Lord  Edward Digby, Minterne, Dorset (former owner of the Digby Estate, Geashill)  (1924-2018). An appreciation for his kindness and support to Offaly History and Archives, by Mary Delaney with Amanda Pedlow and Lisa Shortall

The death has occurred in Dorset England of Lord Edward Henry Kenelm Digby, 12th Baron Digby on the 1st of April 2018, aged 93. Lord Digby was born 24 July 1924. He was the son of Edward Kenelm Digby, 11th Baron Digby of Geashill and Hon. Constance Pamela Alice Bruce.

He was educated at Eton College, Windsor, Trinity College Dublin, and Oxford University. He also studied at Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Berkshire. He fought in the Second World War and in the Malayan Emergency between 1948 and 1950. He was Aide-de-Camp to the Commander-in-Chief, Far East Land Forces between 1950 and 1951 and Aide-de-Camp to the Commander-in-Chief, British Army of the Rhine between 1951 and 1952. He held the office of Deputy Lieutenant of Dorset between 1957 and 1965. He held the office of Justice of the Peace for Dorset in 1959. He was invested as a Knight, Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (K.St.J.) in 1985. He was invested as a Knight Commander, Royal Victorian Order (K.C.V.O.) in 1998.

He succeeded to the title of 12th Baron Digby of Geashill, King’s County on 29 January 1964 and to the title of 6th Baron Digby of Sherborne. Continue reading

Annual reports of W.S. Trench and T. W. Trench from the Digby estate, King’s County, 1857-1872

036050 Geashill Village No 51 Vol 1
Geashill Village, courtesy Offaly History Archives

In June of 1857, William Steuart Trench and his son, Thomas Weldon Trench, set off in a horse and cart from Tullamore, King’s County and spent three weeks surveying the near 31,000 acre estate of Edward St Vincent Digby, 9th Baron Digby. Lord Digby, resident in Dorset, had appointed W.S. Trench as land agent on his Geashill estate with a view to improving its financial viability. Trench had a great reputation as an ‘improving’ land agent and also worked for the Shirley and Bath estates in Monaghan and the Lansdowne estate in Kerry. To ease his workload, and much the same as employing his other son, John Townsend Trench as agent in Kenmare, W.S. appointed Thomas as resident agent in Geashill, living as all Lord Digby’s agents before and after had lived, in Geashill Castle.

Between 1857 and 1872, the Trenchs transformed Digby’s landholding from a large, boggy and uncultivated midlands estate into a well-ordered and agriculturally productive estate with tidy and well-kept villages, the design of the latter winning numerous awards from the Royal Agricultural Society of Ireland. This was a huge achievement and certainly an improvement on housing conditions for the tenantry but the methods employed by the Trenchs to achieve their aims were controversial to say the least and the folk-memory of the Trenchs as tyrants persists to the present day. Large clearances of squatters from their  ‘mud-hovels’ took place, leases were cancelled and rearranged, small holdings were merged into larger, more productive holdings, less productive tenants were encouraged to emigrate where possible and agitators were forcefully ejected.

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Offaly History Archives online catalogue

Offaly History Archives will shortly launch a searchable online catalogue of its holdings. Not only that, the website will contain a large amount of digitised resources and will also host the catalogues of other Offaly repositories so that researchers will be able to search for related material in one place. Here are some facts and figures about the new catalogue.

When will it be launched?

We are hoping to launch the catalogue in August 2016. It is a work in progress so parts of the catalogue will be released in stages to allow further work on the remainder. The first collection to be released is from a hosted repository, Offaly County Council Heritage Office. In 2013, OCC’s Heritage Officer, Amanda Pedlow, arranged for the digitisation of the Digby Irish Estates papers which are kept by Lord Digby in Dorset. The papers contain the annual reports sent to the Lords Digby by successive land agents on the Geashill Estate.  The first tranche of these reports, containing over 1000 digital objects, will be the first section of the catalogue to go live. These comprise the annual reports written by William Steuert Trench and his son, Thomas Weldon Trench between 1857 and 1872. The reports are a goldmine of information on the tenantry, containing full rentals of all townlands in the 30,000 acres which made up Lord Digby’s estate. They also contain vivid descriptions of housing conditions, poverty, emigration, agrarian unrest and even assassination plots against the Trenchs. Although generally reviled amongst the tenants for their cruelty,  the Trenchs were improvers and the reports also contain detailed explanations of land improvements, drainage schemes, establishment of new farms, construction of new housing, repairs to existing housing and plantations of woodlands. Continue reading