Aughrim Park Castle Lambert

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“The Castle Lambert Estate”

Aughrim Park, including Moor, occupied the fertile eastern portion of the Barony of Clare. The Barony was almost identical in extent to the ancient district of ‘Muintir Murchada’ and ‘Magh Seola’. The placename ‘Aughrim’ derives from the original name in the Irish language variously rendered as `Each Dhroim` (horse backed ridge) or ‘Ach Dhruim’ (good hilltop land from ‘acha’ as in ‘Achreidh na Gaillimhe’/ the fertile plain of east Galway). Following the Anglo-Norman settlement of south and west Connacht led by Richard de Burgh, Aughrim fell within the invaders’ sphere of influence. ‘The Irish Barons came into Connacht and began the building of castles therein’.

An inventory of castles of the period does not include one at Aughrim but a more modest structure such as a moated farmstead may have been built there. An enclosure having the appearance of an early Norman moated site lies two miles to the east at Carnaun. The geographical spread of castles and hall houses built by de Burgh and his vassals in Galway between 1237 and 1250 shows a strategic intent. Castles at Súicín and Aughrim (Ballinasloe) controlled the eastern route. Ardrahan and Kiltartan guarded the pass from the south. Meelick, Galway, Castlekirke, Cargin and Annaghkeen controlled river or lake crossings. The castles of Dunmore, Moylough, Athenry and Tiaquin formed a buffer between de Burgh and his enemies the O’Connors in the King’s Cantreds and the O’Kellys of Hymany. The rich land of Aughrim was undoubtedly settled but may not have been deemed strategically important enough to merit a stone castle during the early period of Norman settlement 1.

An inventory of castles, compiled between 1574 and 1585 for the use of the Lord Deputy Sir Henry Sidney and his successors, included a castle at ‘Achrym’ owned by Edmund Owhny (0’Heyne). This list named 34 de Burgh castles in the Barony of Clare, which at the time was under the joint chieftainship of John Burke Fitz Thomas MacHugh and Mac Creamon. All the castle owners on the list bore Anglo-Norman names (McMeyler, Burke, Fitzambrose etc.) except for two: MacSwyne and O’Owhny of Aughrim. The castle in nearby Carnaun was listed under the ownership of John Oge Fitz John Fitz Ed. Grange, another adjacent castle, was owned by Walter Boy (Buí, probably Burke) 2.

O’Heyne of Aughrim was a loyal follower of Clanrickard (ruler of the southern portion of the de Burgh territory i.e. that of MacWilliam Oughter) and may have suffered at the hands of Sidney or his successor as a result. Sidney said of him: ‘O’Heyne in the sute of Clanricard once mighty now meane’.

Richard, Earl of Clanrickard, though loyal to the queen, was sent by Fitton, the President of Connacht, to London to be examined and detained by the Privy Council. This sparked a rebellion by his sons Ulick and John which broke out in 1572 and simmered for ten years. The attack on Athenry by the two ‘Mac an Iarlas’ in June 1576 brought the conflict within three miles of O’Heyne of Castle Lambert and he may have found himself involved in it. There was general hostility among the Gaelic and Norman chiefs to the introduction of English law in Connacht because it aimed to deprive them of their traditional sources of revenue. Thus it was common to find chiefs such as Clanrickard remaining loyal to the sovereign but opposed to her representatives when they shired the province and imposed a new order upon it. O’Heyne, though loyal to Clanrickard and the Queen may have fallen foul of the Lord Deputy on this basis.

Colonel J. P. Nolan, historian, writing in the G. A. & H. Journal, 1900, said of Edmond Owhny (O’Heyne): ‘O’Heyne was of fair importance in Galway as late as 1585… the Lord Deputy did not appreciate Irish country gentlemen with castles.’ (Sir John Perrot was appointed Lord Deputy in 1584.)  The tone of Sidney’s remarks regarding O’Heyne of Aughrim suggests his possible dispossession. During the period following 1586 the name of Henry Ormsby became associated with Aughrim. He is said to have come to Ireland in the Queen’s service on the invitation of Sir Nicholas Malby, President of Connaught. Ormsby married Elizabeth Newman, the widow of Thomas Crompton, and thereby obtained an interest in a lease of Knockmoy Abbey. He is said to have settled in Aughrim and was killed in a sandpit there in 1601 at the hands of the Mayo Burkes and others. His death ‘in her Majesty’s service’ is recorded in the Acts of the Privy Council 3. The end of the century saw the expansion into the countryside of wealthy Galway City merchants as new landlords replacing the declining Anglo-Norman families.

