A heroic defense of a Waterford Castle against Cromwell's army earned the Maunsell family considerable respect from their Irish peers when they first settled in Ireland in the mid 17th century. During the Georgian Age, they rose to prominence in Limerick, as bankers, politicians and Mayors. When not in Limerick, they were invariably leading an army from one international battlefield to the next. In the early 18th century, they moved to Oakley Park, Celbridge, Co. Kildare, formerly home to the Napier family, scions of three mighty Generals. In the early 20th century they married into the Orpen family. The connection to Ireland dwindled after the sale of Oakley Park in 1924. Today the house is run by the St John of Gods.
The name Maunsel is said to be derived either from the Norman French word mancel (an inhabitant of Le Mans) or from le mansel (a feudal tenant occupying a manse farm). The Maunsell family claim descent from Philip de Mancel, Cup Bearer to William the Conqueror. He came to England in 1066, settled in Buckinghamshire, acquired a substantial estate in Leicestershire and built a fine mansion house at Oswick in Glamorgan. His descendents prospered greatly under the Plantagenet kings. In 1163, Sir Robert Maunsell served with the Knights Templar while his eldest son Walter was Napkin Bearer to the King. William's son Sir John was raised in the Royal Court of Edward Longshanks, received numerous lands and manors in southern England and rose to become one of the most prominent statesmen of his age. During the War of the Roses, Sir Philip Maunsell was captured by the Yorkists at the battle of Tewkesbury and beheaded along with his two elder sons.
In 1535, Sir Philip's grandson and eventual heir, Sir Rhys Maunsell of Oxwich Castle, Glamorgan was dispatched with a body of troops to assist Lord Deputy Grey in suppressing the rebellion of Silken Thomas FitzGerald. (2) For his efforts, he was given a grant for life for the site of the Cistercian abbey of Margam in Glamorgan, as well as the Office of Chamberlain of the County Palatine of Chester, and the royalty of Avon Waters to him and his heirs. After the dissolution of the monasteries, he got a lease of Margam and in 1540 purchased the entire Margam property where he built a mansion house partly on the site of the abbey. (3) One of his grandsons, Captain Rhys Maunsell served for the English against the O'Neills in the Nine Years War. He was captured along with Sir John Chichester at the Battle of Carrickfergus in 1596 and beheaded. Their heads were sent to Tyrone and their bodies buried at Carrickfergus. (4)
The principal branch of the family continued to live at Chicheley in Buckinghamshire, marrying into some of the greatest dynasties of Tudor and Stuart England. In the early 17th century, the head of the family was Thomas Maunsell (1577 - 1661), a prominent London solicitor and land speculator. In the 1630s he purchased an estate in Waterford from the Earl of Cork where he relocated with his wife Aphra Crayford who bore him a commendable 23 children. Following her death in 1666, Aphra Maunsell was interred in Caherconlish, Co Limerick. A stone tablet in Basso relievo is still within the precincts of the graveyard, though displaced by an overgrowth of trees on the wall of the church.
Thomas and Alphra's eldest son Colonel Thomas Maunsell, one of the '49 Officers', distinguished himself during the Confederate Wars by his defence of Mocollop Castle, Co. Waterford, against Cromwellian forces in 1649. After the siege he converted the ruined castle into his own mansion, which was inherited by his son Thomas. (5) Following the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, Thomas the Younger was awarded land in Galway, Waterford and the Liberties of Limerick. His sons became merchants and magistrates in Limerick and Cork over the ensuing decades but, upon his death in 1692, the inheritance devolved upon his grandson, Richard.
NB: Edward Mansell was chaplain to King Charles I during the civil war. His father, Robert Mansell was born circa 1580 and operated as a miller in Great Bourton, Oxon.
Richard Maunsell (d. 1773) unexpectedly inherited the Maunsell family estates when his three elder brothers predeceased him. He served as Mayor of Limerick in 1734 and was MP for Limerick City in the Irish Parliament from 1740 to 1761, during which time the city developed as a centre of Atlantic trade, particularly in upmarket fashion and woollen manufacture. By his first marriage to Margaret, younger daughter and co-heiress of Thomas Twigg of Donnybrook Castle, Co. Dublin, he had a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Anne. (6)
Although contemporaries recalled him as ‘an honest but a very dull man’, Thomas Maunsell proved himself a very capable lawyer and married one of the Waller girls from Castle Waller. His oldest son Richard Maunsell emigrated to the USA after he graduated from Trinity and no more if known of him. In 1789, his sons Robert and Thomas co-founded Maunsell’s Bank in Limerick City. Maunsell's Bank later became the Bank of Limerick, which was one of Irelands' leading private banks before its collapse in the economic depression that overtook Europe at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. (7) The younger Thomas became MP for Johnstown while Robert later settled in India where he was elected to the Supreme Council of Madras. Another son became Dean of Leighlin while another became Rector of Oranmore, respectively marrying daughters from Macroom Castle and Bunratty Castle.
