IHT Editor

What was Christmas in the past really like?

We are so lucky at the Trust to have properties where traces of Christmas past still remain. At Strokestown Park the focus is on a ‘Victorian Christmas’, greenery is brought in from the estate to ‘deck the halls’ and one tree is decorated with original Victorian candle holders left by the Pakenham-Mahon family. At Fota we know what life was life both above and below stairs on Christmas Day. On Christmas morning the family went to church and delivered Christmas gifts to their tenants. For lunch on Christmas day, the family served themselves a cold lunch (one of the few times they served themselves at lunch or dinner) while the servants ate their Christmas dinner downstairs. In the evening the family changed into fancy dress costumes that they kept in a big trunk in the attic. At exactly 8 o'clock they returned downstairs and the servants assembled in rows at either side of the hall and bowed to each family member as they went past into the Dining Room (was this a show of deference or was it to play along with the fancy dress theme?) The family would then drink from a loving cup and eat their lavish dinner.  Their dinner usually consisted of a humungous turkey and all the trimmings plus of course a Christmas pudding made the previous Christmas, so that it was extra rich and dark. Once finished eating they played games in the Library late into the night.

You can hear more about Christmas at Fota here where Patty Butler, Fota's former maid recalls her Christmas memories.

You too can experience the magic of Christmas in the 'Big House'! Why not book:

The Magic of Santa at Fota House or

Victorian Christmas at Strokestown Park

Merry Christmas from Fota House & Gardens & Strokestown Park, and from everyone at the Irish Heritage Trust.

Minister Heather Humphreys Jim Callery Strokestown Park House Irish Heritage Trust


In September, Heather Humphreys - the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs - joined a women’s history event at Strokestown Park House titled “Revolutionaries in their own Right: Irish Women in War and Revolution”.

The event took place in the historical setting of the Galleried Kitchens at the House and was using the unique and wonderful contents of Strokestown House and the archive, along with its authentic streetscape, to bring history to life. A tour of Strokestown in 1916 was conducted by local school students who have created a unique piece of public history.

“The town of Strokestown, the Irish National Famine Museum and Strokestown Park House together form a very special place and a unique heritage asset and it’s wonderful to see them being used for such a fascinating event about the changing roles and lives of women during the decade 1912-22,” said Minister Humphreys.  “On behalf of my Department, I would like to wish everyone at Strokestown Park and Famine Museum every success as they continue work with the Irish Heritage Trust to improve this wonderful place in the coming years for everyone to enjoy”, she concluded.

“We are delighted to see Minister Humphreys here today at Strokestown Park and Famine Museum and to show her the wonderful community participation at such a significant national heritage property”, said Kevin Baird, CEO of the Irish Heritage Trust, a charity which has been operating the property since 2015. “This is the result of a fruitful partnership between the Irish Heritage Trust and Roscommon County Library Services, one of a number of Decade of Centenaries offerings where we have worked in partnership with local communities”, he continued.

Museum Standards Fota House Irish Heritage Trust


The Trust was honoured with Full  Museum Accreditation for Fota House during the summer of 2016. This is the result of over five years of hard work at Fota and means that nine years after the Irish Heritage Trust took responsibility for the house, it is now a house with Full Museum Status.

This Accreditation takes about five years to achieve all the standards. It is officially part of the Museum Standards Programme of Ireland (MSPI), which is run by The Heritage Council.  The awards’ adjudication was announced at a ceremony in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin on the 4th of July by the Chairman of The Heritage Council, Mr. Conor Newman.

The Heritage Council Assessors reported: “There is a strong visitor focus with the provision of an excellent guided tour, an informative, lively and current website, high quality printed materials and a good range of formal and informal learning opportunities for schools, families and lifelong learners. The Irish Heritage Trust clearly demonstrates a strong commitment to the Fota House volunteers, with training, CPD and good communications. Fota House is particularly strong on collections care and has very quickly established and implemented good practice from scratch.  Since applying for Interim Accreditation, a new post of Museums Standards and Property Care has been established at Fota House which shows the Irish Heritage Trust’s commitment to attaining and maintaining the standards of the MSPI”.

Fota House was one of seven of Ireland’s museums to be awarded the top standard of Full Accreditation in 2016, which requires complying with all 34 designated standards under the MSPI. Of the 57 participants in the programme, 29 museums have achieved Full Accreditation and 11 others have been awarded Interim Accreditation.


Johnstown Castle Teagasc Irish Heritage Trust


We were delighted to host the “Johnstown Open Days” with Teagasc and the Irish Agricultural Museum during the summer.  The public were invited to see what is happening at the wonderful Johnstown Castle, which is just outside Wexford town. Hundreds of people enthusiastically came through the doors of the Castle over two days. They enjoyed hearing about the exciting plans for the future and there was plenty of goodwill and support for this project, which includes a new visitor centre.  As it is such a large property, the work is happening in phases.   

In the meantime, the beautiful grounds are open all year round as well as the Irish Agricultural Museum which houses exhibitions designed to display and explore the collection of folk, farming, rural history and objects from the turn of the 18th century until the middle of the 20th century.
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