Killruddery and Bray
(Extract from History of Bray by Arthur Flynn)

For almost four and a half centuries the Brabazons have been one of the most powerful and influential families in Bray. They have resided in the stately Killruddery House a mile south of Bray on the Greystones Road since the mid sixteenth century. The name Killruddery means Church of the Knight and from ecclesiastical records it would appear that Killruddery and Kilcroney were once subsidiary to the Prebend of Stagnoil (Enniskerry). In 1545 Sir William Brabazon received a grant from Henry VIII of the monastery of Saint Thomas in Dublin. A section of the property consisted of the lands of Kilrotheric (Killruddery) comprising the Little Sugarloaf, Bray Head and the intermediate valley in the centre of which the monks some centuries before had built a large rural retreat to which was attached a chapel and burial ground. Lord Brabazon was granted the patent of Killruddery at the yearly rent of £8.6.8d along with two foot soldiers for the defence of the property.

The entrance gate bears the family motto Vota Vita Mea (My life is devoted).

The Brabazon family takes its name from the province of Brabant in Belgium. Jacque Ie Brabazon accompanied William the Conqueror as his standardbearer into England in the eleventh century. The Irish connection with the family began when Sir William Brabazon was appointed vice treasurer and general receiver in Ireland in 1536. He died in 1552 at Knockfergus while in the north to subdue Hugh O'Neill and the Scots. His eldest son, a privy councillor to Elizabeth I, was a member of parliament for Wicklow and was created Baron of Ardee in 1618. His son William was created first Earl of Meath in 1627.

William was succeeded by his son Edward who had Killruddery rebuilt in 1651, six years after it had been destroyed in the civil war. In 1666 he signed a partition agreement by which he added to his lands the section of Great Bray between the Main Street and the sea and between the river and the Main Street roughly to the north and west of the poundhouse. Edward was drowned in 1667 whilst on his way to London. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the third Earl. He, in turn was succeeded by his brother Edward the fourth Earl, who was appointed gamekeeper for all the royal parks in Ireland and fought with King William at Carrickfergus and the Boyne. He was wounded at the siege of Limerick. Edward married twice but died without an heir and in 1708 another brother became the fifth Earl.

His eldest son, Chaworth who succeeded him in 1715 married his aunt's chambermaid at a very young age but they never lived together. After her death he married again but there was no heir and his brother Edward succeeded to the title in 1758. Edward's son Anthony was MP for Dublin and when he succeeded his father in 1772, the corporation voted him the thanks of the city and a sum not exceeding twenty guineas enclosed in a gold box.

Anthony was followed as ninth Earl by his son William. At this time many of the gentry, including the Meaths, had their own militia. Tension arose when a member of the militia of Captain Gore of Kilpedder signed on with the Earl. The Captain accused him of conduct unbecoming to a gentleman and challenged him to a duel which took place at Monastery near the Scalp in 1797. Lord Meath was wounded and died later. The Meath family were outraged and claimed that Gore fired too early. They charged Gore who was defended by John Philpot Curran (father of Sarah Cumin) but the case was dismissed. William who was unmarried was succeeded by his brother John Chambre as tenth Earl. He was a Knight of Saint Patrick and Lord Lieutenant of County Wicklow. He was the last of the family to use the town house at 56 St Stephen's Green which he sold to Mary Aikenhead for development into St Vincent's Hospital. On his death in 1851 he was succeeded as eleventh Earl by William who had been MP for Dublin from 1837 to 1841 and was an honorary colonel of the Fifth Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers

As Lord Brabazon he presented a petition from Bray in favour of repeal to the House of Commons and was attacked by his Liberal colleagues for not instructing his tenants to vote Liberal during the elections. He constantly assisted the poor and in 1818 took over the barracks which was seldom used following the 1798 Rebellion and donated it to the three parishes of Bray, Old Connaught and Rathmichael for use as a dispensary and fever hospital. A grant towards the project was received from the committee for the suppression of vice and from individual subscriptions. In the days of rampant typhus and cholera there was urgent need for such a centre.

The twelfth Lord Meath was one of the promoters of the new fashionable image for the town and was the benevolent landlord of the greater part of the township. He undertook many capital works at no cost to the ratepayers. He was an inevitable choice as first chairman of the township commissioners, a post which he held with one short break until 1875 when he was forced to retire due to business commitments.

