Castletown and its Owners, by Walter FitzGerald 1898 (published in the Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society)

Walter Fitzgerald

Walter Fitzgerald

AS most of our readers know, the demesne of Castletown lies at the northern end of the town of Celbridge; in former times it was known as “Castleton of Kildrought.”

Ages ago, by whom is unknown, a castle was built, probably near where the present house stands; in time, the houses of the retainers and tenants accumulated near it for the sake of the protection it afforded in those wild times; hence the “castle town” arose, and was so called in distinction to the unprotected “street towns,” or stradballies, as they were called in Irish.

In order to further distinguish it from other “castle towns,” the name of the religious establishment near it was attached, hence ”Castletown of Kildrought” in the same way as at the present time there are a Castletown Geoghegan, Castletown Moylagh, Castletown Arra, and many others. There are fifty to townlands in Ireland called solely “Castletown”.

When the necessity for the thick-walled, fortified “piles” or castles no longer existed, a more spacious, healthier, and better lighted mansion took the place of the damp, dark, and uncomfortable dwellings of former centuries; and thus, about 173 years ago, Castletown House was built by the Right Hon. William Conolly, PC and Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, which retained in name alone its connection with the past.

The earliest mention of this place, so far as I have been able to discover, occurs in a work published in 1828, entitled Rotulorum Patentium et Clausorum Cancellariae Hiberniae Calendarium, by which it appears that the Earls of Kildare were in possession here in the fourteenth century. The following extract is a translation from the contracted Latin: —

The same Marquis {ie Robert de Vere, Earl of Bedford and Marquis of Dublin}, at the request of Maurice FitzThomas FitzGerald, 4th Earl of Kildare, and for service, allows Richard Arbloster, vicar of Laraghbrune, and John Ront, parson of the church of Cromith, that they may enfeeoff the said Maurice and his heirs, of the manors of Kyldroght, Lieucan and Kylmacridoc, which they held of the said Marquis in capite,” &c.

Dated, Dunboyne, 6th May, 1386.

From this period, to the middle of the sixteenth century, very little mention is made of Castletown in the State Papers. However, it still remained in the possession of the Earls of Kildare until it was forfeited to the Grown by the rebellion of the Silken Thomas (the 10th Earl of Kildare), along with his other estates, in 1585.

By an unpublished Exchequer Inquisition of the Co. Kildare (No. 3, of Henry VIII, in the Record Office) Inquisition, taken at Naas in the year 1585, we are informed that a Sir John FitzGerald, formerly of Castletown of Kildrought, died seised in fee of the Manor of Kildrought, which on his death descended to his son and heir Gerald, lately dead; and that then Gerald’s brother and heir, Edward, inherited it; but now the manor had reverted to the Crown on account of Edward’s joining in the rebellion of the Silken Thomas, for which he was outlawed.

This Sir John FitzGerald, Knt., died about the commencement of the sixteenth century; he is styled of the Geraldines of Cloncurry, County Kildare (in Morrin’s Calendar of Rolls), and was married to Joan, daughter of John Talbot of Dardestown, in the County Meath. She afterwards married Robert Bumell of Balgriffin, Co. Dublin, whose son (by her) John was implicated in the Silken Thomas Rebellion.

This Sir John must not be confused with another Sir John FitzGerald, also living about the same time; the latter was unmarried, was a Knight of St John, an uncle of the Silken Thomas, and was hanged at Tyburn on the 3rd of February, 1537.

Lodge makes out the former Sir John to have been an illegitimate son of Thomas, the 7th Earl of Kildare, by Dorothy O’More, and to have been the ancestor of several of the County Kildare families of FitzGerald outlawed in 1641

In a letter’ dated the 12th of March, 1585, this same Edward is thus mentioned among other items of news (vol. iii, of the State Papers of Henry VIII): —

Edward FitzGerald, son and heire to Sir John FitzGerald, and brother by the mother to that arrant traitor John Bumell of Ballygriffen (in the Co. Dublin), is in prison, indicted for high treason.” (For which he was put to death).

In the year 1554, Queen Mary restored to Gerald, the 11th Earl of Kildare, his titles and estates which had been forfeited twenty years previously by the rebellion of his half-brother the Silken Thomas. Writing from Maynooth, on the 7th of May, 1557, to the Lord Deputy, the 11th Earl requested a confirmation by Parliament of “an Assurance,” which he had passed to his servant Gerald Sutton, and his assigns for ever, of the Manor of Castleton Kildrought, Braljsshan, Ballecrotan, Moristown-Bylleir and certain other lands also in the Co. Kildare. A little farther on it will be seen that the Earl was not justified in what he did.

