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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Staplestown

c.1660

From the 1948 edition of Carloviana “The Journal of the old Carlow Society” 

Article by T.P Walsh N.T. ( National Teacher)


The Deserted Village

As we stand this evening beside the ruins of the " Turrets," once a lofty mansion, let us try to thrust our imaginations back three hundred years, and let us try to visualise the scene as it then was. At that time Staplestown was a thriving hamlet, but the passing years and conformations to social changes have taken their toll, and now, Staplestown, as compared with those days, is a perfect analogy of Goldsmith's " Deserted Village." The village Inn where once the signpost caught the passing eye" is no more. The "Busy Mill," the "Village Parson," the "Schoolmaster" and the "Smith with Dusky Brow" have passed away, and " the decent Church that topped the neighbouring hill" has been replaced by another on a different site, while the plough passes over the site where once "the village preacher's modest mansion rose."

The Name - Staplestown

The origin of the name Staplestown seems to be vague. The Irish version of the name as used at present is only a corruption of the anglicised form. Edward O'Toole in his " Place Names of Co. Carlow," states that the name signifies "Town of the Market," and this explanation was written down by John O'Donovan, LL.D.

St. Mary's Church, Staplestown

St. Mary’s Church, Staplestown

Staplestown Parish

Staplestown Co. Kildare.
1936 - Charity Sermon in aid of Church Restoration
Leinster Leader 30/05/1936
Staplestown Church Restoration
Impressive Sermon by Father Foynes

The Roman Catholic Church at Staplestown, was en fete last Sunday. Not for many years have its venerable walls sheltered so large, so representative, and so interested a congregation. It numbered not only the people of Staplestown, but many from the neighbouring parishes, and even from Dublin. The occasion was a charity sermon in aid of the funds necessary to finish the work of restoration, which has been in hand for over a year. High Mass was celebrated at 11 o’clock. Celebrant, Rev. Thomas Murphy, C.C., Clane, Co. Kildare; Deacon. Very Rev. F. Cuffe, S .J., Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare. Sub-deacon, Very Rev. J. Dennehy, S. J., do ; Master of Ceremonies, Rev. L. J. Kehoe, P.P., Clane. Co. Kildare. At the end of the Mass the Very Rev. James Foynes, Carlow College, ascended the altar. Taking for his text, "Lord I have loved the Beauty of Thy House, and the Place where Thy glory dwelleth," his sermon was heard with rapt attention by the vast congregation. In moving words, he reviewed the persecutions of the Penal Times, and told his hearers that this venerable church, now repaired and adorned, would long stand as a witness to the trials and the triumph of our Catholic Faith. Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament was given, after the sermon, by Rev. T. P. Murphy, C.C., Clane. Co. Kildare.

The choir consisted of the children of Staplestown school, under the training of Mr. and Mrs. O’Farrell. The rendering of the sung parts of the High Mass reflects credit on both teachers and pupils. In May 1936 The Leinster Leader reported on a charity sermon held in Staplestown Church to raise funds for the Church restoration. [Compiled by Mario Corrigan - typed and edited by Niamh McCabe]

Dineley's Journal

The earliest available account of Staplestown, which is given in the journal of Thomas Dineley, Esq., who visited Ireland in the reign of Charles II (1630 - 1685 AD), contains a pen and ink sketch of the place as it then was. The hamlet seems to have been triangular in shape, having" The Turrets " as its apex.

Bennekerry House at its left, and the Inn and carpenter's shop at its right extremities respectively, while Castle Hill, now called Pigeon Hill, formed its base. Staplestown originally belonged to Sir John Temple, who resided in the "Turrets," and who was Master of the Rolls in Ireland. It was purchased by John Teuch, Esq., once of Lincoln's Inn, London in the County of Middlesex, and was set by him to Captain Edward Brabazon, one of his Majesties most Honourable Privy Council in the Kingdom of Ireland, and a brother of the Earl of Meath.

Sir John Temple (1600-1677)

Sir John Temple was the author of" The Irish Rebellion " or "A History of the attempts of the Irish Papists to extirpate the Protestants of Ireland"; together with the barbarous cruelties and bloody massacres which ensued thereupon." This book was published in 1646 by direction of the Parliamentary party to which he was warmly attached. The book, however, contained such gross exaggerations, and numerous falsehoods, that, in 1675, he denied authorship of it, and said that the work had been published without his knowledge.

