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The Pre-Bunbury History of Lisnavagh, County Carlow

Shilling 1582-1600, Elizabeth I. 

Shilling of 1601-1601, Elizabeth I

Penny – Canterbury Mint – Edward I

In 2010, a metal detector unearthed three coins at Lisnavagh. The oldest was found by the Stable Path, minted in Canterbury and dated to the lengthy reign of Edward III (1327-1377). There were also two silver shilling pieces found by the Dutch bank which had been minted during the reign of Elizabeth I. The first was so badly clipped that it was not possible to tell the exact date but the second had an oblique side profile of the Queen’s head and was either 1601 or 1602. Finds such as these bring the past to life as much as anything. Whose pockets were these coins once a-jangling in?

As we learn more of the various players – Butler, Leyn, Meredith, Gilbert and Korton – who were connected to Lisnavagh before the Bunburys arrived, it is uplifting to think we are now on first name terms with some of those who may have visited such forts three or four hundred years ago. Perhaps, for instance, Redmond Lyne popped into the ringfort by Oldfort for a mug of mead in 1623. Presumably these people were well acquainted with some or all of the sites around us that are now ruined or gone – the monastery and castle at Acaun, the rigngforts at Knocknagan, Rathmore and Rathgall, the castles of Tullow, Clonmore, Williamstown and Rathvilly, the Norman motte beside the Haroldstown dolmen in Tobinstown … certainly the more I learn about the past, the more connected I feel to the future.

See also Of Rings, Raths and the Kings of Leinster around Lisnavagh.




Lisnavagh – Fort of the Woods


Aerial view of Lisnavagh, 2021.

Spelled in Irish as either Lios na bhFeá [Fort of the Woods] or Lios na bhFiodh [Garden of Beech], Lisnavagh has innumerable alternative spellings in the archives, including Lisnevagh, Lisnevahe [1], Lisnavea, Lisnevea, Lyssnevey, Lissenevy, Lysneva and Lesenevae.

Neither Lisnavagh nor Tobinstown appear to be named on the 1303 Red Book of Ormond but that survey is in Latin and a name may arise with an impending translation of the work. [2]

It is spelled as Lisnevagh on Petty’s survey of 1659 and the Bunbury family appear to have spelled it that way until some as yet unknown date in the late 19th or 20th century when they opted for ‘Lisnavagh’ instead.

The Irish spelling of Lios na BhFea first appeared on the brown tourist signs directing people to Lisnavagh Gardens in around 2001. This encourages the suggestion that Lisnavagh means ‘a garden or enclosure of beech‘. Apparently ‘Fea’ can mean “beech” or (more generically) simply “trees”. It depends how far back the name goes. Certainly some of the oldest trees at Lisnavagh are the beech trees around where we believe the old house was situated, or otherwise marked on the 1840 ordnance survey map? Beech trees generally don’t live longer than about 200 years, so it’s hard to know. *

In terms of the original meaning of the name, my money is on Lios na bhFea [Fort of the Woods], which was the conclusion of Liam Ó Paircin in his excellent 1998 thesis. [3] And yet the team at have translated Lisnavagh as ‘the ring-fort of the woods’ from fiodh (or feá) for wood and ‘lios’ for ringfort, enclosure.

Edward O’Toole of Rathvilly postulated that ‘Lisnevagh’ was an English mistranslation of ‘Lios na Aoife‘, meaning Aoife’s Fort. [4] However, in 2012, Dr. Colmán Etchingham stated that the “Lios na Aoife” etymology, as it stands, is grammatically impossible in Irish.

The Irish spelling of Lios na BhFeá appeared on the brown tourist signs directing people to Lisnavagh Gardens in around 2001. [5] This encourages the suggestion that Lisnavagh means ‘a garden or enclosure of beech‘. This is not a definitive translation. We have no idea where this interpretation came from but assume it is a realistic transcription based on sound research or knowledge. Apparently ‘Fea’ can mean “beech” or, more generically, “trees”. It depends how far back the name goes.

Some of the oldest trees at Lisnavagh are the beech trees planted around where we believe the old house was situated in the Pigeon Park, some of which are marked on the 1840 ordnance survey map. However, beech trees generally don’t live longer than about 200 years, so it’s hard to know. By the end of the seventeenth century, a great deal of Ireland’s natural woodland had been cut down and timber was beginning to be in short supply. This coincided with the spread of estate embellishment, with planned gardens and amenity planting of trees. As early as 1672, Sir William Petty, disturbed by the rapid deforestation of wooded areas in Ireland, suggested that two million trees should be planted during the next fifty years. Although nothing appears to have come of this, the first of seventeen Acts was applied to Ireland in 1698 to enforce, or at least to encourage, planting.


The Fort at Lisnavagh


Lisnavagh from Carr’s Hill

Assuming ‘lios’ means ‘fort’, one wonders where the original fort stood? What of ‘The Grove,’ as it was marked on a 1756 map, where the Brick Tank and Steel Tank now stand. Might that represent an enclosure of trees, around the site of the foundations for the 1778 House that never came to be? Are any of those trees still there? Were Druid’s preforming ceremonies by the Brick Tank 2000 years ago!?

