The Rathsallagh estate was situated on the borders of County Wicklow and County Kildare in the province of Leinster, South East Ireland. The agricultural holdings of Rathsallagh mainly comprised of pasture with some arable land growing barley. The Valuation of Ireland (1854) gives the area of the lands of Rathsallagh as 3,714 acres. Rathsallagh comprises of 19 townlands (small geographical division of land used in Ireland), Ballyhurtin, Ballylaffin, Ballylea, Byrneshill, Coonanstown, Crossoge, Freynestownhill, Upper and Lower Freynestown, Griffinstown Glen, Knockbawn, Moanvaun, Mullans, Oldcourt, Rathsallagh, Rathsallagh Demesne, Rottenhill, Shepherdshill and Toolestown. At the time of the 1854 Valuation 85 tenants were residing in on the Rathsallagh estate and associated Townlands.
In 1172 Rathsallagh was listed as a grange or farm attached to the Abbey of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow which fell within the demesne of the Archbishops of Dublin. As a consequence of the on-going wars between the Wicklow chiefs and the Anglo-Norman invaders, Glendalough was burned and abandoned in 1398. The farm at Rathsallagh had been taken over by laymen in the early 13th century. By 1326, it belonged to Thomas Fitzgerald, 2nd Earl of Kildare. They rented the property for 70 shillings and "two pounds of wax" a year.
In June 1534 Thomas Fitzgerald, 10th Earl of Kildare, launched a rebellion against the English forces in Ireland. He was defeated at Threecastles near Blessington, and again at Maynooth. Thomas was hung, drawn and quartered with his five uncles at Tyburn on 3rd February 1537. After his execution, the Crown confiscated Fitzgerald’s lands and in 1545 Rathsallagh was granted to Sir John Travers.
In the early part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I Rathsallagh passed from Sir John Travers to his kinsman, Robert Piphoe, Crown Seneschal (or military governor) of West Wicklow. At the time, the estate consisted of a tower house and approximately 1000 acres. Robert Piphoe died in 1609 and in 1632 was given into the possession of Sir William Ryves (c 1570 - 1648)
In 1632, Sir William was granted a license to hold a market at Rathsallagh on the Feast of St Bartholomew. Sir William died in 1648 and Rathsallagh was inherited by his eldest son, Charles Ryves and then by his grandson, Richard Ryves who became Baron of the Exchequer in 1693.
In 1703, Richard commissioned the construction of a new stable for his horses in the old farm at Rathsallagh. Richard’s son Captain William Ryves served as High Sheriff for County Wicklow in 1714 and was involved in the suppression of the Rebellion of 1798. Captain Ryves died in February 1803 and was succeeded by his son, William. William converted the stables into a dwelling after the original house burnt down in 1802; this is the present Rathsallagh House.
William Ryves adopted a policy whereby land could no longer be sub-let by his tenants to smaller farmers and the estate population decreased from 1000 in 1820 to just over 300 by the time of his death in 1834. Ryves's substantial debts were covered by a Tipperary based lawyer, Edward Pennefather (1774 - 1847), who inherited Rathsallagh House and demesne as a repayment. After he took over Rathsallagh, Edward continued with William Ryves policy of prohibiting tenants to sub-let. Edward Pennefather retired from his post as Chief Justice of Ireland and Privy Councillor in late 1845.
Pennefather's lands at Rathsallagh were inherited by his eldest son Edward Pennefather (1809 – 1895) Edward Pennefather studied at Oxford and trained as a barrister-at-law, serving as a Queen's Councillor, Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant for County Wicklow. His third son Charles Pennefather (1849-1904) inherited Rathsallagh on his death in 1895. Charles purchased a commission with the 4th Queen's Own Hussars and rose to the rank of captain. In 1890 he stood as High Sheriff for County Wicklow. After Charles’ death Rathsallagh passed to his brother Frederick (1852-1921) Frederick was barrister at Lincoln's Inn and the King's Inn in Dublin. He moved to Adelaide, Australia, in the 1890s, leaving in 1896 to spend a brief period in New Zealand when appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court [of New Zealand]. Between 1900 and 1903 he drafted the Criminal Code for South Australia.
The Pennefather estates at Rathsallagh were divided up by the Irish Land Commission (c.1920) and those tenants who had worked the lands from the Victorian period onwards.
The last of the Pennefathers to reside at Rathsallagh was Harold Wilfred Armine Freese-Pennefather (1907-1961). His claim to the estate came through his mother Susan who was the daughter of Edward Pennefather. Harold was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford and worked for the British Diplomatic Service and the Foreign Office.
On Harold’s death Rathsallagh was sold to a German named Funk and in 1968 it was bought by a Dutch national named Jacobus Haverhals. In 1979 Rathsallagh was bought by the O’Flynn family of County Cork. The house and estate are currently run as Rathsallagh Country House Hotel and Golf Club.
