Friday, 10 April 2015

Oak Park

THE FAMILY OF BRUEN WERE THE LARGEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY CARLOW, WITH 16,477 ACRES

JAMES BRUEN, said to have been of Tarvin, Cheshire, went to Ireland in Cromwell's Army and settled at Abbeyboyle, County Roscommon.

He was administrator to his brother, Henry Bruen, of Dublin, in 1700. His son,

MOSES BRUEN, of Boyle, County Roscommon, purchased land and property in counties Carlow and Wexford from the Beaucamp, Grogan and Whaley families.

Thereafter, the family settled at Oak Park, County Carlow, and Coolbawn, in County Wexford.

This Moses, who died in 1757, left issue,
Moses;
HENRY, of Oak Park;
Bridget; Mary;
Elinor Catherine; Margaret;
Elizabeth.
The second son,

COLONEL HENRY BRUEN MP (1741-95), of Oak Park, removed, about 1775, to estates which he purchased in County Carlow.

He married, in 1787, Harriette Dorothea, daughter of Francis Knox, of Rappa Castle, County Mayo.

Dying in 1795, he left issue,
HENRY, his heir;
John, of Coolbawn;
Francis, of Coolbawn;
Maria; Margaret; Harriett.
The son and heir,

COLONEL HENRY BRUEN MP (1789-1852), of Oak Park, and Coolbawn, County Wexford, was sometime MP for County Carlow.

He married, in 1822, Anne Wandesforde, daughter of Thomas Kavanagh MP, of Borris House, County Carlow, by Lady Elizabeth his wife, daughter of John, 17th Earl of Ormonde.

The Colonel died in 1852, leaving issue,
HENRY, of Oak Park;
Elizabeth; Harriet; Anne.
The son and heir,

THE RT HON HENRY BRUEN JP DL (1828-1912), of Oak Park and Coolbawn, MP for Carlow, 1857-80; High Sheriff, 1853; sworn a Privy Counsellor (I), 1880.

In 1854, this gentleman married Mary Margaret, third daughter of Colonel Edward M Conolly MP, of Castletown, County Kildare, and had issue,
HENRY, of Oak Park;
Edward Francis, Captain RN;
John Richard;
Arthur Thomas;
Charles;
Katherine Anne; Mary Susan;
Elizabeth; Eleanor; Helen; Grace.
The son and heir,

HENRY BRUEN (1856-1927), of Oak Park, and Coolbawn; late lieutenant, Royal Artillery; High Sheriff of Carlow, 1886; and of Wexford, 1909.

Mr Bruen wedded, in 1886, Agnes Mary, youngest daughter of the Rt Hon Arthur M Kavanagh, of Borris, County Carlow, and had issue,

HENRY ARTHUR BRUEN (1887-1954), of Oak Park, captain, 15th Hussars, who wedded, in 1913, Jane Catherine Gladys, daughter of Arthur George Florence McClintock, and had issue,

GLADYS PATRICIA BREUN, of Oak Park, born in 1914, who wedded, in 1939, Mervyn Anthony Arthur Rudyerd Boyse, son of Major Henry Thomas Arthur Shapland Hunt Boyse. They had four sons.

She lived in 1976 at Maryvale, Church Road, Ballybrack, County Dublin.


OAK PARK, near Carlow town, is a large Victorian classical house by W V Morrison.

It has two storeys, the entrance front having a five-bay central block with a pedimented portico of four huge Ionic columns.

The main block is prolonged by wings of the same height, initially set back though returning forwards with Wyatt windows at their ends.

The garden front of thirteen bays is duller in appearance.

The interior has splendid plasterwork in the style of Morrison; while the Hall boasts giant, free-standing Ionic columns.

Part of the former Oak Park estate, once the home of the Bruen Family, from 1775 to 1957, is now the 127 acre Oak Park Forest Park.

The Oak Park demesne was bought by Colonel Henry Bruen in 1775, after making his fortune in the American Army.

He was the grandson of James Bruen, of Tarvin, Cheshire, who came to Ireland with Oliver Cromwell and received land at Abbeyboyle, County Roscommon.


