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:-
TO BE SOLD,
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,
1794 SAUNDERS NEWSLETTER
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
GRENNAN HOUSE QUEEN’S COUNTY.
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.