Parkanaur is a large, rambling romantic Tudor Revival house which has evolved through the years. Originally the land was held by the O’Donnellys until granted by James I to Sir Toby Caulfield in the early 1600s. The land remained in the ownership of the Caulfields until sold by James Caulfield (1st Earl Charlemont) in 1771 to Ynyr Burges (East Ham, Essex), who had made a fortune in the East India Company as the ‘Secretary & Paymaster of Seamens Wages’. Ynyr Burges appears only to have visited the estate occasionally. Following his death in 1793 a small two storey cottage called ‘Edenfield’ was built in 1802-1804 as an occasional residence. This may have been built by Ynyr’s daughter Margaret or his nephew John Henry (Woodpark, Armagh).
The growing importance of the house from retreat to home to seat is reflected in the graduated scale of the different parts. When John Henry Burges settled on the estate in the 1820’s, the cottage was enlarged. His son John Ynyr added to the building further from 1839 to 1854 encasing the original building and adding a west wing. This new house was then named ‘Parkanaur’ and is built from block rubble on a larger scale. It has a grand terraced front with octagonal shafts or pinnacles and gables at each projection of the façade, a big bay window and an upper oriel and is comparable to Narrow water Castle in Co.Down again by the Newry Architect, Thomas Duff. The original two storey dwelling is still visible with the new building joined onto it. The large plate windows of the 1820 and 1839 additions have mullioned windows with leaded lights and transformed frames and are shielded by block dripstones. The present taller west wing lying along the terrace was laid in 1843, it doubles back to form an upper yard which has a coach house and a tower intended for hanging meat. A free standing office block was added in 1870. A plaque above the doorway leading to the court is inscribed “This house and offices were built by John Ynyr and Lady Caroline Burges without placing any debt upon the property (A.D. 1870)”. The costs of the works was specified not to exceed £5,000.
The house remained within the ownership of the Burges family right up to 1955 when it was vacated and the family moved to England. The house lay vacant until 1958 when it was bought by millionaire ‘Thomas Doran’ for £13,000 as a gift for his friend ‘Rev Gerry Eakins’. Tom Doran had originally came from near Castlecaulfield but had emigrated to the USA as a teenager. There he made his fortune as the founder of ‘The Cheerful Greetings Card Company’. The reason for purchasing the house was to facilitate his friend Rev Eakins in developing a new centre for the education of handicapped young adults. The house reopened in 1960 as ‘The Thomas Doran Training Centre’, (Parkanaur College) and much of the house continues today in this role.
The main entrance is in complimentary style to the house. Again, Duff is likely to be responsible for this design. It is a one and a half storey building constructed in fine grey ashlar, given an informal appearance by its single storey rectangular bay windows, the porch, gablet and big octagonal chimney stacks. At one stage the windows were mullioned as bi and tripartite openings to pretty lattice-paned cast iron lights. There is an extensive and grandiose entrance gate screen with tall octagonal stone pillars with octahedral cappings.
Parkanaur boasts rich “Elizabethan style” interiors. It has a great hall lit by its three perpendicular windows, with a tudor style arched screen and minstrels gallery at its south end. Older works includes the 17th Century Jacobean carved wooden mantel with male and female cyriads and an imported dining room chimney piece dated 1641 with Ionic columns decorated with bunches of grapes interspersed with spiralling vines and cherub heads below the shelf. In the Duff Wing, Mrs Burges sitting room, the Drawing Room (which has a strap work mantel) and a further octagonal room have lofty Jacobean ceilings. There is a pretty mid 17th Century Baroque organ Case in the gallery.
Parkanaur is set in beautiful grounds, wooded by the planting of 21,000 trees and 91,000 quicks by John Henry Burges. It boasts a rare herd of white fallow deer, one of only two herds in Ireland. Much of the original estate is in the ownership of the DARD Forestry Service.
The Architect, Thomas Duff
Born in 1791, Thomas J. Duff received training at the Royal School of Architectural Drawing in Dublin. Duff was a known subscriber to architectural pattern books and inspiration for Parkanaur may well have come from these. He is also responsible for Newry Cathedral, the initial designs of Armagh Cathedral and Narrow Water Castle, described by W.M. Thackery as “a good specimen of the Tudor Gothic”.