There is something circular about the “site” of old 1696 house in the Pigeon Park; there was also a square of trees, probably beech, around both the house and buildings on the 1840 map. This is believed to have been home to William Bunbury II during the early 18th century.

What of the near perfect ring of trees, oaks and gnarly Spanish chestnuts, in the north-west corner of the Pigeon Park, accessible via a gate from the Lime Walk. I always get a sense of another world when I walk there, with the strange shapes in the landscape around, and the isolated hawthorn bush at the top of Whelan’s Bank  which, for reasons unknown, the farmers plough has spared since time began.

I often find myself looking at Bowe’s Grove hallucinating past residences from amid its curious earthen banks, stone walls and scattered granite rocks. It has a very ancient feeling there, of humans from another age. There is also a curious square, still clearly extant today, marked on maps back into the 1840s. [The hollow, ivy-strewn concrete block in the north-west corner of Bowe’s Grove is a 1940s water tank!]

What is the big, long embankment in the wood between the north-west of Carr’s Hill (aka the Slap Dash) and Whelan’s Bog? It feels like it was some sort of boundary between Lisnavagh and the lands to the south? A stream runs along the north side while the ditch itself has a number of ivy-strewn trees and saplings, holly bushes and ferns, as well as a few hefty trees that have been growing since, perhaps, the 1920s or so. It lies not far from where the Knocknagan rath once stood? Is it simply the legacy of a rural Victorian engineering project?

Or what of the small underground stream that runs through the Rath Field below Oldfort, so close to the rath itself, and onwards into the Dereeen? It bubbles up whenever the water table is high and I now call it the Old River. William tells me it marked the border between the townlands of Tobinstown and Lisnavagh. Are the rocks piled into the corners of these fields merely the debris of ploughs and diggers, or were they once part of some richer past?

Carlow Castle, as depicted in ‘Antiquities of Ireland’ (1792) by Captain Francis Grose.

Anglo-Norman World


Tullow Castle is thought to have started as a motte and bailey circa 1180, built by Hugh de Lacy, and then replaced with a stone castle in the early 13th century. This drawing is by Thomas Dineley from 1680, about thirty years after the castle was captured by Cromwell’s Parliamentarians. Stones from the castle are believed to have been used for the construction of Tullow Court House and the houses on Barack Street. With thanks to Chris McQuinn.

The Anglo-Norman or Cambro-Norman forces who arrived in Ireland in the late 1160s and early 1170s certainly made their mark in the vicinity of Lisnavagh. Their castles sprang up at Tullow, Rathvilly, Clonmore, Hacketstown, Kilkea, Carlow and elsewhere. Raymond Le Gros, a nephew of Maurice FitzGerald, hailed as the Achilles of the Anglo-Norman army, built a motte and bailey fortress at Castlemore, near Tullow.

There was even a castle at Williamstown, and the square motte near Tobinstown Cross is also deemed Norman. Indeed, many of the names of the townlands around Lisnavagh have Norman names – Tobinstown, Tankardstown, Williamstown, Haroldstown (perhaps a nod to some Saxon sympathiser!), Garrettstown and Ballyhacket. Or what of Ricketstown  Maplestown and Broughillstown near Bough? (Mind you, Rickett is also said to be Huguenot, so why knows! Ricketstown belonged to a man by name of Beasley Enraght in 1778, see here.)

With the Normans came a new wave of monks and, again, the area is rife with townland names that recall the great Cistercian foundation in Baltinglass and its out-farms, such as Grangecon in West Wicklow, or Grangewat and Friarstown (Fryerstown) near Killerrig Cross. There is also less certain connections to the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitallers, who are linked to places such as Killerrig and Johnstown. The Knights Hospitaller of Killerrig are said to have controlled nine small churches within close proximity to their base, of which the only remnant is part of a gable wall of the Yellow Church at Straboe. A slab in the graveyard at Straboe may be the burial place of one of the knights. The Fratres Cruciferi (Crutched Friars) had considerable influence in Castledermot, while nearby Kilkea Castle was built for Sir Walter de Ridelesford, believed to have been the first Grand Master of the Knights Templar in Ireland.


Westwards of Lisnavagh, granges were out-farms of monastic sites and this one was likely connected to the Cistercian abbey at Baltinglass. Proximity to the Slaney would certainly have been useful for the transportation of wool. As well as the Knights Templar / Hospitaller link to Kilerrig, we have the friars of Friarstown, the church dedicated to St John the Baptist (a favourite of the Crutched Friars) and also the motte at Motabower.


Theobald Butler


At the end of the 12th century, Lisnavagh would appear to have been part of the lands east of the River Slaney granted to the Norman baron Theobald ‘Le Boteler’ Fitzwalter, ancestor of the Butlers. In 1192 Theobald was granted the manor of “Tulach Ua Felmada”, or Tullow, on the fertile banks of the Slaney. This included an earthwork castle, built under the inspection of Hugh de Lacy, which he replaced with the castle sketched by Thomas Dineley in 1681.

