Situated on the summit of Montpellier Hill, at 1275 feet above sea level and overlooking the city of Dublin with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, there resides the ruins of an old hunting lodge from the 18th century. Is this one of the most terrifying places in Ireland? Well on paper it sure looks like to be. Some terrible deeds have occurred here over the years and it soon became known as the ‘Hell Fire Club’, Named after a bunch of rather unsavoury masonic characters whom set up their headquarters there. But to tell the full story, we must journey back to the prehistory of ancient Ireland. The Hill was once the home to what I believe was an important ancient Burial site. There was not one but two Cairns, (4500 – 2000 BC) that once stood on the hill. The first located roughly where the OS trig point now rests and the second larger one to the rear of the old ruins. Very little of these two cairns remain as they were destroyed with their stones being used in the construction to the hunting lodge. There are still some tell-tale signs remaining from the second tomb, with a partial surrounding ditch on the southern side of the mound. Inside this ditch you will find five kerb stones. At the centre of the mound there is a depression which was most likely a chamber. So we have evidence of at least one Passage Tomb for sure.
Now this is just an educated guess, but I believe that Montpelier was an important place to our ancestors, and the passage tomb was most likely the final resting place of a local chieftain of someone of similar importance. It’s a terrible shame that we know little else about the place or its ancient history. Although it has been suggested that hill may be the place known as Suide Uí Ceallaig which was mentioned in the 12th century registry book of the Archbishops of Dublin known as the ‘Crede Mihi’. Moving on a few millennia to the year 1725, William Conolly of Castletown House had a hunting lodge constructed on the hill. It was named Mount Pelier by Conolly but over the years has also been known as “The Haunted House”, “The Shooting Lodge”, and “The Kennel”. This was built using the stones from the two Neolithic cairn, thus destroying any chance of learning more about who was buried there. Connolly was best known as Speaker Connolly, the Speaker of the Irish Parliament. As well as being a politician, he was also a Commissioner of Revenue, a Lawyer and a wealthy landowner. By the time of his death in 1729 he was said to have accumulated over 148,487 acres with vast estates in Dublin, Kildare and Donegal.
The Lodge was a large detached building of Palladian design despite its rough outward appearance. On the ground level there was a large kitchen, some servants’ quarters, a number of small rooms and a stairs which led to the upper levels. The upper floor where much of the entertainment took place consisted of a hall and two reception rooms. On the eastern side, there was a third, timber-floored, level where the sleeping quarters were located, with a small loft was over the parlour and hall. At each side of the building is a room with a lean-to roof which may have been used to stable horses. On the eastern side there is a stone mounting block to assist people onto their horses. To the front of the lodge there was a semi-circular courtyard, enclosed by a low stone wall and entered by a gate, but this is now gone. The hall door was reached by a flight of steps. The house faces to the north, looking over Dublin and the plains of Meath and Kildare, including Conolly’s primary residence at Castletown House in Celbridge. However the original slated roof did not last very long and soon after construction it was blown down during a great storm. According to local folklore, this was done by the devil, in retribution for the destruction of the two cairns.
However I seriously doubt the devil had anything to do with it, perhaps an angry spirit or maybe even the work of the Sidhe? Most likely though it was nature that caused the roof to come down. And so a much stronger barrel vaulted stone roof was erected in its place. Interestingly enough Conolly bought the lands on which he built his hunting lodge from the Duke of Wharton (Philip Wharton, founder of the first ever Hellfire Club – not related to Dashwood’s Hell-fire Club). For more info on the Hell fire Club associated with Dashwood, fellow blogger Sue Vincent wrote a very informing piece which you can red HERE. Well it’s hard to tell if Conolly ever got to enjoy his hunting lodge as he passed away in 1729. Montpelier is said to have laid idle for a whilst until Conolly’s son, known as the Squire Conolly leased it to members of the now notorious Hell Fire Club, from which it took its name, for an undisclosed sum. From here on Montpelier became associated with some terrible acts of cruelty and debauchery including alleged devil worship, sacrifice and demonic possession. There are some tales which would chill you to the bones, but I have been asked not to publish them here as there are still living family members whom do not want wish to be associated with the Club.
So I shall respectfully sit on these until such time as it would be appropriate to release them into the public domain. But there are plenty of other tales associated which I can share with you today. Richard Parsons, the first Earl of Rosse, along with Lord Blayney and James Worsdale established the Hell-Fire Club in Dublin in 1735. Other members included Baron Barry of Santry, Simon Luttrell, Lord Irnham; Colonel Henry Ponsonby; Colonel Richard St George and Colonel Clements. Whilst many of their meetings took place in the Eagle Tavern on Cork Hill, near Dublin Castle, the remote location of Montpelier would provide a safe and undisturbed place for them to carry out their activities. Parsons was twice Grand Master Mason of Ireland, in 1725 and 1730. The president of the Hell Fire Club was named ‘The King of Hell’ and was dressed like Satan, with horns, wings and cloven hooves. One custom was that of leaving the vice-chair unoccupied for the devil, in whose honour the first toast was always drunk. Members of the club were renowned for their excessive Scaltheen drinking. Scaltheen is a rather nasty concoction made primarily from Whiskey and hot melted butter. The Club motto was “Fais ce que tu voudras,” or “Do as thou wilt”.
