In researching the history of this very lovely, though sadly unoccupied, house, set high up overlooking the plains of Kildare and the Wicklow Mountains, it seemed that no great Netflix plot was waiting to be discovered. One historian suggested that it had been the home of Capt. Knipe and his wife, a 28 stone (180 kg) Indian Princess. However Knipe lived at the other Springhill, near Borris in Ossory, and his wife’s maiden name was Rachel Gerrard, from Gibbstown, Co Meath. She may have been “beef to the heel”, and a Meath Princess, but she certainly wasn’t an Indian Princess
The Buildings of Ireland proposes a date of c. 1740. Tierney’s Pevsner suggests c. 1760 . Tierney’s description is superbly detailed: – “double gable-ends, five bays wide and flanked by curving screen walls. Side-lit Gibbsian doorway approached up steps. Hall ceiling with ornate stucco strapwork and acanthus leaves with small birds centrally placed to front and back. Raised-and-fielded panel doors throughout, their shouldered architraves — with one exception — removed. The drawing room to the rear has a deep dentil cornice with egg-and-dart mouldings. First-floor bedrooms with box window seats. A quaint feature is the steeply pitched roof and tall chimney of the kitchen wing — which looks earlier, but is probably of the same date.” I think that it must be before 1755; any later and when selling the lease in 1777 Cramer would have described it as “newly built”
In the 16th Century it was part of the estate of Sir William St Leger under the Elizabethan Plantation of Laois and Offaly (Summary of Inquisition of 1622 R. Dunlop).
By the end of the 17th Century it had become part of the estate of the O’Briens, Earls of Thomond. The tenant was John Warren of Ballymoyleran, who was on the losing side after 1691, was described thus in 1694: ‘the tenant is very poor and now in gaol who as yet has [had] no abatement on account of the troubles [,] he having dealt very unfaithfully with my lord during the troubles’.
He seems to have suffered on account of his actions during the war when he was accused of having discovered the estate to Tyrconnell which made him ineligible for an abatement of £34 in 1693 ‘because of his unkindness to the family of Thomond’. Arrears amounted to £150 in 1699 but was reduced to about £100 by 1702.
On 14th June, 1703 Henry, Earl of Thomond, to Maurice Warren, of Nurny, County Carlow, Esq., in consideration, one thousand and fifty-seven pounds. The town and lands of Nurny and Ballinvally, Ballan and Coniger, Cappaghwater, Laraghteige and Garryoung, Ballykeeneen, Aghaclare, Cooleneshigan ;— The estate of John Warren, attainted. To hold to him and his heirs. — Inrolled 7th July, 1703.
It is not quite clear if this included Ballymoyleran / Ballintobber because by 1704 the hard-line attitude seemed to have softened when one of Thomond’s officials recommended that ‘Mr Warren will clear this arrear, if your honour will allow him the year and a half abatement for the war, which has not yet been made good’. By 1709 the arrears on the farm were about £5. The townland of Springhill incudes a tiny exclave surrounding Old Derrig, and it is probably Old Derrig that was Ballintobber, the townland of the well. Ballymoyleran, the townland of Myler, or of the flat topped hill (Maol) would fit Spring Hill.
A new lease was acquired by Maurice Warren from Henry, Earl of Thomond in 1712, in return for fitting out a Protestant with horse, sword and pistols to preserve the public peace and the Protestant interest and serve Henry Earl of Thomond and his heirs.
All the estate and interest of the said Maurice Warren in the said lands became vested in Sir William Cooper, Bart . (MP for Hillsborough, whose house Cypress Grove in Templeogue still exists; his brother of Thomas Cooper of Gaigue) who, by indenture of lease dated the 22nd February, 1750, demised the said lands and premises to Benjamin Fisher, of Old Derrig.
Much of this early information comes from law reports – the quarrying at Springhill twice led to litigation – Fishbourne v Hamilton in 1890 and Reilly v Walshe in 1914.
