Journal Volume 3 2000
The Hodson/Adair Family of Hollybrook (continued/4)
Related to Republicans and a Spy
Almost certainly Hartley Hodson and his family were in regular contact with Sir Robert and the new Lady Hodson. It is, however, rather doubtful whether Hartley's brother William and his wife, the former Margaret Armstrong, were equally welcome after 1798. Margaret was a relative of Captain Warneford Armstrong of the King's Co. Militia, who had been stationed in North Wicklow. His main claim to notoriety, however, was to have lured John and Henry Sheares into believing him to be a fellow conspirator. Only when Armstrong had extracted sufficient information, in the course of which he ingratiated himself with Mrs Henry Sheares and the children, did he report to Dublin Castle and became the star witness at the subsequent trial of the Sheares brothers. They were executed, but even in circles opposed to the United Irishmen it was felt afterwards that Captain Armstrong's conduct had been sneaky and unbecoming to a gentleman.
Sir Robert and Lady Hodson's position was made worse by the fact that Mrs Henry Sheares was none other than Sarah Neville of Marymount, Co. Kilkenny. She was Sir Robert's niece. It is unclear whether the Hodsons also knew that Sarah's unmarried brother-in-law, John Sheares, had a natural daughter at school in Bray. The conservative Hodson family was therefore related to both the Sheares brothers, who died extreme Republicans, and to Captain Armstrong, who continued to enjoy his government pension well into the middle of the nineteenth century. He could go nowhere without his armed guard, while the ordinary people had no intention to forget by dubbing him "Mr Sheares Armstrong".
Death of Youthful Baronet
Sir Robert Adair Hodson, the second baronet, was born in 1802 and inherited in 1809. His glowing opportunities were cut short when he died unmarried aged twenty nine.
His younger brother George, born in 1806, was suddenly catapulted into a large inheritance. With 1,211 acres in Co. Wicklow, 4,349 in Co. Cavan, 729 acres in Co. Meath, 502 acres in Co. Westmeath and 26 acres in Buckinghamshire, England, Sir George joined the ranks of the great Irish landowners. He had the old Adair home demolished and employed William Morrison as architect for the new, baronial style Hollybrook in 1834. He himself executed some murals and ceiling decorations and is said to have had considerable design input. The interior contains dark oak staircases and ceilings, gilding and wainscoting. He was also interested in new inventions, lighting Hollybrook by gas in 1859. Hollybrook's beautiful setting, attractive gardens, lake and splendid hall with stained glass, depicting Hodson family history - an ancestor had been bishop of Elphin - made it a popular venue for visitors well into the twentieth century. In the grounds a viewing tower modelled on ancient Irish round towers and erected during the Great Famine (probably as a local employment scheme) has survived to the present day. An ancient Irish doorway and carved head were inserted into some stone work in the farmyard.
As an amateur architect Sir George also designed the ornamental dairy in Kilruddery, which "is complete with black marble shelves inside where milk and butter were stored. Water sprayed out from the vent at the top, keeping the dairy cool."