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Mary Breen

The civil parish of Treadingstown, Barony of Gowran, is made up of the townlands of Ballyreddin North containing 235 st. acres, Ballyreddin South containing 54 acres and part of the townland of Bennettsbridge (including the village) containing 404 acres; in all 693 acres. The townland of Ballyreddin West containing 19 acres and the remainder of the townland of Bennettsbridge containing 450 acres are situated in the civil parish of Danesfort, Barony of Shillelogher.

The old name of this area is recorded in many of the ancient Irish manuscripts as Ath Noo or Ath Noa i.e. Oo's or Oa's ford. It is described as being on the route from Bealach n-Gabhrain (Gowran) to Cnamhchaill (Cleghill) Co. Tipperary. In ancient times the passageway from Leinster to the South was via Gowran and Ballyreddin (fording the River Nore upstream of the present day bridge) and then on to Kilkenny. Many traces of this old road can still be seen through the fields, lanes and parts of the existing roads from Gowran through Clashwilliam, Dunbell, Carran and Bishopslough West to Ballyreddin where it crosses the Nore and points through Kilree, Sheastown, Firhouse, Outrath and Loughboy to Kilkenny. The name given to this road was 'Bothar na Thoundish' i.e. the road of the aged or infirm. Ballyreddin Lane, which is still in use, formed portion of this old route. Part of this lane for a distance of about 200 yards is up to 45 ft. wide. In other areas it is reduced to 13 ft. but it is clear that some of the original road has been incorporated in the adjoining fields. At Ballyreddin another road comes to join the main road. This is called Cuil Airm or Bothar Airm and is traditionally said to be associated with a battle fought there in ancient times Skulls were found there in the early part of this century when a ditch was been levelled. In Bishopslough West there are four distinct examples of fulacht fiadhs close to the road while in nearby Dunbell it runs in close proximity to numerous raths.

After the Norman invasion this route gained in importance as it came to be used as the main connecting link between the English possessions in Leinster and the South. The increased volume of traffic prompted the building of a bridge. In 1285 Edward I made a grant of customs to be taken at the NEW bridge at Trenedinestone, 'in aid of the bridge and for the benefit of adjacent parts.' From this it would seem that the first bridge over the Nore at Treadingstown was built shortly before 1285. This bridge was dedicated to St. Benet and had a chapel built on it dedicated to Our Lady and a Tower at one end 'to defend the passage. Because of this association with St. Benet part of the parish of Treadingstown subsequently came to be known as 'Bennetbrygge' from which is derived the present name Bennettsbridge.

Our knowledge of the bridge becomes very patchy after this. We do not know how long the first bridge was in existence. It may have still been in use in 1594 when Thomas, Earl of Ormond, set aside the sum of f200 to be spent 'upon the reparation of the bridges of Bennetsbridge and Deynyn' (Dinan). It was certainly in disrepair by 1763 when the disastrous flood of that year swept all before it. It was then replaced by a bridge built as Tighe tells us 'from public monies provided by the Navigation Board.' This presumably is the present day structure.

The main thoroughfare from Gowran to Kilkenny remained through Bennettsbridge up until the construction of the turnpike road, that approximates to the present main road, roughly 200 years ago. It was thus that in 1317 Robert Bruce passed through Bennettsbridge during his Irish campaign. Again in 1650 we are told that Cromwell having gathered his armies at Gowran, advanced on Kilkenny by Bennettsbridge, travelling along the Bothar na Thoundish until he came to the Black Quarry where he set up his cannon for attack on the city walls. In 1690 William of Orange camped at Bennettsbridge on his way from the Boyne to Limerick. He set his camp on the rise of ground to the west of the Nore known to this day as Cannon Hill. It was here that he wrote his proclamation overturning the Charter of James II.

Treadingstown derives its name from the Anglo-Norman family Treading. This became gaelicized as Baile Threidin from which is derived the townland name Ballyreddin. Hogan tells us that Ballyreddin is derived from 'Bealach Reddin', after the ancient roadway already described, but this would seem to be incorrect. Carrigan tells us that the Treading family were still in possession in 1218 as witnessed by legal proceedings taken by Margaret Fitzmaurice Treading against Thomas Treading for possession of a tenement at 'Tredynstoun'. In a grant, dated between 1284 and 1294, by Robert Sampson to Warin le Devenys, Burgess of Kilkenny, of 47 acres the area is described as 'Villa Trenedyn (Ballyreddini, Ballytredyn) parish of Treddingstown in the tenement of Kyllaran (Killarney).' The use of the name 'Villa Trenedyn,' which means the town of Trenedyn, would seem to indicate that as early as 1284 a group of houses existed in this area that qualified to be called a town.

