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Wall (Du Valle) of County Carlow

From the time of the Anglo-Normans through until the end of the seventeenth century, a large swathe of land running east of Carlow town in Ireland was held by the Wall family. Much of this property was subsequently subsumed into the estates of the Bunbury and Burton family. The area has been home to humanity since ancient times – Johnstown House, one of the Bunbury’s principal houses in centuries past, is only a mile or so from the Browne’s Hill dolmen and boasted its own bullaun stone.

Norman Origins

The Wall family claim descent from William Du Vall (or de Valle), alias Wall, who accompanied Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke (aka Strongbow) to Ireland in 1172 and died in 1210. That said, there is also a suggestion that they descend from Rodbert and Joete de Valle, whose sons Gilbert, Stephen, Hay and Geoffrey were in Ireland during the reign of King John. On the division of the Earl Marshal’s fees in 1247 Gilbert de Valle, the head of the house, held ½ knight’s fee in Pembrokeshire of the share of the heirs of de Braos. That same year, Reginald (or Reinald) de Valle, possibly Gilbert’s son, held 1 knight’s fee in Ardristran, barony of Rathvilly, co. Carlow. The family also had strong ties to Lysmokloman (Liscolman), Tankardstown and Roscat, County Carlow.[1]

The ruins of an ancient castle of some description have been found at Johnstown, as well as a graveyard and possible church on the present avenue. Johnstown is in the modern parish of Urglin, just east of Carlow Town, and a short walk from Urglin church.[2]  The castle was probably built by the Du Vall’s, who owned the lands around Johnstown until the about 1700. John Du Vall, alias Wall, said to be a son of William Du Vall, settled at Johnstown, presumably in the age when William Marshall built the new castle in Carlow circa 1213. Another proposed origin for the townland’s name derives from the Knights of St John who apparently ran a hostel here in the 12th century. Mark Bence-Jones stated that Johnstown House was built on the site of this hostel. As Jacobite supporters, they were almost certainly dispossessed of certain lands when the Penal Laws kicked in, although at least some of their lands were sold as late as 1712. [3]

Detail of King Edward III’s face from his bronze effigy in Westminster Abbey. He granted Thomas Wall of Johnstown a £20 reward for killing an O’Nolan leader in 1359.

John de Vall’s eldest son William succeeded to Johnstown, as well as Kilcash and Rathkien (ie. Rathkynny or Rathkenny), County Tipperary. John’s other sons were established at Droughty, County Galway, Coolnamuck, County Waterford; Dunmoylan, County Limerick and Ballymalty. [4]

A man named Johanne de Valle held the monastery at Acaun by Lisnavagh in 1303. This John de Valle appears to have been a knight and landowner in the area in the early 1300s, who held rights over religious houses, such as advowsons and benefices. Dame Alice Kytler‘s second husband was a Tipperary landholder named Richard De Valle, and there is a plausible link between that famous dame – subject of Europe’s first witch trial – and Acaun monastery.

John de Valle’s tenure also coincides with the age of John de Wogan, who served as the King’s Justiciar from 1295 until 1312, and who leased Clonmore, Kilkea and Castledermot during this time. Wogan’s wife Margaret was the daughter of a Robert de Valle, with whom he had at least two sons, Walter (who had a career in the Irish administration as a justice and escheator) and John.

In  1357  William  de  Valle,  Sheriff  of  Carlow,  petitioned  for compensation  for  the  loss  of  all  his  goods  which  had  been  destroyed by  the  neighbouring  Irish  septs. He also gave an  account  of his  having  killed  three  of  the  O’Nolans,  and  Philip  O’Byrne,  a captain  of  the  Irish,  ‘whose  heads  he  had  brought  to  the  Castle of  Dublin,  although  he  might  have  had  a  great  ransom  by delivering  these  heads  elsewhere.’  A  grant  of  £30  was  made  to him  by  the  Exchequer.

In 1359, Edward III granted Thomas Wale [sic] of Johnstown, Sheriff of Carlow, £20 for his services in repelling the O’Nolans and killing Donald Tagson O’Nolan and others.