Thomas Snr's eldest three daughters all married well - barristers and landowners from Tipperary and Limerick - but his youngest daughter Dorothea Maunsell caused a tremendous scandal when, aged 15, she eloped with the famous Italian castrato opera singer Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci during the 1760s. (Burke’s Irish Family Records claimed Dorothea was married in 1762 to William Long Kingsman, barrister-at-law. He did indeed become her second husband but not until late in the decade). For more on their extraordinary affair, click here.
Thomas Mausell Snr. later became King’s Counsellor in the Court of Exchequer and and MP for Kilmallock. He finished up as Counsel to the Revenue by Lord Harcourt, an office worth £800 a year. When he died in 1783, his legacy was secured through the survival of his aforementioned namesake son and heir, Thomas Maunsell, MP for Johnstown.
Richard's second wife Jane was the eldest daughter of William Waller of Castle Waller, Co. Tipperary. By this marriage he had a further five sons. Among these were General John Maunsell who commanded the 56th regiment at the Siege of Havana in 1762, Eaton Maunsell who served as Mayor of Limerick in 1779 and, the eldest, Richard Maunsell who settled at Ballywilliam in County Limerick and married Helena Toler, a half-sister of the 1st Earl of Norbury. As Chief Justice of Ireland during the early 19th century, Lord Norbury was infamous for the number of men he condemned to the gallows. An anecdote survives of how the judge was addressing the jury in one such case when his voice was drowned out by the sound of an irate ass. "What noise is that?" he inquired angrily. "Merely an echo of the Court, my lord", was the defending barristers risqué reply. But Norbury could be quick too. At dinner one day, his host told him he had shot 31 hares that morning. "I don't doubt it", replied his lordship, "but you must have fired at a wig." (8)
In 1787, Oakley Park became the home of Colonel George Napier and his wife, Lady Sarah Bunbury. Located between the Conolly estate at Castletown and Lord Cloncurry's estate at Lyons, the Georgian house was originally built in 1724, most likely by Thomas de Burgh (qv). Its first owner was Dr. Arthur Price, the Vicar of Celbridge who proposed to Jonathan Swift's "Vanessa". Price later became Bishop of Meath and Archbishop of Cashel. Dr. Price's steward at Oakley Park was Richard Guinness, whose son, Arthur went on to establish the Guinness Brewery. Lady Sarah was one of the beautiful Lennox girls, popularised in the book and TV series "Aristocrats" by Stella Tillyard. Her sisters included Lady Louisa Conolly of Castletown and Emily, Duchess of Leinster. (10)
The Napiers raised eight children in this home. They clearly did something right because the sons grew to be remarkable men. Indeed, for many years afterwards, the house was known by country people as "The Eagle's Nest," on account of the high spirit of the Napier boys. During the 1798 Rebellion, for instance, Colonel Napier armed his five sons and instructed them all in the strategy of defence. The boys were educated at the grammar school in Celbridge. Here the eldest boy Charles organised his fellow pupils into a volunteer force and made them parade. However, his younger brother William showed such little respect for these military drills that he was tried by "a drum-head court martial" and sentenced to some sadly unknown punishment. William refused to accept the penalty and so Charles reluctantly gave the go-ahead for the other volunteers to teach the young rebel a lesson. However, "William, his fiery nature revolting against the insult, whirling a large bag of marbles like a sling discharged them amid the crowd, and then, charging, broke the obnoxious drum, and forced his most prominent assailant, greatly his superior in age and size, to single combat. Although getting far the worst of it, and badly hurt in the fight, William, still refusing to give in, was restored to the ranks by his brother for the pluck he had shown." (11) The long term impact of these schoolyard scraps becomes somewhat more formidable when one considers that Charles, William and a third brother George went on to become three of the greatest British heroes of the Peninsula War. Indeed all three were knighted and promoted to the rank of General. After the death of Colonel George Napier the house and lands were sold to Theobold Donnelly. He changed the name from Celbridge House to Oakley Park.
On 1st June 1807, the younger Richard married Maria Woods, only daughter of John Woods of Winter Lodge, co. Dublin, and sister of George Woods, JP, of Milverton Hall, Skerries, Co. Dublin. (9) In 1813 the estate was purchased by John Maunsell for his son Richard Mark Synnot Maunsell, whose son Richard John Caswell Maunsell sold the estate in 1924 and moved to London. So only 3 generations of the family lived there for altogether 111 years.
