Christopher Stephen Gaisford-St Lawrence who died on October 29 was the last of the venerable family to live in Howth Castle and which had been in their possession, unbroken, for over 800 years. This brings an end to a glorious chapter in Howth’s history.
Described as a mischievous figure, he died last Sunday week at the age of 94. Although Howth Castle and the demesne, was sold in 2018, Christopher Gaisford-St Lawrence retained a lifetime lease on an apartment in the Gaisford wing, as part of the deal.
The St Lawrence family traced their roots in Howth back to 1177. In that time, there have been 15 barons before the family rose in the ranks of aristocracy, becoming the Earls of Howth in 1881. The fourth earl died childless in 1909 and the title became extinct.
Howth Castle remained in the family, which had then become Gaisford-St Lawrence’s through marriage.
The last of the family, the deceased, Christopher Gaisford-St Lawrence, was born in England in 1930 and took control of the estate before handing over the running of the castle and its 478-acre estate in 2000 to his son, Julian.
It continued to be run as a business, but unlike many other Irish estates, it operated an “open door policy” with much of it open to the public and has been regarded as a Howth amenity, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
While the sale of Howth Castle to Tetrarch has marked a changing of the guard, locals still hope that its place as part of the community can continue.
Both Christopher and Julian were pragmatic when it came to the sale of the estate and one hopes that the auction of centuries of heirlooms, including paintings, antiques, a library of books and bric-a-brac going back centuries, by public auction – will see history in safe hands for future generations.
But even with the sale of the estate, Christopher was determined to stay on in Howth, to see out his own tenure and his family’s history, bringing the curtain down on a connection with Howth going back 846 years.
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