From the 1948 edition of Carloviana
Journal of the old Carlow Society”
The Deserted Village
As we stand this evening beside the ruins of the "
Turrets," once a lofty mansion, let us try to thrust our imaginations
back three hundred years, and let us try to visualise the scene as it
then was. At that time Staplestown was a thriving hamlet, but the
passing years and conformations to social changes have taken their toll,
and now, Staplestown, as compared with those days, is a perfect analogy
of Goldsmith's " Deserted Village."
The village Inn where once the
signpost caught the passing eye" is no more. The "Busy Mill," the
"Village Parson," the "Schoolmaster" and the "Smith with
have passed away, and " the decent Church that topped the neighbouring
hill" has been replaced by another on a different site, while the plough
passes over the site where once "the village preacher's modest mansion
The Name - Staplestown
The origin of the name Staplestown seems to be vague.
The Irish version of the name as used at present is only a corruption of
the anglicised form. Edward O'Toole in his " Place Names of Co. Carlow,"
states that the name signifies "Town of the Market," and this
explanation was written down by John O'Donovan, LL.D.
St. Mary's Church,
- Staplestown Co. Kildare.
- 1936 - Charity Sermon in aid of Church Restoration
- Leinster Leader 30/05/1936
- Staplestown Church Restoration
- Impressive Sermon by Father Foynes
The Roman Catholic Church at Staplestown, was en fete last Sunday.
Not for many years have its venerable walls sheltered so large, so
representative, and so interested a congregation. It numbered not only
the people of Staplestown, but many from the neighbouring parishes, and
even from Dublin. The occasion was a charity sermon in aid of the funds
necessary to finish the work of restoration, which has been in hand for
over a year. High Mass was celebrated at 11 o’clock. Celebrant, Rev.
Thomas Murphy, C.C., Clane, Co. Kildare; Deacon. Very Rev. F. Cuffe, S .J., Clongowes
Wood College, Co. Kildare. Sub-deacon, Very Rev. J. Dennehy, S. J., do ; Master of
Ceremonies, Rev. L. J. Kehoe, P.P., Clane. Co. Kildare.
At the end of the Mass the
Very Rev. James Foynes, Carlow College, ascended the altar. Taking for
his text, "Lord I have loved the Beauty of Thy House, and the Place
where Thy glory dwelleth," his sermon was heard with rapt attention by
the vast congregation. In moving words, he reviewed the persecutions of
the Penal Times, and told his hearers that this venerable church, now
repaired and adorned, would long stand as a witness to the trials and
the triumph of our Catholic Faith. Benediction of the Most Holy
Sacrament was given, after the sermon, by Rev. T. P. Murphy, C.C., Clane.
The choir consisted of the children of Staplestown school, under the
training of Mr. and Mrs. O’Farrell. The rendering of the sung parts of
the High Mass reflects credit on both teachers and pupils. In May 1936
The Leinster Leader reported on a charity sermon held in Staplestown
Church to raise funds for the Church restoration. [Compiled by Mario
Corrigan - typed and edited by Niamh McCabe]
The earliest available account of Staplestown, which
is given in the journal of Thomas Dineley, Esq., who visited Ireland in
the reign of Charles II (1630 - 1685 AD), contains a pen and ink sketch of
the place as it then was. The hamlet seems to have been triangular in
shape, having" The Turrets " as its apex.
Bennekerry House at its left, and the Inn and
carpenter's shop at its right extremities respectively, while Castle
Hill, now called Pigeon Hill, formed its base. Staplestown originally
belonged to Sir John Temple, who resided in the "Turrets," and who was
Master of the Rolls in Ireland. It was purchased by John Teuch, Esq.,
once of Lincoln's Inn, London in the County of Middlesex, and was set by
him to Captain Edward Brabazon, one of his Majesties most Honourable
Privy Council in the Kingdom of Ireland, and a brother of the Earl of
Sir John Temple
Sir John Temple was the author of" The Irish Rebellion
" or "A History of the attempts of the Irish Papists to extirpate the
Protestants of Ireland"; together with the barbarous cruelties and
bloody massacres which ensued thereupon." This book was published in
1646 by direction of the Parliamentary party to which he was warmly
attached. The book, however, contained such gross exaggerations, and
numerous falsehoods, that, in 1675, he denied authorship of it, and said
that the work had been published without his knowledge.