Theobald’s other lands included Clonmore and Hacketstown; one wonders was he connected to the motte that seems to have stood at Tobinstown?

In 1300-1305, William le Gras, a descendant of Redmond [Raymond] Le Gros, granted Edmund Butler and his heirs “Castrum Gras which is called Tollathynerth in Offothirith [Forth] by the service of a knight’s fee, as he hold said lands in the gift of Edmund his father.” Edmund also held the deanery of Ofelinech [Offelmidth], which basically covered the Manor of Tullow and included Rathmore, Tullowphelim, Rathvilly, Clonmore, Villa Tankard, Lysenrute, Ruchyn, Aghowle (Co. Wicklow) and Rathcoole (Co. Wicklow). [6]

A survey of 1303 shows that Tullow was a thriving medieval town, dominated by a fellow called Geoffrey the Tavern Keeper, with its own burgesses, tradesmen and craftsmen, as well as a market and a 100 Court.

In 1314, Hugh Talun granted land in Tullow to the Augustinian friars; Simon Lumbard then arranged the finances for the construction of a new friary on the banks of the Slaney, close to the bridge.


John de Wogan, Justiciar


By the late 13th century, the biggest tenant of the Butler family was John de Wogan, the Justiciar of Ireland from 1295 to 1313. Wogan not only leased the manor of Clonmore (including Hacketstown) from the Butlers, but also, through marriage, secured the Kilkea lordship (including Ballyhacket) which had once been the Riddlesfords. It is also to be noted that Wogan was one of the key figures in ousting the Knights Templar from Ireland, including their base at Killerig, in 1308-1310.

The oldest coin yet found at Lisnavagh was located by the Stable Path near the Big House. Minted in Canterbury and dated to the lengthy reign of Edward III (1327-1377), it was perhaps dropped by someone familiar with Sir Anthony de Lucy. As the new Chief Justice of Ireland, de Lucy – a veteran of Bannockburn – repaired the nearby fortress of Clonmore Castle in 1332.

Ryan’s History of Carlow suggests Friarstown was the ‘Freynestown’ of this macabre tale from William Camden’s ‘Britannia: or, a Chorographical Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands’ (1806):

‘The Irish of Leinster plundered the English and burned their churches, and in Freynstown burned about 80 men and women, and a certain priest of that church, whom, with their javelins, they hindered from coming out, though in his holy vestments and with the Lord’s Body in his hands, burning him with the rest in the church.’

Friar John Clyn’s annals suggest this was a showdown between the O’Toole, O’Byrne and Kavanagh clans and the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of St John. See here. However, I think this Freynestown was actually near Dunlavin – any suggestions?


Lisnavagh in the reign of Henry VIII


Silken Thomas Fitzgerald (1513-37) Lord Offaly 10th Earl of Kildare. The Stapleton Collection.

In 1515 Geraldine forces under Gerald Oge, 9th Earl of Kildare (father of Silken Thomas) occupied the castles in Tullow and Clonmore as part of a wider battle over the temporarily vacant earldom of Ormonde.  In 1528, Clonmore Castle was again held by Irish chieftains on behalf of the Fitzgeralds, but they were ousted by the Earl of Ormond and Osory.

In 1538-39, Red Piers, 8th Earl of Ormonde, was given the Castle and town of Rathvilly (as well as Clonmore, Tullow, Powerstown, Kellistown, Leighlin and Arklow) as a reward for helping to suppress the rebellion of Silken Thomas. I am unsure why he didn’t already own them. Was this surrender and regrant?

The Augustinian friary in Tullow was dissolved in 1541 as part of the dissolution of the monasteries instigated by Henry VIII. The site, on the south bank of the Slaney, is now a burial ground known as the Abbey graveyard. A blessed well at the north end of the graveyard is all that remains of the friary.

Red Piers was succeeded as 9th Earl of Ormonde by his son, James the Lame, who was fated to be poisoned in London in 1545. Prior to his death, the 9th Earl made a will that apportioned the outlying land in the Ormond lordship to his youngest sons, while reserving the bulk of the patrimony, and most of the best land, for his eldest son and eventual successor, Black Tom Butler. This meant that Black Tom’s younger brothers were raised as Lords of the Frontier or, to quote Oliver Whelan, as ‘vanguards of future Butler expansion’ and, unless there was a fall-out between the siblings (which there was), Black Tom’s lands would be protected by their satellite lordships. [7]


This map from the Elizabethan era shows Sir Edmond Butler in control of the eastern banks of the Slaney, specifically around Ranella (which I think is Rathvilly) and Tollogh (Tullow).  What is especially notable about this map is the number of places I’ve never heard of! That said, Baltinglass, Graney, Grangencoene (Grangecon) and Rasalough (Rathsallagh) are all there. But what is Knoknee!?



