An Irish Village

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dunlavin’s first Tynte landlord.

Dunlavin village was founded by the Bulkeley family in the late 1650s. By the time the second Sir Richard Bulkeley died in 1710, the village of Dunlavin was already well established as one of the principal settlements in west Wicklow. In fact, as early as 1668, Dunlavin recorded more hearth taxpayers than any other settlement in the west of the county. [i] The village was flourishing, but the physical growth of the village is difficult to reconstruct, particularly as no detailed maps are available from this period. However, some attempt may be made to plot the spatial pattern and morphology of the village as it was in the early eighteenth century.

L. M. Cullen has suggested that the fairgreen in Dunlavin constituted the original settlement and is underneath the planned village of the mid-eighteenth century dominated by a square with a market house. [ii] The market house did not exist in 1710, but was built beside the seventeenth-century Church of Ireland church in the late 1730s. However, if we assume that the fair green was laid out shortly after the first Sir Richard Bulkeley’s successful petition to hold markets and fairs in Dunlavin in 1661, both the church, for which permission was granted in 1664, and the fairgreen date from the same period. These features marked the extremities of the settlement and, given the evidence of later maps, oral tradition and the present layout of the village, the area between them formed the nucleus of Dunlavin, with buildings along a very wide and right-angled main street running from the church to the fairgreen. Thus the fairgreen did not constitute the original settlement, but acted as its south-eastern boundary. The triangular shape of the fairgreen was common to many Irish villages and small towns during this period. It has been described as ‘the hallmark of early seventeenth-century settlement’. [iii] Such greens have been identified in approximately one hundred and twenty Irish villages. [iv] It has further been suggested that triangular greens were a focus of defence in many villages. [v] Malin in County Donegal is a good example of such a defensive function, where the green is at the centre of a triangle formed by three streets. However, the fairgreen in Dunlavin was on the periphery of the settlement and was not surrounded by buildings. Thus it had no defensive function. It is probably the case that the triangular green in Dunlavin was merely following the fashion of the time, when such triangular fairgreens provided an instantly recognisable symbol for an equally recognisable function. It is also the case that the apex of the triangle occurred at a point where two roads meet, so the physical road pattern favoured the use of the land between as a triangular fairgreen at the entrance to the urban space of the village.

Below the fairgreen, the village formed a linear L-shaped pattern, with two main streets joining at a right angle at the centre. The strict linear pattern was a feature of many Irish villages and small towns at this time. Formal planning – the creation of regularly structured space in accordance with some preconceived ideal – [vi] was evident in the rigid street pattern of Dunlavin. Linear streets and straight axes created a sense of spatial conformity in many villages. [vii] Dunlavin was one such place, where small scale but extreme formalism replicated the baroque planning ideas characteristic of the great European cities. [viii] This formalism in the planning of even the smallest settlements such as Dunlavin derived ultimately from sixteenth-century Renaissance principles [ix] and aspired to civilise society and townscapes through the medium of polite culture. [x] In practice, townscapes and town plans such as the one in Dunlavin reflected the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century mindsets of the landholding elite. Much debate about the term ‘landlord town’ has taken place [xi] but this debate is not central to this article. In all respects, Dunlavin was a landlord town, the creation of the Bulkeley family and it owed its existence to their decision to build a new village on a green field site. In building the new village, the Bulkeleys conformed to the town planning norms of the time and Dunlavin featured a linear street plan with wide streets. In fact, Dunlavin’s streets were extremely wide for such a small settlement. The present street from the old Church of Ireland site to the angle of the L is approximately fifty-one feet wide and the street from the angle of the L to the fairgreen is approximately seventy-five feet wide. There is no record of these parts of the village streets ever being widened, so it is logical to assume that these were the original widths. The buildings were probably lower in the early eighteenth century, as most of the present houses in Dunlavin are two-storey slated buildings dating from the nineteenth century. Even today, the width of Dunlavin’s streets actually detracts from the importance of the buildings on either side. This was case in many Irish villages and small towns, such as, for example, Strokestown in County Roscommon. [xii] The wider street leading from Dunlavin’s fairgreen may be explained by the fact that the markets and fairs overflowed from the green into the village and the wide street provided a suitable arena for the sale of livestock and for other market stalls, as was the case in nearby Baltinglass. [xiii] In addition, the wide streets and the emphatic linear planning of Dunlavin [xiv] added a sense of spaciousness, so characteristic of the early eighteenth century.

