About our Irish Line and Family Seats

Our Irish line began when Cuthbert (son of Ralph and Jane Fetherstonhaugh of Stanhope Hall) fled Northumbria to Ireland in 1651 after the Battle of Worcester. The Battle of Worcester was the last major battle of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, where Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentarian army defeated Charles II of England’s mostly Scottish Royalist force. Although Cuthbert survived, many other royalists were not so lucky. During the battle about 3,000 men were killed and a further 10,000 were taken prisoner. Prisoners were then either conscripted or deported to work as indentured labour in New England, Bermuda and the West Indies. Another 1,200 Scottish prisoners were taken to London where many died from disease and starvation in makeshift prison camps. Cuthbert’s cousin, Sir Timothy Fetherstonhaugh, was beheaded along with many other prominent royalist sympathisers, whose deaths are recorded in Winstanley’s Loyall Martyrology, 1665.

British Plantations in Ireland 2009 CC BYSA 4.0

Cuthbert arrived in Ireland after King James’s Plantations and the subsequent Irish Rebellion. The Plantationwas English King James’s attempt to unite Scotland, England and Ireland under his rule by seizing 500,000 acres of Ulster in 1609. At this time protestants (known as Planters) moved from Scotland and England to Ulster. This migration was further enabled by the Flight of the Earls’, which occurred in 1607 after the Nine Years War between English colonisers and an Irish Catholic alliance (1594 – 1603). 

Approximately 100 families left Ulster for Europe in the ‘Flight of the Earls’. King James declared their departure treasonous, allowing him to confiscate their lands and titles, and marking the end of the old Gaelic order. In the years that followed additional land was confiscated all over Ireland until in 1641 the Irish Rebellion took place. Many protestant settlers were killed at this time (est. at 4,000 to 12,000), resulting in severe retribution in the form of the Cromwellian War (1649-1653). By 1659 30% of the population in Ulster were English, and up to a third of the Irish had been killed or died in the associated famine and bubonic plague. Following this period there was a further confiscation of lands that were then awarded to Cromwell’s protestant soldiers. As a royalist who fought for the English king against Cromwell, Cuthbert would not have been a recipient of these land grants and it has been confirmed by Lewis (1837) that the family either purchased, inherited or otherwise obtained their land1,2

Counties of Ireland 2017 CC BY-SA 3.

Cuthbert initially made his home in Philipstown (now Daingean), in County Offaly in 1651 and then in Navan in County Meath, whilst also purchasing lands in Counties Westmeath and Longford3. As subsequent generations followed, and the Fetherstonhaugh family grew, so did their influence and the number of family seats they occupied. Cuthbert’s grandsons fathered the many family lines that were to follow (including many more Cuthberts!). His grandson, and our family line, was Cuthbert, born in 1675. He was ancestor to the Dardistown, Mosstown, Derryhivney, Bracklyn, Grangemore, Rockview, Griffinstown, Newtown, Ballintubber and Grouse Lodge lines. His brother Thomas, born 1677, was ancestor to the Ardargh line of Co. Longford and the Carrick line of Westmeath; and another brother Francis, born 1769, was ancestor to the Whiterock line4,5.

Below shows the family branches and their associated seats. Branches are not complete, only the male line demonstrating the main family seats is shown. Our branch is shown in red and all family seats are in bold.

By 1837 a list of subscribers (below) to large copies of Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland2 gives an indication of some of the Fetherstonhaugh families’ seats that existed at that time.

and the Ireland Gen Web Project6 describes land that was owned by the late 1870s:

Mosstown near Moate was noted by the 1870s to have a subsequent owner and to then be seated in 436 acres. Mosstown had by then passed from the Fetherstonhaughs as it had been sold following Theobald Fetherstonhaugh’s death in 1844.

No description of Cuthbert’s (b1803) home at Dardistown was identified in the Gen Project’s records, although his son Cuthbert jnr notes in his book ‘After Many Days’7 that Dardistown was sold in 1843 under the Encumbered Estates Act when the family moved to Germany. However, the Encumbered Estates Act didn’t come into being until 1849, and Dardistown had been sold by the time the family returned to Ireland in 1848. So, perhaps it was just that Cuthbert was astute enough to understand it was time to leave due to the general economic downturn in agriculture that had begun in the early 40’s and he chose Germany due to the lower cost of living and greater educational opportunities for the children.