Subsequent to this period the ownership of the parish of Treadingstown fell to the Butlers of Ormond and the Blanchvilles of Blanchvillestown.

The Butler connection with the area would seem to have commenced in the year 1408 as witnessed by the following grant dated in that year: 'Henry, King of England, Lord of Ireland, greeting. Know ye that on the advice of Thomas le Butler, Prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in Ireland, deputy of our dear son Thomas of Lancaster, Seneschal of England and our Lieutenant in Ireland and in consideration of the faithful service done in our wars in Ireland by James, son and heir of James Butler, late Earl of Ormond we have pardoned to said James all manner of intrusion, misprisons, suits etc. and we hereby grant to him (among long list) the town of Tredinstown and the manor of Downbrin in the County of Kilkenny.' As well as establishing the Butler presence in the area this grant confirms the fact that there was a town here from an early period known as Tredinstown.

In 1432 James Butler granted to David, Abbot of Jerpoint 'for the sake of his soul, his whole lordship and service in Dennesland in Trenedinestone to have and to hold for the term of his life, rendering yearly therefor 2 marks silver.'

The rent roll for Easter Term 1432 shows the following receipts to the Earl of Ormond: 'The Abbot of Jerpoint for Denysland in Tredinston for the term 13/4. The tenants of Bennetsbridge for their cultivated lands in Tredinston 4/4.' In 1556 Thomas Butler granted to Oliver Grace of the Legan (Thomastown) 'the town of Benetsbrydge, County Kilkenny with all meases, lands, tenaments etc. thereto belonging, to have and to hold to said Oliver for a term of 21 years at an annual rent of 10.' Note the use of the phrase 'town of Benetsbrydge' which has now superseded the earlier name 'town of Tredinstown.'

In 1562 Thomas Butler also granted to Oliver Grace 'the water mill of Bennetsbridge with the watercourse, mill-pond, toll etc. for a term of 21 years at annual rent of 10/-.' The mill was formerly held by Walter Sherloke, a merchant of Kilkenny. When this term fell in in 1583 the mill was granted to Nicholas Stack a 'husbandman' of Bennettsbridge 'with the appurtenances and the accustomed suit, woodleave, carriage etc. for 21 years at annual rent of 8, with the moiety of the fishing of the mill and weir.' The Butlers held possession of all their property through the Cromwellian era, the Restoration of the Monarchy and the Williamite Wars up until 1715 when 2nd Duke of Ormond fell foul of George I and had his property and titles confiscated.

We are not certain when the Blanchville family acquired an interest in the parish of Treadingstown. We do know, however, that John Fitzrichard de Blanchville of 'Trydenstoun' was appointed custos pacis of County Kilkenny in 1394 and Sheriff in 1398. A later member of the family Edmund Blanchville married Margaret, niece of Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond and so the two families with a land-owning interest in Treadingstown became inter-related. The son and heir of this marriage, Gerald Blanchville, served as High Sheriff of the County in 1565 and was MP for KiIkenny in 1585. He died in April 1594 and by inqusition taken in 1597 he was found to have possession of lands at 'Blanchvillestown, Tredenstown, Kilmodimog and others.'

A grandson of this Gerald, Garret or Gerald Blanchville, took a prominent part in the Confederation of Kilkenny for which the family estates including the property at Bennettsbridge, were confiscated in 1653. This property is described as containing 'one small castle in repair and one good stone house built by Col. Daniel Axtell.' Axtell was an infamous character. He was one of Cromwell's senior officers and he led the attack on Kilkenny for which he was appointed Governor of the City during the period of the Puritan Parliament. He was later MP for Counties Carlow, Wexford, Kilkenny and Queen's. Cardinal Moran in his 'PERSECUTIONS OF IRISH CATHOLICS' said of him ' throughout the whole period of his government he displayed a barbarous cruelty in his dealings with the Catholic citizens.'

