Turtle Bunbury

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A Royalist soldier from Durham seems to be the first member of the Wolfes of Forenaghts to arrive in Ireland. Whatever his motives, within a generation he had established a family in the county that would play a dominant role in the “affairs of the Pale” through to the 19th century. Indeed, the Wolfes of Forenaghts produced no less than eleven Freemen of Dublin over the years.

The most celebrated member was Chief Justice Lord Kilwarden, a contemporary of Wolfe Tone, murdered during the Emmet Rebellion of 1803. A high profile marriage to the fashionable Lady Charlotte Hutchinson in the mid 19th century produced no heirs and another heir was slain in action against the Mahdi.

The following account also includes a fine appendix entitled 'A Woman Wronged' in which Helen Goodship corrects a long-standing error in the family annals, as well as addressing the rumoured kinship to General James Wolfe of Quebec.


Although there have been Woulfes in Ireland since Norman times, the first of the Forenaghts branch was Richard Wolfe of Durham, a Royalist supporter who moved to Ireland prior to 1658.[1] According to a Chancery suit taken in 1665, he lived between Dublin and “Huttonread”, a small farm in the parish of Oughterard, outside Naas, Co. Kildare.

Richard was buried in Oughterard Church in the winter of 1678 and succeeded by his only son, 33-year-old John Wolfe. He also left four daughters, three of whom married neighbouring Protestant farmers, Hugh Banner of Punchestown, William Brunton of Bishopscourt and William Burgoyne.

JOHN WOLFE (1645-1715)

Having succeeded his father in 1678, John increased the family’s property with the acquisition of Baronrath, the land adjoining Huttonread and Bishopscourt. In 1698 John was appointed one of the Commissioners charged with raising an estimated £120,000 Land Tax, which County Kildare was expected to pay the Government.

In 1668 John Wolfe married Mary Cooper, widow of Rev. Colclough, by whom he had two sons, Richard (1673–1732) and John (1681-1751), and four daughters. The girls were again married into useful families – gentry farmers from around Naas such as Richard Fletcher of Rathmore, Thomas Blood of Ladycastle and Samuel Page of Barbistown.[2] The youngest, Mary, married into an upcoming merchant from Dublin named King.

In August 1794, John's younger son John married Alice, daughter of James White of Ballinatray on the east coast of Co.Wexford. The union produced a daughter who died unmarried.

RICHARD WOLFE (1673-1732)

John the Elder died in 1715 leaving his rapidly expanding estate to his 43-years old firstborn Richard.[3] During the 1690s, Richard purchased the lands of Forenaghts, near Naas, so marking the continued elevation of the family from yeomen farmers to gentry landlords.

In 1706 Richard was made a Freeman of Dublin. Over the next 55 years, ten of his sons and grandsons would be accorded the same honour. On 13th April 1699 he married Lydia Page, the 31-year-old daughter of Patrick and Mary Page of Forenaghts.[4] Lydia’s maternal grandfather, Sir William Sandys of Ombersley in Worcestershire and Blackhall, Co. Kildare was one of England’s pioneering canal builders and acquired a considerable fortune in the reign of Charles II by making Shakespeare’s River Avon navigable.

Lydia died in August 1715, at which point Richard seems to have come into the inheritance of Forenaghts. Shortly afterwards, he began constructing the first 'big-house' at Forenaghts.

Richard died aged 59 in December 1732. From three of his five sons descend the various later branches of the family. His eldest son, John (1700-1760), inherited Forenaghts and the mainline descend from him. From another son, Thomas (1705-1787), descend the Blackhall line, which later succeeded to Forenaghts, while from a third son, Richard (1712-1779), descends the Baronrath line.[5]


The eldest son John was 27 years old when he succeeded to Forenaghts. Two years earlier he was made a Freeman of Dublin, a position his four brothers also attained. The arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Scotland in July 1745 led to a resurgence of Jacobite and thus Catholic sympathy across Ireland. A new Protestant militia was raised to repel possible invasion. John, part of the upcoming Protestant elite, swiftly joined the Kildare Militia that same year. The defeat of the Jacobite army at Culloden the following spring powered Protestant Ireland into a new age of prosperity.


By his marriage in 1735 to Mary, daughter of William Philpot, John had eight sons and two daughters.[6] A number of these sons attained positions of influence in Georgian Ireland but none more so than the eighth son, Arthur Wolfe, who was elevated to the peerage as Viscount Kilwarden for his support of the Act of Union in 1800. Arthur was born at Forenaghts in January 1738 and educated at Trinity College Dublin and the Middle Temple in London. He was admitted to the Irish bar in 1766 and quickly built up a large client base, becoming a King’s Counsel in April 1778. His rise continued over the following decades with his appointment as Solicitor General (1787), Attorney General (1789) and Chief Justice (1796).

