Bray AD 1207

The earliest documentation for the 'barony of Bre' come from two grant confirmations issued in AD 1207, the first from Pope Innocent III, the second from King John of England. Both confirmations relate to grants made by Walter de Ridelesford and others to the nunnery of Graney, 2 miles east of Castledermot, Co. Kildare.

The nunnery probably had its foundation in c. AD 1200 by the elder Walter de Ridelesford (see a discussion of the de Ridelesford family in another section). The nunnery was originally established as a house for nuns of the order of Arrouaise, but in the AD 15th century was recognised as an abbey (of the Invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Canonesses of the Order of St. Augustine; http://www.charles-mount.com/info.aspid=90;  https://excavations.ie/report/1999/Kildare/0004275/). 

The confirmation from Pope Innocent III (May AD 1207) notes that the nunnery had been granted (amongst other holdings) by that date -

           "...all the churches of all the barony of Bre, namely the churches of Kergham, Kilmehad, and Koulescoupachen; the                   tithes of the mill of Bre…."

The confirmation from King John (12 November AD 1207) confirms the grants of Walter de Ridelesford to the nunnery, including -

           "...the benefices of all the churches and chapels in the barony of Bre, namely the churches of Derdac, Kilmohud and                   Kilecoather; all the tithes of the mill of Bre…"

The new barony of Bray

The confirmations noted above show that despite large landholdings to the east of the Wicklow Mountains, the focus of de Ridelesford power remained settled in Castledermot in Co Kildare. This is understandable given that the Castledermot estates had been the first granted to Walter de Ridelesford in the years immediately after the establishment of the Lordship of Ireland. Those estates in the vale of Dublin had developed as isolated estate holdings surrounded by large tracts of Gaelic  Irish territories. Of course it is not possible that these estates could have survived unless some form of working relationship developed with the surrounding Gaelic Irish.

This is presumed to have been the case with the development of the Derdac estate centre, where de Ridelesford held 120 acres of arable lands, but until AD 1207 the church and chapel both seemed to have remained under Irish control. To the immediate north of these lands, the lands of what would become Old Connaught, or Ui Keogh, suggest that the former Gaelic Irish landowners of the Derdac had sacrificed it to retain control over the bulk of their former lands. 

However, what led to the expansion of de Ridelesford control south of the river was something different that simply the creation of another isolated estate. This was a deliberate attempt to create a new centre for the scattered eastern estates, and to establish a new vill such as Castledermot. This was Walter de Ridelesford's vision for Bre, And the confirmations above tell us very important points about the development of this new barony. The first of these is the scale of the new development 


The upper figure is the proposed scale of the Derdac estate prior to AD 1207, with the black ring denoting the ford and the location of the church. The lower figure denotes the scale of the new barony of Bray as of AD 1207. Whereas the original estate in red consisted of c. 129 acres (consistent with a carcuate of land), the new barony comprised an areas just over 4 times that extent. This would have been at a stroke the largest single de Ridelesford landholding east of the Wicklow mountains.

To the immediate south of this new barony, and surrounded partly by it, the new Oldcourt lands, form the retained lands of the Ui Cuirt, must like the Old Connaight lands to the north. What has changed now is the former church benefices have been granted to the nunnery of Graney, firmly establishing Anglo-Norman control over the churches within the new barony. Indeed, the construction of the original form of Oldcourt Castle, which may be an AD 13th century solar tower, could be an indication that the Ui Cuirt were in the process of Normanising,. Could Walter de Ridelesford the younger have intervened in internecine politics, supporting a pro Norman candidate, in return for the land to establish Bre?

The churches 

Three churches are mentioned primarily in the confirmations by Pope Innocent III and King John in Ad 1207.

The first of these, the church of Kergham/Derdac, can be taken as a foundation at the Ath Deirg, the red ford which has been discussed in the sub section of this page 'Bray pre 1169 AD'. This church which took its name from the ford would seem to have been associated with a 'chapel of Derran' which could be an anglicisation of the Irish name Daragh. The church and chapel are taken to be the same entity.

This place name was already encountered in the earlier confirmation grant given to Walter de Ridelesford by John, as Lord of Ireland c. AD 1185-9, and given that it was listed as the second place in the charter, suggests a place of some importance. Variations of the charter suggest an estate of 1-2 carucates, 1 of which would approximate the amount of arable land a plough team of eight oxen could till in a single annual season, c. 120 acres. Other untilled land could also be included in such estate holdings, but no information is provided in the grant.

A later Inquisition of AD 1284 notes the 'cottages of the Derdac' which may be a corruption of 'cottiers', villeins or bonded tenant, who worked the land for their manorial lord in return for accommodation and some land for some subsistence crops. These tenants could not leave the land without the landowner's consent, and the position was hereditary. That cottiers would be bound to the church of the Derdac, and the land noted in the John grant suggests that a small estate centre was in existence on the northern bank of the ford.

The second of these, the church of Kilmehad/Kilmohud, can be taken as the first foundation in the area of land which would become Raheenacluig (the second being an AD 14th century foundation). The name probably derives from 'na Cluid', of the corner or the angle, which could very well be a description of the distinctive angle of the land at the southern extent of the modern strand. Just as the church at the ford would have been visible, and attracted the patronage of those passing, so would the visible church of Kilmehad. No mention of an estate similar to that at the ford is mentioned in later Inquisitions or grants.

The third church is that of Koulescopsachen (Kilecosather), which Scott made a good case for being the church formerly located on Fairy Hill on the Killarney road. The name is taken to derive from Kil-Escop-Saran, the church of the Bishop Saran. Quite what the bishop in the title entailed, it may well be close to what Scott describes as a chorepiscopi (or archdeacons) or presbyters/coarbs/erenagh, the roles all having a primary administrative role in the management of ecclesiastical estates and assets. The erenagh position is particularly interesting as the incumbent originally had a tonsure but took no other holy orders; he had a voice in the Chapter when they consulted about revenues, paid a yearly rent to the Bishop and a fine on the marriage of each daughter. This church may have acted as the management centre for the large townland of Killarney.