The vision, commitment and ingenuity required of Caesar & John Colclough to create this garden is mirrored in the restoration team led by Alan Ryan and David Bawden, and their small but dedicated team of hardworking gardeners, many of whom started with Alan and David as volunteers on the project. Under the umbrella of Hook Tourism work began in July 2010 after a licence was signed with the garden’s owners Coillte Teoranta and in the space of two short years this resilient team, with the goodwill and support of the local community, sponsors and aided in part by a number of government bodies, succeeded in re-opening the Walled Garden to the public in May 2012. The phrase ‘much done, more to do’ is bandied about a lot but it rings true in this instance.
It must have been a significant undertaking creating this garden, starting with the planting of the broadleaf forest that surrounds the garden, then sourcing the stone for the outer wall and making the bricks that line its walls. The stone was gathered from the surrounding fields and the bricks were hand made in the Walled Garden using local estuarine mud and the lime mortar was made in the kiln at the battlement bridge. The lime was mixed with sand and water and holds the Flemish bond courses of brick together in the walls.
Restoring the garden has met with its challenges too, aside from the usual constraints facing a project like this, such as logistic and financial ones, restoring this garden presented its own unique set of tests, including reclaiming the east section which was overrun with laurel and dominated by thirty giant Sitka spruce. Clearing the river shores became a priority after the partially restored garden was submerged in flood waters and tons of gravel on the paths leading up to the garden were swept away. Another storm in 2014 brought down a 130 year old ash tree which fell into the garden, crashing against the wall, close to the glasshouse, thankfully causing minimal damage.
The magnitude of the task undertaken is reflected in the storyboards dotted around the garden, which show the extent of the dereliction in the garden at the start of the project, and the impressive progress of the restoration project over the past 8 years is comprehensively documented.
The garden borrows gracefully from the natural beauty of its surroundings. The towering woodland canopies outside cocoons the garden providing year-long colour and interest and welcome shelter. The garden walls frame the titian blue sky in picture fashion. The gentle flow of the river provides the natural rhythm of the garden. The overall initial impression is one of calm and peacefulness despite the obvious volume of work required to maintain and develop the garden and the number of people visiting the garden. With its complexity and multitude of sights, sound, scents and tastes this wonderfully sensory garden lives up to its claim to reviving your natural senses.
The Colclough Walled Garden’s logo is based on the original Colclough family coat of arms and like the garden itself it has been reimagined and reinstated to the present. The original crest displayed eagles with a shield and sword coupled with the Latin motto, ‘His Calcabo Gentes’, meaning ‘with these things we control the people (nations)’. The garden’s logo has retained the eagle symbol and has been faithfully reworked replacing Sir Anthony Colclough’s shield and sword with the Georgian garden tools a trenching fork and a manure fork to represent how “with these things” the current custodians, the gardeners, control “nature”.
Open all year round, the garden is a thing of brilliance and beauty, as handsome when it is carpeted in sparkling winter frosts as when it is bathed in full summer sun, a garden for all seasons with its rich historical and natural heritage, once lost but now a paradise restored for all the people of the world to enjoy.
The Colclough family took possession of Tintern Abbey in 1562 after the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1536. Tintern was third richest Cistercian monastery and Henrys men removed Lead, Copper and Oak timbers form the roof leaving only a ruin which was used as a graveyard by locals for nearly 20 years. Sir Anthony Colclough’s claim to Tintern was recognised by England’s most famous Queen, Elizabeth I in 1569 and she made him a knight in 1584. The Colclough family, who lived there for the next 400 years, modified the Abbey into a castle as part of the defence against the Spanish armada in 1588. The Abbey with commanding views of the Saltees islands and the Irish Sea, guards the west of the Peninsula, while Duncannon Fort built in 1587, bristling with cannons, guards the East and the entrance of Waterford Haven. The family built many structures down through the years including bridges, a linen mill, a flour mill, battlement walls and the Georgian Walled Garden. “Yellow Bellies” a favourite nickname for Wexfordians was given to them (by their own account) by Queen Elizabeth when with yellow silk scarfs round their bodies, they won a hurling match against a Cornish team in her presence organised by the Colclough’s. During its eventful history the Abbey/castle was besieged and captured by Confederate Forces during the English Civil war in 1642 but was retaken by Cromwellian forces in 1649.
