Our story opens with David Digues La Touche des Rompieres, who was born in 1671 near Blois in the Loire Valley, and whose family had embraced the Protestant faith. Following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, some La Touche family members fled to Holland in search of religious freedom. David soon joined them, and his uncle obtained for him a commission in General Caillemotte's Regiment, in the army of William of Orange. In 1690, David fought in the Battle of the Boyne, but, as General Caillemotte died at this battle, the Regiment disbanded and David served in the Princess Ann of Denmark's army and in the Liverpool Regiment. He left the army in Galway, where he was billeted on a weaver who sent him to Dublin to buy worsteds.
David decided to stay in Dublin, where with another Huguenot he set up as a manufacturer of cambric and rich silk poplins. His business also became a gathering-place for the Huguenots of Dublin, who, when they had to travel outside the capital, began to leave their money and valuables with David for safekeeping. Some of this money were advanced as loans at a reasonable interest and so the La Touche Bank came into being. In 1716, David joined forces with Nathaniel Kane, and the Kane-La Touche banking and poplin business prospered.
This was a time of urban expansion in Dublin, and David was astute enough to buy up plots of development land in the St. Stephen's Green-Aungier St. area, the result being that he became extremely rich. He was also religious, humane and generous to the poor. In October 1745, he died within an hour after taking ill at prayer in the Viceroy's Chapel.
David had married Marthe Judith Biard in 1699 in Dublin and there were four children of the marriage, two sons and two daughters. Marthe died in 1713, and a year later, he married Wilhelmina, a Dutch Lady. His two sons, David and James, were educated in Holland and later joined the business.
On the death of the first David, James inherited the poplin business and David became the proprietor of the La Touche Bank. All brothers agreed that David's family would drop the name Digues, or Digges, but that the family of Jaines would retain it.
David La Touche the Second married Marie Canasaille in 1725 and five of their children survived, three sons and two daughters. Like his father, he speculated in land purchase, but outside the Capital, in Counties Dublin, Carlow, Kildare, Leitrim, Tipperary and Wicklow. It was David the Second who built Bellevue in Delgany, County Wicklow, from 1754-56, at a cost of £30,000.
David's three sons, David the Third, John La Touche and Peter La Touche eventually became partners in the La Touche Bank. Peter inherited Bellevue on the death of David the Second in 1785, and David the Third founded the Marlay La Touches, while John was the first to live at Harristown, County Kildare.
The Bellevue, Delgany Family
The estate at Ballydonagh comprised 300 acres, with fine views across the Glen of the Downs and towards the Irish Sea. David the Second built his favourite country retreat here between 1754 and 1756, at a cost of £30,000, and called it Bellevue. Beautiful gardens were laid out with winding paths and "extras" built by David and his son, Peter, when he inherited in 1785. Among these was the Octagon, built in 1766, with a panther on springs, which could be made to jump out at unwary visitors. The house was most famous for its huge glasshouse, built between 1783 and 1793, in which many exotic plants were grown.
and school for female children in the grounds of Bellevue, and she supported the children until they were old enough to fend for themselves. She was also the Chief Guardian of the Female Orphan House on the North Circular Road, Dublin. It was she who persuaded the aged and infirm Dean Kirwan to preach at the annual Charity SermoIn 1766, Peter married Rebecca Vicars and they lived in Merrion Square, but when Rebecca died in 1786, Peter moved to Bellevue. Two years later, he married Rebecca's cousin, Elizabeth Vicars.
Elizabeth was famous as a hostess as well as for her charitable works, both in Delgany and in Dublin. She opened an orphanage n in St. Patrick’s Church in 1801.The unfortunate prelate feebly explained to the congregation that he was unable to preach, and promptly fainted. His listeners were so overcome that they donated over £1,100 for the orphans, a huge sum for the time.
