What’s in a Name? The Taylor Family Tree and Ardgillan Castle

by Elaine Skehan
(Skerries Historical Society Meeting – June 2014)

The Skerries Historical Society June talk was by Elaine Skehan who led the audience through ten generations and 380 years of ‘The Taylor Family Tree and Ardgillan Castle’.

Thomas Taylor came to Ireland as Chief Surveyor working under Sir William Petty, mapping Ireland for the Down Survey of 1658. Thomas must have fallen in love with Ireland because he sold his estates in England and bought 21,000 acres of land between counties Meath and Cavan. It was this Thomas’s grandson, Robert, who came to buy the land at Ardgillan and build Prospect House in 1738. Sadly Robert did not enjoy his new house for long as he died only six years later and it passed to his older brother Thomas.

Thomas was clearly proud of his name and was determined to make sure the name continued into the next generation. He succeeded admirably. Not only did he have two sons called Thomas (one dying in infancy), but the name crops up over and over again in the family tree.

Whilst Thomas, it seems, was a name that the family couldn’t do without, Taylor was not so important. One of our Taylors rid himself of his birth surname in 1813, changing it by Royal Licence to Quin. His mother had been a Quin of Quinsborough, Co. Clare and the name change allowed him to inherit the Clare estate.

Nor was he the only Taylor to change his name in order to claim an inheritance. We might well feel that anyone named Clotworthy Taylor would be right to change his name as soon as the opportunity arose. And indeed, that’s exactly what Clotworthy did. He married his cousin Frances Rowley and took her surname so that he could inherit their mutual grandfather’s estates. But he kept his strange Christian name!

There were hundreds of stories to tell about the lives and loves of the Taylors of Ardgillan – from the tragedy of the poor ghost of the Ladies’ Stairs to the rather more scandalous affairs of two Thomas Taylors, father and son, who were each arraigned for seducing other men’s wives in the early years of the nineteenth century. We don’t know what the Taylor wives thought of this but one of the poor seduced ladies, a Lady Beresford, was declared insane by her own family after her indiscretion became known. Now that’s a good argument for keeping your ardour in check!

Report by Oona Roycroft

Page updated – 08 / 10 / 2014