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County Kilkenny Ireland History


Barony of Knocktopher


The Gaelic sept of MacBraoin (MacBreen), among others, is placed in the Knocktopher area at the time of the Cambro-Norman invasion in the latter 12th century.

The 1st Baron (feofee) of Knocktopher was said to be Griffin FitzWilliam, brother of Raymond le Gros, both sons of William FitzGerald (of Carew Castle, Pembroke, Wales). Griffin Fitz-William was likely given the cantred [barony] of Knocktopher, which lay north of Miles Fitz David's cantred (barony) of Iverk. Griffin had four sons, Gilbert, Matthew, Raymond and Griffin.

Gilbert fitz Griffin is cited as the 2nd Baron of Knocktopher, likely the eldest (surviving) son of Griffin, and the first owner of Knocktopher manor of whom there is certainty. Griffin was sheriff of Dungarvan, where he and Thomas Fitz Anthony seem to have worked together in a high handed way, for between them they disseised the Bishop of Waterford of his property at Lismore, Ardmore, and Ardfinan. They parcelled out a great deal of land among their friends -- not forgetting themselves. Gilbert died about 1203/4. He apparently had a daughter named Claricia, who married [first] a son of Mac Gillamocholog, an Irish chieftain in the Dublin area. Second she married to Henry Kernet, and third to John Lawless, in whose lifetime Claricia had a successful lawsuit against Raymond fitz Griffin, her uncle, who had succeeded his elder brother Matthew fitz Griffin.

Matthew fitz Griffin was the 3rd Baron of Knocktopher, probably following the death of his brother Gilbert. He was described as a great warrior and is possibly the "Matthew fitz Griffin, of Leinster, who built a castle at Knocktopher about 1200." He stood by William Marshal, took part in all the wars of the time, and got his share of the spoils of Connacht. Matthew was seneschal of Munster before Thomas Fitz-Anthony. He was a great benefactor of Kells Abbey, and his gifts to it give some idea of the extent of his property, for they included Finnach, in the diocese of Lismore, Waterford; Tullylease, in the diocese of Cloyne, Cork; Kellistown in Carlow, and a number of livings in Kilkenny. Documents describe Matthew as the lord of the manor of Carrick, or Carrig Mac Griffin, which was later to become the town of Carrick-on-Suir.

In a baronial revolt in 1233, led by Richard, son of William Marshal. Richard was killed in Ireland. The revolt had failed because the men supporting Richard Marshal had abandoned him in battle. And this was [quote] "one of the greatest deeds committed in that time.” There was no treachery though, as there was “no evidence that any of his Irish vassals turned against the earl. They did not by all accounts fight desperately to the death, as their lord did.” Contemporary records show that the following leading feudatories of Marshal sided with their lord and had to pay large fines before they were given back their lands: Roger de la Hyde (his seneschal), Hugh Purcell, David Basset, Matthew fitz Griffin, Miles de Rochfort, Stephen de Hereford, Geoffrey de Norrach, Robert de Grendon, Robert Whittey, Maurice de Londres, John le Chenu (Canutus or le Hore), and Henry Walsh. Matthew fitz Griffin was dead by 1247/8, leaving a widow Agatha de Turville.

Raymond Fitz Griffin, a 3rd brother, is cited as the 4th Baron of Knocktopher. Raymond is noted to have sold some of the lands, obtained by his brother Matthew, to the Kildares. Raymond was also sued by his niece, Claricia, which deprived him of five and a quarter of his seven knights' fees, circa 1254/5. Raymond protested against the judgment but to no avail. Raymond may have been "the illustrious knight, Mac Griffin", who, as reported in the Annals of the Four Masters, was "taken prisoner by O'Donnell's people" in battle in 1257, where he was apparently killed. After Raymond what was left of the Knockopher barony, or the rather the rights of the tenant in chief, had apparently passed to his niece Claricia, and those who assisted her in her legal battle. She is cited in the Calendar of Ormond Deeds in 1261: "Clarice Griffyn, widow of John Laghles, quitted claim to Milo le Bret of the manors of Knoktofre (Knocktopher), Kerrek (Carrickmacgriffin), and Strother (Shrule)."

