We are very grateful to John Bourke for this account of Lisduff

Lisduff House

        Although domiciled at Granston near Ballacolla in Co. Laois, Lord Castletown also had another estate house some eight miles away at Lisduff on the Tipperary border close to the village of Errill. Being an avid Sportsman, Hunter and Angler meant that Lord Castletown travelled much of the globe in order to indulge his passion. Over the years, he met many likeminded friends and acquaintances on his travels who in turn received a coveted invitation to sample the sport on the Castletown estates back home.  And, in order to gauge the extent of the importance attached to such an invitation, it is perhaps worth noting, that in its heyday, Lisduff House played host to some of the foremost royals and celebrities of the nineteenth century. All of these had one thing in common, they were specially invited guests of Lord Castletown, come for the shooting. Reading like a virtual ‘who’s who’ of the day the list included, The Prince of Wales in 1905, The Shah of Persia (Iran), Dr. Douglas Hyde (first President of Ireland), world famous Tenor Count John McCormack, noted sportsman and wildfowler Sir Ralph Payne Gallwey, as well as a whole host of other distinguished Lords and Ladies. So prestigious was an invite to Lisduff that a special railway station was opened on the main Dublin to Cork railway line which conveniently ran through the Estate. From here, a tree lined avenue led all the way to the main House along which important guests were ferried in comfort to their accommodation for the duration of their stay.

        But what of Lisduff House itself, how did it stack up in terms of contemporary houses and mansions. To begin with, Lord Castletown was one of the sixth wealthiest Peers in both Britain and Ireland. At the height of his standing he was a very influential man but despite his wealth he was apparently quite a benign individual and a far cry from the stereotypical absentee tyrannical Landlord. A little known fact is that he was a native Gaelic Irish speaker and instrumental in founding the Gaelic League or Conradh na Gaeilge with Douglas Hyde. He inherited his estates including Lisduff from his father (some 25,000 acres in all) and once up and running, he became determined to make his own mark.

       Lisduff began life as a working Estate with the main part of the mansion being built in 1760. In 1855 the house underwent a complete makeover with a lavish extension and Ballroom being added. Try as it might however, Lisduff could never hope to compete with the Palladian extravagances of Johnstown or Russborough Houses for example. But as the demand for driThe Barton familyven shooting on country estates escalated during the nineteenth century, coupled with the prestige of a Royal visit, Lisduff was about to experience a considerable upswing in its fortunes. As well as its renowned shooting, Lisduff could also boast an aura of grandiose elegance where invited guests were lavished in splendour. Dinner guests were seated at tables laid out with fresh orchids from the greenhouse before tucking to epicurean meals served with vintage wines followed by Cuban cigars and French Cognac. At its epicentre stood a magnificent Ballroom where an orchestra entertained guests while spectacularly dressed ladies could elegantly descend a magnificent staircase from the guest bedrooms above. An invitation to one of these gala events or evenings back in the day literally meant you had it made.

       As the new century dawned however, immense changes were about to unfold worldwide that signalled the end of the Big House and the Landed Estate. Social upheaval was imminent and the old order crumbling. Lisduff Estate was divided by the Land Commission in 1910 amongst people from the locality. The once proud House that had played host to Lords and Ladies became vacant for a time before two new families, Barton’s and Fairbrothers moved in. Before long, the drums of war were beating on the horizon and worldwide upheaval began culminating in the outbreak of WW1. Here in Ireland, things were also about to change irrevocably with the rising of 1916. The following year, in 1917, the Russian revolution began with Czar Nicholas 2nd and his family swept from power and murdered. For Lord Castletown things would never be the same again. Being predeceased by his wife Claire St Leger (she died in 1927) he lived out the remainder of his life until 1937 at Granston near Ballacolla where he died almost penniless broken-hearted and alone, as the couple had no children. 

To John Bourke’s essay it is interesting to add the tale of John White, a Garda from Erril recorded in the Duchas schools survey in 1938.

“The late Lord Castletown who died at Granston Manor recently was the local landlord of the Lisduff estate, which comprises most of this district. The late Lord Castletown’s father came into possession about 90 years ago. Previous to this the townslands of Knockardgannon and Kyleshaw were in the possession of my great grandfather John Whyte as middle landlord on lease. He received a large sum of money for the land on which the Railway was built at the time, but the property went to the Castletown family on the expiration of the lease, which came to an end on the death of a man named “Price.” < John Robinson Price (1786-1862), the land agent from 1825, who died on 31 January 1862>

Then 52 families were evicted from their homesteads by the Castletown family one day. Their houses were knocked down and cleared to make room for woods, plantations, and game.<I wish I could find some corroborating evidence for this, such as court reports, newspaper articles, or genealogical records, but have not yet. A legal training has made me nervous of unsupported evidence from policemen!>

The families with the exception of a few were forced to emigrate to foreign lands in search of a new home. Then commenced the building of the present Lisduff House, and the various wood, and plantations, the remains of which are visible in a decaying form at the present time.

The late Lord Castletown was never known to be harsh with his tenants. He was looked upon as one of the best of his class. The Irish Land Commission took over the estate about 25 years ago for redistribution amongst the relatives of the original occupiers.Seán De Faoit, 58, póilín, Erril. Although the earliest of his ancestors that I can find seems to be a William White who married a Mary Quinlan around 1780, I wonder did Garda John White known that the founder of his family in Ireland was a Cromwellian, Charles White, who arrived from Oxford in 1657! I think that this line descends from the 5th son of Charles White of Raheen/Charleville, Borris in Ossory, of whom Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland 1899 pg 481 merely notes that “he left issue”! That probably means that he married a local Catholic girl (-:

The 1840 OS Map shows a house that bears little resemblance to the cartouche on Bernard Scalé’s map of 1766, the holding of William Morris, which Scalé describes as thatched and in good repair.
Lisduff on the 1840 survey. It is odd that there appears to be no avenue up to the house and the three protrusions to the south are difficult to interpret. Perhaps it had already been abandoned. Note the Black Fort on the left.

In 1846 John Wilson Fitzpatrick, MP, was the occupier. In Griffith’s 1850 Valuation the original house is described as a steward’s house, and valued at £3/15/- , whilst the present Lisduff house is valued at £50.

1875-77 John Wilson Fitzpatrick, lst Baron Castletown employed the architect Benjamin Thomas Patterson to design a billiard room and shooting lodge (porch, conservatories) at Lisduff. The builder was A. Metcalfe and the cost was £1,954.

September 1853
The coming of age – 1869 Quite a feast for 400 people. The caterer, Thomas Byrne of Lr Mount Street, definitely deserves congratulations

In 1900 it was rented by Llowarch Robert Flower who became the penniless 9th Viscount Ashbrook in 1919. He had married Gladys Lucille Beatrice Higginson on 14 February 1899 and on 23 May 1900 Eileen Augusta Sybil Flower was born. Mummy was soon looking for a nanny!

Morning Post 17 Oct 1900
An aerial view from 2011 overlaid on the 1840 map- the fort is now merely a crop mark, and the original house has completely gone
The 1890 map with a 2011 aerial survey, showing the extent of the Victorian house

The Early History

The Placenames Database of Ireland gives the earliest reference to Lisduff, the black fort, as a Fiant of Elizabeth I in 1566.  Of the 10 ringforts on Lisduff and the neighbouring townlands that the 1890 OS Map shows, none are now visible, which reflects very badly on recent generations of local farmers.

The red circles are earthen forts in the immediate vicinity of Lisduff, which lasted for anything from 1,000 to 3,000 years, before being destroyed in the last 60 years. Fairly astonishing and very shocking!

On the Down Survey it was in the possession of Geoffrey Fitzpatrick, a Catholic in 1641.  Petty’s map shows two buildings and a church on the land.

The two buildings could very well be those shown on the 1840 map, and the map also marks an enclosure on the NE of Knocknahaw, which could mean the Hill of the Fallen, suggesting a graveyard.

RoD111.550.78282 is a lease from Lord Gowran to Stephen Lloyd of Mount Friscoe  20 Aug 1743  for the lives of Stephen, his son George and John Lloyd the younger of Lloydsborough.  The deed was witnessed by Arthur Caesar of Lisduff, Stephen Lloyd’s servant.

RoD300.555.20116   Stephen Llloyd of Clashagad, Offaly transfers Lisduff  to Thomas Spunner of Milltown, Shinrone  9 July 1774

On 1st May 1787 Thomas Spunner the elder of Milltown transferred Lisduff to his son Thomas Spunner the younger, of Dublin

Quakers and Normans

These were probably all transfers of a top-level lease, and the actual occupier was William Morris.

RoD 122.3.81977   On 20 June 1751  John Fitzpatrick, then Lord Gowran who became the Earl of Upper Ossory (created 5 Oct 1751) leased to William Morris the younger, farmer, the demesne of Lisduff (237 acres).  He was presumably the son of William Morris the clothier of Borris in Ossory who leased Ballymeelish, (6 miles North of Lisduff) between Borris in Ossory and Donaghmore in 1744.   He was soon raising a mortgage of £350 on Lisduff from James Hutchinson of Knockbalymagher, Co Tipp.

I have found no published genealogy of this line of the Morris family, but I believe that he descends from Edmond (Montmorency) Morris who was killed at the Battle of Aughrim and from whose heirs Granstown, Donoughmore, and other lands in Queen’s County, were confiscated after the Williamite wars.

John Thacker of Ballymeelish, William Morris’s great grandson, died at brother’s residence, Aghaboe Glebe, Queen’s County, in his 25th year, September 1836.  John Thacker also appears to have had the land at Lisduff, from the sale following his death, so presumably Lisduff remained in the Morris/Thacker family from 1751 till John Wilson Fitzpatrick arrived in the 1840s

Caledonian Mercury – Saturday 16 September 1843 At Lisduff House, Queen’s County on Sept 7th, Mrs James Thomson gave birth to a son. The fact that the announcement is in the Caledonian Mercury suggests that James Thomson was a Scottish land agent for Fitzpatrick, though there were Thomsons at Ballyfin in 1825 – 30th. Dec Baptism & Marriage Records, Cappinrush Parish, Ballyfin, Co. Laois, 1825-26 on Jane Lyons essential site records:- Michael Lusain & Mary Thomson. James Thomson & Catherine Harris.

The Barton family were from Ballinfrase, originally called Annemount after Andrew Barton’s wife and are descended from the Cromwellian Cornet George Barton who acquired Castle Bamford in Kilkenny
Castle Bamford, courtesy Bridget Smithwick

It is an interesting reflection that the only really wealthy family to live at Lisduff in the last 500 years were a Gaelic family, the Fitzpatricks, and the oppressed tenants and hard working farmers like the Morris family, the Thackers, the Whites and the Bartons were of Norman, Quaker or Cromwellian ancestry – rather challenging the Perceived Wisdom.

Nothing to do with the past, but everything to do with the future!

Laois County Council is inviting submissions to help shape the Laois Heritage and Biodiversity Strategy, 2021-2026.…/draft-laois-heritage-and….

.As announced in the 2021 budget Heritage funding for 2022 will amount to €133.5m (a 36% increase).

This is my wish list, which I think could and should be echoed across all counties of Ireland.

What have I left out?

To do a hedgerow survey and teach hedge laying – maybe working with the local IFA /ICA

To do a field name survey maybe working with the National Schools.

With the County’s Local Studies and The National Schools, collect copies of the pre 1950 photos of Laois that lurk in hundreds of biscuit tins and albums around the county.

Undertake a ringfort survey. Around Lisduff in the South of Laois 10 ringforts have been levelled within the last 60 years. Farmers should be encouraged to embrace the tourism potential of their ringforts – a marketing group, public access with insurance indemnity, ….

To record urban decay in villages like Rathdowney Mountrath and Abbeyleix and develop a strategy of positive engagement between the planners and the owners (community policing rather than confrontational policing.)

To compile and maintain a buildings at risk survey.

To survey the vernacular architecture and farm buildings of the county.

Establish a conservation workforce, including trainers for skill training in traditional building conservation, to make places like privately owned tower houses safe, to fund the conservation of important tombs and monuments that are no longer in the care of families, such as the Fitzpatrick’s Pugin tomb in Clough, to conserve vernacular but socially important / interesting buildings such as Walt Disney’s grandmothers cottage at Ballybrophy, etc.

It is important to emphasize that this is not proposing restoration, but merely conservation – capping and pointing walls, propping dangerous openings, buttressing toppling walls. Having trained people in conservation skills maintain a list of local craftspeople for the public to consult.

Taken one stage further, establish a museum of Irish building materials and building practice in one of the disused 19th century Industrial buildings of the county.

More ideas please – And do check what your county is proposing.

Knapton, The Mother’s Lawn

Carrigan says that Knapton was known by the Irish speakers of Kilkenny as ‘Clooinăvomm’ (History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory II 386).  The forms ‘Clone John’, ‘Cloghne John’, ‘Clonejohne’ are also found in other 16th century documents. It is not clear what the origin of this placename is, but it must have the appearance of ‘Cluain a’ Mhaim, the Mother’s lawn ’.


With the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII, church land became the property of the English crown and the land of Abbeyleix was confiscated and granted in 1562 to Thomas Butler, Earl of Ormond, in recognition of his service. However he died without male issue and so by 1637 the manor was again safely in the hands of the Crown.  It may be that Knapton was at that stage part of the Ormond estate. 

In 1633 Dr Purcell, abbot of Abbeyleix became embroiled in a scandal which was reported to the Vatican.  It was alleged that he had ‘abducted and deprived of her virginity’ one Miss Mary Fitzpatrick, daughter of the Baron of Upper Ossory.   As the Fitzpatricks were based at Watercastle, very close to the site of Abbeyleix, it seems that the Cistercians’ connection with the locality had not wholly been severed. Purcell was acquitted, with the suggestion that the story had been fabricated to blackmail him.

Knapton is not listed on the Down Survey or in the Books of Survey and Distribution

The surrounding 20 townlands were all defined as Crown Lands in 1641, and had been acquired by Sir William Temple by 1670 – all with the exception of Knapton alone which is listed as 1641 Owner: Land, Unforfeited (Protestant)   1670 Owner: Land, Unforfeited (Protestant)

There is no reference to Clonoyvam  or Knapton in the Fiants of Elizabeth I, and no castle is marked on Petty’s map.   The probability is that between Ormond’s death in 1637 and 1641 it was granted to a protestant planter, probably from York or Norfolk.    Though there is a Knapton just outside York, it is more likely that the name comes from Knapton Hall in Norfolk.  Knapton Hall was built around 1500-1530 by Thomas Green. It was then subdivided into parts owned by different members of the same family so the property was known as the Knapton Greens. It was significantly remodelled and an extension was added in the early 1600s. In 1637 it was sold to Bernard Hale, master of Peterhouse College, Cambridge – he left the house in his will to the college who owned it for the next 258 years.  Possibly one of the homeless Greens came to Laois after its sale in 1637.

In 1663 the Ormond estate was leased to Sir Edward Massey for ninety nine years. Edward Massey was the fifth son of John Massey of Coddington, Cheshire and his wife Anne Grosvenor, daughter of Richard Grosvenor of Eaton, Cheshire. He may have been a London apprentice before serving in the Dutch army against the armies of Philip III of Spain, who ruled the Spanish Netherlands . In 1639, he appears as a captain of pioneers in the army raised by Charles I to fight against the Scots. At the outbreak of the English Civil War, he was with the King at York, but he soon joined the Parliamentary army.  He joined the Presbyterian group in the Long Parliament. He was one of the 11 Members impeached by the Army in June 1647, and took refuge in Holland. He returned in September 1648, but was imprisoned after Pride’s Purge. On 18 Jan. 1649 he escaped and joined Charles II, under whom he served in the Worcester campaign in 1651. He was imprisoned in the Tower, but escaped again in August 1652, and became one of the most active and daring royalist conspirators.  As a member of the Cavalier Parliament he was vociferously anti-Catholic.  Clarendon described him as “well-meaning, though wonderfully vain and weak”.

With the death of Sir Edward in 1674 the property became the inheritance of his nephew and namesake, yet by 1675 the trustees of the will had sold the manor for £2,500 to Denny Muschamp for a ninety nine year term.  From about 1670 until near the end of his life Muschamp acted as secretary and agent to his father-in-law, Archbishop Michael Boyle, primate and lord chancellor, in both Boyle’s private affairs and public duties as archbishop, as lord chancellor, and as one of the lords justices of Ireland.

Knapton may still not be part of the Vesey estate at this stage.  In the early 18th century it was the property of  the Wallis family, who were of Springmount and also leasing Portrane Castle in Dublin.   However as there are leases 40 years later of Knapton from the Vesey family to Wallis (1764) maybe it was already part of the Vesey estate.