Another motivation for leaving Ireland is proposed by D’Araugo8, as being due to ‘concern about the tens of thousands of tenant followers of Dublin’s Lord Mayor Daniel O’Connell and the growing power of the Repeal Movement, which pushed for the Irish to get their own country back as England had dominated it for too long’. This was a movement that Cuthbert, his son (b1837), expressed great sympathy for in his memoir7, calling himself a ‘home ruler’, and he wrote: “Ireland should be given the opportunity of Home Rule, it is due to her and she has a right to demand it.”

In 1870, only 3% of Irish farmers owned their own land while 97% were tenants. However, by 1929, the Land Law Acts of Ireland (1870 – 1909) had enabled over 97% of Irish tenant farmers to then own their farms in freehold. Despite the Land Acts, hardship continued for many and brought with it the Irish revolution (1919 – 1923). At this time the Burning of the Big Houses by the IRA became a symbol of revolution against the plantation and colonialism that had been imposed by English protestants over previous centuries. A three part film series, Memories of the Big Houses, features interviews with many Westmeath people who have family memories of, and connections to, County Westmeath’s Big Houses. The films explore life in and around the Big Houses predominately during the years 1916-1923.

Below are descriptions of our family line’s seats and the ‘big houses’ of Dardistown, and Mosstown, as well as other related family houses including Ardagh, Bracklyn, and Grouse Lodge, among others.

Cuthbert (b1675) settles at Dardistown

Cuthbert (1675 – 1744) was married in St Audoen Dublin to Mary Magan (1690 – 1776), daughter of Richard and Margaret Magan. They settled at Dardistown, situated in Killucan, south of Drogheda, in 1726. There seem to be conflicting stories of how Cuthbert acquired Dardistown. Author Donal O’Brien writes it passed from General Christopher Nugent to Cuthbert, just prior to Nugent’s death in France in 17319. Whereas De Araugo8 tells another story. She describes an Ireland in turmoil throughout the 17th and 18th centuries when the Fetherstonhaughs were settling and establishing themselves there. The suppression of the Irish Catholics and removal of their lands often saw Irish landowners oppressed and struggling to survive as their estates disappeared and they were reduced to poverty. Apparently, land around Westmeath (perhaps that previously belonging to General Nugent) had been granted by Cromwell to a man called Ogle. Some of this land later came to a Robert Plunkett who may have been an absentee English landlord. Cuthbert is then described as acquiring Dardistown and its lands by tricking a land dealer called Connolly, who was renowned for “making a fortune from selling often unseen properties to absentee English landlords.” 8 Cuthbert knew Connelly was due to collect the tenants’ rents, and that the land had been drained in preparation for sowing the potato crop, so he had his own men block the ends of the drains. The area then flooded and Cuthbert ensured he was with Connolly when he attended the property and “bought it in a few minutes for a song” 8.

Stories continue that the Dardistown Fetherstonhaughs then took over most or all of the estates of the Judge Family in payment for gambling debts; estates that the Judge’s bought from former Cromwellian guarantees. Apparently at this time it was not uncommon for land ownership to change hands as a result of winning at cards.

Dardistown House itself was a 2 storey, three bay Georgian House that remained in our family line until Cuthbert and his family travelled to Germany in 1843. Dardistown was then sold and became the property of home rulers, the Metge family9. I have been unable to locate any records recording what became of the house, but D’Araugo shows a 1997 photo in her book where the ruins of the house have been reduced to rubble.

Mosstown and Derryhivney

Mosstown was the home of Cuthbert (born 1742), who was also High Sheriff in 1781. He purchased land three miles from Moate and built Mosstown House c1780. His son Theobald (b1774) and grandson Cuthbert (b1803) grew up there, although Cuthbert as an adult took up residence at Dardistown. Theobald married Mary, daughter and sole heir of Jonathan Harding of Harding Grove, County Galway, c.1797. Over a 30 year period , beginning at the age of 16, Mary bore 29 children (including a set of twins)3. Mosstown was sold on the death of his father Theobald in 18843.

