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Bel-Air Hotel & Equestrian Centre Ashford, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

The History of Bel-Air Hotel

Our hotel is rich in history. As early as 1567 the estate was known as Coranroe. By 1682 the Parsons Family held the title to “Cronroe”. So now the estate was known as Cronroe.

Cronroe was a popular place in the 18th century, the neighbours gathered there on Sundays to play football.
ln a field now part of Dowling’s farm, fairs were held, tents were erected, punch and whiskey sold (no beer or porter in those days) and a good time, on the lines of the more sophisticated Donnybrook Fair, was had by all.

The original road passed too, close by the house at Cronroe. In order to shift its course away from the house and towards the East, a simple legal stratagem by making use of an almost forgotten by-law was used. A deer park could not be moved for the making of a road, but a road could be moved in order to preserve a deer park. So a deer park was established towards the East of the original road, and the road shifted to pass around it.

In 1716, on December 22nd, an Indenture of the Lease from the Rt. Hon. Richard, Lord Viscount Rosse, was made to Sir John Eccles. The Eccles family held Cronroe until March 5th 1862. The family came from the Barony of Eccles in Dumfrieshire. Sir John became the Collector of the Port of Dublin in 1714.

It was his son Hugh who built the original house in 1750. Hugh was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Isaac Ambrose, Clerk of the House of Commons. They had a son, Ambrose Eccles, who was a great admirer of that “Warwickshire Bard”, Shakespeare, he often lamented that the dramas had suffered in their structure from the carelessness of their first editors. This determined him to attempt a transposition of the scenes in different places from the order in which they had been handed down. He published the following plays to each of which he assigned a different volume Cymbeline 1793, King Lear 1793, Merchant of Venice 1805. His son Hugh, who was married to Harriet St. George, was accidentally killed in 1837. One of his sisters, Grace, returned from abroad and wrote this poem while sitting on the View Rock.

“Lines written while sitting on the Rock of Cronroe soon after my arrival in 1837” Grace Eccles

After long years of absence I return
To visit once again my childhood’s home
Alas! It seems as if twere but mourn
And to renew my sorrow that I come

Amidst these scenes were my forefathers dwell
Those lovely scenes to me so greatly dear
I can no longer feel as once I felt
A change, a melancholy change is here

Strange faces meet me – what am I to them?
No kind fraternal welcome do I hear
Hushed is the voice that oft pronounced my name
As if the sound was pleasant to his ear

How often in a distant foreign land
As memory back on former pleasure rolled
Has fond remembrance with a faithful hand
Retraced the landscape which I now behold

I breathe once more the clear pure mountain air
I see the well known rocks and woods again
The emerald lawns and gardens blooming fair
God’s noble works unaltered still remain

The views which pleased my childhood charm me now
But he whose presence gladdened all around!
No more with me shall climb the mountain’s brow
No more amidst his native hills be found

And is he gone? So much beloved, so kind,
So wise, so just, so generous, is he gone?
Oh let my heart tho’ sad be all resigned
That here on earth, the Almighty’s will be done

Extracted from Film No P 4529 in the National Library of Ireland, Dublin, by J A Acton


His son Hugh conveyed Cronroe to Julius Casement on March 5th 1862. The house was burned in the 1880’s. Julius built the present house in 1890.

Sir Roger Casement was a cousin of Julius. He spent a considerable amount of time in Cronroe as a child. His signature is still seen on a wall in an upstairs room. Born in 1864, his parents died when he was 9 years old. He was brought up in an Ulster protestant family. He worked as one of H.M. Stanley’s Volunteers in the newly created Congo Free State. He served for a time as British Consul in Lourenco Marquesand St. Paul De Loanda.

In 1911 Roger Casement was Knighted and he retired from the Consular Service. In 1914 Casement went to Germany and secured a treaty, giving for the first time formal recognition to Ireland’s right to Nationhood. Casement returned from Germany with a promise of arms. He was landed on Banna Strand, Co Kerry on April 20th 1916 by a German submarine. The British were waiting for him; he was captured, brought to London and sentenced to death after being found guilty of treason. On June 30th he was deprived of his honours by the British Government. He was executed on August 3rd 1916.

Fidelma's Wedding Dress Bel-Air Hotel

Casement loved W.B. Yeats’ poem:

“The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong
too great to be told. I hunger to build them
anew, and sit on a green knoll apart with the
earth and the sky and the water, remade
like a casket of gold for my dreams of your
image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of
my heart.”


Gymkhana Programmes Bel-Air Hotel Ireland

In August 1934 Cronroe passed from the Casement family to an American, Nicholas Burns. He changed the name of Cronroe Manor to Bel-Air Hotel.

On November 15th 1937 Bel-Air was bought by Tim and Bridie Murphy who were running Cliff Castle Hotel in Dalkey at that time. They continued to run both Hotels and the Riding School with the help of their 3 daughters, Ita, Ena and Fidelma. In 1980 Fidelma and her husband Bill Freeman took over the running of the Hotel and Riding School. Today, Bel-Air Hotel and Equestrian Centre is run by Fidelma’s and Bill’s children Aileen, Margaret, Fiona (Noni) and William.

Find out more about the family at Bel-Air

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