The Book of Survey and Distribution records a transaction relating to the lands at Aughrim owned by two such ‘tribesmen’, Sir Richard Blake and Sir Robuck Lynch. They are named as proprietors, in 1641, of 2,599 acres of profitable and unprofitable land at Aughrim. The entry records the granting of the profitable portion of these lands (1,070 acres) to Sir Thomas Newcomen and Peter Blake. By certificate and patent, act of Settlement 1662-16844. Thus a portion of the lands of Aughrim became part of the estate of the Blake family of Corbally (Castle Daly). In time the Blakes of Corbally themselves fell victim to the repeating cycle of  prosperity and ruin which, over the years, had contrived to replace old landlords with new. In 1742 Martin Blake of Aughrim and Corbally found himself in debt to Walter Lambert of Creg Clare. By virtue of this indebtedness John Lambert acquired in 1756 (from Patrick Blake) ‘the Castle Park of Aughrim and Moor Aughrim’ probably on behalf of the Creg Clare estate5. It was to become the property of his brother Thomas Lambert. In 1785 the Brownes of Cahermacrinode sold what was to become the basis of the Castle Ellen estate to Peter Lambert, another son of Walter Lambert of Cregclare. Peter Lambert having been a successful merchant in Dublin was in a position to add lands bought from the Brownes of Coolarne to the new estate of Castle Ellen6. It would appear that the Castle Ellen Lamberts lived first in the Tower House which still stands close to the mansion, then moved to St Ellen’s in an adjacent townland of that name (the house is recorded on an O.S. Map of 1838). They finally settled in Castle Ellen House, the gateway and yard of which was completed in 1875 by Walter Peter Lambert, by then a proprietor of 3,829 acres.

At Aughrim the stone castle/tower house and bawn were probably demolished by the new owner Thomas Lambert and his son Walter to make way for a family mansion. It is also possible that the keep was incorporated into the newly built mansion `Castle Lambert` as happened in the case of Monivea and Castle Taylor.  It is likely that the building of the mansion of Castle Lambert with its extensive yards and out-houses was begun by Thomas after 1756 and was continued during the lifetime of his son Walter Lambert (Fig.1). Local lore relates that the Lamberts used stone taken from a disused church, which reputedly stood close to the boundary between the townlands of Caherbriscaun and Knocknacreeva, in the building of their mansion. A corbel set over an archway in the stables and bearing the sacred anagram IHS is significant in this regard.

Walter Lambert married Elizabeth Persse daughter, of Burton Persse (Moyode), in 1791 and died in 1824.

The letters of Henry Stratford Persse (nephew of Mrs Lambert) written between 1821 and 1832 contain many references to Castle Lambert and show the estate to have been a well established seat by that time. Persse portrays Walter and Elizabeth Lambert as having been hospitable hosts yet frugal in their daily lives. He reminded his sons in America (the recipients of his letters) that he ‘saw on the young Lamberts coats made of the cloth their mother manufactured’ and that Mrs Elizabeth Lambert (nee Persse of Moyode) of Castle Lambert made shoes for her whole family. The Persse letters give us a glimpse of a pre-famine estate which, though not in the hands of a profligate, had by the 1830s become heavily encumbered. Persse for example recorded in his  letters that Mr. Lambert ‘could not raise the five pounds necessary to send his son Robert to join his brothers in America … do you wonder that Mr. Lambert, although having a vast estate in this country should be without five pounds to send out his son to you?’