In 1587 a letter was written by Queen Elizabeth to the Lord Depnty, directing the restoration of the Manor of Kildrought to Thomas FitzGerald of Lackagh (son of Sir Maurice FitzGerald, Knt., deceased in 1575), who claimed as lawful heir thereunto, had not the Earl of Kildare, Gerald FitzGerald, then Deputy of Ireland, who died in the Tower of London (on the 12th December, 1534), wrongfully disseised his grandfather (i.e., Thomas FitzGerald of Lackagh, who died on the 14th August, 15S8), and Lord Thomas FitzGerald, son of the Earl, having been attainted of treason, their possessions came to the Crown, and so remained until restitution of the Earldom was made (in 1554) to the father (Gerald, the 11th Earl) of the present Earl (Henry, the 12th Earl), who sold the Manor to Garrett Sutton. The latter dying (in 1574) left it to David Sutton, his son, which David, in the time of Lord Grey (Lord Deputy of Ireland), was attainted of treason (having in 1580 joined in Ballinglass’s rebellion), whereby the premises again came into the possession of Her Majesty. Dated 14th August, 1586.”

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a portion of the lauds and tenements of the Manor of Kildrought were known as “Sir Maurice fitzThomas his ffarme,: after that member of the Lackagh family.

The Sutton family, mentioned in the above extract, was one of the chief families in the county at this time; one branch was seated at Richardstown, and the other at Tipper; from the latter the Castletown Suttons were sprung. As the arms of these families are the same, they had a common ancestor; and judging by a will of a Tipper Sutton, in which the property is left in remainder to the Suttons of “Ballykeroke” in the County Wexford, they originally belonged to the latter county.

The annexed pedigree shows the principal members of the Suttons of Castletown, and their relationship with those of Tipper.

For the next few years the history of Castletown is given in an Exchequer Inquisition taken in Naas in 1594: it is to the following effect: —

That Queen Elizabeth was, in right of her crown, seised of the Manor of Kildrought, alias Castleton-Kildrought, Kilmacredock, and one water-mill in Kildrought, all in the County Kildare.

That by letters patent, dated the 23rd August, 1582, she granted to Edward Byrne, of Cloughran-Swords, in the County Dublin, the aforesaid town of Castle ton, near Kildrought, to hold to him and his assigns for a term of thirty-one years.

That by other letters patent, dated the 5th July, 1583, she granted the said town of Castleton to Sir Henry Warren and his assigns for a term of forty years, to commence at the end of Edward Byrne’s lease.’

(This Sir Henry Warren, Knt., was the son of Humfrey Warynge, or Warren; he married Alice, daughter of Adam Loftus, the Lord Chancellor.)

That by other letters patent, dated 16th July, 1583, she granted to John Cusack, of Elistown-Bead, gent, the water-mill, water-course, and other portions within the Manor of Kildrought, for a terra of thirty years.

That by other letters patent dated 25th July, 1585, she granted to Galfrey Fenton all the messuages, lands, and tenements in the town of the aforesaid Kilmacredock, for a term of twenty-one years.

That afterwards, by letters patent, dated at Dublin the 28th of June, 1587, the Queen granted to Edward FitzGerald the aforesaid manor of Kildronght, Kilmacredock, and the said water-mill, as well as the castle, and all messuages, lands, and tenements, as well temporal as spiritual, to hold to him, his heirs, and assigns for ever.

That the said Edward FitzGerald and Thomas FitzGerald of Lackagh, on the 10th of November, 1587, enfeeoffed the premisses to Thomas Alen, of Alenscourt, gent., John Davies, of Lyons, and Edward Dongan, of Paynestown, for the use of John Dongan, of Dublin, gent., with remainder to his sons, Walter, William, and Edward, and their heirs.

And that the said John Dongan made his will, and died on the 8th of August, 1592, his son and heir Walter being then aged twelve years and nine months.

Fiant No. 4181 of Elizabeth states that a lease in 1582 was granted to Henry Warren, of Ballybritten, gent., of the Castle (the precinct containing three acres, and including a hall built after the Irish or country manner, covered with straw) and lands of Castleton of Kildroght, Sir Morish fitzThomas’s farm, parcel of the Manor of Kildroght, possesions of David Sutton attainted. To hold for forty years, at a rent of £17/6s/8d, maintaining one English horseman. In consideration of him and his father Humphry. Henry Warren’s lease to commence on the expiration of Eady Burne’a lease, which was for thirty years, and commenced in 1582; that he should not alien any portion, except to Englishmen, and that he shall not charge coyne or lively, or other unlawful impositions.

