Ambush! Where was Walter Raleigh ambushed in Midleton in 1580?

The traditional site of the Seneschal of Imokilly's attempted ambush of Walter Raleigh is usually placed on the Owenacurra River near the present St John the Baptist's Church, Midleton, built on the site of the medieval Cistercian abbey.

The traditional site of the Seneschal of Imokilly’s attempted ambush of Walter Raleigh is usually placed on the Owenacurra River (foreground) near the present St John the Baptist’s Church, Midleton, built on the site of the medieval Cistercian abbey.

‘...in Ireland he was a reprehensible snob and killer.’ Such is Michael Twomey’s blunt assessment of Walter Raleigh published in History Ireland in 2014. Twomey bolsters his assessment with a litany of incompetence and brutality committed by Raleigh during his time in Ireland, with the damning conclusion that Raleigh ‘..added nothing to Youghal’s infrastructure and very little to its economy.‘ And they’ve named a section of the town’s historic center after him!

The Second Desmond Rebellion (1579-1583) which convulsed Munster barely a decade after the previous Desmond Rebellion proved to be devastating for the FitzGerald interest in the province. The Earldom of Desmond went defunct, and ultimately extinct, as a consequence and many estates held since the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the province in 1177 were confiscated and awarded to English adventurers. The often brutal Walter Raleigh was one of the biggest beneficiaries gaining some 40,000 acres of confiscated lands for his troubles. Edmund Spenser, the celebrated poet who wrote The Faerie Queen, was another beneficiary of the confiscations that followed the crushing of the rebellion.

What is little known (even in Midleton) is that Raleigh’s life might have been rudely cut short if the rebellious Seneschal of Imokilly had got his act together in September 1580!

The incident is recorded in the second edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles which was published in 1587. James Fitzmaurice, leader of the Desmond Rebellion, while on pilgrimage to Holy Cross Abbey in County Tipperary in August 1580 was suddenly killed. This meant that John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, Seneschal of Imokilly, was now the effective military leader of the rebels. Captain Raleigh, based in Cork, had already attacked Barryscourt Castle, near Carrigtwohill, which had been burned by David, Lord Barry, to deny it to the Queen’s forces. The Holinshed chronology seems rather confusing but it actually seems that after Barryscourt, Raleigh had gone to Youghal. After a short time there Raleigh had to return to Cork, and prompted the attempted ambush at Corabbey, now Midleton. It’s best to give the Holinshed version before discussing the incident further. (Note: I’ve modernized the spelling to make it easier for the modern reader. The ‘captain’ in the text refers to Raleigh.)

Sir Walter Raleigh painted in 1588 when he was aged just 34. This elegant portrait gives no idea of the sheer brutality of the man who participated in the massacre of Papal and Spanish forces at Smerwick Harbour near Dingle in 1580, a crime condemned all over Europe.

Sir Walter Raleigh painted in 1588 when he was aged just 34. This elegant portrait gives no idea of the sheer brutality of the man who participated in the massacre of Papal and Spanish forces at Smerwick Harbour near Dingle in 1580, a crime condemned all over Europe.

This captain, making his return from Dublin, and the same well known unto the seneschall of Imokilly, through whose country he was to pass, lay in ambush for him and to entrap him between Youghal and Cork, lying at a ford, which the said captain must pass over with six horsemen and certain kerne, The captain, little mistrusting any such matter, had in his company only two horsemen and four shot on horseback, which was too small a force in so doubtful and dangerous times: nevertheless he had a very good guide, which was the servant of John Fitzedmond of Cloyne, a good subject, and this guide knew every corner and starting hole in those places.