Benjamin Fisher of Old Derrig, a magistrate in 1750, married Ester Harvey (of Bargy Castle) (as reported by Pue’s Occurrences 6 May 1758) and describing Fisher as of Springhill. It was probably his father who was the Benjamin who married the daughter of John Browne and Mary Jennings (ancestor of the Brownes of Browne’s Hill) in about 1705. In 1765 Benjamin Fisher is a High Sheriff of Carlow and of Sliguff, near Bagenalstown In 1761 there is a Christopher Fisher, a freeholder of Springhill. Frances Fisher married as his third wife Samuel Galbraith circa 1756 at Old Derrig. Griffith’s Valuation also has the representatives of Benjamin Fisher as the Landlord of Springhill. And until the sale of the estates under the Land Act following the ruling of the Land Judges Court of in November 1903, much of the land was rented from “the Legatees of _______Fisher”.
At Christmas 1845 there was a most unseemly fracas at the C of I church in Carlow. The officers and their ladies had been using the gallery, as their pews were inaccessible due to the installation of a new organ. Mr Faulkner, of Laurel Lodge, as one of the Legatees of Fisher, claimed it and repulsed the officers and their ladies. Not as bad as the altercation a New Inn, County Tipperary, recounted by Dorothea Herbert. The vicar’s family took the front pew, but their claim was contested by the Hon Mrs Robinson of Hymenstown, Lord Massy’s daughter. Lodge’s Peerage was produced (why did anyone have a copy with them at church, I wonder) to show that Mrs Herbert’s family, the Earls of Desart, took precedence over Lord Massy, but that did not stop the subsequent fight in the churchyard.
Benjamin Fisher may have been a descendant of Sir Edward Fisher’s brothers Richard Fisher, or Vincent Fisher, a vintner. In 1611 Sir Edward, an adventurer from London arrived in Dublin with his brothers and received from the crown a large tract in West Dublin upon which he built a manor house called Phoenix Park. He also received large tracts in Wexford and other places. In the cess of 1621, he lived on Fishmonger Street in St. Johns Parish in Dublin, and died there in 1630. By 1634 the records mention William Fisher and his son Thomas, and Hugh Fisher, vicar of St. John’s. There was a quite separate family of Fishers, Quaker millers in Piltown and Youghal, but they did not arrive in Ireland till 1692. Tied in with the pedigree of the Fishbourne family, The National Library has a release by various creditors of Elizabeth Fisher from charges due out of property of her late husband, Thomas Fisher at Coolenekishy, Co. Carlow, Oct., 1746. (National Library of Ireland, Ms. Joly 51 (i)). Gordon Fishbourne, Esq., J.P., was the agent for the Fisher estate in the early 1900s.
One of the legatees may have been Frances Jackson, daughter of Michael & Rebecca Jackson of Carlow, who died in 1859. Her father was Quartermaster of the 2nd Troop (Scots), Horse Grenadier Guards (ROD 506. 120. 378210)
In her will she set up an Asylum for destitute Protestant female servants, ten pounds per annum to be paid out of my said share of the Springhill property and the Museum belonging to my late brother Adam Jackson with all the ancient Books and manuscripts belonging thereto also the House of Commons Journals Almanacs Army Lists etc as books of reference in trust for the public whenever a suitable room shall be obtained for it. The collection also contained the antlers of a Great Irish Elk. As a beneficiary of Springhill it may be presumed that she was one of the legatees of Fisher.
It would appear that the Coopers also retained an interest. The Dublin Weekly Register reported on Sat 21 December 1822 that on Sat 14 Dec 1822 William Cooper of Cooper Hill had had Owen Crosby, wo had lived at Spring Hill for more than 60 years (ie since 1760) as a tenant of the Legatees of Fisher, arrested on a “Court of Conscience” warrant. He had become Mr Cooper’s tenant in 1821, renting 15 acres at £3 13s an acre, and owed £60. He had offered the crop on the field to Cooper (valued at £60) and to give up the tenancy, but both offers were refused. The economics of the field are interesting – his rent is £40 p a, and his gross return in a reasonable year is £60 p.a. – there’s not much room for error or a bad year! In the case he paid off £10/2/6 and was remanded on bail till the balance was paid.
On 18 Oct 1858 it was reported that Kate Mary, youngest dau of the late Owen Crosby and niece of William Dargan m James A Roche of Springfield NJ at St John the Evangelist in New York.
In the graveyard at Killeshin there are a couple of memorials that relate:-
This stone was erected by Owen Crosby in memory of his wife Mary Crosby otherwise Beaghan. She departed this life the 12th. of February 1804 aged 42 years. May she rest in peace Amen.
