Heaps of History: Brewsterfield House in the Twentieth Century

Brewsterfield House, Glenflesk, Co Kerry was built by Sir Francis Brewster in the second half of the seventeenth century.  The proximity of the property to Sir William Petty’s iron works at Kenmare suggests that it was at about this time that Sir Francis Brewster, author of Essays on Trade (1702), set up a substantial iron works at Glenflesk.


A rare image of his seventeenth century Brewsterfield property has kindly been shared with Castleisland District Heritage by Mary O’Donoghue of Coolcurtoga, author of Coolcurtoga: A Story of Ireland and Cottage and Castle: Sizing up History at Coolcurtoga.[1]


The photograph came to light following Mary’s continued research into the lives of the family of Daniel Reardon and his wife Mary Dineen whose daughters lived at Coolcurtoga and Brewsterfield.


Brewsterfield House (centre), Sir Francis Brewster’s 17th century residence before it was dismantled in the 20th century. On the left, a chart from Sir Francis Brewster’s Essays on Trade shows that ‘Wooll’ and butter were Ireland’s biggest exports in 1681 while salt ranked high on imports.  On the far right, countries involved in the import/exportation of goods in 1697


Mary writes:


Elizabeth Reardon of Brewsterfield and Johanna Reardon of Coolcurtoga, the resilient daughters of Daniel of Coolcurtoga, managed to retain the historic Coolcurtoga and Brewsterfield properties until they were the rightful owners.

Elizabeth Reardon succeeded her father Daniel in Brewsterfield.  Elizabeth married Garrett Fitzgerald from Drishane in Cork and they purchased Brewsterfield House and land with it.  They had three children.  They gave half of the place to their daughter Hanora Fitzgerald and the other to one of the Casey daughters of Coolcurtoga (who had remained in the USA after her father and sister returned home to buy Coolcurtoga).  

Hanora married Thomas Brosnan from Clogher in Ballymacelligot and the couple lived with Elizabeth and Garrett at Brewsterfield House.  Hanora and Thomas, who had no children, remained there after the death of both parents.[2] 

Thomas Brosnan sold his 10-acre share of Brewsterfield to Jerry Kennedy, father of Diarmuid, who lives there now.  The second half of the property was managed by Mary Fleming, a Fitzgerald relative, on behalf of Hanora’s American cousin.  Time passed, and in 1954, the other half of the property, which included historic Brewsterfield House, was duly sold by Mary Fleming to Jerry Kennedy who had raised enough money to buy the second half.  This ended the Reardon, Fitzgerald, Brosnan and Casey era in Brewsterfield.

The original house was facing the river and the extensions built later were to the back. There were stables original to the house also at the back. The three-storey Brewsterfield House was in poor shape in 1954. The roof was sagging and the walls were bulging. Jerry Kennedy replaced the sagging roof with a zinc one and the building was used to store grain.  The Kennedys lived in an extension at the back.


The rich history of the life and times of the Brewster family is sketched in Brewster of Brewsterfield: The Rise and Fall of Brewsterfield House Glenflesk Co Kerry c1675-1985 (2020).


[1] http://www.odonohoearchive.com/coolcurtoga-a-story-of-ireland/


[2] Garrett Fitzgerald died c1903 and Elizabeth Fitzgerald died in 1923 aged 83.  Hanora Brosnan was present when her mother died.  Garrett was buried in Drishane; Elizabeth may also have been buried there.