The Borderlands

Monasterevan or Belin, 5 km south of Monasterevan, was a fording point for the Sligh Dala, or Belach Muighe Dala Meic Umhoir,, the great road of Dala, on which two chariots could pass without one having to give way to the other, as opposed to the ‘cow road’, bóthar, only as wide as two cows. Thousands of years ago five highways radiated from Tara; the Sligh Dala, went via Limerick to Kerry

A pair of chariots from the base of the cross at Clonmacnoise

In 1572 Sir Maurice Fitzgerald of Lackagh, just outside Monasterevan (it is a few trees and a bit of a mound in a field now) got a grant of the Bridge of Belan in O’Dempsey Country. It seems possible that the main road to from Monasterevin towards the South and West might have gone through Riverstown, to Fisherstown and on to Ballybrittas.

200 years later Taylor and Skinner’s Maps show three large houses – Bellgrove, of Mr Fitzgerald, Rath of Mr Adair and Jamestown of Mr Rochfort, Ballybrittas Castle is marked to the North af the road, but as can be seen in Seymour’s 1777 view, included in Beranger’s “Views of Ireland” it was already a ruin.

Dodd’s The Traveller’s Director Through Ireland of 1801 describes the area:-
At Monasterevan where the road crosses the river Barrow is a charter school there is also a harbour on the Grand Canal.
Near 2 miles beyond Monasterevan on the L is Jamesłown Mr Rochfort’s a little further Rath Mr Adair’s and half a mile beyond it Bellgrove Mr Fitzgerald’s opposite to which on the R are the ruins of Ballybrittas Castle.

Queen’s County situated in the province of Leinster is bounded by King’s County and part of Tipperary on the north and west by part of Kildare and Carlow on the east and by Kilkenny and Carlow on the south It is a fruitful pleasant country containing 258,415 Irish plantation acres thirty nine parishes eight baronies one borough and sends three members to parliament viz two for the county and one for the borough of Portrlington It is about 35 miles long and 25 broad chief town Maryborough which with the county was named in honour of Mary I Queen of England.

It has 82,000 inhabitants. (in 2016 it was about 85,000, and at its lowest around 1900 it was 73,000) Its baronies are Portnahinch, Tinnehinch, Upper Ossory, Maryborough Stradbally, Ballyadams, Cullinagh and Slievemargy. Its principal families O Moore, Fitzpatrick, O Don, O Brenan, Wandesford and Delany.  The county was formerly full of bogs but is now pleasant and fruitful.

Even in the 18th century there were several houses that escaped both Dodd and Taylor & Skinner, but in the early 19th century there was a building boom of country houses here – partly because of the ready access to Dublin by both road and canal. – Belin, Fisherstown, Graigueverne, Glenmalire, Ashfied, Sally Park, and The Derries are the other main houses near Ballybrittas.

A fly boat from Hall’s Scenery of Ireland.  Drawn by 3  horses, it flew at 9 miles (or 15km) an hour.

Timetable and fares – SC was State Cabin, and CC Common Cabin

Of the earlier houses my favourite is Fisherstown House “comfortable but has no peculiar character” William Shaw Mason – 1814.    Apart from anything else it is opposite the wonderful Fisherstown Inn.   

The pictures show it in the late 1970s, and in the late 1990s.  Sadly the roof has now completely gone.

According to The Buildings of Ireland it is :- Detached two-storey house 5 bay, built c.1820, with full-height bowed entrance bay. Now in ruins. Double-pitched slate roof with curved roof to bow. Roughcast rendered walls, painted, with limestone course to eaves. Square-headed window openings with limestone sills; fittings to window openings now gone. Timber pilaster doorcase with timber panelled door with overlight. Entrance Hall with polychromatic ceramic-tiled floor; timber dado rails; carved timber architraves to window openings; plaster cornice to ceiling. Stair Hall with carved timber staircase; arch opening to Entrance Hall. House set back from road in own grounds; overgrown grounds to site. Group of detached outbuildings to site. Gateway comprising rendered piers with wrought-iron double gates.

The first reference we have to the English name Fisherstown is in the description of the lands in Lord Arlington’s new manor in 1666. It was probably invented then. Killeskeraghemore, Killeskeraghbegg, Grageneskerry and Bellingue or Bellnigue alias Fisherstowne.  “It is clear from the Fiants and Inquisitions that Fisherstown covers the area formerly known as Coill an Iasgaire, the Fisherman’s Wood, and that Fisherstown is a part translation of the old name’ (JKAS XIII 103, 106).    Gráig na n-iasgairidhe, ‘village of the fisherman,’ ‘Graiguenaskerry’

On 29 June 1734 Elinor Scott alias Laban (a Hugenot family from near Portarlington), the widow of William Scott late of Fisherstown Queen’s County is marrying Henry Lewis gent, of Aghmacart. Prerogative Marriages;
Henry Lewis died at Fisherstown in. 1746 but Elinor Scott did not die till 1781
In the ABSTRACTS OF WILLS  it details her marriage settlement with with Henry Lewis of Aughmacart, Queen’s Co., gent; Wm. Laban, Newmarket, Co. Dublin, tanner, and Wm. Scott of Monycoughlin, Queen’s Co., gent., the elder, parties to said settlement.
My brother Joseph Laban.
My niece Margt. Laban, daughter of my brother Joseph Laban.
My sister Anderson.
My niece Mary Palmer.
My nephew.Wm. Laban, son of my brother Jon. Laban.
My brother Wm. Laban, exor., and his two sons.
My daughter Hannah Palmer and my daughter Sarah Hutton.
My nephew Thos. Laban and my niece Jane Newbold.
My nephew Thos. Anderson and my’niece Jane Baily alias Anderson.
My brother Joseph [Laban’s] children.
My nephew Samuel Laban, son of my brother Wm. Laban.
My nephew Nehemiah, son of my brother Samuel Laban, deceased.
My niece Margaret French als. Laban.
My daughter Mary Lewis.
My son Daniel Lewis.
Daniel Lewis of Aughmacart and Samuel Laban my nephew, merchant in Dublin, overseers of Will. ,
Sarah Mullin. James Cowan. Ellinor How alias Cowan. Elizabeth Bennett alias Cowan. Steven Ray my old servant. Elizabeth Tinan my old servant. Our servant John Fletcher. Lands of Rickardstown and Ballyshanduff, [? Queen’s Co.] Witnesses: John Gordon, John Doughan, servant to said Henry Lewis,
Mary Magachie, wife to Rev. Stephen Magachie, Kilnacourt, Queen’s Co., clerk.
Memorial witnessed by: Robert Hutton, currier,
Robt. Stafford, gent., both of Dublin. 127, 407, 87288 .
Saml. Laban (seal) 25
The names of Anderson and Bayly will reappear, though I have yet to find any information about on the Lewis fmily of Aghmacart or the origin of the Scotts. 

Elinor and William’s son William Scott, Fisherstown (gent) died in 1757. (P. Beryl Eustace – 1956 – Abstracts of Wills). 

I suspect that the house was actually rebuilt not in 1820 but around 1784 when his son John married Mary Anne Biddulph who was the second daughter of Francis Biddulph [1727-1806] of Vicarstown, Queen’s County, and Eliza Harrison.   Four years later Mary Ann’s older sister married Richard Grattan, a kinsman of Henry Grattan.  

Their only brother, Francis Harrison Biddulph, was for many years the Registrar of the Court of Exchequer.   Born on 26th December 1774, he married in 1797 Mary Marsh, the daughter of the barrister Francis Marsh and descendant of Jeremy Taylor, the Bishop of Down and Connor. Mary Marsh’s parents married in Dublin on 9th September 1775, her mother being Anne Vero, the heiress of Neptune Vero of Georges Lane, Dublin. Along with Mary Marsh who married Francis Harrison Biddulph, Francis Marsh and Anne Vero had two sons, Digby Marsh and Rev. Francis Marsh of Ballintober, Queen’s Co., whose son, another Francis Marsh, settled at Springmount, Queen’s County, (qv)

The 1798 Rising touched them only a little –  March 1 1798 On Sunday night the 24th ult about eight o clock in the evening a daring banditti attacked the house of Francis Biddulph of Vicarstown in the Queen’s County Esq where they secured all the servants but Mr Biddulph with his wife and daughter. Having time to get up stairs, he made such a resistance though they carried on their attack upwards of an hour that he deterred from forcing a door which he had erected on the stairs. They fired several shots at Mr Biddulph and wounded a servant maid in the shoulder hit Mrs Biddulph with slugs in the clothes, filled the upper rooms with a number of bullets, broke all the windows and furniture in the house and the gentleman and his family are now obliged to go and reside in town.

Whether the Scotts survived the 1798 better than the Biddulphs is not known though they don’t appear in the list of 1798 claimants

We next hear of Fisherstown in the Dublin Evening Post and Saunders Newsletter of April and May 1809.

QUEEN’S COUNTY. TO be LET, for lives renewable for ever, the HOUSE,OFFICES, and DEMESNE of FISHERSTOWN, near 40A. of highly improved Land, of the best quality, beautifully divided with plantations and ditches,— The House and Offices in the most perfect condition. Not a shilling need be spent on it. There are also a good orchard and garden, well cropped. The whole adjoining the Grand Canal, opposite the Marquis of Drogheda’s fine improvements, within 2 miles of  Monasterevan, 5 of Portarlington, Stradballv, and Athy Apply Mr. Burnett, Fisherstown, or at No. 27, Stafford Street, Dublin (02/05/1809, pg 4)

The Burnetts were a Quaker family, whose best-known member was another Richard, a seedsman of Richmond, near Drumcondra. Terrence Reeves Smith was kind enough to share some of his research. Apparently Burnett imported from America and Italy, announcing (4th March 1790) ‘to the curious in planting’ that he (at Richmond): ‘has just got a parcel of fresh seeds from America; only five weeks on their passage of the most valuable trees and shrubs, the produce of that country. He has made them up in parcels.   In 1781 in Sanders Newsletter he was advertising:- Half a Crown (2/6d or about 12c )Parcel, which contains Seed enough to produce three thousand Plants.  Writing in 1801, Archer notes “since his death, this nursery has much declined; a great part of it is now set for building ground, and the remainder is insignificant’. Sounds so much like any modern day nursery near a city, being greedily eyed up by developers.

In 1814 Ambrose Leet has Fisherstown as the seat of William Scott.  However William Shaw Mason’s 1814 A Statistical Account, Or Parochial Survey of Ireland might be more accurate, saying it was lived in by the Rev Mr Torrens. “At the distance of a mile more is Fisherstown the seat of the Rev Mr Torrens the house lies low to the right hand of the road and facing it. It looks comfortable but has no peculiar character.”

In 1823 Robert and Richard Burnett are involved in leasing Belan House, of which more soon.
For particulars, apply (if letter, post paid) to Mr. Robert Burnett, Fisherstown House, Monasterevan; or to William I.odge, Esq, Kildare-Street; or Mr. Richard Burnett, attorney, 15, Stafford-street…. 27 May 1823

ROBBERY OF ARMS—QUEEN’S COUNTY.  On Friday night last at about the hour of Nine o’clock, seven or eight men armed, with their faces blackened, broke into the house of Mr. Robert Burnett, of Fisherstown by the rere, and forced the servants into the front parlour, where Mr. and Mrs. Burnett were, in which they shut them all up, and proceeded up stairs to his bed-chamber, where they took one musket, two cases of pistols, two swords, and a powder-horn; and after searching another room where his grandson lay asleep, without awaking him ,they departed, without offering any violence—demanding or taking off any other article whatsoever. It is much to be regretted that such an outrage should commence in this hitherto peaceable county. Freemans Journal Wednesday, December 22, 1824

The Disraeli School

It was then briefly the home of Richard Bayly, one of a family of lawyers in Golden Lane. His uncle, another Richard Bayly, trained Benjamin Disraeli, who is said to have been uncle of the future Prime minister and endower of the Disraeli School at Baltinglass. The odd thing is that this Benjamin Disraeli appears nowhere in the genealogy of the Earl of Beaconsfield.

Beechy Park

Benjamin D’Israeli was born in England in 1766. It is said that he came to Ireland with his mother at a very early age. He started to serve his apprenticeship with Richard Bayly at the age of seventeen. By the age of 22 he had acquired a licence to run lotteries By 35 he had bought a country estate Bettyfield House (now Jim Bolger’s Beechy Park Stables) at Rathvilly. Five days before his death in 1814, aged 48, he left £3,000 towards the erection of a school for the education of the poor at Rathvilly which was designed by Joseh Welland and opened in 1826.

Our Richard Bayly was born 1771; Attorney, of Finglas-bridge; and Fisherstown, killed by an accident coming home from a dinner party at Sir Richard Wilcock’s, St Lawrence Manor, Chapelizod (where the West County Hotel now stands), 20th Feb., 1828. He married. Susanna (his cousin), dau. of John Christian, Attorney, of Monasterevan,

St Lawrence Manor, Chapelizod

Sir Richard Henry Willcock, first Inspector-General of the Munster Constabulary, was born 26 July 1768 and died 7 April 1834 and is called the founder of modern policing. Writing in 1827, Hatherton notes Willcock’s role in the suppression of the Emmet rebellion: ‘In 1803, he obtained and communicated to the Government the first information of Emmet’s designs, and thereby prevented the insurgents from gaining possession of Dublin. On that occasion he narrowly escaped assassination; eight persons having been stationed in different places for the purpose of attacking him. Immediately afterwards he organized a Yeomanry Corps in the County of Dublin, with the assistance of which he maintained the tranquillity of his own neighbourhood. He apprehended and committed to prison 35 persons concerned in Emmet’s insurrection.’

In 1814 Sir Robert Peel, as Secretary for Ireland, introduced a bill in Parliament, the Peace Preservation Act. He appointed Richard Willcocks a Chief Magistrate to command the first detachment of the the PPF, Peace Preservation Force (the word ‘police’, being unpopular with the establishment, was not used),

The next tenant of Fisherstown  was John Anderson of Elm Park, Dublin, a relative of the Andersons of Dunbell, Kilkenny, and possibly of Thomas Anderson, Elinor Laban’s nephew. A law abiding man, he paid his tithes, for which he very nearly paid with his life.

Francis M’Clean, Esq., of Leinster-street, in this city, to Eliza Frances, youngest daughter the late Thomas Anderson, Esq., Elm Park, county of Dublin. Thursday 12 November 1829, Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent.

George Anderson of Fisherstown was a juror in Maryborough in May 1832.
ASSASSINATION. On Monday night, at ten o’clock, as Mr. John Anderson, of Fisherstown, about three miles from Monasterevan, was returning home from his mother’s house, where he had dined, and just as he was about ten o’clock, crossing his own stile, was alarmed by voice, saying, “ now is the time,’ which was instantly’followed by shot through the body, on which he fell to the ground. He was then attacked by three ruffians, who inflicted innumerable wounds with bayonets “and swords, by one of which his hand was split down to the arm. The unfortunate gentleman was still surviving at seven o’clock on Tuesday evening : no less than three of the many wounds he received were considered mortal. Westmeath Journal Thursday 27 September 1832


From the report of the trial in July 1833. The Evidence of John Tiffan

‘Through the exertions of Captain Flinter and Mr. Anderson, of Fisherstown, two of the three men who lately entered the house of Mr Exshaw, near Monastereven and assaulted a female relative of Mr E have been arrested Saturday, August 17, 1833;

In 1834 George Robinson, formerly of Simmond’s-court, Dublin, and late of Fisherstown, Queen’s County, gent., was declared insolvent, though it is not clear when he lived at Fisherstown.

A new family now appear at Fisherstown. The Kenny connection will be nearly as long as the Scotts. More about the Kennys and Belan House will follow in the next story.
Thomas Kenny, of Belan, in the Queen’s County, Esqr, married Bedelia, second daughter of the late Thomas Anderson, of Elm Park, county Dublin, and Fisherstown House, Queen’s 1836 Wednesday 31 August 1836 Saunders’s News-Letter

The young couple seem to have taken up residence in Fisherstown:-  Fisherstown House, of Thomas. L. Kenney, Esq.; Lewis 1837.

The OS map of 1835

The Scotts were still the head landlords, and they had a bad autumn in 1838. On August 25th in Upper Mount Street Dublin, Clara Theodosia, the wife of Wm. Scott, Esq., of the Exchequer Office and of Fisherstown, Queen’s County died.
On the 12th September, Henry David, second son of William Scott, Esq., of Fisherstown in the Queen’s County died in York-street, Dublin. Saturday, September 15, 1838

Thomas Kenny seems to have had his mother in law in residence with him – the Clare Journal reported that Mrs. B. Anderson, of Fisherstown House Queen’s County had died on Thursday 23 June 1842.  After that the Kennys considered selling:-

Fisherstown House – lease to be sold:- The Demesne immediately adjoins the Grand Canal, where the Fly Boat passes daily, ‘Morning and Evening, to and from Dublin and Athy apply Rev Simon Kenny Calverstown Saturday, December 24, 1842 Leinster Express

At Kingstown, William Scott, Esq. of Upper Mount Street and Fisherstown, Queen’s County. died Nov 1847

The Limerick and Clare Examiner 24 Jan 1855 reported that “ In St. John’s Church, Kilkenny, William Walter Scott, Esq , eldest son of the late William Scott, Esq., Fisherstown, Queen’s County, and of Upper Mount.Street, Dublin, to Eleanor, youngest daughter of John Anderson, Esq. Kilkenny .

William Walter Scott was born in about 1835 in Dublin, and joined the army at the age of 18, purchasing a commission as an Ensign in the Leicestershire Regiment (17th Foot) on 18th Nov 1853. He retired by selling his commission on 17 Nov 1854. The 17th Foot was involved in the Siege of Sebastopol from February 1855, so he may have been very fortunate to leave when he did.

William was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain in the County of Armagh Light Infantry Regiment of Militia on 21st December 1860, replacing Captain Caulfeild who was being promoted.  On 18 Nov 1863, Archibald Brabazon Sparrow (Viscount Acheson) was appointed Captain of the Armagh Light Infantry Regiment of Militia, replacing William, who had died.

Scott—November 29. at Kilkenny, to the wife of Wm. Walter Scott. .of Fisherstown. Queen’s County, Lieutenant Armagh Light Infantry, a daughter. 5 Dec 1857 Wexford Independent
Deo. 13. at the residence of her mother in Kilkenny, the wife of Captain Scott, of Fisherstown, Queen’s County, and Sidney Terrace. Blackrock, of a son. 1861
Died October 23, aged 10 months, Edward Kent, son of Captain Wm. Walter Scott, of Fisherstown, Queen’s County, and Sydney-avenue, Blackrock. 1862

To return to the Kennys, money had obviously run out and in 1863 we find Fisherstown in the hands of the 19th Century NAMA., but they seem to have been able to buy it back themselves.

LANDED ESTATES COURT FISHERSTOWN QUEEN’S COUNTY. TWO LOTS. ln the Matter of the Estate of T. KENNY, Dublin Daily Express 29 Dec 1863

Theophilus Scott, Lieutenant 10th Regiment, youngest son of the late William Scott, Esq., of Fisherstown, Queen’s County, to Elizabeth Clementina Thomson, daughter of the late T. Deas Thomson, Esq. 1865

Cardwell—-May 19, at Tullyeltner, Armagh, after a short illness, Rebecca, the beloved wife of John Cardwell, Esq., and youngest daughter of the late William Soott, Esq., _Fisherstown House, Queen’s County. Saturday, May 29, 1869

Kenny—Feb 9. at her residence. Fisherstown. Monasterevan, Maria, relict of the late Richard Kenny, Esq. . Interment this (Wednesday) morning, at o’clock, Lea. 11 February 1885 Dublin Daily Express

Henry George Myles, Ratharney,  Abbeyshrule, County Longford, to Harriet Emily, only daughter of the late Richard Kenny, Fisherstown House, Monasterevan Wednesday 13 October 1886 Dublin Daily Express.  Henry was one of seven brothers, all of whom were doctors.  Their father was Zachary Myles, of Limerick.

The 1911 census records Robert Kenny, age 49 as the head of the house. Robert was accompanied in the house by his brother George Kenny, age 45 and nephew Eddey Wildney, age 9. Robert and George farmed the surrounding land. They employed a housekeeper: Kathrine Meley, age 69 and one domestic servant: Mary Roberts, age 15.

By the 1930s when Robert was nearly 70 Miss Clare Cahill had arrived to be manageress of the farming business.  She was learning to drive a new Morris car on  Saturday December 30th, when she came into collision with a Steam roller at Fisherstown.   A young mechanic named Flood was with her the time and was able to avert serious crash.

Not the actual Fisherstown Morris Minor but one photographed by Steve Glover from Bolton, Lancs.

The car was only slightly damaged. As reported on Saturday 06 January 1934  by the Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser.  Maybe the Steam Roller was on its way to The Stradbally Steam Rally!  I wonder was the car, a £100 Morris Minor, a Christmas present?


KENNY (Laoighis) July 13. 1948. at his residence, Fisherstown House, Ballybrittas, Portarlington, Laoighis, Robert Wolfenden Kenny, aged 86; deeply and deservedly regretted. Funeral leaving residence tomorrow (Thursday) at 2 O’clock for family burial ground. Lea, Portarlington.

Rath Guild I.C.A. reported in January  1952
Two members were- newly-weds. The room was gaily decorated, with table setting and floral arrangement by Miss Cahlll, Fisherstown House and Miss Dunne, Coolroe. Miss P. Wilson, Miss C. Kelly, Mrs. Corcoran and Miss B. Dillon won laurels for the catering .
The new officers are:—President, Mrs. Bland, Rath House; Vice-President, Mrs. Bolger, Belin House; Secretary, Miss McCarthy, N.T.; Treasurer, B, Donoghue; P.C. Rep., Mrs. O’Connell.

FISHERSTOWN HOUSE, BALLYBRITTAS, LEIX SALE OF 74 COCKS OF HAY We have received instructions from Miss Clare Cahill to sell by Auction at above ON THURSDAY, 31st JULY 1952 47 cocks prime 2nd crop hay and 27 cocks old meadow hay, in lots to suit Sale at 8 o’clock, 

The Irish Farmers Journal in March 1958 is advertising Fisherstown House , Portarllngton Co. Leix . Charming non-basement compact period house on 84 acres: 
On April 19 1958 it sold by auction for £7,500.00.

On Thursday June 26, 1958 Murphy Buckley and Keogh sold by auction the remaining furniture and farm machinery.

The End!


Pim Places – Lacca and Rushin


For the early history of the Pims we rely on a letter of Thomas Pim of Tullylast, Co Kildare, written in 1768 to his grand-nephew, Joshua Pirn, of Usher’s Island, Dublin.  It is amazing in its shameless retelling of the abduction of a 13 year old school girl.
Richard Pim was cook to Sir John Stanhope (who died in 1638),cousin of the Earl of Chesterfield. “I heard of but one brother that he had, called Robert Pim, who he said came into Ireland when young of whom he heard no more. We suppose he was that Robert Pim that Sir John Temple mentions to have been murdered by the rebels at Graigue-na-manch,in the County of Kilkenny  (in the 1641 massacres – ed) . Richard Pim, before his marriage, had acquired what they call three livings: I suppose that to be three small pieces of land with each a dwelling house on it. He took a liking to a neighbour’s daughter, a comely young girl of thirteen years of age, and as he and his fellow servants rode out on a merry-making, one of his fellow servants took a pillow behind him and found her playing ball with other girls and asked her to go with them, which she did (it is probable that this was by conceit) and the said Richard married her and sent her to a boarding school for two years and then took her home at fifteen years of age. By her he had my grandfather, William Pim, and several daughters; one married to Godfrey Cantrell and one married to William Neale.”

John Pim the eldest son , (1641-1718) was born in Castle Donington, Leicestershire. In 1654 or 1655, his family moved to Ireland and settled in County Cavan. The family may very well have already been non conformist before they arrived and,  ironically, came to Ireland in search of the religious toleration not afforded to them in England.