Meetings started with all members sitting around a circular table upon which was placed a huge punch bowl of Scaltheen. After toasting the Devil and drinking to the ‘damnation of the church the bucks would pour Scaltheen over a cat, and set it alit. After which the gambling, blaspheming, whoring, drinking, violence and Satanism could begin. My earliest recollection as a child being at the club was off the basement. Even back then it was bricked up but even at such a young age I could tell that something nasty lurked within. I have visited the site on countless occasions over the years, especially as a teen when groups of us would hike up for the day during our summer holidays. Don’t get me wrong it is a great place to visit and explore, but that basement still gives me the same horrible feeling. One story I always remember my Gran telling me when I was younger which concerned the Devil himself, whom made a brief appearance there at some unspecified time in the past. One dark and stormy night a stranger arrived at the lodge seeking shelter, after being invited in, a card game ensued. After one of the players dropped his card, he bends down to pick it up only to find that the mysterious visitor is sporting a set of cloven hoofs. Startled by the discovery, he lets out a scream which alerts the devil and he promptly disappears in a puff of smoke leaving a strong smell of brimstone behind him.
Another story about the club concerns a young farmer from Bohernabreena, whom one night gave in to his curiosity and decided to climb the hill one night in order to see what all the fuss was about. Well the next day he was found wandering aimlessly around the surround woods unable to speak. The poor man is said to have lost his mind and could not even remember his name. Then we have the tale of a priest whom stumbled across members of the club one night. It would seem that the club members had been in the middle of some satanic ritual involving another large black cat, when they caught the priest snooping. Well as the story goes, the priest managed to escape from his captors and grabbed the cat shouting an exorcism as he went. And so the cat was ripped asunder as a demon shot out of the corpse and hit the ceiling, bringing the roof down on its inhabitants. I wonder was this the reason why the original slate roof fell down??? Another macabre tale tells of how a young woman was placed in a barrel, set alit and rolled down the hill to her death. Then there is the story of a young man, a dwarf as the story goes whom was murdered up at the club during a satanic ritual. What makes this tale more believable is that there is evidence that it may have actually happened and not just folklore or history. At the end of the hill there is a small pub and restaurant known as Kilakee House. The owner had been bombarded with what can only be described as poltergeist activity. Even an exorcism by the parish priest could not settle things down. Well back in the early 1970’s the skeleton of a dwarf was found, buried underneath the kitchen floor. In this unusual grave a brass statue of some demon was uncovered. As the story goes, the priest was called for a second time and the remains received a proper burial after which the manifestations stopped.
Eventually everything came to an end for the Hell Fire Club in 1740 when the place true to its name was gutted by fire. Now here we have three conflicting stories as to how it all happened, so I will share them all with you and let you make your own mind up. Firstly up we have the Club setting fire to the place to give it a hellish appearance, I personally don’t hold much belief in this theory. Yes they were a mad bunch of crazy bastards, but not that mental. The second story also sees the club burn their lodge in an argument over the lease with Squire Conolly, this is somewhat more believable and finally we come to the Scooby Doo ending. Following yet another Black Mass held in the club a young footman accidentally spills a drink over the notorious Thomas (Burn Chapel) Whalley. In response the nasty Whaley whom was known for his arson tendencies involving Catholic churches retaliated by pouring brandy over the man and setting him alight. The fire spread around the building and killed many members. He would amuse himself on Sundays by riding around Dublin setting fire to the thatched roofs of Catholic chapels. Following the devastating fire, the club relocated further down the hill to Kilakee Stewards House. However, the club’s activities soon declined after this incident. But this was not the last of the Hell Fire Club, In 1771 Irish Hell Fire Club was revived or reincarnated as it were. Now known as the ‘’Holy Fathers’’. Meetings once again took place at Mount Pelier lodge and, according to one story, the members kidnapped, murdered and ate a farmer’s daughter. Following the death of Thomas Whalley they eventually disbanded for good in 1800, or did they……………………………..
The Conolly’s sold the lands on to a Luke White in 1800. After which they passed hands through inheritance to the Massy family. When the Massy family became bankrupt, the lands were acquired by the State. Today, the building is maintained by Coillte, who manage the forests on Montpelier’s slopes, and have installed concrete stairs and iron safety rails across the upper windows. The Hell Fire club is still a popular place to visit, but beware, if you go into the woods at night
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