NOTE: Sir John Temple (1600-1677), was master of the rolls in Ireland. He was figured as one of the ablest diplomatists of the age.

John Tench

John Tench was nominated a free burgess of Carlow in a charter of King Charles II (1630 - 1685), and he was one of those who were subsequently included with one Francis Bradstown and several others connected with the district in the Act of Attainder. This Act, passed in the Parliament of King James II in 1689 stated that rebellion against a Sovereign entailed the forfeiture, not only of the rebel's property but even of his life. Lists were prepared at the time, firstly of persons known or asserted to be actual and active adherents of King William; secondly, of those who had withdrawn from Ireland before 1688, and they were ordered to return and stand their trials for treason before a certain number of weeks. If they failed to appear within the times specified, their estates should be forfeited, and they themselves liable to suffer the penalties of treason, should they be captured. Tench seems to have escaped the penalties of this Act for we find him in the reign of William III, 1646?-1723) , returned, together with Sir Thomas Butler, "Knight and Baronet' and a member for the County Carlow in the Parliament which met in Dublin on the 5th October , 1692.

Sir Thomas Butler, "Knight and Baronet'

The Butler Baronetcy, of Cloughgrenan in the County of Carlow, was created in the Baronetage of Ireland on 16 August 1628 for Thomas Butler. He notably represented County Carlow in the Irish House of Commons and served as Sheriff of County Carlow. Butler was the illegitimate son of the Hon. Sir Edmund Butler, second son of James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormonde (see the Earl of Ormonde). His grandson, the third Baronet, also sat as Member of the Irish Parliament and served as Sheriff of the county. His eldest son, the fourth Baronet, represented County Carlow in the Irish Parliament and was admitted to the Irish Privy Council. He was succeeded by his nephew, the fifth Baronet. He represented County Carlow in the Irish House of Commons for many years. His son, the sixth Baronet, sat as Member of the Irish Parliament for County Carlow and Portarlington. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the seventh Baronet. He represented County Carlow in the Irish Parliament and also briefly (see County Carlow (UK Parliament constituency) in the British House of Commons from 1801 to 1802. His great-grandson, the tenth Baronet, was High Sheriff and Vice Lord-Lieutenant for County Carlow. His son, the eleventh Baronet, served as High Sheriff of County Carlow in 1905 and was also a Deputy Lieutenant of the county. His son, the twelfth Baronet, was a Colonel in the Grenadier Guards. As of 2007 the title is held by the latter's son, the thirteenth Baronet, who succeeded in 1994.

"The Turrets"

The entrance to the "Turrets" can still be seen, beside the present Protestant Church. This was the residence of Sir William Temple (1628-1699), son of Sir John Temple (1600-1677). Sir William married "a most amiable and intelligent" woman, Dorothy Osborne, and during the first ~ years of his married life he resided at Staplestown .The date of his marriage is uncertain, as the marriage was probably performed before a Justice of the Peace, but it may be presumed to have occurred at the end of 1654. Shortly afterwards he came to reside at Staplestown. Here, according to the "Memoirs of Sir William Temple," Temple and his wife passed five years with great satisfaction, almost wholly in the Conversation of his family and friends, where there was always a perfect agreement, kindness and confidence, all which Mr. Temple participated, and became one of the family." Temple took part in all country affairs. He was of a very studious disposition and traced to the five years he spent in Ireland, much of what he knew of philosophy. His domestic joys were clouded by the loss of five children successively. An interesting fact that it was here in Staplestown that Sir William first cu1tivated that taste for horticulture with which his writings are permeated. He represented the County of Carlow in the first Parliament held after the Restoration. He left Ireland in 1663.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

The famous Jonathan 'Isaac Bickerstaff' Swift born in Dublin, Ireland on 30 November 1667, second child and only son of Jonathan Swift1 and Abigaile Erick Swift, was closely associated with Sir William Temple, and from him Swift no doubt heard a great deal about Carlow and Staplestown. His famous couplet about the town of Carlow, still survives to illustrate his local knowledge and ironic wit. " Low Church, high steeple, Poor town, proud people." A few maimed and broken arches are all that remains of the Turrets, but the yew trees in the vicinity are some of the largest in Ireland, and must be of great age, and possibly date from Sir William Temple's horticultural experiments.

