Monday 1 May 2023

Land and Gentry: Castletown Pallaskenry


The Down Survey and Waller Connection
Glebe House, Castletown
Castletown Manor Walled Garden

The Down Survey and Waller Connection

One of the most significant developments in cartography in Ireland  in recent years has been the digitisation of the Post-Cromwellan Down Survey in conjunction with modern Google maps by Trinity College Dublin. This new development went online in Ireland on 13 May, 2013, and has been widely welcomed by scholars, especially historians. But the project is of special interest to people in the barony of Kenry, because Sir William Petty, Surveyor General and chief organiser of the Down Survey, was married to one of Kenry’s famous ladies. She was Elizabeth Waller of Castletown, Pallaskenry, daughter of Sir Hardress Waller and Elizabeth Dowdall. Elizabeth, herself, joined the ranks of the aristocracy when she was created Baroness Shelbourne.  Moreover, her grandson, the Marquis of Lansdowne, became Prime Minister of Britain in 1782.

What was Down Survey?
The purpose of the Down Survey was to survey the entire island of Ireland in preparation for the rewarding of Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers and supporters with land grants in lieu of cash payments. Petty had been an Oxford professor and was something of a polymath, being proficient in several disciplines, among them surveying and map-making. He began his survey in 1656, the first complete survey of an entire country in the world, and completed it in 1658. Though he conducted the survey and prepared the maps, some of which were destroyed in the famous fire at the Four Courts in 1922, it was the politicians who did the distribution. Since most of Cromwell’s financial backers and soldiers were Protestant, the redistribution , in practice, meant that the lands of Irish Catholics were sequestered  and allocated to English or Anglo-Irish Protestants.  This was the beginning of the great estates of Kenry, including those of the Wallers and the Burys.

Land Redistribution
One of those who benefitted from the Down redistribution was Phineas Bury, who received 40 townlands in County Limerick, mostly in the parishes of Ballysteen, Kilcornan, Pallaskenry and Kildimo. It will be recalled that his descendants lived first in Summerville, before moving to Shannongrove and then to Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Co. Offaly. Among the 40 townlands which Bury received were Ardlahan, Ballyashea, Ballycasey, Ballyculhane, Ballynolan, Ballyrune, Ballyvareen, Bolane, Carheeny, Cloncaura, Coolbeg, Court, Cragganacree, Curraheen, Dromore, Glenameade, Kildimo (Old), Knockroe, Monanooag, Tobermurry, Tonlegee; Ballinacourty; Clorhane, Kilcurly, Balydoole, Ballinacarriga, Cartown, Kilmacat, Mellon, Mountpleasant, Ringmoylan, Shannongrove, Ballymacdonagh, Ballyshonickbane, Ballyvogue, Dominaclara, Dommoher and Tinacullia.

The case of Sir Hardress Waller was different to that of Phineas Bury, in so far as Waller was already in possession of some townlands in the barony of Kenry. He was allowed to keep these and, in addition, was allocated 28 additional townlands in County Limerick, mostly in Kenry, and two in Tipperary. The townlands Waller was allocated in the Down Survey included Ballylongford, Capparoe, Clopongownagh, Copay, Port, Shantraud, Drominycullane, Bansha, Blossomhill, Boherboy, Bushyisland, Castlegrey, Castletown, Cloonagalleen, Cowpark, Cragreagh, Crokerspark, Curraghchase North, Deegerty, Kilbreedy, Rintull, Shanbally, Stonehall and Summerville.

William Taylor from Hollypark got seven townlands, including Moig East, Moig West, Ballycahane, Dromlohan and Garranard. Sir Samuel Barnardiston, most of whose estate was in the Patrickswell area, also received seven townlands in Kenry, including Ballycanana, Mitchelstown, Faha, Ballyhanrahan West, Ballyhanrahan East and Barnakyle. Captain Widdenham from Court received four townlands in the Adare area: Killnockan, Tuogh, Curraghbeg and Curraghbridge. A surprise name on the list, mainly because it sounded Irish, was that of Captain Tadgh McMahon, who received  six townlands in Ballysteen, including, Ballinvoher, Ballyaglish, Beagh, Ballyvaddock and Drominoona. No doubt, McMahon was a strong supporter of Cromwell, if not one of his officers.

