The King-Harman family owned the largest estate in County Longford in the nineteenth century, the principle part being the Newcastle Estate based at Newcastle House, near Ballymahon. Other parts of their estates in Longford (which are not dealt with in any detail here) were the Mosstown Estate (from around the 1820s) based near Kenagh, the Crott & Smear Estate in Colmcille parish, the Ballinamuck Estate near Drumlish, the Callows Estate in Cashel parish and the townlands of Corlea, Lisnanagh and Torboy. The King-Harman family kept extensive records of the management of their estate, and not only preserved documents long beyond their practical need, but transferred these collections to a number of libraries and archives for research purposes. And while it would be very difficult indeed to defend the system under which they held the livelihoods and even the lives of people subject to their whims, what they have left behind are some potentially very useful records of the people who paid them twice-yearly rents over the centuries. A comparison with, for example, the neighbouring Sankey/Gore estate, for which no paperwork has survived, reminds us how fortunate we are to have such a large collection preserved.
In a typical Rent Roll, the Newcastle Estate, to which the main part of the Moxham family in Longford were tenants for over 200 years, consisted of the following townlands (listed in the rent roll alphabetically with the names of the leaseholders of each): Abbeyshrule, Annagh, Ardandra, Aughafin, Augharana (Agharanagh), Aughnacross, Barry, Balinakill, Balliclimea, Barnacor, Balladrum, Ballymehanse, Ballymorneen, Cartronbrack, Cartronboy & Moigh (Moygh), Cartronboola (Cartronboley), Cloncullen, Cloncullen Nugent & Island, Cloncullen Kirkland, Bessfort, Crenaghmore, Clontebeg, Clonard, Clough, Clonkeen, Clonbrin & Abbeyshrule, Cloncallow (Cloncallas), Cornamuckla, Cloughan & Clinan, Cornecarte, Carrickbeg, Corrylegan, Corrina (Corryena), Clooneen, Darrogue, Derrygeele, Driminure, Forgney, Fortmore & Leceade, Frilliagh (Grillagh), Keel Deer Park, Keel Mountain, Keele, Keel Bawn, Kildordan, Kilnacarrow, Killinboy, Knockagh, Laragh, Legan, Leyneen (Linen), Lisnacreevy, Lisawarriffe, Moigh Ballymahon, Moigh Killashee, Monasillagh, Monifad (Monefad) & Moigh, Mullavorna, Newcastle Mills, Noughill, Pallasbeg, Rath, Ratharney, Rathmore, Rathsallagh, Toome, Tully.
Unfortunately, most accounts of Newcastle House and the King-Harman family who owned it begin with the Harmans and the Kings, and their roots in other counties, rather than with the origins of the Newcastle Estate itself, making the early history of this huge estate somewhat obscure, so it is unclear exactly when they might have been consolidated into a single unit. The general area of South County Longford was part of the O’Farrell state of Upper Annaly, based at Pallas near Abbeyshrule. The Annals of The Four Masters refer to the army of Edward Bruce having destroyed a place called Newcastle in the early 14th century, while the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) states that Anthony Chappoyne occupied Newcastle in 1660 and that in 1680 Robert Choppayne (who, peerage sites tell us, was the son of Anthony Chappoyne) “appears to have purchased / consolidated the lands of Newcastle from Gerald FitzGerald, 17th Earl of Kildare”. In 1682 Nicholas Dowdall noted that “..on the southside of the river is Newcastle, the antient Estate of the Earl of Kildare now the estate and habitation of Robert Choppin Esq. where he hath lately built a fair house and a wooden bridge over said river”. The same source also points out that although the present Newcastle House was probably built around 1730 (with extensive later alterations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), the name of the townland might suggest that it was the site of an earlier ‘castle’, and that the current house might incorporate parts of an earlier house dating to the 1660s.
