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Early Documented History

The Graces of Courtstown

Rev. Carrigan's History of the Diocese of Ossory" published in 1905 describes the Graces of Courtstown on pages 498-507 of Volume III.

They were sprung, not, as has been stated by Mr. Sheffield Grace and others, from the redoubtable warrior Raymond le Gros, who, it is now admitted, died without (surviving male) issue, but from the Le Gros or Le Gras family, of Sodbury, in Gloucestershire.

The origin of the Sodbury family is traced to Odo, titular Earl of Albemarle and Count of Champagne, who accompanied his brother-in-law, William the Conqueror, in his invasion of England, and afterwards obtained from that monarch the manor of Sodbury, together with the lands of Holderness in Yorkshire. Odo died in 1096, aged about 56. By his wife, Adeliza, sister of the Conqueror, he had a son, Stephen, by some styled Earl of Albemarle, and by others Earl of Holderness, who died about 1127, being then seised of the manor of Sodbury, as well as of his father's other possessions. Stephen's wife, Hawise, daughter of Ralph de Mortimer, bore him three sons, viz.: (1) William, his heir, surnamed "le Gros," or "le Gras," in Latin, Crassus and Grassus, i.e., the Fat; (2) Stephen ; and (3) Ingelram.

William "le Gras," also by some styled Earl of Albemarle, survived his father by about fifty years, and died without male issue, in 1179. It was, apparently, from him that "Le Gras," also "De Gras," now Grace, came to be adopted, as the family surname, by his immediate relatives. His successor, as lord of the manor of Sodbury, was most probably William le Gras, who seems to have been the son of one of his brothers, Stephen or Ingelram. This William le Gras had four sons:
(1) William, sometimes styled "senior," and sometimes "primogenitus."
(2) William, styled "junior," who was possessed of the lands of Ballyregan, in the Barony of Iffa and Offa, Co. Tipperary, and who exchanged same with Ivo Fitz Jocelyn de Marisco, in 1208. He was still living in 1226.
(3) Hamo, who died after 1231.
(4) Anselm, who was Treasurer of Exeter Cathedral in 1225, and Bishop of St. David's from 1230 to 1247, when he died.

William le Gras, "senior" or "primogenitus," lord of the manor of Sodbury, made a grant of certain lands to the priory of Bradenstoke in Wiltshire. His charter, containing this grant, is witnessed by "Willielmo de Gras juniore," "Hamone de Gras," &c. ; and is endorsed:
"Carta Donationis Willielmi de Gras, primogeniti, de terra in villa de Wales, canonicis Prioratus de Bradenstoke in agro Wiltoniensi."

In reference to this charter, Dugdale, in his Monasicon Anglicanum, Vol II. p. 208, writes:
"William de Gras, eldest son of William de Gras, with the consent of his brothers, William de Gras, junior, Hamo de Gras and Anselm de Gras, Treasurer of Exeter, granted between these years [1210 and 1219], certain lands he inherited in Wales, to the Priory of Bradenstoke, in Wiltshire."

He also granted a charter to his burgess in Sodbury. It is witnessed by "Domino Willielmo Crasso, junior," "Domino Hamone Crasso," &c., and commences thus:
"Omnibus presentem cartam visuris et audituris, Willielmus Crassus, primogenitus, salutem. Sciatas no dedisse Burgensibus nostris de Sodburia." &c

In 1217, the Sheriff of Gloucestershire was commanded to let William Crassus, or Gross, the elder, have a market at Sodbury, every Monday [Claus, 2, Hen. III].

About this date, and during the years that followed, William le Gras, senior, and his brothers, William junior, and Hamo, lived for the most part in Ireland, being attracted thither, no doubt, by the Earls Marshall, whose relatives they were. They appear as witnesses to several charters of the Earls William Marshall, senr. and junr., and were evidently esteemed and trusted by these great noblemen. In a document of August, 1225, Sir W. le Gras, that is, William le Gras, senior, is referred to as Earl William Marshall, junior's eldest cousin [Cal. Doc. Ire., 1171-1251]. At his death he left no male issue.