In 1765 Sir Vesey Colclough married Catherine Grogan of Johnstown Castle. They had 3 children, Caesar, John and Vesey Jnr, who died young. The marriage failed and Lady Catherine Colclough left Tintern to live in Wexford town with her two surviving sons. Sir Vesey lived an improvident life and left the Tintern estate heavily mortgaged upon his death in 1794.
As his eldest son, Caesar Colclough, inherited the estate, after his father’s death and this heralded another fascinating period in the history of Tintern Abbey and the period in which the was built. Like his forbearer Marshall, Caesar was a very intriguing character, first studying in Trinity College in Dublin, then travelling to London and from there on to Paris in 1792 as a journalist to report on the French Revolution.
In Paris Caesar became an associate of the famous author, political activist and revolutionary Thomas Paine. Paine famously wrote “The Rights of Man”, in part a defence of the French Revolution against its critics, and was one of the founding fathers of the United States. Influenced by this association, Caesar voiced support for the revolution and attended the trial of King Louis XVI.
In a letter to John he writes in January 1793, “Before this letter is ten miles, Louis the unfortunate will be no more. I attended his process for 11 hours yesterday, and he was condemned to death in the space of 24 hours by a majority of (I counted) 32. Adieu, the King is going”. Caesar was imprisoned in 1793 for 9 months on the outbreak of hostilities between France and England, he wrote that ‘once was very near being included in one of the death lists of the Reign of Terror’ but escaped to Switzerland disguised as a woman. Ingeniously Caesar used the oxalic acid extracted from rhubarb to erase the details on a passport and replaced them with those of a woman thus aiding his escape. At this point he travelled around Germany visiting Ulm, Frankfurt, and Dresden before returning to France in 1802, during the treaty of Amines, only to be re-arrested on the sudden recommencement of war in May 1803. He remained confined in the French town of Vans in the Ardeche region until Napoleon’s downfall, conducting experiments on the spa water of St Laurent and being admitted to the Academy of Nimes. This period of confinement proved serendipitous resulting in Caesar returning to Ireland as an accomplished scientist and very skilful in all things mechanical including metalwork and woodturning. Renowned barrister, Peter Burrows, described Caesar Colclough in September 1814; “He is, I believe to a most uncommon degree, cultivated in mechanics, chemistry, botany and mineralogy, indeed in all physical and practical sciences. I really believe if necessary, he could earn a competent livelihood by manual labour at thirty different trades. He suggests solid improvements to every artist or mechanic he meets.”
Tucked away behind the historic remains of Tintern Abbey, County Wexford, in Irelands Ancient East, is the secluded Colclough Walled Garden, a Georgian walled garden which was built by the Colclough family (pronounced Coke-lee) before 1814. Wexford’s long and tapering Hook Peninsula is the heartland of the Norman landings which date to 1169-71 and Colclough Walled Garden is a short distance from the beaches of Bannow Island and Baginbun where they landed.
The Abbey now a National Monument, was founded by Cistercian White Monks, white referring to the colour of the “cuccula” or white choir robe worn by the Cistercians over their habits, from Tintern Abbey in Wales around the year 1200 under the patronage of William Marshal who was described as “The Greatest knight who ever lived”. William was married to Isabel, Strongbow’s Daughter and King Diarmuid Mac Murrough’s Granddaughter from whom she had inherited huge tracts of land in Leinster. William Marshal was a famous historical character, a Crusader of the Holy Land, a Knight Templar, a signatory of the Magna Carta and Prince regent to the Young King Henry III.
William also built the nearby Hook Lighthouse, the oldest operational lighthouse in the world, which is situated at the tip of the Peninsula. The venerable Abbey and Lighthouse both came about as a result of William’s first-hand experience of the treacherous seas along the Peninsula. The story is told of how William was almost shipwrecked on one of his many crossings to Ireland and only survived after making a vow to build an abbey wherever he landed safely. The lighthouse was subsequently built to warn fellow seafarers of the dangerous waters surrounding the Hook. We now call Tintern de Vota (Tintern of the Vow) Tintern Abbey where the Cistercian White Monks prayed for the souls of William and his descendants for over 400 years.