Fiant No. 5208 of Elizabeth explains that this Edward FitzGerald was the son of Sir Maurice FitzGerald, Kt of Lackagh, who died in 1575, and that he was granted the manor in consideration that those premises were shown to be the ancient right of Thomas FitzGerald, his eldest brother.

Celrbidge from Alexander Taylor's Map of Kildare 1783We have now traced the ownership of Castletown to the Dongan family in the year 1587. At this time, according to a County Kildare Chancery Inquisition, the Manor of Castletown consisted of one castle, one courtyard (aula), a mill with its pond and mill-race, ten messuages (or farm buildings), 230 acres, and a fish-weir on the Anna-liffey in Castletown of Kildroght; two messuages and 160 acres in Kilmacredock; 60 acres called Aylmer’s farm, and 200 acres called the Earl of Kildare’s farm in Kildroght, a parcell of land in Coole-McThomas (which is a townland not now in existence, as it is included in the park in Carton demesne), and the Moortown, all of which form the Manor of Castletown of Kildroght aforesaid.

The first of this family in possession was John Dongan, of Dublin, who married Margaret Foster. By her he had four sons, of whom the eldest was Walter; the second, William, Recorder of Dublin; the third, Edward, of Kiltaghan, near Rathangan; and the last was Thomas, of Griffenrath, Co. Kildare.

Sir Walter Dongan, of Posseckstown, succeeded his father in 1592; he was created a baronet on the 23rd October, 1628, and died in January, 1627. In his will he styles himself of Castletown-Kildrought, and therein expresses a wish to be buried in his parish church of Kildrought. By his wife Jane, daughter of Robert Rochefort, of Kilbride, in the Co. Meath, he had a numerous family, of whom the eldest son was Sir John.

Sir John Dongan, of Castletowne, married Mary, daughter of William Talbot, Brt of Carto which he had on lease from Gerald, the 14th Earl of Kildare, then living in Maynooth castle.

Gerald, the 14th Earl of Kildare, about the beginning of the seventeenth century, granted a lease of Carton to Sir William Talbot, son of Robert, third son of Sir Thomas Talbot of Malahide, Bart, by whom a house was built at Carton, which is the nucleus of the present mansion. The Funeral Entry (copied from vol. vi, p. 29) given below deals with this Sir William:—

Sir William Talbott of Cartoune, in the County of Kildare, Baronet, deceased the xvi. of March, W3S; he had to wife, Alsoii, daughter of John Netterviell of Casteltoune, in the County of Meath, Escuire, by whom he left issue, Sir Robert Talbott, Baronet, and hath to wife, Grace, daughter of ye right Hon Sir George Calvert, Kr Lord Calvert, Baron of Baltimore; John Talbott, Garret Talbott, who had to wife, Margaret, daugliter of Henry Gaidon of Dublin, Gent; James Talbott, Thomas Talbott, Peter Talbott, Gilbert Talbott, Richard Talbott (afterwards created Duke of Tyrconnell); Mary, maried to Sir John Dongan, Baronet; Briget, maried to John Gaidon of Irishtowne, in the County of Kildare, Esquire; Margaret, married to Henry Talbot of Templeoge, in the County of Dublin, Esquire; Frances, Elizabeth, Jane, Katherine, and Eleanor.”

He was buried in the Church of Maynooth, in the Parish of Laraghbrene, the 1st of April, 1633.

Sir John’s will was proved in 1663. His eldest son, Sir Walter, was one of the Confederate Catholics of Kilkenny, but, dying without issue, his brother Sir William became the 4th baronet. On the 14th of February, 1661, Sir William Dongan was created Viscount Dongan of Clane, and on the 2nd January, 1685, Earl of Limerick.

Thomas_Dongan,_2nd_Earl_of_LimerickThe Dongans were Jacobites, and at the Battle of the Boyne, in 1690, the Earl of Limerick fought, as well as his only son, Walter, who was killed in the battle. After the treaty of Limerick, signed in October, 1691, the Earl and his wife, Euphemia (a French lady), left Ireland and retired to France, thereby forfeiting his great estates. His death took place in 1698, when his brother. Colonel Thomas Dongan, succeeded to the Earldom, which became extinct on his death, on the 14th of December, 1715.

The successors of the Dongan family, about the end of the seventeenth century, were the Conollys.

William Conolly lo-resThe first of the name in the place was the Right Honourable William Conolly, who purchased the property, and built the present house in 1725. This date is to be seen on the leaden heads of the gutter water pipes on the SW side of the house.

He was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons from the year 1715 to 1729, when he resigned his post through illness, and died on the 29th of October in that year. He had been sworn in ten times as Lord Justice of Ireland.