William le Gras, eldest son of William le Gras, junior, succeeded his uncle, William le Gras, senior, as lord of the manor of Sodbury. He confirmed his said uncle's charter to the burgesses of Sodbury, by another charter, of which the following fragment has been published:
"Willielmus Crassus, primogenitus filius Willielmi Crassi junioris, &c., salutem. [Sciatas] nos concessisse. et hac presenti carta nostra confirmasse, burgensibus nostris de Sodburia et heredibus suis, totum quod Willielus Crassus, primogenitus, avunculus noster, eisdem fecit et per cartam suam confirmavit videlicet, Quod habeant et teneant omnes libertates que spectant et pertinent ad leges de Bristoill, &c."

He is, we may presume, the William le Gras, Crassus, or Craside, who is returned in 1247, as being then in possession of lands in Offerkelan, i.e. Offerlane, in Upper Ossory, valued at 1/2 a Knight's fee, and of lands in Tulachrothan valued at 1/4 a Knight's fee; and who is mentioned in the following entry in the Calendar of Documents, Ireland, 1171-1251 : --
"1249 Nov. 3). Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, having given surety for William le Gros, to whom the Justiciary of Ireland had committed his [i.e., De Clare's] castle of Asferkerlon [i.e., Offerkelan, now Offerlane], that he should faithfully serve the King, and stand his trial in the King's court, if any should charge him : mandate to John de Gray [recte John Sitz Geoffry], Justiciary of Ireland, to cause William to have seisin of that castle, with delivery of his castle."

Having spent many years in Ireland, and made this county the land of his adoption, we find him, towards the end of his life, transferring all his right and title to the manor of Sodbury, to the Welonds, in exchange for the lands of Tulachrothan (Tullaroan), &c., of which the Welonds had been the original Anglo-Norman grantees, and to which he himself had already acquired some title. The terms of the transfer and exchange will appear from the following entry in the Calendar of Documents, Ireland, Ireland, 1171-1251. : --
"1283 (Quinzaine of St. Martin). Final concord made in the King's court at Westminster, in the quinzaine of St. Martin, a. r. 12, before John de Lobetot, Roger of Leicester, and William de Burnton, justices between Thomas Welond, Margery his wife, Richard their son, complainants, and William le Gras, deforciant, whereby a plea of agreement was made between them, to wit, that the said William acknowledged the manor of Sobbit [i.e. Sodbbury] to be the right of the said Richard to hold to the said Thomas, Margery, and Richard, and the heirs body of Richard, of the lords of the fee for ever; with reversion in fee to John, son of Thomas Welond, after Thomas's and Margery's death, if Richard should have no heirs of his body. Warranty by William; and for this acknowledgement, warranty, fine and concord, the said Thomas granted in exchange to the said William all the lands, &c., which William previously had of the gift of William Welond, Thomas's brother, in Tulachrothan, Rathbolgan, Gurtuelem and Balydine, Ireland, to hold to the said William le Gras in fee; paying 1d. at Easter, and rendering for Thomas to the chief lords of the fee all other services belonging to the said tenements in Ireland. Warranty of the tenements in Ireland by Thomas and his heirs to the said William le Gras."

He died probably 1290, when he must have been well advanced in years.

A long and unbroken list of his descendants and successors, as lords or barons of Tullaroan, otherwise Courtstown, with their various matrimonial alliances, has been published by Mr. Sheffield Grace, in his Memoirs of the Family of Grace. This list of Pedigree is, however, inaccurate sin some respects, and hence its unsupported authority, especially in the earlier stages, cannot, by any means, be accepted as final.

Edmund le Gras does certainly appear to have been the son and successor of the William le Gras last mentioned. In 1296 he was one of the 21 magnates who were securities to the King for the fealty of the Lord John fitz Thomas, of Desmond. In a Plea roll of 25th, Edward I. (1297), Ballyregan, and other lands are stated to have belonged to William, his grandfather ("Willielmo le Gras, avo predicti Edmundi"). He was among the barons summoned to Parliament, 30th, Edward I. (1302). Anselm and Hamo le Gras were summoned to the same Parliament.

