The origins of the Moxham family in Ireland are lost to history, but the earliest reference I have found is a lease agreement dated 5 June 1688, whereby William Moxham was granted the townland of Rasala (Rathsallagh) in south County Longford for £16 annually, by Robert Choppyne. A townland is the smallest unit of division of Irish property, and can range from a few to a few hundred acres. The family have lived in this or adjoining townlands to this day.
A bit of background on this – Longford was traditionally the territory of the Farrell clan, and was known as Annaly. Due to a dispute over the succession, the clan divided into two rival subgroups around 1445, of which the O’Farrell Buí (yellow) controlled the south and the O’Farrell Bán (white) the north. Annaly managed to resist colonisation by the English authorities up to the reign of King James I, who confiscated the territory by force and reorganised it as a county along the lines of an English shire. As elsewhere in Ireland, the process of consolidating control involved removing the Catholic native population and giving the confiscated land to Protestant British colonist ‘Planters’. The plantations of Longford began in 1620/1621. In the rebellion of 1641 the native Irish reclaimed much of Ireland, and exaggerated accounts of genocide of the settlers (see link) were a major factor in the English civil war, where outraged Puritan Roundheads were determined on revenge. In due course Cromwell reconquered Ireland and in addition to restoring the planters he confiscated even more land to reward his soldiers and ‘adventurer’ supporters. The restoration of the monarchy was followed by the interconnected Acts of Settlement (1662) and Explanation (1665), in which a small proportion of Catholic lands were restored but the Protestant ownership of most land was confirmed.
With their English surname and Church of Ireland (Anglican) religion, the Moxham family were certainly among these planters arriving in Longford during the 1600s. The earliest records of the name can be traced to the region of Great Chalfield in Wiltshire, not far from Bath, a Roundhead stronghold in the 1640s. Whether William Moxham came directly from England in 1688, came to Longford before this time, was the son of an earlier Longford settler, or moved from elsewhere in Ireland, may never be known, but he himself was almost certainly too young to have arrived with Cromwell. (Church records include a William Moxham, son of Robert Moxham, baptised in Great Chalfield in December 1645, who would fit well with this William, but it would be pure speculation.) There was also a Moxham family well established at Glastonbury by 1700. Given that other Irish Moxhams turn up soon after William’s time, with no obvious connection to his family, it is possible he had brothers or even cousins who also lived in Ireland. I’m told that a regimental story suggests that a Colonel John Moxham arrived from Somerset during the 1600s, possibly settling in Northern Ireland. Another theory is that three brothers – James, Henry and Richard Moxham – came to Ireland from Bristol as commissioned officers under King William of Orange, and while this could be true, this lease indicates that William Moxham was already living in Longford a year before King William’s arrival in 1689. The authenticity of this lease was called into question during a court case in the 1770s, which explains the later post scripts written on the back of it, and documents from the same case say that William Moxham died in 1724 or 1725. The standard practice at the time was for a lease to be granted for the duration of three lives – that is, to last as long as the longest-lived of these persons – so it was in their interests to name a very young male heir to get the maximum possible benefit. If the lease was ‘renewable forever’ then when one of the lives died, it could be replaced with another person upon the payment of a fine. The terms of the lease could only be renegotiated if all the named lives had expired without replacement. In the case of this lease, the lives were William and his two sons, Robert and William, and as Robert died in about 1757 it is likely the sons were very young at the time. To the best of my ability, this is what is written on the above image:
Memorandum that it is agreed upon between Robert Choppine of Newcastle esq. of the one part & William Moxum of Rasala of the other part witnesseth that the said Robert Choppine doth for ____ of his heirs and assigns demise and set unto the said Wm Moxum all the town & lands of Rasala now in the possession of the said Wm, to hold unto the said Wm Moxum his heirs and assigns from the twenty fifth day of March last for & during the life of the said Wm Moxum & for the life or lives of Robert & Wm Moxum, sons of the said Wm, yeilding & paying unto the said Robert Choppine his heirs & assigns the yearly rent of sixteene pounds ____ over & above all charges of kings ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ of ____ for non payment of said rent and it is further agreed ____ ____ ____ ____ that if any of the said life or lives of the said Wm Moxum, Robt Moxum & Wm Moxum fall within five years ____ ____ ____ any other person or persons are to be renewed in their places without ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ the said five years upon the death or failure of the said life or lives ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ and that the said Wm Moxum his heirs or assigns paying unto the said Robt Choppine his heirs & assigns the sum of eight pound ____ exclusive of the said yearly rent and ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ may nominate the life or lives of any other person or persons in the place or places of the person ____ from time to time successively dieing or failing hereafter and the said Robt Choppine his heirs and assigns shall within six months next after the failure of such life or lives and upon the receipt of the said sum of eight pound ____ for each life to be hereafter nominated shall grant & add from time to time all and singular ____ ____ of the said land of Rasala unto the said Wm Moxum his heirs and assigns for such life or lives of the person or persons as are to be so nominated hereafter ____ to be made at the request of either of the said parties their heirs or assigns pursuant to said agreement in witness whereof the said parties have herein ____ land and rents this fifth day of June in the year of our Lord sixteen hundred eighty and eight.
