Erley [D'Erley or de Erley] Family History in Kilkenny Home -- Surname Histories
County Kilkenny Ireland History

The d'Erley Family
Documented History


The following information comes from Brook's Knights' Fees in Counties Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny, published by Eric St. John Brooks in 1950, under the fee held by the de Erleys at Earlstown, barony of Shillelogher, County Kilkenny.

In 1247 is recorded 1/2 knight's fee and 1/4 knight's fee in Nova villa [et] in Cullak, and in 1317 the fees are recorded in Nova villa de Erleii & Nova villa de Coyllagh. Cullak, Coyllagh, is Coillach, so called from its woods, a large district which included the parishes of Earlstown, Mallardstown and Collaghmore, in the latter of which the name services; and Coolaghmore is apparently identical with the ancient borough of Coillach, which remained a part of the demesne lands of the Marshals (see: Burtchaell, 'The manor of Erley,' in Journal, R.S.A.I., 1906, p, 154 ff.). The Newtown of Erley is Newtown Erley, Erleystown, and now Earlstown. Canon Carrigan identifies the New town of Coillach with Cooliaghnoo, the name of a ruined church in the townland of Garryrickin, parish of Killamery (source: History of the Diocese of Ossory, iii. p.326; iv. 320). On this Mr. Burtchaell remarks that this appears to be a purely ecclesiastical name, and that there is no trace of the Erleys having been its owners. He believes that Nova villa de Erley and Nova de villa Coillach were the names of two divisions of Erleystown [manor and lordship].

Nova villa de Erley is probably to be identified with the Nova villa of a charter of c. 1200 of Baldwin de Hamptonsford, the then lord of that place (Irish Monastic and Episcopal Deeds, p.302). By this Baldwin de Anteneford granted to the Priory of Kells in Ossory the church of Killinthy, with 10 acres of land, with the chapel of Nova Villa, 'which is now a mother church.' (witnesses: Geoffrey FitzRobert, William de St. Albino, Matthew FitzGriffin). Felix, Bishop of Ossory (1178-1202), confirmed, admitting Hugh, Prior of Kells, on the presentation of Baldwin de Hamptonsford to the church of Kilsinthy (recte Kilfinthy, i.e. Killinney, parish of Kells), with 10 acres of land of sanctuary adjoining. A list of the possessions of the Priory of Kells in Ossory, of the year 1412 (Cal. Pat. and Close Rolls, Ireland, 199), includes the churches of Kyllynthy and Erleyston. As there is no other place in the list that can be identified with Earlston and as there is no other record of the church of Earlstown being granted to Kells, Carrigan is presumably correct in identifying the Nova villa of de Hamptonsford's charter with Nova villa de Erley, and deducing that de Hamptonsford preceded the Erleys here (iii, 326). Baldwin de Hamptonsford occurs also as a witness to an Ormond Deed of c. 1206-1219, a grant by William Maillard of the chapel of Mallardstown to Kells (Ormond Deeds, i. 35).

John de Erley, the first of the family at Earlstown, from whom the name of the manor was derived, was a well-known follower of William Marshal I, and is supposed to have furnished the material for the Norman-French life of the Marshal which has been edited by Paul Meyer (Histoire de Guillaume le Marechal, iii, p. v. seq.; Sidney Painter, 'William Marshal'; Orpen, ii. ch. xx). Mention of him in the history of William Marshal's life is frequent. He entered service in 188, witnesses in 1198 one of his charters at his castle of Meullers near Dieppe, was sent by the Marshal to England in 1199 to inform the Justiciar of King Richard's death, and was present at the Marshal's death-bed in 1219 and was an executor of his will (source: Sidney Painter, 'William Marshal,' passim).

