Branganstown is in the Electoral Division of Galtrim, in Civil Parish of Galtrim, in the Barony of Lower Deece, in the County of Meath.
There are three ancient remains in Branganstown townland, a rath known as Walsh’s Raheen, another rath and earthworks closer to the Boycetown River.
Walsh’s Raheen – Ringfort – Only portion of bank and external fosse survive SE-W (C 54m). A ringfort or rath is a roughly circular or oval area surrounded by an earthen bank with an external fosse. Some examples have two (bivallate) or three (trivallate) banks and fosses, but these are less common and have been equated with higher status sites belonging to upper grades of society. They functioned as residences and/or farmsteads and broadly date from 500 to 1000 AD.
Earthwork – Situated on a terrace overlooking the SE-NW Yellow River c. 100m to the SW and rath (ME037-024—-) c. 50m to the SSE. Raised rectangular and grass-covered area (dims 18m E-W; 11m N-S) defined by scarps (H 0.8m) with a mound (diam. 5m; H 0.7m) towards centre which may be upcast from a small quarry in the S side. An earthwork is an anomalous earthen structure, usually raised and occurring in a variety of shapes and sizes, that on field inspection was found to possess no diagnostic features which would allow classification within another monument category. These may date to any period from prehistory onwards.
The second ringfort or rath is located in the valley of the SE-NW Boycetown River, with an E-W section of the stream c. 30m to the S. Subcircular, grass-covered area (dims 36m N-S; 32m E-W) defined by a scarp with surrounding fosse (Wth 4.5-6.5m; ext. D 0.1-0.2m generally to 1m at N). There is no identifiable original entrance. Earthwork (ME037-023—-) is c. 50m to the NNW.
In the 1500s Branganstown was held by the monastery of SS. Peter and Paul’s, Newtown, Trim. Simon de Rochfort, first Norman Bishop of the diocese of Meath, founded his cathedral at Newtown in 1206. The largest cathedral in medieval Ireland, constructed in an early Gothic style, the church was assigned into the care of the Victorine Friars of the adjoining monastery and dedicated to SS Peter and Paul. Only a portion of the original nave and chancel survive. The buildings of the Victorine abbey are between the Cathedral and the river Boyne. The refectory (dining hall) is situated at the southern end of the cloister. Only the south and west walls of this hall remain.
In 1537 when the monastery was confiscated by Henry VIII the rectory of Galtrim with Walterstown, Branganstown and Ferans was granted to William and Edward Dixon for 21 years. Boyse of Branganstown is listed as one of the gentlemen during the time of Elizabeth I. Robert Dillon who was granted the monastery at Newtown also had a claim on Branganstown and this was transferred to his successors, the Ash family of Newtown and in 1640 Mrs. Bayley, the widow of Thomas Ash of Newtown held the tithes of the townland. In the nineteenth century tithes from Walterstown, and Branganstown, in the parish of Galtrim were payable to the vicar of Ballymagarvey parish, near Kentstown, Navan.
In 1640 Walter Plunket, son of Thomas Plunket, alderman of Dublin, of Dirpatrick (Derrypatrick) held 114 acres at Branganstown, 100 acres of arable land, with 2 acres of meadow and 12 of pasture. The lands were confiscated by Cromwell and in 1663 Walter made a claim to have his lands restored to him by the new king, Charles II. According to another record Sir Walter Plunkett held 210 acres at Branganstown. In 1670 the owner of Branganstown was the Erasmus Smith Trust.
Erasmus Smith (1611 – 1691) was an English merchant and a landowner with possessions in England and Ireland. Having acquired significant wealth through trade and land transactions, he became a philanthropist in the sphere of education, treading a path between idealism and self-interest during a period of political and religious turbulence. His true motivations remain unclear.
In July 1642 Roger Smith subscribed £225 under the terms of the Adventurers’ Act of 1641, whereby money loaned to the government of Charles for the purpose of suppressing the Irish rebellion was secured by lands to be confiscated in that country. The lands had been confiscated in law but it would require the overthrow of the rebels in order to realise those property assets. The subsequent Doubling Ordinance of 1643 allowed those who had subscribed to receive twice the amount of land if they added a further 25 per cent of their initial financial aid: Roger Smith accepted those terms, contributing a further £75 in July 1643 and then two more payments of £75 in August and in October of that year.
By 1650 Erasmus Smith, Roger’s son, he was supplying foodstuffs to Oliver Cromwell’s armies in particular to military activities in Ireland. By the time that the rebellion was suppressed in 1653, and just prior to the first assignments of land under the terms of the Settlement of Ireland Act 1652, Roger had registered the transfer of his investment to Erasmus. Erasmus had speculated by buying out the interests of other subscribers, who had tired of the delay in seeing a reward from their investment; and he was also entitled to further land grants in payment for his supplies to the army. What began as a grant of 666 acres (270 ha) eventually became — by the 1680s, after various wranglings and adjustments — over 46,000 acres (19,000 ha) situated in nine counties. Smith created a trust whereby some of his Irish property was used for the purpose of financing the education of children and provided scholarships for the most promising of those to continue their studies at Trinity College, Dublin, However, there have been claims that this trust was intended primarily to protect his interests in land, of which some was obtained by dubious interpretation of law.