The captain being come towards the ford, the seneschal had spied him alone, his company being scattered behind, and very fiercely pursued him, and crossed him as he was to ride over the water, but yet he recovered the ford and passed over. The Irishman who was his guide, when he saw the captain thus alone and so narrowly distressed, he shifted for himself and fled unto a broken castle fast by, there to save himself. The captain being thus over the water, Henry Moile, riding alone about a a bowshot before the rest of his company, when he was in the middle of the ford, his horse foundered and cast him down; and being afraid that the seneschal’s men would have followed him and have killed him, cried out to the captain to come and to save his life; who not respecting the danger he himself was in, came unto him and recovered both him and his horse. And then Moile, coveting with all haste to leap up, did it with such haste and vehemency that he quite overlept the horse, and fell into the mire fast by, and so his horse ran away, and was taken by the enemy. The captain nevertheless stayed still, and did abide for the coming of the residue of his company, of the four shot which were as yet not come forth, and for his man, Jenkin, who had about two hundred pounds in money about him, and sat upon his horse in the meanwhile, having his staff in one hand and his pistol charged in the other hand. The seneschal, who had so fiercely followed him upon spur, when he saw him to stand and tarry as it were for his coming, notwithstanding he was counted a man (as he was indeed) of great service, and having also a new supply of twelve horsemen and sundry shot come unto him; yet neither he nor any one of them, being twenty to one, durst to give the onset upon him, but only railed and used hard speeches unto him, until his men behind were recovered and were come unto him, then without any further harm departed.

Basically what happened was this: having returned from Dublin, where he was given a new commission to root out rebellion by Lord Deputy Grey, Raleigh had attacked David, Lord Barry, at Barryscourt, but was foiled by Barry’s burning of his own castle. Continuing to Youghal, Raleigh spent a short time there before he took a small escort of mounted men with him to go back to Cork. Their guide was a local man, a servant of John FitzEdmond FitzGerald of Cloyne, a cousin and mortal enemy of the Seneschal of Imokilly. One of the men in Ralaeigh’s party carried two hundred pounds in cash – probably pay for the garrison in Cork. The Seneschal discovered Raleigh’s plan and attempted to ambush him at a ford. Raleigh, riding ahead of his men, evaded the Seneschal’s personal attack and reached the far bank of the river. One of Raleigh’s men, The local guide ran off into a nearby ruined castle to save his life. Henry Moile was thrown from his horse in mid-stream. Raleigh came to his aid but Moile was too eager to remount and fell off his horse into a mire on the riverbank. Raleigh however stood his ground until the rest of the party caught up. The Seneschal, who had twenty men with him, some armed with guns, didn’t bother to attack Captain Raleigh but abused him with insults. When the rest of his men had crossed the stream, Raleigh gathered them up and made his way safely to Cork.

The first point to note is that Raleigh’s party was to pass through the country of the Seneschal of Imokilly – that means he was going from Youghal to Cork, through the barony of Imokilly. This is important because it meant that Raleigh’s movements could easily have been made known to the Seneschal whose seat was at Castlemartyr, although it is unlikely he was actually in residence at the time. But knowledge of Raleigh’s movements would have given the Seneschal time to plot an ambush. It is worth noting that the river (or ford) that Raleigh crossed is not named. There is one important clue – the ‘broken castle fast by.’ There were two castles in the immediate vicinity of Corabbey (Midleton). About half a mile to the east stands the ruin of Cahermone Castle, which had been acquired in 1571 by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne, the loyal subject of Queen Elizabeth mentioned in the text. This stands on the banks of the Roxborough or Dungourney River. The other castle was Castleredmond. No longer extant, Castleredmond stood on the shore of the Owenacurra Estuary at its narrowest point. However, given the silting of the Ballinacurra Creek and the Owenacurra Estuary especially since about 1900 it simply isn’t possible to suggest that this was the site of the ford where the ambush took place.  Indeed there is no known historical evidence for a ford at that point. The third option is that the ‘broken castle’ was actually the ruined Cistercian abbey of Chore, on the site of the present St John the Baptist’s Church in Midleton. This was indeed ‘fast by’ the fordable river Owenacurra, which marked the boundary between Imokilly and Barrymore baronies. However it seems highly unlikely, given the apparent eye-witness account of the ambush, that the narrator mistook a ruined abbey for a ‘broken castle.’  In short there is only one place where this ambush might have happened – on the banks of the Roxborough or Dungourney River near Cahermone and NOT on the Owenacurra River.