As mentioned in the first post on this site, on 5 June 1688 Robert Choppyne of Newcastle (to use the spelling he himself used; alternative spellings are Chappayne, Choppin or Chawpen) leased about 111 acres of land in Rathsallagh (some distance from Newcastle) to William Moxham. This in fact represents one of the oldest documents held in the King-Harman collection at the National Archives (NAI) in Dublin, and in the course of my own research I haven’t found any earlier reference to either Newcastle or Choppyne, other than ‘Robert Chopping’ being listed as High Sheriff of County Longford in 1677. Robert Choppyne was an MP representing County Longford in the Irish Parliament in 1692, but seems to have died between November 1693 and March 1694. His widow was Frances Gore (a cousin of the Gore family that would soon inherit the Tenelick Estate), and she later married Sir Robert King of County Roscommon (by a quirk of dynastic marriage, their descendants would eventually come to own Newcastle). The will of Robert Cheppynge of Newcastle was proved in 1695, and that of Mary Cheppynge, a widow of Rockingham townsland in Roscommon, in 1701 (could this be Robert’s mother, in the care of her former daughter-in-law?). Robert Choppyne’s unnamed sister had married a Colonel Sheppard, and Choppyne’s nephew, Anthony Sheppard, inherited the Newcastle Estate upon his death.
A little more is known about Sheppard, though again mainly from peerage sources. He married Elizabeth Allen, had a son and a daughter, and both he and Anthony junior were also MPs for County Longford. In July 1695 he reaffirmed the Moxham lease of Rathsallagh, followed by a lease renewal in 1726, he leased about 120 acres in Killenboy to William Robinson in 1731, and from the sworn evidence of his agent during a court case in the 1770s we even get the lovely detail that Sheppard’s “usual time for doing any business of any consequence was in the morning in his own house, Newcastle” (NAI M1884 XVII). However, the Sheppards had troubles, as a deed from November 1723 declared that “Anthony Sheppard of Newcastle, Esq., and Anthony Sheppard junr., Esq., eldest son and heir apparent of said Anthony Sheppard, released unto Henry Sandford of Castlereagh, Co. Roscommon, [most or all of the townlands of the Newcastle Estate]… until intended recoveries might be had” (RoD 40/160/24774). Anthony junior predeceased his father in 1735, at which point his sister Mary Sheppard became heir to the Estate. Mary married Arthur Mohun St. Leger, Viscount Doneraille, around 1737 and when Anthony senior died in 1738 a deed dated August 1738 stated “that the Right Honourable Mary, Lady Viscountess Doneraile, is seized and possessed of the townlands of the Newcastle Estate, which should pass upon the death of Viscount Doneraile to Mrs. Frances Harman” (RoD 91/326/64387). Unfortunately, Mary died that same year and in spite of the above deed (Viscount Doneraille lived on until 1750), the Estate passed immediately to Mrs. Frances Harman, who was Mary’s aunt.
Frances Sheppard, sister of Anthony Sheppard senior, had married Wentworth Harman, son of Sir Thomas Harman, in 1695. The Harman family had settled in County Carlow in the reign of King James I, although Wentworth, like his brother-in-law, also served as MP for County Longford. Frances was widowed long before she unexpectedly inherited the Newcastle Estate (her husband dying after his coach tumbled down a precipice while returning from Chapelizod) and although her sons carried out the day-to-day business matters, she was head of the Estate for almost thirty years. During this time she leased the townland of Ratharney to Robert Moxham and his nephew John Moxham in October 1746 (RoD 124/487/85544) and the townland of Kildordan to Richard Butler (also of Newcastle) in July 1758 (RoD 196/334/130258). When Frances’ elder son Robert Harman died shortly before his mother, younger brother the Reverend Cutts Harman suddenly inherited the Estate in 1766. Cutts had married the daughter of George Gore and Bridget Sankey, whose family controlled the neighbouring Tenelick Estate, and (also in 1766) Cutts’ brother-in-law became Lord Annaly. Cutts himself was Dean of Waterford (1759-1784) and a not-insignificant figure nationally. Of relevance to this site, Cutts Harman went to considerable effort to terminate the Moxham lease of Rathsallagh during the 1770s, but in the process left behind a wealth of useful legal documents concerning the family history. Any child of Cutts Harman and Bridget Gore could have expected to inherit two great County Longford estates, but ultimately both the Harman and Gore families ended with this generation. On his death in 1784 Cutts bequeathed the Newcastle Estate to his nephew Laurence Harman Parsons on the condition that he adopt the Harman surname, thus becoming Laurence Harman Harman.