Lisnavagh in the reign of Queen Elizabeth


As part of the 9th Earl’s plan, his son Edmund Butler was to represent the dynasty in Carlow, holding Tullow (the third most important town in the county after Carlow and Old Leighlin) and other lands, with Clonmore as an outpost.

Edmund Butler arose in rebellion in 1569 and Rathvilly was certainly a battleground at this time. The Elizabethan Fiants of 1566 suggest that Lisnavea [sic] was held by Theobald Butler fitzThomas at that time. Theobald m’Tho Butler of Lesnevee is likewise recorded in the Fiant of 1581.

When Benjamin Bunbury leased his lands at Tobinstown and Killerig in 1669, he did so from Richard Butler, Earl of Arran, youngest son of the Great Duke of Ormonde. The Great Duke’s grandfather Walter, 11th Earl of Ormonde, known as Walter of the Beads, was a grandson of the above-named 8th Earl of Ormonde, so I think it’s safe to say that the lands at Lisnavagh, which the Bunburys acquired, were formerly held by the Butler family.

The four-towered courtyard fortress at Clonmore was captured again in 1598 by Black Tom Butler, Earl of Ormond. It changed hands several times the following century before being taken by Cromwell’s forces under Colonel Hewson in 1650.


The Leyn Family & Thomas fitz Edmonde Buttler, Horseman, of Lysnewaghe


A Victorian era depiction of Sir Edmund Butler of Cloughgrenan.

According to Morrin’s Calendar Patent Rolls of 19 February 1548, a pardon was issued to Thomas fitz Edmonde Buttler [sic], horseman, of Lysnewaghe, aka Lisnavagh. I do not yet know who Thomas fitz Edmonde Butler was, but I suspect he was a close kinsman of Sir Edmund Butler (1534 – c. 1585) of Cloughgrenan, County Carlow, ancestor of the Butlers of Ballintemple. Thomas fitz Edmonde Butlter was pardoned alongside Edward O’Loyne, Constable of the Castle of Tristledermot (Castledermot), as well as five others from Tristledermot such as Thomas O’Loyne, Redmund M’Cabe, Cahir dufe; Connor O’Loyne  and Thomas duff M’Henry. Also pardoned at this time were Philip M’William roo of Harrolliston [Haroldstown], Demetrius Oge O’Neyll (O’Neill) of Ravelle (Rathvilly) and Gerald Saint Michell , of Habarteston, gent. See here.

By 1608, Lesenevae (as it is spelled) appears to have been held by a fellow called Redmond Leyn; he is named as a freeholder of the Barony of Ravill [ie: Rathvilly] in the Calendar of the Carew manuscripts. So, rolling back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth … in the 1560s, the above-named Edward O’Lynn of County Carlow, was appointed Constable of Castledermot Castle. (Chancery Rolls).

Another Rathvilly freeholder named in the Carew Papers is Edmond Leyn of Shroughbooo, elsewhere spelled Shrowboe (Straboe?), who he is also mentioned in deeds relating to the de Vale / Wale / Wall family of Johnstown.

The Elizabethan Fiants also point to a William O’Leyne who held Rathmore, presumably both manor and lands, in 1566.

As the Bunburys would later own Johnstown in the parish of Urglin (spelled ‘Urrighlin ‘ in the Carlow Inquisitions) it is to be noted that The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (1907) proposes that Urglin“probably stands for Urrigh ua Fhloinn, or O’Lyn.”

The townland of Ballymoag in Forth barony was held by Tirlough Line (O’Leyne / Lyne) in 1641.


Lord Dingwall & Patrick Barnwall


Amongst the documents at Lisnavagh are an extract from an award made by James I, dated 3rd October 1618, in a dispute between the Earl of Ormonde and Lord Dingwall [aka Richard Preston?], in part affecting the title to the lands of Lisnavagh, Co. Carlow. I believe this also details a grant of 1618 from King Kames to Patrick Barnwall of Shankill, County Dublin:

‘The tithes of the towns, villages, hamlets and lands of Rathville, Ballyvett, Walterston, Tobinston otherwise Ballytobin, Ballywilliam [Williamstown?], Knockoye, Lissenevy and Killranalagh otherwise Killranelogh; the small tithes, offerings, and all other duties belonging to the vicar excepted; parcel of the estate of David Sutton, late of Castletown, Kildrought in Kildare county, attainted. Total rent, ten pounds Irish. To hold for twenty one years from last Easter, for a fine of ten pounds English – 25th, July 15th.’ [8]


Sir Robert Meredyth & the Masterson Connection


James Butler, the 1st Duke of Ormonde, painted by William Wissing.

The National Library holds a copy of various leases made by the Earl of Ormonde including the lease of ‘the manor of Rathvillie’ to  Robert Meredyth (1633), of ‘Tobinstown and the site of the Abbey of Skan (Acaun?)’  to H. Masterson on 20 March 1633 and ‘the lands of Lisnevagh and Williamstown, Co. Carlow‘ to R. Cope [Robert?] on 26 March 1635.