In 1790, Peter acquired the lands of Upper and Lower Rathdown. It is on these lands that much of modern Greystones is situated. He set about improving the houses and grounds at Bellevue and Luggala, sparing no expense to make these residences the ultimate in grandeur. Luggala was his hunting lodge and holiday home set deep in the Wicklow Mountains. Peter allowed Luggala to be used by "respectable strangers, wherein the spirit of Irish hospitality, beds, and attendants are provided". This tradition of hospitality at Luggala extends to this day under the present owner The Hon. Garech Browne who is also President of the La Touche Legacy Association.
Ms Peter La Touche
Peter was also known as a generous man. It was he who built the new Christ Church at Delgany in 1789, and who ordered the La Touche monument in memory of his father, sculpted by John Hickey. He was active in many charitable activities in Dublin and Wicklow and was a founder member of the Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in Ireland. When he died in 1828, at the age of ninety-five, he directed that he should be buried in the new churchyard in Delgany "with as little expense as decency will allow." An interesting clause in his will directed that whoever should inherit Bellevue in the future would have to reside in Ireland for at least six months each year or forfeit the inheritance.
Peter had no children by either of his marriages, so his nephew, Peter of Marley inherited, but he died two years later. In 1806, he had married Charlotte Maude and the marriage produced fourteen children, of whom only one daughter, Eliza, and three sons, William Robert, Ashley and Octavius, married. His eldest son Peter David now inherited Bellevue. During the famine years, Peter David sat on committees in the area endeavoring to alleviate distress. It was during Peter David's time also, in 1854-56, that the railway came to Greystones, the station being built where the La Touche adjoined the Whitshed estate.
With the building of Greystones, the La Touche estate became responsible for the laying out of roads, and they donated land and a sum of £1,500 towards the building of St. Patrick's Church in Greystones.
Peter David died in 1857, and his brother William Robert inherited Bellevue. He remained a director of the La Touche Bank until its closure in 1870. It was William who entertained the Archbishop, Dr. Richard Chenevix Trench at Bellevue when St. Patrick's Church was consecrated in 1864. Because of various Land Acts between 1870 and 1909, the Bellevue Estate had begun to shrink considerably. In Greystones, many houses were built on La Touche land, so a new Presbyterian Church was required. William Robert gave a free site for the new church, and laid the foundation stone in 1887. In 1867, William Robert had married Ellen Henn, but, as there were no children, his brother, Octavius, inherited in 1892, when William Robert died, aged eighty-one.
The new master of Bellevue, Octavius, was a widower with three daughters, Mary, Frances Cecilia and Charlotte, and one son, Peter. Charlotte was a keen and knowledgeable gardener and a great organiser of charitable events in the Delgany area. Her brother, Peter, inherited in 1897. He was a major in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who was called upon to fight in the Boer War in 1900, and on his return home in 1902 was given a tumultuous welcome all the way from Greystones Station to Delgany. In the same year, he married Sophia Elizabeth Tottenham, but died, intestate, two years later. Bellevue was now divided between his widow and his three sisters. Frances Cecilia and her husband, Dr. Archer, moved into Bellevue.
Bellevue now fell on hard times, and in 1906 Mr. James North, the Auctioneer, conducted a sale of family treasures. The family now tried taking in paying guests, and land was sold to the Holy Faith Sisters to build a school. Dr. Archer was instrumental in helping to build a Golf Club in Delgany, he being elected its first President. However, the Archers finally vacated Bellevue in 1913, and went to live in Malvern in Delgany village. The house fell into decay and was pulled down in the early l950s, and the lands were taken over by the Forestry Division of the Department of Lands.
Drawing Room of Bellevue House
The Harristown, Kildare Family
The historic lands of Harristown Demesne were in the hands of the Eustace family since the 16th century. The estate rose to prominence under Sir Maurice Eustace, who built the present house in 1662, became Lord Chancellor and obtained a charter from Charles the Second in 168 1, constituting his estates a manor. When Sir Maurice died in 1704 the estate was inherited by his three daughters and divided into three parts - Harristown, Mullacash and Carnalway. In 1768, David (The Second) La Touche bought Harristown, but it was David's son, John, who was the first La Touche to take up residence. John enclosed the present demesne and built a new road and bridge over the Liffey.