Wallis, Pigott & Drysdale

Frances Sadlier Vaughan b 1698 at Golden Grove, Roscrea,  m (articles dated 17 May, 1718) Ralph Wallis, ot Springmount and Knapton, Queen’s Co.  His granddaughter married Lord Mountjoy and his younger son Ralph’s descendants became the Wallis Helys, subsequently Hely Hutchinson, Earls of Dongaghmore

His eldest son Robert of Springmount and Knapton married Editha, dau of Sir John Osborne of Newtown Anner Clonmel,  but had no children. Her uncle Sir Nicholas Osborne had married Mary, daughter of Bishop Smyth of Limerick, so she had cousins by marriage at Borris Castle.    Robert died between 22 Sept 1764 and 14 May 1768 (RoD 265.72.170666) and she remarried Herny L’estrange whose family came from Moystown, Offaly, a house that was burnt down in 1925. 

De Vesci MS 38,905 [1760s] contains a small bundle of letters to the 2nd Lord Knapton about Abbeyleix estate affairs, principally the letting of Knapton and Boley dating to 1763 and 1765-6  The chief correspondents are Capt. and Mrs Robert Wallis, sub-tenants of Knapton in 1766; the former discusses the furniture and effects in the house and the future of the adjoining meadows, and the latter (who presumably writes after her husband’s death) enquires about sub-letting Knapton to the highest bidder and states that she sees no reason why ‘Mr [George?] Pigott’ (her immediate landlord?) should have the house on any terms but that. Also included in the bundle is ‘An inventory and valuation of the furniture, cattle, corn, hay and brewing utensils of George Pigott Esq. at Knapton, Sept. 9th 1763’, presumably drawn up by him prior to the sub-letting of the house to Robert Wallis

The deed of 14 May 1768 referred to mentions a lease dated  22 Sept 1764 when Lord Knapton leased Knapton to Captain Robert Wallis, lately held by George Pigott, for the lives of Robert Wallis, Editha his wife and of Jane Curtis daughter of John Curtis of Dublin.  It recites that Robert had died and Editha was remarried to Henry L’estrange.  It gave a new lease to for the lives of Editha and Thomas Pigott capt of the 4th regiment of horse,

The George Pigott is of Chetwynd (d 1773) who married Jane Warburton of Garryhinch.  Rather bizarrely his father Emmanuel Pigott married Jane’s sister Judith Warburton, as his third wife.  So George’s sister in law was also his mother in law.  Hello Oedipus!

George Pigott had  a slanging match with Edward Deane of Dangan, Co Kilkenny in the House of Commons in 1746.  It ended with a duel in which Pigott killed Deane.  .

George is the father of the Thomas Pigott who became Maj.-Gen. Thomas Pigott.  Born on 13 October 1734, Thomas married Priscilla Carden, daughter of William Carden (of Lismore, near Ballybrophy) and Gertrude Warburton of Garryhinch, on 13 September 1763.  He died on 12 October 1793 at age 58.  The de Vesci papers contain “a commission to administer the oath of a justice of the peace to Thomas Pigott of Knapton, who had recently been added to the commission of the peace for Queen’s County, 1772”

 For a period in the 1720s it appears that it was part of Griffith Drysdale of Watercastle’s estate.  From  manuscripts at Kilboy, Co. Tipperary, T. U. Sadleir, Analecta Hibernica  No. 12 (Jan., 1943), p150 in 1726  Thomas Drysdale of Roxboro is leasing a mill at Ballyhasty for the lives of Thomas Drysdale, James Drysdale, his son, and Griffith Drysdale then of Knapton.   Griffyth Drysdale was a lawyer (Grays Inn 4 June 1688) from a family of mostly clerics.  His brother Hugh Drysdale, became Lt Gov of Virginia.  His father was also Hugh Drysdale, Archdeacon of Ossory, chaplain to the Duke of Ormond, and his mother was Elizabeth Kearney of Blanchville.  When he transferred Moyne to Major Hugh Dysdale of Kilkenny in 1713 he was of Watercastle, and was also of Watercastle in later deeds and is said to have died at Watercastle in November 1731.

Did the 21-year-old John Denny Vesey move into Knapton after Drysdale’s death?  So far no deed has been discovered transferring Drysdale’s interest, nor is it yet clear when it became part of the Abbeyleix estate. 

Thomas Vesey (1668?–1730),  was born in County Cork, when his father, John Vesey, was Dean there.  He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, and became a fellow of Oriel College. In 1698 he married Mary, only surviving daughter and heiress of Denny Muschamp, and through her acquired a considerable estate. On 13 July (patent 28 Sept.) 1698, he was created a Baronet, of Abbeyleix in the Baronetage of Ireland.   He went on to become Bishop of Killaloe (1713–1714) and Bishop of Ossory (1714–1730).  His son Sir John Denny Vesey, who was born at Abbeyleix in about 1709,  was appointed governor of Queen’s County in 1746 and Baron Knapton on 10 April 1750

In Kevin O’Brien’s history of Abbeyleix he writes that the original Abbeyleix House was close to a small bridge on the Abbeyleix Estate still called Dakedok Bridge, which carried an old road known as “The Lord’s Walk” and came from the Mountrath direction, through Knapton and across the Monks’ Bridge.  William Laffan’s history of Abbeyleix identifies a survey by Fanton Phelan of 1734 which shows directly across the Nore from the deerpark, a two-story dwelling with three prominent chimneys.  Three other structures cluster near the church.  The map situates the house somewhere close to the position today of the walled garden.   

Knapton is also apparent to the south and it was from this that Sir John took his title when, in the culmination of his career, on 10 April 1750 he was elevated to the peerage as the first Baron Knapton.   Within ten years, however, Knapton had been let, and around 1757-60 it was the birthplace of Jonah Barrington, who may also have been a sub tenant of George Pigott.  Although one might get the impression from Jonah Barrington’s writings that the Barringtons lived there for generations in Lord Knapton’s lease to L’estrange of 1768 the Barringtons don’t get a mention.   Presumably by this date the Vesey family had moved to the old Abbeyleix house shown on Phelan’s map.

Coote in his Statistical survey of 1801 notes that “Knapton demesne is on the estate of Abbeyleix highly ornamented with full grown timber and an excellent house built by the late Col Pigot” which would give it a date of post 1770.  The only photo that I have seen shows a 7 bay, two storey over basement house, one bay deep, with a heavy moulding along the base of the parapet, and canted 3 bay windows on either side of a tripartite front door with a fanlight.  The chimney stacks are in the back wall, allowing a generous width for the front hall.  The 1840 OS map shows a considerable building to the rear, which might have been an earlier house.  It is also possible that the original house was on the site of the present Knapton, which is marked on the 1840 OS map as Knapton House and became more a gamekeeper’s cottage, appearing as Knapton Cottage on the 1890 OS map.    When the main house was being demolished in 1957 it was said to have dated back to the 16th century, but this seems unlikely. Though no photographs survive of the interior, Desmond Fitzgerald, The Knight of Glin, reported that they were exceptionally fine.

Trying to piece together the history from newspaper advertisements and deeds, Thomas Pigott, Esq of Knapton is mentioned in Saunders’s News-Letter Wednesday 25 February 1778. 

 in Nov 1787 Lord de Vesci is selling the wood at Knapton

SOI.D BY AUCTION, At Knapton, the Queen’s County, the property of the late Colonel Thomas Pigott,  ewes and lambs;  Wednesday 23 April 1794   Saunders’s News-Letter.

1840 OS Map

The builder’s son Sir George Pigott, Baronet, of Knapton (created  3 Oct 1808), married February 15 1794  Annabella daughter of the Right Hon Thomas Kelley[sic) of Kellyville Queen’s County late one of the judges of the court of Common Pleas, and a very rich man.   In 1798 Pigott was a lieutenant colonel in Roden’s Regiment of Fencible Cavalry, the ruthless exterminators of the 1798 rebels. 

George Pigott was still at Knapton 1803 but in 1809 – “Sir George Pigott then of Kellyville is letting Knapton  for up to 3 years”.   In 1810 was still trying to let Knapton but was now resident in Warwick.

According to Leet’s directory (1814)  the tenant was Mrs Morton,  widow of John Morton, a surgeon, of Rockbrook, Ballyroan.

On the tithe applotment survey of 1826 Sir George Pigott is the occupier.

By 1830 he and his family had moved to Paris.

The Pilot reports:- The  Earl of Pembroke, who passes his time more at Paris than any where else, is notorious for being an obstinate ninny, amid who out of mere opposition to his father, married a Sicilian Princess, more fair than wise or good! The owner of Wilton has neither the spirit, or fortitude, or sense, or generosity, of the celebrated Anne, Countess Dorset and Pembroke.  But what does this matter if he pleases the daughters of Sir George Pigott, and lavishes his money upon the fair Josephine? There are some who say, that he is a brilliant specimen of our old aristocratic families.

Pigott died in Paris in 1844 “ PURSUANT to a Decree of the High Court of Chancery made in a cause Pigott against Pigott, the creditors of Sir George Pigott, formerly of Knapton, in Queen’s County, in Ireland, and late of Paris, in the Kingdom of France, Baronet (who died in the mouth of May 1844)

On Saturday, June 2nd 1827 , at Brussels, at the hotel of the British Ambassador, William, son of Sir George Pigott, of Knapton_, in the Queen’s County, Bart., to Harriet, only child and heiress of the late General Jefferson, of Dullingham House, Cambridgeshire, and of the Viscountess Gormanstown.  Freemans Journal 1763-1924, Wednesday, July 04, 1827

By 1827 the resident of Knapton was Hon & Rev Arthur Vesey, brother of the Viscount de Vesci.  Vesey had married Sydney Johnstone of Armagh in 1810 and they had 10 children.

 At Knapton, the Hon. Mrs. Vesey, of daughter.  Saturday 17 October 1829.  This was Louisa Catherine, their 10th and youngest child. 

Saturday, December 08, 1832   died hon & Rev Arthur Vesey, brother of the Viscount de Vesci, at Knapton

In 1842 there was a sale of furniture on the instructions of the Hon Mrs Vesey

John Vesey, 2nd Viscount de Vesci, was married to Elizabeth Brownlow from Lurgan, and it was her nephew William Brownlow who next lived at Knapton.  William’s entry in the County Families is succinct:-     m- 1835 Charlotte, dau. of Mr. and Lady Charlotte Browne. Educated at Harrow ; is a Magistrate for Queen’s co., and a Dep. Lieut, for Co. Monaghan ; was formerly in the Army, and A.D.C. to Earl Amherst when Governor-General of India.

1 Aug 1837

A Soup Kitchen

Through the exertions of William Brownlow, Esq , of Knapton House, assisted by K, L. Swan, Esq., and other gentlemen, a soup shop is about to be opened in Abbeyleix, and a large amount of subscriptions have been received for this truly good purpose. Kilkenny Journal, – Wednesday 30 December 1846 

William Brownlow, esq. Napton, Abbeyleix  1847  Dublin Almanac

Any old parchments?

When in 1815 the Brownlow estate devolved on Charles Brownlow, afterwards Baron Lurgan, the Book of Armagh passed (with other MSS.?) to a younger brother, the Rev. Francis Brownlow of Knapton, as residuary legatee and then to his son William

In 1853 William sold the ninth-century manuscript to  the Rev William Reeves charging the large sum of £300 which Reeves paid from his own limited resources, to prevent the manuscript being sold to a private collector or going abroad. Archbishop Beresford subsequently reimbursed him and presented it to the library of TCD.March 15, 1873 at Knapton, Queen’s County, Charlotte, wife of William Brownlow, Esq., and daughter of the late William and Lady Charlotte Browne died.

In 1874 William Brownlow moved into Martin’s Hotel, Baggot Street. 

In 1875  Charles Colley Palmer,(1845-192) JP, DL  of Rahan, Co Kildare was in residence – His brother Hamilton Palmer was renting Farmleigh.

Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1875 Palmer, CC JP DL

Hamilton Palmer selling up estate of Mrs Palmer (Elizabeth Emily Anne Nugent) who died at Knapton 19 July 1897.

War games

In August 1899 11,00 soldiers took part in army manoeuvres at Abbeyleix, part of the Boer War training.    Field-Marshal Lord Roberts arrived at Abbeyleix Station by the 11.30 train on Tuesday. and at once proceeded to headquarters at Knapton House. where, with others of his staff, he will reside throughout the struggle.  Kilkenny Moderator – Saturday 12 August 1899

A Renaissance RM

In 1906  Murray Hornibrook RM (1873-1949), arrived.  Botanist, art collector, tennis player and private secretary to George Wyndham the Attorney General of Ireland, he seems to have been something of a renaissance man.

He was the son of William Hornibrook of Kinsale (1827-1904) and Rosina Jane Murray (1843-1889) He was born in Hampstead, London on 10 Jul 1873 and died at Villa Louis Ondre, Etretat, France on 9 Sep 1949. He had 7 siblings and one half-brother from his father’s 1st marriage to Anne Smyth (1831-1860).

He was awarded the Royal Humane Society Medal 15 November 1900, for saving the life of Miss Christy at Kilkee, County Clare, Ireland. On 7/3/1906 Murray Hornibrook was married at the Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle to Gladys Thornley Thomson (1888 to 1965) only daughter of Sir William Thomson, M. D., M. Ch., LRCSI., Hon. Surgeon to H.M. the King in Ireland.  Gladys’ mother was Margaret Dalrymple Stoker, Bram Stoker’s first cousin.

Princess Margaret of Connaught, Crown Princess of Sweden and granddaughter of Queen Victoria sent congratulations on Gladys’s engagement:

“The best thing I can wish you is to be as perfectly happy as I am…”

“I am sending you a tea set of Swedish china which I hope you will like & often use, it will be sent off soon, & I hope will arrive before the wedding, but parcels take such ages from here I don’t feel very sure.

With again my very best wishes,

Believe me

Yours sincerely,


Gladys Thornley Thomson

In 1905 he was still living in London and in 1906 he is shown at Knapton. In 1926 and 1928 he is living at Ryde House, Guildford, Surrey.

He was well known for his collection of dwarf conifers at Knapton. His book ‘Dwarf and Slow-growing Conifers’ (1923), revised and enlarged in 1939, records about 500 forms, and became and remains the standard reference work.

He left Ireland in 1922 and donated the bulk of his plants  at Knapton House  to Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin.  His departure was probably hasted by the fact that his cousin Henry Hornibrook of Kinsale, Henry’s son Samuel and his nephew Herbert Woods were abducted by the IRA in Cork in 1922, Their bodies have never been found. In the Irish Times Wed, Jun 2, 1999, Kevin Myers wondered what happened to their killers? Did they go on to high office in Ireland? Did they found well-revered political dynasties?  Myers goes on to discuss his interviews with late 20th century provos wo would seek absolution from certain priests for bombings and shootings knowing that an Our Father or Hail Mary would be the maximum penance, but reserve their sexual peccadilloes for priests, who might frown on murder but had no problem with lust and fornication.

Waltzing O’Donohue

By 1936 it was the home of John O’Donoghue, an all-Ireland waltzing champion, who was fined 2/6d for an unspecified transgression in  July 1936. 

Heartiest congratulations are extended to Mr. John O’Donoghue, Knapton House, Abbeyleix, and Miss Ciss Bannon, Pallas House, Portlaoighise, on having achieved 1st prize in the All-Ireland Old Time Waltzing Competition organised by the Irish Labour Party. The competition, which was the final of numerous eliminating contests, was held in the Four Provinces Ballroom, Dublin, on Easter Sunday night and attracted entries from practically every county in Ireland. In winning the much coveted trophies (two large silver cups and 25 guineas), Mr. O’Donoghue and his partner, “have proved what many of their friends have known them to be —first-rate dancers. Leinster Leader – Saturday 19 April 1947

When the main house was demolished in May 1957, the range of stable buildings at the rear, including the old carriage house, was retained, re-roofed and used as farm buildings.

The latter lost its roof in a severe accidental fire around 1962, after which the historic buildings, and the adjoining walled garden, were neglected. In 2020 the present Viscount de Vesci was considering redeveloping the existing buildings including the Old Carriage House into tourist and holiday accommodation.



The remains of The Island in 1980.  The remaining outbuildings consisted of a large barn and what was originally two small houses at the end.  The door of one of them was blocked up and these were converted to a four roomed house where Thomas Youell lived at the end of his life.

The Island, Abbeyleix is said to have been so named because it was bounded by roads on every side.  Although stories about its acreage in Thomas Youell’s time vary, it supposedly contained about 100 Irish acres or 162 statute (English) acres.

                The Island appears to have been occupied by the Claxtons at one time as a William Claxton of Island, Abbeyleix, was buried on 30 December 1809.  He was almost certainly one of the Claxtons of Corbally, Abbeyleix.  ( and may have built the house at The Island which was lost in a fire.  Only ruins remained in the early 20th century.  The Claxtons are believed to descend from James Claxton of Sigginstowne, Co. Kildare, who left land in Portarlington to his second son Samuel.

                The late Sadie Bennett said that her family, the Galbraiths, had once owned nearby Tunduff Park, until one of them lost it in a card game to Joseph Dobbs of Abbeyleix.  A branch of the Galbraiths later lived at Corbally, Abbeyleix.  Anne, the Widow Claxton, (1823-1912), was boarding with the family of George Galbraith of Corbally (1850–1914) at the time of the 1911 census.  Family tradition relates that the house at The Island accidentally burnt down and that an old lady had been the last occupant.  This possibly was the Anne Claxton who was living with the Galbraiths at Corbally.  A James Claxton (1842-1903) who is thought to be Anne’s son, was also farming at Corbally.

