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The Story of Corkagh, Clondalkin (Dublin) – Introduction & Chapter 1


  1. Corkagh in the 17th Century – see below.
  2. The Chaigneau Family
  3. Nicholas Grueber & the Gunpowder Mills
  4. The Chenevix Family.
  5. General De Grangues
  6. Theophilus Desbrisay
  7. The Arabin Family
  8. Finlay: Scotland to Corkagh
  9. Colley: Tudors, Explorers, Rally Drivers


The Corkagh History is also now in podcast form – listen here on Spotify.

The Corkagh demesne has been in existence, in one guise or another, since at least 1326 when it was listed as part of the Archbishop of Dublin’s manor of Clondalkin.[i] A modest castle existed here in the medieval age followed by a farmhouse constructed in about 1650. During the turbulent seventeenth century both house and lands passed through a series of families such as Mills, Trundell and Browne before they were settled upon the Nottinghams, kinsmen of the prominent Jacobite dynasty of Sarsfield. Following the collapse of the Jacobite army in 1691, Peter Nottingham was exiled and stripped of his lands.

In 1703 Lewis Chaigneau, a French Huguenot émigré, bought 104 acres of the forfeited Nottingham estate at Corkagh, thus setting in motion a deep and long-lasting link between Corkagh and Ireland’s Huguenot community. This presumably explains why the surveyor Peter Duff was commissioned to create a rather crude vellum map of Clondalkin in 1703, although a quality version of his map seems to be elusive. According to one account, this map shows a road bisecting the Corkagh estate, running parallel to the Naas Road. It was labelled on Duff’s map as The Green Road from Newcastle to Dublin; in Corkagh Estate itself, it passes the front of Kilmatead House running towards St. John’s Road.[ii]

Corkagh House

Chaigneau is also credited with building Corkagh House, incorporating the earlier farmhouse and almost certainly using stones from the medieval castle. During Chaigneau’s day, the gunpowder mills were established at Corkagh by Nicholas Grueber, another French Huguenot, whose family were probably the most influential gunpowder manufacturers in Britain or Ireland at that time.

The gunpowder mills played a central role in Corkagh’s evolution during the eighteenth century, particularly under the ownership of Colonel Philip Chenevix, Grueber’s nephew, who was a senior British Army officer with friends in high places. The Huguenot connection also continued – not just with Chenevix, whose family hailed from Lorraine, but also through General Henry De Grangues, an immensely wealthy army veteran and friend of King George II who briefly lived at Corkagh, as well as the charismatic Desbrisay family who also owned land at Corkagh during this period.

Upon the death of Chenevix’s son and heir, ownership of the gunpowder mills passed to the Arabin family, long-standing military comrades and kinsmen of the Chenevix’s, whose origins were likewise rooted in the Wars of Religion that tore France apart in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Despite a litany of accidental explosions and harsh import duties imposed by Britain, the mills continued to operate through into the 1820s.

In November 1750 David Chaigneau, son of Lewis, auctioned the mansion at Corkagh in a Dublin coffee house. The buyer was Thomas Finlay, a banker of Scottish ancestry who had been cutting a dash on Dublin’s City Assembly for some time. Finlay belonged to an intricate network of merchants and bankers operating at the heart of the Irish capital. He was almost certainly helped by his cousin Sir Robert Finlay who owned most of the iron export and mining industries in Sweden at this time. Corkagh was to serve as the Finlay family’s primary base for most of the next two centuries, although they also initially retained a Dublin townhouse beside their bank on Ormond Quay.

Thomas Finlay’s son Colonel John Finlay was a member of the last Irish Parliament but arguably made a greater impact commanding the Dublin militia as they marched south through the Wicklow Mountains to crush the United Irishmen in Wexford during the 1798 Rising. Five years later Colonel Finlay was also closely embroiled with Robert Emmett’s Rising during which his close friend Arthur Wolfe, Lord Kilwarden, was murdered.

The bank of Finlay & Company, which had moved north to Jervis Street at the close of the eighteenth century, ceased operating on the watch of Colonel Finlay’s son Thomas. During his tenure Corkagh was leased out to William Stockley, the operator of a horse bazaar on Dublin’s Baggot Street. Mr Stockley was declared bankrupt in January 1837 but would later serve as President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

In June 1837, the Rev. John William Finlay, eldest son of Thomas, married the daughter of a prominent London brewing family who gave him six children before her premature death. His second wife was one of the Hamiltons of Hamwood, County Meath. The Rev. Finlay was living at Corkagh by 1860 and perhaps earlier. When he died in 1879, the house passed to his only son Colonel Henry Thomas Finlay who led the 5th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers to South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War. He appears to have rented the house out at certain points – the celebrated military commander Earl Roberts had designs on it, while Baron de Freyne took it for the 1896 hunting season.

