A History of knockrose

Built in the mid 1700s, it is not known why Knockrose was built so close to the Scalp. This area was a dangerous and lawless place, at the edge of Dublin and civilisation. An area, in its time overrun by the Tribes of O’Toole and O’Byrne, who would leave many dead and injured after their visits. It is believed that the house was built on the site of a much older building, possibly Kilternan Castle, but many believe the site contains much older signs of human occupation, about which in time we hope to find out more.

Knockrose, a mixed farm which occupied some 38 acres, has been owned by the Stevenson family (Trish’s ancestors) for many generations. They were known to be kindly and hardworking, honest people.

(Left to right – Mrs Susan Stevenson ~1900, Ruby Stevenson ~1919, Ruby & Vivian Stevenson ~1921)

In the late Victorian era, a large wooden bungalow was erected to the east of the farm buildings overlooking the sea. This building, known as ‘The Chalet’, was bought at one of the Great Exhibitions as one of the new instant houses that were all the rage for wealthy Victorians that wanted to slum it in an obscure part of their estate or near the sea. It became the clubhouse of The Vagabond Club, a cycling club, with many members drawn from the medical and judiciary professions. Activities such as target shooting, archery, golf and fencing could be enjoyed amongst others.

Bicycle Polo was invented here by the Vagabonds and is still played around the world today.

The Club Secretary was an internationally acclaimed racing cyclist called Richard J. Macredy, or Arjay to his friends. Arjay was also the Editor of a newspaper, the Irish Cyclist (and later Editor of Motor News) and he is known to be largely responsible for the mapping of a large number of roads in Ireland and publishing them for the convenience of travellers.

Among the regular visitors to Knockrose and the Vagabond Club was John Boyd Dunlop, inventor of the pneumatic tyre, who would cycle annually to the Scalp from Donnybrook with a group known as the Old Timers Fellowship of Cyclists.

As the motor car became more popular, many of the Vagabonds became owners and formed a club called the Irish Automobile Club or IAC in 1901, with their Headquarters in Dublin.

However, in late 1914, with the First World War in full swing, the first casualties were shipped back to Ireland from the various battlefields. Knockrose was to play its part in the rehabilitation of the injured. The former Vagabonds, many of them doctors, recognised the peaceful atmosphere in the Scalp and sought permission from the War Office to open a Country Club for Wounded Soldiers at Knockrose.

(With kind permission from the RIAC Archives)
Members of the IAC would use their cars to collect the injured from various hospitals and drive them to Knockrose, give them a good tea, supplied by Trish’s grandmother Florence Stevenson and a group called the Ladies Assisting, organise games like football, cricket, Aunt Sally and quoits, provide newspapers for them and otherwise allow them to spend the day as they wished.
(With kind permission from the RIAC Archives)

J. B. Dunlop was known to have transported over 450 soldiers on more than 110 occasions! Over 3,500 soldiers were brought to Knockrose up until the end of 1915, when a shortage of petrol and cars forced this to stop. In the opinion of most of those involved, the Club at the Scalp had a distinctive character and attraction, due to the complete change of air, the beautiful view and country surroundings, the long drive there and back through charming scenery with which none of its successors could compete. In 1919 the IAC were awarded the Royal Warrant for their charitable work which started in Knockrose. Now known as the RIAC (the 6th oldest Motor Car Club in the world), it is THE established motoring organisation in Ireland.

In 1916 the Red Cross took over the Chalet and set up a Field Hospital for the victims of mustard gas attacks. The field in front of the building was covered with tents so the injured could get as much fresh air as possible. The chalet was used as the hospital in which dressings were applied, examinations carried out, etc. (Unfortunately some of the victims succumbed to their injuries and to this day, guests in the chalet have reported sightings of ghosts in military uniforms around it. Sadly many photographs showing soldiers, nurses and the tents along with the Red Cross delph were stolen in 1992).

(Left to right – Horse and trap at front of Knockrose, and stooks of corn drying out on the fields.)
After the war, holidaymakers came to the fresh country air of Knockrose and lodged in various buildings, some for enjoyment and some for their health. Trish’s father, Tommy Hanna was one of the latter. While here, he fell in love with Ruby Stevenson and they got married and took up residence here.
(Left to right – Tommy & Ruby Hanna, Ruby milking, Ruby on horseback.)

Ruby created the first known garden here in the 1940s, when she turned an orchard behind the house into a formal garden and worked hard all her life both on the farm and maintaining the garden.

Harvest time at Knockrose.
Trish took over Knockrose in 1982 where she and her husband Tom have extended the garden and opened it to the public since 2004. Many visitors get a sense of the peace that exists here and find it hard to leave. Some also report of seeing Vikings, Monks and Soldiers as they wander around the gardens.
Perhaps they don’t want to leave either …