This was the village that James Worth Tynte inherited on the death of the second Sir Richard Bulkeley. Tynte had married Hesther Bulkeley, the daughter of John Bulkeley of Old Bawn, County Dublin (to which Tynte also succeeded) and the niece of Bulkeley, the second baronet Dunlavin, on 15 April 1702. [xv] Tynte was born in 1682, the son of William Worth and his second wife, Mabella Tynte, a daughter of Sir Henry Tynte. The young James assumed the surname Tynte in 1692 when he became the heir of his uncle, Henry Tynte of Ballycrenane in County Cork. [xvi] The Tyntes were a Somerset family and Sir Robert Tynte was the first family member to receive a grant of land in Ireland. He died in 1643 and it was this man’s great grandson Henry who bequeathed his estate to James Worth on the condition that he assumed the surname Tynte. Henry Tynte’s will was proved on 22 October 1692 and James Worth became James Worth Tynte. [xvii] He was educated at Kilkenny College and later studied at the Middle Temple. [xviii] He served as the High Sheriff of County Cork in 1711. [xix] His Bulkeley inheritance, which included both the Old Bawn and the Dunlavin lands and which he received via his wife Hesther, confirmed him as a major player with lands in many parts of Ireland.

Not everything went smoothly with the transfer of the Bulkeley estates to Tynte however. Bulkeley was declared non compos mentis by the Court of Chancery and various relatives hotly contested his will. A series of letters has survived in which tensions between Tynte and his mother-in-law Jane Bulkeley are revealed. In the absence of any Tynte papers, letters such as these are of vital significance as they shed some light on the character of James Worth Tynte. On 24 February 1718 Jane Bulkeley wrote to her cousin Mrs. Bonnell and stated ‘I have not got one penny from him [Tynte] yet. He is a sad dog. I pray God mend him’. [xx] Evidently Jane Bulkeley, the widow of John Bulkeley of Old Bawn and mother of Tynte’s wife Hesther, had a very low opinion of Tynte. This was not helped by the fact that Tynte was slow to pay her the money she expected to receive in connection with his inheriting the Bulkeley lands, including those at Dunlavin. On 25 July in the following year, Jane Bulkeley confided to Mrs. Bonnell: ‘I have taken courage and prest Mr. Tynte for money, but to very little purpose. He has at last promised me to let me have [a] sum next month. I question it very much; it makes me very uneasy, but what will I do? It is death to me to think of going to law with him and I fear I shall get little without it’. [xxi] Evidently the monetary impasse was worsening, and Jane Bulkeley was allowing the matter of Tynte’s lack of payment to prey on her mind.

