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The Chenevix Family & the Gunpowder Mills of Corkagh, County Dublin

Richard Chenevix, Bishop of Waterford.

From Lorraine to England

Metz, Lorraine, October 1686. In the darkness of night, the old man’s body was pulled out of the dunghill, wrapped in linen and carried on the shoulders of four men to a garden where a grave had been dug. As the corpse was lowered, four hundred mourners, chiefly women, sang the 79th psalm, in which ‘the prophet deplores the desolation of Jerusalem’. The deceased was Monsieur Paul Chenevix d’Eply, one of Louis XIV’s councillors at the court of Metz in north-east France. The Rev. John Quick, an English dissenter, recalled him as ‘a venerable and ancient gentleman, a person of eminent prudence, illustrious for learning and godliness’.

The eighty-year-old Huguenot had earned the wrath of his Catholic contemporaries by refusing a royal order, presented at his deathbed by the Archbishop of Metz, urging him to renounce his faith and confess his sins. When he died soon afterwards, wrote Quick, the executioner himself was summoned to drag ‘most inhumanely’ Monsieur Chenevix’s dead ‘carcase’ [sic] through the streets upon a hurdle, before burying him in a dunghill. [i] Hence, his reburial by devotees later that night and his subsequent elevation to the venerable ranks of Huguenot martyrdom.

The Rev. Quick noted that the deceased had a brother, ‘a very reverend minister of the gospel refugeed in this city of London’. The brother was the Rev. Philippe Chenevix, a Huguenot pastor from Limay, near Mantes, who was born in about 1625 and trained in Geneva. The Chenevix’s were a distinguished family from Lorraine in northeastern France. Their father Paul Chenevix was a merchant and dyer in Paris while their mother Suzanne Gobelin belonged to a family of famous dyers; their premises were bought by Louis XIV and became the Manufactures royales des Gobelins. The pastor’s wife Anne de Boubers hailed from an equally ancient Picardy family and was an aunt of the chevalier Daniel de Boubers-Tuncq, Vicomte de Bernâtre. [ii]

The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, whose ill-advised Revocation of the Edict of Nantes dispatched thousands of Protestant Huguenots to Ireland.

Philippe and Anne had emigrated to England before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, obtaining letters of naturalization on 21st November 1682 which was notably the same day that the Grueber family were naturalized.[iii]

Also naturalized on that occasion was Philippe’s daughter Madeleine Chenevix, a lady-in-waiting to the Duchess of Buccleuh, wife to the Duke of Monmouth, Charles II’s natural son. The Chenevix’s influence presumably went on the slide when Monmouth launched a rebellion against his uncle James II, who had acceded to the British throne in 1685. Among those who played a major role in crushing Monmouth’s Rebellion was Lord Lumley, a Protestant convert, who had been both Master of the Horse and Treasurer to Queen Catherine of Braganza during Charles II’s reign. Lumley is said to have personally captured the young Duke whom he found beardless and unarmed in a ditch by the New Forest. Monmouth was subsequently beheaded while his Duchess was sent to the Tower of London, with Madeleine Chenevix dutifully by her side. Lumley was rewarded with his own regiment of horse but he soon became so disillusioned by James II that he was one of the ‘Immortal Seven’ who invited William of Orange to depose the Stuart monarch and take the British throne. The Chenevix family still had two daughters living in France at this time, having placed them in the protection of Sir William Trumbull, James II’s envoy extraordinary to France.[iv]


King William’s War, as the conflict became known, quickly spilled into Ireland where James II found considerable support amongst a Catholic population still reeling from the Tudor and Cromwellian conquests. Among those serving in the ranks of Lord Lumley’s Horse was Major Philip Chenevix, son of the pastor and brother of Madeleine. His wife Susannah Grueber, who was born in Lyons in 1661, was an older sister of Nicholas Grueber, the Corkagh gunpowder manufacturer. [v]

Philip served under Lumley at the battle of the Boyne, in which his brother-officer Colonel Robert Byerley rode upon the famous Byerley Turk. He rose through the ranks to become Captain by January 1692, while Lumley’s Horse was likewise promoted to the 7th Regiment of Horse, although it became rather better known as the King’s Carabiniers.[vi]

On 17 November 1693 Phillip married Susannah Grueber in London, ‘with the consent of her mother’.[vii] Soon afterwards he rejoined Lumley’s Horse on a campaign into the Low Countries that lasted until 1696 by which time they were the only cavalry regiment in King William’s army still in Brabant. With the Peace of Ryswick in 1697, they returned to England and were placed on standby for five years.

King William III by an unknown artist.

The following year, on 15 January 1698-9, Phillip ‘Chevenix’, as he signed his name, attended the Parish Church of St. Martin’s, Westminster, London, where he ‘received the Sacrament according to the usage of the Church of England’, having been naturalized under the terms of ‘An Act to Naturalize Philip de Chenevix, and others’.[viii] On hand for the event were the minister Thomas Yates, Artium Magister (“Master of Arts”), and the curate Francis Boteler.

On 3rd December 1700 Philip succeeded Sharrington Devonport to become a Major in ‘Wyndham’s Horse’.[ix] This was still the Carabiniers but Lord Lumley had retired and the regiment was now commanded by Colonel Hugh Wyndham, a seasoned veteran who had also served at the Boyne.[x]

With the onset of the War of the Spanish Succession, Wyndham’s Horse were ordered to Holland in February 1702. By July they were encamped at Dukenburg, near Nijmegen, from where they spent some time defending the Low Countries against French aggression. [xi] They took part in Marlborough’s march to Ulm on the Danube and were with General Woods’ Brigade during the assault on the Schellenberg in Bavaria in July 1704.

