Description and history of the townland of Roebuck from the entry for the Parish of Taney in “A History of the County of Dublin” Part 2 by Francis Elrington Ball, published 1903.
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The lands of Roebuck, or Rabo, as they were anciently called, which lie between Donnybrook and Dundrum, were the site of a castle, which stood from very early times on the ground now occupied by the modern Roebuck Castle, the handsome seat of Mr.
Francis Vandeleur Westby, D.L.
Soon after the Anglo-Norman Conquest the lands, which were originally of greater extent than at present, became a manor with a chief residence, and at the beginning of the fourteenth century permission was given to the owner to keep game in his demesne on
them. They were then estimated to contain three carucates, valued at £9, being at the rate of 6d. an acre, and the owner had sixty acres under corn and twelve plough teams. Clonskeagh, or the meadow of the white thorn bushes, now a village on the Dodder
known for its iron works, is mentioned in 1316 as belonging to the owners of Roebuck, and then contained a mill. By Henry II. the lands of Roebuck were granted, together with the somewhat distant manor of Cruagh, to Thomas de St. Michael, and after passing
through the hands of David Basset, a member of a great Norman family, came in 1261 into the possession of Fromund le Brun, then Chancellor of Ireland, from whom they descended to Sir Nigel le Brun, who was given in 1301 the light of free warren. Under these owners the lands were held by a family which took its cognomen from the place, and a member of which, Otho de Rabo, acted as bailiff in legal proceedings for Sir Nigel le Brun.
The succession of owners for the next two centuries is almost complete. In 1315 Fromund, son of Sir Nigel le Brun, was in possession; in 1377 Sir Thomas, son of Sir Fromund le Brun; in 1382 Francis, son of Sir Thomas le Brun; and in 1420 Sir John, son of Francis le Brun. Sir John lo Brun had two sons, Christopher and Richard; Christopher died before his father, leaving two children, a son, Christopher, who died shortly after his grandfather, and a daughter, Elizabeth. For a time the lands appear to have been in possession of Sir John’s second son, Richard le Brun, but ultimately they became vested in his granddaughter, Elizabeth, and by her marriage to Robert Barnewall, first Baron of
Trimlestown, passed into possession of the latter family, which continued to own Roebuck until the beginning of the nineteenth century 1.
It has been stated that the Castle of Roebuck, partly incorporated in the modern house, was the residence of John, third Baron of Trimlestown, who was Chancellor of Ireland in the reign of Henry VIII., but it seems probable that it owed its construction to Robert, fifth Baron of Trimlestown – “a rare nobleman, endowed now with sundry good gifts” – whose initials, with those of his wife, Anne Fyan, it bore. During the rebellion of 1641 the castle, then in possession of Matthew, eighth Baron Trimlestown, who served as an officer in the Confederate Army, was destroyed, and in the time of the Commonwealth the lands and manor of Roebuck, together with Clonskeagh and a mill, were held by one Edward Barry, whom Colonel Arthur Hill sought to dispossess. The principal occupant of the lands at that time was Mr. William Nally – said to have been an ancestor of the notorious Leonard MacNally, the lawyer – whose death in 1669 is recorded on one of the oldest tombstones in Donnybrook Churchyard. In 1652 Nally was ordered to attend a perambulation of lands in the neighbourhood of Dublin taken under the protection of the Commonwealth, and in 1664 he was occupying a house rated as containing two hearths, which was probably portion of the castle. Besides the lands of Roebuck, Nally held, under the Fitzwilliams, the adjoining lands of Owenstown, now forming part of Mount Merrion. The population, of Roebuck and Owenstown is returned about that time as seven persons of English and forty-two persons of Irish extraction 2.
The castle was in a ruinous condition in the eighteenth century, which renders it improbable that James II. lodged there, as has been stated, after his arrival in 1689 in Ireland. Austin Cooper, on visiting it in 1781, found only a small portion roofed,
which was used as a storehouse by a farmer who resided in a small house close by. In Cooper’s opinion the castle was originally a large one, forming two sides of a square, and upon it, he mentions, were engraved in stone the arms of the Barnewalls, as well as the
letters R. B. A. F. and the name Robert. At the beginning of that century a bleach yard existed on the lands of Roebuck as well as mills at Clonskeagh, and advertisements appeared from time to time of the castle farm as affording excellent accommodation for a
dairyman, proposals for which were to be made to Lord Trimlestown at his seat near Trim or at his Dublin house in Mary Street. The Dublin Volunteers in 1784 selected Roebuck as one of their camping grounds, and in 1789, when there was a great uproar about an attempt to close the footpath from Milltown to Clonskeagh, the vicinity of Roebuck Castle was chosen as a retired place to fight a duel, which was happily amicably adjusted, not, however, before shots had been exchanged 3.