Nearby is a stone to Dargan:- Erected by Patrick Dargan in memory of his mother Sile(?) Dargan who departed this life 24th April 1801 aged 76 years. Lord have mercy on their souls Amen. And also his wife Elizabeth Dargan who dept. this life Dec. the 24th 1813 aged 42 years and of the above Patrick Dargan who departed this lifef (stone broken) aged 83 years. Also his children Michael, Damien Bridget & Patrick who died young.
William Dargan (28 February 1799 – 7 February 1867) may have been a surviving son. He was arguably the most important Irish engineer of the 19th century and certainly the most important figure in railway construction. The exact place of birth is uncertain but may have been Ardristan near Tullow. When William was a boy the family moved to rent a 101 acres farm at Ballyhide, 1.5 km S. E of Springhill. The names of his siblings are also uncertain, but one genealogical source lists William as the eldest of seven brothers and his will mentions a sister named Selina. Two influential patrons took a hand in Dargan’s career: John Alexander of the milling family based at Milford, Co. Carlow, and Sir Henry Parnell of Rathleague, MP for Queen’s Co.
Dargan gave us not only our railways but also The National Gallery, as part of the 1853 Dublin Exhibition, Ireland’s answer to The Crystal Palace Exhibition. The enterprise, to which he contributed nearly £100,000, involved him in an eventual loss of £20,000. Apart from the DART he constructed over 1,300 km (800 miles) of railway around Ireland.
He married Jane Arkinstall in the Anglican Church of St Michael & All Angels, Adbaston, Staffordshire in 1828. He bought Mount Annville in Dublin (his neighbour at the smaller Mount Annvile House, on the opposite side of the road was the distiller Henry Roe). By 1857, William Dargan used ‘The Tower, Mount Anville’ as his business address as well as 74 Harcourt Street. Queen Victoria visited Mr Dargan in 1853 and the visit was described in the Illustrated London Newspaper in September 1853. A Wellingtonia tree growing outside the main door of Mount Anville House was planted by her and in 1863 plants from Mount Anville were transplanted to create the public gardens in Bray. Following a very bad fall from his horse, Dargan sold Mount Anville to the Convent of The Sacred Heart and died a year later on 7 February 1867 .
He seems to have been universally liked, and had a quick wit, as quoted in Seventy Years of Irish Life by William Richard Le Fanu (1896):- “A spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar” and “Never show your teeth unless you can bite”.
Nicholas Harman, of Carlow, settled in Ireland during the reign of James I. Whence came he? Most Elizabethan adventurers leave copious genealogies, But not Harman. So he was probably not from the grand Harmans of Sussex and Norfolk. Nor was he related to William Horman (c. 1440-1535), headmaster at Eton and Winchester, best known for his Latin grammar textbook the Vulgaria; or Thomas Harman ( fl. 1567), who was an English writer on beggars, grandson of Henry Harman, clerk of the crown under Henry VII, who obtained the estates of Ellam and Maystreet in Kent.
He was however one of the first burgesses of Carlow, named in the charter granted to that borough by James I in 1614, and was High Sheriff of County Carlow in 1619. He had two sons, Edward Harman and Sir Thomas Harman of Athy, MP who commanded Sir George Wentworth’s (the brother of Sir Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford who was executed by Charles I) troop in the Athy area in 1643 (Protestant in the Confederate War, Royalist in the Civil War). Edward’s son was William Harman, of Derrymoyle, Queen’s County (on the Ballickmoyler Road out of Carlow) and of Dublin whose will was dated 27th April, 1682 and proved 10th Jan 1684. William had two children, both daughters, but the elder died before her father so William left his wealth to his younger daughter Catherine who, around 1680, married James Fitzmaurice, of Kilmihil, Co Clare, brother of Thomas Fitzmaurice, 21st Lord of Kerry, and uncle of John Petty of Springfield Castle, 1st Earl of Shelburne.
Sir Thomas Harman’s great grandson was Lawrence Parsons Harman, Lord Oxmanstown and Earl of Rosse (1749-1807), of Newcastle, MP for County Longford, 1775-92, who assumed the additional surname of Harman in 1792, on succeeding to the Harman estates, and married, in 1772, Lady Jane King, daughter of Edward, 1st Earl of Kingston (a dangerous relative- he shot his son’s father in law qv Levally). He was also ancestor of the King Harmans of Rockingham House, Boyle. Sir Thomas’ family had lands at Moyle between Carlow and Tullow, Edward’s land was on the other side of Carlow, into Laois, centred on Derrymoyle, Old Derrig, Springhill and Killeshin – considerably more profitable as it included coal mines!
