Abandoned ireland




Documenting our Heritage



Many thanks to Ger McCarthy, Chairman of the County Kildare Federation of Local History Groups for his help with Rathcoffey. Ger has been researching and photograph Irish Country Houses for more than thirty years and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject.

Rathcoffey Castle and Mansion House.

In the 13th Century Rathcoffey was owned by the Hereford family but on the marriage of Eve de Hereford to Walter de Rochford, the estate passed into the hands of the Rushfords. In 1299 Henry Rochford the lord of Rathcoffey had no heirs and in an attempt to retain ownership of the lands arranged his cousin to succeed him. However this attempt failed and the lands reverted back to the Crown.

In 1417 the Manor of Rathcoffey was granted to Sir John Wogan.

The name of Wogan has a long history stretching back to Wales in the 11th and 12th centuries and is an Anglicisation of the Welsh name Gwgan. Sir John Wogan had risen to prominence in the service of Edward 1st and had been appointed Justiciar of Ireland by the King on 18th October 1295.

Rathcoffey changed hands a number of times over the following centuries but was regained by the Wogans. Around 1640 during the Civil Wars Nicholas Wogan had sided with the rebels and in 1642 an army was sent by the Government to capture Rathcoffey Castle. After the capture of the castle the garrison was taken to Dublin and executed. Many years later a vast number of human bones were discovered close to Rathcoffey Castle which are thought to be the remains of all the civilians massacred by the Government forces in 1642.

Following the restoration, the Wogans regained Rathcoffey and held ownership until in 1758 when

Col. Nicholas Wogan died with no male heir and the estate was divided between his two daughters. Frances Wogan married John Talbot of Malahide and Catherine Wogan married Michael Browne of Castlebrown.

Archibald Hamilton Rowan a landowner from County Down purchased Rathcoffey Estate from Richard Wogan Talbot in 1784 and built a new mansion on the site of the castle incorporating the original Wogan castle into the structure. The new house was described as “A less austere residence” and it’s remains are the ruined structure we see on the estate today. A three storey house, with a front consisting of 3 bays recessed between 2 bay projections which are joined at ground level by an arcade.

Archibald Hamilton Rowan, originally named Archibald Hamilton, had inherited a large sum of money from his grandfather under the stipulation that he would add the maternal name Rowan. He became a strong advocate for Irish liberty and first gained public attention by championing the cause of fourteen year old Mary Neal in 1788. Mary Neal had been lured into a Dublin brothel and then assaulted by Lord Carhampton. Hamilton Rowan publicly denounced Carhampton and published a pamphlet A Brief Investigation of the Sufferings of John, Anne, and Mary Neal in the same year. He become a founding member of the Dublin Society of United Irishmen, working alongside famous radicals such as William Drennan, and Theobald Wolfe Tone.

Hamilton Rowan was eventually sentenced to two years imprisonment after being found guilty of seditious libel when caught handing out "An Address to the Volunteers of Ireland", a piece of United Irish propaganda. Whilst imprisoned, Hamilton Rowan met with The Reverend William Jackson and Theobald Wolfe Tone. Jackson was betrayed by a friend acting as a spy for the British Government, was arrested and charged with high treason. Immediately following Jackson's arrest, Hamilton Rowan fled in order to also escape being tried for high treason. He convinced his jailer to allow him to visit his wife on the pre-tense of signing legal documents. While the jailer sat in the dining room of their home in Dublin, Hamilton Rowan excused himself to the bedroom, where he climbed down a rope made of knotted bed sheets to a waiting horse. Hamilton Rowan first went to France, and then America.

In 1799 he received permission to travel to a neutral European country without being arrested and he moved from Wilmington, America to Hamburg, Germany, where he was reunited with his wife and children and lived until 1803. He continued to seek a pardon and was permitted to live in England from 1803. His father Gawen died in 1805 and he was allowed to return to Ireland in 1806.

While several of his radical acquaintances, like Tone and Jackson, died as a result of their political activities, Archibald Hamilton Rowan was able to escape this fate and live to the full age of 84. He was buried in the vaults of St Mary's Church, Dublin.

The Rathcoffey estate changed hands a number of times over the years and ended up owned by the Jesuits who today still reside in the area although not on the Rathcoffey estate.

The Jesuits sold the estate in the 1970s to a local farmer.

The 13th Century gatehouse is a registered monument and in state ownership, the Rathcoffey mansion is a registered protected structure.

For a more detailed history of Rathcoffey please refer to the local expert Seamus Cullen:-