His wife was Catherine, eldest daughter of Sir Albert Conyngham, a Williamite general of Ordnance in Ireland, ancestor of the present Marquess Conyngham of Slane Castle, in the Co. Meath. At his funeral, it is said, the custom of wearing white linen scarves was first adopted, in order to encourage the Irish Linen Manufacture.

In his will he entrusts his wife, his nephew William Conolly, the Right Rev. Arthur (Price), Lord Bishop of Clonfert and Kimacduagh, the Rt. Honble. Marmaduke Coghil, Thomas Marlay, Escj, Attorney-General, and the Rev. George Marlay, Vicar of Kildrought, with the sum of £500 sterling, for the erection of a building in or near the town of Celbridge, for the reception of forty orphans or other poor children; and he leaves a yearly sum of £250 (issuing from the manor, town, and lands of Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin) for their maintenance and education in the Linen or Hempen Manufacture, or in Husbandry.

His wife, who survived him for twenty-three years, erected a magnificent monument over his vault in the old churchyard of Kildrought, which is situated at the southern end of the town of Celbridge, and is locally known as the Tea-lane church-yard.

Conolly mausoleum

Conolly mausoleum

This monument is of great size, and consists of a handsome pediment supported on four pillars.

Under it, on the base, recline two life-size figures in the costume of the period; they represent William Conolly and Catherine Conyngham; the sculpturing is almost entirely in white marble. In the front of the pediment is a coat of aims — the Conolly impaled with the Conyngham, viz.: —

Argent, on a saltire engrailed sable, five escallops of the field; for Conolly.

Argent, a shake-fork, between three mullets, sable; for Conyngham.

On the slab in the back of the monument is a long inscription in Latin, of which the following is a translation: —

HS William Connolly, who attained as a reward of his merits the highest honours, was for about twenty years a Commissioner of the Revenue in the reigns of Queen Anne and George I, and was a Privy Councillor in the reign of George II. He was twice unanimously elected Speaker of the House of Commons in the Parliament of this Realm, and ten times held the office of Lord Justice of Ireland, being the first to whom both the sovereign and the people entrusted at the same time the protection of their privileges with the happiest result. As a subject he was loyal; as a citizen, patriotic. In perilous times he not once or twice proved that he served his country without forgetting his duty to his king, and served his king without forgetting what was due to his country. Firm, resolute, just, wise, formed by nature for the life of a statesman, his administration of affairs was crowned with success to the great advantage of the Commonwealth. He made a modest though splendid use of the great riches he had honestly acquired, distinguished as he was alike for the courtesy, integrity, and munificence of his disposition. Kind-hearted towards all men, he was loyal to his friends, whom he bound to himself in great numbers, and retained their friendship when once he had gained it. Wishing to do good even after his death, he gave directions by his will that a building should be erected on the adjacent lands for the maintenance and education of the children of the poor, and he endoweth it for ever with large revenues. Having lived long enough to satisfy the claims of nature and his fame, he died on the 29th of October, in the year of our Lord 1729, in the sixty-seventh year of his age.

Catherine, of the Conyngham family, has erected this monument to her most worthy husband.

The old Kildrought church on Tea Lane

The old Kildrought church on Tea Lane

Thomas Carter (as is recorded on the marble) was the sculptor of this fine piece of work; at the present time this monument, which would be an ornament to any cathedral, is hid away in a plain windowless building close to the ruins of Kildrought Church, the tower portion of which is now fitted up as a vault, belonging to the Maunsell family of Oakley Park. A small portion of the east end of the church is still standing; it contains the east window, which was round-headed and of three lights; a small portion of the tracery in the upper portion is still in situ.

William Conolly having no children, his heir was his nephew William Conolly, of Stratton Hall in Staffordshire, who married Lady Anne Wentworth, daughter of Thomas, 3rd Earl of Strafford; on his death in 1754, he was succeeded at Castletown by his son the Right Honourable Thomas Conolly, a Privy Councillor in Ireland.

Tom Conolly

Tom Conolly

Thomas Conolly was Master of Foxhounds in the County Kildare. In connection with Castletown there is a legend describing how, on one occasion, after a hard day’s hunting over a stiff country. Squire Tom Conolly entertained a stranger at dinner who had won his admiration by the way he had ridden during the run; after dinner, when the punch was being circulated, Squire Tom had occasion to stoop down to pick up his table-napkin, which had slipped under the table; he then perceived to his amazement that his friend the stranger, who was in a chair next to him, had one of his shoes off, and that a cloven hoof was visible; the eviction of the stranger was only carried out after much time and trouble, when, as a last resource, the PP of Kildrought was sent for and put in an appearance, is tradition is introduced into a series of ballads by a broth of a boy” (. . . Russell), called “the Kishogue Papers;” thomas conolly houndsThe one in question is called “The Devil and Tom Conolly,” and appeared at p. 677, vol. xxii, for the year 1843, of The Dublin University Magazine. The Kishogue Papers” were republished in book form in 1877, by Gill of Upper Sackville Street.

