Captured by Cunning

In the last quarter of the 16th century a number of members of the Cuffe family, all from Somerset, arrived in Ireland seeking opportunities to enrich themselves. Henry Cuffe, for example, came to this country as secretary to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex when the latter was appointed Lord Lieutenant here in 1599. But when Essex fell from favour two years later and was executed, Cuffe suffered the same fate. Meanwhile, one of his relatives, perhaps a brother (it seems unclear) called Hugh Cuffe had also settled in Ireland where he was granted some of the Earl of Desmond’s lands in Munster, following the earl’s own death in 1583. Initially Hugh Cuffe seems to have been based in County Clare, but within a few years he was recorded as receiving land in County Cork, close to property which had been given to Edmund Spenser. However, before much longer had passed Cuffee had to surrender at least some of what he had been granted, after his right to it was challenged by members of an Old English family related to the FitzGeralds . Nevertheless, he must have held onto something because a marriage settlement drawn up in 1604 between his daughter Dorothea, and Charles Coote, describes Hugh Cuffe as being ‘of Cuffe’s Wood (or Kilmore), County Cork.’ 

Like Hugh Cuffe, Charles Coote was an English settler, arriving here in 1600 as captain of a foot regiment in the army of Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy who had succeeded the Earl of Essex as Lord Deputy of Ireland: Coote was therefore a member of the force that a year later defeated the Irish and Spanish forces at the Battle of Kinsale. He soon began to reap the benefits of being on the winning side. In 1605 he was appointed Provost Marshal of Connaught and then in 1613 was given the office of General Collector and Receiver of the King’s Composition Money for Connaught, also for life, before being further promoted to Vice-President of Connaught. As a result of holding these positions, his main base was in Roscommon where he built a residence, Castle Coote. He also founded the towns of Jamestown and Carrick-on-Shannon, both in County Leitrim, as well as Mountrath, County Laois. Knighted in 1616, five years later Coote was appointed a Privy Councilor by James I, who also made him the first Baronet of Ireland, ‘in consideration of his good and faithful services in the province of Ulster.’ All seemed to be going well for him until the outbreak of the Confederate Wars in 1641. Although by then aged 60, he was instructed by the English government to raise a regiment and suppress insurrection, which he did with considerable force in County Wicklow before moving north. In May 1642 he was shot dead while leading a cavalry charge against a Confederate army in Trim, County Meath. 

As already mentioned, in 1604 Hugh Cuffe’s daughter Dorothea married Charles Coote. Although the couple spent much of their time in Connaught, Coote owned land in what is now Laois but was then called Queen’s County. Here at some unknown date, perhaps around 1621 when he became a baronet, perhaps later, he embarked on building a substantial new house, which in honour of his wife he named Castle Cuffe. Was the place ever finished and occupied? We shall probably never know because soon after the onset of the Confederate Wars it was threatened with attack by the O’Dunnes who had formerly owned the land on which the castle stood. A cunning strategy was adopted to capture the place: Captain Daniel Dunne placed a tree trunk, coloured to look like a large cannon, on a hill some distance from the building and threatened to fire on it unless the occupants surrendered, which they duly did – fleeing to the town of Birr some miles away. Meanwhile, Dunne’s troops, having taken everything they wanted from Castle Cuffe, set fire to the place. It appears to have remained a ruin ever since and only scant remains survive, although their height gives an idea of how impressive a house must once have stood here, constructed on a H-plan, rising three storeys high and with a facade 100 feet long. What mostly survive are a number of gable ends topped with high, squared chimneys, their striking appearance – as is so often the case in Ireland – a matter of indifference to the cattle which now call Castle Cuffe home. 

