Charles Tisdall and the Construction of Charlesfort House

Charles Tisdall was conscientious in his attentions towards his estate and in his account keeping. His account book for the years 1740-1751 survives, and is a good source of information on two of Charles's activities in particular: his house building project and his tree planting.

Memoirs written by an estate worker also survive: Christie Ward was born on the estate around 1743 and died aged 98 in 1841. In this extract he recalls hearing about a storm in February 1730:

"On Candlemas Day 1730 commencing about 10 o'clock in the morning was that extraordinary storm of wind whose awfulness never left the mind of those that lived at that time and was often spoken of by them to their posterity in token of the awful workings of the Almighty. It lasted about 4 hours. It was so extraordinary in its manner for it wrought like a whirlwind lifting up the roofs off the houses just as they were and casting them a great way off and stacks of corn and cocks of hay it would take them up by the bottom and carry them away whole as if built upon the wind, but those that were scattered could never be gathered again as it was blown into lakes, rivers and bogs. It was ever known as the Windy Candlemas."

Possibly Charles's estate was denuded of trees in this storm or he had an interest in enhancing it and furnishing the gardens and woodland around his new home. He came of age in October 1740, and his January 1741 accounts record the purchase of 50 pear trees, 150 apple trees and 1,000 beech trees at a cost of £5.9s.2d. In January 1744 he paid £1 to Grogan of Kells for 1,000 oak trees, and the following month he paid £2.5s.10d. to Patrick Lee for 800 ash trees. The following Spring he bought his garden seeds from Wm. Buller for £1.9s.5d. and paid out £4. 1s. 0d. for unspecified "forest trees." Seven hundred ash and elm trees from Miltown cost £2.2s.4d in January 1746.


Building Charlesfort

During this time Charles was building his new house, Charlesfort, on an elevated, dry site at Athgaine Little just under three miles away from Mount Tisdall . Local tradition says he was advised to move away from the river as he suffered ill-health. This is borne out by an entry in his January 1745 accounts: "to a physician for taking care of me in my illness the whole time - £17.1s.3d."

In 1738 Sir Isaac Ware's translation of Palladio's Quattro Libri dell'Architettura was published. Palladio (1508-80) was highly influential and had revived the Roman classical architectural style. In early 1742 Charles bought Ware's four volumes of Palladio's architecture. In that April Charles paid out £22 for work towards "the building" and the new house at Athgaine was built over the next eight years.

In August 1743 a Mr. Castle was paid £20 for drawing a plan of the house and agreeing to supervise the work for a while. It is tempting to think this is Richard Castle, the great eighteenth-century architect. He was responsible for building the music hall in Fishamble Street where Handel first produced the Messiah in April 1742. In June 1742 Charles records "paid Maxwell for my subscription to Handels oratorios - £5.13s.9d." Perhaps Charles and Mr. Castle met at the performance and Tisdall discussed his new house building and retained his services. Castle died in 1751, at Carton, the home of Charles' great-uncle, the 19th Earl of Kildare.


In November 1742 Charles had purchased 1,000 slates from Ballyjamesduff and in December he bought 3,000 bog laths. In early 1743 200 trees were planted around the house and in March 1743 John Townsend laid out the avenue. In July 1743 49,000 slates were bought from Reilly in Ballyjamesduff at a cost of £18.11s.7d. From the 1837 Ordnance Survey map of Athgaine Little we can see several quarries on the Charlesfort estate. Charles was thus able to obtain much of his building material on his own property.

In February 1744 he paid £2 5s. 0d for half a barrel of gun powder. In the following month he paid "Michael Quin quarryman at one penny per load from the quarry in the garden, he paying for 30 pounds of gun powder - £8 19s.0d." In September he bought yet more slates "to Mr Gibbons for 3,500 slates from the County Down - £2.13s.0d." In his final reckoning in December 1744 he ruefully notes the expenditure of £179. 5s. 0d. which is "money spent abroad, all which might be sav'd if I stay'd constantly in the country." His outgoings for that month included the following:

"for a marble chimney piece, several hearth stones and coving slabs to Darley - £7.9s.11d

for boards and some scantlin - £10.19s.0d.

for a lead gutter - £1.7s. 51/2d.

for glazier's work to Denis Northon - £2.17s.9d.

to Henry McKabe for carpenters, bricklayers, slaters, nailers, pavers, labourers and dirtmen, whitening the ceilings and walls ?covering the wainscot. Gravel, sand, lime, bricks and stone - £36.8s.91/2d."

May of 1745 brought another expenditure on slates, "nine thousand large slates from the County of Down deliver'd at Drogheda to Mr Gibbons - £8.8s.0d." In the same month he also paid "for my picture to Mr Stephen Slaughter - £22.15s.0d and for a gilt frame for do - £3.8s.3d." Slaughter (d.1765) painted portraits of several notable Irish people before settling in London in 1746 or 1747 where he was appointed Keeper of the King's Pictures. (Strickland, Walter G., A Dictionary of Irish Artists, vol ll, L to Z, Maunsel and Company, 1913). After commissioning his portrait, surely to hang in his new house, maybe on his marriage, he paid £10.0s.0d. as "a present to Ann Hetherton when I turn'd her off" in July 1745.

Charles continued to buy more household items and furnishings in 1745. He bought a silver pepper box for 17s.6d., a copper plate of his arms for 18s.3d. and 100 impressions of it for 2s.81/2d , and a large mahogany dining table for £3.0s.0d. In October 1745 he bought "a silver dish for apple pyes with my arms engrav'd" for £13.4s.5d.

His accounts of 1746 continue to record building expenses, in April 1746 "I here enter the several payments made to Yates the brickmaker in full for bricks and tiles burn'd in 1745 - £22.0s.0d.". In June 1746 "I here enter in one run, money paid to Yates at different times for making and burning fifty thousand bricks and eighteen hundred tiles, I having found the fire - £10. 1s. 0d."

In the next few years Charles acquired a kitchen hearth in Ardbraccan stone, his coat of arms engraved on a bloodstone, which stood at the front of Charlesfort House but is now gone, and paid Yates for more than 25,000 bricks and 2,000 tiles.

Charles' Early Death

By the time his account book ends in July 1751 Charles does not appear to have moved to his new house. His sister's wedding reception in April 1750 took place at Mount Tisdall with musicians playing for three days duration. Documents relating to the running of the estate at the end of the 18th century show that a Laurence Murray had a lease on Mount Tisdall drawn up in 1753. This indicates that Charles probably moved to his new house, Charlesfort, in 1753, the year before his marriage.

In February 1754, aged 34, Charles married Hester Cramer. In December 1755 their son, Michael, was born, and in October 1756 another son, Charles, was born. Just eight months later, in June 1757, Charles died aged 37. His heir was just eighteen months old.

Inscription on Charles Tisdall's Memorial stone in Martry Graveyard:

In memory of the truly valuable and worthy Charles Tisdall. This monument was erected by Hester Tisdall, otherwise Cramer.

He was a most affectionate, indulgent and tender parent and sincere friend and ardent lover of his country without fear of popularity; charitable without ostentation, an indulgent landlord and benevolent to all mankind.

He was beloved and esteemed by all good men and is now sincerely lamented.

He departed this life on the 29th June, 1857, Age 37.

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