One of his first cases involved an alleged rape in Archbishop Craddock's summer palace at Tallaght, not far from Arthur’s summer residence at Newlands. During the trial the Chief Justice is said to have spent most of his time chatting to the plaintiff about various fields and cottages that they both knew. “It was left to his venerable puisne [a junior judge], who was sitting with him, to ask the plaintiff relevant questions about the how and when, and in particular about why she had stayed in a room with the rapist for a few days without making any attempt to draw the attention of the people who were passing by the door. When the puisne had satisfied himself on these points Kilwarden led the plaintiff back to the chat about the fields and the cottages”.[7]

The American Revolution was in full flow when Arthur first took silk. His nephew Captain William Wolfe, was among those British officers slain in the conflict. In the ensuing decades the Protestant establishment in Ireland witnessed a brutal revolution in France and the appalling rebellion of the United Irishmen in 1798.[8] Arthur was intrinsically involved in the latter. The rebel leader Theobald Wolfe Tone was a grandson of one of his father’s most trusted servants. Indeed, his brother Theobold Wolfe of Castle Warden was the young man’s godfather.[9] When the authorities arrested Tone in 1795, Arthur, then Attorney General, connived in his escape to America. On 10th November 1798, he was actually debating what punishment should be meted to Tone at the King’s Bench when word arrived that Tone had cut his own throat.

During the 1798 Rising, Arthur’s brother Theobald and his wife were advised to leave Blackhall and moved to Cheltenham. In their haste, Mrs. Wolfe’s pet terrier Tip was left behind. However, hardly had the Wolfes unpacked their bags in England when Tip came galloping into their bedroom. He had evidently followed them by road to Dublin, then caught a sailing-packet to Holyhead and somehow tracked them down to Cheltenham! A portrait of this mighty hound was with Major Rynd at Blackhall in 1903. Meanwhile rebels entered Blackhall but fortunately their leader Aylmer prevented the house from being burnt or looted.

On 23rd July 1803, a former Trinity student named Robert Emmet and 300 supporters launched a short-lived rebellion against the British authorities in Dublin, taking control of Thomas Street and James Street for two hours before being dispersed by the Redcoats. That was the extent of the Emmet Rebellion but among the fifty corpses littered around Dublin Castle in its wake were those of Viscount Kilwarden and his great-nephew, the Rev. Richard Straubenzie Wolfe. [10] The Wolfes were trapped between Thomas and Vicar Street when the rebels struck. In the heat of the moment, they were dragged from their carriage and murdered. A contemporary, Charles Maturin, relayed the account of an eye-witness.

“Pike after pike was thrust through [Kilwarden’s] body, till at last he was nailed to a door, and called out to his murderers to "put him out of his pain". At this moment, a shoemaker, who lodged in the garret of an opposite house, was drawn to the window by the horrible cries he heard. He stood at the window, gasping with horror, his wife attempting vainly to drag him away. He saw the last blow struck - he heard the last groan uttered, as the sufferer cried, "put me out of pain", while sixty pikes were thrusting at him. The man stood at his window as if nailed to it; and when dragged from it, became - an idiot for life.”[11]

It is said Lord Kilwarden’s horses can still be heard galloping ghostily down the road to Newlands with the carriage doors banging. Or rather, it used to be said before the Great Invasion of the Motor Car. Kilwarden’s niece was also in the carriage when the rebels struck, but she was “borne to an opposite house in the arms of a lusty rebel, apparently more humane than his comrades.” Emmet and twenty-two of his supporters were executed the following September.



Arthur’s eldest brother Philpot Wolfe (1726–1775) succeeded to Forenaghts on the death of their father in July 1760. He based himself at Forenaghts serving variously as High Sheriff of Co. Kildare (1756), Captain of the Kildare Militia (1756), Collector of the Revenue in Naas (1758) and Sub-Commissioner of Excise (1761).

In 1753 he married Mary de Burgh, daughter of Thomas de Burgh of Dromkeen, Co. Limerick, and a kinswoman of the de Burghs of Oldtown.


Only one of Philpot and Mary Wolfe's seven children reached adulthood – John Wolfe (1754–1816) who succeeded to Forenaghts at the age of 21 in 1775. Like his father, John was High Sheriff of Kildare (1779). In 1796, Wolfe Tone attempted to invade southern Ireland with a French fleet but was held at bay by the stormy seas of Bantry Bay. Once again a Protestant militia was raised to repel the Republican menace. John raised his own militia, the Forenaghts Cavalry, and appointed himself captain.

In political affairs, John worked in conjunction with the 2nd Duke of Leinster and was for some years MP for Co. Kildare. In March 1803, three month before the murder of his uncle Lord Kilwarden, he was appointed Governor of the county. His eldest son John was simultaneously appointed Deputy Governor. This must be regarded as the apex of the Wolfes influence in the affairs of the county. In 1806 he commissioned Edward Parke and James Shiel to design an extension for the house at Forenaghts.