Colclough Walled Garden has been likened to a secret garden reminiscent of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden of literary fame, largely due to its concealed location and the fact that it lay abandoned for so many years. In fact many have lived their whole lives close to the garden without even being aware of its existence. But it is fair to say that, with over 18,000 visitors last year alone, hailing from the four corners of the globe, the secret is out!
The Walled Garden benefits from a romantic, idyllic setting. The demesne at Tintern Abbey is traversed by a number of picturesque walking trails and it is at the end of the Gardener’s Walking Trail that you will find the Walled Garden, the journey in its own right as beautiful as the destination itself.
After stopping by the glorious Abbey remains en route to the Walled Garden visitors cross over the quaint carthorse bridge, which predates modern cars, catching a glimpse of the old mill, once a hive of activity where wheat and barley yielded their goodness. Proceeding up the incline and passing through the black metal gates, bent with time, you pass through the quondam (former) village of Tintern along a woodland path where bluebells and wild garlic abound in springtime.
The path is trimmed with Beech, Oak, Ash and Sweet Chestnut, remnants of the 18th century parkland landscape of rich broad-leafs, and teeming with wildlife. The native Red Squirrel population has sadly declined over the years owing to the growing numbers of Grey Squirrels. The Grey squirrel population has been checked by returning predators such as Pine Martins and Buzzards. Patient observers however can catch glimpses of the indigenous Reds along with privileged sightings of rare Woodpeckers, Egrets, Peregrine Falcons and lightning fast Kingfishers.
An alternative and correspondingly stimulating route to the garden takes you over the impressive battlement bridge, enjoying the tidal views that this bridge has to offer of the Abbey and the river, in addition to the Lime Kiln where limestone, skeletal remains of 350 million year old sea life, was burned with coal to make lime for use in the Walled Garden’s construction. Along this walk you also encounter the derelict Coach House which once housed coaches and horses but is now home to several different species of Bat.
Some 520 metres from the Abbey you are rewarded with your first glimpse of the substantial walls surrounding the 2.5 acre garden. The original layout of the garden has been reinstated as it was in the 1830’s. Information found in the OSI Historical Map from 1838 has proved an invaluable restoration aid as it shows the path structure, bridges, the outer-enclosure and the location of the vegetable and fruit trees.
The garden walls remain largely intact despite the passage of time. The main features of the stone/brick lined wall include curved corners and two intra mural structures, also referred to as bothies, on the dividing wall. The bothies also survived relatively undamaged and have since been re-roofed. The bothy on the south facing wall includes an original crude brick floor and working fireplace and it is speculated that the gardeners may have sheltered here overnight to protect delicate and rare plants from early frosts. The walls provide structure and shelter in the garden, creating a microclimate within, the brick lined walls retaining heat and providing a perfect warm surface for training walled fruit such as peaches and apricots.
The dividing wall splits the garden into two sections, the Ornamental or Pleasure garden on the east side and the Kitchen garden on the west. A river, crossed by five bridges, flows through the length of the garden. Not merely a happy coincidence but again part of the original ambitious design using the golden ratio, the river having been redirected through the garden parallel to the South Wall.
Only one of the original bridges survived intact after years of flooding and poor maintenance. It was used as a template to reinstate the 4 other damaged, crumbling and missing bridges. The bridges which had all but fallen away have been rebuilt over the Colclough stream whose crystal waters convey transitory residents of Salmon, Sea Trout, Eel and Lamprey.
In contrast to the dappled shade of the woodland walk the garden is bathed in light. Stepping into the garden you move from the lush cool green of the woodland to the rich palate of colour of the billowing borders and geometric gardenesque design. The entrance is guarded by two original Florence court Yews (Taxus baccata ‘fastigata’) and pea gravel paths flanked by a glossy Laurel hedge A dazzling array and quantity of plants are crammed into the lengthy borders, attracting an equally stunning collection of butterflies, moths and bees. The rose arches in the middle of the garden, planted with old French varieties, when in full bloom, assault the senses with an abundance of luxuriously scented white blooms including: rose ‘Adelaide d’Orleans’, rose ‘Félicité et Perpétue’, rose ‘Aimée Vibert’, and the Jacobean rose ‘Alba Maxima’.
