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County Kilkenny Ireland History


The Sweetman Family
Early Documented History


The Sweetmans of Castle Eve

The following passage comes from Carrigan's History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, published in 1905 by Rev. Canon William Carrigan, and entitled "The Sweetmans of Castle Eve."

The Sweetmans or Swetmans succeeded the D'Erleys in their property of Earlstown, and title Baron of Erley, probably towards the close of the 14th century, when the family first began to take a prominent place in local affairs. Milo Sweetman was treasurer of Ossory in 1360, in which year he was elected Bishop of the Diocese by the Chapter. His election was cancelled by the Pope, who, however, in the following year appointed him Archbishop of Armagh. Having governed the Primatial See for nineteen years he died in 1380, and is buried in Dromiskin, Co. Louth.

John Sweetman was appointed Keeper of the Peace for Co. Kilkenny, in 1382; he was Sheriff of the same county Nov. 13th, 1390. In 1405, Nicholas Sweetman was appointed Keeper of the Peace for Co. Kilkenny. In 1478, John Sweetman was chief lord of all the Barony of Erley (source: Register of Kells Priory). He is, no doubt, identical with the "John Sweetman, son and heir of Nicholas Sweetman of Castellyse [i.e. Castellyfe, or Castle Eve) in the Co. Kilkenny, gent.," who received a royal pardon for treasons &c., Oct. 23rd, 1482 (source: Patent Rolls).

William Swetman, BAron of Erley, died, as his monument in Newtown Church testifies, in 1507.

James Swetman was presented, with the other gentry of Co. Kilkenny, in 1537, for charging coyne and livery. He was Sheriff of Co. Kilkenny in 1543. He was still living in March, 1549, when we find James Sweteman, of Castelliff, and William Swetman, of Tullahaght, Co. Kilkenny, gents., receiving pardons.

William Sweetman, next Baron of Erley, was the largest freeholder in the Barony of Kells, about 1560, his estate being then valued at 74 pounds. He was Sheriff of Co. Kilkenny, in 1564, and was pardoned in 1567, after which he appears no more.

John Sweetman, his [son ? and] successor, who set up the slab with the family escutcheon, in Castle Eve castle, in 1580, was arrested for complicity in the rebellion of James Fitz Maurice, in 1583, but was soon after liberated. He was more fortunate than his brother George Swetman, who, being arraigned on the same charge, was found guilty and put to death. As "Sweeteman living in Castlelyf," John Swetman is reckoned among the chief nobility of Co. Kilkenny, in 1596. He erected his monument in Newtown church in 1600, and died May 28th, 1605. By Inquisition of April 5th, 1638, he was found to have been seised, in his lifetime, of the manor of Erley otherwise Earlestown, with the appurtenances, and of the towns and lands of Castleleife, Rathculbin and Spruce's Haies, parcel of the said manor, and of Foulke's town in the aforesaid county [of Kilkenny]; and he was further found to have died on the third of May 1605, at which date his grand-nephew [recte grandson] and heir, William Sweetman was but 10 years old (source: Inquis. Lageniae).

William Sweetman, just mentioned, was the next Baron of Erley. He became of age in January 1615-16, at which date, as son and heir of James Sweetman, son and heir of John Sweetman, he had Pardon of Intrusion and Alienation "as to the manor of Early otherwise Earliston, the towns and lands of Castleiff, Rathcu[l]bin otherwise Rathcu[l]bbin, Spruce's Haies otherwise Garranspure, Tullaghmaine otherwise Tulleame and Killtullaghmaen, Fowkestowne, Hodesgrove otherwise Garranhody, together with a chief rent out of Owentown (Ovenstown), all the Kilkenny Co., for a fine of 10 pounds Irish."

He took part with his countrymen in the War of the Confederate Catholics, for which he forfeited under Cromwell in 1653, and was transplanted to Connaught in 1654. The time and place of his death are unknown. By his wife, Joan, daughter of Thomas Walsh of Piltown, Co. Waterford, son of Sir Nicholas Walsh, he had five sons, viz., John, Edward, Piers, ffrancis, and Nicholas.

