Montpelier Hill is an ancient mound in the County of Dublin. Its original title has long been forgotten and it got its current name from the hunting lodge built upon it. That hunting lodge became a meeting place for the Hellfire Club.
MOUNT PELIER LODGE
In 1725, Speaker of the House of Commons in Ireland, William Conolly erected a hunting lodge at the top of what is now known as Montpelier Hill. By building on top of an ancient burial site and using stones from the remaining cairn, the project was never going to be blessed – no one however, expected the portents of darkness to happen so soon.
With the construction almost completed, including the use of a Menhir for the mantle of the great fireplace, the roof detached and was destroyed in high winds. Locals at the time believed it to be the work of the Devil in punishment for the desecration of sacred ground.
The roof was replaced with one in an arch formation and the property was complete. The lodge was hardly used however and Conolly died in 1729.
In around 1737 members of a secret sect leased the premises from the remaining Conolly family. In a strange twist, the land on which the lodge was built was purchased from Phillip, Duke of Wharton, original founder of the renowned Hellfire Club. A man whose lifestyle had led him into debt and alcoholism and forced him to sell his Irish estates.
There were several Hellfire Clubs throughout Britain and Ireland. Members were of Libertine persuasion and indulged in drinking, debauchery and occult practices including ritual sacrifice. The Dublin branch of this illustrious cadre was established by Richard Parsons, the 1st Earl of Rosse and James Worsdale, a portrait artist and chancer.
Parsons was a Libertine and founder of the sacred sect of Dionysus. He was also twice elected Grandmaster of the Irish Freemasons. Worsdale on the other hand, had little to offer in pedigree and relied on his personality and own liberal approach to life to move in the most exclusive circles, his only real legacy being his portrait, ‘The Hellfire Club, Dublin, hanging in the National Gallery of Ireland.
Here, as with all of the clubs, as well as identical practices and the mascot of a black cat, there were traditions to be upheld. The Hellfire gents would toast the Devil with a potent punch known as scaltheen, a heady mix of whiskey and rancid butter, whilst leaving an empty seat at the table for his arrival.
One famous tale tells of a stranger entering the club and joining the men for a game of cards. When retrieving a fallen card, a startled club member saw the guest had cloven hooves – on recognition the dark stranger vanished in flames.
This story is identical to the one from the infamous Loftus Hall in Wexford, however it seems more than coincidence as the family had property on Montpelier Hill also.
There were reports of murder and animal sacrifice, including that of a black cat who was exorcised by a priest and a demon was seen fleeing. Further tales abounded of a member, Simon Luttrell who allegedly sold his soul to the Devil in order to clear his debts, to be collected in seven years. The Devil arrived at the Lodge to collect his bounty, however the resourceful Luttrell diverted the attention of his soul reaper and escaped for many more years.
During this period in the club’s history, a horrendous fire took hold during a meeting and several lives were lost.
The exact cause of the fire is unknown, yet claims have been made of everything from a footman accidentally spilling a flammable drink to the deliberate act of the members due to a non-renewal of lease.
Either way, the club moved premises to the Steward’s House some short distance down the hill. Now the remains of the Lodge stand in ruins, but not abandoned, at least not by the living.
The screams of a woman being bowled to her death in a burning barrel echo over the hill, a smell of brimstone fills the air and invisible hands grabbing at throats to tear off jewellery are just some of the claims of paranormal activity at the top of Montpelier Hill.
Built in around 1765, the property became a welcome replacement for the burned out lodge as a meeting place for the Club where the depraved practices continued until the Hellfire club was extinguished with the demise of notorious member and revivalist of the same, Thomas “Buck” Whaley.
In the late 1960’s workers began repairs and renovations to the Steward’s House and witnessed many apparitions including that of a man in black believed to be the priest who exorcised the cat at the Hellfire Club at Mount Pelier Lodge.
Further sightings were made of nuns alleged to have participated in black masses on the hill and a black cat with glowing red eyes.
Other activities include hearing the sounds of bells ringing and poltergeist activity. In 1971 a plumber carrying out work unearthed a grave containing the remains of a child or small human, thought to be a ritual sacrifice of the brethren of the Hellfire Club.
In the late 19th century, the Massy family of Limerick took ownership of Kilakee House and surrounding land on Montpelier Hill. In a cruel twist reminiscent of those involved with the Hellfire Club, the party loving Baron Hugh Massy who inherited the property from his family was declared bankrupt, becoming known as the Penniless Peer. The house itself was destroyed upon repossession.
With the exception of the Steward’s House which is privately owned, the area on Montpelier Hill including the Hellfire Club site and remaining cairn form Lord Massy’s Estate, open to the public.
The subject of many paranormal investigations, the Lodge, Steward’s House and surrounding Massy woods remain a place of mystery with little documented evidence to verify many of the stories and alleged events, largely due to the isolation and secrecy of the Hellfire Club.
That said, when you build a lodge by desecrating a sacred burial site, then invite members of the one of the darkest and debauched societies in history to carry out their Devil Worship in that location, macabre occurrences are guaranteed.
So look for your proof as needs be, although perhaps searching for protection from the Devil would be more prudent – and if you smell brimstone, run, before you become a permanent member of the Hellfire Club.