A generation later, Geoffrey Wale of Johnstown, who was also Sheriff of Carlow, was likewise rewarded with £20 and credited with the killing in 1375 of Donnchadh MacMurrough, the sixth clan leader to be slain in the previous 21 years.  [‘On the Feast of St Ann, mother of the Blessed Virgin  Mary (26  July 1375), Donough  Kavanagh MacMurrough,  King of Leinster, was slain by Geoffrey de Valle near Catherlaugh; the Annals of the Four Masters state that he was killed treacherously.’] He may have been the same man as Sir Geoffrey de Valle who was seised of Johnstown and other lands in County Carlow in 1393-4.[5]

At some point there was a substantial gun battle in the area. Johnny Couchman, the present owner of Johnstown, writes:

“The graveyard at Johnstown has no famine stones and no gravestones or anything apart from a ruin of wall down one side. The explanation for the graveyard came to light when a local man with a metal detector discovered a MASS of lead bullets across the front field. His machine only works to about three inches down, and I remember that field being ploughed fifty years ago, so clearly there was a serious battle there – thus the graveyard. The bullets looked like 15th century. There is a monument on said graveyard which we had to move as it was being broken up by the lime tree roots underneath it; when we dug the foundation for the rebuilding some twenty feet away we found, only about six inches down, a mass of human bones!’

The archaeologist Kieran O’Connor felt it unlikely the bullets were so old although he did note that there was mention of a gunner at Carlow Castle circa 1390.

The last prioress of the nunnery at Graney, between Rathvilly and Castledermot, was Ægidia Wale, aka Wall. The convent was suppressed in 1535. See here.


The Walls in the 17th Century


A mural slab to the Wall family at Polacton House, County Carlow, this depicts the arms of Ulick Wale and Joan Walsh, his wife, impaled. From a rubbing published in the Kilkenny Archeological Journal, 1911.

The impaled arms of William Wall of Johnstown, County Carlow, who died in 1620 were given in his funeral entry. [6]  According to William Hawkins, the Ulster King of Arms, William was the first to bear a shield ‘Argent, on a cross Sable five lioncels rampant Or, in the first quarter a cinquefoil pierced Azure.’ According to Hubert Gallwey’s book ‘The Wall Family in Ireland 1170 to 1970’ (2nd edition, Curragh Publications), Johnstown was created a manor under Wentworth’s Commission for the remedy of defective titles in 1637.

The Walls were deeply involved in the Confederate Wars of the 1640s, especially Edward Wall of Ballinakilly, or Ballinakill, now known as Ballinakelly Wood, where some ancient yew stand to this day. This stood on the site of Burton Hall at Palatine, just east of Carlow Town. Edward Wall, whose wife was a Sarsfield, is said to have commanded 1,000 men in a siege of Carlow Castle in 1641. Remarkably he was also appointed Military Governor General of Leinster by the Earl of Ormonde in 1648, three years before his death. An Edmund Wall, who held lands in Urglin, was also attainted in 1641.[7]

Edward’s son Ulick Wall had his lands in the barony of Forth restored to him through the influence of Lord Ormonde. According to the Down Survey of 1655-1656 Ulick Wall, William Wall and James Wall possessed a combined acreage of 3,191 in the adjoining parishes of Killerrig, Urglin and Carlow. William Wall, who owned 1,879 of those acres, appears to have been headquartered in Urglin, where the survey noted a church, a castle and four slate-roof houses. At the time of the survey, Johnstown belonged to Ulick Wall who is assumed to have lived in a castle ‘of apparently modern appearance’ on the land, with four houses marked in its precincts. James Wall owned 489 acres which are thought to have been centred upon a castle at Killerig, shown on the survey alongside an adjoining church and a ‘tentative street with three houses.’ Killerrig was taken up by Benjamin Bunbury as early as 1669. [8]

Confusingly certain lands at Urglin (c. 606 acres), Johnstown (c. 419 acres), Little Pollardstown (c. 181 acres) and Kernanstown (c. 243 acres) were granted to a Samuel Blackwell Esq in 1667. [9] Two years later, James, Duke of York, later James II, is named as the owner of over 79 acres at Johnstown. [10] I may be wrong but I think these lands were then restored to the Wall family. In March 1680, under the Acts of Settlement and Explanation, Patrick Wall, son and heir of the late Ulick Wall, and grandson of Edward (who led the Carlow rebels in the Confederate siege), received a confirmatory grant of some 1,392 acres in County Carlow, including Ballynakill Castle (with c. 68 acres), the moiety of Ardnehugh aka Ardnahue (c. 166 acres), two parts of Pollardstown (c. 188 acres), Graigue Spidoge (24 acres), the moiety of TemplePeter (c. 66 acres), Clonshannon alias Cloghneshannon (c. 116 acres), a moiety of Killane (11 acres) and the moiety of Myshall (219 acres) ‘to the use of the heirs and assigns of Ulick for ever.’ [11] Patrick, who married a Barnwall, also secured 288 acres in County Kildare.

