The great house, The Hermitage, was built in 1780 for Edward Hudson, a successful Dublin dentist in 1780, and over the following years the grounds were laid out. There are forested areas where a fine selection of local flora and fauna is found, along with a number of follies, a hermit’s cave and a faux dolmen and Ogham stone.
In 1910 Padraig Pearse, who had opened his school St Enda’s (Scoil Eanna) in Cullenswood House, Ranelagh in 1908, decided to move ‘to the country’ when he visited St Enda’s Park. This was due to his interest in both teaching Irish (he was adamant about pupils being bilingual) and that they should have a strong interest in nature. The curriculum and teaching methods were very popular and soon attracted many students. However, with Pearse’s growing involvement in republican matters, the school’s prospects soon began to suffer. Only a matter of days after the fighting ended, he and his brother Willie, along with Thomas McDonagh (assistant headmaster and signatory of the Proclamation of Independence) were executed for the part in the Easter Rising. Without Pearse’s direction and energy the school, inevitably, went into decline. It was run for a time by their mother who, with the influx of funds after the executions, was able to buy the property. However, due to the falling numbers of pupils the school closed its doors for the last time in 1935. Following the death of Pearse’s sister (Margaret Mary Pearse) 1968, the ownership of the property was transferred to the State.
Recently, the building has been extensively renovated with many of the rooms now on show as they were in Pearse’s time, namely; his study, the sitting-room, art gallery (with a number of sculptures by Willie Pearse) and a pupils’ dormitory. A large, timber three-legged table upon which Robert Emmet was decapitated is an interesting, if little publicised and macabre, item of historical interest. Outside, the gardens, courtyard restaurant, paths and bubbling fountain are a perfect place for a walk and quiet reflection. It’s a hidden gem!