A Home With History
Welcome to Friendstown
About 1685, a remarkable Quaker named Anthony Sharp, came here and purchased the property of Killinure, where he established a small Quaker community named ‘Friendstown’. Sharp was a talented businessman, a Dublin wool merchant and clothier, and ran large flocks of sheep here to supply wool to his workshops in the capital. Guided by his Quaker belief in treating everyone equally and fairly, in business as in life, his enterprise thrived and eventually employed 500 people of all religious persuasions, ignoring prejudice and criticism. His reputation grew as a kind and fair man, and he became an alderman of Dublin.
With the growing profits from his business, Anthony Sharp invested in extensive land and property holdings in Ireland and England. Meanwhile, in North America, he made a speculative purchase of ‘one twenty-fourth share of New West Jersey and New East Jersey’ (as described in his will). His son Isaac Sharp, who seems to have drifted away from the Quaker movement, is recorded as living in New Jersey for a period in the 1720s.
The Georgian house at Roundwood was built by Isaac’s eldest son, named Anthony Sharp after his grandfather. Evidently the house dates from 1741, when the name Roundwood first appears in registered deeds in place of Killinure.
Anthony Sharp lived at Roundwood until his death in 1781. The property passed to his grandson Robert Anthony Flood who, in accordance with his grandfather’s will, changed his surname to Sharp. He seems to have been an imprudent man in financial matters, taking out a mortgage in 1784 on all Sharp properties in Dublin. On Robert Flood Sharp’s death in 1803, he was succeeded by his son William Flood Sharp, then only one year old.
Over the next 30 years, Roundwood became encumbered with mortgages. In 1835, the house and demesne of 1,680 acres were assigned to a Dublin attorney to cover the family’s debts, and William Flood Sharp and his wife departed for England.
By 1837, William Hamilton, a cousin of William Flood Sharp, had purchased the property. The Hamiltons remained at Roundwood until 1968, when it was sold to the Irish Land Commission.
Saved by the Georgians
Roundwood’s story might have ended there had it not been rescued by the Irish Georgian Society. After its’ purchase by the Irish Land Commission, Roundwood was left boarded up and empty. The Irish Georgian Society’s Chairman, the Hon. Desmond Guinness, was alerted to the situation, and in 1970 the Society bought the house and its surrounding ten acres.
Through the energy and vision of the late Brian Molloy, one of the Irish Georgian Society’s most dedicated members, Roundwood was fitted out for a new future. The house was fully re-plumbed and re-wired and modern bathrooms were installed upstairs in the 18th-century closets. Roundwood was transformed into a comfortable guest house, opened officially on 6th June 1971.
In 1974, a committed American supporter of the Irish Georgian Society, John L. Tormey of Akron Ohio, purchased the house from the Society. Brian Molloy continued living at Roundwood and managing the house. Mr Tormey and his wife Nell approved the use of Roundwood as a ‘base camp’ for Irish Georgian Society volunteers working on the restoration of the Damer House, Roscrea, County Tipperary, under Brian Molloy’s direction. After Brian Molloy’s death in 1978, John L. Tormey donated Roundwood back to the Irish Georgian Society.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Roundwood hosted notable bohemian and artistic visitors. Henrietta Moraes, who lived at Roundwood in this period, was muse and inspiration to Soho artists through the 1950s and into the 1960s, including Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon. She was also a close friend of the celebrated singer Marianne Faithfull, who lived in Ireland in the 1970s. Another friend of Henrietta Moraes, rock star Eric Burdon (formerly of the Animals), recorded his album Darkness, Darkness at Roundwood in May 1978.
A welcome home
Frank and Rosemarie Kennan leased Roundwood from the Irish Georgian Society in 1983 and opened her doors to the world as a family home guest house. Its success led Frank and Rosemarie to purchase the property from the Society in 1988.
The tradition is being carried on by their daughter Hannah, and her husband Paddy, who is writing this piece. Since I find it strange writing about myself in the 3rd person, I’d just like to say thank you for taking the time to read the history of our beautiful home, and you are very welcome here any time.