1302 (Feb. 23). Anselm, David, and Edmund de Gras, with other magnates of the Co. Kilkenny, are ordered to prepare for the war with Scotland. [Close 30, Edward I]

1310 (Feb. 13). Thomas de Cantewelle, Knight, Edmund le Gras, William fitz Edmund le Gras, John fitz Simon Shorthals, Roger de Wauncy, and others, were securities to Richard de Valle and Alice Keteller, his wife (formerly wife of Adam le Blound, of Callan), for the payment of 200 marks, loaned by the said Richard and Alice to William Utlawe of Kilkenny. [Patent Rolls]

1335. William Grace was one of the Irish Esquires summoned to attend John Darcy, the Justiciary, with arms and horses, in his expedition to Scotland. [Rymer, Vol. II., p. 906]

1356 (Jan. 30). William Graas is appointed Keeper of the Peace in the Co. Kilkenny. [Patent Rolls]

1382 (Mar. 6). John Graas receives a similar appointment. [Patent Rolls]

1382 (March 8). Almaric or Adamarus Grace, receives a similar appointment. [Patent Rolls]

1385 (Dec. 24). The King, with a view to the improvement of the peace of County Kilkenny, grants Almaric Grace, Baron de Grace, licence to marry Tibina, daughter of O'Magher, an Irish chieftain. [Patent Rolls]

1410 (July 30). John Gras of Tillaghroan is appointed Keeper of the Peace in the Co. Kilkenny. [Patent Rolls]

1417 (May 23). John, Baron de Grace, appears as witness in connection with a case tried before the ecclesiastical court of Ossory. [Red Book of Ossory]

1420 (Dec. 10). John Grace and others are appointed to inquire into treasons, felons, &c., in the Counties of Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford, and Tipperary. [Patent Rolls]

1421 (June 22). Anselm Graas is appointed Sheriff of the County Kilkenny, to hold during pleasure. [Patent Rolls]

1425 (June 21). John, Baron de Graas, is appointed on a royal commission. [Patent Rolls]

1470. According to the Memoirs of the Family of Grace, Baron Oliver Grace of Tullaroan was Keeper of the Peace in the Co. Kilkenny in this year, i.e., the 19th Edward IV. He died probably about 1500. From him onward the succession of the Barons of Tullaroan, afterwards, Grace's Court, and later still Courtstown, can be traced without a break, till the overthrow of the family in 1691. Baron Oliver Grace's son and successor,

Baron John Grace fitz Oliver, "of Gracescorte," was appointed escheator and clerk of the markets of the County Kilkenny, March 7th, 1516 [Ormond MSS]. He was foreman of the Jury of the "Gentlemen of the Shyre of Kilkenny," in 1537. In the same year, he was presented by the Jury of the "Corporacion of the Towne of Kilkennye," for exacting coyne and livery, and for having "married Robert Grace, his sonne and heire apperaunt into the daughter of [the Lord of Upper] Ossory." He erected Grace's Chapel at Tullaroan church in 1543. He was knighted soon after. It would seem that he was not above taking a share of the goods of the suppressed monasteries; for, on the 16th July, 1549, Walter Cowley wrote to the Lord Deputy Bellingham, "that old Sir John Grace may not be deprived of the custody of a priory at Roscrea." [State Papers]   In the same year he had a lawsuit with Richard Archdekin, regarding the "manor or town of Castellton, in Galmoye," which resulted in a verdict favourable to the latter. [Pat. 3, Ed. VI]   The pardons of April 2nd, 1550, include that of "John Grace of Grace's Court, Knt." [Fiants of Ed. VI.]   On the 4th June, 1552, pardons were granted "to Peter Archdeacon, Adam Grace, Edmond Brother, John Gawne, and John Archdeacon, for the robbery of three horses of the goods of John Grace, Knt., and his servants." [Fiants of Ed. VI.]   Sir John Grace most probably died in the same year. His monument in St. Canice's Cathedral is dated "the 8th day of [broken] A.D. 1552," which appears to mark the time of his decease. By his wife Noreen Brenagh, or Walsh, of the Walsh Mountain, he had at least, two sons, viz. :

(1) Robert, the elder, who was married to "the daughter of [the lord of Upper] Ossory" before 1537, and must have died young and without male issue. His wife was, apparently, the "Katherine McGylpatricke otherwise Katherine Grace, wife of Robert Grace," to whom a grant of English liberty was made Jan. 19th, 1541. [see Morrin's Printed Rolls of Hen. VIII.]

