How we came to be

Everywhere we go,

People always ask us,

Who we are,

And where we come from.

A question often asked when you initiate a conversation about family history is: “how far back have you got?” Genealogy is a quest whose ultimate goal, it seems, is Adam and Eve. The Garden of Eden for Enniskerry and its surroundings can be firmly placed in the middle of the seventeenth century, when many families settled here for the first time.

Land so close to Dublin was always going to be precious. The ancient territory of Fercullen, stretching in from Bray to the east to Lough Bray to the west was strategically important as it separated Dublin from the Wicklow mountains. Since Norman invasion in the twelfth century, there was a dizzying array of land takeovers. At one stage, the O’Tooles, former owners of the lands, were paid by to protect the land from other potential Irish invaders. This arrangement turned sour, and as we enter the 1600s, Fercullen was granted in 1603 to Elizabeth I’s favourite soldier: Sir Richard Wingfield. In 1609, James I confirmed Richard’s status and granted him the lands for ever. The original grant was:

the manor of Powerscourt, containing one ruinous castle… and all lands in the whole countrie of Fercullen conteininge in itself 5 miles in leinth and 4 in bredth, for the most part mountaine and stonie… to hold for 21 years at a rent of £6 Ierishe”.

Soon after, the name Fercullen became obsolete, and Powerscourt was the name for the area. In 1618, Richard became Viscount Powerscourt, paying a considerable sum of money in fee, even though he didn’t have a direct heir (meaning the title would become extinct on his death). It is unlikely that he lived in his “ruinous castle”, but his heir, Sir Edward Wingfield, may have. The next 40 years were among the most violent in Irish history. Cromwell’s invasion in 1649 left Royalist forces in Ireland rushing to defend their lands, with the support of Irish Confederates. Five companies were sent to Powerscourt to destroy it and prevent it from being taken and used by Cromwell’s Puritan Army. Cromwell’s conquest was largely complete in 1652. In order to pay his men, he instructed William Petty to survey lands to distribute them to his army. This was completed by 1657, but by 1660, Cromwellian rule was over and the monarchy had been restored in Charles II. Royalty reigned again.

Land ownership before and after Cromwell invasion is now traceable on the wonderful Trinity College Dublin Down Survey site. Here land ownership in 1641 and land ownership after the Restoration can be compared. It was typical that land was taken from Catholics, and having been given to Protestants by Cromwell, remained that way after Charles II came to power, as he was loathe to unsettle his Protestant supporters. (The Confederates were conveniently forgotten). The interesting thing about Powerscourt is that the land ownership remained the same. Folliott Wingfield, who had been a minor for the entire Cromwellian episode, came of age in 1663. Because they were Royalists, the Wingfield lands at Powerscourt had been assigned by Cromwell to Sir Charles Meredith. However, after Charles II regained the throne, Meredith lost out. A very rare 17th century document in the Powerscourt Papers at the National Library of Ireland confirmed Folliott’s position as lord of all lands at Powerscourt in 1663:

Sir Edward Wingfield Knight, grandfather to our subjecte Folliott Wingfield, of Powerscourte in the County of Wicklow.

Folliot, now of age, with several thousand acres to his name, began to rebuild the castle at Powerscourt and occupy the lands. A new settlement was evident in the names recorded in the Parish register at the church. Canon Stokes recounts in his Parish of Powerscourt:

As was natural in a fairly new community marriages come first…1662…with names still familiar, Williams, Jones and Sumers. Burials began the following year with names which include Hicks and Burton. No baptismal records are available until 1677 when the first of the large family of Bethel and Bridget Burton was brought to the font in the church beside Powerscourt House.

A confirmatory source for these new inhabitants can be found in the Hearth Money Rolls, a list of parishes and townlands within them, and their occupants. They were so-called as householders were taxed two shillings for every hearth they owned. The only surviving copy of the list details householders who owned more than two hearths, and hence were probably the significant houses of the period. These include John Amacky and George Norris of Bahana, Mr Williams of Killegar, Mr Patrickson and Cornelius Kelley of Monastery, William Paine at Enniskerry, John Townsell at Enniskerry, Robert Steele at Parknasiloge, Ralph Smith and Christian Carr at Cookstown, Thomas Evans and Mr Fox at Tinnahinch, Mr Burton, and Hugh Kelly. These names differ from those reported less than twenty years earlier, when significant names in the parish (as reported to the 1641 depositions) included Carpenter, Chamberlain, Hunter, Johnson, Ryder, Watson, and Winsmore. In just 60 years, the entire structure of land ownership in the area had completely and irreversibly changed hands.

Folliott married the daughter of the immensely wealthy Earl of Orrery in 1660, and probably rebuilt the church beside Powerscourt house, now a ruin but apparently had a capacity for 700 people. This number seems an exaggeration, but it must have been at least considerable. He also rebuilt the castle, for its final incarnation. He became 1st Viscount Powerscourt of the second creation, but he also died without direct issue, so the title became extinct. The title wouldn’t be bestowed again until the eighteenth century, after the construction of Powerscourt House around the original castle in 1743.

Little physical remains of Folliot’s presence at Powerscourt, but the names of many inhabitants of the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth centuries, and even today; those we owe to his assignations in the decade after the Restoration of the Monarchy.

Submissions are invited for articles to the 2013 Journal of Enniskerry and Powerscourt Local History. The theme this year is “Gathering our Genealogies“. See here fore more details


The Down Survey Project at Trinity College Dublin can be explored at