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Kilkea Castle – (3) The Wogan Years (1305-1425)

Sir John Wogan, Justiciar of Ireland, based on George Victor Du Noyer’s reproduction of the Waterford Charter Roll of 1373. Sir John was granted Kilkea in 1305 and his heirs would live in the castle for over one hundred years.

By 1305, Sir John Wogan was the most influential man in Ireland. As a reward, King Edward I of England gifted him Kilkea Castle and its manor lands. The property was also of much interest to the FitzGerald family, now Earls of Kildare, who were partly descended from the de Ridelesfords. Meanwhile, the Pale itself soon became one of the bloodiest battlegrounds on the island of Ireland.




“It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.”
Ella FitzGerald.




Sir John Wogan, Justiciar of Ireland (died 1321)


During the late 13th century, the hostilities between the indigenous Irish and the Anglo-Norman elite frequently flared into battle in the lands both east and west of Kilkea. With Gaelic-Irish power resurgent across Leinster, this was not a time for absentee landowners. Edward I needed a strongman in the area as quickly as possible. The man he selected was Sir John Wogan, or de Wogan, who was to serve as Justiciar of Ireland for much of the period between 1295 and 1312.

Nothing is known of Wogan’s early life. He first emerges from the archives in 1275 when named as an attorney of William de Valence, the king’s uncle. Five years later, he was recorded as steward of de Valence’s lordship in Wexford. [1] He rose steadily through the ranks before his initial appointment as Justiciar of Ireland in August 1295. In that same year, the townspeople of Castledermot were awarded a murage grant, entitling them to collect a toll from anyone entering the town for the next seven years. The money paid for 15 hectares of the town to be enclosed within a stone wall, roughly diamond-shaped, that ran for approximately 1.5 kilometres. [2]

Much of Wogan’s ensuing years as Justiciar involved raising forces, funds and supplies in Ireland to help fund the king’s military campaigns in Gascony, Wales, Scotland and Flanders. (In Scotland, he was up against William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace and, later, the Bruce family.) Among those to ride out with Wogan under the king’s banner was John fitz Thomas FitzGerald, later Earl of Kildare, a nephew of Maurice Máel. [3] [See Kilkea, Chapter 2.]

In 1297, Wogan presided over the parliament that legislated for the shiring of Kildare, which has been a county ever since. Wogan also earned much praise for finding a diplomatic resolution to the long-standing war between the FitzGeralds and the de Burghs, orchestrating a marriage between the future 2nd Earl of Kildare and Lady Joan de Burgh, a daughter of the powerful Red Earl of Ulster. Lady Joan’s older sister Elizabeth married Robert the Bruce, who became king of the Scots in 1306.

In 1305, Edward I acknowledged Wogan’s good service by granting him ‘all the lands and tenements’ in Kilkea and Castledermot, which the king had ‘of the gift’ of Christiana de Marisco, to hold for ten years at a rent of £40 a year. [4] Wogan was also granted Emmeline Longespée’s moiety of the vills of Kilkea and Tristledermot, ‘to hold to himself and his heirs of the chief lords of the fee by the due and accustomed services for ever’. Furthermore, he received ‘all the lands and tenements in la Berton [Burtown] and Mon [Moone] of the gift of John de Mohun’ for a further £60 a year. [5]

Edward I (Longshanks) who gave Wogan charge of Kilkea.

Thus, by the time Edward II succeeded as king in July 1307, Wogan had acquired the lease on not one but both de Ridelesford moieties. That same year, he sealed the deal by marrying, as his third wife, Walter de Ivethorn’s daughter Amicia. [6] The Wogan family would hold Kilkea for several generations. [7] They also had an interest in Clonmore Castle, County Carlow.

Wogan played a key role in the downfall of the Knights Templar. He had probably earned their wrath when, having depleted the Irish Exchequer of most of its funds to finance the king’s wars, he confiscated the Irish goods and properties of the Templars’ allies, the bankrupted Italian merchant companies of Spini and Frescobaldi, to raise more funds. The Templars’ foremost enemy was Philip the Fair, the ironically named King of France, who had borrowed a great deal of money from them. Having already expelled 100,000 Jews from France, the French king turned on his bankers. The purge began on Friday 13 October 1307 with the mass arrest of Templars across France.