(2) Oliver, the younger, but, by the death of his brother, his father's eventual heir, and successor, as Baron of Tullaroan. "Oliver Grace of Gracescorte, Co. Kilkenny, gent.," was pardoned Ap. 3rd, 1560. His lands, with those of his kinsmen, held of the manor of Kilkenny, were about this time, valued at 120. He was pardoned, with his wife, Katherine Butler, Aug. 18th, 1567. After this his name appears frequently in State records. He was a juror on the 20th March, 1585, and died very soon after, leaving the following sons: John, Pierce, Richard, Walter, Patrick, Philip, and James. He was succeeded by his eldest son,

John Fitz Oliver. About 1591, "John Grace, of Grace's Court," petitioned the Government "for a pension in consideration of his wounds, and services, or 30 land in fee-farm, or 50 of concealed land [State Papers]. He married Lettice Shee, eldest daughter of Sir Richard Shee, and died March 27th, 1602. By his said wife, who survived him and was living in Kilkenny city in 1610, he had six sons, viz., Robert, Richard, Edmund, Oliver, Gerald, and John. (Note: A John Grace Fitz Oliver is noted as a tenant of the Earl of Ormond in 1595-6 [Red Book of Ormond, p.90] in Killenan, Lemoghe, Leaghardan, Co. Tipperary, and a quarter of Ballerobbin, Co. Kilkenny).

    By inquisition at Thomastown, June 4th, 1623, it was found that "John Grace late of Courtestowne was seised of the fee of the manor of Tillaghroan, otherwise Tulleroan, and of the towns and lands of Tulleroan. Courtestowne otherwise Ballinecourt, Rathine, and Ballicanvore, parcel of the said manor; Lysnelea and Killvallyoghtrerie, Huntestowne and Curraghbrenocke, Ouldtown otherwise Shanbally, Ballycuddihy, Brittasmore, Trenchardstown, Archboldstowne and Davidstowne, Ballibehagh and Tourboy, Gortnegrosse otherwise Gortnegappe, Bogan, Rathmecan, Glassane and Ballinhowe, Prowtestowne, otherwise Lisballyprowte, Cralcott and Taylerstowne, which are parcel of the manor of Tulleroan; of an annual rent of 8s. issuing out of a parcel of land called Brisclagh, lying between the lands of Ballecuddihye and Ouldtowne, parcel of the manor aforesaid; of 13s. 4d. out of Uncestowne, parcel of the manor aforesaid; of the townlands of Killaghie, Newtown and Rathflugh, Brittas-maris otherwise Brittas-flugh, Englishtowne otherwise Ballinegaule, Glanevedocke, half of Wallstowne and Remynduffe, Glanviclorace otherwise Dowrath, half the townland of Uncell's Inch and Crohill. The aforesaid John Grace died March 27th, 1602. Robert Grace is son and heir of the said John, and was then 22 years of age and married. The manor of Tullaghroane and all the townlands and lands aforesaid were, at the time of the said John's death, held of Elizabeth, the late Queen, in capite, and are now held of the King by the service aforesaid; Killaghie, Newtowne, and Rathflugh are held of Oliver Shortall of Claragh, as of his manor of Moharis, by fealty only; Brittas-maris otherwise Brittas-flugh, Englishtowne, Glandevocke, Wallstown and Reminduffe are held of the Viscount Mountgarret, as of his manor of Byalinymaruffe in common socage; Glanviclorace otherwise Dowrath is held of the Earl of Desmond, as of his manor of Ballicallan, in socage, by fealty only; and Uncell's Inch and Crohills are held of the same, as of his manor of Kilkenny.
[Inquis. Lageniae.]

Robert Grace, eldest son and successor of John Fitz Oliver, was born in 1580. In 1610 he was brought under the notice of the Government for harbouring the Popish priest, Sir Teige O'Duigen. He was M.P. for Co. Kilkenny in the Parliaments of 1613-15 and 1634. He died in 1640 and is buried in St. Canice's Cathedral. By his wife Ellen, the daughter of Patrick Condon, he had:
Oliver of Inchmore, who died before himself, and of whom presently.
Richard, of Moyelly, King's County, a Colonel in the Army and also in the Spanish service, and Governor and gallant defender of Athlone, where he was killed in 1691. He left an only child, Frances, who married her cousin, Robert Grace, of Courtstown, in 1665.

Oliver Grace, of Inchmore, eldest son and heir-apparent of Robert Grace, of Courtstown, was born about 1602; married Joan, daughter and heir of Sir Cyprian Horsfall, of Innisnag, only son of Dr. John Horsfall, Protestant Bishop of Ossory, and died before his father, July 6th, 1637. He left issue.
John, his eldest son, of whom presently.
Cyprian, of Kilbricken, Co. Kilkenny.
Margaret, who married Edmund Walsh.
Ellen, who married Walter Archer of Kilmodimoge.