By his 1777 marriage to his cousin Charlotte Wolfe, John had four sons and four daughters.


John was succeeded on his death in June 1816 by his eldest son, John Wolfe, who passed away just seven weeks later. As such Forenaghts passed to the only surviving brother, Richard. The Reverend Richard Wolfe was born on 10th October 1787. He was 29 when he succeeded his brother at Forenaghts.

On 12th April 1831, the 44-year-old clergyman married the fashionable Lady Charlotte Sophia Hutchinson. Her father John Hely Hutchinson (1724-1794) was an eminent lawyer and statesman in Georgian Ireland. As a government supporter he was appointed Provost of TCD in 1774, a move that raised much criticism in the letters pages of the Freeman's Journal, not least when he attempted to turn the university into a pocket borough for his family. And yet he supported claims for independence, political liberty for Catholics and free trade. He was also a skilled dueller and dancer and was known as “The Prancer”, becoming subject of a ditty that runs:

In minuet step how he advances;
Strike up the fiddles - see how he dances!
With his well-turned pumps,
How he skips and how he jumps!

Lady Charlotte Wolfe’s eldest brother Richard, 1st Earl of Donoughmore, was a prominent figure in post-Union Ireland serving as Lieutenant General in the Army and Governor of Co. Kildare. He was also a key purse holder in the Irish Court of Exchequer. Her next brother John Hely-Hutchinson, 2nd Earl of Donoughmore, succeeded Sir Ralph Abercromby in command of the British Army in Egypt. Her sister Anne married Rev. Thomas de Burgh of Oldtown. Another married Col. Thomas Bernard of Castle Bernard and a fourth married Francis Synge Hutchinson, only son of Rev. Sir Samuel Hutchinson.

The Reverend Wolfe died without heirs on 20th April 1841; Lady Charlotte survived him until January 1870. The estates at Forenaghts and Bishopsland now fell to the Reverend’s kinsman, Thomas George Samuel Wolfe (1815 – 1872), grandson of Thomas Wolfe of Blackhall.[12] Thomas married Elizabeth Henrietta (d. 3 Feb 1910), daughter to Henry Moreland Ball of Kersiebank House, Stirlingshire, and of Tipperkevin, Co. Kildare. They left two sons, Richard and George, and a daughter, Elizabeth (d. 1924) who married Colonel William Rainsford, CIE, RAMC, of Craddoxtown House, Naas, eldest son of Captain William Ryland Rainsford, JP. [13]


Upon Thomas’s death in 1872, Forenaghts and Bishopsland passed to his 18-year-old eldest son, Richard, then a student at Trinity College Dublin.

After his graduation Richard joined the army, becoming a Lieutenant in the 2nd Dragoons of the Royal Scots Greys. In 1884, Richard’s regiment was part of a British force of 1500 men under Sir Herbert Stewart dispatched to relieve General Gordon’s beleaguered garrison at Khartoum.

On January 17th 1885, Stewart’s army were attacked by some 5000 Mahdi tribesmen at a caravan-halting depot near Abu Klea in Upper Somalia. The jamming of a single Gardner gun caused the British square to collapse and the Mahdi drove in with their spears. A desperate hand-to-hand conflict followed in which the British finally emerged the victors.

Over a thousand Arab corpses were counted. However, among the 150 British soldiers and 18 officers killed was 30-year-old Lieutenant Richard Wolfe. Another officer to perish in the attack was the Victorian war hero and balloon pioneer Colonel Fred Burnaby.


Forenaghts duly passed to Richard’s younger brother, Lieutenant George Wolfe (1859–1941). He too had experience of North Africa, serving with the Royal Irish Fusiliers against the Egyptians in 1882. He fought at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, winning a medal, clasps and the Khedive's star for his efforts.

In 1890, he retired from the army and became an active player in the affairs of county Kildare, serving as JP, High Sheriff (1900), Ranger of the Curragh and as part of the County Council.

At the birth of the Irish Free State in 1923, he was elected to Dail Eireann, retaining the seat until 1932. In October 1888 he married Emily Maud Mary Leeman (d. 5 June 1910), widow of John Joseph Leeman, DL, JP, and only child of Richard Smethurst, DL, JP, of Ellerbeck Hall, Chorley, Lancashire.

Following the death of George Wolfe, TD, on 1st December 1941, Forenagths passed to his only child, Emily Maud Charlotte Wolfe. She was born on 27th February 1892 and was still resident at Forenaghts in 1976. I believe the property was later sold to the Smurfit family and is now their thoroughbred stud.





Charles Bucknall Wolfe ‘connected himself with a person named Brabrow, daughter of a clothier of Faversham, but it was not a right kind of marriage, in fact not legal, and the family did not acknowledge them.’