One of the most renowned hunts of all time was the Killruddery Hunt. At the time there was enough pasture to enable the hunters to chase the fox or stag from Bray Common to Kilteman, Carrickmines, Shankill, Dalkey, Glenageary, Monkstown and back to Dalkey. The hunters traditionally stopped at a popular inn opposite the gate of Loughlinstow. House run by a sporting gentleman named 0‘Bray who was renowned for his exploits on his blind horse. Following the hunt the riders partook of the hospitality of the Earl of Meath.

From 1850/0 there was a degree of political tension within the town and     I in particular a radical element amongst the commissioners. An arms survey of Bray a year before the Fenian Rising of 1867 produced only one ancient pistol and a gun and a small quantity of ammunition. There was speculation that the people of the town would be armed and reinforcements were brought in by the constabulary. This was intended to protect the town from a feared attack from without rather than within.

Lord Brabazon recalled the period in his diary.

On this occasion about a thousand Fenians marched on our town of Bray, where they expected to be joined by about an equal number of local sympathisers. My father, who was Lord Lieutenant of the county of Wicklow on hearing the news, rode off to Bray to organise the police and to purchase ammunition. In the meanwhile his neighbour. Viscount Powerscourt, had ridden over to Killruddery to warn him. Finding him absent,

Lord Powerscourt, asked for my mother, who was in the garden directing the laying of some new flowerbeds by the head gardener. Seeing Lord Powerscourt approach in haste, she became alarmed, and asked him what was the matter and whether anything serious had happened, especially to my father. On being told that the Fenians had risen she said something like 'Thank God, is that all' and she then turned to continue her conversation with the gardener. She like everyone else, had heared so much about the expected Rising for the past year that she had become tired of the subject and had lost all interest in it.

Any radical actions were swiftly dealt with, as was the case of a painter in November 1867 who was arrested for responding to a toast to the queen with the words 'to hell with the queen'. In 1872 a large working class crowd burned an effigy of Judge Keogh who sentenced many Fenian prisoners. Their conduct was never violent, more in the form of gestures of contempt. The working classes never belonged to the Brighton of Ireland in either a spiritual or physical sense and many bitterly resented the fact. However, not all the town's people were proFenian as is evident from another entry in Lord Brabazon's diary.

In the meanwhile the Roman Catholic labourers at Killruddery had met and had passed a resolution that they would offer their services to my father to defend the house. In Ireland, unfortunately religion and politics almost always go together, and therefore their resolution was more satisfactory.

In 1880, Lord Brabazon offered to build a new Market House and Town Hall for the town. The building which is situated at the top of Main Street at the junction of Killamey Road and Vevay Road was designed by Thomas Newenham Deane and Son. It is an important example of the quaint Tudor sytle architecture popularised in England by R. Norman Shaw and W.E. Nesfield in 1870s. The main facade, facing down Main Street, has tall narrow proportions, the side elevations being elongated. It is of three bays and two storeys, built of red brick with a central carriage arch containing elaborate wrought iron gates. The ground floor served as a covered market. On the first floor was the chamber room, which was emphasised by three large oriels, transom and mullioned windows each incorporating a large arch (known as Ipswich windows) with inserted coats of arms of the Brabazon family. A plaque at the entrance states This Town Hall and Market House was erected by Reginald Lord Brabazon, son of William llth Earl of Meath and by Mary Lady Brabazon only daughter of Thomas 11th Earl of Lauderdale in the year of our Lord 1882'.

Standing in front of the Town Hall is a unique stone fountain with a statue of a wyvern on top, which has frequently been mistaken for a devil by locals. The wyvern is a mythological creature whose upper half is a dragon and whose lower half is a serpent or viper. The wyvem come from the Meath coat of arms and in the windows of the council chamber (now the Heritage Centre) in the Town Hall, wyverns can be seen in their correct armorial colours of gold, with red wings and limbs, collared and chained in gold. Water troughs were erected at several junctures around the fountain. 