His (Oliver's) Death-Song, composed in Irish, between 1637 and 1640, by his cousin, John Mc Walter Walsh, was published November, 1903, in the Claidheamh Souis.

The following certificate of his death has been entered in the office of the Ulster King of Arms.
"Oliver Grace, of Courtestowne, in the County of Kilkenny, gent., deceased, sonne and heire of Robert Grace, of the same, Esq., sonne and heire of John Grace, of the same, Esq., sonne and heire of Oliver Grace, of the same, Esq., sonne and heire of Sir John Grace, of the same, Knight, whc. first mentioned Oliver tooke to wife Joane, daughter and as yett onely child of Sr. Ciprian Horsfall, of Inishnagg, in the County of Kilkenny, knight, by whome he had issue fower sonnes and 2 daughters, vidz., John Grace, eldest sonne and heire, Redmund Grace, 2d. sonne, Ciprian Grace, 3d. sonne, and Robert Grace, 4th sonne, Margaret Grace, eldest daughter, and Ellin Grace, youngest daughter, all as yet unmarried. The said first-mentioned Oliver Grace departed this mortall life at Kilkenny the sixth of July, 1637, and was interred in the Cathedrall Church of St. Kennyes in Kilkenny aforesaid the tenth of the same monneth. The truth of the premises is testified by the subscription of Sr. Ciprian Horsfall, knight, whoe hath returned this Certificat into my Office to be there recorded. Taken by me, Thomas Preston, Esq., Vluester King of Armes, the 4th of November, 1637."

John Grace the eldest son of Oliver Grace and Joan Horsfall, being a minor at his father's death, was given in warship to his Protestant grandfather, Sir Ciprian Horsfall, by the court of the Wards, on the 19th February, 1638. He received, in consequence, we may presume, a Protestant education, and in the Book of Survey and Distribution of about 1655, seems to be invariably referred to as an Irish Protestant. He succeeded to the family estates on the death of his grandfather, Robert Grace, in 1640. Owing to his minority at the time, he had no share in the Catholic Confederate Movementf 1642-50, a most fortunate circumstance, which afterwards saved his estate from forfeiture under Cromwell. In 1671, he was appointed a J.P. for the County Kilkenny.

He is mentioned in the following passages in the will of Father Thady Borhy (or Brophy), of Brownstown, P.P. Freshford and Tullaroan, Aug, 28th, 1671 : --
"Itm.   I beq. unto John Grace of Courtestowne, Esq., my sorrell nagg and to his sister Mrs. Wailsh a bay nagg; moreover, I bequeath ye sd. John Grace, Esqr., my enterest in ye house yt. I keep by lease from Mr. John Geale at ffreshford provided he makes no other use of it that what I doe myselfe. ...

He was appointed M.P. for the Co. Kilkenny in 1698. "He was one of the first to receive a commission from the Earl of Tyrconnell, after that nobleman was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; and he raised for King James's service a Regiment of Foot, of which he was Colonel, and a troop of Horse. In reward for the zeal he displayed, it was King James's intention to create him a peer, and an unfinished patent for that purpose was found in Dublin after the King's flight. A proposal was made to him to bring over his men to King William's side, but he indignantly refused, and wrote back a message to that effect on the first thing he could lay hand upon, which happened to be a playing card -- the six of hearts -- which from this circumstance became locally known as "Grace's Card." On the 10th April, 1690, he was appointed one of the Commissioners for raising tax then levied in the country, but he died some time before the end of the same year.

He married Elizabeth, daughter of Walter Walsh, of Castlehale, and by her had two sons, viz. :
Robert, his heir, of whom presently.
Sheffield, who died in 1684, leaving his wife, Elizabeth, Viscountess Dillon, an only child, Catherine, who married Robert Grace and had a son Edmund, a Knight of Malta.

Robert Grace, of Courtstown, elder son and successor of John, was Lieutenant-Colonel of his father's Regiment. He was outlawed by the Williamites, May 11th, 1691. He fought at Aughrim, where he was wounded, July 12th, 1691, and died at Limerick soon after. In 1665 he married his cousin, Frances, only child of Colonel Richard Grace of Moyelly, King's Co., and by her, who died in 1716, has -- with a daughter, Mary, who married John Langrish, of Knocktopher -- two sons, viz. :

(1) Oliver, the elder, a Major in King James's army. He retired to France for the benefit of his health, and returning to his native country, departed this life, without issue, nine days after his father's demise.