Around 1659, the year after Cromwell’s death, he followed Edmundson, a Quaker and a Cromwellian veteran soldier, to Queen’s County, where he settled in Mountmellick with his mother and sister. He went into business as a butcher with a partner, Richard Jackson. In 1663, he married Mary Pleadwell of Mountmellick.
In 1665 he and some other Friends were sent to Maryborough Gaol for not paying tithes, and he was held there for several years, during which time his family lived in a house nearby. After his release, he bought a farm in Coalnecart. In 1678 or 1679 he went to live in Mountrath, Queen’s County. He died in Mountrath in 1718 and was buried in Rosenallis.
Edmunson’s wife, Margaret Stanford, died in 1691 from exposure after being stripped by raparees who attacked the Quakers at Rosenallis. Presumably this was part of the Williamite invasion, which also resulted in the destruction of the Dunne’s Roskeen Castle, between Mountmellick and Tullamore, less than 5 miles from Rosenalis. General Godart Ginkel resided at Capard during part of the Williamite Wars (1689-92), while his troops were billeted Rosenallis.

Before 1692 the Pims moved to Lackagh (owned by Anthony Sharp) where they remained through the 18th century.   From the Quaker Records:-
John Pim Of Lackagh & Rushin, Queen’s Co.,Son of William & Dorothy Pim of Castle Donington  Leicestershire, Came to Ireland 1655, Joined the Society of Friends 1657. Died 1718 Aged 77. His wife Mary, Daughter of William Pleadwell. Died 1726 Aged 81.

John and Mary’s son Moses was born in 1664 married Anne Raper of Ironmills,near Ballinakill, Queen’s Co and had 10 children before being killed by machinery at his rope mill in Mountrath on 5 January 1717. Though I wonder was it a rope mill or a rape mill? In Sir Charles Coote’s Statistical Survey for the Royal Dublin Society in 1801 he writes –  Near to Cartown is Lacka, where there is erected a breast-shot rape mill and also a bolting mill ; Mr. Pim, proprietor of both, resides here.
Rape mills were for the production of vegetable oil ( from rape seed). A bolting mill (or boulting mill) is a grist mill equipped with a machine that sifts ground grain into various grades – or products.

By the mid 19th century both mills had gone – “Site of flour mill’ and “Rape mill (in ruins) “ on 1838 Ordnance Survey, the year after Samuel Pim had erected the original Lacca Bridge over the River Delour. – A plaque on bridge before the present replacement noted that it was erected by Samuel Pim in 1837; Contractor was John Dunne.

In May 1752 The London Magazine, and Monthly Chronologer records the marriage of Moses Pim of Lackagh to Miss Experience Strettle of Dubln. The Strettles regularly called their daughers Experience, from Experience Cuppage of Lambstown, Co Wexford who married Amos Strettle who had moved to Dublin form Cheshire in 1678. (William Cooper second son to Edward Cooper of Cooper Hill Ballickmoyler had married Experience Strettle Daughter of Abel Strettle of Dublin March 31 1730).

This is followed by three generations of Pim marrying Despards.  Moses Pim, their son, married Mary Despard (whose father William built Shanderry and Alta Villa) in 1805.  Moses died at Lacka in 1825 and the house was inherited by the elder son John Pim.  Mary Pim (Despard) died at Clondeglass,  (just across the road) in 1856.

Col. William Frederick Despard of Lacca (who had married Georgina Pim) was the brother of Elizabeth Mary Despard who married Georgina’s uncle Edward Strettle Pimm of Clondeglass (son of Moses Pim and Mary Despard) – second cousins marrying a brother and a sister. The Despards liked to keep a tight gene pool.   On 11 Oct 1907 Mrs Despard, the executrix of the Late Col Despard was organising a furniture clearance sale at Lacca.

It is hard to say when the house went –probably before the 1950s, though the absolutely superb yard and the walled gardens remain. They look to be early 19th century.

Lacca Lodge
One of the first causalities of WWI was Private Joshua Webster, son of Joshua Webster, of Lacca Lodge, Mountrath, and the late Catherine Webster, 1st Battalion Connaught Rangers, who was killed in action 26th November 1914, age 38, Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais. The Websters were also Quakers, whose ancestors were originally from Templeshannon, Wexford.

There seem to be few records of the Pims of Rushin in the 18th Century, home of Tobias Pim (1667 – 1747), a younger son of John and Mary Pim. The descendants of Tobias’s younger son Jonathon moved to Dublin where Pim Brothers s on South Great George’s St. became so large that it was represented by agents in New York and London. Jonathan built a tollhouse on the road at Rushin
The index of wills lists two of the next three generations:-
1762 Pim James Rushin, Queen’s Co., farmer
1809 Pimm James Rushin, Queen’s Co., farmer
The latter James may have been the last of the Pims of Rushin,
At the same time there were also Pattissons
11 Apr 1787 Henry Pattison of Rushin m Mary Sawyer
27 Dec 1804 Theophilus Thompson of Kippar? m Mary Pattinson of Rushin
2 Jan 1811 Thomas Thompson of Ballyhuppahaune [Rosenallis parish] m Anne Pattinson of Rushin
22 Oct 1814 Thomas & Ann’s daughter Ellen was baptised.
Richard Thompson Rushin 1831
Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette listed Richard Thompson, of Rushin, farmer, as insolvent on Saturday 24 June 1837
Joshua Thompson, of Mountrath, was brought up on the Conservative side. He claimed to register as a ten pound title freeholder from lands and houses situated at Rushin, Freemans Journal 1839
The Duchas Folklore Collection made in the 1930s has the following tale:- “In Rushin, Mountrath, there is a meadow named Kyle meadow, There are some stones near a tree in it. They are supposed to be either for the building of a Church or to the ruins of a Church. Some years the late Mr,William Murphy, the owner told his men to draw the stone to a place on the road to Portlaoighise named Derrangh. The horse broke its leg and all the stones had to be returned.(This story was supplied by Miss Kitty Murphy,Rushin House, Mountrath who asserts it really happened). In her house in Rushin,which is very old there are two cellars,with five steps going down to them from the Hall doors. It is reported that Cromwell slept in this house and that James 1st army camped in Kyle meadow opposite the house.”


Clondeglass was probably built by Moses Pim around 1810.  At first it may have been let – The Dublin Morning Register  for Friday 15 December 1837  reports on  Michael Dooley  At Clondeglass, Queen’s County.

Edward Pim did not marry till 1861, so may not have moved out of Lacca and into Clondeglass until then.

In Oct 1872  Edward Pim was looking for staff at Clondeglass

In the list of Landowners in Ireland 1876 Edward Pim, address Clonderglass, Mountrath, owned 546 acres.

Mrs. Maria Sandes, address Clondeglass, Mountrath, owned 151 acres. 75.

At Clondeglass, Queen’s County, the residence Edward S. Pim, Esq., Maria, widow of the late Henry L. Sandes, Esq., of  Co  Wednesday 21 February 1883 (his wife’s aunt, )

On June 26 1881 The Kerry Evening Post noted arrivals at the Railway Hotel  included Mr and Mrs Pim of Clondeglass

In 1883 they were looking for a housemaid who “ thoroughly understands her business; is a Protestant”

In 1884 Edward Pim  of Clondeglass died, aged 86.

The advertisement for Clondeglass – Matthew Franks was married to Gertrude Despard of Donore

In 1885 Clondeglass for sale or to let.  It didn’t sell because in Nov 1998 The Misses Pim hosted the hunt at Clondeglass.  In 1910 Constance Pim’s  mother, Elizabeth Mary Despard died at Clondeglass.   At the Kings County Hunt Puppy Show  June 22 1912 Miss Pimm of Clondeglass was in attendance.  Constance Pim, spinster,  died at Clondeglass on Stephen’s Day 1960 at the age of 92.

The gardener Dermot O’Neill bought Clondeglass  in the early 2000s, a derelict house and totally overgrown walled garden and restored the gardens. .  Clondeglass House was sold in 2017 still  derelict and is now being restoring to it’s former glory!

Despard Country, between Mountrath and Castletown. A tale of Revolutionaries and Reporters

The main Despard houses in Laois were Crannagh, Cardtown, & Coolrain, Larch Hill, Laurel Hill and Lacca,  Shanderry and Altavilla and Donore

The many buildings at Crannagh

Crannagh, the oldest, still stands but is unoccupied and derelict.  Cardtown is forestry.  Coolrain is but four walls, though valiant attempts to preserve or restore happen from time to time.    Lacca  and Donore have been demolished and replaced.  Altavilla, about which I have already written,  Shanderry, Larch Hill and Laurel Hill are all still inhabited, though Laurel Hill did fall into ruin in the lifetime of its builder and was restored.  Mind you, there is many a Celtic tiger apartment that has fallen into ruin within 10 years of being built, with the aid not of Whiteboys but wide boy builders.   I really wanted to put in some pictures of derelict modern houses here, but restrained myself to avoid a slew of lawyers letters from sensitive developers.

According to Carriggan’s  The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory:-

A.D. 1141. King Turlough O’Brien, King of Munster, came to Letter-Crannagh   (West hillside of the wooded place) in the parish of Camross, on the mountain of  the Slieve Bloom by the banks of the Nore to marry Sadb Mac GILLAPATRICK, daughter of Donnchad MacGILLAPATRICK, the year in which Rory O’Connor had again got together a large force, and made Murchadh, the King of Meath,  give him hostages, so that he again became king of all Ireland. He plundered the country near the hill of Croghan in the King’s County,

It is said that Philip d’Espard came to Ireland as a commissioner for the partitioning of forfeited lands, presumably at the time of the Ulster Plantation, after 1609,  having arrived in England after the 1572 massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve, a refugee seeking religious toleration. Like so many, it seems there was only one religion that he could tolerate and, like Rory, he was after a bit of plunder.    He does not seem to have been very good at the plundering – most people who got into the business of forfeited lands made serious money – like William Connolly of Castletown, or William Petty of Kenmare, whose Lansdowne Estates are still wide and prosperous.  Despard never rose beyond the ranks of Landed Gentry.  Of the Despards we are lucky that two sisters, Elizabeth and Jane wrote respectively the Recollections and Memoranda; Both were born in the 1770s, and their oral history went well back into the late 17th century.    They grew up in an embattled society.  Elizabeth remembers that “A great tree that stood on a hill overlooking Donore was a gallows for the Protestants of 1641.”    Jane writes how her father Philip Despard was brought from the blazing ruins of Cardtown House after it had been attacked by Levellers in 1738.

According to Jane Despard’s manuscript,  Philip D’Espard  ended up in Queen’s County in 1641, the year of rebellion and the Catholic Confederacy.  Petty in the Down Survey has them already there before 1640, which is more likely, as he would have been rather elderly in the 1641.     Philip’s grandson, William, was described as a Colonel of Engineers in 1685 under William of Orange – a bit odd as William was not crowned till 1689.    Around 1720 the Colonel’s grandson, another William, was being sent to Eton.   Iron–smelting must have been very profitable.  It also suggests a remarkable degree of aspiration – 44 British Prime Ministers are old Etonians.  I well remember the Lady of another Laois estate saying on RTE television ” I brought my children up so that they could speak to every one from the lowliest peasant to the Queen herself.  I sent them to Eton.”  A great school no doubt, but not the obvious choice for a future iron smelter?

The primeval oaks of Slieve Bloom provided a ready source of charcoal for the iron works which Sir Charles Coote  started in this area in the 1620s.  It is unclear whether Crannagh was in operation as an iron works prior to 1640, but William Despard had extensive iron-works for founding cannon at Cranagh on the banks of the nascent Nore, between Larch Hill and Mountrath.  Canon balls were shipped down the Nore to Waterford in narrow flat bottomed Nore cots .  This Colonel William was the purchaser of the “Mountain Property” in Upper Ossory, from the “Hollow Sword-blade Company” in 1709;  The deeds of sale were sign’d on Strongbow’s monument in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.     This is from a pedigree drawn up by Wheaton Bradish, grandson of Jane Despard.

“There are still to be found many huge iron pots or boilers called cheese pots, these were all made in the iron foundry in the banks of the Nore in Mr Sylvester Phelan’s land in Crannagh. There was a large foundry here in the 17th – 18th Centuries. Oak woods were very plentiful in these districts and it was used for fuel for the furnaces which flourished while the fuel lasted but them had to close down. Cannon- balls were made in this foundry and shipped down the Nore in flat bottom boats to Waterford. There was also a glass factory here also and in a mound nearly there are loads of clinkers – these are supposed to be skimings off the glass. A family named St.John’s (one of them still survives) – was the chief pattern makers of these foundries.”  The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0825, Page 405

Another story in the same collection records that there was a bottle factory here.

One of William’s sons,  Richard Despard,  in 1730 joined forces with a couple of vultures William Carden and Walter Stephens to snatch the lands of Barnaby Carroll, a papist who lived in Borris in Ossory and held extensive lands under a lease from the Duke of Buckingham.

Richard Vicars of Levally  initially issued a Bill of Discovery against Barnaby Carroll for attending Mass in Borris House in 1723.  In 1729 a decree was issued against Barnaby, depriving him of his right and title to all his possessions in the Manor of Villiers. He and his wife were obliged to seek refuge in France where he died about 1742.

Stephens took possession of Borris;  Carden found Lismore more suited to his tastes ; Despard’s share in the plunder was Ballybrophy.  Their lease from the Duke of Buckingham is dated August 1731.   Ballybrophy already had a tenant who seems to have remained in possession.  Thomas Brereton, the son of William Brereton, had obtained the lease of Ballybrophy in 1723.

As nowadays, amoral (immoral?) ruthless and unsentimental property dealing was the way to make a fortune.  Richard’s elder brother William II  Despard also purchased for £997  the townlands of Akip (just North of Rathdowney), 186 acres, and Ballintaggart and Kilmartin, 145 acres with two cabins, the entire property being the forfeited estate of Walter Bryan of Akip, killed in rebellion.  William II Despard married Francis Green  the heiress and granddaughter of the Cromwellian Colonel Green of Killaghy Castle at Mullinahone in 1708.

In the 1730s William III was living not in Killaghy (inherited from his mother), nor in Crannagh, which seems to have been his Uncle Richard’s house, but in Cardtown.

In 1738, when William III’s son Philip Despard was 2 years old,  his house at Cardtown was burnt to the ground by levellers. William then built the house in Coolrain .

Stylistically Coolrain could date from the 1750s.  Jane Despard does not understand why he did not move into Middlemount House, which he was leasing to the Floods – a house already built, in a walled demesne and a far prettier place, she felt.

Philip  remembered the famine of 1741, accompanied by daily flights of locusts.    “The Great Frost” struck Ireland and the rest of Europe between December 1739 and September 1741, after a decade of relatively mild winters.    Indoor values during January 1740 were as low as −12 °C (10 °F). This kind of weather was “quite outside the Irish experience,” notes David Dickson, author of ‘Arctic Ireland: The Extraordinary Story of the Great Frost and Forgotten Famine of 1740-41’.

During the ramp up to the crisis in January 1740, the winds and terrible cold intensified, yet barely any snow fell. Ireland was locked into a stable and vast high-pressure system which affected most of Europe, from Scandinavia and Russia to northern Italy, in a broadly similar way. Rivers, lakes, and waterfalls froze and fish died in these first weeks of the Great Frost. People tried to avoid hypothermia without using up winter fuel reserves in a matter of days.   It is estimated to have killed between 13% and 20% of the 1740 population of 2.4 million people.  At this time, grains, particularly oats(ie porridge and gruel) , were more important than potatoes as staples in the diet of most workers.

John Malpas of Killiney Hill  and Kathryn Connolly of Castletown House commissioned famine relief projects to provide employment to destitute families.  Archbishop  Boulter launched an emergency feeding program for the poor of Dublin at his own expense, as did Henry Singleton in Drogheda.

Moving on, around 1770 Philip  married his cousin Letitia Croasdaile, daughter of Pilkington Croasdaile of Liskeard, County Galway, and built the house at Laurel Hill, which was in ruins in 1838 when Jane Despard, Philip’s daughter,  wrote her memoirs.

Jane Despard recorded a second attack:

“My father Philip once more returned to a house in the country from whence, it is enough to say, that, living one Winter in terror, we were driven away by rebel whitefeet or blackfeet; lost all our plate, chiefly our mother’s which had been placed in a neighbouring town for safety; the house we lived in set fire to and burnt with all the furniture, and my poor father received only 50L damages from the country. We were moved then to Mountmellick for protection and afterwards to Mountrath, where my dear mother breathed her last after years of bad health and suffering. This is the period of our lives, the particulars of which I must pass over.”    As Jane was not born till the late 1780s, and as the rising of 1798 happened during the spring and summer, this incident probably occurred in the early 1800s.

William of Crannagh’s great great grandson, and Richard’s great nephew, and Philip’ s brother was Edward Marcus Despard . There is great debate as to where he was born – Crannagh?  Donore?  Coolrain?  Or Killaghy Castle at Mullinahone.

Followers of Poldark will have become familiar with Col Ned, a friend of Horatio Nelson, and his Jamaican wife Catherine, probably the daughter of a freed slave.    Edward Marcus Despard’s conspiracy was tied to that of Robert Emmet, and like Emmet, and later Casement, he was an ‘‘Irish apostle of a world-wide movement for liberty, equality and fraternity”.

Despard was given charge of the British enclave of the Bay of Honduras, present-day Belize. As part of the treaty that granted Belize to Britain from Spain, British settlers up and down the Mosquito Shore were required to resettle in the Bay of Honduras, and Despard was charged with accommodating them. Some were wealthy planters of Anglo-Saxon origin, but the majority were a ‘motley crew’ of labourers, brewers, smugglers, freed slaves and ex-military volunteers who had been living in straggling and remote communities and were known collectively as the Shoremen.  Despard was instructed by the Home Secretary, Lord Sydney, to accommodate the Shoremen in the new enclave ‘in preference to all other persons whatsoever’. He offered them parcels of land on which to build houses and grow crops for their subsistence, and he did so without distinction of colour, distributing lots on an equal basis to mulattos, blacks and whites. This policy was fiercely opposed by the small number of long-term white settlers in the Bay who had become wealthy through exporting mahogany to Britain, where it provided the materials for furniture makers such as Thomas Chippendale.  They argued that the rights of ‘people of mixed colour and negroes’ should be subservient to those of the established Anglo-Saxon colonists. Despard replied that the decision ‘must be governed by the laws of England, which knows no such distinction’.    In 1790, Despard was suspended and forced to return to London to argue his case.  He was bankrupted by lawyers and ended up in debtors jail for two years.   On his release he was rearrested and interned for three years as a suspected terrorist before the suspension of habeas corpus lapsed and he was freed, in theory at least without a stain on his character. Within a year he was arrested once more, in the Oakley Arms, a Lambeth pub, in the company of a number of disaffected soldiers suspected of plotting a mutiny. This time he was charged with high treason, convicted on the evidence of paid informers and executed.

After his execution in 1803 Catherine and their son James lived with Lord Cloncurry and  his family at Lyons for some years.  Catherine died near St Pancras in 1815 .  James may have fought in the French army during the Napoleonic Wars.  Mother and child were supported by a pension from Sir Francis Burdett.   James was last seen with a beautiful woman by his uncle General John Despard (though his description was a tad derogatory).  Later generations of Despards denied Ned Despard’s  marriage, and were thoroughly embarrassed by their kinsman’s inability to distinguish between one race and another.

I write this at the time that Soldier F is being charged for the Bloody Sunday murders in Londonderry in 1972.

There is, in my mind, no doubt that poor old Soldier F did kill people peacefully  marching for equal rights in Londonderry in 1972 (as did soldiers D&E and G&H, and maybe several others between A and Z)  If you put Number 1 Para into domestic policing, what the hell do you expect!  Paras are like Dobermans, very handy in a tight corner bit not ideal fireside pets.    Peter Carrington, another old Etonian, and the Secretary for Defence who sent the Paras in (and died last year) should really be on trial.   Or Willie Whitelaw, an old Harrovian (ie he couldn’t get into Eton) who was the Northern Secretary.   He died 20 years ago in 1999.

The ability of Authority, be it  Russian, American, British (God be with the days), Israeli or Muslim to banjax freedom is one of humainty’s greatest mysteries.  And I write this as a married man.  And poor Edward Despard lost his life because he was nice to people!

George Despard,  son of Richard the land grabber, was born 1720,  married Gertrude Carden, daughter of William Carden (his father’s land dealing partner)  and Gertrude Elizabeth Warburton of Lismore House. He is the first one whom we can say with certainty lived at Donore, where he died in 1814, at the age of 94, having served as magistrate, grand juror and sheriff.  It was his habit to embrace the Irish traditions of hospitality by blowing a horn at his door when dinner was served, inviting any passing by to share his table.  He was the first of three generations of men named George Depard marrying  Carden women, two named Gertrude!

His grandson George (also married to a Gertrude Carden) was born in 1800 at Donore, and became a Sub-Inspector of the RIC (police) at Trim and then a Resident Magistrate.    Their son Maximilian, despite having a delicate constitution, had made a fortune by the age of 30, trading in Hong Kong.  In 1870 he married Charlotte French, of the de Freyne family of Frenchpark.  Her brother John French became the Earl of Ypres,  a leading military commander during World War I and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

An absoluteluely splendid lady

Charlotte Despard  produced a string of novels, among them Chaste as Ice, Pure as Snow (1874), The Rajah’s Heir (1890), and A voice from the Dim Millions (1884), the last of which stands out for its radical tone.   Her husband died on 4 April 1890 on board the SS Coptic on their way back from New Zealand, 4 days out of London.  I wonder was he buried at sea by the Captain – Capt. Smith of Titanic fame.

Charlotte  found a new lease of life in philanthropy. She moved to the slum London district of Battersea, to live among some of the city’s poorest inhabitants; there she established and financed mother-and-baby clinics and boys’ clubs.

In 1921 she moved to Roebuck House a mansion outside Dublin that would frequently be raided by the police looking for IRA members who found a safe house there. However, she later resigned from Sinn Fein as a response to the factionalism of its members. She visited the Soviet Union in 1930, and took the decision to move from Dublin to Northern Ireland in the wake of an attack on the Irish Workers’ College, which she had financed for some time.

In moving to Belfast she handed Roebuck House to Maude Gonne. In the mid-thirties, her finances were becoming strained and she was declared bankrupt in 1937. Nonetheless, she continued to fight Fascism until her death as a result of a fall at her home in Nov 1939.

Maximilian Carden Despard had a namesake, his nephew, born in March 1892, the son of Captain H. J. Despard, afterwards the Chief Constable of Lanarkshire and Beatrice Lorne Jarvis, daughter of Thomas Jarvis of Mount Jarvis, Antigua.  Isn’t it fascinating how many links there are with the Caribbean

“There are many ways of not having a father”. These are the opening words to the story of Maximilian Carden Despard, written by his youngest daughter, Annabelle, who felt like she knew him all to little. She pieced together the story of an officer, born in 1892, who achieved glory and honours in a dramatic action of Dover in 1917. A post-war accident forced him to abandon his career in the Royal Navy and in the Thirties he started a new life as a navel attache, at a time when there was another enemy to face. In Yugoslavia he was a significant mover behind the scenes in Bond-like exploits to hamper the German war-machine.

Of the Despard Houses, the old house at Crannagh was already just walls when Elizabeth knew it.  It had been leased to the Kemmis’s in 1779.