Anne Harman, sister of Cutts, had married Sir Laurence Parsons of Birr Castle, County Offaly. Their son Laurence would be known by many names during his relatively short life, including Lord Oxmantown from 1792, Viscount Oxmantown from 1795 and the Earl of Rosse from 1806. In August 1793, the Rt. Hon. Lord Baron Oxmantown succeeded in renegotiating the lease of Rathsallagh to the Moxham family on more profitable terms (NAI D13129), and in fact he hugely expanded the Newcastle Estate during his lifetime. He had married Lady Jane King, daughter of Edward King (the first Earl of Kingston) of Boyle, County Roscommon, in 1772, and on Laurence’s death in 1807 she, styled as Jane, Countess Dowager of Rosse, ran the Estate for the next thirty years (the Earl of Rosse title passed to Laurence’s nephew Sir Lawrence Parsons, whose family still live at Birr Castle). For at least some of this time she seems to have lived at Stratton Hall, Stafford, and granted Power of Attorney to Morgan Crofton of Harcourt Street, Dublin, who leased part of Driminure to John Moxham in February 1821 (NAI D13284). The burial register of Forgney Parish records that Jane, Countess Dowager of Rosse, died aged 92 in England on 2 January 1838.
One event that made national news in January 1796 was the murder of Caleb Barnes Harman, the then-sitting MP for County Longford having succeeded Lord Oxmantown in 1793. The ‘Defenders’, a militant Catholic vigilante organisation, raided Bawn House near Moydow to appropriate firearms and funds, but were confronted by the owner Barnes Harman, who received a blunderbuss shot to the stomach and died a few days later. Reportedly, a dozen men were soon captured on the evidence of an informer who felt he had not received his fair share of the loot, and eight people were executed for the crime, but this did little to quell the coming discontent of 1798. Barnes Harman, apparently also a land agent for the Newcastle Estate, is occasionally referred to as the brother of Lord Oxmantown, but in fact his gravestone in Lorum, County Carlow, reveals he was born around 1745, the son of Bartholomew Barnes (1717-1793) and father of Bartholomew Barnes junior (1783-1793). ‘The Irish Genealogist’ (1943; NLI Ir 9291 i2) notes that Caleb Barnes Harman was High Sheriff of County Longford for 1795, and that he may have been the grandson of a Caleb Barnes who died in 1763. Just where his ‘Harman’ surname came from is unclear; it’s possible his mother was a member of the family, or that he simply adopted the name in the same manner as Lord Oxmantown himself, for reasons now forgotten.
Lady Frances Harman, daughter of the Countess Dowager, inherited the Newcastle Estate. Lady Frances was married to her first cousin, General Robert King, a younger son of the second Earl of Kingston, who was created Viscount Lorton in 1806. The King family controlled some of the largest estates in Ireland with lands in Roscommon, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, Cork and Tipperary (and John, Lord Kingston, had even held some lands in the Barony of Abbeyshrule up to the rebellion of 1641 – NAI D13653). Their base was Boyle, County Roscommon, where they built King House and later Rockingham House. Lady Frances died just three years later in 1841. Her elder son, Robert King, inherited the title of Viscount Lorton and, after the deaths of his cousins, became Earl of Kingston as well. Her younger son, Lawrence Harman King, inherited both the Rockingham and Newcastle Estates, and adopted the surname King-Harman. It was this Lawrence Harman King-Harman who evicted and prosecuted the Moxham brothers from Driminure in April 1844, and who granted a lease of 40 acres in Killeenboy to Robert Butler in May 1845 (NAI D13576, lease transferred to John Moxham around 1847).
