The history of the estate begins with the MacDermot Clan, who dominated Connaucht in early Christian times. The lands at that time were known as Moylurg. The MacDermotts became Rulers of Moylurg from the late 12th century until the turn of the 17th century when the Norman invasion led to occupation of Ireland by the English Crown.
During this time grants of land were made to English settlers in recognition of services rendered to the Crown. One of those was Sir John King, a General in the Elizabethian army, who was granted vast tracts of land around Boyle Abbey, including Moylurg. The King family would rename the lands Rockingham Estate.
In 1771 the King family moved from their original residence at King House, Boyle, to the newly built Kingston Hall on the Rockingham Estate. The site of the house was vast and the footprint of the house and its extensive walled gardens still exist.
In 1809 Robert King (1st Viscount of Lorton) commissioned the famous architect John Nash to build another new mansion, Rockingham House.
Rockingham House was built in a picturesque setting, slightly elevated above the shores of Lough Key with vistas to the island and beyond. The house was spread over four floors and had at its centre the ‘gallery of communication’. with a library, drawing room, billiard room and dining room leading from it. Staff access was gained by two tunnels linking into the upper basement of the house.
The exhibition at King House recounts the story of the King family during the years spent at Rockingham House until 1957 when a devastating fire destroyed this exceptionally grand home.