Sir John Temple (1600-1677), was master of
the rolls in Ireland. He was figured as one of the ablest diplomatists
of the age.
John Tench was nominated a free burgess of Carlow in a
charter of King Charles II (1630 - 1685), and he was one of those who were
subsequently included with one Francis Bradstown and several others
connected with the district in the Act of Attainder. This Act, passed in
the Parliament of King James II in 1689 stated that rebellion against a
Sovereign entailed the forfeiture, not only of the rebel's property but
even of his life.
Lists were prepared at the time, firstly of persons
known or asserted to be actual and active adherents of King William;
secondly, of those who had withdrawn from Ireland before 1688, and they
were ordered to return and stand their trials for treason before a
certain number of weeks. If they failed to appear within the times
specified, their estates should be forfeited, and they themselves liable
to suffer the penalties of treason, should they be captured. Tench seems
to have escaped the penalties of this Act for we find him in the reign
of William III, 1646?-1723) , returned, together with Sir Thomas Butler,
"Knight and Baronet' and a member for the County Carlow in the
Parliament which met in Dublin on the 5th October , 1692.
Sir Thomas Butler, "Knight and Baronet'
The Butler Baronetcy, of Cloughgrenan in the County of Carlow, was
created in the Baronetage of Ireland on 16 August 1628 for Thomas
Butler. He notably represented County Carlow in the Irish House of
Commons and served as Sheriff of County Carlow. Butler was the
illegitimate son of the Hon. Sir Edmund Butler, second son of James
Butler, 9th Earl of Ormonde (see the Earl of Ormonde). His grandson, the
third Baronet, also sat as Member of the Irish Parliament and served as
Sheriff of the county.
His eldest son, the fourth Baronet, represented
County Carlow in the Irish Parliament and was admitted to the Irish
Privy Council. He was succeeded by his nephew, the fifth Baronet. He
represented County Carlow in the Irish House of Commons for many years.
His son, the sixth Baronet, sat as Member of the Irish Parliament for
County Carlow and Portarlington. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the
He represented County Carlow in the Irish Parliament
and also briefly (see County
Carlow (UK Parliament constituency) in the British House of Commons
from 1801 to 1802. His great-grandson, the tenth Baronet, was High
Sheriff and Vice Lord-Lieutenant for County Carlow. His son, the
eleventh Baronet, served as High Sheriff of County Carlow in 1905 and
was also a Deputy Lieutenant of the county. His son, the twelfth
Baronet, was a Colonel in the Grenadier Guards. As of 2007 the title is
held by the latter's son, the thirteenth Baronet, who succeeded in 1994.
The entrance to the "Turrets" can still be seen,
beside the present Protestant Church. This was the residence of Sir
William Temple (1628-1699), son of Sir John Temple (1600-1677). Sir
William married "a most amiable and intelligent" woman, Dorothy Osborne,
and during the first ~ years of his married life he resided at
Staplestown .The date of his marriage is uncertain, as the marriage was
probably performed before a Justice of the Peace, but it may be presumed
to have occurred at the end of 1654. Shortly afterwards he came to
reside at Staplestown.
Here, according to the "Memoirs of Sir William
Temple," Temple and his wife passed five years with great satisfaction,
almost wholly in the Conversation of his family and friends, where there
was always a perfect agreement, kindness and confidence, all which Mr.
Temple participated, and became one of the family." Temple took part in
all country affairs. He was of a very studious disposition and traced to
the five years he spent in Ireland, much of what he knew of philosophy.
His domestic joys were clouded by the loss of five children
successively. An interesting fact that it was here in Staplestown that
Sir William first cu1tivated that taste for horticulture with which his
writings are permeated. He represented the County of Carlow in the first
Parliament held after the Restoration. He left Ireland in 1663.
The famous Jonathan 'Isaac Bickerstaff'
Swift born in Dublin, Ireland on 30 November 1667, second child and only
son of Jonathan Swift1 and Abigaile Erick Swift, was closely associated with
Sir William Temple, and from him Swift no doubt heard a great deal about
Carlow and Staplestown. His famous couplet about the town of Carlow,
still survives to illustrate his local knowledge and ironic wit. " Low
Church, high steeple, Poor town, proud people." A few maimed and broken
arches are all that remains of the Turrets, but the yew trees in the
vicinity are some of the largest in Ireland, and must be of great age,
and possibly date from Sir William Temple's horticultural experiments.
