‘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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.