Wolfe Family by George Wolfe (1902)


THE name Wolfe was probably adopted as a patronomic when surnames became customary. The name is of Saxon or Danish origin, probably the former. The present family settled in Kildare about 1650. The first place of residence seems to have been Huttonrede, in the parish of Kill. Before that time there had been a family, who spelt their name in the same way, settled for many centuries in the county, seized of considerable property at Eilcolman, Oldcourt, and Ardscull, all of which was forfeited by the attainder of Nicholas Wolfe, in 1641; and, at the same time, three others of the family were outlawed. The probability is that Richard Wolfe, the first of the present family who settled in Kildare, was descended from this older branch, as he seems to have taken up his residence quietly, considering the disturbed state of the country, and more like a wanderer returning to his native soil than a foreigner settling in a strange land. There is, however, a theory that the Wolfes of Forenaughts are descended from Bandolphus de Bode, alias Le Wolfe, of Church Lawton, in the county of Chester. The arms borne by this family are exactly the same as those of the Wolfes of Kildare. Colour is given to this view by an article published in the Encyclopaedia Londonensis, 1806, page 671, in an account of John, 2nd Viscount Kilwarden.

Oughterard Co Kildare

Oughterard Co Kildare

Richard Wolfe, of Huttonrede, was accompanied to Ireland by one son and four daughters, viz., John, Jane (wife of Hugh Banner, of Punchestown, County Kildare), Dorothy (wife of William Brunton, of Bishopscourt, County Kildare), Anne Katherine, and Eleanor (wife of William Burgoyne). He died about 1678, and was buried in the church at Oughterard.

John, son of the said Richard, seems to have been settled at the date of the Revolution at Baronrath, which he held by a lease from Sir William Sandys, Bart, who was an extensive landowner in Kildare. In 1698 he obtained a new lease from Sir W. Sandys; and his son shortly afterwards married a niece of that gentleman. John Wolfe appears to have served annually for many years on the Grand Juries of the county. He died in 1715, and was interred at Oughterard. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Richard, who married Lydia, daughter of Patrick Page, of Forenanghts, by his wife, Mary, daughter of Sir William Sandys, Bart. From this Richard Wolfe the family spread into three branches first, that of Forenaughts; second, that of Blackhall; and third, that of Baronrath. John succeeded his father at Forenaughts, which is now the property of the head of the family. Thomas, the second son, obtained a lease of Blackball from his uncle, John Page. He afterwards purchased the place, along with other property in King’s County. Blackball is now owned by Major R. F. Rynd, the eldest son of Helena, daughter and heiress of Peter Wolfe, High Sheriff of County Kildare, 1805, and wife of Christopher Rynd, of Mount Armstrong. Thomas Wolfe married Margaret Lombard, and died in 1787, leaving a son, Theobald (the third son, Theobald, was the eminent counsellor afterwards referred to), and a daughter, Mary. The fourth son, Richard, inherited Baronrath, which remained in the hands of the Wolfe family of that brunch until William Standish Wolfe, who died in 1869, disposed of it I am not aware who purchased it at that time, but it is now in the occupation of Mr. Robert Kennedy, H.M.L.

Family vault of the Wolfes at Oughterard

Family vault of the Wolfes at Oughterard

Richard Wolfe, father of the said brothers, John, Thomas, and Richard, died in 1782, and was buried in the Church of St David’s, Naas. His successor at Forenaughts, John, was born 1700. He was a Captain in the Kildare Militia, High Sheriff, 1755, married Mary, only child of Williams Philpott, and died, 1760. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Philpott, Captain in the Kildare Militia, and High Sheriff of the County Kildare. He married Mary, daughter of Thomas Burgh, of Dromkeen, County Limerick, and died, 1775, and was buried with his wife in St. Mary’s Church, Dublin. His eldest son and heir was John, Colonel in the Kildare Militia, High Sheriff, 1779, M.P. for Kildare, and afterwards for Wicklow. He raised and commanded a troop of yeomanry, called the Forenaughts Cavalry, the badges and some of the accoutrements of which are now in the possession of the head of the family. He was appointed Governor of County Kildare, in conjunction with William Robert, Duke of Leinster, March 12th, 1803. He married his cousin Charlotte, daughter of his granduncle, Theobald Wolfe, the eminent counsellor, and died April 18th, 1816. He was succeeded by his eldest son, John, Captain in the Forenaughts Cavalry, and Deputy Governor, County Kildare, who only survived his father three months, dying in June, 1816. His successor was the Rev. Richard Wolfe, who married, in 1881, Lady Charlotte Sophia Hely Hutchinson, sister of John, 2nd Earl of Donoughmore. Richard Wolfe died 1841, leaving the reversion of his estates to his cousin, Theobald George Samuel Wolfe, eldest son of James Wolfe, Major in the Kildare Militia, who succeeded thereto in 1870, on the death of Lady Charlotte Wolfe. Theobald G. S. Wolfe married Elizabeth Henrietta, daughter of Henry Moreland Ball, of Kersiebank House, Stirlingshire, and Tipperkevin County Kildare, and great-granddaughter of Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, M.P. for Ratoath in the Irish Parliament, from whose designs the General Post Office in Dublin and the Irish Houses of Parliament were built. The Ball family trace their pedigree down to Edward I, being descended from Humphrey de Bohun and the Lady Elizabeth, daughter of that Sovereign. One of that family afforded protection to Prince Charles Edward at Kersiebank House during the rising of 1745. The Duke of Cumberland’s party searched the house for the Prince, and left behind them a claymore, now in the possession of the family.

