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:-

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. 

 

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. 

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.

 

 

 

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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. (dia.ie). 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’ From-ireland.net 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.

IMG_1871

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

portrane

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_house_-_now_gone_0
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.

brereton_hall_original

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 http://www.ballyfin.com

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

peterkey
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 & http://www.raheenparish.ie/ourparish/shanahoe-history/

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.

terenure

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 http://www.martyndowner.com

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.

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

CIwatch

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 Ian Marsden (I M F Marsh)  and had two sons, Rory and Richard.  Apart from farming Springmount he also managed Annegrove Abbey for the Scotts – the heir was a lunatic.

alvis
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.

sprmap2

sprmap1
Note how the gardens have shrunk, and been replaced by agricultural buildings
spring_1
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

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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?

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Belmont House

Belmount, Belmont, Bellmont or The Lodge

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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.

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Belmont on the 6″ map 1835

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Tithe Wars and Trillionaires

Erkindale, also known as Erkina House is a 3 bay 2 story plastered rubble stone house, with a Victorian verandah across the front and an unusual plaster portrait, believed to be of the builder, on the rear gable.

The ancient highway from the western side of Upper Ossory to Kilkenny in times of yore, came east from the Levally road, near Rathdowney ; forded  the Erinka under Coolkerry Church; ran thence through Coolkerry ; forded the Erkina again under Erkindale Ho.; then through the rath field, round by Carrick Rock, on to Gorteen, and after crossing the River Goul near Newtown Nunnery continued on towards Aharney Church.

oserkinaNote the rath behind the house.  The Rath Field is opposite Knockfin

The earliest reference to Erkindale that I have found so far is to William Owen in the Dublin Evening Post  17 Aug 1822.  The Owens were a Welsh family who had been in Laois for about 3 generations in Raheen, Donaghmore and Rathdowney.  The unpopular 19th century agent (and what agent was not unpopular?) Robert Owen of Belmont was William Owen’s cousin or uncle.

The Belfast Commercial Chronicle reports that during the Tithe Wars on Sunday the 12th November 1832 an attempt was made by an armed party to take arms from the house of Wm. Owen, Esq. of Erkindale. All the family were absent except two young lads, Mr. Owen’s elder sons, who resolutely refused them admittance.

The Tithe Wars were pretty violent times.  At Newtownbarry (Bunclody) in Wexford, in 1831, thirteen peasants were killed by the yeomanry and police; in 1832 eleven police and several peasants were killed in a tithe-conflict at Carrickshock near Knocktopher in Kilkenny. So the Owen family got off lightly.

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For those unfamiliar with tithes,  from the time of the  Reformation (the first  Tithe Act was passed in  1536)  a tax of one tenth of annual produce or earnings was taken for the support of the Church of Ireland clergy.   Paying tithes, like all other taxes, was always resented, especially by Catholics, Presbyterians, Agnostics and a lot of other people who didn’t see why they should have to pay for the upkeep of the established Protestant church.  From 1735 to 1823 tithes were not due on pastureland: graziers were exempt.   With the extension of tithes to pastureland a large group of well off, articulate and powerful farmers joined the malcontent poorer farmers.   Bad idea!

While tithes were the only source of income for some clergymen, others let their tithes to lay people (tithe-farmers) for a fee. But lay people also owned tithes. In the OPMA files there is a list of laymen who owned rectorial tithes in the diocese of Killaloe and Achonry. Among these were the choirmen of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. In the diocese of Cork, the duke of Devonshire  was a claimant for tithe arrears.

Tithe-owners employed tithe-proctors or valuators to enter each property on which tithes were due to value the crop and thus set the tithe to be paid. The tithe-proctor was resented mainly because he was the human embodiment of the system of tithe-collecting. And he could be got at.

Emancipation for Roman Catholics was promised by Pitt during the campaign in favour of the Act of Union of 1801 which was approved by the Irish Parliament, thus abolishing itself and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The king, however, refused to keep Pitt’s promises, and it was not until 1829 that the Duke of Wellington’s government finally conceded to the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act, in the teeth of defiant royal opposition. Wellington’s government actually fell as a result.  However, the obligation to pay tithes to the Church of Ireland remained, causing much resentment. Roman Catholic clerical establishments in Ireland had refused government offers of tithe-sharing with the established church, fearing that British government regulation and control would come with acceptance of such money.

According to the affidavit of Hans Caulfield, rector of Bordwell parish:

‘After this y[ea]r memorialist went to the leading farmers in the parish, who then promised to pay and to use their influence with the rest of the parishioners to pay before a certain day; but when that time arrived they said they could not venture thro’ fear of the “Whitefeet”, to make any payment, or settlement whatsoever’ (OPMA 154/5/8).

A campaign of passive resistance was proposed by Patrick Lalor (1781–1856), a farmer of Tenakill and father of Irish Nationalist politicians James Fintan Lalor, Peter Lalor and Richard Lalor, who later served as a repeal MP (1832–35). He declared at a public meeting in February 1831 in Maryborough that “…he would never again pay tithes; that he would violate no law; that the tithe men might take his property, and offer it for sale; but his countrymen, he was proud to say, respected him, and he thought that none of them would buy or bid for it if exposed for sale. The declaration was received by the meeting in various ways: by many with surprise and astonishment; by others with consternation and dismay, but by a vast majority with tremendous cheering.”  Lalor held true to his word and did not resist the confiscation of 20 sheep from his farm, but was able to ensure no buyers appeared at subsequent auctions.

In 1838 O’ Connell was able to persuade the government to cut the tithe payment by 25%, and make the landlord responsible for the payment of the tithes.  Though they could pass it on to their tenants, who in turn could pass the tax on to their sub-tenants, it was the landlord who had to pay the rector. Tithes as such, with associated valuators, tithe-farmers, tithe-proctors and process-servers, together with large contingents of police and militia, disappeared from Irish agitation.  They were finally abolished in Ireland with the disestablishment of the Anglican church in 1871.

