The present Gosford Castle, which lies just outside the village of Markethill, was the third to be erected in the demesne by the Acheson family, and was designed by Thomas Hopper for Archibald Acheson, 2nd Earl of Gosford, who was for a time Governor of Lower Canada.
Started in 1819, the Castle was not completed until the 1850s, and it is the earliest example of Norman Revival architecture in the British Isles. The Achesons’ first house was a fortified tower that was destroyed in the 1640 Rebellion; their second house was visited by Dean Swift in the late 1720s, and at one time he planned to build a house nearby.
Sharp’s House is a two-storey stone-built house set within the demesne. It pre-dates the present Gosford Castle, and is thought to have been built in the latter part of the 18th century. An estate map of 1754 shows several houses in this location, but none can be positively identified as this one. The house has been altered over the years, with the lower portion older and originally single storey, and the main portion of the house added in the course of the 18th century. The detail of the curved bay is very similar to houses in Armagh which can be dated to the 1770s.
The old Gosford demesne is now known as Gosford Forest Park; it has been managed by the Forestry Division of the Department of Agriculture since 1969, and in 1987 it became the first ‘conservation forest’ designated by the Department. However the conservation brief did not extend to buildings, and after being used as a scout hall for some years the house lay vacant and vandalised. An application for listed building consent to demolish was withdrawn when Hearth opened negotiations to buy the property.
In the course of the restoration the attractive staircase, with its saddle-back ramped handrail and ornamental balustrades, was restored, but most of the windows and doors had to be replaced, with sash windows in the main part of the house and casement ones in the return, panel doors to the main rooms and sheeted ones in the small bedrooms. Plaster cornice mouldings were cast from fragmentary originals in the elegant main rooms. The window in the ground floor of the bow had been a conventional type, but in the course of work evidence was uncovered that it had originally been tripartite, and the window was restored accordingly.
Hearth Historic Buildings Trust
Francis Haughey, Keady
Environment & Heritage Service DoE through EEC Tourism Sub-Programme