Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

Random Quote
Random Date







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 1610! Presumably these people were well aquainted with all 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 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.

In this section I look at some of the remarkable architectural features in the Lisnavagh neighbourhood, and speculate on the people assoicated with them.




Spelled in Irish as either Lios na bhFeá [Fort of the Woods] or Lios na bhFiodh [Garden of Beech], Lisnavagh has inumerable alternative spellings in the archives, including Lisnevagh, Lisnevahe, Lisnavea, Lisnevea, Lyssnevey, Lissenevy, Lysneva and Lesenevae. 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 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 'Logainmneacha Cheatharlach - Tráchtas do chéim dhochtúireachta sa Nua-Ghaeilge'. One wonders where the original fort was? I often find myself looking at Bowe's Grove halucinating past residences from amid its curious earthen banks and scattered grainte rocks. It has a very ancient feeling there, of humans from another age.

And yet he team at Logainm.ie have translated Lisnavagh as 'the ring-fort of the woods' from fiodh (or feá) for wood and 'lios' for ring-fort, enclosure. Seeking any hint of a ring-fort around the Big House, one wonders about 'The Grove’ as it was marked on the 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!? I also wondered whether there was anything circular about the “site” of old 1696 house in the Pigeon Park; there was a square of trees, probably beech, around both the house and buildings on the 1840 map. And 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.

The Irish spelling of Lios na BhFeá 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'. This is not an absolutely definite translation. We have no idea where this interpretaion came from and we can only assume that it is a realistic transcription based on sound research or knowledge. 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. There is also a theory that 'Lisnevagh' is an English mistranslation of 'Lios na Aoife', meaning Aoife's Fort. This last suggestion appeared in 'Place Names of County Carlow c1937' by the late Edward O'Toole of Rathvilly.

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 place names cited in lines 1769 – 1770, viz ‘Lios na bhFiodh’ and ‘Baile Uiiam’ are not obsolete. They 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).

** Not strictly relevant here but I don't know where else to put it, the annals claim Carlow was home to one of the five sacred trees of old Ireland. I was full of hope this was in Rathvilly but it seems to have been a yew tree in Old Leighlin. Michael Lakes of Bagenalstown tells me there is a tree in the village of Old Leighlin which is, in fact, two trees - referred to locally as as the Big Tree. It stands in the middle of two roads and I assume it is this one here which is not that big but could be the one!? Not sure its a yew though!?



Raymond Le Gros, a half-brother to the FitzGeralds, was hailed as the Achilles of the Anglo-Norman army. Raymond married Strongbow's sister Basilia. In honour of the marriage, Strongbow (aka Richard de Clare) granted Raymond the land of the Fotheret O'Nolans (now the barony of Forth in the parish of Grangeford), as well as the districts of Idrone [Odrone, including St Mullins, of which Raymond enfoeffed his nephew William de Carew], Glascarrig (near Cahore Point, County Wexford) and portions of the baronies of Rathvilly and Carlow. In 1181, Raymond is said to have built the oval motte and bailey at Castlemore, 2km north-west of Tullow on the R725 road to Carlow, just east of the River Aghalona. This is where he and Basilia apparently lived. (I think Orpen belived this castle was Rathsilan of the Fotheret O'Nolan). Raymond is reckoned to have died between 1189 and 1192. As he died without heirs, the lordship of Forth reverted to William Marshal [Strongbow's heir] after his death. His widow Basilia married Geoffrey FitzRobert, a loyal Marshal supporter and founder of the great priory at Kells, County Kilkenny.

I first visited the motte of Castlemore on a drizzly Sunday afternoon in February 2018 with Jemima, Bay and Dilly. All four of us managed to scamper up the steep, muddy, bramble-strewn northern slopes to the summit from where the clear day views must be remarkable. It must have been a sizable fortress in its heyday. Now, a zillion people drive past it daily without noticing. Five days later I returned to Castlemore with Tom Butler of Ballintemple and this time there were two more discoveries. Firstly, it transpires that the motte is deceptively high; the slopes on the south east side are unexpectedly high and steep. Secondly, having been forewarned of a reputed standing stone on the hill, I set Tom to keep watch ... and the clever chap found it, albeit on its side. We cleared away the brambles and there lay a rectangular slab, 6 or 7 feet long, but the greater excitement was the faint but definite outline of a sword on the granite stone, hilt and all. There is also apparently a suppedaneum (foot-rest) at the base but I missed it. All this lead me to the Journal of the County Kildare Archaeological Society, Volume XIII, No. 6 pp. 375-382 (1955) wherein I found an article by Major-General Sir Eustace F. Tickell called 'The Eustace Family of Castlemore & Newstown, County Carlow’, in which he wrote:

'Castlemore was one of the original Anglo-Norman castles built by Strongbow’s brother Raymond le Gros, assisted by that great castle-builder Hugh de Lacy. The original moat and bailey was strengthened with stonework in the late thirteenth century by Roger Bigod, but nothing now remains but the high moat at the north of the present townland. At the time of the rebuilding, a town called Fothered, the second largest in the county, grew up round the castle and the church just south-east of it. It had a mill and smithy and was governed by a provost and eighty burgesses. Nothing remains of the town or church, except the graveyard of Leamaneh just east of the moat. It was probably from here that came the tall stone carved with a cross found in a near-by field and erected on the moat in 1860.'

The coordinates are 52.809489,-6.772553; you might identify the location by four towering Scots Pines although a couple of those trees took quite a pounding in the 2018-2019 storm season.


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.[i] 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 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.



Another influential player in the Lisnavagh neighbourhood in Norman times was Sir Haket or Hackett de Ridelesford, or Riddlesford, an Anglo-Norman knight, who was recorded as the owner of the townland of Ballyhacket, on the west side of the Slaney, in 1207. Ballyhackett lies adjacent to Rathmore and close to the Ballybit entrance to the Lisnavagh estate. Sir Walter probably worshipped at the church in Kinneagh [sic].

Sir Haket was probably a nephew of Sir Walter de Ridelesford, the first Master of the Knights Templar in Ireland and a close ally of both Strongbow and the castle-builder Hugh de Lacy. Walter was granted the lands around Bray (formerly Viking) and the manor of Castledermot and Kilkea (which extended all the way down to Ballyhackett). The rump of a motte on the Kilkea golf course probably represents the castle (built by de Lacy) where Sir Walter lived up until his death circa 1200. One of the main families whom Sir Walter is said to have displaced was the Mac Gormáin or O’Gormans, many of whom still live locally. His heir was another Sir Walter who died circa 1238, after which much of the Riddlesford lands fell to the husbands of his daughters. That said there were still a family called Hackett (Riddleford) in Ballyhackett in the 16th century, as well as Hackett’s Lake and the church at Kinneigh. The origin of Hacketstown’s name remains unknown as it does not appear to have been connected to the family of Sir Hachett de Riddlesford. There is an unsubstantiated suggestion that Sir Walter was also known as Paganus Hackett.[2]

In 1237, Sir Hackett effectively gave planning permission to his neighbour Henry Maunsell of Rathmore to build a new mill and millrace on the banks of the River Slaney on condition that the water did not go near his own arable land. By 1303, Rathmore belonged to Adam Maunsell who was now described as a tenant of the Butlers, indicating that the Butlers were the owners of Rathmore. This is not thought to be the same mill as the one erected by the Malones in the 18th century.

Also of note, Brother Geoffrey Tankard was preceptor of the Templars House at Clontarf, County Dublin. Could he have been connected to Tankardstown Cross, less than 2km north of Rathmore.

It would appear that by 1238 the border between Ballyhackett and Rathmore was also the border between two great Norman lordships, namely that of the Riddlesfords of Kilkea and of the Butler family.



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. 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. [1]



One wonders who was at Lisnavagh in 1332 when Sir Anthony de Lucy, the new Chief Justice of Ireland, is said to have repaired the twelfth century fortress of Clonmore Castle, 10km east across the River Deereen. Born in 1283, he succeeded to the family estates in Cumberland on the death of an older brother in 1308. He fought at Bannockburn in 1314 and was later taken hostage and ransomed. He defended Cumberland against a Scottish invasion in 1318 and, three years later, he was summoned to Edward II’s Parliament under the title Baron Lucy. In 1323 he played a key role in the arrest of Andrew Harclay, Earl of Carlisle, for treason; Harclay was hanged while Lucy was appointed Governor of the Castle of Carlisle. He died in 1343. His grandson Anthony de Lucy, the 3rd Baron died fighting for the Teutonic Knights in the Northern Crusades against the Lithuanians in 1368 at New Kaunas; his extremely well preserved body was discovered on the grounds of St Bees Priory, Cumbria, in 1981, and known as 'St Bees Man.’

As for Clonmore Castle, the fours-towered courtyard fortress was captured in 1516 by Gerald Oge, 9th Earl of Kildare (father of Silken Thomas) and 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 Maiden’s Tower, a sixty foot beauty with a winding staircase to a magnificent view, collapsed in about 1848. The stronger towers faced the wild lands of Wicklow, including the octagonal north-east tower, known locally as ‘the Six Windows.’ Archdeacon Stopford attempted some restoration in the 1860s, including a roof on the ‘Pouka’s Head Tower’ by the road, so named for a gargoyle carved near its summit. It belonged to the Howard family, Earls of Wicklow, and Baron Clonmore was a junior title. There is a 32 page book on Google Books called 'The Antiquities and History of Cluain-Mor-Maedhoc, Now Clonmore’ by John MacCall’ (1862).