The following month, under the command of Colonel Francis Palmes, the Carabiniers were in the thick of it during Marlborough’s game-changing victory at Blenheim.[xii] However, when the battle was over, Major Chenevix was the most senior of the five Carabinier officers and 86 men killed in the action.[xiii] It seems likely he was slain during a major skirmish on the banks of the diminutive river Nebel when five squadrons of Wyndham’s Horse charged, sword in hand, at eight squadrons of the elite Gens d’Armes, commanded by General Zurlauben, Tallard’s Swiss-born cavalry commander. They broke Zurlauben’s cavalry and put them to flight in an important psychological triumph for Marlborough’s men but the horsemen should have quit while they were ahead. Instead they giddily carried on towards Blenheim from which sustained musketry fire resulted in many empty saddles including, it is assumed, that of Philip Chenevix. [xiv]

After his death, his widow Susannah petitioned Queen Anne’s parliament for assistance and received a bounty of £162 (about €15,000 today) for herself and their three small children, Richard, Philip and Paul Daniel Chenevix. [xv] The family were fated to lose much of their remaining fortune with the South Sea Bubble.

Copperplate of Lumley Castle, Durham, the home of Major Philip Chenevix’s commanding officer in the 1690s. Richard Chenevix was domestic chaplain at Lumley Castle to the 2nd Earl of Scarborough.


[For a much better and more detailed account of all this, see ‘Richard Chenevix, Bishop of Waterford – A Story of Patronage and Advancement’ by Lucy Trench, published by the Huguenot Society Journal.]

Major Chenevix’s eldest son Richard was born in about 1698 and has been succinctly described as ‘a man of real piety and benevolence, an 18th century churchman of the best sort, perhaps not too spiritual, but upright and thoroughly correct.’[xvi] A fluent French speaker, he studied at Cambridge before his appointment as domestic chaplain at Lumley Castle in Durham to the 2nd Earl of Scarborough. His appointment presumably came about because the Earl not only the son and heir of his late father’s commander, Lord Lumley, but also because the 1st earl was his godfather. Richard later served as chaplain to Lord Whitworth at the Congress of Cambrai during the 1720s.

In 1728 the enigmatic Earl of Chesterfield was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to the States General at The Hague. Upon Lord Scarborough’s recommendation, Chesterfield appointed Richard Chenevix his personal chaplain and so began a beautiful friendship. Fascinating times continued when Chesterfield became Viceroy of Ireland in 1745 and Richard journeyed with him as his principal domestic chaplain. In 1738 Richard was given a presentation cup by William, Prince of Orange, that is now on display in the Bishop’s Palace in Wexford, on loan from the National Museum of Ireland.

Two months after taking office, Chesterfield nominated Chenevix to the small bishopric of Clonfert in County Galway. However, George II, who did not particularly like Chesterfield, refused to grant his assent until the new Viceroy threatened to resign forcing the King to retract. As it happened, Chenevix was instead bumped up to the new and better paid see of Killaloe before being translated to Waterford, another Huguenot stronghold, which gave him a very handsome revenue of £1400.

A patron of the Irish linen industry, he was considered a philanthropist although he would later assure his granddaughter Melesina that he planned to die ‘scandalously rich’. His wife Dorothea was a sister of Admiral Dyves and a favourite of Queen Caroline but died in 1752. Their only son was the Rev. Philip Chenevix, Chancellor of Lismore, who married Mary Elizabeth, daughter of the Venerable Henry Gervais, Archdeacon of Cashel. Bishop Chenevix died in 1779, having outlived his son Philip and both his daughters. [xvii]

After Philip’s premature death, the Bishop’s small granddaughter Melesina (1768-1826) came to live with him. In 1786, nineteen-year-old Melesina, a talented, adventurous, only child, married Colonel Richard St George of Carrick-on-Shannon. In 1803, she was married secondly to Richard Trench, a younger brother of the 1st Lord Ashtown, and it is from them that the Chenevix-Trench family descend.

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

Richard and Melesina’s son was the prelate, philologist and poet Richard Chenevix-Trench (1807-1886). Having fought in a Spanish rebellion as a young man, he became Archbishop of Dublin in 1864 and co-founded Alexandra College. He was also the first to propose the New English Dictionary, later the Oxford English Dictionary. [See Appendix 2.] He was grandfather to the Irish nationalist Cesca Chenevix-Trench, while his son Francis was a divine of much renown.

[With thanks to Lucy Chenevix Trench, see appendices below]


The Bishop’s brother Paul Daniel Chenevix was a goldsmith and noted toyman who operated from the Golden Gate, opposite Suffolk Street, Charing Cross, London, from as early as 1731.[xviii] The shop was called ‘The Golden Door’, with a sign above its entrance, while his trade card, inscribed in French, stated that he also supplied silverware, or ‘Vaiselle d’ Argent en tout genre.’ His clients included Frederick, Prince of Wales, Earl Fitzwalter and Lyonel Tollermarche.

Paul’s second wife Elizabeth was the daughter of another London toyman called William Deards who, along with his wife Mary, was based at the Star on Pall Mall. On Paul’s death in 1742 Elizabeth carried on the business and became renowned as the ‘toy-woman a la mode’. Her sister Mrs Paul Bertrand was ‘the no-less noted toy-woman at Bath’.

The Chenevixes lived in a small five-acre cottage in Twickenham but after Paul’s death, Elizabeth let the house for a year or two to Lord John Sackville (1713-1765), the second son of the Duke of Dorset. Sackville was a notorious cricket-loving rake. He was also the older brother of Lord George Sackville, a fellow-officer of Elizabeth’s brother-in-law Philip Chenevix. In 1747 Horace Walpole purchased the lease from her and converted the site into his famous Gothic residence, Strawberry Hill. Mrs Chenevix died in 1755.[xix]


Bishop Chenevix’s brother Philip was also apparently born in 1698 so perhaps he and the prelate were twins. If so he was barely a teenager when he was commissioned on 25th June 1711 as a cornet in the Carabiniers, his late father’s regiment. [xx] He may have been with them when the French nearly overran the regiment in a night attack on their camp at Arleux that same year, or when they served in the capture of Bouchain, again in 1711. The latter action effectively ended the long war and, following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the Carabiniers returned to garrison duties in Ireland. They were placed on alert during the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1719 but saw no action. The regiment was to remain stationed in Ireland until 1760, a total of forty-seven years. [xxi] On 19 June 1722 Phillip was promoted to captain. [xxii] He rose through the ranks over the next two decades to become the Carabiniers’ commanding officer.

