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Tempo Manor-

The place where a 'wicked colonel' imprisoned his wife for years because she wouldn't give him the title deeds of her English Manor in Hertfordshire...

Tempo Manor - Co. Fermanagh

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Article & picture submitted by Joe Simpson - Vancouver - Nov '05


Excerpt from pp. 328-331 of:

The West of Ireland: It’s Existing Conditions and Prospects
by Henry Coulter, Correspondent of Saunder’s News-Letter
(Dublin, London & Edinburgh; 1862)

Having reached the point of my destination in Donegal, I returned by the county Fermanagh to Enniskillen, on my way to Leitrim. I heard here that very extensive improvements were in progress at Tempo, the estate of our distinguished countryman, Sir James Emerson Tennent, and although this district is not within the line marked in my instructions, I considered it desirable to visit the place. Arriving at Tempo, I was highly gratified at the scene of activity which I witnessed there, and at the through manner in which Sir James has set about the improvement and beautifying of his property.

There is much interest attaching to the beautiful demesne at Tempo, from the fact that the old mansion which stood upon it was the scene of that remarkable Irish story, Castle Rackrent, by Miss Edgeworth. It was the castle of the Maguires, an ancient race, ennobled by James the Second, from whom the estates passed into the family of the present proprietor. The house, which Sir James has just removed, contained the apartments in which Miss Edgeworth placed the long imprisonment of Lady Cathcart by her husband, Colonel Maguire (who was the Sir Kit of the tale), and the window out of which the forlorn lady, to preserve her diamonds from her husband, threw them down to a beggarwoman, who faithfully conveyed them to the person to whom Lady Cathcart wished them confided, and from whom, many years after, she recovered them in safety on her escape from confinement.

On the site of this old house Sir J. E. Tennent is now building a mansion in the Byzantine Gothic style of architecture, after a design by Messrs. Lanyon, Lynn, and Lanyon, of Belfast. The building is of hammered sandstone with dressings of cut stone; and, having seen the plans and drawings, I can state that when completed it will be one of the handsomest houses in the country. It will contain about thirty apartments. The west side will be 72 feet in length, the south about 50 feet, and the apex of the gables 42 feet in height. The ornamentation will be very tasteful, but not of an elaborate character.

The demesne of Tempo is of unusual beauty, being richly planted with extremely fine old trees: and, besides a river which flows through its entire extent, the hills enclose three small lakes wooded down to the water’s edge. When Sir James came into possession of the demesne, it was in a wild and neglected state. The fine old timber had been allowed to suffer considerably from decay, the ground was overgrown with weeds, and sadly in want of drainage, and the lakes were choked with sedges and foul with decaying vegetable matter.

The place in short had been left for thirty or forty years in a state of nature, and was little better than a wilderness. To improve a place which had been so long neglected, was a work of great labour and expense; but Sir James has undertaken the task with an energy and spirit which I should like to see evinced by other landed proprietors, whose estates stand in need of improvement. Since the month of October last, arterial and through drainage works have been carried on at Tempo on a most extensive scale; and other works, such as the leveling of old and the making of new fences, have also been proceeded with.

One hundred men have been kept continually engaged in these several operations, in consequence of which there is not a man for six miles round who is not fully employed. The sum paid in wages varies from £40 to £50 a week, and the carrying out of all the contemplated improvements will involve the expenditure of several thousand pounds. A good-sized river runs through the demesne, and as it often unable to discharge its swollen waters through its neglected channel, they overflowed and injured the adjoining meadows. This evil has been remedied by the cutting of a straight, deep channel, which will effectively prevent overflowing in the future. When the works now laid out in the demesne shall have been completed, there will be fully two miles of arterial drains, five miles of thorough drains, two miles of new fences, and the extent of old fences leveled will not be much under four miles. The arterial drains are from four to six feet deep, and some of the main drains have been cut to a depth of 25 and 30 feet. One lake covering six or eight acres of land has been completely drained, and the others have been thoroughly cleansed. The fences consist of a sunk fence five feet deep with a good sound bank planted with thorn quicks. As soon as the works in the demesne have been finished, thorough drainage of the estate generally will be commenced.


Artist’s impression (1862) for the book, of the future Tempo Manor
Artist’s impression (1862) for the book, of the future Tempo Manor (front aspect) after completion of construction by Sir James Emerson Tennent, which took place in 1863-4. Note that the present-day tower and east wing (originally a large billiard room, now the family kitchen) do not appear at left of this drawing; these were added only in 1867.

Sir James E. Tennent has a very comfortable and respectable class of tenants. The land is very good and the rents moderate. I was assured there has not been a shilling of arrears in the rentals for a considerable time back: the present proprietor, since he succeeded to the estate, has never had occasion to dispossess any farmer of his holding. Last year they have had, generally speaking, a fair oat crop; but the potatoes failed here as in many other parts of Ireland. Most of them are very well off, having saved money in former years. Fuel was very scarce in this neighbourhood, but Sir James gave a large quantity of timber gratuitously to the poor in the village of Tempo and the surrounding localities. By the assistance which he thus afforded, and the large amount of constant employment that he has been giving for several months past, he has proved himself a great public benefactor. The estate is managed by a gentleman of high character and great experience as an agent, Mr. Matthew H. Sankey, of Brookeborough, who is also agent over the vast estate of the late Sir A. Brooke in this county. The improvements at Tempo are carried out under the superintendence of Mr. Sankey, assisted by an intelligent steward and agriculturist, Mr. Cowan, who is also charged with the duty of giving instruction to the farmers as to the best and most suitable methods of cultivating their holdings.


Article & Pictures supplied by Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson sent us another article on the history of Tempo Manor, which includes some photographs he took in 2004. Click here to read it:

You can read a fuller history of Tempo Manor on the Tempo Manor website at:

Read about Tempo Manor and other Fermanagh houses on Fermanagh Gold at:

There are also extensive historical details to be found on the PRONI website at:



Seamus McGaughey - November '05
Was born about 5 miles from Tempo. Never knew there was such a place. Very interesting. I suppose I left there too many years ago.


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