In addition, it’s worth noting that the Owenacurra has lost much of its volume of water, and indeed can almost dry up entirely, because so much of the water is siphoned off upstream to supply the town of Midleton. The Roxborough River, despite being previously diverted into the distillery, has always been blessed with a good and rather deep flow of water. Given the proximity of Cahermone Castle, I’m inclined to place the ambush on the Roxborough rather than on the Owenacurra. Add to this is the mention of the ‘mire’ into which Henry Moile fell – there is an area of bogland next to the Roxborough River which probably extended further east towards Cahermone before the land was reclaimed in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. it should be noted that the townland of Park South straddles the Roxborough between Townparks (marking the center of Midleton) and Cahermone. Park South (along with Park North) formed part of Sir St John Brodrick’s deerpark as authorized in the Charter of Midleton of 1670.

The ruins of Cahermone Castle with the later additon on the right. The castle was acquired in 1571 by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne who supplied the guide for Raleigh's party in 1580. This is most likely the 'broken castle' in which the guide took refuge during the attempted ambush.

The ruins of Cahermone Castle with the later additon on the right. The castle was acquired in 1571 by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne who supplied the guide for Raleigh’s party in 1580. This is most likely the ‘broken castle’ in which the guide took refuge during the attempted ambush. The castle stands on the banks of the Roxborough or Dungourney River.

The comic detail of Henry Moile over-leaping his horse in mid-stream suggests that the Holinshed source was actually present at the ambush and recounted it to amuse the company but also to display his courage in standing by his hapless colleague. In addition the detail that Jenkin had two hundred pounds in coin in his possession is very telling. it was a considerable sum of money at the time.

Unfortunately the Seneschal of Imokilly, John FitzEdmund FitzGerald (NOT the gentleman from Cloyne!), does not come out of the affair with much credit. Indeed, the whole incident is redolent of hesitation and uncertainty on the part of the Seneschal and his men. Raleigh attempted to ford the river under the direction of a guide provided of John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, a Catholic gentleman who was both Dean of Cloyne (but a layman for all that) and a staunch supporter of Queen Elizabeth I. At this stage FitzGerald was very likely safely shut up in Cork, for Cloyne had fallen to his cousin, the Seneschal, who had burned much of it. The fact that this Raleigh’s guide had fled to the ruined castle suggests that he was familiar with the place, as he probably would be if he was a servant of John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne.

Raleigh comes out of the tale with considerable credit, although one must question his foolishness in traveling through a rebellious country from Youghal to Cork with such a scanty force. Perhaps he felt it was sufficiently subdued to warrant the risk. Or perhaps he was in a hurry and a smaller party would make better speed than a larger one. It could well be that he just couldn’t spare the men and had to leave some to garrison Youghal.

Barryscourt Castle, Carrigtwohill, was extensively refurbished by David, Lord Barry, after he had burned it to deny it to Raleigh in 1580. Raleigh later tried to get Queen Elizabeth I to grant it to himself, but she refused,   preferring to keep the Barrys on side.

Barryscourt Castle, Carrigtwohill, was extensively refurbished by David, Lord Barry, after he had burned it to deny it to Raleigh in 1580. Raleigh later tried to get Queen Elizabeth I to grant it to himself, but she refused, preferring to keep the Barrys on side. The castle was restored by the Office of Public Works at the end of the twentieth century. 