It is not yet known when Philip first took on the lease of the powder mills at Corkagh. One assumes he inherited the interest upon the death of his uncle Nicholas Grueber, which took place sometime before April 1743. In that month Philip was named on a deed relating to the lease of six acres at Corkagh, comprising of Killmateed Park, Rainbow Park and the Potatoe [sic] Garden. The deed indicated that he had previously leased these lands from David Chaigneau but that this land was now in the ownership of Theophilias Desbrisay, the Army Agent.[xxiii] The deeds do not mention the mills.

Six years later, Colonel Chenevix was named as the lessee of the powder mills at Corkagh in a sale advertisement that appeared in the Dublin Journal in 1749. This advertisement indicated that he was renting the mills, with five acres, for £15 and ‘six pounds of Battle Powder duty every year’, which is precisely what Grueber had agreed to pay Lewis Chaigneau thirty years earlier. Chenevix was also renting the powder mills farm for £23 and it is assumed that he lived there. When General de Grangues died in 1754, he gave his address as the ‘Powder Mills’ in a letter to Lord George Sackville. It is possible that the building where he lived is present-day Kilmatead House.

Gunpowder was key to the Grueber fortune.

Perhaps his interest in gunpowder was connected to the resurgence of the Jacobite threat and the War of the Austrian Succession, both of which erupted in the 1740s. However, while sixty men and horses from his regiment were sent to strengthen the army in Europe in 1743 and 1744, the rest of the Carabiniers remained in Ireland during both conflicts and saw no action. It may be relevant that Corkagh became somewhat closer to Dublin during this time; the Grand Canal had reached Clondalkin by the time John Rocque compiled his survey of County Dublin in 1760.

One can see why Colonel Chenevix was keen to take on the mills. The demand for gunpowder was accelerating at an incredibly fast pace, with British consumption alone jumping from 647 tons per year in the Seven Years War (1756–63) to over 1,600 tons by the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). The British conquest of Bengal, following the victory at Plassey in 1757, secured control of seventy per cent of the world’s saltpetre production, which, in turn, enabled the British Empire to establish that incredible domination of the planet. The French certainly blamed their defeat in the Seven Years War on a shortage of saltpetre; this was something they were careful to redress by the time of the Napoleonic Wars. (Bengal would also be utterly pivotal to opium supplies in the next century, leading to the infamous Opium Wars. Opium sales provided the Treasury with a sizeable percentage of its annual budget).

A victorious Clive of India at Plassey.

Like his clerical brother, Philip made a strong impression on Lord Chesterfield during the earl’s short tenure as Viceroy of Ireland from January 1745 to November 1746. Having won Chesterfield’s ‘regard and confidence’, he ‘acquitted himself with an ability and integrity suitable to the trust reposed in him.’[xxiv] Philip became commanding officer of the Carabiniers in June 1745 and perhaps his strong relations with Chesterfield explains why the regiment was advanced up the cavalry ranks in 1746 to become the ‘3rd Regiment of (Irish) Horse, or Carabineers.’ The new spelling of Carabineers was deliberate. [xxv]

During the 1750s, the regiment was to come under the overall command of Lord George Sackville (see below), a friend and brother-officer of Colonel Chenevix who was destined to become one of the more powerful figures of the age.

On 12th September 1751 readers of The General Advertiser learned of a fire at the Corkagh mills ‘occasioned by a Carpenter bore-ing a Hole thro’ a Loft with an Auger, the Heat of which Instrument set Fire to a few loose Grains of Powder that lay in the Crevices of the Floor; which communicated itself to a large Parcel of Powder near it, and the Explosion carried off the Roof of the Mill, with two Carpenters on it, but very providentially neither of them received any damage.’

Just over five years later, as the Seven Years War got underway, Pue’s Occurrences observed: ‘One of the Powder Mills in Corkagh belonging to Colonel Chenevix blew up; but did no other Mischief than carrying away the Roof of the House.’[xxvi] And again in August 1758, as Colonel Chenevix entered the last months of his life, another mill at Corkagh blew up; ‘the building was much damaged, but happily no person received any hurt.’[xxvii] Presumably one of these explosions accounts for the presence of cut-stone rocks in the lake to this day. The main existing mill building at Corkagh is probably later, or a rebuild; it is very intact and shows no evidence of having been involved in any explosion. The Mill House is thought to have been a barn that was converted into a house in the 19th century. This explains why it was only one room deep. The ‘L’ shaped extension was added by the Colleys when they moved there after Corkagh was sold. It probably derives its name from the fact that it is both the nearest residence to the mill and also because there was milling activity there long after the demise of the gunpowder mills.

In March 1757 the sudden death of Lt. Col. John Arabin, his lifelong friend and brother officer, must have been a tremendous blow to Colonel Chenevix. That same year, Lord George Sackville was appointed Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance and the colonelcy of the Carabiniers passed to Major-General Louis (or Lewis) Dejean who was transferred from the 14th Dragoons.[xxviii]

Colonel Chenevix resigned his command in April 1758 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He died just six months later on 23rd November 1758.[xxix] Chesterfield ‘much regretted’ the death of ‘this gallant and worthy officer’. [xxx] An oil on canvas portrait of Philip Chenevix survives, artist unknown, and features in Stephen Wood’s book, ‘Those Terrible Greys: An Illustrated History of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.’[xxxi]

Philip’s wife Marie was a daughter of Jacques Frotté de La Rimbliere (or Rimbelliere). [xxxii] Jacques, who hailed from the parish of Damigny, near Alençon in Normandy, anglicized his name as James La Rimbliere. He served as a captain in the Earl of Lifford’s Regiment (or Cambon’s Foot) at both the battle of the Boyne and the siege of Aughrim. Another captain in that regiment was Theophilus Desbrisay, a close colleague of General de Grangues whose son would later own lands at Corkagh.[xxxiii] James La Rimbliere died in 1727. A letter he wrote to his mother and his brother Samuel survives; they remained in Damigny after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.[xxxiv] Marie Chenevix appears to have died in 1772.[xxxv]

Lord George Sackville, Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance. His brother John lived in the Chenevixes house in Twickenham.