Persse, employed as he was as a customs officer, saw at first hand the operation of the prevailing taxation system and lay the blame for the country’s ills at the door of those who conceived the penal taxation code. He wrote (of Mr. Lambert): ‘If he or his tenants want tobacco they must give a good ewe to pay the duty on one pound of tobacco, or fifty two stone of potatoes or ten stone of oats or ten horseloads of turf. If he wants ropes for his farm use he must give two hundred weight of wheat for the tax upon a hundred weight of hemp, one hundred weight of wheat for a licence to shoot upon his own land…’ 8. The burden of taxation and tithes caused real hardship even to landed gentry in the period prior to the famine and wrought hardship in the extreme on the tenants, labourers and herds who had a tenuous existence within the system at the best of times.

The news of the death of Walter Lambert (1824) was communicated by Persse to his sons with a sense of great loss: ‘You will learn with regret the death of our friend Mr. Lambert. Castle Lambert was always open to our family’.9 He held out no hope for the continuance of an hospitable regime at Castle Lambert on the accession of the new owner Walter Lambert: ‘Watt will let no one stop at Castle Lambert that he does not specially invite…. Robert (Watt’s younger brother) got the turn out there and must now seek shelter from his brother Burton who is in Kerry’.10 The new incumbent, Walter (1795-1867), married Ann, the eldest daughter of Colonel Giles Eyre of Eyre Court. This marriage, in 1817, united two of the leading landed families in Galway. Walter Lambert achieved some notoriety gaining for himself the positions of DL, JP, and High Sheriff.  Such notoriety and a good marriage alliance did not however prevent the entire estate of Castle Lambert and Streamstown being offered for sale in 1855 by the Commissioners for the sale of Encumbered Estates in Ireland. By this time the estate had passed into the ownership of Walter’s eldest son Thomas Eyre (b. 1820) with an interest also recorded for one Charles K. Magrath. Magrath’s interest may have been in relation to the Streamstown farm. Giles Eyre Lambert, Walter’s second son, is recorded as having a lease of the Moor Park portion of the farm, making him a tenant of his brother Thomas at the time of the proposed sale.

The Bill of Sale divided the estate as follows; Cashla/Ballinloughaun (part of)/Peakroe (c. 325 acres), Lisheenkyle E./Lisheenkyle W./ Ballinloughaun (part of), (971 acres), Moor (part of), (613 acres), Cashla (part of)/Moor (part of)/Barrett’s Park (492 acres), Ballybackagh (318 acres), Caherbriscaun (374 acres), Tobernavean / Deerpark (485 acres), Carraunduff /Knocknacreeva/ Pollagooil (519 acres) and Castle Lambert (588 acres). The estate in all measured c. 4,600 statute acres. Included in the sale was the family mansion described as follows; ‘a large and handsome edifice with extensive ranges of well appointed offices in perfect repair’ (figure3).

A study of the economy of the estate shows an income deriving from two main sources; rental income from tenants holding farms on a year to year basis and income accruing from the produce of the Castle Lambert home farm of 588 acres. An interesting concession to diversity was the opening of a coal pit at Pollagooil (reputedly under a German manager), an enterprise which didn’t prosper. The profile of land occupancy among the tenants shows a wide discrepancy in terms of farm size. Giles Eyre Lambert was by far the largest tenant leasing 1,583 acres at Moor Park, Lisheenkyle and Ballinloughaun. Except for the home farm the remaining land was rented to a total of 28 tenants who held farms ranging in size from 4 acres to 421 acres. The shareout can be broken down as follows; eight tenants held farms of less than 10 acres; four tenants held farms of between 10 acres and 30 acres; five tenants held farms between 30 and 100 acres; and nine tenants held farms in access of 100 acres. The total yearly income of the estate was estimated at £1,043-18-03 for the purpose of the sale.