The family took their name from Earley in Berkshire, which manor as well as other property in Somersetshire they held, the latter by service of acting as royal chamberlain. The descent of the manor of Earley and the Erley pedigree are investigated in the Victoria County History of Berkshire (iii, 213, manor of Earley Regis or Ealrey Whiteknights), and more elaborately in Mr. Burtchaell's paper already mentioned. William Marshal's follower, who succeeded a William de Erlegh, first occurs in Ireland in 1207 when he went there in the Marshal's train. About that year he witnesses the Marshal's charter to the Abbey of Duiske (Duiske Charters, no. 25), and was left by his master in charge of part of Leinster (Painter, p. 155). Probably to that year may be dated his enfeoffment of the Nova villa de Erley, subsequently known as Erleystown. He was certainly in possession by c. 1210 (Burtchaell, op. cit. 156; Carrigan, iii. 326, dates 1215), the date of the confirmation by William FitzGeoffrey of his father's charter to the town of Kells, which mentions the land of John de Erlega. In 1219 John de Erlegh and John de Erlegh the younger, witnessed the Marshal's charter to Haverfordwest (Cal. Charter Rolls, vol. 4, pp.227, 8). There is no doubt that the John de Erlegh who is mentioned in the Marshal's life was the same man throughout, and therefore that he lived beyond 1219, the date of Marshal's death. Mr. Burtchaell is in error in thinking that he was dead before 1215, following Canon Carrigan in dating the confirmation by John FitzGeoffrey of his father's and brother's charter to the town of Kells, which mentions the lands of Henry de Erlega. But as William FitzGeoffrey was killed at the battle of Kildare in 1234 (Irish Monastic and Episcopal Deeds, pp. 301, 1313), John FitzGeoffrey could not have succeeded his brother [William] before that date, and the date of the charter is, in fact, c. 1243 (Brooks, Knights' Fees in Wexford, ..., p. 248).

John de Erley the younger, is mentioned in the life of the Marshal (Painter, op. cit. p. 283). He is presumably the John de Erlston who witnesses a confirmation by William Marhsal II in 1228 (Duiske Charters, no. 25). He died without issue in 1231 (V.C.H., i.e. Victoria County History of England ; Burtchaell in error makes him son of Henry who he believed had succeeded after 1215.), and was succeeded by his brother Henry de Erlegh. About the year 1240 Henry de Erlegh granted lands in Waiwainestone or Villa Waweny (that is Ovenstown, parish of Earlstown) 'as his free men of Nova villa (i.e. Earlstown) held them by charter' (Ormond Deeds, i. 92, 93). It is his lands in Earlstown that are mentioned in the confirmation by John FitzGeoffrey (above) c. 1243, and it is he who held the Kilkenny fees in the feodary of 1247 (Chancery Miscellanea", P.R.O., London, File 88/4, no. 70). Henry de Erley was living in 1251, and a Henry de Erley died in 1272, leaving a widow Clemencia and a son Philip (V.C.H.; Burtchaell, op. cit. V.C.H. suggests that Richard de Erley may have come between the two (supposed) Henrys). Philip de Erley married Roseia, and died in 1275, leaving a son John, a minor.

John de Erley came of age in 1292. He served towards the close of the century in the wars in Scotland and , according to the account in the Victoria County History (V.C.H.), appears to have been known as 'the White Knight,' whence the alternative name, Earley Whiteknights of the manor of Earley Regis, Berks. He is the John de Erley who held the Kilkenny knights' fees in the feodary of 1317 (Chancery Miscellanea", P.R.O., London, File 9/24). He died in 1324, leaving a widow Muriel and a son John, who died in 1337, leaving a widow Elizabeth and a son, a third John, ages two (V.C.H. and Burtchaell, op. cit.). In 1344 the King appointed John de Balscote keeper of the manor of Erleyston in the King's hand by reason of the minority of the heir of John de Erley deceased, who held of the King in chief (Cal. Pat. and Close Rolls, Ireland, 48). He was still a minor in 1355, when the feodary that the heir of John Derley, kt., held the 3/4 fees at Erleyeton and Nova Coyllagh (Cal. Pat. Close Rolls, p. 57b). He was the Black Prince at the battle of Najera in 1367, taken prisoner in Spain, and is said to have had to sell much of his estates for his ransom (Burtchaell, op. cit.). The Berkshire manors were alienated about this time, and before 1381 the manor of Earlstown had been conveyed to John Sweetman. Henceforth the Sweetmans were Barons of Erley up to the seventeenth century (for the latter history of Earlstown see Burtchaell, and Carrigan, op. cit.).

The following passage comes from Carrigan's History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, published in 1905, under Earlstown, parish of Callan.