Joseph Bunbury, gent., was administrator to John Robinson when the latter claimed a £120 mortgage on a portion of Patrick Wall‘s lands at Pollardstown (Pollacton), just east of Carlow Town, in 1684. [12]  I suspect this was the twin brother of the first Benjamin Bunbury of Killerrig, who intermarried with the Huguenot family of Desminières. (Certainly the future Joseph Bunbury of Johnstown was too young to be called a gentleman in 1684.) Again, I don’t completely understand what these deeds mean, and whether Joseph Bunbury acquired any of the Wall estate at Pollardstown at this point is not clear to me.

Hubert Gallwey’s book on the Wall family is the biblical in scope. I have yet to delve into it with the concentration it deserves.

In the summer of 1689, James II’s Patriot Parliament in Dublin produced a list of 2470 men (Protestants) who were deemed to have been disloyal to the king. Their names were put on a bill of attainder, meaning their lands were to be confiscated, and those named were to report to Dublin for sentencing. The hope was that the seizure of their lands would help fund James II’s war to reclaim his throne in England  The Patriots never got a chance to implement the bill as William III’s forces marched on the island.

The defeat of James II at Aughrim and the Boyne spelled the end for the Walls of Carlow. As Kieran O’Connor observed, many Catholic families had mortgaged their lands to raise troops for James II in 1689. Had the Stuart king won the war, they would have been rewarded. However, his absolute defeat meant that aside from actual confiscations, many hitherto prosperous Catholic families found themselves in debt for long years afterwards and were ultimately obliged to sell land.

JG Simms well-regarded book ‘The Williamite Confiscation in Ireland’ (London 1956) details how, following William III’s victory, a Commission of Forfeitures was established to work out who should be punished … they submitted their report to the Irish House of Commons in December 1699.

The report initially contained the names of 3,921persons [ie James II’s supporters, now outlaws], who owned 1,060,792 plantation acres. Those lands produced rents of £211,623 a year, and were deemed to be worth £4,685,130 10s in total. 491 of those 3,921 persons were pardoned in accord with the treaties at Cavan and Limerick, and another 792 were otherwise pardoned. That left 2,638, of whom some (or their families, like the Warrens) had their property restored. Ultimately the Commissioners took in 752,953 acres (paying rents of £135,793 p.a., worth £1,699,343), as well as about £300,000 in chattels, £1,092,000 of forestry and several hundred houses, mills and such like.

Once they had lost (or been dispossessed?) of their lands, many of the Walls relocated to Galway. [13] Many of the Ballynakill family made their mark in France, including Balthasar-Francois Wale and Patrick, Viscount Wall, a notable figure at the court of Louis XIV and was murdered in 1787.’ [14] I assume that Patrick Wall of Ballynakill Castle and Pollardstown was inspired by the spirit of his Confederate grandfather to fight for James II. He may have been the Patrick Wall who served as one of 28 Roman Catholic burgesses of Old Leighlin in July 1688 during the last days of James II’s ill-fated reign. On 10 April 1690, Patrick Wall was one of the Carlow assessors appointed by James II for a commission issued by the King applotting £20,000 per month on personal estates and the benefits of trade and traffic “according to the ancient custom of this Kingdom used in times of danger.” [15] He was indicted in 1690 and bound over to appear at the King’s Bench in Dublin, which he continued to do for several years. He finally succeeded in obtaining a trial at Carlow summer assizes in 1699, at which he was acquitted.[16]

Johnstown is one of the few places outside Carlow Town listed on Visser’s 1690 map of Ireland (de Wit). John O’Neill, a son of one of the Earl of Athlone’s officers, who went to France with the Irish Brigade, is described as ‘of Johnstown, Co. Carlow’ in Burke’s Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland (1863). [17] On 22 June 1703, Richard Tighe of Dublin Esq bought out King James’s 79 acres at Johnstown for £348.

See also the Bunbury takeover at Johnstown here.

Burton Hall and Palatine, as seen on Alexander Taylor’s map of 1783.

In 1712, the Trustees for the Sale of Forfeited Estates sold Ballinakilly aka Ballynakelly to Benjamin Burton (died 1728), an Alderman, Lord Mayor (1706) and Member of Parliament (1703-1723) for Dublin who founded Burton’s Bank. (The bank went bust in 1733). Elsewhere it states that Benjamin had already settled the mansion house of Ballinakill, alias Burton Hall, including the outhouses and demesnes, on his son Samuel Burton, MP, on the occasion of his marriage in 1708 to Anne Campbell, the daughter of Charles Campbell. Anne was sensationally killed in a fall from a scaffold at the Coronation of George I in 1714.