                The Leinster Express of 21 March 1835 lists a William Galbraith of Ballybrit and Humphrey Galbraith of Finnard as having interests in Tunduff.  Humphrey Galbraith was married to Jane Bereton, a great grandaunt of the Tomas Youell who occupied The Island at the beginning of the 20th century.

                Strange enough, Tunduff Park was badly damaged in a fire during the time of the Dobbs.  The story is that an elderly servant went to bed and the unfortunate old lady left her candle burning as she slept.  The Dobbs repaired the house by taking out the floorboards and joists of the top floor and removing the dormer windows, reducing the house from three to two stories.  As a result, the existing bedrooms now have very high ceilings, as they incorporate the lost upper rooms. 

SERVANT BURNT TO DEATH, The residence of Mrs. Dobbs, Tunduff Park, near Abbeyleix, was totally destroyed by fire on Friday morning of last week, and servant named Bridget Gunn (otherwise Coffey) perished the flames. Mrs. Dobbs, her daughter, Miss Ina Dobbs, and the servant were the only occupants of the house. It appears that sometime about one o’clock in the morning Mrs. Dobbs was awakened noises the servant’s bedroom, which was on the same landing as her own and that Miss Dobbs. She went out the landing, and when she tried enter the servant’s room she was driven back by burst of Same. She then dashed across the landing, and alarmed Miss Dobbs, and they both succeeded in getting safely out of the house. They gave the alarm to Master Richard Dobbs, who, with another youth, slept in tent not far from the residence. The boys summoned what help was in the vicinity, and cycled into Abbeyleix for further assistance. A large number of men turned out, but the fire ad made great headway, and, owing to the scarcity of water, nothing could be done to save the house. The greater part of its contents was destroyed, only few pictures and small articles of furniture being got out uninjured. A search was made in the debris for the remains of the servant, and a small portion of the body, badly charred, was discovered. The deceased was an elderly woman, and bad been many years in the service the Dobbs family.

Saturday 18 September 1915 Weekly Freeman’s Journal

The house also suffered a crack in the gable wall, which appeared at the same time as the local papers reported that an earthquake had been felt in the area back in 1852.  The house was also occupied by the IRA on 22 July 1922, as they mined the road and lay in wait for Free State forces.  There were some causalities in the ensuing battle of Tonduff. 

Joseph Dobbs, Tunduff circa 1912

                Susan Carter (Mrs James Bennett of Cardtown House) acquired the property after he husband died in 1939. 

Tunduff Park.  The portico was added by the late Leo Bennett

Corbally House

                George Galbraith’s aunt, Ellen Galbraith (1829–1905), lived at Raheenabrogue with her husband Robert Case (1841–1912).  Robert, described as a ‘member of a very old Protestant family’ was known locally as “Protestant Case” due to his tendency to argue the merits of Protestantism with anybody.  However, following his wife’s death, he is reported as having taken to drink in his grief and living between his sister-in-law, Sarah Galbraith’s house, and ironically, Miss Bridget Kennedy’s Temperance Hotel in Abbeyleix.  Miss Kennedy was Catholic and it seems that Robert converted in the hope that she would marry him.  He named her anyway as his principal beneficiary in his will.  Robert Case died 2 April 1912 and the Freeman’s Journal (27 June 1912) reported how the will was unsuccessfully contested. 

                Robert’s will was witnessed by William Gillespie, who was lost with the Titanic on 15 April 1912.  William was born in Carlow in 1880 and his father Richard, after serving his time as an NCO in the army, moved to Abbeyleix Demesne where he was a clerk.  William became a law clerk and later worked for Abbeyleix Carpet Factory, which made the carpets for Titanic.  He was travelling to Canada on company business when he lost his life on the ill-fated ship.

                Some of the Case family are recorded in the 1826 tithe as resident at The Island, although with just a few acres.  The later Griffith Valuation shows part of The Island occupied by a Mary Burnes, or Burns, who was renting from a Susan Kelly. 

1826 Tithe Applotment for Island, Abbeyleix. Thomas Case senior, Elizabeth, John, Thomas Junior, Fenton and Thomas Junior.

Thomas & Fenton also at Rathmoyle.  The name of Andrew Galbraith is listed under observations, which may indicate that he was the immediate landlord. 

Robert’s brother, Humphrey Case (1835-1928), became agent and land steward for the Poe family of Blackhill.  (A branch of the Claxtons later lived what had been Poe’s house at Blackhill).  Humphrey Case was a grandson of Thomas Case (1765-1856) who had taken up a tenancy on the de Vesci estate in the late 1700s.  Thomas is interred in the same grave at St Michael and All Angels, Abbeyleix, as his nephew, Dr Samuel Walker MD., (1799–1871) of Raheenabrogue.

                Humphrey Case was married to Margaret Wright (1838–1931), member of a family from Portarlington and related to the Wrights of Ballymorris House.  Her twin sister, Elizabeth Wright (1828-1939) also married a land steward, James Rothwell (c.1831-1929).  These were both mixed marriages as this branch of the Wrights, who are believed to originate with the Wrights of Foulksrath Castle and Castlecomer, were a Catholic family.

                James Rothwell came from Co. Wexford.  His grandfather, Samuel Rathwell of Ballybrennan House, Bree, Wexford, had been co-owner with the Veros of an estate in excess of a 1000 acres.  He had married Elinor Vero, sister to Charles Vero J.P., who had reconstructed the tower house at Ballybrennan, Bree, into a Georgian villa before he was killed in 1798.  Samuel Rothwell was also land steward to the Veros. 

                Elinor and Charles father, John Vero (d.1758) from Galway, had married Mary Colles of Collesford, Sligo.  Her parents were Dudley Colles (d.1736), son of Captain William Colles, Provost Marshall of Connaught (1647–1693) and the heiress to Ballybrennan, Dorcas Byrne or Birne, great granddaughter of Cromwellian Quartermaster James Byrne or Beirne of Boyle, Roscommon, who had served in Coote’s Regiment and who had received 1214 acres in the barony of Tireragh, Sligo for his efforts. 

                It is likely that the Rothwells had previously been agents for Barry Colles (1697-1785),  Exchequer Attorney, who owned an estate at Coolcullenduff, Kilkenny and the entail to Ballybrennan.  His brother William Colles (1702-1770) of Kilcollen, Kilkenny, set up the marble works at Millmount, that produced many marble chimneypieces for Irish country houses.  This is almost certainly how two branches of the Rothwells came to be in the Coolcullen area, almost certainly granted tenancies by their Ballybrennan kin.  According to local lore a Rothwell built Prospect Hall at Mothel, Kilkenny.  The Tyndalls later occupied the now demolished Prospect Hall, where they were employed as stewards whilst maintaining their own small estate in Wexford.

                The Rothwells of Ballybrennan lost all of their estate to the Veros in July 1828 in a case heard before Judge Moore.  Samuel Rothwell of Ballybrennan’s nephew, John Vero or Varo (1785–1830) had been born in Shoreditch, London, where his father, William Vero had worked as a shoemaker.  In the contest for the lands of Ballybrennan, Carrignaneen, Ballybrittas, Tomfarney and Ballyaeden, comprising 1086 acres, John Vero was determined to prove that he was the rightful heir. 

Ballybrennan House, Wexford

                The court case followed a complex line of descent of Ballybrennan from the Byrnes and through various members of the Colles family until it was conveyed from Charles Vero to Neptune Vero.  It then apparently came via a deed of 1770 to John’s father William Vero the shoemaker, who was described as having lived in obscurity in London, where he married Susannah Ellis.  Following the murder of Charles Vero in 1798, William emerged to claim the property.  William was described as ‘addicted to drunken habits, sensual, and ready for any present gratification.’  He was also unpopular as a landlord and in 1805 he lost a case after bringing an action against every one of his tenants, for ‘combination, fraud and collusion,’ whatever that involved.  Beginning an affair with servant Catherine Behan, William publicly declared that his children were illegitimate and turned his wife, Susanna Ellis, out of their house.  She was soon followed by their only son, John Vero who had stuck up for his mother.  William placed an advert in the Wexford Herald warning against giving Susanna credit.

                John Vero commenced his case by claiming that his uncle, Samuel Rothwell, manipulated his father, William Vero, to procure a lease from him in 1815 and he complained that the Rothwells had gained the support of the ‘whole tenantry.’  But this is perhaps not surprising considering that William had sued all of them back in 1805.  Neither was it surprising that Samuel Rothwell wanted some security of tenure.  The complexities of succession and entail were followed during the trial before the nature of the deeds effected by William Vero was at last discussed.  It was established that William had indeed worked in Whitechapel and Petticoat Lane under the surname of Varo and had that married under this variation of the surname.  It was at first claimed that he was 80 when he died but it was later established that he was in fact about 70.  Strange enough the how and why he had become a shoemaker in London was not discussed. 

                The counsel for the Rothwells described how after William Vero showed up in 1798, he had received great attention and kindness from his brother-in-law, Samuel Rothwell.  William Vero agreed to give Rothwell a lease for a tract of land for three lives when his existing lease expired but then in 1801 he gave Samuel a lease, to commence in 1806, for thirty-one years.  The lands were so poor according to Samuel, that it was hardly worth his while to till them.  Then, in 1811, on the marriage of one of Samuel’s children, he invested money to improve them and by doing so he increased the value.  In 1813, Samuel obtained a new lease but in 1815, William Vero then wanting money, offered to sell Samuel his interest in part of the estate for the sum of £300 plus an annual sum of £30.  However, it was now questioned as to whether William Vero, as “tenant entail,” ever had the power to make such leases.  It was pointed out that if the jury found against the Rothwells, they would lose the lands and the £300 that Samuel had paid in good faith for the title. 

                It was further questioned as to whether or not William Vero was indeed the same person as William Varo and whether or not the certificate of marriage was genuine.  Also, if it was correct that whilst in London William Vero had been “called Varo by the cockneys” and for this reason had written his name as Varo.  Since 1811, Susanna Ellis had lived nearby, on a sum of £40 a year that William gave her and had made no protest.  William’s nephew, John Vero of Verona, supported the Rothwells, saying that he heard William Vero assert that Susanna was not his wife on several occasions and in another deed of 1823 William had conveyed his interest in the estate to his nephew, John Vero of Verona, ignoring his alleged son John.  In November 1824, William in his will had made reference to ‘the children of Susannah Ellis,’ and avoided calling her his wife.  John Vero the nephew then gave evidence that the documents from Shoreditch were not in his uncle’s handwriting.  The prosecution alleged that John was biased because he would receive an annuity of £200 a year.  Michael Ronan stated that William Vero said of John, “By G–, he is not my son; I was never married to Susan Ellis.”  In the will William had bequeathed 5 shillings each to John Vero and his other children by Susanna Ellis.  A Mr Stock gave evidence bizarrely declaring “nothing was more natural than when William appeared in Ireland that he should declare that woman as his lawful wife, being as she was, “so far removed from the station to which she then arrived; besides she was one of the prettiest girls in England.” Mr Scott spoke to the court about William Vero’s “compunctious visitings.” 

                Judge Moore was satisfied that the identity of William Vero alias Varo was genuine and his marriage too and what interested him was the deed of 1815, conveying the property to Samuel Rothwell, which he concluded “destroyed” the former lease of 1813.  He accepted that Samuel Rothwell had improved the land and he asked the jury to consider if the leases Rothwell last obtained reflected their full improved value.  It may seem unfair that Moore suggested that Rothwell should have paid Vero more money for work that he had paid for himself, but the jury had little option except to conclude that the price Samuel Rothwell paid did not reflect the improved value.  And so on this one issue, the Rothwells lost Ballybrennan.

                However, a question remains as to the identity of Judge Moore.  Was he the Judge Arthur Moore of Moore Valley and Lamberton Park?  Judge Arthur had a niece, Elizabeth Moore, the only child of his recently deceased brother, Pierce Moore of Poolsbridge, Stradbally, and the granddaughter of Anne Vero who married Francis Marsh.  Anne was a first cousin to William Vero the shoemaker.  If it was Judge Arthur Moore who heard the case then he would certainly have known of this relationship which surely brings the trial into question, his directions to the jury and whether he should have heard the case. 

                John Vero died just a couple of years later in 1830 aged 45 and his son Christopher (1810-1885) lived in Cork off the rentals from Ballybrennan.  It was put up for sale in four lots in 1850 as an encumbered estate but the sale of the first two lots cleared all debts and so Samuel Rothwell’s great nephew Christopher retained Ballybrennan until his death when it was sold to Robert Disney Jones.  Robert’s son John Jones then sold it to another branch of the Rothwells, generally known today as the Rothwells of Bunclody.  They were distant cousins of the first Rothwells of Ballybrennan.  Hence the two branches of the same family are often confused.  Even more so as both branches had similar naming patterns and both had married into the Warrens of Monart. 

                On 28 December 1901, John William Rothwell (1876-1904) of New Deerpark purchased Ballybrennan.  He was the son of a Samuel Rothwell of Deerpark (1836-1890) and grandson of John Rothwell (1807-1893) of Carrickduff, High Constable of Carlow.  John William died aged only 28.  His son Samuel Rothwell should have inherited it but he died aged only 18 on St Stephen’s Day 1920, leaving two sisters, Eliza and Annie.  Annie retained the property until the 1970s. 

                Some of the first Rothwells of Ballybrennan went to Canada, where they were partners in Dawes Brewery.  John Thomas Rathwell (1863–1915) (Rathwell and Rothwell are interchangeable spelling variations of the surname) became Mayor of Lachine.  John Rothwell, a son of the Samuel who lost Ballybrennan in 1828, took up a farm in Monart Wexford.  He had two sons, Samuel (1836-1882) and James (c.1831-1929) who both became land stewards in Laois. 

                Samuel Rothwell was friends with Laois antiquarian Daniel O’Byrne who recorded an archaeological discovery made by Samuel in 1856 when he was working as steward on the Doyne estate near Timahoe.  In the same year, Samuel married Frances Wills, daughter of Robert Wills Gent., of Garryglass.  The story of the Wills family of Garryglass is that they were a branch of the wealthy Sandford Wills family who were disinherited from the family fortune when Casper Wills of Willsgrove, Roscommon, discovered that they had been double baptizing children at both the Protestant and Catholic churches in Stradbally.  The couple had two children and emigrated to Canada.

                His brother James (c.1831-1929), already mentioned above as marrying Elizabeth Wright, had a difficult life as a land steward at that time as it was not uncommon for the Whitefeet, and the rival Blackfeet, secret societies, to make death threats to try and force a tenancy to be given to one of their own.  Thus Samuel often left jobs overnight.  He worked at Grantstown, and later at Raheenabrogue eventually retiring to The Tiles, Abbeyleix.  He and Elizabeth had twin sons, James William (1867-1954) and John Henry Rothwell (1867–1945). 

James Rothwell

John Henry Rothwell married Catherine Youell (d.1928).  She was the daughter of Brereton James Youell (1810-1884), clerk and schoolmaster. 

The head of the Youell family was Brereton’s brother, Thomas Lewis Youell Esq., (1818–1874) of Tierhogar House, Lea, near Portarlington.  The Youells were Huguenot in origin and had evidently known the Wrights for a long time.  In the early 1800s, both families had land holdings around Portarlington, William Youell at Deerpark, Lea, in 1825 and by the time of the Griffith Valuation George Youell held lands at Tirhogar, Ballymacrossan, Droughill, Cooltedery and Ballymorris, where a branch of the Wrights were then living at Ballymorris House.

Tierhogar House

Another of Brereton’s brothers, Surgeon George Youell, had served in the 54th foot regiment and was in the Crimea, Gibraltar, and the West Indies before his death at Bermuda on 9 September 1864.

                It was one of Brereton’s sons, and John Henry Rothwell’s brother-in-law, Thomas Youell (1846-1917) who purchased The Island, Abbeyleix, although it is unclear when this happened, as he is recorded as living with his sister and brother-in-law at Tonduff at the time of the 1901 census.  John Henry Rothwell had married Catherine Youell on 7 September 1897 and it is unknown if Thomas Youell was already at The Island.  It may be, that as Abbeyleix Golf Club opened on part of The Island in 1895, that Thomas Youell purchased the farm at this time.  There were also a number of County Council cottages, built by the council on land belonging to The Island that they purchased along the Portlaoise Road frontage.

