Mourne Park is on the main Newry to Kilkeel road, just a few minutes outside Kilkeel town. During the Second World War batallions of the 5th Infantry Divisions were based here. Keep an eye out for trees with soldiers signatures carved into the bark and the old nissen hut bases scattered across the estate.
This is a beautiful place to visit as there is a driving range, golf club and lovely walks through the forest and up Knockchree Mountain. Please visit the websites for more information:
Mourne Park During the Second World War
Troops were stationed here during the preparation for the allied invasion of Europe and the location was ideal as it was spacious and quite private, surrounded by woodland and trees.
The buildings in the above picture would have been to the right of a broad concrete path which winds from the main Kilkeel to Rostrevor Road. This path is an obvious sign of the American presence in the area as it was constructed by US Military personnel.
Below is a plan of the Mourne Park Camp which was supplied by Mrs Annley who still lives in, and owns part of Mourne Park.
- When going through the gates of Mourne Park two buildings are visible which were reportedly a guard room and a cinema for the troops based there.
- Troops began to arrive in 1942, the first being the 2nd Battalion 6th Armoured Infantry and the 16th Armoured Engineer Battalion of the 1st Armoured Division.
- In October 1943 the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery 5th Infantry Division Artillery and 19th Field Artillery (5th Infantry Division) – equipped with 105mm towed howitzers arrived. Also did the 46th and 50th Field Artillery Battalions (5th Infantry Division) who were also equipped with 105mm towed howitzers.
The 105 mm howitzer was a standard US light field artillery, a short canon type weapon. It fired 105 mm high explosive semi-fixed ammunition and had a range of 11,270 meters.
Apparently some of the planning for D-Day took place in Mourne Park House.
Some of the trees in Mourne Park have carved into them the names and addressess of some of the soldiers. Keep an eye out for these as they are a poignant reminder of the men who trained here.
For more information on the Second World War in Northern Ireland please visit – http://www.ww2ni.webs.com/
The History of Mourne Park and the Kilmorey Family
The founder of the Kilmorey family’s Irish estates was Sir Nicholas Bagnal. He was granted the lands in Newry and Mourne in the 1500s. In 1673 his heir died leaving no male issue. His lands were transferred to his cousin Robert Needham.
The Kilmorey family owned the estates in Newry and Mourne. In an 1810 rental the townlands of Mourne in the Kilmorey Estate were as follows;
‘Aghyoghill, Aughnahorry, Ballintur, Ballygowan, Ballykeel Beg, Ballyveagh More, Corcreaghan, Cranfield, Carginagh, Derryogue, Drumcro, Drumindoney, Drummon, Glassdrumman, Greencastle, Leitram, Magheramurphy, Magheragh, Maghery, Moneydoragh Beg, Moneydorragh More, Moyad and Tullyframe.’
The earldom of Kilmorey was created for General Francis Needham in 1822. His son Jack Francis became the 2nd Earl and an absentee landlord when the estate was left in the hands of his three trustees. The 3rd Earl inherited the lands and title in 1880 and made Ireland one of his permanent residences. He, his wife Ellen Constance Baldock and their family spent a lot of time in Mourne.
Mourne Park House and a map of the Mourne Park Demesne
Mourne Park House
Mourne Park House was a grand dwelling nestled in the trees of Mourne Park. During the Second World War officers and soldiers were based in the house and this is where apparently some of the planning for D-Day took place!
Mourne Park House was the family residence of the Needham Family. It was originally built in the early 19th Century as a two story building by Robert Needham, 11th Viscount Kilmorey. A third story was added sometime after 1820 and more extensions followed in 1859. It was listed as a ‘Gentleman’s Seat’ in 1812 and a description of its grounds were as below in 1864;
‘Mourne Park, the beautiful estate of the Earl of Kilmorey, the woods and grounds of which clothe the base of Knockchree (Hill of the Deer), 1013 ft. crowned on the summit with an observatory. Here the White Water is crossed…’ 
The earldom of Kilmorey was created in 1822 for General Francis Needham (1748-1832). His son Jack Francis Needham inherited the title and became the 2nd Earl of Kilmorey after his father’s death. He was renowned for being a very eccentric and colourful person and this led his father to leave the Mourne Park estate to his three trustees. As a result Kilmorey became an absentee landlord, with little interest in spending time in Ireland. The trustees of the estate were all married to three sisters of the 2nd Earl. 
In 1860, a son of one of the trustees, Octavius Newry Knox carried out a detailed report on the estates belonging to Lord Kilmorey. In this report we can get a better picture of what life was like in Mourne at the time. Knox details the conditions of the land, lists the schools present in the area, discusses the use of sea wrack, along with including descriptions of prominent buildings in Mourne at the time. He also details the state of Mourne Park house and its grounds. Lord Kilmorey at the time was an absentee landlord and this is evident as the report suggests that the house is falling into disrepair. The Mourne Park mansion and premises were held by Captain Ramsay. Knox states the internal woodwork of the mansion is in need of painting and there are some signs of dry rot in the house, causing one part of the floor in a bed chamber to have fallen in. The water pipes supplying the house were also unreliable.
The 3rd Earl of Kilmorey inherited the title in 1880 following Jack Francis’ death and spent a lot of time in Mourne Park. He married Ellen Constance Baldock in 1881. ‘Nellie’ Kilmorey was reported to have inherited ‘the Teck Emeralds’ from her lover Francis of Teck, the brother of Queen Mary.. The 4th Earl of Kilmorey who died in 1961 was the last Earl to live in the house and it has been passed down through the female line to the current owner Marion Needham Russell. Marion is a cousin of Sir Richard Needham M.P., the 6th Earl of Kilmorey.
Nellie Kilmorey and the family enjoying Mourne Park and the sunshine.
Over recent years Marion and her family had restored the house to some of its former glory and they used it as their home. Unfortunately a serious fire destroyed this beautiful house in May 2013, gutting it internally and destroying centuries of history.
This is a far cry from days gone by, when the mansion was used for extravagant parties, hare coursing, summer fetes and lavish entertainment for the visiting Earl and his guests. The house is steeped in history and can boast of royal guests such as King Edward VII and movie star Errol Flynn.
Inside Mourne Park House
(All black and white photos from PRONI)