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The Denn Family
Early Documented History


The Dens of Grenan

The following passage comes from Carrigan's History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory and entitled "The Dens of Grenan."

After the death of Thomas Fitz Anthony, without surviving male issue, in 1229, part of his manor of Grenan, otherwise Ogenti, passed to his son-in-law, Sir Francis L'Ercedekne, (husband of his daughter, Dissere, or Desiderata); the remainder, with Grenan Castle, became the property of another son-in-law (by a second marriage of one of his daughters, or grandson-in-law, named Den. In 1247 William de Dene, alone, is returned as tenant of Ogenti, there being no mention of L'Ercedekne; but, in 1320 the manor of Ogenti [the area about Thomastown], was found to be held jointly by Thomas de Dene and Sir Richard L'Ercedekne. A division of the manor was subsequently made between the descendants and representatives of both these owners; for, in an Inquisition, held at Kilkenny, on the 13th January, 1613, to find the estate of Thomas Archer fitz Walter, the jury found that Thomas Den and the heirs of Richard Archdeacon, otherwise McOdy, were coparceners of the manor of Thomastown, (Grenan, or Ogenti), lately, by partition, called the manor of Grenan and the manor of Dangin. The former manor was held by Den, the latter by Archdeacon.

Passing over occasional references to the Den family in the 13th and 14th centuries, we find John Den of Thomastown, or Grenan, was chief captain of his nation (principalis suae nationis) on the 19th April, 1479. On the 14th July, 1499, the King, Henry VII, issued a decree in a suit instituted by Fulk Den against William and Richard Den, concerning the townland of Lowestoun, or Lavistown, subsequently found to be part of the estate of the lord of Grenan. "Fulc Dun" attaches his signature to a manifesto of the freeholders of the Co. Kilkenny, on the 9th August, 1526 (source: Hist. of St. Canice's, p. 281 n.). Fulk Den, of Grenan, probably identical with the preceding, died 21st Oct., 1554, leaving a son, Patrick, who had livery of the family estates, Dec. 24th, 1556 (source: Father Healy's Hist. of Kilkenny, p. 400). Patrick received a pardon, on the 12th Feb., 1548-49; and died, on the 17th March, 1564, leaving two sons, (1) Thomas, his heir, of whom presently; and (2) Fulk, of Fiddown, who married Katherine Geraldine, and died, Oct. 13th, 1626, leaving Patrick Den, his son and heir, then 44 years old and married.

Thomas Den above, elder son of Patrick, held the lordship of Grenan for close on 60 years. His name occurs on the honoured list of those who sheltered the Popish Priests in 1610 and 1611. He was still living Jany. 14th, 1618-19 (source: Inquisitions), but died very soon after.

Patrick Den, his son and heir, had livery of his estates, for a fine of 40 pounds, on the 5th Dec., 1622. He is the gentleman to whom Ware was indebted for his transcipt of Fitz Anthony's charter to the Priory of Inistioge, as Ware himself acknowledges in the following entry prefixed to same: -- "18 Nov. 1626, lent by Mr. Den, who is descended from Tho. fitz Anthony." On the 8th August, 1638, he had a grant, in virtue of the Commission for the Remedy of Defective Titles, of the manor, castle, town and lands of Grenan, otherwise Thomastown, otherwise Largerath in Ogenty; the towns and lands of Smythstown otherwise Denn's Smithestowne near Thomastown; a parcel of land within the borough of Thomastown, near Tehna's church or shapel called ye Prior's lands; three parts in four of Newhouse; the fourth part of Forstallstown, Ballywoolgurryin (Ballygurrim), Ballycreany (Ballycroney) and Ballywornine (Ballyvayrneen); the castle, towns and lands of Roestown (Ballyroe), and Lowestown (Lavistown), otherwise Tullaghbreackane, otherwise Symondstown; in Kilblein, 16 acres, small measure, called Balack's Land; the manor town and lands of Kilcroane (Kilcroney, now Greenville); the towns and lands of Ould Haggard, Mollenbrohy, Cloanedaroe, Miltown, Killpipe (now included in Miltown), Ballykeoghane, Derrynemonsagh and Rathlicken, reputed parcels of Kilcroan Manor; the chief rent 5s. out of Kilbride; the chief rent 10s. out of Aylwardstown otherwise Glanesyllin, &c.; out of Ballynlicked (in the parish of Gaulskill) 1s., out of Ballyfasy 3s. 8d. Created the Manors of Grenan and Killcroane.