Born circa 1597, Robert Meredyth, or Meredith was a privy-councillor who lived at Greenhills and Shrewland, Co. Kildare. His father Richard Meredith was Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral from 1584 to 1589 when he became Bishop of Leighlin. Bishop Meredith died in 1597 and was buried at Sr. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. In 1635, two years after he acquired his property in Rathvilly from Lord Ormonde, he was knighted by his patron Black Tom Wentworth.  He also owned land at Birr, Co. Offaly, and Blanchestown (Blancardstown?).  He was Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland from 1635 throughout the Cromwellian interregnum and the restoration of the monarchy, until his death in 1668. He was also mentioned on the Down Survey.

As a puritanical privy councillor, he showed no mercy in the wake of the 1641 Rebellion, urging Ormonde:

‘ … ‘to wound, kill, slay, and destroy, by all the ways and means he may, all the said rebels, and their adherents and relievers, and burn, spoil, waste, consume, destroy, and demolish all the places, towns and houses where the said rebels are, or have been, relieved and harboured; and all the corn and hay there, and kill and destroy all the men there inhabiting able to bear arms’ [9]

In 1647, he was one of the commissioners appointed to administer the executive government after Ormonde stepped down, suggesting that Meredyth was a Cromwellian who nabbed Rathvilly from the Butlers.

He was married in 1618 to Anne Ussher, sixth daughter of Sir William Ussher, clerk of the council. When he died in October 1668, Meredyth was succeeded by his son Sir William Meredith who died the following year, when the barony became extinct. [Check] It seems likely that the Bunburys came into Lisnavagh following this double death in the Meredith family.

  1. Masterson may well be the Henry Mastersonof Co. Wexford referred to in some depositions taken after the 1641 Rebellion. [10] The Mastersons were Constables of Ferns in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.See Masterson and Lymbrick. And he may have been a descendant or kinsman of Thomas Masterson, a Seneschal of Wicklow in Tudor times who came up against Kavanaghs as well as rowing with rival settlers like Henry Davells, Sir Henry Harrington and Sir Henry Wallop. (One might think he didn’t like the name Henry, and yet was Henry Masterson his kinsman!!) Thomas Masterson also quarrelled with the Colcloughs and Carews of Wexford.

The Mastersons, a Catholic family from England, were granted the land at Clohamon on the River Slaney in the 1560s after they took part in the English reconquest of north Wexford. At the time, both sides of the Slaney were densely wooded with oak. However, the exploitation of timber was such that by 1635, the only timber remaining in Sir Morgan Kavanagh‘s woods, directly across the river from Clohamon, was firewood lying on the ground.

The timber was exported to England, the Netherlands, France and Spain, not least when the lands came into the possession of Sir George Calvert, a wealthy English Catholic who had served as Secretary of State under King James. He became the 1st Baron Baltimore in the Irish Peerage in 1625 and gave his name to the city of Baltimore in the US state of Maryland. Lord Baltimore, who also acquired lands in Longford and Newfoundland, is said to have lived in the manor house at Clohamon just before be moved to the US.  The Masterson – Calvert link becomes ever more relevant when it emerges that Sir Arthur Aston, who served as first Governor of Lord Baltimore’s fledgling colony of Avalon in Newfoundland, was a first cousin of Sir Henry Bunbury, whose grandson would later settle at Lisnavagh.


John Gilbert of Lisnavagh & the 1641 Rebellion


In the autumn of 1641, the castles at Clonmore, Tullow, Rathvilly and Hacketsown were seized by the Confederates and held in the name of Piers Fitzgerald of Ballyshannon, Co. Kildare. (It was at this time that Hackestown Castle, which was possibly built by the de Lacy’s, was destroyed). Fitzgerald was indicted and outlawed for high treason in 1643. He was also a member of the Supreme Council of the Confederate Catholics which assembled at Kilkenny on the 10 January 1647.

On 8 February 1641, ‘John Gilbert late of Lisnevagh in the County of Catherlaghe husbandman sworne sayth That on or about the tenth of November last past He this deponent at Lisnevagh aforesaid was robbed & dispoiled of his goodes and chattles of the values hereafter mencioned vizt of corne & graine worth xviij li., in howshold goodes and provision worth vij li, hay iij li. {f}ive horses and furniture viij li. in sheepe & hoggs vj li. {in} Cowes and yong Cattle xiiij li., in proffittes of garden {f}uell improvement of growndes corne in the grownd and other comodities worth twentie marks In all lxix li. vj s. viij d. x s. And the parties that th soe robbed him were Walter Archbold of Ravilligh in the said County gent: Brian Mc Owen of Lisnevagh aforesaid husbandman as this deponent hath beene credibly told and beleeveth: & divers others Rebells whose names he knowes not. 8 ffebr 1641 Joh Watson Roger Puttocke.’ [11]

A flavour of just how unpleasant it was to be alive at this time can be found in this dreadful deposition by Ann Hill:

‘As she was coming to Dublin she was assaulted at Bordkillmore by Murtogh McEwn of Hacketstown and William of Killclouagh, commonly called William the Plaixsterer and nine or ten more who pulled off her back a child of about a year and trod it to death, stripped herself and her fower small children naked. And through the could they gott contracted by such vsage her other three children are since dead.’ [12]

Some of the lands at Lisnavagh may have been connected with the Nolans of Tullowphelim, descendants of Feidhlimidh “Reachtmar” (Felimy the Lawgiver), High King of Tara in the 2nd century, through his son, Eochaidh Fionn Fothairt. These lands were forfeited following the 1641 rebellion although I am unsure exactly what lands they were. A man by name of Stephen Nowlan was farming some of the lands at Lisnavagh into the 18th century.