With these words the family historian R.T. Wolfe, writing in the latter half of the nineteenth century, confirmed in print what Charles’ relatives had been saying since 1781, and destroyed the reputation of the young woman from Faversham, and her children.

In the first edition of his account of the Wolfes of Kildare*, R.T. Wolfe listed all descendants of the family who were alive in the late nineteenth century. The Blackhall line still existed and the Baronrath line was flourishing, but he reported that the senior branch, the Forenaghts line, was extinct. He did however suggest that there might be lost survivors somewhere in America.

"It is possible there may be descendants still existing of Lieutenant Charles Bucknall Wolfe by his second wife, Miss Brabrow. Several of his sons by her, on the death of their half-brother, the Rev. Richard Straubenzie Wolfe, in 1803, who inherited property from his mother, Miss Griffith, are said to have gone to America with their mother, claimed the same, obtained it, and have never since been heard of."

Lieut. Charles Bucknall Wolfe and his older brother Williams Wolfe had served as officers in the British Army during the American War of Independence, where Williams was killed at the Battle of Paoli in 1777. Charles was promoted to Lieutenant in honour of his brother, but returned to England in poor health, and died in 1790.

After the publication of R.T. Wolfe’s book, Charles Bucknall Wolfe’s niece Anne Jane Croker informed the author that the second marriage of her uncle was not legal. R.T Wolfe added a correction to the Preface of his second edition, published in 1893. He made a point of attributing the accusation to his informant, but nevertheless considered it reliable enough to publish.

"I take this opportunity of correcting a statement contained in the Introduction to the first edition, as to the marriage of Lieutenant Charles Bucknall Wolfe to Miss Brabrow. This marriage would appear [on the authority of Anne Jane Wolfe - Mrs. Croker--a near relative of Charles Bucknall's] to have been one of those not recognised at the time by the laws of this country, having, no doubt …..been celebrated by a Romish priest. Being, however, a legitimate marriage according to American law, the children were enabled to claim successfully the property of their half-brother, the Rev. Richard Straubenzie Wolfe, who was killed 3rd July, 1803, and which descended to him from his maternal grandfather…."

He expanded on the story in the appendices, as follows:

Charles Bucknall Wolfe, d. 27 Oct. 1790. On the authority of his niece Anne, daughter of Philpot Rogerson Wolfe, and wife of Thomas Swan Croker, it would appear that after the death of his wife, ----Griffith, he connected himself with a person named Brabrow, daughter of a clothier of Faversham, but it was, as she stated, “not a right kind of marriage, in fact, not legal” and the family did not acknowledge them. She, however, with her children, of whom there were many, emigrated to America, and is said to have claimed the property there that belonged to their half-brother Richard Straubenzie Wolfe, and to have succeeded in obtaining it. The marriage, doubtless, was contracted through the intervention of a Romish priest, which at that period was not acknowledged as legal, that is between Protestants and Romanists in Great Britain. This marriage may, however, have been considered legal in America, and thus enabled her to become possessed of the property referred to.

This account makes ‘Miss Brabrow’ sound like a common adventuress, (a woman who seeks social or financial advancement by questionable means). Not only was she the daughter of a mere clothier, but she was not properly married to the father of her children, and to make matters worse (in the eyes of Charles Wolfe’s Anglican family) she was a Roman Catholic. She was long dead when this information was published; no-one stepped forward in her defence, and her children did not identify themselves. There the matter has rested ever since. But how much of the story was true?

Sarah Spradbrow

The much-maligned Miss Brabrow was in fact called Sarah Spradbrow. Say ‘Miss Spradbrow’ out loud quickly and you can hear how the mistake came about. The supposedly ‘Romish’ marriage was conducted according to the rites of the established Church of England, at the parish church of the ancient Cinque Port of Rye, in Sussex, where it was entered on the marriage register on 7th July 1781. The curate who conducted the ceremony wrote Sarah’s surname ‘Spradborough’, but she signed her name Spradbrow, the spelling her family used.

So the marriage of Charles and Sarah was entirely legal, and not in the least ‘Romish’. Sarah was nearly 23 years old. The marriage was by licence, so the couple did not have to wait for the banns to be called three times in their own parishes. A licence was often necessary if the bride was pregnant, but it was also the ‘done thing’ for the gentry, as it demonstrated the couple could afford the additional expense. The first child arrived twelve months after the wedding, so Sarah was not expecting a baby when she was married.

There were no Roman Catholics in the Spradbrow family. They had been in business in Sturry in Kent (a few miles from Canterbury) for several generations, and numerous christenings, marriages and burials are recorded in the registers of the parish church.


Sarah’s father William Spradbrow was a fellmonger (dealing in animal hides) and breeches-maker. He did not have a country estate, but he owned property, was a Freeman of the City of Canterbury, and was sufficiently prosperous to be considered a gentleman.

