Feature-img

The Crown and the Curragh


In 1207 the Curragh of Kildare became royal property, initially through the marriage of Aoife, daughter of Dermot, king of Leinster, to Strongbow. Dermot might have summoned Strongbow from Wales to sort out local grievances. But Strongbow acted for the English crown.

This would seem to be the first instance whereby the English crown gained title to the Curragh of Kildare. At all events, in 1299 Edward I of England enacted a Statute forbidding the feeding of swine on the Curragh. Clearly the pigs were damaging a sward described as “forming a more beautiful lawn than the hand of art ever made. Nothing can exceed the extreme softness and elasticity of the turf, which is of a verdure that charms the eye, and is still further set off by the gentle inequality of the surface.”

In the 16th and 17th centuries the Crown issued grants of pasture commonage to landowners adjacent to the Curragh. Grantees included Robert Bathe, John Lye of Rathbride, Patrick Sarsfield, Sir Nicholas White, Robert Nangle, Edward Medlicott and Garrett Weasley. As late as 1866 the solicitor representing the heirs of these grantees claimed to the Curragh Commission he could “give evidence of rents paid under these patents, some to the present day. Some were purchased by the Duke of Leinster, and in that way some were extinguished.”

In 1599 the Earl of Essex, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, encamped 27 ensigns of foot and 300 horse, declaring: “A better place for deploying of an army I never beheld.”

In 1641 James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde, billeted his army round the Curragh. Two years later Lord Castlehaven took Tully Castle, encamped on the Curragh, “whence I summoned all the castles thereabouts, and had them yielded.”

In 1687 Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnell, encamped his army at the Curragh. That same year we find the first reference to a CURRAGH RANGER, appointed by the Crown, paid £20 a year, along with his livery. He was charged with protecting the grazing rights and game, as well as preventing encroachments.

Two years later the army of James II – 4,400 strong – trained on the Curragh. And the following year the same army rested up on the Curragh following its defeat at the Battle of the Boyne.

Grey Abbey Archives