THE FENNELLS OF BURTOWN HOUSE, ATHY, CO. KILDARE
This work is dedicated to the memory of William Fennell, late of Burtown House, one of the finest gentlemen of his generation.
It is an updated version of the original extract from “The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of Co. Kildare” by Turtle Bunbury (Irish Family Names, 2004). Anyone with further information or questions on the Fennell family is urged to contact the author directly.
See Burtown House for their up-to-date website.
In the wake of the Cromwellian invasion of Ireland, John Fennell, a young soldier from Wiltshire, was awarded an estate in Cahir, Co. Tipperary. His acquisition of land coincided with his conversion to Quakerism, a religious phenomenon that swept across the British Isles in the late 17th century. Over the next hundred years, his descendants established themselves as prosperous millers and gradually spread across Ireland.
An inadvertent wallop of a cricket ball altered everything when Burtown, an old Quaker house in Kildare, passed to Jemima Fennell, great-great-grandmother to the present owner. The 18th century house lies close to the Quaker village of Ballitore, home of the illustrious Shackletons. James Fennell, the present head of the family, is co-author with Turtle Bunbury of books such as ‘Living in Sri Lanka’, the ‘Vanishing Ireland’ series and ‘The Irish Pub’.
QUAKERS & THE ‘INWARD LIGHT’
To the modern mind, the idea of Quakers conjures up wholesome images of breakfast cereals, cream crackers and milk chocolate. It was, after all, Quaker families who created such household names as Jacob’s Biscuits, Bewley’s coffee, the chocolate leviathans of Frys, Cadburys, Terry’s and Rowntree Macintosh, the great Lloyd’s and Barclay’s banking house, Clarks shoes and Persil Automatic, as well as milling dynasties such as Pim, Robinson, Fayle and Sandwith. (1a) The continuing influence of these Quaker institutions upon the world of commerce stands testament to a courageous determination to succeed in the face of often overwhelming adversity.
The Religious Society of Friends – later known as the Quakers – was founded by George Fox in North West England in the mid 17th century. Setting out to make “a fundamental recovery of the Christian vision”, the Society was one of several hundred radical religious movements to arise in an age when all Europe was embroiled in bloody war. What differentiated the Quakers from other religions was their refusal to countenance the hierarchical structure prevalent in both Catholicism and the Church of England. Early Quakers believed each person to be possessed of an “inward light” enabling them to have a direct and personal relationship with God. They stood for non-violence, absolute truth and sexual equality. By 1660 the movement had nearly 40,000 members in England alone.
WILLIAM EDMUNDSON & THE QUAKERS IN IRELAND
The first Quaker meeting in Ireland took place at Lurgan, County Armagh, in 1654. It was presided over by William Edmundson, a Westmorland merchant who served with Cromwell’s Parliamentarian army during the Civil War and settled in Ireland in 1652. By 1656, there were reports that Quaker ideals were making a negative impact on the morale of the Cromwellian army then in charge of maintaining order in Ireland. Indeed, Cromwell’s son and heir Henry Cromwell was so certain Quakers were undermining the discipline of his troops that he launched a purge of the entire army. Quaker pamphlets were seized and burned, preachers from England were arrested and many members of the Society were thrown into prison.
COLONEL JOHN FENNELL (1626 – 1706)
One of Edmundson’s contemporaries was Colonel John Fennell (1626-1706), an officer in Cromwell’s army awarded a small estate on the banks of the River Suir outside Cahir, Co. Tipperary. His estate at Kilcommonbeg lay adjacent to the present day Swiss Cottage, erected in 1810 by the Regency architect John Nash. John Fennell was born in the winter of 1626 in Steeple Ashton in the West England county of Wiltshire. It seems likely that his father Robert Fennell was involved with the woollen industry, the economic staple of Wiltshire since Norman times. On 22nd November 1649, John married Mary Davies of Cardiff, in which city the first six of their nine children were born. Presumably Mary and the children also moved to Tipperary in the lead up to the Restoration. The Fennells of Burtown House, Athy, Co. Kildare are the Colonel’s direct descendents. (1b)
Precisely when or why Colonel Fennell came to Ireland is unknown. Wiltshire’s proximity to the port at Bristol caused the county untold hardship during the Civil War. Contemporaries talk unceasingly of broken bridges, burning fields, ruined houses and derelict roads awash with homeless civilians, maimed soldiers and destitute widows. The Abbey at Lacock, close to the Fennells home, was one of many buildings in the county alternately occupied by Royalist and Parliamentarian garrisons. In 1649, Cromwell personally took the abbey for the Parliamentarians.