13 comments on “Captured by Cunning

  1. Michael Keane says:

    Thanks for excellent record of the activities of the Cuffes and the Cootes. It reminds me that I had included an extended piece about the Cuffes in relation to their lands at Cuffeswood or Kilmore south of Charleville in my 2018 book ‘The Earls of Castlehaven’, see below. The link was that Lord Audley, 1st Earl of Castlehaven bought these lands from Dorothea Cuffe and her husband Charles Coote. The land was later sold by his son and heir, the notorious 2nd Earl of Castlehaven, to the Earl of Cork. Although married to royalty which involved the Spencer family of Lady Diana fame, the 2nd Earl was executed in London for crimes of sexual depravity. It was the scandal of the age. I tried to summarise it without getting too prurient in my chapter on the 2nd Earl.
    Michael Keane

    Extract from ‘The Earls of Castlehaven Lord Audleys of Cork and Kildare
    War, Sex, Corruption, Land: From the Battle of Kinsale to the Great Famine and
    beyond’ (2018)

    Audley and Cuffeswood, Kilmore, Co. Cork

    In addition to obtaining extensive lands in both the Castlehaven area and the Mizen peninsula of West Cork, Audley also acquired substantial lands in Cuffeswood (or Cuffe’s Wood), Kilmore in North Cork. These lands are close to the Co. Limerick border, south of Charleville and north of the town of Doneraile and the great estate of Lord Doneraile. Originally the property of the Anglo Norman Fitzgibbons within the Earl of Desmond’s overall territory prior to the arrival of the Tudors, the Kilmore property came into the ownership of Hugh Cuffe as part of the plantation of Munster following the devastation of the province during the Elizabethan-Desmond conflict 1579-1583. Cuffe, who was secretary to the Earl of Essex, lost his only son in the Munster uprising in 1598. A substantial part of the Cuffe property was then acquired by Audley following the Battle of Kinsale. As stated by Dunlop:
    The seignory of Cuffeswood, containing 12,000 English acres to Hugh Cuff, rent £66-13-7 or £88-17-9 Irish, reduced to £40-2-7 which is assumed by the Earl of Castlehaven and Sir Francis Slingsby, possessors of this seignory. This seignory descended to the daughter and co-heir of Mr. Cuff … (subsequently) sold to Lord Audley, afterwards Earl of Castlehaven, 10 ploughlands with a castle. The eldest daughter’s portion, married to Sir Charles Coote, was likewise sold to Lord Audley.
    In a detailed tabular listing of Munster lands taken over by undertakers following the Elizabethan-Desmond conflict, Dunlop mentions Hugh Cuffe’s acreage as consisting of 11,020 acres with 21 English on the estate, a patent dated November 1587 and ‘no Irish mentioned’. The background to this estate, in terms of name and ownership changes, has been described in detail by Murphy:
    The name Kilmore, while being also specific to one townland can also be used to denote that vast territory known as “The Great Wood”, which gave title to David na Corrig, Lord of the Great Wood also known as David-an – Chomhrac, son of John Oge, son of John FitzGibbon, Lord of Coill Mor who died in 1582 according to the Annals of the Four Masters. This man, a FitzGibbon, owned a far greater estate than the White Knight who today would be acknowledged as the head of the premier branch of the FitzGibbon clan in the 16th century.
    With the assumption of ownership of Kilmore by Hugh Cuffe, Murphy then traces his descendants involving his two daughters, Elizabeth and Dorothea. Elizabeth married Sir Francis Slingsby, mentioned earlier by Dunlop as co-owner of Kilmore with Audley, this land being Elizabeth’s inheritance. Cuffe’s other daughter Dorothea married Charles Coote and her share of the estate was then purchased by Audley. Included in the property acquired by Audley was a castle known as Dod’s castle which is in the parish of Ballyhea immediately south of Charleville. By coinicidence Dod’s castle was captured two generations later in 1642 by Lord Mountgarret leading the Catholic confederacy forces against the English, with Audley’s grand-daughter Frances being the wife of the 4th Lord Mountgarret.
    Following Audley’s death in 1617 the Audley lands in Kilmore were later sold by the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven to the Earl of Cork. ‘Henry Slingsby was the son of Hugh Cuffe’s daughter, Elizabeth and her husband Sir Francis Slingsby. Cuffe’s only other daughter Dorethea and her husband Capt. Charles Coote having already sold her share of her fathers estate to Lord Audley, whose heir later sold the lands on to the Earl of Cork, Richard Boyle’.
    Dorothea Cuffe’s husband Charles Coote had come to Ireland with a military background and fought with Mountjoy and Audley at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601/02. He was appointed Provost Marshal of Connaught in 1605 and settled with his wife Dorothea in Castle Coote, Co. Roscommon. He was appointed Sheriff of County Cork in 1606, one of his predecessors being his father-in-law Hugh Cuffe. Over the subsequent decades Coote became a major Irish landowner associated both with Connaught and Co. Laois where he built Castle Cuffe in acknowledgement of his wife’s family. Both Sir Charles Coote and his successor, also Sir Charles, developed a notorious reputation for brutality among the native Irish as widely recorded. This reputation was undoubtedly deserved.
    Thus Audley came to possess three large estates in rapid succession in Co. Cork following the Battle of Kinsale, Castlehaven and Baltimore of the O’Driscolls, much of the Mizen peninsula of the O’Mahonys and Kilmore in North Cork of the Fitzgibbons.
    Audley and the Ulster Plantation

