Irish Hellfire Club – Montpellier Hill

When I was a boy my Dad used to tell a ghost story of sorts about the Irish Hellfire Club. It always stuck with me and so a couple of weeks ago my oldest bother, Gerry, and myself took the short hike up Montpellier Hill in the Dublin Mountains to take a look at what is left of the club.

The story my Dad told concerned a group of wealthy types who used the club for drinking, gambling and sometimes, when particularly bored, conducting the odd satanic ritual.  One night while they were playing cards there was a knock on the door.  When it was opened they were met with an old man seeking shelter from the storm that raged outside. They let him in and he warmed himself by the fire and then sat down for a couple of hands. He soon began to win and with each successive game his pile of money grew larger.  One of the wealthy types dropped his cards then, and when he reached down and pushed the long table cloth back to retrieve them he saw to his horror that the visitor was in possession of a large cloven hoof complete with hairy leg.

There was a bit of ballyhoo then, screams and such, and as the devil went about his work he laughed so hard that he blew the roof off the building. Flaming logs fell from the hearth, tapestries blazed, aristocrats died roaring and the legend of the Irish Hellfire Club was born. Years later, when the club was rebuilt, the roof was constructed in the style of a bridge’s arch, each stone interlocking with its cousins to form an incredibly strong structure. The roof still stands today.

I’ve heard the same story from other people too, and there are other, somewhat different stories about the Hellfire Club, many featuring a black cat. The cloven hoof story has also been attached to Loftus Hall in CountyWexford where the devil is said to have appeared in similar circumstances, in that case he disappeared through a hole in the ceiling.

Below, the woods at the foot of Montpellier Hill.



Front of the club, looking down on Dublin.  Most dates list it as being built around 1725.



Rear of the club, with me for scale (I’m six foot).



Rear of the club including a Neolithic (4500-2000BC) passage tomb surrounded by a stone circle.  One of the stones would have stood in the space which the room with the semi-circular window now occupies.  It is said that the missing stone was incorporated into the stonework of the building, furthering the “cursed building” legend.



Here’s a screenshot from google maps showing the intersection of the stone circle and the room at the rear of the building.



Inside there are three imposing fireplaces and about a dozen large niches which must have at one point held statues.  The council have put in a concrete stairs and box-iron handrails so you can go up to the second floor without breaking your neck.





Broken obelisk at the rear of the building.



It’s an interesting and lonely place, well worth a visit even if only for the incredible views of Dublin.  There are plenty of Dutch Gold (lager popular with Irish bums, dirt cheap but tastes almost literally like piss) cans lying around inside and some graffiti, although not as much as you would expect.

Some more images on my flickr page.

And the guys at Blather have some info, including the Loftus Hall/Hellfire Club crossover.

Also some interesting background info and short video here.

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