By 1660, the Quakers had established thirty meeting houses in Ireland. Twenty years later, it is estimated that there were 780 Quakers in the country, primarily in Ulster, with 295 in Leinster and 163 in Munster. In 1675, Edmundson’s diary recorded a meeting at Colonel Fennell’s home. “The wind coming fair we put to sea again [from Tenby] and landed at Cork where Friends were glad of my coming. When I had visited Friends’ meetings in that quarter, I went to John Fennell’s in company with several Friends, where we had a refreshing, heavenly meeting. Here divers Friends from [the Quaker stronghold of] Mountmellick [Co. Laoise] and thereabouts came to meet me, in whose company I returned home, where I met with my wife and children in the same love of God that had made us willing to part one with another for a season for the Lord’s service and truth’s sake”. (2)
It is not known where Colonel Fennell was living at this time; it may well have been Kilcommonbeg. (3) The Hearth Money Rolls of 1662 state that John Fennell (or rather his tenants) was due to pay an annual tax of ten shillings for his five chimney home at Kilcommonbeg. (4) That he had built such a big house by 1662 suggests Colonel Fennell was a man of some wealth. His religious beliefs were certainly more palatable in the age of Charles II. In the wake of the Restoration, Edmundson and Fox considerably revised the Society’s structure, replacing their more radical ideas with a new philosophy encouraging self-censorship and self-discipline. “Plainness in speech, behaviour and apparel” became the Quaker standard. Over time, the Society came under the influence of Quietism, a Spanish form of mysticism, which required the withdrawal of the spirit from all human effort, and complete passivity to God’s will.
THE WILLIAM PENN CONNECTION
In 1682, William Penn – a wealthy Quaker who spent much of his younger years in south-east co. Cork – established Pennsylvania as an American state run under Quaker principles. Penn had a genuine and absolute belief in freedom of conscience, the right of people to make up their own mind. He could not conceive how or why the state should be allowed to decide what happens in a private conscience. Incidentally, he was always keen to point out that Pennsylvania not named after him but after his father! Consider also the Durdin Robertson connection.
Just over a decade before he established Pennsylvania, Penn visited Colonel Fennell several times, presumably at Kilcommonbeg, near Cahir. Penn kept a daily journal of his travels while in Ireland which was later published as “My Irish Journal” and includes the following that relates to John Fennell.
Oct. 28 – Nov. 2 1669: William Penn traveled to William Lawford’s in Clogheen, Tipperary, travelled on to John Fennell’s, then to Cashel, Clas (this would be Clas nan Gall (Pit of the Foreigners), the site near Silvermines where a number of miners were murdered in 1641), Thurles, Mountrath (Queen’s county), Rosenallis, Mount Mellick, Kildare, Naas and to Dublin where the Friends held a National Meeting. Later he returned to Cork and started his negotiations with his father’s tenants in SE Cork.
Jan. 13 1670: Next morning we went to John Fennell’s, found Solomon Eccles there. Had a meeting. John Burnyeat and Solomon Eccles spoke. It was a most precious meeting. Many Friends were there, George Baker (of Cashel), John Boles and James Hutchinson etc. (from here Penn returned to Shanagarry)
Feb. 2 – 5, 1670: Penn travelled from Cork to Kinsale, then to Clogheen (Tipperary), on to John Fennell’s again and then to George Baker’s in Cashel returning to Cork after several days.
In 1688 John and Mary Fennell’s eldest son William Fennell married Blessing Sandham, born 1662, the daughter of Robert and Deborah Sandham. The Fennells were at Kilcommonbeg at this time. ‘Their union was productive of much happiness to themselves, and usefulness to others. They were honourable in their dealings; and enabled, by moderation, in their own living, to alleviate the distresses of others, and to exercise hospitality. In the year 1724, William Fennel died, aged seventy-three. On his death-bed he expressed his thankfulness for the many favours he had received; especially the blessing of a tender, loving, faithful wife, and dutiful children. His wife survived him ten years. She appeared as a minister, the latter part of her life, and was zealous in recommending, watchfulness and circumspection. She died in great peace, in 1735, aged seventy- three. In 1704, at the age of twelve, their pious child, William Fennel, departed this life; of whose happy death there is a record in the fourth part of ” Piety Promoted.”‘ [Extracted from Mary Leadbetter, ‘Biographical notices of members of the Society of Friends, who were resident in Ireland’ (1823), p. 88.]
