Dicksgrove: Notes on the Families of Meredith and Coltsmann

Dicksgrove, near Castleisland, was long synonymous with the family of Meredith, landlords there since the early eighteenth century.[1]  Indeed, Richard Meredith (1739-1821), who planted, built upon, and improved the estate, is said to have named Dicksgrove after himself.[2]


Meredith’s improvements were said to have been made on the site of ‘the Bailleagh forfeiture.’[3]  This included a small castle, about which little is recorded.   The following reference offers a clue about its history:


The first patriarch of Dicksgrove, or rather of Anna, for Meredith had built Anna House and resided in it long before he had purchased the small castle that stood where Dicksgrove House stands now on the side of a heath-grown hill, without tree, garden or wall, when the Samuelses, Cromwell’s subalterns, getting for their arrear of pay the confiscated property of Teigue MacDermod MacFinian Oge.  Bailleag of Tiernagoose and Killeentierma (Macarthy) had it sold to the London Hollow Sword Blade Company.[4]


MacDermod MacFinian Oge, Macarthy Bailleag, and the Dicksgrove Merediths, underscore the history of the area.


Gate Lodges to Dicksgrove House (far left and far right) recall times past


Less familiar is the name Coltsmann of Dicksgrove, a family long associated with Flesk Castle in Killarney.[5]  The Coltsmanns were a Northumbrian family of Danish extraction.  John Coltsmann (1748-1835) of Manchester Square, London, purchased lands in Kerry and built Flesk Castle at Dromhumper, on the site of an ancient fort and castle, in the early nineteenth century.[6]


In his will, made on 9 August 1833, he devised Flesk Castle and his Dicksgrove Estate to his son, John Coltsmann junior (1795-1849):


I give, devise, and bequeath to my son John Coltsmann all those, my property, lands, tenements, and premises, at and about Flesk Castle, together with the live stock on said lands; also my plate, library, pictures, and furniture.  I also devise and bequeath to my son, John Coltsmann, my lands, tenements, and premises, with the appurtenances thereof, situate lying and being at Dick’s Grove, near Castle Island, county of Kerry.[7]


John Coltsmann, who subscribed £100 towards the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Killarney, died at Flesk Castle on 9 May 1835 at the age of 87.[8]


Coltsmann’s magnificent castle at one time dominated the Killarney landscape[9]

Soon after, the following deed was drawn between his son, John Coltsmann, and David Mahony. It sheds light on the extent of the Coltsmann Estate at Dicksgrove:


Deed, dated 7th July 1835, between John Coltsmann of Fleske (sic) Castle in the county of Kerry of the one part; and David Mahony of Upper Mount-street in the city of Dublin of the other part: whereby for the purpose of barring and extinguishing all estates tail, and in consideration of 10s, said John Coltsmann granted, sold, and assigned to said David Mahony the towns and lands of Tiernagoose, Laharn ((Laharan) alias Inchymacmanus; another part of Laharn, also other parts called Parkasmuthane, Knockane and West Dromroe; the towns and lands of Cloonclough, Inchbuoy, and that part of Curramore called West Curraghmore, Annaghmore, Dysert, with those parts of Curraghmore called Middle, South and East parts, and the two Lyres, in the barony of Trughenacony, and county of Kerry [parishes of Dysart and Killeentierna].  To hold in trust for the use of the said John Coltsmann, his heirs and assigns for ever – Inrolled 17th July 1835.[10]

It also hints at the political situation in Ireland.  In November 1835, John Coltsmann had been returned by the Judges of Assize to serve as High Sheriff which may have prompted his departure from the country.[11]


John Coltsmann returned to Ireland to take up residence at Flesk Castle at the end of 1842, and subsequently accepted the post of High Sheriff.[12]


His support of the Roman Catholic cause was evident in a letter he sent, on his homecoming, to Rev Thomas O’Sullivan, Killarney:


Flesk Castle, 18 December 1842.  Rev and Dear Sir I have only just had the honour of receiving your letter dated the 16th instant, bearing also the signature of James M’Carthy, and requesting my attendance at a meeting to be held this day at the Kenmare Arms ‘in order to make arrangements for the collection of the O’Connell Annuity.’  I regret much that, owing to the shortness of the notice, it will be out of my power to be present; but I am desirous to take this opportunity of recording my approval of the objects of this meeting – and this, from a deep felt conviction of the great debt of gratitude which, in common with every Catholic in the United Kingdom, I owe to Daniel O’Connell.  I beg leave to enclose my subscription, and to remain, reverend and dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant. John Coltsmann