William had expanded the family business to Faversham, perhaps because of its access to the sea. It is possible he was exporting hides or the valuable wool produced on the Kent marshes. He married his wife Sarah March at Sturry in 1753 and their daughter Sarah Spradbrow was baptised at Faversham in 1758.

Why did Charles and Sarah decide to get married 35 miles away in Rye, rather than from her family home in Faversham? It is possible her parents were not too keen on the young Irish officer who might whisk Sarah off to distant places. Another reason might be that Faversham was not a good place to be in July 1781. In the April of that year there had been a disaster at Faversham gunpowder mills: -

…about 7000 pounds weight of powder, were, by some unknown accident, blown up, and by the force of the explosion the buildings were scattered around in the air to a considerable distance, and the workmen were blown to atoms. A pillar of flame and smoke was caused by it, which ascended a considerable height in the air before it expanded, and was seen in the isle of Thanet. The air for near the space of a mile round was so impregnated with sulphur, as almost to prevent persons breathing in it, but with great difficulty. The noise of it was heard at twenty miles distance, and even at Canterbury, eleven miles off, it gave the sensation of an earthquake

The produce of the adjoining gardens were entirely blown away, and the ground left bare, and surrowed, as if ploughed up afresh; the boughs of the larger trees were torn off, and the trunks left bare, and scorched black. All the surrounding houses and buildings were in a great measure destroyed, and in many the furniture of them rendered useless.
The houses in the western part of the town, from the direction of the wind, suffered most, for had the wind set directly towards the town, the whole of it must have been inevitably destroyed. In short, the scene of ruin and desolation which presented itself on every side, with the terrors of the inhabitants in general, and the lamentations of the poor for the loss of their relations and friends, and of their little property, was beyond any adequate description, and perhaps was hardly ever before equalled in this kingdom. Five years afterwards parliament granted a sum of money to be paid to the sufferers…**

Sarah’s parents survived the disaster, but suffered great losses. It took five years for Parliament to decide to compensate the victims. Of the 74 owners of houses who were compensated, only two landowners received a larger sum than William. So perhaps in the summer of 1781 the family was living elsewhere while their property was being repaired. Or perhaps Sarah’s family was wrapped up in their problems and Sarah and Charles wanted to slip away quietly for their wedding.

Whatever the reason, no permanent rift ensued between Sarah and her family. When he died in 1797, William Spradbrow left to his daughter, now the widow Sarah Wolfe, £1066 13s 4d of reduced 3% Bank of England annuities, and £33 6s 8d of 3% consolidated Bank of England annuities. Her surviving sons also received annuities.

The March Family

Sarah’s mother Sarah March came from an interesting and successful family. Her father George March was a collar-maker (maker of collars for draught horses) in Faversham, but he had money invested, and left his children annuities when he died in his ninetieth year. Her uncle and brother, both called John March, were stationers with a flourishing printing business in the precincts of the Tower of London. They were close associates of Mount & Page, well-known printers of maritime charts, and related to the founder Richard Mount (an ancestor of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron.)

Sarah’s brother John March 2 was married to Elizabeth Morse the daughter of an attorney. Elizabeth’s sister Mary Morse married Oliver Cromwell, the great-great grandson of the Lord Protector. In 1791 John March 2 became Master of the Honourable Company of Stationers, one of the City of London Livery Companies, and on his death in 1798 he left a large fortune to his son and partner, John March 3, who died only six years later.

Father and son were dissenters, and attended a Presbyterian church; perhaps this is what alarmed the Wolfes. However there is no evidence that either Sarah or her mother was a dissenter; their children were baptised into the established church.

The Marches were one of those families which succeeded at advancing themselves financially and socially, but did not produce sons to inherit their wealth and position.

The youngest John March married Esther Raymond Barker, daughter of John Raymond Barker, whose family had held Fairford Park in Gloucestershire for many generations. Esther died in 1797 and John in 1804, leaving their two little heiresses to the care of Oliver Cromwell. The elder, Martha, died unmarried and her share of the fortune went to her sister, another Esther.

Esther March married Col. John By, an army engineer. Under the terms of her marriage settlement, contingent remainders (her fortune if she died without heirs) were to go to the Cromwells, the Barkers and the children of Sarah (nee March) Spradbrow. The line was tragically fragile, so the children of Charles Bucknall and ‘Miss Brabrow’ came very close to inheriting a share of the March fortune.

John and Esther By used her money to establish an estate in Sussex, called Sharnfold Park. They had two daughters who accompanied their parents to Canada, where John built the Rideau Canal and established a settlement called Bytown, which later became the capital, Ottawa.