About this time the cantred of Knocktopher was said to consist of a seignorial center (caput), in the form of the manor and town of Knocktopher, occupying the centre of the cantred and retaining almost 5,000 acres of the best arable land. The remaining 40,000 acres were divided between six fiefs and two large free tenements, each of which was organized as a separate manor, owing only suit and service at the caput. Each of these tenements was located in the arable lowland, since cereal production was a primary objective of the early Anglo-Norman settlers. Only in the latter part of the thirteenth century did they appear to have occupied the highland fringe, as the location of moated sites suggests. In 1247 the manor of Knokechnoker (Knocktopher), and of Nova Villa Gerponte, were held by the Fitz Griffins. David le Graunt held at Rossenan and Logeran.

The 1247 feodary recorded the following information on those holding knights' fees in the barony of Knocktopher:
Matthew son of Griffin, or Reymund son of Griffin in another version, 1 3/4 knights' fee at Knokechnoker and Nova Villa [Knocktopher and Newtown-Jerpoint or Jerpoint Church].
David Grant, or le Graunt, 1/2 fee at Rossenan and Logeran [Rossinan & ??]. The Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1279, reads David Grant. The Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1366, reads 'Adam Grant'. This area would appear to have been part of the barony of Overk [Iverk] at this time.

In 1292, Edmund le Bret, son of Milo, quitted claim to Sir Walter de la Haye lands held in the manor of Knocktopher, lands held by Sir Walter and Alice his wife, grantor's mother (widow of Milo le Bret). About 1298 Edmund le Bret granted to Sir Walter de la Haye, the king's escheator of Ireland, "the castle and manor of Cnocke Thowhur, to hold of Sir Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hereford, and Joan his wife, with warranty thereupon." According to the Ormond Deeds in 1309, Sir Walter de la Haye granted to Sir Nigel le Brun and Amicia his wife, his manor of Cnoctofre. On October 12, 1312, it passed in three deeds from Matthew Fitz Philip Maunsel, perhaps representing the former Bret owners, or possibly the fitz Griffins. The three deeds are cited to (1) Sir Walter de Cusack and Amice his wife, presumably widow of Sir Nigel le Brun; (2) Fromund, son of Nigel le Brun; and (3) to Edmund le Botiller, Earl of Carrick [father of James, first earl of Ormond]. The deeds were probably all part of the transaction by which Knocktopher passed to the Butlers.

These deeds explain why Walter de Cusac appears as holding Knocktopher in one version of the 1317 feodary. In 1314 Fromund, son and heir of Sir Nigel le Brun, released to Sir Edmund le Botiller his rights in the manor of Knocktopher, thus completing the transaction. James le Botiller apparently succeeded to the estates in 1323.