The Bruens intermarried with the County Mayo families, Knox of Rappa and Ruttledge of Bloomfield.

HMS Drake, the wreck of which lies at Church Bay, Rathlin Island, was torpedoed in 1917. One of her Captains was Edward Bruen, son of the MP. He was Captain when the ship was flagship on the Australian station circa 1912/13.

The Senior Naval Officer in Australia at the time was Admiral King-Hall (Admiral Sir George Fowler King-Hall KCB CVO) who had a very strong Ulster connection. Captain Edward Bruen RN was married to Olga Ker, one of the Montalto and Portavo family.

Captain Bruen later went on to command HMS Bellerophon at the Battle of Jutland.

The Bruen estate was mainly in the counties of Carlow and Wexford where they had houses at Oakpark in Carlow and at Coolbawn, Enniscorthy.

Francis Bruen was married to Catherine Anne Nugent, daughter of the Earl of Westmeath.

Three townlands in the barony of Athenry were offered for sale in the Landed Estates court in 1866.

All this land gave the Bruen family political power and, in 1790, Henry Bruen was returned to Parliament, winning the seat of a neighbouring family, the Butlers.

However, the Butlers reclaimed their seat five years later with the sudden death of the Colonel in December, 1795.

This allowed his son, also called Henry, to assume control of the estate.

The Bruen estate in County Galway amounted to over 700 acres in the 1870s but was part of an estate of almost 25,000 acres in total.

Manuscripts in the Irish Genealogical Office would suggest that the family held lands at Boyle, County Roscommon, in the 18th century.

These lands seem to have been at the centre of a legal case between the Bruen family and Richard St George.

Henry Bruen attended Harrow School alongside the poet Lord Byron and Robert Peel, with whom he would later serve as a Conservative MP.

Peel was Home Secretary at the time of Catholic Emancipation, a Bill which Henry Bruen supported.

Bruen quickly amassed the land surrounding Oak Park.

In 1841, a survey of every Bruen farm revealed that the family's estates in County Carlow covered 20,089 acres.

In the 1841 election, Henry defeated the Liberal candidate, Daniel O'Connell, Jnr., son of “The Liberator”.
However, the Bruen hold on the seat lapsed with the death of Henry in 1852; but his son, also confusingly called Henry, returned to the House of Commons in 1857 and held his seat until 1880, which marked the end of the family's 90-year history of political involvement over three generations.
The current mansion house at Oak Park is the result of four periods of expansion and remodelling carried out between 1797 and 1902.

Twenty-two years after he arrived, Henry employed Michael Boylan to redecorate the house.

In 1832, the second Henry Bruen commissioned William Morrison to re-model the house and in 1876 Samuel Bolton, a builder, signed a contract for a major extension, which took three years to complete.

However, on 22nd February, 1902, the house was gutted by fire.

After eight hours of fighting the blaze, all that remained was the north wing. Fortunately, a large number of paintings, furniture and books were saved by the workers.

The house was rebuilt under the supervision of William Mitchell.

The last male Bruen, the fifth Henry, died in 1954.

By then, the estate had reduced in size to a relatively small 1,500 acres.

He left nothing to his estranged daughter Gladys, who had several years earlier married Prince Milo of Montenegro.

The remainder of the estate was bequeathed to a cousin in England, minus a weekly income for life of £6 to his daughter, Patricia.

In 1957, the estate was purchased at auction for £50,555 by Brownes Hill Estates, who already owned the nearby estate in which a Norfolk farmer was principal partner.

However, within three years the property was back on the market after fierce protest from smaller farmers in opposition to the purchase by the Norfolk farmer.

The estate was bought by the Irish Land Commission for £68,000, and seven hundred acres were divided up among small holders, while the house and the remaining land were taken over as a research centre for the Irish Agricultural Institute (Teagasc).

The last member of the Bruen family to be buried in the family's private burial ground at the Mausoleum was Gladys, the estranged wife of Henry (d 1969). 

First published in April, 2011. I am grateful to Henry Woods and Robert Power for most of the information; further reading about the Bruens and Oak Park can be read here.

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