Jonathan died on 19 October 1745, aged 78. He hadn't been in a good frame of mind for some time. He managed to keep some of his sense of humor, though--his last will and testament provided funds to establish somewhere around Dublin a hospital for "ideots & lunaticks" because "No Nation wanted [needed] it so much."

Staplestown Lodge

A Map showing the location of of Staplestown House & Lodge in the County of Carlow. By W. Allen, 1798.

The Turrets were replaced by Staplestown Lodge, occupied by Mrs. Ireland up to a recent date, and now owned by Mr. O'Neill. The house is of Elizabethan style and built of granite, which is plentiful in the district. The house has probably been reconstructed and renovated since that time. It was originally occupied by a Mr. Henry Watters, J.P., also of Lincoln’s Inn. He is probably the Mr. Watters who once owned the mill close by.

The Tunnel

A tunnel said to connect with Carlow Castle and Clogrennane is supposed to start in a nearby field, but the authenticity of this is doubtful: A local resident informed me, a Mr. John Querney who died in 1903 informed him that in his young days, there was an iron door at the entrance to this tunnel, and that the young boys of that time got" blackening" on shelves inside the door.

Staplestown School

In Church Lane, not far from this tunnel, there existed in 1824, and, prior to that date, a school run by Thomas Giffe. A portion of the wall of that school still remains on the Carlow side of Mr. Peter Walshe's house. The income of Thomas Giffe was a mere pittance. He received £5 from incumbent, £5 from Col. Bruen, and from 118 to 314 a quarter from pupils. In 1824 he had 79 pupils, comprising 45 males and 34 females. Of these 12 were of the Established Church and 67 of Roman Catholic Denomination. Giffe was murdered near the school and he is buried in the churchyard close by.

Residents in 1660

The present church was built in 1821, probably on the site of the old Church mentioned in Dineley's account. Beside the site which Staplestown Lodge now occupies was the residence of Mr. James Moar, the Minister. Beside that, and further down were the residences of Joseph Davis, a gardener, that of a shoe-maker whose name is unknown, R. Hugh Bradshaw, a mason; Thomas Gould, farrier, and Nicholas Langford, a carpenter. These houses have now disappeared, and we can only roughly decide their location. They seemed to have run in a straight line from "The Turrets" to the Inn.

The Inn

The Inn formed the left extremity of our triangular Staplestown. According to local view it occupied the site of the present pump, and this location seems to tally with the pen and ink sketch of Dineley's Journal. The inn seems to have been built beside the river Burren. The course of the Burren seems to have been diverted at this particular spot, and the road at that time was also in a different position to the present road. It ran across from the Inn, by the ruin of the old church beyond Castle Hill.

This old church seems very old and beside it is an old slab, which probably marks the site of an old graveyard. In ploughing up the field near the church some time ago many human remains were unearthed and were re-interred in the graveyard. There seems to be no mention of this church in any available records of the place. At the time of Dineley's visit the Inn was known as " The Crown," and the inn-keeper was one, Thomas Harris. There was a signpost beside the inn bearing the inscription, " Best Beer Sold Here," and a local resident informed me that a blacksmith named Edward Brennan, who died here in 1915 and was born in 1828, remembered the Inn and signpost.

The Coach

We can visualise the bustle and excitement of those days in Staplestown, when the daily arrival of the coach was probably the only diversion of the people. How many famous persons called here, and quenched their thirst at the Inn we do not know, but it seems natural enough to assume that they were many; and we can imagine the children and housewives leaning over the half-doors to catch a last glimpse of the coach as it rattled away in a cloud of dust on its journey to Kilkenny. In all probability those coaching days provided a livelihood for the blacksmith, farrier and the carpenter , and filled the coffers of Thomas Harris at the "Crown."

