This time of year, we remember the anniversary of the 1798 rebellion. A prominent point in history that affected the dynamic of life in Ireland at the time and shaped our lives today.
The Rebellion in Wexford broke out close to Wells. It is said that the first shots were fired on the evening of the 26th May at the Harrow, about 4 miles to the west of Wells House. During the following day rebels gathered in Oulart, two miles south-west of Wells, where one of the major battles of the Uprising was fought a few hours later on Oulart Hill.None of the Doynes of Wells were involved on either side. Colonel Doyne had died seven years previously and his only son, Robert, was at school in Dublin at the time. However, the tenants of the estate would all have been affected in some way by the fighting. An enormous number of houses in the area were burned during the six weeks of fighting that followed the outbreak of the Uprising.
In 1798 a nationwide uprising with the aim of establishing an independent Irish republic was planned by the Society of United Irishmen. Many of the leaders were arrested shortly before it was due to begin, and Wexford was one of the few areas which rose in rebellion. There were major battles in the county between the Rebels and Government forces. Atrocities were committed by both sides and although many of the leaders of the United Irishmen were Protestant liberal landlords, much of the violence involved long-held catholic/ protestant animosity. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the six weeks of fighting in County Wexford before Government forces regained control.
Wells House was threatened but in a twist of faith spared from destruction – in the petition he made to the Government for pardon for his involvement in the Uprising, a man named Thomas Murphy from the townland of Kilpatrick on the Doyne estate claimed to have saved it from being burned. His petition was signed by twelve loyalists from the Parish of Ballyvaldon. Thomas had fled to this area because he was “in fear of his life” to return home. They swore he “had remained at his house until he was compelled to quit it due to fear, he would lose his life as rebels swore they would kill him if he would not go with them. In his petition, Thomas Murphy said he did all that was in his power to preserve the House of Wells from fire. His petition for pardon was successful. Thomas Murphy was eventually able to return to his family and his 80-acre farm in Kilpatrick.
It is documented that a visitor to the area a few years later who commented on the sudden outbreak of the Uprising, added that “No less sudden and general was the return of these people, in July following, to their industry and their homes that by the beginning of the next harvest season, relationships with the insurgents, was perfectly restored”. The Government permitted those who remained loyal to claim for losses. There were no claims from the Doyne family, but John Barker, a farmer from Wells claimed £124 for crops destroyed, corn, hay, clothes and provisions. Edward Foxton, also from Wells, was allowed £372 for damage to houses, furniture, cattle, crop, corn and profit of cows, while John Davis, a labourer from Wells, received £7 and 2 shillings for potatoes, oats and furniture destroyed.
Wells House became a barracks for the troops that were stationed in the area after the fighting. They occupied it for three years. Once the army left, the house and 393 acres around it were let, on long-term lease, to a man named Charles Craven for £393 a year. Craven carried out repairs to the house, and set about improving the land, but in 1811 Robert Doyne, who had by this time left school in Dublin, moved to England, married and decided he would return to Wells to live. To compensate Charles Craven for the work he had done, he agreed to pay the Cravens £80 a year for as long as Charles or his son should live.
The walls of Wells House and Gardens are steeped in history and stories.
Take the living house tour to learn even more of the history of Wells House and Gardens.