                Thomas and Catherine had a brother, Brereton Jasper Youell who was a Petty Sessions clerk and auctioneer in Ballinamore, Leitrim.  He died in 1911 and most of his children had followed their brother, Rev. William Wesley Youell (1868–1928), a Baptist minister, to California, USA.  But a couple of Brereton’s sons remained in Ireland.  One of them, Frederick George Youell (1870–1960) was a member of the grand Orange Lodge of Leitrim becoming secretary in 1902 and also serving as master for a time.  But in 1912 he was raising money to renovate the Catholic curate’s house in Ballinamore and in 1914 he was an Irish Volunteer, going on to become a notable member of Sinn Féin by 1917.  There is no evidence to suggest that the Orange Order ever expelled him.  His other brother, Edgar, who also remained in Ireland, was evidentially of a similar mind, an Anglo-Irish Protestant nationalist.  He helped Fred to organise a concert in 1904, in aid of a Mrs Morahan, an evicted Catholic shopkeeper.  The songs at the concert included The Croppy Boy, The Rising of the Moon and a Nation Once Again. 

Brereton Jasper Youell

                Thomas Youell, as said was unmarried and his sister Catherine and John Henry Rothwell had no children so between them they decided to make Edward Robert Rothwell (1910-1989) the third son of John Henry’s brother, James William, their heir.  On occasion, the young Edward (Ned) and his uncle Thomas Youell, stayed over at The Island.  What had been two farm servants houses at The Island had been converted into a small four roomed house, but Thomas, when he was there, used just the one room to live, eat and sleep in.  There was fine drive leading from what had been the house to the Portlaoise Road, coming out at Tonduff and the young child was convinced that he could hear the sound of horse’s hoofs on it at night.  Thomas Youell told him not to worry as the noises were not being made by the living. 

                Thomas died on 8 August 1917.  James Rothwell went to The Island soon after, where Thomas Youell had a hiding place, a lose stone in the wall that concealed a hollow space in which he kept money and his will.  It was empty, someone had taken them.  Thomas’ death certificate gave his occupation as gardener, as indeed he was one of several relations employed in James Rothwell’s gardening business.  Catherine Youell Rothwell died in 1928 with the family’s claims upon The Island still ignored.

                The disappearance of the will was a problem but at least Thomas’s sister, Catherine Youell Rothwell was still alive and could be demonstrated as one of the next of kin.  However, the residents of the County Council cottages bordering The Island, quickly put in a request to the Land Commission to divide the land, each hoping for a share of it.  After this happened, James suspected that one of them had taken the will but he could not prove it.  They each became grantees of a few acres, however, the most part of the farm was given to a stranger.  Thus The Island joined the properties confiscated by the Land Commission and neither Rothwell or Youell got an acre out of it.  The Island had no mansion, and did not consist of 1000s of acres, not even half of that, so why the Land Commission considered it worthy of their attention remains a mystery.  The trouble about The Island continued for years, and, as was said locally, “there was shooting over it.”  One night a small mob gathered outside The Tiles chanting insults.  But the first farmer who occupied The island under the Commission became scared of the situation and he left The Island.  The Commission then gave it to a man called Denis Lyons who came from Mountrath.  He stuck it out even though a grave was mysteriously dug for him inside the road gate of The Island.

                The Leinster Leader of 25 January 1936, reported upon a claim made by Gaze and Jessop, auctioneers of Portlaoise, against Denis Lyons of The Island and his brother Martin Lyons of Mountrath for goods and services owing to them.

                In 1962, following Denis Lyons decease, Oliver J. Flanagan asked about the future of The Island in the Dáil (Dáil Éireann, 1 March 1962), enquiring if the Land Commission had acquired the Lyons Estate “for the relief of local congestion.”  Michael Moran, Minister for Lands, told him that the Commission were making enquiries about the property.  O.J. Flanagan brought up the subject again, just over a year later, on 23 April 1963, when he asked why the Land Commission had withdrawn proceedings in regard to the Lyons Estate, remarking that The Island was now for sale by public auction.  Michael Moran replied that the Commission had served notice of withdrawal because they considered that the price fixed by an appeal tribunal would make purchase inexpedient.  

                The Land Commission came about with the remit of fixing rents in accordance with the Land Law (Ireland) Act of 1881.  With the Ashbourne Act of 1885, it developed into a purchasing agency that was to assist in the agreed transfer of farmland from landlord to tenant.  It was boosted by the Wyndham Land Act of 1903, which provided government finance to buy out freeholds, with the former tenants, having become owners, paying back the capital over a period of 68 years.  It was eventually responsible for the transfer of some millions of acres but as early as 1908 it was already seen that it was hard to make small farms economically viable and that a considerable degree of rural poverty was being brought about by the Commission’s policy of creating very small farms by breaking up large estates.  Additionally, there was a further problem in so far as they had begun to identify larger farmers as “landlords.”     When exactly The Island was seized by the land Commission is a mystery, because their files containing thousands of historic documents are not publicly available.  This may relate to the considerable body of folklore that land were improperly ceased and that agents of the Commission granted lands to themselves or relatives.

                However, they were above the law as the Dáil decreed on 29 June 1920 that claims to land would not be considered until after the end of the war and it gave force to this by effectively saying that to pursue such a claim in a court of justice, could be considered as a treasonable offense.

Dáil Éireann – Volume 1 – 29 June 1920


The MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS moved: WHEREAS it has come to our knowledge that claims to farms of land (Dairy and Agricultural and Residential Holdings worked by the Occupiers) have been and are being made in parts of the country, such claims being based on the fact that the claimants or their ancestors were formerly in occupation of the property so claimed.  “AND WHEREAS these claims are, for the most part, of old date, and while many of them may be well founded others seem to be of a frivolous nature and are put forward in the hope of intimidating the present occupiers…

                 WHEREAS it has come to our knowledge that claims have been made and are being made in various parts of the country to farms and holdings which are being used and worked by the occupiers as Dairy, Agricultural and Residential Holdings, and that such claims are being based on the assertion that the claimants or their ancestors were formerly in occupation of the property so claimed.  AND WHEREAS these claims are, for the most part, of old date, and while many of them may be well founded others seem to be of a frivolous nature and are put forward in the hope of intimidating the present occupiers.


1. “That the present time, when the Irish people are locked in a life and death struggle with their traditional enemy, is ill-chosen for the stirring up of strife amongst our fellow-countrymen; and that all our energies must be directed towards clearing out—not the occupier of this or that piece of land—but the foreign invader of our country.

2. “That pending the international recognition of the Republic no claims of the kind referred to shall be heard or determined by the Courts of the Republic unless by written licence of the Minister for Home Affairs.

3. “That in the meanwhile claimants may file particulars of their claims with the Registrar of the District Court in which the property is situate.


“That any person or persons who persists or persist in pressing forward a disputed claim of the nature above referred to shall do so in the knowledge that such action is a breach of this decree, and IT IS ORDERED that the forces of the Republic be used to protect the citizens against the adoption of high-handed methods by such person or persons.”

                The notion that of it being a treasonable offence to press a land claim or to pursue the matter through the courts was re-enforced by Dáil Eireann’s winding up act of 1923 and a subsequent amendment act of 1924.

For the purpose of this Act the authority of all Parish and District Dáil Courts outside the City of Dublin shall be deemed to have been withdrawn on the 30th day of October, 1922, and the authority of all other Dáil Courts shall be deemed to have been withdrawn on the 25th day of July, 1922.

                The Commission stopped acquiring land in 1983 although it was still dealing with outstanding matters into the 1990s when it came under the Department of Lands, and was finally dissolved on 31 March 1999 in accordance an act to dissolve it that had been passed in 1992.  It files remain closed and held by the Department of Agriculture and housed in a warehouse in Portlaoise.  To gain access to the apparently unindexed files, one had to first prove ownership of the property you wish to research.  If you do that, then you have to pay them to search their unindexed and uncatalogued files.  If they do manage to locate a file, it is then forwarded to a solicitor acting on behalf of the State who will determine if you can see the file.  Why they remain closed and treated as state secrets in a democratic republic remains a mystery and a painful restriction to historians and researchers seeking primary source material.

Granstown Castle

Granstown or Granston Castle or Ballygran is said to have been built by a Norman in the late 12th century beside a Crannog that had been occupied by a hairy Druid who was proselytized by the followers of the Romano-Britain we call St Patrick (from the latin patricius – posh toff!), I guess the druid was hairy because no sharp edged blades have been found on the crannog. 

Revealed in 1860 when lowering the water-level of Grantstown Lough, the crannog is defined by pointed stakes. Further stakes, grooved and nailed together, were laid horizontally across the centre. Finds included an iron clasp, two nails with large heads, an arrow or spear of charred wood, a polished piece of bone, a large amount of animal bones and charred timber, a lump of gypsum and a rude box, possibly a coffin, containing two small bones and a terrible smell.

In the 15th Century the Mac Giolla Phádraig clan (aka Fitzpatricks) took it off the Normans, their lands stretching from Culahiil Castle in the south to Ballaghmore Castle in the north.  In the 16th Century a Norman called Montmorency took it off Mac Giolla Phádraig.  Being Catholic Montmorency supported James II and his lands were confiscated by William of Orange and given to William’s protestant supporter Mac Giolla Phádraig, whom William made Earl of Upper Ossory.  Ultimately the lands were taken by the Land Commission in the 20th Century and no doubt  given to relations of Land Commission functionaries and supporters of local Teachtaí Dála, thus ensuring that these families, on their 10 or 20 acre smallholdings, would always be the clients of their rich freinds and relations.  Who are the colonists in this scenario?  The Christians?  The Normans?  The Irish?  The Williamites?  The Land Commission?  Or just whoever has money, power, mental mastery or physical force?  And who should be emancipated or repatriated?  I believe that the druid had the most unpleasant habits of all of them, especially when it came to the heads of people that she did not like. 

The name is said to have come from the Norman called Gran or Grun who built the original castle here in the late 12th century.  It shares an unusual cylindrical shape with Crannagh Castle at Templetuohy, Balief Castle at Urlingford and Ballynahow Castle  at Thurles, all of which date from the 1500s, which might lead one to suspect a later date for the existing tower than the 12th century.  Though of course Lea Castle and Nenagh Castle are both early and have circular keeps. 

Crannagh, Balief and Ballynahow

Sir Oliver Morres, known as O’Fearlaghan (the broad-shouldered red chief), was head of the Montmorencys of Ireland. He received a knighthood from Pierce Butler, 8th Earl of Ormonde, “for powerfully aiding that nobleman in subduing the sept Fitzpatrick and conquering Ossory”, which he did at Castletown when it is said he threw Fitzpatrick into the Nore and threw his horse on top of him.  Morres married pre-1508 Lady Ellice Butler [Elisha], 4th daughter of the same Earl of Ormond, and they had 2 sons.  He passed his Laois property to his second son of Oliver-oge (1508-1595). 

Oliver-oge had to flee for his safety to France on various occasions after becoming involved in abortive risings,  finally retiring there permanently in 1584 – he died in 1595, having passed his property on the his son Geoffrey.  But in 1698 Geoffrey’s son Edmond Morres of Grantstown Castle supported King James II, raised an independent regiment of cavalry and was killed at The Battle of Aughrim.  His property was confiscated by King William III and granted to Richard Fitzpatrick Lord Gowran, ancestor of the Earls of Upper Ossory.

All this looks as though the Morres family were well ensconced in Granstown throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.  However on 7 August  1589 Finn Mac Giollapadraig of Grantstown Castle. Co. Laois, and his lady, Catherine, daughter of Conall O Mordha, sent their greetings to Donnchadh, 4th Earl of Thomond, who was then in England, and with their greetings they enclosed a letter in Irish from Conair 0 Maoichonaire addressed also to the Earl of Thomond. Conaire complained of the great injustice and oppression against him by two ruffians. whom he calls Captain Graidhin and Captain Mordant.  Then in 1590 Risteard O Cunchubhair copied the medical tract, now in the RIA, in Granstown Castle, the home of the Mac Giollapadraig. 

However the Down Survey records that in both 1653 and 1670 “Granstowne” was in the possession of Captain Gilbert Rawson, a protestant, though as we know from the grant to Richard FitzPatrick  of 1703 it was subject to a mortgage from Edmnd Morres.   By 1670 Rawson had also acquired about 800 acres confiscated from Florence Fitzpatrick at Raheen, near Donaghmore.   Florence Fitzpatrick still had huge estates in Laois prior to 1641, at Castletown, Aghaboe, and Oldglass, across the road from Granstown Castle.

Gilbert Rawson of Donoughmore, Queen’s County, died intestate 25 Jan. 1675. He had married Catherine Bygoe, daughter of Philip Bygoe of Newtown, King’s County, by his wife Bridget Herbert, daughter of Sir George Herbert, 1st Baronet.  His father James Rawson, who married Elizabeth Lawrence, was Deputy Clerk of the Pipe Rolls and MP for Carlow in 1634. 

Grantstown Castle was apparently taken by force by Gilbert Rawson, who was renting the St Leger castle from Sir Barnaby O’Brien at Grangemellon, south of Athy in 1639,  and was in his possession by 1653.  Some agreement was reached between the Morres family, the Fitzpatricks and the Rawsons.  There are papers relating to the Rawson family of Leix in the Fitzpatrick Papers, 1640 – 1752 (Public Record Office, Dublin , D. 19,873 – 19,913; M. 3186-3209) and a commission, by Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory, to Gilbert Rawson, the younger, to be Quartermaster of his Majesty’s Regiment of Guards in Ireland: written from [Dublin Castle] (MS. Carte 163, fol(s). 107 21 August 1669). It is amazing that the Morres mortgage survived through all these vicissitudes. You can never escape a mortgage!

One-third of the tower of Granstown Castle has collapsed into rubble since the Rev. William Carrigan gave a detailed description in 1906. John Russell’s map of November 1712 (which shows what appears to be a landscaped house facing the lake. The British Library Board, Egerton MS 3021 AA.) and Grose’s 1791 drawing show long wings to each side (derelict by 1791). Tierney explored the interior in Buildings of Ireland – the entrance, on the collapsed E side, survives beneath the rubble. Carrigan records an entrance lobby with a cross-loop in its rear wall, similar to that at Ballagh Castle near Donaghmore. A passage to the r. of the door led to a small lobby with a pointed doorway to the main ground-floor chamber, and further into a spiral staircase of limestone, the end of each step rounded to form a newel. The floors over the lobby contained small bedchambers, some accessible off the stairs, others off the main chamber. The first two floors have curved interiors but the rooms above are hexagonal. This change may have been to accommodate the vault over the fourth floor, pointed on one side but also attempting to follow the curve of the wall, suggesting that the builders were unsure how to resolve the circular form. Fine limestone chimneypiece on the second floor with joggled voussoirs. Smooth plastered interior and, a rare survival, three thick oak beams in situ on the fourth floor.

Grantstown and Oldglass had been let in 1713 to for three lives renewable for ever to William Vicars who married Elizabeth Stringer and died in 1735. The deed of 10 June 1713 between Richard Fitzpatrick of Tentore and William Vicars is for 1,583 acres lately in the possession of Paul Palmer (In about 1690 Paul Palmer married Rebecca Lodge from Ballygague, 3 miles west of Granstown. From Dunbell, Kilkenny, he was the progenitor of many of the Laois Palmers, including the Prior Palmers).   It mentions his son Robert Vicars, aged 13, his eldest son, George Vicars, his second son, aged 8 and Edward Vicars,  the eldest son of Richard Vicars of Donaghmore, aged 8, at a rent of 5/- an acre to be paid at Strongbow’s tomb in Christchurch.  It was witnessed by Thomas Symons of Roskeen and Cornelius Fitzpatrick of London. 

Richard FitzPatrick, of Tentore, Queen’s County, was second son of Andrew FitzPatrick, of Castle Fleming, Queen’s County, by Ellice, daughter of Richard, Viscount Mountgarrett. He was  an Officer in the Royal Navy, and in 1687 was made Captain of HMS Richmond, in which he distinguished himself by keeping in check the French privateers in the North Sea. His next command was in 1690, when he was appointed to the “ St. Albans ” ; soon afterwards he attacked and, after a fierce engagement lasting four hours, captured a French frigate.  The following year he was again on active service, commanding a 70-gun ship, attacking one of the Cardinal Isles, where he seized 13,000 head of cattle and horses. On the death of his elder brother, Brigadier-General Edward Fitzpatrick, who was drowned on the passage from England in 1696, he succeeded to the family estates ; in the same year, as a reward for his services, he obtained Grantstown, Donoughmore, and other lands in Queen’s County, forfeited by Edmond Morris.  He also acquired property by purchase from the Trustees of Forfeited Estates in 1703, paying £ 885 for the Rawson Estate (subject to the mortgage of Edmond Morris), at Donoughmore, Queen’s County ; for £2,360 for Ballygorbinagh, Loghteoghe, etc., Barony of Stradbally, Queen’s County, estate of John Brereton, attainted ; and £1,4:15 for lands of Ardrass, Barony of Salt, County Kildare, estate of Richard, Earl of Tyrconnell, attainted.

Vicars had 5 sons and three daughters    His daughter Catherine married one of the Laois Fitzgeralds  Mary married Anthony Gale of Ashfield in 1732.  Elizabeth married Robert Drought also in 1732, and on 6 March 1735 following his father’s death William Vicars transferred Oldglass including the Miller’s house and the mill to his brother in law Robert Drought.   There is no marriage record for George, William, Peter or Richard, but Robert married Rebecca, daughter of John Cooke of Cookesborough, Westmeath.  Their children included Rebecca who was the first wife of Peter Latouche and William who was the father of William Stringer Vicars.  William Vicars’ brother married Grace Tydd and lived at Levally, and his sister married Luke Flood of Middlemount, all within about 3 miles of each other. 