THE DESTRUCTION OF KILCOMMONBEG
Passivity notwithstanding, it must have been difficult for the elderly John Fennell to restrain himself when a Jacobite regiment under Colonel Luttrell laid waste to his lands in the wake of King James II’s defeat at the Boyne in 1690. He wrote a scrupulous account of his losses detailing “the best and most or all of our household goods both of woollen and linen, some pewter and brass and all such goods as they could carry away upon horseback’s and other way besides silver and brass and some plate that was in the house”. He estimated his losses at “not less worth than 300 pounds”. He further chronicled several raids by “thieves and rapparee men” – in September 1690, “103 head of black cattle, 24 large oxen, 26 milk cows, 53 steers and heifers all worth 200 pounds then”; in October 1690 “eight cows worth forty shilling” and later on a further “4 cows and 13 yearlings worth 21 pounds”. On top of all this personal loss, he stated that he had provided King William’s army with 143 pounds worth of corn and hay as well as 44 pounds worth of sheep. In total, he estimated his losses for the year to be approximately 700 pounds, a substantial figure for those times. (5)
THE JOSHUA FENNELLS
Colonel Fennell died in 1706 and was succeeded by his 51-year-old son Joshua Fennell (1655-1736), a brother of the above-named William. In 1718, he increased the family lands with the acquisition of 374 acres in nearby Kilcommonmore. In 1683 Joshua married Mary Phelps in Limerick who begat him sixteen children. (6) He died in June 1736 and was buried at Kilcommonbeg.
His eldest son, also Joshua Fennell, was born in September 1689, not long after the battle of the Boyne, married three times and died in 1764. His most influential wife was Elizabeth Cook who traveled with him throughout south west Ireland promoting the spiritual essence of Quakerism in village markets and the homes of other Friends. By 1701, there were 53 Quaker meeting houses in Ireland and about 6000 members. The first house to be registered in Youghal was in Bow Street, now Ashe Street, and was done so on 29th January 1719 by William Fennell and Gabriel Clarke.
NB: Margaret Fennell, a sister of Joshua Fennell, was the second wife of Major John Godfrey of Ludlow’s Regt of Horse. Major Godfrey’s first wife Elizabeth Davies of Wales may have been a sister of Mary Davies of Wales, wife of Colonel John Fennell. It is all quite complicated and obscure but what is certain is that the Godfreys and Fennells of Kilcommonmore remained close until the 1730s. They were also connected to the Clutterbuck and Squill Families of Tipperary, all of Cromwellian origin and Quaker belief.
THE CONUNDRUMS OF BEING A QUAKER
On account of their refusal to accept the ecclesiastical structure of the now dominant Protestant Church, the Quakers were classified as non-conformists in the 18th century. As such, they were prohibited from involvement with politics and the judiciary. An act of 1715 did allow them to serve in the militia and another in 1723 enabled them to participate in most legal proceedings without taking an oath. But primarily they focused their frugal, clean-living, hard-working minds on education, commerce and keeping a low, if peculiar, profile. They strolled around in plain, drab clothes, eschewing all notions of fashion. They refused to allow any decoration in their homes; even the china cups from which they drank were blank. When they spoke, they insisted on archaic pronouns such as “thou” and “thee”, holding that the word “you” be used only when addressing God. The Protestant gentry were baffled by the Quakers refusal to address them by any title such as “Your Honour” or “My Lord”. Legal reports from the 18th century are filled with exasperated judges urging a Quaker to remove his hat when seated in court. As church bells rang across the land to celebrate British victories on the battlefields of Europe, Quakers earned themselves considerable scorn by not taking part in the celebration. When the Quakers refused to pay tithes to the Established Church, the Protestant gentry responded with substantial fines and prison sentences. They were not seriously affected by the government ban on non-conformist churches as they believed religious gatherings were dependent on the persons present rather than on any physical building or “minister of God”. Meetings were held at random locations monthly and quarterly, as well as at provincial level. Men discussed property; women pondered marriage arrangements and ways of alleviating distress amongst the poor, windows and orphans. It may be assumed the Fennells were regular attendants at these meetings.