John, the eldest son, is presumably the John Sweetman who forfeited Rathculbin under Cromwell, and was transplanted to Connaught in 1654. He must have returned from Connaught at the Restoration, as his will, now in the Record Office, Dublin, is dated from Castle Ife, in 1672. Probate of the will was taken out, April 17th, 1690, by Beale Archer al' Sweetman, testator's widow, and by Mary Conway al' Sweetman, his only child and heir.

Mary Sweetman's husband, "Hugh Conway of Castleiffe, gent.," by his will made May 10th 1690, bequeaths all his real estate, as well what he has now as what may descend to him hereafter, to Patrick Conway, his eldest son and heir and his lawful heirs; remainder to his third son Silvester Conway, and his lawful heirs; he bequeaths his wife Mary Sweetman one-third of all he possesses, and appoints he and his eldest son, Patrick Conway, his executors; overseers, his cousins, Captain Henry Archer of the city of Kilkenny, and John Shee, gent., of the city of Dublin; he mentions his mortgages on lands in Meath, Kildare, &c. ... This will was proved, Nov. 18th, 1702, by the testator's eldest son and heir, Patrick Conway of Magestown (Maxtown), Co. Kilkenny, saving the right of testator's relict, Mary Comerford al' Conway al' Sweetman.

The Sweetmans held on in the neighborhood of their old Castles till about 1845, when the last of them emigrated. They are said to have been men of large stature and great bodily strength.

Most Rev. Dr. Nicholas Sweetman, Bishop of Ferns, inherited some of the family characteristics, as he is described as possessing an "iron frame and great powers of body." He was appointed Bishop of Ferns, by Papal Brief of Jany. 25, 1745. His death, which occurred in Oct. 1786, is thus recorded in Finn's Leinster Journal of Wednesday, Nov. 1st, same year:

"Died on the 21st (recte 19th) inst, in Wexford, Dr. Nicholas Sweetman, aged 90 years. He had been titular Bishop of Ferns 42 years. He was born in the county Kilkenny, of the family of the Sweetman's of Castle Eve, near Callan, Barons of Erley for ages until the year 1653. His father had lost a small estate in the aforesaid county by the late revolution, and his grandfather a very large one by Cromwell's sanguinary proscriptions," &c.

John Sweetman, Esq., Drumbaragh, Kells, Co. Meath, is the best known and most respected of the Sweetman family in this country at the present time (circa 1905). His parents were John Sweetman and Honoria, only child of Malachy O'Connor of Dublin; his grandparents were Michael Sweetman and Alicia Taaffe; his great-grandparents were Patrick Sweetman and E. Thunder; his 2nd great-grandparents were John Sweetman and a daughter of Patrick Sweetman of Stephen's Green Brewery, whose will was proved in 1771; and his 3rd great-grandparents were John Sweetman, Esq. of Ashton Quay Brewery, Dublin (will proved 1757) and Margaret Dodd (will proved 1767).

It is probable that the John Sweetman who appears last in this pedigree was descended from William Sweetman, the forfeiting proprietor of Castle Eve, in Cromwell's time. "I heard from Mr. Laurence Sweetman, of the County Wexford, that two sons of this William Sweetman, viz. Francis and Nicholas, settled in County Wexford, and that two other sons settled in Dublin." (as quoted to Rev. Carrigan)

Sweetman is pronounced Swuthamonn (all syllables short, accent on the first syllable) by those who still speak Irish in the neighborhood of Castle Eve.

For an earlier account of Earlstown, see The d'Erley Family.