The flowing borders of the Ornamental garden give way to the form and function of the Kitchen garden, where a cornucopia of fruit and vegetables proliferate in a vast expanse of well-ordered rows. Tuber/root vegetables, leafy greens and brassicas grow huge despite the lack of watering and intensify in flavour. Strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb and apples grow in profusion. Peach, apricot and fig trees ripen their delicate fruit on the warm south facing wall in the Kitchen garden. The remains of a 180 year old pear tree “Winter nellis” still flowers and fruits near the dividing wall. The sheer variety, size and scale of planting are staggering and is reminiscent of the mellow fruitfulness of Keats’s ode to Autumn. The ripe seasonal fruit and vegetables are picked daily and are made available to take away for a discretionary donation.
With over 30 varieties of apple planted in the garden, unsurprisingly the garden’s eating apples are among the most popular produce, there’s one to suit every taste. A debt of gratitude is due to those who supported the ‘Sponsor a Fruit Tree’ fundraising initiative which provided a much needed investment into the garden in the early stages of the project and also established a link between the sponsors in the community and the garden.
Not only giving of their fruit freely and abundantly the fruit trees and bushes add to the rich palette of colour in the garden, the fairy tale red of the ‘Discovery’ apple immediately springs to mind, and share their delicate, fragrant blossoms with man and nature alike.
The plants, too many to list individually here, and garden developments, have been documented daily on the garden’s Facebook page over the last 10 years. In addition to maintaining the garden and looking after its many visitors’ further enhancements continue to be made. The rudimentary remains of a Victorian Vinery/Orangery were revealed as the site was being cleared and this too has also been faithfully restored and replanted with young vines and repopulated with citrus fruits.
The success of this restoration project doesn’t lie solely in the reinstatement of the beautiful and fruitful garden but in its re-animation into a valuable community resource as a tourist attraction, a source of local employment and a recreational facility hosting a myriad of local and national events and featuring on radio and television. Jane Powers in the Sunday Times acknowledges this, ‘Colclough Walled Garden is as much about community as it is about horticulture, and it excels in both areas…’
The Walled Garden is rich in natural beauty and history and tells a number of fascinating stories from that of its horticultural origins and the Colclough family history down to the story of its recent restoration and those who have brought this 200 year old garden back to life after too many years in dereliction.
A crucial part of any restoration project is the research that underpins it and references to Tintern’s Walled Garden abound.
The first known mention of the garden was in ‘The Irish Tourist’ by A Atkinson in 1814 where he describes: “Lady Catherine Colclough had the politeness to show me a very beautiful and fruitful walled garden, of two or three acres, enclosed by a handsome brick wall, and abounding with the delicacies of the season, an object which I had little expectation of enjoying when I drove to Tintern, as that castle, by a combination of family circumstances, had not been for some time the regular residence of the Colclough family. I observed with pleasure, the proofs which the open aspect of the garden exhibited, of the taste and judgement of its manager.” This was adopted as the goal of the restoration project.
It is also recorded that Caesar Colclough remarked to his friend Tom Boyce after his return from captivity that he “ate more fresh fruit in a day at Tintern than he had been able to get in a year in France”.
John Bernard Trotter who wrote “Walks in Ireland 1812, 1814”; published in 1819, visited Tintern in June 1812.
“We have employed several days in enjoying; the beauties of Tintern and its environs, and experienced much civility from Lady Colclough, the present, venerable lady of the abbey mansion; from her worthy agent, and from the clergyman of Tintern, Mr. Archdall, and also from the friendly priest of this parish, Mr. Doyle. Mr. Archdall `s church is absolutely buried in trees, and is highly picturesque. The Priest lives three miles from this, and has a very genteel house and handsome gardens.” June 27, 1812
The Walled Garden is briefly described in The Beauties of Ireland by James N Brewer published in 1825 in which he described the gardens as being “entirely enclosed with long ranges of substantial wall”.
J Goff of Horetown House managed the Tintern Estate as agent from 1831-1840. Correspondence between Caesar and his agent during this period survives in the National Library of Ireland and mentions various plants growing in the gardens at Tintern during this period such as Geraniums, Carnations and Daphne.