From 1750 until 1757, the Carabiniers were known as ‘Lord George Sackville’s Dragoons’ after Lord George Sackville, who was Chief Secretary of Ireland during most of that period. Born in 1716, Lord George was the third son of Lionel, Duke of Dorset. He went to Ireland when his father was appointed Viceroy in 1731, studied at Trinity College Dublin and befriended Jonathan Swift. As MP for Portarlington from 1733 to 1761, he developed a long and intimate friendship with Ireland’s Huguenot community.

Lord George remained in Dublin after his father’s viceroyalty ended in 1737, where his sharp-dressing and wit caught the eye of Mrs Delaney. In July 1737 he joined the Carabiniers where his brother-officers included John Arabin and Philip Chenevix. Indeed, when Lord George was promoted to the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of Bragg’s Regiment (28th Foot) in August 1740, John Arabin succeeded him as captain of the Carabiniers.

Sackville distinguished himself at the battle of Fontenoy where he led the charge of the Duke of Cumberland’s infantry but was seriously wounded and captured by the French.

In 1751, the year Daniel Chenevix was promoted to lieutenant in the Carabiniers, the Duke of Dorset returned to Ireland to commence his second term as Viceroy. Lord George went with him as his Chief Secretary and was sworn onto the Privy Council. That same year Lord George was elected Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, serving in this post for the next two years. This was the same period that Luke Gardiner laid out a new street on the northside of the River Liffey, which he named Sackville Street after this influential family; it would later become O’Connell Street. The city’s Dorset Street was likewise named for Lord George’s father.

Lord George Sackville distinguished himself at the battle of Fontenoy where he led the charge of the Duke of Cumberland’s infantry but was seriously wounded and captured by the French.

At the start of the Seven Years War in 1754, Lord George was pipped for the post of commander–in-chief of the British Army in North America by Edward Braddock. After the battle of Minden in 1759, he was court martialled and was dismissed for failing to send in his cavalry to complete the defeat of the French, despite of orders. Although his fortunes waxed and waned over the next 25 years, he was generally regarded as a successful military man and statesman. He died in 1785. His eldest son George became the fifth and last Duke of Dorset.


Colonel Philip Chenevix’s only son Daniel Pierre Chenevix was born on 30 April 1731 and baptised three weeks later by Antoine Fleury at the French Conformed Church of St. Patrick in Dublin. His godfathers were Colonel Daniel de Bernâtre, a cousin and former Lieutenant Colonel of Meinhardt Schomberg’s Dragoons, and Pierre Caudier, while Madame Anne de la Porrine was his godmother.[xxxvi]

Like his father and grandfather Daniel pursued a military career.[xxxvii] In 1751 he was promoted lieutenant in the Carabiniers, or Lord George Sackville’s Dragoons as they had lately become, in which his father was colonel.[xxxviii] On 4th September 1754 he was promoted to captain;John Arabin was by now a captain in the same regiment.[xxxix] In October 1756 Daniel and John became brothers-in-law as well as brother-officers when Daniel married John’s sister Elizabeth Arabin. John Arabin was executor for the marriage settlement alongside Daniel’s uncle Bishop Chenevix.[xl]

Although he initially remained with the Carabiniers when Louis Dejean took command, Daniel may have left at the same time his father resigned his command of the regiment. [xli] In September 1758 he was recorded as a Major in the Artillery Company of Ireland; the regiment had been formed three years earlier.[xlii] His father’s death two months later left him heir to various properties including lands in the Tullyhunco Barony in County Cavan. Once the stronghold of the MagTigernain (McTernan) chieftains, it is rather bizarrely possible that the ancestors of the Finlays of Corkagh were also walking through this same barony in the seventeenth century.[xliii] Daniel’s thoughts at this time must have been greatly influenced by the premature death of his friend Captain John Arabin.

Meanwhile, perhaps aided by his father’s will, Daniel set his sights on a future home for himself and his young family. In 1760 he snapped up the Ballycommon estate in the King’s County (ie: Offaly), close to Nenagh, County Tipperary, from William Grave, a hunting-obsessed spendthrift of Dutch origin.[xliv] The land had been part of a dispute in the Court of Exchequer two years earlier involving his young nephew Henry Arabin.

In March 1760, it was announced that a new Royal Irish Regiment of Artillery was to be immediately raised with the Earl of Kildare (later Duke of Leinster) as its colonel. Major Daniel Chenevix was ranked fourth in the new regiment but within two years he had taken command, becoming lieutenant colonel on 8th January 1762.[xlv] He was instantly faced with a severe case of trouble in the ranks when it emerged that, on New Year’s Eve 1761, ‘several men of the Royal Irish regiment of artillery, armed with swords and cutlasses, most outrageously and unlawfully went through several parishes of the city of Dublin, and cruelly and inhumanly beat, cut and mangled several of the city watch, without any provocation whatsoever of which treatment one man is since dead, and others in great danger of their lives.’ On 6th January, Lord Kildare wrote from Kildare House (now Leinster House) promising a twenty guinea reward to anyone whose information led to a conviction of those responsible. Daniel Chenevix weighed in by offering a further ten guineas, while the other officers likewise promised twenty guineas.[xlvi] The regiment recruited all over Ireland and initially trained in Dublin Castle before moving to Woolwich.

