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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

The Browne-Clayton Collection

Source: Michael Purcell - Thursday, December 30, 2004 - The Nationalist Archives
Source: The Nationalist Archives Thursday, March 06, 2003 :

94ft Corinthian column
Monument reflects rich Carlow history

A MONUMENT in Wexford, steeped in Carlow history, was unveiled recently.
The Pinnacle on Carriadaggan Hill, Carrigbyrne, Co Wexford was build by landowner General Robert Browne-Clayton. He built the 94ft Corinthian column on a square pedestal base in honour of a fallen comrade with whom he fought with in the Napoleonic wars in Egypt in 1801.

It was hit by lightning a number of years back and was in desperate need of restore. The World Monuments Fund and Wexford County Council provided the funding.
The original stone was quarried in Mount Leinster and constructed in 1839. The architect was Thomas Cobden who designed buildings in Carlow including Carlow Cathedral.

“It’s a fine example of the architecture by Thomas Cobden and is the only column of its kind to be accessed in the inside in the world,” said Michael Purcell, Carlow Heritage Society.

“It highlights the architects work and how his work has survived. The other connection is the Browne-Claytons, a Carlow family since 1640 who were well regarded by the people of Carlow as generous and caring landowners particularly during the famine period.”

The last remaining Browne-Clayton member to live in Carlow unveiled the monument. Robert Browne-Clayton a descendant of the General left Carlow when he was 10 in 1953. The family moved to Galway and later resettled in England.

The monument can be seen just off the N25 route between Wexford and New Ross

Michael Purcell - Thursday, December 30, 2004 - The Nationalist Archives

The column and the affects of  lightning strike

Image source: World Monuments Fund Britain 2009

Source: The Nationalist Archives Thursday, March 06, 2003 :

One of our most ornamental landscape structures.

It is more years than I care to remember since I first saw the Browne Clayton Column as we drove along the Wexford / New Ross road.

It set me wondering, even at what was a fairly early age, what it was, what was it doing there, apparently in the middle of nowhere and visible for miles around.

It was many years after that I decided to find out what I could about it and that I investigated its history. Perhaps what gave me added interest was the fact that I had discovered it had Carlow connections.

The Browne Clayton Column is considered one of the most ornamental landscape structures to be found in Ireland. Erected on a square pedestal, which itself is situated on a tall outcrop of rock, south of the Wexford/New Ross road. Perhaps there is some irony in the fact that it is erected near Carrigbyrne, one of the strongholds of the pike-men in 1798, and home to a great group who represented the area in the 1998 commemorations.

Further details of the Column itself.

It was constructed in 1839 to the design of an English architect Thomas Cobden, and was commissioned by a local landowner General Robert Browne Clayton, to commemorate a victory by the British over the French in northern Egypt in 1801. Robert Browne was a member of the wealthy Anglo-Irish family whose principal seat was at Browne’s Hill near Carlow town. He adopted his second surname in 1829, on his marriage to Henreitta Clayton, the only child of Sir Richard Clayton of Lancashire. An interesting piece of history concerning Robert Browne, which has nothing to do with the Column, but I think it is worth telling, is that in 1794, this was before the Egyptian Campaign, he was stationed with his regiment the 12th Light Dragoons near Rome. It was during this time and while still a major, that he received an audience with Pope Pius VI, who ceremonially placed a Dragoon helmet on Browne’s head with the prayer that truth and religion might triumph over injustice and infidelity. A painting of this ceremony was later made by James Northcote RA and is still in the Calvary Club in London.

Like so many other Pillars and Temples which we find dotted around the country, there are several in county Carlow, it is thought that the Browne Clayton Column was a copy of a pillar somewhere in Egypt. Actually the Browne Clayton Column was a copy of a monumental Roman column in Alexandria, which was well known to both the British and French armies at the time. This ‘Pillar’ was known as ‘Pompeys Pillar’ not only by the British and the French but by many of the merchants who passed through Alexandria on trade missions during those days. As a matter of fact the Column had nothing to do with Pompey, although his tomb is in Alexandria, but had been erected in 296AD to commemorate Diocletian’s victory over Domitian. 89 feet in height, the Wexford column is a foot taller than the one in Alexandria and another big difference between the column’s is that the Wexford column has an internal staircase, while the column in Egypt is solid. Column’s, or pillars of victory as they were known as, have a long history going back to the days of ancient Rome.

The amount of work that went into this column at that time is truly amazing. The fact that the column stands alone puts it into a category far removed from the ordinary round tower, although they too, were fine feats of workmanship. The Browne Clayton Column is classed as part of this architectural tradition. The Browne Clayton Column is one of the most remarkable, of the many ornamental landscape structures constructed in Ireland during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.

Another connection with Carlow is that it is likely that the brown granite facings were got from Carlow. The spiral staircase leads from a doorway on the south side up to a platform at the top of the column, which was used as base for the Flagstaff.

Another connecting link with Carlow was the architect who built the column. Thomas Cobden. Although probably of English birth he spent much of his working life based in Carlow from which he carried out a lot of work in south Leinster, mainly for churches and country houses. He enjoyed a reputation for building tall elegant masonry structures such as church towers and spires.

His work in the town of Carlow includes the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Presbyterian Church and the spire of the Church of Ireland Church. It is thought that Cobden settled in Carlow because two of his most important clients were the Brownes and the Ducketts.

As the column in Wexford would look bare without some adornment Cobden added some figures around the base. Nine uniformed dragoons are standing around with the figure that is probably the architect, in frock coat and top hat concentrating on a drawing board.

We are told that after its erection flags were flown on certain days and at certain times to commemorate events in the battle of Alexandria and on one particular day each year, the 28th March, the Union flag was flown at half mast on the anniversary of the death of Abercrombby.

For those who like to combine a bit of history with leisure a picnic at the Column on your way to the sea should prove rewarding.

Author unknown (possibly Willie White)

Read more about the Browne Clayton family of Browne's Hill, Co. Carlow

Browne's Hill House

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