The specific details given in the story and the description of the site of the ambush all point to one conclusion – Walter Raleigh was himself the source of the story in the 1587 Holinshed. This is reinforced by an interesting coda related in the text. Some time after the failed ambush, there was a parley between the Crown and the rebels. Raleigh and the Seneschal were both present and Raleigh took the opportunity to berate the Seneschal for his cowardice during the ambush. One of the Seneschal’s men piped up that his master was indeed a coward that day but was otherwise a valiant man. The Earl of Ormond intervened and suggested a duel to settle the argument, but the Seneschal sensibly demurred. It seemed he preferred to keep his head rather than lose it. After a peace had been arranged (and the rebellion crushed) the Seneschal was allowed, eventually, to return to his residence at Castlemartyr. Some time later he was arrested and imprisoned in Dublin Castle by a suspicious government. There were apparently plans to release him given the lack of any evidence against him, but John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, the last effective Seneschal of Imokilly, died in prison in 1586.

References:-

Holinshed’s Chronicle, 1587: http://www.english.ox.ac.uk/holinshed/texts.php?text1=1587_0542

Michael Twomey: ‘A good heritage/tourism story getting in the way of historical facts?’ History Ireland, Issue 1 (January/February 2014), vol 22.

See:- http://www.historyireland.com/volume-22/good-heritage-tourism-story-getting-way-historical-facts/

Advertisements

Found at last! Midleton’s ‘lost’ Tudor landlord.

The coat of arms issued to John Hovenden of Killabban, Queen's County, by Clarenceaux Herald of Arms in 1585.

John Hovenden was the eldest son of Giles Hovenden who was granted the lease of the lands of Corabbey in June 1551. A quiet man, barely mentioned in the state papers, John may have succeeded his father as the leaseholder of Corabbey until 1572. The name is spelled Hoveden in this image – it was the original name in medieval times with the first ‘n’ sneaking in by Tudor times. 

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 destruction of the Four Courts, Dublin, in June 1922 destroyed a vast amount of historic Irish public records, including the original fiants.

The horrific destruction of the Four Courts, Dublin, in June 1922 destroyed a vast amount of historic Irish public records, including the original fiants. (Cashman Collection/RTE)

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.

Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, was made a ward of Giles Hovenden by the Crown when his father was murdered.

Hugh O’Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone, was made a ward of Giles Hovenden by the Crown when his father was murdered.

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.

Edward VI became king in 1547 at the age of nine and died aged fifteen in 1553. He was the king when Giles Hovenden was granted the twenty-one year lease of Corabbey. (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Tudor boy king. Edward VI became king in 1547 at the age of nine and died aged fifteen in 1553. He was the king when Giles Hovenden was granted the twenty-one year lease of Corabbey. (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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.

Bective Abbey in County Meath was converted into a house after it was suppressed by Henry VIII. Did the Hovendens do the same to Corabbey?

Bective Abbey in County Meath was converted into a house after it was suppressed by Henry VIII. Did Giles Hovenden do the same to Corabbey/Mainistir na Corann?

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).

Only loyal subjects of the Crown need apply in Tudor Ireland!

Only loyal subjects of the Crown need apply in… Tudor Ireland!

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…..

Link: http://freepages.family.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mjbrennan/Hovendens_01.htm

Cromwell’s spy? St John Brodrick and the origins of the Brodrick estates in South East Cork.

Usually attributed to the Hodnetts, but actually held by a Mr E Gould in 1642, Ballyannan is an early 17th century fortified house with some later modifications. This house became the seat of St John Brodrick from 1653.

The ruins of Ballyannan Castle from the south. Usually attributed to the Hodnetts, but actually held by a Mr E Gould in 1642, Ballyannan is an early 17th century fortified house with some later modifications. This house became the seat of St John Brodrick from 1653. In appearance, it must originally have resembled a small French chateau, with plastered, presumably whitewashed,walls and pepperpot roofs on the three turrets.

He was in reality sent over by Cromwell as a spy to corrupt the Munster Army and send him intelligence; Lieutenant Colonel W. Pigot, and the Captains St John Brodrick and Robert Gookin being likewise employed for the same purpose.