As it happened the sale of the estate turned out to be an internal family arrangement. The title and burdens of Castle Lambert passed to the father-in-law (or possibly brother-in-law) of Thomas Lambert namely William Blakney Persse Trousdell of Fort House, Kilrush, Co. Clare. (Thomas Eyre Lambert had married, in 1850, Sarah, third daughter of Trousdell of Kilrush). Trousdell brought a greater portion of the estate into use for the purpose of farming and thus reduced the proportion of land let to tenants following a prevailing general trend. It would appear that Thomas Lambert remained in residence during a considerable period after the 1855 sale as is borne out in the background details disclosed during the trial of Peter Barrett, whose attempt in 1869 to assassinate Capt. Lambert has been documented far and wide. It suffices to say that the evidence given by servants, Capt. Lambert himself and others testifies to Captain Lambert being in permanent residence and carrying on the normal lifestyle of a landed country gentleman. Such evidence told of Barrett calling to the hall door on a number of occasions seeking Captain Lambert, of Captain Lambert having walked his brother Giles part of the way home to Moor Park and of the ladies having picked fruit in the orchard earlier in the day and so on.

The records of the Galway Hunt (the Blazers) show the pack having been kept at Castle Lambert between 1888 and 1890 while the Master of the day, Burton de Burgh Persse, resided there. The huge farming enterprise undertaken by Trousdell would necessitate his residing there also for at least part of the year. The death of Alexander James Trousdell of Castle Lambert (infant) is recorded for the year 1877 on a headstone in the Church of Ireland section of St. Mary’s, Athenry. (See ‘Buried in Athenry’/Plot no. 9, in this book.)

The stewardship of Trousdell did not stop the estate’s slide to bankruptcy. On the petition of The Scottish Widows’ Fund and Life Assurance Society the estate was offered for sale by public auction on Friday June 17th 1892. The Bill of Sale of 1892 showed that much had changed on the estate since the publication of the previous one, 37 years earlier. The amount of land retained by the owner had increased to 2,835 acres. Giles Eyre Lambert remained the largest tenant leasing 611 acres. The remainder (1,239 acres) was rented by a total of 31 tenants holding farms, which ranged in size from 1.5 acres to 241 acres with the average size being 15 acres. The annual yearly rental income was estimated at £968-3-5 for the purpose of the 1892 sale.

The outcome of the 1892 sale was the breaking up of the estate among a number of parties with the core properties i.e. Castle Lambert (614 acres) and Moor Park (611 acres) and sundry other lots being taken over by Frank Shawe Taylor of Castle Taylor. Many smaller lots were disposed of also, some to sitting tenants and some to outside parties. Lands in Knocknacreeva, Lisheenkyle and Pollagooil were taken over by Thomas O’Donnell who in turn sold separate lots to Tommy Kelly (Knocknacreeva), Seán (Beg) Kelly (Caraunduff), the Caulfield family (Pollagooil) and Patrick Costello, Martin Willie Higgins and the Grealish family (Lisheenkyle), for example. The relatively large farm leased by John Kidd in Cashla (241 acres) was bought by the family of Pat and William Higgins. Henry Walsh bought other lands at Tobernavean (212 acres). It was also prior to the coming of Frank Shawe Taylor that a Mr. Adamson farmed for some time within the estate. Local lore tells of his progressive farming methods, which included ploughing and baling hay by steam power. It is also said that he sent milk on a daily basis by train to Dublin. It is also said, however, that his efforts were a financial failure and did not last for much longer that a year or so. Strictly speaking Frank Shawe Taylor derived from the Shawes but this surname became subsumed into that of the landed Taylor family. The Taylors were granted the lands of Hy Fiachra McGrath following the 1649-1652 Cromwellian campaign and renamed the location Castle Taylor. The name ‘Shawe’ was introduced in 1825 when Albinia Hester Taylor, daughter and heiress of Sir John Taylor, married Francis Manly Shawe. It was by pre-nuptial agreement that Shawe agreed to forsake his surname in favour of ‘Taylor’.