William Edward Kemmis, born 4th. March 1758: described as of Knightstown in 1798 and 1802, part of which he was then probably holding as tenant: of Clonin aforesaid, devised to him by his father: of Clopoke and Tomaclonin, parish of Tallowmoy, Queen’s Co. by purchase from Joseph Green, 17th December 1809; purchased 11th March 1779 for £210 from George Despard of Donore, Queen’s Co. lands commonly called Poles Cranna and that part of the lands of Clonin adjoining Thady Keenin’s Quarter and so the high road over the hill of Clonin, 241 acres 2 roods 6 poles in the Barony of Ossory, Queen’s Co. for the life of George Despard being the surviving life named in the lease thereof, subject to the yearly rent of £54. 2s. 3d. with 4 cwts of good bar iron or in lieu thereof £4; also the original lease thereof from Bartholomew Wm. Gilbert to Rd., Despard formerly of Cranna, Geo. Despard covenanting that there was a profit yearly rent of £35. 14s. 6d. thereout over and above the Head rent aforesaid: 19th. October 1802, obtained from his brother Thomas a lease of that part of the townland of Clonin commonly called Poles Crannagh and Ballyhooraghan for the life of his said brother at a rent of £90; in 1825 he held these lands described as “Crana, i.e. Poles Crana and lands thereunto belonging” by lease of three lives from the Earl of Cavan and Gilbert Fitzgerald: held Killeen and Kilmainham from his brother Thomas and after the death of the latter from his nephew William son of his said brother at a rent of £538. 15s. 10d.: Treasurer of the Queen’s Co.; obiit s.p., 7th November 1848; buried at Straboe on 11th. of that month; M.I. on his tombstone and also upon a mural tablet in Maryborough Church; Will dated September 1843, codicil 3rd. September 1847, and proved in Dublin, 28th. November 1848

Crannagh’s iron works had been sub leased to Sylvester Phelan in the late 18th century, and his descendants are still there to this day.  Originally it was probably acquired on a lease for three lives, though I have yet to find that in the Register of Deeds or the Collis and Ward papers.    There might well be remnants of the 17th century buildings amongst the many crumbling remains. In October 19, 1839 we see an example of the crazy economic system that dominated Irish agriculture – John Pim of Lacca is letting 137 acres at Crannagh in one or four holdings.  James Gleeson the herdsman was on hand to show prospective tenants around. There may have been three or four layers of middlemen between the producer actually farming the land and the owner of the land, each layer needing its commission.  So much easier now, when its just a straightforward relationship between the money lenders and the farmer!    The positive aspect of the system was that it did allow small farmers like the Phelans to take on far more land than they could afford in the certain knowledge that they would be able to sublet it. 

Cardtown is quite gone.  It was probably built in the early 1700s on the land bought from the Hollow Sword Blade Company.  At some stage after the 1738 attack it must have been restored, as Isaac Humphreys of Cardtown is listed as Sherriff of Queen’s County in Walker’s Hibernian Magazine for February 1802.

The year before (1801) Sir Charles Coote in his statistical survey wrote:-

Mr Walpole of Cartown near Glandine Gap is now changing the corn mill there to a woollen factory which is very aptly situate for that branch having a sufficiency of water and fuel very cheap and plenty.  Near to Cartown is Lacka where there is erected a breast shot rape mill and also a bolting mill Mr Pim proprietor of both resides here .

Jane Despard writes:-    On the 24 th of June, 1817, occur’ d the most terrific storm I ever saw in Ireland. It began about noon, lasting  twelve hours. Incessant lightning, frightful thunder, torrents of  rain, and for one hour after its commencement, hail as large as walnuts thickly cover’ d the ground. Sixty-five panes of glass were broken by it in Cartown House. The weather having been previously intensely hot and dry, the thatched houses were quickly penetrated by streams of water, requiring tubs, &c. &c. to catch them.

By 1831 it was still being let to Isaac Humphreys – O’Harts Irish Pedigrees has :-  James Bramston who on the 6th March, 1884, m. Elizabeth, dau. of the late Isaac Humphrys, Major 46th Regiment, and granddaughter of the late Isaac Humphrys of Cardtown House, Mountrath,and High Sheriff of the Queen’s County in 1831. (This Elizabeth was the second wife of John Pepper Belton, Esq., of Peafield House, Mountrath, who by his first wife had two surviving children).

In  1837 Lewis has Cartown, of Colonel Price (presumably a relation of J.R. Price of Westfield), and he is still there in James Fraser’s Guide through Ireland in 1844.

However William Steuart Trench writes  “I went to reside atCardtown, my place in the Queen’s county, in 1845”.    Trench,  (1808–1872), Irish land agent and author, was born on 16 Sept. 1808 at Bellegrove, near Portarlington, son of Dean Trench of Kildare, and nephew of Lord Ashtown of Woodlwawn, County Galway (ennobled for voting in favour of the Act of Union).   He extended it in the 1840s “in fact as new house as it stands at present”

The last reference in the papers was in 1864 “At Cardtown wife of Lt Col Boldero  a daughter “ Gentlemans Magazine.  It turns out that the Colonel’s lady was Frederick’s cousin, Anna Trench.

By October 1912 Algenon Coote was offering Cardtown to the County Council  as a TB Sanatorium.   The estate was divided by the land commission in the 1920s.  The lake has gone, the house has gone – all that remains is the gable of one of the yard buildings.

Of Coolrain  Robert O’Byrne in his blog writes:-

The main block looks to be early-to-mid 18th century, of two storeys over raised basement and five bays with a central breakfront. The latter features a fine cut-limestone Gibbsian doorcase approached by a short flight of steps and flanked by sidelights, with a Venetian window directly above on the first floor. On either side of the main block, and seeming to be slightly later in date, are fine carriage arches, that to the right (south-east) further extending to a small stable yard. But the carriage arches are just that and no more: there is nothing behind them and the entrances are blocked up (if indeed they were ever open). It would appear their main, perhaps only, function was to extend the house façade and thereby give an impression of greater grandeur to anyone arriving there. ……..

At some date after its construction, Coolrain was enlarged by an extension to the rear but only on the left (north-west) side. The gable ends of the older section of the building indicate it was originally just one room deep, with the central portion extended back to accommodate a staircase hall lit by another Venetian window on the return. This window was subsequently blocked up, although one wonders why this was necessary since the extension does not intrude on its space. Aforementioned extension had a kitchen in the basement and a dining room immediately above, and looks to have been added towards the end of the 18th century. The gardens behind presumably ran down to the river Tonet not far away, but to the west of the house and yard are the remains of a little rectangular folly, presumably a tea room (since it has a small basement where the servants could prepare refreshments) from which there would have been a charming view of Coolrain.

……..Later it was the residence of the Campion family who farmed the surrounding land until the death in 1921 of the last member to live there. Coolrain seems to have fallen into ruin subsequently, being too big and too hard to maintain for the average farmer. More recently some work was initiated on the outbuildings, but this appears to have been abandoned, and the house now stands in the middle of a field, the mystery of its origins and early history becoming ever-harder to discern.

From Tarquin Blakes’s Abandoned Mansions

The gardens at Coolrain also had a ha-ha, beyond which a canal or fishpond, so beloved of the garden creator Jim Reynolds, and very similar to the one the Croasdaile family had at Rynn –  which was the inspiration, Rynn or Coolrain?  It is remarkable that Coolrain was not discovered by Maurice Craig as he quartered the country in his Delage.  It is a perfect example of his favourite classic Irish house of the middle size, with so many charming imperfections, like the quoins on either side of the doorcase. and the gabled arched wings, just a tiny bit too short.

Maurice Craig and his Delage D8 (sold by Bonhams for over €100k!)

It appears from Elizabeth Despard’s writings that Coolrain was built in the 1740s by William III Despard, to replace Cardtown.

In June 1784 William Despard is letting  a house on 53 acres at Coolrain.  This is the William who built Shanderry and Altavlla and married the Armstrong heiress.

1795, Francis White of Coolrain was a subscriber to Samuel Whyte’s book of poems

Feb 1799 Francis White  is living at Coolrain and letting a farm at Aghaboe

1803 Francis White of Coolrain, Queens County, Esq, is a party to Francis Freeman’s marriage settlement.

12 September 1809  Dublin Evening Post

TO be LET, for such term as may be agreed on, and immediate possession given, the Houle, Offices, and Demesne COOLRAIN, containing 50A. The tenant can accommodated with the Furniture and Stock at valuation. Application’to …

22 August 1828  Dublin Evening Mail ,

A desirable Residence TO BE LET, or the Interest SOLD, the 1st November next, for one good life, the House and Lands of COOLRAIN, containing 42 Irish acres ..

Coolrain appears twice in  Lewis’ Topography in 1837 –   once as Cooleraine House, of T. Palmer, Esq.   and then as a subscriber White, R., Esq., Coolrain-house, Mountrath, Queen’s county.

Coolrain’s Doorcase from Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Mansions

The next residents may have been the Cooper family.

Susan Molyneux  b. 1814 m. Matthew Cooper June 4, 1840 at Anatrim Church, Coolrain.    daughter Elizabeth born May 17, 1841.

Joseph Finnamore, 2nd cos to Lord Norbury,  married Jane, youngest dau of the late Mathew Cooper, Esq., of Coolrain House, Queen’s  March 1881

A researcher on the Molyneaux family has come up with Matthew Cooper’s parents –  Alexander Cooper of King’s county who married 25 July 1813 to Susanna nee Cooper ( not Caldbeck as previously thought) daughter of Matthew Cooper b. c.1758 and Mary ?? of Glebe, Coolrain.  Susanna had siblings: Sarah 1 May 1801 – 1871 unmarried as far as we know, and Matthew 1798 – 1872 who married Pheobe ? b. c. 1791 – 25 Sept 1846 when she died at Coolrain House, the Glebe.

NB The Glebe, Coolrain is not Coolrain House, but the researcher writes:-    Matthew and Pheobe remained in Coolrain and several of their family’s deaths happened at Coolrain House.

Tarquin Blake has identified that Griffith’s Valuation of 30 Nov 1850 has the estate let to tenants Andrew Campion and Catherine Delany.

Jacob Barrington was born 17 May 1779  near Dublin, son to Thomas Barrington and Hannah Haughton,  died 22 February 1833 at Rochester, Monroe County, New York. His wife Elizabeth Neale, (to whom he was married 22 July 1804 at Coolrain Mills, Coolrain Townland, Offerlane Parish, Upperwoods Barony, Queen’s County), was born in or about 1776 or 1777, daughter to William Neale and Sarah —; died 8 October 1827

In the London Gazette of Feb 26 1876 George Neale of Coolrain Mills is listed as a shareholder in the London and Westminster Bank.

In 1891 (“Return of judicial rents fixed by Sub-Commissions, and Civil Bill Courts, notified to Irish Land Comission, January 1891” ) George Neale of Coolrain  with  Captain Henry R. Despard  was a trustee of Richard Despard, deceased.

28.12.1894 was proved the will of George Neale of Coolrain  by Mary Emma Campion of Coolrain, Spinster and hare sister Linda Anne Harding of Noreview Widow both in Queen’s County.   He left £8000.  There is work to be done to understand the relationship of the various Campions, Hardings and Neales.

In the 1901 census the protestant  Mary Emma Campion, spinster, b  abt 1841, was the head of the household , Coolrain House, Coolrain, Queen’s Co., with a resident coachman and maid.  In 1911 she was still there, with a new coachman and maid, Mary Dunne, aged 23 and Christopher Tearle also 23.    Miss Campion died in June 1921,  leaving £1,096 8s 4d.    On 16 July 1921 there was a sale of the contents.

22nd Noveber 1969 is the last that we hear of Coolrain in the Nation Press, when Telfords are selling the cows, machinery and household effects of Frederick D Foote, following the sale of the fam and 112 acres.

Mr Foote may have been letting the farm because in 1966 Griffith Bayley of Coolrain House is selling seed potatoes,  The year before that William S Pearse of Coolrain House had been fined 5/- by Mr Justice Sweetman for driving a tractor without a mirror.


It is unclear who built Donore.  Legend attributes it to George Despard 1720-1814.   He m. Gerturde Carden of Lismore and had 2 sons and 5 daughters.

Abbeyleix Heritage House has a fantastic document setting out the specification for the complete refurbishment of Donore House in 1891 for WW Despard.  The house was stripped in the 1960s, and a new house built beside the ruins in the 1980s.

Notice the shadow of the roofless facade!

It has been regarded as their principal seat by Despards, and as they spread around the world other Donores appeared.  The most famous was in Cheltenham where  in the 1880s Rosina Despard, the eldest of six children, became the first to witness an apparition that would become famously known as the ‘woman in black”, a phenomenon that still haunts Pitville Circus Road.

Larch Hill

Richad Despard married Miss Frances Burton, of the family of the baronets of Burton Hall, County Carlow  in 1747 and Larch Hill, almost opposite the original estate at Crannagh,  dates from then.  After his death in 1780 his son Francis Green Despard, another man of the cloth, moved in with his new wife, Jane Humphreys, whose mother was also a Despard.     Rev Francis Green Despard died in 1820 and the house was let.

a map of Larch Hill

Larch Hill left, and Crannagh , right

While the Rev Francis was still alive Atkinson wrote in The Irish Tourist  “Larch-hill, nearly south of Mountrath, is a place worth seeing. Its beauties, as you approach the place from that town, commence in a neighbourhood rather wild  and heathy, and by this contrast are rendered more particularly striking. The house, though not much elevated, commands a good prospect over the demesne to the mountains of Cullinagh, about fourteen miles distant. These mountains are part of an estate recently purchased by Lord Norbury, and in that country they form an important object in its best landscapes. The improvements on Larch-hill display great taste and judgment. Of these a beautiful circular lake at the foot of the lawn, with the ornamental planting on its margin, was not the least remarkable. The prospect over this lake through an ample vista in the plantations to a fine rising country, which terminates in the mountains we have just noticed, was alone sufficient- to animate and render brilliant the whole landscape—but Larch-hill is not alto-gether dependent upon this grand feature, for its character of beauty. The little plantations, which on hills remote from the interior improvements to the scenery, and give the spectator an idea of the grandeur of space, come in also for our share of admiration, in common with the other proofs of taste and judgment which that scene exhibits.”

By the time of the Ordnance Maps lake and planting had all gone.   The Buildings of Ireland survey describes Larch Hill House thus:-

Detached five-bay two-storey house, built c.1820. Double-pitched and hipped slate roof with nap rendered chimneystacks. Nap rendered walls, painted. Square-headed window openings with limestone sills and replacement timber casement windows, c.1985. Round-headed door opening with limestone archivolt and replacement timber panelled door, c.1985. Interior not inspected. Set back from road in own grounds; landscaped grounds to site. Gateway comprising limestone monolithic piers with carved patarae and wrought iron gates.

Russell of The Times

In April 1825 Anne 3rd dau of William Russell of Baggot Street  died at Larch Hill.  She was the sister of William Howard Russell, who became the Times Crimean correspondent and whose account of the Light Brigade aroused the passions of Middle England even more than Brexit.

Born at Kiltalown House, not far from Tallaght,  the seat of his maternal grandfather, Captain John Kelly.    Captain  Kelly also owned Mount Pelier and Castle Kelly, in the county of Dublin, and afterwards had a fine ree-raw place, called Larch Hill, in the Queen’s County …he was a keen Nimrod, well known to all the sportsmen of his neighbourhood, and descended from an old family in the counties of Kildare and Kilkenny. His son Felix died in the army, and none of his male descendants survived him.  His daughter who died many ago married in extreme youth.

Kelly was a larger than life character, the Master  of The Tallaght Hunt, tall with long powdered hair tied with a black bow.   He wore a blue coat with brass buttons, a fawn waistcoat with many pockets, and buckskin breeches (that were not spotless, as Russell recalled when he was 65 years old). He had a set of keys and seals hanging from his pockets and wore a pair of boots with tan tops.

“All my early memories relate to hounds, horses and hunting; there were hounds all over the place, horses in the fields and men on horseback galloping, blowing of horns, cracking of whips, tallyho-ing, yoicksing and general uproar,” wrote Russell.

He recalled his grandfather being in high spirits on hunting mornings if the weather was fine and singing: “Tally ho, my boys! These are the joys that far exceed the delights of the doxies!”

After Kelly’s financial ruin around 1830 a new tenant was found for Larch Hill.

1835  At Larch-Hill, near Mountrath, the lady of A. Seymour, Esq., of a son.  – Suddenly, Seymour, as in The Little Shop of Horrors, maybe?

In 1837 Lewis lists the Rev. J. Bourke at  Larch Hill

In 1862 The Cork Examiner, on 1 August reported that George Roe of Rush Hall died at Larch Hill.   How was it the  he came to die here, 4 miles from his home?

Dawson Shortt late of Larch Hill, Mountrath in the Queen’s County Gentleman who died 20 October 1889 bought Larch Hill from Richard Brooke Despard through the Landed Estates Court in 1876.

Capt Vere Shortt

Captain Vere Dawson Shortt, (1874-1915) 7th Northamptonshire Regiment, who was killed in action in France on the 27th September,1915 at the Battle of Loos,  was the only son of the late James Fitzmaurice Shortt, of Moorfield, Mountrath, and grand nephew of the late Vere Shortt, of Larch Hill, Queen’s County. He was in the Cape Mounted Rifles from 1890-1895 and served through the Pondoland campaign with them.  He then served in the French Foreign Legion, in Africa, before the outbreak of the war in Europe.

A sci fi writer, his first novel, Lost Sheep (1915), uninterestingly incorporates some elements of black magic. He saw active service in France, dying before completing The Rod of the Snake (1917), which was completed by his sister Frances Mathews. The tale, a not entirely coherent, clottedly erotized occult romance, hints at sf through links to Atlantis understood in terms of Theosophy. The “Old Ones” who are invoked through the use of the titular talisman are conveyed with Horror in SF menace, and it is possible H P Lovecraft was influenced by Shortt’s depiction of cosmic malice.

By 1905  Dr. Eugene Francis Hogan, a subscriber to  Carrigan’s History of Ossory was living at Larch Hill  and was the organiser of the  ‘Upperwoods Volunteers’ in  1914.   The Ulster Volunteers had been established with the overt goal of blocking Home Rule by any means necessary, including, if required, armed resistance. The Irish Volunteers were established as a counterpoint to their Unionist opponents and their overt aim was to protect Home Rule at all costs.

The first corps established in Laois was in Abbeyleix on 27 April 1914. Mountmellick followed suit and throughout May, the nationalists of Laois awoke from their slumber and began to catch up with the rest of the country. Camross Volunteers would have been initially catered for in the Mountrath, Borris-in-Ossory, or Castletown corps. However, sometime around June 1914, a corps called the ‘Upperwoods Volunteers’ became affiliated with the organisation. Its leading organiser was Dr. Eugene Francis Hogan of Larch Hill, Coolrain. Hogan, a Justice of the Peace, became a much respected member of the organisation in the county. He presided over the first meeting of the County Board of the Laois Volunteers and was nominated as the county vice-president, a position which he modestly chose to pass on to someone else.

For the last century it has been the home of the Hyland family.


Shanderry, or Seandoire, the old oak wood,  appears in Leet in 1814 as the seat of Francis Despard.    From Jane Despard’s  Memoranda we know that it was built by his father  about 20 years earlier.

Shanderry from The Buildings of Ireland web site

Building of Ireland describes it thus:-

Detached five-bay three-storey house, c.1830. Renovated and extended, c.1970, with flat-roofed projecting porch added to front and returns added to rear. Double-pitched and hipped slate roof with nap rendered chimneystacks. Flat-roof to porch. Roughcast rendered walls, painted. Square-headed window openings with stone sills and replacement timber casement windows, c.1985. Round-headed openings to porch. Interior not inspected. House is set back from road in own grounds; landscaped grounds to site; tarmacadam drive and forecourt to approach; hedge inner boundary to forecourt.

Jane Despard in her Memoranda of 1837 writes:-

Two brothers now remained  William, the younger, died early at Shanderry of an idle and dissipated life.  Frank, the eldest, was pleasant and  gentleman-like in company, but as an officer, a husband or domestic companion he was the perfect description of cross-grained. He was a good landlord, honourable in all things and friendly when his temper did not interfere, but I recollect him once when at home on leave of absence, getting a letter of congratulation on his promotion from some person whose office it was to inform him. His observation on reading it, or rather his execration, before a whole roomful of his relations was (as l recollect) “May the Devil damn your congratulations.” I repeat this to show you the man, however, he soon afterwards quitted a profession for which his rebellious spirit was unfit, and married a sour piece of goods like himself and a connection of his own, being niece to Lord Norbury and Mr. Toler who were nephews to his grandmother Armstrong. His wife was daughter of General Head who commanded the 13th Dragoons in the Peninsular, what one calls a real good kind of man, with nothing of the ill-natured spice of his mother’s milk (who was a Toler) but who left his sour legacy chiefly to his daughter Despard, the present Dowager Shanderry. I always used to call Frank and her “Sir Andrew and Lady Acid.” for they never were in harmony either with each other or with their neighbours. Poor Frank died, I am told, with a more serious way of thinking than he lived, but she was then as before quite opposed to Evangelical religion; I have not heard anything of her lately.           

In fact she died in 1862 – April 6, at Pembroke-terrace, Dublin,  Mary Argyle, aged 70,  relict the late Francis Green Despard, Shanderry, Queen’s County; niece of the first Earl ofNorbury  and sister of the late  General Head, 18th Dragoons,

It is recounted locally that Despard left the army as a Lieutenant and by the time he died had become a Colonel, promoting himself as his brother officers rose through the ranks.

TO LET, for ever, the House of SHANDERRY, with either 41 Acres of Land, well sheltered and divided. The House is calculated for a small genteel family.  17 March 1826

April 17 1830 the Waterford Mail reported that Airy Penrose Jessop (22) of Shanderry  had married Elizabeth Howe at the Friends Meeting House in Mountmellick.

In 1833 he was advertising Mayfly, the high bred racehorse, standing at Shanderry with a stud fee of 5 Gns.    In that same year he was letting Altavilla. So we may presume that he was acting as someone’s agent (possibly James Perry’s).  Mayfly was still standing in in 1840 – with a stud fee of £2.   He was a descended from  Darley Arabian  (as are 95%  of thoroughbred horses) – however here The Darley was only his 4 greats grandsire and Eclipse was his grandsire

The Darley Arabian


In 1837 Lewis’s Topography has A P Jessop of Shanderry.     By Jan 1841 Shanderry and Mayfly were both  for sale, and by 1844 Jessop had moved to Pleasant View, Ballsbridge (where he had a daughter in 1847) .

Shortly afterwards AP Jessop, commercial clerk, became “an insolvent debtor”.    In Sept 1854 Andrew Kiel, esq, of Chicago, married Sophia, eldest daughter of A P Jessop of Prospect Terrace, Glasnevin, and in March 1859 his daughter Elizabeth Anne was marrying Anthony Jacob in Wellington,  New Zealand.  Emma Louise, another daughter, emigrated to Canada at the age of 30 and married a fellow Irish ex-pat Thomas Woods, on St. Patrick’s Day 1874 at St. James’s Cathedral in Toronto. On their twenty-fourth anniversary, Thomas died and a year later she lost her only son to drowning. Life in Canada was not always easy for Emma but she lived a long and relatively prosperous life in West Toronto until she died at an advanced age at her home at 39 Concord Avenue, leaving her three daughters, Annie, Grace and Ida and two Grandchildren.     Most of their six other siblings also seem to have emigrated.

In October 1849 the Dublin Evening Mail reports that there was delivered to the lady of the Rev Leslie Badham  of Shanderry House a son; then in July of 1856  (according to The Freemans Journal of Aug 1) another son  and in Nov 1859 a daughter, according to the Leinster Express . He had left Coolrain, where he was curate, to become Vicar of  Fenagh, Co Carlow in 1869, and sure enough we have an advertisement for it to let in November 1868

In 1878 he married his son  the Rev. Frederick John Badham, Rector of Ballynacargy, County Westmeath, to Alice Marianne, daughter of the late John Samuel.

Also in 1878, as the rector of Fenagh,  he was officiating at the marriage of the Hon. John McClintock Bunbury, Esq, of Molye, Co. Carlow,to  (Elizabeth) Myra Watson, second daughter of Robert Watson of Ballydarton, the famous Master of the Hounds.   He died the following year, for in Fenagh church is a tablet  To the memory of the Revd. Leslie Badham for ten years the beloved Pastor of his flock.  He died 18th April 1879 aged 67 years.

Fenagh Rectory

Badham had dad a doctorate in Mathematics from Trinity in 1838

George Neale of Coolrain Mills seems to have acquired an interest in Shanderry, though whether he actually lived there is unclear.