The Calendar of Ormond Deeds

When consulting the Ormond Deeds the first mention of the name Swetman appears in the form of Robert Swetman, who was a witness to a grant dated January, 1316 N.S. of lands in Yagoeston, as well as Roweston and Smytheston both in Ogenty (the area about Thomastown). A Robert 'Suetman' was a witness, March 14, 1319, of letters patent of Roger fitz Milo, baron of Overk, by which he granted and quitclaimed for ever to Edmund Butler and his heirs all his right in the lordship of the free tenants and others in the barony of Overk, &c. The same Robert Swetman further witnessed the transfer of the Barony of Overk on March 29, 1319.

In the Estreats of Co. Kilkenny, 20 Edward II (1326) the name Gilbert Sweteman is cited alongside that of Richard le Whyte and Simon Glascaruk. In the same document is cited a Sibilla Sweteman.

In a record dated July 20, 1378, "John Sweteman and Johanna his wife grant to Clement Botiller of Rosponte [New Ross, Co. Wexford] a messuage in 'Gotestret' in Rosponte, lying between the King's way on the east and the channel of the river Barrow on the west in length, and in breadth between Ralph Cok's land on the north and Henry Botiller's tenement on the south."

In a record dated January 12, 1422, "Nicholas son of John Swetman gives and grants to Robert Folyng of Kilkenny one messuage, forty acres of arable, four of meadow and four of moor in Gebonneschephous and Lesmenane which formerly belonged to Gilbert Swetman."

In the Rental of the lordship of the Earl of Ormond in counties Kilkenny and Tipperay, dated April 1426, a Henry Swetman is among those tenants listed. A Henry Sueteman again appears in the tenants list date Arpil 1432, as well as in those date April, 1434. In a similar list date 1442-43, a Henry Sweteman is listed again, this time under the rental due to the lordship of Grenagh.

On February 3, 1443, Nicholas son of John Sweteman gave and granted to Thomas Barre, chaplain, vicar of Thomastown, a messuage in the borough of Thomastown.

On June 16, 1449 we find that John Swetman and Richard Purcell gave and granted to James, Earl of Ormond, their manor of Donmore, together with all rents, homages and services of all free tenants belonging to the same. Three years later James, Earl of Ormond, granted this manor to his nephew, Edmund, son of Richard Botiller (James' brother). John Sweteman is mentioned in that latter transfer.

In a copy of three deeds, a John Sweetman is mentioned. The first deed, dated July 2, 1457, John Sweetman grants to Robert Roth 11 acres of arable land in the borough of Kilkenny. In the 2nd deed, dated November 10, 1479, John Sweetman, gentleman burgess of Kilkenny grants to William Courry "that moiety of all arable lands, meadows, etc., of Arlis on the other side of the Nore with a mill pond and 'kiddelis', which is not yet divided between grantor and Robert Purcell, son and heir of Richard Purcell. The 3rd deed, dated February 10, 1486, a release is made to William Courry of lands including " a garden in 'le Medoc Hayes' etc. not yet divided between John Sweetman, son and heir of Nicholas Sweetman, and Robert son of Richard Purcell of Dirlegh [also spelled as Dirrlyegh], " as well as "all messuages, lands, rents, services, etc/. which are contained in an indenture made by John and William Sweetman in favour of William Courry."

On March 6, 1472, John Swetyman gives and grants to Nicholas Broun and Nicholas Torner the half of his manor of Douncormoc and half of his tenement of Balmakearwill with the half of all revenues of the court, with half of his mill in Douncormoc with its appurtenances. Also half of his town of Clonmene with half of its revenues and also half of his town of Tathmon... Four days later, John Sweteman, baron of Darlieston [likely D'Erleyston, or Earlstown], appoints bailiffs for placing Nicholas Broun and Nicholas Tornour in full seisin of a messuage and three carucates of land in the forest of Tamon.

Sometime in 1483, John Swetman, gentleman, gave, granted and quit-claimed to James Butler, son of Edmund fitzRichard Butler, the manor of Balykyth with all its appurtenances.


Information compiled and contributed by Dennis Walsh.


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