“My wife requests you to send us some slips of Daphne, the small leaved one, not the large leaved one”.
The restoration team also has original receipts for the purchase of fruit trees from Fennessy Nursery in Waterford and Miller and Sweets Nursery in Bristol which were rescued by local passer-byes from bonfires of family papers when the abbey was cleaned out by Miss Colclough steward in 1959. Miss Colclough wanted the abbey neat and tidy before it ownership was transferred.
John Claudius Loudon’s ‘An Encyclopaedia of Gardening’ written in 1825 has also guided the restoration project by teaching the gardeners the techniques of the day.
The most comprehensive and significant document to be uncovered from the point of view of the pending restoration was the Ordnance survey 6” map of 1840 which surveyed Tintern around 1838 and shows the layout of the Walled Garden, with path structure and positions of plants visible.
While A Atkinson’s evocative description of a ‘beautiful and fruitful’ garden provided the inspiration for the restoration, this ordnance survey map provided framework for the restoration.
In addition to Trotter, Atkinson and Shoemaker many other famous visitors have called to Tintern over the years including the writers Richard Pococke, who wrote “Pococke’s Tour of Ireland 1752 and the antiquarians Barralet and Beranger visiting in 1780. Painters such as Robert O’Callaghan Newham, John Windele, Joseph Turner and Charles Newport Bolton also came to Tintern such was its renown and charm. Photographers too have visited including the famous photographer Robert French, whose photos can be seen in the Lawrence collection (1870), the Waterford based photographer, A.H. Poole, who compiled the Poole collection (1880) and Father Brown, of Titanic fame, visited Tintern in the 1930’s and took several photos. Frustratingly for the restoration theme, no known photographs of the walled garden survive.
After Caesar`s death, the estate was embroiled in several lawsuits contesting succession and the validating of various wills in the Chancery Courts. Charles Dickens published a sardonic account “More of wills and will making” of the events in his magazine “All the Year Round”. The family name was spelt Coclough to poke fun at its unusual pronunciation. Dickens used the family name Dedlock for his main characters in his novel.
“In the county of Wexford are the ruins of a fine old abbey, converted into a country-house…..
At last it came to the year 1842, when the testator began to fail, and there seemed a chance that all his wife’s schemes, if schemes they were, were to be crowned with success. He was busy with his chemicals and experiments when he felt sick. On the 4th of August the will making began, perhaps the most unique series of these documents yet known.”
Dickens Jarndice vs Jarndice, from his book Bleak House is said to have been inspired by the Colclough will case. In the preface to Bleak House, Dickens cites two Chancery cases as especial inspirations.
“At the present moment (August, 1853) there is a suit before the court which was commenced nearly twenty years ago, in which from thirty to forty counsel have been known to appear at one time, in which costs have been incurred to the amount of seventy thousand pounds….”
On his death bed Caesar left his estate to his wife Jane Stratford Kirwin. This, Caesar’s fifth will, made in 1842, was disputed by members of the Colclough family who preferred the first will made in 1824 which left the estate to Caesar relative, Mary Grey Wentworth Colclough (Caesar’s 1st cousin once removed). Mary Grey Wentworth declared herself ’Heiress at Law’ and she commenced legal action. The Colclough versus Colclough will case was the case celebre of the decade and later became known as Rossborough versus Boyce. When in the intervening period Jane married Caesar’s friend, Thomas Boyce of Bannow House in 1846, and Mary married Thomas Rossborough from Co. Fermanagh in 1848.
Caesar’s fifth will was set aside by a special jury at Wexford in July 1852, giving Tintern Abbey to Mary. An appeal was heard by the House of Lords in 1857 where a retrial was ordered to take place in Wexford. The case was finally settled in July 1857 when Jane received £20,000 and Mary received Tintern Abbey with a rental income of £8,000 a year.
The discovery of a bundle of dusty old letters behind a press in Tintern Abbey written by Caesar to his Wexford relatives describing a warm and friendly relationship between both parties contrary to Jane’s evidence brought the case to a conclusion but also bankruptcy to the Colclough’s.
A failure to pay debts would lead to Tintern Abbey being put up for sale in 1892, only to be saved by the Colclough’s Catholic tenantry who raised £1,000 preventing banks from foreclosing. The tenants may have remembered how, unlike other landlords, the Colclough’s had never evicted anyone during the Famine.
