Ardagh Village Landscapes
Ardagh, Co. Longford, Ireland

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Fetherston Family History

The Fetherston name can also be spelled Fetherstone, Featherston, Featherstone or Featherstonehaugh.

Fetherston Castle
An 1840 Engraving of Fetherston Castle, Northumberland, England.

Fetherston Castle, Northumberland, England, was built circa. 1070 and was the original medieval home of the Fetherston family. In 1191 William the Lion (who was of Fetherston lineage) gave the manor to his daughter Isobel upon her marriage. The castle eventually passed back to the pure Featherstonehaugh lineage in the 16th century.

The Fetherston's of Ardagh

During or after the Cromwellian reign in England (1649-1658 AD), some members of the Fetherston family moved to Ireland as a result of the civil upheaval in England at that time. They moved to various locations within the Irish Midlands.

In the early 1700s, Thomas Fetherston settled in Ardagh and purchased the house and began building up the estate which grew over the generations for the intial 235 acres to the 11,000 acres of the early 1900s.

Thus began the long association, of seven generations spanning 220 years, of the Fetherston family with the village of Ardagh and which shaped its life and history down through the ages.

Rev. Sir George retained the House and demesne until his death in Wales in 1923. The Sisters of Mercy purchased the House and demesne in 1927 to be used as a College of Home Economics for Girls. Sometime to their departure in 1927 the following two photographs were taken of the Fetherstone Family and of their workers. Many thanks to Patricia Lyons, Ardagh for her kind permission to display these photos on this website.

Fetherstone Family
Fetherstone family prior to leaving Ardagh House, cicra 1927

Fetherstone Family Photo
Some members of the Fetherstone Family, along with their staff taken on the same day.

Fetherston Family Crest
Fetherston Family Crest

Many Thanks to Paul Bonett for his Kind Gift of
old and rare books, that originally were part of the
Fetherstone private Library at Ardagh House,
from which these three images were reproduced.

Lady Fetherston Name-Plate

George Ralph Fetherstone handwriting, aged 26 whilst studying at Salisbury.

A baronet is a Hereditary title awarded by the British Crown. The rank of a baronet is between that of a baron and a knight.

Baronetage Date Name Born Died
4 Aug 1776 Ralph Fetherston   3 Jun 1780
3 Jun 1780

Thomas Fetherston
MP for Longford 1801-1819

1759 19 Jul 1819
19 Jul 1819 George Ralph Fetherston
MP for Longford 1819-1830
4 Jun 1784 12 Jul 1853
12 Jul 1853 Rev. Thomas Francis Fetherston 1800 28 Aug 1853
28 Aug 1853 Thomas John Fetherston 22 Jul 1824 21 Sep 1869
21 Sep 1869 George Ralph Fetherston 8 Apr 1852 11 Feb 1923

The Baronetage became extinct on the death of George Ralph Fetherston in 1923


History of Ardagh House

  1. Ownership ~1703-1749
    It is generally accepted that some members of the Fetherston family had moved to Ireland by 1651. It is not clear when the first Fetherston came and settled in Ardagh. However, we do know that the first recorded Fetherston in Ardagh was Thomas Fetherston and that he bought the house and 235 acres of land, sometime in and around 1703. He bought some or all of this land from a Farrell. He died in 1749. He was the first Ardagh Featherstone to receive a Baronetage.

  2. Ownership 1749-1780
    Upon the death of Thomas Fetherston, the fledling estate passed to his youngest son, Ralph Fetherston. He was married twice, first in 1752 to Elizabeth Auchmuty and later in 1757 to Sarah Wills of Willsgrove, Co Roscommon.(Teathbha Vol 2 No 1  of July 1980). He had nine children. He died in 1780.

  3. Owership 1780-1819
    Upon the death of Ralph Fetherston, the estate was inherited by his only surviving son, Thomas Fetherston. He married Catherine Whitney (often referred to as Kitty) and they had eleven children. He was a member of the Irish Parliment which voted for the Act of Union in 1801, and thereafter served as Irish MP at Westminster. He died in 1819 and Catherine (Kitty) died in 1804. They are buried in the old Church of St. Patrick, in Ardagh. Catherine had a relative, Ann Ward Griffith, who lived with her for a time but it is not known how they were related.

  4. Ownership 1819-1853
    Upon the death of Thomas Fetherston, the estate was inherited by his youngest son Sir George Ralph Fetherston in 1819. Sir George was born in 1784 and died on 12th July 1853. He married Frances Elizabeth Solly. They had no children.

  5. Ownership 1853-1853 (6 weeks only)
    As Sir George had no children, he was succeeded by his brother Rev. Thomas Francis Fetherston in 1853, but he died six weeks later at the age of 53. He was married to Adeline Godley in 1823 and later to Anne L'Estrange. He had eleven children.

  6. Ownership 1853-1865
    His oldest son, Thomas John Fetherston suceeded the Rev. Thomas Fetherston. He married Sarah Wilcock and they had three children. They did major work in extending the original house and also in re-designing Ardagh village as a tribute to his late uncle Sir George. This work involved moving the main street away from the front of the house to its present location and the creation of the village green and building of most of the present houses. Frances Elizabeth had the famous Clock Tower built and dedicated to the memory of her dear late husband. It still stands in the Village beside the Village Green. Thomas John died in 1869 (some references give 1865).

  7. Ownership 1865-1923
    George Ralph Fetherston
    was the youngest son of Thomas John Fetherston and he succeeded Thomas John as heir in 1865 at the tender age of 13. He was the last Fetherston to own the Big house or to live in Ardagh, and thus brought to an end the Fetherston Family line in Ardagh. He was born in 1852 and died in Worchester, England in 1923. He was a very talented man and has many music compositions and other works published. He travelled widely and had many interests. He spent a lot of time away from Ardagh. In 1903 he sold the Freehold of their farms to over 300 of his tenants under the Irish Land Act of 1903 but retained the house and the surrounding lands until his death in 1923.

Ownership 1927-2008
The house was partially destroyed by fire in 1922 during the time of Irish Independence. It was sold to the Sisters of Mercy in 1927 who established a convent there. The house was again badly destroyed by fire in 1949 and the top floor had to be removed as a result. Over the years the Sisters have greatly extended and re-modelled the old house and for many years it served as a school of Domestic Science until 2008.

Ardagh House
Ardagh House in 2003

Grouse Lodge
Grouse Lodge

Many of the Fetherston family settled in various locations within the Irish Midlands, mostly in Counties Westmeath and Longford.

For example, Grouse Lodge, in Kilcumreragh, Co Westmeath was home to the Featherstonehaugh Branch of the Featherstone Family.

Grouse Lodge and over 300 "big" houses in County Westmeath, and the families who lived in them are documented in great detail in a fabulous book titled "The houses and Landed Families of Westmeath" written by Athlone native Donal O'Brien, published in November 2014. It contains a wealth of information and over 700 photographs of houses still standing and many long since demolised. More...


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