I do not know if Ballinakilly Castle still stood when Burton bought the place. Given the description of their house at Burton Hall as being ‘built on an eminence which has a gradual ascent’ in the 1786 Post Chaise Companion Through Ireland, I suspect it may have stood where Burton Hall was built in 1730. The Papers of the Burton Family show that they secured ownership of the Wall lands at Pollardstown (Pollerton / Pollacton) by buying out (I think?) Mary Allen, only child and heir of Ulick Wall of Pollardstown, in 1754. Burton Hall was later home to the Cooper family. Burton Hall was demolished in 1930 but a second house, with a wall garden, not far from the original, was bought by the Rankine family and is now home to the Fawls. The site of the original house is now part of the farmyard owned by Hugh and Mary Kavanagh who have restored the original Burton stables.[18]

In 1995, Mrs Beatrix Rankine put a 22-acre wood by Burton Hall up for sale. On hearing that a covetous saw-milling operation has its eye on the timber, Johnny Couchman contacted Captain Mike Bolton, a friend, who had lately been entrusted with finding a suitable plot to plant a wood in memory of his wife’s late grandfatherthe oarsman Horace Debenham. Mike Bolton met with Mrs Rankine who, after consultation with her two daughters, happily sold it to him for less than the asking price. Seven-acres of the wood were cleared of laurel and replanted with oak. Access to the wood, which was named Ballinakelly Wood after the original townland, is strictly restricted for the good of the local eco-system. Among its numerous beautiful trees is an especially interesting 500-year-old yew, which features in Aubrey Fennell’s 2014 book “Heritage Trees of Ireland”. If a yew planted today should get its full innings, it might not topple until AD 2521. What sort of a mad world will we have by then!? When the Du Valls were planting the yew in Ballinakelly in the Tudor Age, one wonders if there is a single thing about today’s world that they could have predicted!?

Ballinakelly Wood also hold several graves, including a headstone to Mrs Rankine’s daughter Jo Bonham Carter who, as the inscription reads, “spent a happy childhood at Burton Hall and loved this wood”. The wood once adjoined the Russellstown Park demesne of the Duckett family, lands well known to the Russellstown Bunburys, but was separated when the M9 motorway opened in 2009; an additional three-acres of oak, ash and other species was planted on the other side of the motorway. (See Appendix 1 below).

Perhaps some of the Walls are buried in the old Knockaunarelic cemetery in Pollerton (Pollacton) outside Carlow. Located on the Palatine Road, in a field that was part of Lady Denny’s Pollacton estate, the cemetery was cleaned up in the summer of 2019 by a group of volunteers headed up by Dr Seamus O Morchu, who then tried to transcribe the headstones.





With thanks to James Doyle, Michael Purcell, Susie Warren, the late Captain Mike Bolton, Seamus Fennelly and Dr Marie Boran.




Appendix 1 –  Thoughts on Ballinakelly Wood by the late Mike Bolton (September 2020)