John Russell’s map 1712

It seems that the Vicars family occupied the castle with the 2 storey west wing and the thatched east wing throughout the 18th century.    The 2 storey over basement house, some of whose yard buildings survive, faced east about 100 yards from the castle but was described as newly built in the advertisement of 1810.

Grose’s view of 1791

 Scales surveyed Lord Uper Ossory’s estates in 1776.  Of Granstown he wrote:-

`The Soil of Grantstown very much varies, on the North and South is a Limestone Gravel, on the East a Moory Soil, inclined to Bog, rough and covered with Scrub; it is in general well divided, the meadow, about the Castle, remarkably good, the whole on the West side under Tillage let in small parcels, the Castle is fitted up in the modern taste & made a convenient Dwelling with a Slate Building joining to it. The Orchards are extensive & exceeding good, a great number of full grown Ash in the Hedge Rows.  This is worth 18s. per acre.’

The slate building was demolished and castle abandoned between 1776 and 1791, when Grose drew it. 

In 1808 Wm. Stringer Vicars married Mary, daughter of Gustavus Warner.  On Wednesday 27 June 1810 his death at Grantstown  is reported, leaving  a baby son, Robert Vicars.  His widow, Mary Warner, married her cousin Henry Browne of Ballinvoher, Castletownroche, and of Limerick,  a barrister.  Her stepson became the Archdeacon of Van Diemen’s Land.

13 Sept 1836  At the house of the British Ambassador, Brussels  Robert Vicars, of Grantstown, Queen County, Esq., to Louisa, youngest daughter of the late Thomas Vicars, of Leeson-street, Dublin, Esq.  Saturday 24 September 1836   Waterford Chronicle.  Within three months Robert had died at Mannheim (December 1836 aged 26).  On 24 Aug 1837 his widow gave birth to a son at Heidelberg.  The story becomes even more tragic.  Mrs. Vickers was living in Windsor in 1841; The Queen and suite were passing, and the child (who had been previously playing with a drum), in his impatience to see her Majesty, ran towards the window, and being tripped by the carpet, the drum-stick went into his eye, and instantly killed him.  Mrs. Vickers has erected a splendid monument to the memory of her husband and child, in the church of Skeirke (the ancient burial place of the Vicars family. 

Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent – Thursday 12 December 1844 reported an attempted land grab by the Doynes.  Doyne v Doyne  Mr. Martlet, Q.C., applied on the part of a third party, Mrs. Laura Vickers, to restrain the issuing of an injunction, to put the plaintiff. Robert Doyne, into possession of the lands of Grantstown and in the Queen’s County. The suit had been instituted by the plaintiff, to set aside a deed conveyance made by his mother to his brother, the Rev. Charles Doyne; and Mrs. Vickers, who had not been made party to the suit, and who was possession of the lands, claimed them as heiress at law, her late husband haring been the owner in fee, and the tenant having attorned to her. An ejectment had been previously brought, which she took the defence, but the lessor and the plaintiff did not venture to down to trial. The lady was therefore much surprised the sheriff that meant to turn out the tenants, and put the plaintiff in the cause into possession. Mr. Hattersat, Q C., on the part of Mr. Doyne, intimated that they did not mean to turn Mrs. Vickers out of any of the lands of which she was in possession. Mr. Martlet said that she claimed the entire.

 Reverend Charles William Doyne was a son of Charles Powlett Doyne( of Wells) and Eliza Jane Vicars (dau of William Vicars of Ballynakillbeg, Robert Vicars 3rd Cousin).  He married Charlotte Stannus, daughter of Captain Thomas Stannus and Caroline Hamilton, and his sister was married to Robert White of Oldglass.

Like the lion and the unicon fihting over the crown in Alice in Wonderland, it transpired the heir was actually Peter Gale of Ashfield, great grandson of Mary Vicars and Anthony Gale who were married in 1735. 

Peter Roe 1750-1852  of Kyledellig/Kildellig had 9 sons of whom one was Peter (1805 -1877) who was resident at Granstown by 1847  :- 

Sheep Stealing.—Two sheep were stolen from Thomas Roe, Esq., of Coolfinne ; two from Theophilus Roe, Beckfield ; two from Peter Roe, Esq., of Grantstown ; and two from Allen Leech, Esq., Fruitlawn. Kings County Chronicle – Wednesday 10 February 1847

Peter Roe, Grantstown-house; Theophilus Roe, Ballaghhouse ; Theophilus Roe, Beckfield-house ; Thomas Roe, Coolfin  : Tuesday 08 February 1848  Dublin Evening Post.

Died of scarlet fever  Madelaine, only daughter of Peter Roe, Esq, of Grantstown House, in the Queen’s County. Monday 19 March 1849  Freeman’s Journal

Granstown is situate within 2 miles of Rathdowney. Mr. Roe, the tenant the demesne, refused £1.500 for his interest therein.  Some fine old Timber on the Lands, moiety of which the purchaser will entitled to, not included in the valuation. This Lot is subject to an annuity of £9 4s. 7 12 d., for life of Mary Hoynes 75, and to £4 a year for the grass of a cow for her life.  Dublin Evening Mail – Friday 26 September 1851

The gallant veteran, Lord Viscount Gough, purchased on the 7th instant the lands of Ashfield and Grantstown, in the Queen’s County, the estate of Mr Gale,  for the sum of £16,000, These lands were set up for sale in the Incumbered Estates Court   Wednesday 12 November 1851

The next tenant, from at least 1860,  was Dr Samuel Edge who had moved from Fairymount  Castlecomer, a man for whom it is very hard to generate any kind feelings.  In a murder trail of Matthew Bryan in 1840 his evidence was to cover up his own failures.   The medical Jacob brothers of Portlaoise writing to their brother in Dublin noted that Edge spent more time hunting hares than seeing patients, and that had the victim been treated she would have survived.  In January 1847 Edge noted that in the colliery district of Castlecomer 8 people had recently died of starvation and 80 had died of dysentery.  In the Gardeners Chronicle & New Horticulturist, Volume 7  1875 pg 24, he was offering the lease of Granstown.   He had a daughter Annie born after 1855, who brought a case against the railway company in 1875.  He died in 1884 aged 76 in Howth at the home of his nephew Robert Silcock.  His son Samuel George Edge b 1861,  died in Warckishire in 1915.

Dr Edge lacked empathy!

For a while it became reunited with Oldglass and Lord Castletown’s keeper lived in the house in the early 20th century.

Of particular note at Granston is the west gatelodge, identical to Gallow Lodge on the Abbeyleix estate, and probably designed by T H Wyatt. Described by J A K Dean in the Gatelodges of Leinster as a hybrid combination of Italian and Tudor picturesque, with ornamental bargeboard, lattice windows and a red clay tiled roof, sadly now replaced with modern tiles and the delightful red brick chimneys rebuilt in cement, the redbrick lintels and stone walls given a coat of render. Though it is great to see it salvaged from dereliction, it has sadly lost its much of its fairy tale charm.

The refurbished gate lodge at Granston, and a nearby estate cottage showing the original materials



The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage describes Knightstown as a five-bay two-storey Georgian house with dormer attic, built c.1760, with pedimented central breakfront and stair return to rear. Extended to rear comprising single-storey return. Double-pitched and hipped artificial slate roof with gabled dormer attic windows and nap rendered chimneystacks with yellow clay pots. Timber dentil eaves to front; projecting ashlar eaves course to rear. Nap rendered walls with ruled and lined detail, ashlar plinth and rendered quoins. Rubble stone to rear elevation and brick laid in English Garden Wall bond to return. Square-headed window openings with limestone sills and six-over-six timber sash windows. Venetian-style window opening to centre first floor. Limestone pedimented doorcase with timber panelled door. Interior not inspected. Set back from road in own grounds; part overgrown grounds to site. Group of detached rubble stone barrel-vaulted outbuildings to site with corrugated-iron roofs. Single-arch stone road bridge over stream to drive with ashlar voussoirs.

Tierney in Buildings of Ireland has a different take on it:- Attractive mid-c18 country house, turned around and given a new front c. 1800. The original five-bay, two-storey façade (now to the rear, partly obscured) has gabled dormers. The later five-bay front has an advanced and pedimented centre with side-lit doorway, Venetian window on the first floor and Diocletian window at attic level. Old-fashioned for c. 1800, and clearly influenced by Summer Grove on the other side of Mountmellick. Neoclassical frieze with urns in the dining room, to the r. of the hall.  Smaller mid-c18 rooms behind.

There are a series of houses in Laois in what one might call the school of Henry Pentland.  Pentland was born around 1720, and still living in 1773 when he was described in the Public Monitor as ‘a man who copies after Castells, in everything’, which suggests that he may have been in Richard Castle’s office as a pupil or assistant.  Interestingly Knightstown had the same heavy moulded glazing bars with blocks that one finds at so many houses designed by Pearce and Castle, possibly introduced into Ireland by one of John Vanbrugh’s draughtsmen called “Henry the Penman” who came to work for Edward Lovett Pearce in 1726. The Knight of Glin initially suggested Pentland as the architect in what he himself later called “a rush of youthful enthusiasm”. We know very little about Henry Pentland. He subscribed to Dr Rutty’s Natural History of Dublin in 1772. The Henry Pentland who was listed as a Drogheda voter in 1798 in the Massereene MSS. might have been him rather than George Henry Pentland (1770-1834), a Dublin solicitor, as the latter did not purchase Black Hall till 1715.

Some of the “Pentland houses” – Ashfield, Summergrove, Roundwood and Knightstown. Coolrain House is also clearly by the same architect

Please do get in touch if you know of other similar houses – the pedimented door with side lights, the “Venetian” window above, the centre bay slightly advanced beneath a pediment.

As an aside about Castle, and repeated here because so many people interested in Irish architectural history seem to be unaware of it, the research of Jacqueline Eick in the Dresden archives and the more recent research of Loreto Calderón and Konrad Dechant, have established that Richard Castle’s father was an English-born Jew named Joseph Riccardo, who was appointed Director of Munitions and Mines to Friedrich Augustus, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, in 1699 and settled in Dresden in or before 1708.  Richard Castle, born David Riccardo, was one of the four sons of Joseph Riccardo by his second marriage, which took place in Amsterdam in 1691;  his mother Rachel Burgos had been born in Bombay.

In  1572 Sir Maurice FitzThomas FitzGerald, Knight of Lackagh, in County Kildare, obtained a twenty-one years lease of the Rectory of Coulbenker, (Coolbanagher), though Carrigan’s Manuscripts suggest that it was in 1549 that this area first became Baile an Ridire, the townland of the knight or Knightstown.   The FitzGeralds of Lackagh descend  from Sir Thomas FitzGerald, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who was killed at the Battle of Stoke, in Nottinghamshire, in 1487, while fighting on the side of Lambert Simnel the imposter (crowned King of Ireland in Christchurch Cathedral, and supposed to be one of “the princes in the tower”).  His father was Thomas, the 7th Earl of Kildare.

The principal 16th century planters of Laois were the Cosby, Barrington, Hartpole, Bowen, Hovington and Hetherington families.   The last four are said to have all died out in the male line.   The Hetheringtons arrived from Northumbria.  One was hanged in 1655 as a Catholic who refused to transplant to Connaught from Laois. 

In 1735 an Act of Parliament was passed “WHEREAS the highway or road leading from the town of Maryborough in the Queen’s county through the towns of Mountrath, Castletown and Borris in Offory in the same county and from thence through the town of Roscrea to the town of Tomivarah in the county of Tipperary, by reason of the several hollow ways and of the many and heavy carriages frequently passing through the same is become so ruinous and bad that in winter season many parts thereof are impassable for waggons, carts, cars and carriages and very dangerous for travellers and cannot by the ordinary course appointed by the laws and statutes of this realm be effectually amended and kept in good and sufficient repair wherefore and to the intent that the said highway and road may with convenient. Sidney Hetherington, gent, is named as one of the trustees of the toll road that that act established.

The will of Sidney Hetherington of Ballinriddery, Queen’s Co. was written on 1 April 1755, and proved on 3 March 1759. In it are mentioned his wife M. Hetherington, her daughters. His eldest son Wm. Hetherington. His son Richard Hetherington. His daughter Sebella. Easter Hetherington [? another daughter]. His freehold lands in Ballinriddery, Laraugh and part of Danganstown, in parish Coolebanagher, Queen’s Co. His freehold in Mountmellick set to Jno. Jordan and Wm. Slate.  Memorial witnessed by: Jno. Porter, Doolaght, George Mitchell, Clonmyland, Denis Hyllem, Laraugh, all in Queen’s Co., farmers.  Taylor & Skinner’s map has Knightstown as Mr Hetherington in 1777.   Wilson’s 1786 Post Chaise Companion lists Knightstown as the seat of Mr Hetherington.  

In March 1774 Wiliam Hetherington died (Saunders’s News-Letter – Friday 01 April 1774) , and in Jan 1792  Mrs Hetherington, relict of William Hetherington of Knightstown  died. 

On a deed of 14th. March 1780 Joshua Kemmis is described as of Knightstown, Queen’s Co., and on the lease dated 15 June 1784 of Knightstown from Richard Hetherington to Joshua Kemis, Kemmis is already in occupation of Knightstown.  355.243. 239853

Leet’s Directory in 1814 also lists Knightstown as the home of Joshua Kemmis.  The son of Thomas Kemmis (1710-1774) of Shaen Castle,  Joshua Kemmis  Sheriff of Queen’s County,  (b 09.02.1755, d 08.1818)  m. (by 12.1807) Catherine Smyth (dau of Thomas Smyth, Archdeacon of Lismore, and cousin of the Smyths of Borris Castle, She d 31st. December 1857).  They had three children:-

(a) Joshua Smyth, born 1808: of Knightstown, the yearly rents of which, with Ballinakill, when he was a minor, were £514.16s. 8d. of which Mrs. Catherine Kemmis of Knightstown paid £185 and out of which there was a head rent of £40.16s. 7d. a year paid to the Earl of Portarlington; became insane; obit s.p., 17th. June 1843; buried at Straboe 19th of same month; Could his carriage accident have caused his insanity and early death?

 (b) Alicia, born 10th. January 1810; married 17th. May 1835, Rev. Gustavus Warner, M.A. of Queen’s College, Cambridge, and Trinity College, Dublin, Rector of Castlelost, Co. Westmeath

(c) Catherine Henrietta, born 1812; married March 1828, Rev. Wm. Betty, M.A. (81) of Trinity College, Dublin, of Rutland Square, Dublin, and of Knightstown, which he purchased in Chancery on his brother-in-law’s death in 1845 for £6,700. He was Rector of Castlecor, otherwise Kilbride, near Oldcastle, Co. Meath; he died in Paris, 19th July 1851, and was buried at Pere la Chaise. 

In 1850 Henry Daniel Carden, (1822 -1894) was of Rathmanna, Maryborough.

By 1851 Major Henry D Carden  was renting Knightstown.  He was an arch-conservative who founded the “Loyal and Patriotic” Conservative Party Club.  The third son of Sir Henry Robert Carden of Templemore and Louisa Thompson of Woodville, Portlaoise (who ran away with Lieutenant Trollop when Carden was only 6 years old– see Borris Castle).  He married Catherine Rebecca De Winton of Maesderwyn (Welsh for Oakfield) Breconshire.  In April 1851 Mrs Carden was delivered of a son at Knightstown (who died just before his second birthday).   H. D. Carden, Esq., has left Knightstown, in the Queen’s County, for Brecon, South Wales  : Dublin Evening Mail Monday 27 October 1851.  He was a brilliant horseman though he had lost his right arm in a shooting accident, and was master of the Queen’s County hunt.  It is said that to this day his phantom horn echoes through the Stradbally hills.  In Sept 1890 Gaze & Jessop had a sale of the contents, and when he died in January 1894 he was living in Portarlington. He is buried in the churchyard at Coolbanagher. 

The 1891 sale – what were hand glasses? Magnifying glasses for looking at bugs?

