A brief history of the Wogan-Brownes…

We arrived in Ireland and picked up the hire car – we made sure to get a GPS, which paid off later when navigating to our B&B as several streets in the city were closed due to events on the long weekend. So after recalculating our route several times we finally made it to our accommodation and checked in. After a quick sluice off, we emerged to explore Dublin and find something to eat!

St Stephen’s Green is a public garden not too far down the road from our B&B, which we have to walk through to get to the town centre. It’s a very pretty open area filled with flowers, lakes and birds. Tanya especially liked a pair of swans and their cygnets. We had a stroll through the main shopping district and past the parliament and old stock exchange buildings and eventually settled on a place for dinner. To get in the Irish mood I had an Irish beef stew with a local red ale from Porterhouse brewery (both were excellent), while Tanya had seared salmon with a pilsner.

The next morning we went for a jaunt into the country side, to visit Kildare county where there are some sites of historical interest to my family, the Wogan-Brownes. Thanks to my Uncle John, who has been researching the family history and made the trip out a couple of times before we had some guides for the trip. Local historian Seamus and also local  councillor Padraig were kind enough to meet up with us and show us around.

It turns out the Wogans (and later, the Wogan-Brownes) were quite notorious; being one of the largest landholders in the region from the 14th century through to the early 19th century. My grip on the history is somewhat flimsy, so don’t trust the names and dates I put here to be entirely accurate.

Our story starts in Rathcoffey, which was granted to Sir John Wogan (or perhaps his son) by Edward II. Sir John had been sent to Ireland by Edward I (known as Longshanks) to sort out the feuding locals and raise an army to assist in his war against the Scots, and was made Justiciar of Ireland. The Wogans lived in Rathcoffey for some time, once or twice losing it for a period due to their involvement with rebellions (often due to their Catholic faith). Eventually it was sold and a new mansion was built on the site; all that remains of the original castle is the ruins of the main gatehouse. The land around the ruins belongs to a local farmer and there were a number of “Trespassers will be prosecuted signs” around, so initially we just took photographs from a distance. We snuck back later to get a closer look though 🙂

The Brownes enter the tale a while later, having purchased a nearby estate which had reverted back to crown ownership (and renamed it Castlebrown). When Nicolas Wogan died without a male heir in the 1750s, Michael Browne married Catherine Wogan, and so began the Wogan-Brownes. We visited Castlebrown, which was rebuilt by Stephen Wogan Browne and then later extended by his son, Thomas Wogan Browne.

However, following the early death of Thomas his brother Michael, who was pursuing a military career overseas, inherited. Faced with a considerable debt and the upkeep of the castle and grounds, he ended up selling the property to Jesuits who were looking for a place to found a school, which still exists to this day. Unfortunately we were not able to go inside, but we walked around the outside.

We also visited two cemeteries. The first is at the old parish church that was abandoned for some time and has been converted into the Clane community centre. There they have the sign posted at the start of this entry and the Wogan monument, which was originally in a wing of the church which has since been destroyed. Many Wogans were buried here.

We also visited the Wogan Browne Mausoleum, at the outskirts of a ruined church. Apparently the current Wogan Browne of the time wished to build it on the church grounds, or perhaps even as a new wing of the church building, but relations with the current pastor were not good. As the Wogan Brownes were Catholic and the church Anglican, the pastor insisted on a fee of five guineas. This was seen as an insult, as the Wogan Browne family was responsible for much of the upkeep of the church. So X Wogan Browne instead built on his own land, on the border and directly in line of sight of the front door of the church. He also had the following notice placed on it. Some number of Brownes and Wogan Brownes are buried here. We were able to go inside, where there is a carved relief of Stephen Browne and Judith Wogan, as well as the Wogan Browne family crest.

It was a strange feeling seeing places where your family has been for hundreds of years. I am glad we went out there and it has piqued my interest in learning more of my family’s history. Tanya has almost admitted that Wogan-Browne might not be such a ridiculous name after all too.

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4 Responses to A brief history of the Wogan-Brownes…

  1. Al says:

    that’s pretty cool

  2. Stephen says:

    Do you know anything about an Eliza Browne, sister of Judith Wogan Browne, whom I think died in 1783. Never married I believe.

  3. Charles Edward Wentworth Wogan Lillis says:

    I am descended from the Wogan-Browne through my grandmother, Claire Renee Lillis (nee Wogan-Browne), and would be grateful for any knowledge that you have of the family, from whom you are descended etc.

    Best wishes

  4. Hi Charles, I don’t know about the Wogan-Brownes I’m afraid, but Judith was married to my great-uncle Edward Hain (killed at Gallipoli in 1915). So she was my great-aunt, as she was for you. I just came across this thread while researching more about her.

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