Fitzherbert Family

Black Castle House is located on the banks of the Boyne river, just downstream from Navan town. The Fitzherbert family was a junior branch of the family of Lord Stafford who was beheaded by Charles II in 1680 for alleged complicity in the "Popish Plot.‟ William Fitzherbert, second son of William FitzHerbert, third Lord of Swynnerton settled at Shercock, Co. Cavan. From there the family acquired Black Castle.

The Fitzherberts were in Black Castle from 1722 and the first house erected was a single storey gentleman‟s cottage with a thatched roof constructed around 1760. William Fitzherbert of Black Castle left the estate to his sister, Leititia, who was married to John Ruxton of Ardee. When John Ruxton died in 1785, the Fitzherbert estates were divided between his two younger sons with John getting Black Castle and Samuel getting Swinnerton, provided they adopted the surname Fitzherbert.

The Fitzherberts were said to be related to Mrs Fitzherbert who married the Prince of Wales in 1785. John Ruxton Fitzherbert lived at Black Castle and married Margaret Edgeworth in 1770. Margaret was sister to Richard Edgeworth and aunt of the novelist Maria Edgeworth. Maria regularly visited Black Castle. John was associated with the building of the Boyne canal and also added a slated two storey wing to the rear of the house in 1791.

A family tradition stated that the Ruxton family of Ardee maintained a claim over Black Castle which they could enforce if they gained possession on St Peter's Day, 29 June. On 29 June, all the gates leading into the demesne were locked and guarded and nobody was permitted to either enter or depart the property. From dusk to dawn four large bonfires were lit outside the main gateways on all the roadways leading to Black Castle. All the men in the district would stand guard, whilst consuming quantities of porter which was supplied to them. This custom continued annually until Bertie Fitzherbert's death in 1939.

John died in 1825 aged 80 and was succeeded by his son, Richard Ruxton, who took the additional surname Fitzherbert. Richard also acquired the estates of his uncle, Samuel. Richard replaced the cottage at Black Castle in 1826 with a much larger two-storey house. In 1837 Black Castle was described as the handsome residence of Richard Ruxton Fitzherbert, the mansion was a spacious and modern structure, situated on the banks of the Boyne, which flowed within sight of it; the demesne was extensive and well planted. Mrs. Fitzherbert supported a charitable loan society in Navan and a society for the relief of the destitute sick poor. Richard married Elizabeth Selina Staples of Dunmore, Queen's County in 1807 but they had no children and so they adopted Thomas Rothwell, grandson of his aunt Mary, née Ruxton, who had married James Corry of Shantonagh, Co. Monaghan. There is a memorial to Richard Ruxton Fitzherbert who died in 1840 in St. Mary‟s Church of Ireland church in Navan.

In 1838 Thomas Rothwell married Francis Vesey from which union stem the present Fitzherberts of Swynnerton and Blackcastle. Thomas assumed the name Fitzherbert in 1863. Black Castle then went to his son, Richard who became High Sheriff of County Monaghan in 1880. In 1883 Richard Ruxton Fitzherbert held 2011 acres in Meath and 2387 acres in Monaghan giving a total estate of 4398 acres. Richard Fitzherbert died in 1920 and he was succeeded by his younger son, Bertram Fitzherbert who had to pay an annuity to his older brother‟s widow.

His older brother, Richard, had died in 1920. Bertram was born in 1871. Known as Bertie, he was a land agent, managing Emo Court for the fifth and sixth earls of Portarlington. He lived on the Emo estate but in 1930 Emo Court was sold ending Bertie‟s thirty year service to the family. Bertie died unmarried on 4th December 1939 so the estate was bequeathed to Ivo Fitzherbert, eldest son of his first cousin.

Ivo served in the Second World War as a captain, settled in Argentina and lived there until 1960. Ivo Fitzherbert pioneered the growing of maize in Ireland when he sowed the crop in the 1970s. Ivo Fitzherbert died in 2000. The family acquired Rockfield House, home of the family‟s ancestors, the Rothwells. In 1940 Blackcastle House was requisitioned by the army to use as a base and it continued to be occupied until the end of the war. The Fitzherbert family sold the house in 1946 to Dr. and Mrs Reeves. In 1962 the house was purchased by Captain Maguire. The house was sold again and allowed to fall derelict in the 1980s before being destroyed by fire in 1987. Housing estates Fitzherbert Wood, Fitzherbert Court and Fitzherbert Place recall the names of these local landowners.

Source: meath-roots.com