In 1892 Thomas Jones was resident and breeding horses. The census returns of 1901 and 1911 it still belonged to the representatives of Col. William Thomas Kemmis-Betty (1830-1889), Joshua Kemmis’s grandson,  and was unoccupied.    I hope to speak soon to Dorothy Bagnall, once of Lauragh, who remembers Knightstown when she was a child.  In May 1962 Desmond and Mariga Guinness, with the American Ambassador’s wife, and all the Irish Georgians visited Knightstown as part of their Georgian tour of Laois.  20 years later it had become very derelict, but in 2006 some work was undertaken, and although not restored the roof is on, and the property is protected by G4S monitoring and live CCTV – so maybe it will soon be a credit to the county once again

Rush Hall

The early years

Francis Ruish was born in 1560 in Sudbourne, a village near Aldeburgh in Suffolk.  A younger son, he somehow bought the manor of  Sarre on the Isle of Thanet near Canterbury from John Byer or Bere, whose descendants became goldsmiths in Dublin in the 1700s before opening Abrakebabra in the 1980s.  Ruish’s cousin Sir Richard Wingfield had come to Ireland as a military adventurer in the latter part of the 16th century and became Marshal of Ireland in 1600 and ended up owning Powerscourt.  In 1594 Ruish was seeking command of a regiment in the Netherlands, his kinsman Robert Radclyffe, the Earl of Sussex (of  New Hall, Boreham, near Chelmsford) writing on his behalf to Robert Cecil in October 1594.  By around 1595 he was in Ireland when he married Mary Duke, a daughter of Sir Henry Duke of Castle Jordan, Meath, whose property he inherited.  In 1598 a writer in the State Papers says that ” the Moores, Conors, bastard Geraldines, and Dempsies have spoiled and burned Kildare and the south and east parts of Meath.  Maryborough was so closely besieged that the governor, Sir Francis Rush, had nothing to eat for twenty days but horseflesh.”

Ruish built Rush Hall around 1600 on the site of a MacCostigan Castle and lived there with his wife Mary;  his son Thomas and three daughters, Eleanor, Mary, and Anne were born there.  The ancient name for the district was Baile Mhuighe Móire, the townland of the large plain.  Built of lime rubblestone, with no cut stone or ashlar, it was four storeys high.  The main rectangular block (int. dims. 28.7m E—W, 7.2m N—S) with a much-ruined annexe (int. dim. 14m E—W) to N. The archaeological survey of the 1990s says that the N wall and gables survive of the main block; the upper floors are ivy-covered and that it is 4 storeys high. Tierney in Buildings of Ireland (2019) says that only the spine wall and chimney stack survive, and suggests that it was 3 storeys, which certainly appears more probable.  One would have expected it to have been of an H plan, with defensive flankers on the corners.  However Thomas Moland’s map of 1730 reproduced in Horner’s Mapping Laois pg 55 clearly shows a square building with a square fort in front of it.  They probably relied on retreating to the bawn to the East of the house at times when defence was needed.  This was almost certainly the original MacCostigan castle. 

The remnants of the Mac Oistigin bawn at Rush Hall

Features include a rectangular recess at E end of N wall on ground floor; joist holes, three plain fireplaces in N wall and a rectangular window in E and W gables on first floor. An ope at W end of N wall on second floor may have accessed the annexe. Large ivy-clad chimney stack  with lozenge shapes tops on W gable. Only portions of the annexe gables survive; rectangular window visible in W gable on first floor and fireplace in SW corner. Most of the annexe was destroyed in 1977 as well as an adjoining enclosed cobbled courtyard with outbuildings at NW. Impressive bawn (64.85m sq., H 3.7m), with extension to S end of W wall, lies to E of house, and has three five-sided corner towers (int. dims. 3.85m x 3.5m, wall T 0.62m) with gun loops at NE, SE and SW, and remains of a possible fourth at NW. (Carrigan 1905, vol. 2, 182-3) 16:26 23-5-1994

It was a glam household, full of life. Amazingly the MacCostigan  was a friend and regular visitor at Rush Hall.   After 1613 Ruish became an MP for Phillipstown and a privy counsellor. 

Anne married George Wentwoth, the Earl of Strafford’s brother,  Eleanor (the most flirtatious –  Strafford always enjoyed her company and gossip about her was rife!)  married Robert Loftus, the Lord Chancellor’s son, and Mary married Charles Coote (1605-1661), later Lord Mountrath.  Francis died in 1623 at his property in Clones, and his widow Mary married John Jephson of Mallow Castle (to whom Queen Elizabeth had given the ancestors of the white deer that are still at Mallow).  His son Thomas died in 1629.  The three sisters inherited not just Rush Hall but also Dunsink, 300a., and Scribblestown 100a., Castle Jordan on the Meath/Offaly/Kildare border, on the banks of the Boyne, south of Kinnegad as well as property in Monaghan and Sarre in Kent. 

The White Deer of Mallow Castle

Dastardly murders

Posterity has judged Charles Coote an able and ruthless man of narrow vision, devoted to his own interests. There is a story that Mary left Rush Hall in 1641 because a MacCostigan who had been a childhood friend was beheaded and his head carried on the point of a spear to Rush Hall Court.  Mary Coote’s was so upset at the sight that she fled from Rush Hall and would not return.

Charles Coote, Mary Ruish’s husband

Charles Coote, who became 1st Earl of Mountrath and Governor of Queen’s County in 1661 certainly had the four sons of Augustine Costigan (Lawrence,  John, Florence and Gregory)  killed in the 1660s, but that was after Mary’s death.  It is said that the Costigan tribe turned Tories or Raparees, were outlawed and betook themselves to the glens of Slieve Bloom. They were caught and put to death. The last was betrayed by Sean Gabhar (Sean the goat), who was in hiding with him. Sometime in the autumn of 1666, Gregory was with Sean in  a shebeen ran by an old woman called Peg, at the end of Drummond’s Hill, near Camross.  Sean got him drunk and walked him into an ambush.   Sean Gabhar was killed with a blow of a turf-man’s slane by his enraged neighbours and his body flung into a bog-hole.

Buried Treasure

The date of Mary’s marriage to Charles Coote is unclear, but they seem to have taken up residence at  Rush Hall post the death of her brother Thomas in 1629.  Mary died in 1645  Coote’s father was killed in May 1642 at Trim, County Meath, shot dead by the Irish and young Coote spent the next 10 years serving Cromwell with little time to enjoy Rush Hall.  There is a legend that Cromwell attacked it and, before the  occupants left, they hid all the gold and money at the fourth door of the castle. When the owner asked who would guard it one soldier stepped forward and said he would.  He was immeadiately shot dead and his ghost still guards the gold. “Several people tried to find out even from Dublin Castle to get the details of the whereabouts of the Castle door but failed and it still lies there“.  (Duchas) In 1947 turf cutters found two silver chargers buried 12 feet down in the bog at Rush Hall dating from the 1600s.  One had the Coote coat of arms engraved on the rim, the other had a crowned Tudor rose.  Both had the same hall marks.


It is actually more likely that the house was attacked by the Fitzpatricks during the Confederate wars at the same time that Castle Cuffe was threatened with attack by the O’Dunnes who had formerly owned the land on which that castle stood. Captain Daniel Dunne placed a tree trunk, coloured to look like a large cannon, on a hill some distance from the building and threatened to fire on it unless the occupants surrendered, which they duly did – fleeing to the town of Birr some miles away. Meanwhile, Dunne’s troops, having taken everything they wanted from Castle Cuffe, set fire to the place.  

The Baldwins may well have lived in the remains of the original house at Castlecuffe before building the late 18th century one that was demolished in the 1960s.

John Baldwin, born about 1645, probably in Lancashire; said to have arrived in Ireland about the 1650’s, and thought by some descendants to have accompanied Cromwell, but his age suggests he was probably either with his father, or followed him over; he was already settled at Agha Harna (alias Summerhill), outside Portlaoise, in 1678.  In 1676, he married  Rebecca Frend, daughter of Captain John Frend of Boskill, County Limerick.  Their third son was John Baldwin who was living at Castlecuffe when he married by License of the Prerogative Court of Ireland dated 4 September 1707, Alesia Beasley, Spinster, of Ballyboy, King’s County [Betham’s Abstracts]; they had issue:

Joseph Baldwin; of Castlecuffe; J.P., Gent, who died 9 July 1777, married firstly, Miss Cowell; of Dysart, Queen’s County, Chandler; He was married, perhaps secondly, to Judith Jackson, Spinster, of Castledermot, County Kildare; he was married thirdly to Elizabeth Roberts nee Lee, of Stradbally, Widow.

The Baldwins were not universally popular!  Monday 31st July 1843 , About 11 am James Mallon was cutting some rods on the lands of Castlecuffe, for the purpose making kish, he perceived man standing at a sycamore tree in the rere of Rev. Mr. Baldwin’s garden. Going to see what was doing, he observed second man in the tree with a gun, which he snapped twice at either Mr. Baldwin or his nephew, who were then the garden. He then came down, and seeing Mallon, gave him a severe blow of the gun the side, with orders say nothing about what had seen.  The two criminals then decamped. About ten days ago the shape of coffin was cut in the ground near the house, with the initials J. B. marked it. Mallon underwent examination before the magistrates at Mountmellick, when identified the men as persons from the neighbourhood of Mountrath.

In 1850 Griffith’s Valuation shows the head landlord was still the Coote family, in the person of Sir Charles Coote of Ballyfin.  In 1938 Eyre Falkiner, a grandson of the last Baldwin, died at Castlecuffe and in 1963 the Land Commission acquired the “Falkiner Estate” – all 111 acres, from Richard and J B Falkiner. The house was subsequently demolished. The house, according to the census, had 12 windows across the front and 10 to 12 rooms. Outside there were 4 stables, a coach house, a harness room, dairy, cowshed, piggery, henhouse and a barn.

Dú relates the tales of James Carroll of Cadamstown told in 1938:- “There is an old road at Castlecuffe known as the coach road. The phantom coach has been heard and seen by a lot of the neighbours. Near the place also there is a bridge and about a year ago there was a man seen sitting on it, when the person who saw him came towards him he found that the man had no head. The man went towards the castle and a light followed him. It was the owner of the castle that was seen. The castle ruins still remain there. A tree has grown in it, where there was a trap door.

Catlecuffe on facebook

To return to Rush Hall.

 “In consideration of The Earl of Mountrath’s death (Charles Coote), and the great suffering on his family thereby, the House of Commons, 16 May, 1642, (upon the desire of the L.J.) declared their intention, that the estate of Florence Fitz-Patrick, a rebel, in the Queen’s county, of about £500 a year (who had possessed himself of a great part of Sir Charles’ estate) should be bestowed on his children.”

In May 1641 Anne Ruish’s brother in law Thomas Wentworth, the Lord Deputy, was executed and Joshua Carpenter, Wentworth’s factotum, who had been in charge of building Wentworth’s houses at Jigginstown and Tinahely, for his own safety removed himself from the milieu of court society to Aghaboe.  Though given the outbreak of the 1641 rising that October, this could have been a mistake! 

Mary Ruish’s son, Charles, 2nd Earl of Mountrath was made Custos Rotulorum (chief justice) of Laois in 1664 and died in Dublin in 1672 – he is buried in Christchurch Cathedral.  Her grandson Charles, the third Earl survived the Williamite wars and died in Dublin in 1709, a Lord Justice and Privy Councillor.   He seems to have been the last of the family to live at Rush Hall.   On Thomas Prior’s 1729 list of Absentees Algenon Coote is listed as spending less than 1 month a year in Ireland, and spending £4000 a year of his Irish rents in England, a mere nothing compared to Lord Burlington’s £17000 pa.  The average wage then was about £10 a year, which makes Coote’s income the equivalent of about €15m in 2021.  

It is said that the Cootes remained resident owners of Rush Hall till the 1720s, and in 1718 it is mentioned on the £2,500 mortgage of a huge swathe of his property by Lord Mountrath to Hugh Henry.  However it appears that later generations spent most of their time at their other seats. In the 1750s although listing their seat as Rush Hall, their principal residence since before 1730  was Wood Hall in Hertfordshire and in 1743 Algenon Coote, who had entered St Paul’s School in London in 1700 and went on to Trinity College Cambridge in 1706, bought Twickenham Park, next door to Strawberry Hill that was then being built by Horace Walpole.  By 1794 the then Earl was resident at Wheeting, 20 miles from Newmarket, in Norfolk.  He also had a bathing seat at Hunstanton, and a suburban seat at  Turnham Green, beside Lord Burlington, and another seat that he named Strawberry Hill in honour of Walpole in Devon, with 5 more houses that he built between Devon and Norfolk to avoid staying at inns at which he was certain he would catch smallpox. 

The Quakers arrive

There are a couple of deeds relating to the Humphreys family at Rushall from the late 1720s, but they seem to relate to land not buildings.  There is a clue in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume 20 (1896). Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, p. 134    ISAAC SHARP, eldest son of Anthony Sharp, an English Quaker, sometime a merchant in Dublin, came to New Jersey in 1702 or 1703. His father settled upon him seven-twelfths of one-twenty-fourth part of all East Jersey, and some proprietary rights in West Jersey. He was judge of Salem Court, a member of Assembly for Salem County from 1709 to 1725, returned to Ireland about 1726, to  Roundwood, in Queen’s County, where he died in 1735. He married Margaret Brathwaite, of Salem, in 1704, and had born in Salem County, West Jersey: Anthony, who succeeded to his estates in Ireland and in Wiltshire, England. ISAAC, of Salem County, Blessingtown, now Sharpstown, also a Joseph, of Salem County, died 1776. Isaac Sharp , the elder, had some ten hundred and fifty acres of land in Waterford township, Gloucester County, New Jersey, which he called Rush Hall, as did his grandson fifty years after him.  Rush Hall was the name of the residence of John Humphries, in Queen’s County, Ireland.  Unfortunately here are no more details about John Humphries.  Was he a relation of the Sharps?  The Humphries were fellow Quakers and neighbours of the Sharps in Salem. 

Francis Catherine Humphreys, widow of Thomas Humphreys is leasing land at Rushall to Cochrane Palmer of Rushall in 1796

From this it appears that after the Cootes abandoned Rush Hall in the 1720s it may have become the home of the Quaker Humphries family.

In April 1772 Mr Lidwill is advertising his lease of Rushall for sale, “as soon as the purchaser chooses” in Finn’s Leinster Journal.  Purchasers are to apply to Mr Senior at Rushall.  John Lidwill (b 1740) was the son of Thomas Lidwill from Carlow and Jemina Cowley from near Templetuohy. In about 1760 he married Anne Fitzpatrick of Ballybooden.   John Lidwill, was firmly Protestant. However Anne Fitzpatrick, was both Catholic and strong-willed so the children were brought up as Catholics.

Francis Catherine Humphreys, widow of Thomas Humphreys is leasing land at Rushall to Cochran Palmer of Rushall in 1796.  Cochrane Palmer had married Sarah Humphreys, daughter of John Humphries (b circa 1720) and Jane Despard (b circa 1715, daughter of John Despard of Crannagh and Elizabeth Willington of Ballymoney, Offaly).   Her cousin Charles Willington married a daughter of the architect Edward Lovett Peace.  It is a fair guess that Sarah was Thomas Humphries niece and Palmer got Rush Hall by inheritance.   After Sarah’s death Cochrane Palmer became High Sheriff of the county,  and married Elizabeth Lawrenson daughter of Edward Lawrenson, late of Rathmoyle  in June 1804.  Cochrane Palmer disappears from the jury lists in August 1820, and his will was proved in 1823.   It was almost certainly Cochrane Palmer who built the L plan house which still survives – Carter in “Built Curiosities of Laois” suggests that the 17thC century house was abandoned in about 1790. 

By 1810, when the guardians of the 16 year Sir Charles Coote (who went on to build Ballyfin) were looking to raise money Richard and Cochrane Palmer were at Rushall.  Newpark at Mountrath was the seat of Earl of Mountrath, but was only ever occupied by his agent.

Cochrane Palmer of Rush Hall might have competed even for the whistle which Burns has celebrated as being the subject of a tremendous drinking bout among some Scotch Lairds. When the late Duke of Richmond was Viceroy in Ireland he heard of Palmer’s preeminent abilities at this accomplishment and being himself one who could drink full tankards to the brim until most others were nodding he appeared anxious to meet with him. The Duke was soon after (around 1810) at Ballyfin  the seat of Wellesley Pole and Cochrane was invited to meet him The first evening’s bub happened to be whiskey punch, Palmer’s most accustomed and favourite drink and after a well contested swill Cochrane put the Duke fairly under the table. The next evening they tried it on at Port wine and here in his turn “after enacting more wonders than a man” was the hitherto  unbeaten Squire of Rush hall floored by the jolly Viceroy.   Sporting Magazine – Volume 6 -page 344.

Freeman’s Journal – Wednesday 24 June 1846 reported that Elizbeth relict of Corchran Palmer of Rush Hall d at Portarlington

Waterford Mail – Saturday 06 November 1824 reported that “by the Rev. Doctor Thomas, John H. Palmer (1789-1876), of Rush Hall, in the Queen’s County, Esq., to Castilliana, fourth daughter of Harman Fitzmaurice of Arditagle, in said County, After the ceremony was performed, the happy pair set off Wicklow, on a visit to some friends of the fair bride.”  They went even further afield later:-

Cleveland Ohio Jan 3 1876   The funeral services of Capt John Humphreys Palmer 87 of St Clair St were held yesterday at Trinity Church The body was taken to the Erie St cemetery and placed in a vault.  The body will later be removed and interred in Woodland Cemetery.  Palmer was born at Rush Hall, Queen’s County,  Ireland and at an early age was placed in a military school and later commissioned as lieutenant of dragoons by King George III.  Lieutenant Palmer was a participant in a number of battles under the Duke of Wellington.  He was wounded in the Battle of Waterloo.  Palmer has been a resident of Cleveland for the past 20 years and during the administration of Richard C Parsons as internal revenue collector occupied a position under him and was noted for his honesty and strict adherence to the letter of the law in all that pertained to his official duties.