James Fitzmaurice and Catherine Harman were recorded as living at Bannagh, Co Kerry in 1720 & 1724. The Hon Captain James died before 1749 when his widow advertised the lands of Derrymoyle and the colliery for let. She was living at Bowensford near Charleville, Co Cork (Pue’s Occurrences 21 February 1749)
On 28 July 1755 her grandson James Fitzmaurice had a son, Harman, by his wife Catherine Moore (both were minors and had married earlier that year!) at Springhill. The god parents were Warter Wilson Esq, William Moore Esq. , The Hon Catherine Fitzmaurice and Mrs Elizabeth Magrath. This is the first reference found so far to the Fitzmaurices at Springhill. Harman married Maria Evans and died 9th July, 1839 at Ardateggle, just over the hill from Springhill. With thanks to Catherine FitzMaurice, Bandon Genealogy
It is fairly certain that the Fitzmaurice’s never had more than a lease on Springhill, the head landlords being the Fishers, in succession to Thomond to Warren to Cooper.
In the meantime both Taylor and Skinner (1783) and George Tyner’s 1791 Traveller’s Guide Through Ireland list Springhill as being the seat of Coghill Cramer esq.
However Mr Cramer was trying to sell his interest in 1777, and by March 1790 James Roe, the next tenant, is selling his interest. What of James Roe – the complications of the Roe Genealogy make me blanche! I did discover that he was one who gave his name to the efficacy of inoculation against smallpox in an advertisement in the Freeman’s Journal of 1769. As I write there are discussions about how people can be persuaded to take the Covid Vaccine. Maybe we will see similar advertisements!
Oliver Coghill Cramer possessed property in the County Carlow, where he married a Miss Rudkin, “a lady of more beauty than fortune” (the note of disapproval suggests that the commentator had chosen money over beauty!); by her he left two children, Marmaduke Coghill and Hester. The former married first a Miss Humphreys, also of County Carlow, by whom he had two or three children that died in infancy, and secondly the daughter of Jacob Warren, Esq., of Grangely, County Kildare, a family related to the Wellesleys and descended from John Warren, who held the property 100 years earlier. The descendants of this marriage are Maurice Cramer, who inherited Beamore at Drogheda from the Countess of Charleville, Captain Cramer of the Rattlesnake, a Trafalgar veteran, and other cousins residing at Drumcondra.
Sarah Marcella FitzMaurice, b 21 Dec 1818, the daughter of Captain James Fitzmaurice RN and Harriet Thomas, grand-daughter of Harman and Maria and great grand daughter of James and Catherine Moore, married Dr James Lafarelle whose father had been renting Springhill since before 1837 (when he appears in Lewis’s Topography.) till at least 1860 when Dr James died.
Capt Paget Butler (1831- 1913) arrived in 1861. Henry William Paget Butler, Capt Carlow Militia, was the 4th son of Son of Sir Thomas Butler of Ballintemple. He married Geraldine Sydney Fitzgerald, one of the three love children of Lord William FitzGerald, brother of the 3rd Duke of Leinster, to whom the manor of Graney, at Castledermott had been granted. He left in 1868 (selling a 57 year lease).
However on Wednesday 14 July 1909 Hansard records :- W. C. Steadman asked Augustine Birrell, the Chief Secretry for Ireland :- Is he aware that the solicitor having carriage of the sale of Thomas Butler’s estate, of Ballyvass, county Kildare, obtained a conveyance to himself of that estate, and also of Butler’s estate of Springhill, Queen’s County, on 9th November, 1903, as shown by a memorial in the Registry of Deeds, Dublin; that the execution of the conveyance was witnessed by two of the solicitor’s clerks; that the only money advanced by the solicitor to Butler was £384; that Butler’s two estates realised £6,079; that the giving of the conveyance left Butler absolutely without means, and that he died in great poverty; whether he is aware that his personal estate was sworn at £3; that the solicitor placed the estate of Springhill in the Land Judge’s Court in a false name and published an improper final notice to claimants and incumbrancers; that Butler’s share of the purchase price of Springhill and bonus was £2,867; will he say if Butler or his widow have received any portion of that money, and, if so, how much, as there is no record of any such payment; if the solicitor has received a payment of £935; and if he will call for a detailed account to show what has been done with Butler’s share of the purchase money of the estate of Springhill?
