A Brief History
The fine Victorian house of Gortmore, close to Dundrum village, was designed by the architect, John Skipton Mulvaney, in 1860 but not completed until 1870 when Richard Atkinson and his wife became the first residents. Mulvaney also designed Broadstone Railway Station and the Royal Yacht Club in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire).
The house was sold in 1880 to Edward F. Burke, spirit and wine merchant, with premises at 16 Bachelor’s Walk in Dublin. It was he who installed the ornamental wooden staircase which bears his initials EB. Edward Burke was also responsible for the fine wood panelling in the hallway and reception rooms. The wood used was of the highest quality, being the same as that used for conserving the spirits.
Edward Burke died in 1897, and the house passed to the chairman of the Burke Company, John Gardiner Nutting. John Nutting was also a brother of Edward’s widow, Eliza Jane. It was probably during his ownership that the elegant iron wrought veranda and charming conservatory were added. In 1889 John Nutting acquired the much grander St Helen’s, off Stillorgan Road. He served as Deputy Lord Lieutenant for County Dublin and was created a baronet in 1903.
By 1900 Gortmore was the home of Dr Joseph Michael Redmond, a distinguished Dublin physician. Dr Redmond became President of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, which carried a knighthood. He and Lady Oswaldine were Catholics and they kept a private oratory in the room over the main entrance. Jesuit priests from Milltown Park came occasionally to celebrate Mass there. Lady Redmond died in 1924. The next owner was Oswald Hegarty, barrister, who in turn sold it to the Lefroy family in 1930.
The Carmelites had been living at Ardavon, Rathgar, now the site of Mount Carmel Hospital, since the early years of the twentieth century. It was their House of Studies. As the number of young men joining the Order had increased substantially by the nineteen forties, it was decided to purchase a property which would facilitate the bigger numbers and allow for the building of extra accommodation. Gortmore House, with its fifty acres of land, seemed to fit the bill. and the Carmelites bought this property from Mr St George Lefroy in 1944.
Fr D.C. Kiely was appointed first Prior of the new Carmelite community. He and some of the students took up residence towards the end of August 1944, ahead of the new academic year. The Archbishop of Dublin solemnly blessed the house on November 16th and the Prior Provincial, Fr James Carmel O’Shea, announced that it would now be known as Gort Muire (Maryfield) in honour of the Patroness of the Order.
Work proceeded briskly on all fronts over the next few years. Robinson O’Keeffe and Devane were chosen as the architects for the new chapel and accommodation block. On March 18th, 1946 the first sod was turned for the new chapel while in March 1947 the building of the accommodation block got underway. The Chapel was officially opened and blessed on July 8th 1948. High Mass was broadcast from there by Radio Éireann on January 2nd 1949.
By March 1950, the building of the new block was completed. This improved the living conditions of the individual Carmelite students as each one now had their own room. A second extension was added in 1964 which provided extra bedrooms with space for a large library on the ground floor.
Conference & Retreat Centre:
In 1973 the Carmelites decided to establish a Conference and Retreat Centre since the extent of the student accommodation was no longer necessary. This project was highly successful and lasted for over twenty years. Besides retreats and courses in theology and spirituality, there was a special emphasis placed on the development of Catholic liturgy in theory and practice. Gort Muire became identified with liturgical renewal in the Church throughout Ireland. There was an ecumenical dimension in the work of the Centre through links with the Church of Ireland and with the Rev. Ruth Patterson, the first woman Presbyterian minister in Ireland.
Gort Muire, besides being a centre of administration, hospitality, and care for the elderly, continues as the centre of formation and study for Carmelites in Ireland. The internationality of the Order is evident by the presence of Carmelites, especially during the summer months, from Spain, Italy, Brazil, Indonesia, Timor Leste, the Philippines and elsewhere. The Carmelite Institute of Britain and Ireland (CIBI) which offers a distance learning programme in Carmelite spirituality and history has its administrative centre here also.
The chapel is open for Mass on Sundays and on other days.