(2) John, the younger brother, a Captain in the Jacobite Army, and aide-de-camp to Sarsfield, was included, with his father, in the Articles of Limerick, and succeeded the latter in the family estate. But the death of his elder brother, who was not included in the Articles of Limerick, having occurred subsequent to that of his father, was afterwards held to have invalidated his title to the Grace possessions. The property, accordingly, passed from him to the Trustees of Forfeited Estates, by which body the greater part of it was sold in 1701, to the Company for making Hollow Sword Blades. John Grace died in London in 1716. By his wife, Lettice, daughter of his cousin, Oliver Grace, of Shanganagh, Queen's Co., he had an only son, Robert, at whose death, unmarried, at Isleworth, England, in 1674, the direct line of the Barons of Courtstown became extinct.

The vicissitudes of the Grace family, during their closing years at Courtstown, are thus related in Mason's Statistical Account or Parochial Survey of Ireland (1819), Vol. III. pp. 596-602. "... Tullaroan and his other estates thus forfeited produced at the time an annual rent exceeding 9,000, and had been in the possession of the Grace family 530 years."

In the Pedigree of the Grace Family, Mr. Sheffield Grace makes two serious mistakes. In the first place he traces his ancestors from Raymond le Gros, who, in reality, left no issue. In the second place he tacks "Oliver Grace, late of Jerypont, alias of the Legan, Co. Kilkenny, gent.," the founder of the Legan-Ballylinch family, to the Graces of Courtstown, as "brother of Sir John Grace Fitz John Fitz Oliver." Sir John Grace was son of Oliver Grace, and not of a John Grace Fitz Oliver , as the inscription over the doorway of Grace's Chapel clearly shows. The intermediate John was invented by Mr. Sheffield Grace to be made the father of "Oliver Grace late of Jerypont, alias of the Ledan, Co. Kilkenny, gent.," whose father is nowhere mentioned, and is likely to have had Edmund, or Robert, for Christian name, as John. Hence the true connection between the Graces of Courtstown, and the Graces of Legan-Ballylinch, from the latter of whom descended the Graces of Gracefield and Sir Valentine Raymond Grace, son of the late Sir Percy Raymond Grace, has yet to be established.

Courtstown Castle, on coming into the possession of the new proprietors, in 1701, "was immediately stripped of its leaded roof, which was transported to Clonmel and there sold." [Mason's Statistical Account, &c., Vol. III., p. 601 n.]   Its roofless walls remained till about the year 1800, when they were so completely destroyed that not even a single stone of them was left over another.

The Graces of Legan and Ballylinch

Rev. Carrigan's History of the Diocese of Ossory" published in 1905 describes the Graces of Legan and Ballylinch on pages 270-272 of Volume IV.

Legan, Ballylinch, and Balckrath, now Rathduff, parcel of the possessions of Jerpoint Abbey, granted at the suppression to James, Earl of Ormond, were leased by his son, Thomas, the Black Earl, to Oliver Grace, on the 2nd of June, 1563. Oliver Grace, who is states, but incorrectly, to have been a brother of Sir John Grace of Courtstown, and whose exact relationship to the Courtstown family cannot be determined, first appears on the 26th April, 1550, when, as "Oliver Grace, late of Jeryponte, alias of the Legan, Co. Kilkenny, gent.," he received a pardon from the crown [Fiants of Hen. VIII]. He is described as "of Jeryponte," probably from his having acquired a temporary residence from the Earl of Ormond in part of the Abbey buildings. He must have been fully settled down at Legan, about 1552, when as "Oliver Grace of the Legan, gent." he had a Crown lease of the Abbey of Nenagh and all its possessions, for twenty-one years. On the 27th Nov., 1563, this lease was renewed "to him, his executors, and assigns, for 41 years, remainders to Gerald his son, John his second son, Thomas his third son, Richard, his fourth son, and any other sons of the said Oliver and Mary Fitzgerald, successively in tail male. To hold by homage and fealty, at a rent of 39 0s. 10d." [Fiants of Eliz.]   In the Memoirs of the Family of Grace he is styled "Sir," and is said to have been M.P. for Tipperary in 1559. The date of his death is unknown, but it must be previous to 1586. His wife, Margaret Fitzgerald, daughter of Sir Gerald Fitzgerald, Lord of Decies, and sister of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, also Lord of Decies, died at a very advanced age, Dec. 20th, 1615, and is buried in Jerpoint Abbey.