To return to Erkindale:-

William Owen, of Pembroke Street, and Erkindale, Queen’s County, was elected a life member of the R.D.S. in 1833. His proposers were Isaac Weld and the barrister Eccles Cuthbert.  William Owen was a member of the R.D.S. agriculture committee 1835-37. He was deleted from the membership list in 1850.  Weld, who was the brother in law of George Ensor (architect of much of Georgian Dublin) ,  was compiling a statistical survey of Roscommon at that time, having made his name as an author with his account of travels through America and Canada, published in 1799, in which he noted that  Americans were obsessed with material things.  Unkind critics might say “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.

The next inhabitant was  Edmund French Boys.  He joined the 45th or Nottinghamshire Regiment of Foot as an Ensign on 17th November 1808 and became it’s Lt. Col on 21st June 1832.  The 45th were one of the great regiments involved in the Peninsula War and fought in nearly every engagement from Rolica 1808 to Toulouse 1814 wining thirteen battle-honours in the process.   At the battle of Badajoz 1812 the 45th were the first regiment to storm the fortress and succeeded in pulling down the French flag.  Not having a British flag to hoist in its place, an officer took off his red coatee and ran that up instead. This feat was commemorated  every 6th April when red jackets were flown on the regimental flag staffs.

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Raising The Sherwood Foresters ” The Old Stubborns”  Red Coatee

The regiment were in Belfast in 1840 and in Dublin from 1841 to January 1843 when they sailed to the Cape.   By 1850 he was administrator of Natal.  His brother Philip Boys lived at Annefield house in Dundrum with his wife Mary and their daughter Joanna.  On 8th February 1847 The Patrician records the death  Boyes, Edmund, Esq. late of the 45th Regiment, and eldest son of Colonel E. F. Boyes, at Erkindale in the Queen’s County.   The enormously valuable website of Dr Jane Lyons www.from-ireland.net  records a relevant memorial in Rathddowney:-  Boys: In memory of/John Boys Esq./who died April 18th 1848/And Mary Boys (relict/of Philip Boys Esq./Annafield, Dundrum, Co. Dublin)/who departed this life/on /9th Jan 1869/at an advanced age.

ed boys uniform

The uniform of Lt Col Boys, for sale at the time of writing on http://themilitarygentleman.com/ for £6950

At that date another name is also associated with Erkindale.  In 1847 Charles Paulett White (1821-1895) of Erkindale Rathdowney and of  Coolacurragh , Ballacolla was  appointed a magistrate on the nomination of Lord De Vesci

On 11 Apr 1850 Charles, son of Robert White of Old Park (Granston Manor) and Anne Doyne (dau of Col. Charles Powlett Doyne of Portarlington), married Joanna, daughter of Philip Boys.

annefielddundrum

Annefield, Dundrum, the home of Philip Boys

Presumably the Paulet/ Paulett/ Powlett name that occurs in the Doyne, Handfield, Carey, Mildmay, Piggot, White, Cosby and Hamilton families (amongst others) refers to the Lord Lieutenant Charles Powlett, 2nd Duke of  Bolton (1661-1722), after whom Bolton Street is named.  In Jonathan Swift’s tract Remarks on the Characters of the Court of Queen Anne, a commentary on the book Memoirs of the Secret Services by John Macky, in response to Macky’s statement that the Duke “Does not now make any figure at court”, Swift’s dismissive reply is “Nor anywhere else. A great booby”.

The Duke of Bolton

The Advocate or Irish Industrial Journal, notes that on January 26 1857 at Erkindale, Queen’s County, the wife Doctor Kirkwood, M.D. gave birth to a son.  From 1836 – 1844 there is a Kirkwood, T. A., M.D in Rathfarnham.  He later appears in Antrim, so presumably was just renting or staying at Erkindale, unless his wife was a relation of Joanna White.

On 10 Sep 1863 the Dublin Evening Mail  reports that Charles P. White, Esq., J.P., Mrs. White, and Miss S. Burnett, have left their residence, Erkindale, Queen’s County, en route for Scotland.

Thoms Directory shows Charles P White Esq in 1874  and Bassett’s Directory has him there in 1889.

Back to http://www.from-ireland.net/  Rathdowney burials – White: Erected/by Charles P White Esq./Erkindale/to the memory of/his beloved wife/Joanna White/who died 21st may 1880 /aged 57 years/For if we believe that Jesus died/and rose again even so them/also which sleep in Jesus/will God Bring with him.

Charles White died in 1895 and Erkindale soon became the home of Alfred William Perry (1861 -1942), who sold it to the Thompsons in the early 1930s.

On Perry Memorial  in The Square at  Rathdowney is the following inscription:  “In memory/of/Geraldine/wife of/Alfred William Perry/Erkindale Rathdowney/died June 1918”.  Geraldine Perry nee Radcliff  was the daughter of William Henry (aka Geoffry) Radcliff who was born in Wilmount, Kells, Co Meath and the widow of John Wallace of Knockfinn, the neighbouring farm, who died in 1900 at the age of 29  in Dublin.  They married in March 1902.

perry memorial

The Perry Monument, Rathdowney

The Perry family are worthy of detailed study.  The question is how a family of fiddle makers, small tenant farmers in a minor village,  who skated so lightly over the surface of history that their slight impact has mostly been washed away by the rains of time, became brewers and billionaires, millers, merchants and manufacturers is at present quite beyond me.