Of his grandmother Cuthbert (born 1837) writes in his memoir7 ‘After Many Days’:

She outlived her husband to whom she was married at sixteen. In her old age she used to go to sleep in her armchair after dinner and one evening in her 75th year she did not awaken again in this world. Seventeen of her children grew up. The men were tall and handsome, all of them good horseman and good shots and I think there were some pretty gay boys among them. Some of my aunts I can remember as beautiful women.”

Samuel Lewis2 in 1837 writes about Mosstown being ‘a handsome residence’ and the principal seat of Killare, a parish of 6950 acres, which was mainly under tillage. Four private schools taught the parish’s 170 children.

Cuthbert (born 1837) describes his memory of Mosstown7:

Also I just remember one night seeing a four-in-hand drag, lamps lighted, leaving Dardistown, having on board a lot of my uncles, all smoking cigars, bound for my grandfather’s place, ‘Mosstown’ not only were there usually forty blood horses in the Mosstown stables, but that often forty people sat down to dinner there.

The house has now been demolished and only the two story outbuildings and the walled garden remained at the time of the NIAH assessment in 2004 (below). They write there is now a new house c1930 “whose fine cut doorcase may have been removed from the original remains” and “this extensive complex (of outbuildings) gives an interesting historical insight into the extensive resources needed to run and maintain a large country estate in Ireland in the nineteenth century.” Local folklore tells that Mosstown like many other country houses, was destroyed during the Irish Revolution of the 1920s and such was the animosity of those that razed it to the ground that the entire remains of the house were buried, rendering the land unusable to this day (although as a new house has been built there, this story may just be a representation of the hostility that was felt at the time).

Images from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH), 2004.

Mary not only gave Theobald 29 children, but as the sole heir of her father’s estate, Theobald aquired Derryhivney (or Derrahiney), which appears to be an alternate name for Harding Grove. At the time of Griffith’s Valuation (1850-58) “Derryhivney was in the possession of Cuthbert Fetherston (presumably this was Theobald’s son Cuthbert, born 1803). He was also listed as one of the principal lessors in the parish of Kilmalinoge, barony of Longford. His lands at Fairy Hill, comprising Gortacloghy, Corr, Fairfield and Gortahaha, in the barony of Longford, county Galway, amounting to over 2000 acres, were offered for sale in the Encumbered Estates court in June 1855.” This may have been the land Cuthbert, his son (b1837), referred to in his memoir as being sold under this Act. In the 1870s William Fetherstonhaugh of Derryhivney owned over 1,800 acres in county Galway. William was the son of Theobald’s younger brother (another William) and Cuthbert (b1803) was his uncle. William married his cousin Anne Fetherstonhaugh who was the oldest daughter of Theobald and sister to Cuthbert. See Burke’s East Galway for more info on this.

Thomas and Ardagh

Whilst Cuthbert (b1675) settled at Dardistown, the NIAH records his brother Thomas (b1677) bought a house and 235 acres of land in Ardagh, Co. Longford, from the Farrell family c1703. Around 1730, Thomas built Ardagh House, originally a three-storey over-basement home. He married a Miss Sherlock and his youngest son born c1731 became High Sheriff of Longford and was granted the rank of Baronet in 1776. By c1900 the house had become an eight bay two story over-basement home with an estate of some 11,000 acres, and Thomas’s descendants are credited with building Ardagh Village as it stands today. Much of the land was eventually divided under the Law Land Acts and sold to the estate’s tenants. The house became famous c1744/45 for its role in one of Oliver Goldsmith’s plays, although its debated as to whether it was either ‘She Stoops to Conquer‘ or ‘Mistakes of a Night‘.

Ardagh House has over time been subject to fires, both during the burning of the great houses in the Irish Civil War of 1922/23 and again in 1948, and has been either added to, or rebuilt, a number of times between the 18th and 20th centuries. The house was sold to the Sisters of Mercy in 1927, who then established St Brigid’s, a convent and domestic science school that remained open until 2008. The house and grounds are now privately owned10.