Daniel served as High Sheriff of the King’s County in 1764 and he was appointed to the same office for County Westmeath in 1768. In 1774 he became Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland; his father and Colonel Arabin had also been Freemasons. [xlvii] Daniel was still operating the Corkagh powder mills at this time as ‘contractor for gunpowder with his Majesty’s Board of Ordnance in Ireland.’[xlviii] On 30th September 1775, for instance, the Privy Council sent a report to the Board of Trade and Plantations concerning a petition from Benjamin Hopkins, of London, merchant, to export two hundred bags of saltpetre, on board the ship London, for consumption in Colonel Chenevix’s mill. Hopkins, a director of the Bank of England, was elected Chamberlain of the Guildhall of London in 1776, holding the post until his death in November 1779.[xlix]

For reasons unknown, Colonel Chenevix died aged forty-five in Dominick Street, Dublin, in March 1776.[l] He was buried in Ballycommon where there is an inscription to him inside the church. After Daniel’s death, command of the Royal Irish Artillery passed to John Stratton, who took part of the regiment to serve in the American War of Independence the following year. [li] Daniel Chenevix would not have been impressed to hear Brigadier-General James Pattison later describe the Royal Irish gunners as ‘diminutive warriors … lower than serpents … incorrigible, ill mannered, and unkempt’.

Daniel’s premature death threatened to bring an end to the direct family connection to Corkagh that had been ongoing since his great-uncle Nicholas Grueber constructed the first mills in 1719. At the close of April 1776, readers of Saunders Newsletter learned that there was to be an auction at the Powder Mills on 2nd May 1776, hosted by the High Sheriff of Dublin. Up for grabs was ‘the intire [sic] Household Furniture of Daniel Chenevix, deceased’, most of which was described as being ‘almost new’. Also going under the hammer were ‘all the Utensils belonging to the said Mills, consisting of several Copper-pans and Boilers, Keives, Coolers, Tubbs, Barrels and half-Barrels of Powder … double Horse and Bullock Carts; with several Saddle and Draft Horses, Mares, Fillys, Colts, Bullocks, Milch Cows, and Sheep; some Stacks of Hay and Oats with many other articles too tedious to insert.’ Moreover, Saunders concluded, all of Daniel Chenevix’s leasehold interests in County Dublin were also to be sold.[lii]

There is a suggestion that the mills were then worked by a Huguenot family called Pinneau. This derives from an article published in Saunders Newsletter in April 1786 which recalled that ‘some years ago the powder-mills belonging to Mess. Pinneau and Co. at Corkagh, near the five-mile stone, on the Naas Road, blew up with an explosion that shook all the buildings for some miles around. The effects extended even as far as Naas, where the windows of the sessions house were shivered at the distance of seven miles; happily no lives were lost; the workmen, consisting of about twenty, being gone to dinner, at a public house in the neighbourhood, the chimnies [sic] of which were, however, thrown into the room where they sat.’[liii] No further details can be found of Pinneau & Co., although there was a family of that name in Dublin during the late eighteenth century.[liv]

Ultimately the Grueber-Chenevix family link held firm when Daniel’s nephew Henry Arabin, who had worked with him at the mills, took up the running. Daniel’s son Richard Chenevix, who became a prominent chemist and mineralogist, was also closely involved during Henry Arabin’s tenure.


Extracts from the above appear in the book ‘CORKAGH – The Life & Times of a South Dublin Demesne 1650-1960’ by Turtle Bunbury, published by South Dublin County Council in May 2018. The County Library in Tallaght have the books as part of their Local Studies collection; readers can either visit the Library or contact them via 01 4597834.



When Melesina Trench’s memoirs were published in 1862, they included many memories of her grandfather Bishop Richard Chenevix such as this:

“After my mother’s death I lived with my dear grandfather, the good Bishop of Waterford. I was the only remaining child of his once numerous family, and in me were centered all his earthly hopes and wishes. His domestic affections were uncommonly strong. They formed a solid and broad basis for his universal philanthropy. He often spoke of his lost children, of his departed wife, and of his revered father, who died on the field of battle. Even his family pictures, a numerous collection, which he had carefully brought from England when he came to settle at his bishopric, were regarded by him with sentiments of greater tenderness and veneration than some appear to feel for their living friends.

The education of his orphan grand daughter became his favourite employment. She was to him as a ray of sunshine sent to gild the evening of his life. But she did not absorb the mild affections of that expanded heart, which looked on all the sons and daughters of affliction as its own. Inattentive to the voice of vanity, selfishness, or dissipation and above all taste for luxury and splendour, his superfluity was exclusively devoted to acts of charity; and his idea of superfluity was that of a Christian bishop. To one who expressed fears of his injuring his family by his generosity, he replied, “No, no, I shall die scandalously rich.” Prudent men accused him of being too lavish and indiscriminate in his bounty, and it was said that whoever awakened his feelings commanded his purse. But these were noble errors, and sufficiently punished by the occasional ingratitude he experienced.

He proved by the whole tenour of his actions that his philanthropy was not the mere child of impulse, for he assisted numerous public charities with the utmost exertion of his vigilance and industry. In more instances than one he wrested from the strong grasp of power and affluence the portion of those who had none to help them; and saved from rapacious heirs the revenues of establishments, destined to last as long as our Constitution for the comfort of the widow and the fatherless. He also sowed the first precious seed of many liberal endowments. Providence prospered his efforts and those yet unborn may bless his name.

Would that I could do justice to his courtesy, his dignity of mind, his humility, his simplicity, his learning, his piety; but his setting sun only irradiated my path during my childhood. His habits I well remember. Till fourscore years of age, he rose at six, lighted his own fire, was temperate even to abstemiousness, never tasting any but the plainest food, was strictly attentive to every religious exercise, public and private; was polite and hospitable, receiving frequently large companies, from whom he retired to his study when they sat down to cards; and on every Sunday inviting a numerous party of clergymen and officers to an early dinner, which admitted of attending divine service in the evening.