There were several Perry families in Ireland, quite unrelated.  The Perry from County Down, tenants of the Fords of Seaforde whose descendants include the 1798 leader Anthony Perry are a quite separate family from the Laois & Kilkenny Perrys.    Though others disagree, according to the researches of Sir Francis Cruise, the Laois/Kilkenny/Offaly  Perry family was of French Huguenot origin who became Quakers , and the first of them to settle in Kilkenny was named Jacques Periez.

violin

A Thomas Perry Violin of 1781

In 1598, Henry IV of France signed the Edict of Nantes which ended the Wars of Religion and gave French Protestants freedom to practise their religion (in particular places and under certain conditions).  In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. He expelled the Protestant clergy and declared that the rest of the Huguenot population was to remain in France and become Catholic. Those who stayed were forced to convert, although large numbers continued to practise their faith in secret, at home or in clandestine assemblies in remote places. Others left the country illegally to seek a new life abroad in a Protestant country.   Conservatively about 5000 French Huguenots came to seek religious toleration in Ireland.  It is interesting that 5 years later Irish Catholics were fleeing Ireland for France, also in search of religious toleration.

The Dublin violin maker Thomas Perry was born c. 1738/9, son of John Perry  of Dublin and Tinekilly (Tinnakill, Coolrain), Queen’s County (Co. Laois). Kenneth  Rice, the  Irish Chamber Orchestra violinist and expert on Irish musical history,  rejects any French Huguenot connection, noting that Perry is a name borne by many settlers of English origin in Ireland.  It was Rice who identified Registry of Deeds Memorial, 410063: 604/416, establishing John Perry’s identity.   In 1766 Perry married Elizabeth Smyth.  However his name in the parish register is said to be de Pierray, which supports the theory put forward that Perry was of French Huguenot origin. He is said to have been related to the well-known French violin maker Claude Pierray who died in Paris in 1729. His father opened a shop in Dublin in 1741 and died there in 1771 according to an obituary in the Faulkners Journal, which gives his surname as Pierrie.

A James Perry of Ballymulroony, Queen’s county is mentioned in deeds with Thomas Perry.  William Wilkinson, Perry’s partner and son-in-law came from Cappakeel, the townland adjoining Ballymulroony,  near Emo and 8 miles from Mountmellick.

Alfred William Perry’s grandfather, Henry Perry,  was born in 1768 in Shanderry,near Coolrain, three miles from John Perry’s home at Tinnakill, which is why I believe them to be related.  One of Henry’s sons, Robert Perry (1791-1855), founder of the brewery in Rathdowney,  married Anne Gale of Sampson’s Court near Ballinakill in August 1826 in the Friends’ Meeting House in Mountrath.

The couple’s children were Ellen, Anne Gale, Mary Walpole, Arthur (later of Burgh Quay), James, John Miller of Ballinagore Mills, Thomas, Henry Robert who took on the Belmont Mills in Offaly and founded Robert Perry Limited (as opposed to the Rathdowney Robert Perry & Son Limited), and Robinson Gale Perry.  Robinson married Deborah Walpole of Ballyduff , Co Laois in November 1858 at Knock Meeting House.  He went into milling and brewing; In 1874 he was patenting “Improvements in kilns or drying chambers for peat drying malt, grain etc.”   In 1878 Mr. Robinson Perry of Rathdowney was described in the Belfast News-letter as Secretary of the Provincial Brewers Association.

perry brewery

If the brewery history is correct in  saying  that it was founded in 1800, when Robert Perry of Shanderry was only 9, another Perry must have actually started the brewery.  There were other Perrys in Rathdowney – in 1839 there was a grant and release by William and Anne Perry, Rathdowney, Queen’s Co., to Thomas Dugdale, Clara, King’s Co., of  flour mills and land at Rathdowney.   William Perry (1804-74) was Robert Perry’s younger brother and married to Ann, a daughter of John Dugdale Snr. of Mill Books King’s County who owned a mill at Donnaghmore.  Another brother was John Perry who bought the mills at Ballinagore, near Castletown Geoghan in Westmeath.

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Ballinagore Mill

Robert Perry and Son’s Rathdowney Brewery manufactured malt which was widely noted for its excellence. The brewery had an admirable water supply, brewed a clear and non-deposit ale, and held the royal warrant as brewers to Queen Victoria.

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Belmont Mill

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Belmont

But the “proto-tycoon”, the Tony O’Reilly,  of the whole family was a fourth brother James Perry (1795-1858).

jamesperry

James, with two other brothers Henry and John, set up Perry’s Haberdashery, Button and Trimming Warehouse, Ironmongers, Hardware and Iron Merchants, agents to the Bristol Copper and Brass Company, at 27 and 28 Pill Lane before 1821, when both James and Henry are listed as subscribers to 1821  “The Giant’s Causeway: A Poem, with The Traveller Benighted in Mourne”.

pill1

An 1820  Caricature of Pill Lane from Trinity College

Pill Lane, behind The Four Courts, was a continuation of Hammond Lane, originally Hangman’s Lane, famed for its foundry which was already in existence on Rocque’s 1756 map of Dublin.  Pill Lane was noted for the Fishery Company’s fish market.  So this was the busy industrial area of the city, far from the elegant muslins of Merrion Square.  Thomas William Magrath in his  Letters from Upper Canada, published in  1833, advises prospective emigrants to Canada on the tools that they should bring with them:-

upca

James other interests included an Iron Foundry in Ringsend, The Hibernian Gas Company, and he was a founder director of the Dublin & Kingstown Railway (better known nowadays as The Dart!) which opened in 1834.

dublin-kingstown-railway

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11 minutes from Dun Laoghire to Pearse in 1834  – DART commuters eat your heart out!

He was also involved in the Dublin Drogheda Railway, the Great Southern Western Railway and the breakaway Midland Great Western Railway.  His most successful venture was The Hibernian Mining Company in the Ruhr.

