11 December 2017
In my search for the ancient rath that gives its name to Rathkeale, I was mistaken in my identification of Mount Southwell, Rathkeale, and confused it with a townhouse in the centre of the town.
But today, as I went for a walk in the crisp winter sunshine, I caught a glimpse of Mount Southwell through the trees just a short stroll in Enniscoush, south of Rathkeale.
Local tradition says Mount Southwell stands on the site of the fort of Rathguala or Rath Caola. But the house I was looking for is at the end of a long drive beside Holy Trinity Church, and in the springtime and in summer months the house cannot be seen because of surrounding trees.
The name Rathkeale is a suggested anglisisation of Rathguala (Rath Caola), which is mentioned in The Book of Rights in the year 902. The name translates as ‘The fort of Caola,’ and it is said that Caola was a local king. Local tradition suggests that the location of the fort was at the back of the shrine and to the side of Mount Southwell.
During the Plantation of Munster, the lands of Rathkeale and Kilfinny were granted in 1582 to Edward Billingsley, who decided to centre his estate on the village of Kilfinny, which he renamed Knockbillingsley.
The estate was sold on to the Dowdall family, and in 1611 King James I granted Sir John Dowdall seignory of Knockbillingsley, an estate of over 4,000 acres in Co Limerick.
This estate eventually passed through marriage to the Southwell family, who had their principal residence in the area at Castle Matrix. In the 1630s, during the reign of Charles I, the lands of Rathkeale, Knockbillingsley and Kilfenny were brought together to form the Manor of Knockbillingsley or Mount Southwell, when John Southwell of Rathkeale married Anne Dowdall, eldest daughter and co-heir of Sir Thomas Dowdall and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Southwell.
Thomas Southwell, whose family inherited much of the Billingsley and Dowdall estates, invited the Palatine refugee families to Co Limerick in 1709. In all, about 120 families were introduced to local townlands, including Courtmatrix, Killeheen, Ballingrane and Pallaskenry.
Archdeacon John Brown was the Rector of Rathkeale and Chancellor of Limerick from 1740 to 1746. He lived at Danesfort and Mount Brown, Co Limerick and he married Meliora Southwell, a granddaughter of the 1st Viscount Southwell.
The Brown family is descended from John Brown, an officer in the Dragoons who fled to Ireland and settled in the Dungannon area. His son, Colonel William Brown, moved to Co Clare in the early 18th century, and was the father of the Ven John Brown, Archdeacon and Chancellor of Limerick.
Archdeacon Brown’s son, John Brown of Danesfort and Mount Brown, Co Limerick, married the Hon Mellora Southwell, daughter of the 1st Viscount Southwell, and so came to live at Mount Southwell.
Members of his family become agents for the Southwell estate and they built a number of significant houses in the area. These include Mount Southwell, which was the property of the Brown family while they were agents of the Southwell family. It remains an important house Rathkeale, both architecturally and historically.
Although I did not get close enough to see the house in detail, architectural descriptions say Mount Southwell is a detached, five-bay, two-storey house, built ca 1800, with a central breakfront. I understand the house has an elliptical-headed door opening with a doorcase and fanlight, approached by a flight of steps, and a Wyatt-style window above the central doorway.
The rest of the main windows in the house are square-headed openings with timber sliding sash windows.
The house is approached through rendered square-profile piers with rendered pyramid caps, flanking a recent gate, between the shrine and Holy Trinity Church.
Francis Brown was living in this house in 1837 when Samuel Lewis visited Rathkeale, and it was still his property in the early 1850s, although it was leased to Edward John Collins. It was valued at £24.
At the time of Griffith’s Valuation, Archdeacon Brown’s grandson, John Southwell Brown, held a vast estate in the parishes of Croagh, Rathkeale, Killeenagarriff, Kilmurry and Stradbally, Co Limerick.
In March 1853, Castle Matrix and the lands at Rathkeale and Croagh were advertised for sale. They were held by John Southwell Brown from Viscount Southwell, on a lease for 99 years dated 20 September 1849.
Mount Southwell later passed by marriage to the Hill family of Graig, and more recently it was the home of the Enright family.
We are in the second week of Advent.
Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.
USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.
Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.
This week, the Prayer Diary continues its Advent series, looking at how the church is reaching out to mothers and babies through ‘a USPG-supported Anglican health programme in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in parts of the Cape Coast.’
In the Prayer Diary yesterday, Gloria, told her story and how she had benefitted from this programme.
The USPG Prayer Diary:
Monday 11 December 2017:
In this Advent period, join USPG in praying for mothers and babies around the world. This week, give thanks for health intervention in Ghana that are helping mothers like Gloria (see article).
Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar:
The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.
Today, the calendar suggests reading Matthew 11: 2-11.
The reflection for today suggests:
Today make a list of the things that speak of God’s love to you. Give thanks for them. Pray for the people in your life who help you see God’s love.
Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):
Isaiah 35: 1-10; Psalm 85: 7-13; and Luke 5: 17-26.
The Collect of the Second Sunday of Advent:
Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Advent Collect:
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.