‘Lease to Gyles Hovynden ; of the site of the abbey of Chore alias Core, the lands of Chore and Kyl-(blank)-agh and Ballygybbyn, and the rectories of Chore, Downebowlogg, Kylrovayn, Kyl(collehy), St Katherine by Cork and Mogellygg. To hold for 21 years. Rent £26 5s.’ Fiant 6806 Elizabeth I (or 1147a Edward VI).
from The Irish Fiants of the Tudor Sovereigns, (vol III) 1994
One of the difficulties facing Irish historians is the lack, or apparent lack, of documentation. We’ve already noted that when the Cistercian abbey of Mainistir na Corann/Corabbey was dissolved in 1543, the monastic buildings and the old monastic estate was granted to the former abbot, Philip FitzDavid Barry, on a twenty-one year lease with a rent payable to the crown. If anything, this was a kindness since the abbey had been Philip’s home since the early sixteenth century. But that lease would have run to 1565 – about seven years into the reign of Elizabeth I. What happened to the land between the end of the lease in 1565 and 1573 when the property was granted to John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne and Cahermone on a new lease? Who held the land until FitzGerald took over? Nobody has bothered to explain this gap. But now the mystery is solved – thanks to a document that was incorrectly filed by an Elizabethan civil servant about 1572!
The above text is from a fiant recording the grant of the site and former monastic estate of Corabby/Mainistir na Corann together with the tithes of certain rectories to Giles Hovenden during the short reign of King Edward VI. A fiant was a warrant issued by the government to the Court of Chancery in Ireland. This court was the authority that issued letters patent under the Great Seal of Ireland. Basically a fiant takes its title from the Latin phrase at the start of the order: Fiant litterae patente – ‘let letters patent be made….’ The letter patent (or published letter) was the key legal document that certified a government grant or order. It was registered in the rolls of the Court of Chancery, thus guaranteeing the patent extra legal effect. The Four Courts Fire of 1922 destroyed all the fiants issued throughout Irish history, but we are fortunate that they had been calendared and published in the 1880s and republished in the 1990s. So these important records survive in a somewhat abbreviated fashion. Since the exact date and year of the issue of this particular fiant is lost from the copy of the record, we must look to the term of office of Sir James Croft, the Lord Deputy of Ireland who signed it. Croft was Lord Deputy from 21 April 1551 to April 1552, and because the fiant was issued in the month of June, we can firmly date the fiant and the grant of the leasehold of Corabbey to June 1551.
What is interesting is that this grant of the leasehold to Giles Hovenden is simply unknown in Midleton. The reason is that this fiant was misfiled during the reign of Elizabeth I – some things NEVER change in the Irish civil service! The grant itself is quite a surprise because the previous leaseholder was Philip FitzDavid Barry the ‘former’ abbot of Corabby, who was a local man, almost certainly born in Castleredmond Castle. Abbot Philip had been granted a twenty-one year lease in 1544, so it should have run until 1565. However, since he was almost certainly the abbot Philip of Chore who was granted the vicarage of Inchinabecky and the rectory of Shandon in 1504, it is likely that he was already elderly and died some time between 1546 and 1551. It is very likely that, following Philip Barry’s death, the lease of Corabbey came back into the hands of the Crown due to the accumulated arrears of rents. So the land was let out again for another twenty-one year period to Giles Hovenden.
So who exactly was Giles Hovenden? He was an Englishman who came to Ireland during the reign of Henry VIII to serve in the king’s army. It seems that he came from Ulcomb near Maidstone in Kent. It should be noted that the Hovendens appear to have been neighbours of the St Leger family – Sir Anthony St Leger of Ulcomb and Leeds Castle was the Lord Deputy of Ireland for an astonishing three separate terms – 1540-1548, 1550-1551 and 1553-1556. A captain of light horse in 1532, Giles Hovenden was given some interesting commissions to execute. He was one of the Commissioners for the government of Connaught in 1544, In conjunction with James FitzJohn FitzGerald, 14th Earl of Desmond, on 28 July 1551, Hovenden was made a commissioner for the government of the counties of Cork, Limerick and Kerry. In December 1551, the earl asked Hovenden to arrest his own son and heir, Gerald FitzJames FitzGerald (later the 15th Earl), and his own brother Maurice FitzJohn FitzGerald, because they had raided McCarthy lands in Cork! Clearly Hovenden was able to get on very well with the ‘Old English’ and the Gaelic Irish. He seems to have had business dealings with Conn O’Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone, concerning the Earl’s lands in Ballygriffin in County Dublin. It seems likely that Giles Hovenden retired from government service in 1556 when St Leger left office for the last time.
