2. In the interregnum

Sir Richard Wingfield came to own the lands at Powerscourt forever for his soldiering efforts in 1618, but the story would have several twists yet. After Richard’s death, Sir Edward inherited the estate in 1635, and he in turn was succeeded by his son Sir Richard Wingfield, MP for Boyle, in 1638. This Richard married Elizabeth (Bess), daughter of Henry 1st Lord Folliott.

This was the time of two significant events in Irish history: the 1641 Irish Rebellion and the Confederate Wars in England between Charles I and Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army. In the Irish Rebellion, the O’Tooles rose up against Sir Richard Wingfield but were defeated and outlawed. Richard was further involved in fighting the resistance at this time. One of the 1641 depositions describes how “Captain Richard Wingfield suddanely drew this deponent & the rest of the Company on his Majestyes service to Dublin from Powerscourte.” Sir Richard died after joining the army of the Duke of Ormond, leaving his three year old son, Folliott, named after his maternal grandfather. (Bess would remarry twice; her third husband was Sir John Ponsonby.)

One of several of the 1641 depositions that mention Powerscourt (taken from 1641.tcd.ie) The name Captain Richard Wingfield can just about be seen [(c) TCD]

Having won the English Civil War 1642 – 1649, Cromwell arrived in Ireland to crush the Irish uprising, which saw Irish Confederates and Royalists join together in the face of the Puritan forces. Cromwell quickly and ruthlessly moved through the country, repossessing the land taken back over the previous decade.

At some stage during this time, Powerscourt Castle was burned out to prevent it being captured and used by Cromwell’s men. The Attorney General for Ireland wrote that:

Information being given that five companies of the Irish enemies’ foot were come to Powers Court, about eight miles from here, on the Wicklow side, a party was sent from this place (Dublin) under the command of Sir Theophilus Jones, to beat them out, or fight them, but before our party got thither they demolished all the buildings, they pulled down the very walls, and fled away into the woods. We cannot keep a garrison there, because there is no manner of shelter for our men there.

Cromwell’s conquest was largely complete in 1652, and the Act for the Settlement of Ireland provided a means for the confiscation and redistribution of land to Cromwellian soldiers as a means of paying them for their service. This was facilitated by the Down Survey, which involved the mapping of the country between 1655 and 1656. The man responsible for the survey was Sir William Petty, and he used soldiers to complete the surveying tasks. Parish maps, drawn by Petty himself were destroyed in a fire in 1711 and copies of these were destroyed in a fire in 1922, including that for Powerscourt. A larger scale map of the area is still extant, shown below. This illustrates the north of county Wicklow, from Bray on the east coast to Glencree in the west, where Lough Bray is annotated.

Down Survey Map of the half-barony of Rathdown in the County of Wicklow (from the Down Survey website: downsurvey.tcd.ie)

Down Survey Map of the half-barony of Rathdown in the County of Wicklow (from the Down Survey website: downsurvey.tcd.ie)

Petty’s work was completed and published by 1657, but within three years the monarchy had been restored with the coronation of Charles II. Folliott Wingfield, who was born in 1642, managed to avoid any immediate association with the conflict, and by the time of the Restoration in 1660, he was eighteen, and found himself in control of the lands at Powerscourt. This puts Powerscourt in the rather unusual situation of not seeing a significant change in land ownership before and after the Restoration. Land ownership mapped before (1641) and after (1670) shows that the land remained with Powerscourt during one of the most tumultuous periods of Irish history.

Maps showing townlands owned by Powerscourt in north Wicklow in 1641 (left) and 1670 (right) superimposed on a modern map (GIS data from downsurvey.tcd.ie)

Maps showing townlands owned by Powerscourt in north Wicklow in 1641 (left) and 1670 (right) superimposed on a modern map (GIS data from downsurvey.tcd.ie)


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