On July 27, 1312, the Red Book of Ormond lists the Extent of the [le Bottiller] Manor of Cnoktoffre. Among the tenants listed include Nicholas de Bathe (at le Rath), John de la Barre (at le Rath), Philip Rys & John de Laye (at Seskynsehan), Adam de ffitys & Adam Milot (at Rathmorewyde), Thomas Chamerlyn (at Balygerdyre & Coulnecath), Alan de Bath (at Aghbyllyr), Robert de Rocheford (Kylheryll), Villata de Latagh, David Skyllyn (Cnoknegawre), John Corre, Griffin fitz Adam, Robert fitz Ytholl (Lestowthy), William fitz David, Thomas fitz David, Ythele fitz Eynon, John fitz Hugonis (Coulmayne & Artbalybrenyne), John de Rupe & Geoffrey Coterell (Dernehench & Balydowane & Balydowrot), John fitz Reymund (Lesmactaike), William Hode, Ythell fitz Eynon (Mondaniston) Nicholas Longe (Clonloske), Robert fitz John (Gortyngowne), Reymund Doghede, Nicholas molendinarius, William Carragh, Annota le Porter, Robert le Porter, John fitz Eustace, Philip Rys, Walter fitz Nicholas, Richard le fferor, Philip le Porter, Walter fitz John, William Rys, John Rys & John Walensis (Hych), Matthew Rys, Adam Bercar' (Syppynhille), John fitz Eustace, Stephen ffreyt, Stephen fitz David, John fitz Eustace (Largerath), Richard le Devenes, John fitz Hugonis (Ballygerach), Walter capellanus, Matthew Mancell (Knoktoffre), Nicholas molendinarius (le Gurtyn), Nicholas Walensis, William Rys (Knoktoffre), Burgenses ville de Cnoktoffre, Radulfus Weston, David Chevyr (Tybyrcahan), Reginald de Denne & Roger Orkeys and heirs of Richard Marescalli (Rathbarge). Among the jurors (and likely the major tenants) at this inquisition include Geoffrey Coterell, John fitz Hugonis, Geoffrey fitz Matthew, Nicholas fitz John, David Skyllyn, Matthew de Bath, Nicholas de Bath, Thomas Chamerlyn, Philip Rys, Thomas Ley, William Alleyn, and John Corre.

The 1317 feodary recorded the following information on those holding knights' fees in the barony of Knocktopher included:
late of James le Botiller, or Walter de Cusac in another version, 1 3/4 knights' fee at Knottefre & Nova Villa Gerpontes [Knocktopher and Newtown-Jerpoint].
heirs of David le Grant, 1/2 fee at Logheran (or Lotheran), Killache, Rosnan and Kilbannon [??, Killahy, Rossinan].

The records of the the Grant (le Graunt) family (above) in the southern portion of the barony, overlapping the modern barony of Ida, apparently ties back to the descendants of Milo fitz David (fitz Bishop), son of the Bishop of St. David's in Wales. The David le Graunt mentioned in the feodaries of 1247 (and 1317?) was possibly a grandson of Milo fitz David, through his youngest son William fitz Milo le Graunt. This Willliam was noted as a Messenger to the Justiciar of Ireland, Maurice fitz Gerald. Milo and some of his descendants were noted as barons of Overk (see the commentary about the barony of Iverk).

The churches of Rossinan and Killahy both belonged to the Priory of Inistioge, both possibly by the gift of the Graunt tenants. Logheran is not identified, unless possibly it is Davidstown, parish of Kilcolumb, barony of Ida, and close to Rossinan, named perhaps from a common Christian name in the Graunt family. Another possibility for Lotheran may be Listerlin, or Lios thar ghlinn, the ancient church there dedicated to St. David. Little is known of the Graunts. Besides the David of 1247 there was a David dead some time before 1317. He may be the David who held lands in Ballytarsney of Roger FitzMilo, Baron of Iverk, in 1314 [Red Book of Ormond, p. 134]. But this is uncertain, for a David held Ballytarsney in 1319 [Ormond Deeds, i. 541], and a David, son of William, in 1332 [Ibid, i. 636]. In 1305 a William le Grant held lands in Mullinabro, parish of Dunkitt, of the de Denes [Cal. Just. Rolls, ii. 140], and the Denes (Denn) also held over 9 carucates in and near Rossinan [Ibid, i. 403] where the Grant fee was. A William le Graunt, holding lands in cos. Kilkenny and Waterford forfeited his estates before 1346 [Cal. Pat. and Close Rolls, Ireland, p. 53b.]. This may be the head of the family, the record marking the occasion of their disappearance from Rossinan.

In a feodary of 1355, the dower of Juvetta [le Scrope], wife of John de Hotham, the 1/2 knights' fees for Logheran, Kyllaghyt and Rossenan again appear, this time the recipient is unnamed.

