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History Cabra Castle

Built: 1760

The history of Cabra Castle dates back to the 18th-century, when the land originally contained an old round tower castle, which at the time was known as Cormey Castle. During the Cromwellian War, the main building had been destroyed, but the courtyard remained intact. In 1808, the Foster Family rebuilt the Castle, which left the family bankrupt. After completing Cormey Castle, the Fosters sold their new country house to their much wealthier neighbors, the Pratt dynasty, who were another Ascendancy family. The aristocratic Pratt family lived across the road at the original Cabra House (also known as Cabra Castle) on the Cabra Estate, which has been owned by the Pratt family since 1699. In 1813, Colonel Joseph Pratt added the new Cormey Castle and much of the Fosters’ Cormey Estate to his own Cabra Estate. Cormey Castle replaced the original Cabra House as the chief “seat” of the Pratt dynasty in County Cavan. Around 1820, the Pratt family renamed Cormey Castle as Cabra Castle, which remains its name today.

The Story of Cabra Castle

This majestic 17th century castle, originally known as Cormy Castle, stands amongst one hundred acres of idyllic gardens in Kingscourt, Ireland. Like many other castles in Ireland, the estate of Cabra Castle was granted to Colonel Thomas Cooch in the mid-17th Century under a ruling by James I, and it was then passed onto Cooch’s only daughter and heiress, Elizabeth. The marriage between Elizabeth and Joseph Pratt and the subsequent ownership of Cabra Castle by their son, Mervyn Pratt, initiated a century-long tale of two influential landowning families – the Fosters and the Pratts. 

By the end of the 17th century, the land on the opposite side of the Carrickmacross Road – where Cabra Castle now stands – was owned by the Foster family, who owned large amounts of land in County Louth and were heavily involved in the Irish Parliament of the time. When MP John Thomas Foster died leaving two young sons, ownership of this opposing estate fell to Mr Henry Foster, who took up the momentous task of rebuilding the gothic castle after its gradual destruction during the Cromwellian War. Notably, the film ‘The Duchess’ is based on John Thomas Foster’s sons and their mother, who fled her husband to live with William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire.

At that point in time, Colonel Joseph Pratt was the owner of the Cabra estate opposite and was keen to expand his local assets. As such, he purchased the Cabra estate from the Foster family in 1813 and swiftly changed its name to Cabra Castle. The Cabra estate was under the stewardship of the Pratt family until the mid-20th century, when a series of unfortunate events led to it being sold; Major Mervyn Pratt, who left Cabra unoccupied while fighting in the Boer War, died leaving no direct heir and, although the Cabra estate was left to his nearest male relative, Mervyn Sheppard – a Malayan Civil Servant – the financial burden of the castle made it impossible for him to remain at the castle. Consequently, the estate was reluctantly sold 265 years after it first came into the family’s possession.

Soon after being scrupulously renovated and converted into a majestic hotel by the Brennan family, Cabra was sold to an Emirati family, whose intention it was to close the hotel once more and retain it as a private home; however, political and economic circumstances in the Middle East prevented the new owners from carrying out this vision, and Cabra lay idle once more. Thankfully, its fortunes changed in 1991, when the Corscadden family reopened Cabra Castle and carefully shaped it into the stately, elegant landmark it is today.