In January 1308, Edward II reluctantly followed suit and ordered the arrest of every Templar in his realm. He felt compelled to do so having married Philip the Fair’s daughter Isabella that same month, although his true love was Piers Gaveston. When the king’s order went out, Wogan had 14 of Ireland’s 20 or so Templar knights placed in custody in Dublin Castle. The knights were then hauled into St Patrick’s Cathedral for a four-month inquisition in which they had to answer 85 charges including denying Christ, spitting on the cross, worshipping false idols and homosexuality.

In 1311, Pope Clement V, a puppet of the French king, dissolved the entire order while, in France, Jacques de Molay, the order’s Grand Master, was among nearly a hundred Templars burned at the stake in France. However, unlike their French brethren, the Irish Templars were not tortured to extricate a confession. Moreover, there was so little evidence of any heretical wrongdoing that when the trial in Dublin concluded, the sturdiest penalty imposed was that the accused should do penance. Once absolved, they were pensioned off and appear to have retreated into monastic retirement ever after. The Templars’ estates were nonetheless seized and ultimately handed over to their archrivals, the Knights Hospitaller, including their preceptory at Killerig, 14 kilometres south of Kilkea.

Meanwhile, Wogan’s power was reduced in July 1308 when Gaveston himself arrived in Ireland to take office as the king’s Viceroy. Wogan was back in charge by the following summer and remained Justiciar until 1312 when replaced by Edmund Butler, whose son would become the first Earl of Ormond. 1312 also saw the death of Christiana de Marisco, the de Ridelesford heiress. As she had no children, her interest in Kilkea and Tristledermot reverted in fee to the heirs of her cousin Emeline FitzGerald (née Longespée), the wife of Maurice Máel. [8]

And yet the king clearly still retained a sort of casting vote because in 1317, Edward II formally gifted Wogan ‘all the lands of Kilkea’, as well as Castledermot, Bert, Moone, Carbry, Allen, Combre and Okethy, ‘to hold to him and his heirs with the knights’ fees, and advowsons of churches’. [9] Perhaps the de Ridelesford moieties were united by John Wogan but then divided on Christiana’s death so that while Wogan retained her part, Maurice Máel still held the Longespée share?

* Wogan did not fight at Bannockburn in 1314, when the Scots overpowered Edward II’s forces and left upwards of 6,000 of the king’s men dead on the field of battle. In its wake, Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, the son of Wogan’s former mentor, was singled out by the Lanercost Chronicle as one of the few English nobles to survive with their reputation intact. He not only spirited the king away to safety but also collected a group of Welsh soldiers who he marched on foot all the way to Carlisle.


David de Wogan and the ‘Boy King’ Richard II


Richard II, King of England, who summoned the great Council that David de Wogan of Kilkea attended in 1394.

The late Sir Terry Wogan, on ‘Wogan’s Ireland’ with Turtle. Was he descended from Sir John?

In 1373, Edward III still held both the manor and castle of Kilkea while the castle itself continued to be occupied by the Wogan family. In the 1380s, it was listed among the possessions of David de Wogan of Rathcoffey, County Kildare. A descendant of Sir John de Wogan, he had married the heiress Anastasia Staunton, only daughter of Sir John Staunton, Lord of Clane, and Elizabeth (née Calfe, or Le Veel), Baroness of Norragh.

In 1385, the Treasury paid David compensation for all the men and horses he provided who had been injured fighting in Leinster on behalf of Edward III’s successor, the ‘Boy King’, Richard II. The following year, David was on a commission empowered to assess and levy ‘smoke silver’ within County Kildare. This was a heavy fine imposed on anyone who left a fire lighting at night within a walled town. Among those walled towns was Castledermot, which had hosted another parliament and created its own mint in 1377.

Kilkea was thrust into the fray once more when Elizabeth Staunton, David de Wogan’s widowed mother-in-law, was married in 1390 to Art Mór Mac Murrough, King of Leinster. This marriage violated the terms of the Statutes of Kilkenny, which had prohibited marriage between settlers and natives. The following year, Art Mór formed an alliance with Feidhlim O’Toole, King of Uí Mhuireadhaigh, a descendant of the O’Tooles of Kilkea. [10] They were soon joined by the O’Byrne and O’More (U Mhordha) chieftains and, under Art Mór’s command, the Irish began causing mayhem across Counties Kildare and Carlow, burning settlement after settlement. It is unclear how Kilkea fared but the sagacious townsfolk of Castledermot coughed up 84 marks to be left in peace. [11]