Of the country seats which adorn the neighbourhood, the first in date was Merville, in Foster’s Avenue, now the residence of Mr. J. Hume Dudgeon. This fine old house, which forms three sides of a square, and has out-offices of a most extensive kind, was built about the middle of the eighteenth century by the Right Hon. Anthony Foster, Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer, and father of the last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, whose connection with the place is commemorated in the name of the magnificent avenue in which it stands. Chief Baron Foster, whoso ability and social gifts in early life attracted the attention of that acute observer, Mrs. Delany, was one of the first persons of position in
Ireland to interest himself in a practical manner in the improvement of agriculture and in the development of her industries. He has been styled by Arthur Young, who visited him on his estate at Collon in the County Louth, where his operations exceeded anything
Young could have imagined, as a prince of improvers, but few would dare to put in practice his theory that raising rents tended to improve the condition of the tenantry by quickening
their industry, setting them to search for manures, and making them better farmers. While a practicing barrister, when he occupied a seat in Parliament, first as member for the borough of Dunleer and afterwards for the County Louth, Foster rendered services to the linen manufacture by amending the laws affecting it. For this he was rewarded by the presentation of an address in a gold box and a magnificent piece of plate. He manifested throughout his life the utmost interest in the trade of Ulster.
After his death in 1778 his son, the Speaker, occupied Merville for some years, but ultimately sold it to Sir Thomas Lighton, on whom a baronetcy, still held by his descendant, was conferred. Sir Thomas Lighton, who is buried in Taney graveyard, had in early life a career of extraordinary adventure in India, which resulted in his making a large fortune, and after returning to his native land, he settled down in Dublin as a banker, and obtained a seat in Parliament, first as a member for Tuam and afterwards for Carlingford.
Ho was succeeded soon after his death in 1805, at Merville, then said to have one of the best gardens in Ireland, by the Right Hon. William Baron Downes, Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, a lawyer of the first distinction, and a great friend of Judge Chamberlaine,
already mentioned as a resident at Dundrum, with whom he was buried by his own desire in St. Ann’s Church, Dublin. Subsequently Merville passed into the possession of Lieutenant-General Henry Hall, C.B., a distinguished Indian military officer and administrator 4.
Other villas began to be built towards the close of the eighteenth century, and amongst their first occupants were Alderman John Exshaw, publisher of the magazine called by his name, whose mayoralty was attended with much splendour, and who covered himself with military glory during the Rebellion; James Potts, the proprietor of Sounder’s News Letter, who resided at Richview, and had an encounter with Mr. John Giffard, the owner of a rival
organ, outside the door of Taney Church; Mr. Alexander Jaffray, one of the first directors of the Bank of Ireland ; Dr. Robert Emmet, father of Thomas Addis Emmet and Robert- Emmet, who resided at Casino; and Mr. Henry Jackson, who started the iron works at Clonskeagh, and had to flee from Ireland on account of his complicity in the Rebellion. Before the close of that century the Castle of Roebuck was rebuilt by Thomas, thirteenth Baron of Trimlestown, and was subsequently occupied successively by Mr. James Crofton, an official of the Irish Treasury, and his son, Mr. Arthur Burgh Crofton, who were both Commissioners for the construction of Kingstown Harbour. After the death of the latter the castle was taken by Mr. Edward Perceval Westby, D.L., father of the present owner, on his marriage to a daughter of the Right Hon. Francis Blackburne, sometime Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who maintained by a lengthened residence at Roebuck Hall the connection of Roebuck, begun in the thirteenth century, with the holders of the Great Seal 5.
1 – “The Norman Settlement in Leinster” by James Mills in Journal R.S.A.I., vil xxov, p167; Pleas Justicary and Memorial Rolls; Sweetman’s Calendar; Burkes Peerage under Trimlestown.
2 – D’Alton’s “History of the county of Dublin” p.809; Burke’s Peerage under Trimlestown; Fleetwood’s Survey; Crown Rental; “Loftus’s Court Martial Book” preserved in March’s Library; Blacker’s Sketches, pp.90, 197, 434; Hearth Money Roll; Census on 1659
3 – D’Alton’s “History of the county of Dublin” p.810; Cooper’s Note Book; Lease in Registry of Deeds Office; Pue’s Occurrences, vol xxxiv, No. 31; col. xxxix, No. 56; Dublin Journal, Nos. 1846, 1851, 6845; Dubllin Chronicle, 1789-1890, pp. 120, 295
4 – Religious Returns of 1766; “Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs. Delaney” vol. ii, p. 353; vol iii, p. 160; Young’s “Tour of Ireland” edited by A.W. Hutton, vol. i, p. 110; Exshaw’s Magazine for 1764, p. 395, and 1865, p. 126,; Leases in Registry of Deeds Office; Ball and Hamilton’s “Parish of Taney” pp. 27,125,168,173,223; Loudon’s “Encyclopedia of Gardening” Lon. 1830, pp. 88, 1095; Blacker’s Sketches, pp. 91, 122, 319.
5 – Ball and Hamilton’s “Parish of Taney” pp. 104, 110, 120, 138, 144, 151, 155, 175; The Dublin Chronicle (for Exshaw), 1789-1790, pp. 56, 87, 528, 536, 615, 896; 1790-1791, pp. 128, 528