‘CORKAGH – The Life & Times of a South Dublin Demesne 1650-1960’ by Turtle Bunbury was published by South Dublin County Council in May 2018. The book is available via the Local Studies Collection at the County Library in Tallaght, so people can either visit the Library or contact them at 01 4597834.

The Finlay line came to a sad demise with the death of all three of Colonel H. T. Finlay’s sons in war – Harry in the Anglo-Boer War, Bobby and George on the Western Front during the Great War.

My connection to Corkagh stems from their eldest surviving sister Edith Maud, known as Edie, who married George Colley. I have a very faint recollection of meeting Edie when I was a small boy, shortly before her death aged 94 in 1975. In our family, Edie was known as Baba; she was my grandmother’s mother.

When Edie moved back into Corkagh with her young family in 1915, she introduced a fascinating new dynasty to the property. Boasting of close connections to both the Dukes of Wellington and the Viscounts Harberton, the Colleys had been in Ireland since the early Tudor Age.

George Colley’s siblings included Florence (mother of the writer Elizabeth Bowen), Gertrude (great-grandmother to the actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes), Constance (a pioneering female doctor), Gerald (who was greatly embroiled in the Easter Rising) and Eddie (an acclaimed land surveyor who went down on the Titanic).

Upon the death of her father in 1936, Edie succeeded to Corkagh. Her husband George Colley had passed away three years earlier. After about thirteen years at the helm, she passed Corkagh to her eldest son Dudley, a motor racing devotee, who found some success running the Corkagh Dairies during the 1930s and 1940s.

After Dudley Colley’s premature demise in 1959, the house that his ancestor had purchased over two hundred years earlier was sold, with 248 acres, to John Galvin. The following year the venerable mansion was felled. Dublin County Council would go on to acquire 468 acres of the Corkagh lands in 1983.

This history explores the lives of the miscellaneous families who lived at Corkagh between the seventeenth century and the end of the Colley era in 1959.



Corkagh is the sort of place where humans have been mingling since time began. Bear in mind that, as the crow flies, its only about 12km from Corkagh to the GPO on O’Connell Street. The demesne occupies a low lying area. The Camac River meanders through the middle of it, the land rising gradually on either side, with various little streams off it. A marshland with various pools and natural springs dotted around, Corkagh derives its name from the old Gaelic word for marsh, just as Cork City does. An island in the middle of this marsh – sightly elevated, drier land – was deemed a suitable site for a defensive fort.

In the 1980s, archaeologists laying a gas pipeline found flint leaf-shaped points and chert-end scrapers along the east of Corkagh Park. Other finds include a Mesolithic flint, a Neolithic hollow-based flint arrowhead  and a couple of Bronze Age axeheads.

The monastic settlement at Clondalkin was founded in about 630AD, apparently by a saint named Mo Chua or Crónán mac Bécáin, a descendant of Mac Con, a mythical High Kings of Ireland. It’s said that he studied under St Kevin of Glendalough before he went on his rounds. Clondalkin became a settlement of some renown, with one of the earliest round towers in Ireland (and also its slenderest) as well as a scriptorium where monks created a a gospel mass book, the remnants of which are now in the city of Karlsruhe in south-west Germany.

This district was part of the Crosslands, controlled by the church, from which the Barony of Uppercross takes its name. Clondalkin, aka Cluain Dolcáin, itself is said to translate as ‘Dolcan’s Meadow’ and was spelled as ‘Cluaindolcam’ in the 13th century. No further details of Dolcain / Dolcam have survived. Looking at the Irish name for Ashbourne, County Meath, namely Cill Dhéagláin, meaning ‘Déaglán’s church’, I wonder if Clondalkin may also have been connected to the cult of St Declán of Ardmore, also known as Deaglán.

The Vikings sacked the monastery at Clondalkin in 833, after which a Norse warrior by name of Amlaíb Conung, who may be the same as Olaf the White, built a fort either on or near the site of the monastery. That was in turn smashed up by the Irish in the 860s.

Just before Richard de Clare’s Cambro-Norman army advanced on Viking Dublin in 1171, Rory O’Conor, the last High King of Ireland, apparently encamped a powerful army at Clondalkin of maybe 30,000 men, with a view to protecting the Danes of Dublin. They remained for three days but when they learned Dublin was on fire and that Viking treachery was afoot, Rory retreated.