A branch of the Land League, naming itself the Michael Davitt Branch was formed in Bray in October 1881. From the outset it attracted large numbers of locals and acted promptly to political events — condemning the arrest of Parnell and congratulating the election of a Home Ruler. In December 1883 a relatively minor event brought the underlying tensions in the district to a head. Lord Brabazon began to discuss how the Town Hall could be utilised to best advantage. The commissioners requested the use of the proposed library in the Town Hall for religious, political and charitable purposes but Lord Brabazon vehementally refused permission. He threatened to 'do no more' for the town if the commissioners persisted. Negotiations broke down and relations between Lord Brabazon and the commissioners were strained for a time. Finally Lord Brabazon reversed his decision but not before the incident sparked off letters from 'Nationalistic Ratepayers' calling on the town to have nothing to do with the new Town Hall. In January the parish priest and a group of ratepayers stated that the Earl of Meath had a 'heart as Orange as Lord Rossmore'. That same month a large nationalist meeting was held in the town with the two main speakers William O'Brien and John Harrington both MPs expressing the hope that Bray would soon be emancipated from Killruddery. There was not unanimous support for the motion by the town's people. A meeting in the International Hotel with fourteen ratepayers present sympathised with the Earl of Meath for the attitude of the commissioners. This loyalist element, though a minority, never completely disappeared.

Lady Brabazon wrote of this period.

Off to Euston, where I met Reg, (Lord Brabazon) and was very pleased to get him back again safe and saved from Ireland, where he had a dreadful time of it, what with Bray town commissioners to whom he wants to hand over the Market House, the Land Leaguers. They even threatened his life on Christmas day. So much for gratitude amongst the poor easily led Irish.

The Town Hall was to become the meeting place for the town commissioners and was also utilised for a diverse number of social functions, dances and ceilis. The Irish Citizen Army had regular meetings there and in 1911 the Ancient Order of Hibernians began meeting there.

Following the 1894 election political allegiances began to shift, gradually at first and more rapidly in the land war at the end of the century. Relations with Lord Meath, which had generally been harmonious began to deteriorate as the working class began to demand their rights. Around this time one of the earliest trade disputes in the town broke out when farm labourers employed on the estate of Lord Meath went on strike for better conditions. Due to being badly organised the men were forced to capitulate and the strike was broken. Lord Meath demanded that the men seek forgiveness for their activities before they were reinstated. This gesture naturally hardened the men's attitude thereafter. At the time they were being paid fourteen shillings a week.

The generosity of the female members of the family was widely acknowledged and appreciated. The Dublin Daily Express of the 14th December reported: The contribution of the Countess of Meath for the purpose of improving the conditions of the workhouse girls in Ireland, is one of the most notable features in recent benevolence'. The Meath's were hosts to many prestigious international conferences including the Philanthropic Reform Association in 1901 at which the two principle subjects discussed were the Day Industrial School's Bill and the proposed establishment of a home for comfort in Ireland for epileptics.

Reginald, the twelfth Earl (18411929) was a colonel to Royal Dublin Fusiliers, Justice of the Peace for Wicklow, Deputy Lieutenant for County Dublin and Chancellor of the Royal University of Ireland. His son thirteenth Earl Reginald Le Normand, (18691949) was in military service in the South African war and First World War reaching the rank of brigadier general having served with the Irish Guards and Guards Brigade. The fourteenth Earl, Anthony Windham Normand, born in 1910, was educate^ at Eton and served in Second World War as a major in the Grenadier Guards and was wounded.

Many distinguished visitors were entertained at Killruddery Not long after his coronation in July 1821 King George IV paid a visit to Bray with the royal entourage receiving a tremendous welcome from the cheering crowds on route to Killruddery. The Earl of Meath built a new roadway for the occasion through the Dargle Glen. Unfortunately the king never utilised it as his visit was curtailed.

In 1868 the mansion and demesne of Killruddery were visited by the Prince and Princess of Wales when the former was stationed at the Curragh The Lord Mayors of London and York were both visitors in 1875 William Gladstone visited Killruddery in 1877. He admired Christ Church' but was critical of the absence of any bells. He gave a donation of £50 to Lord Meath to encourage the parish to make up the deficit. Lord and Lady Brabazon added £200, and in a short time enough was raised to provide a peal of bells at a cost of £1,154. Another royal guest was the queen of Rumania in 1890 who was greeted by fireworks and a local band playing the Rumanian National Anthem. In 1897 the Duke and Duchess of York enjoyed the hospitality of Killruddery. Sir Walter Scott was greatly impressed with the demesne when he attended the open-air theatre. The Lord Lieutenants were frequent guests at functions and balls. Sir Robert and Lady Baden Powell stayed over night in Killruddery when they came to inspect respectively the boy scouts and girl guides in Lord Iveagh's Park and Memon Square in Dublin. On 10th of  July 1911 the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary visited Lord and Lady Meath. The prince planted a tree in the pleasure grounds, and inspected a guard of honour provided by the First Bray Troop of the boy scouts. The Brabazon family still reside in Killruddery with Lord Meath's son,

