Ireland’s Genealogy & Local History Specialists

Category Archives: Site Visit


Marley House: A Visit

 

Genealogy.ie believes that your family story is not just about names and dates of people in your family tree. We think it is also about the places where they lived and worked, the houses they lived in. This is why, when we search Irish ancestry for our clients,  we  also offer Irish local history research and investigation. In most cases our research is into the history of a house or farm. But it can also be a village or even an event. Depending on records available this gives you a picture of how your ancestors would have lived. And thus add colour to your Irish family history.

Take Marley House. Up to quite recently it was a large demesne (mansion house which was also a working farm, albeit a large one). Watch our short presentation:

MARLEY HOUSE

Marley as a land holding traces its origins back to the Anglo-Norman times. The Fleming family were the first owners, followed by by the Cistercian religious order. Religious orders were the biggest landowners at the time. King Henry VIII abolished them and resold the lands he took. The new owner was called Taylor.

He build the older farmhouse, a large part of it still in existence (courtyard). It was then bought by a series of families who used the property as their ‘out of town’ refuge. Living in the growing city of Dublin was unhealthy. Therefore rich families bought farms and lands and constructed mansion houses in the immediate environs of the city. The area around Marley was very popular as it was at the foot of the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. This not only had fresher air but also offered stunning views. The first of these families built Marley House.

This was actually the name of the wife of the owner, a bishop’s daughter. His own name was LaTouche. His family were Huguenots who had fled France. They started as weavers but became a wealthy banking family. After a few different families had owned the property, the last of them, the Tedcastle family, sold it to the local council who has turned the gardens into a great public park and is in the process of restoring the house. This spring free tours are available to see the inside of the ground floor of the house.

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We were inside Dublin’s Defensive Martello Towers

 

Click on the photo for a larger picture or scroll down for the text.

Martello towers are small defensive round towers that were built across the British Empire during the 19th century. They were named after the “Torra di Mortella”, which in 1794 kept an entire British fleet at bay for two days. It was captured in the end, and the British marveled at the fact that this small fort with only a few men had resisted for so long. So they decided to copy it.

In Dublin they were built after the French Revolution, to ward off a potential invasion.  Most towers have 2 floors and are approximately 40 feet/12 meters high. They would be guarded by a small garrison of about 20 men, commanded by 1 officer. The officer would be responsible for the health and well being of the men. He would normally reside downstairs, where he could keep an eye on the stocks and weapons.

Because the towers were round, and were constructed of very thick walls of solid masonry, they could withstand cannon fire. At the same time, their height made them an ideal platform for a single heavy artillery piece. This cannon could be found on the flat roof. It could be turned and thus cover a large area. By building a string of these towers, with overlapping ranges, they covered the entire Dublin coast.

In Dublin they never fired a shot in anger and they became obsolete towards the end of the 19th Century. Quite a few have survived to this day, like the one in Seapoint, pictures of which you can see on the page. We visited this tower as part of the Summer Heritage program of the Dun Laoghaire County Council.

For a YouTube video impression of the Seapoint tower, click on the link (opens in a new window).

Another tower is open all year, as it is now a museum dedicated to James Joyce. Admission is free. Follow this link for more information

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Dutch Local History: We visited Heusden

 

At my last visit to the Netherlands I went to the old medieval port of Heusden. This used to be a strategic point at the river Meuse, at which fortifications have existed for almost 1,000 years.

    

Although on the ‘Brabant’ side of the river, the city of Heusden used to be part of the state of ‘Holland’. It received its city rights in 1318. Prince of Orange, William, consolidated the town’s strategic position near the river Meuse, and ordered fortification works to be constructed. Work started in 1579 with the digging of moats and the construction of bastions, walls, and ravelins, and was completed in 1597.

Alas its castle does no longer exist, which was used as a munition depot and was destroyed when hit by lightning in 1680. For a long time Heusden was one of the most important cities in Brabant. However, the city of Den Bosch would dig a canal, thus bypassing its rival. In the 19th Century the huge Verolme shipyard was developed close by the city. Verolme no longer exists, although some shipbuilding activities still take place at the old yard. At this stage however the city was already falling into disrepair, its old houses no longer deemed fit to live in. A lot of defense works were dismantled. Heusden was also the location of a war crime, when in 1944 retreating German troops blew up the tower of the old town hall, to prevent it being used as a strategic point by the allies. However, the cellars below were used by locals as a shelter, and 134 people were killed.

   

In 1968 extensive restoration works started, and fortifications were carefully rebuilt. Heusden is now a beautiful place to visit and if you are in the area, it is worth to make the detour.

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