The following year, John Coltsmann’s steward, Thomas Walsh, discussed horticultural practices of the time.  He addressed the editor of the Tralee Chronicle:


On Mr Coltsman’s return from Sicily last winter, he brought with him about one gallon of seed, which he gave to me and begged I would be most particular about it, as it was the seed of a most valuable kind of clover, with which they fed all description of stock in Sicily where it grows luxuriantly in the northern declivities to the height of 6 feet.  In the month of March I sowed a small quantity of the seed in an open hotbed which made its appearance in 18 days after, rather sparingly.  It grew rapidly from that to the 13th of August when it flowered and attained the height of 4.5 feet.  From these plants I have already saved some seed.  In the month of May on a large border in the garden, I sowed more of the seed, giving it no more care than raking it in and keeping it clear of the weeds.  I am sure it is quite enough to say how successful I have been when on parts of that border where they had room some of the plants cover a space of 12 feet in circumference … Any person doubting this statement by calling on me I will satisfy him as to the correctness of it.  I gave some of the seed to Mr E Carroll, Sir W Godfrey’s steward, with whom I believe it is doing equally well.[13]


John Coltsman died at the age of 54 on 5 January 1849:[14]


Last week at his residence in Dublin, after a prolonged illness, John Coltsmann Esq of Flesk Castle in county Kerry.  Mr Coltsmann was a highly accomplished gentleman and when a young man was universally admired in these countries and on the continent for his singular beauty.  Familiar with all the arts, he designed and saw executed the picturesque castle popularly called by his name, and which, coupled with the magnificent landscape it commands, presents a feature of striking interest to the tourist.  This noble edifice, the demense, and the entire of the landed property pass into the possession of Mr Coltsmann’s nephew, Daniel Cronin jun Esq, eldest son of the hospitable proprietor of The Park.[15]


Notices of the activities of John Coltsmann were mainly confined to his Killarney property.[16] The final analysis of his Dicksgrove estate is open to research.


[1] Dicksgrove House, part of the estate, was destroyed by fire in 1932.  ‘Dicksgrove House, the ancient seat of the Meredith family, between Farranfore and Castleisland, was destroyed by fire on Saturday night.  The fire, as far as can be gleaned, originated in a chimney with joists connecting with timber flooring, going on fire.  When the outbreak was discovered, neighbours gathered and with the household staff did all that was possible to get the flames under control but unfortunately the fire had taken such a hold of the building that with the primitive methods available in a country area it was not possible to check the progress of the fire.  Dicksgrove House was one of the oldest family mansions in the country.  Apart from the buildings, which were of a classic kind, the house contained some old and valuable furniture and antique silver which would be regarded as priceless at the present time … It would not be easy to estimate the damage done by this fire but from the dimensions of the buildings and the furniture and other contents destroyed, the total damage done is likely to be estimated at some thousands of pounds’ (The Liberator Tralee, 15 March 1932). 

In 1938 the property was acquired by the Land Commission and demolished in 1939. 

[2] David Meredith of Gawross [Gowresse], Montgomeryshire, Wales, was son-in-law of William Brown, ‘collaterally related ancestrally to the Earls of Kenmare’ (O’Donohoe Collection Catalogue, pp113-115).  ‘According to the Heraldic Visitations of 1586-1613, David’s father John Meredith was a direct male descendant (of the 12th generation) from Cynfelyn ap Dolffyn, Prince of Powys, who was in turn a descendant of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, King of Gwynedd and Powys in the 11th century’ (irish-merediths.com).

David Meredith’s son, Richard Meredith (1675-1752), was sent to manage the Irish estates.  In 1734, Richard Meredith was one of the six people who purchased the lease of Castleisland (the other five had purchased in 1733) paying a fine of £6,000 and a yearly rent of £1,900.  Each received a portion of the town and a share of the vast rural estate.  Meredith’s portion of the town was the townland of Cahereen East, consisting of about eight acres, bounded on the north by the Main Street, on the west by Barrack Lane East, on the south by the river Maine, and on the east by Church Street West.