He was always employed in his study in the intervals of meals; but though apparently engrossed by his pen and his books, never showed the slightest impatience of interruption, whether from the claims of society or of indigence. An airing, or a short walk to look at his pines, grapes, or melons, was to him sufficient relaxation; and, as his deafness precluded him from enjoying general conversation, he had peculiar pleasure in a private interview with those he loved or esteemed.

His courtesy was specially that of Christianity, more solicitous to avoid offending the poor and low than the rich and great. I have seen him receive an old woman who asked alms in the street, and a young one who came to solicit a recommendation to the Magdalen Asylum, with all the politeness of a courtier, and all the respect of a supplicant. His green old age, always serene, and often cheerful, was wholly exempt from ennui, listlessness or any dispiriting complaint.’

Melesina Chenevix St. George Trench, ‘The Remains of the Late Mrs. Richard Trench’, (Parker, Son, and Bourn, 1862).



[Dictionary of Irish Biography Online entry by Bridget Hourican]

Trench, Melesina Chenevix (1768–1826), writer, was born 22 March 1768 in Dublin, the only child of the Rev. Philip Chenevix, vicar (1768–71) of Kilmeadan, Co. Waterford, and chancellor (1769–71) of the diocese of Waterford, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Archdeacon Gervais (d. 1790). Orphaned before she was four years old, she was sent to live with her grandfather, Dr Richard Chenevix (qv), bishop of Waterford, and on his death resided for a year with her kinswoman, Lady Lifford, before going to her maternal grandfather, Archdeacon Gervais, where she remained until her marriage (31 October 1786) to Col. Richard St George of Carrick-on-Shannon and Hartley St George, Cambridgeshire. She was an heiress through both grandfathers and inherited from them, in addition, her habit of study. St George’s regiment was quartered in Cork, and there the couple spent most of their brief married life, until she took her ailing husband to Portugal, where he died in March 1790. The next ten years she lived in seclusion with the only child from the marriage, but in October 1799 she embarked on a long visit to Germany, where she spent a year, travelling extensively and staying always with prestigious hosts, including the duke of Brunswick and the British consul in Dresden. This awoke her spirits and she began a journal, which she kept until her death. On her return she was in Ireland for a year. When visiting property she owned in Ballitore, Kildare, she met the quaker writer Mary Leadbeater (qv), with whom she began a lifelong friendship and correspondence. Leadbeater left a memorable description of their first meeting, which testifies to the beauty, charm, and dignity for which Trench was known.

Visiting Paris in 1802, she met and married (3 March 1803) a barrister, Richard Trench (1774–1860) from Co. Galway, the younger brother of Frederick Trench (1755–1840), who was made Lord Ashtown in 1800. Both the Chenevixes and Trenches were of huguenot origin. The end of the peace of Amiens meant the Trenches were five years in France before they were allowed to return to England. Thereafter they visited Ireland frequently but never lived there. To Mary Leadbeater’s request that she return, Trench replied that the religion, education, and care for the poor in England made it a far superior country to bring up children. She divided her time between an estate in Hampshire and a house in London, and used the former to immerse herself in reading and educate her children, and the latter to socialise. She died in Malvern on 27 May 1826; her youngest son died soon after and was the fourth of her children to die young. Of her four surviving sons, two were rectors and authors; the third, Richard Chenevix Trench (qv), became archbishop of Dublin.

Like her favourite author, Madame de Sévigné, Trench wrote neither for an audience nor fame but gained both posthumously through letters and journals. A number of poems were privately and anonymously issued in 1815 and 1816, but she did not reach a wide readership until 1862, when her son, Richard Chenevix Trench, published the Remains of the late Mrs Trench, consisting of extracts from her letters, journals, and poems. That year also The Leadbeater papers, containing a large part of her correspondence with Leadbeater, were published. These volumes revealed to an admiring public a mind alternately lively, satirical, and socially observant, and interior, philosophical, emotional, and melancholic. The former attributes are seen to best effect in her German diary, which contains excellent and bitingly malicious descriptions of Admiral Nelson and Lady Hamilton; the latter in her accounts of her lonely childhood and the deaths of a son and her only daughter, which also occasioned her most moving verse.

Edward FitzGerald, author of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, compared her letters with those of Walpole and Southey. She differs from these, however, by a preoccupation with women’s education and position in society, and by that marked and almost neurotic straining for self-improvement discernible in other educated women of the period.


Richard Chenevix Trench (ed.), Remains of the late Mrs Richard Trench (1862); Allibone; Mary Leadbeater, The Leadbeater papers (2 vols, 1862; reprint 1998, ed. Maria Luddy); Frances A. Gerard, Some fine Hibernians (1899); A. A. Kelly, Wandering women (1995); Virginia Blain, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, Feminist companion to literature (1996); ODNB

Information via Dictionary of Irish Biography Online © 2010 Cambridge University Press and Royal Irish Academy. All rights reserved.


I think Daniel and Elizabeth Chenevix’s son George Chenevix succeeded to Ballycommon. He was quite possibly named for Lord George Sackville, in whose regiment Daniel had served during the Seven Years War. In 1794 Ballycommon Bridge, also known as Chenevix Bridge, was built across what would have then been a busy stretch of the Grand Canal, with the Kilbeggan Branch of the canal just west of the bridge, and a direct link to Clondalkin which had opened to traffic in 1779. I think George was a father of the Surgeon Major George Chenevix (1793-1852) who served with the Coldstream Guards at Quatre Bras and Waterloo, as well as at the capture of Paris. A memorial was erected to the younger George’s memory in Ballycommon Church by his widow Maria Sophia, daughter of Charles Baldwin, of Grove Hill, Camberwell.