NB: MacCall not only decries the neglect of Clonmore Castle in 1862, but also adds this detail of the locality which I liked. Does anyone know of this "spa"? 'Poor old Killalongford; every spot of that dear mountain is vivid in my recollection from the rugged precipices at the Blackrock over Seskin to the famed Killahookawn stone that, the old legend would have it, rolls down to Goold-brook every night to quench its thirst when it hears the cock crow, and is found in its old position back again in the morning. In the bottom of the bog adjacent to the road, and from which the little rivulet takes its name, is a beautiful spa, well possessed of many peculiar qualities for invalids which, in Baden or some continental fashionable watering place, would be the making-up of its fortunate possessor, but which in such an out bf the way place as Killalongford is entirely unknown and neglected and not even thought worth the trouble of being decently cleaned out.'



In 1515 Geraldine forces under Lord Kildare occupied the castles in Tullow and Clonmore as part of a wider battle over the temporarily vacant earldom of Ormonde.

By the 16th and 17th century the lands at Lisnavagh may have been connected with the Nolans of Tullowphelim. In 1982, the late Canadian poet and author Alden Nowlan published an article entitled “Nowlan in Ireland: A poet's progress" which told of his journey to his ancestral homeland. Alden descended from John Nowlan, a hedgeschool master from Bunclody, whose son Patrick emigrated to Nova Scotia in the early 19th century.[3] In his story he noted how Patrick Nowlan's forbears had fled to Bunclody ‘after the English invaders seized the fertile lands around Tullow, where from time immemorial they had kept their almost sacred herds of white cattle.' This remark appears to have been based on conversations Alden had with people in the area. The family are said to have been based at Tullowphelim, named for Feidhlimidh "Reachtmar" (Felimy the Lawgiver), High King of Tara in the 2nd century, whose son, Eochaidh Fionn Fothairt, is the recognized ancestor of the Carlow Nolans.

The last known Nolan chief was "Cahir O'Nolan" (1525-1592) of Ballykealey who, in his last years, together with Donal Spainneach (the Spaniard) Kavanagh, was in rebellion against English rule. His son Phelim was pardoned for being in rebellion in 1592 and in 1601. The Bruen family papers record that another Cahir O'Nolan and Murtagh Kavanagh forfeited land in 1641 as papists. At the time the seat of the Nolans was in Tullowphelim and after being dispossessed they seem to have established a new centre for themselves further to the southwest, their main territory extending from Kellistown and down to Tullowmagimma (Tinryland area). Their chief burial ground was henceforth in Templepeter townland and Raymond Le Gros' old castle at Castlemore acted as a defence against hostile Nolan incursions into their former territory of Tullowphelim. It is conceivable that their fofeited territory included the lands at Lisnavagh which, if you look under Thomas Bunbury of Kill, Stephen Nowlan was farming in the 18th century. The Nowlans were also at Knocknagan until at leats the 1830s. [With thanks to Roger Nowlan.]




In 1528, Clonmore [?] Castle was 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? Red Piers was succeeded as 9th earl by his son, James the Lame. 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.

Prior to his death by poisoning in 1545, the 9th Earl of Ormonde 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. 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. Black Tom certainly had Clonmore Castle by 1598.

The Elizabethan Fiants of 1566 suggest that Lisnavea [sic] or Lesaeveagh was held by Theobald Butler fitzThomas at that time. Theobald m'Tho Butler of Lesnevee is likewise recorded in the Fiant of 1581. [1] This is probably the man described as a horseman and servant of Robert Hartpole, Constable of Carlow, in the following:

'Examinations of the complaints of the inhabitants of Rathvilly, taken on 12 August James Grace [Constable] of Rathvilly, gent deposes that Donal Mac Gerald, captain of Harpoole’s kern with 100 kern and boys and a dozen horse with Art Duff, captain of Mr Davells’s kern twice continued in the manor or lordship of Rathvilly spending meat and drink therein and took a levy of meat for every meal, a groat for every kern and 2 white groats for every boy. They consumed the country so much that the inhabitants are unable to pay their rents. William Barret of Ballyrichard in the lordship of Rathvilly, husbandman deposes that Robert Harpoole, sheriff compounded with him for 7 marks and a hackney (price 8 marks) that he should not be impeached for felony whereof he had been impeached. And this deponent rather than he should be put in trouble, albeit guiltless of that fact yet being taken by Harpoole for that cause consented to give him payments aforesaid and upon payment was discharged. He also paid 20 shillings to Theobald Fitz Thomas of Lesaeveagh horseman, servant to Harpoole for his further deliverance and he deposes that William Beg, the sub-sheriff must have of him a cow or a garran besides 2s 6d paid him for his fees. Robert Fitz Edmund Butler of Williamstown, gent deposes that Harpoole on 10 October 1570 apprehended Edmund O Hea, plough holder to this deponent for suspicion of felony and then seized all his goods being but some kine, a bircnyne, a pan and certain wool and household stuff. Edmund was committed to ward until he was quit of felony by inquest taken before the sheriff and discharged, paying 10s for his fees but Harpoole still detains his goods. Robert also deposes that Harpoole about the same time came to Williamstown and apprehended for suspicion of felony Moriertagh Boy, labourer and committed him to prison and took 2 kine which were all the goods he had to maintain himself and his wife and infants. Harpoole, finding no sufficient matter against him, discharged him paying 8s for his fees but Harpoole detained the 2 kine besides another cow which he gave to James Grace, constable of Rathvilly for concealing of his wicked practices.' (John Kelly, 'The collection of cess pardons and fines by Robert Hartpole in Fort O'Nolan, Clonegal and Rathvilly in the 1570s, Carloviana, the Journal of the Carlow Archaeological and Historical Society, 2017, p. 148.)

* Oliver Whelan, 'Landholdings in the new English settlement of Hacketstown, Co. Carlow, 1635-1875' (Four Courts Press, 2019).



Mr Davells, mentioned above, played a bigger role in the plot. During the 1570s - and perhaps from earlier, I am unsure as of yet - - the townlands in and around Lisnavagh appear to have belonged to David Sutton (son of Garrett Sutton) of Castletown, Kildrought, near Celbridge, County Kildare. However, he was attainted for his support of Viscount Baltinglass’s rebellion in 1580. On 22 August 1583, Queen Elizabeth granted a new lease (fiant 4314 - 3683) on the Sutton lands to Henry Davells, gent., son to Henry Davells, of Dongarvane [Dungarvan], esq., deceased. The lease to Davells comprised ‘a moiety of the tithes of Rathville, Ballivit [Ballybit], Walterstone, Ballitobyn, Balliwilliam [Williamstown?], Knockvoy, Lyssnevey [Lisnavagh], and Kilranelaghe [Kilranelagh], co. Carlow, possessions of David Sutton, of Castleton, Kildrought, attainted, as well as 'lands in Ifelstone, and a house and garden in the Naas, co. Kildare, possessions of James Eustace, vise., of Baltinglas, attainted.’ Davells was to hold these for 30 years (i.e.: 1623) for a rent of £8 13s. These were not the only Irish possessions Davells had. David Sutton was executed for his part in Baltinglass's revolt and is known today as the Blessed David Sutton being, I think, one of the Wexford Martyrs.


image title

Above: James Wall, 'papist proprietor' of Killerrig at the time of the Down Survey in 1656-8. Does any of the castle survive?!
For more, see Appendix A at this link.


By 1608, at least part of 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. Another Rathvilly freeholder named in the Carew Papers is Edmond Leyn of Shroughbooo, elsewhere spelled Shrowboe (Straboe?), who is also mentioned in deeds relating to the de Vale / Wale / Wall family of Johnstown. The Leyns may very well be connected to Edward O'Lynn of County Carlow, mentioned in the Chancery Rolls during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Edmund Line was appointed constable of Castledermot Castle in the 1560s while the townloand of Ballymoag in Forth barony was held by Tirlough Line (O'Leyne/Lyne) in 1641. 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 also 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." One should also pay heed to the details of the Down Survey of 1656-1658 which suggests that 'Castle Killerrigge' (or Killerig, once a Knights Templar stronghold, and soon to become Bunbury) was either owned or occupied by James Wall, papist proprietor. For more, see Appendix A at this link.



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 aquired, were initialy Butler lands.

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 the king to Patrick Barnwall of Shankill in Dublin county, Esq - Carlow and Wicklow counties. 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. [The History and Antiquities of the County of Carlow, by John Ryan, p. 133] It is spelled Lisnevahe in the Calendar of Ormond Deeds.