In 1394, Richard II sailed to Ireland with 8,000 soldiers, the largest force yet brought to the island. His aim was to bring Art Mór to heel. David de Wogan was on the Great Council that the king convened in Kilkenny that year. One wonders whether he was also present in the Franciscan church in Castledermot in 1395 when the chiefs of the O’Toole and O’Conor clans went down ‘on bended knees, with lifted hands’ before the king’s marshal and swore an oath of allegiance, in Irish. [12]

A temporary truce was followed by a renewal of war in 1398 when Roger Mortimer, Richard II’s designated heir, was killed in a skirmish with Feidhlim O’Toole and the O’Byrnes at Kellistown, 22 kilometres south of Kilkea Castle. The following year, Richard was himself deposed by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, who assumed the crown as Henry IV.


Sir Stephen Scrope


In 1404, the fifth year of Henry IV’s reign, Castledermot hosted a Council at which the Earl of Ormonde was granted a subsidy ‘in consequence of the danger imminent from the enemies and rebels of the land’. [13] Sure enough, in 1405, Art Mór Mac Murrough rose up again and burned Castledermot, as well as Wexford and Carlow.

Two years later, Art’s forces were crushed by Crown forces under Sir Stephen Scrope, the king’s governor, assisted by the 5th Earl of Kildare. Scrope is said to have slaughtered almost 3,000 Irish before succumbing to the plague in Castledermot in 1408. [14] It seems likely that David de Wogan was closely allied with Scrope given that, in 1407, he was granted a license to export corn from Ireland to victual his own castles in Wales.


The Battle of Kilkea, 1414


Archbishop Thomas Cranley, whose army defeated the native Irish in battle at Kilkea in 1414.

The River Barrow is all that separated Kilkea from the lands of the O’More in County Laois. In 1414, the first year of Henry V’s reign, the manor was plunged into the thick of it when the O’Mores and the O’Dempseys began attacking English settlements along the frontiers of the Pale.

Thomas Cranley, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Justice of Ireland, arrived in Castledermot at the head of an army. [15] The archbishop and his clergy are said to have prayed in earnest in the Franciscan friary while the two sides fought in a field between Kilkea Castle and Mullaghreelan, perhaps alongside the old road. [16] Cranley’s god was evidently on his side that day; it was a victory for the Crown who apparently killed 100 of their Irish opponents. Cranley’s losses are not mentioned but he ordered ‘a solemn Te Deum’ to be chanted in Castledermot afterwards.

John Talbot, Henry V’s new lord deputy, followed up on the Kilkea victory with more attacks on the O’More chief, obliging him to surrender. Talbot, who was in his twenties at this time, would become the ‘Achilles’ of the English army during the Hundred Years War, and was created Earl of Shrewsbury in 1442. [17] Talbot favoured the FitzGeralds over the Butlers, a rivalry that would be amplified during the Wars of the Roses.


An Inventory of Kilkea, 1418


Following Sir David de Wogan’s death in 1417, Anastasia, his widow, inherited the dower-lands and manor of ‘Kylka’. [18] According to a detailed inventory from 1418, these included a knight’s chamber, a buttery (or larder), two small chambers in le Whitetour (i.e. the White Tower) with a cellar on the west, the New Orchard, a slated barn on the north, a kitchen, a prison, a bakehouse (with an oven and other new works), “lez zatys” (i.e. the castle gates), the vicar’s chamber, a kiln, a stable, a cowhouse and a chapel. [19] On account of all the work on the castle in the ensuing centuries, it is not possible to identify these structures today, save for what are believed to be the now ruined church and the White Tower. The sheen of its medieval whiteness on the exterior stonework of the tower was applied in recent times at the behest of a conservator.

The sheen of whitewash on the stonework of the White Tower at Kilkea Castle reflects its medieval past. Photo: Elaine Barker.

