The Hell Fire Club is the common name given to the ruined building on top of Montpelier Hill in County Dublin, Ireland. In the 1700s it was home to the Irish Hell Fire Club however after numerous reports of paranormal activity and haunted goings-on, the group relocated away from the lodge and it was left abandoned. Today it remains accessible to the public and is maintained by the Irish forestry board Coillte.
The building was constructed in 1725 as a hunting lodge by William Connolly who was the speaker of the Irish parliament. The lodge was quite luxurious with a hall and reception rooms on the first floor and this is where the entrance was, reached by stairs which are now missing. The servants quarters and kitchens were on the ground floor. The official name for the building at this time was Mount Pelier, named for the hill on which it sat. The architecture is of a Palladian design which was a popular style among Ireland’s wealthy with examples including Strokestown House in County Roscommon. William Connolly’s primary residence, Castletown House in Celbridge, was also built in the Palladian style.
Before Mount Pelier lodge was constructed, there was a cairn with a prehistoric passage grave on the summit of the hill. Some of the stones were used in the construction of the lodge and an ancient standing stone from the locality was also used. Shortly after completion, the roof was torn off the building in a storm and superstitious locals said it was the work of the devil for disturbing the cairn. The roof was replaced with an arch stone roof which remains in place to this day. William Connolly died in 1930 without ever putting the lodge to much use.
The Irish Hell Fire Club was founded in the late 1730s by Richard Parsons, 1st Earl of Rosse, and James Worsdale, a portrait painter and actor. Not much is known about the secret organisation however it certainly included many wealthy and important men amongst its membership. It was said to be a meeting place of persons of quality who wished to take part in socially perceived immoral acts. The earliest meetings of the Irish Hell Fire Club took place in the Eagle Tavern on Cork Hill, near Dublin Castle. Activities moved to the hunting lodge on Mount Pelier Hill after it was left to the club by the Connolly family. William Conolly had purchased originally purchased Mount Pelier Hill from Philip, Duke of Wharton, founder of the first Hell Fire Club in 1719 so it is possible he may have been a member.
Not much is known about the Hell Fire Club’s activities on Mount Pelier Hill. Its remote location added to its appeal for the group. Stories exist of drinking sessions and black masses. There are rumours of animal sacrifices and even one occasion in which a dwarf was sacrificed. One story recounts the tale of Simon Luttrell, Lord Irnham, later Earl of Carhampton, who was, at one time, Sheriff of Dublin. He made a deal with the Devil to give up his soul within 7 years in exchange for settling his debts however when the Devil arrived at the Hell Fire Club to claim his prize, Luttrell distracted him and fled.
Another tale tells of a stranger who arrived at the lodge on a stormy night. In the midst of a card game, a player dropped his card on the floor and upon retrieving it, discovered the stranger had a cloven hoof. Upon this revelation, the visitor burst into a ball of flames and vanished. What’s interesting is that there is a similar story to the one told about Loftus Hall in Wexford and coincidentally, the Loftus family also owned the nearby Dolly Mount lodge, also on Mount Pelier Hill.
The building was damaged by fire, possibly in the 1750s with many rumours as to the cause. Some say William Connolly’s son burnt it after refusing to renew the lease. Others say it was burnt to give the building a hellish appearance. A further story tells of a quarrel between club members in which one was covered in brandy and set alight, burning the building to the ground in the process. Whatever the cause, the club relocated further down the hill to Killakee Stewards House and the original building was abandoned. The activities of the Hell Fire Club declined thereafter and it was disbanded in 1760.
The Irish Hell Fire Club was revived in 1771 and some repairs were made to the Mount Pelier lodge to make it suitable for meetings once again. This incarnation was known as The Holy Fathers and lasted for 30 years. The lodge was visited by Joseph Holt in 1798 and was found to be in a state of disrepair. He was a general of the Society of the United Irishmen and recorded in his memoirs that he spent a night in the ruin of Mount Pelier while on the run following the 1798 Rebellion. The lands were sold by the Conollys in 1800 to Luke White, a bookseller and politician. They passed thereafter to the Massy Family of Limerick through inheritance. It was subsequently purchased by the state.
Today the building is open to the public and maintained by the Irish forestry service Coillte. It remains a favourite for the country’s urban explorers and those interested in ghosts and the paranormal.
Location: Dublin, Ireland