Next we find  the Coote’s land agent at Shanderry.  Henry Cornelius was living at Shanderry by 1884  Born in Anatrim he lived in Ballytarsna, Borris-in-Ossory and later at Ross na Clonagh, Mountrath and shortly before his death in a home called Shanderry ( according to a letter from his nephew written in 1894).   Agents to the Cootes, the Cornelius family had arrived in Ireland with William of  Orange and spent 100 years as agents for the Maxwells, Earls of Farnham, and the Cootes of Bellamont, before moving to Laois to become agents for the Cootes at Ballyfin.   There is a story in the family that one day a gypsy went to Ross na Clonagh selling clothespegs. When Henry’s wife Elizabeth refused to buy any, the gypsy cursed her saying that her daughters would all be barren and her sons would only bear daughters. Of her 9 daughters,only one had children (Susannah) and her son, Harry, had only the one daughter. Thomas died without children.

A complaint of 1884 in the Leinster Express Correspondence

The Leinster Express June 1904, concerning a row about a turf bank, throws light on the later ownership of Shanderry.

This turf bank contained 8 perches, and had been cut by the late Mr George Neale and since his death in 1894 , by the trustees under his will, or rather by their tenant, who occupies Shanderry House.   The estate did belong to Mr W D Despard .  He was the landlord of Shanderry House. His estate was sold in the Landed Estates Court in October, 1902, and the lot referring to Shanderry House, which was held at a rent of £69 13a Id, was bought by Neale’s  representatives from Steele, Despard and others.  It was presumably then sold or leased to the  Cooper family, who are still there – the Cooper Marriage of 1904 was reported extensively, and I love their list of presents!

Grennan, the oldest inhabited house in Laois?

Carrigan, in the History of Ossory, writes “In Irish it is called Greenawn, which signifies an ancient royal seat or rath. The modem townland of Grennan, according to the Ordnance Survey Maps, extends from Bamderry Hill, on the north, to the junction of the Nore and Owveg, on the south, that is, about two Irish miles ; and has an area of slightly over 1,000 stat. acres.   Grennan in the 17th century, however, as appears from the Down Survey Maps, was but a small townland, and lay all around the present Grennan House. This, too, must have been the original Grennan. The ancient Grianan, or rath, from which the name is taken remains no longer, but it is probable that Grennan House occupies its site.

According to The Buildings of Ireland it is “A detached five-bay two-storey over basement house with part dormer attic, begun c.1650, with single-bay single-storey wing to right and series of returns to rear. Stable complex to site. Double-pitched slate roof with nap rendered chimneystacks. Nap rendered walls, slate-hung to gable to right. Square-headed window openings with stone sills and replacement uPVC casement windows, c.1990. Some original timber sash windows. Round-headed door opening with timber panelled door with fanlight. Timber panelled internal shutters to window openings. House is set back from road in own grounds; landscaped grounds to site. Stable complex to site with group of detached single- and two-storey rubble stone ranges with ashlar bellcote. Gateway to site comprising monolithic piers with lattice iron gate.”

How much is from the 17th century is uncertain as in the 1864 Kilkenny Archaeological Society they mention that some portion of Nicholas Langton’s mansion at present exists, in ruins.

Nicholas Langton (who d. 1632) built the great stone house, now known as the Butter-slip, in Kilkenny and also the mansion of Grennan. He married ‎18 Apr 1605  to  Nicholasa Archer‏‎, daughter of Patrick Archer Fitz Edward of Killkenny,   His eldest son by his first marriage, James, Fitz Nicholas Langton of Grennan‏‎ married Marion Rothe‎ and is said to have had 25 sons and daughters.   Nicholas Langton Fiitz Richard, wrote: ” My daughter Ellen Langton was bom 12th of November, 1617, whose god-father was Geoffry Fitzpatrick of Tintower, and god-mother Mrs. Margaret Cashin ; she was baptised by Sr. Bryan Fitz-Terlough, at Ballincolla ; she dyed ye 8th day after her birth, and was buried in the church of Kildermoy.” 

By the 1660s it was in the hands of the Wheeler family.  Jonas Wheeler, who was royal chaplain to Queen Elizabeth I, who gave him a fine silver coconut cup, later presented to St. Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, continued in office as a royal chaplain under James I and then from 1613-1640 was Bishop of Ossory.  His son Oliver (who died before 1676) is described as being of Grennan.  The next occupant was Oliver’s son Jonah, who married Dorcas, the daughter of  Sir Philip Perceval, and had two sons and five daughters.  One of his sons, another Oliver, married Sarah, daughter of Dr John Vesey, archbishop of Tuam and left an only daughter Anne who married Dr Edward Maurice of Grennan in the right of his wife, who became Bishop of Ossory in January 1755 and died  11 Jan 1756.  Maurice is famous for his poetical translation of Homer which languishes upon a shelf in Trinity.  His successor as Bishop was the colourful and much travelled Ricard Pococke.  The next owner was his wife’s cousin, another descendant of Oliver Wheeler, Jonah Barrington, the grandfather of the judge, who lived at Cullenagh. 

40 years later the Barringtons are selling it:-


The following lands, situate in the Queen’s county and county of Kilkenny, part of the estate John Barrington, Esq. The land of Grennan, Queen’s  County, 


It is probable that it was then bought by Mary O’Brien, the Countess of Orkney, Viscountess Kirkwall and Baroness Deghmont.  She was born Sept 4 1755 , the daughter of Mary O’Brien, Countess of Inchiquin and Marchioness of Thomomd    (and step daughter of Joshua Reynolds’ niece). 

Her mother Mary O’Brien, 3rd Countess of Orkney (c. 1721 – 1790) was the eldest daughter of Anne O’Brien, 2nd Countess of Orkney and William O’Brien, 4th Earl of Inchiquin, and Countess of Orkney in her own right.    She was deaf and was married by signs, in 1753, to her first cousin, Murrough O’Brien, fifth Earl of Inchiquin, first Marquess of Thomond, and first Baron Thomond. 


Rostellan, near Cloyne. Demolished 1944

Cliveden, before the fire

She lived at  Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, later Nancy Astor’s political incubator and now a hotel (though the present house is Victorian, from 1851),  and Rostellan, on Cork Harbour, where her father had founded the predecessor of the present day Royal Cork Yacht Club, the Water Club of the Cork Harbour, in 1720, the oldest yacht club in the world. She succeeded to the Earldom on 5 December 1766, when her mother died.

The Water Club of the Harbour of Cork on Haulbowline Island 1738

She became The Countess of Orkney on her mother’s death on May 10 1790.  She had  married (on Dec 21 1777) the Hon Thomas Fitzmaurice who took out a 30 year lease on Lleweni Hall, a stately home in Denbighshire for £110,000.  They lived at Lleweni and Cliveden, her own property.  He was the younger son of John Earl of Shelburne and brother of William 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, descendant of Sir William Petty, the first accurate map maker of Ireland, the Down Survey.  He died on Oct 28 1793 and on the night of 20 May 1795, Cliveden caught fire and burned down. The cause of the fire was thought to have been a servant knocking over a candle.  The neighbouring Taplow Court became home to her son and his young family.  Mary returned to Ireland after the fire at Cliveden and started adding to her estate, her grandson ending up with about 11,000 acres in Laois and Tipperary.    

The earlier Taplow Court from Neale’s Views of Seats

Orkeny Lodge, nr Templederry

Her son died in 1820 at his residence in Hans Place, Knightsbridge, after a few days illness, of an inflammation of the intestines, aged 42,   Her grandson and heir was brought up by his mother at Taplow Court, and it was not till she died in 1843 and he moved to Ireland, building a small lodge at Templederry, his home till his death in 1877.  It must have been rather small for his 8 children!  Taplow Court had to be sold in 1850, the famine having nearly bankrupted the family.  It was bought by the Grenfells and rebuilt.  They hosted an aristocratic and elite group known as “the Souls” there. Visitors included Henry Irving, Vita Sackville-West, Edward VII when Prince of Wales, Winston Churchill, H. G. Wells, Patrick Shaw Stewart, Edith Wharton and Oscar Wilde.

Taplow as rebuilt by the Grenfells

The most remarkable  of her line was her great grandson, the 7th Earl of Orkney who in July 1892 married Connie Gilchrist (23 January 1865 – 9 May 1946).  She was an artist’s model, actress, dancer and singer who, at a very early age, attracted the attention of the painters Frederic Leighton, Frank Holl, William Powell Frith and James McNeill Whistler.  She became a popular attraction on stage at the age of 12 in a skipping rope dance routine at London’s Gaiety Theatre, where she was then engaged in Victorian burlesque and vaudeville throughout her formative years.  Lewis Carroll photographed her at age twelve and a year later wrote in his diary: “She is losing her beauty and can’t act – but she did the old skipping-rope dance superbly”. 


Gilchrist was the mistress of two aristocrats. When she was just 16, the 4th Earl of Lonsdale took Neumeister’s Hotel, at 30 Bryanston Street  at Marble Arch  for her and the other girls of the Gaiety Theatre.  Lord Lonsdale died at the house on a foggy February morning in 1882, aged only 26, a matter of some scandal, and left a sizeable legacy to Connie.   Her second benefactor was the 8th Duke of Beaufort, who became her adoptive father when he was 60, and lead her down the aisle at her wedding.  After her marriage to Lord Orkney  the couple quietly retired to Tythe House, Orkney’s estate in Stewkley, as they were largely excluded from British upper class circles at the time. This did not seem to bother Gilchrist, who settled into country life and became known for generous contributions to local charities. Over their early years Gilchrist and her husband operated a hunting lodge on the estate grounds that led to a friendship with the family of Baron Rothschild.

At Grennan Captain Chamworth Lyster was appointed agent. Little is known of his personal life.  The Lysters appear around Mountmellick in the early 18th Century, and are at Corbally, to the north of Abbeyleix by the 1750s. 

There must be a clue in the unusual Christian name – the Rev Chamworth Browne was at Wilson’s Hospital School in Westmeath, and in 1688 a list of the nobility of Ireland notes a Viscount Chamworth.  Poor Lyster chose an unfortunate time and place to be an agent. 

A large and very alienated class of landless labourers were forming themselves into self-protection groups and secret societies.  Agrarian crime became common. 

As they levelled the fences at night, they were initially called “Levellers” by the authorities, and by themselves as “Queen Sive Oultagh’s children” (“Sive” or “Sieve Oultagh” being anglicsed from the Irish Sadhbh Amhaltach, or Ghostly Sally), or as followers of “Johanna Meskill” or “Sheila Meskill”, all symbolic figures supposed to lead the movement. They sought to address rack-rents, tithe collection, excessive priests’ dues, evictions and other oppressive acts and targeted landlords and tithe collectors. Over time, Whiteboyism became a general term for rural violence connected to secret societies. Parliament never managed to address the causes, but did aatempt to address the symptom, from Whiteboy Act 1765 to the Tumultuous Risings (Ireland) Act 1831.

The Laois Heritage Society published a very interesting article on Crime and Punishment in Queens County which it is worth quoting from extensively:-

In 1830 and 1831, Queen’s County occupies the place previously taken up by Limerick, Tipperary or Cork. Robberies, arson and anonymous threats are daily experiences in some areas. More than 100 stands of arms are robbed in 1831. 1832 sees 215 attacks on houses and 226 illegal notices. The following year, there are 320 illegal notices, 622 attacks on houses.
The tithe war was particularly turbulent in Laois, and the Leinster Express reports that at that time, there were pews, belonging to respectable families, torn out and burned. In 1832, William Despard (landlord) reported that no tithe had been paid in the county in recent months. Those who are actually willing to pay, are threatened not to pay.
In 1832, at Maryborough Spring Assizes 43 men are convicted for Whiteboyism. In 1834, the disturbed state of the county is evident in the fact that 10 persons were sentenced to be hanged “their bodies hung in chains”. The next year, 15 are hanged and buried within the jail at Maryborough. In the 1830s, the Grand Jury increased the amount of money spent on law and order again and again. The Courthouse at Maryborough is extended. A building is rented in Mountmellick to use for Petty and Special Sessions, and a bridewell and yard for Stradbally and Borris-in-Ossory. A new gaol is built at Maryborough. On top of regular police, the county also has 80 members of the Peace Preservation Force.

Thomas Spring Rice,

Thomas Spring Rice, Lord Monteagle, of Mount Trenchard (now a direct provision centre for asylum seekers)  who in 1822 published “Considerations on the Present State of Ireland, and on the best means of improving the condition of its inhabitants”, identifies the causes of agrarian unrest


Mount Trenchard, Foynes

In it he notes:- The progress of population in Ireland has been and still is extraordinary. In 1695 the population was calculated 1,034,102; in 1731 2,010,000;   in 1791 4,200,000; in 1804 5,400,000 and in 1821 7,000,000.  Of these seven million 500,000 probably belong to the established church 500,000 Protestant dissenters and the remaining 6,000,000 Catholics.    LM Cullen, the great historian, quoting Connell, suggests that the earlier estimates are too low – 1.7 million in 1672, 2.2 million for 1687 and 2.8 million for 1712.    Whatever the precise accuracy of the figures, they show a mushrooming population, with no urban industrialisation to absorb it. 

Spring Rice, who led the committee that established the Ordnance Survey in Ireland, was well informed on social geography and economics.   He drew attention to the survey of the barony of Portnahinch in the Queen’s county (which includes Mountmellick, Portarlington, Ballybrittas and Emo), out of 1,187 farms 1029 do not exceed twenty acres in extent and 540 are under five acres. 

He comments on the effect of the layers middlemen, creating a class of idle annuitants with very small and precarious incomes and to interpose them between the inheritors and the occupiers of land destroying much that community of interest and sympathy of feeling which ought to subsist between them.    A landlord possessed of £1000 a year, after reducing his rents fifty per cent may still rely upon an income of £500.   A leaseholder on the contrary letting out land for £2000 a year and making  a profit of £1000 a year and subject to a rent of same amount is left totally penniless if fifty per cent is to deducted from his gross income.  He is consequently left choose between his own ruin and that of the occupant. 

Giving evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee in July 1832, Col Ralph Johnson, a magistrate from Stradbally, was asked:-

Can an individual policeman go with his side arms into the country?

 No. I never allow less than two or three if possible and always with their arms their arms loaded.  There was an instance of two policemen being attacked disarmed and one of them nearly killed

Would you at 12 o clock at noon day object to send a single policeman with side arms from Maryborough to Athy

 I would not do it.  I think it unnecessarily and improperly exposing a man.   I would do it on horseback.

He also noted that   “the crimes of the country arise in a great measure from the want of care of the people”

Unfortunately those who claim that the famine was a deliberate genocide by Ireland’s cruel oppressors are unlikely to read this.  That a JP and a man who is clearly appalled by rebellious or riotous behaviour should be so sympathetic to the small farmer’s lot, does rather undermine their doctrines of racial hatred.

On Saturday morning, about eight o’clock, four fellows went into a field within 160 yards of Captain Lyster’s house, Grennan, (Between Durrow and Ballyragget, and on the borders of the Queen’s county,) in which his steward was standing. One of the miscreants went up to him, and put a pistol   close to his breast, upon which the steward who is a Scotchman, asked, “What you stop for?”  The fellow replied “You villain, why do you stop in this country after the notices you have got?” and before the unfortunate man could utter another word he received a blow on the back part of the head which fractured his skull and felled him to the earth. The four blood thirsty villains then beat him in the most unmerciful manner with sticks, chiefly about the head, until they supposed him dead.  This horrible and savage outrage was perpetrated within view, of several labouring men who were at work in the adjoining fields, not one of whom attempted to rescue the unfortunate sufferer from the fangs of his merciless assailants! Captain Lyster was from home at the time but all his family were in the house.

Dublin Evening Packet   17  May 1831

Outrage.—A _barbarous attempt was made on Saturday last to take, away the life of Captain Lyster, of Grennane, near Durrow, Queen’s County. About two o’clock  when in the act of  entering the gate of his own demesne, two men came up—one of them took off his hat salute Mr. Lvster, when the other one of whom fired a pistol at him: the ball grazed his whisker, without doing him any injury. A gentleman by whom he was accompanied jumped out of the gig and attempted to catch the fellow who fired, when a third man leaped from behind the ditch and presenting a pistol, said. “If you stir another inch I’ll serve you as Lyster was.”  The gentleman, of course, was obliged to give up the pursuit. Various outrages have been committed within the last eighteen months on labourers and others in the employment of Capt. Lyster. His Lady and family were lately obliged, in consequence of having received threatening letters, to leave Greenane.  His labourers were driven from his fields—and his steward, a few months since, were so dreadfully beaten, that for a long time his life was despaired. Capt. Lyster is brother in-law to the Bishop of Dromore, and is otherwise highly connected. He is a resident gentleman, and spends upwards of £ 1,000 a year in giving employment to labourers on his estates, —Kilkenny Moderator.  November 1831;

Murder—Mr Fraine, a steward belonging to Captain Lyster, at Grennan, Queen’s County, was murdered on Saturday morning. Six fellows went up to him while he was engaged in ringing a bell to call the workers, and two or three of them fired and shot him through the body. He expired in three hours after in great agony. He had been previously warned to quit the service of Capt Lyster. The murderers afterwards went to the house of Capt Lyster’s herd, whom they knocked down and swore to quit his employment.— They then crossed the river Nore and proceeded in the direction of Durrow. Some months back another steward belonging to that gentleman, a  Scotchman, was brutally beaten and left for dead by a party of Whitefeet Captain Lyster was subsequently fired at near his own house a short time since, and for that base attempt on his life he prosecuted two ruffians at the last Maryborough Assizes, who were sentenced to transportation. The evening after the trial a party of Whitefeet attacked Grennan House, and destroyed the valuable furniture, &c. which it contained.  Saturday 05 May 1832. 

When Captain Lyster left Greenane and what happened to him has yet to be discovered. 

I had great hopes that a Captain Lyster J.P., of Wellington Square, Cork might be our man, but he turned out to be Captain Lyttleton Lyster.  I do hope that he was not the Captain Lyster, an Irish gentleman, who put period to his existence at Weston, near Bath, Wednesday, by cutting his throat on Wednesday 28 February 1849.

In February 1837 William Lalor was trying to let land at Greenan – of the very best fattening and Dairy Farm.  By May 4 1848  he had died:-

Horses, and Farm and Dairy Implements, at Grennan.

THE Subscriber is favoured with instructions from the Trustees of the late William Lalor, Esq., to SELL by AUCTION, at GRENNAN, 3 miles from Ballyragget, 1 from Durrow, and 4 from Ballinakill, on THURSDAY May 4 1848

There followed an interregnum

WITHOUT A CLAIMANT. There is at present an unoccupied mansion, to which is attached 350 acres, without person to come forward either claim  or exercise the right of ownership. It is situated near Durrow, in the Queen’s county, and is called Grennan. The peasantry in the locality, taking advantage of this state of things, on last Monday entered the mansion, and took down six marble chimney pieces three of which they carried away, and would have also borne off the other three, were it not that it was rumoured that the police were approaching.

Thursday 21 February 1850 

Less than a month later however:-

On Wednesday the Sub-sheriff of the Queen’s County, accompanied by a body of police, under Robert C. Reade, Esq  of Abbeyleix, took possession of the Grennan house and domain belonging to the Earl of Orkney, which had been deserted by the late tenant, Mr. Lalor.  The house had been previously occupied illegally. We learn there were nearly £1000 rent due it, besides poor rate and county cess .   7 March 1850.

The next tenant was Thomas Berry who was there till March 1863, when he advertised it to let. 


AUCTION of Farming Implements, Steam

Engine, Horses, Tborough-bred Ball, Hay ana Straw, and Household Furniture, &c, &c, at , near Durrow, on MONDAY and TUESDAY, the 8th and 9th JUNE, 1863, at 11 o’clock sharp. . Subscriber has received instruction from THOMAS BERRY, Esq., to submit for Sale by Unreserved AUCTION (in consequence of his having set his farm), the following property :—Farming Implements, by first class makers, consisting of Ploughs, Harrows, Hollers,

Pierce Sowers, Turnip Grater, End Slicers, Straw Cutter, Oat Bruiser, Cart, Harness, Weighing Machine, Barley Awner, &c. A First-class Three-Horse-Power Steam Engine and Threshing Machine, Winnowing Machine, a One-Horse Yoke for Churning, a _Reaping Machine, 250 feet of 4-inch Pipe for drainage, and sundry other articles ; Two good work Horses, and two excellent Ponies, Tax Can, Harness, a Thorough-bred Mare with pedigree, a Boar and Son. The House contains everything suitable for a Gentleman’s House—viz., Mahogany Tables and Chairs, _Mahogany Side Board, Secretaries, Presses, Book Cases, Four-post and French Bedsteads ; Hair Mattresses,  Feather Beds, Looking Glasses, Basin Stands, Dressing Tables, Kitchen do., Dressers, Meat safes, Washing Machine, Mangle, Barrel Churn, Tuba, Pails &c., &c. For further particulars see hand bills. ORDER OF SALE.—1st day, Monday, Farming Implements, and all Out-door effects, and also the Kitchen and Dairy utensils. On Tuesday, the entire Household Furniture. Terms — Cash, or previously approved bills for sums over £ 10. Purchasers to pay 5 per cent. Auction Fees. JOHN GAZE, Auctioneer and Valuator, Maryborough

Francis E. Harvey,  the fifth son of  Henry  Harvey, Esq., J.P., Kyle, County Wexford, and his wife, Eugenia Rochard from Toulouse, took it and a son and a daughter were born there.  By the time his third child was born in April 1866 he had moved to Clover Hill, Roscrea.  He went on to run the Warp and Waft Hotel in on Donegall Square in Belfast, and died in Toulouse on September 23 1877, where his mother was still living in 1888, and where his three sisters were living with their husbands and children.  It is a little odd that Francis does not appear in any of the Harvey genealogies.    

Samuel Talbot, who had been Lord Ashbrook’s agent at Durrow Castle, had moved into Greenan in the meantime.  Talbot was a natural trainer, and had spotted the advantages offered by Attanagh station which had opened on 1 March 1865.  In 1869 he laid out a steeplechase course, and soon it was enormously popular, the first race there taking place on March 29th that year.  By the 1870s special trains were being laid on to bring the crowds.  In 1881 The Sporting Mirror wrote  “The steeple-chasing season opens each year at Attanagh, in the Queen’s County” 

A reference to Samuel Talbot appears in the Boston Pilot, Volume 13, Number 32, 10 August 1850.  Was assisted emigration caring and benign or cruel and cavalier?

Grennan became The Talbot Racing Stables and Stud Farm

 PRIDE OF PRUSSIA will stand this season, at GRENNAN HOUSE, DURROW, And will be let to a limited number of mares as  Thoroughbreds  10 gns  1870

CROWN PRTNCE, by Newminster, out of Princess Royal, by Slane, will Serve Mares at GRENNAN, near Durrow. _Thorough-breds Five Sovs.; _Half-breds, half-price, and 3s.  1886

He died in 1882, and the stud was carried on by his widow Frances and son Richard Talbot.




Attanagh, the shallow ford & once “A Protestant glebe house by beech trees protected” Betjeman

Sept 1769 Saunders News Letter “Whiteboy Outrage. An attack on the house of the Rev Mervyn Archall in the Queen’s County, carrying off his steward, a tither of his reverence, on horse-back in a state of nudity.  Galloping the abducted tithe setter upwards of four miles, shouting all the way and sounding horns in a frightful and frantic manner.  Then dismounting the appalled tither minus habiliments to administer an oath to him never more to value or set tithes for his Reverence the Rector of Attanagh and then with dreadful threats dismissing the terrified servant in the cool of the morning after much severe usage”

The Buildings of Ireland describes the Rectory as follows:-

Detached three-bay two-storey former rectory, built c.1750. Extended, c.1825, comprising five-bay range. Detached three-bay coach house, c.1750, to site with pedimented central breakfront. Detached gate lodge, c.1850, to site. Double-pitched and hipped slate roof with nap rendered chimneystacks and cast-iron rainwater goods. Roughcast rendered walls. Square-headed window openings with limestone sills and six-over-three and nine-over-six timber sash windows and replacement single-pane timber sash windows, c.1885. Square-headed door opening with replacement timber door, c 1955. Interior comprises timber panelled internal shutters to window openings; timber panelled internal doors; Entrance Stair/Hall: carved timber staircase with turned balusters and ramped handrail; mid-Georgian-style plaster cornice to ceiling; Drawing Room and Dining Room: decorative plaster cornices, c. 1825, to ceilings; black stone fireplaces. Rectory is set back from road in own grounds; landscaped grounds to site. Detached two-bay two-storey coach house to site about a cobbled courtyard. Walled garden to site with red brick dressings. Detached three-bay single-storey gate lodge with dormer attic to site. Gateway to site comprising ashlar piers.