Richard’s son, William Meredith (1704-1784) was of ‘Castleisland and Anna Mohr.’ He was described as ‘one of the wealthiest commoners in the south of Ireland, having possessed Abbeyfeale and the territory in possession of Mr Ellis, also the estate now possessed by the representatives of John Saunders Esq, also the property now in the possession of Mr Coltsmann Cronin and some others’ (O’Donohoe Collection Catalogue, pp113-115).

William Meredith married Marian, daughter of Maurice Fitzgerald, Knight of Kerry, of Dingle. ‘That lady was one of the sisters so celebrated for creating numerous and influential connections throughout the county’ (ibid).  Ten children were born to the couple including son Richard (1739-1821), who lived at Dicksgrove.  Richard married Lucy Saunders.  Their son William (1772-1849) High Sheriff in 1803, commanded the Castleisland Yeomanry Corps.  William married Alicia Orpen and their son, Richard Meredith (1803-1857), succeeded to the Dicksgrove estates. 

It is worth noting here that in 1855, Dicksgrove was put up for sale but was subsequently withdrawn from auction.  A document in the O’Donohoe Collection (55.1.202) reveals that in 1859, Dicksgrove was being leased by the representatives of Richard Meredith to Thomas F Brosnahan and from 1859-1862, to Robert Twiss MD.

It would seem to be this Richard Meredith (1803-1857) who in 1829, presided at a grand dinner in Castleisland to celebrate Catholic Emancipation (Chutes Western Herald, 27 April 1829). ‘The friends of Civil and Religious Liberty in Killarney dined together on the King’s Birth Day at Gorham’s Hotel to celebrate the attainment of Catholic Emancipation.  Richard Meredith of Dicksgrove Esq presided at a conciliation dinner in Castle Island last Tuesday, which was attended by Clergymen of both persuasions.’ Richard married twice (to Louisa Ann Juxon and Rose Helen Buckle).  Richard (1814-1912), a son from his second marriage, lived at Dicksgrove. 

This Richard Meredith married Mary Elizabeth Huggard and had 15 children.  His eldest surviving son at the time of the destruction of Dicksgrove by fire was Stephen John Meredith (1876-1952).  See The Irish Merediths (irish-merediths.com).

[3] Tralee Chronicle, 28 September 1866.

[4] O’Donohoe Collection Catalogue, pp113-115.

[5] ‘Flesk Castle, also known as Dromhumper (Droumhumper) Castle, Glenflesk Castle and Coltsmann (sometimes Coleman) Castle, was built between 1809-1815 for John Coltsmann of Manchester Square, London.  He is said to have come from Northumberland and was a merchant dealing mostly in the butter trade in Ireland’ (Bary, Houses of Kerry, p115). 

A sketch of Flesk Castle is contained in Owen Roe O’Sullivan Son of Sliabh Luachra Biographical Sketch of Kerry’s Famous Bard with notes on Cronin of Rathmore House, The Park and Glenflesk Castle (2017) at www.lulu.com. 

Flesk Castle, which fell into disuse in the mid 1940s, is currently being redeveloped.  See ‘We are privileged to be bringing Flesk Castle back to life’ by John O’Mahony, Killarney Today, 1 October 2018.