The key person in the Mining Company initiative was Michael Corr van der Maeren. Though a Belgian citizen who fought for Belgian liberty in 1830,  Michael Corr van den Maeren was as Irish as his colleagues. In 1802 his father, Michael Corr, whose name appears in the 1798 Rebellion Papers in the National Archives as an active revolutionary, arrived in Brussels as a political refugee accompanied by his wife but without their two-week old son Michael. It was only after the lifting of the continental blockade in 1815 that young Michael was able to join his parents in Brussels where he was educated and after five years in the army took up a business career. He was a well-known free-trader, an associate of Cobden and Bright and an advocate of social science as a discipline. He married a Flemish lady named van der Maeren and took her name as an adjunct to his own. Michael Corr van der Maeren owned some property near Gelsenkirchen and became interested in the possibility of the modernisation of the mining industry in the Ruhr. He visited Dublin in 1853 and met William Mulvany, James Perry and Joseph Malcomson. It is not known what his original contact was but it is perhaps interesting to speculate that it might have been with Mulvany through an acquaintenship between their younger brothers. Mulvany’s brother, George Field Mulvany, was an artist like their father and was the first Director of the National Gallery of Ireland. Michael Corr’s younger brother, Matthew Erin Corr, was a professor of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.  Thus, in 1853,  began one of the largest coal mining operation in the Ruhr, the Hibernia Mines, of which the Perry’s initially owned 40%..  This company founded entirely by Irish investors  has developed into  E·ON, a German based power company with an annual revenue of well over €100 billion, which operates in over 30 countries and serves over 33 million customers.  Perhaps it is time we reminded German financiers of the debt they owe Ireland!

Henry lived at Newtown Park, Deansgrange, which he rented from John Armit, Secretary of the Ordnance Board and a wealthy army agent and banker.  In more recent times it was the home of Senator Edward McGuire.

newtonnpark ho

Newtownpark House, Deansgrange

By 1837 James was living in  Obelisk Park in Stillorgan.  It had been sold after the death of Graves Chamney Swan in 1829, the father of Edmund Swan of Abbeyleix.    There is a wonderful endorsement of Electric medical therapy in The Dublin Literary Journal for 1845:-

Stillorgan Park 2nd of 1st Month 1837

I certify that my left foot was sprained and the muscles injured in consequence of my horse having fallen upon it by which I was so much disabled as to be incapable of using it for about two months After the inflammation had nearly subsided I tried several means under Surgical advice without obtaining the desired effect and was at length advised by the Surgeon General to have Medical Electricity applied by Joshua Abell and I have now the pleasure to state that this produced a gradual progressive improvement by which I obtained the wished for result JAMES PERRY.

Joshua Abell, also a Quaker, was founder editor of the Dublin Literary Gazette, in which he also published his own translations from the Gaelic and advertised his  ‘medical electricity’ practice.  When does a Renaissance Man become merely an eccentric?  I suspect Abell crossed that boundary.

Henry Perry, of Pill Lane, and Newtown Park, Deans Grange, was elected a life member of the R.D.S. on 31 May 1838. His proposers were Edward Clibborn and Joseph Hone. On 5 November 1845 Perry won second prize for oats at the R.D.S. Farm Produce Exhibition.   The family were obviously keen on their horticulture.   In September 1856, according to the Freeman’s Journal , James Perry of Obelisk Park won a prize for melons in three varieties from his garden.

James’s daughter Hannah Woodcock Perry married Marcus Goodbody on 13 December 1848 at the Friends Meeting House.  A pretty amazing wedding dress, now in the National Museum of Ireland.

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Hannah Perry’s Wedding Dress – I pray the bride was prettier than the mannequin!

There is a moral problem here;  This was the end of the famine.  A million people had died of starvation in Ireland over the previous 3 years.  However actually James was the treasurer of the Qauaker Famine Relief Committee, and his brother Henry, who ran the clothing distribution and Quaker kitchen for famine relief died of famine fever in 1847.   Are prejudiced conclusions naturally wrong?  Or are all wealthy people who retained their wealth through the famine guilty of moral turpitude?    James died in 1858 and was buried in the Perry  vault in Mount Jerome that Mulvany had constructed for him 14 years earlier, in the same Egyptian style as Broadstone Railway Station.

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Perry’s Broadstone inspired vault at Mount Jerome by Mulvany

Friendship within the Society of Friends only seems to have had limits in James’ case.   In his will stipulated that should his son William James Perry  marry Elizabeth Pim, the daughter of James Pim of Monkstown Castle and sometime  treasurer of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway (a role which caused Pim and Perry to fall out) most of his property  should go to his son in law, Marcus Goodbody.  In 1859 William James Perry married  Eliza Pim in the Protestant  St Brigid’s Church in  Stillorgan.  Lawyers were engaged!  The final agreement involved Marcus Goodbody getting Obelisk Park in I873.  He instantly engaged Sir Thomas Drew to build a new house, and made a Japanese garden and lake centred on the obelisk designed by Edward Lovett Perarce.    William James moved to Ardlui on Newtownpark Avenue, done up for him by the architects McCurdy & Mitchell.  That was demolished in the 1950s and only the gate lodge and a garden folly remain.    Ardlui was famous for its tennis parties.  Perry’s daughters Charlotte, Gertrude and Ida,  and son Francis Woodcock, a stockbroker, all played competitive lawn tennis.  By 1890 the Perrys had moved to 28 Clyde Road, where St Conleths College now stands.  In 1892 there is a deed of covenant and charge by Alfred W. Perry, Rathdowney, Queen’s Co. and others to Charlotte E. Perry, 28 Clyde Rd., Dublin affecting Ballinagore and Knockycosker. .

So the question still remains.  How did a family of fiddle makers become so successful.  The second question is where is all the Perry wealth now

As a postscript whilst researching this blog I came across the following cutting:-

perry by John Spooner

Little Lord Fauntleroy & Ireland’s First Lesbian

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Ballybrophy house from JJ McEvoy’s collection of Laois Photographs

The O’Brophys were originally the chiefs of Galmoy on the borders of Kilkenny and Tipperary.  They were driven out of Galmoy after the Norman invasion, and settled, under the protection of MacGillapatrick, at Baile Ui Broithe, now Ballybrophy.