In 1361 there is a record of an Oliver son of Howel son of Stephen who held the lordship of 'Lotheran' in co. Kilkenny [Cal. Just. Rolls, ii. 76]. Since the heirs of David le Grant are noted holding the fee at Lotheran (Logheran) it would appear they released this portion sometime after 1317. In 1371 Oliver Howel's [apparent] grandson, Walter, transferred his Kilkenny possessions to Geoffrey son of Nicholas Howell Walshe.

In a list of the Rental of free tenants of the Barony of Knocktopher, circa ?1411 (Ormond Deeds, ii. pp. 302-304), included are the following:
The town of Lattagh viz. Crovalyn (?), Thomas son of William Morsyn (le Monger & le Knockyngawr), Geoffrey Ynok (le Knockyngawr), Thomas Gywan (? probably Nywan) (Lestonby), William Houlyn (Coulemayn & Hagbalywrenyn & lands near the mill), William Roche & John fitzHugh (Dernehench & Balidowan & Balidowrod), David fitz Redmund (Lesmctayg), heirs of William Hode (Hoddyston), Andrew fitz Andrew (Yhold near Mondayston & Gortyngowyn), Walter Proute (Clonloske & Doghedysgrowe), John Doghed, William Dernys, John Donlewe, Arnot le Porter, Nicholas Porter, Walter Prout (between the church and the river), Robert Porter & William Lang, Thomas Houlyn (lands which belonged to Geoffrey fitz Ralph, or fitz Richards', near the Burg), James Ywor (lands of William Rys near the Burg), Walter Cantewell (lands of John Walsh), John Rys (lands of John Walsh), Thomas Barret (lands of John Walsh), Thomas Houlyn (lands of Hiche the Miller & lands of Matthew Rys), John Curteys (le Gascrofte), John (or Janyn) Houlyn & William Houlyn (Baligeragh), John fitz Oliver (terre Martini), Andrew Oliver (le Gortyn), Richard Mayhow (merchant), Donald Leynagh (serjeanty of Knocktopher & for the gate of the castle), Richard Botiller (for the lord's messuage towards the castle), Nicholas Poet (Malronyn near the messuage of Richard Mayhow), William Walsh for the great hall. Other placenames mentioned include the betaghry of Knocktopher, Baligerdir & Coulcha, Higgonyston, Condonyston, and Carmerdynston.

The Walsh of the Mountain family held a great deal of land in this barony, at least by the 15th century. Their main stronghold, Castlehale, just across the border in the barony of Kells, is cited to have been built in the 13th century. Within the barony of Knocktopher the castles possibly attributed to this family included those located at Ballyhale, Ballynacooly, Ballynoony, Castlebanny, Castlegannon, Castlemorris [the old castle], Clonassy, Cloone, Derrynahinch, Earlsrath, Inchacarran, Knockmoylan, Lismateige, and Manselscourt. Before the time of the land confiscations of Cromwell, about 1640, the Walsh families owned much of the southern Knocktopher acreage, particularly in the civil parishes of Killahy, Kilbeacon, Listerlin, Rossinan, Muckalee, Aghaviller and Kilkeasy.

In addition to the Walshs, much of the remainder of the barony was held by the Earl of Ormond, with some of the smaller landholders cited [circa 1640] as Edmund Purcell, Sir Nicholas White, William Grace, Daniel Roche and T. Comerford.

The principal Irish names and their number in the 1659 census, Barony of Knocktopher, included: Bourke, 005 ; Barron, 09 ; Butler, 16 ; Bolger, 05 ; Brenan, 06 ; Daton, 06 ; McDonogh, 07 ; McEdmond, 06 ; Forstall, 06 ; Howling, 14 ; Kelly, 05 ; Kenedy, 05 ; Morphey, 11 ; Mogher, 07 ; Neale, 06 ; Nolan, 05 ; Power & Poore, 08 ; Ryan, 022 ; Rely, 06 ; Shea, 006 ; Walsh, 111 ; White, 015 ; McWilliam, 005. Total number of Irish in the barony, 1301 ; total number of English in the barony, 061.

Further reference:
Parishes and Townlands of Knocktopher
Barony and Civil Parish Map of County Kilkenny


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