[6] ‘Flesk Castle occupies the site of two ancient forts, of which one was of Danish origin, while the other, which stood farther to the west, is referable to the era of Cromwellian invasion.  The only traces now existing of the latter, consist of the ditch that defended the western ramparts.  The present building is of recent erection, and considerable attention has been paid to exterior effect, while the interior combines all the accommodation which the refinements of modern life demand.  The greater part of the hewn stone employed in its construction, was brought from a distance of two miles.  The Hall is entered by a pointed door-way, over which is a large mullioned window; two other windows of the same description also light it laterally.  It is thirty feet long by twenty-five broad, and thirty feet high.  The ceiling is groined, and a gallery runs round three sides of it, which serves to communicate with different chambers on the first floor.  On passing through the hall, an anti-room conducts to the octagon Saloon, beyond which are the small and great Drawing-rooms, and finally the Dining Parlour.  These five rooms all communicate ‘en suite’ and their decorations and ornaments are strictly in unison with the general character of the building.  The Library and Study occupy the north wing.  From the windows of all these apartments a most diversified and enchanting prospect presents itself; some of the most remarkable features in it are Fox Mountain [sic], and its cascade, the former conspicuous by the fantastic elegance of its form, and the rich luxuriance of its west woods; the peninsula of Morcruss Abbey [sic] with its various creeks and inlets; the ruins of Ross Castle, celebrated by the defence it made against the republican forces of Ludlow, and finally, the windings of the Flesk, and its bridge of twenty-three arches.  The carriage-approach winds in a gradual ascent round the hill, sheltered and concealed by extensive woods of oak, beech, and larch, which clothe its declivities on all sides.  To the west and north of the Castle, the grounds slope down to these woods, while to the east they stretch out into extensive lawns, interspersed with clumps of plantations, and scattered trees.  The western or Lake front opens on a spacious terrace, the walls of which are embattled.  It is flanked in its north-west angle by a Tower in ruins, and a dry ditch defends it in front.  This façade is terminated on the south by the great Octagon Tower; by the side of this building, and joined to it, rises a smaller Tower of the same shape; between these and the main building, and somewhat in the rear, is seen the White Tower, which is of rectangular form; the battlements are in the style of the ancient Irish Castles.  The chief feature of the entrance front is the Round Tower, which rises to the height of seventy-five feet.  It contains a spiral staircase, twelve feet in width, by which an easy access is obtained to the different floors and roofs of the building.  The latter being flat, and covered with lead, offer a great facility for the enjoyment of the views in every direction’(Views of The Seats of Noblemen and Gentry in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland (1824) by John Preston Neale, vol I).

Dr John Knightly, civil servant and local historian, spoke about Flesk Castle at the Daniel O’Connell Summer School in 2018. ‘The Castle was built in the 1820-30s by John Coltsman, from a wealthy Irish Catholic family with extensive Killarney connections that had made a fortune in trading wine and cotton between Portugal and Britain. He had homes in Paris and London and was part of an extensive London Irish Catholic network and built Flesk Castle as a summer home. He married a Cronin, which made him a distant in-law of the O’Connells. Flesk Castle is one of the most striking buildings built by a Catholic before the wave of church building began in the middle of the century. The Castle is in the Gothic revival style and was designed by James Chambers, an architect from Tralee’ (‘Flesk Castle – the Big House in the Era of O’Connell’).

[7] ‘Reports of Cases decided in all the Courts of Equity and Common Law in Ireland, and in the House of Lords,’ The Irish Jurist (1848-1867) Vol 17 (1865), pp5-16.  Court of Exchequer, reported by Oliver J Burke Esq, barrister, Coltsman v Coltsman, Nov 5 1863; Jan 30 1864; Dec 5 1864.  The ruling was subsequently appealed; Catherine Coltsmann v Daniel Cronin Coltsmann; see Kerry Evening Post, 9 May 1868 & Cork Examiner 22 May 1868; the latter reports judgment of the appeal.

[8] John Coltsmann was married to Christine de Lassence of Paris, who died on 24 January 1838 at Grove End House, St John’s Wood, aged 63 (her sister Marie was married first to de Costellan and secondly to the Duc de Duras, Chamberlain to Louis Phillipe).  John Coltsmann and his wife Christine had three children, Christina Maria (1796-1822), who married in 1814 Daniel Cronin (d1857) of The Park, Killarney; Anna Maria Theresa, who married Sir William Duncan Godfrey of Kilcoleman Abbey and John (1795-1849) who married Catherine, second daughter of James Langdale Esq of Lavender-hill, Surrey (Bary, Houses of Kerry, p115). 

Christina Maria, who married into the Cronin of Park family, and died at a young age in 1822, had five children: Daniel Cronin-Coltsmann (took surname under terms of will) (1816-1894) who married Helena Lyons of Saunders Park and had issue: Daniel John, John Lewis, Dennis, Francis, and Helena May (‘Eily,’ only daughter, married in early October 1883 Vincent A O’Farrell of Dublin at Killarney Cathedral, ‘at the church door, a goodly number of the poor received a shower of silver coins.’  The wedding breakfast was held at Flesk Castle); John L Cronin Coltsmann, married Minnie Macdonnell (or O’Donnell); Christina, who married Denis Duggan; Mary Anne, who married Francis Dennehy and Denis, born in 1821.

