It soon became a meeting house for the Irish Hell Fire Club, and it is believed that these men committed many depraved acts within its walls.
A Friendly Game of Cards
For the distinguished well-to-do‘s, barons, lords and other high class peoples of the area, the knock is not completely unwanted, for another player in their game of cards would make it more interesting. The shrouded stranger is invited in and set at the table, a spare seat usually left for their most distinguished of guests.
The cards are passed, the game is played and a good time is had. The stranger is not talkative, but having someone new to play against, someone unfamiliar, a new style of play more than makes up for that.
One of this elite clubs members fumbles his cards, one drops to the floor. He bends low to pick it up and glances towards where the stranger is seated. Shock, the man's feet are misshapen, they are not that of a man, but rather the cloven hooves of the beast. Blustering and blurting he grabs his card and retakes his seat. The stranger, aware that his cover is blown, disappears in a flash of flame, leaving only a terrible odour.
The seat usually left for the most distinguished of guests – the devil himself – had at last been filled. A pity he had to leave so suddenly...
So goes one of the legends of the 'Haunted House', 'The Kennel', 'The Shooting Club' but at the time better known as the ‘Montpelier Hill‘ meeting place of The Hellfire Club (also Hell Fire Club).
As the workers were digging out the land in order to provide a stable base for the lodge, they came across an ancient passageway that led to a cairn. One would think such a burial place would be left alone, but instead William Conolly had the great stones incorporated into the lodges structure. An ancient standing stone that helped mark the land as a sacred resting place was used as the lintel of the grand fireplace
William Conolly died in 1729. Six years later, in 1735, the Conolly family leased the hunting lodge to the Irish Hellfire Club.
The original Hellfire Club was founded in London in 1719, as a kind of gentlemen's club. The Hellfire Clubs were much different than the typical gentlemen's clubs of the day, they were places for 'persons of quality' wishing to take part in lewd and immoral acts – the clubs motto was 'Fais ce que tu voudras ' which essentially translates to 'Do what you want' – and legends have it that is exactly what they did.
Doing What They Wanted
It was one such meeting of drunken debauchery that the building was essentially destroyed by fire. There are many tellings as to what led to the fire, but one of the most famous involves a simple accident and an extreme response. One of the clubs more famous members was Richard Chappel Whaley who hated religion and spent his Sundays setting fire to Catholic chapels. For his involvement in the burning of the Hellfire Club, its best to leave that to the words of Robert Whaley:
“After an unfrocked clergyman had performed a Black Mass in one of the two upstairs rooms in Montpelier House, the ceremony ending in the usual drunken revelry, a footman picking his way through the sprawling bodies spilt some drink on Richard Whaley’s coat. Whaley reacted by pouring brandy over the footman and setting him alight. The man fled downstairs clutching at a tapestry hanging by the hall door, trying to douse the flames. Within minutes the whole house was ablaze.”
This was essentially the end of the Hellfire Clubs use of the Montpelier House, but not the end of the club itself – it simply moved down the hill a little to the Killakee Stewards House (but that will be for a different time... more ghastly happenings took place there!)
The building was never the same again, it fell into disrepair and the lands were sold by the Conolly family to the White family, then the Massy family, and are now owned by the state and maintained by the forestries.
Legends and Hauntings
An ever present feeling of terrible awe has also been noted by many visitors, as if some power has indeed been trapped within the walls, or trapped in the old cairn, whose stone thieved remains are said to still be located below the house.
A large black cat has also been seen about the hill, believed to have been the same cat a priest exorcised after walking in on one of the clubs many sacrifices. This cat is not to be confused with the black cat of Killakee which is said to be an elemental spirit.
However, the most terrifying of encounters takes place at night. Visitors who have dared stay after dark have, at times, heard the shrieking wailing of a tortured young woman. Legends state she is the same woman who was placed in a barrel, set alight and rolled down the hillside – all for a spot of fun.