TITHES & TEXTILES
By the 1780s, families like the Fennells were managing to sidestep the tithes issue by providing stocks and farm produce to the Church in lieu of money. Many Quaker families now moved on from their humble agricultural origins to become a more middle class body, prominent in textile manufacture, shipping and railway development. (7) Colonel Fennell’s descendents moved into the textile industry and seem to have had considerable influence in the town that emerged around Cahir Castle in the late 17th century.
WILLIAM FENNELL THE GOOD (1730-1808)
Joshua died in May 1764 and was succeeded by his sixth son William Fennell (1730 – 1808). The following June, William was married in Limerick City to Mary Lucas of Lough Burke, Co. Clare. In 1770, William established a lucrative wool-combing industry in Cahir, leasing part of the castle from Lord Cahir and providing considerable employment to the locality. The finished product was exported through Waterford port to the Gurneys of Norwich. William was subsequently appointed to the committee of the Farming Society of County Tipperary. (8) In the 1770s, William’s cousin Joshua Fennell (d. 1830) established an extensive corn-milling operation in the grounds of Cahir Abbey, as well as establishing a Quaker Meeting House in the town. In 1780, William secured a lease on Lord Cahir’s lands and a mill at Rehill, just north of Clogheen, Co. Tipperary. He operated this mill in partnership with the Clonmel Quaker, Samuel Rigg. By 1786, the Fennell mills at Cahir and Rehill were providing Dublin with in excess of eighteen hundred pounds of flour – one of the highest yields in Tipperary.
(One of these Fennells presumably sired Patrick Fennell . was born in 1796 in Limerick, Cahermoyle. In 1816 he joined the Young Revolutionist Party and, in 1819, led 400 men into ‘Rathcate’ (presumably Rathkeale?), a small town outside Limerick. He was arrested and tried for high treason and transported to New South Wales for life. Patrick arrived in Sydney Cove on board the ship “Mangles” in 1822. He went on to find favour in high places and ran a 200 acre farm at Goulburn Plains, New South Wales).
WILLIAM FENNELL THE BAD (1775 – 1846)
William died on 18th March 1808 aged 78 and was succeeded by his 33-year-old son, also William Fennell (1775 – 1846). On 11th August 1814, William married Susanna Moore in Clonmel with whom he had a large family. Susanna was the eldest of seven daughters born to James Moore of Clonmel, by his wife Susanna (nee Grubb). Little is known of her sisters Hannah (died young), Mary, Elizabeth, Charlotte or Jane Maria, but her third sister Anne married a Charles Wakefield, perhaps setting in motion another strong alliance for the family. Susanna’s grandfather Benjamin Moore had married Hannah Fennell the previous century and settled in Waterford; James was their eldest son. (*) This younger William Fennell seems to have been a rather awkward character. In 1844, the benevolent Lord Glengall, successor to the Cahir estates, was obliged to take legal action against William, demanding he “repair the walls” at Rehill and attend to the “wretched state” of the land. William responded with a threat to sub-let the property and fill it with paupers unless Glengall renewed the lease. William died in financial disarray two years later and it seems both his freehold and personal estates were seized to pay his debts. In fairness to William, there was an agricultural recession throughout Europe in the wake of Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo in 1815. (9)
Footnote: Benjamin and Hannah Moore’s second son Thomas Newland Moore maried Elizabeth Malone and was father to Joseph Moore of Clonmel who emigrated to Canada in 1821. Joseph’s son Thomas returned for a visit to Ireland in 1868 and called upon the Shackletons of Ballitore.Their third son Benjamin Moore married Sarah Sparrow and lived in Waterford.
THE AHERNS OF AUSTRALIA
Amongst William the Bad’s tenants were the Aherns (Aherne) of Rehill. Perhaps spurred by their landlord’s lousy management skills, and the ongoing recession, some of these Aherns immigrated to Melbourne, Australia in late 1840s, as assisted immigrants. They took up farming at Woolert close to north Melbourne (when the settlement was about 10 years old). The land was obtained by free settlers under government schemes called ‘free selection’ where small holdings (eg 100 acres) were acquired for a modest deposit and time payment. The idea was to form a ‘peasant proprietorship’ and life in the early years was hard. Farm income was supplemented by other jobs. Among these new arrivals was Bridget Ahern of Rehill who married a Marstin from London and he ‘selected’ in Gippsland (Central Victoria) near Traralgon. This information came from their great-great grandson, Peter Marstin.