The Coach House from the graveyard

Attanagh Rectory was occupied by the rectors from the mid-sixteenth century to the mid 1930’s.   By the nature of the building’s function a steady stream of different families have lived there.  Often the rector was not present, and subbed the rectory to their curate,   In  1827  George Edmonds, clerk, was licensed to the curacy of Attanagh union – this was a time of rural discontent and Whiteboy violence and the vicar, Thomas Kearney, felt that Kilkenny would be safer.   

Earlier Henry Ryder (the son of Thomas Ryder, Secretary to the English Embassy at Paris, who was second son of John Ryder, Bishop of Killaloe, 1613 to 1632), was born at Paris, and was educated at Westminster, Cambridge, and Dublin, was Prebendary of Ossory and vicar of Attangh in 1692 but it seems probable that he lived in Kilkenny, with the troubles of the Williamite wars bubbling around. 

In 1846 The Rev Benjamin Morris, curate of Attangh died. The son of William Morris of Waterford, by Mary, dau. of Shapland Carew, of Castleboro’, leaving issue by his wife, Elisabeth (dau. and co-heiress of Maurice Nugent 0’Conor, esq., of Mountpleasant). three children, William, of Mountpleasant, Maurice 0’Conor, and Marie-Catherine. 

It seems to have been a staging post for ambitious clerics – The Rev James Lancaster was there briefly in 1870, on the way to becoming a Rural Dean.    Canon John Ebbs, who was buried at Attanagh in 1900, was vicar for the closing years of the 19th Century. And with a tithe of nearly £400 a year in the 1830s, it would have been a very attractive living. Remember Goldsmith’s clergyman in The Deserted Village (1770)
“A man he was to all the country dear, And passing rich with forty pounds a year.”

The most remarkable of the clergymen who served here were the renowned historian Canon Mervyn Archdall (1758 – 1786). The Reverend James Wills (1860 – 1869), a poet and writer whose literary career commenced with contributions to Blackwood’s Magazine and other periodicals.  He also wrote for the Dublin Penny Journal and assisted Caesar Otway in starting the Irish Quarterly Review    In 1822 Wills married a niece of Charles K . Bushe , the eminent lawyer from Kilfane.  His brother was W. G. Wills, dramatist; and of course his cousin was a Bishop – in fact an Archbishop, Lord Plunket, Archbishop of Dublin.  His grandson, Reverend P.H. Wills (1898 – 1936) was the last rector of Attanagh to live in the Glebe House.

Archbishop Lord Plunket

The Rev Mervyn Archdall’s  cousin,  Col Mervyn Archdall (they were born within 12 months of each other) married Mary Dawson, the eldest daughter of the 1st Viscount Carlow and Mary Damer, of Damer House,  in 1762, and they lived at The Grove,  a hunting lodge on her father’s Emo estate, 20 miles from Attanagh, and their main home until a new Castle Archdale was built in 1773-78, overlooking Lough Erne. The new house was a grand Palladian block with an unusual but dramatic internal plan, the architect of which is sadly not known, but which has some significant similarities to Brownshill, Carlow, finished in 1763, and which has been attributed to Matthew Peters, said to have been born in Belfast or the Isle of Wight in 1711 and to have been trained in England by his uncle William Love, who was head gardener to the first Viscount Cobham at Stowe. He came to Ireland in about 1742 and opened a seedsman’s business in Capel Street, Dublin. He also designed and laid out gardens and estates, as he advertised in Faulkner’s Journal for 11-14 October 1746 and December 1748.  By 1753 he was working for the Navigation Board as an assistant on the Shannon Navigation scheme but by 1756 he had found employment at Marino, Co. Dublin. ( Sadly Castle Archdale is now not even a ruin, whilst thanks to the Tully family, who saved it from certain destruction in the 1960s, Brownshill remains, probably Carlow’s least known and finest mansion.

After graduating from Trinity College in 1743, The Rev Mervyn’s antiquarian tastes introduced him to the acquaintance of Walter Harris, Charles Smith the topographer, Thomas Prior of RDS fame, and Richard Pococke, archdeacon of Dublin, Bishop of Ossory and inveterate traveller who had just returned from travelling around the Middle East.

Richard Pococke in Middle Eastern garb, 1738 – perhaps a little unusual for a C of I clergyman? (though he was born in Southampton!)
by Jean-Étienne Liotard.

He married Sarah Colles, a cousin of Thomas Prior, and daughter  of William Colles, founder of the Kilkenny Marble Works in 1748 . When Pococke became bishop of Ossory, he appointed Archdall his domestic chaplain, gave him the living of Attanagh, and over the next few years Pococke and Archdall spent many days working on  Monasticum Hibernicum; or an History of the Abbies, Priories, and other Religious Houses in Ireland, published 1786, in 2 volumes and an updated edition of Lodge’s Peerage of Ireland in 7 volumes.  One of the bedrooms at Attanagh, as in so many rectories and parochial houses, is “The Bishop’s Room”  

Having married his only daughter Harriet, in 1772,  to John Dalton Harwood, a newly ordained  clergyman and the son of the Vicar of Grange and Cahir, who ran a school in Clonmel to supplement his income,  Archdall resigned part of his preferments in the diocese of Ossory  to his son-in-law, and obtained the rectory of Slane in the diocese of Meath, where he died, 6 August 1791.  Harwood died in 1795.  It was almost certainly Archdall who was responsible for the remarkable landscaping – the long canal fed by the mill race, a faint shadow still visible in the 1995 aerial survey, had pretty much gone by the mid 19th century, and become an allée.  The lake at the most southerly end of the estate remained, though reduced, into the 20th century.  

The next vicars of interest were two kinsmen of Barack Obama, and sons of Bishop John Kearney of Ossory, who both served in the Attanagh community for a combined period of nearly twenty-five years. Rev. John Kearney ministered from 1807 to 1809, when his brother Thomas Henry Kearney succeeded him. Thomas Kearney was responsible for the building of the church which still stands in the village.  It was erected by aid of a loan of £850 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1821.  It replaced the pre-reformation parish church, dedicated to St Bridget. 

St Bridget’s from Jane Lyons’ site

In 1832 Thomas Kearney left Attanagh because of the threats of the Whitefeet and Rev. Mr. Bagenal took over.

Attanagh was soon to have a seismic shift – in November 1845 the plans for the Kilkenny Attanagh, Abbeyleix and Portlaoise line were advertised, though it did not open till 1865.

But by the following Christmas hunger was stalking the land,  In December 1846 there is an account a  mob near Attanagh  of 300 women and children attacking  two loads of flour going from Clomantagh Mills to Mountmellick  and protected by Constable Coghlan and three armed  police,  and the mob making of with one load of flour.  Even during a minor riot there was time for reasoned discussion – the police threatened to shoot on the crowd, but were dissuaded because it was inevitable that they would be overpowered.

Opposite the church is the Parish School. Shortly after the original school was built  in 1824  Thomas Kearney, the rector, converted it into a police barrack, the disturbed state of the neighbourhood having rendered the proximity of police desirable The school was for a time transferred by him to his gatehouse and  in 1857 the Kildare Place Church Education Society made a grant for  a new schoolhouse. 

As described by The Buildings of Ireland, it is  “A detached three-bay single-storey Church of Ireland school, c.1850, with single-bay single-storey gabled breakfront porch. Pitched slate roof with clay ridge tiles, rendered chimneystacks, and overhanging eaves with scalloped fascia board. Roughcast walls with cut-limestone quoins to corners. Round-headed central door opening with replacement timber door having fanlight. Square-headed window openings with cut-limestone sills and timber casement windows. Set back from road in landscaped grounds with roughcast boundary wall.”

All sign of the Durrow Brick Works, the corn mill, the railway, the race track have gone.  No longer a post town, it lacks even a post office.  Tranquillity has returned to Attanagh.

Aharney House- A Napoleonic Duke, and A Silver Tongued Cathedral Horseman

Aharney in Lewis’s Topography

A sign of advancing years is when you realise that the mentors on whom you rely for knowledge are no more.  Were only the architect and architectural historian Jeremy Williams still with us then I would know who had designed Aharney House.  I do remember that Jeremy did tell me, but what he told me has gone!!  I remember visiting the ruins with him whist they still stood – a red brick house, single story, of rubbed brick with square bay windows and a tall two storey tower at one end.  The earlier house was at the rear, two storeys and of rubblestone construction.

Were Harry McDowell, that most omnipotent genealogist, still with us I would not be struggling with the genealogies of the Clarkes of Aharney and the Laurensons of Capponellan.

Nowadays one might  never penetrate the rolling countryside between the  Durrow to Ballyragget road and the Durrow to Cullahill road,  unless deliberately visiting  the area.    In prehistoric times things were different –  the fulacht fiadh,  ringforts  and other early earthworks tell of a busy landscape.  The ancient highway between Upper Ossory and Kilkenny crossed Cahir Hill to Newtown ond on to Lisdowney.   The very name of Aharney  means ‘Ford of the Heap’  and commemorates a cattle raiding skirmish between the men of Upper Ossory and Lower Ossory. The men of Upper Ossory retreated to the nearby stream to recover from the battle and were so exhausted and injured that they drowned and their bodies lay in a heap.   There was also a tree in the field to the southeast called Sceacharawash, the Bush of the Race, where The MacGiollaPadraig threw Thomas Butler,  the son of the 8th Earl of Ormond, down from his horse and most cruelly murdered him after his flight from a conference held by the Butlers and Fitzpatricks in 1532.

In the 1600s the Butlers, Viscount Mountgarret, owned most of the land . Dun Chobhthaigh Castle was  at Tinnaslatty, across the road and stream from Aharney House in the field called Castlefield,  that was levelled  in the early 1800s.   Seskin Castle, north-east of Seskin House was also taken down in the early 19th century.  Near the Glanbia factory, on the banks of the Nore stood Ballycorna Castle.   According to the Down Survey there was “a castle a little in repayre,” in Ballyconra, in 1655.   None of these were actually lived in by the Butlers, who preferred Ballyragget Castle initially, and then Balleen, near Freshford, which was not finished when attacked by Cromwellians in 1650.

Balleen Castle near Freshford, 100 years after the Cromwellian  Visitation

Tracing title is tough for a property specialist, so nearly impossible for an amateur genealogist – I cannot see how John McTeige Fitzpatrick, the younger son of the 4th Baron of Upper Ossory,  came to be in possession of Aharney, but he forfeited it  in 1653.

The Down Survey show Aharney, and in the survey note that there was common land there, a “Danceing (sic) Meadow” of 64 acres.

Over the next 50 years new families now start to arrive

A cadet branch of the Fitzgeralds of Burnchurch lived in Lisdowney, across the river in Kilkenny,   In the graveyard at Barony, getting somewhat buried itself, is the tombstone  of Alexius FitzGerald  (1694) with beautifully incised heraldry and lettering.    Alex’s father William died the following year leaving his daughter in the charge of William Clarke, an “English papist”,  of Aharney, whose father John Clarke  had been one of the surveyors of the barony of Glamoy for the Cromwellian Settlement of 1655.

Image of  Alexius FitzGerald’s monument  from Paul Cockerham’s Thesis ‘My body to be buried in my owne monument’: the social and religious context of Co. Kilkenny funeral monuments, 1600–1700

Barony Church from Rita Hill’s site

He was possibly a kinsman of Hugh Clarke who was noted as an English Catholic tenant  in 1641 on the estate of the Protestant planter Sir Walsingham Cooke of Tomduff, Ballygarrett, the son of the Irish Chancellor of The Exchequer in the 1590s

John Clarke was descended from Sir Simon Woodchurch, of Kent,  who married Susan, heir to Henry le Clerke around 1260   and annex’d so plentiful a revenue to this name, alter’d their paternal appellation from Woodchurch to Clerke: and so in all their deeds, subsequent to this match have written  Clerke alias Woodchurch ever since.  He was married to Elizabeth Crispe. also from Kent, many of whose relations were married to other people around Kilkenny – Lodge, Matthews, Bryan & Pay.   The exact connection with the senior branch of the family is not clear –  the Clarkes of Porthall,  Lifford may be the connection –  they are descended from of a younger brother of Simon Clarke, who was created a baronet by Charles II. for his services to the Royalist cause. The younger brother was a Cromwellian, and was paid with land in Lifford.

John Clarke  died in 1721, 7 years before Gabriel Clarke who is buried beside the Grace Mausoleum at Tullaroan, and was possibly his brother. (Confusingly not the same Gabriel Clarke of Cork merchant who was born in 1673 and died 9th March 1739,  son of

Bartholomew Clarke of Grange co Antrim of the of Hardingstone,  Northamptonshire and founder of the first Quaker meeting house in Youghal with William Fennell in 1719)    


The Duc de Feltre

One of John’s  children was John Clarke, S.J. (1662-1723), missionary to the Irish.  Another married Elizabeth, daughter of Walter Murray of Elibank, of Rathvilly, Co. Carlow.   Thomas Clarke, their grandson joined the Irish Brigade, and married Louisa Shee, from the Kilkenny family,  and their son Henry James William Clarke {1765-1818),  became Due de Feltre, Marshal of France,  Minister of War to Napoleon the First, Governor of Berlin, &c.!


Notes & Queries Sept 27 1879 pg 256

Strangely back in England things, initially, had not gone quite so well for the senior branch of the family.  Sir Simon Clark, the 6th Bart., was caught red-handed after a highway robbery near Winchester in 1731. Clarke pleaded economic necessity and won the sympathy of the local gentry.    He removed himself to Jamaica, where his son became  a slave-owner and major money-lender. When he died in 1777 he had 171 slaves and £269,591 6 shillings – about £50m in modern terms.    One of the clauses of his will might well irritate modern readers – To my reputed daughter (whose name I do not at present recollect) begotten by me on the body of Miss Hannah Samuels  in Great Britain £1,000 Jamaican currency at age 21 years or marriage. £50 sterling per annum to her in the meantime.

Jemmy, or Shaemeen Clarke of Aharney, who died about 1770, was a famous “Gentleman Hurler”.

The oldest tombstones in Aharney are erected in memory of Mary Devlin of Aharney who died in the year 1640. William Delaney of Aharney who died in the year 1721. Fr. Delaney who was parish priest of Aharney died in the year 1726.    It seems probable that Michael Delaney (b 1786)  of Archerstown was a descendant of William.

Delaney was adopted as the anglicised form of the original Irish Ó Dubhshláine, from dubh, meaning “black” and slan, meaning “defiance”. The original territory of the Ó Dubhshlaine was at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains in Co. Laois. From there they spread into  Kilkenny, and the surname is still strongly associated with these two counties.  In this case Devlin is probably an Anglicisation of the same surname

Another ancient tomb is in Durrow Churchyard  “Here Lyeth ye body of …. Burk who departed this life ye 31st July also the body of James Dun her son who died ye 4th August  in the 18th year of his age 1728”.   Marking the same grave is another headstone:-   “God be merciful to the soul of Edwd, Dunn, of Aharney, who depd. this life 30th day of Sept 1784 aged  76 years. Also his wife, Elizabeth Dunn, alias Lawler, who depd. this life the 22nd of June. 1774. aged 64 years ; with three sons and two daughters. Also Michael Dunne, who depd. June the 1st, 1804, aged 65 years.”

Three brothers who moved from Clonaslee and Rosenallis during the second half of the 17th century. Of the brothers, one settled down in Clonageera, beside Durrow, the other two in Ahamey. Their descendants include  Michael Dunne, of Durrow, son of Patrick, of Durrow (1822-83), son of John, of Clonageera and Durrow (c. 1770-c. 1850); and Mr. Patrick Dunne, of Aharney, son of John, of Aharney (1794-1873), son of Michael, of Aharney (1739-1804).

Tinnahinch Castle

The principal seat of the Dunne family, who emerged as an identifiable clan in the 11th century,  was Tinnahinch Castle which was built by Tadgh U Dunne around 1475. Originally known as “Baun Riaganach”, the castle was built by Tadhg MacLaighnigh Ui Duinn in 1475 and was a mile south of Tinnahinch bridge on the Carlow side of The Barrow at Graiguenamanagh.  . The name Tinnahinch originally means “house of the island”, a tributary of the Barrow surrounding the castle giving it the appearance of an island. It was destroyed by during the Cromwellians under Colonel Hewson in 1653. At the time it was strongly defended by Charles Dunne and it required a full park of artillery from the invading forces to level the castle.   When the main residence in Tinnahinch was blown up in 1653, the Dunne Chief had to build anew.   Castlebrack, also built by Tadgh around 1475 for the Dunne clan  Tainiste,  in the Northern part of the Dunne lands towards Tullamore had also been attacked.  However there was a low thatched lodge located at Brittas, near the present village of Clonaslee. The Dunnes built a mansion at right angles to this, facing north-east,  of which more in a later post.   There were many branches of the clan around Clonaslee  and it is hard to identify the Aharney Dunne progenitors.

The most interesting family arrived here around 1690.  Carrigan suggests that they may have been O’Marum and come from beyond the Shannon.  Others wonder, despite their religion (they were always Catholic, and produced two parish priests and a bishop) whether they may have come from the Palatines either as refugees or as Williamite soldiers.  Initially they lived near Barony Church, and then moved to Galmoy, then Edmund Marum moved  back , first to Seskin House around 1780,  and then bought 200 acres of good land and built Aharney House in 1807.


Aharney before and after the addition of the new facade in the 1870s

Edmund’s younger brothers included the catholic Bishop of Ossory, Kieran Marum, and the PP of Freshford, the Rev Pierce Marum as well as the less popular John  Marum of Mount Stopford, near Galmoy, a former United Irishman and substantial landlord on the estate of the Earl of Courtown. He was known as a land-jobber, taking lands over other peoples’ heads, moving opportunistically to take over leases at the expense of defaulting tenants, and then evict the tenants.   At 6 o’clock on the evening of Tuesday 16th March 1824 John Marum was shot dead in an ambush by a group of men near his home. At the inquest no one admitted knowledge of the perpetrators and the verdict was “wilful murder by persons unknown”. However, with clever police work and use of informers, arrests of 6 men were made and 10 prosecution witnesses gave evidence at the trial in Grace’s Old Castle, Kilkenny, before Chief Justice Charles Kendal Bushe from Kilmurray in Thomastown, a former MP in the Irish Parliament, who had resigned his seat rather than accept bribery to support the Union. The jury, mostly of propertied men, found all 6 guilty and they were sentenced to death by hanging at the location of the committal of the crime. A large crowd attended the execution, including MPs and many prominent land-owners, and approx. 500 police and military. The bodies were given to the Surgeon of the County Infirmary for dissection.

Edmund’s daughter married a local farmer, Edward Staunton, and his son Richard married Elizabeth Mulhallen, but predeceased his father leaving three daughters and a son, Edward Purcell Mulhallen Marum, who studied at  Carlow College and then did a BA and an LLB in London and was called to The Kings Inns in 1848.

Edward married Maryanne Brennan, daughter of John Brennan of Castlecomer, chief of that name, in 1861.    He divided his time between Aharney and Ashfield House in Kilkenny, on the Bennettsbridge road,  next to Danville, and seems to have been based there from 1870 to 1880,  whilst the new front of Aharney was being built – it would be interesting to know where the bricks came from, as this predates the establishment of the Durrow Brick Works.   They probably came from the brickworks at Graigue at Carlow, or Athy Bricks, from which much of South Dublin was constructed;

There were brickfields at Clonageera and Archerstown which supplied the brick for Heywood’s garden wall and the cottages at Chapel Street in Ballinakill, both in the early 20th Century.  Maybe they were also the source of Marum’s brick?

He was the honorary correspondent of The Kilkenny Hunt to Bell’s Life,  a weekly sporting paper published as a pink broadsheet between 1822 and 1886,  probably the origin of the 19th century  “pink’un” fashion for sporting news.  In 1869 he and W. H. Meredyth, the then Master of the Kilkenny Hunt, had a blazing row initially in the correspondence columns of the Kilkenny Moderator, but which spilt into the committee rooms of the hunt and even the covers drawn .   George Bryan of Jenkinstown was his great friend and supporter – indeed for some reason Bryan’s stallion was kept at Aharney :-

He stood unsuccessfully as a Home Rule candidate for at a by-election in Kilkenny city in 1875. He was subsequently elected as Member of Parliament for County Kilkenny as a Parnellite Home Ruler in 1880, topping the poll, and held the seat until the constituency was divided for the 1885 general election. He was then elected for the new North Kilkenny constituency, and held that seat until his death in 1891.  A very colourful figure, in one of his more famous escapades he rode a hunter up and down the marble steps of St. Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny.

Conscious of his lack of oratory Horace Plunkett hired the services of this silver-tongued orator to thunder out the co-operative gospel at crossroads and church gates, but died of heart disease before he had been able to attend more than three or four.

Getty Images have an interesting picture of Aharney Camp  August 1899: The East Yorkshire Regiment’s military encampment during Irish manoeuvres, which I would have shared on this site but didn’t feel like paying the €70 that a licence would cost!  The regiment were then based in Birr, and 5 months later embarked for South Africa and the Boer War.

In March 1900  two of Edwards’s children,  the 27 year old Austin Marum, and 30 year old Elizabeth Marum died of diphtheria at Aharney.  In January 1907 his last remaining son,  the 40 year old William,  married Brigid Stapleton, the live in maid.  There was some talk about it, and the marriage took place in Dublin.    He is said to have been disowned by his family for marrying beneath him.  Six  months later he died at Aharney, of peritonitis.   In his obituary  Ballyragget Cricket Club, he is described as being of a retiring nature, but a leading light of the.   The informant on the death certificate, Thomas Dowling, married Brigid 9 years later, and they had 4 children.

On October 27th 1908, the year following William’s death,  his mother sold “The Entire of| her Superior Antique Furniture, Cattle, Cob, Carriages, etc.” and retired to 86 Lower Baggot Street.

The Sale of 496 acres, October 1908

The estate was bought by the Stauntons, cousins of the Marums,  but sadly in the 1970s that most destructive bunch of ignorant bigots,  the Irish Land Commission,  got their hands on it and by 1980 the house was derelict.

The major associations of a minor house – Mail Coaches, The P&O Line, Charles I’s watch,  Indian Irrigation & St Ita’s Asylum,

It is hardly fair to call Springmount House at Shanahoe near Abbeyleix a minor house – it is one of the prettiest houses in the county.


The Buildings of Ireland record describes it as “Detached five-bay two-storey house, c. 1750, with pedimented bay to centre. Renovated, c. 1870, with façade enrichments added. Renovated, c. 1980, with projecting porch added”

The initial building here was Killeany Castle on the banks of the Nore, of which no vestige remains;  According to Coote “ On Sir Allen Johnson’s estate stand the ruins of Killeany Castle ; the walls are injudiciously built of very had stones, though an excellent quarry is contiguous.”

Robert Dunlop’s 1563 map of the Plantation of Leix and Offaly shows Kileane Castle.   Petty in 1685 also  has Killeany Castle marked on The Down Survey.

Ralph Wallis, of Killeny, Queen’s County, Esq. (d. 1677), son of Charles Wallis of Dublin, Clerk of the Rolls, in Ireland, and M.P., who acted as Deputy for Sir William Temple, received in 1644 from the Ulster King of Arms, a Grant or Confirmation of Arms.  By his arms it would appear that he felt he was a descendant of the Sussex family of Wallis or Walleys.  For his motto he took an O’Brien motto  that was carved on their town house in Patrick Street, Dublin “Victoria Mihi Christus”.  So it is evident that he was established here before the outbreak of the English Civil War.  However with the coming of Cromwell we find him in May 1654 as one of the 8 clerks paid £107 for indexing the Black Books of Athlone  They were the Roll of Association the names of all who had become members of the Confederation of Kilkenny  by taking the oath,  the books of the Supreme Council and Books of Entries.