At Christmas 1626 Charles the First granted his favourite, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, Borris-in-Ossory, “Ballybrophy, Grangemore, &c., &c. ; all of which he erected into a manor to be called the Manor of Villiers”.   In 1693, a Catholic gentleman named Owen Carroll, who came from the neighbourhood of Seir-Kieran, took a lease of the entire manor from the Duke’s representatives, George Rodney Bridges, Esqr., and the Right Hon. Anna Maria, Countess of Shrewsbury, his wife, for 31 years, at a yearly rent of £750 ; and about 1705, he further took a reversionary lease of same, for 11 years, from the said George Rodney Bridges, Esqr., and John Bridges, his son.

The story of how the Villiers estate passed from the Duke of Buckingham to the Countess of Shrewsbury is fairly remarkable.  Anna Maria’s first husband, Francis Earl of Shrewsbury, was killed in a duel by George Villiers the second Duke of Buckingham.  The inheritance came to her in 1693 under the will of the Duke whose partiality for her caused  the duel with her first husband. The tale that the Countess witnessed the duel disguised as a page appears to have no foundation..  For a time, the Duke of Buckingham kept Anna Maria as his mistress in his family home where his wife, Mary also resided.  Buckingham provoked an outrage for installing “the widow of his own creation” in his own and his wife’s house.  She gave birth to his illegitimate son and created a scandal at court by having the boy baptised in Westminster Abbey.   Their affair was finally broken off in 1673. The Countess went to France and spent some time in a convent, before returning to England and marrying George Brydges in 1677.

The Countess was a passionate woman (harsher critics have called her a nymphomaniac): her numerous lovers included Henry Jermyn, 1st Baron Dover and Colonel Thomas Howard (younger brother of Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Carlisle) : in 1662 they fought a celebrated duel for her favour in which Jermyn was left for dead and his second, Giles Rawlings, was killed.

Lely, Peter, 1618-1680; Lady Anna Maria Brudenell (1642-1702), Countess of Shrewsbury

Lely, Peter; Lady Anna Maria Brudenell (1642-1702), Countess of Shrewsbury; National Trust, Knole

Anna Maria’s family were all fairly wild – her cousin Lady Frances Brudenell, Countess of Newburgh, wife of Charles Livingston, 2nd Earl of Newburgh, who lived on Usher’s Quay,  was noted in Dublin for her bisexuality, and her affair with Lady Allen of Stillorgan Park.  She was the subject of a debt action brought by William King, secretary to The Earl of Arran, who Horace Walpole described as “an inoffensive old man, last of the illustrious house of Ormonde, and much respected by the Jacobites”.

Not everyone thought Lord Arran inoffensive  – There was strong suspicion that he deliberately started the great fire that destroyed much of Dublin Castle on the 7th April 1684.  His full and perfectly structured account of the event further fueled rumours. The fire began in his newly built lodgings, on the wooden flooring under the fire grate of his dressing room. The crackling of the flames woke him and he fled through the State Rooms as far as the long Gallery, leaving all the doors open behind him. He then looked back and saw his bed in flames. The sentries raised the alarm. Arran sent for Robert Cuffe, the Engineer – the Architect, Robinson, being out of town. Cuffe arrived shortly afterwards with six barrels of gunpowder from a private store. A controlled explosion at the southern end of the Long Gallery failed to halt the flames. So, another was set off at the northern end and this prevented the fire reaching the Lord Lieutenant’s lodgings and the Gunpowder Tower, through the Coal Yard. There was a westerly wind blowing and a final explosion, near the Presence Chamber, succeeded in halting the fire advancing along the south-western range, to the Kitchen Tower (now known as the Bermingham Tower), which housed the public records at that time.

King James II issued a royal warrant on the 24th July, stating that the fire started accidentally. Suspicion remained and many believed that the warrant was a ‘pay off’ in gratitude to Marquis Ormond for services rendered – including his three years leadership of the royal army against the Ulster rebels during the 1641 rebellion. The King also directed that the old walls and as many towers as required be taken down and a new Chief Governor’s residence be built ‘the same to be still and forever called by the name of the Castle of Dublin’. Building works got underway and more stately accommodation replaced the medieval fortress.

Lord Arran’s wife, Elizabeth Crew, employed as her lady in waiting  Katherine Mildmay, the aunt and foster mother of the essayist Richard Steele who founded The Spectator.    Lady Arran was also one of Lady Newburgh’s  “social circle of tribades”

Elizabeth Butler

Elizabeth Butler, née Crew, Countess of Arran (c. 1679-1756)

King alleged Lady Newburgh owed him several thousand pounds. He lost the case and in revenge, in 1732, wrote a satire against her, entitled “The Toast”, which portrays her as “a promiscuous bisexual witch and lesbian named “Myra”. It is notable for an early use of the word lesbian in the modern sense – the second or third time that it was ever used in print.

NPG D5713; Frances (Brudenell), Countess of Newburgh by William Wilson, after  Michael Dahl

by William Wilson, after Michael Dahl, mezzotint, early 18th century

To get back to Ballybrophy, when Owen’s son,  Bamaby Carroll’s faith brought him under the ban of the penal laws, about 1730, three vultures named Richard Despard, William Garden, and Walter Stephens, swooped down on his ample substance to seize and devour it. Stephens, or Squire Stephens, as he was afterwards called, took possession of the evicted papist’s home in 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 1731.   Ballybrophy already had a tenant who seems to have remained in possession.  Thomas Brereton, the son of William Brereton,  obtained the lease of Ballybrophy in 1723.  The Brereton were a Cheshire family who arrived in the neighbourhood of Stradbally during the Elizabethan plantation in the 1560s.  William Brereton of Rathmore (probably the son of Major Thomas Brereton of Borris in Ossory) was born during the reign of King Charles I (1625-1649) and lived until just after the accession of Queen Anne. He died in 1715.

