Belleek Mannor, Ballina in Co. Mayo

In olden days, the Belleek Manor estate stretched from the Gate lodge (Castle Road) to the River Moy and from there out to the Killala Road.

Belleek Castle Hotel, as we know it today, was built of cut stone in 1831,the same year that St Muredach's Cathedral was in the process of completion. The Manor was erected by the eldest son of James Knox of Broadlands, Ballysokeery whose grandfather was MP Paul Annesley Gore of Belleek. After the death of his father James Knox on the 21st October 1818, it was his eldest son Francis Arthur-Gore of Belleek Manor who succeeded him and he was created Baronet on the 5th December 1868. The cost of erecting such a magnificent castle amounted to £10,000.

When Baronet Francis Arthur Knox-Gore died on the 21st May 1873, he was buried in the grounds of the demesne in view of the castle. A striking monument of cut stone was built over his resting-place, surrounded by a deep waterless moat and erected by his son Sir Charles James. Sir Charles Knox-Gore was also buried at Belleek along with his dog Phizzie, overlooking the river Moy. When Sir Charles died, his daughter Matilda inherited the property.

Belleek Castle remained the property of the Knox-Gore family for over 100 years. In 1940 Colonel William Saunders Knox-Gore, grandson of Matilda, sold the estate to the Beckett family of Ballina. Jacob Francis Beckett had planned to turn the estate into a racecourse and stud farm but died before he could realise his dream. It was the Beckett family who returned the castle to its former glory, only to sell it to Mayo County Council.

Mayo County Council used the castle as a sanatorium in the 1950's and most of the land was acquired by the Department of Forestry and the Land Commission. When the cost of the castle’s upkeep proved too much for the County Council, they planned to remove the roof of the building and so avoid certain levies. Fortunately, before they could do this, a Jersey Island Hotelier named Marshall Doran bought the Castle for not more than £5,000. He turned it into the Belleek Castle Hotel we know today.

By Carmel Murphy