The Earl of Kingston, who had the greater part of his huge estate in County Cork, centred in Mitchelstown Castle, also received some townlands in county Limerick, including Ballinahalee, in Kildimo. James, Duke of York, who received thousands of acres in Ireland, got 91 townlands in county Limerick, including Kylevaragh, North, South and Middle.

Later Transfer of Land
As is generally well known, all the recipients of lands following the Down Survey did not retain these lands. Some of the recipients quickly sold their land for ready cash. Others retained the land during their own lifetime, but it was sold by their descendants. This was the case with the Bury, estate, a large part of which was sold in the land sales of 1844 to General James Caulfield. Other parts of this estate were purchased by the Westropps and the Russells of Limerick. Capt McMahon also soon disposed of his land. Captain Widdenham gave the four townlands in Adare as a dowry to his daughter, Mary (1682-1776), who married Valentine Quin (1678-1744) of Adare. This land thereby became part of the Dunraven estate.
 The Wallers were one of the few families in Kenry to maintain ownership of their land. Almost 250 years after acquiring their estate, they still had 6,636 acres in the first quarter of the twentieth century. In fact, they not held on to what they acquired following the Down Survey distribution, but they purchased land when it became available, as happened when the Bury estate was auctioned in Dublin in 1844.

See for Yourself
Though as mentioned above, some of the maps from the Down Survey were destroyed in the fire at the Four Courts, Dublin, in 1922, copies of these maps survived in other libraries, not only in Ireland but also in Britain and France. There are two main components to the new website. The Down Survey Maps section comprises digital images of all the surviving Down Survey maps at parish, barony and county level. The written descriptions of each barony and parish that accompanied the original maps have also been included. The second section, Historical GIS, brings together the maps and related contemporaneous sources – Books of Survey and Distribution, the 1641 Depositions, the 1659 Census – in a Geographical Information System (GIS). All these sources have been geo-referenced with 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps, Google Maps and satellite imagery.
 All this specialised but interesting information is now at your disposal, dear reader. All you require is access to a computer. Use Google Search to locate the website at
John M Feheney



Glebe House, Castletown

photo: NIAH

The present Glebe House in Castletown, Pallaskenry, which was the traditional residence of the Church of Ireland rector of the parish of Kilcornan, was built in 1810. There is no information about the architect of the building. The surviving Glebe House was the second building on that site. Some readers may recall that in 1735, the Glebe House in which Rev Roger Throp, the Church of Ireland Rector resided, was mysteriously burned down. Throp laid the blame for this and the shooting dead of his ‘valuable’ saddle horse at the door of Colonel John Waller, whom Throp alleged was his ‘bitter and vindictive enemy’. Even though Waller had appointed Throp to the post, it would appear that relations between the two soured when the clergyman refused to countenance Waller’s alleged unjust and tyrannical behaviour.

         Following the dispute, Throp became depressed and ‘fell into a rapid decline’, dying soon afterwards in 1736. Though Throp’s brother attempted to raise the matter in the British Parliament in 1739, Waller succeeded in preventing this, largely because of his political influence as a member of the Irish parliament. The Throps, however, also had influential friends, among them Dean Swift, who lampooned Waller in a well-known balled, ‘The Legion Club’, part of which ran, ‘See the scowling visage drop, just as when he murdered Throp’.


Waller the Builder

It was Captain John Waller, son of the man lampooned by Dean Swift, who built and paid for the church (of Ireland), which was designed by James Pain and completed in 1831. The same man gave both the site and a substantial donation for the building of Kilcornan Catholic church in 1828. It is also likely that he was the main driving force in the erection of the Glebe House in Castletown in 1810. Since there is no longer a resident Rector in Castletown/ Kilcornan, the Church of Ireland sold the Glebe House some years ago and it is now in private ownership.



The main building in the Glebe House consists of a 3-bay, two-storey house, with a recessed 4-bay, two storey addition on the east side. There is a hipped slate roof with rendered chimney stacks and terra cotta ridge tiles. Before recent renovation, there were large nine-over-six pane windows to the south and six-over-six pane windows to the north. This arrangement has, however, been changed in recent times. There is a round-headed opening to the south elevation, flanked by timber pilasters, with fluted consoles. There is a fanlight over the front door. To the south of the house are the remains of a walled garden. The NIAH survey notes that the house retains much of its original form and is characteristic of the Glebe Houses of that period. It also notes the restraint in ornamentation, which, it suggests, adds symmetry to the building and focuses on the front entrance.