After their return to Sussex, John and Esther By died leaving their two under-age daughters to the care of guardians. The younger, Harriet Martha, died aged 21 without marrying. Her sister Esther March By married Percy Ashburnham, second son of the third Earl of Ashburnham, in 1838. Again there were two daughters.

When Esther died in 1848 aged 28, one of her daughters, Esther Harriet, had already died aged 19 months. The survivor Mary Katherine, her heir, soon followed her mother to the grave aged 3 years, ending the March line. The March fortune went to Percy Ashburnham, so ending any hopes the heirs of Sarah Spradbrow entertained of an inheritance.

Charles Wolfe’s Family

The Wolfes evidently looked down on the Spradbrows because they were ‘in trade’. If they had known about the March family’s connections, and the March fortune, they might not have been so disparaging about the ‘person named Brabrow’.

As Sarah was not a Catholic, why did the Wolfe family falsely claim the marriage was illegal, and refuse to acknowledge it?

The source of the libel, Anne Jane Croker, was born in 1788 and was only two when Charles died, so presumably she was repeating or embroidering what she had heard from her parents. But even if her father Philpot Rogerson Wolfe had quarrelled with his step-brother Charles, or considered Sarah unworthy to be his wife, why would he go the lengths of inventing a story about their marriage being illegal?

A financial motive seems likely. Perhaps Philpot was trying to exclude Charles’ children from their inheritance in favour of himself or his own children. His older step-brothers William Wolfe and Charles Bucknall Wolfe and nephew Richard Strawbenzie Wolfe were all dead by 1803, so Sarah’s children should be next in line to any inheritance from Wolfe relatives. So perhaps, by putting it about that they were illegitimate, Roman Catholic and had disappeared without trace in America, Philpot was hoping that any legacies would come to himself or his heirs.

If this was Philpot’s plan, it was thwarted when all his sons died without leaving heirs. The last of the Forenaghts heirs, Rev. Richard Wolfe, outlived them all before dying in 1841, and Forenaghts passed to a distant relative, a grandson of Thomas Wolfe of Blackhall.

The Lost Survivors of the Forenaughts line

In 1780 Charles Bucknall Wolfe took on an administrative role as Adjutant in the 52nd Regiment. It is likely he and his American bride Elizabeth Griffith were based in Chatham, where Richard Straubenzie Wolfe, the only child of their brief marriage, was born in the barracks in 1779.

In 1781 Charles married Sarah Spradbrow. Whether they intended or attempted to bring up little Richard is unclear, but the child is recorded as being with his great-uncle Arthur from 1783. In 1783 Charles’ regiment went to India where it remained for nine years, but evidently Charles was not fit enough to go.

Richard was adopted and brought up by his great-uncle Arthur Wolfe, who later became Viscount Kilwarden, and died by his side after they were dragged from their coach in Dublin during Emmet’s rebellion in 1803.

What happened to the missing descendants of Charles Bucknall Wolfe and Sarah Spradbrow?

I have found five children of Charles and Sarah, all born within a small radius close to the Thames or Medway estuaries:

· Charles Ogle Wolfe: b 1782 in Chatham
· Arthur Wolfe: b1783 at Selling (near Faversham)
· Sarah Wolfe: b1785 at Faversham, who died in infancy, probably 1786.
· Williams Wolfe: b1786 at Rotherhithe, named after his father’s brother. He died aged 5 weeks.
· Jane Barbary Wolfe: b 1788 at Rotherhithe.

Charles was possibly still working in Chatham when Charles Ogle was baptised there. The next two children were born in the Faversham area, so perhaps the family were living with relatives of his wife; this may mark the end of his military career. The youngest two children were baptised in Southwark at Rotherhithe, an ancient port on the River Thames with market gardens and a playhouse. In 1786 when baby Williams died, they were at Salisbury Street, still close to the river in the adjacent parish of Bermondsey. A few weeks later there is an entry in the register of St Mary’s Rotherhithe for the burial of Sarah Wolfe aged 1, daughter of Charles; if this is the right family, it tells us that Charles was now living at a good address in Rotherhithe and working as a schoolmaster. Charles’ health was declining and he died of consumption in 1790.

In 1797 Sarah received the legacy from her father William Spradbrow, mentioned above. Her two eldest children were also mentioned in his will, but not the younger three who had probably all died by then. The second son, Arthur, was a parishioner of Southwark in 1803, so perhaps after Charles’ death the surviving family members remained in Rotherhithe or Bermondsey. I cannot find any information about his mother Sarah’s death or burial, nor that of the youngest child Jane. However in 1805, in proceedings in the Court of Chancery relating to the fortune of the March family, Sarah is referred to as Sarah Thwait, rather than Sarah Wolfe, so it looks as if she married again after Charles died.