In 1767, John tried to get elected to Parliament as Member for the City of Dublin, his opponent being the Marquis of Kildare, (later Duke of Leinster). John lost, and the merchants of Dublin were so disappointed that they presented him with a gold snuffbox. In spite of this setback, John sat as a knight of the Shire and was one of the five La Touches (the Five Just Men) who sat in the last House of Commons at the time of the Union. Of these five Lecky declared: "this family may claim, what is in truth the highest honour of which an Irish family can boast - that during many successive Governments, and in a period of the more lavish corruption, it possessed great parliamentary influence, and yet passed through political life untitled and unstained."
John died in 1805 and his son, John, succeeded. He died in 1822 and his brother, Col. Robert La Touche, took over at Harristown. Robert had married Lady Emily Le Poer Trench, daughter of the Earl of Clancarty, and there were four children of this marriage. The twins, John (The Master) and William, were born in the house in Merrion Square in 1814. John, William, and their other brother Robert were keen huntsmen, John being Master of the Kildare Hounds 1841-45. However, due to John's serious fall, and Robert's tragic death in a stand at the Curragh in 1845, ended their hunting involvement.
John, called "The Master", succeeded in 1844 and lived at Harristown for the next sixty-two years. His wife, Maria, only child of the Dowager Countess of Desart, County Kilkenny, was a very cultivated person, with a particular interest in botany, drawing, languages and poetry. John Ruskin called her "Lacerta". She was an avid letter-writer and wrote a number of tracts on religious and social themes.
She also wrote two novels, "The Clintons" (1853), and "Lady Willoughby" (1855). She had a horror of blood sports, and complained often about the neighboring gentry, whose chief delight was in such country pursuits.
During John's lifetime, the traditional family banking connection was broken. Following the Famine years, like most landed gentry in Ireland, the La Touche fortunes declined and they borrowed large sums from the Bank of Ireland. In 1870, the La Touche Bank closed and was taken over by the Munster Bank. When the Bank closed, however, all their accounts were in credit and relations with the Bank of Ireland continued to be amicable.
During the Famine John initiated drastic measures in his own household, "allowing no white bread or pastry to be made, and only the simplest dishes to appear on his table. The deer-park at Harristown ceased at this time to have any deer in it; all were made into food for the starving people." He busied himself with his farm tenants, and supported Land Reform under Gladstone.
The La Touches in Ireland had adopted the practices of the Established Church, but around 1857 John first heard the preaching of Dr. Spurgeon in London and was gradually won over by his brand of evangelism. He set up Bible studying classes in Harristown. These became the nucleus of a Baptist Church group, which used to meet in Rose Cottage, named after John's younger daughter, Rose. He also became very active in Christian Relief work in London, raising money to rescue fallen women, and was instrumental in founding the London City Mission. In 1882, he built a Baptist Chapel and a fine Manse at Brannockstown, and was a regular benefactor of Baptist work throughout Ireland.
John had an interest in education, as did all the La Touches, and he knocked down the remains of Portlester Castle to build a school at Brannockstown, which opened in 1885. This school prospered for twenty years, but under his son, Percy, the pupils moved to the Carnalway National School. It re-opened in 1928 under Catholic management and it is still in use.
The love story of Rose La Touche (daughter of John and Maria) and John Ruskin has been well documented. John and Maria met Ruskin in London and invited him to visit Harristown. Rose was ten years old when she first met Ruskin in 1858. Three years later Rose and Ruskin were in correspondence. Her parents were uncomfortable with Ruskin's religious skepticism, and so Rose and he did not meet again until 1865, when he proposed marriage to the eighteen-year-old Rose, who required him to wait until she was twenty-one. Rose's father was implacably opposed to the marriage for both religious (Ruskin was divorced) and age reasons (he was thirty years Rose's senior), and Maria was worried about his reputed impotence and Rose's ill health. Eventually, Rose went to London in Jan. 1875 for medical care and Ruskin attended her solicitously. He last saw her on February 14th. She died on May 25th and Ruskin didn't bear of it until the day of her funeral at St. Patrick's Church, Carnalway, Co. Kildare on May 28th, 1875. Her parents resumed their friendship with him during the 1880s.
