History of Dundrum and its Castle

from “History of Dublin”, part 2 – 1902 , by F. Elrington Ball

(Extract from Parish of Taney)


Dundrum Castle -1802, from a plate in “The Literary and Masonic magazine”

Dundrum Castle -1802, from a plate in “The Literary and Masonic magazine”

Dundrum, or the Fort on the Ridge, which lies to the west of Stillorgan and south-west of Donnybrook, still possesses remains of a castle, occupying, possibly, the site of the dun or fort, from which the place derives its name,. These remains are, in the grounds of the modern house known as Dundrum Castle, overhanging the river which flows through the village, and besides being of considerable extent, are of great strength, one of the walls being nearly six feet thick. The castle, which was built in two portions, one much larger than the other, is now all empty shell, but still possesses several features of interest, including windows, some more modern than

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others, passages and small chambers constructed in the thickness of the walls, a garderobe, and fireplaces, one of these being of remarkably large size.

The names Dundrum and Taney denoted in the century immediately succeeding the Anglo-Norman conquest separate and distinct lands, those of Dundrum being the property of lay owners, and those of Taney, now represented by the modern townlands of Churchtown, being the property of the church. After the conquest the lands of Dundrum and Taney were assigned to the family of de, Clahull – a family whose, possessions extended to Kerry, where its members ultimately settled – and at the beginning of the thirteenth century Sir John de Clahull, who was Marshal of the Lordship of Leinster, was the owner. To his generosity and piety the Church, under a grant, from him to the Priory of the Holy Trinity and the Archbishop of Dublin, owed the lands of Taney, to some portion of which the Priory appears to have had previously a claim under a grant, from an Irish chieftain called by the Norman scribe Marmacrudin, and these lands afterwards became, soley vested in the Archbishop, and were included in his manor of St. Sepulchre. The lands of Dundrum were constituted a manor in themselves, with all rights and privileges pertaining thereto, and under Sir John de Clahull’s successor, Sir Hugh de Clahull, were farmed by free tenants, including John de Roebuck, David Basset, and Elye Geoffrey, and Neininus de Dundrum, excepting some portion of the lands with a tenement, which was part, of the jointure of Sir Hugh de Clahull’s wife the Lady Nichola. From Sir Hugh do Clahull the manor of, Dundrum, after passing through the, hands of his son in-law, Sir Walter Purcell, who held judicial office, and of Hugh de Tachmun, Bishop of Meath, came about 1268 into, the possession of Sir Robert Bagod of Baggotrath.

The lands of Dundrum were similarly situated to those of Carrickmines, on the very extremity of the lands to the south of Dublin, afterwards enclosed within the Pale, and suffered severely by the raids of the Irish enemies of the Crown. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, when the invasion of Edward Bruce took place a state of utter lawlessness prevailed, and the lands lying between Dundrum and Dublin, then composing the manor of St. Sepulcure were completely devastated. On the lands of Farranboley, near Milltown, then part of that manor, the native Irish,

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who had become serfs under the episcopal owner, and who had to submit to depredations from settlers like the Walshes, the Harolds, and the Archbolds, as well as from their own countrymen, were driven off, and the Archbishop of Dublin was subsequently forced to lease these lands, together with the adjoining lands of Taney, or Churchtown, at a reduced profit to free tenants, amongst whom were Edmund Hackett, Richard Chamberlain, and John Locumbe.