In 1662 he received A Warrant [by the Duke of Ormond] for a fiant for [the grant of his Majesty’s] general pardon.

Thomas Ball sold Portrane to Charles Wallis for £40 in the 17th century. William Petty, in his survey in 1654, noted that Ralph Wallis owned Portrane, including “an old castle with a thatch hall adjoining …”

By 1677, a George Wallis was living in Portrane Castle.  It  was rebuilt as we see it today In 1709 by Charles Wallis, of Springmount, Queen’s County, who was the tenant of the Portrane Estate, by virtue of an ancient Archiepiscopal Lease.   This is the earliest date that we have for Springmount.  In 1709 he mortgaged the castle and parsonage lands amounting to 243 acres.  Very shortly afterwards,by 1712, Honoria Swanton, the daughter of Willoughby Swift, a cousin of the writer Jonathan Swift, Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, was living at Portrane Castle. At the end of that year, Swift’s ill-fated “Stella,” Esther Johnston (1681-1728), spent several weeks with the Swantons at Portrane Castle, and ever since the castle has been known locally as Stella’s Castle or Stella’s Tower.

Patrick Comerford writes in his excellent blog – While Stella was staying at Portrane Castle, she and Swift exchanged letters in October and November 1712, and he wrote to her:   “I did not know your country place had been Portrane until you told me in your last. Has Swanton taken it of Wallis? That Wallis was a grave, wise cox-comb – Oh ho Swanton seized Portrane, now I understand you, Ay, ay, now I see Portraine at the top of your letter. I never minded it before.”

Eventually Ralph Wallis of Springmount, Co Laois, sold Portrane in 1728 to Eyre Evans,

The Eyres and the Evan’s held Portrane till the dreaded St Ita’s Asylum was built there in 1896, where 3,000 are buried with but the one stone to commemorate their priest.

It was on this peninsula a few hundred yards from Tower Bay, at the tip of the peninsula itself, that the government of the day decided to build Portrane Mental Hospital – isolated as far as possible from the mainstream of things, as was the policy throughout the 19th century in the building of mental hospitals in the various towns throughout the country,” from a staff memoir sourced by the writer Rosita Boland


Ra[lph] Wallis to James Payzant, Lord Townshend’s office, Whitehall. Is pleased with price for ‘papers’ and wishes to know method of payment. Dated at Springmount near Maryborough, Queen’s County.  1721 June 24 .  The National Archives, Kew

Francis Sadlier Vaughan b 1698 at Golden Grove, Roscrea,  m (articles dated 17 May, 1718) Ralph Wallis, ot Springmount, Queen’s Co., and had issue.  They had two sons, Robert and Hector.

Robert was of Springmount and Knapton and  was succeeded by his brother Hector, who married Miss Sarah Drope, of Dublin, by whom he had Margaret.  At Golden Grove, Roscrea,  the seat of  her great uncle William P Vaughan esq  Lord Mountjoy to Miss Margaret Wallis  daughter of the late  Hector Wallis esq, formerly of Springmount   1793.   The Vaughans of Golden Grove  were related to Baron Vaughan, of Mullingar, Earl of Carbery, of Golden Grove, Camarthen.

Golden Grove, Roscerea

Here we have a clash of inhabitants.  Though it is not clear when Margaret was born, or her father died, it cannot have been much before 1770 at the earliest.  But in 1752 Pococke records   “We came to Ballyroan via Timohoe to a. large village on a rivlet, which falls into the Nore, and crossing that river came to Springmount the seat of Mr. Brereton, near the remains of a fine ruined Castle, on the Nore called Killeny”

There is a plaque on Killeany Bridge over The River Nore.  “1760/this bridge was/erected at the county/expense/Edward Brereton of/Spring Mount Esq/Director/Michael Dealy Mason”

killeany bridge

William Brereton of Narraghmore, Co. Kildare married Pricilla Brooke .  The family were descended from a Henrician soldier, Sir William Brereton of Brereton, Cheshire, who died in 1541 and is buried in Kilkenny.  His grandson Baron Brereton of Leighlin, Co. Carlow, built Brereton Hall.


The son of William Brereton of Narraghmore,   Major Edward Brereton of Dublin & Springmount married on 25 November 1754,  Frances, daughter of Philip Rawson of Donoughmore, Co. Queen’s and Abington Park, Co. Limerick  and had two daughters,  Sackvilla Brereton (1759 – 1849) Martha Brereton (born 1761)  (Grantstown Castle was taken by force by Gilbert Rawson and in his possession by 1653, but was originally a property of the Fitzpatrick family (Earls of Upper Ossory).  Aan agreement of some sort was eventually reached between the families and that Grantstown Castle was returned to its previous owners, but that the Rawson family retained title to Donoughmore.  There are “Papers relating to the Rawson family of Leix in the Fitzpatrick Papers, 1640 – 1752” held at the National Archives).

Edward Brereton was a Justice of the Peace, member of the House of Commons from 1742-1756 and Chief Sergeant of Arms of Ireland 1743-1756.  He died in 1775 aged 81.

Sackvilla’s godmother was Lady Sarah Pole of Ballyfin, the daughter of the Earl of Drogheda, who married William Pole in 1748.  Sackvilla was b. 15 Jun 1759, d. 1 Mar 1847 and in 1783 married Sir John Allen Johnson-Walsh, 1st Baronet (c. 1745 – December 1831) was an MP.  He was born John Allen Johnson (also spelled Johnston), the eldest son of Allen Johnson, of Kilternan in County Dublin, by his wife Olivia, only daughter of John Walsh, of Ballykilcavan in Queen’s County. The second son was Henry Johnson, who was created a Baronet in 1818.

sarah pole by hone
Sarah Pole from

His father died on 30 July 1747, so, on the death of his grandfather Allen Johnson on 25 August following, Johnson succeeded to the family estates. On 24 February 1775 he was created a Baronet in the Baronetage of Ireland. He represented Baltinglass in the Irish House of Commons from 1784 to 1790 and was High Sheriff of Queen’s County in 1792. In 1808 he succeeded his maternal uncle Raphael Walsh (Dean of Dromore) to the estate of Ballykilcavan, and adopted the additional surname of Walsh by Royal Licence of 9 May 1809.

WLlliam Pigott esq  son of Colonel Pigott, Chief Engineer of the Ordnance and member for Midleton to Miss Brereton of Springmount, Queens County with thirty thousand pounds  Her sister is the lady of Sir John Allen Johnson, bart.   Anthologia Hibernica  1793  (Newspaper reports can be very difficult to reconcile with other evidence – I suspect that Col Pigott might have been Thomas Pigott, of Knapton, Queen’s County, born 13th October, 1734, Major-General in the army, and M.P.. for Midleton, (the only Pigott  who was M.P for Midleton.)  His son William lived at Farmely, Abbeyleix.)

It seems that Sackvuilla and her husband lived at Springmount  until he inherited Ballykilcavan in  1808.    Springmount was then  leased to the Bournes, though the Bournes  also appear to have acquired a lease of 1737, from Ephraim Dawson

Borris in Ossory to Abbyleix ln this direction and perhaps nearly midway between those latter villages stands Spring mount formerly the residence of Sir A Johnson Walsh Bart but now the seat of HH Bourne Esq The house a light modern edifice stands on a plain at a little distance from the road in front of a beautiful and extensive lawn and in a country highly improved and altho it has neither the advantages of lake or mountain it exhibits in a striking point of view that perfection of tale and judgment to which the moderns have arrived in their plan and execution of villas

This will be a place of considerable beauty.   Springmount has the advantage of Anngrove in this respect that every improvement Which could embellish it appears to have been brought up by the hand of art to the highest elegance and perfection and of Springmount,  Anngrove appears to have the advantage in the more full display of its beauties to the traveller on that road which passes between them and of which those seats one on the right hand and the other on the left form two important ornaments In my progress towards Mountrath from…

The Irish Tourist AA Atkinson   1815

St Peter and the Keys

The Bourne family of Springmount gave land for a Catholic church at Raheen circa 1812 which was finished in 1816.  The Pilgrim priest, Fr. Benjamin Broughall, was responsible for the building .  At the consecration of that church, the local landlord and donor of the site Mr. Bourne, of Springmount House, presented to the people of Shanahoe a painting depicting St. Peter with the Keys of the Kingdom. This painting had been presented to him in gratitude for his kindness by a man known as the Ditreabhach (a man without a tribe).  This inspired John Keegan’s short story.

Journal of the Waterford & South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, Volume 4 &

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to establish the parentage of Henry Hawker Bourne, his four brothers and three sisters, a distinguished family – One was a founder of the P&O line; another built the town of Ashbourne County Meath;  they built roads, controlled turnpikes and operated the Mail coaches.

mail stamp

Richard, Henry, William and Frederick, ran the lucrative mail coach business .  Granted a contract in 1789 by the Irish government to introduce a mail coach service to the country, the brothers built and maintained roads to Limerick and Cork – to support the valuable Atlantic trade – and  subsequently to Drogheda and the north of Ireland. Despite heavy capital investment; with a long lease, a monopoly of the tolls and ownership of the inns and hotels which lined the route, the business flourished making the brothers’ fortune. From offices at 48 Dawson Street, next to the Royal Hibernian Hotel which the brothers owned, they oversaw an integrated network of roads and businesses which stretched across the country. They built mail coaches at Blackpits in Dublin keeping over 800 horses on grazing nearby to pull them. The Bourne were described as “people of opulence” and “some of the most important people in the country”. With their wealth, they purchased property across Ireland including Terenure House near Dublin where Frederick Bourne lived (he who built the village of Ashbourne) ; Springmount House in Co. Queen’s and Lynbury House in Co. Westmeath where Richard Bourne settled.


John Edwards Bourne of Dunkerrin, King’s Co. formerly  of Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, probably was the eldest of the five brothers, and may have lived in Portlaw, Co Waterford in the 1790s, dying in  1799.

Richard Edwards Bourne, born 1769 in Dublin, probably was the fourth brother. He entered the Navy, a Plymouth Volunteer, aged 18, 30 September 1787.  When he signed his Will, 27 June 1844, Richard Edwards  Bourne was residing at 7 Montpelier Parade, Monkstown, Co. Dublin. His Will expressed the desire to be “buried beside my late brothers.”  He also named five children,  issue of his marriage with Louisa Helena Blake, and a son, John, presumably a child by a former marriage. His property  consisted of the lands of Killin}- called Rahalass, Knockanspigoe, Classe’nisha and Shanahoe, all in Queen’s Co., acquired from his brother Henry Hawker Bourne, deceased.

The remainder of his property consisted of Nenagh, Toomavara (Toornavara) and Roscrea in Co. Tipperary and a share in the turnpike tolls of the Limerick Road, the hotel, stores and stables, etc., in Limerick, Co. Limerick.

Henry Hawker Bourne, born ca. 1740, of Springmount, Queen’s Co., probably was the second eldest brother. He held lands situated in the barony of Maryborough, Queen’s Co. by lease, dated 3 August 1737, from Ephraim Dawson of Dawson’s Court and Henry Fisher of Killery, both of Queen’s Co.  These lands described as “Killiny, called Rahalass, Knockanspigoe, Classenisha, Shandhae, or Shanahoe,” were subsequently willed to his younger brother, Richard Edwards Bourne.  He also acquired by conveyance, 27 January 1808, from Robert Shaw of Dublin, the premises in Dublin City known as the Royal Hibernian Hotel, Mail Coach Offices and  Yards.

He  was of Montasterevan, Co. Kildare, when he married in Dublin on 18 June 1794 in the Parish of St. Catherine, Lucinda Darling, born ca. 1773, of Grand Canal Harbor.  He died at Springmount, Queen’s Co. and was buried 14 April 1819, aged 79, in the Parish of Abbeyleix.

The Bourne(s) families of Ireland  by Mary A Strange

By indenture of release bearing date the 24th day of October 1812 and made between Henry Hawker Bourne of the one part and Francis John ones of the other part the said Henry Hawker Bourne released  unto the said Francis John Jones the house and premises in Dawson street then in the occupation of the said Francis John Jones and used by him as an hotel by the name of the Hibernian Hotel to hold to the Francis John Jones for the lives of Francis Jones George Jones and William Jones sons of the lessee and the survivor of them with a s covenant for perpetual renewal at the yearly rent of 780 late currency to January 1816 the said Francis John Jones in consideration of a sum of 4000 sterling granted and sold the furniture plate household linen wine &c then being in the said hotel and in consideration of the rent charges thereinafter particularly mentioned assigned and released all his interest in the said hotel under the indenture of the 24th 0ctober 1812 to the said Francis Jones and the said Francis Jones granted to the said Francis John Jones and his assigns an annuity of 420 sterling for his life and granted to Mary Jones the plaintiff the wife of the said J r Francis John Jones in case of her surviving the said Francis John Jones an annuity of 300 sterling to be issuing out of the said hotel and concerns and covenanted for the payment of these annuities

Irish Equity Reports – Volume 4 – Page 74  1842

A Petition of Henry Hawker Bourne one of the joint, Proprietors of the Limerick Mail and Stage Coaches, was presented  1811

While Captain Bourne had been thus occupied in the prosecution of naval career his brothers the late Henry Hawker Bourne of Springmount Ireland William Hawker Bourne of Terenure near Dublin had at the instance of the late Mr Palmer Bath the originator of the mail coach system in England introduced into Ireland with very advantageous results It very early that it was only by the intervention of men of capital and the mail coach system could be introduced into Ireland with any prospect of success since in many cases the roads had to be made or re constructed before vehicles could be run upon them This double function by the Messrs Bourne By an act of the Irish Parliament an assignment of the revenues accruing from certain of the a period of years in consideration of the large outlay incurred by making those roads efficient and the lease of the road from Limerick thus assured to them expired only in 1848 Into this new Bourne entered with characteristic energy and he established mail communication between Dublin and Sligo Dublin and Galway and other places These avocations he pursued with great success profit until 1823 when in consequence of ill health he relinquished altogether.

Captain & Mrs Bourne from Martyn Downer’s site

Captain Bourne was born on the 27th of February 1770 at Fethard Castle county of Wexford in Ireland In November 1787  (??)he entered the navy being at that time attached to H MS Druid.   The Artizan ; A Monthly Journal of the Operative Arts – Page 244  1851

Capt Bourne RN a director of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Company (P&O Line) expired at his house in Blackheath Park on the 9th of October in the 81st year of his age.  Every one cognizant of of Capt Bourne’s character must feel that a great and good passed from among us and his death is to be regarded not more as of private grief than as a public misfortune He lived indeed to exceeding that usually permitted to humanity and he sunk without pain at last But the loss of such a man come when it may heavy affliction which is only to be mitigated by the reflection that all ordered and governed by infinite goodness and wisdom and weak repinings might suggest to the contrary that everything is the best .  Captain Bourne entered the navy at an early age and in the late war he saw much active service But it is chiefly as one of the founders of steam navigation and as the founder of the Peninsular his name will be remembered.   He was not indeed the projector of Company.   That merit belongs to Messrs Willcox and present managing directors of that undertaking.   But we believe we when we state that their efforts to form a company  were totally unavailing and it was at this point that Capt Bourne,   by his experience,  energy and means at once established The original fleet of the Peninsular Company consisted of the Don Juan Braganza Tagus Liverpool and Iberia to were subsequently added two others the Londonderry and Royal Tar.

Henry Bourne’s widow remained on at Springmount – Lewis’ Topography 1837 records Mrs Lucinda Bourne, Springmount.    She lived on for another 15 ywears –  In Brunswick-Sq. aged 78, Lucinda, relict of Henry Hawker Bourne, esq. of Spring- mount, Queen’s co. Gentlemans Magazine 1852

The next occupant was Francis Marsh, Esq., (born  11 June, 1817, d 25 Feb 1879); m. 17 July, 1838, Anna- Maria (who d 19 Feb 1890), youngest dau. of the late Arthur Maxwell, Esq. of Dublin, and had 7 sons and 3 daughters.  He presumably moved to Springmount at about the time of his marriage.

They were evangelical Christians (in the fashion of the time) and unlike other Anglo Irish landlords they stayed put during the famine and brought food in from England to feed their tenants and villagers. A soup wagon would leave Springmount at midday every day from the early 1840’s and do a circuit of Shanhoe and feed all and sundry. This practice only ended in the late 1930’s when the family ran out of money and closed the house


Francis’s parents were  Rev.Jeremy Marsh of Ballintubber, Queen’s County, and Sarah Connell,  and his grandparents were Francis Marsh, barrister-at-law, The Abbey, Stradbally, Queen’s County, and Anne Vero.

The watch given by Charles I to Bishop Jeremy Taylor remains in the possession of his descendant Francis Marsh of Springmount  (via Dr Francis Marsh, Archbishop of Dublin, predecessor of Narcissus march, and son in law of  the venerable and learned Jeremy Taylor, chaplain to Charles I)

The watch has been described as being plain and having only a single case with a gold dial plate the figures of which are raised.  The hands are of steel and the maker’s name is Jacobus Markwich Londini Originally it had no chain but went by means of catgut.  Bishop Taylor caused a second case of copper to be made for it covered with green velvet and studded with gold At the bottom the studs are so arranged as to represent a mitre surrounded by this motto Nescitis horam    Bonney p 368


Jeremy Taylor Marsh was born on 14 May 1841,was the eldest son of Francis Marsh of Springmount.  He obtained a commission in the Royal Engineers in 1861. Apart from a period of service in Gibraltar between 1864 and 1871, he spent all his army career in Great Britain and Ireland, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at the end of 1894. Towards the end of his career, he designed Marlborough Barracks in Dublin, built between 1888 and 1892 under the supersivion of Robert Martin Barklie . The 1911 census of Ireland records him as living at Blackhills, Abbeyleix, Co. Laois.   He may then have moved to England.  A Jeremy T. Marsh is recorded as dying at the age of seventy-five in Steyning, West Sussex, in 1917

Henry Marsh was born on 8 September 1850 in Ireland, the third son of Francis Marsh, a J. P. of Spring Mount, Queen’s County.[2] He attended Kingstown School, Ireland and went on to study at Royal Indian Engineering College at Cooper’s Hill. He was there from 1871–74 and obtained 1st class honours in Mathematics.  He became a member of the Member, Legislative Council, Uttar Pradesh from 1903 to 1905 and was eventually Secretary to Government (Irrigation Branch). His work in conjunction with the development of Irrigation in the Ganges and Jumna systems led to his being thanked by the Government of Uttar Pradesh He was later re-employed by the Government of India as Consulting Engineer for Irrigation in Central India.  He was also was a rugby union international who represented England in 1873 at Hamilton Crescent, Glasgow in the Scotland vs England match.

The fourth son inherited Springmount on his father’s death in 1879.  Robert Maxwell Marsh who was born in  1852  m 1893 Ellen Bowyer of Freshford in Somerset. An artist,  she appears in the Artists Yearbook 1908 and was exhibiting  at the Hibernian Academy’s Exhibition from  1904 – The Leader: A Review of Current Affairs, Politics, Literature, and Art singled out one her watercolours , and she loaned a painting of “A Little Brown Mouse” to the 1907 International Exhibition  After the 1916 rising she put in a claim for  £197 16s for 15 paintings destroyed by fire at the Royal Hibernian Academy, Abbey Street Lower, Dublin. Payment of £113 18s recommended by Committee.

Nore View Brownsbarn 1893
The River Nore at Thomastown by Ellen Bowyer

Daithi O Bricli records that there were a dozen indoor staff, “as well as a laundress in the laundry which was situated behind James Pratt’s house”

Their son Stephen Gilbert Bowyer Marsh went to Radley, joined the Royal Field Artillery in 1913 and served through the First World War, retiring as a Major.  In the 1920s Daithi O Bricli in “Shanahoe – A rich Area” recorsds that he drove around in a 2 seater Alvis, capable of 90 mph.    He married Ine Marsden (I M F Marsh)  and had two sons, Roy and Richard.    Ine was the daughter of Lt-Col Richard Travers Marsden and his redoubtable wife, Alexandrina Marsden (nee Carthew). Mrs Marsden was a Scottish catholic who made quite an impression on Shanahoe during the 1930’s .  She joined the French resistance in her 60’s and was the subject of a biography published by Odhams in the 1960’s (Resistance Nurse).

Apart from farming Springmount he also managed Annegrove Abbey for the Scotts – the heir was a lunatic.

A 1924 Alvis, but not Major Marsh

Very impoverished in the 30’s, he used to shoot rabbits to sell at the fair in Mountrath .  When the Second War broke out he gratefully re-joined the colours but died when his troopship was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean.  His widow subsequently sold Springmount in 1946.

O Bricli records that the house was sold to William Handcok, of Middlemount, who sold it a year later in 1947 to Samuel Gambel, who cut a lot of trees and sold the timber, and sold it in 1957 to William Shortall.


Note how the gardens have shrunk, and been replaced by agricultural buildings
From The Buildings of Ireland Survey


A Blast from The Past

Surfing the internet, I came across an article that I wrote in October  1986, exactly 30 years ago, which is copied below.  How strange to recall the months of research, the frustration of closed libraries and inaccessible records, the clacking typewriter and the eternal Tippex!  It was not until 1988 that my wife bought a Commodore 64, with a dot matrix printer.   Now I have Windows 10 and 50 Mbps – what joy!

Strangely not a lot has changed in Laois.  Several houses have been partly or fully brought back to life such as Knightsbrook, near Portarlington, Knockatrina at Durrow, and Brittas Castle.  Thomas Dobson  has restored elegance to Glenmalire and Sir David Davies has turned Abbeyleix into a temple to Wyatt.   Ray Simmons has made Woodbrook at Portarlington quite wonderful.  Several other houses have changed hands – hoteliers have replaced the church at Ballyfin and Durrow Castle.  John Hurt has left Ballintubbert, which is at present a wedding venue.   Capard has been through a couple of owners and now John Farrington’s elegant restoration is being redone to make it, reputedly, even smarter than Ballyfin (surely not possible?).  But there are still Hamiltons at Moyne, Cosbys at Stradbally,  Walsh-Kemmis’ at Ballykilcavan and Blands at Blandsfort.

County Houses of Laois

Laois, according to the Victorian travel writers Mr. and Mrs. Hall possesses no features of distinguishing character and may be so dismissed. As they speed from Dublin to Limerick and Cork modern travellers notice nothing of Laois except the quality of the main roads. But if they venture a mile or two off the highway and onto the byways they will find some of Ireland’s finest architectural heritage, from the simple charm of Cecil Day Lewis’s childhood home at Ballintubbert House, near Stradbally, now the home of actor John Hurt, to the ruined magnificence of the O’Dunnes Brittas Castle. There are half a dozen houses in Laois which qualify for the description of stately home, massive mansions surrounded by great parks and once furnished with the finest antiques and paintings. There are at least two dozen houses of national architectural importance, and there are countless smaller homes built for the strong farmers of the 18th century which have a charm and character that make them uniquely appealing.

Though once home of the wild chieftains, Laois’ rich lands, mineral resources and geographical importance meant that from the 16th century colonists had sought land here. The O’Moores, Magiollopadraigs and O’Dunnes were harassed by the seven tribes -Hartepole, Cosby, Bowen, Barrington, Ruish, Hetherington , and Hovenden. They were followed a century later by the Piggots, Cootes, Priors, Parnells, Poles and Cuffes. While traditionally the big houses have been identified with English ascendancy it is worth remembering that many who were rich and Protestant were actually Irish, like the Fitzpatrick’s of Grantstown and the Dunnes who built the battlement-ed sandstone mansion Brittas Castle to the design of McCurdie in 1869.