The financial standoff continued into the 1720s, and may have been one reason why Tynte was reported to be ‘in a cloudy humour’ in November 1726. [xxii] On 2 March 1727 Jane Bulkeley wrote again to Mrs. Bonnell, revealing that she was not alone in having difficulties dealing with Tynte. She stated: ‘Mr. Sanders has had no answer of his letters though they writ three times’. [xxiii] Nearly a year later, Jane Bulkeley again made scathing references to Tynte in another epistle, saying ‘Mr. Tynte is… come to town and I fear that he is much the same man’. [xxiv] The situation between Tynte and his mother in law was eventually settled in 1733. In October that year, Jane Bulkeley wrote to Mrs. Bonnell and enclosed a letter that she had received from Tynte himself. Tynte’s letter is undated, but it suggests conflict between his wife’s interests and those of a Mr. Bulkeley, probably a cousin of Sir Richard as his only brother predeceased him, and he had neither sons nor nephews. Tynte stated that ‘the difficulties that frequently arose during a long and uncertain treaty with Mr. Bulkeley was the reason why I could not possibly give you any account before this time how my wife’s affairs stood in relation to him’. Tynte went on to state that ‘after many uneasynesses and very great expences on my part, I have brought all differences between her and him to a conclusion… executed on both parts’. He continued: ‘I have paid him three thousand pounds down and have given bonds to pay him one hundred pounds a year till one thousand pounds is paid, if I enjoy the estate of Sir Richard Bulkeley so long’. However, Tynte had no doubt that his investment was worthwhile as he wrote: ‘the rents of the estate which are now due will pay more than that money’. He also reported that ‘I secure My Lady Bulkeley’s claim, which is mine’. In summation, Tynte concluded: ‘I judged most prudent to comply with terms by which I could not possibly lose, but by which I may most certainly be a gainer’ before signing off as ‘Your most dutifull and obedient son, James Tynte’. [xxv] A month later, Jane Bulkeley was ‘seized with a violent fit and died’. [xxvi] Evidently she did not enjoy her new-found peace of mind for very long.

By the 1730s James Worth Tynte was firmly in possession of Dunlavin village and the neighbouring lands. Jane Bulkeley had noted that his failure to repay his debts did not stop him from spending huge sums to support a lavish lifestyle. In one of her letters she wrote: ‘I am sure it is very hard on me and I have a great deal of vexation to see the extravagant way they live, and, I fear, take little care to pay debts, but they are too great and too wise to be spoke to, especially by me. I wish they had more prudence and goodness in all their conduct, but I think they grow worse rather than better. I wish I could say otherwise’. [xxvii] Jane Bulkeley’s writings reveal a pattern of conspicuous consumption on the part of Tynte and his wife. Such conspicuous consumption was a hallmark of many members of the Irish aristocracy and gentry – the landholding elite – and it has been argued that this type of lifestyle was not unique to the Irish elite, but was entirely normative behaviour indulged in by similar ancien regime landed elites throughout eighteenth-century Europe. [xxviii] Such behaviour on the part of the elite was one reason for the traditional hostility accorded to Irish landlords in the popular historical imagination. [xxix] Certainly Tynte’s lifestyle was ostentatious and this ostentation was reflected in his impact on the village of Dunlavin. Tynte extensively remodelled the whole village during the 1730s and 1740s, making the market house the centrepiece of the improved village. However, those improvements are another story and cannot be addressed in this short article.

