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

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Mainistir na Corann, Walter Raleigh and the last days of the abbey of Chore.

An early twentieth century photograph by the Horgan brothers of Youghal showing St John the Baptist's Church, Midleton, across the Owenacurra River. The  present church was completed in 1825 and stands on the site of the abbey church of Chore.

An early twentieth century photograph by the Horgan brothers of Youghal showing St John the Baptist’s Church, Midleton, across the Owenacurra River. The present church was completed in 1825 and stands on the site of the abbey church of Chore.  This photo is produced with the permission of Jim Horgan. The image can also be seen on the Cork County Library website’s digital collections.

What sort of property did the former abbot of Chore (Mainistir na Corann), Philip FitzDavid Barry, lease from the Crown for twenty-one years in 1544?  To discover that we will have to go back a few years before that date.

In referring to the dissolution of the monasteries, Brendan Bradshaw, an Irish priest and a wonderful scholar at Cambridge, said that more was ‘accomplished in the seven years between 1535 and 1542 in England than in the seventy years between 1536 and 1606 in Ireland.’  What he meant was that in England and Wales the conditions for dissolving monasteries were more effective in achieving the desired outcome than was the case in Ireland, where local interests effectively slowed down the process and inhibited its completion.  After first managing to get the Irish parliament to agree to dissolve a mere thirteen small religious houses near Dublin in 1537, the government manage to close down a number of friaries in 1538 and a larger number were dissolved in 1539 – but only in areas under government control.  With the appointment in 1541 of Anthony St Leger as Lord Deputy (chief governor of Ireland), a more thorough policy was embarked upon. A royal commission was sent to investigate all the accessible remaining monasteries and to make assessments of their property, value, income and potential use.  This commission examined the abbey of Chore (Mainistir na Corann) and its report preserves a glimpse of the monastery and its hinterland at the end of the medieval period.

In 1541 the commissioners swore in a jury to render a return concerning the property of the the Abbey of Chore (Mainistir na Corann). The members of the jury were: Thomas Verdon, Dermot Mortell, Thomas Carroll, John Clerye, Maurice Fylye (Foley), Walter Galwey, John Skyddy, Richard Gowle.

The jurors noted that the church of the monastery had been the parish church from time immemorial. This suggests that, instead of building a separate church for use by the parishioners, the monks had set aside part of their conventual church for use by the parish congregation.  We don’t know if that entailed erecting a wall to divide the nave from the east end of the church (reserved for the monks).  If the community of monks had become very small since the Black Death in 1348-50, then such a wall is likely to have been built. What this meant was that the church was to be preserved for use by the parish. Other places were less fortunate because the church roof was often stripped to render the building useless.

All the other buildings within the monastic precinct at Chore (Mainistir na Corann) were deemed to be suitable and necessary for the farmer dwelling there. These buildings covered an acre of ground and were valued at 5 shillings.. The use of the word ‘farmer’ suggests that the plan was to grant or lease out the entire monastic estate for a sum of money to be remitted to the Crown. The ‘farmer’ of Corabbey is what Philip Barry became in 1544.

The other properties of the monastery included various plots of lands – usually entire townlands, scattered about the monastery. The main body of the monastic estate at Chore (the area immediately around the monastery) was estimated to contain 180 acres, 0 roods 0 perches.The detached portion of the estate at Kyllynamaragh and Ballygibbyn (near Mogeely) amounted to an estimated 120 acres 0 roods 0 perches.These were the lands of the monastic estate – about 300 acres, all told. A modest enough estate it seems.  But this figure was not the same as 300 acres today.

Castlemartyr Castle was the seat of the FitzGeralds, Seneschals of Imokilly.  They were governors of the Earl of Desmond's lands in the barony and were called the Madrai na Fola' or Hounds of Blood for their savagery.  The towerhouse  at the right is the most authentic FitzGerald structure. The great chimneys come from the manor house later constructed within the walls of the castle.

Castlemartyr Castle, sometimes called the Castle of Imokilly, was the seat of the FitzGeralds, Seneschals of Imokilly. They were governors of the Earl of Desmond’s lands in the barony and were called the Madrai na Fola’ or Hounds of Blood for their savagery. The towerhouse at the right is the most authentic FitzGerald structure. The great chimneys come from the manor house later constructed within the walls of the castle. The rebellious Seneschal was besieged here by the Earl of Ormond and Captain Walter Raleigh.  Ormond had the Seneschal’s mother, brother and infant son executed in front of the castle to encourage surrender – but the Seneschal managed to escape.

For example, the townland of Killeenamanagh (Kyllynmaragh) today measures 303 acres 3 roods and 22 perches in statute measurement.  Ballygibbon measures 203 acres 0 roods and 14 perches in statute measurement.  This gives a good idea of the estimation of acreages in the 1541 report.  The 120 acres estimated by the jurors is equal to over 507 acres (rounded up) in modern measurement!  What are we to make of Chore?  The trouble here is that we’re not exactly sure where to draw the boundaries.  Townparks alone currently measures 315 acres 0 roods and 35 perches.  Add in the 16 acres 2 rood and 37 perches of School-land (cut out of Townparks in 1696), and we get some 333 rounded up modern acres. There must have been more land attached to the monastery to give the 1541 estimated figure of 180 acres.

