Although the Everard family is said to have come to Ireland around 1177, only from the fifteenth century onwards does it come to prominence as effective owner of the town of Fethard, County Tipperary, and of the surrounding territory. In 1578 John Everard entered the Inner Temple and twelve years later was called to the Bar, being appointed justice of the Court of King’s Bench (Ireland) in 1602 and subsequently knighted. As evidence of his authority in this part of the country, in 1608 he secured the new charter for Fethard from the English crown, according to the terms of which the town’s Corporation was renewed and enlarged, ‘and was endowed with such liberties and privileges as were needed to draw more people to the town and to increase its trade and commerce.’ The previous year Sir John had surrendered all his property to the English authorities, and then received it back again, evidence of the esteem in which he was held. What makes this notable is that the Everards were, and remained, adherents of the Roman Catholic faith. As a judge he was expected to take the Oath of Allegiance to the crown but, his conscience making this impossible, he resigned the position. Ultimately the Everards’ loyalty to the old religion would lead to tragedy, but first came farce. In 1613 the only Irish Parliament held during the reign of James I was called, to which Sir Jhn was returned as member of the House of Commons for Tipperary. He was the Catholic choice for the position of Speaker of the House of Commons, but they were iin a minority, the government’s choice being Sir John Davies, Attorney General for Ireland. When the vote was taken, Sir John Everard installed himself in the Speaker’s chair and refused to move. According to a contemporary source, ‘Sir Thomas Ridgway, Sir Richard Wingfield, Sir Oliver St John and others, brought Sir John Davies to the chair, and lifted him into Sir John Everard’s lap; the Knights perceiving Sir John Everard would not give place to their speaker, they lifted Sir John Everard out of the chair, and some of Sir John Everard’s part holding him by the collar of the gown to keep him in the chair…’ Ultimately this undignified incident ended in Everard’s defeat, not least because Sir John Davies was a much heavier man who literally crushed his opponent by sitting on top of him.
Despite his embarrassing setback over occupation of the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons – after which he was temporarily imprisoned in the Tower of London – Sir John Everard continued to flourish, to remain in possession of his lands, and of a judicial pension, and to practice as a Roman Catholic until his death in 1624. He had three sons, the most prominent being the middle child Richard who even while his father was still alive was created a baronet. Like his father Sir Richard remained resolutely Roman Catholic, and as before this brought him into difficulties with the English authorities, especially after the Confederate War began in Ireland in 1641. It seems that initially Sir Richard ‘kept aloof from both parties; but for not joining with them, the “old” Irish took away from him “160 cows, 33 stud mares, and 2,000 sheep.” The tenants on his Estate were subject to similar treatment: the richest of whom with their flocks and goods Sir Richard conveyed to “safe quarters”.’ This account continues, ‘Later on, when the object of the Catholic Confederation was clearly known and defined, Sir Richard readily joined the popular movement, and in 1646 was one of the Confederate Catholics who sat in what might be designated the “Irish Parliament at Kilkenny”.’ Following Oliver Cromwell’s arrival in this country in 1649, Sir Richard was one of the leaders of the opposing Confederate army. He was involved in defending Limerick against the Cromwellian forces but following the city’s surrender was one of those hanged by Henry Ireton.
Before strife once again overwhelmed Ireland, Sir Richard embarked on building a new residence in the midst of a fertile plain lying between the Galtee Mountains and the small town of Clogheen, County Tipperary. Commonly called Everard’s Castle, this has at its centre a substantial four-bay, three-storey over basement rectangular block with square flanking towers of four storeys (again over basement) at each of the corners. This is the last of a group of such semi-fortified houses, beginning with Rathfarnham Castle, County Dublin built for Archbishop Adam Loftus in the late 1580s (see A Whiter Shade of Pale, August 26th 2013) and taking in others like Kanturk Castle, County Cork (see An Abandoned Project, December 7th 2015), Leamaneagh Castle, County Clare and Portumna Castle, County Galway. However, whereas many of these were castellated, Everard’s Castle is notable for its gables, all twenty six of them: it would also have had seven chimney stacks. It is, therefore, closer to the English model of manor house than the familiar Irish tower house, and suggests Sir Richard was expecting years of peace, not war, to follow. On the other hand, deep corbels above the first-floor windows were intended to carry a defensive wooden gallery, so he must have reckoned with the possibility that his new property would be subject to attack. The front has a low door placed asymmetrically which again suggests certain caution on the part of the original builder. However one of the other sides of the house features a finer and larger cut stone doorcase with hood mould and carved decoration. And there are many two- and three-mullioned windows throughout the structure, which would have made it much lighter and airier than was the norm in this country at the time.
A stone formerly over the entrance but now elsewhere on the site carries the date 1641, presumably the year in which work on Everard’s Castle was completed. The family was not to enjoy occupation for long. After a couple of years Sir Richard became embroiled in the Confederate Wars and, as has been mentioned, was hanged by Ireton in 1651. The year before, as Cromwell’s army advanced south Lady Everard set the house on fire, rather than allow it fall into enemy hands: it has stood a ruin ever since, and became known as Burncourt (or sometimes Burntcourt). Legend has it the building took seven years to build, was occupied for seven years and took seven days to burn. As for the family, following Sir Richard’s death they forfeited their lands but these were restored to his eldest son Sir Redmond Everard following the restoration of Charles II in 1660. In turn his son, Sir John Everard, was attainted for supporting James II, and although some of the family property was subsequently returned, their baronetcy and presence in this part of Ireland ended with the death of another Sir Redmond Everard around 1740. In 1751 the Fethard territories were sold to wealthy Bordeaux wine merchant Thomas Barton, while the area around Burncourt was acquired by a Dublin lawyer, Cornelius O’Callaghan. His great-grandson, another Cornelius O’Callaghan who was created first Viscount Lismore, was responsible for building another immense castle nearby: Shanbally designed by John Nash. Notoriously this was blown up by the Irish Land Commission in 1960. So while Shanbally is gone, Burncourt remains, thereby providing a partial memory of Tipperary’s architectural heritage.