On the death of L.H. King-Harman Rockingham House was inherited by his eldest son, Colonel Edward Robert King-Harman, a founder member of Isaac Butt’s Irish Home Government Association but later a Unionist opponent of Parnell. His family occupied Rockingham until it was destroyed by fire in 1957 (now the site of Lough Key Forest Park). Newcastle was inherited by the second son of L.H. King-Harman, Colonel Wentworth Henry King-Harman. The Estate was at its largest at this point, stretching over an enormous 38,000 acres, but soon the various Irish Land Acts began the break up of the Irish landed estates and the phased transfer of ownership to sitting tenants (according to Marie Coleman’s County Longford and the Irish Revolution, 22.5% of the King-Harman estate was sold under the land acts by 1891 alone). By the time Col. King-Harman’s son, Major Alexander Wentworth King-Harman, inherited Newcastle in 1919 it no longer accrued the kind of rent money required to maintain such a large mansion, and in 1934 Major King-Harman sold a further area to the Department of Lands, who maintained it as a state forest. After the Major’s death in 1949 his cousin, Captain Robert Douglas King-Harman, sold Newcastle House and its remaining demesne in 1951 to the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary. The house was for a short time renamed ‘Castle Shanahan’ after the Bishop who founded the order, the billiard room was converted into Roman Catholic chapel, and the building served as a retirement home for nuns and also as a boarding school until 1954. The nuns left in 1968 and thereafter Newcastle changed hands and fortunes a number of times: under the Kindersley family it was run as an hotel in the early ’70s; after a short tenure under the Farrell family the gate lodge was sold as a family home while the main house briefly became a nightclub under the Kings in the early ’80s. Around 2000 the O’Donovan family extensively restored the house for use once again as an hotel, while its current owner has operated a restaurant and a venue for events including a music festival.
The King-Harman Papers collection held at the National Archives of Ireland in Dublin is vast. It appears they were deposited in at least three stages with the former Public Records Office during the 1920s to 1940s by the last family owners of Newcastle House (but thankfully late enough to avoid the utter destruction of the Public Records archives in 1922). The Accession Registers in the NAI reading room include a reasonably complete typed inventory, grouped under the accession numbers (1/211:/270: 1/393: 1/582: 90: 1151), which is the only means of assessing the contents of this collection (be warned though, just browsing the inventory can take many hours). The documents do not all concern the Newcastle Estate, and some are things like personal correspondence, but very many of them are leases which can have unexpected details about the lessee’s family. The NAI gives the bookend dates 1604-1893. Of general interest, the collection includes: Quit Rent listings in Moydow (1668); Frances Harman’s estate rent roll (1757/1758); Laurence Harman Harman’s rental accounts (1782-1804), rent rolls (1784-1793) and Newcastle House household account book (1790-1791); rent rolls and account receipts from the Crott & Smear Estate (1810-1837); rent rolls and tithe composition rentals from the Newcastle Estate (1836-1849); from the Mosstown Estate (1834-1837); combined rent rolls from the County Longford estates (1836-1848, 1875); and papers from legal cases and claims involving the Harmans. (listed in more detail here).
The King-Harman Papers collection held at the Longford County Archives probably arrived in the period immediately after the end of the family’s association with Newcastle House, mainly dating from the period 1838-1951. Rental books pick up from the NAI collection, covering 1850-1878, 1883, 1887-1901; account books from 1846-1948; Poor Law Valuation (probably from 1848); account book of the Newcastle Estate (1851-1852); Lord Lorton’s rent book (1838-1846); tenant purchases (1902-1910); an inventory of Newcastle House (1911); and a catalogue for the sale of the contents of Newcastle House (1951).
The King-Harman Papers collection at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) consists of 440 documents and 15 volumes donated by descendants of the family living in Britain, covering the years 1702, 1727, 1741-1959 and 1996-1997. Part of it relates to the King family in Roscommon, Sligo and Cork, but also to to the succession to and administration of Newcastle; details of the fruit trees planted at Newcastle (1787); a large household account book for Newcastle (1798-1800); the will of a servant of Mrs. Frances Harman (1764); the will of Lady Frances King (1841); the personal correspondence of the Hon. L.H. King-Harman; account books and accounts relating to the administration of Newcastle (1842-1954); documents on estates and parliamentary elections; and legal case papers and correspondence related to litigation among the Kings and King-Harmans (1846-1872).
Captain Robert Douglas King-Harman detailed his family history in the privately published The Kings, Earls of Kingston (1959), and his son Colonel Anthony Lawrence King-Harman used this as the basis for his more widely available The Kings of King House (1996), both of which give an insight into the later years of Newcastle House.
- National Archives of Ireland
- Longford County Archives
- Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)
- National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH): Newcastle House
- Firefighter puts labour of love on market (Irish Independent)
- Major plans for Newcastle House (Longford Leader)
- Newcastle House (former website)
- Newcastle House (current website)