Friday, 14 September 2012

Brittas Castle

 DUNNE OF BRITTAS


THE DUNNES WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY LAOIS, WITH 9,215 ACRES


RORY O'DOINN, chief of I-Regan, died, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, in 1427. He left a son,

LENAGH O'DOINN, chief of I-Regan, who built Castlebrack, in the Queen's County. He married and his eldest son,

TEIG O'DOINN, chief of I'regan. He wedded twice and his heir,

TEIG (OGE) O'DOINN, chief of Iregan, whose successor,

TEIGH (REOGH) or THADY O'DOINN, of Iregan, had a grant of English liberty for himself and his issue by patent, in 1551. His successor,

TEIGH (LOGHA) or THADY O'DOYNE, of Castlebrack, surrendered his estate in 1611, and had a re-grant of the greater portion by patent, in 1611. His brother,

CAHIR O'DOINN, alias CHARLES DUNN LL.D, 4th son of Thady O'Doinn, Captain of I'regan, Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in 1593; Master in Chancery, 1602; MP, 1613; Vice-Chancellor, 1614.

He petitioned against the regrant of Iregan to his brother and got a grant to himself of Brittas and portion of the Iregan estates, which he bequeathed by his will, dated 1617, to his nephew,

BARNABY or BRIAN OGE DUNN, of Brittas, high sheriff of Queen's County in 1623.

He obtained from CHARLES I a patent for a large estate in the barony of Tinnahinch, to hold to him and his heirs for ever in soccage, provided that he did not take the name, style, or title of O'DOINN, and that he should drop that same and call himself BRIAN DUNN.

He married Sybella, daughter of Sir Robert Piggott, knight, of Dysart, and was succeeded by his son,

CAHIR or CHARLES DUNNE, of Brittas. His heir,

TERENCE DUNNE, of Brittas, captain in Moore's Regiment of Infantry, who fought for JAMES II and fell at Aughrim in 1691; whose successor,

DANIEL, of Brittas, born in 1678. His successor,

EDWARD DUNNE, of Brittas, whose elder son,

FRANCIS DUNNE, of Brittas, married and had issue,

EDWARD DUNNE JP (1763-1844), of Brittas, general in the army, deputy governor and high sheriff of Queen's County; MP for Maryborough.

General Dunne took an active part in suppressing the Irish Rebellion of 1798, at which time he commanded the Pembrokeshire Fencible Cavalry. His heir,

THE RT HON FRANCIS PLUNKETT DUNNE JP DL MP MA (1802-74), of Brittas and Dunsoghly Castle, County Dublin. Privy Counsellor, major-general, MP for Portarlington, and Queen's County; clerk of the ordnance, 1852; private secretary to HE The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1858-9.

This gentleman was succeeded by his brother,

EDWARD MEADOWS DUNNE JP, of Brittas, barrister. His heir,

FRANCIS PLUNKETT DUNNE JP, of Brittas, born in 1844; high sheriff, 1878.

Mr Dunne died in 1878, leaving his estates to be equally divided between his two surviving daughters, ALICE MAUDE and KATHLEEN PLUNKETT, who sold the estate of Brittas in 1898 to their uncle,

Robert Hedges Plunkett Dunne, on whose death, in 1901, these ladies succeeded, again, to Brittas and Dunsoghly Castle.

Mr F P Dunne was succeeded in the male representation of his family by his cousin Charles Henry Plunkett Dunne.


Brittas Castle, near Clonaslee, County Laois, was a castellated house of sandstone with limestone dressings, built in 1869 by Major-General the Rt Hon F P Dunne MP, to the design of John McCurdy.


The Dunnes were influential in the form and history of Clonaslee, as evidenced in its planned form and also from a number of ruins in the area. The former residence of a branch of the family remains in ruins one mile from the village at Clara Hill.

Also, near the east bank of the Clodiagh River, stand the ruins of Ballinakill Castle, built in 1680 by Colonel Dunne.

Throughout the 18th century, Clonaslee prospered due to its location on an important highway across Laois leading onto Munster.


The proximity of Brittas - the seat of the Dunnes - was also influential as the power of this family had by now grown beyond that of a native Irish chieftain.

In 1771, Francis Dunne, then head of the Dunne Family, became a Roman Catholic and built a thatched parish chapel in the village. This was located close to the site of the present church.

The Dunne family continued to finance the construction of landmark buildings in the village: The parish Church was erected in 1814 under General Dunne (known locally as 'shun-battle Ned' because of his rumoured refusal to fight at the 1815 battle of Waterloo).

When the main residence in Tinnahinch was blown up in 1653, the Dunne chief had to build anew. At this time there was a low thatched lodge located at Brittas.

Major-General Francis Plunkett Dunne built a Neo-Gothic mansion at Brittas in 1869. It was extended ten years later by Millar & Symes.

It is claimed that General Dunne obtained loans from Germany to build the castle, and rental income from his tenants was used to repay the lenders.

The gate piers of the grand house still remain on the western edge of the Green. The walls and windows give an idea of the house's architecture.

It was three storeys high and the roof was originally thatched. On the wall over the main entrance, the family crest is still visible, depicting an eagle and a drawn sword.

The last of the family to reside in Brittas House were the Misses Dunne.

The house had extensive gardens, shrubberies and out-offices. The links with Clonaslee village, and the remains of the Brittas estate are strong.

The expansive demesne grounds contain many splendid trees – remnants of the larger plantations. Lawson's cypress, copper beech, yew, sycamore, cut-leaved beech, and oak that covered much of the townland of Brittas over a century ago.

Brittas Lake – which has recently been restored – was originally constructed as a reservoir for the house. Its banks are stone lined and water was pumped from the Clodiagh River.

Brittas Castle suffered a fire fire in 1942 and, despite the best efforts of the Tullamore fire brigade, it was destroyed. 

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