When "The Master" died in 1904 in his 90th. year, his son, Percy, succeeded to the estate, and spent his time in those pursuits abhorred by his mother. He moved in the highest levels of society and was a favourite of Edward the Seventh. He married Lady Annette Scott, a sister of the Earl of Clonmel, but they had no children. After his death in 1921, his sister Emily's son succeeded, and the estate passed through two other owners before being sold to Major Michael Wentworth Beaurnont. The Marlay, Rathfarnham Family
The story of the Marlay La Touches centers on banking and religion. David (the third) La Touche worked in the La Touche Bank. He was born in 1729 and set up his countryseat at Rathfarnham, County Dublin. He had married Elizabeth, daughter of George Marlay, Bishop of Dromore, in 1761, and so he named his estate Marlay. In the same year he entered the Irish Parliament to represent banking interests and he did so for forty years. David became part of Dublin's aristocratic circle, respected for his wealth and his lavish hospitality in Marlay. Marlay had its own private theatre, in which both Henry Flood and Henry Grattan played in Macbeth.
David III helped the Government with a loan of £20,000 in the dark days of 1778, but when the Castle sought further credit later, it was not granted. He was to the fore in negotiations, which led to the foundation of the Bank of Ireland in 1783, and was appointed its first Governor, a post that he held for eight years. David's politics during the 1770s and 1780s were very close to those of Speaker Foster. Both believed that the Irish Parliament was very useful for promoting economic development, but both were totally opposed to Catholic Emancipation. Of the five La Touches sitting in Parliament in 1800, only David Ill supported the Union, but Grattan forgave him, as he believed that his vote came from conviction, and had not been bought.
David was an investor in the Grand Canal Company, and in 1800 he was its Treasurer. He and his brothers were founding members of the Kildare Street Club in the 1780s; he was also a Wide Street Commissioner, and he was a treasurer of the Lock Penitentiary. In fact, the La Touches supported with their time and money most of the large charitable and cultural organisations of the time. They were also Freemasons.
David and Elizabeth had six sons and five daughters. During his lifetime, his sons were brought into the Bank, and when he died John David, whom David Charles in turn succeeded, succeeded him. When David Charles died unmarried in 1872, his brother, Charles John Digges La Touche now headed the Marlay La Touches. Charles had been at Oxford and knew Newman (later a Cardinal). In 1844, Charles caused consternation among the wider family by becoming a Roman Catholic and moving to Tours in France. Charles's son, John David, worked in China in the Imperial Chinese Customs Service, and on his retirement, he returned to Ireland in 1925 and bought a fine residence at Kiltimon, Co. Wicklow. The estate at Marlay had long since been sold to Tedcastle's, the coal merchants.
The family was well connected with the Professional Church. Rev. John William La Touche was the second son of David IV of Marlay and his wife Lady Cecilia, daughter of the first Earl of Milltown. Rev. John had three wives, not of course contemporaneously. He was appointed to succeed Dean Scott for many years the absentee rector of Clonemagh, Co. Offaly. Scott had accepted tithes of £500 a year as an absentee. The new Rector demanded £1,500 a year under the Tithe Commutation Act even though he also proposed to bean absentee. The mainly Roman Catholic population were outraged but offered £1,000 a year to La Touche. This event took place in 1829 - an early tithe war tussle. The Rev. La Touche retained the Rectorship until 1848 and later became a prebendary of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
Judith Flannery: The Story of Delgany. 1990.
David Dickson, Editor: The Gorgeous Mask, Dublin 1700-1850. 1987.
Michael McGinley: Money, Religion and the La Touche Family. 1993.
Crawford Hartnell: An Episode in the Last Parliament of Ireland:
"The Five Just Men". 1910.
Robert Dunlop: Plantation of Renown. 1982.
Robert Dunlop: Waters Under the Bridge. 1988.