Ref NoLE8
TitleThe Papers of the Kirwans of Castlehackett, county Galway
DescriptionGiven the 1923 fire, it is surprising that anything has survived to this time. The collection consists of 23 items, and there is little continuity. The legal material consists of a scattering of deeds from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, mainly deeds of conveyance to the Kirwans, and marriage settlements, and could in no way be seen as a comprehensive record of the family.

The estate management material dates from the 1850s to the 1890s, and consists of the account of the land agent with Denis Kirwan, later his wife and then their daughter. There are also rentals which would have been used by the land agent to record rents received. This material gives a comprehensive picture of the monies they received out of their estate in the later nineteenth century.

The final section of this collection consists of a number of disparate maps and surveys of lands from county Galway over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Some refer to Athenry and the estate of the Birmingham family there, as well as a 1781 maps of the property of Francis French on the shore and islands of Lough Corrib. Again there is no sense of original order, and the material does not form a coherent series of records, so they have been listed chronologically.
Extent23 items
ArrangementThe material has been separated into legal documents, items concerning estate management, and some maps and surveys; all has been arranged in chronological order.
Administrative HistoryThis branch of the Kirwan family were an important land-holding and merchant family in Galway from the later seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, with many of the family prominent in local politics. The most senior branch was located at Cregg, but there were many cadet branches. The Castlehackett branch of the family was established in the mid-seventtenth century by Sir John Kirwan. He had made his fortune as a wool merchant and also from ventures in the West Indies. He bought up lands from the forfeited estates of the Burkes of Castlehackett in the mid-seventeenth century, and consolidated it with other lands. His grandson, also John, built a fine house there in the mid-eighteenth century, and this was added to by his son with two pedimented wings. They were a prominent family with many local connections, as can be seen from the collection.

In the eighteenth century the family were greatly interested in horse-racing, and when Denis Kirwan came into his inheritance in 1842 he turned the lands into a model farm. He was the first Chairman of local railway and gas companies, and was responsible for the bringing of the marigold and the turnip into the area. His son, John, an officer in the Royal Fusileers, died at the age of 24 in 1879, and the property passed to the Bernard family. Denis Kirwan Bernard succeeded to the estate in 1912, and he had a successful career in the British Army. The house was burned down in 1923 during the Civil War, and was later rebuilt be Bernard. He died in 1956 and the property passed onto his nephew Percy Paley, who built an extensive library there in the 1960s and 1970s.
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