I have been able to find out very little about the eldest son Charles Ogle Wolfe. If the story about the trip to America is true, he inherited some money after 1803. He married a Dublin girl in 1804, Elizabeth Young of Capel St., and lived in Dublin. Perhaps Charles moved to Dublin in an attempt to re-establish his position within the Wolfe family, or to claim the estate of his step-brother Richard, but if his relatives knew he was living in Dublin, they chose to ignore the fact. A newspaper report says:

Charles Ogle Wolfe, late of London, married Miss Young of Capel St. Dublin in Sept 1804.

Charles Ogle Wolfe and Elizabeth Young had three daughters, Bessy, Sarah and Alicia, who were named in a will made in 1829 by their uncle Andrew Young, a retired officer of the East India Company’s Bengal Infantry. At the time, the girls were approaching adulthood in Dublin, and their mother was dead; since Andrew made the same financial provision for them as for his own sisters I would guess their father had also died. Whether they had any brothers I do not know; Andrew left everything to his female relatives and he specified that the inheritances should be passed only to their female descendants, so perhaps he expected any males to fend for themselves.

The second of the three girls was baptised Sarah Spradbrow Wolfe in 1807 in Dublin. Perhaps naming her after the ‘person from Faversham’ was a defiant and symbolic act on the part of Charles Ogle Wolfe. She married a man called Faye, and died in Dublin in 1877.

Belfast News-Letter, Antrim, Northern Ireland. Tuesday 03 July 1877,
FAY-At the Adelaide Hospital, Dublin, Mrs. Sarah Fay second eldest daughter of Charles Ogle Bucknell Wolfe, and niece of Andrew Young, Lieutenant- Colonel Bengal Service, and of Armagh.
What Charles Ogle Wolfe did for a living I do not know - presumably neither Church nor Army, as no rank is mentioned in his daughter’s death notice.

The other surviving son of Charles and Sarah, Arthur Wolfe, was close in age to his brother Charles Ogle and he shared in the same bequest from his grandfather Spradbrow. His life followed the pathway taken by the Spradbrow boys – apprenticeship to a master with a good reputation and good contacts. In 1798 he was apprenticed to Sills Gibbons, a house-building carpenter of Sittingbourne, Kent. Arthur married in Sittingbourne in October 1803, when he was barely twenty years old.

If Sarah and her sons did travel to America to claim the Griffith money (and I wonder whether this is as mythical as the other information about ‘Miss Brabrow’) it could be no earlier than the death of their step-brother Richard in July 1803. Even if they had set out as soon as they heard the news, they are unlikely to have returned in time for Arthur to get married in October. The following year his brother Charles married. It is possible the trip took place either between or after these two marriages. Or it is possible that Sarah and her eldest son travelled to America, leaving Arthur behind in Sittingbourne. Perhaps research in New York might reveal whether Sarah’s sons did indeed claim their step-brother’s inheritance.

Arthur and his wife Ann disappear from the records until 1807, when they were living in Sandwich. They were at several different addresses in the town over the years, and Arthur was always a carpenter. For a person seeking to prosper in the building trade, the Cinque Port of Sandwich, ‘an old, decay'd, poor, miserable town’ (Daniel Defoe), ‘as villainous a hole as one would wish to see’ (William Cobbett) was not a good choice of location. It had long been in economic decline, due to the silting up of the River Stour and the retreat of the sea, and few buildings were constructed or modernised in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. Arthur did not inherit the Spradbrow or March gift for making money; probably he was neither ambitious nor clever. He was an inmate in Eastry Union (the workhouse) by 1861, and died in 1867, aged 84.

Arthur and Ann had at least seven children. Many of his descendants have been called Arthur, Sarah or Charles, and a few even had Bucknall as a middle name. Children who survived to adulthood:-

· Mary Ann Wolfe married a labourer called Stephen Goodban and lived in Deal, Kent. She was a widow for 45 years and worked as a laundress. She was about 95 when she died in 1899. She was my 3 x great-grandmother.

· Jane Wolfe was servant to a farmer and remained single.

· Sarah Ann Wolfe married a staymaker (maker of corsets) called Stephen Reeve, who was a freeman of Dover.

· George Philips Wolfe was a sailor, Greenwich Pensioner and Publican.

· There was also probably a son John, who also joined the Royal Navy.

General Wolfe of Quebec

A story came down through the family that they were connected to General James Wolfe of Westerham, killed at the Heights of Abraham in 1759. My father was told it as a child by his great-aunt, one of Mary Ann’s daughters. I discovered recently that another of her children had also passed on this story to his family. Even as a child, I was certain it was untrue, but now I understand where the story came from.

When finding out about the Anglo-Irish Wolfe family in March 2013, I noticed that members of General James Wolfe’s family claimed a connection to the Kildare Wolfes, and vice versa. It was even reported by Burke’s Peerage.