In 1840, the Lord Chancellor was "pleased to appoint" Richard Maunsell a magistrate for County Dublin. He served as High Sheriff for Kildare in 1841 and died on 25th November 1866, leaving six sons. (12)
John Maunsell, the 46-year-old firstborn, succeeded to Oakley Park. He also inherited an estate of some 1200 acres at Carrickoreely in Co. Limerick from his grandfather. Little is recorded of John save that he studied at Trinity College Dublin, became a barrister at Gray's Inn in 1834, served as High Sheriff for Co. Kildare in 1868 and never married.
Upon his death in 1882, the property passed to his brother, George Woods Maunsell (1815 - 1887), previously resident of Ashford, Co. Limerick. George owned several thousand acres in Counties Dublin and Westmeath and was a barrister of prominence in Dublin, with offices at 10 Merrion Square South. He served as JP and Deputy Lieutenant for Kildare and as High Sheriff for Dublin City in 1876 and County Kildare in 1885. On 4th August 1842, he married Maria Synott (d. 1883), eldest surviving daughter and co-heiress of Mark Synnot of Monasterois House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly. (13) Two boys - Mark and George - and two girls Anne and Maria - followed. (14)
The third of Richard and Maria's six sons, the Rev. Richard Dixie Maunsell, succeeded to his maternal grandmothers' home at Whitehall in Co. Dublin and was Rector of Innistonnagh. On 10th February 1859 he married Alicia Laing, daughter of Malcolm Laing, a Scotsman from the Orkney Islands who settled in Jamaica's Spanish Town at about this time.
The fourth son Edward Maunsell was killed in the muddy trenches at Sebastopol on 10th July 1855 while serving as a captain with the 30th Regiment.
The fifth son Warren Maunsell lived at Hodgestown, Co. Kildare, and was Rector of Thomastown, Co. Kildare.
The sixth son Frances Maunsell was also a clergyman, lived at Shrule in the Queen's County, was Rector of Symondsbury in Dorset and married Emily, another daughter of Malcolm Laing of Jamaica.
George Woods Maunsell passed away on 26th April 1887 and was succeeded
by his only surviving son, Mark Maunsell. Mark was born on 22nd October
1843. At the age of 20, he married Lucy Copeland, eldest daughter
of Alexander Copeland of Wingfield, Berkshire. He subsequently served
as a captain with the 1st Royal Dragoons. Lucy died without issue in the
winter of 1875. Two years later, Captain Maunsell married again. His new
bride was Mary Caswell, only daughter and heiress of a wealthy Limerick
businessman Samuel Caswell, JP, of Blackwater, co. Clare, who had
died a few years previously. The Caswell and Maunsell families had been
acquainted for years; Mark may have attended Samuel's funeral. The marriage
took place at St. Mary's Cathedral, Limerick, on 26th February 1877.
"Two processional marches signalled the arrival of the bridal party.
Before the ceremony the hymn "The Voice that Breathed o'er Eden"
was sung. After the ceremony came Mendelssohn's Wedding March. The newly
married pair, after having received congratulations without number, and
'wishes for happiness' of equal extent, left for Dublin by the four o'clock
train, whence they proceed on an extended Continental tour." Mary
seems to have been rather a frightening woman, preferring the hunting field
to life as a mother. For the next ten years, she and Mark lived at Strand
House in Limerick, with occasional visits to see Mary's mother at Blackwater.
Mark retired from the army and was a JP for County Clare. In 1887 they relocated
to Oakley Park. Mark was quickly appointed JP for Kildare and, from 1890
to 1892, served as High Sheriff for the county. After Mary's death in August
1893, he was married a third time to Georgina Middleton.
Captain Mark Maunsell left a daughter Norah and a son, Richard ('Dick') John Caswell Maunsell. The latter was born at 80 George Street, Limerick, on 2nd May 1878 and educated at Hailebury College in England and Trinity College Dublin. In 1905, he left Trinity and entered at the King's Inn as a barrister. He was subsequently JP for Co. Kildare. On 24th September 1913 he married Mary Winifred ('Molly') Orpen, fifth daughter of Richard Orpen of Ardtully, Kilgarvan, Co. Kerry. The Orpens were a family of rising influence. Molly's first cousin Sir William Orpen (1878 - 1931) was regarded as the most influential Irish artist of his generation. His experiences of the Great War inspired him to paint to some of the most powerful images of that horrific conflict. He was knighted in 1918 and the following year was resident artist at the Paris Peace Conference. (16) Sir William's brother Richard Orpen (1863 - 1939) was Cathedral architect for both St Patrick's Cahedral in Dublin and St Canice's in Kilkenny. He also served as President of the Incorporated Law Society from 1915 - 1916. Molly's brother Dr. Raymond Orpen (1875 - 1952) spent much of his life advancing knowledge of public health in Sierra Leone, Gambia and Nigeria. Her elder sister Amy married Major John Henry Kennedy, TD, eldest son of Robert Kennedy, JP, of Baronrath, Co. Kildare.