Ardagh House (2017 CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Bracklyn branch

Bracklyn House, or Bracklyn Castle as it is also referred to, is in the Parish of Killulagh in Delvin, and was built in the late eighteenth century on land acquired by the Fetherstonhaughs from the Pakenham Family of Tullynally Castle, Castlepollard11. The present house occupies the site of a fifteenth century tower house, which is where the name Bracklyn Castle probably originated. When exactly the estate was acquired by the Fetherstonhaughs is not clear, but it appears to have come into Cuthbert of Dardistown’s son Thomas’s possession mid eighteenth century, and the current house was built c1790. In 1743 Thomas married Mary, only child and heiress of Oliver Nugent of Derrymore, and Bracklyn was inherited by their son James2. Their descendants have lived there until it was sold in 197411.

Jean McCarthy was the last Fetherstonhaugh to own and live at Bracklyn. In her memoirs, she describes Bracklyn: “The house itself was a typical Irish Georgian House – facing west into the wind, with large high rooms extremely difficult to keep warm. There was no central heating so storage heaters were put in which gave some warmth as they heated up at night – when the electricity was cheaper and were supposed to keep hot all day – wishful thinking!11

Bracklyn House: Photos taken and reproduced with permission from M Murphy

Besides the house itself, other heritage sites of interest on Bracklyn Estate are the Mausoleum and the Gate Lodge. The Gate Lodge was built in 1821 and is the subject of a number of old tales. One tells of a curse that resulted from the stones used to build the gate lodge having been taken from a nearby church building. To reverse the curse, stone crosses were built into the sides of the gate facing the house (which can be seen today) and a priest was called in to bless the gate.

Bracklyn Estate Gate Lodge: Photo courtesy of Willie Forde Photography, Delvin Westmeath

This 1938 description below of the Gate Lodge is part of the “The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0726, Page 174” by Dúchas © National Folklore Collection, UCD and is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

The Mausoleum is situated in a copse of Yew trees on the Bracklyn Estate, and although there is evidence of much older gravestones near to the mausoleum and tomb, the only family known to be buried there are Howard, his wife Lucy and daughter Constance. The mausoleum was lovingly built to house little Constance’s (4 years old) remains, which were later moved to join her father in his tomb. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage describe that “the construction and detailing of the mausoleum is very similar to that of the gate lodge/folly to the south west, which was also built using heavily rusticated water-weathered limestone. The later Neoclassical style tomb, built using robust granite masonry, has a carved coat-of-arms of the Fetherston-Haugh Family. This tomb and mausoleum are built into a purpose-built mound, on polygonal plan, to the north of Bracklyn house and is thickly planted with yew trees. They represent unusual and romantic additions to the architectural heritage of Westmeath.

Howard Fetherstonhaugh was an infamous Bracklyn landlord during the famine years, from 1853 until his death. He was shot in 1868 on the road home from the Killucan rail station in what has been described as the beginning of the agrarian violence in Westmeath12. It’s told that Howard “had in his possession at the time 60 writs that he had intended to serve on his tenants when they came on the 1st May to pay their rents”8. The Westmeath Guardian wrote: “The deceased gentleman had for some time before he was murdered rendered himself obnoxious to a certain section of his tenantry, because it is stated he on more than one occasion raised their rents” 12; and “The Irish Citizen” reported: “The murder is supposed to have been in revenge for evictions” 12. Evictions where often commonplace amongst some landlords at this time in an attempt to increase the tillage acreage of their estates, but this had taken a terrible toll on the tenants who were already starving and dying as a consequence of the famine. More about Howard can be read here. The murder was even reported in the European Times and also in Australia, as below.

