Blennerhassett Family Tree
Genealogy one-name study      by Bill Jehan
   Introduction      Property      The Ballyseedy Entail
The Ballyseedy Entail
in the Will of

Sir Edward Denny, Knt, of Tralee on 14th August 1590 granted lands in Co.Kerry, including the adjoining townlands of Ballycarty and Ballyseedy, to Thomas Blennerhassett of Flimby, Cumberland, on rendering “one red rose at the festival [of the martyrdom of] Saint John the Baptist" (29th August) and payment of “six pounds sterling” per year rent. Following this grant, Thomas’ son Robert Blennerhassett settled in Co.Kerry, initially at Ballycarty Castle, a Geraldine fort on the south bank of the River Lee.

Early in the 17th Century Robert built a house within the bawn (strong outer wall) of Ballycarty, his son John residing there during the rebellion of 1641. This house probably developed into the 18th century Ballycarty House of the Nash family, destroyed by fire during the troubles of the 1920s. Extensive ruins of Ballycarty House remain.
Following the upheavals of the Cromwellian period and the 1641 Irish rebellion, John Blennerhassett of Ballycarty in 1654 lodged a claim to re-establish his ownership of the Ballyseedy estate. This was successful and at about this date he moved, with his family, from their home at Ballycarty to Ballyseedy.
Ballyseedy, like Ballycarty, had originally been a Geraldine fort, also lying on the south bank of the River Lee. It was and is adjacent to a fine clear spring of fresh water, known locally as “Puck’s Well”. The Blennerhassetts built their house adjoining and incorporating the old fort, from which it took the name Ballyseedy Castle. The ruins of both the Geraldine fort and the Blennerhassett house, together here called “old” Ballyseedy, are known locally as “Puck’s House”. They may be seen just inside the western end of Ballyseedy Wood, which in 2007 became a public woodland park. There is as yet no marker placed by the ruins to indicate their interesting history.

Col. John Blennerhassett, father of the Irish House of Commons and known as "The Great Colonel John", was born c1691/2, probably at “old” Ballyseedy. On succeeding to the Ballyseedy estate in 1708 he had in 1721 built “Elm Grove”, a large country house a mile or more away at the opposite, eastern, end of Ballyseedy Wood. His youngest brother William Blennerhassett Sr remodelled Elm Grove c1780 “…as an immense house…”, this being completed by his son William Blennerhassett Jr  c1788.

Col. John died 5th may 1775 at Oakpark, Tralee, home of his granddaughter, Letitia Bateman. His Will (dated 1774, proved 1776) is particularly interesting in that it contains details of the Ballyseedy Entail, the permitted line of succession to the Ballyseedy estate, documented "in tail male" to many more degrees of relationship than was usual at that time, or indeed at any time.

Col. John's motive for ensuring inheritence of the estate "in-tail male" in such unusual detail was, it appears, to disinherit one of his nephews, the younger son of his brother Thomas Blennerhassett, to make it impossible for that nephew to inherit the Ballyseedy estate. Thomas' elder son Arthur is described in the will as “an only son”. Thomas' younger son Thomas Jr (of Ash Hill, Ballymacelligott, Co.Kerry, b.1736) is omitted completely.
Had Thomas Jr been deceased at the time of writing the entail in 1774, he had an heir, Arthur (b.c1755 d.c1841) who could have been included, but was not. The entail did allow for further children of Thomas Sr. to succeed, but because of his age in 1774 that was unlikely.

Family legend has it that Thomas Jr was “done out of the property”, perhaps for making an inappropriate marriage, perhaps because his children were illegitimate, perhaps because of some offence that caused the family to think of him as no longer worthy of succeeding to the estate.

Thomas Jr’s descendants worked the lands of Gortatlea & Blackbriar, good sized farms within the Ballyseedy estate. It is ironic that the only Blennerhassetts of Ballyseedy living today are of the Gortatlea and Blackbriar branch, all descendants of “disinherited” Thomas Blennerhassett Jr of Ash Hill, and that this Will prevented the inheritance of the one line of the of the family that has survived and prospered.

The original Will is lost, probably destroyed in the Dublin Record Office fire of 1922. The only known copy is a Ms dated 27th June 1776 in a collection of Blennerhassett documents from Ballyseedy that are among the uncatalogued (in 2004) papers of the Browne family of Riverstown, Cork deposited at Shropshire Archives, Shrewsbury, Shropshire as Deposits 823 (Leighton Hall Collection) & 1846 (Leighton Hall Collection – additional deposit).

These documents came into possession of the Browne family of Riverstown, Co.cork, Ireland with Frances Blennerhassett, grand-daughter of “The Great Colonel John” Blennerhassett (author of this Will) and sole heiress of his eldest son John Blennerhassett Jr.  Following her father’s death in 1763 the entail laid down in this Will caused her to lose Ballyseedy House & estate to her uncle Arthur Blennerhassett.

In 1784 she married Rev. Jemmett Browne of Riverstown, taking family papers with her. These Blennerhassett papers are Deposit 823 box 14 (entire box) & box 18 (bundle 4 only). There are pictures of Frances and Jemmett Browne in Deposit 1846 (items 48,  49, 55, 57).

Leighton Hall at Leighton near Telford, Shropshire was home to the Kynnersley family until Thomas Frederick Kynnersley died in 1927. He bequeathed the Estate to a cousin Wiston John Jemmett-Browne, who then changed his surname by deed-poll from Jemmett-Browne to Kynnersley-Browne & moved in, bringing with him the Browne & Blennerhassett documents.

The house was sold out of the family to the present owner’s father in 1957, at which time Sotherbys held a sale of Leighton Hall furniture & the family documents were deposited at the Shropshire Record Office. There had been an earlier sale of Leighton Hall furniture in 1924.

The Will and entail (one document) are in Deposit 823 box 18 bundle 4 and is listed on pages 15 & 16a of “A List of the Leighton Hall Collection”, compiled at Leighton Hall in c1957, shortly before the documents were deposited at Shropshire Record Office in Shrewsbury. 


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