Tithe Applotment Books – In 1825 the main land occupiers in Branganstown were Patrick Walsh, John Reilly, Mr. Byrne, Thomas Ledwidge and John Toles. The Tithes are property valuation records showing occupiers, amount of land held and amount to be paid. The books were compiled on a date between 1823 and 1837 to determine the amount of tithes which land occupiers should pay to the Established Church.
In the 1830s Branganstown was described as consisting of 297 acres, the property of St. George Smyth of Drogheda who let it at 30s per Irish acre. The farms varied in size from 33 acres to 120 acres. The largest was in possession of Patrick Walsh. In the southwest of the townland was a fort called Walsh’s Raheen. The northern boundary of the fort was defaced. The main road from Dublin to Trim passed through the centre of the townland. County Cess (Tax) was 2s 1d per acre. Trim was the nearest market town, about four miles away. All the inhabitants were Catholics.
Griffiths Valuation 1854/5 are property valuation records showing occupiers of land, the name of the immediate landlord, the amount and value of the property held. Compiled from 1848 to 1864 under the supervision of Richard Griffith.
The Madden family make their appearance in the Griffith’s Valuation but had been living at Branganstown since at least 1845 when their son Patrick was born. The Maddens came from Knockcommon, Duleek where there is a gravestone with the inscription: Erected by Mr. Nicholas Madden of Rathdrinagh in memory of his beloved daughter Anne who departed this life 1st December 1865 aged 17 years. Also of his brothers James who died 11th Oct. 1839 aged 54 years, and Thomas who died 28th February 1844 aged 47 years. Also the above Mr. Nicholas Madden who died February 8th 1876 aged 83 years. Thomas Madden died August 10th 1878 aged 34 years. Mrs. Elizabeth Madden died April 16th 1887 aged 76 years. Nicholas Madden, Branganstown, died 10th Oct. 1912 aged 59 years. His wife Rose died 22nd April 1933 aged 69 years. Also their son Thomas died 5th June 1937 aged 50 years.
On 19th October 1840 Nicholas Madden married Elizabeth Gargan in Donore parish. On 20 January 1853 Nicholas Madden was baptised in Moynalvey parish, the son of Nicholas and Elizabeth Madden. On 16 July 1884 Nicholas Madden of Moynalvey married Rose Louth at Lobinstown.
The death of Nicholas is recorded in the Calendar of Wills and Administrations 1913
Edward Reilly, farmer aged 43, was living with his sister, Mary Anne Reilly and a servant Patrick Brennan aged 74 in one house in the 1901 census in Branganstown.
The second household was the Madden family with father, Nicholas aged 48, mother Rose aged 38, brother to Nicholas, James aged 52, and children Marianne, aged 15, Thomas aged 13, Nicholas aged 11, Lizzie aged 10, Patrick aged 8, Rose aged 5, Bridget aged 3 and Joseph not yet a year old. Also living with the Madden family were Mary Rooney aged 24 and William Hickey aged 35, servants.
The Doolin family consisted of father Michael an agricultural labourer aged 60, mother Mary aged 58 and daughter Mary aged 23.
Thomas Callaghan was an agricultural labourer as well aged 54, his wife Bridget aged 56 and daughter Maggie aged 21 and son James aged 18 also an agricultural labourer.
Private Patrick Joseph Madden, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 10th Battalion, 26425. Born: 8 April 1893 at Branganstown. Son of Nicholas and Rose Madden, Branganstown, Kilmessan. Father’s occupation: Farmer. Residence: Branganstown. Occupation: Farmer’s son. Enlistment location: Greenock. Died of wounds, France & Flanders, 22 February 1917. Age: 23. Memorial: I.D.5; Mont Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport. Patrick Madden enlisted in the 10th Royal Dublin Fusiliers while working in Greenock, Scotland. He took part in the final phase of the Battle of the Somme in November 1916 when the ruins of the village of Beaumont Hamel were finally taken in dreadful weather conditions. In his letter of 25 November 1916 to his mother, he wrote. “I thought that the morning of the 13th that every minute was my last –it was like hell let loose. The Germans are very bad fighters. They prefer to be taken prisoner. They told us that they are sick of the war”. He again referred to the capture of the village in his letter dated 5 January 1916 to his sister Lily. “I would not like to go through the same again but the Dublins showed “Fritz” what they were made of that morning. They came out of their dugouts crying “Mercy Kamerad”. Their dugouts were like Palaces. There was a German officer whom I took prisoner (who) gave me a big bottle of whiskey. It was badly needed as the morning was awful cold but I made sure he drank some of it himself first because it might be Poison and as for cigarettes and cigars, he gave me plenty. That was the morning Duff and Brogan were wounded.” Pte. William Brogan was from Philistown, Trim, Co. Meath and was just twenty-one years of age when he died from his wounds. Photocopies of Pte. Patrick Madden’s letters are available in the archive of the RDFA, Pearse Street, Dublin.