It was at this time that the Fitzwilliams appear as resident on the lands of Dundrum, which had, doubtless, undergone a similar experience to that of the lands within the, manor of St. Sepulchre. Their coming there was probably due to that great ecclesiastical statesman, Alexander de Bicknor, then Archbishop of Dublin, into whose possession the manor of Dundrum, after it had been transferred from the Bagods to Sir Eustace de la Poer in exchange for lands in Limerick, had passed, and to whom the Fitzwilliams must have been known as residents near his great feudal castle at Swords, where they had been previously settled. At Dundrum the Fitzwilliams erected a castle, probab1y similar to one which a successor of John Locumbe undertook to build on the lands of Churchtown, described as a sufficient stone house, walled and battlemented, eighteen feet in breadth by twenty-six feet in length within the walls, and forty feet in height, and in addition to the lands of Dundrum they acquired those of Ballinteer, anciently called Cheeverstown, from a family of that name. A1though another member of the Fitzwilliam family, Thomas Fitzwilliam, is mentioned as being in possession in 1332 of lands near Dundrum, the first of the name in possession of the manor of Dundrum was William, son of Richard Fitzwilliam, to whom in 1365 a conveyance of the manor was made, and who had rendered a few years before valiant, service against the O’Byrnes and O’Tooles at Saggard in rescuing, after a battle in which five of the enemy were killed, prey which those tribes had carried off. William Fitzwilliam was succeeded by his son, John Fitzwilliam, and John Fitzwilliam by his son, William Fitzwilliam, who married Ismaia, daughter of Sir Edward Perrers, of Baggotrath, and who has been already mentioned in connection with the assault on that castle, in which Chief Baron Cornwalsh lost his life.

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The last named William Fitzwiliam was a person of importance; he had a crowd of retainers who resided together with the tradesmen of Dundrum, the tailor and the cloth dresser, in the village under the protection of his castle, and he served for sometime as sheriff of the metropolitan county. His eldest, son, Thomas Fitzwilliam, who married Rosia, daughter of Sir John Bellew, predeceased him, and on his death about 1452 he was succeeded by Thomas Fitzwilliam’s son, Richard Fitzwilliam, who married Margery Holywood, and who was succeeded about 1465 in his turn by his son, Thomas Fitzwilliam, husband of Eleanor Dowdall, of whom we have seen, both under Merrion and Baggotrath.

Dundrum Castle 1903, Co. Dublin – photo by Thomas Mason

Dundrum Castle 1903, Co. Dublin – photo by Thomas Mason

After transferring the seat of their branch of the family first to Baggotrath, and  subsequently to Merrion, the Fitzwilliams of Dundrum appear to have allowed the Castle of Dundrum to fall into disrepair. It was, however, rebuilt by Richard, son and successor of Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam, who in his will made in 1596 desires that all his tenants dwelling at Dundrum at the time of his building there and giving him assistance should be forgiven the rents due after his death. one of his younger sons, William Fitzwilliam who married the widow of Primate Henry Ussher, subsequently resided in the castle, and there in 1616, on his death-bed, he declared his will by word of mouth, leaving “all he was worth in this world” to his wife and infant daughter. At the time of the outbreak of the Rebellion in October, 1641, it was the residence of a nephew and namesake of its former occupant, Lieutenant-Colonel William Fitzwilliam, the younger son of the first Viscount Fitzwil1iam, and afterwards holder of the titles as the third Viscount, but was taken possession of by the rebels, who were driven out of it by a body of troops in the following January. Lieutenant-colonel Fitzwilliam with his family afterwards returned to live there, but found himself a sufferer from pillage on the part of the English soldiers. To defend himself from the latter he obtained in 1646 from the Duke of Ormonde a protection for his house, his lands, and goods, as well as for his family and servants, but a few weeks after he had received it he accompanied his father into neutral quarters.

During the period of the Rebellion Dundrum was a centre of disaffection. A resident at Churchtown, Richard Leech by name, who, although one of the churchwardens of the parish, is stated to have been a Roman Catholic, was murdered by the rebels there, and at the time Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzwilliam obtained protection for his property from the English soldiers, a travelling clothier, called Robert Turner, as he was coming through Old Rathmines

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then the high road from Dublin to Dundrum, was robbed by one, Donagh Cahere, of the latter place. In a letter to Cahere, the Duke of Ormonde states that he has been informed that, Cahere, with his nephew and thirteen horse and foot had taken Turner prisoner, and had seized his horses, bridles, saddles, pisto1s, and a quantity of c1oth, and, after warning Cahere that if any harm befel Turner, whom Cahere had threatened to hang unless a ransom was paid, twenty Irish, then in the Duke’s custody, should suffer for it, demands that Turner, with all his goods, should be delivered up safely.