Patrick Den died Dec. 20th, 1639 (source: Inquis. 83 Car. I., incorrectly dated Aug. 13th, 1637). By his wife, Mary, daughter of Nicholas Shortall, of Upper Claragh, and niece of Walter Butler, Earl of Ormond, he had issue, 12 sons and 4 daughters, viz., (1) Thomas, his eldest son and heir, of whom presently; (2) Pierce; (3) Augustine; (4) John; (5) Robert; (6) Foulke; (7) Luke; (8) Gilbert); (9) Arthur; (10) Rowland; (11) and (12) not named. The daughters were (1) Margaret, second wife of Richard Lawless, son of Walter Lawless Esq., of Talbot's Inch, from whom descends the present Lord Cloncurry; (2) Ellen; (3) Mary; (4) not named.

Thomas Den, son of Patrick, succeeded. He forfeited his castle and estate of Grenan and all the family possessions under Cromwell, and was banished to Connaught, in De., 1653. He was still living in 1661. He was married to Elinor Sweetman, but whether he left issue by her or not is unknown. In virtue of a reservation, made under the Acts of Settlement and Explanation, Theobald Den, (probably his nephew), son and heir of Arthur Den, who had obtained a "decree of innocency," dated July 24th, 1663, was declared entitled to any right of law or equity he might be able to sustain, to the entire property of the Grenan family. Little success, it must be presumed, followed any steps he may have taken towards the recovery of his rights. He is probably the "Tobias Den, of Grenan, Esq." outlawed and attainted by the Williamites on the 20th April, 1691.


Rev. Carrigan writes the following about Den of Fiddown: "Fiddown Castle stood between the Moat and the church, but nearer to the former. Its earliest occupant, as far as modern research can discover, was Fulk Den, 2nd son of Patrick Den, lord of Grenan castle, which latter fied March 17th, 1564-65. Fulk settled down here about 1580, probably on his marriage with Catherine Fitzgerald, of Gurteen, neat Slieverue. In 1618 he erected his monument in Foddown church, and was placed beneath it, on closing his last day, Oct. 13th, 1626. He left three sons, Patrick, who was 44 years old, at his father's death, and married; Theobald; and Garret."

"Theobald, the 2nd son, eventually succeeded to his father's castle and property in Fiddown and Ballynanaerla. He died Jany. 17th, 1637. His son and heir, Fulk Den, then a boy of 13 years of age, subsequently forfeited under Cromwell, in 1653. In 1659 Fiddown castle was occupied by a Cromwellian named Robert Frispe or Fripps. It was still perfect in the early part of the 19th century, being then inhanited by a faimly named Norris. It continued to be occupied till about 1835, when it was taken down to the ground."


The following passage comes from Carrigan's History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory and entitled "The Dens of Garrandarragh."

They were a branch of the Grenan family, but their relationship to the parent stock cannot be traced. Their monuments in Dunkit trace their descent from Theobald Den, of Mullinabro, who was father of Laurence Den, of Melville, (formerly Scluggizha). Laurence Den married Katherine Archdekin, and was father of Nicholas Den, of Garrandarragh, who married, previous to 1724, Eleanor Frayne, daughter of James Frayne, of Brownstown, and had an only son, Laurence, and three daughters.

Laurence, son of Nicholas, of Garrandarragh, married, first, Mary Anne Strange, who died in 1761, aged 20, and secondly Mary O'Shee, who died in 1801, aged 66. He died in 1812. By his second wife he had two sons, viz.: (1) Emanuel, the elder, of Garrandarragh, who died in 1840, aged 72, leaving by his wife, Catherine, daughter of Mr. Mathew O'Shea, of Nicholastown, three sons: Laurence, Nicholas, and Richard (the last two emigrated to California); and (2) Richard, younger son of Laurence, was a M.D. and lived in Mullinavat. He married Anne, daughter of Mr. John Fitzpatrick, of Urlingford, and had, besdies a daughter, Catherine, a son, Laurence John Den, Master of the Urlingford Union, who died, unmarried, in August 1870, aged 65 years.