Conversely many English and Norman settlers remained Catholics and became “more Irish than the Irish” in the words of one frustrated Viceroy. It also comes as a surprise to many to discover that most of the “Big Houses” were in the eighteenth century considered to be farmhouses, surrounded not by thousands of acres and a multitude of tenants but farming four or five hundred acres – the middle classes of their day. Indeed some of the most remarkable of Laois men came from houses which would be modest even by today’s standards – hardly a stone remains of Sir Jonah Barrington’s house at Cullenagh near Timahoe, but it was certainly no mansion. His birthplace, in 1760, was Knapton House which was rebuilt in 1770 by Colonel Piggot and apparently inhabited by the Vesey family while their house was under construction.

Dr. Bartholomew Mosse’s home between Portlaoise and Stradbally is now only marked by a forestry plantation. Patrick and James Fintan Lalor’s home, Tinakill near Shanahoe stands in ruins, a modest late 18th century two stories house three bays wide with an attic storey squeezed in under the caves, similar to the nearby Fruitlawn House which was once the agent’s house for the Abbeyleix estate.

Few of the unfortified dwellings built before 1720 remain. The ivy clad chimney stacks of Castle Cuffe near Clonaslee show how ill prepared Sir Charles Coote was for the rebels who destroyed it in 1641. Near the Green Cross Roads, north of Ballybrophy stands the empty shell of a mid 17th century house while at Rush Hall on the main road from Mountrath to Roscrea are the ruins of another larger 17th century house.

At Aghaboe a barn building was once a late 17th century residence and had till recently traces of a spiral stone staircase and plaster panelling. To the south of Durrow is Edmonsbury which with it’s massive chimney stacks and high pitched roof probably dates from the very early 1700’s, a similar date to Raheenduff near Stradbally which is a two storey house with windows. Shrule Castle, on the Carlow borders, which was the principal seat of the Hartlepoles and home of the historian William Lecky was demolished in the 1940s. All that remains is the 16th century tower house with a chimney piece dated 1576 and the initials R.H.

The first country house of importance that still stands in close to its original condition is Castle Durrow. Colonel William Fowler started the present house around 1712 and it is one of the few 18th century houses for which precise building records survive. In 1714 a slater called Andrew Moore of Ballyragget was engaged in roofing but his work was so bad that in 1722 his work had to be redone. Some things never change!

By 1714 the windows were being glazed by Francis Trumbull but work was still underway in 1726 when John Rudd was paid £21 for 229.5 yards of oak wainscot and 10.25 yards of floor for the dining room and in 1737 Trumbull was still glazing. The mason who provided the pinkish grey cut limestone from which the house is built was Benjamin Demane of Kilkenny. In 1922 the banks foreclosed and the Viscount Ashbrooke went to England. The house has been very well maintained by the Presentation Nuns, but most of the original decoration is long since gone. However a couple of rooms have retained their panelling and the room to the left of the hall still has the 1717 plasterwork of Thomas Lett and John Thompson – geometrical borders, heavy baskets filled with flowers and rosette and shell motifs.

As a piece of pure architecture Summer Grove is probably one of the finest examples in the country. John Sabatier, a Hugenot, bought the land in December 1736 and the house was apparently built by 1748, though the interior detailing may not have been finished until a decade later. The facade has all the elements of classical architecture – a Gibbsian doorcase below a Venetian window with, in the pediment, a Diocletian window, while the front of the house is of two storeys a triple doored screen in the hall leads down to the kitchens and up to bedrooms on three levels, giving large high ceilinged rooms at the front of the house and cosier chambers at the back. The front of the building is constructed from very small cut stone blocks.

Nearby on the side of the Slieve Blooms is Capard House, overlooking the Quaker village of Rosenallis. Capard is an immensely impressive neo-classical house built by John Pigott. Poor Mr. Pigott, he started the house with great notions of grandeur. It was to be “one of the most extensive mansions in the kingdom, extending upwards of 220 feet”. Built from limestone quarried on the estate, Pigott’s intention was to create wealth and employment in the area. His plan was to triple the size of an existing house built in 1742, which itself had replaced Sir John Dowdall’s 16th century tower house. However he took the rebellion of 1798 as a personal plight and gave up his ambitious plans when they were only half completed, moving to England for a decade.

For all its grandeur there were very few large rooms -the servants block to the north, under which runs a mountains stream, is as big as the many house. Painted on the wall of the staircase hall is a family tree of the Pigotts, just in case they should ever forget who they were. In the yard is a sawmill dating from about 1750. It is a charming building in pure Palladian style.

In similar style, but on a scale that is truly magnificent is Ballyfin, described by Mark Bence Jones in his guide to Irish Country Houses as the grandest and most lavish 19th century house in Ireland. The original house of the Poles is illustrated in Milton’s Views of Seats and was the home of the Duke of Wellington’s brother but he sold it in 1821 and Sir Charles Coote employed an architect called Dominick Madden to design a new mansion. When the first stage of the house had been completed he called in Sir Richard and William Morrison, the most fashionable architects of the day, to complete the work. The front of the house, built of cut local sandstone, is thirteen bays or windows wide, in the middle of which is a massive Ionic portico.

The front hall has ben described as an austere room, with a roman mosaic floor, but beyond it is a vast rectangular top lit saloon with screens of composite Ionic columns, an inlaid floor and a coved ceiling entrusted with plasterwork more ornate than any wedding cake. There is a green and gild music room with carved and gilded musical instruments in panels on the walls and a wonderful white marble fireplace, its shelf held up by statues of two muscular Romans. The West end of the house is entirely taken up with a 70 foot long library, with a large bow window half way along, opposite the door. From the library one can go out into Richard Turner’s elegant 1850’s conservatory. Turner also made the conservatory at Glasnevin and Kew.

The grounds are as superb as the house, having been laid out by the distinguished Irish landscape gardener John Sutherland, who worked for both the Pole and the Cootes. His coup de grace is the medieval round castle, complete with turrets, moat and drawbridge. In 1929 Sir Ralph Coote sold the house and 600 acres for £10,000 to the patrician Brothers who use it as a school.

Another house associated with an internationally famous name is Woodbrook near Portarlington. It was built in 1712 by Knightly Chetwoode with the help and advice of his friend Dean Swift. Nothing to do with a sylvan stream, its name is a combination of Chetwoode and Brooking, his wife’s maiden name. Damaged during the rebellion of 1798, a new front was added in 1815 with inlaid oak floors and a vaulted ceiling. The drawing room has superb murals by E. Hayes of various Highland castles, painted to honour the Scottish bride of a mid 19th century Chetwoode.

It had until a recent demolition a four storey polygonal tower from which the surrounding countryside could be surveyed and an 18th century galleried kitchen, from which the mistress of the house could observe the cook’s labours. The delightful wooded parkland including an avenue of trees planted by Swift and a long canal also planned by the Dean was cleared away in the name of progress.

Not all the important Laois houses are enormous. Mount Henry at Portarlington, now a Presentation convent, was built in about 1820 for Henry Smyth to the designs of Richard Morrison. It is a square two storey house with a later wing. A porticoed front door is set back between symmetrical bays. The stone floored front hall has a screen of columns and a small circular gallery lets in light from a roof lantern. On the other hand another Laois House that Morrison worked on was Emo Court, which is massive. Emo, a corruption of the Irish townland name Imoe, replaced Lord Carlow’s earlier house, Dawson’s Court.

In 1790 his son, the Earl of Portarlington, commissioned James Gandon, of The Customs House and Four Courts fame, to design the house, but it was not completed until 1860 when the great copper domed rotunda was put on by the Dublin architect William Caldbeck. In the intervening years the English architect Lewis Vuklliamy had completed the garden front giving it the giant portico and a Dublin architect called Williamson had done up the interiors.

In the late 19th century it nearly became the home of Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, who knew Laois well from his friendship with Barney Fitzpatrick, Lord Castletown. However it was not sold until 1930 when it became a Jesuit seminary. It was then that various naked classical statues were dumped in the lake, lest they distract the meditations of the seminarians.

In 1969 it was brought by Mr. Chomeley-Harrison who has since restored it and executed several of the various designers’ original intentions that were never carried out, such as Gandon’s trompe I’oeils in the entrance hall. Generally decoration is quite restrained throughout the house – the beautifully proportioned drawing room with its bow window has nothing more exotic than two pairs of marble columns. A circular dining room has an ornate ceiling, but the central rotunda is the piece de resistance.

A circular room with an intricately inlaid wooden floor, marbled plasters rising the full height to the dome above and plaster panels on the walls, it is an astonishing space.

Gandon’s great rival was Wyatt and it was to Wyatt that Thomas Vesey turned in 1773 to design a new house at Abbeyleix. An impressive block of a house it is 7 bays wide and 3 storeys over a basement. Inside the ceilings and walls are decorated with Wyatt’s classical plasterwork, while the drawing room is hung with a beautiful 19th century blue wall paper.

The formal gardens were laid out in 1839 by Lady Emma Herbert and based on her memories of her Russian grandfather’s garden at Alupka, near Yalta in the Crimea, though at Abbeyleix a pond replaces the spread of the sea.

Local tradition has it that a Russian relation of hers planted the poplars that line the road to Ballacolla. A disgraceful story told of Abbeyleix is that at a family christening in the 19th century the entire company became very inebriated before the ceremony. Driving the short distance to the church in an open carriage they upended themselves in a ditch. In the ensuing confusion Lady de Vesci’s pet terrier was wrapped in the swaddling clothes instead of the baby and duly christened in the church.

Another tale of Abbeyleix relates to Arthur McMurrough Kavanagh of Borris who despite being born with no arms or legs managed to live a full life as explorer, sportsman and politician. Arriving at Abbeyleix station one day for a shoot, the station master, as he helped to lift him off the train, said, “Welcome back to Abbeyleix, Mr. Kavanagh”. Later in the day while shooting with one of the guns that he had specially adapted to strap onto his shoulders, Kavanagh commented “Amazing, I have not been here for over 15 years and the station master recognised me!”. Abbeyleix remains as fine a house as ever.

Rathleague House, near Portlaoise the home of the Parnells has not faired so well for in the 18th century it was described as being one of the finest mansions in the country whose “well ornamented pleasure grounds boasted a conspicuous temple”. The Parnell responsible for the improvements was a great socialite but was born dumb. His nephew, Charles Stewart Parnell, had no such problems!

By the 1840’s the house had fallen into considerable disrepair and the present house is but a pale shadow of the mansion that once stood there. It’s neighbour, Sheffield, a mid 18th century three storey gable ended house of the Casan family with a door case identical to Roundwood, has completely disappeared. Stradbally Hall is still the home of the Cosbys, the only one of the Queens County tribes to have survived in their ancestral lands until the 20th century.

Described by Brewer in his Antiquities of Ireland in 1826 as a commodious and eligible mansion, the first house was an O’Moore fortified tower which was obtained by the Cosbys during the reign of Queen Mary. This first Cosby fell in battle with the O’Byrnes at the age of 70 in 1580 having built himself a new castle with the stones of a Franciscan Friary.

The house was enlarged in 1714 and a new front was added sometime after 1740, possibly to the designs of John Aheron, but in 1772 everything was demolished. The new house was built under the direction of one Arthur Roberts. This was the building which was enlarged and reclad to the designs of Sir Charles Lanyon in 1866-69. Inside there are some rooms with their original simple late 18th century plasterwork and others, like the top lit gallery at the head of the oak staircase, display the height of Victoriana with pink marble columns and elaborate decorative details. Sir Jonah Barrington has a delightful account of a dinner party at Stradbally at which a certain half blind Dr. Jenkins was sitting next to his host, Admiral Cosby.

Mistaking the admirals gnarled brown fist for a bread roll he thrust his fork into it with uproarious consequences. Just outside Stradbally is Ballykilcavan, the home of the Walsh Kemmis family. It’s most famous occupant was actually a member of the staff – William Robinson (1838-1937). He was born in Stradbally and became head gardener at Ballykilcavan. His book, “The Wild Garden”, published in 1870, was a reaction against the Victorian formal garden and brought about the fashion for the more naturalistic borders of the cottage garden – “unadorned nature” was his style. He left Ballykilcavan in 1861 having had a violent row with his employer and on the night he left he extinguished all the heaters in the greenhouses and opened the windows so that the following morning the entire collection of tropical plants were dead. The land was bought from the Hartepoles in 1639 by the Walshs of the Mountain, a Kilkenny clan.

The present house incorporates the late 17th century house built by the second Walsh to live there but it was enlarged and modernised both at the beginning and the end of the 18th century, though the latter improvements were never completed due to the rebellion of 1798. Gracefield which is also in the east of the county, was the seat of the Grace family, whose name was originally Le Gros – “the fat”. From 1785 to 1814 Gracefield was unoccupied and the early 18th century house fell into severe disrepair. Nash, the prince regent’s architect was commissioned to design a new house, William Robertson overseeing the work.

A contemporary description still accurate: “It’s varied outline, irregular exterior, and the gothic labels over the windows give it an animated and picturesque character”. It cost £5,000 to build at a time when skilled masons and carpenters were being paid 12.5p a day, while labourers got 5 pence. Sutherland, who was working at Ballyfin, laid out the gardens.

Heywood at Ballinakill still has fabulous gardens. It was built in 1773 Frederick Trench, the only man, according to Mark Bence Jones, ever to name a house after his mother-in-law for Heywood was his mother-in-law’s maiden name. Trench was an amateur architect who had worked with Richard Johnston on the Assembly Rooms next to the Rotunda Hospital.

There is some suggestion that Gandon may have given him some advice on the design of the house as well. The original four bay three storey house has superb Adamesque decoration in the dining room. It was subsequently enlarged in Victorian railway station style in the 1870s and in 1879 and 1880 hosted the Empress Elizabeth of Austria who came to Ireland for the hunting.

Trench devoted great care and attention to the layout and he transported a window form Aghaboe Abbey to create a gothic folly on the avenue. Heywood passed to the Poe family, (cousins of Edgar Allen Poe), and in 1906 William Hutchenson Poe commissioned Sir Edwin Lutyens to design the compartmental gardens.

Terraces, pergolas with ionic columns, a yew garden and an elliptical pool with loggia are all features of the layout, which is the finest early 20th century garden in Ireland. The cost was far in excess of the estimate and although Poe paid up, his influence on Lutyens extravagance nearly lost Luteyns the job of building New Delhi. Close to Heywood is Blandsfort. This house was built on the ruins of an O’Moore keep in 1715 and some rooms still have bolection moulded panelling from that period.

The gardens are by James Fraser, an early 19th century Scottish gardener who was a great influence in breaking away form the Capability Brown type of parkland naturalism. There is also on the demesne an important conifer arboretum.

Another Bland family house is Rath House which was the home of the Dease family from Westmeath from 1838. They intermarried with the Grattans and Blands. A classical house of the early 1800s, it has two storeys over a basement, an oval entrance hall and a fine library or drawing room with ornate plasterwork. There is a Victorian conservatory and a small gothic chapel.

Grantstown Manor also had a chapel in the 1800s. However much of this late Georgian and Victorian house was destroyed by fire in 1977. It was the home of Barney Fitzpatrick, second and last Lord Castletown, who remodelled it. Lord Castletown was a passionate sportsman and entertained Edward VII to duck shooting here. It was finally sold out of the Fitzpatrick family in 1947.

During the War of Independence the I.R.A. came knocking one evening looking for guns. Lord Castletown was reputed to have come to an arrangement with his gamekeeper, who was in the I.R.A.The gamekeeper kept custody of the guns but whenever a days shooting was required they would be available, so the search of the house was fruitless. However he had a long chat with the men, who were not locals, in Irish, much to their surprise, and tried to persuade them to join his family in a rubber of bridge, an invitation they declined on the grounds that their masks might alarm the ladies!

Within sight of Grantstown is Cuffesborough, a distinguished but typical example of the homes of the prosperous middle class farmers of the 18th century. It has a drawing room, a dining room, with a concealed cupb6ard behind the shutters for the chamber pot which was much used after dinner, four bedrooms and a barrack room – a large room where all the guests slept in dormitory conditions. The house has pretensions of great grandeur – the front hall was originally decorated in faux stone blocks alternate white and grey oblongs spattered to give them the look of masonry. The basement is built of rubble stone but when the builders got to the ground floor windows they changed to cut stone blocks – presumably a cheap source of cut stone must have been discovered.  The 400 acre estate got its name from a 16th century vicar of Abbeyleix, one of the first Cuffes in Ireland. In the 1760s it was bought by the young Henry Grattan as , to use today’s terminology “a non residential farm”. Like many a modern speculator he built the house and yards and sold it on at a profit. It was bought by the Palmers from whom the show jumper Lucinda Prior Palmer is descended, but when the family moved up to Mayo a Dublin auctioneer called Cuffe acquired it so that he became Mr. Cuffe of Cuffesborough. Sadly when the land commission divided the lands it was allowed to fall into ruin but was rescued at the eleventh hour. During the restoration it was discovered that many of the rooms had been redecorated only once in the last 200 years!  <NB – some of this information is incorrect and has been revised in light of later research.  See separate entry for Cuffsborough>

Grattan undertook several such developments in Laois but his closest tie with the county is at Dunrally. Awarded £50,00 in the 1780s by the Irish government for his services to the country (in those days politicians were not paid), he bought a considerable portion of the Cosby ‘s estate. On the banks of the Barrow he built a house within an old fort at Dunrally. Judging from the ruins that remain this can never have been more than a cottage for picnics and indeed he called it his hermitage.

Near Cuffesborough is Aghaboe, which was once a city of 1,300 dwellings. In the 1770s only one stone house is marked which appears from Taylor & Skinner’s maps to have been used as the rectory of Dr. Ledwich, the noted antiquarian.

A rectory was built in 1820 and the old house became the home of a branch of the White family whose homes included Coolnagpor at Coolrain, Ballybrophy or Court Plunket House, (the present ruin near the railway station is an early 19th century two storey over basement five bay house of rendered rubblestone with cut stone pediments over the ground floor windows and a doorway with a wide fanlight sheltered by a porch supported on two pairs of doric columns which they rented from the Duke of Chandos and Buckingham), Raheen at Borris and Knocknatrina, the splendid Tudor-gothic above Durrow.

Aghaboe was the birthplace of General White, who commanded the 17th lancers in the Crimea and whose ghost is said to walk the Abbey Field. Aghaboe has gone through many metamorphoses. The old barn to the North and a section of the present house were originally a pair of 17th century houses with identical plans and window layouts. In the mid 18th century a new front of two storeys over basement was added and then in the mid 19th century the house was turned around to face South and the 18th century doorcase was moved to the back of the 17th century house. Aghaboe also stood empty for many years, its woodwork vandalised, its Adamesque black marble fireplaces stolen. Fortunately however it too has found a saviour and is in the course of being restored.

Roundwood at Mountrath was another house which looked set to sink into ruin before the Irish Georgian Society and the late Brian Molloy undertook it’s restoration in 1970. Although once attributed to Francis Bindon, the actual architect of Roundwood is still shrouded in mystery. It is typical of that type of house classed by the architectural historian Maurice Craig as being a classic Irish house of the middle size. As at Cuffesborough and Aghaboe the carved stone doorcase is of a different quality from the rest of the stone work. It is a nice idea that in the 18th century you could go to the local hardware store and select your particular door case from the pattern books.

It was built around 1750 for Mr. Flood Sharp, a wool merchant, the front in cut stone, the sides in rendered rubble stone. It has four rooms on each floor with a grand Chinese Chippendale galleried staircase leading to the first floor while the top floor is served only by the modest back stairs. It has cellars rather than a basement and the kitchens, normally to be found in the basement, were in the range of building which remained from the original late 17th/early18th century house.

Roundwood is now the home of Frank and Rosemary Kennan who run it as a most excellent country house hotel, despite the odd ghostly child in the bushes or tombstone in the stables. Sadly many of the country house of Laois are either in an advanced state of dereliction or have disappeared for ever. There are places like the Adair’s Bellegrove, Ballybrittas a U shaped Regency house which had an Italianate Romanesque winter garden designed by Sir Thomas Deane, the most talented late 19th century architect working in Ireland. The pillars he copied from the basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.

J.G. Adair rose to infamy when he evicted all the tenants from his Donegal estate at Glenveigh Castle, though the grandson of one of the tenants having made his fortune in America bought the estate back in 1938. Bellegrove was burnt and then finally demolished in 1970. Ballyshaneduff or The Derries stood next door. It was built in 1810 on the site of an O’Dempsey tower for the Alloway family. Remodelled and rebuilt in the mid 19th century it ended up two hundred feet long with battlements, pointed doors and windows. It must have been an impressive place. Now there are only trees there.

Brockley Park at Stradbally was a targe three storey house built in 1768 for the Earl of Roden by Davis Ducart, the Sardinian architect who designed some of the finest houses in Munster. It had superb plasterwork but in 1944 it was dismantled and more recently completely destroyed. Coolrain House is in ruins, amid 18th century cut stone, pedimented two storey gabled ended house which had a formal canal and a ha-ha in the grounds. Dunmore House at Durrow was a three storey gable ended house of the 1700s demolished within the last twenty years.

Glenmalire House at Ballybrittas stands empty and in need. A fine Regency two storey over basement cut stone house it was built by the Trench family on the site of a Fitzgerald castle. There was Old Derig, near Carlow, once home to John Doyle, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, a fine three storey house of the 1740s, Thornberry House, Abbeyleix, The Croker’s late 18th century five bay house with a wide fanlit doorway in a projecting bow. There was Phillipsborough, a fine three storey house with excellent details and a round panelled front door, a design usually associated with Limerick. It became hard-core in the 1980s.

The walls of the servant’s attics at Phillipsboro was decorated in graffiti libelling the Phillips’ and dating back to the 18th century. Farmleigh House “built with great taste and judgement” by William Pigot in the 1790s and Annagrove Abbey have gone and Donore, the home of the Despard family is no more than a romantic shell. Designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, the architect responsible for Castletown House, Ceibridge. Knoghtstown, is a very fine two storey house with a cut stone pedimented doorcase, a Venetian window and some interesting mid 18th century joinery. Now it serves as a nest for rooks and rats.

From Garrydenny Castle on the Carlow-Kilkenny border to the ruinous Landsdowne Park, a once elegant and much enlarged home of the Moore family, Earls of Drogheda overlooking the Barrow on the Kildare-Offaly border, fromBrittas Castle in the Slieve Blooms to Erke Rectory on the Tipperary-Kilkenny border in the South, the catalogue of Laois’s lost or ruined houses has over 70 entries.


Royal Scandals, Foreigners & Fundamentalists.

Edmundsbury House, Newtown


Five-bay two-storey early-Georgian house, built c.1740. Extended, c.1990, comprising three-bay single-storey wing. Double-pitched slate roof with nap rendered chimneystacks. Roughcast rendered walls, painted, with rendered quoins. Square-headed window openings with limestone sills, six-over-six timber sash windows to front and single-pane timber sash windows to rear. Square-headed door opening with limestone doorcase with segmental pediment over and timber panelled door. Interior not inspected. Set back from road in own grounds; landscaped grounds to site. Pair of freestanding stone towers to site on circular plans. Group of detached outbuildings to site.  The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is rather restrained. Not enthusing about its early features – the massive chimney stacks and high pitched roof.   I have not seen inside, but  Dominic Hamilton recalled that it had raised and fielded panelling covered by hardboard.  The OS 6” map marks  a Cerses statue ( Goddess of agriculture, grain crops, & fertility) on the park in front of the house (gone by the time the 25” map was done 50 years later) and the turrets are most interesting – They do not appear on the earlier map. so are not likely to be the  remnants of a bawn, but maybe of a 19th century gardening scheme?




The house was built by  Edmund Butler in the reign of King George II, at about the time that his wife Queen Caroline died (on her deathbed in 1737, she urged he husband to marry again.  He is said to have tearfully answered “No, I’ll have mistresses.” )   The other famous quote attributed to George II, which might be echoed by Ireland’s present Department of Regional Development,  Rural Affairs, Gaeltcht, Arts and Heritage, was “I hate bainting, and boetry too!  Neither the one nor the other ever did any good.”

