Blennerhassett Family Tree
Genealogy one-name study      by Bill Jehan
   Introduction      History      Plantation of Munster
The Plantation of Munster
Denny of Tralee

The Plantation of Munster & Plantation of Ulster were established by the crown under Queen Elizabeth I for 'planting' protestant farmers onto forfeited estates of rebel Irish noblemen. In Munster such 'planters' or 'undertakers' were mostly English but in Ulster they were frequently Scottish.

Following the defeat of Gerald FitzGerald, 15th Earl of Desmond("The Rebel Earl") in the Geraldine Wars and his murder in 1583 at Glenageenty, Ballymacelligott, his vast estates in Munster, some 500,000 acres, were declared forfeit to the crown and plans were laid for the Plantation of Munster. The confiscated lands were surveyed, 210,000 acres being granted to new settlers. Good land was divided into thirty-six estates varying in size from 4,000 to 12,000 acres, any remaining poor land being additional to this. The land was granted to English protestants who had performed some service and who undertook to plant their new lands with a number of protestant tenants.

Sir Edward Denny, Knt (1547-1599) of Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, was a godson to King Edward VI; a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Queen Elizabeth I; Commander under Admiral Lord Thomas Howard. He served against the rebel Earl of Desmond and also against the Spanish in Ireland, playing a prominent role in the Battle of “Dun An Oir” on the Dingle peninsula, where approximately 600 Spanish soldiers who had come to assist the Geraldines were killed by English forces commanded by his cousin Sir Walter Raleigh.

For his services he was granted in 1587 a reward of 6,000 acres of Desmond's forfeited estates, including the town and the Earl's chief castle of Tralee.  He became Governor of Kerry & Desmond and one of the Council of Munster but did not himself settle there, although he made many grants of land to others, who themselves or their sons settled as “Undertakers in the Plantation of the Province of Munster”. Edward Denny was knighted, "Knight Banneret", in Ireland on 26-October-1588.

The three principal undertaker families brought into Tralee by Sir Edward Denny, Knt to settle on portions of his own grant of lands were Blennerhassett, Chute & Morris. Sir Edward on 14th August 1590 (32 Elizabeth I) granted Ballycarty and other lands near Tralee to Thomas Blennerhassett (born est.c1540) of Flimby Hall, Cumberland.  Thomas is said to have visited Kerry but returned to Cumberland and it was his son Robert Blennerhassett (born est. c1565) who settled, circa 1590, becoming ancestor of all the Kerry & Limerick Blennerhassett families.  Only these Kerry and Limerick families survive, all other branches of the name now extinct in the male line, thus all living Blennerhassetts are of Irish descent. 

The grant to Thomas Blennerhassett was contingent on him rendering one red rose at the festival of Saint John the Baptist and paying a rent of six pounds sterling per year. Robert established himself on adjoining townlands Ballycarty and Ballyseedy, near Tralee, and since that time the Blennerhassetts have been a prominent and well-respected family in both Kerry and Limerick.  The three principal landowning families of this branch were seated at Ballycarty and Ballyseedy, Co.Kerry; at Castle Conway, Killorglin, Co.Kerry; at Riddlestown, Co.Limerick and at Blennerville & Churchtown, Co.Kerry.

Sir Edward Denny's son Sir Arthur (1584-1619, also sometimes called Sir Edward) did settle in Ireland, at Tralee Castle in Co.Kerry; he commenced rebuilding of the town of Tralee and from him descended the Denny family of Tralee. He also held Carrigafoyle Castle on the River Shannon in North Kerry, in earlier times the principal seat of the ancient family “O'Connor Kerry”. Substantial ruins of Carrigafoyle Castle remain.
Tralee Castle 1824 by Sarah J. Harnett
from "The History of Tralee" (2009) p.50
photo: courtesy of Gerald O'Carroll
The old Tralee Castle of the Geraldines was rebuilt by the Denny family as their seat and fortress in Desmond, this work completed in 1627 by Sir Edward Denny, Knt (1605-1646), father-in-law of John Blennerhassett of Ballycarty. Tralee Castle stood close to the present-day junction of Lower Castle Street and Denny Street.
In the rebellion of 1641 it was ruined, then in 1691 both Castle and town were destroyed by fire, set by Jacobite forces anticipating the arrival of Williamite forces from Limerick. Charles Smith's 1756 work The Ancient and Present State of the County of Kerry contains a Plan of Traly showing the location & extent of the Castle at that time.
Partially rebuilt in 1802 as a gentleman's country house, it was finally demolished in 1825-6, the stones from Tralee Castle used in the construction of present-day Denny Street. Only a few traces of the castle remain, although some foundation walls were uncovered in the 1990s.  This unique watercolour of Tralee Castle, painted for Sir Edward Denny in 1824 by his friend Sarah J. Harnett, is owned by Sir Anthony Denny, the present head of the family, and is illustrated in "The History of Tralee" by Gerald O'Carroll.
The Church of St.John the Evangelist, Ashe Street, Tralee(C.of I.) was closely associated with the Denny family of Tralee Castle and the Denny Family Bible (a 1639 King James Bible) is kept at the church in an ancient wooden box.  A notable volume in itself, the bible also contains a manuscript history of the Denny family at Tralee over a period of 300 years that has many Blennerhassett references. When no service is taking place the Church is usually locked, but arrangements can be made for visitors to view the interior.
The Denny and Blennerhassett families were closely allied for many generations and frequently intermarried. The “Denny Family Diary” of 1625-1753 contains references to many Kerry families including Blennerhassett. Despite this, members of these families were often political rivals. O'Carroll's "The History of Tralee" is inspired by, and framed around, the Charter granted in 1613 by King James I to the town of Tralee. It contains an interesting narrative of a century or more of rivalry and struggle for control of the Corporation of Tralee between Denny of Tralee and Blennerhassett of Ballyseedy.

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