylemore archive, to take us on a time traveling journey away from Lock Down 2020 and back into the past, just for a visit!

The first image I have chosen is a lovely one of little Louis Mitchell Henry. We received this image last year along with lots more when our in-house archivist Dr Damien Duffy and I travelled to Edinburgh to meet with one of the Henry descendants, Mark Mitchell Henry and his mother Lucy. Lucy’s husband was Sam Mitchell Henry the son of the little boy seen here in the sailor suit, who was himself the son of Lorenzo and Marion Henry and the grandson of Mitchell Henry. That means that Mark who had invited us to visit, is the great great grandson of Mitchell and Margaret Henry who built Kylemore Castle.

 Louis Mitchell Henry in a sailor suit as worn on family trips on the Lusitania

 The Henry family believe this photograph may have been taken on board the SS. Lusitania on which the Henry family regularly travelled on back and over the Atlantic. Louis’s mother Marion was born Marion Raegner the daughter of a wealthy New York banking family and she was accustomed to a life of luxury, travel and leisure. Being the son of Mitchell Henry, Lorenzo was equally accustomed to a luxurious life although in the later years of his father’s life as Mitchell Henry’s money ran  out the family was considerably less affluent. Little Louis on his travels became quite acquainted to many of the staff on the Lusitania including the orchestra who played in the Dining Room in the evenings and on deck during the day. One of Louis’s favourite jobs was to run up to the orchestra with hand written requests from his parents and other guests. Looking at what an adorable figure he cut in his little sailor suit we can easily imagine how Louis would have become a favourite with other passengers as well as the crew and orchestra members.

Louis Mitchell Henry with his mother Marion, circa 1911 

It is part of the Henry family lore that many members of the Lusitania orchestra also played on the Titanic and were well known to little Louis and his parents and so would have been some of the heroic musicians who played music  as the Titanic sank. The band leader who took the courageous decision to  continue playing was the violinist Wallace Hartley, who’d previously played on both the Mauretania and the Lusitania. The band famously played ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ as the ship began to go down, knowing full well that as male crew they would not be making it to the lifeboats. We can only imagine the reaction of  Louis and his parents on hearing this story and remembering the magical evenings of music and laughter on other luxury liners which would have been so similar to the Titanic the joy that was brought to them by these musicians who had such a sad and heroic end.

We have many more images of Louis’ parents Lorenzo and Marion who were a fascinating couple and we look forward to sharing more of their stories with you in the near future. In particular Lorenzo was well known for his many accomplishments as a sports man and inventor while as a couple Lorenzo and Marion were very active in fundraising for the red cross during WW1, they also travelled widely and were friends with among other notable figures the Duke of Connaught but these are stories for another time! As we are all now living through a very historical  but difficult moment in time, we hope our blogs will provide an interesting diversion for you. A special thank you to Mark and Lucy Mitchell Henry for their generosity with their family stories and photographs. Please let us know if there are any special Kylemore stories you would like to hear about.

Louis Mitchell Henry with his father, Lorenzo Mitchell Henry circa 1911

Written by Eithne O’Halloran with special thanks to Mark and Lucy Mitchell Henry for their generosity in sharing their family photographs and stories and to Kylemore archivist Dr Damien Duffy for fact checking this piece.