25 July 2019

Before Copsewood House
in Pallaskenry became
a school and a college

The Salesian College at Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, was built around Copsewood House (left), one the home of the Caulfeild family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; click on images for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

On my way back to Askeaton yesterday [24 July 2019], I had my first glimpse of the Salesian College in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick. The Salesians moved to Pallaskenry 100 years ago when they bought Copsewood House from the Caulfeild family in 1919, and began providing agricultural education April 1920, at a time when the commercial and population based in Ireland was still rural.

The Salesians developed their school and college in Pallaskenry around Copsewood House. Local legend says the house was given its name Annie Caulfeild, wife of Lieutenant-General James Caulfeild (1783-1852), in memory of Father Michael Copps (1737-1817), Parish Priest of Ardcanny, who once lived in a cottage on the site of the house.

General Caulfeild, who bought the estate in 1845, had been a career officer in India and a Liberal politician. He was born in Castle Cosby in Crossdoney, Co Cavan, on 26 January 1783, a younger son of the Ven John Caulfeild (1738-1826), Archdeacon of Kilmore (1776-1810).

The general’s grandfather, the Hon Toby Caulfeild, was a younger son of William Caulfeild, 1st Viscount Charlemont. This means General Caulfeild was a second, albeit much younger, cousin of James Caulfield (1728-1799), the ‘Volunteer’ Earl of Charlemont.

General Caulfeild spent most of his military career with the East India Company before retiring in 1841. He joined the Bengal Army of the East India Company in 1798 and arrived in India in 1799.

Caufeild’s first wife, Letitia, was a daughter of General Hugh Stafford. They were married at Cawnpore in and were the parents of four sons: one died in infancy, two in their 20s, and the fourth in his 40s. They included James Gordon Caulfeild (1815-1844), who was born at Cawnpore and died at Madeira. Letitia died on 26 August 1826.

Caulfield stayed on in India, and he was on the staff of the Governor General’s bodyguard and of the British Resident at Indore, and in the East India Company’s Political Service, being appointed Resident at Lucknow in 1839.

Caulfeild’s second wife, Annie Rachel Blake (1811-1890), was born in Lucknow and the daughter of another Indian army officer. They were the parents of four sons – William, Henry, George and Alexander Caulfield – and two daughters, Mary Anne and Anne Rachel.

Caulfeild left India on furlough in 1841 and never returned. He became a major-general that year and lieutenant-general in 1851.

Meanwhile, in 1844, he bought 3,200 acres – including a 2,000-acre estate in Co Limerick centred on Copsewood House – that had been part of the estate of the Earl of Charleville from the Bury family for £51,592.

He stood unsuccessfully as a Liberal candidate in Abingdon in 1845 and again in 1847, before being elected an MP in 1852.

At Griffith’s Valuation, General Caulfeild held a large estate in the parishes of Kilcornan, Adare, Chapelrussell and Kildimo in the Barony of Kenry, Co Limerick. However, his career as an MP was short, and he died at Copsewood on 4 November 1852.

A memorial in Castletown Church, Co Limerick, to Alexander and Meriel Caulfeild (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

General Caulfeild left his large estate in Pallaskenry to his widow, Annie Caulfeild, who is said to have given Copsewood its name. She owned 3,350 acres in Co Limerick in 1870, and she provided the site and some of the building costs for the Roman Catholic church in Pallaskenry. She died at Cornwall Gardens in Kensington, London, on 17 May 1890 and was buried with her husband in Kilurach cemetery near Pallaskenry.

Their third son, Captain George Caulfeild (1841-1922) of Copsewood, was born in Lucknow in India, and returned to Ireland with his parents. He was a captain in the Rifle Brigade and High Sheriff of Limerick. He married Thomasina Royse from Cappagh, and they sold Copsewood to the Salesians in 1919.

Captain Caulfeild died in Tunbridge Wells in Kent in 1922. His son, George Blake Caulfeild (1875-1939), was born in Copsewood and died in London.

General Caulfield’s youngest son, Captain Alexander Thomas Caulfield (1842-1923), lived on at Miltown House after Copsewood was sold. He and his wife Meriel Kate Hunt (1848-1926), was a daughter of Colonel Robert Hunt.

They were regular parishioners in Castletown Church, where they are commemorated in a memorial plaque. After selling Miltown House, they moved to Bournemouth, where they died and are buried.

The Salesian College at Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, was built around Copsewood House (left), one the home of the Caulfeild family (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; click on images for full-screen view)

Copsewood House was bought from the Caulfeild family by the Salesian Fathers in 1919.

This is a detached, multiple-bay L-plan country house, built ca 1810. It has a four-bay, two-storey front (north) block with a central full-height porch, and an eight-bay, two-storey block at the east with full-height canted bay windows at the end bays and the central two-bay breakfront.

The house retains a number of notable features, including timber, sliding-sash windows, and the decorative limestone sill course and render details that articulate its form. The bay windows and central breakfronts add to the appearance of the house. There are recent extensions and college buildings at the west side. The chapel dating from 1937 is at the south-west of main block.

After the Salesians moved into Copsewood House in 1919, they opened a boys-only missionary school in 1920 with 100 students, including 80 of boarders. The Agricultural School opened the same year.

The Salesians’ involvement in professional training goes back to the ‘workshop’ tradition established in his native Turin by their founder, Giovanni Bosco (1815-1888), popularly known as Don Bosco.

Although Don Bosco never established a programme of agricultural education, his provision of educational training was based on real needs and employment opportunities.

The missionary school was recognised by the Department of Education as a secondary school in 1948, and the school opened to day pupils. Missionary students were phased out by 1957, and the school became a secondary school and a feeder school for the Agricultural College. Boarding was phased out and ended in 1995.

The Salesian College at Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, was established 100 years ago in 1919 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; click on images for full-screen view)


Geraldine said...

General James Caulfeild was my great great grandfather. I have his portrait, let me know if you would like to see it.

Patrick Comerford said...

Thank you Geraldine, that is a very kind offer and I'd be delighted to accept. I can be contacted through my Facebook page, Patrick