Kilcock (Co. Kildare / North)
Kilcock (Cill Choca – “Coca’s church”) (pop. 4100), a market town on the the river Rye Water, derived its importance from its position on the old main Galway road, and also benefited from the late C18th construction of the Royal Canal and the arrival of the railway in 1847.
Long a traffic bottleneck, now bypassed by the M4, Kilcock has become a commuter satellite of DUBLIN, almost doubling its population in recent years.
Kilcock is named for a church founded in the C6th by Saint Coca, nicknamed “wild dog / wolf”, a sister of Saint Kevin of Glendalough who specialised in embroidering church vestments. This edifice stood near a Holy Well of pagan origin overlooking a ford across the Rye Water, a traditional frontier and battleground; the Annals record that king Donachada of Meath defeated king Rory MacFaelan of Leinster here in 780 AD .
As a Norman settlement, Kilcock developed into a significant outpost of the medieval Pale. The Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem from Kilmainham built a sizeable new church c.1303 (demolished in 1870).
The 1798 Rebellion
The 1798 Rebellion saw rebels attack Kilcock on 25th May, but Colonel Gordon, with a patrol of Highlanders, killed five insurgents. However, the garrison was withdrawn to strengthen Trim.
On 1st June William Aylmer of Painstown, leader of the rebel camp at Timahoe, led a raid into the undefended Kilcock, taking provisions and a number of prisoners; that night, a breakaway party burned his cousin Michael Aylmer’s Courtown House.
On Monday 4th June the local yeomen, commanded by another relative, Sir Fenton Aylmer of Donadea Castle, faced a large number of William Aylmer’s rebels, and being almost surrounded, retreated to the lawn of Sir Percy Gethin‘s Bridestream House, where Sir Fenton discovered that most of his troops had deserted him, many joining the other side. The insurgents then entered the town, torched the deserted military barracks, the courthouse and several loyalist houses, and looted the local tavern before retreating to Timahoe.
Bridestream House, a mid-C18th pedimented edifice, is thought to have been designed by Nathaniel Clements. The current owners run a rare breed farm open to the public.
Saint Coca’s parish church (RC) was designed in 1867 by JJ MacCarthy. Remnants of the medieval church can be seen in the graveyard. (Photo – www.kilcockparish.net)
St Patrick’s parish church (CoI), built in 1870, was deconsecrated in 1991.Kilcock Art Gallery, established in 1978, holds regular exhibitions by artists of national and international repute.
Kilcock Canoe Polo Club is an Irish leader in the sport.
Kilcock makes a highly dubious claim to being the only place in Europe with a canal, a railway and a road side by side.
Kilcock is close to Phepotstown on ByRoute 12.
The Battle of Ovidstown Hill
The Battle of Ovidstown Hill took place towards the end of the 1798 Rebellion. On 19th June of that year about 4000 insurgents led by William Aylmer of Painstown were routed by roughly 400 British troops armed with two pieces of artillery.
The rebels lost about 200 men, while military casualties totalled 25. The British pursued and killed fleeing rebels before moving on; the next day they retook and sacked Prosperous.
Aylmer was forced to relocate his remaining forces to the protection of the Bog of Allen where they later linked up with survivors of the Wexford rebellion under Anthony Perry.
Rathcoffey (Co. Kildare / North)
Rathcoffey supposedly derives its name from a C6th hostel mentioned in the Book of Leinster, Teach Coffey MacColman, situated on the main highway linking the ancient realms of Meath and Leinster. This may have been one of the several raths / ring forts still visible, notably the prominent structure on the Straffan Road, believed to have been moated.
Rathcoffey was granted by Strongbow to John de Hereford, whose daughter Eva married Walter de Rochford c.1200; the line of descent expired with the death of John Rochford’s childless widow in 1314, and the estate reverted to the Crown.
King Edward II granted the manor of Rathcoffey in 1317 to Sir John Wogan, as a reward for his family’s loyalty and service to the Crown in various local and national posts since their arrival in Ireland with King Henry II in 1171. Sir John was the first of three Wogan Viceroys (“King’s Governors”), and held extensive properties all over County Kildare. The Wogans were typical Palesmen, marrying into other prominent families to secure their power and wealth.
Probably built by Sir John’s descendants to replace an earlier structure, Rathcoffey Castle was in its time second in County Kildare only to that of Maynooth.
In 1453 an army led by Richard Wogan attacked and captured Rathcoffey Castle from his cousin Anne Eustace (née Wogan). Anne belonged to a more senior line of Wogans but Richard was the senior male heir. The result of this conflict left Richard in control of Rathcoffey and Anne and her successors in the Eustace family in possession of the Wogan lands of Clongowes Wood.
In 1580 the Lord of Rathcoffey, William Wogan, joined a failed rebellion within the Pale in support of the Roman Catholic cause. He was executed the following year and all his lands forfeited. The family regained Rathcoffey soon afterwards.
Nicholas Wogan was heavily involved in the 1641 Rebellion marking the outbreak of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. In 1642 an army commanded by Colonel George Monck laid siege to Rathcoffey Castle; the garrison of 70 men surrendered and were executed in Dublin, while numerous civilians were massacred on the spot (their bones were found in a nearby wood nearly two centuries later). Nicholas Wogan avoided capture at that time and became a prominent member of the doomed Confederation of Kilkenny.
The Wogan lands were confiscated under the Cromwellian Redistribution, but regained following the Restoration, and although the family supported the Jacobite cause in the Williamite War between they managed to hold on to Rathcoffey. They continued to support the exiled Stuart pretenders and Col. Nicholas Wogan from Rathcoffey is thought to have fought with his more famous cousin Sir Charles Wogan from nearby Richardstown in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. Nicholas died without male heir in 1757 and his property was divided between his two daughters: Frances married John Talbot of Malahide and Catherine married Michael Browne of Castlebrown (Clongowes Wood).
Richard Wogan Talbot sold the estate in 1785 to Archibald Rowan Hamilton, future United Irishmen leader, who demolished most of the castle in order to build the adjacent mansion, now in ruins.
All that remains of the Wogan castle is a gatehouse with a narrow passage leading to a guard-house and cellar. There is a mullioned window in the east wall.
“Keep Out. Trespassers will be Prosecuted.”
The church of the Sacred Heart, Rathcoffey(RC), one of the oldest post-Reformation Roman Catholic church in Ireland, is said to have originally been a converted stable of Rathcoffey Castle, consecrated as a Mass House / Chapel in 1710 under the aegis of Lady Frances Jenyns / Jennings, (elder sister of the more famous Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough), widow of the defeated King James II‘s army commander Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, and friend of both the Wogan family and Queen Anne. She ended her days as a nun with the Poor Clare Sisters in King St, Dublin. (Photo – www.claneparish.com)
Rathcoffey House is a sensitively restored Georgian country house, now run as a very highly recommended B&B.