Charles White of Kilpurcel was the third son of Charles White of Kilmartin, Borris in Ossory, a Cromwellian who arrived from Oxford in 1657.   Kilpurcel is five fields south of Ballybrophy.  The second son of Charles of Kilpurcel, Thomas White, married Ann Steele of Kyle, Rathdowney in 1739 (she died two years later),  and was granted the townlands of Ballybrophy 330 acres & 17 acres of Bog, by Mrs Elizabeth Despard & others, rent £115 10s per annum in 1746.  The following year he took as his third wife Charity Tydd.  Their son Charles White of Ballybrophy was born in 1753 and married Sarah White (d 13.02.1835, dau of Charles White of Aghavoe) in 1775.  Barrington describes Charles White as “a civil and inoffensive man as any in Ossory.”  In  1808  he organised a steeple chase from Ballybrophy for six miles across the country, between his horse Icarus  and his neighbours’ horses. He died in 1828 aged 75.

The last embodiment of Ballybrophy house was 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.   It had bold quoins on three corners only.  The main rooms had egg and dart cornices.   The return, containing the main staircase and a parallel servants’ staircase, had a tall arched window.   This was probably built by their son,  yet another Charles, who married Barbara Knox White (nee Ruttledge) who held six townlands in the parish of Crossmolina,  County Mayo, formerly part of the estate of her brother-in-law, Henry William Knox of Netley Park. She married, as her second husband, Charles White, second son of Charles White of Ballybrophy, Queen’s County (Laois). Charles White died in 1855 without children.

His brother, Thomas White, who also lived at Ballybrophy, had died two years previously.

On Saturday 14 January 1854  The Dublin Evening Post was adverting the house, demesne and lands at Ballybrophy to let.

By January 1855 William John Russell was renting Ballybrophy.   Russell, whose family lived at Hazelhatch, County Kildare,  had been born in Dublin on 25th November 1818.   He lived in Mountjoy Square in Dublin where he married his first wife, Elizabeth Amelia Fagan, on 12th February 1850.  She was the daughter of Catholic lawyer Michael Joseph Fagan of 4 Summerhill who was the eldest son of Patrick Fegan of Portrishen, Carlow.  Following the death of her wife, Russell had a brief marriage in 1866 to Bessie Jane Pelissier who also died.  His third wife, Elizabeth Hollwey, was the daughter of a Dublin shipbuilder, John Hollwey.    In 1855 his son, another William John Russell, was born at Ballybrophy.

They seem to have moved on quite quickly because in November 1858 we find Anthony Gibbs and Sons, agricultural suppliers of Ballybrophy House advertising in the Farmer’s Gazette and Journal of Practical Horticulture .

Saturday 25 May 1861 ,  Saunders’s News-Letter has Thomas Plunkett of Ballybrophy House.  Walford’s County Families  describes the Plunketts as of Ballybrophy, Mount D’alton, Co Westmeath and Corlismore, Co Cavan.  Thomas Plunkett had married Hannah, daughter of James MacFadin, Corlismore, Co Cavan.  Mount D’Alton is the home of the Gibson Brabazon family.  The D’Alton (and D’Alton Begg)  family lived there till it was sold by the Incumbered Estates Court in 1850.  It may be that Plunkett bought it then and initially leased it to the Brabazons.

Joseph Michael Plunkett, Thomas Plunkett’s son, married Laura Caroline Darby of Leap Castle, daughter of Jonathan Darby and Caroline Curteis Graham, on 29 August 1887.  On inheriting his uncle James MacFadin’s Cavan estate he changed his name to Plunkett MacFadden

In the Yokohama War Cemetery there is a memorial to Lieutenant Colonel John Oliver Plunkett, Straits Settlements Volunteer Force. 10th December 1942. Age 55. Son of Joseph Michael Plunkett, and of Laura Plunkett (nee Darby); husband of Elsie Campbell Plunkett, of Hove, Sussex. M.I.C.E. Brit.Sec.   John Oliver is described as the eldest son.  In about 1900 Joseph Michael Plunkett arranged to move from Mount D’Alton  the pyramidal monument, thirty feet high, erected by Count D’Alton in honour of the Empress Maria Theresa, the Emperor Joseph II., and King George III. On three sides it is adorned with their profiles in white marble, and on the fourth with the arms of the family and a suitable inscription.  It was said that he was intending to put it up as a monument to his son (presumably a second son).  However when it got to Ballybrophy Station he failed to pay the railway company for moving it, so it was incorporated into the fabric of the shunting yard.    I believe that it was moved back to Mullingar in the 1980s.

In 1900 Major Foulerton, a Scottish friend of Lord Castletown’s was living at Ballybrophy.  In a letter of 7th April 1900 from Samuel Hemphill, the vicar of Birr,  to H.G. Farmer, now in the University of Glasgow’s special collection, Hemphill notes that  Major Foulerton left Ballybrophy House with Leinsters for the front yesterday (the Boer War).  Foulterton died at Vrede. 5th Jan. 1901.

In 1907 James Ogilivie Grant 11th Earl of Seafield was in Ballacolla Cottage but by December 1910 he had moved to Ballybrophy House.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Francis William Ogilvy-Grant, 6th Earl of Seafield (6 March 1778 – 30 July 1853) was married twice. He married firstly Mary Anne Dunn, daughter of John Dunn of Northumberland and St Helena, where he was an East India Company surgeon, in 1811. They had five children. After his first wife’s death in 1840 he married secondly Louisa Emma, daughter of Robert George Maunsell, of Spa Hill, Limerick  in 1843.  His second wife was a cousin of the Evans family of Ash Hill Towers.   He died in July 1853, aged 75.  For a very challenging bit of rather close relationships:-

Louisa Emma née Maunsell, married the 6th Earl of Seafield in 1843, who was some 46 years older than her. Six years later, in 1849, Lewis Alexander Ogilvy-Grant, one of her step-sons married her sister, Georgina, thus becoming her brother-in-law too.