By the late fourteenth century, there were at least five streets in Clondalkin, while the parish church was 120 feet long, 50 feet wide and boasted three altars. It was in pretty poor nick by the Reformation in the 16th although this ‘substantial village’ still had a market and burgages. The owner of the lands since the Norman era was the Archbishop of Dublin who, in turn, assigned it to the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Indeed, the first mention of Corkagh comes from 1326 when it was listed as part of the Archbishop’s manor of Clondalkin.

A castle apparently occupied the site of Corkagh House. The historian and folklorist Liam Ua Broin, writing in 1944, states that the house ‘stood within the moat of a castle, ruins of which consisted of an arched entrance, portion of a battlemented parapet and eight windows’. We don’t know when it was built but the fact it had a moat suggests it was reasonably important.  Ua Broin reckoned the moat was fed by a tributary of the Camac River.


In October 1641 an uprising by the Catholic population in Ulster led to the massacre of thousands of Protestant settlers. As Ireland plunged into an eleven-year internecine war, Clondalkin was among the villages that fell to the rebels. In January 1642 a troop of horse rode out from Dublin and all but destroyed the village. Six months later Sir William Parsons, Lord Justice of Ireland, advocated the demolition of the nearby castle of Deansrath ‘to ease the town and to help to free the country.’[iii] The Irish Confederate Wars, as this era became known, culminated in a comprehensive victory for Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army.

At the time of the Confederate Wars, Corkagh appears to have belonged to a Catholic by name of Ralph Mills. He was one of eighty-two men from the Barony of Newcastle and Uppercross who appeared on a list of ‘Papist Proprietors’ published between 1654 and 1656. This list was part of a Civil Survey of lands forfeited by Catholic and Royalist rebels following Cromwell’s conquest. Their lands were subsequently transferred into Protestant ownership under the terms of the Acts of Settlement passed by Cromwell’s Parliament in 1652.

It is not known how great a role Ralph Mills played in events prior to 1654 but many of those named alongside him were key supporters of the Catholic Confederation, including members of the Sarsfield, Talbot, Eustace and Barnewall families. Some were subsequently restored to their lands by Charles II but it is unknown what became of Mills.

By 1656, a surveyor declared that Clondalkin had been reduced to of  “a stump of a castle and some Thatchd Houses with a high watch tower [the round tower]”.


At the time of the Restoration in 1660 the lands at Corkagh were registered to William Trundell, a man whose origins and fate are every bit as puzzling as Ralph Mills. The Dublin historian F. Elrington Ball ranked him as one of the seven ‘principal persons’ connected with the parish of Clondalkin.[iv] Despite this, he is not listed in a record of Adventurers from the period. Nor does his name appear as a Titulado (title-holder) for the Barony of Newcastle and Uppercross in the 1659 census.[v] It would be pleasing to prove a connection between him and John Trundell, or Trundle, the London bookseller who co-published the first edition of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ in 1603.[vi]

In 1666, King Charles II’s brother James, Duke of York (later James II) ‘passed patent’ for the Eustace estates in the Clondalkin and Rathcoole areas, including 41 plantation acres in Corkagh.[vii]

James II and his second wife, Anne Hyde, by Sir Peter Lely.


The Down Survey carried out by William Petty in 1655-1656 and now held by Trinity College Dublin also shows Alderman John Carbery as owner of land at Corkagh, as well as at Kilbride (Rathbride) and Collinstown. Francis Carberry occupied Baldonnell Castle in Kilbride at the time of the Restoration. There had been a Sheriff of Dublin by name of John Carbery in 1635. Alderman Carberry lived at Grace Dieu, which is assumed to be the former Augustinian abbey at Lusk, the stones of which went into the construction of Turvey House for the Barnewall family. Alderman Carberry’s daughter Margaret married Mathew Barnewall, another Dublin alderman, who was killed in the Siege of Derry, where he was a captain in King James II’s Irish Army, on August 12, 1690. The Barnewall family seat, Archerstown in County Meath, was forfeited. Mathew and Margaret’s son John “Tuscarora Jack” Barnwell was part of the Wild Geese, landing in Charles Town in the Colony of Carolina in 1701.[viii]


In May1703 a gentleman named Stephen Browne commissioned the Dublin-based surveyor Peter Duffy to survey his lands at Clondalkin, including a section of Corkagh.[ix] This was almost certainly Stephen Fitzwilliam Browne whose grandfather Thomas Browne, a Catholic Dublin barrister, had snapped up a large chunk of property in the area during the land shake-ups of Charles II’s reign. This included the forfeited Eustace estate of Clongowes Wood, or ‘Castle Browne’ as he named it.