Daniel and Elizabeth Chenevix’s daughter Sarah Elizabeth married Capt. Hugh Tuite, ‘a gentleman of about £5,000 per annum’ from Sonna, County Westmeath, who played a prominent role in the defence of Gibraltar in the 1780s. Like the arabins, their son Hugh Morgan Tuite would later become a key supporter of Daniel O’Connell’s Catholic Association, as well as Sheriff of counties Westmeath (1822-3) and Longford (1837-8).


(The Irish Times, 1 Sept 2007)

In the dining room at home, as I grew up, there was always an extra presence – not the ghost of big-house folklore, but an old man wearing an episcopal ring and the order of St Patrick. Bowed down by illness and care, he was a melancholic figure yet benign and familiar. This was the portrait of Richard Chenevix Trench, Dean of Westminster, Archbishop of Dublin and instigator of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Although my great-great-grandfather was so present in our lives, I knew little about him. There were family anecdotes, of course, and a long row of books on the landing – The Study of Words, English Past and Present, Poems, Notes on the Miracles, Notes on the Parables, Lectures on the Thirty Years War – all unread.

I knew he was Irish by birth: his father Frederick Trench was a younger son of a numerous Ascendancy family in Galway and his mother Melesina Chenevix was the beautiful and clever granddaughter of a Huguenot bishop of Waterford. I knew that in his youth he had joined an armed rising in Spain, a disastrous attempt to overturn the corrupt monarchy, and that during the famine he had helped set up soup kitchens. I knew he was co-founder of my school, Alexandra College, as a place where girls could receive a university-level education. But of his intellect and his thought, I knew nothing. My father was too busy writing his own books to read those of his ancestor, and I was too young to find out for myself.

But now we are celebrating his bicentenary. Trench was born in Dublin on 9 September 1807 and died in London in 1886. He is buried in Westminster Abbey, under a slab of Irish marble marked with a Celtic cross and interlace. There will be a special evensong and lecture at Christchurch tomorrow and a family wreath-laying ceremony at Westminster on 22 September.

All this has prompted me to read some of his work and think about his legacy, both public and private. His time at Westminster was not specially distinguished and his twenty years in Dublin were marked by tremendous battles over disestablishment; imposed by Gladstone, this was a great sorrow to Trench, and he fought hard to preserve the Church of Ireland. Instead, Trench’s finest memorial lies in his writing. Much of the poetry is too imperialistic or religious for modern tastes, but his Study of Words still has echoes in any study of language, from George Orwell to Lynn Truss.

‘Trench on Words’, as it became known, was one of the stand-bys of every educated household. First published in 1855, it ran to 29 editions and was in print for over 80 years. Philology in the 1850s was a fashionable science, the literary counterpart to geology in that it unveiled the secrets of the past. Trench, however, was less interested in the origin of words than in the divine nature of language. He believed that language was a gift from God that enables us to take possession of creation and enact God’s purpose. But since it changed and evolved, language was also a ‘moral barometer’ that reflected the highs and lows of man’s moral stature.

Words, he said, ‘beat with the pulses of our life; they stir with our passions; we clothe them with light; we steep them in scorn; they receive from us the impressions of our good and of our evil.’ Among thousands of examples from languages ancient and modern, he cited the Italian word ‘abbacinare’ as evidence of man’s cruelty (it means ‘to deprive of sight by holding a red-hot vessel close to the eyeballs’), and the uniquely English word ‘club’ as representing the freedom and moderation of English social and political life.

England, its character, literature and history, was the other great theme in Trench’s study of words. He believed that a language was the achievement of an entire nation, unlike a literary work, which is the output of one individual. When in 1857 he gave a lecture on ‘Some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries’ to the London Philological Society it was the national significance of English rather than its moral qualities that he had in mind. The existing English dictionaries were defective, and English scholarship lagged behind that of France and Germany. Now was the moment to embark on an entirely new dictionary. At home, it would benefit the ‘common man’ who, for the first time, had access to learning but would not have the privilege of a classical education. Overseas, in this imperial age, it would spread English language, culture and religion.

With clarity, common sense and vision, Trench also proposed the underlying principles of the new dictionary. It would be an inventory of all the words ever written in English; it would trace the changing meaning of words rather than determining a ‘correct’ meaning; it would be compiled by volunteers ‘drawing as with a sweep-net over the whole extent of English literature’.

None of these ideas was new – they all came from the Continent – but the enormous popularity of Trench’s Study of Words had created a groundswell of enthusiasm for this immense collective task. The OUP took over the project in 1879 and 5-6 million citation slips later the Oxford English Dictionary was finally completed in 1928.

So this is Trench’s legacy to the world – one of the finest dictionaries ever produced and now one that underpins and reflects the growth of English as a global language. But what of his legacy to his family? Many of his descendants are, or have been, linguists, historians, writers or poets, but two of his grandchildren took his love of language in an unexpected direction.

Cesca Chenevix Trench and her cousin Samuel were both Irish nationalists who spoke Irish and were close to leading figures in the Gaelic League. Cesca died of the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918 but left a diary that vividly records her experience of the Easter Rising. Samuel, also known as Dermot, gained another, less honourable immortality as Haines the ‘ponderous Saxon’ in Ulysses. Their political views might have been the polar opposite of their grandfather’s, but their commitment to the Irish language was entirely consistent with his belief that a language was ‘the embodiment, the incarnation if I may so speak, of the feelings and thoughts and experiences of a nation’.

See also Lucy Chenevix Trench, ‘Richard Chenevix, Bishop of Waterford: A Story of Patronage and Advancement’, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, 23 (2005), 305-15.

Thanks also to Georgia Chenevix Trench.


[i] David C. A. Agnew, ‘Protestant Exiles from France’, p. 360. Lorraine had experienced intense persecution between 1570-1630, not least in witchcraft trials.

[ii] Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 29, Issue 1, p. 68.

[iii] David C. A. Agnew, ‘Protestant exiles from France’, p. 37.

[iv] Ruth Clark, ‘Sir William Trumbull in Paris, Cambridge University Press, 1938, p. 96.