Aside from Kilkea, Sir David de Wogan’s will of 1417 settled his remaining estates upon his sons Sir John and Sir Thomas. [20] Sir John died a few years later, leaving four underage daughters as his co-heiresses. These estates and manors, which lay along the frontiers of the Pale, were exposed to constant attack. Kilkea Castle itself was sacked in 1421 when the O’Dempsey and O’Dunne clans invaded the Pale. There are records of another battle at Kilkea in which the O’Dempseys were apparently defeated by the 6th Earl of Kildare, but this event is disputed. [21]

To help protect his frontline, the king committed the Wogan family manors to his ally, Sir John Bellew, who then married the widowed Anastasia de Wogan. The manors were later restored to Sir Thomas Wogan, the younger son, who died in 1433, but there would be much brouhaha within the family over the coming decades, both legal and physical. Anne Dovedale, a daughter of Sir John de Wogan, still claimed a share of Kilkea as late as 1455. However, Kilkea Castle would now become home to the dynasty most frequently associated with it, the FitzGerald family.

See also Wogan-Browne of Clongowes Wood




[1] De Valence had married one of the Marshal co-heiresses and assumed the lordships of Pembroke and Wexford. In 1280, Wogan was registered as steward of de Valence’s Wexford lands.

[2] The wall is now only traceable in maps but extended east as far as the churchyard of St James, and west to the substantial chunk of rubble masonry that formed part of the Carlow Gate. The surviving tower of St John’s Priory (in the north of the village) was immediately outside the Dublin Gate while the Franciscan friary near the Maxol garage was immediately outside the Friary Gate to the south. There are surviving pockets of the wall, most notably south of the priory tower, and running from the stump of the Carlow Gate.

[3] In late April 1296, Wogan led a large contingent (some 3,000 strong) from Ireland to Scotland, including John FitzThomas, uniting with the king at Roxburgh in May. At that meeting pardons were issued to all those who accompanied the Justiciar to Scotland for any crimes they might have committed in the past.  In 1297, Wogan raised an army in Ireland that fought for the king in Flanders under the command of John FitzThomas.

[4] An inquisition questioned whether the king had the right to make such a grant; that licence was held by Sir Roger Mortimer, as heir to the Earl Marshal.

[5] Calendar of Documents, relating to Ireland, preserved in Her Majesty’s Public Record office, 1171-1307 (1886), Edited by H. S. Sweetman, 1 April 1305. 391.

[6] St. John Brooks, E. “The De Ridelesfords.” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. 82, no. 1, 1952, pp. 45–61. JSTOR,

[7] Wogan also held the manor of Clonmore (including the mill and lake at Hacketstown) from the Butlers. Curiously the Butlers seem to have held an interest in Kilkea, being mentioned in the Red Book of Ormond of 1311 with a record of clergy, widows and a bailiff. In 1309, ‘by the King’s command,’ Wogan ‘appointed a commission to inspect the waters and weirs of the Liffey between Dublin and the ‘Salmon-leap,’ to report by whom such weirs were lately erected, beyond those of ancient establishment, and to abate all nuisances.’

[8] Calendar of Documents, Relating to Ireland: 1252-1284, Great Britain: Public Record Office (Longman & Company, 1877), p. 379-380.

[9] John D’Alton, ‘Illustrations, Historical and Genealogical, of King James’s Irish Army List, 1689’ (1860), Volume 2, p. 451.

[10] Feidhlim (Phelim) O’Toole was the eldest son of Aodh O’Toole, king of Imaal.

[11] James Butler, Earl of Ormond, was appointed Justiciar on 24 July 1392, but the patent of appointment did not reach him until 8 October. He was sworn into office at the Council at Tristledermot, aka Castledermot.

[12] On 18 February 1395 Feidhlim O’Toole and Lysah Ferison (Pierce) O’Conor, of the nation of Hyrth (Irry/ Aireamh), did homage in the presence of Thomas de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk and Marshal of England, ‘on bended knees, with lifted hands’ and ‘took an oath, in Irish, of allegiance to the King.’  [Notarial Instrument, Carew Mss]

[13] Ormonde Archives.

[14] Sir James Ware, ‘Ancient Irish Histories: The Works of Spencer, Campion, Hanmer, and Marleburrough’ (Hibernia Press, 1809), Vol. 2, p. 22. He died on the Feast of St. Marcellus the Martyr.

[15] Sir James Ware, ‘Ancient Irish Histories: The Works of Spencer, Campion, Hanmer, and Marleburrough’ (Hibernia Press, 1809), Vol. 2, p. 25.

