Kentstown // Yellow Furze (Co. Meath / Central)
Kentstown was included amongst various lands granted under the Act of Settlement 1666 to Thomas Shaw for services rendered, the previous owner, Lord Dunsany, having lost possesssion for being on the wrong side in the 1641 Rebellion. On conversion to the Church of Ireland, Randall Plunkett, 11th Baron Dunsany, unsuccessfully contested the entitlement of the Shaw family to Kentstown, Veldonstown etc. in a famous court case in 1732.
Brownstown, Veldonstown, Curraghtown, Kentstown and Knockerc were sold by Thomas’ descendant William Shaw in 1757 to a Richard Vincent, who paid the sum of five shillings for the land, but also had to pay the rent of one peppercorn, payable annually on the feast of St Michael the Archangel to Thomas Shaw and his descendants.
St Mary’s church (CoI), built c.1795 and remodelled c.1850, has a lovely rose window and a plaque reading “Sir James Quayle Somerville Baronet Built this Steeple Anno Domini 1797“. The well kept grounds contain gravestones executed by skilled craftsmen. (Photo – www.buildingsofireland.ie)
Somerville House was the chief seat of the Somerville family, descendants of Scottish settlers in County Fermanagh. Sir James Somerville, who lived for a time at nearby Brownstown House, married Elizabeth Quaile in 1713, served as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1729, was made a Baronet in 1748 and died a month later. His son, Sir Quaile Somerville, 2nd Bt (d. 1772), chose Athlumney as his title when offered a peerage in 1764, but was not in fact elevated.
Sir William Somerville, 5th Bt (1802–1873), a Liberal politician who served disastrously as Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1847 to 1852, lived at Dollardstown House near Navan. In 1863 he was raised to the Peerage of Ireland as Baron Athlumney, of Somerville and Dollardstown in the County of Meath, and in 1866 he was created Baron Meredyth, of Dollardstown in the County of Meath, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, giving him a seat in the British House of Lords. His wife Lady Maria was the daughter of the 1st Marquess Conyngham.
Their son James Herbert Gustavus Meredyth Somerville (b. 1865), 6th Baronet and 2nd and last Baron Athlumney, who fought with the Coldstream Guards in the Nile Campaigns (he was mentioned in despatches for his role in the Dongola Expedition of 1896) and the Boer War, served during WWI as Assistant Provost Marshall of London (where he founded a Masonic Lodge), and died without issue at Somerville House in 1929.
His nephew by marriage, Quentin Agnew, assumed the additional surname of Somerville but sold the estate. The family’s most famous modern member is Geraldine Margaret Agnew-Somerville, (b. 1967), an actress best known for her roles in Cracker and the Harry Potter film series.
Rebuilt c.1830, when the original entrance façade became the garden front, the house has impressive interiors and a battlemented octagonal tower above the pedimented archway entrance of the stable-yard. The property is now owned by the McGrath family.
A monumental water outlet in Kentstown bears a plaque reading “Erected by the Rt Honble. Sir Wm M Somerville Bart 1855“. Photo
Somerville Bridge carries a road over the (often dry) course of the Boyne Navigation Canal, first mooted c.1710 to connect Lough Erne to the Irish Sea, and constructed in stages from 1748 to 1800; running parallel to the River Boyne, the canal only extends from Drogheda as far as Navan. Never very economically viable, it fell into disuse c. 1923 and is largely derelict, despite sporadic moves to restore at least part of it or develop a nature trail. Notes & Photo
The Roman Catholic parish of Blacklyon, formed in the C18th as a union of the Norman parishes of Timoole, Ballymagarvey, Brownstown, Kentstown and Danestown, probably took its name from a coaching inn on the old Dublin / Derry main road which passed adjacent to the village. According to Lewis (1837), the parish was served by a “plain thatched building that was rectangular in shape“. The curate at the onset of the Great Famine was the Rev. Patrick Gibney, who wrote in Volume 1 of the Rev. Anthony Cogan’s The Diocese of Meath Ancient and Modern (1862) that “A prosperous and populous village stood near the old chapel, every house of which has been levelled. Political economy and modern civilisation have been tested here with a vengeance. The people are gone, and replaced with the beasts of the fields. The country has been converted into a sheep-walk and the noble peasantry have been ruthlessly wed away.”
