|Sion House, Navan, County Meath|
Sion House in Navan, County Meath was one of the residences of the Dunville family and it was used by them as a base for their pursuit of hunting. It was probably bought in the late 1870s by Robert Grimshaw Dunville (1838-1910), who became head of the Dunville family when his uncle William Dunville died in 1874.
Robert Grimshaw Dunville’s son, John Dunville Dunville (1866-1929), was brought up partly at Redburn House in County Down and partly at Sion House. In 1892 he married Violet Anne Blanche Lambart (1861-1940) who also lived in County Meath, at Beau Parc. John Dunville was Master of the Meath Hounds from 1911 to 1915, succeeding John Watson of Bective House, who was Master of the Meath from 1891 to 1908, and the Earl of Fingall, who was Master of the Meath until 1911. John Dunville served for many years in the old Meath Militia (5th Battalion Leinster Regiment), gaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, which he subsequently kept as his title: Colonel John Dunville.
John Dunville was Chairman of the whisky distillers Dunville & Co., Ltd., a keen hunter and a ballooning enthusiast. In the First World War he served in the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force, for which he was awarded the C.B.E.
Two years after the death of John Dunville, his eldest son and heir, Robert Lambart Dunville (1893-1931), also died. It was probably in the early 1930s, after the death of Robert Lambart Dunville, that Sion House was sold to the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul, for use as St. Martha’s College of Agriculture and Domestic Science.
Sion House before and after the Dunville family
Peter Metge was one of the Huguenots, members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France, who fled France for Ireland in the late seventeenth century. He settled in Athlumney and built Athlumney House, where his family continued to live during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Members of the family became Members of Parliament and achieved high positions in the Judiciary and the Treasury.
In 1836, when Peter Ponsonby Metge was living at Athlumney House, his brother John Charles Metge married Eliza Ibbetson Cole. It was probably soon after their marriage that John and Eliza Metge built Sion House and started living there. Sion House is six hundred metres to the east of Athlumney House.
When Peter Ponsonby Metge died in 1873, Athlumney House passed to his nephew Robert Henry Metge, who was the youngest son of John and Eliza Metge. The Metges probably left Sion House at about this time. By 1879, Sion House had been bought by the Dunville family (see above).
In the early 1930s St. Martha’s College of Agriculture and Domestic Science was established at Sion House by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul, and it functioned there until 1982.
The Department of Education and Skills is planning to build a school on the site, consisting of a three-storey post-primary school building with twenty-seven classrooms, two two-storey primary school buildings each with sixteen classrooms, and a single-storey eight-classroom special school building. Sion House and the main entrance gates are protected structures, and will not be demolished, nor will the St. Martha’s College building or the stable block (which is probably also a protected structure).
Source: Archaeological Desktop Assessment, 18 November 2011, for the St. Martha’s Campus Development, authors Antoine Giacometti BSc MA MIAI and Siobhán Duffy BA MSc. The Assessment was commissioned by the Department of Education and Skills before the construction of the new school on the site, and it can be downloaded from MediaFire.
I’m glad the college will not be demolished, it was where my mother went to after she left Loreto College, Enniscorthy, which was also the school where “Edel” Quinn went to as a child. I was given a beautiful photo of my mother in a concert that she was part of during her tenure there. She was placed at he side on her own because she was taller than the whole class production team. It was a stunning photo of her in a gypsy maiden regalia. Sadly, my bag was stolen on me in Birmingham – and a chain watch from around my neck, as I lay sleeping – and the photo.
It was at St. Martha’s that my mother was treated very badly by one nun that traumatised her badly. I stayed with the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent De-Paul in London in a hostel for Irish girls, and also had a nasty experience with one nun. Aside from that I thought the oder of Sisters were nothing in comparison to my nightmarish experiences at Goldenbridge industrial school.
Prior to the boom when I was residing in Ballyjamesduff, I recall hearing that the college with 300 acres of prime land attached to it, was sold very cheaply to a buyer in Northern Ireland.
My mother contacted TB, and she told me that it was got it from the cows. I know that she would have milked the cows by hand at her home when she was a child, but I wonder if she had to do the same at St. Martha’s which was an agricultural college for farmers’ daughters.