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.


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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The Irish Famine Summer School

The Irish Famine Summer School is an annual international conference allowing delegates to engage with some of the world’s leading interdisciplinary experts in the Irish Famine.  By gathering some of the world’s leading historic Famine scholars, it benefits the local communities and brings the town of Strokestown to life. The Summer School is run in association with our academic partners Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, home of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute and alternates each year between Quinnipiac and Strokestown Park. The 2018 Irish Famine Summer School took place from 20th – 24th June at Strokestown Park. The theme was ‘Irish Journeys: Famine Legacies and Reconnecting Communities’. Strokestown Park House and the National Famine Museum provide a hub for visitors and scholars to experience a uniquely preserved historic house and explore the lives of rich and poor in their original setting.  To learn more click here.

School Trips Irish Heritage Trust

Making School Trips Brilliant

How do you make school trips brilliant? At the Irish Heritage Trust we’ve been working pretty hard on this. We aim to turn every school trip into a creative mission. We ask student teams to find something out about aspects of our houses and make something … a video, a story, an artwork. And students always rise to the challenge and amaze us with how energised and creative they can be in the limited time a school visit allows. What do we hope to achieve with our schools education programme? To develop intense interest and delight while students are learning in the hope that this will spark a long-term, personal interest in heritage. Personal interest and self-directed learning are key factors in educational success.

Volunteering Irish Heritage Trust


As a charity we rely on the support of volunteers to help care for our properties. From gardens to helping in the shop and café or providing administrative support, we’ve lots of opportunities to get involved.

Heritage Week

Heritage Week

Heritage Week will run from the 20th to the 28th August. Both Strokestown Park House and Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens are running a series of events in the Gardens and the house.

For more information Click Here!

Fota House event Cooking with Caroline for Christmas

Cook with Caroline for Christmas

Get into the festive spirit at “Cook with Caroline for Christmas” at Fota House on the 10th November @8pm. Healthy eating habits don’t have to go by the wayside over Christmas and Caroline will give plenty of creative ideas for the festive season!

For more information Click Here!

Fota House Dust Busters Light Orchestra

The Dust Busters Orchestra

The Orchestra return to Fota House, playing with a passion that communicates the versatility of their repertoire, spanning two centuries of popular music and had the audience dancing in the aisles last year!  Bound to sell-out, book your seats for October 14th @ 8pm sharp.

For more information Click Here!