The church of the Assumption
The church of Our Lady of the Assumption (RC), inaugurated in 1845, was heavily mortgaged, and thus not formally consecrated until 1856. It serves the parish of Beauparc, formerly known as Blacklyon.
A large octagonal baptismal font from the ancient church of Timoole, now used as a holy water stoop, was made in 1557 by Robert Hollywood, proctor of the estates of the Priory of Llantony in Wales, which included most of the ecclesiastical property in Duleek and its environs. It is possible that he was a brother to the famous Jesuit, Christopher Hollywood and, if so, a distant relative of Saint Oliver Plunkett.
The Mystical Marriage of St Catherine of Alexandria, a framed painting donated by Lord Athlumney, was probably originally an altar piece. Clearly of the Flemish school, the composition exhibits identifiable Rubensque elements and may be the work of a disciple of Jan Brueghel II (1601-1678). It represents the spiritual betrothal of the early Christian martyr and the Christ child, seated on his mother’s lap. Saint Catherine survived the torture wheel on which she was sentenced to be broken, which gives its name to the well known firework “Catherine’s wheel”, and is recognised by the butt of the sword on the ground under her feet, the instrument of her death. The painting and frame, completely restored and cleaned in 2006, now hang in the vestibule.
The altar, brought from the Augustine church in Drogheda, was sculpted using Alabaster, Carrara, Connemara and Red Cork marbles. The Stations of the Cross are oleographs by Pietro Aubert Dis of originals by Piedmontese artist Luigi Morfori. The sanctuary stained glass windows were made by William Earley.
Beau Parc / Beauparc / Beaupark House, built c. 1755, is thought to have been designed by the amateur architect Nathaniel Clements, with two additional wings added in the 1770s, possibly by another amateur architect, Rev. Daniel Beaufort. The mansion is located in a striking natural location high above the River Boyne, with spectacular views from the rear (west) of the house. The Beauparc estate was long the property of the Barons Lambart / Earls of Cavan, who never took up residence; Lewis (1837) reported that the house was then occupied by their relative Gustavus Lambert, Esq. It is now used as a second home by the 8th Marquess Conyngham, still widely known as Lord Henry Mount Charles, organiser of successful annual rock concerts at his nearby ancestral Slane Castle, sometime Fine Gael politician and Irish Mirror journalist. (Photo by JP)
Beauparc Cottages were built in the mid C18th to house workers on the Beauparc Estate. Lewis (1837), writing of the area in general, remarked that “Until of late years the houses of the proprietors and of the cultivators of the soil exhibited a more marked disparity than could be seen in any other part of Ireland; the tenements of the working farmers who hold from 20 to 100 acres presented an appearance of great wretchedness, and the cabins of the labourers or cottiers were still more deficient of comfort; but this characteristic, though not entirely removed, has been considerably diminished by the improvement made in the dwellings. The lower classes suffer much from the want of fuel, which, as already remarked, is very scarce in many parts, and the low rates of wages prevent the possibility of providing a stock of sea coal to meet the exigencies of winter. Yet the peasantry in general are endowed with a disposition so well inclined to look on the bright points of the prospect before them, that under the depressing difficulties through which they have to struggle during life, they enjoy every momentary festivity with delight and animation“.
Beauparc used to boast a post office, school, blacksmith, dispensary, and even a copper mine, where the great poet Francis Ledwidge (1887-1917) worked for a short time before he was sacked for organising a strike due to the terrible working conditions.
Beauparc Railway Station (1857), long since closed and converted to a private house, was a stop on the Kingscourt / Navan / Drogheda line, closed to passengers in 1958.
Yellow Furze (an Aitinn Bhuí – “small yellow place”) is a small village on the south side of the River Boyne.
The church of the Assumption (RC) dates from 1971.
Yellow Furze is