The Early de Dene Lineage

An early history of the County Kilkenny de Dene family is mentioned in Eric St. John Brooks' book, Knights' Fees in Counties Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny. In it, Brooks cites a William de Dene as the holder of 1 and 1/2 knights fee of Ogensy (i.e. Ogenti, the area about Thomastown, co. Kilkenny) in 1247 (source: Patent Roll of 1279). He also cites that another source for this fee (Chancery Miscellanea, and Patent Roll of 1366) evidently showing Gerard Ruff holding the fee. Brooks interprets Gerard as Gerald de Rupe, who married Helen, a daughter of Thomas fitz Anthony, the original enfeofee of Ogenti. Brooks suggests that since none of FitzAnthony's lands has been traced in the possession of the de Rupe (Roche) descendants of Gerald de Rupe, that it is suggested that Gerald de Rupe left issue by his wife Helen, a daughter Emma, the wife of William de Dene. This would explain Ware's statement that Patrick Den, who died in 1626, lent him FitzAnthony's charter to the Priory of Inistioge (sources: Carrigan's History of Ossory, iv. 268; and Ormond Deeds, i. 52), was a descendant of FitzAnthony. It would also explain the entries in the feodaries and the division of Thomastown between Denes and Archdeacons, the latter descended from FitzAnthony's daughter Desiderata. Brooks goes on to expound on a theory that Gerald de Rupe, upon Helen fitz Anthony's death, passed the inheritance of his wife to their daughter Emma and her husband William de Dene. On this theory Gerald de Rupe's son, another Gerald, would have been by another wife.

Brooks cites the earliest member of the de Dene family of whom there is a record as Reginald de Dene, c. 1180-1190, who was one of the lords (Adam de Rupe being the other) of Roger son of Christopher, who held land in the neighborhood of the Barony of Keir, in County Wexford (source: Exeter Charters, no. 39). He also occurs as Renald de Dene as a witness to the attestation by Hugh le Rous, Bishop of Ossory (1202-1218) of the charter (of date 1203) of confirmation by William Marshal I to the Priory of Kells in Ossory (source: Irish Monastic and Episcopal Deeds. p. 302). Ralf de Dene witnessed the charter of William Marshall I to Dunbrody (co. Wexford) c. 1207 (source: Chart. St. Mary's, ii. 159); and a Reginald de Dene was Archdeacon of Ferns (co. Wexford) between 1223 and 1230, when he died (source: Note to Duiske Charters, no. 38). The family of Dene (later Denn) was therefore settled in this neighorhood (about the parishes of Clonmore and Donooney, co. Wexford) and were probably Barons of Keir (holding under 3 knights' fees) from the beginning of the 13th century, and perhaps earlier. But the earliest certain de Dene, Baron of Keir, was William de Dene of the 1247 feodary who must have been Baron of Keir c. 1230 when Gerald de Prendergast made his grant to St. Thomas's (source: Register of St. Thomas's, 186); and he is the Baron of Keir of Earl Richard Marshal's forest charter, 1231-34 (source: Orpen in Journal, R.S.A.I., June, 1934, p. 57 and note, p. 63).