The land wars of the 1880’s brought Tintern centre stage with Captain Biddulph Colclough granting a 20 per cent reduction on rents to his tenants after a campaign of agitation by the land league.
Michael Shoemaker, author of Wanderings in Ireland in 1908 paints a very evocative picture and regales us with his animated tale of the Abbey, its inhabitants and its surroundings which he encountered, a flavour of which we share with you here:
“Our Motor has stopped before a Great Iron Gate of Tintern Abbey beyond which stretch the glades of a Magnificent Park…I doubt not that many of my readers have visited the Great Estates of Europe, but unless they have seen Tintern Abbey in Wexford — the quaintest of all abodes in this quaint Ireland — they have still an Experience before them.”
He creates a vivid description of the outward countenance of the Abbey as ‘embowered in clambering ivy’ with ‘bits of ruin everywhere, — moss-grown stairs…ruined arches and ivied towers…and vine-draped pillars standing far apart show the once great extent of the abbey…’On gaining entry to the Abbey he goes on to describe ivy peering into the window and tapping on the glass and he evocatively describes a taint of the buried years in the air. He describes an abandoned, walled up library its books ‘mouldering in great heaps on the floor’ a description reminiscent of the state of the abandoned Walled Garden! He gives a memorable account of the Colclough Chapel ‘on the hill yonder…roofless and in decay…choked with brambles and wild roses…embowered in creeping, drooping vines, and almost obliterated by the moss of centuries’ and an extraordinary account of the family crypt which they literally stumbled upon ‘the door being open, we wandered in and paused amazed at the spectacle of dead humanity…the entire space was crowded with coffins in all stages of appalling decay and ruin and dating all the way along from the reign of Elizabeth…ruins of coffin on coffin, pell-mell all tumbling into one wild chaos. Pausing in silent dismay for an instant only, we went forth into the sunshine, leaving the dead to their rest .
In the midst of all these reflections Shoemaker is roused when his hostess, Louisa Colclough enters, whom he describes as ‘ a typical Irish lady, all- hospitality and warm welcome’ and he goes on to say that ‘Her hearty laugh drives off the shadows and she is much pleased that we are interested in her old home: old, — yes verily — just think of it, her people have lived right here for three hundred years, and but for the secretion of those documents by some stupid ancestor the domain would be a rich one even yet. But that does not keep laughter out of Tintern.’
Shoemaker concluded that “It must have been a glorious place and is so even now in its ruins, and is one of the most interesting spots in the island”.
Miss Marie B. Colclough inherited the estate in 1912 from her mother Louise who was Mary’s daughter. Marie B. never married and lived in Tintern Abbey with her two aunts Bella (d. 1929) and May (d. 1936). After 400 years of continuous occupancy the last of the Tintern Colclough line, Miss Marie B Colclough, gifted Tintern Abbey to the Irish State in 1959 and it was at this juncture that the Walled Garden was left largely abandoned to nature.
Echoing the rebellion in Europe back in Ireland the 1798 rebellion was raging. Thankfully the Abbey building survived largely unscathed but 25 inhabitants from the village of Tintern were burned to death in a barn at Scuallabogue by retreating rebel forces from the battle of New Ross. Caesar’s Uncle, Cornelius Grogan and his cousin John Henry Colclough of Ballytige were hanged from Wexford Bridge as United Irishmen after the failure of the rebellion. Caesar’s brother, John fled to Wales in his ship at the outbreak of the rising, with 30 muskets which could well have swayed the outcome of the rising had he sided with the rebels.
John Colclough managed the Tintern estate which comprised of over 9,000 acres in Caesar’s absence. While conducting research into the Walled Garden’s history letters written between John and Caesar during 1791-1806 were examined and while they showed the improvements the brothers planned and made to the demesne, there is no specific mention of the building of a walled garden. However, these letters which incidentally showed a warm relationship between the brothers, did make reference to details such as the “existence of a small garden near the abbey” and the “appointment of a head gardener” in June 1801 and the purchase of “young fruit trees to be put against walls” in September 1801 which could imply the existence of a walled garden. John also writes in February 1802 to Caesar in response to a suggestion,
“You speak of buildings walls like my grandfather (John Grogan, Johnstown Castle), but you forget that there is not a quarry in the whole county, and that the castle (Tintern Abbey) itself is composed of field stones. Therefore, instead of walls which I also would have wished to have built, I have been obliged to run good ditches.”