Thomas Carte: A History of the Life of James Duke of Ormonde. 1735.

From at least 1653 to 1964 the ground landlords in Midleton were the Brodrick family. But one question needs to be addressed.  How exactly did the Brodricks get their land in the area? The quotation above refers to, among others, St John Brodrick – the first of the Brodricks of Wandsworth to acquire an estate in Ireland.  The story of St John Brodrick and his settlement in Ireland during the regime of Oliver Cromwell is not yet properly written, and, unfortunately, it contains some odd assertions.  I can’t claim that this post will clear everything up, but I hope to kill off some of the nonsense that is still floating around even in some very respectable history books. Thomas Carte’s reference to Brodrick being a Cromwellian spy was written by a staunch supporter of the Stuarts in 1735 and, while it may have a grain of truth, it perhaps does not tell the whole story behind Brodrick’s coming to Ireland.

A woodcut describing the enmity between the Royalists (Cavaliers) and Parliamentarians (Roundheads) during the English Civil War - but it could equally well express the sentiments of the Catholics vs. Protestants and Scots Presbyterians vs. English Episcopalians.

A woodcut describing the enmity between the Royalists (Cavaliers) and Parliamentarians (Roundheads) during the English Civil War – but it could equally well express the sentiments of the Catholics vs. Protestants and Scots Presbyterians vs. English Episcopalians.

The outbreak in 1642 of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (the Irish Catholic Uprising, the English Civil War and the Covenanters’ War in Scotland), was to set the scene for the arrival of the Brodricks in south-east Cork. St John Brodrick was born in 1627 as the younger son of Sir Thomas Brodrick of Wandsworth. St John’s older brother, Alan, fought for King Charles I during the English Civil War and later served as secretary to the Sealed Knot society. This latter was a secret Royalist organisation in England aiming to restore King Charles II when Cromwell was Lord Protector. There are some assertions that St John Brodrick came to Ireland in 1642 to acquire estates here.  But as a fifteen year old boy it seems highly unlikely that he’d be allowed jump from the English frying-pan into the Irish fire.  There’s certainly no evidence that Brodrick inherited land in Ireland in 1642 – so he must have come by his estates another way.

What seems to have happened is that after his father’s death in 1643, St John Brodrick was groomed to fight with Parliament as a way of hedging the family’s bets on the outcome of the Civil War. He certainly seems to have been in the service of the Parliamentary cause by 1649. In that year he was sent to Ireland as an assistant to Lord Broghill who had just joined the Parliamentary side. And this connection to Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill, proved instrumental in Brodrick’s land acquisitions in Ireland.

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of Great Britain and Ireland.  He still has a bad press in ireland and his regime settled a lot of officers on confiscated Irish lands - like St John Brodrick.

The man the Irish love to hate: Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of Great Britain and Ireland. He still has a bad press in Ireland and his regime settled a lot of officers on confiscated Irish lands, including St John Brodrick.

To understand what happened it is necessary to examine the complex four-sided civil war in Ireland from 1642 to 1652.  The Confederate Catholics made up the largest group, rebelling against the Crown in defence of their landholdings and their right to worship as they wished. Their best leader was the Ulsterman Owen Roe O’Neill, the victor of Benburb. Unfortunately the Confederates were divided into Gaelic Irish (often very hardline) and the Old English (more Royalist in sympathy). Benburb introduces the second group in Ireland – the Presbyterian Scots.  Some were settlers, mostly in Ulster where they obtained land under the Ulster Plantation. Others came over in Munroe’s army ….. only to be slaughtered at Benburb in 1646. Then there was the Royalist force, based mostly in Dublin and commanded by James Butler, Marquis of Ormond as he then was, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.  This is the man who is the subject of Thomas Carte’s book, being promoted to a dukedom in 1660. The fourth group in Ireland were the Protestants of Munster. Their military leaders were David Barry, 1st Earl of Barrymore, who died of wounds shortly after the victory of Liscarroll in 1642, Morrough O’Brien, Lord Inchiquin who led the Munster Protestant Army for most of the period, and Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill, a younger son of Richard Boyle, the same 1st Earl of Cork who had obtained a license for a market at Corabbey in 1624. The Munster Protestant victory at Liscarroll secured Cork and the area around Cork Harbour, as well as Youghal, for the Protestant cause, and, ultimately, for the Parliamentary cause.  Initially the Munster Protestant leaders’ loyalties were still somewhat vaguely aligned in favour of the king, although they treated James Butler, Marquis of Ormond, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with great suspicion.

Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill. Created 1st Earl of Orrery in 1660, helped secure Cork for Cromwell and later secured Ireland for Charles II in 1660.  He founded Charleville in North Cork where he built a huge mansion, which he abandoned by the mid-1670s when he moved to Castlemartyr. A good friend of St John Brodrick, his neighbour in Midleton, Broghill was the son of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork and brothe rof Robert Boyle the scientist.

Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill, Cromwellian commissioner for forfeited estates in the County of Cork.
Created 1st Earl of Orrery in 1660, Broghill helped secure Cork for Cromwell and, in 1660, he secured Ireland for King Charles II . He founded Charleville in North Cork, where he built a huge mansion, which he abandoned by the mid-1670s, when he moved his seat to Castlemartyr a few miles from Midleton. A good friend of St John Brodrick, his neighbour in Midleton, Broghill was a younger son of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork and an older brother of Robert Boyle, the scientist. His descendants resised at Castlemartyr until the early 20th century.

During the period up to 1648, a strong rivalry existed between Inchiquin and Broghill. It didn’t develop into an open dispute – they managed to get along sufficiently to keep their hold on Cork secure. But the Parliamentary victory in the English Civil War, and execution of King Charles I in 1649, threw everything into confusion. Inchiquin was certainly disgusted by the death of the King. Broghill’s reaction, however, was more problematic. He later claimed that he was upset by the execution of the king, however, it does seem that his sympathies were very close to the Parliamentary side. One story put about after the Restoration of King Charles II (1660) is that Broghill was on his way to the Continent to consult Charles II when he was accosted by Oliver Cromwell in London and given a choice that was difficult to refuse – join fully and openly with Parliament or else get to know the Tower of London very intimately.  Broghill was in Somerset when he eventually decided to take up Cromwell’s offer of a commission in the Parliamentary army.  He apparently had a small part to play in the bloody sack of Wexford in 1649 before being sent by sea to Cork to secure that harbour and city for Cromwell. On Broghill’s arrival in Cork, Lord Inchiquin packed his bags and sailed off to Spain – where he became a Catholic! This left Broghill in total command of Cork. Cromwell spent the winter of 1649/50 in Youghal, a town controlled by the Boyles, in acknowledgement of Broghill’s importance in securing the area, and, presumably to keep Broghill firmly within the Parliamentary camp.

Murrough of the Burnings. Murrough O'Brien, Lord Inchiquin was the leader of the Protestant forces in Munster during the 1640s until ousted by Broghill in 1649.

Murrough of the Burnings. Murrough O’Brien, Lord Inchiquin was the leader of the Protestant forces in Munster during the 1640s until ousted by Broghill in 1649.

(Murrough O’Brien, Lord Inchiquin, was the infamous ‘Murrough of the burnings’ of Irish popular history and he came from County Clare – hence his title. His descendants later returned to Imokilly and settled at Rostellan where, as the Earls of Thomond, they built a new house on the site of Rostellan Castle and the medieval church. On discovering that the old church and graveyard had been violated, a local woman pronounced a curse that no son would ever inherit the Rostellan estate – and it worked! The property passed via daughters into the hands of other families. Inchiquin’s descendants also came into possession of Petworth House in East Sussex which contains a superb collection of paintings by Turner. The vitally important Petworth House papers have yielded astonishing detail on the history of County Clare, but they have not yet been explored for the history of Rostellan and Imokilly. Petworth is now owned by the National Trust.)

