Castlekevin and the Frizell Family

Overview of selection of Frizzel Papers
Image: Wicklow County Archives
Watercolour painting of the entrance of Castlekevin House by Clara Maud Frizell (circa 1910) wife of Walter Hugh Frizzel and grand-niece of the Duke of Wellington. (Frizell Papers, Wicklow County Archives).
Image: Wicklow County Archives
Detail from Castlekevin estate map, 1777 (Frizell Papers, Wicklow County Archives).
Image: Wicklow County Archvies

First in a series of articles about this fascinating collection.

The private papers of the Frizell family of Castlekevin are one of the more insightful private collections deposited in the Wicklow County Archives. From the vantage point of their estate near the village of Annamoe, the Frizells left behind ample documentary evidence of their lives in Wicklow, which spanned all the way from 1789 to 1922.

Middling gentry

Overall, the Frizells could be considered members of the middling gentry, whose land holdings were not extensive by the standards of the more well established titled families of the county. Nevertheless, it is middling-gentry types like this particular Anglo-Irish clan who were guaranteed a place at the local administrative table by virtue of their estates, Anglican faith, and public reputation for much of this 133 years period.

Of course, while the power base of such families was rapidly eroding by the democratic transformations of the late 19th century – households cut from a similar cloth as the Frizells effectively dominated the key civic offices of Wicklow for a great majority of the pre-independence era.

An insightful archival collection

As the British author L.P. Hartley once famously put it “the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Using the five Frizell deed holders at Castlekevin as our travel guide to exploring this peculiar, by-gone age, we find abundant evidence of the repercussions of evolving political conditions on the traditional landlord class. Each Frizell on the estate was a character in their own right, and this series of articles attempts to track their relationship to the property, give some key details regarding their backgrounds, and survey their respective professional accomplishments.

Valued donation

We owe a significant debt of gratitude to the descendants of the Castlekevin branch, who kindly donated a superb collection of highly revealing documents, maps and land records to Wicklow County Archives. Indeed, the initial contact was made through our partnership with the National Museum of Ireland and this very community archives site Our Wicklow Heritage. Without these private papers, now in the care of Wicklow County Archives and soon to be readily accessible to the public, it would have been almost impossible to bring their fascinating story to life.

See attached draft list of documents – full archival descriptive list to follow.

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