[i] N.L.I., Hearth Money Roll, County Wicklow 1669, Ms. 8818: G.O. 667. Dunlavin had thirty-nine taxpayers; Baltinglass had thirty-eight and Donard thirty.
[ii] L. M. Cullen, The emergence of modern Ireland 1600-1900 (London, 1981), p. 63.
[iii] Cullen, The emergence of modern Ireland 1600-1900, p. 62.
[iv] Cullen, The emergence of modern Ireland 1600-1900, p. 64.
[v] L. J. Proudfoot, ‘Spatial Transformation and social agency: Property, Society and improvement, c. 1700 to c. 1900’ in B. J. Graham and L. J. Proudfoot (eds), An Historical Geography of Ireland (London, 1993), p. 235.
[vi] L. J. Proudfoot and B. J. Graham, ‘The nature and extent of urban and village foundation and improvement in eighteenth and early nineteenth century Ireland’, in Planning Perspectives, 8, (Dublin 1993), p. 260.
[vii] Susan Hood, ‘The significance of the villages and small towns in rural Ireland during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries’ in Proceedings of the British Academy, 108, (London 2002), p. 253.
[viii] Hood, ‘The significance of the villages and small towns’, p. 251.
[ix] B. J. Graham and L. J. Proudfoot, Urban improvement in provincial Ireland, (Athlone 1994), p. 3.
[x] Graham and Proudfoot, Urban improvement, p. 3.
[xi] See for example Graham and Proudfoot, Urban improvement, p. 2; Hood, ‘The significance of the villages and small towns’, p. 247; B. J. Graham, ‘The processes of urban improvement in provincial Ireland’ in T. E. Eliasson and G. A. Ersland, Power, profit and urban land: Landownership in medieval and early modern Northern European towns, (Aldershot 1996), pp. 218-219.
[xii] Hood, ‘The significance of the villages and small towns’, p. 256.
[xiii] Stanley Jackson, ‘Baltinglass cattle fairs’ in Journal of the West Wicklow Historical Society, iv, (2007) p. 86. Strokestown’s wide streets also provided space for trading on the market and fair days. Hood, ‘The significance of the villages and small towns’, p. 251.
[xiv] Proudfoot, ‘Spatial Transformation and social agency’, p. 236.
[xv] History of the Irish Parliament, v, p. 446.
[xvi] History of the Irish Parliament, v, p. 446.. Also Fitzgerald, ‘Dunlavin, Tornant and Tober, p.221.
[xvii] Fitzgerald, ‘Dunlavin, Tornant and Tober’, p.222 v.
[xviii] T. U. Sadlier, The register of Kilkenny School 1685-1800, unpaginated, entry for 18 August 1695. Also H. A. C. Sturgess, Register of admissions to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple (London, 1949), i. p. 244.
[xix] History of the Irish Parliament, v, p. 446.
[xx] Jane Bulkeley to Mrs. Bonnell, 24 Feb1718, (N.L.I., Papers of the family of Smythe of Barbavilla, Ms. 41,580/4)
[xxi] Jane Bulkeley to Mrs. Bonnell, 25 July 1718, (N.L.I., Papers of the family of Smythe of Barbavilla, Ms. 41,580/4)
[xxii] Ann Worth to Mrs. Bonnell, 26 November 1726, (N.L.I., Papers of the family of Smythe of Barbavilla, Ms. 41,580/27)
[xxiii]Jane Bulkeley to Mrs. Bonnell 2 March 1727 (N.L.I., Papers of the family of Smythe of Barbavilla, Ms. 41,580/4). Tynte is not actually named in this letter, but the content of the letter makes it likely that he is the man to which Jane Bulkeley was referring. The Mr. Sanders mentioned was probably from the landowning Saunders family of Saunders Grove near Dunlavin.
[xxiv] Jane Bulkeley to Mrs. Bonnell, 14 January 1728 (N.L.I., Papers of the family of Smythe of Barbavilla, Ms. 41,580/4)
[xxv] James Tynte to Jane Bulkeley, undated, (N.L.I., Papers of the family of Smythe of Barbavilla, Ms. 41,580/4)
[xxvi] Thomas Curtis to Mrs. Bonnell, 6 November 1733 (N.L.I., Papers of the family of Smythe of Barbavilla, Ms. 41,580/4)
[xxvii] Jane Bulkeley to Mrs. Bonnell, 25 July 1719 (N.L.I., Papers of the family of Smythe of Barbavilla, Ms. 41,580/4)
[xxviii] J. Black, Eighteenth century Europe 1700-1789 (London, 1990), pp 208-230.
[xxix] E. R. Hooker, Readjustments of agricultural tenure in Ireland, (Chapel Hill N.C. 1938) and J. E. Pomfret, The struggle for land in Ireland, (Princeton 1930) cited in Lindsay Proudfoot, ‘Land ownership and improvement ca. 1700-1845’, in Lindsay Proudfoot (ed) and William Nolan (series ed), Down History and Society: Interdisciplinary essays on the history of an Irish county, (Dublin 1997), pp. 204 and 234.