The 6th Earl’s fourth son was James Ogilvy-Grant, who became 9th Earl of Seafield (27 December 1817 – 5 June 1888).  He married Caroline Louisa Evans daughter of Eyre Evans of Ash Hill Towers, Co Limerick who died in 1850 when her son Francis William Ogilvy-Grant, later and briefly 10th Earl of Seafield (born in Ireland in 1847) was only three.  After his education, Francis William served as a midshipman in  the Royal Navy and then joined the merchant navy.

He arrived in New Zealand in 1870 at the age of 23 and bought a farm in the Waiareka Valley in a locality known as Te Aneraki  to the west of Oamaru in North Otago. He lost his money through his farming pursuits, and from the late 1870s worked as a labourer in fencing or other available tasks.  Some time after the marriage, the family moved to Oamaru.

He married his first cousin (her father and his mother were brother and sister), Ann Trevor Corry Evans, on 24 November 1874, at The Bethel in Otago.  She was the daughter of Major George Thomas Evans and Louisa Barbara Corry. They had seven children; four girls and three boys  Their youngest daughter, Nina Geraldine (1884–1951), married Sir Lees Knowles, 1st Baronet in 1915.

According to a family story, when he received the telegram in on April 1st 1884 informing him that his cousin had died and his father had become the 9th Earl he was painting a house. From that time forward, the Dowager Countess of Seafield provided a stipend of about £600 per year, which alleviated much of his financial distress. In 1888, Lord Reidhaven’s father died and he became Sir Francis William Ogilvie-Grant, Baronet, 10th Earl of Seafield, chief of the Clan Grant. Unfortunately, within a matter of months, in December 1888, he died of heart failure and was succeeded by his eldest son, the Hon. James Ogilvie-Grant, Lord Reidhaven, who was still a boy aged twelve years.

11th earl

When the 11th Earl succeeded the Dowager Countess offered to send out a tutor to bring him home and educate him in a manner befitting his ancient title, and though this offer, it is said, was declined by the Earl’s mother (who, contemporary accounts noted, was a connection of Lord Carbery).   It was this boy that furnished the inspiration for the popular novel “Little Lord Fauntleroy.”   Frances Hodgson Burnett published the story as a serial from November 1885 to October 1886.  Unlike “Dearest” of that story, however, his mother did not part with her son.

James Ogilvie-Grant, 11th Earl of Seafield, lived in Auckland before his marriage to Mary Elizabeth Nina Townend, the eldest daughter of Dr Joseph Henry Townend, of Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1898.  Mary Townsend’s grandparents owned the Sterling Iron and Railway Company of New York, worth about £30 million in the 1900s.

After immigrating from New Zealand to England and then Ireland, James and his family eventually went to Scotland.  The old Countess, whose grandmother was a Nugent from Westmeath,  and whose great grandfather was Henry White of Kilcok, offered the young Earl a sizeable allowance if he would promise to go back where he came from and stay there.  She explained that she did not wish any Colonial Clodhoppers cluttering up the landscape.

Strangely enough, it was James’ angry refusal which won him the family estates finally. For, far from being offended, the strong minded and haughty countess was so pleased that she straightaway signified her intention of bequeathing him all the property that went with the title.

As a journalist wrote at the time of the old Countess’s death ”rumour has it that the dowager lady intends to leave much of her land and fortune to the present earl, who is her grand-nephew. She is said to have declared that she regarded herself as a trustee for life of the properties, to clear which from debt she would devote all her energies and leave them at her death to the holder of the earldom. She is said to have made such a settlement, so that the details of her will will be awaited with great interest.” Caroline, Countess of Seafield, died 6 Oct 1911, aged 81.

James was killed in action at Flanders leaving little Nina Grant, then nine years old, as heiress of all the Grant possessions. After leaving Ballybrophy in 1912 she lived at Cullen House, where she was reared quite simply and quietly. In fact, there was no suggestion in her training that she was destined to be a person of prominence later on. When she was a tot she played with the gardener’s children and was brought up almost as she might have been had her family remained in New Zealand and had she grown up to be a farmer’s daughter.

Nina Caroline Studley-Herbert, 12th Countess of Seafield  born 17 April 1906, died 30 September 1969, the second richest woman in  Britain after the Queen – and about her there is a whole novel waiting to be written – just google “Please, Pretty Countess, Won’t You Marry My Son” for more.

nina1

The next tenant that we know of at Ballybrophy was A G Seton, who subsequently moved on to Holycross.   In 1916  Lieutenant Biddulph of The Kings County Hounds lent 7 couples of hounds to Mr. Alfred G  Seton, of Ballybrophy House, to hunt with his harriers.   Seton, a friend of Thomas Johnson, 1872-1963,  the first leader of the Labour Party in Dáil, seems an unlikely man to have been an MFH.

On Sept. 5, 1914 the widow of Thomas Augustus Plunkett, late of Ballybrophy, died suddenly in Switzerland.

At some point in the 1920s Ballybrophy fell into the dreaded grip of the Land Commission, and the house and immediate demesne were acquired for William Phelan, one of the Munster Phelans mentioned under Cuffesborough.   In 1938 At the suit of Guard Creegan, Wm. Phelan, Ballybrophy House , Borris-in- Ossory, was fined Is. for driving without a driver’s licence.

By 1978 when I first visited it, only a decade or so after William Phelan’s demise, it was already a nearly roofless, and the cut stone window cills had already been quarried.

 

Up the hill and down the hollow, that’s the way to Ballacolla

Like the neighbouring villages of Clough, or is it Clogh, and Aghaboe, or is is Aghavoe, officialdom  have problems spelling the name of Ballacolla, or is it Ballycolla, which is described in the Rough Guide to Ireland as “an unassuming village, two miles northwest of Durrow, which has few sights to speak of.”

ballacolla1

According to the Down Survey Map there was a ruined castle in “Ballicalo” in the middle of the 17th century. Its site is still pointed out in the ” Old Gardens”, close to the cross-roads of Tintore. Part of the townland is called Lughabarra, from a remarkable hollow basin, 5 acres in extent, filled up with water in winter, but perfectly dry in summer. There was a Mass-Pit here in the Penal times and part of the altar, built of loose stones, is still shown in the breast of the fence separating Lughabarra from Tintore.