Gerald Grace, son and heir of Oliver, is always described as of Legan, in the documents of his time. He was pardoned in 1581; received a commission, with others, to execute martial law, in the Co. Kilkenny, March 10th, 1584-5; and was again pardoned in 1597 [Fiants of Eliz.]. In June 1608, he attended the Kilkenny Assizes as a grand juror. He died March 4th, 1618-19, leaving by his wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir Robert Hartpole, of Shrule, a son, Oliver, who succeeded him.

Oliver Grace, son of Gerald, married Margaret, daughter of Edmund, 2nd Viscount Mountgarret, and dying August 27th, 1626, left three sons, viz., Gerald, his heir, Thomas and John.

Gerald Grace, son of Oliver, being a minor only 13 years of age at his father's death, was granted in ward to Sir Thomas Loftus of Killyon. An ardent supporter of the Catholic Confederate cause, he fell in the battle of Kilrush, Co. Kildare, April 15th, 1642, being then in his 30th year. His caoine or lament, in Irish, is still extant. His wife was Ellen, daughter of Edmund, 3rd Lord Dunboyne, and by her he had two sons, viz. (a) John, who died without issue, and (b) William, dead in 1661, ancestor of the old Catholic family of the Graces of Gracefield, now represented by Sir Raymond Grace, of Boley, Monkstown, Dublin, son of the late Sir Percy Raymond Grace.

Gerald Grace's estates in Co. Kilkenny, Co. Tipperary, and other Counties, were declared forfeited under the Cromwellian regime, in 1653. According to the Down Survey, his Kilkenny property consisted of the townlands of Ballylinch, with "a very fair and large house, built English-wise, in good repair;" Legan, with "a castle" ; Rathduff; and Killerney, with "a castle in repair."

The Graces of Early Feodaries

Eric Brooks' book entitled Knights' Fees in Counties Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny makes mention of those who held knight's fees in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Brooks cites: "In 1247 William le Gras (Crassus, Grassus), held 1 knight's fee in Castlegrace, co. Carlow; 1/2 knight's fee at Offerlane, barony of Upperwoods, co. Leix; and 1/4 knight's fee in Tullaroan, co. Kilkenny. There is evidence that they were not the original feofees of Castlegrace; and as the first William Crassus seems to have come to Ireland with William Marshall I, whose nephew he was, it is probable that he was enfeoffed of Offerlane (Offerkeelen, that is, Ui Foirchellain) by the Earl."

"The William le Gras who held all these fees in 1247 was probably the son of William le Gras the younger, and nephew of William le Gras the elder [see the Graces of Courtstown above]. The castle in his fee of Offerlane belonged to the Marshal lords, and on the partition in 1247 was assigned to Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester; but in 1249 the Justiciar committed to William le Gras the castle of Richard de Clare at Asferkerlon (Offerlane) [source: Calendar of Documents relating to Ireland, i. 3017]."

"William le Gras seems to have been succeeded by his son, another William (A Hamo le Gras seems to have intervened, see below). William was dead by 1283, when Edmund le Gras, his son, had succeeded."

"Edmund was succeeded at Castlegrace and Tullaroan by his son William. But, according to one version of the 1317 feodary, the tenant of Offerlane at that date was Hamo le Gras (the other version says 'heir of Edmund le Gras'). It is possible that he was a younger son or brother of Edmund's, and enfeoffed of Offerlane by him. Hamo was one of the magnates of Ireland in 1302 when he was summoned to Parliament [Carrigan, iii. 501], and was slain in 1315 near Ardscull during the Bruce's invasion [sources: Annals of St. Mary's, 281, 347 ; Clyn's Annals, p. 12]."