A row of Roes

In Griffith’s Valuation of 1850 George Roe (1789-1862)  is holding it of Sir Charles Coote.  George was the son of Peter Roe of Kildellig (1750-1852) who was the son of Peter Roe of Watercastle, b circa 1680.

George’s brothers included Robert Roe of Springhill, the solicitor, and one of the several Theophilus Roes.  The history is confused … Dublin Post. 10 November 1834 Attempt at Murder.—A few nights since, as Mr Wm. Roe, of Rushall, was retiring to rest, the window the room in which he slept was broken, and shots fired at him. Several large slugs were lodged in the wall over Mr Roe’s head.   Who was William?    George seems to have married and have a son Thomas in 1835 who married Flora Fleming, the widow of a Mr Drake in 1870 in Stepney, in the east end of London.  She was born about 1845 in India and they had four children, Gertrude, Evalina, Flora Isabel and Clara.  At the time of the 1901 census Rush Hall was lived in by Thomas Roe (1835 -1916), his wife Flora Fleming, and their three daughters Flora Isabel, Clara B, and Gertrude. Evelina, the oldest girl, was with friends in Cork. In 1913 Flora Isabel married the splendidly named Algernon Lancelot William Valentine.  The unmarried sisters remained at Rush Hall till at least the 1930s.

The Pike

Opposite Rush Hall, close to the road, is a 5 bay 2 storey house with a massive chimney stack on the east gable.  This is Rush Hall Inn, and is said to be of the same date as Rush Hall.  The brick chimney stacks replace the early lozenge shaped stacks that Carrigan noted were replaced in 1896.  Carrigan says that it was built to accommodate the men building Rush Hall and remained a public inn till circa 1860,  run by the Phelan family since before the time of Griffith’s valuation when Thomas Phelan was the tenant of the Inn and 111 acres from Sir Charles Coote.

Rushall Inn. Even in Google Streetview the massive early chimney stacks are clearly visible

The name of The Pike of Rushall comes from the turn-pikes at toll-gates across the roads which were opened for the Stage Coach. All other vehicles had to pay for the pike staff to be turned aside.  1d for log-wheeled cars, and 6d for band-wheeled cars. (all lace cars or dray-cars had log wheels prior to the use of iron bands) The toll-gates were at regular distances of three miles apart. There was one at Clonenagh the next at Dysartbeigh, and the next at Pike of Rushall. Buchanan of Limerick started the first stagecoach in 1760 with his appropriately named ‘The Fly’.  Prior to that time, intending passengers met at a coffee room in Quay Lane, Limerick, and on a particular day being selected to leave, a notice was displayed over a mantelpiece and signed by all the passengers. The journey took as long as five days, and the same horses were used throughout.  The stage coach company had mile-stones with the mileage from Dublin cut on them. There was one in Coote Street in Mountrath which had “56 miles” cut out on it. The fare was based on mileage:- Passengers with 14 lbs. Luggage through all or any part of the road, one penny per mile.  Not cheap – a return trip from Dublin to Mountrath would have been about a fortnight’s wages for a working man.

Mail coaches were considered a step up from the common stagecoach, and people paid a higher fare to travel in them. But there was concern about the frequency of accidents, which were blamed on the number of ‘outside’ passengers who sat on the box at the back.

Stewarts Grove

Not even two vast and trunkless legs of stone remain!

So long gone that not a sinle stone remains, “Stuart’s Grove” first appears in the will of Sir John Denny Vesey of Knapton who died in April 1750

In the 1770s” Stuart’s Grove” was rented by Marmaduke Grace, a lawyer, who had been admitted to the Kins Inns in 1766,  and his wife Charitie (daughter of Thomas White of Ballybrophy and Anne Steele of Kyle).  Their daughter Elizabeth married Hugh Massy Baker, who carried the name of both his grandparents – William Baker of Lismacue and Lord Massy.  He ended up at Logie , near Forres, the very remote Highlands, to which not even Queen Victoria penetrated.   

In the days before Google and Linked, giving surnames as Christian (?) names was the easiest way of letting people know your connections, and was adopted widely by the members of the Church of Ireland.  Catholic families tended to reuse the same saint’s names every other generation, leading to total genealogical confusion.   Dissenters, such as Puritans and Presbyterians, tended to choose Biblical names, ideally from the Old Testament.  Rebecca would be Catholic or Episcopalian.  Rebakkah is definitely a dissenter – though there was a synagogue in Dublin from the 1600s, and a Jewish mayor of Youghal in the 1500s, there were very few Jews in Ireland till the late 19th century, and many of them left after the Redemptionist Fr Creagh sparked the Limerick Pogrom of 1904.  In the Protestant branch of my family one of the more splendid Christian (?) names that crops up is “Beauchamp Urquarht Caesar” .  To be even able to pronounce it correctly is as significant as a Masonic handshake.  (Beecham Erkwat Cezer!).

When Grace was trying to sell his lease in 1779 the house was not described as “newly built”, which was usual in those days if the house was less than 30 years old.  Strangely, with a name like Marmaduke, his parentage is not clear, but he was presumable related to the Graces of Arles, one way or another (on one or the other side of the blanket)

In 1784 his son Erasmus Grace was resident when his horse was stolen (his name was to demonstrate a connection with Sir Erasmus Burrowes, of Gilltown).

Stewarts Grove  seems to have often been bundled in with Water Castle, so it is not always clear who, if anybody, was living there.  In 1809 John Butler was trying to sell the lease. In Leet’s directory of 1814 it is the residence of John Murphy esq. In 1837 the daughter of the late William Henry Picke of Stewarts Grove was married. Picke, the son of Sir Vesian Picke of Cork, was a retired army officer and was married to Catherine Lyster which is what brought him to Laois..

In the 1830s Watecastle and Stewarts Grove were leased Abel John Caulfield Warren, son of John Warren of Lowhill, Kilkenny who had married Hester Maria Hamilton, the daughter of Reverend Alexander Chetwood Hamilton Stubber and Eleanor Stubber in January 1824.

According to the litigation of the 1870s he totally neglected farming the estate and lived in Water Castle. In the 1830s he let Stuarts Grove to Thomas C. Molloy. Esq., who married Frances, daughter Charles Harte, of Tenderry County Tipperary on Nov 1 1834, and had lived at Stewarts grove since at least 1831  (Dublin Morning Register – 1 November 1834  ) Following the marriage Edward Harte was offering the lease for sale. The Harte’s ancestor was Edward Hart of Coolowley and Raheenshira, living 1748, will proved 1789, who married Mary Farran, (1) Edward Hart of Raheenshira and Kilcoke, whose will was proved 1789, and who was buried at Kyle. He married Susanna Homidge; their grandson (son of Edward, who married Arabella Bathorn O’Hart’s Pedigrees) built Ballymorris House at Portarlington; and (2) Charles Hart of Roscrea, co. Tipperary, who inherited Coolowley, and was the ancestor of Captain Albert Harte, who assumed the name of Maxwell on inheriting Glenalbert, Roscrea. For more on the Hartes see

Stewarts Grove burnt down in the 1850 when being leased by William Robert Harte. Harte was declared a bankrupt and Sir Robert Staples, who was the head landlord, tried to evict him. Harte got John Gaze, the Portlaoise auctioneer and hotelier, to buy the lease from the insolvency court on his behalf. There then followed considerable litigation which is of interest because it mention the levelling of the derelict house in the 1870s.

Rynn House

Arnold Horner’s recent book Mapping Laois reproduces a map of the demesne of the earliest pre 1800 Rynn House, Rosenallis, in the foothills of the Slieve Blooms, with huge fish ponds.  It seems to be in a different location from the house called Nutgrove on the 1840 OS map, and from the house called Rynn on the 1890 OS map (apparently where the glasshouses were in the walled garden).  He proposes that the fishponds might be relics of an early 18th or late 17th century garden.   If any readers have  any snippets or nuggets,  please let me know.

Lodgefield map from the NLI circa 1790

Much of the information and pictures  below are courtesy of Peter Moss from his web site

Henry Croasdaile   (1708-1778) the eldest son of Thomas Croasdaile of Ballinroan, Woodford, Co Galway,  married  Mary Despard, dau of Richard and Elizabeth (nee  Warburton)  Despard of Cranagh circa 1730, about 12 miles south of Rynn.

The had a son Richard who was High Sheriff of Queen’s County in 1772 and married Elizabeth Sandes in September 1775.  Burkes says that this Richard inherited Rynn.  However other evidence suggests that the Croasdailes already owned Rynn by the early 1700s 

Henry’s father Thomas Croasdaile   (1684-1740)  witnessed a land sale in 1721 of Robert Jackson of Mountmellick,  so Croasdaile presumably had interests in Laois at that time.

McRedmond, Louis. “Irish Appeals to the House of Lords in the Eighteenth Century.” Analecta Hibernica, no. 23 (1966): 245-55 led me to a case of “Despard, Croasdaile , Croasdaile  , Shaw, and Ringrose vs Ormsby et Uxor.  1715,” which brings the Croasdailes into Laois before about 1710, and give them an association with the Despards.

After hearing Counsel, upon the Petition and Appeal of William Despard Esquire, Thomas Croasdaile Esquire, Henry Croasdaile Gentleman, Robert Shaw Esquire, and John Ringrose Gentleman, Executors of the last Will and Testament of Thomas Croasdaile Esquire, deceased, from several Orders and Decrees made in Her Majesty’s Court of Exchequer in Ireland, in a certain Cause, wherein Arthur Ormsby Esquire and Dorothy his Wife, William Usher Esquire and Lettice his Wife, were Plaintiffs, and the Petitioners, together with the Executors of the last Will and Testament of Sir Henry Waddington Knight, deceased, Simon Lord Bishop of Elphin, Gilbert Ormsby Esquire, William Butler and Dame Abigail his Wife, Relict of the said Sir Henry Waddington, and others, were Defendants; praying Relief in the Premises; and that the Orders and Decrees abovementioned, and all subsequent Orders and Decrees made in Pursuance thereof, may be reversed: As also upon the Answer of the said Arthur Ormsby and Dorothy his Wife, and William Usher and Lettice his Wife, put in thereunto; and due Consideration of what was offered thereupon:

Judgement affirmed, with Costs.   It is Ordered and Adjudged, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, That the said Petition and Appeal shall be, and is hereby, dismissed by this House; and that the Decrees; Orders, and Proceedings, therein complained of, shall be, and are hereby affirmed: And it is further Ordered, That the said William Despard and other Appellants shall pay, or cause to be paid, to the said Arthur Ormsby and other Respondents, the Sum of Sixty Pounds, for their Costs. More here

The War of the Spanish Succession and Clare’s Dragoons

It also appears that the Croasdailes were definitely at Rynn by 1715 from  the story of Patrick O’Meighan

Patrick Molaise O’Meighan was the fourth son of Christopher The O’Meighan. He was born at Ballagh Castle, Rossinver in County Leitrim in 1693. After the Treaty of Limerick, the family lost their estates. Patrick was taken down to Tipperary by his mother Margarita, along with his brothers Rourke and William.

Later the three boys were brought out to France by their brothers James and Charles. After spending some months with James and his family, Patrick joined the Queens Dragoons Irish Brigade which was commanded by his cousin Sir Oliver, Count O’Gara. Patrick served in the French Army and was discharged in 1715.

(Ed Note Christopher’s widow, Margarita O’Reilly and the three youngest children moved from the Ballaghmeehan (now Rossinver) area of County Leitrim to a farm called Kilcoran, just west of Cahir in County Tipperary, which had been purchased for them by a family friend. James married Elizabeth Russell. One of their children was Guillaume Alexandre de Mehegan, a noted professor, writer, and political activist.)

He transferred to the regiment of Viscount Clare and took part in the Battle of Ramilles in 1706. He shot the horse from under the Duke of Marlborough and would have killed that Duke but for the fact that he himself was shot and left for dead by a fellow Irishman in the English Army named Field Marshal The Honorable Richard Molesworth. Thus the great Duke’s life was spared to bring last minute victory to the English which they would not have achieved had an Irishman not saved Marlborough’s life. The colours of Clare’s regiment were hung in the Abbey of Irish Benedictine Nuns in Yrpes.

After the battle, Patrick was taken prisoner by the English. An English Army surgeon saved his badly shattered leg and took a bullet out of his arm. (He walked for the rest of his life with a limp.) When he recovered, he was released on bond as was the custom of the time – on the condition that he would not try to escape or rejoin his regiment, or the French or Spanish forces. He accepted the conditions of the bond, and – since he had no money – he remained around the English camp doing odd jobs in the Mess for the Officers. In fact, he became a second manservant to the Colonel – speaking in both Irish or French, depending on what language the Colonel spoke to him. Croasdaile wanted to become fluent in both languages and was glad to speak with O’Meighan who was fluent in both. Croasdaile told him he would give him some land and make him a Farm Steward on his estate if ever they got back to Ireland alive

At the close of the hostilities and the Treaty of Utrecht in 1715, Patrick was released from his bond and rejoined his regiment but was discharged on account of his injuries. He went to La Salle to visit his elder brother James who was governor of that town. While staying with his brother, he met and married Bridget Fitzpatrick, daughter of Florence Fitzpatrick of Ossory (who had also been in the Irish Brigade). After his marriage, he remained for a while with James and his family, before returning to Ireland.

On his return to Ireland, he spent some time with his mother before getting in contact with his old friend Colonel Croasdaile. Croasdaile was delighted to see him and made Patrick and his wife welcome. True to his word, he gave Patrick a large farm and cottage at nominal rent, for three generations, and made Patrick his tillage steward. So he then settled in Rosenallis in Queen’s County. By this time Patrick had two daughters, who stayed with their grandmother (Ed – Mary (Butler) Fitzpatrick. She was a sister of Major Piers Butler of Urlingford Castle & niece of Lord Galmoy, wife of Thomas Fitzpatrick of Castletown) Patrick O’Meighan died in 1744.

A man hunt in the Slieve Bloom

Daniel Meehan, who was employed on Henry Croasdaile’s estate in the 1770s, was presumably his son or grandson.  His descendants were still livening near Clonaslee at the time of Griffith’s Valuation in 1840 and in the 1911 census. The current generation is said to live near Portlaoise.

He recounted the incidents that led to Henry Croasdaile being dismissed as a Justice of The Peace.  “A priest hunter was in the Rosenallis area in search of an outlaw cleric and his inquiries led him to Rynn and the estate of Henry Croasdaile, where he sought to recruit the Justice into a hunt for the clergyman known to be sheltered by Richard Pigott of Capard. Croasdaile calmly beckoned the young Daniel Meehan and told him to saddle two horses, one for the Justice and one for himself, and to bring his hounds around to the front of the house, clearly giving the priest hunter the notion that he was preparing to join the search. While waiting for Meehan to return, Croasdaile casually engaged the man in small talk for several minutes. Seeing the lad trot up on a horse with a second in tow, a pack of excited, barking hounds clustered about the horses’ legs, his demeanour changed utterly and he quickly mounted his beast, stared down at the priest hunter and said:

“Sir, I have hunted the deer. I have hunted the hare and the fox. I have hunted the wolf.  But you sir, are the first man I will have hunted. Get back on your horse, because I will give you a sporting chance before my hounds start to chase”.

The startled, terrified man quickly did as commanded and leapt on to his mount, galloping away down the avenue without another word. Croasdaile then turned to the young Meehan and told him that they would ‘drive that vile wretch from the neighbourhood’. Clearly relishing the experience, he yelled `Tallyhoe!’ and took off after the priest hunter with a pack of yapping dogs in his wake. Meehan followed at a gallop and up ahead he saw the panic-stricken priest hunter tumble from his horse, but with one foot caught in his stirrup so that the animal dragged him the last few yards along the avenue and through the gate. The undoubtedly bemused Meehan rode ahead of Croasdaile and secured the runaway horse, then freed the battered, bruised and trembling priest hunter’s foot from the stirrup. Croasdaile arrived moments later and the pack of yelping dogs surrounded the terrified man, but were trained not to attack without command. The priest hunter pleaded for mercy as Croasdaile’s horse danced slowly around, towering over the terrified man. The Justice then warned the man never to show his face in Rosenallis or to come near the estate again or he would not get off so lightly. He told Meehan to help the man to remount, and the now-ragged priest hunter fled to Maryborough where he laid his complaint.   “When I approached this Justice (Croasdaile) and asked for a privy interview, on learning my business, spoke to me in a loud menacing voice and with oaths declared that he had foxes and wolves and deer to hunt and that he would in no wise hunt men. Then he used by body very shamefully.” (Grand-Jury Records, removed to Record Office or Royal Irish Academy). Henry Croarsdaile’s name did not reappear in the list of magistrates till 1775, and he died in 1778.