A story was recorded by Celine Bezanno (below) in 1938 from the Dúchas © Schools Collection and tells of the difficult lives lived by the tenants of Bracklyn at this time:

From: “The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0726, Page 264” by Dúchas © National Folklore Collection, UCD is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Another story told by a 77y old transcribed by 13y old Veronica Flynn in 1938 tells of a haunting by Howard ( Volume 0730, Page 071)

Unfortunately, the notoriety of Howard and his demise does take away from some of his better Bracklyn ancestors and descendants who took care of their tenants through employment, food, and education. One of the descendants of those who were in service to the Fetherstonhaughs at Bracklyn for 200 years, talks about one of them: “For instance, not many people will know that it was Fetherstonhaugh who was the first man to put a railway on a bog, which is stated in The Lewis Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, in 1837. He was also progressive in other ways – he built cottages for the workers on the estate. Fetherstonhaugh built a set of houses in the middle of the bog, called The Burrow”.

AJ Fetherstonhaugh (1928)5 (left) also condemned Howard, writing: ‘that not all the blood of all the Howards can make a gentleman’ but to the youthful scions of the old race we would say; bring no disgrace on those who have gone before, ever strive for the truth, and the right, whether on blood stained field or on the rolling deep, in peaceful academic halls or in the fierce battle of life, which we must all fight wherever or in whatever rank of life your lot may be cast, let the burden of your song be ‘Excelsior’. May the motto of your warrior fore-fathers be true of everyone one of you.  ‘Valens et Volens”.

By the 1870s Bracklyn Estate consisted of nearly 5,000 acres. Today it has a working farm of approximately 1000 acres and is now privately owned and beautifully and lovingly maintained.

William and Grouse Lodge

Just a few miles from Mosstown is Grouse Lodge, which was built c1810 by a branch of the Ardagh Fetherstonhaughs and, based on its name, was perhaps originally built as a hunting lodge. However, it was the seat of Cuthbert’s (b1803) younger brother William (left), after his marriage in 1845 to his cousin, Frances. William was Magistrate for Co. Westmeath.

William’s nephew Cuthbert (b1837)7 writes he had studied surveying before he left Ireland, and “to this day a map I made of my uncle’s place, “Grouse Lodge,” is, I believe, hung up there“. Unfortunately the map is now likely lost as the last Fetherstonhaugh occupants of Grouse don’t recall it.

Above left: Then (c1960) and right: Now (2023). A recent drone view can be viewed here

Grouse Lodge was sold by the last Fetherstonhaughs who lived there c1976 and the buildings were later converted by the Dunnings into a famous residential recording studio. Their website has a beautiful virtual tour and photo gallery where the original Lodge is brought to life through the building’s stonework and walled gardens. The studio is famous for having provided a retreat for Michael Jackson for 5 months in 2007, and his stay there can be heard about through an interview with Paddy Dunning.

Related Fetherstonhaugh Houses

A number of the other Fetherstonhaugh houses now either lie in ruin or have been demolished. For instance Whiterock House, which was recorded in 1783 as being the seat of Francis (b1679 ), was noted by AJ Fetherstonhaugh in 1879 as having “passed from name”.

Grangemore, originally the home of Richard (b1719 – 1771), was the site of a more recent house built in 1811/12 (image left c1850s) and later fell into decline, with the house standing empty for long periods until its roof was lost in the late 1950s. It now lies in ruin.

Below: Grangemore: Image by Mike Searle 2022 CC BY-SA 2.0

Ballintubber House was situated close to Grouse Lodge, in Moate and was originally recorded as the home of Cuthbert of Dardistown’s 4th son William (b1724). William’s son Cuthbert (Cuddy) Fetherstonhaugh (b1771) was living there c1810. There is no record of Ballintubber existing today however, cementing the reputation of the Fetherstonhaughs as great horsemen, De Araugo (2000, p.81) writes about this Cuthbert:

‘He was renowned as a mighty foxhunter and known throughout Westmeath as Tearfox Cuddy. On one occasion, having decided to visit London, he set out from Bullintuber on horseback, pistols in his holsters and clothes packed in saddlebags. On landing at Liverpool with his horse he commenced the ride to London. After a few miles the familiar sounds of of a pack of hounds caused his mare to lift her head in delight. Suddenly a dear leapt across the road followed by the Duke of Beresford’s hounds in full cry. Cuddy watched in astonishment as the English gentlemen hunters stopped to open gates, or slow down for gaps in the hedges.