The parish of Earlstown consists of the townlands of Castle Eve, Croonoge, Kilbricken, Newtown (Baker), Newtown (Shea), and Ovenstown, and has an area of 2,938 stat. acres. It lies along the north bank of the King's river, and is nearly all excellent pasture land and very level. It is now part of the Barony of Shillelogher; but, as before the Reformation it belonged to the Deanery of Kenlis (Kells) and not to that of Siller (Shillelogher), it follows that in former centuries it must have been included in the Barony of Kells (note: the area has been noted within the medieval cantred of Erley in Kilkenny History and Society).

Its first Anglo-Norman grantee was Baldwin de Hamptonsford, from whom it passed to the De Erlaghs or D'Erleys in the beginning of the 13th century. In De Hamptonsford's time the parish appears as "Nova Villa," or Newtown. The D'Erleys called it Newtown d'Erley, D'Erley's Town or Erley's Town, after themselves; they also called it Erley, without any addition, after their hereditary manor of Erleigh, Erley or Erle, near Reading, in Berkshire, from which their own surname was taken. In the Red Book of Ossory we find it called Erleyestoun, Villa Erley, Erleystoun, Erlieston and Erley. The name Erley also became attached to a considerable portion of the Barony of Kells (Carrigan cites elsewhere that the western portion of the Barony of Kells constituted another Barony, known as the Barony of Derleye, i.e. D'Erleye, or Erley.) In Irish Earlstown parish is called Bollian-errla (Baile-an-D'Erleigh), that is, D'Erley's Town, or Erley's Town.

John "de Erlegh," when coming to Ireland with Earl Marshal, had letters of protection from the King for his lands and tenants, dated Feb. 19th, 1207. As John "de Erleg" he witnessed Earl Marshall's charter to Graiguenamanagh Abbey, about the same date. He had secured possession of Earlstown parish previous to 1215, for in this year the lands of the manor of Kells are described as bounded on the north (recte north-west) by the lands of John "de Erlega." He must have died soon after, as in 1216, the lands of the said manor are described as bounded on the north (i.e. north-west by the lands of Henry "de Erlega." (see Brooks, above, for a possible correction to this date).

In 1247 Henry "de Herlegh" held 1/2 and 1/4 of a knight's fee "in Nova Villa [et] Cullak, " i.e. Newtown d'Erley or Erleystown, and in Cooliaghnoo near Windgap (see Brooks, above, for a possible correction to the latter). ...

John de Erlee is named among the "holders of lands and ecclesiastical benefices in Ireland, resident in England, summoned to Westminster, Easter, 1361" (source: Rymer, Vol. III. p. 619). There is no further evidence to the D'Erleys, whose property in Erleystown is found in possession of the Sweetmans in the following century.

The following extracts come from the Calendar of Ormond Deeds, Vol. I, published Edmund Curtis in 1932.

William the Marshal grants to Theobald Walter [Butler] and his heirs, the vill of Arklow [Co. Wicklow]and the castle there, by the service of one knight, ... ; the vill of Thelagh [Tullagher, parish of Dysartmoon, barony of Ida, Co. Kilkenny], in Ossory; by the service of four knights.
Witnesses: The Countess Ysabel, grantor's wife, Geoffrey son of Robert, John de Erleia, etc. Dated before 1205.

William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, grants to William Drehull and his heirs, Tulecodmaccorman, Derodinling, Caffednecred in Stfmargy (Slievemargy], ...
Witnesses: Sirs Richard Marescall, John Marescall, John de Erlega, etc. Dated between 1219-1231.

Henry de Erlega grants to Ralph Blund, Henry de Hepene and William son of Henry de Waiwainestone [Ovenstown], and their heirs, all his lands in Waiwainestone, as free men of Nova Villa [Newtown] hold them by charters; Ralph, Henry and William paying 17s. 11d. and Ralph 1/2d. [yearly] at Michaelmas, Ralph, Henry and William 8s. 11 1/2d. and Ralph a farthing. Consideration 100s.
Witnesses: Gregory Sumerton, William de Sumertone, Richard son of Adam, etc. Dated circa 1240.

Information compiled and contributed by Dennis Walsh.

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