[v] Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 29, Issue 1, p. 68, edited by Dorothy North. (Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London, 2011).

[vi] Charles Dalton, ‘English Army Lists and Commission Registers, 1661-1714’ (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1896), Volume 3, p. 19.

[vii] ‘Allegations for Marriage Licences Issued by the Vicar-general of the Archbishop of Canterbury’, Volume 31, Harleian Society, 1890, p. 273.

[viii] Manuscripts of the House of Lords, H.M. Stationery Office, 1697.

[ix] Also spelled as ‘Windham’s Horse’, the regiment later became the 6th Dragoon Guards, before evolving into the 3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales’s Dragoon Guards). Journals of the House of Commons, Volume 13, p. 440.

[x] Born in 1649, Wyndham was the second son of Colonel Francis Wyndham and Anne Gerard. He distinguished himself at the Boyne, and at the siege of Limerick. He died a bachelor in 1706, at Valencia in Spain, possibly from wounds.

[xi] Stephen Wood, ‘Those Terrible Grey Horses: An Illustrated History of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards’ (Osprey Publishing, 2015), p. 20.

[xii] Ibid, p. 21.

[xiii] David C. A. Agnew, ‘Protestant exiles from France’.

[xiv] Saul David, ‘All The King’s Men: The British Soldier from the Restoration to Waterloo’ (Penguin UK, 2012).

[xv] Charles Dalton, ‘The Blenheim Roll, 1704’ (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1899).

[xvi] Samuel Shellabarger, ‘Lord Chesterfield and His World’ (Biblo & Tannen , 1951), p. 122.

[xvii] Melesina Chenevix St. George Trench, ‘The Remains of the Late Mrs. Richard Trench’, (Parker, Son, and Bourn, 1862).

[xviii] The concept that Paul Daniel Chenevix was a brother is pitched in The Yale edition of Horace Walpole’s correspondence, Volumes 13-14 (Yale University Press, 1948), p. 103.

[xix] Cathy Hartley, ‘A Historical Dictionary of British Women’ (Routledge, 2013), p. 97.

[xx] A List of the Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels, Majors, Captains, Lieutenants, and Ensigns of His Majesty’s Forces on the British Establishment (T. Cox, 1740), p. 64.

[xxi] Stephen Wood, ‘Those Terrible Grey Horses.’

[xxii] A List of the Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels, Majors, Captains, Lieutenants, and Ensigns of His Majesty’s Forces on the British Establishment (T. Cox, 1740), p. 64.

[xxiii] Registry of Deeds Index, Memorial No: 76327).

[xxiv] ‘Miscellaneous Works of the Late Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield’ (E. and C. Dilly, 1779), p. 354.

[xxv] Stephen Wood, ‘Those Terrible Grey Horses.’

[xxvi] Pue’s Occurrences, 20-23 November 1756.

[xxvii] Owen Weekly Chronicle Or Universal Journal, 5 August, 1758.

[xxviii] Dejean died in Dublin on 29th September 1764.

[xxix] The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol. 28, p. 611.

[xxx] Miscellaneous Works of the Late Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield’ (E. and C. Dilly, 1779), p. 354.

[xxxi] Stephen Wood, ‘Those Terrible Grey Horses.’

[xxxii] Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 29, Issue 1, p. 68.

[xxxiii] Treasury Warrants: August 1717, 11-12, p 507-544, Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 31, 1717. Originally published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1960.

[xxxiv] Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, 1941, p. 420.

[xxxv] Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, Or, Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge, Volume 2 (1772), p. 624.

[xxxvi] Registers of the French Conformed Churches of St. Patrick and St. Mary, Dublin, Huguenot Society of London, 1893, p. 55.

[xxxvii] The Quarters of the Army in Ireland in 1749, to which is added, An exact list of the general and field officers, as they take rank in His Majesty’s army (1752).

[xxxviii] The Gentleman’s and London Magazine: Or Monthly Chronologer, 1751.

[xxxix] Lepper and Crossle’s records of the Grand Lodge Officers in Dublin suggest he was appointed a captain in the 14th Light Dragoons where Louis Dejean was commander but I am pretty sure he would have been a Carabinier until his transfer to the new Royal Irish Artillery.

[xl] Pue’s Occurrences, 16 October 1756.

[xli] In 1760, after nearly five decades in Ireland, the Carabiniers were sent to bolster the British cavalry’s strength in Germany. The regiment served at the battle of Warburg in July 1760, wintered in Paderborn and spent much of 1761 skirmishing with the French in the Rhineland and Westphalia. They returned to Ireland in 1763. See: Stephen Wood, ‘Those Terrible Grey Horses.’

[xlii] The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 28.

[xliii] Chenevix-Farnham Papers (National Library of Ireland, Collection List No. 95).

[xliv] Upton Collection held by the Royal Irish Academy and catalogued by Martin Fagan in April 2012.

[xlv] London magazine or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, Volume 29, p. 164.

[xlvi] Dublin Courier, 12 March 1762.

[xlvii] John Heron Lepper and Philip Crossle, ‘History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland’, vol. I (Dublin: Lodge of Research, 1925), p. 211.

[xlviii] The report erroneously refers to him as Col. David Chenevix. See: Journal of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, Volume 13, January 1768 – December 1775. Originally published by His Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1937, p. 437.

[xlix] The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, Volume 48.

[l] Lepper and Crossle, p. 211.

[li] The Scots Magazine, Volume 38, April 1776.

[lii] Saunders Newsletter, Monday 29 April 1776.

[liii] Saunders Newsletter, 26 April 1787.

[liv] A number of people with the Pineau surname appear in and around Dublin in the 18th and 19th centuries. Daniel Pineau was a Goldsmith. Another Daniel, perhaps a relation, was the Registrar of his Majesty’s High Court of Admiralty. Paul Pineau was a watchmaker and Peter Pineau was a solicitor. However, their connection may be no more than the fact they shared the same surname and live in Dublin.