Killruddery House the ancestoral home of the Brabazons is an imposing Elizabethan structure set in the secluded hollow between Bray Head and the Little Sugarloaf. The earliest picture of the building is from 1680 when the Bray Greystones Road ran just east of the house. The exterior of the house is quite striking with its pointed gables, bow windows, armorial carvings, carved balustrades, and surmounting cupola giving it an air oi an old baronial seat. In 1820 the tenth Earl had the present house greatly altered with a design by Richard and William Morrison, who were also responsible for Shelton Abbey. The original house had five bays and a hipped roof with a front door facing east. In the middle of the present century the size of the house, which was square with an inner courtyard was reduced and the north and east wings demolished,

The interior presents a fine hall-wainscoted with oak and mellowed with the subdued light from stained glass and a fine reception room. The plasterwork of the dining room ceiling is exceptionally decorative and much earlier in style than that in the drawing room. It was designed by Jones and executed by a local man named Henry Popje from Bray (1830).The dining room is part of the older building. A remarkable feature of the stairs is the homemade wall clock with the face part of a dumb waiter, a bed warming pan for a pendulum and a bicycle chain to raise the weights. Of more importance are the historical portraits of the Brabazon family and many battle honours, which adorn the walls. The library is of Carolan style decoration and alludes to the seventeenth century origin of this section of the house. The bookcases are Chippendale of eighteenth century origin. There is a fine carved mantelpiece and overmantle after Grinling Gibbons with a portrait of Charles II. The drawing room, originally hung with panels of silk was designed by the Morrisons with the plasterwork by Simon Gilligan. His signature dated 1824 is on top of the cornice. In 1852 a handsome conservatory and statue gallery was designed and built by William Bum in the fashion of the Crystal Palace in London, filled with rare plants and life size marble statues collected in Italy in 18301850. Of particular note is the one of Ganymede.

The magnificent residence is surrounded by extensive gardens, some over 300 years old. They are amongst the last surviving gardens of this period in Ireland. They are divided into three sections, the seventeenth century gardens, the nineteenth century gardens, and the surrounding eighteenth century park. Beside the steps leading from the forecourt is the granite balustrading designed by Daniel Robertson, who was also the principal garden architect responsible for the garden layouts at Powerscourt. On the left are the nineteenth century statues and box hedging. These statues and others of the same period in the garden were probably purchased at one of the great exhibitions in Dublin in the middle of the nineteenth century of works from continental factories. The path leads to a natural outcrop of rock, which was developed as a rock garden.

Situated to the south of the main house are the seventeenth century gardens comprising the Angles, the Lond Ponds, the Sylvan Theatre and the BeechHedge Pond. These gardens were designed and commenced when a French gardener called Bonet left Sir William Petty to work for the Earl of Meath in 1682. They were designed for the entertainment of a large number of people and their dimensions and layout is similar to that of a public park. A wall encloses each of the gardens. One of the strangest sights in the gardens is a Sylvan Theatre cut out of the ground and surrounded by a bay hedge. Sir Walter Scott mentioned the Sylvan Theatre in his Saint Ronan's Well.

At Killruddery, the seat of Lord Meath in the county of Wicklow, there is a situation for private theatrical exhibitions in the open air, planted out with the evergreens which arise there in the most luxuriant magnificence. It has a wild and romantic effect, reminding one of the scene in which Bottom rehearsed his pagent, for a hawthorn break for a tiringroom.

The Angles, sometimes known as The Monk's Walk' and said to date from the time of the monks are the middle section of a garden of entertainment, consisting of a series of walks flanked by hornbeam and beech hedging which meet unexpectedly at various points in the centre. Beyond the Angles is an avenue of Ilex trees and steps to a bowling green. The Long Ponds are twin canals 550 feet long and known as 'miroirs d'eaux' - mirrors of water. Apart from the magnificent view they offer they are also stocked with fish. Several Swiss lodges were constructed as gate lodges throughout the grounds.

A memorial on the approach to Killruddery House about a hundred yards north of the Forecourt Gate bears the following inscription:-

Underneath this stone do lie
Bones of men of days gone by
Those who in Christ's Faith have died

Safe beneath His Cross abide.

The inscription refers to bones discovered in the grounds and believed to be the site of a burial mound for the monks