[16] ‘In 1414 the O’Mores and O Dempseys made an inroad into the Pale, devastating the country, until Thomas Cranly, Archbishop of Dublin, assumed the command of the troops and marched against them. The Irish were at Kilkea; they were beaten, and a field, the south of the castle may have been the scene of the battle.’ p. 171-173 of ‘Some account of the ruinous ecclesiastical edifices, forts, castles etc., with notes of modern events connected with the Queen’s County and County Kildare’ (M. C. Carey, Maryborough, 1901).

[17] See page 299 of Thomas McGrath, ‘Carlow and Society,’ p. 299. When John Talbot became Henry V’s new lieutenant in 1414, he initiated a policy of reducing the Butler’s power by crushing their Irish allies.

[18] ‘Sir David Wogan died in 1417: in that year his widow was assigned her dowry, which included various apartments in Kilkea Castle.’ p. 171-173 of ‘Some account of the ruinous ecclesiastical edifices, forts, castles etc., with notes of modern events connected with the Queen’s County and County Kildare’ (M. C. Carey, Maryborough, 1901).

[19] Close Roll 1 King Henry VI, dated 24 February, 1418RCH 222/1 c. ‘Item, in the manor of Kylka 1 chamber called the le Knygheschambre, le botery, with 2 small chambers in le Whitetour; one third of the cellar there, on the western side; le Newe Orchard there; one third of slated barn [sclatynb[ar]ne], on the northern side there; the kitchen, the chapel, the prison, le kyll, le bakhous, together with the bakery there; le blynprisoun there; le newewerke near le bakhous there and the gates [lez zatys] of Kilka in common there; item, the chamber of the vicar there; le cowhous with the small chamber near le longstable there; one third of a waste messuage lately called le longstable on the southern side of that messuage there.’ Bradley et al 1986, Vol. 3, p. 269.

[20] A patent roll of 1421 recites that John, the son and heir of this David, had then recently died, leaving four daughters his co-heiresses, all under age, whose estates, manors, &c., were situated on the frontiers of the Pale, exposed to the constant inroads of the Irish enemy; the King, therefore, committed the custody of all same (excepting the dowers’ of Anastasia, the widow of said David, and of Margaret, the widow of said John) to John Bellewe, Knight, junior,’ who soon after intermarried with said Anastasia ; the enrolment of her assignment of dower is a record of formidable length. See more here.

Thomas Wogan, Knight, was appointed a guardian of the peace therein in 1426. The following year, having been taken prisoner by the Mac Murrough, in the wars of that part of Leinster, was ransomed for 240 marks, of which £20 was directed to be paid from the Treasury. Immediately after the old family manors aforesaid were confirmed to him by patent from the Crown. He seems to have been in truth a younger son of the aforesaid David, and died in 1433.

Among Sir John’s four daughters was Anne Wogan, born in 1419. She married Oliver Eustace, thought to have been a younger son of Sir Edward Eustace of Castlemartin. Their only child Edward was born in 1445. Oliver died soon afterwards, leaving Anne to fight for her inheritance. The situation became extreme when Anne and young Edward were abducted from Rathcoffey Castle, where they were seeking refuge, by her cousin Nicholas Wogan, son of Sir Thomas Wogan, and his brothers. In 1447, the cousins finally agreed to divide the estate in roughly equal shares between the two cousins, Anne, and Nicholas.

In about 1455 Anne married again, her second husband being Robert Dovedale (or Dowdall), Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. Under the settlement, Anne received a share of the Wogan estates in Kilkea, Moone and Dunlost, with a few acres in Harristown and Carnalway. She also received a share of the Eustace lands, including Clongowes Wood Castle.

In 1446 Richard Wogan, clerk, was the Irish Lord Chancellor; and in 1415 Hugh Wogan was amerced for not attending the Parliament of Drogheda.

Reverend Matthew Devitt S.J., ‘The Eustace Family of Clongoweswood & Mainham, County Kildare,’ Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society (1901), pp. 207-215, (1955) pp. 395-398.

[21] Crouch Back John, or Hump-Backed John, was known as Shane-Cam by the Irish. The 1421 battle is referred to on p. 171-173 of Some account of the ruinous ecclesiastical edifices, forts, castles etc., with notes of modern events connected with the Queen’s County and County Kildare. (M. C. Carey, Maryborough, 1901). However, doubt is cast by Thomas Mathews, author of ‘Account of the O’Dempseys, Chiefs of Clan Maliere’ (Hodges, Figgis & Company, 1903), p. 53-55.