In January 1915, Dick secured a commission as a lieutenant in Kitchener's army and set off for France with the Inniskilling Fusiliers. He remained with the regiment until 1919, witnessing some of the bloodiest battles of the war. In 1917 he was awarded the OBE, after which he became part of the General Staff.
The Ireland to which Dick returned after the war was a rapidly changing society. In 1919 Irish Republicans initiated a guerrilla war against the occupying British army that culminated in the birth of the Irish Free State. Mollly Maunsell's family home at Ardtully in Kerry was one of perhaps two hundred country homes in Ireland burned down during the Troubles. In 1924 Dick sold Oakley Park and moved with his wife and two sons to England. He died on 27th September 1955. Molly survived him until 2nd May 1974.They left two sons, Richard and John, and a daughter Aphra Maunsell who rose to a position of some prominence in the Bank of England. Aphra retired in 1974 and passed away on 21st May 2002 aged 85.
The eldest son, Richard Mark Orpen Maunsell, was born on 15th September
1914 and, like his father, went to school at Haileybury. He later graduated
from London University and went to Australia for 13 years where he
worked with the chemical firm Albright & Wilson. He was subsequently
transferred to Toronto, became a Canadian citizen and was sometime
Director of Research for the Electric Reduction Company of Canada.
In partnership with Richard Courtney Edquist, another Albright &
Wilson scientist, he developed a process for the burning of phosphorus
in the manufacture of phosphoric acid that has since been the basis of the
manufacture of thermal phosphoric acid worldwide. He died on 2 January 2007. He married Gwendolin
Minchin of Australia and had three daughters, Catherine, Elizabeth and Helena Claire Maunsell.
The eldest daughter Catherine lives in Toronto, Ontario, and was formerly married to Alex Himelfarb, Clerk of the Privy Council, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service. Returning to Ontario in 1980, Catherine began working with the Ministry of Correctional Services and for the last 7 years has served as Manager of Female Offender Programs. She lives in Toronto with her life partner Helen McIlroy. She is grandmother to twin girls - Jesse Grace and Sam Alison Heichert.
The second daughter Elizabeth lives in Quebec City where she is a professor of epidemiology at Universite Laval and a researcher in the area of psychosocial aspects of breast cancer. She is married to Guy Dumas, now retired but formerly the deputy minister responsible for language policy in the Quebec government.
The younger daughter Claire had a very successful career as a glass blower as 'H. Claire Maunsell'. married Paul Ostic and has two children, Rachel Sarah Maunsell Ostic, born 1997, and Maxwell Richard Maunsell Ostic, born 1999.
Richard's younger brother John Maunsell was born on 30 April 1920 and educated at Haileybury and London University. He served as a Bomber Commander with
the Royal Air Force during World War Two and later worked with Unilever.
His memoirs of the war were entitled 'No Such Thing as an Easy Ride' and a precy of them is online here. By his marriage to Eileen Conolly he had a daughter Susan born in
1961. In 2009, he was living in Reading.
Dick Maunsell's sister Norah - known as "Nonie"- was the last of the family to live in Ireland. Her niece Aphra Maunsell recalled her as 'a Dublin character' such as you will find nowhere else. She was extremely handsome with a beautiful complexion and (as I remember her best) with pretty, softly waving grey hair. She had the wit of the Irish and was a great conversationalist. She dressed in an entirely individual style which had absolutely no reference to any prevailing fashions--usually wearing large picture hats. She was invariably draped in long strings of pearls, and wore diamond rings and a cloak. She lived in Dublin at 8 Wilton Place, in a house which, to the day of her death, had only gas light. There she was surrounded by beautiful furniture, china, and Irish silver. From the time of my father's marriage in 1913 (she had previously kept house for him at Oakley Park) she shared this flat with her great friend Miss Kathleen Hamilton, who was, in fact my godmother'. Nonie died in Dublin on August 30th 1960 and was buried in the Maunsell plot in the village of Celbridge, Co. Kildare.
Oakley Park was purchased by the Guiney family in 1935 and then sold to
the Christian Brothers. Their plans to open a school did not come
to fruition and, in the 1950s, the property passed to the St John of
Gods. The house now forms part of the St Raphael's complex training
centre for mentally handicapped children and young adults.
The Maunsell family with its numerous branches has not only found extensive coverage in various of Burke's and other publications, but has also been in depth investigated in Robert George Maunsell's 'History of Maunsell or Mansel (And of Some Related Families'' (1903) and in Commr Edward Phillips Statham's and Col Charles Albert Maunsell's 3 volume work 'History of the Family of Maunsell (Mansell, Mansel)' (1917-1920).
With thanks to Josef Muether, Lois Adams, Paul Ostic, Elizabeth Maunsell, Catherine Maunsell, Anne Armstrong, Wendy Artiss, Patrick Hourigan and others.