The Castle

We have now arrived at the right extremity of our triangle, and travelling along the base we had the Burren on our left and Pigeon Hill or Castle Hill as it was then known, on our right. This hill, from whose summit one can obtain a view of outstanding loveliness at that time, dominated the village. There was a tall castle on its summit, but now, no vestige of that castle remains. There are no records of it available, and the manner of its destruction is the secret of its deceased occupants. The hill and much of the area surrounding it was planted by Philip Bagenal who died in Staplestown in 1856, and who is buried in the local graveyard. This plantation, according to a local resident, was known as " Bagenal's Frolic," and in a note to Dineley's account, Evelyn Philip Shirley states that in 1864 the hill was 'well laid out with walks”. Some square cement blocks about six feet in length are still to be seen on top of the hill, and near it are supposed to be the remains of a water tank which was erected on top of the hill, and used to pump water to Bennekerry House. The water was pumped by wind-power. There was a mill close by which pumped the water from the river to the tank and thence to the house. This apparatus was dismantled in 1920 according to local tradition.

The Mill

Leaving Bennekerry House in the old days, and crossing the river Burren by a wooden bridge, we would reach the mill. In Dineley's day this mill was owned by one D. Robert Lackey. This mill was dismantled under Mr. Ottley's report to the Drainage Commissioners in 1847 and no vestige of it now remains. In all probability it was situate on the site of Mr. Lawlor's yard of the present day, and the mill stream seems to have run along past Mr. Lawlor's tennis court. Its course can still be traced fairly easily. Beside the mill was the residence of its owner. On the left side of our triangle, and slightly above that, was a residence known as " The Barnes."

Staplestown House

Staplestown House at present occupied by Mr. Lawlor did not exist in Dineley's day. This house was built by Mr. Fishbourne and later inhabited by Malcomson and then by John Whelan, Esq., whence it came into the possession of its present owner, Mr. Lawlor.

A Tour of Ireland

There was published in Dublin in 1746 an interesting account of a tour in Ireland. The author's name is not given, but he was taken around Carlow by a Mr. Harmon, and seems to have been hospitably received. He writes; 'We are now at Mt. Harmon, a pleasant seat within two miles of Carlow, and have been to view a place caned Staplestown belonging to Bagenal, Esq., who is improving a sweet situation where nature has worked already to assist it. The house is built on an eminence, which, with a gentle declining leads you down to a pretty river called the Burren, which is crossed by a bridge of seven arches. They have a garden - when the last hand has finished all that is intended - might serve an Italian Prince, who need not be ashamed of his residence. Though the place is called Staplestown, there are only a few houses on it. The proprietor intends to multiply the dwellings, that it may with better face, bear the name of a town. We crossed the fore-mentioned bridge with a hill on our left, where we stood to feast our eyes with the gentle winding stream of Burren, which washes the base of a beautiful hill, and passes on our right a seat called Bennekerry, built by Vigors, Bishop of Leighlin and Ferns: but the death of that Prelate was the prelude to its ruin, as our generous nomenclator Mr. Harmon informs us."

NOTE.-It is doubtful that Bishop Vigors built the house. If he had done so it is almost certain that there would have been an entry to that effect in the Books of the Registrar of the Diocese. There is not, and there is no other intimation beyond the above which proves the authenticity of the assumption.

From the journal of Thomas Dinley Esq.

An Account of His Visit to Ireland in the Reign of Charles II 1680

“The Castle Hill”, whence this prospect was taken of Staple's Town.

(Click to enlarge)

"The Castle Hill," now called "The Pigeon Hill" was well laid out with walks, and planted, some years ago, by the late Philip Bagenal, Esq., of Bennekerry. Staplestown at the present day is a "deserted village" compared with the thriving hamlet which Mr. Dinley's singular sketch represents it to have been, "The Busy Hill" so conspicuously shown in his vignette, is silent - the mill-power having been "done away with" uniler lilr, Ottiey's report to the Drainage Commissioners in 1847, and the last erection of its sort upon this spot, dismantled. A maimed and broken arch is all that reremains of the "turrets" the once fair mansion of Sir William Temple, and his successor in the estate, "John Tench, Esq once of Lincoln's Inn in the county of Middlesex, and one of his Majesties Justice of Peace for the county of Carlow." How vividly a glance from Mr. Dinley's quaint little picture to the present aspect of the place reminds me of Goldsmith's beautiful poem! "Worthy Mr. James Moor, ye minister," is long since forgotten, and the plough passes over the site of his dwelling house; nothing remains to tell where once - "The village preacher's modest mansion rose"


Staplestown Parish

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