Brackenstown House came into the possession of the Molesworth family through the marriage of John Bysse’s daughter to Robert, first Earl of Molesworth (1656 – 1725). The original house was of a two-storey Dutch mansion design with 25 rooms. Its most notorious guest was Oliver Cromwell, who was the guest of John Bysse. He billeted his officers and horses at the Brackenstown estate and dined at the house, before his march onto Drogheda in 1649.
A more illustrious guest was Jonathan Swift, Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. He was a frequent visitor, and loved to ride horses around the estate.
The tragic fate of Mary Molesworth is part of the history of this estate. In 1736 at the age of 16, with the encouragement of her father, she married the seemingly charming widower Robert Rochefort, who was 12 years her senior. When rumours reached him of a possible adultrous affair between Mary and his younger brother, Arthur, he had her taken to the Rocheforts’ family home at Gaulston, in Westmeath. There she remained captive, alone apart from his trusted servants, for 30 years. She must have looked back with longing at her carefree life in her family home. Robert brought a law suit against Arthur, accusing him of “criminal conversation” – claiming damages against his brother for adultry. Unable to pay the £2000 fine, Arthur ended his days at a debtors’ prison in Dublin.
Brackenstown House has had numerous owners including the O’Callaghan family, who bred thoroughbred horses. In 1913, the widow of Denis O’Callaghan died and bequethed the house and estate to their two sons “to share and share alike”. In the same year, Brackenstown House burned down. Officially the fire was accidental, but rumours abounded that there had been a dispute between the two siblings about the division of the estate. The house was rebuilt in 1915, but with two storeys instead of three, and a change to a north-south axis. The equine tradition continued with the purchase of the estate by Galway trainer Harry Usher in 1922. He was involved in horse training until his death in 1957.
In the early 21st century, permission was granted for 194 houses to be built on land, which had formerly been partitioned off from the Brackenstown estate for a farm and equestrian centre. Brackenstown House and gardens are still in private hands.