Beggars Bush: A Perambulation through the Disciplines of History, Geography, Archaeology, Literature, Philology, Natural History, Botany, Biography & Beggary

Dublin, Donnybrook – False Trails Baggotrath & Folly

At the date of the earliest record in 1573 Baggotrath Castle would have been a prominent landmark in the countryside south east of the city. As However, as the record refers to both it appears to exclude the possibility that the place name Beggars Bush was an Anglicisation of Baggotrath.

Baggotrath Castle stood at Upper Baggot Street near Westmoreland Place, west of Beggars Bush. Built by the Bagod family it was taken over by the Fitzwilliams, but after 1550 the castle had a number of temporary occupants. It was ruined around 1649 during the English Civil War after the Battle of Rathmines, which was fought around it. A census of 1659 recorded 3 English and 29 Irish heads of household in the Manor of Bagotrath, though there is no evidence of where they lived. H, Smith, H. ‘The History of the Castle and Manor of Baggotrath’ (Proc.RIA , 1856, 6:311), says that the ruins of the massive square tower survived until 19th century. Two prints from sketches by Gabriel Beranger dated 1756 show the remains of a large square tower with a vaulted chamber, and what appear to be occupied cottages built against the outer walls, set in fields. A print attributed to Francis Grose and dated 1791/2 also shows the tower and vaulting, but not the cottages.

(See links to CRDS CRDS say it is Plate 3, facing p.14 in Ball)

Chart and Joyce both refer in very similar terms to a vaulted ruin known as Le Fevre’s Folly as a refuge and lookout for criminals. Chart also refers to “the ivy-clad remains of an old castle” but makes it clear this is Simmonscourt, near Anglesea Road, Donnybrook. Although the location is slightly out both are almost certainly referring to the remains of Baggotrath Castle as shown in the sketches by Berenger & Grose. This is also almost certainly the Folly mentioned on the 1692 and 1793 maps.

Ball says Le Fevre was a lottery merchant in Dublin who carried on his business in a house at the corner of Grafton Street and Suffolk Street, and who became wealthy enough to acquire Stillorgan House, but who came to financial grief in 1803. I have not found any connection between Le Fevre and Bagotrath.  It seems likely that his name became associated with the ruined castle, either in error or in mockery, which would by then have resembled the artistic ruins which it had become fashionable to build.

The association of the Folly with beggars and highwaymen seems fanciful and romantic. To start they were largely distinct categories; although beggars might commit robberies a man with a set of pistols was not a beggar and does not beg but demands.

It is perhaps an indication of the attractiveness of the name that there is at least one other Beggars Bush where the name is attributed to highway robbery. When the name is first recorded the castle was still a fortress, and not available for use as a lookout by beggars or highwaymen. If such use was made of the remains of the castle before it was finally demolished there is no mention of this in Smith’s address in 1856 at which some of the audience had personal memories of it.

Posted: May 30th, 2011 | Filed under: Places, Speculations | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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