Theobald George Wolfe died in 1872, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Bichard, LL.B., M.A., T.C.D., Lieutenant, Royal Scots Greys. He was killed in the attempt to relieve General Gordon in 1885, at Abu Klea, Soudan, aged twenty-nine, and was buried on the battlefield. He was succeeded by his brother George, born 1859, Lieutenant, Royal Irish Fusiliers, 1882, 8th Hussars, 1885 to 1890, married, 1888, Emily Maud Mary, only child of Bichard Smethurst, Ellerbeck Hall, Chorley, J.P., D.L., High Sheriff for Lancashire, 1874, and widow of J. J. Leeman, D.L., M.P. for York. He has an only child and heiress presumptive, Emily Maud Charlotte.James_Wolfe

Many members of the family have served their country with distinction in the army and navy, including Major-General James Wolfe, the hero of Quebec ; with whom kinship is claimed by the Wolfes of Forenaughts, and also on his side, as shown by an autograph letter from him, in the possession of a member of the family living in Canada. Major Edward Wolfe, born 1781, served all through the Peninsular War, and was wounded slightly at Talavera and Nevelle, and dangerously at the siege of Badajoz. He died in 1875, aged ninety-four. His medal, with six clasps, is now in the possession of the family. Williams Wolfe, R.N., served with distinction in the American War, and was killed in a night attack.

The legal element is also strongly marked in the family — first, in the person of Theobald Wolfe, born 1710, a most distinguished counsellor in his day, of whom many portraits and engravings by Bartolozzi are in existence. He was twice married, and had five daughters, of whom one, Charlotte, married her cousin, Colonel John Wolfe, of Forenaughts. Theobald Wolfe built the family vault at Oughterard, died 1784, and was buried in it.

Arthur Wolfe

Arthur Wolfe

The second great legal personality was Arthur, 1st Viscount Kilwarden, distinguished for his great humanity and love of justice, as well as for his great ability. He served the offices of Attorney-General and Solicitor-General, and was appointed Lord Chief Justice in 1796. He represented the borough of Coleraine, and afterwards Jamestown, in the Irish Parliament. He married Anne, daughter of William Buxton, of Ardee. She was created a peeress, August, 1795, with the title of Baroness Kilwarden of Kilteel ; and he, on his elevation to the Bench, was created a peer, with the title of Baron Kilwarden of Newlands ; and afterwards he was created a viscount. On the death of Lord Glare, the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Hardwicke, was desirous of appointing him Lord Chancellor; but the English Government would not consent, owing, it is believed, to the strenuous efforts which he made to secure Theobald Wolfe Tone a fair trial. He was murdered, along with his nephew, the Rev. Bichard Straubengie Wolfe, in Thomas Street, Dublin, in mistake, it is believed, for Lord Carleton, on the night of July 2Srd, 1808, and was buried in the vault at Oughterard. He was succeeded by his eldest son, John, 2nd Viscount Kilwarden, who died in 1830. He never married, and, his brothers having died unmarried during his lifetime, the title became extinct.

Monument to Charles Wolfe in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

Monument to Charles Wolfe in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

The literary element is represented by the Bev. Charles Wolfe, born 1791. He was the author of The Burial of Sir John Moore, Jugurtha in Prison, and many other poems and lyrics, which are to be found in the memoir of him written by the late Archdeacon Russell. He died in 1831, was buried in the old ruined church of Clonmel, Cove, Cork, and there is a monument erected to his memory in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

The late Archdeacon John Wolfe, D.D., was also a writer of some repute, and was highly thought of by men of letters in the ecclesiastical world. He was on the eve of promotion to a bishopric when death cut short his career. He was born 1817, being the second son of Major James Wolfe, and brother of Theobald George Wolfe, of Forenaughts. He died in August, 1871.

In the line of politics, Colonel John Wolfe, of Forenaughts, was M.P. for Kildare, and afterwards for Wicklow, in the Irish Parliament. He was a well-known and most determined anti-Unionist. He was offered a peerage by Lord Clare, if he would vote for the Union, which he declined to do, and in consequence the command of the Kildare Militia was taken from him, and also an appointment he held in the Custom House. He was, however, some years after the Union, appointed Governor of Kildare, in conjunction with William Robert, Duke of Leinster. In ” The Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation,” by Sir Jonah Barrington, be is described in the Bed List as “incorruptible; not to be purchased.”

Theobald Wolfe Tone, the founder of “The United Irishmen,” was godson of Theobald Wolfe, of Blackhall, after whom he was named.

The arms of the Wolfes of Forenanghts are: —

  • Argent, three wolves’ heads erased sable, ducally gorged. Or.
  • Crest, a wolf’s head, ducally gorged, Or.
  • Motto, Pro Patria Mori.

For many of the above facts, dates, &a., I am indebted to the researches of my cousin, Colonel Robert Wolfe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s