On 29 November 1549 Giles Hovenden was granted the lands of Killeban in Leix, later Queen’s County, now County Laois. He married Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Walter Cheevers and had five sons and a daughter John, Peter, (or Piers), Richard, Walter, Henry and Joanna.
The eldest son, John Hovenden of Killeban, was granted the arms shown at the head of this post in 1585. There is very little in the official records about John Hovenden – one commentator suggests that he kept his head down and attempted to lead a quiet life, quite an achievement in a turbulent age. It is perfectly possible that this man inherited his father’s leasehold of Corabbey, for the second son, Peter, had property and income from King’s County (Offaly), Queen’s County (Laois), Kildare, Meath, Down, Tipperary, Louth and Roscommon. The fourth son, Walter, after military service in the Netherlands, was killed when the O’Mores attacked the fort and town of Maryborough (now Portlaoise) in 1579.
The third and fifth sons, Richard and Henry,became the foster-brothers of Hugh O’Neill, who later became the 2nd Earl of Tyrone! They actually ‘went native’ as both served O’Neill as military officers during his revolt against Queen Elizabeth I during the Nine Years War. Henry actually became O’Neill’s secretary and confidential advisor and, perhaps, his chief of intelligence. henry followed O’Neill into exile during the Flight of the Earls in 1607.
How did Hugh O’Neill end up as a foster-brother to Giles Hovenden’s sons? The Earldom of Tyrone had been awarded to Conn O’Neill by Henry VIII when Conn submitted to the Crown as part of the Surrender and Regrant policy. Conn planned to pass on the earldom to his illegitimate son, Matthew, Baron of Dungannon Matthew was the father of Brian and Hugh O’Neill. However, in typical Irish fashion, Conn’s legitimate son, Shane, objected and in 1558, Shane’s men killed Matthew. A year later Conn, Earl of Tyrone, died and he should have been succeeded by his grandson Brian, the new Baron of Dungannon, and the government’s preferred choice. But Shane O’Neill was too strong and he claimed the title Earl of Tyrone for himself. Brian was assassinated in 1562 by a cousin, probably on Shane O’Neill’s orders. This left Brian’s younger brother, Hugh, a minor, as the new Baron of Dungannon and the government’s preferred candidate as Earl of Tyrone. However the young Hugh O’Neill was very vulnerable to assassination. The government placed him in the care of Giles Hovenden as a Ward of the Crown. Hugh grew up with Richard and Henry Hovenden. There is some speculation that Hugh may have been fostered in the Gaelic Irish fashion to Giles Hovenden when he was still a boy. This might explain why English officials considered the Hovenden brothers to be O’Neill’s foster-brothers. This close relationship was the basis of the friendship that led to Richard and Henry ‘going native’ during the 1590s when Hugh O’Neill finally gained control of his earldom of Tyrone.
So there you have it – a missing link in the history of Midleton, or, more correctly, Corabbey/Mainistir na Corann. The leasehold of the old Cistercian monastery and its estate was granted to Giles Hovenden, formerly of Kent, in June 1551. He was Midleton’s ‘missing Tudor-era landlord’.The irony is that Hovenden’s ward or foster-son, Hugh O’Neill, helped to suppress the Second Desmond Rebellion (1579-1583). This led to the final defeat and death of the same Gerald FitzJames FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond, who had been arrested with his uncle Maurice by Giles Hovenden in December 1551! Later Hugh O’Neill would conduct a devastating raid on Barrymore and Imokilly, including the former Hovenden leasehold of Corabbey, during his sweep into Munster in 1600 during the Nine Years’ War (1594-1603).
Why do I say that the fiant of June 1551 was misfiled? If the Hovenden lease of Corabbey did indeed run to 1572, then it was necessary for the government to examine the details of that lease when it lapsed that year to ensure that the land was indeed available to let without encumbrances to a new tenant. An inspection of the fiant showed that a new lease on the former monastic estate could indeed be granted to someone else. In 1573 the old monastery and the former monastic estate were granted on a twenty-one year lease to John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, who had bought neighbouring Cahermone Castle and its estate from impoverished relatives in 1571. FitzGerald now had a nice little estate that ran all the way to the Owencurra River. And the government clerk omitted to replace the original fiant of 1551 with the documents relating to the reign of King Edward VI! No wonder the historians have missed it, despite the fact that it was hiding in plain sight for over a century! Now I wonder if any papers have survived about the Hovendens in Corabbey…..