The books of rateable valuation for the period 1915-1917 confirm Shawe Taylor’s occupation of Castle Lambert and Moorpark with the ‘immediate lessor’ named as Wm. B. P. Trousdell. By the same token Henry Walsh is named as occupying 212 acres at Tobernavean with the ‘immediate lessor’ named as the representatives of Peter F. Lambert. It is also possible that Shawe Taylor’s entire holding was purchased in time by Martin Walsh, a brother of Henry Walsh and an owner of two public houses in Eyre Square, Galway. An Irish Land Commission rent demand, dated 1927, named Martin Walsh as owner of what were formerly Shawe Taylor’s lands at Moor (See -’The Castle Lambert Tape 2. The Land’). Taylor assumed the Castle Lambert/Moor Park property at a time when the estate was loosing its outdated Manorial nature and when tenants were demanding real ownership of the land, which they and their predecessors had rented on a year to year basis. This agrarian agitation together with the spread of the Home Rule Movement and the later Republican Movement in the locality generally (Athenry had been one of the few places outside Dublin to have answered Pearse’s call to arms in 1916) made for a very volatile situation in Castle Lambert during the early decades of the century. Added to that was a bitter local dispute which arose between Shawe Taylor and local residents concerning their use of the grand entrance as access to the Cashla/Athenry road especially when going to weekly Mass. Shawe Taylor offered them the option of constructing a new roadway close to a traditional mass path which joined the Athenry road in Pollnagrough. A start was made on this project but it proved impractical and was abandoned.

The eviction by Shawe Taylor of his herd Tommy Kelly from the herd’s cottage in Castle Lambert exacerbated the situation further. Tommy Kelly had refused to carry out his herding duties in sympathy with the local tenants. There is no doubt that the land question and specifically the division of the estate among the tenants was an important issue also. It is reported that Shawe Taylor received a number of deputations from the tenants on this issue. His assassination in March 1920 while going by car to the fair of Galway pre-empted a peaceful resolution of the question, which may be presumed to have been the purpose of the tenant delegations. There followed from Shawe Taylor’s death a period of reprisal on the part of the security forces which caused many local people to ‘go on the run’ and which culminated in the shooting dead of Tom Egan of Cashla in his own kitchen. Thus two families became tragic victims of the prevailing volatile situation. The death of Shawe Taylor and the departure of his wife and family from Moorpark was followed by a period wherein the lands were divided on an ad hoc basis.

It appears that a local committee undertook the purchase of the estate and its division among the tenants and estate employees in the period immediately following 1920. Bank repayments proved to be a severe burden and when the Irish Land Commission assumed responsibility for the division of the lands in 1928 it was a welcome development. A typical case in point was that of Paddy Kelly of Ivy House. He was granted 56 acres in 1924, as his division and bank repayments amounted to £48 per annum. Following the Irish Land Commission taking over the estate and re-leasing it, the repayments were reduced to £24 per annum, a considerable saving at that time.

In all 50 farming families were set up within the boundaries of the Castle Lambert estate and for the remaining years of this century have diligently carried on, with considerable success, what they know and love most, farming.

Acknowledgements: The writer would like to acknowledge the help and information given by the following people: My father, Pat Kelly, My neighbour, Mick Kelly. Tommy Kelly, Ivy House. Martin Higgins, Castle Lambert. Eileen Holian (nee Higgins), Athenry. Mattie (William) and Bridie Higgins. Staff of Galway Co. Libraries, Cathedral Square and NUI Galway. Above all Finbarr O’Regan who was a bottomless well of information.

Main Photo: Martin Kelly, Author

1) Annals of Connacht, for AD 1237, Four Masters, Inishfallen, Ulster.
2) Carew Mss. Vol. 611 fos. 239-246, Lambeth Palace Library.    (Jrl. G. A. & H. Soc. Vol. 1)
3) The Ormsby Letters. Jrl. G. A. & H. Soc. Vol. 4, nos. 3 & 4.
4) The Galway Book of Survey and Distribution, 1663-1703.
5) Registry of Deeds, Bk. 107, p. 516.
6) Melvin, Patrick, `The Composition of the Galway Gentry` (The Irish Genealogist pps. 81-98, 1986) 7) ‘To the Land of the Free from this Island of Slaves’, Narratives. Henry Stratford Persse’s letters from Galway to America, 1821-1832.Edited by James L. Pethica and James C. Roy. Cork University Press, 1998.
8) Ibid.
9) Ibid.
10) Pethica and Roy.

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About this record

Written by Martin T Kelly

Published here 08 Feb 2021

Page 168 of the The Lamberts of Athenry Book archive.

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