Garnett, of Arch Hall

Arch Hall, Wilkinstown, was a three storey red brick house with cylindrical turret-like bows at each end and a semicircular bow at the centre of the façade.  The house was just one room deep and was built over a brick basement.  The house was re-modelled in the nineteenth century and the front brick façade was rendered.  The curved ends were given conical roofs so that the house would resemble a French chateau.  The rustic arch flanked by obelisks to the south of the house on the original avenue provided the name of the house. The arch contains a decorated stone from Neolitic times.  Other follies included two bridges over a narrow canal that is diverted from the Yellow River.  There was a large lake to the south-west of the house.  With a lodge at the entrance gates there was a walled garden and extensive outbuildings.  A local story says that there were two Chilean pine trees planted, one each side of the arch to celebrate the birth of two boys to the Gilliat family.  Captain Glennie Gilliat died of wounds in October 1914 while his brother, Captain Reginald Gilliat was killed in action at Neuve Chapelle in April 1915.

Arch Hall is associated with the Payne and Garnett families. The lands at Newtown Clongill were in the hands of the Payne family from the time of the Cromwellian confiscations. William Paine acquired a lease of 510 acres at Arch Hall in 1714. William had two sons, Lawrence and John.  Anne, daughter of John Paine, married Benjamin Woodward of Drumbarrow in 1737. The house was probably constructed in the 1730s and designed by Edward Lovett Pearce.  Arch Hall is one of a small group of Irish buildings in Vanbrugh's castle style making use of bows and circular rooms at an early date.  In 1835 John Payne Garnett retained the townland of Arch Hall in his hands and had most of the townland under pasture, raising sheep and black cattle.  Mr. Garnett's house was described as a beautiful old-style residence with a fine garden and offices, an artificial pond with a number of islands on which ducks and widgeon feed. On the western boundary was a beautiful decoy.  The well-wooded demesne comprised about 350 statute acres.  Garnett also kept the townland of Fletecherstown in his hands raising sheep and cattle.  The sheep were mostly of the Galway breed and the cattle chiefly the long-horned Irish breed.

John Payne Garnett was High Sheriff of Meath in 1821. John Paine Garnett died 1846 and was succeeded by his son, Samuel. Samuel Garnett of Arch Hall married Mary Anne Tandy in 1841.  In 1845 Samuel Garnett, Esq., J. P., was a member of a company promoting the construction of a railway from the south of Ireland to the north, from Limerick to Clones.  In the 1850s Samuel Garnett held lands at Arch Hall, Fletcherstown, Oristown and Clongill. Samuel was High Sheriff of Meath in 1858. In 1876 Samuel Garnett of Arch Hall owned 1,336 acres in county Meath.  Samuel's son, John, married Edith Singleton of Aclare but died in 1872 leaving an only son, John, born in 1866, who succeeded to the estates of his grandfather in the 1880s.

A Justice of the Peace John died unmarried in 1894. The property then came into the hands of the Gilliat family who were involved in banking in London and trade in Liverpool.  In the 1901 and 1911 censuses Edith Gilliat and her daughter, Constance, resided at the house with their servants.  Arch Hall, the property of the late Mrs. Gilliat, was burned in April 1923. The house was unoccupied at the time.  Before it was destroyed, one of the rooms was reputed to be made entirely in gold, from the paint on the walls to the furniture and picture frames.  All that survives today is the facade and some remains of the front rooms.  Mulligan described it as a “romantic decaying shell.”