  2. Deborah T. Sena says:

    For some reason, the separation between the surviving walls/chimney and their height makes me think of a ‘modern’ version of standing stones! Great pictures.

    Also, would this be the Cuffe family related to Elizabeth Cuffe whose later inherited title and wealth helped launch Tullynally when she married Thomas Pakenham in Westmeath?

    • Were these Cuffes related to Elizabeth Cuffe? It seems unclear I’m afraid…

      • cuffesboro says:

        Some genealogies state that John Cuffe (1495-1552) of Ilchester, Somerset who married Elizabeth Pawshott had two sons, Robert, of Doynath (Turtle Bunbury has identified this as Hinton St.George) who was the ancestor of the Earls of Desart, and John of Creech, near Taunton, who married Joan, daughter of Sir William Denny and was the ancestor of Elizabeth Pakenham.

  3. claudius1889 says:

    Excellent post! Thank you

    BTW, could you tell me which WordPress theme do you use?

    • Thanks for your comment. I wish that I could remember what WordPress theme is used – but it is now nine years since I set up the site and alas, an old man’s memory… Apologies.

      • claudius1889 says:

        It’s a pity, but thank you anyway and congratulations on your magnificent blog.I admire people that conducts extensive research and provides detailed information, as you do. That shows you really care about the quality of the content of your blog.


  4. Perhaps the cows appreciate quality architecture?

  5. Kieran White says:

    Any relationship with the the Cuffes of Desart Court?

  6. Stephen Barker says:

    It was obviously well built if the ruins have survived 380 years.

  7. Anne Mcfadgen says:

    How interesting – there was a Coote descendant connected to the baronets of Castle Cuffe who settled at Nelson (my home town) in New Zealand in the 1880s. Cecil Henry Coote, a son of the Rev. Sir Algernon Coote, settled in Nelson. He married, had a family there and built a home known as “Montrath” – the Earls of Montrath being a later title taken by the baronets of Castle Cuffe for a time. One of his descendants told me that one of the last homes his family had owned in Ireland was the large country estate “Ballyfin”, in Co. Laois, which in 1813 was acquired by one of the Sir Charles Cootes (the Rev. Sir Algernon’s grandfather). It passed out of their hands in the 1920s and is these days well-known as a luxury country house hotel.

  8. cuffesboro says:

    I would imagine that the Baldwins may well have lived in the original house at Castlecuffe before building the late 18th century one that was demolished in the 1960s. John Baldwin had settled at Castlecuffe before he was married by License of the Prerogative Court of Ireland dated 4 September 1707 to Alesia Beasley, Spinster, of Ballyboy, King’s County [Betham’s Abstracts]; they had issue:
    Joseph Baldwin; of Castlecuffe; J.P., Gent, He died 9 July 1777 and married firstly, Miss Cowell; of Dysart, Queen’s County, Chandler; He was married, perhaps secondly, to Judith Jackson, Spinster, of Castledermot, County Kildare; he was married thirdly to Elizabeth Roberts nee Lee, of Stradbally, Widow.
    In 1938 Eyre Falkiner, a grandson of the last Baldwin, died at Castlecuffe and in 1963 the Land Commission acquired the “Falkiner Estate” – all 111 acres, from Richard and J B Falkiner. The house was subsequently demolished. The house, according to the census, had 12 windows across the front and 10 to 12 rooms. Outside there were 4 stables, a coach house, a harness room, dairy, cowshed, piggery, henhouse and a barn.

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