Archival History ↴
The Rathsallagh estate papers were originally held in the offices of the farm steward of the estate. On the death of Harold Reese Pennefather in 1961 the records were collated and stored at Rathsallagh House. In 1963 the papers were donated to the RDS Archives by Patricia Reese-Pennefather, widow of Harold Freese-Pennefather. Mrs Freece-Pennefather donated the papers to the RDS as the Pennefather family had a long association with the Society both as members and exhibitors at the RDS Spring Show and the Dublin Horse Show
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Rathsallagh estate ↴
Returns of stock and property on the lands of Rathsallagh (1852-1920), Correspondence of Edward Pennefather, owner of Rathsallagh (1884-1887), Correspondence of Charles E. Pennefather, owner of Rathsallagh (1884-1904), Correspondence of Frederick W. Pennefather, owner of Rathsallagh (1905-1912), Correspondence of Thomas Norton, tenant of Rathsallagh (1902-1904), Correspondence of Thomas Stephenson, tenant of Rathsallagh (1903-1906), Correspondence of Thomas Butterfield, tenant of Rathsallagh (1904-1906), Correspondence of Robert Dixon, tenant of Rathsallagh (1902-1907), Correspondence of Edward Sherlock, tenant of Rathsallagh (1901-1905), Correspondence of Henry Gilchrist, farm steward of Rathsallagh (1904-1919), Correspondence of Edward Kelly, blacksmith at Rathsallagh (1887-1909), Correspondence of Michael Kelly, blacksmith at Rathsallagh (1909-1918), Accounts and credit notes of Carton Brothers (1904-1918), Accounts of Sheffield Lime Works (1904-1908), Accounts of Coursetown Brick Works (1904-1912), Accounts of Timolin Corn and Saw Mills (1904-1917), Accounts and credit notes of Thomas Fisher (1904-1918), Accounts and credit notes of J & W Bourne (1904-1919), Accounts of McCabes Fishmonger and Poulterer (1906-1907), Accounts and credit notes of the Irish Hide, Skin and Metal Company (1906-1919, Accounts and credit notes of Henry Denny & Sons Pig Merchant (1908-1916), Accounts and credit notes of J. W. Hanbidge (1908-1918), Accounts and credit notes of James O’Gorman (1910-1912), Accounts of Tuckmill Mills (1911-1914), Accounts of Patrick Cullen (1912-1913), Accounts of James Dowling (1913-1915), Accounts of James McCann (1916), Accounts of Ronan’s Chemist (1917-1919, Material relating to the Great Southern and Western Railway (1904-1920), Material relating to the Baltinglass Poor Law Union (1886-1887), Material relating to the Valuation of Rathsallagh (1853-1854)
Appraisal Destruction ↴
Accruals are not expected.
Arranged in 7 series
Conditions of Access & Use
Readers consulting the Rathsallagh estate papers must apply for RDS Library and Archives guest readership supplying all the necessary information to complete this process.
Conditions Governing Reproduction
Photocopying of documents is not allowed but photography is possible with the discretion of the Librarian.
0.363 cubic metres (7 boxes)
Material Language Script
Hard copy of fonds and series level description of the Rathsallagh estate papers with index available on request. Online item and collection level MARC 21 records can be accessed from https://library.rds.ie/cgi-bin/koha/opac-search.pl?idx=callnum&q=RATH
Archive Web Link →
Census returns and information concerning cattle weighing and market fairs for Rathsallagh and surrounding Townlands is available from the National Archives of Ireland. 1901 and 1911 census’ are also available online at: http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/pages/1911/Wicklow/Rathsallagh/
Four letters from F. W. Pennefather of Rathsallagh, Co. Wicklow, to the 2nd Lord Tennyson dealing mainly with the contrast between the attitude of the Unionists and Nationalists in Ireland towards the Great War, 1907-1917 are available for consultation in the National Library of Ireland: http://sources.nli.ie/Record/MS_UR_055473.
Information on the tenants of Rathsallagh from Griffith’s Valuation of 1854 is available online at: http://askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation/index.xml?action=doNameSearch&familyname=pennefather&firstname=&baronyname=&countyname=WICKLOW&unionname=&parishname=RATHSALLAGH&Submit.x=33&Submit.y=14
Lawlor, Chris (2013) An Irish Village: Dunlavin, County, Wicklow, Naas, Leinster Leader. Resources used to compile the description:
Bunbury, Turtle (2003) Rathsallagh, County Wicklow: A Potted History of 5000 Years, http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_houses/hist_hse_rathsallagh.htm
Cambridge, Royal Irish Academy (2012) Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://dib.cambridge.org/
Griffith R, County of Wicklow: valuation of the several tenements comprising that portion of the Union of Baltinglass situate in the county above named, Alexander Thom and Sons for Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, Dublin.
Lawlor, Chris (2013) An Irish Village: Dunlavin, County, Wicklow, Naas, Leinster Leader.
National Archives (2008) Census returns of Ireland 1901/1911 http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/pages
Royal Dublin Society (1963) Report of Council, Dublin, Brown & Nolan
Descriptive Control Area
Royal Dublin Society
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottowa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families with reference to Archives Network Wales Standards.