236 – Charity and Despotism

Lady “Anne” Frances Susan Elizabeth Wandesford Butler

Lady Anne Wandesforde Butler, Countess of Ormonde, had been the owner of Wandesforde estate and Castlecomer House since the death of her father in 1784.

She had been the estate landlord since before Thomas and Bridget Large were born. Lady Anne had restored the manor house, church, and the town of Castlecomer after the 1798 rebellion.

She had four sons. Her two eldest sons inherited their father’s Ormonde estates in Kilkenny. The third son died young.

On Lady Anne’s death in 1830, Wandesforde Estate passed to her youngest son, Charles Harward Butler.

Hon. Charles Harward Butler Clarke Southwell Wandesforde

Hon. Charles Harward Butler-Clarke-Southwell-Wandesforde

Charles Harward Butler was born November 7, 1780. He was the sixth child of John Butler, 17th Earl of Ormonde and Lady “Anne” Frances Susan Elizabeth Wandesford.

In 1820, Charles was licensed to take the additional surname Clarke. In 1830, he added two more – Southwell and Wandesforde.

His full name was The Honorable Charles Harward Butler-Clarke-Southwell-Wandesforde.

Many writers, after introducing Wandesforde, refer to him as C.H.B.C.S.W.


During Lady Anne’s tenure, leases for the coal pits and farmlands had been granted to “middlemen.” Lady Anne would have dealings with only a few middlemen, who in turn would sublease to undertenants and miners.

The power and profits were controlled by these middlemen. The estate’s income from the mines had dropped from £10,000 annually in 1798 to just a few thousand in 1826. Income from house and land leases were going mostly to the middlemen.

Charles Wandesforde took a keen interest in the management of Castlecomer Estate. He began to make sweeping changes, including elimination of the middleman system. As Wandesforde eliminated the middleman leases, the coal pits, land, and houses came back under direct estate control.

Thomas Large died

A few months after daughter Ellen was born, Thomas Large died. 

Wandesforde Papers – Burials 1833-4 – Page 1 – Entry #9

We don’t know Thomas’ cause of death, but mine diseases and accidents were very common. At age 64, he could have had black lung or tuberculosis.

They rarely arrive at fifty years of age. A consumption of the lungs is the disorder from which they usually die; for a year or two before the event they often throw up continually a black spittle…. The leaning posture in which they work is unfavourable to health… many do not survive working in the mines for ten years.

Statistical Observations relative to the County of Kilkenny – 1802 – William Tighe

Thomas’ death left Bridget with seven children, from age 3 months to 11 years.  Life was going to get even more difficult.

Charity requests

Charles Wandesforde granted some charity requests, and denied others. And there were many requests. Here are some tenant petitions for charity in 1832, from the Wandesforde Estate papers:

  • Widow Mary Monk, begs for aid. She is 70 and cannot work.
  • Widow Hays, age 81. Has been widowed five years.
  • Ann Bergin of Aughamucky. She carried coals from colliery to Kilkenny, but her horse died.
  • Widow Tierney. Her husband was a servant in the manor house.
  • Charles Curran of Moneenroe, a collier for 45 years. Old, can’t work, has blind son.
  • Margaret and Judith Brennan, request small house to live in. Note on back says no house available.
  • John Dormer, injured from fall in coal pit.
  • James Tobin, lost his eye on the coal wall and almost smothered.
  • Patrick Brennan, lost his health working in pit. No relief granted.
  • Widow Purcell, Coolbaun. Husband lost his life in colliery.
  • Widow Walker, lost husband and two sons in colliery.
  • and on and on and on…

Charity granted Bridget Large

Among the charity requests granted were a few for Bridget Large.

From the 1840 notebook:

  • Widow Large, Coolbaun. one blanket.

From the 1842 notebook:

  • Wo (widow) Large, 8 individuals – given 19.15

From the 1844 notebook:

  • Letter from Widow Thomas Large, requesting a “night covering or day” – Jan 15, 1844.
  • Wo (widow) Large, Ardra. Amount given 2.6.
  • Wo Large, Ardra. 2.10 – March 30.
  • Wo Large, Ardra 17.6


While Charles Wandesforde did grant some charity and did improve the conditions of some tenants, he also focused on gaining greater control of the lands and housing. He demanded rents be paid timely, or face eviction.

NOTICE: The Tenants whose Rent are not yet fully paid up to the 25th of March 1843 are hereby informed that Mr. Wandesforde has given direction to have all arrears due to that period called in immediately after Christmas. It is therefore requested that all such arrears may be paid into the office on Saturday the 20th inst. being the day after the Pay.

Wandesforde papers – December 16, 1843


Evictions were another way Wandesforde regained control of land and houses. Throughout Charles Wandesfordes’ control of the estate, he evicted thousands of tenants. In 1847 alone, 1,855 people were evicted from the Wandesforde estate. 

The Ejectment – Illustrated London News – December 16, 1848

Here are some examples:

Evictions – March 1840 – first 10 entries

  • Jno McLaughlin – Doneigle – non-payment rents
  • Jno Flynn – Doneigle – non-payment
  • Widow Craig – Gurteen
  • George Leacock – Gurteen – undertenants
  • Widow Jas Byrne – Moneen – non-payment rents
  • Dan Bryan – Moneen – house to be recovered
  • Jno Dempsey – Lowan – non-payment rent
  • Widow Motley – Moneen – undertenants
  • Widow Hill – Clough – non-payment rent
  • Widow H. Lalor – Clough – non-payment rent

Sometimes the tenant’s house would be unroofed or taken down when they were evicted, so they couldn’t return.

Mr. Dobbs, the widow Jas. Ryan’s house is down. Widow Doyle’s house is down. Ned Drinan’s house is down. Saml. Smythe

Letter to Mr. Dobbs, agent, from Samuel Smythe – April 3, 1844

Assisted emigration

Wandesforde control included assisted (or enforced) emigration. Wandesforde would pay a tenant family’s passage to North America. In return, the tenant would give up all lease rights to land and house.

If a tenant couldn’t pay the rent, their choice was eviction or emigration. For many, emigration was the obvious choice.

By offering assisted emigration, Wandesforde also got rid of troublemakers and members of secret societies that promoted rebellion and violence.

During the decade of the 1840s, Wandesforde spent £10,000 on assisted emigration, ridding the estate of thousands of people.

The 17 pounds 6 pence given Bridget in 1844 may well have been to pay passage, as that was the year of her emigration.

Castlecomer population loss

Wandesforde’s policies changed Castlecomer dramatically. From 1830 to 1841, and continuing through the Great Famine to 1851, the population dropped over 30%.

The colliery district dropped even more. The population of Moneenroe townland, where Thomas and Bridget and family had lived, dropped over 50%, from 2,200 to 900.

Bridget Large left Ireland

Bridget and her seven children left Castlecomer and Ireland in 1844. They were bound for America.

Irish Emigrants Leaving Home – The Priest’s Blessing – Illustrated London News – May 10, 1851



2 thoughts on “236 – Charity and Despotism

    • Mark Jarvis August 31, 2022 / 10:50 am

      Always appreciate your kind words. Writing was mine, but content was yours!


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