JAMES FENNELL (1816-1890) & THE MODEL VILLAGE OF BESSBROOK
James Fennell (1816-1890) was the only one of William and Susanna’s many children who married. Although he retained an interest in Tipperary until his death – his eldest son, William, was born at Ardfinnan in 1866 – James married into the Quaker community of Co. Down and settled in the Victorian flax-spinning village of Bessbrook, just outside Newry, where he founded the Fennell Mills.
Based originally on water-power from the little Camlough river, Bessbrook was a planned settlement established between 1845 and 1870 by Quaker industrialist John Grubb Richardson. It was much influenced by the model Quaker village of Portlaw, County Waterford, which was developed by David Malcomson (1765-1844) from 1825, at least twenty years before James arrived. Malcolmson was born in Lurgan but the family moved to Clonmel (where his mother Rachel Greer was from) and he went to work for Sarah Grubb of Anner Mills in Clonmel, grandmother of John Grubb Richardson. This may be where he met and married Mary Fennell (b. 1770), daughter of the Joshua Fennell (1736/40-1780) who built Cahir Abbey House.
The Malcomsons ‘were involved in multiple business beyond Portlaw, and built the first steam ship to sail into Russia. At the height of their prosperity they were exporting world wide and held in high repute, according to Maguire in 1853 in “the markets of the eastern archipelago, on the main lands of Hindostan and China, in the torrid regions of Mexico, the West Indies and Brazil, and on the west coast from Cape Horn to Oregon”. David Malcomson’s brother James was father to Rachel Malcolmson (1790-1866) who, also born in Lurgan, married, firstly, Robert Fennell (1779-1822) with whom she seemingly lived in Clonmel and then she married, secondly, Benjamin Haughton (1781-1862). Benjamin Haughton bought a beautiful house called Banford in the North (still extant) in 1815 and they moved up there on their marriage in 1826. Rachel eventually became mother to ten Haughton/Fennell half-siblings.
[Meanwhile a daughter of George Fennell down in Cahir married Thomas Haughton (1816-1888), son of the above Benjamin, who continued to live at Banford, although this line died out and the house was sold. However a Haughton sister also married JN Richardson, the next generation at Bessbrook, so that re-established the link again. All up there are very tight links between the Haughton, Wakefield, Fennell, Grubb, Richardson and Malcomson families. The Richardson-Bunbury connection is probably a red herring but Mount William (where Bunbury was from) is about 22km north of Clonmel, not far from Fethard.]
Meanwhile, Bessbrook, in turn, served as a prototype for Cadbury’s garden village at Bournville. No pub, pawnshop or police station was deemed necessary and the solid slate-roofed weaver’s houses were grouped together around two great open squares with a green in the middle. (10).
In 1865, the 48-year-old James Fennell was married at the Friends Meeting House in Lurgan, Co. Armagh – the same building where Edmundson held the first Quaker meeting over 200 years earlier. His bride was Jemima Sarah Wakefield, second daughter of Thomas Christy Wakefield Jnr by his wife, Mary Ann Wilcox. When James Fennell moved to Co. Down, he did so as a grandson-in-law to the Christy family, founders of one of the most successful Quaker communities in the county, centred upon the charming Moyallon Friends Meeting House near Gilford, Co Down. Follow these links for more on the Christy family of Moyallon, and the link to the Wakefields of Marino.
Jemima Fennell’s sister Jane Marion Wakefield (known as Marion) was married in 1853 to John Grubb Richardson, the aforementioned founder of the Bessbrook enterprise. Even though she was born in the North, Jane and John were married in Ballitore, as the family had been living at Burtown since 1849. Hence, when James Fennell moved to Bessbrook, he was presumably going to work with his brother-in-law.
While James inherited most of the not inconsiderable Fennell land in Tipperary, this was all sold by his children to the Land Commission in 1906.
James Fennell died on 9 October 1890. His widow Jemima Sarah Fennell (nee Wakefield) survived him by over five years and died on 24 May 1896. They had one son and five daughters whose stories are told in more detail in the section after this upcoming one. Their names were:
1) William James Fennell.
2) Marion Fennell.
3) Susan Ada Fennell.
4) Jane Wakefield Fennell.
5) Emma Fennell.
6) Jemima Sarah Fennell.
Linen merchant and porcelain collector
Thomas Christy Wakefield
(1772 – 1861) was
the father of Jemima Fennell.
(Photo courtesy of Sir Humphrey
Wakefield, Chillingham Castle).
