Cromwell Cottage, Ballygoman

Cromwell Cottage, Ballygoman

Written by John Whelan

Local tradition has it that Cromwell Cottage in Ballygoman is so named because Oliver Cromwell had breakfast there on the morning of the day he attacked Wexford town.  Whereas it is unlikely that this tradition could ever be proven true, or false, it is fairly certain that the house of an age that it is possible that it could have happened.  Also, it is known that Cromwell approached Wexford from the West, travelling along the old Enniscorthy to Wexford road that passed through Muchwood via the Badger’s Hill and along the north boundary of the Cromwell Cottage farm.

Until the late 1970’s the house was thatched.  A long, low farmhouse, it’s size and floorplan was typical of a number of other farmhouses in the vicinity (e.g. Knockataylor, Bregorteen, Polehore farm).  Like these other houses, the dwelling house originally faced into the farm-yard, and the original entrance avenue was from the old coach road (aka Keelogues Lane) to the south-west of the property.  Sometime in the early nineteenth  century the house was “gentrified” – the front on the house now being positioned to the east, facing away from the farm-yard, with a new entrance off the Stony road.  Elegant bipartite multi-paned windows and a decorative gothic  fanlight over the front door under a raised curve in the thatch gave the house a very attractive finish.  It is possible that the farm buildings were also renovated or rebuilt at the same time.  The slated outbuildings are stone built with brick surrounds to arched doors and windows, and are particularly well constructed.

The house and farm were on the estate of James Howlin of Ballycronigan, Kilrane.  This extensive estate covered over 2,000 acres in south County Wexford, and included all of the townlands of Ballygoman, Crandaniel, Holmestown, and much of the village of Taghmon.

In the early 1830’s the tenant of Cromwell cottage was Stephen Cousins.  In the middle of that decade, Mr. Philip Cowman became the tenant.  Mr. Cowman was one of the three surviving sons of Catherine Cowman of nearby Knockataylor who acquired a lot of their wealth through surveying and road-contracting businesses, became prominent in local politics, and built up large land-holdings of their own in the parish.  By 1853, Philip Cowman had acquired the 44 acres adjoining  Cromwell Cottage in Ballygoman. He also has 32 acres in Davidstown, adjoining Philip Keating’s farm (this land may have come as a dowry with his wife, Elizabeth).  His holding in Keeloges was 55 acres, and he had 2 acres in Ballymichael and 14 acres in Mullinree. Philip had a further 19 acres in Ballygoman leased to Patrick Byrne (this is the land on which Barntown school now stands), and another 1.5 acres in Shelmalier Commons leased to the same Patrick Byrne.  In total Philip Cowman had 167.5 acres, and 5 houses listed in Griffith’s valuation.

In 1856 Sophia Maria Grogan Morgan (widow of Hamilton Knox Grogan Morgan of Johnstown Castle) granted a lease on  nearby Ardcandrisk House to Philip for the yearly rent of £100 sterling.    However, the Cowman tenancy of Ardcandrisk was to be  a short one.  In a little over a year  Philip Cowman had died.  His wife Elizabeth sold his leasehold interest in Ardcandrisk to The Honourable Mrs. Deane Morgan (aka Lady Dane) for the sum of £762 and 10s, and continued to live in Cromwell Cottage with their three young daughters.  Philip was laid to rest in the family tomb in Ardcandrisk cemetery.

In February 1866, the youngest of the Cowman daughters, Eliza, married Patrick Ryan in Barntown Church.  She was 19 years old.  Patrick was the son of Philip Ryan of Tomcoole.  Patrick did not waste any time in expanding the Cowman (now the Ryan) farm.  In the same year that he married, he acquired another 89 acres in Ballygoman (directly opposite the farm at Cromwell Cottage)  from  James Howlin.

Patrick and Eliza Ryan raised a large family in Ballygoman.  Their first child, a son Philip, was born a year after they married, in March 1867.  Thirteen more children are known to have been born to the couple. At least three of the children did not survive into adulthood.

As well as running the farm in Ballygoman, Patrick Ryan was also well regarded as a  land valuer – a role for which there was no shortage of demand at a time when the Land Commission was enabling large numbers of tenants to purchase their farms from the landlords under the terms of the various Land Acts.  (Patrick himself purchased all the land in Ballygoman and Shelmalier Commons from James Howlin in 1899 under the terms of the 1891 Land Act for the sum of £2,182.)

Patrick Ryan died in 1906.  Shortly after his death the Ryan’s sold a large parcel of the extra land that he had acquired in Ballygoman to their neighbour John Breen.  The remaining land was farmed by brothers Phil and  Jim, with unmarried sisters Kitty and Mary living at home with them.

Two of the Ryan daughters married.  Josephine married Jack Keating of Ballygoman House (her second cousin), and Lil married  Stephen Howlin of Glynn, and after his death, Timothy McCarthy of the White’s Hotel family.  Other siblings moved away and raised families in Waterford and New York.

The last of the Ryans to live in Ballygoman was Kitty, who died in 1965 at the age of 78.  A few years before she died, ownership of the farm was transferred to her nephew, Patrick Keating – her sister Jo’s son.  In 1967, the farm was sold to Dick and Mary Lane Joynt, whose family still lives there today.

Eliza Ryan (nee Cowman) and her sons Philip and John.  This photograph is taken around 1869 when Eliza was twenty two.  The boys are in dresses, as was the norm at that time, until they reached the age of four or five.