Jonathan died on 19 October 1745, aged 78. He
hadn't been in a good frame of mind for some time. He managed to keep
some of his sense of humor, though--his last will and testament provided
funds to establish somewhere around Dublin a hospital for "ideots &
lunaticks" because "No Nation wanted [needed] it so much."
- A Map showing the location of of Staplestown
House & Lodge in the County of Carlow. By W. Allen, 1798.
The Turrets were replaced by Staplestown Lodge,
occupied by Mrs. Ireland up to a recent date, and now owned by Mr.
O'Neill. The house is of Elizabethan style and built of granite, which
is plentiful in the district. The house has probably been reconstructed
and renovated since that time. It was originally occupied by a Mr. Henry
Watters, J.P., also of Lincoln’s Inn. He is probably the Mr.
Watters who once owned the mill close by.
A tunnel said to connect with Carlow Castle and
Clogrennane is supposed to start in a nearby field, but the authenticity
of this is doubtful: A local resident informed me, a Mr. John Querney who died in 1903 informed him that in his
young days, there was an iron door at the entrance to this tunnel, and
that the young boys of that time got" blackening" on shelves inside the
In Church Lane, not far from this tunnel, there
existed in 1824, and, prior to that date, a school run by Thomas Giffe.
A portion of the wall of that school still remains on the Carlow side of
Mr. Peter Walshe's house. The income of Thomas Giffe was a mere
pittance. He received £5 from incumbent, £5 from Col. Bruen, and from
118 to 314 a quarter from pupils. In 1824 he had 79 pupils, comprising
45 males and 34 females. Of these 12 were of the Established Church and
67 of Roman Catholic Denomination. Giffe was murdered near the school
and he is buried in the churchyard close by.
Residents in 1660
The present church was built in 1821, probably on the
site of the old Church mentioned in Dineley's account. Beside the site
which Staplestown Lodge now occupies was the residence of Mr. James Moar, the Minister. Beside that, and further down were the residences of
Joseph Davis, a gardener, that of a shoe-maker whose name is unknown, R.
Hugh Bradshaw, a mason; Thomas Gould, farrier, and Nicholas Langford, a
carpenter. These houses have now disappeared, and we can only roughly
decide their location. They seemed to have run in a straight line from
"The Turrets" to the Inn.
The Inn formed the left extremity of our triangular
Staplestown. According to local view it occupied the site of the present
pump, and this location seems to tally with the pen and ink sketch of
Dineley's Journal. The inn seems to have been built beside the river
Burren. The course of the Burren seems to have been diverted at this
particular spot, and the road at that time was also in a different
position to the present road. It ran across from the Inn, by the ruin of
the old church beyond Castle Hill.
This old church seems very old and beside it is an old
slab, which probably marks the site of an old graveyard. In ploughing up
the field near the church some time ago many human remains were
unearthed and were re-interred in the graveyard. There seems to be no
mention of this church in any available records of the place. At the
time of Dineley's visit the Inn was known as " The Crown," and the
inn-keeper was one, Thomas Harris. There was a signpost beside the inn
bearing the inscription, " Best Beer Sold Here," and a local resident
informed me that a blacksmith named Edward Brennan, who died here in
1915 and was born in 1828, remembered the Inn and signpost.
We can visualise the bustle and excitement of those
days in Staplestown, when the daily arrival of the coach was probably
the only diversion of the people. How many famous persons called here,
and quenched their thirst at the Inn we do not know, but it seems
natural enough to assume that they were many; and we can imagine the
children and housewives leaning over the half-doors to catch a last
glimpse of the coach as it rattled away in a cloud of dust on its
journey to Kilkenny. In all probability those coaching days provided a
livelihood for the blacksmith, farrier and the carpenter , and filled
the coffers of Thomas Harris at the "Crown."
We have now arrived at the right extremity of our
triangle, and travelling along the base we had the Burren on our left
and Pigeon Hill or Castle Hill as it was then known, on our right. This
hill, from whose summit one can obtain a view of outstanding loveliness
at that time, dominated the village. There was a tall castle on its
summit, but now, no vestige of that castle remains. There are no records
of it available, and the manner of its destruction is the secret of its
deceased occupants. The hill and much of the area surrounding it was
planted by Philip Bagenal who died in Staplestown in 1856, and who is
buried in the local graveyard. This plantation, according to a local
resident, was known as "Bagenal's Frolic," and in a note to Dineley's
account, Evelyn Philip Shirley states that in 1864 the hill was 'well
laid out with walks”.