The last surviving owner of Forenaghts, Maud, who died towards the end of the 20th century, was proud to have General James Wolfe in her ancestry. However the author RT Wolfe, who is reported as being a very good genealogist, found no connection, and it is not even certain the General’s family was Irish.

Mary Anne can be forgiven for the mistake, as she had not invented the story herself; she would have heard it from her father. Arthur must also have told his children about Lord Kilwarden and his step-brother Richard Straubenzie Wolfe, but by the time the story reached his twentieth century descendants, the other members of the family and the estate in Ireland had been forgotten; the only thing remembered was the connection to a famous hero they had learned about at school.

Helen Goodship - Sussex - December 2013

* The Wolfes of Forenaghts, Blackhall, Baronrath, Co. Kildare, Tipperary, Cape of Good Hope &c. Also the Wolfes of Co Kildare and the Wolfes of Dublin, by Lieut.-Col. R.T. Wolfe

** From: 'Parishes: Faversham', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 6 (1798), pp. 318-371.



[1] Mc Lysaght and other authorities, seduced into error by the presence of the same surname in the same county, did not accept that the original Woulfes of 'Woulfes Country' near Athy and the Wolfes of Forenaghts had no connection. R.T. Wolfe, in “The Wolfes of Forenaghts, Kildare and Dublin”, written in 1885, proves this beyond any shadow of a doubt. Wolfe, a highly capable historian and genealogist, makes extensive use of documents subsequently destroyed in the Four Courts fire of 1922.

[2] Samuel Page was killed when struck by lightning.

[3] John’s widow Mary died in 1725.

[4] The name Forenaghts comes from the Irish “For­nocht” meaning a bare, naked, or exposed hill. A megalithic standing-stone has been found at Forenaghts, measuring over 5 metres high and weighs some 13 tonnes.

[5] Richard succeeded to Baronrath and was also a Freeman of Dublin (1735). He had a residence at St Margaret’s, Co. Dublin. Born in 1712, he married Alicia Standish of Dublin and died in April 1779, leaving issue a son William Standish Wolfe and three daughters. Amongst his grandsons were Robert Wolfe, an Ensign killed in action at Java in 1811 and Lieutenant Colonel Richard T Wolfe, Commandant of Robben Island in the Cape Colony in 1834, and author of “The Wolfes of Forenaghts” (1885).

[6] It would be interesting to establish a link between William Philpot and John Philpot Curran, father to Robert Emmet’s beloved Sarah.

[7] John O'Donovan, ‘The Irish Judiciary in the 18th- and 19th-Centuries’, Éire-Ireland, 6, 4 (Winter 1971), pp.17-22.

[8] During the 1798 Rising Theobald Wolfe and his wife were advised to leave Blackhall and moved to Cheltenham. In their haste, Theobald’s pet terrier Tip was left behind. However, hardly had the Wolfes unpacked their bags in England when Tip came galloping into their bedroom. He had evidently followed them by road to Dublin, then caught a sailing-packet to Holyhead and somehow tracked them down to Cheltenham! A portrait of this mighty hound was with Major Rynd at Blackhall in 1903. Meanwhile rebels entered Blackhall but fortunately their leader Aylmer prevented the house from being burnt or looted.

[9] There are unwarranted suggestions that Wolfe Tone was in fact Kilwarden’s illegitimate son.

[10] The Rev. Richard Straubenzie Wolfe, Rector of Kilbeggan, was the only son of Lieutenant Charles Bucknall Wolfe (1730–1778) and Miss. Griffth, a daughter of the Port Surveyor of New York. After the death of his first wife, Charles married Sarah Spradbrow of Faversham, Kent, and had further issue. His grandfather Richard Wolfe of Athy was Viscount Kilwarden’s elder brother and his grandmother Barbara, a daughter of Colonel Charles Bucknall, Deputy Adjutant General of the British Army in Ireland. After Barbara’s death, Richard married secondly Jane Matthews of Bonnetstown, Co. Kilkenny. Their son Philpot Rogerson Wolfe became Secretary to the Board of Works and Inspector General of Barracks in Ireland.

[11] 'Melmoth the Wanderer', Charles Maturin (London, 1892 edn).

[12] One of Thomas GS Wolfe’s uncles was the poet, Rev Charles Wolfe (1791 - 1823), born at Blackhall in 1791 and educated at High School, Winchester, and TCD. In November 1817 Charles took holy orders and became a curate at Ballyclog, Co. Tyrone, and later at Donoghmore, Co. Down. Confounded by ill health and the spurned love of a woman, Charles resigned his curacy in 1821. He died of TB aged 32 at Cobh, Co. Cork, on 21st February 1823. He is remembered as the poet who wrote the elegy "On the Burial of Sir John Moore" of Corunna, first published in the Newry Telegraph on 19th April 1817 and much admired by Lord Byron.

[13] Craddoctown House is now home to the horse trainer Robert John Osborne.