In 1995 I was charged with finding a suitable plot of land and there to plant a wood in memory of my wife’s grandfather Horace Debenham. Johnny Couchman knew of my search and rang me to tell me that there was a 22 acre, old wood near Carlow which was about to be auctioned along with a house and some land. He went on to say that it was known that the likely buyers of the wood were a sawmill owner who planned to fell and take the wood and then the farmer would turn it into tillage fields. Good bye wood ! But if we bought it that would avert this tragedy. I visited the vendor, Mrs Ranken, and she, after consultation with her two daughters, happily and generously sold it to us for less than its expected price with just my assurance that I would care for it and enhance it to the best of my ability. Wood was thus saved
In the last twenty five years we have opened the wood to the public during daylight hours and a large number of people, many walking their dogs, are to be encountered on the criss-cross variety of paths. Typically there is one German lady who comes most days and always carries a bag into which she puts any rubbish that has been left by some unthoughtful visitor.
In the centre of the wood when we bought it there was a seven acre area largely of laurel which we removed and we planted 70% of that area with oak (and ash, which has now been removed) and the remaining 30% we have left as a picnic and play area and which I keep mown.
In 2009 when the new M9 motorway took a 3 acre corner of the wood we bought a similar sized plot adjoining our wood, which had been isolated by the road and we planted this with 2700 oak, 1300 ash and 1080 of thirteen different species. This area is now growing well and we have a winding path through it which is used a lot by visitors.
Hurricane Ophelia did a lot of damage including some very large trees and whilst all the paths are now re-opened we still have a good deal of fallen timber to remove, this is done bit by bit as I can find the time.
The wood provides an enormous amount of pleasure to visitors of all ages, as is often expressed to me when I meet them as I go about my chores.
I reverted the name of the wood from Burton Hall to the original townland name Ballinakelly. There are a lot of lovely old trees scattered round the wood, and one especially interesting 500 year old Yew which features in Aubrey Fennell’s book “Heritage Trees of Ireland”
As I work in the wood mowing or tidying up I have the great pleasure of meeting and chatting with a vast number of visitors, all of whom seem to value it as a recreational spot. We do also have the odd visit from Carlow schools various groups of runners use it as well. I have had to ban horses because they were far too dangerous as they raced round narrow paths dangerously. We have had two weddings in the wood and whilst we have had no funerals we do have the graves of original owners and also a lovely headstone to one of Mrs Ranken’s two daughters which each spring is surrounded by a host of Bluebells. I have only met one of the Burton family visiting the old family wood and that was a very pleasant and amusing incident. I was mowing in the wood and I was stopped by a visiting couple. We chatted and he said that his name was Burton and that he was related to the original family. We chatted on and he mentioned that he was born in Aldershot when his father was an Instructor at Sandhurst. I quickly put two and two together and said to him “I suspect that you have not been telling me the truth when you said your name is Burton…..” He looked shocked that this scruffy old woodsman should make such a suggestion and asked me what I meant. I replied “When I was a cadet at Sandhurst, the Adjutant on his fine white horse was one Major A J Manwering-Burton, and he looked very similar to you, I suggest that is your real name.” He was amazed and delighted and we had a lot of laugh.
Beside the grave of the original owners is a headstone which says “In loving memory of Jo Bonham Carter who spent a happy childhood at Burton Hall and loved this wood” Her ashes are spread close by. Jo was one of the two daughters who allowed Mrs Ranken to sell the wood to us in spite of it being at a much reduced price.



[1] The de Valle Family -Early Documented History via County Kilkenny Ireland Genealogy.

[2] Urglin may derive its name from the O’Lyn or Leyn family; the Bunbury house at Lisnavagh was associated with Redmond Leyn in 1606. Johnstown is part of Bennekerry townsland and Roman Catholic parish, but is part of Urglin or Rutland and Staplestown for Church of Ireland parish. Formerly called Rutland, the name Urglin is only used in recent years in historic terms and only in reference to the church. Hence, the postal address for Rutland and Urglin address is Rutland and Urglin, Bennekerry, Palatine.

Rutland, Urglin, Ardnahue, Johnston, Friarstown, Russellstown, Duckett’s Grove, Burton Hall, Palatine are all part of Bennekerry.

[3] Eric St. John Brooks, Knights’ Fees in Counties Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny, 13th-15 Century (Stationery Office, 1950), p. 69.

[4] These were Walter Wall of Droughty, County Galway, ancestor of the Walls of Coolnamuck, County Waterford; Richard, ancestor of the Walls of Dunmoylan, County Limerick and John, the fourth son, ancestor of the Walls of Ballymalty.

[5] Egerton MS 75.

[6] N.L.I., Dublin, G.O. Ms. 66.

[7] D’Alton, John, ‘Illustrations, historical and genealogical, of King James’s Irish army list, 1689’, p. 692.

[8] William Nolan, County Carlow 1641-1660: Geography, Landownership & Society’, in “Carlow: History & Society”, edited by Thomas McGrath, p. 368.

[9] John Ryan, The History and Antiquities of the County of Carlow (1833), p. 195.

[10] Ryan, p. 198.

[11] Ryan, p. 200.

[12] Ryan’s History of Carlow (p. 153).

[13] See Dr. Padraig Lenihan’s essay, ‘The Catholic Elite and Aughrim’ in ‘Reshaping Ireland: 1550-1770, a collection of essays in honour of Prof. Nicholas Canny, published by Four Courts in 2011. Another potentially useful essay is Michael O’Dwyer’s ‘Confiscation of land in county Kilkenny and transplantation to Connacht’, Ossory, Laois and Leinster 7 (2019), pp.123-134. I have not read this yet but it would be interesting to see what resources he used.

[14] Hayes, Richard. “Biographical Dictionary of Irishmen in France: Part XXI.” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, vol. 36, no. 143, 1947, pp. 343–349.

[15] John D’Alton, Illustrations, historical and genealogical, of King James’s Irish army list, 1689 (Dublin, 1855, p . 29-30).

[16] John Gerald Simms, ‘The Williamite Confiscation in Ireland: 1690-1703’ Faber & Faber, 1956, p. 37.

[17] Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, Sir Bernard Burke (Harrison, 1863).

[18] See here for a history of the Burton family.