The fusion of the two families of Cronin and Coltsmann is given as follows in O’Kief Coshe Mang (1952) by Albert Eugene Casey (vol I, pp xxxv-xxxvi):

The O’Cronain family, according to Cathan O’Duinin in 1320, descend from Oilium Ollum, Foghan Mor, Fiacha, Oiliol, Levy, Core, Fochy, Ciomhthan, Hugh, Cairbre, Conor, Salbhuidhe, Duibhlaing, Ealathuch, Ealathan, Maoluir, Cronan, whence O’Cronain or Cronin.  The Cronins lived at Rathmore until 1712 when the family came to Killarney and built The Park House.  The will of Daniel Cronin of Knocknagree [and of the Park, Killarney] is dated 1756; and his nephew, Daniel, of the Park, near Killarney, died in 1786, without issue, leaving his estate to his sister’s grandson, Daniel Duggan whose father was Denis Duggan of Mount Infant in Duhallow, son of Captain Duggan who was on Sarsfield’s staff at the siege of Limerick. Daniel Duggan adopted the name of Cronin, and married Mary Lombard having issue three sons, Daniel, James and John, of these Daniel Cronin married in 1814 Christina, daughter of John Coltsmann of Glenflesk Castle.

[9] Left and right depictions of Flesk Castle from Views of The Seats of Noblemen and Gentry in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland (1824) by John Preston Neale, vol I. Image in centre from map, The Lakes of Killarney, printed in 1868.

[10] Abstract of the Deeds Inrolled in Chancery 1834-1839 (1840) Compiled by George Hatchell.  Griffith’s Valuation adds land at Beenateevaun, Cloonclogh and Curracitty.  Coltsmann also held land elsewhere in the county including the barony of Magunihy.

[11] He would later explain that he had gone to France to care for his mother, and did not intend to return to Ireland for some years – ‘The excuse was not at first admitted … he was followed to Paris but we could not get him to serve … what were the politics of Mr Coltsmann I do not know, Mr Coltsman is the son of a gentleman who settled near Killarney’ (‘Select Committee on the Appointment of Sheriffs in Ireland’ Limerick Chronicle, 1 September 1838). 

[12] ‘Rejoicings at Flesk Castle,’ Kerry Examiner, 1 November 1842. ‘The popular owner of Flesk Castle accompanied by his amiable lady arrived at his splendid seat on Wednesday last after a lengthened sojourn of several years on the continent.’

‘Shrievalty of Kerry: John Coltsmann Esq of Flesk Castle has accepted the office of High Sheriff of this County for the ensuing year and will, we are happy to say, appoint John M’Cartie Esq his Sub-Sheriff’ (Tralee Chronicle, 9 December 1843).

[13] Letter dated 17 October 1843.  Mr Walsh addressed a number of letters to the Chronicle on matters of horticulture at this time.

[14] His widow died at Cannes, France, on 18 November 1890 aged 72.

[15] The obituary concluded: ‘Mr Coltsmann served the office of High Sheriff for this county.  His death throws the family of Sir William Godfrey, to whose most amiable lady he was brother, into mourning.  Mr Coltsmann’s remains were on Monday last, deposited in Muckross Abbey, beside his lamented sister, the late Mrs Cronin’ (Tralee Chronicle, 27 January 1849). 

John Coltsmann senior built the castle, but it suffered a fire in June 1823: ‘The beautiful castle of Drumhomper, bounding the Lake of Killarney, the residence of John Coltsman Esq, was accidentally burned down on Wednesday se-nnight.  Several articles of value were consumed’ (Freeman’s Journal, 4 July 1823).  It seems probable John Coltsmann junior renovated the building. 

It is worth recording another fire that occurred in the vicinity on 25 June 1818: Between the hours of five and six o’clock, whilst a large number of the working classes and tradesmen were assembled at Drumhomper Castle ‘to greet its liberal and munificent owner, John Coltsman jun Esq upon his return to that delightful spot after a short sojourn in England, and on the Continent for the recovery of his health,’ the charming cottage situated on the base of Drumhomper hill suddenly took fire and was totally consumed.  The efforts of the 39th Regiment under Colonel Lindsay, who went to the fire from their barracks in New Street, Killarney, were to no avail.  The cottage contained an assortment of valuable furniture, books, prints and wine though John Cronin Esq succeeded in saving some valuable papers (From Old Kerry Records, Kerry Evening Post, 20 November 1909).

[16] For example, in 1845, Mr Coltsmann ‘sumptuously entertained’ Judges Ball and Jackson at Flesk Castle on their way to Cork, as reported in the Limerick Chronicle, 2 April 1845.