The Castle of Dundrum during these troublous times fell into disrepair, but was restored by Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Dobson, one of the officers of the Parliament, Army, to whom it was leased in 1653, together with the lands of Dundrum and part, of those of Kilmacud and Balally, by the Parliament. It is described shortly afterwards as being a slated castle in good repair, with three hearths, and having attached to it a barn and a garden. At the time of the Restoration, Dundrum is returned as containing fourteen persons of English and thirty-three of Irish extraction, inhabiting twenty-three houses, but on the neighbouring lands the population was very small. On the lands of Churchtown, which were then held by Sir William Ussher the younger, of Donnybrook, and by a Mr. Owen Jones, there were two English and five Irish inhabitants, only two of whom paid hearth tax, and in the mountainous district of Ticknock there were fifteen inhabitants with only four houses paying tax.

Lieutenant Colonel Dobson was a leading man amongst the rulers of Ireland under the Commonwealth. He was one of those who took evidence, against the, participators in the Rebellion, and was also a Commissioner for Revenue and Transplantation for the Civil Survey of Ireland, and for the letting of lands. In recognition of his position he was admitted to the freedom of Dublin by special grace on payment of a pair of gloves to the Mayoress. After the Restoration he came to terms with the Fitzwilliams, on their regaining possession of their property, and continued to occupy the castle, with a short interval during James II’s rule , when he

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sought, safety beyond the seas, until his death. This took place at Dundrum in 1700, when he had attained a patriarchal age and he passed away surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. His only surviving son, Alderman Eliphal Dobson, the most, wealthy Dublin publisher and bookseller of his day succeeded to the occupation of the castle. Like his father he was a Nonconformist, a member of the congregation worshipping at New Row, in Dublin, but we are told that “he valued no man for his starched looks or supercilious gravity, or for being a Churchman, Presbyterian or Independent, provided he was sound in the main points wherein all good men are agreed.” He had the misfortune to one of his legs, and was remarkable for the possession of a wooden substitute, which creaked horribly. The first Bible printed in Ireland was one which bears his name in the imprint and in his will he bequeaths to Trinity College near Dublin one of the best folio Bibles printed by him to be preserved in the Library as well as a legacy of ten pounds to buy other books.

Map from 1902 showing parts Co. Dublin including Taney Parish, Dundrum and surrounding area

Map from 1902 showing parts Co. Dublin including Taney Parish, Dundrum and surrounding area

The castle grounds in his time were greatly improved and the castle must have presented quite an attractive appearance standing in a flower garden laid out with trim box borders and neatly-cut yew trees, with a pleasure ground and kitchen garden adjacent, a11 of these being surrounded by a grove of ash trees and sloping down to the river, which was a more picturesque object than it is in the

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the present day. As the owner of the surrounding lands, Alderman Dobson was an important person, and, as one who could afford such luxuries as well-furnished houses, plate, books, horses and carriages, was regarded, no doubt, with great awe by the villagers as he proceeded to and from the castle in his heavy cumbersome coach. The castle and grounds were left by Alderman Dobson (who was buried on St. Patrick’s Day, 1720, in St. Werburgh’s Church, Dublin), to his widow, with remainder to his eldest son, Isaac Dobson, of whom we have seen under Donnybrook, and after her death they were leased by Isaac Dobson to “an eminent silk weaver and a man of unspotted character,” Thomas Reynolds, whose descendant and namesake bore an infamous part in the Rebellion of 1798. Although the castle was partly inhabited until the close of the eighteenth century, it was gradually falling into decay, and Austin Cooper, who visited it in 1780, found it in possession of an owner whose object was profit rather than beauty, and who was then cutting down the grove of ash trees. Several sketches of the castle were made by Gabriel Beranger, who describes it as having been very picturesque, with a grand entrance by stone stairs from the courtyard.