NB: Colum O’Rourke has sound knowledge of the Shillelagh / Carnew / Tinahely areas, and the impact it suffered, between 1641 and the Civil War.


Cromwellians in the Vicinity


Oliver Cromwell’s army, under the command of Hardress Waller, camped in Rathvilly for eight nights in August 1650 as per these notes from a military journal diary kept at the time. [13]

Thursday, 22. We quarterd betweene Castledermot and Ravilla, in the way to the county of Wickloe, which being a nest of theeves, my Lord resolved by severall parties at once to fall into it.

Friday, 23. We quarterd at Ravilla.

Saturday, the 24. A party sent from the army into the county of Wickloe, who meeting with other partys, some from Dublin, others from Wexford, into the greate glin called Glenmale, where much catle were taken. We continued at Ravilly until the 30th.

Friday, the 30. We marcht from Ravilla and quarterd {⬌} mile beyond Baltinglas in the way to the Naas beyond the {⬌}. This day Sir Hardresse Waller sent most part of the army toward Mounster.



Extract of the Down Survey of 1656-1658 showing lands west of Lisnavagh and Rathvilly. 

The Down Survey, 1656-1658


On the Down Survey of 1656-1658, the map of the ‘Barony of Ravillie in County of Catherlough’ suggests that Lisnavagh (unnamed) was then part of the parish of Rathvilly which was “the unforfeited Land of Rathvilly & Sr Robert Meredey [sic], Protestant, prop.’

Nothing is marked as happening in the parish itself but, on its the north-eastern border, the land of Williamstowne [sic] is described as ‘arable and healthy’ and there is a castle marked on it.

Just south-east of Williamstown, Tobins towne is noted for ‘past & Ar’ (ie pasture and arable) and has an Abbey marked on its northern bounds. Some of the lands marked Tobinstown appear to have been subsequently incorporated into Lisnavagh. The lands northeast of Tobinstown in the Clonmore lordship belong to Sir John Temple. There is no mention of the raths at Tobinstown or Oldfort, nor Acaun or the Haroldstown dolmen. There is a castle by the River Slaney in Rathmore, and also what looks like a windmill; the river seems to divide Rathmore from ‘Ballybert’ (Ballybit) I also note a small structure beneath the church at Rathmore which may be the motte I noted at Grangewat.

Curiously, the land in the north of the “Parish of Kinghagh”, immediately west of Rathvilly Parish, is called the “Towneland of Rathdonnell” (near Bough?), as it was on a map of 1685. Rathdonnell was, of course, the title taken by John McClintock when he became a Baron in 1868. McClintock’s mother Jane Bunbury was from Lisnavagh, and his brother William built the present house at Lisnavagh, so this may have influenced his decision to choose the Rathdonnell name. However, tradition states that he chose the name for Rathdonnell in County Donegal, a house (and ringfort) that was owned by some of the earlier generations of the McClintocks in Ireland.

Petty’s 1659 population survey of the townland of Lisnevagh [sic] shows that it was occupied by fourteen people – 9 Catholics and 5 Protestants – and registered to John Korton, gent. He may also have had ownership of Williamstown (4), Tobinstown (14), Bonecery & Busherstowne (51) and Carnescough (20). In the Barony of Rathvilly there were 176 English and 719 Irish. Other settlers in the Barony include Jeffery Paule, Hugh Doyne, the Flenters, Francis Browne and Mr. Papworth.

It seems that the Meredith family off-loaded some of the Carlow estates following the deaths of Sir Robert and Sir William in 1668 and 1669 respectively.

Richard Meredith, a nephew of Sir William, succeeded as family head but he was only 12 years old at this time. Richard, who was MP for Athy from 1703-1713 and died in 1743, married Sarah Paul, daughter and co-heiress of the influential Jeffrey Paul of Bough, Co. Carlow. Benjaimn Bunbury II of Killerig, high sheriff of Carlow in 1713, would face accusations of using undue influence to ensure Jeffrey Paul’s electoral victory that year.


John Korton of Lisnevagh


In the 1659 survey conducted by Petty, the township of Lisnevagh was occupied by fourteen people – nine Catholics and five Protestants – and registered to John Korton, gent. He may also have had ownership of Williamstown (4), Tobinstown (14), Bonecery & Busherstowne (51) and Carnescough (20). In the Barony of Rathvilly there were 176 English and 719 Irish. Other settlers in the Barony include Jeffery Paule, Hugh Doyne, the Flenters, Francis Browne and Mr. Papworth.