John put Caesar’s name on the ballot for election to the House of Commons in 1806 and he was duly elected MP in absentia for the first time, but the government fell and a new election was called and John went forward in his own right for the subsequent election in 1807.
John’s rival in the election was his fiancées brother William Congreve Alcock of Wilton Castle.
Some of Alcock’s tenants were going to vote for John. Alcock confronted John and demanded he refuse the votes. John responded, “I will give up no man”. Alcock took off his glove and slapped John across the face, challenging him to fight a duel. John was dead within the hour shot by a pistol ball which passed through his heart. Alcock also won the election but was tried for John’s murder although later acquitted. Significantly John was the last man to die in a duel in Wexford. After John’s death, Thomas MacCord Esq. managed the estate, under instruction from Caesar and continued the improvements which John had planned, until Caesar’s return from France some 7 years later in 1814. Caesar writes; “I repeat again my dear Tom, I have the greatest wish to execute the projects of my brother and consider you in many things as the only person that can replace him in the friendship of yours attached”
When Caesar returned from France he found that the estate was indebted to the tune of £30,000, His agent’s (MacCord) accounts were fragmented but he stated that John’s election bribes (£12,000) and election expenses (£18,000) from 1806-07 accounted for the deficit. The failure of the Colclough bank, New Ross in 1808, with debts in excess of £200,000, may also have played a part in the poor state of financial affairs of the Tintern estate at that point. Interestingly in the same way in which the building of the Abbey and Hook Lighthouse by Marshall have shaped the Peninsula’s story, this event is also interwoven into the fabric of the history of the area as the bank in question was located in Creywell Brewery which was taken over by the Cherry Brothers where John F Kennedy’s great grandfather, Patrick Kennedy, learned his trade as a cooper before leaving New Ross on the Dunbrody Heritage ship for the New World.
Another interesting anecdote from the history of the estate is that while the tenants of Tintern undoubtedly endured hardship during the Great Famine of 1847 it seems they were less affected than those in inland areas in part due to the larger farms of the tenants and it’s proximately to the sea. There have even been stories of tenants eating Oysters from Bannow Bay during the Famine which may be true as they had been introduced from Milford-Haven by Thomas Colclough in 1614 where it is said that they “grew bigger and better tasted”.
Caesar’s continued suspicion of fraud by his agent which he estimated at £36,000 soured their relations. Caesar turned the estate around in a few years and was again elected MP in 1818 for the second time. He completed the removal of the village of Tintern, which was relocated to Saltmills village (which was established by MacCord in 1812), where he built a new church and bridge downriver. He did not however, go for re-election in 1820, horrified at the expense of another election. Caesar married Jane Straford Kirwan in 1818 and spent the next 22 years travelling around Europe with his wife.
The following extracts taken from Caesar Colclough’s letter to his newly appointed agent John Kennedy on the 15th of June 1840 give a poignant account of Caesar’s dismay at the ‘dilapidation of my woods’ by his previous agent Jacob W Goff (J Goff).
‘…as if money, money and money was wanting for my gratification. But nothing can compensate for destroying my mother’s Serpentine Walk’, Caesar’s mother being Catherine Grogan of Johnstown Castle Estate. ‘I was but 6 years old when the 12 trees now alluded to, were by her planted, my brother 10 months younger (now 69 years ago). My brother to the day of his death added to and cherished them, Burrows and McCord embezzled 36 thousand pounds of my revenues (from the 9th of June 1803 to the 26th of July 1841) and sent me £500 British- they still respected my trees. It remained to J Goff Esquire J. P. District Governor to make my 75th year the saddest of all my adventurous career, but as you say-what is done cannot be undone. In haste yours etc., Caesar Colclough ‘.
Caesar made his last recorded visit to Tintern in 1836. He died in Boteler house, Cheltenham on the 23rd August 1842 aged 78 and his body was interred in the family graveyard at Tintern, which is open to visitors.