It is spelled as Luysneva in a document pertaining to the 1618 grant from the Earl of Ormonde [Walter of the Beads] to Richard Preston, Lord Dingwall, and his wife Lady Elizabeth, and their claim on 'all those the mannors, landes, tenements and hereditamente of Rathville [Rathvilly], Ratheele, Brofalstowne, Walterstowne, Richardstowne, Rathdonill, Knockeva, Phillipstowne, Carrystowne, Luysneva [Lisnavagh], Benicker [Benekerry], Tobinstowne, Portrussin, Winstowne [Williamstown?], Horrelstowne [Haroldstown?], Ballyvinden, Grangewatt, Rathmore, Scrogbowe, Keenne, Harquittstowne [Hacketstown?], Busherstowne, Arclo [Arklow?], Trithohees and Clonmer [Clonmore], withall and singuler landes, tenements, cheife rentes, proffitts, comodities, rights, members and appurtenances thereunto belonging in the counties of Katherlagh [Carlow] and Wickloe [Wicklow] within our said realme of Ireland.’ If memory serves me, all this passed back to the Ormondes when the Dingwall’s daughter married the Great Duke of Ormonde but I may be muddled. [ 4 papers relating to the claim of Earl Cowper to the baronies of Dingwall and Butler of Moore Park, House of Lords, 1870.]



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

R. Meredyth was Sir Robert Meredith, knt. of Greenhills and Shrewland, Co. Kildare, privy-councillor, and Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland. He was also mentioned on the Down Survey (see below). 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. Sir Robert was knighted by Black Tom Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, in 1635, two years after he acquired his property in Rathvilly from Lord Ormonde. He also owned land at Birr, Co. Offaly, and Blanchestown (Blancardstown?). In 1647, he was one of the commissioners appointed to administer the executive government after the Marquess of 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 1668, Meredyth was succeeded by his son Sir William Meredith who died the following year, when the barony became extinct. It seems likely that the Bunburys came into Lisnavagh following this double death in the Meredith family.

H. Masterson may well be the Henry Masterson of Co. Wexford referred to in some depositions taken after the 1641 Rebellion. 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 Englis h Catholic who had served as Secretary of State under King James I. 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.



In the autumn of 1641, the castles at Clonmore, Tullow, Raththvilly 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, and was a member of the Supreme Council of the Confederate Catholics which assembled at Kilkenny on the 10th 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. [TCD, 1641 Depositions Project, online transcript January 1970. [http://1641.tcd.ie/deposition.php?depID<?php echo 812012r012?>] accessed Tuesday 02 July 2019 01:24 PM]

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

'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.'


image title

Above: Extract of the Down Survey 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 these lands marked Tobinstown appear to have been subsequently incorporated into Lisnavagh. The lands north east of Tobinstown in the Clonmore lordship belong to Sir John Temple. There is no mention of the raths at Tobinstown or Oldfort, not o 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 well 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 actually 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.



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 I granted to Carlow on 29th September 1613. He was to head up twelve "good and honest men", or "the first and modern 12 free burgesses" (Councilors) 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’. (With thanks to Michael Purcell).



Speed’s Map of Leinster from 1670 indicates that the lands at Lisnavgh 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 leased to a Catholic soldier named John Baggott, who was later attainted for serving the Catholic King James II. On 18 August 1693, the Calendar of Treasury Books, Volume 10, formally stated that John Bagot’s forfeited lands comprised of: 'Ballykelly, 400 acres; Shangary, 102 acres; Ballinrush, 380 acres; Sragh, 60 acres; part of Mishell, 102 acres; a mill and three acres in Tobbinstown, all in Forth Barony, co, Catherlow: and Port Rusheene, 700 acres, in Rathvilly Barony: all let at 40l.' Many of Baggott's Carlow estates were acquired in 1702 by the Right Honourable Philip Savage, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland.

Meanwhile, on 20th December 1695, Benjamin 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.

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 ... .




[1] 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. Neither Lisnavagh nor Tobinstown appear to be named on the 1303 survey but it is in Latin and either may arise with an impending translation of the work. .

[2] William Lynch, A view of the legal institutions, honorary hereditary offices, and feudal baronies, established in Ireland during the reign of Henry the Second: deduced from court rolls, inquisitions, and other original records (1930; Google eBook)

[3] The surviving letters written between John and Patrick subsequently formed the basis of an article written by Father Seamus de Val (anglicized James Wall). Thanks to Roger Nowlan.

[4] 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

[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). There is also a theory that 'Lisnevagh' is an English mistranslation of 'Lios na Aoife', meaning Aoife's Fort. This last suggestion appeared in 'Place Names of County Carlow c1937' by the late Edward O'Toole of Rathvilly. However, in 2012, Dr. Colmán Etchingham stated that the "Lios na Aoife" etymology, as it stands, is grammatically impossible in Irish.

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