Korton is assumed to be the same man, or a son of, the ‘John Kerton, Gentleman’, who was appointed “the first and modern portrieve” (Town Clerk or recorder) of Carlow town by the Royal Charter that King James granted to Carlow on 29 September 1613. He was to head up twelve “good and honest men”, or “the first and modern 12 free burgesses” (Councillors) who were named as John Bare, Esquire (Sergeant-at-Law), Sir Robert Jacob, Knight. Sir Adam Loftus, Anthony St Ledger, Peter Wright, William Greatrake, Nicholas Harman, John Bloomfield, John Ely, Robert Whiteacre, Robert Sutton and Richard Keating. The charter was ‘Granted to the inhabitants of Carlow by James the First, by the grace of God, of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, and soforth “under our royal signet and sign manual, at our palace at Hampton Court in the tenth year of our reign of England, France, and Ireland, and of Scotland the forty-sixth year of our reign’. [14]


The Bunbury Connection


Speed’s Map of Leinster from 1670 indicates that the lands at Lisnavagh were owned by Edmond Butler, but I am unsure who this Edmond might have been. He does not seem to have been a brother or son of the 1st or 2nd Duke of Ormond. In 1676, the original lease on Lisnavagh was granted by Richard Butler, Viscount of Tullogh and Earl of Arran (brother of Lord Ossory and uncle to the 2nd Duke) to Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig.

Benjamin Bunbury also had the lease of Tobinstown which, on 16 June 1683, he sub-let to a Catholic soldier named John Baggott, who was later attainted for serving the Catholic King James II. Many of Baggott’s Carlow estates were acquired in 1702 by the Right Honourable Philip Savage, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland. Meanwhile, on 20 December 1695, he assigned the Lisnavagh lease to his son, William Bunbury. On 21 December 1695 – the Winter Solstice – Benjamin also assigned the lease of his Tobinstown lands to William. [15]




With thanks to Peter Bunbury, Dr Colmán Etchingham, Michael Purcell, Roger Nowlan, William Bunbury, Peter Field and the Carlow Rootsweb.




[1] It is spelled Lisnevahe in the Calendar of Ormond Deeds.

[2] Newport B. White (ed.) The Red Book of Ormond (Dublin: IMC, 1932), pp 2-7. For those who wonder whether Oliver Cromwell named the townland of Ballyoliver and Cromwell’s Fort in and around Rathvilly, it should be noted that Ballyoliver was also named on the 1303 survey.

[3] ‘Logainmneacha Cheatharlach – Tráchtas do chéim dhochtúireachta sa Nua-Ghaeilge‘.

[4] See ‘Place Names of County Carlow c1937

[5] The place names ‘Lios na bhFiodh’ and ‘Baile Uiiam’ are now Lisnevagh and Williamstown (p. 252, Irish Historical Society, Dublin, published 1947, Hodges, Figgis & Co). Referred to as ‘Lisnevahe’ on p. 171 of The Calendar of Ormond Deeds, 1172-1603] by Ormonde, Irish Manuscripts Commission, published 1932 by the Stationery Office).

[6] Adrian Empey, The Liberty and Counties of Carlow in the High Middle Ages, Carlow: History & Society (ed. Thomas McGrath), p. 158.

[7] Oliver Whelan, ‘Landholdings in the new English settlement of Hacketstown, Co. Carlow, 1635-1875’ (Four Courts Press, 2019).

[8] The History and Antiquities of the County of Carlow, by John Ryan, p. 133.

[9] (Carte, Ormonde, iii, 61).

[10] Hayes, D.3985 – 61. H. Masterson may well be the Henry Masterson of Co. Wexford referred to in the depositions taken after the 1641 Rebellion. Here is a list of Carlow people who signed depositions in 1641: click on the Name links to see the transcripts.:

The examination of Henry Masterson taken before me the 8th of { } 1642. This examat sayeth that his Cause of Leving of Dublin was to rep{air} to his howse, wher he left his wiffe and Childrin, and to Looke { } a quantetie of monies, that he Left in the Cvstody of a frind { } keept, with the intent to bring of wiffe Childrin and mony for t{heir?} mayntenance, and sayeth that the Councell of the Countie of wex{ford} that is to saye marcus Chevers of wexford Peirce Butler of { } Richard wading of BallyCogly william Esmond of Jhonestowne { } Esmond of Rathlonan John deverex of Depes Thomas Roc{ of} mallmonter walter Roche of Newcastle Phillip Hore of { } Anthony kevannagh of boaniredy Enn[eas] kevannagh of Ballyon{ } Nicholas french of wexford prest olliver Evstace of wex{ford} Richard Synnott of wexford prest, graunted a warrant to {Sir} morgan Kevannagh to apprehend this examinant, and to sease his personnall and reall estate, and sayeth that Sir morgan { } of Clonmollin Enny Kevanagh of bally[croly], Hugh Ballag{ } of Bollinredy Criffin mc Breane kevannagh of milshoge Ed{ } Knowles of Limbrick, with ther severall Companies Came to {this} examat howse of monyceed, and ther surprised his howse { } him selfe prissonner, seased vpon his goods that wear with{in } and vpon his Corne, and his reall estate, and Carried this ex{aminat and} his wiffe to wexford gayle, and sayeth that his Childrin w{ear} throwen out of doeres and foure of John Tres[tian?] Child{rin that} wear in keiping with this examinant, that they wear ready { } and sayeth that he was Comitted as a protestant six we{eks } gayle of wexford all the goods within his howse and his korne { } by Sir morgan kevannagh and the rest, his kowes sheep { } and garrones taken from hi in the begining of this incurrec{tion } Lucke Birne of killevany donnell Roe mc owne of Bally { } Anthony kevannagh of Skernagh divers others whose n{ames he} know not, and sayeth that he did peticion to the Counce{ll of} the Comtie of wexford, for the Libertie of the towne, and was credbly told ther was an act conceaved by the { }

Councell vpon this examats peticion to deprive him of his { } which this examat made an escap from wexford his fu{ } in { } that he was taken by Sir { }Henry Masterson late of Monyceed esquire aged fiftie three yeares or thereabouts Deposeth Concerning the foresaid John Doyle of Rocke gent vizt That the said John Doyle dwelt at the Rocke alias Carricke in the Countie of Wickloe in the Irish quarters the first yeare of the rebellyon without remoouing himselfe into the english quarters, as Sir Walsingham Cooke knight and other protestants dwelling nigh the said John, and as this deponent himselfe did: And further saith that the said John did in the first beginning of the rebellyon act and abet the same, by raysing a Companie of foote souldyers and seizing into his handes, and keeping possession of the Castle of Arkloe, which was about that time kept by one Anthony Poulton and others of the english sent thither by the Lord Esmond, who had some Interest therein And further saith That the said John Doyle did in the first yeare of the said rebellyon seize into his handes & dispose of to his owne vse a boate of the proper goodes <y> of an englishman (whose name the deponent knoweth not) a late inhabitant in Arklow that was then fled thence into the english quarters for preseruacion of his life: The Deponents cause of knowledge is for that about two yeares since the deponent being at Dublin and vpon some busines before the Commissioners for Administracion of Justice there did heare the said John acknowledge freely in the open court that he had raysed a Companie of souldyers & guarissoned with them in the said Castle in the first yeare of the rebellyon, which Castle he pretended he then kept for the Lord of Ormond & for that the said John was then & there sued for the said boate and confest his taking away thereof in manner aforesaid the further certaintie whereof the deponent was Informed by the then Inhabitants of Arklow and further saith not &c, Henry Maisterson.

[11] TCD, 1641 Depositions Project.

[12] Extracted from an article in the 2011 edition of Carlovina 2011 by James P. Shannon entitled ‘Hacketstown and the 1641 Rebellion – List of people detailing Property Lost / Damaged’ relating to the 1641 Depositions at Trinity College Library.

[13] Diaries of the proceedings of the forces in Ireland under Sir Hardress Waller and the Lord Deputy Ireton, from 20th July, 1650, to 5th November, 1651, by officers in the Parliamentary Army in Ireland. Via

[14] With thanks to Michael Purcell.

[15] 1/20 31 Aug. 1773 Abstract of the title of Thomas Bunbury Esq. to the lands of Lisnavagh, Tobinstown, Ballybitt, etc, in the county of Carlow.

James Duke of Ormonde and his trustees being empowered by several acts of parliament to make fee farm grants, by deeds of leases and release, dated the 21st and 22nd February 1708, did grant … unto William Bunbury Esq., deceased, the townland of Lisnavagh, containing 666 acres more or less, part of the manor of Rathvilly in the barony of Rathvilly and county of Carlow, to hold to the said William Bunbury his heirs and assignees forever … – see this deed which was registered the 23rd November 1709.

By virtue of which conveyance the said William Bunbury became seized and held and enjoyed during his life and upon his decease the said lands became vested in fee in his eldest son, William Bunbury Esq., since deceased. That Charles, Lord Baron Weston in England and Earl of Arran in Ireland being seized in fee of the lands of Tobinstown in the said county of Carlow, containing 512 acres more or less, by deeds of lease and release dated the 23rd and 24th December 1723 … did grant release and confirm unto William Pendred and Joseph Bunbury, executors of William Bunbury and guardians of his sons, William and Thomas Bunbury, all the said lands except the mill and lands thereto belonging to hold to them their heirs and assignees forever … – see these deeds which were enrolled in Chancery and registered 18 March 1723.

That by other deeds of lease and release dated 20th and 21st June 1726 the said William Pendred and Joseph Bunbury … did grant release and confirm unto William Bunbury and Thomas Bunbury the said lands … by virtue of which deeds the said William and Thomas Bunbury became seized and tenants in common … .