After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 the Blanchville family sought to recover their lost property and were successful in the Court of Claims in April 1663. This is confirmed in the Books of Survey and Distribution which lists Edmond Blanchville as owner of 238 acres 'at Bennetsbridge, in 4 surrounds.' (likewise the Earl Of Ormond is listed as owner of 202 acres in 'Tradeingstown'). However, in the Williamite Wars 1689-91 Edmond Blanchville sided with King James II and on the victory of William of Orange had all his property confiscated never to be regained. In 1703 his forfeited estates were set up by public auction at Chichester House, Dublin when 13 divisons, including the lands at Treadingstown and Bennettsbridge, comprising 2,530 acres were purchased by the Incorporated Company for making Hollow Sword Blades for 6,210. The jointure of his wife Ursula was allowed her for her life secured on the lands of Blanchfields Park and Bennettsbridge.

As an interesting side-note of this period the population of Bennettsbridge in the Census of 1659 is given as 36 - 32 Irish and 4 English. The chief citizens are given as Henry Fogg and John Keneslon.

The settlement which followed the Williamite Confiscations saw the arrival of a new family in Treadingstown, the O'Shees or Shees. These came originally from Kerry to Cloran, Co. Tipperary from whence they came to Kilkenny in the 1500's, where they anglicized their name to Shethe. They played a prominent part in the political life of the County in the late 1500's and early 1600's. Many members of the family were returned for Kilkenny to the Irish Parliament. One of their number Sir Richard Shee (who was High Sheriff of the County in 1588) acted as Deputy to the Lord Treasurer of Ireland. He amassed a large amount of property in the County and the City. It was this Richard Shee who founded the Shee Alms House. He married Margaret Sherlock of Waterford by whom he had, among others, Marcus Shee who settled at Sheestown. This Marcus married Ellen, daughter of Oliver Grace of Courtstown. A son of this marriage, John Shee, who was born in 1722, was the first of his family to settle in Ballyreddin. A son of his (i.e. a grandson of Marcus Shee), Col. John Shee, fought at Bunker Hill in 1775. After the American War of Independance he returned to Ballyreddin where in 1795 he built a Protestant Church on the site of the old Catholic Church of Treadingstown. Col. Shee's son, another John Shee, gave the site for the Catholic Church in Bennettsbridge in 1822. As this man left no heir he was succeeded by his brother Richard Shee, whose son and heir, James, died in Australia in 1890.

After this part of the lands and the house were occupied by Martin Keeffe. Fr. O'Neill who retired from the American mission in1890 then bought the property. After him it was occupied by Michael O'Neill who donated a portion of the property to the parish. The present owner is Patrick O'Neill.

The Church in Ballyreddin is surrounded by a small graveyard. Only seven inscribed gravestones remain, three of which commemorate the Shee family. There are a few gravestones with no inscription. The inscriptions on the three slabs which are laid horizontally within the now demolished church are as follows:

1 Near this place lie interred the remains of Col. Shee who died Novr. 1822, aged 19 years. And underneath this stone are interred the remains of John Shee Esq. his eldest son who died in September 1839 aged x years. And of Richard Shee his third son who died 29th Dec. 1845 aged x years.

II The remains of Mrs. Elizabeth Shee lies underneath this plate.

III Underneath this stone lies interred the body of Marcus Shee Esq. Doctor of Physick who departed this life the 23rd of December 1762 at the age of 55. On the right of this stone lies also interred the body of James Shee Esq., son of the above Marcus who died on the 3rd of August 1783 aged 37 years.

There are also four standing gravestones in the cemetery which bear the following inscriptions:

I Here lies the body of William Brenan. He died the 29th of November 1777 aged x years. May he rest in peace. Amen.

II Here lies the body of Judy Ryan who died on the 21st of December 1765 aged 30 years.

III Erected by John Fleming Newpark in memory of his wife Mary Fleming nee Bowe who departed this life November 1869. Remember man as you pass by As you are now so once was I As I am now so you will be Prepare to meet your God and pray for me.

IV Here lies the remains of Briget Butler, alias Lee who departed this life 29th Jan, aged 65 years.

In the Shadow of the Steeple No. 1