History of the Coolkenno District: Coolkenno Hall by Colum O'Rourke
Known simply as ‘The Hall’, this unique old country house sits on the highest point of Coolkenno, overlooking the once vast lands that was associated with it. Its grand granite walls that stretch across the grounds are testimony to what was once a particularly grand house, containing considerable wealth.
The original owner of Coolkenno Hall was Lorenzo Hodson, scion of the Hodson family of Roscommon, and born into considerable wealth. It is recorded in 1724, that Hodson was the largest tenant on the Coolattin Estate, amounting a freehold of 2653 acres at the cost of £200 annually. He held the townlands of Coolkenno, Aghowle, Barnacashel, Killabeg, Boley, Munahullen and Quigginroe, a vast holding. The Moland Survey of 1728 (pictured adjacent) highlights to us the nature of Hodson’s holding and his mansion:
At Coolekenny, a stone and lime slated house and outhouses in good order, with handsome gardens, orchards, plantations of fir trees and fine old hedges and ornamental trees, it is a well improved farm and a handsome old dwelling.
The age appears uncertain, although one fine clue is evident on the original gate entrance; a finely chiselled ‘1717’ appears upon the old stone post (see image). Hodson was one of the first patrons of St. Michael’s Anglican Church after its full inauguration in 1722 and a member of the Select Vestry of Aghold Parish. Lorenzo’s wife, Elizabeth Hutchinson-Hely, also of aristocratic background, donated the silver chalice and paten to the church in 1722. Hodson was a pioneer of modernisation and an avid entrepreneur. His dealings with the Watson-Wentworth Estate in regards to tree plantation are documented as is his tanning and alcohol production. Interestingly, one field, associated with ‘The Hall’, is still recognised as ‘The Tanyard’.
Distilling at the Hall
In 1884, an antiquarian named J.F.M Ffrench, collected information regarding old alcohol distillation at ‘The Hall’. He wrote:
…..a distillation still worm was found by a workman. It is small, delicate in the manner of its construction and was probably used in the distillation of wine.
Hodson was also politically linked and locally established his family through marriage. His daughter, Mary, would marry Abraham Nickson of Munny House and would later give birth to Abraham Augustus Nickson, who would die in a pike charge at Ballyrahan in July 1798. Lorenzo Hodson Esq died in April 1748. His last will and testament reveals an interesting character:
If my dear wife, Elizabeth Hodson, shall marry again, then it is my will that my said place (Coolkenno Hall) shall go to my daughter, Mary Nickson, wife of the said Abraham Nickson, to be disposed of as she shall think convenient…. Items I give devise and bequeath to my grandson, Lorenzo Nickson, son of Abraham Nickson, £100, and to my granddaughter Elizabeth Nickson £100, to be paid to them at their days of marriage provided they marry with their parents consent….. Leaves to his daughter Mary Nickson all the rest of his property to be distributed among the children of the said Abraham and Mary share and share alike.
This monument was erected by Lorenzo Hodson of Coolker (Coolkenno) in ye county of Wicklow Esq. In memory of his dear mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Hodson, only daughter of Coll. (Colonel) Arthur Culin of Lisnamain in ye county of Cavan, by his wife Mrs Mary Fortesque, daughter of Sir Faithful Fortesque of Drumiskin in ye county of Louth and also in memory of the said Hodson’s children and other near and dear relatives who are interred near this monument.
I bequeath to my daughter Mary Nickson widow the filigree house and pictures on each side of it and the little patchwork screen. I give and bequeath unto my daughter Frances Moore my demask nightgown. I give and bequeath the ten old silver teaspoons to and among the said Frances Moore’s children to be equally divided share and share. I give and bequeath to my daughter Hester the oak cupboard and five shillings… I give and bequeath to my granddaughter Lydia Nickson my gold watch now in the hands of the Rev. Joseph Bunbury. I give and bequeath to my granddaughters Rachel Nickson, Christiana Hutchinson-Hely, Anna Maria Nickson, to my grandson Abraham Augustus Nickson, to my granddaughters Hester Lettice Harriot Nickson and Mary Nickson the six old silver tablespoons and the silver tea-strainer share and share alike.
The Nickson family
On 24th July, the rebels burned 23 Protestant houses at Lany (Leany), Ahold (Aghowle), Coolkennoe, Killybeg and Gold (Gowle). The house of Lorenzo Nickson Esq, at Coolkennoe aforesaid was among the houses to be burned; and that the said rebels, previous to the burning of the same postillion of the said Lorenzo Nickson, who was dying in a consumption, brought out from the said house by two women, and that the said rebels shot the said postillion in preference of his wife.
Mystery of the door
Nicksons take their leave
In 1817, Abraham Haskins gave Major Nixon £1170 for the house and farm and purchased the subleases of the Dowdall’s and Whittaker’s at prices for £130.
(A special thank you to the Griffin Family of Coolkenno, for their great help with this research and also a thank you to Peter Hunt Sr and Luke Hunt, Coolkenno).