of Mourne Park
The Current ownership of Mourne Park dates back to the founder of the Kilmorey Family's Irish Estates, Sir Nicholas Bagnall, who was granted extensive lands in Newry and Mourne in 1552 by Edward VI.
Mourne Park House was extensively re-built in 1806 on the instructions of the 12th Viscount Kilmorey, later the 1st Earl of Kilmorey. Later extensions were made in 1820 and again in 1859 and 1920.
The main family seat was at Shavington in Shropshire, with Mourne Park used as the Holiday home. It was designed and used for lavish entertainment and house parties for the visiting Earl and often a Royal retinue from England. Indeed, over the centuries many famous people of the day have stayed in Mourne Park, including Errol Flynn, The Queen Mother, General Patton, Dame Melba and Percy French.
On the death of the 1st Earl of Kilmorey, his son the 2nd Earl of Kilmorey, 'Black Jack' inherited the estates and the role of MP for Newry. He lived a notorious and colourful life, travelling extensively. Part of his legacy is the 'famine wall' which surrounds Mourne Park. He died in 1880 aged 92 and was succeeded by his grandson.
The 3rd Earl was involved with the London stage and built the Globe theatre. His extravagance led to the sale of Shavington and the family moved to Mourne Park which was extended further. A variety of specimen trees were planted at Mourne Park and today the gardens are a recognised arboretum.
During World War 2, in anticipation of the Normandy Landings, a tank regiment of the American Army ( 2d Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry (1st Armored Division) were stationed in Mourne Park; the bases of their Nissan huts are still there today, along with the concrete roads they laid down. Also, the foundations of the guard-house and cinema are on the left just inside the entrance to Kilkeel Golf Club, on the Back Drive. There are apple trees in there which grew from the stumps of apples discarded by GIs during the war. These trees aren’t native to N. Ireland...they say the apples came in red Cross parcels and parcels from relatives in the USA.
Sadly, most of the men did not survive the onslaught at Normandy but some of their names can still be seen carved into the trees at Mourne Park.