Burn the house down!

There is a family story told about Henry’s son, Col Richard Croarsdaile, by John Lloyd Croasdaile (1894-1960)  that around 1800 his grandfather had his servants move the dining table out onto the lawn, set fire to the house, and the guests all dined as they watched the house burn down.  Apparently it was a method of getting rid of a guest who had overstayed her welcome.  But Richard Croasdaile had actually planned to demolish and rebuild the house anyway before the guest came and her unexpected visit interrupted his plans, and since she over-stayed her welcome which held up his plans to rebuild, he decided he would kill two birds with one stone.  

There are no accounts of agrarian unrest at Rynn in the 1830s.

The Dublin Evening Post  reported on Thursday 25 September 1823  that Major Henry Crossdaile  of Rynn had a game licence

In May 1853 Richard’s grandson John Croasdaile, Esq., of Rynn, was appointed a JP.  That year he commissioned Sandham Symes to design a new house for him.  Symes, who was trained by William Farrell and was a kinsman of Glascott Symes of Clonageera. He married Anna Jane Townsend, daughter of Richard Townsend and Helena Trench (a daughter of Dean Trench of Glenmalyre) in 1858. He died in 1889 and the house was inherited by their oldest son Lancelot Croasdaile and sold on his death in 1928


General Advertiser 7 May 1853
The back of the house
The house as designed by Sandham Symes
images They must have decided that balustrade above the porch on the earlier photographs was de trop
By the time the 1890 OS map was surveyed the east wing had gone.

An account of Rynn house from John Farrell who was born and raised in Rosenallis in a house overlooking Rynn house estate

“My Great Great Grandfather was a land steward for Croasdailes in the second half of the 19th century.  He lived in a house in Nutgrove, and his Grandson still lives in the same house. So from stories relayed to me by my Great Grandmother some years ago, it was obvious that the Croasdaile family were very good to my ancestors.

When I was at primary school I was lucky enough to get a photocopy of a typed manuscript of the history of Rosenallis by Fr. L.H. Croasdaile signed by him.  If you see the white fence posts in the picture, well I rescued some of them from the path of a bulldozer some 25 years ago.  They are made of Wrought iron, and my G Grandmother told me that when she was young that fence ran all the way from the main road to the house.  It was painted white and looked beautiful as the horse drawn carriages went down the avenue to Rynn House.

If you look in the townland of Nutgrove on Griffith’s Valuation of 1840, the first name is Thomas Scully, he was my 4th Great Grandfather and the second name, James Wisely was my 3rd Great Grandfather. Also the Royal Irish Constabulary record relates to my 2nd Great Granduncle who was born in Nutgrove in 1843, he reached the rank of Head Constable, as you will see he was recommended for enlistment by J. Croasdaile J.P. who was probably his employer up until then.

I have every reason to believe that there was no animosity what so ever (between generations of Croasdailes and the local people), and any accounts that I ever heard were accounts of generosity and kindness, and I would not believe that any local people would have burned down Rynn House. Its a great pity that Rynn House was ever demolished. I still don’t know if the Land Commission or the new owners had it demolished, I would guess the land commission demolished. A family of graziers called Corcorans got 75% of Rynn House estate when it was divided up in the 1930s. 

 As a young lad I earned pocket money running after cattle for different members of the Corcoran Family. So I know every inch of Rynn estate land. My Grandfather also herded cattle for Corcorans. My Grandfather was allowed to cut firewood for his own use in this wood so I spent a lot of time in this wood cutting down trees with bow saws, with my Grandfather.”

It is said that Jim Corcoran’s brother was a Land Commission functionary.

The organ in the catholic church in Rosenallis was built in 1946 by Fr Lancelot J Croasdaile , SJ,  the son of Lancelot Croasdaile b 1858 who married Mary Josephine O’Rourke.  He also wrote a book on the History of Rosenallis.

Rynn House in the 21st Century – a time of enlightened conservation?


Watercastle from Carrigan

According to Irish Monastic Possessions (1540) Noyske, or Watercastle, the castle of McGilphatrik  was home of “Grany [daughter of Teige Oge Dunne] who married Brian (orse Barnaby) Fitzpatrick , son of Florence 3rd Baron of Upper Ossory”, Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland (1912) p 199 Dunnes of Brittas pedigree.  Barnaby or Brian lived at Castletown in 1601 and 1602 and afterwards at Watercastle.

Carrigan notes that Margaret (Butler) Fitzpatrick, widow of Brían (Mac Giolla Phádraig) Fitzpatrick, 5th  Baron of Upper Ossory, was living at Water Castle in 1641 at the time of the Confederate Wars.

Robert Reeves gent., and Thomas Ougle gent.  were there on the 1659 census, presumably Cromwellian adventurers. 

In 1750 from The Dublin Journal  WHEREAS Griffyth Drysdale, late of Watercastle in the Queen’s County, Esq; deceased, by his last Will and Testament appointed Arthur Bush of Kilmurry in the County of Kilkenny, Esq; his sole Executor, and thereby devised to the said Arthur Bush all his real and personal Estate, for the Payment of his Debts, and the other Purposes in his said Will mentioned, with full Power to the said Arthur Bush to cut down such Part of the Woods on his Estate, as should be sufficient for such Purposes. And whereas several of the Debts and other Demands affecting the real Estate of the said Griffyth Drysdale remain as yet unsatisfied. Now this is to give Notice, that about 40 Acres of the Wood on the Lands of Raheen in the Queen’s County, within Half a Mile of Durrow, 2 Miles from Ballynakill, 7 of Mountrath, and 10 of Kilkenny, consisting of well grown Oak, being Part of the real Estate of the said Griffyth Drysdale, will be exposed to publick Cant at Mr. John Blunt’s, Innholder, in the City of Kilkenny, on the 17th Day of March next, by the said Arthur Bush, for the Payment of said Debts and Demands. Any Person willing to deal for the same, will be informed of the Conditions of the said Cant, by applying to the said Arthur Bush at Kilmurry aforesaid, and he shewed the said Woods by him. – N.B. The Purchaser to pay down the whole Purchase Money on the Perfection of Articles, the said Arthur Bush being determined to run no Risque as to failure of Payment.

From manuscripts at Kilboy, Co. Tipperary, T. U. Sadleir, Analecta Hibernica  No. 12 (Jan., 1943), p150 in 1726  Thomas Drysdale of Roxboro is leasing a mill at Ballyhasty for the lives of Thomas Drysdale, James Drysdale, his son, and Griffith Drysdale then of Knapton.   Griffyth Drysdale was a lawyer (Grays Inn 4 June 1688) from a family of mostly clerics who may have built Knapton.  His brother Hugh Drysdale, became Lt Gov of Virginia.  His father, also Hugh Drysdale, was Archdeacon of Ossory and chaplain to the Duke of Ormond, and his mother was Elizabeth Kearney of Blanchville.

In 1736 Griffith Drysdale , of Water Castle , is named on the life of another lease Analecta Hibernica, Issues 12-14 pg 151.

Saunders Newsletter 22 July 1777

After Drysdale’s death it became the home of Captain John Lyon, a descendant of Captain William Lyon, commander of the Albion in Francis Drake’s Navy.  Despite a lack of clerical training  William Lyon persuaded Queen Elizabeth to appoint him Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.  Another descendant  was Rev Henry Lyon 1764- 1848 who ran a school in  Portarlington, is said to have matriculated Trinity 1790, and whose brother was Capt Edward Lyon, RN.  Ms 812(36) in the Genealogical Office might have more information – it being a draft pedigree drawn up by Henry Lyon in 1794. I append the full story of Captain Lyon at the end of this article.

In the turnpike act of 1745  Captain John Lyon was one of the trustees of the turnpike from Nass to Maryborough and Ballyroan.

Dublin Journal Thursday, March 03, 1746  John Lyon esq of Watercastle was selling well grown oak from the Raheen Wood.  Apply to the above or Will Waring at his house in Kilkenny.

Died at Water-castle, Queen’s Co. Capt. John Lyon, aged 80    Hibernian Journal Monday 01 July 1776

BIFR1976 Bland, page 130 says that Catherine Bland, daughter of John Bland and Sarah Birch of Blandsfort, married Thomas Lyon of Watercastle in 1778. 

Dublin Evening Post – Tuesday 22 March 1785   Watecastle to be sold  apply Henry Stewart , Chatham St.

Thomas Lyon was having tenant troubles in 1783

Catherine Bland must have died because Thomas Lyon married Grace Blakeney, daughter of Colonel Robert Blakeney and Gertrude Blakeney, and sister and co-heir of John Blakeney of Abbert, Co Galway, on 9 May 1786. Their only daughter, Gertrude, married  Uniacke Fitzgerald, of Lisquinlan and Corkbeg, Co Cork.    In 1870  Robert Uniacke Penrose Fitzgerald of Corkbeg, Whitegate still owned 764 acres in Queen’s County.

Abbert, Co Galway (Photograph courtesy of Dr. Patrick Melvin and Eamonn de Burca) DEMOLITION SALE – BUILDING MATERIALS TO BE SOLD BY PUBLIC AUCTION By instructions of the Irish Land Commission, on FRIDAY, 10th FEBRUARY, 1939, At Abbert House. Abbeyknockmoy
Abbert in 2020

The Stewart (of Tyrcallen) archive (D3319) held in PRONI.  , includes a copy of the will (1802) of Thomas Lyon of Watercastle with the papers of Mrs Gertrude FitzGerald, nee Lyon, of Watercastle, and Mount Blakeney, barony of Coshma, Co. Limerick.

Feb 16 1788 Thomas Lyon was appointed sheriff of Queens County

An advertisement of 1782 creates an interesting possibility, which has not yet been elucidated by the Registry of Deeds. Was Stewart’s Grove named form the Stewarts of Killymoon, Co Tyrone. Henry Stewart of Tyrcallen, Stranorlar, Co. Donegal (1743-1840), younger brother of James Stewart of Killymoon, MP for Co. Tyrone, 1768-1812, was called to the Bar in 1773.  In 1793 Henry Stewart married Elizabeth, a daughter of the 2nd Lord Longford and a sister of the Duchess of Wellington.  In the 1820s, as a partner in the firm of Stewart and Swan, he became agent for the de Vesci estates.

The title of Water Castle for sale in 1785

In 1800 Coote notes that the caste is falling into ruin and Mr Lyons is an absentee. It was at around about that date that the demesne was survey by Lodgefield, whose very detailed map is reproduced in Arnold Horner’s Mapping Laois p139., showing the gardens in all their splendour and naming the fields – that on the left of the avenue where the modern house has been built was called The Black Pits.

WATER CASTLE, the seat of Mr Lyons is prettily situated on the banks of a rapid stream called the NORE and in a well wooded valley.  The mansion house seems to have been formed out of one of the old square castles   Journal of a tour in Ireland  Sir Richard Colt Hoare · 1807

In the Dublin Evening Post – Tuesday 31 May 1808  Robert Lawrenson is  advertising the lease of Watercastle.  He seems to have lived in several houses around Durrow – he was at Capponellan House before Watercastle, moved to Castlewood around 1809 and was at Castleview by 1835.

Leet’s directory lists Water Castle as the seat of  Thomas Prior esq  in 1814, who had been living at Attavilla in Borris in Ossory in 176, when he was letting a mill in Rathdowney, and was sheriff of the Queen’s County for 1799, and Captain of the Rathdowney Infantry.  Sadly in 1824 he was up in the Insolvent Debtors Court in Maryborough.

Carrigan writes that “it was subjected to a course of remodelling about 1820 when the top storey and garret were thrown down a new roof, according to the modern style, was put on and two new wings were added about the same time. Save for the loss of the top portion and the substitution of modern windows for the ancient loops, the castle is still perfect.”

In 1824 it was the home of Sir Robert Staples’ illegitimate son (and heir) Edmund Staples JP, who probably undertook the work.

Carlow Sentinel – Saturday 08 October 1842  notes Edward Payne of Watercastle a freeholder of land at Ballaghmore

Also in 1842, on November 24 , at Woodsgift, Robert Morris, Esq., Water Castle, Queen’s County, was married to Fanny, third daughter of Simon Proctor, Esq., Riverview Cottage, Clonmanty.

By 1853 William Robert Harte (1802-1868) was living there though his lease from Robert Uniacke Fitzgerald was dated 7 July 1855.  A native of Durrow, William Harte died at Watercatle in October 1868 and his wife Susan Herod went to London where she died aged 83 in 24 March 1906, having lost the £20 a year annuity  that her husband left her when Watercastle was sold 7 years later.

In 1869 their son William Robert Herod Harte married  Susan Harriette Meredith (b 8 Mar 1847), who died at Marlow, Co Tipperary, the home of the Pennefeathers  on 8 Jan 1878. He had gone bankrupt in 1875 and Watercastle had been sold.   He remarried Charlotte Alicia Meredith eldest dau of Charles Meredith of Coolville, Kings County in 1880 and emigrated to South Africa.  The family story is that he was a curator of Pietermaritzburg Botanical Gardens. Documents in the National Archives of South Africa show that he was actually a gaoler at Ladysmith from 1887 until his death in 1890.

A new tenant was not found so Sir Robert Staples installed Murt Holohan, a farm labourer , with his wife Jane Carter who were married circa 1890. By the time of the 1911 census they had 6 children. Carrigan’s photograph at the top of this article dates from 1912, so they must have been living in absolutely dreadful conditions, though Jane Holohan’s script on the census form is beautiful, with ne’er a blot. I believe that the Holohans are still its custodians.

An idyllic location, South facing, with the Nore flowing beside it
From Google Streetview. Still eminently restorable, though Mr Holohan’s sheds would have to go!
An aerial view, showing the walls of the Fitzpatrick castle

The Tale of Captain William Lyon

The Naval Bishop with only enough fingers for an Episcopal Ring

Sir Francis Drake, reporting on a Naval battle with the Spaniards to Queen Elizabeth I, said “May it please your most Gracious Majesty, many there are in every ship who have borne themselves right bravely as subjects of their gracious mistress should, but one there is who merits praise above all for by his steady daring alone three goodly Galleons were taken. He himself stood at the guns until Victory was declared although one of the fingers of his right hand was shot off and he had received various other grievous wounds. His name is William Lyon, Commander of the Albion.”

“Let him be introduced into our presence.” said the Queen “We love to look on a brave man.”

Sir Francis bowed gave the necessary directions and after a brief delay Capt Lyon was ushered into the Royal presence He was a good featured finely formed man with the blunt frank bearing of a British Sailor in the present instance slightly dashed by the consciousness of his position.  Her Majesty received him with that kindly manner which she knew so well how to combine with dignity and a species of King craft which seldom fails to secure for Sovereigns the warm esteem and love of their people She asked him many questions touching the late expedition which he answered in a sensible respectful manner and the Queen dismissed him saying “You deserve to rise Capt Lyon and we now pledge our Royal word that you shall have the first vacancy that offers.” She then gave him her hand to kiss and the valiant seaman retired

About three months afterwards as the Queen on a state day was giving an audience to her nobles Capt Lyon presented himself and craved an interview with the Queen among whose faults indifference to the wants and wishes of her subjects could not be classed. Her Majesty willingly granted his request and smiled as she asked him to make known his wishes “Please your Majesty” said he “I come to remind you of your gracious promise You said I should have the first vacancy that offered and I have just heard that the See of Cork in the South of Ireland is vacant by the demise of the Bishop therefore I hope your majesty will give it to me and so fulfil your Royal word.”

“Gramercy!” said the Queen “this is taking us at our word with a witness. What say you my Lord” said she turning to the Earl of Sussex who stood beside the throne “Would a brave Sailor answer for a Bishop in our troubled Kingdom of Ireland.”   “If Capt Lyon’s clerkly skill please your gracious majesty be equal to so great a charge his worth and valour.”   “Besides” chimed in the Captain as undauntedly as if he stood on his own Quarter deck “Her Majesty promised me the first vacancy and God forbid she should be the first of her Royal House who was worse than their word.” A less absolute sovereign than Elizabeth might have been offended at these blunt words and have dismissed the unlucky speaker with scant ceremony But thoroughly secure in power she liked to reign in her people’s hearts and besides she had the rough old Tudor love for words of Truth and Deeds of Boldness therefore a right royal burst of laughter proceeded from the throne echoed by the courtiers and when the Queen’s had subsided she graciously dismissed Captain with the assurance that there be due inquiry into his case.

This done satisfactorily,  the Queen was pleased grant his request and William Lyon was consecrated Bishop of Cork Cloyne and Ross.  Elizabeth said to him on the occasion “Capt Lyon I know will take as good care of the Church as of the State” and contrary to all expectation the Brave Sailor was a most exemplary Bishop giving his Patronage to the most worthy men. He built the present Palace situated near the Cathedral and over the mantlepiece in the dining room hangs his portrait finely painted representing him in his full naval uniform But on his right hand on one of his remaining fingers is the Episcopal Ring. Bishop William Lyon enjoyed his elevation for twenty five years to the honour to himself and benefit to his diocese.