But what of St John Brodrick?  We know nothing, as yet, of his military career in England, which probably didn’t start until about 1645/46. One source suggests that Brodrick was appointed Provost Marshal to Broghill’s force in Cork. A Provost Marshal was an officer in charge of enforcing military discipline. But they often had another role – the gathering of intelligence. Basically, if his role as Provost Marshal is true, then St John Brodrick was indeed a spy for Cromwell, but not a secret agent. It is highly possible that Brodrick may have been given orders to keep Broghill on the straight and narrow path of Parliamentary loyalty. As an intelligence officer, it is also possible that Brodrick was instrumental in securing the transfer of loyalty among the Protestant troops in Cork from the king to Parliament by way of a mutiny. What is clear is that Brodrick and Broghill became great and firm friends. They appear to have shared a common religious outlook, both being ‘low church’ men. It seems likely that Brodrick got to know Oliver Cromwell during the latter’s sojourn in Youghal.

With the defeat of all the opposing armies in Ireland, the Cromwellian regime set about securing the country……and paying off its debts.  The Adventurers, the people who had loaned funds to Parliament, had to be repaid (with interest), and the soldiers in the Parliamentary army had to be paid.  The decade of civil wars meant that there was a serious shortage of funds, so Parliament came up with a better idea – pay everyone in land. The lands of Irish Catholics and Royalists would be confiscated and distributed to the Adventurers and old soldiers as payment.The bonus was that if these lands could be settled by good English protestants then Ireland would be secured against future Catholic rebellions.

Part of the Down Survey map of Barrymore with the former monastic lands of Corabbey shown as a yellow area marked 'Unforfeited Land.' Parts of Mogeesha, as well as Templenacarriga, Ballyspillane, Dungourney, and other areas were given to St John Brodrick by 1653.

Part of the Down Survey map of Barrymore  showing the parishes.The former monastic estate of Manisitir na Corann/Corabbey is shown as a yellow area marked ‘Unforfeited Land.’ Parts of Mogeesha parish, as well as Templenacarriga, Ballyspillane, Dungourney, and Clonmel parish on Great Island as well as areas were also given to St John Brodrick in the 1653 settlement. Mainistir na Corann was considered to be part of Barrymore since the dissolution because its last abbot was a Barry. During the 1700s, the parish was transferred back into Imokilly. This copy of the map is preserved in the Bibliotheque National in Paris. Source: downsurvey.tcd.ie.

One of the commissioners appointed to supervise the distribution of lands in County Cork was Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill. And he made sure that his good friend, St John Brodrick, got some choice parcels of land, often right next to his own estates.  One of those parcels was Mainistir na Corann/Corabbey now called Midleton. This was the old estate of the Cistercians of Chore, which had remained Crown property since the dissolution in 1543 and had been leased to Roger Boyle’s father, Richard, 1st Earl of Cork, by the 1620s. Brodrick also got estates in Orrery barony in North Cork – also next to Broghill’s lands in the same barony.  To ensure that his friend didn’t want for much, Broghill also ensured that Brodrick got lands in Mogeesha parish, Templenacarriga parish, Ballyspillane parish, Dungourney parish and non-monastic lands in Corabbey parish as well as parcels in Ballyoughtera Parish and Clonmel parish on Great Island – all confiscated from ‘Irish Papists,’  By 1653, St John Brodrick, a younger son, had obtained a considerable estate in Ireland.

St John Brodrick established a deerpark from Cahermone to Park South and Park North townlands and chose Ballyannan Castle as his seat. This fortified house had previously been held by a Mr Gould, an ‘irish Papist.’  Not a bad return for a ‘spy.’ There’s still a lot of research to be done on St John Brodrick and his background and career.