THE QUAKERS OF BALLITORE
It is perhaps a curious twist that the Fennell family, having moved from Tipperary to Down, should subsequently find themselves living at Burtown House outside Ballitore.
The south Kildare village was one of Ireland’s most prominent Quaker strongholds. The Griese River Valley wherein it lies was purchased at the end of the 17th century by two prominent Quakers, John Barcroft (1664-1724) and Abel Strettel (1659-1732). These men were contemporaries of Colonel Fennell’s son Joshua. It is said they became enchanted by Ballitore’s setting while resting their horses on a journey from Dublin to Cork.
By 1720, a substantial Quaker community was settled in the valley and, in 1726, the Yorkshire-born Quaker Abraham Shackleton founded the renowned Ballitore Boarding School. The school was run on Quaker principles but open to all denominations. Pupils came from as far away as France, Norway and Jamaica. Perhaps its most illustrious “old boy” was Edmund Burke, the eminent philosopher and statesman who remained friendly with the Shackletons for the remainder of his life and often came back to stay in Ballitore. (11)
Abraham’s son Richard was married twice; his second wife Elizabeth (nee Carleton) is a daughter of Rachel Rooke, of George Rooke of Cumberland.
In 1748, an unknown Englishman visited Ballitore and wrote: “Our eyes were charmed with the sweetest bottom where, through lofty trees, we beheld a variety of pleasant dwellings. Through a road that looked like a fine terrace walk, we turn to this lovely vale, where Nature assisted by Art, gave us the utmost contentment. It is a colony of Quakers, called by the name of Ballitore”. The village itself was surrounded by large houses, built by descendents of Barcroft, Strettel,and Shackleton. And then, of course, there was Burtown.
Mary Leadbeater’s sister was married in the 1760s to Samuel Grubb of Clonmel, who died in 1815.
In the cruel summer of 1798, Shackleton’s granddaughter Mary Leadbetter described in her journal the effects of the United Irishmen’s Rebellion on Ballitore. [Joseph Haugton encouraged her to write the memoirs concerning the 1798 Rebellion.] The Quaker community were stunned and shocked by the brutality of the rebellion and its bloody suppression. They refused to take sides, refused to celebrate, refused military protection. Instead they distinguished themselves by taking in the wounded and refugees, irrespective of side. Towards the end of May 1798, a loyalist force, including Orangemen from Tyrone, arrived in Ballitore and launched an unwarranted spate of looting and house-burning. Residents were dragged from their homes and thrashed with whips. Children were mutilated by flying bullets. The local doctor, Dr. Johnston, was taken out and executed. Crops were burned and trees felled. It was nothing short of anarchy. But at length, the soldiers moved on and an uneasy peace returned to the village. The Quaker community was at the forefront when it came to rebuilding the badly damaged village. (11a)
THE FITZGERALDS OF BURTOWN HOUSE
Thanks largely to the sleuthing skills of Aoife FitzGerald, we know a little about what was going on at Burtown during the age of the Tudors, specifically between the years 1549 to 1551. Unsurprisingly this was FitzGerald territory. The property is variously spelled Brytton, Birtown, Berton, Birton, Birdtown and Burtown in the annals. There is plentiful evidence of a medieval road at Burtown, as well as the old town of Mullaghmast and indications of two castles in the area, one at Inch and another somewhere around the ancient hill of Mullamast Rath that was home to the Cooper family.
The earliest name I’ve found associated with the area is James Fitzgerald, ancestor of the FitzGeralds of Mullaghmast, Kilmeed and Birtown, all in Co. Kildare, who married Eleanor Fitzgibbon, daughter of the White Knight. James was a brother of Garret Mor, the Great (8th) Earl of Kildare. He was also a brother of Sir Thomas of Lackagh, Lord Chancellor of Ireland (1484), who was killed during the Lambert Simnel rising. (See FitzGerald / Leinster).
Following the rebellion of Silken Thomas FitzGerald in 1534, William FitzGerald of Mullaghmast was outlawed for complicity. (1534 Cal. of State papers Irl. 1509-73 page 57).
Ffiteen years later, the family appear to have been forgiven. In 1549, the second year of the young king Edward VI’s reign, there is a fiant concerning a ‘Pardon to Brian fitzRichard FitzGerald of Brytton [ie Burtown -ed.], John fitzRichard FitzGerald of Malamast [ie: Mullaghmast – ed.], Edmond fitzRichard and Nicholas fitzRichard FitzGerald of Brytton, horsemen sons of Richard fitzEdmond FitzGerald late of Brytton.’ (Fiant of Edward VI, No 225, 1549).