If we take the Killenamangh and Ballygibbon tract as being about 500 modern acres, it means that we must multiply the 1541 figures by 4.16 (at very least!) to get an approximate estimate of the area of monastic lands.  Thus the area of 180 acres estimated for Chore in 1541 gives us over 748.8 modern acres.to make up, say 749 acres when rounded up.  if we combine Townparks with School-lands and Broomfield West we get 697 modern acres.  This suggests that the remaining acreage of the monastic estate may have came from the northern part of Castleredmond and a chunk of Broomfield East. All in all then, we’re talking about a monastic estate of about 1200 acres.

But a word of warning – these acreage figures may be a serious underestimate of the monastic lands.  Even worse, did the abbot conceal some of the monastic estate, with the connivance of the jurors?  The jurors were local men and certainly knew of the Barry interest in the land and probably understated the size of the monastery’s landholdings – they certainly weren’t going to do anything that upset the then Lord Barry.  Also,we must remember that there were no accurate maps at the time and people measured land area by sight, based on experience.  Also, our multiplier of 4.16 may be an underestimate – the acre in Imokilly barony might even have been different from the acre in Barrymore barony!

What was the value of all this land?  The jury estimated that Chore should have produced an annual rental income valued at 66 shillings and 8 pence – if it were fully inhabited! But in fact the jurors noted that Chore was actually producing an annual income of 20 shillings from the rents paid by Richard Urlings (Verling) and others. The salmon weir was valued at 6s.8d per annum. The water mill was valued at 20s per annum, but because of the recent trouble following the Silken Thomas Rebellion was only producing 6s.8d per annum! The lands of Killeenamanagh and Ballygibbon should have produced 40s per annum if leased, but were now laid waste by rebellion and were unoccupied.

The Owenacurra River in Midleton is quite tame nowadays and not very wide or deep.  It may have looked very different in the sixteenth century.

The Owenacurra River in Midleton is quite tame nowadays and not very wide or deep. It may have looked very different in the sixteenth century. The view is northwards towards the five arch bridge leading to Cork. This is the point at which the river was most fordable.  The monastic lands of Chore lay to the right of the photo.

The appropriated rectories should also have produced a good income of 65 shillings. Chore should have given tithes worth 100s, but the rebellion had reduced this to 13s.4d.Three other rectories were laid waste and only Mogeely was producing tithes valued at 6s.8d per annum.  This was a huge drop in the monastery’s income.

Four years after the monastic estate was leased to Philip FitzDavid Barry, the community of monks were still there – and were already £6 behind in their rent!

What is worth noting about all this is the lack of any mention of a town or village or other settlement – the reference to the value of rents ‘if the land was fully occupied’ suggests that if there was a settlement near the abbey, it was then so small as to warrant no mention in the Commissioners’ returns. Furthermore, no figure is given for the number of monks accommodated in the abbey – this is a serious failing of the Commissioners’ accounts, but understandable, since the Commission was asked to value the property of these monasteries..

What actually happened after the dissolution in Ireland was that religious life almost certainly continued there for some years, perhaps even decades.   It is likely that the number of monks at Chore was quite small.  Some monasteries apparently had no monks just prior to their dissolution!

Walter Raleigh at the age of 34 in 1588, just six years after his adventure at the ford of Mainistir na Corann.

Walter Raleigh at the age of 34 in 1588, just six years after his adventure at the ford of Mainistir na Corann. He was a particularly brutal soldier who was rewarded with vast tracts of land in East Cork.

If there was no village or town near the abbey of Chore (Mainistir na Corann) prior to is official dissolution, then it is likely a settlement grew up fairly quickly afterwards, perhaps as a way of obtaining more income from the land rents.  The most dramatic event in the next few decades was the attempted ambush of Captain Walter Raleigh at the ford over the Owenacurra by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, the Seneschal of Imokilly.  This happened in 1582 during the second Desmond Rebellion (1579-1583).  The Seneschal, the Earl of Desmond’s local governor, had hidden his men in the old abbey, suggesting that much of it was still intact at the time and it is uncertain if the buildings had been damaged during the First Desmond Rebellion (1569-1573). As Raleigh’s force approached the Owenacurra River from the direction of Cork, the Seneschal’s men opened fire on them and unhorsed a couple of soldiers.  Raleigh claimed to have stood his ground on horseback in the middle of the river protect his downed men.  This suggests that the Owenacurra River was wider and perhaps deeper than it appears today.  However, when the Seneschal realised that Raleigh wasn’t going to be deterred, he and his men slipped away. Bizarrely, at the time the abbey complex was held on a lease from the Crown by a relative, and rival, of the Seneschal. This was his cousin, another John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne, who was also the Dean of Cloyne Cathedral, although he hever took holy orders. The Dean was actually a Catholic and a firm supporter of friars and other Catholic clergy. Despite all this he was known as Queen Elizabeth’s staunchest local supporter in Cork!  It was this John FitzEdmund FitzGerald who would go on to lay the foundations of the modern town on the site.

Sources: Brendan Bradshaw, The dissolution of the religious orders in Ireland under Henry VIII. (Cambridge 1974). Rachel Moss, ‘Reduce, reuse, recyle: Irish monastic architecture c1540-1640’ in Roger Stalley (editor), Irish Gothic Architecture – construction, decay and reinvention. (Dublin 2012).  Newport B White (editor), Extents of Irish Monastic Possessions, 1540-1541. (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin 1945).    .