The genealogy of the Butler’s of Edmundsbury is summarised in  Kilpatrick’s chapel at Augustinian  Fertagh Priory,  which is beside the Round Tower on the back road from Galmoy to the Johnstown Road.  It is also known as Beggar’s  Inn.    There are  monuments to Mrs. Elizabeth Butler of Wilton, who died in 1817, aged 75 ; and her father-in-law, Mr. Edmund Butler of Edmundsbury, who died in 1759, aged 62, and his wife Anne Skellerin of Chester  who died in 1787, aged 87,  dau of Rev. Hugh Skellern of Killeshandra.  Carrigan writes that “ The said Edmund Butler, of Edmundsbury House, Newtown, Currow, ancestor of William Butler, Esq., J. P., Wilton, became a Protestant in 1719. He was son of Major Pierce Butler, of Mustard’s Garden, Fertagh, died circa 1716  (Mustard’s Garden was also known as Steepleview House and dated from before 1655, in which year it appears on the Down Survey as a ” chimney ” house.  It was still standing at the end of the 18th Century when the Rev John Cody, PP of Johnstown, died there.) ; son of Major Edmond Butler of Killashoolan, slain at Aughrim, fighting on the side of King James, in 1691 ; son of Pierce Butler of Barrowmount (between Goresbridge and Duiske Abbey) who was executed in England, as a royalist, in 1650 ; son of Sir Edmond Butler of Barrowmount, who was raised to the Peerage as Lord Galmoy, in 1646, and died in 1653 ; son of Pierce Butler of the Old Abbey (died in 1603), an illegitimate son of Thomas, 10th Earl of Ormond, The Black Earl”    Black Tom fathered 11 children but unfortunately no sons who reached adulthood by any of his three wives.  James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormond, was known as “The White Earl”  Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond,  was known as “The Wool Earl”;  Piers Butler the 8th Earl was known as The Red Earl.   Some suggest that Black Tom won his spurs and possibly his nickname when suppressing the rebellion against Queen Mary of Sir Thomas Wyatt, called White Tom.


The Round Tower at Fertagh

The Tudorplace website recites the highly improbable but amusing rumour about Pierce Butler:-
His [Thomas’, 10th Earl of Ormond] will so favoured his eldest illegitimate son, Piers, as to suggest that the mother of Piers of Duiske was someone of great importance. Indeed, there is not lacking
circumstantial evidence to support the persistent and rather startling rumour that the Virgin Queen bore him Piers Butler of Duiske, the father of Edmund, 1st Viscount Galmoy.  Towards the end of 1553 she had the opportunity to conceive Piers Butler; in Feb 1554 she was said to be pregnant at Ashbridge. In May, when offered physicians at Woodstock, she announced: ‘I am not minded to make any stranger privy to the state of my body but commit it to God’.


Black Tom

Pierce was married to Catherine Flemming, the daughter and co heir of Thomas Flemming, 16th Baron Slane, and his wife Catherine Preston, daughter of Lord Gormanston, all old Catholic families.

In  1787 Ann Butler, the relict of John Butler of Edmonsdbury, died – John was presumably a brother of Edward.

Edward Butler’s sister Anne married  James Scott of Annegrove

In November 1 759, the year of his father’s death, Edward Butler (1732-1816) of Edmundsbury married Sarah Harrington of Baltinglass,  daughter and heiress  of Anderson Harrington of Grange Con    (Dublin Prerogative Marriage Licenses).  Strangely the marriage settlement was dated 15 December 1763.   He married secondly in 1766 Mary Walsh (bur 18.01.1815,) dau of Rev. John Walsh of Kilcooly. He and Mary Walsh had 3 sons and 3 daughters.   He was practising  as an Attorney in the King’s Bench and Exchequer Courts before 1793.   An attorney was one who practiced civil law- contracts, torts, and property.  In the 19th century the various para-legals all were branded as solicitors.  A lawyer  referred to one who practiced public law- Criminal and Constitutional; A counselor refers to one of the many roles lawyers/attorneys serve. They are not there only to advocate for their clients in a trial; they are also there to give advice and counsel their clients.   A barrister is a person called to the bar and entitled to practise as an advocate, particularly in the higher courts.

Their son Edmond Butler of Edmundsbury (d before 08.10.1815)  m. (c04.1794) Frances Madden (d 1834, dau of Rev.Samuel Madden of Kilkenny)

Edmond and Frances had 5 children, and their eldest Reverend Piers Edmund Butler married Mary, the daughter of Henry Sheares,  lawyer and United Irishman, who was executed after the 1798 rising.  Their descendants include Judge Butler-Sloss.  Their daughter Catherine married  Reverend Wilberforce Caulfeild, the great great grandson of the 2nd Viscount Charlemont, and the great grandfather of the 14th Viscount, such are the vagaries of inheritance.

In  1827  the Freeman’s Journal advertised:- To let house & demesne of Edmundsbury, 82a, 2 m of Durrow, 6 of Johnstown, adjoining coach road from Dublin to Cork (by Cashel), .

In 1837 Lewis notes that it was the seat of   Capt. E. C.Thompson, probably one of the Thompsons of Durrow, Harriston and Borris Castle.  Beyond a couple of references to him in Hart’s Army List little is known of his life.

Piers Butler and Mary Sheares’ son Reverend Piers Butler was born on 27 February 1826.  He married Sophia Lever on 15 January 1852.1 He died on 18 November 1886 at age 60.
He graduated from Trinity College in 1850 and from 1851 to 1853 was the curate at Southrepps in Norfolk.  He leased Edmundsbury for 51 years to John Hungerford Switzer on 29 November 1856

The Switzers, who lived there till the 1920s, came from Farrenmurray, just to the North of Johnstown, on the West of the main road.  They were descended from Christopher Switzer, buried in Kilcooly Church of Ireland, who was born in 1716 who was probably a son of Michael Switzer of Rathkeale;   James Switzer, a Quaker philanthropist, who built the barracks and Switser’s Asylum on the Bennetsbridge road in Kilkenny and whose descendant founded the department store in Grafton Street now occupied by Brown Thomas, was probably also a descendant of Christopher.


St James’ Asylum, Kilkenny           Picture courtesy NIAH

Hans Jacob Schweitzer was born in 1620, in Assenheim, Pfalz am Rhein, Germany.  One of his six sons was Johann Jacob Schweitzer (1656-1746) whose children were Michael  Schweitzer born, 1681 and Christopher Schweitzer, born 1686.   1688 saw the first shots of the Nine Years War between Louis XIV of France and the Grand Alliance of the rest of Europe – the Battle of the Boyne was a side show in this war as was King William’s War in North America, between French and English settlers.  Louis XIV had pretensions in the Palatinate in the name of his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Charlotte.  Realising that the war in Germany was not going to end quickly and that the Rhineland blitz would not be a brief and decisive parade of French glory, Louis resolved upon a scorched-earth policy in the Palatinate, Baden and Württemberg, intent on denying enemy troops local resources and prevent them from invading French territory.

On 2 March 1689 Count of Tessé torched Heidelberg; on 8 March Montclar levelled Mannheim. Oppenheim and Worms were finally destroyed on 31 May, followed by Speyer on 1 June, and Bingen on 4 June. In all, French troops burnt over 20 substantial towns as well as numerous villages.  The peasants struggled on, but a disastrous winter in 1708 destroyed most of their vines, and agents from America, particularly the Carolinas, were active in trying to promote emigration to the New World.

Some 13,000 Germans migrated to England between May and November 1709, hoping to get to America. Their arrival in England, and the inability of the British Government to integrate them, caused a highly politicized debate over the merits of immigration. The English tried to settle them in England, Ireland and the Colonies.

The Tories and members of the High Church Party were dismayed by the numbers of “Poor Palatines” amassing in the fields of Southeast London. Long-standing opponents of naturalization, the Tories condemned the Whig assertions that the immigrants would be beneficial to the economy, as they were already an acute financial burden.

Michael  Switzer had procured a passport signed by the court on May 4, 1709. The passport basically stated that he was born in the Village of Assenheim, near Hochdorf, and that he should be given safe passage to seek his fortune in Pennsylvania in the Americas.  The trip to the Dutch coast took 4 to 6 weeks.   By early June the immigrants where flocking into Rotterdam.   A few Dutch ship owners where commissioned by the Duke of Marlborough, whom Queen Anne had made responsible for transporting the displaced Germans to England.  “Good Queen Anne” and her commissioners thought that surely all these convinced Protestants would strengthen the anti-Roman feeling in Britain.

The sailing ships from Rotterdam landed at Deptford near London.   Michael and his family were sent to refugee camps at Blackheath upon arrival in England, June 2, 1709.  Each family was presented with a 9 pound loaf of bread as “white as fallen snow” – a curiosity to the Germans who were used only to dark bread.


Contemporary Woodcut, showing the Palatines encamped on Blackheath outside London. Courtesy of the Widener Library, Harvard University.

Figures vary, but probably 3,073 Palatines were brought to Ireland in 1709.  821 families were settled as agricultural tenants on the estates of Anglo-Irish landlords. However, many of the settlers failed to permanently establish themselves and, treated badly by landlords and harassed by Catholic Irish neighbours,  567 families were reported to have left their holdings, with many returning to England, in far worse condition than when they had left.   By 1712 only around 1,200 of the Palatines remained in Ireland.   Some contemporary opinion blamed the Palatines themselves for the failure of the settlement. William King, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, claimed “I conceive their design ’tis but to eat and drink at Her Majesty’s cost, live idle and complain against those that maintain them.” However, the real reason for the failure appears to be that the settlement lacked political support from the High Church Tories, who generally opposed foreign involvement and saw the settlers as potential Dissenters rather than buttresses to their own established church.

It is remarkable that 400 years later the same ignorance, prejudice and stupidity abounds in the world, with Brexiteers, Trump supporters, Marine Le Pen, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.   Foreigners, of a different religion, and, worst of all, poor.  Let them die in their birthplace.  The notion that an influx of hard working Germans might have been good for the economy is clearly misguided at best, but more probably the subversive idea of someone with evil intentions to undermine our country – Eurocrats or the British Dirty Tricks Department.  I am reminded of my own happy days in the British Civil Service (many years ago, of course;  this sort of thing does not happen nowadays) when hard workers were gently discouraged – lest the rest of us should appear idle.   Surely it is possible for humanity to rise above base selfishness and greed?

The Switzers were lucky.  On August 8, 1709, Michael and his family left in wagons to go to Chester to embark there for Ireland. The trip was about 120 miles.  From Chester, they sailed in schooners up the Mersey and across the sea to Dublin. The trip to Ireland took about 24 hours.   Sir Thomas Southwell chose experienced husbandmen and some weavers for his estates in County Limerick.  All of the Palentine men were issued muskets, although Irish Catholic tenants throughout the country had been disarmed.  Later the Palentines where to be enrolled in a Militia unit of their own – The German Fusiliers, or “True Blues”.

By the 1930s Edmondsbury was the home of the Jacob family.  The Jacob family have shown much religious fervor over the centuries, but in many guises.  Arriving into Ireland at the beginning of the 17th Century from Cambridgeshire, they were originally Calvinists. In Laois there were three generations at Knockfin in the latter half of the 18th century who were noted doctors.  Arthur Jacob of Knockfin  (1790 -1874)  founded the first eye hostpital in Dublin in 1829.   One branch of the family became noted Quakers.   In the 1940s the Kilkenny People reported :-  “ On holiday from Johannesburg is Mother Dorothea , eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob , Edmundsbury House. Whose son, Brother Romanus,  is a priest at Knockbeg”  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.  Personally I believe in Kimberley, Mikado and Coconut Cream, created by the Waterford branch of the Jacob’s family.


Belmont House

Belmount, Belmont, Bellmont or The Lodge


The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage describes Belmont thus:-

Detached single-storey house, built c.1860, with loggia to front, canted bay windows and advanced end bays. Double-pitched slate roof with nap rendered chimney stacks, sprockets to gables and overhanging eaves and verges. Nap rendered walls. Lancet-arch window openings with limestone sills and two-over-two timber sash windows. Square-headed door opening with timber panelled door. Interior not inspected. Set back from road in own grounds; landscaped grounds to site. Detached gate lodge to site with pointed-arch openings. Gateway to site comprising limestone piers with wrought iron gates.


Belmont on the 6″ map 1835


Blmont on the 25″ map 1890

In the medieval era the site was probably associated with the nearby priory of Aghmacart which was founded on the site of a pre-Norman church that seems to have been dedicated to St. Tigernach (perhaps the patron of Clones who had Leinster connections). This early church was burned in 1156 by the northern king, Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn. Neither foundation date of the Augustinian Priory nor its secular patron are known, although it may have been endowed by the Meic Gilla Pátraic (later Fitzpatricks) kings of Ossory. The late medieval records indicate that it was in the diocese of Ossory and that the Fitzpatricks laid claim to the priory. There were links between Aghmacart and Monahinca, the famous Augustinian pilgrim site near Roscrea, Co. Tipperary.

AGHMACARTFolk traditions include a church that stood in ‘Kiln Field’, and field remains include an ecclesiastical site, and a previously extant church ruin. In Carrigan’s “History of Ossory ” he writes – “The nunnery of Addrigoole stood in Adrigoole Kiln-field beside the road to Aghamacart, about four perches north-west of the lodge gate of Belmont House.  (A rod or perch or pole is a surveyors tool and unit of length equal to 5 1⁄2 yards, 16 1⁄2 feet)

There was a famous medical school of Aghmacart developed under the patronage of the Mac Giollapadraig dynasty, well established by 1500 but not heard of after 1611.  This school reflects the hereditary nature of the medical families but in a broad extended sense. The physicians involved in this school were the O’Conor  (Ó Conchubhair) family.


The Lyons family arrived in England initially with the Norman conquest, but during Henry VIII’s reign one of them settled in France and became protestant.  His son Captain William Lyons, supporter of Henry of Navarre and the Huguenot Cause, fled back to England after the Massacre of St.Bartholomew in 1572 and, entering the army of Queen Elizabeth, commanded a company of Cavalry under the Earl of Essex in the Irish wars of 1599 against the Earl of Tyrone.  In 1622 he bought from Patrick, Lord Dunsany, the estate of Clonarrow, now known as River Lyons, in King’s County. River Lyons House was near Daingean and was in ruins in the middle of the 19th c..  An armigerous family, they have the splendid motto Noli Irritare Leones – don’t irritate lions!

Major John Lyons, JP. DL. of Ledestown Hall, Westmeath, High Sheriff of Westmeath, acquired the Ledestown estate in 1715. He had entered the army in the 1690s and attained the rank of major, serving with distinction in the West Indies during the reigns of King William and Queen Anne. He went  to Antigua around 1694, where he married Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Williams, Lieut-Governor of Antigua, and widow of Colonel Richard Ashe. As sole heir of her father, she inherited extensive estates on the Island of Antigua, which Major Lyons augmented by considerable purchases. Most of their children were born in Antigua.   Having retired from the army after many years of service, Major Lyons returned to Ireland, leaving his forth son, Samuel Lyons, in possession of the larger part of his property on the Island. The French sacking of Antigua in 1712 may have influenced John’s return to Ireland. After 1712 he resided for a while at Muclogh, King’s County, at Rahenrohan, just beside The Heath in Laois and Grange Mellon, County Kildare before buying Ledestown.

There were other Laois men in Antigua at that time making their fortune –

John Piggot of Dysart sailed from Plymouth, 9 March 1690, for the West Indies, as a young officer in the Duke of Bolton’s Regiment (later Henry HOLT’s); their ship formed part of the West Indies Squadron, under command of Commodore Lawrence WRIGHT, sent to address security issues arising from hostile French activity in the neighbourhood, including Antigua, where the Squadron arrived on 30 May 1690.

He came to the notice of the Antiguan authorities:

“…I beg also to recommend Captain John PIGOTT for a military command, who has served well in the late as in former expeditions. He is returning to Europe in hopes of serving the King there. His father is, I believe, a gentleman of considerable interests in Ireland, and has suffered greatly by the late rebellion there. I will engage for his loyalty and courage.”

[General Christopher CODRINGTON, Antigua – letter dated 3 July 1691, to the Lords of Trade and Plantations, London; “Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 1689-92,” H.M.S.O., 1901.]

The eldest son inherited Ledestown or Ladestown on Lough Ennell.  In 1843 his descendant John Charles Lyons wrote the first manual on the cultivation of tropical orchids in the world. He built his own printing press (now in the County Library, Mullingar) and grew orchids in a glasshouse heated and watered by a system invented by him.

Henry, the second son, became the Deputy Muster-Master-General and Deputy Clerk of the Council.  His uncle’s brother in law was the Earl of Belvedere (who imprisoned his wife and built the Jealous Wall at Belvedere).  Henry may have built Belmont around the 1720s.  Who his wife was is not at present known, but around 1730 they had a daughter Louisa who married on 23 October 1752, as his second wife, Chambre Brabazon Ponsonby, (c1720 – 20 February 1762) MP and  nephew of the Earl of Bessborough.  Chambre’s father General Ponsonby lived at Ashgrove near Piltown  Co. Kilkenny and was married to Lady Frances Brabazon, daughter of Chambre, 5th Earl of Meath. The General was killed in action at the catastrophic battle of Fontenoy on 11 May 1745. He left a daughter Juliana and a son, Chambre who inherited Ashgrove. Just over a year after his father’s death, Chambre  married his first wife and had a daughter.  In 1738 he had bought about 4,000 acres of land near Kilcooley, in Galmoy, Co. Kilkenny. These lands at Whitewalls, Bawnmore and Rathbane,made him a neighbour of the Lyons family.   Chambre’s second wife, Louisa, was equally short lived but they also had a daughter, , Sarah.  In the Gentlemans’ Magazine Capt John Lyons is described as a gentleman of uncommonly polite Iivelv agreeable manners and prodigiously esteemed, and his daughter  Miss Louisa Lyons was a most elegant accomplished young lady and at that time the admiration and the toast of Dublin.


Chambre Brabazon Ponsonby

Louisa having died whilst she was still a baby, and her father Chambre dying when she was only 9 years old,  Sarah was sent to live with her father’s cousin, Lady Betty Fownes, and her husband, Sir William, at Woodstock, Co Kilkenny. She attended Miss Parke’s boarding school in Kilkenny city.  Sir William Fownes apparently made inappropriate advances towards his ward. His wife, Betty, whom Sarah dearly loved, was still alive, but her health was failing and Sir William over-eagerly anticipated the day when he could take pretty Sarah as the second Lady Fownes.  In 1768, aged 13, Sarah met the person, 16 years older than herself, who was to become her life partner and fellow diarist. Referring to Lady Eleanor Butler, youngest daughter of Walter Butler and his wife, Ellen Butler (née Morres), she proclaimed in 1778 that she intended “to live and die with Miss Butler”. In March of that year, during their foiled attempt to elope, Sarah reputedly leapt out of a window, in male attire, armed with a pistol and her dog, Frisk. A successful venture followed in May, assisted by Eleanor Butler’s redoubtable maid, Molly the Bruiser, who ensured that their flight was not frustrated and traveled  with them via Waterford to Wales.  There they lived at Plas Newydd and became known as the Ladies of Llangollen.

V0007359 Sarah Ponsonby (left) and Lady Eleanor Butler, known as the

V0007359 Sarah Ponsonby (left) and Lady Eleanor Butler, Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

After Sarah’s mother Louisa died Chambre married Mary Barker, of Kilcooley, by whom he had another daughter and a son. Chambre died just before Christmas 1762, when his son, also called Chambre Brabazon Ponsonby, was less than 6 months old.   Sir William Barker invited his widowed sister Mary and her two children to live at Kilcooley.   Within a few years Mary had remarried, becoming the second wife of Robert Staples, the seventh Baronet of Lissan, County Tyrone and moved to Dunmore outside Durrow. She left her two children from her first marriage behind her at Kilcooley. After her death in 1772, in Sir William and Lady Catherine (Lane) raised the children as their own.  Sir William was something of a Protestant extremist and commanded two companies of Volunteers. The young Chambre would inherit Kilcooley from his uncle on his death in October 1818.  The daughter Mary married Thomas Barton of Grove, which also in due course would be inherited by the Ponsonbys.

From 1762 Belmont was rented by William Butler of Bayswell  (d 1786) and his wife Honora Scully (d before 13.03.1794, dau of Roger Scully of Kilfeacle & Dualla) and was lived in by their son William Butler (b 1754) when he married Mary White (dau of John White of Oldglass) on 15 July 1781

sir william barker

Sir William Barker, fourth Baronet painted by Gilbert Stuart c 1790

Accreditation- The Archives of Country Life

Though apparently living at Kilcooley,  Coote in 1801 records “ Belmont is a very handsome small demesne by C B Ponsonby Esq.  The lodge is extremely neat and well planned the lawn pretty and commands a pleasing view of the mountains ruins of Aghmacart and the round tower of Beggar’s End in the County Kilkenny  ‘Tis situate contiguous to Cullihill which is a mean village and only remarkable for an old castle now in ruins, the estate of Sir John Freke, Bart.”

In 1837  Lewis’s Topography records Belmont as the seat of J Roe, but by 1840 John Hely Owen, coroner and land agent was in residence.  Jeremy Williams suggests that in the 1850s Hely employed John Mulvany, James Perry’s favourite architect, to enlarge it and add the loggia and single story front.

John Hely Owen, (1793 -1870) married Frances Smith (1803- 1896)  in 1828, the daughter of Brett Smith and Charlotte Bagnall  (Brett Smith and his son, also Brett Smith, were famous Dublin printers who produced everything from Leet’s Directory to the works of Rousseau.). His brother was William Owen of Erkindale, and his parents were Robert Owen and Sarah Hely ( about 1760-1842) of Raheen.  Though Sarah Hely is said to have come from Tipperary or Offaly, it is probable she was a Hely of Foulkscourt,  possibly a sister of Gorges Hely and a daughter of John Hely and Elenor Cuffe, whose sister was married to Denny Cuffe of Cuffsborough.    From 1840 Owen was one of the Queens County Coroners, investigating deaths such as that Eliza Carpenter, who died because of a stone thrown by Catherine Brennan, or Mary Fitzpatrick who was accidentally given a dose of sulphuric acid mixed with castor oil by Fanny Deane, and Maria Fitpatrick who was eaten by a pig.  As the century progressed his case load changed, and starvation or fever became the commonest causes of death as the famine bit.  He died November 14th 1870, leaving three sons and three daughters,  and his eldest son Robert Owen  (b 1830)  took over.  His daughter Charlotte had married John Shortt, a barrister of Upper Fitzwilliam st., Dublin and of Cappagolan, Tullamore.

Robert acted as agent for his brother in law, George Ayres, the Rector of Mulhuddart, and son of a wine merchant from Stockton on Tees.  In July 1881 during the land War Owen accepted that he was “a fit subject for assignation for not accepting Land League terms in dealing with tenants” and requested police protection.   John Campion and Patrick Murphy were responsible for a notice warning “Robert Owen of Belmont, agent to the meek parson Revd George Ayres, Finglas”,   Robert Owen owned 360 acres and George Ayres had 616 acres.

At sometime in the early 1900s Belmont was bought by Alexander Francis Boyle who was agent for Lord Ashbrook at Castle Durrow,  Boyle’s antecedents came from the Castlecomer area.  He was the  third son of James Boyle of Ryefield, Castlecomer, and the grandson of John Boyle, of Ardara, Co. Kilkenny.  He died in 1919, the same year that Robert Flowers, Lord Ashbrook,  died at Knockatrina.  In 1922 the banks foreclosed on the 9th Viscount Ashbrook, who left Ireland with his wife Gladys and his children Eileen and Desmond. Part of the Castle Durrow estate was soon bought by Maher Brothers of Freshford. They felled much of its 650 acre plantation of oak, beech and ash. The town of Durrow became the property of the Bank of Ireland and remained so for forty years.

Alexander Francis Boyle married Anna Maria Harpur and they had five children.  The second son became Air Marshal Sir  Cathal Kavanagh Dermot Boyle who served as Air Marshal during WW2  and was educated at St Columba’s College, Dublin and joined the Royal Air Force on 14 September 1922.

In the 20th century it has had several owners – The Hodgins were followed by the O’Connells who owned The Sportsman’s Inn and produced such distinguished chefs as Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell.  It is now the family home of David Gibbs, Warden of St.Columba’s from 1974-1988.