In 1550, the Patent and Close Rolls year refer to ‘Edward, Nicholas, Bernard/Brean of Brytton and John of Malamast fitzRichard fitzEdmond FitzGerald’. (Patent & Close Rolls, 3rd year of Ed. VI membrane 2 page 172 no 3). Another Fiant of 1550 refers to Nicholas M’Richard M’Edmond FitzGerald of Britton/Brytton Co. Kildare. (Fiant of Edward VI, no177, 1550).
The FitzGeralds were frequently in and out of trouble. On 12 February 1551, there was a “Pardon to Nicholas M’Richard M’Edmond FitzGerald of Brytton Co. Kildare, Lowe M’Donnell, M’Keygho and Walter Wallok both of the same place Keras for having stolen four cows, the property of Molmore Rowe of Bowleybege, provided due restoration be made” (1551 Cal. of the Patent Rolls Henry VIII, Edw VI and Mary and Eliz. 1, 1551, page 239 no 47, Feb. 12. 5; Fiant of Edward VI, No 668, 1551 – Pardon to Nicholas M’Richard M’Edmond FitzGerald of Brytton Co. Kildare 12/2/1550).
Again in 1554 we find a Fiant of Philip and Mary (No 34 1554) pertaining to a “Pardon to Brian fitzRichardFitzGerald of Little Bolyes, John or Shane fitzRichard FitzGerald of Mallamast, Edmund fitzRichard FitzGerald of Kylmyed and Nicholas fitzRichard FitzGerald of Youngeston Gentlemen and brothers of the said Brian. Walter fitzBrian fitzRichard son of the said Brian, Walter fitzJames FitzGerald of Little Bolyes Gentlemen.”
These people were presumably deeply involved in the hideous massacre which took place at Mullaghmast on New Years Day 1577 in which over forty men were reputedly killed, including the chiefs of the Seven Septs of Leix – O’Moore, O’Lalor, O’Kelly, O’Doran, O’Dowling, McEvoy and Devoy – and the chiefs of the O’Dunne, O’Molloy, O’Connor and O’More clans. I have written of this event in more depth here.
BURTOWN IN THE 17TH CENTURY
The FitzGeralds were still in the Mullaghmast area in the summer of 1625. A document (Co. Kildare Ex Inq no 2 of Charles I Naas 13th June 1625) mentions various jurors who say that the late Nicholas fitzRichard FitzGerald late of Kilmeed was, at the time of his death, seized in his domain as offer of the town and lands of Kilmeed containing 2 messuages 140 acres granted (leased?) to him and his heirs by Gerald late Earl of Kildare, on the 10th April 1563 he was also seized of 10 acres great measure in the town and lands of Mollaghmast and that he died on the 10th August that his son and heirs is Thomas FitzGerald of Athy, there aged 30 and married that Egedia, widow of the said Nicholas, died on the 10th December 1620 and that Nicholas Wolfe of Kilcolnran claims the premises in Kilmeed as his by right. That a rent yearly of 6 shillings and 8 pence olit of Kilmeed is paid to the Earl of Kildare and also a rent out of Mullaghmast.
Robert C. Simington in ‘The Civil Survey’ (Vol. VIII Co. Kildare 1654 Ir 9149C12) notes that: “Irish papist joint proprietor of Little Birton – William and Brian FitzGerald: Proprietor of Molaghmast William FitzGerald of little Birton papist and Nicholas FitzGerald of Molaghmast Irish papist. The castle on the lands of Molaghmas belongs to William FitzGerald.
In the Cromwellian Survey of 1640, the property passed out of this particular FitzGerald family into a distantly related FitzGerald family, who were also descended from Thomas, 7th Earl of Kildare, but through his first marriage to Dorothy O’More.
Ginger Aarons’ 2020 research of the Down Survey of 1659 reveals that it was called ‘Little Brittain’ and ‘Big Brittain’, as opposed to Birtown or Burtown, and that it was owned by Robert Archbold family from this time until the Power’s took it over. There is a PRONI ref from 1688 on title deeds. Archbold also owned land in Timolin that was farmed by Michael Fennell in 1827.]
The Wakefield of Mullaghmast Paperts (D1252/7/2) at the Public Record Office for Northern Ireland include a lease by Rt. Hon. John,