Besides the Barony of Keir, William de Dene held another fee of the Marshal heirs in 1247, i.e., 1 1/2 fees in Ogenti, the district around Grenan or Thomastown. This fee had been in the possession of Thomas FitzAnthony, and in 1314 is found shareed between the heirs of Thomas de Dene and Richard Archdeacon. The Archdeacons were certainly coheirs of FitzAnthony, and it appears that the Denes must have also been among his coheirs (as suggested above). From an analysis of the inheritance of the daughters of Thomas FitzAnthony, the evidence seems to point to the Denes inheriting the share of Helen, Gerald de Rupe's wife. Brooks cites as further possible evidence, a fine owing to John FitzThomas and Margaret his wife, John de Norrach, and Stephen Archdeacon and Desiderata his wife for having a jury of the assise of novel disseisin held before the Justiciar at Cork between them and William de Dene and Emma his wife, and Stephen D'Evreux concerning the tenement of Offergus (source: Curtis in Proc., R.I.A., 1929, p. 6). Here two of FitzAnthony's duaghters and their husbands, and John de Norrach, evidently the representative (? son) of Geoffrey de Norragh and his wife Isabella, another of FitzAnthony's daughters, are the plaintiffs. Gerald de Rupe is not mentioned, and it is difficult to resist the conclusion that his wife Helen is represented here by the defendants William de Dene and Emma his wife. The tenement of Offergus (Tallow &c.) in Co. Waterford continued in the line of the Denes (e.g. Reginald de Dene in 1288), and Stephen Devereux was the tenant of part of these lands.

William de Dene was a well-known man. He was seneschal of Ossory (Kilkenny) c. 1255 (source: Duiske Charters, no. 59) and c. 1260 (source: Pipe Roll, 45 Hy. III) and sheriff of Wexford between 1241 and 1245 when he witnessed three of Walter Marshal's charters to Dunbrody (source: Chart. St. Mary's, 164-66). He was Justiciar of Ireland, 1260-61 (source: Orpen, iii, 94), fought at the Battle of Callann in 1261 and died in that year (source: Chart. St. Mary's: Annals, ii, 316), perhaps from wounds received there (source: Orpen, iii, 139, 142.). His widow Roesia de Longespee (source: Cal. Just. Rolls, i. 402) married secondly William de Calne and was alive in 1302 (source: Cal. Just. Rolls, i. 383).

In 1254 Clarice, daughter of Gilbert FitzGriffin and a great-niece of Raymond le Gros, enfeoffed William de Dene and Richard de la Rochelle, deputy Justiciar, with a third part each of Fynnore and Kellistown, Co. Carlow (source: Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland [C.D.I.], iii. 593). Her son John FitzJohn enfeoffed William de Dene with the remaining third part before 1260 (source: Ormond Deeds, i. no. 74 note.); and Dene must have got Rochelle's postion also, and so the whole estate, for he is said to have rendered the service of two knights for it (source: C.D.I., iii. 593); and in the 1307 feodary for this place Reginald de Dene's heir held the 2 knights' fees here.

William de Dene was succeeded by his son William the younger, and he by his brother Walter, and he in turn by his brother Thomas de Dene, all within a few years. But little is known of the younger William de Dene. He is said to have made a demise of some Dene lands in Molynbro (Mullinabro, parish of Dunkitt, Co. Kilkenny) to one Walter son of Alured while he was non compos (source: C.D.I., v. 533). Walter de Dene was presented by Agatha widow of Matthew FitzGriffin to the rectory of Kellistown [as parson], but resigned in 1261, succeeded his brother William and was succeeded by his brother Thomas (source: Ormond Deeds, i. 68, 69, 72).

Thomas de Dene succeeded in 1273 (source: C.D.I., ii. 982) but was dead by 1275 (source: Pipe Roll, 4 Ed. I.), leaving a widow who afterwards married Sir Thomas de la Roche (source: C.D.I., iii. p. 447). His lands in Offergus and Ohenegus, co. Waterford, are mentioned (source: Pipe Roll, 4 Ed. I.). These lands came from FitzAnthony. The custody of his heir passed to Stephen de Fulborne, Bishop of Waterford, the heir, his son Reginald born c. 1272 (source: Cal. Just. Rolls, i. 240), being married to the Bishop's niece Isabella, daughter of his sister (source: C.D.I., iii. 49).