         Originally, there were sixty acres of land going with the Glebe House. Griffith’s Valuation (1850) lists only 57 acres, but this area was gradually reduced over the years.



Castletown Manor Walled Garden

I recently visited the former walled garden at Castletown Cross, Pallaskenry (now the property of the Holland family) and was amazed at how well-preserved the surrounding walls are. These walls, most of them built of brick, are 10 feet high, and enclose an area of 3.5 acres. This area formerly comprised the walled vegetable/ fruit garden of the Waller family in Castletown Manor.


 The Waller Family

Most of my readers will be familiar with at least some of the history of the Waller family. In my book, Adare and the Barony of Kenry Biographical Dictionary (Iverus, 2010), I have given detailed accounts of several prominent members of the Waller clan. Sir Hardress Waller, founder of the Castletown branch, was a prominent supporter of Oliver Cromwell and became infamous for being one of the judges who condemned King Charles I (1600-1649) to death. He had a distinguished military career with Cromwell’s army in Ireland and was an MP and Governor of the Castle in Askeaton. He and his wife, Elizabeth Dowdall, obtained a large estate in the Castletown area and extending towards Adare. Though Sir Hardress lost his lands at the Restoration of King Charles II, his wife managed to hold on to her estates, and as late as 1872, the Wallers still had  6,636 acres in Co. Limerick. Though Sir Hardress was condemned to death at the Restoration, this sentence was commuted to life imprisonment at Mount Orgeuil Castle in Jersey, where he died in 1666.

The descendant of Sr Hardress who seems to have built the walled garden in Castletown was either Bolton Waller (1769-1824) or his son, Rev William Waller (1794-1863).


Victorian Walled Gardens

 Walled kitchen gardens achieved their greatest popularity during the reign of Queen Victoria (1819-1901). Some famous walled gardens can still be seen at: a) Lissadell House, Co. Sligo b) Kylemore Abbey, Co. Galway (6 acres); Johnstown Castle Co. Wexford; Powerscourt Castle, Co. Wicklow, and the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Queen Victoria herself had a large walled garden of 32 acres. These gardens were usually surrounded by high walls. Those in Queen Victoria’s garden were 9 feet high, while the walls in other gardens rose to 12, even 24 feet. The purpose of the high walls was to ensure the safety of valuable fruit and vegetables

Most of the high walls surrounding gardens and estates in Ireland were built in the famine and post-famine era, when the employment of local craftsmen and labour was regarded as a benevolent act. The Hunt estate in Incherourke, Askeaton, has an area of more than one square mile (640 acres) and the entire estate was bounded on the eastern and northern sides by an expertly-built dry wall, much of which can still seen today.


Glass Houses

In 1845, the tax on glass was removed in Great Britain and Ireland and this led to cheaper glass and its more widespread use in glass houses in the gardens of the gentry. Plate glass was invented in1848. Many of the gardening tools invented in the1880s are still in use: spades, rakes, pruning shears. The Sutton's Seeds was founded in Reading, England, in 1806 and this firm sent cheap packets of seeds all over the world, including Ireland. In each walled garden there was a Head gardener and assistants, who served their ‘time’ as apprentices and gradually mastered the secrets of good gardening.

The popular vegetables cultivated included potatoes; cabbage; carrots, parsnips; white turnip; asparagus; artichokes; onions. The high walls were used to provide reflected heat, less so light, for fruit trees. The north wall, which got little sunshine was the domain of gooseberries, red and black currants and cherries. Around the eastern wall were planted apples and pears. The western wall was reserved for figs and plums, while the warmer southern wall was reserved for tomatoes, peaches, apricots, plums, and nectarines. Popular varieties of apple grown at the time included Beauty of Bath; Gladstone; Lady Sudeley (all early varieties), while the later varieties included Cox Orange Pippin and Charles Ross.

        Though the primary purpose of walled gardens was the production of fruit and vegetables, the excess of which was sold, flowers were also grown, including varieties that required, at least for some time, the heat and shelter of the glass house.

        The remains of the walled garden are still a little marvel to behold. Of special interest are the 10 feet high brick walls, several hundred yards of which are still in perfect condition. Moreover, the wall still has the flat slate covering, originally used to prevent ingress of water into the wall and still performing that service efficiently after 160 years.



John M. Feheney