Robt Choppyne Willm Moxham
Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of Tho. Hannory (?), Simon Barwick
The Rev. Cutts Harman, Dean of Waterford, V. John Moxham, Eloner Moxham, William Loyd, Robert Moxham and George Moxham, defts
This deed was exhibited and produced to William Quin, Timothy Monaghan, John Nugent and Robert Huggens in the County of Longford upon their examination of this cause, the seventh of (October?) 1771.
As you may notice, the spellings vary. Rasala is more usually called Rathsallagh or Rasallagh; the surnames are spelt ‘Choppine’ and ‘Moxum’ in the main text – probably drawn up by a clerk – but the two signatories sign their own names ‘Choppyne’ and ‘Moxham’. Robert Choppyne (also Chappoyne, Choppin or Chawpen) was then the owner of the Newcastle Estate, a vast tract of plantation land in south County Longford centred on Newcastle House near Ballymahon. He died in 1693, after which the estate eventually passed to the King-Harman descendants of his sister (covered elsewhere). This lease was renewed in 1695 after Choppyne’s death. A further renewal exists, dated 1726, but is in poor condition (it was also disputed in the 1770s). All three deeds are part of the King-Harman Collection held in the National Archives of Ireland (D13654, D12947 and D13099, respectively). One more piece of the puzzle comes with the above mentioned King William of Orange. When the Catholic James II was ousted as King of England and Scotland by his Protestant son-in-law, he fled to Ireland where he naturally had many sympathisers among the Catholic majority. As Ireland was still technically a separate kingdom, for a further year James was able to continue his rule here with the help of a hand-picked Irish parliament. In May 1689 King James’ parliament issued an Act of Attainder listing about 2000 Irish landowners who supported ‘King Billy’. These people were to stand trial for treason against James II, or, if they failed to appear, would forfeit their property. The Act had little effect as James was soon also driven out of Ireland and William’s new parliament revoked it, but amongst those “persons as are attainted” by King James was ‘William Moxon, gent, late of Rathsallagh in the County of Longford’ – despite another variation in spelling, clearly the same person. Quite what a – frankly – fairly low-ranking middle-man tenant like William Moxham did to attract this attention from the authorities alongside the more prominent landlords of the area is unclear. The 1695 lease also describes William as ‘yeoman’ – in a non-military sense in this era, a yeoman was a man who owned (or leased) at least 100 acres of land.
Most intriguing is a John Moxham who turns up in the British Calendars of State Papers at this time. It is recorded that around 1689, at the height of the conflict, three Irishmen – Alex. Garvan, Edm. Cook and John Moxham – were apprehended “privately getting away for Ireland”, and that they “pretend to be protestants”. In December of that year the Earl of Shrewsbury, on behalf of the Lords of the Council, sent a letter to the Mayor of Bristol ordering that those inmates of his goal who declare themselves protestants, namely Thomas Fitz-Gerald (formerly a dragoon in Colonel Butler’s regiment), John Cary (a servant to Captain Corbett), Robert Cook, Edmund Cook (a goldsmith from Dublin) and John Moxham, should be discharged if they take the oath of allegiance. In 1697/1698 there was a proclamation of a reward for a John Moxham, and in 1700/1702 a John Moxham, an Irishman, was being held in custody. John’s exact fate is further unknown, but his description suggests there was already a Moxham family established in Ireland before 1689.
Finally, William Moxham, gent, and William Moxham, his son, both of Rasallagh, Co. Longford, witnessed the will of their neighbour Matthew Wilder of Castle Wilder on 22 September 1719 (Registry of Deeds 27/59/15143). As mentioned above, William Moxham died in 1724 or 1725. Today he has many hundreds of descendants in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and elsewhere around the globe. As this site expands I will try to cover many of them.