The principal resident at Dundrum in the latter half of the eighteenth century was the brother of the first Earl of Lanes- borough, the Hon. John Butler, M.P. for Newcastle, who resided in Wickham, then called Primrose Hill. During his representation of Newcastle, which extended over a period of forty years, he displayed a most zealous attachment to the King’s government and person, and received on more than one occasion the thanks of public bodies for his efforts in the public weal. His death took place at Dundrum in the year 1790, when he had attained the age of eighty-three years, and Wickham passed from his family into the possession of Mr. John White, a barrister of eminence, whose claim to a baronetcy led to his being sometimes styled Sir John White, and was subsequently the residence successively of the late Sir Robert Kane and of the late Sir Edward Hudson-Kinahan. In the middle of the eighteenth century, in 1766, there were only seven residents

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besides Mr, Butler of importance in the whole parish of Taney, namely, Lord Fitzwilliam, at Mount Merrion; Anthony Foster, afterwards Chief Baron of the Exchequer, at Merville; Hugh Carmichael, Dudley Rogers, James Crowe, John Hunt, and Richard Thwaites, and the total number of dwellings was only sixty-six. Amongst the other inhabitants we find names which are still familiar, including those of Moulds, Messit, and Rinkle.

Dundrum was then a small village chiefly remarkable for being on the high road to Powerscourt. It had a reputation, though not in an equal degree with Carrickmines, as a health resort – a reputation which it regained at the beginning of the nineteenth century – and lodgings where goats’ milk could be obtained were advertised. Some of the deaths announced as taking place at Dundrum are possibly those of persons who sought benefit from the mild climate; amongst these we find, in 1756, the wife of Anthony Perry, master of Lucas’s Coffee House; in 1757, Lieutenant John Kellie, of Lord George Forbes’ Regiment of Foot; in 1760, Mr. William Litton, a silk weaver; and in 1771, the wife of Mr. Shea, a linen draper. Some years later in 1787 the discovery of a mineral spring near Ticknock was announced, but, in spite of a strong recommendation of its efficacious qualities, it had only a short-lived popularity. A few houses near the old churchyard formed a separate village known as Churchtown, and the only other neighbouring village of any importance was Windy Arbour, on the road to Dublin, where there was a lodging house in which the first Lord Cloncurry stayed in early life.

The lawless and defenceless state of the vicinity of Dublin is indicated by more than one outrage near Dundrum. A house at Churchtown was in 1780 broken into by four masked robbers armed with swords and pistols; a gentleman returning on horseback from the fair at Donnybrook was in 1788 stopped near the castle by two highwaymen; a coffin containing the body of a man supposed to have been murdered was in 1790 left on a false pretext with the grave-digger; the house of Mr. Valentine Dunne, whose business premises were in Castle Street, Dublin, was in 1798 broken into

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and plundered; and a farmer called Ennis in the same year of rebellion was forced to leave his house near the Three Rock Mountain after it had been three times robbed.

Towards the close of the eighteenth century Dundrum was the home of Mr. John Giffard, who took a prominent part in the political affairs of his time as a strong supporter of the Union, and who has the distinction of being the grandfather of the present Lord Chancellor of England, the Earl of Halsbury. There Mr. Giffard’s sons. Sir Ambrose Hardinge Giffard, Chief Justice of Ceylon, and Stanley Lees Giffard, many years editor of The Standard, and father of Lord Halsbury, passed their early life. At Churchtown the Hon. William Tankerville Chamberlaine, a Justice of the King’s Bench, one of the most eminent members of the judiciary of his day, and Mr. Edward Mayne, who subsequently became a judge of the same court, were at that time residing, and amongst other inhabitants in the immediate vicinity of Dundrum were Mr. Stephen Stock, a brother of the Bishop of that name, and a man of exemplary charity; Mr. Daniel Kinahan, ancestor of a family still identified with the parish; and Alderman Nathaniel Hone, sometime Lord Mayor of Dublin.

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