Some square cement blocks about six feet in length
are still to be seen on top of the hill, and near it are supposed to be
the remains of a water tank which was erected on top of the hill, and
used to pump water to Bennekerry House. The water was pumped by
wind-power. There was a mill close by which pumped the water from the
river to the tank and thence to the house. This apparatus was dismantled
in 1920 according to local tradition.
Leaving Bennekerry House in the old days, and crossing
the river Burren by a wooden bridge, we would reach the mill. In
Dineley's day this mill was owned by one D. Robert Lackey. This mill was
dismantled under Mr. Ottley's report to the Drainage Commissioners in
1847 and no vestige of it now remains. In all probability it was situate
on the site of Mr. Lawlor's yard of the present day, and the mill stream
seems to have run along past Mr. Lawlor's tennis court. Its course can
still be traced fairly easily. Beside the mill was the residence of its
owner. On the left side of our triangle, and slightly above that, was a
residence known as " The Barnes."
Staplestown House at present occupied by Mr. Lawlor
did not exist in Dineley's day. This house was built by Mr. Fishbourne
and later inhabited by Malcomson and then by John Whelan, Esq., whence
it came into the possession of its present owner, Mr. Lawlor.
A Tour of Ireland
There was published in Dublin in 1746 an interesting
account of a tour in Ireland. The author's name is not given, but he was
taken around Carlow by a Mr. Harmon, and seems to have been hospitably
received. He writes; 'We are now at Mt. Harmon, a pleasant seat within
two miles of Carlow, and have been to view a place caned Staplestown
belonging to Bagenal, Esq., who is improving a sweet situation where
nature has worked already to assist it. The house is built on an
eminence, which, with a gentle declining leads you down to a pretty
river called the Burren, which is crossed by a bridge of seven arches.
They have a garden - when the last hand has finished all that is
intended - might serve an Italian Prince, who need not be ashamed of his
residence. Though the place is called Staplestown, there are only a few
houses on it. The proprietor intends to multiply the dwellings, that it
may with better face, bear the name of a town. We crossed the
fore-mentioned bridge with a hill on our left, where we stood to feast
our eyes with the gentle winding stream of Burren, which washes the base
of a beautiful hill, and passes on our right a seat called Bennekerry,
built by Vigors, Bishop of Leighlin and Ferns: but the death of that
Prelate was the prelude to its ruin, as our generous nomenclator Mr.
Harmon informs us."
NOTE.-It is doubtful that
Bishop Vigors built the house. If he had done so it is almost certain
that there would have been an entry to that effect in the Books of the
Registrar of the Diocese. There is not, and there is no other intimation
beyond the above which proves the authenticity of the assumption.
From the journal of Thomas Dinley Esq.
An Account of His Visit to Ireland in the Reign of Charles II 1680
“The Castle Hill”, whence this prospect was taken of
(Click to enlarge)
"The Castle Hill," now called "The Pigeon Hill"
was well laid out with walks, and planted, some years ago, by the late
Philip Bagenal, Esq., of Bennekerry. Staplestown at the present day is a
"deserted village" compared with the thriving hamlet which Mr. Dinley's
singular sketch represents it to have been, "The Busy Hill" so
conspicuously shown in his vignette, is silent - the mill-power having
been "done away with" uniler lilr, Ottiey's report to the Drainage
Commissioners in 1847, and the last erection of its sort upon this spot,
dismantled. A maimed and broken arch is all that reremains of the
"turrets" the once fair mansion of Sir William Temple, and his successor
in the estate, "John Tench, Esq once of Lincoln's Inn in the county of
Middlesex, and one of his Majesties Justice of Peace for the county of
How vividly a glance from Mr. Dinley's quaint little picture to
the present aspect of the place reminds me of Goldsmith's beautiful
poem! "Worthy Mr. James Moor, ye minister," is long since
forgotten, and the plough passes over the site of his dwelling house;
nothing remains to tell where once - "The village preacher's modest
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