Mr Birrell:- I am informed by the Registrar to the Land Judge that there do not appear to have been any proceedings in that Court for the sale of the estate of Thomas Butler. As regards the proceedings instituted before the Land Commission, I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the question asked by him on the 6th instant. As the title to the claims on the estate has not yet been investigated, the charges made in the question against the solicitor having carriage of the sale cannot now be dealt with by the Land Commission. It is open to the parties, if so advised, to raise the question before the Court of the Land Commission at the time of the distribution of the purchase money, or, in the meantime, to take proceedings before a court having jurisdiction in such matters.
This Thomas Butler (1814-1893) is the elder brother of Paget Butler. His widow, Emma Elizabeth Bertie Cator, had died in 1905, and the beneficiary would have been their daughter Laura and her husband Commander Francis Fitzpatrick Tower, whose only daughter became Lady Dunboyne. An odd aside, and it is hard to see how and when Butler acquired an interest in Springhill.
Saturday, October 29, 1892, In consequence of the tenant Joseph Greene leaving the county, an unexpired lease from the legatees of Fisher Esq is to be sold. John Greene married Elizabeth Anne Lafarelle, daughter if Dr James Lafarelle of Springhill on 11th November, 1861. His son Joseph Greene b 18 Dec 1861 (5 weeks water!) at Spring Hill. He married Charlotte FitzMaurice, daughter of Gamaliel and Charlotte on 13 May 1885 at Kenilworth Square, Rathgar. Dublin. Charlotte had been born in Laurel Lodge, Carlow (which was the home of the Faulkners, Legatees of Fisher!) and her father had been born at Old Derrig and died at Ballyhide, the farm that had been rented by the Dargans, Their children were Elizabeth Adeline Greene b 10 Jan 1892 at Spring Hill and Amy Hilda Greene b 21 Nov 1893 at Ballymagarvey, Balrath, Navan.
When Sarah Marcella Lafarelle’s brother Major Harman Fitzmaurice, the son of Captain James FitzMaurice, RN, and Harriett Thomas (only daughter of Arthur Thomas of Straw Hall, Carlow), married his first wife Frances Fitmaurice, he gave his address as Old Derrig. Crossleigh is where they were living when Harman jnr was born on 25 Mar 1866. His mother died 3 years later at Springhill House, , deeply regretted by numerous circle of relatives and friends. They had presumably moved when Paget Butler left.
Harman’s second wife was Helena Fitmaurice. They married in September 1876 and his address was Spring Hill House. She died at Spring Hill 6 days after William Raymond Fitzmaurice of Everton (his first wife’s father), in November 1896.
In the 1901 Census the 80 year old Harman Fitzmaurice and his 22 year old daughter Ada were in residence. They had moved to Crossleigh at Ballyhide by 1903, when Ada married Clarence Cary, a land agent of Dublin Street, Carlow. Harman died in 1908 with his daughter and son in law beside him.
By late 1901 William Reilly, farmer and harness maker, was of Springhill. The Census of 1911 lists him (b 1857) his wife Bridget (b 1858) (daughter of Martin Brennan from Killeshin), their sons John, Thomas and James, their daughter Elizabeth, and his brother in law Thomas Brennan. His son Big Tom O’Reilly (named after his grandfather Thomas Reilly), a hero of the War of Independence died in 1953, and was buried with full military honours.
Though the house may be in need of TLC, Reilly’s descendants have been in possession longer than any of the preceding owners.
I had hoped to bring Laois’s favourite aviator James Michael Christopher Fitzmaurice DFC (6 January 1898 – 26 September 1965) into the family, but his father Michael Fitzmaurice, who was a prison warder at Mountjoy, was born in Limerick. His mother, Mary Reardon was the daughter of a steward from Limerick. His grandfather, also Michael was a policeman and also from Limerick. James moved with his parents to Maryborough (Portlaoise), in 1902, when his father was transferred to the prison staff there. James attended St Mary’s CBS and subsequently boarded at Rockwell until in 1913 his father sent him, aged fifteen, to Waterford city as a trainee salesman at Hearn’s drapery. Fitzmaurice was of course part of the Bremen flight, the first flight across the Atlantic from East to West in 1928