Valentine’s day is only a couple of weeks away, so why not get a jump on February and the promise of romance the lovers’ holiday holds. Kylemore Abbey is so much more than a great place to visit. Its history is built on the romance between Mitchell Henry and his wife, Margaret.
Mitchell Henry was born in 1826 in Woodlands, near Manchester, England. His father was a wealthy cotton merchant with family ties in Ireland. Mitchell’s first career was as a skilled pathologist and brilliant eye surgeon.
Margaret Vaughn was born in 1829 in County Down, Ireland. Her family was distantly related to the Earl of Lisburne. She was an heiress but not in the sense we think of it today. In Margaret’s case, it meant that she could use the Vaughan crest and coat of arms. This was something rarely afforded to a woman in the mid-1800s.
Henry Mitchell met Margaret Vaughan and their romance began. According to their great-grandson, Louis Mitchell Henry, the couple married in the mid-1840s and traveled to Connemara for their honeymoon. Together, they began a life-long romance with the area and Kylemore Lodge.
Henry inherited the family business when his father died in 1862. Although he had a successful medical practice, he left the profession and took over the business. He turned to politics, where he believed he could make the world a better place. He also made the biggest romantic gesture to his wife by purchasing Kylemore Lodge and its surrounding 13,000 acres.
From 1863 until 1868, the main employer in the region was Henry Mitchell as workers constructed Kylemore Castle, a symbol of the couple’s romance with each other and the region. The castle grew out of the face of a mountain and featured all the latest in Victorian innovation. White granite from Scotland and green Connemara marble were used in the construction. The home had 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room, and various offices and domestic staff residences.
The property also included gardens, walks, and woodlands. Italian landscape architects were brought over to plan the pleasure gardens. Eight acres were dedicated to growing fruits and vegetables. Heated greenhouses covered one acre and produced tropical fruits as well as the usual fare. The property also boasted a six-acre Victorian Walled Garden.
The family included nine children by the time they moved into Kylemore. They enjoyed the outdoors and life was idyllic. But tragically, in 1874 the Henrys’ romance faced its biggest challenge. Margaret fell ill while on holiday in Egypt. She lingered for two weeks before passing away at age 45. Her youngest was only two-years-old. The whole family was heartbroken.
Although life was never the same at Kylemore, Michell’s romance with Margaret continued. Work began in 1878 on a neo-Gothic church that became a lasting testament of the love he felt for his wife. The church is located about a mile from the main residence on the shore of the lake. Instead of gargoyles, there are smiling angels. The delicate features of the little church include carved flowers and birds. The Vaughan family coat of arms welcomes visitors at the door. It was the perfect final resting place for Margaret. When Mitchell died in 1910, he was buried beside her in the mausoleum, ending a romance that lasted nearly 60 years.
There is so much more to Mitchell Henry’s story and how he served the people of Galway. There’s so much more to the story of Kylemore Castle. Imagine what it might have been like to live as Margaret did in this beautiful setting! Here are a few examples of Recollections gowns that Margaret might have worn: Tamsin Victorian Gown, Abigail Victorian Gown, Victorian Southern Belle Ball Gown.