The historian F. Elrington Ball notes: ‘A house which stood in that century close to the ruined castle in Clondalkin village, and which bore the date 1714, and a heraldic device with a buck’s head as the crest, a displayed eagle as the arms, and “virtus omnia coronat” as the motto, was probably erected by the Browne family, who still owned property in the parish.’ [x] This is taken to be the public house that inspired the name of Buck and Hounds townland.


When the French Huguenot merchant Lewis Chaigneau acquired 104 acres of Corkagh in 1703, it is believed that at least some of this had been forfeited by Captain Peter Nottingham, a former Confederate officer in the Duke of Ormonde’s army. Originally from England, the Nottinghams moved to Dublin during the early years of the Anglo-Norman conquest and prospered in the city. Robert Nottingham, a highly influential merchant, was Mayor of Dublin City seven times between 1309 and 1322.

During the 1650s, Peter’s father Limrick (or Lamerick) Nottingham was dispossessed of his lands at Ballyowen Castle in Lucan, presumably for having supported the Confederacy. Ralph Mills of Corkagh was listed alongside him but, unlike Mills, Limrick Nottingham was restored by Charles II. Limrick’s first wife was a sister of Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan, hero of the Siege of Limerick, as well as of William Sarsfield, the enterprising owner of Lucan Castle. Peter’s mother – Limrick’s second wife – was a sister of a prosperous Dublin vintner, Robert Ussher of Crumlin. After the failure of James II’s army to defeat William of Orange, the Nottingham family forfeited their lands, including Ballyowen, which passed to Colonel Thomas Bellew, later MP for Mullingar.


[i] McNeill, Charles (ed). Calendar of Archbishop Alen’s register c. 1172-1534 (Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1950.)

[ii] Ask About Ireland. Further details of Peter Duff are at

[iii] Ball, Francis Elrington, ‘A History of the County Dublin’ (Alex. Thom & Company Limited, Abbey-St., 1906), p. 117.

[iv] Ball, F Elrington, ‘A History of the County Dublin: The People, Parishes and Antiquities from the Earliest Times to the Close of the 18th Century’, p. 118.

[v] Michael C. O’Laughlin, ‘County Dublin Ireland, Genealogy and Family History Notes from the Irish Archives’ (Irish Roots Cafe, 2008), p. C-6.

[vi] Veronica Palmer, ‘Who’s Who in Shakespeare’s England’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), p. 253.

[vii] John D’Alton, ‘The History of the County of Dublin’, p. 731.

[viii] Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926

With thanks to Nolene Dowdall.

[ix] “Photostat” copy of a map of severall parcells of land in and near the towne of Clondalkin, Barrony of Uppercross, Co. Dublin. Surveyed by order of Mr Browne by Peter Duffy, May, 1703.

[x] Ball, F Elrington, ‘A History of the County Dublin’, p. 118.


With manifold thanks to the following for assistance both great and small, yet vital in equal measure.

  • · Kevin Akers
  • · Shirley Arabin
  • · Richard Bomford
  • · Ally Bunbury
  • · Dr David Butler
  • · Emma Coburn, Surrey Archaeological Society
  • · Petra Coffey
  • · Finlay Colley
  • · David Cotter
  • · Alan & Glenys Crocker
  • · Alistair Crocker
  • · Rosaleen Dwyer, Heritage Officer, South Dublin County Council
  • · Harry Everad
  • · Alex Findlater
  • · Roger Finlay
  • · Kieran Groeger
  • · James J Hackett.
  • · David Hasslacher
    · Rebecca Hayes
  • Christopher and Mary Hone
  • · Paul Horan
  • · Danielle Joyce (Archive Assistant, Cheltenham College)
  • · Laetitia Lefroy
  • · Major Robin W B Maclean TD (Curator) and (Assistant Curator), The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum, Edinburgh.
  • · Ralph McGarry
  • · Brida Mulligan
  • · Jane Munro, Keeper, Paintings, Drawings and Prints, The Fitzwilliam Museum
  • · Rev. James Mustard
  • · Isabella Rose Nolan
  • · Maria O’Brien
  • · David Power
  • · Jessica Rathdonnell
  • · Charles Richards (The Mendicity Institution)
  • · Glen Thomas