Lady Louisa

Lady Louisa

Thomas Conolly’s wife was Lady Louisa Lennox, third daughter of Charles, 2nd Duke of Richmond, by whom he had no children. By a curious coincidence Lady Louisa had two sisters married to men living close by; the elder. Lady Emily was living at Carton, having married James, Ist Duke of Leinster, and the younger. Lady Sarah, resided at Oakley Park, at the opposite end of the town of Celbridge, having in 1781 married (her second husband) Colonel the Hon. George Napier, eldest son by his second wife of Francis, 5th Baron Napier, of Merchistown, near Edinburgh.

Thomas Conolly died on the 27th of April, 1808; his will is dated the 14th of June, 1802. By it Castletown was left to his wife during her life; in it, too, he insists that his heir should assume the name and arms of Conolly alone. His heir was his gi-andnephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, son of Admiral the Hon. Sir Thomas Pakenham, who had married Louisa Staples, eldest daughter of Thomas Conolly’s sister, Harriet, wife of the Rt. Hon. John Staples, of Lissan, Co. Tyrone, a Privy Councillor.

This Edward Michael Conolly was the grandfather of the present owner of Castletown.

One very sensible and sound piece of advice is contained in Thomas Conolly’s will: “I hope and recommend,” he writes, “to the persons who will be entitled to my estate, that they will be resident in Ireland, and will always prove steady friends to Ireland, as their ancestor, Mr. Speaker Conolly, the original and honest maker of my fortune, was.”

A few years ago Castletown could boast of the biggest cedar in Ireland, and the largest vine (with the exception of that in Hampton Court) in the United Kingdom. The cedar was blown down in a gale, and the vine was maliciously destroyed by an under-gardener under notice of dismissal.

There is a drive leading through the woods from Castletown to Kilmacredock which is still called “Dongan’s Walk” after the family who last lived there over two hundred years ago.

Kilmacredock lies outside that portion of Castletown demesne known as “the Deer Park.”

It long ago contained a burial-ground, but all traces of the old church and interments have entirely disappeared. At the present time there are the ruins of a modern building (much resembling a small dwelling-house) standing on the site of the old church; below it is an arched, brick vault, used by the Bellingham family, late of Bavensdale (near Carton), and now of Howth; no monument of any sort is erected here to their memory. Kilmacredock gives its name to the parish.

From the windows on the north-east side of Castletown House, at the end of an opening in the trees is seen a mile off an unsightly building, known as “the Wonderful Barn” which was probably at one time the Home Farm, as it was built by the Conolly family. A conical tower, similar to the one in the illustration, stands at each comer of the haggard-enclosure.

Over the doorway of the largo one is inserted a mural tablet, on which is incised:— 1743

Wonderful Barn

Wonderful Barn

This tower is seventy-three feet in height, and ninety-four steps winding round its exterior lead to the battlemented summit. The townland it stands on is now called “Barn Hall,” though formerly it and Parsonstown formed a part of the Rinawade townland which extended to the river Liflfey. According to Joyce’s “Irish Names of Places” Rinawade means “the point of land of the boat,” proving that in former times there was a ferry here.

In another vista through the trees, at the back of the house, is a remarkable building known as “the Obelisk,” which was built in the year 1740 by Mrs. Conolly, widow of William Conolly, the Speaker, who died in her ninetieth year in 1752. “The Obelisk” stands on the townland of Barrogestown, and, as the crow flies, it is two miles from Castletown House. It is said Mrs. Conolly built it to give employment during a year of great scarcity. In the month of March, 1740, Mrs. Conolly’s sister, Mrs. Jones, wrote to another sister, a Mrs. Bound: —



“My sister is building an obleix to answer a vistow from the bake of Casteltown House; it will cost her three or four hundred pounds at least, but I believe more. I really wonder how she can dow so much, and live as she duse.”

The height of the obelisk, to the top of the central spire, is 140 feet; the date 1740 appears on the keystones of the lower arches; a flight of steps enables one to reach the level above the central arch, over which, and from other parts, all the cut-stone balustrading has disappeared. If for no other purpose, this unsightly structure acts as a good landmark to those out hunting.

On Noble and Keenan’s map of the County Kildare, 1752 there is a fairly accurate drawing of this building.

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