Saturday, 30 January 2016

Geashill Castle

THE BARONS DIGBY WERE THE LARGEST LANDOWNERS IN KING'S COUNTY,WITH 29,722 ACRES


The original surname of this ancient family is said to have been TILTON, assumed from their residence at Tilton, Leicestershire; and the alteration is supposed to have taken place in 1256, when that abode was abandoned for Digby, Lincolnshire.

Almost two centuries later, in 1434, we find

EVERARD DIGBY, filling the office of High Sheriff of the county of Rutland, and representing that county in parliament.

He fell at the battle of Towton, in 1440, fighting under the banner of the unfortunate HENRY VI.

This gentleman married Jaquetta, daughter and co-heir of Sir John Ellis, of Devon, and left (with one daughter), seven sons, of whom the eldest were,
Everard;
SIMON;
John.
The second son,

SIR SIMON DIGBY, Knight, of Coleshill, Warwickshire, having contributed mainly, with his six valiant brothers, to the Earl of Richmond's success at Bosworth, was rewarded, after the accession of HENRY VII, with large grants of lands and lucrative public employments.

Sir Simon wedded Alice, daughter and heir of John Walleys, of East Radston, Devon; and dying in 1519, was succeeded by his elder son,

REGINALD DIGBY, of Coleshill, who espoused Anne, daughter and co-heir of John Danvers, of Calthorpe, Oxfordshire, and was succeeded by his son,

JOHN DIGBY, who married Anne, eldest daughter of Sir George Throgmorton, and was succeeded by his son,

SIR GEORGE DIGBY, who wedded Abigail, daughter of Sir Arthur Henningham, of Kettering, in Norfolk, and had, with other issue,
ROBERT, his successor;
George, created 1st Baron Digby.
The son and heir,

SIR ROBERT DIGBY, Knight, who received that honour from Robert, Earl of Essex, at Dublin, in 1596, represented the borough of Athy in parliament, in 1613, and was called to the privy council.

He espoused Lettice, daughter and heir of Gerald, Lord Offaly, and granddaughter of Gerald, 11th Earl of Kildare, by whom he had, with several other sons, whose male descendants are extinct,
ROBERT, his heir;
Essex(Rt Rev), Lord Bishop of Dromore.
This Lettice was created Baroness Offaly for life, and brought into the Digby family the barony of Geashill, in the King's County.

Sir Robert died in 1618, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT DIGBY (c1599-1642), who was elevated to the peerage, in 1620, as BARON DIGBY, of Geashill, King's County.

His lordship espoused Lady Sarah Boyle, daughter of Richard, 1st Earl of Cork, and was succeeded, in 1642, by his son,

KILDARE, 2nd Baron, whose two elder sons,
ROBERT, 3rd Baron, and
SIMON, 4th Baron,
succeeded in turn to the barony, and both dying without issue, a younger brother,

WILLIAM, 5th Baron (1661-1752), inherited in 1657.

This nobleman married Lady Jane Noel, daughter of Edward, 1st Earl of Gainsborough, by whom he had (with eight daughters), four sons, viz.
John (c1687-1746);
Robert (c1692-1726);
Edward (c1693-1746), father of
EDWARD, 6th Baron;
Wriothesley.
His lordship was succeeded by his grandson,

EDWARD, 6th Baron (1730-57), who died unmarried, when the honours devolved upon his brother,

HENRY, 7th Baron (1731-93), who was created a peer of Great Britain, in 1765, as Baron Digby; and advanced, in 1790, to the dignities of Viscount Coleshill and EARL DIGBY. 

His lordship married firstly, in 1763, Elizabeth, daughter of the Hon Charles Fielding, but by that lady had no surviving issue; and secondly, Mary, daughter and heir of John Knowler, of Canterbury, by whom he had,
EDWARD, his successor;
Robert, in holy orders;
Stephen;
Charlotte Maria; Elizabeth Theresa.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

EDWARD, 2nd Earl.

Barons Digby (1620; Reverted)

The heir apparent is the present holder's son, the Hon Henry Noel Kenelm Digby (b 1954).

GEASHILL, County Offaly, was developed by the Digbys as a planned estate village.

In 1887 Samuel Lewis described the village as containing 87 mostly thatched houses arranged around a triangular green.

Fairs were held on May 1, October 6 and December, the latter being one of the largest pig markets in Ireland.

The 9th Baron carried out extensive improvements in the 1860s and 1870s, and many of the current buildings around the triangular green date from this time.

The Kings County Directory recorded that Lord Digby had "converted the village of Geashill into what it now is, one of the neatest, cleanest and best kept in Ireland."

At the Paris Exhibition of 1867, Lord Digby was awarded the bronze medal for models of the village he was building.

He was awarded the gold medal for three years by the Royal Agricultural Society, for improving the greatest number of cottages in the best manner in the province of Leinster.

The Digbys built Geashill Castle near the medieval tower house of the O'Dempseys, and afterwards of the Kildare FitzGeralds, who were also Barons of Offaly.

This dwelling passed to the Digbys through marriage of Sir Robert Digby to the heiress of the 11th Earl of Kildare.

The house was of seven bays with a recessed, three-bay centre, a high plain roof parapet and a lower wing at one side.

It was burnt in 1922.

Seats ~ Coleshill, Warwickshire; Sherborne Castle, Dorset; Geashill, County Offaly.

If any readers possess better photographs of Geashill Castle, I'd greatly appreciate it.

First published in January, 2012.   Digby arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

1 comment :

Noel Rice said...

Thanks for posting the Digby Family info. I grew up in Geashill and spent many hours playing, with my pals, in the Digby ruined mansion. In the Digby school, built 1862, we were not taught any local history or anything about the Land Owning Class.
Years later, I learned that Geashill was known for producing flower bulbs for export to England.
Thanks
Noel Rice - Chicago