Reginald de Dene died in 1302 (source: Cal. Just. Rolls, loc. cit.), and it was found that he held the following lands:
A quarter part of the town of Stradbally, co. Waterford, of the King in chief. This was probably inherited from Thomas FitzAnthony; it was the only land held of the King in chief;
2 1/2 carucates of land and pasture at Dronthan, co. Waterford, held of Hamo Vaconis by rent of 5 marks;
1 carucate and 80 acres of land at Ardsillauth, co. Waterford, paying to Maurice Russell 40s. yearly for Maurice's life. Probably Ardsillagh, parish of Clashmore;
5 towns (villata) of land at Ballygormill, with half the town of Tylauchrauth, Co. Cork, held of the heir of Thomas de Clare by service of 20s. This represents half a knight's fee, and so this holding may probably be equated with the half knight's fee which Reginald de Dene held in Offaregiis in 1288 of Thomas de Clare (source: Inqn. p.m. Thomas de Clare, C.D.I., iv. 459). Tylaurauth is Tallow, co. Waterford, on the borders of Cork. These lands in Offergus were inherited from Thomas FitzAnthony, and were those which were in dispute c. 1261 between William de Dene and Emma his wife and the other representatives of FitzAnthony's coheirs (as cited above);
7 and 1/2 carucates of land at Thomastown, liberty of Kilkenny, held of Ralph de Monte Hermeri and the Countess Johanna his wife (widow of Gilbert, Earl of Gloucester, lord of Kilkenny);
9 carucates, 103 acres of land at Rossenan, co. Kilkenny, held of the same;
land at Kilcronin and Kilpipe, co. Kilkenny, held of Roger, Baron of Iverk;
the barony of Keir, co. Wexford, held of Roger le Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, by service of 3 knights;
the town of Edirdrim, co. Wexford, held of Johanna de Valence, Countess of Pembroke, Edermine (above);
5 and 1/2 carucates of land at Rosdroyt, co. Wexford, and one knight's fee at Balym'coly, same county, held of Adam de Rupe (above);
13 and 1/2 carucates of land at Kenlis in Fothrid, and Fynnour, liberty of Carlow, held of the Earl Marshal (Kellistown, above);

Rois' de Longespie, widow of Reginald's grandfather William de Dene had dower. Reginald de Dene left a widow Elizabeth, and in 1304-05 Milo de Rochford paid 40 marks for license to marry her (source: Pipe Roll, 33 Ed. I.).

In 1307, as the feodary of that year shows (source: Calendar of Inquisitions post mortem, from the original in P.R.O., London, vol.4, Ed. I, no. 434), the heir of Reginald de Dene held the Barony of Keir. The Barony of Keir was granted in Quenne Elizabeth's time to Sir Richard Butler, second son of Piers the Red Earl of Ormond. He was created Viscount Mountgarett (source: Hore in Journal, R.S.A.I., 1858-59, p. 78).

In the 1317 feodary (source: Chancery Miscellanea, P.R.O., London, File 9/24), the fee for 'Ogenty and elsewhere', that is, the area about Thomastown, co. Kilkenny and elsewhere, is shown to be held bt Thomas Anteyn and parceners (heir of Thomas de Dene and heir of Richard Lercedekne). Thomas de Dene was son and heir of Reginald. On his father's death in 1302 he was aged 10 (?) years.

In 1320 Thomas de Dene, gone to England, had letters of protection (source: Cal. Pat. and Close Rolls, Ireland, p. 27). By 1334 he was dead and his widow Sibyl married to John de Rydelsford (source: Ibid, p. 40). No doubt the heir was Fulco de Dene who with Walter Waddyn held 1 knight's fee in the 1355 feodary (Ibid, 57 b.) in a place unspecified, probably in the barony of Iverk (see some of Reginald's Kilkenny lands listed above). A year later Fulco de Dene , who held of the King in chief, was dead, and the escheator of co. Wexford was notified accordingly (source: Ibid, 61 b.).

The division of Thomastown between the co-parceners (of Thomas Anteyn, otherwise Fitz Anthony) is illustrated by a record of the year 1618, when it was found by inquisition that premises in Thomastown were held in burgage tenure of Thomas Den and the heir of Richard Archdekin alias McOdy, co-parceners of the manor of Thomastowne, now by partition called the manor of Grenan and the manor of Dangin (source: Inquisitions, co. Kilkenny, no. 20 of Jas. I.).


Information compiled and contributed by Dennis Walsh.


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