The call of the hounds was too much for Cuddy to resist. He handed his saddlebags to a farmer, and rode after the dogs, staying with the hunters to the very end. Beresford rode up to him, raised his hand in salute, and politely inquired whom he had the honour of addressing, and added he had never seen such riding.

“My Lord Duke”, replied Cuddy, “I am an Irish gentleman. My name is Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh at your Grace’s service. As for the riding, in my country we all ride straight!” Before he left the Duke’s company, Cuddy had sold his mare for 200 guineas. At home in Westmeath, he had only been rated as a hack!

Newtown, home of Cuthbert of Mosstown’s son, Edward (b1775), and later a descendant Theobald (late 19th century), also no longer exists.

Other Fetherstonhaugh houses have been more fortunate in surviving, such as Carrick House, which was built c1725 – 1740. Carrick was likely built by Thomas of Ardargh and his son and grandson, both Williams, were recorded as living there in 1837 and 1875 respectively. At that time it was situated on 871 acres. In 2014 the 4,500 sq ft house was set on 150 acres of land with significant out offices and yards, lake access and a boat house on Lough Ennell, and was offered for sale for €1.4m

Another surviving house is Rockview House in Ballynacor, Co. Westmeath, which was built in c1812 and was the home of Richard Steele Fetherstonhaugh (b1795), grandson of Thomas (b1718) of Bracklyn. Richard’s brother the Rev. John Fetherstonhaugh (b1796) settled at Griffinstown near Kinnegad. He developed the whole estate by laying a railroad through it, to help drain the surrounding boglands, so housing could be built there. Griffinstown was built in the same style and at the same time as Rockview13. Newpass, was initially built by the Whitney family c1690, but some time after c1786 it came to the Fetherstonhaughs through marriage. Newpass was remodeled in the 19th century in a similar style to Rockview and was the home of Sir George Fetherstonhaugh in 1837. Rockview, (below) Griffinstown (below left) and Newpass (below right) still existed at the time of the NIAH assessment in 2004.


  1. Ireland XO. County Westmeath in the 1830s. Accessed August 30, 2023. https://www.irelandxo.com/ireland-xo/history-and-genealogy/timeline/county-westmeath-1830s
  2. Lewis S. A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837. Library of Ireland. Accessed July 14, 2023. https://www.libraryireland.com/topog/preface.php
  3. Upton H. (Catalogued 2012). Upton papers 21(24-25) Fetherstonhaugh Irish pedigree. IE RIA. Requested from: https://iar.ie/archive/upton-papers
  4. Burke B, Sir. (1912) A genealogical and Heraldic History of the landed gentry of Ireland. London: Harrison/ University of Toronto: Robarts. Accessed Oct 17, 2022. https://archive.org/details/genealogicalhera00burkuoft/page/220/mode/2up?q=fetherstonhaugh
  5. Fetherstonhaugh, A J. A History of the Fetherstonhaugh Family (with pedigree of the Irish branches). Dublin; 1879.
  6. Rice J. Landowners in Co. Westmeath, circa 1870s. The Ireland Gen Web Project 2002-2007. Accessed August 22, 2023. https://sites.rootsweb.com/%7Eirlwem/Landowners.html
  7. Fetherstonhaugh C. After Many Days. E. W. Cole: Book Arcade, Sydney: 1917. Accessed Oct 3, 2022 https://openlibrary.org/books/OL7197560M/After_many_days
  8. O’Brien D. Houses and Landed Families of Westmeath. Self Published, 2014.
  9. De Araugo T. Dear Fethers: An historical saga Pre 1066 – 1992. Rose Publishing House. Vic Aust. 2000.
  10. Comerford P. Ardagh House has survived fires and neglect over three centuries. Blog August 21, 2018. Accessed July12, 2023. http://www.patrickcomerford.com/2018_08_21_archive.html
  11. McCarthy J. The Last Laugh: Memories of Jean McCarthy, 2002.
  12. McCarthy M. Conspiracy, Revenge and Murder on the Bracklyn Estate 1845 – 1870. Essay, 2005.
  13. Casey C, Rown A. The Buildings of North Leinster. Penguin Books England 1993.
  14. Additional links have been provided in-text

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