Under the Tullaroan fee, Eric Brooks cites a number of deeds from the Calendar of Ormond Deeds which "appear to show that a William Grassus (possibly of 1247, above) was succeeded, at Tullaroan, by a Sir Hamo Grassus." "This examination shows that at a date round about 1270 William Grassus was succeeded at Tullaroan by Hamo, presumably his son. He was perhaps the Hamo who held Barragh, co. Carlow, c. 1270 as shown in the Register of St. John the Baptist [no. 417]. The next holder of Tullaroan was William le Gras, "who is certainly a son of William Grassus (of the Ormond Deeds), for Edmund le Gras, his son and heir, is described as grandson of William [Plea Roll quoted by Carrigan, iii. 500]." This William le Gras was dead in 1283, when Edmund le Gras paid relief for his father to Earl Roger Bigod for 1 knights' fee in ... (Castlegrace) [source: Accounts of Earl Roger Bigod, 1239-3].

William (of 1283) was succeeded by his son Edmund, who in 1297 held a rent in Donbryn (Dunbrin, co. Kilkenny) which had belonged to William le Gras, his father. In 1302 Edmund le Gras (with Anselm, Hamo and David le Gras) was among the barons summoned [C.D.I., v. 47]. He was alive in 1305 [Cal. Just. Rolls, ii. 474]. Edmund le Gras and his son William are mentioned in 1310 [Cal. Pat. and Close Rolls, Ireland, 14b.]. About the year 1309 the lands of Edmund le Gras near Kilmanagh, the parish south of Tullaroan, are mentioned [Ormond Deeds, i. 423]. In 1314 Edmund le Gras held lands in Owning, Barony of Iverk of Roger son of Milo, Baron of Iverk [Red Book of Ormond, p.134]. Edmund occurs as late as 1319, when he witnessed a deed of the same baron [Ormond Deeds, i. 539]."

There are two versions of the 1317 feodary for Tullaroan. One version gives Edmund le Gras as holding in Tullaroan, the other version of the 1317 feodary gives William le Gras as holding in Tullaroan. In the latter version this William is the son and heir of Edmund (of the former version). Because Edmund was alive in 1317, Brooks argues, the second version of the feodary must be of a later date. "Edmund le Gras was succeeded at Castlegrace by his son, William le Gras, who about 1300-1305, apparently in his father's lifetime, granted to Edmund Butler of Ireland and his heirs Castrum Gras (Castlegrace, co. Carlow) [source: Cal. Ormond Deeds, i. 340]. A deed relating to Craddockstown in Tubbridbritain [source: Ormond Deeds, i. 764] enable us to say that by 1343 this William had been succeeded by Edmund le Gras, for the land transferred by this deed was two carucates between the land of Thomas Fanyn (the fee at Clomantagh) and that formerly of Thomas Aunteyn in length, and in breadth between the land of Edmund Gras (Tullaroan) and that of Thomas Pembroke (the fee at Lisdowney). In 1349, a William le Gras held Tullaroan, for one of the series of Ormond Deeds relating to Corstown, of that year, transfers 30 acres in Corstown near the land of William le Gras [Ormond Deeds, i. 814]."

The 1317 feodary also shows an Edward (recte Edmund) le Gras holding half a knight's fee at place called Gortynges (aka Gortynegrosse, Gortyngrasse, Gorte ne grosse). Not appearing in the 1247 feodary this may have been a later enfeoffment of the le Gras familes. Brooks places this fee (presumably) in Gorteen, parish of Aghmacart, barony of Clarmallagh (close to the Offerlane fee). He makes this identification (reasonably) because the fee follows Aghmacart in the feodary.
Canon Carrigan cites a similar placename as 'Gortnegrosse otherwise Gortnegappe', of the manor of Tullaroan in the year 1623 [see Graces of Courtstown above]. Gortnagap, or Gort na gcross, is a townland in the parish of Tullaroan, according to O'Kelly's The Place-Names of the County of Kilkenny (republished in 1985).

Notes on the feodaries
The 1247 feodary (The de Valence Purparty) was taken from "Chancery Miscellanea", P.R.O., London (File 88/4, no. 70), collated with a list in the Calendar Patent Rolls.

The 1317 feodary (share of Hugh le Despenser and Alianora his wife) was taken from "Chancery Miscellanea", P.R.O., London (File 9/24). Variants of this records (possibly of a later date) are from the British Museum, Additional Manuscripts MS. 4791.

Primary source:: Knights' Fees in Counties Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny, Irish Manuscripts Commission, with commentary by Eric St. John Brooks, Dublin Stationery Office, 1950.

Extracts from the Calendar of Ormond Deeds, Vol. I, II & III, Curtis, 1932-35.

(when time permits)

Information compiled and contributed by Dennis Walsh.

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