The 1814 edition of Leet’s Directory of Notable Place lists John Harper of Ballacolla, but there are no other references to him. A man of mystery.  Nothing in births, dearths and marriages;  no newspaper advertisements;  not noted in any other directories.  Who was he?

By September 1832 , The Newry Telegraph is advertising property “ For Particulars of Title, Rentals, Etc., apply to Willam Caldbeck, Esq., The Cottage, Ballacolla; or Messrs. Bolton and Bolton”.

Bolton and Bolton were solicitors in Abbey Street, Dublin, Nenagh and Abbeyleix. Bringing Caldbeck to the area a little earlier,  in the 1827 Tithe Applotment Survey both William Caldbeck and George Bolton held land at Kilebeg, a small townland near Aghaboe.   Caldbeck also had land at Black Hill Abbeyleix. The King’s Inn admission papers record the admission of George Bolton junior, third son of George Bolton of Kilebeg, Queen’s County and Catherine Standish in 1824. These Boltons are probably descendants of Sir Edward Bolton, the Solicitor General to Thomas Wentworth in the 1630s, whose son lived at Clonroosk, now a suburb of Portlaoise.

William Caldbeck (c 1800 – 1862) was a grandson of William Caldbeck (1733-1803), KC, of Moyle House, Clondalkin, a lawyer and amateur architect, who was distinguished in the Volunteers and built gunpowder mills at Moyle to supply the Volunteers with ammunition. The mills were a bit of a disaster – they exploded after five years afterwards with such force that pieces of the building several tons in weight were found six fields away and the concussion was felt so severely in Dublin that it caused the fall of a stack of chimneys in Usher’s Quay.  In their genealogy in Burke’s Landed Gentry Of Ireland, 1912, Pg.103 Caldbeck of Moyle and  Larch Hill Whitechurch, Co Dublin goes back no further than the lawyer and his wife Anne Keatinge.

William’s cousin, another William Caldbeck (c1820 – 1872), was an architect working for, amongst others, the Earl of Portarlington at Emo and Sir Charles Coote at Ballyfin. He had been a pupil of Dublin architect William Deane Butler (who designed Shaen House near Emo c1810).

Now the only remains of Ballacolla Cottage are the low wall running along the road on the left from Ballacolla to Rathdowney, with the remnants of both the front and back gates. The plantations, gardens, lime kiln, all have been swept away.

James Fraser in 1844 writes that “A small inn, where cars can be hired, has been lately opened at Ballycolla, and adjoining the hamlet is Ballycolla Cottage ;” The small inn is now called Caoch O’Leary, named from Keegan’s most famous poem, Caoch The Piper, based on the true account of the visit, in Keegan’s childhood, of a blind piper, Caoch (which means blind) O Leary and his dog, poor Pinch, to Keegan’s home at Shanahoe and the piper’s return visit twenty years later.

William Caldbeck’s wife Mary died in 1873, and Ballacolla Cottage was inherited by their son Richard. He had at least three sisters; in 1852 the youngest, Anne, married Robert Lloyd whose family lived in Gloster, just outside Birr. In the same year the second daughter Martha married William Hely, Esq , of Foulkscourt Castle, Johnstown whose ancestor was Sir John Hely (died 1701), Chief Justice of Ireland.

There’s an interesting notice in 1874 in the Sydney Mail and NSW advertiser http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162484300 (rightmost column under Missing Friends):-
RICHARD CALDBECK, of Ballacolla, Queen’s County, Ireland, is anxious to hear from ALBERT CALDBECK, formerly from the same place. His mother having died, he will hear of something to his advantage if he corresponds with above.  It appears that they never contacted each other and only in recent times have Albert’s Antipodean descendants been trying to discover their roots through the internet.

Richard Caldbeck died on 2 October 1893 and the house was inherited by his son Captain Eaton Hely Caldbeck. Eaton was still on the army list in 1902, serving in the 10th Hussars, but died ar Ballacolla House in 1908.  His son Richard C. Caldbeck, an electrical engineer, took over and let it.

According to Hazell’s Annual,  James Ogilvy-Grant, 11th Earl of Seafield became the tenant. There is still a story waiting to be uncovered here. On June 22, 1898 at St. Barnabas Church in Fendalton, Christchurch, New Zealand, 22 year old James Ogilvy-Grant, 11th Earl of Seafield married 22 year old Mary Elizabeth Nina Townend, who was called Nina like James’ mother. Their only child, a daughter, Nina Caroline Ogilvy-Grant was born on April 17, 1906.

In 1903, when the third wife of James’ grandfather the 9th Earl of Seafield died, James and his wife Nina took up residence at the ancestral homes in Scotland: Castle Grant in Grantown-on-Spey, Morayshire and Cullen House in Moray, Banffshire. James, 11th Earl of Seafield and Nina, Countess of Seafield became very popular and highly regarded. James devoted much time in activities that would benefit his tenants and gained a reputation for his knowledge of estate problems. He took a special interest in afforestation, the establishment of a forest or stand of trees in an area where there was no forest.

So what was one of the richest men in Britain with several castles scattered around Scotland, not to mention the odd town house in London,  doing in a cottage, albeit a large one, in Ballacolla? Was it something to do with the visit of Edward VII to Granston Manor to shoot as the guest of Lord Castletown?  The next blog on Ballybrophy will reveal all!

Seafield died on 12 November 1915 at age 39 at France, from wounds received in action. Scottish peerages could be passed on to female heirs. James’ daughter Nina became the 12th Countess of Seafield in her own right. At the time of her death in 1969, she was the second richest British woman, after Queen Elizabeth II and owned over 200,000 acres.

The 985 acre property at Ballacolla was taken over by the Land Commission in December 1914.

ballacolla2