The History of Horetown
The townsland of Horetown was probably created shortly after the arrival of the Normans in 1169 who came as the mercenaries of the deposed King of Leinster Diarmait MacMurchada. Two brothers Philip and William Hore, who came from Devonshire, were granted the lands of Horetown, to which they gave their name. They remained in control of the territory until 1334, when a marriage alliance with another Anglo Norman family, the Furlongs, led to an exchange of properties: the Furlongs took up occupation in Horetown, while the Hores moved to the Furlong castle at Pole on the Slaney, which later became known as Polehore. The Furlongs remained in Horetown until the Cromwellian confiscations of 1649.
The first house we have records of at Horetown was built in 1692, but precisely by whom is not clear. Despite what is written and commonly held it could not have been built by Stephen and William Goff, as both were dead at this stage. In fact, since the Goffs had been established for nearly half a century at Horetown before the 1692 house was built, they must have maintained a residence of some size there before that, possibly on the site of the current house.
Burkes Landed Gentry (1849) records that William Goff left three children behind him in Ireland when he fled to America. While various accounts conflict on their names and gender, it seems clear to us that he had at least one son Richard and two daughters, Frances and Judith. On 17 April 1681, an intriguing entry appears in the record of marriages. It tells us that Richard Goff of County Wexford ‘took to wife Hannah Chamberlain ....in a public assembly of the people called Quakers.’ This is undoubtedly our Richard Goff, but he has now become a Quaker, even though his recently deceased father William when Governor of Hampshire, Berkshire and Sussex had described the Quakers as ‘doing much work for the devil and deluding many simple souls.’
Richard and Hannah appear to have settled at Ballyloskeran, but by 1695 they were in residence at Horetown House – this would be the house built in 1692 and so we may presume that it was built by Richard and Hannah Goff. This is the conclusion that we reach, notwithstanding what has been recorded elsewhere. However, what is interesting is that Richard appears to have been leasing land from one Robert Carew who had acquired substantial estates in the area in 1668, 1669 and 1680. In 1853, Griffith’s Valuation identifies Lord Carew as the landlord of Horetown House, then occupied by Strangman Davis Goff. In other words, the Goffs never owned Horetown House!
This fact, amongst others, has caused at least one writer (David Ian Hamilton) to question whether Richard Goff was actually the son of William Goff the Regicide at all, or whether he was an illiterate Quaker of the same name whose descendents subsequently ‘acquired’ an aristocratic pedigree for themselves, claiming a spurious link to William. However, it should not be forgotten that William’s lands would have been forfeit to the Crown after 1660 and the fact that eight years later they are indeed in possession of someone else, Robert Carew, supports the case for believing that William’s lands had been confiscated. We know that his wife, Frances, was forced to conceal her identity when writing to her husband in America and conceal the identity of her son whom she calls ‘Frederick’. Is it possible, or even probable, that what we see here is not the arrival of a penniless, unconnected Quaker on the scene in Horetown, conveniently sharing the name Richard Goff, but rather the actual son of William the Regicide steadily recovering his birthright. In addition, we should not underestimate family records and indeed folk memory, both of which hold that the Goffs held Horetown from Cromwellian times, and in the case of the former that the family was descended from William the Regicide.
Richard and Hannah had three sons and three daughters. When Richard died in 1732 he left Horetown to his son William, with an estate of some 2500 acres. However, William died unmarried in 1763, whereupon the estate passed to his nephew Jacob, the son of his brother (also named Jacob) and grandson of Richard and Hannah Goff5.
Jacob was born in 1736, and seems to have grown up in Dublin, where his father had moved. Jacob married Elizabeth Wilson, of Mount Wilson Co. Offaly, whose grandmother was a Bewley (of the Quaker family who established the famous chain of coffee houses). Jacob and Elizabeth had a large family together (variously described as comprising either 18 or 22 children, with the discrepancy probably relating to infant deaths). Their youngest daughter was Dinah, the author of the famous diary of the family’s experience during the 1798 Rebellion.
Jacob died in 1798 and was succeeded by his son William in December 1798, who served as High Sheriff of County Wexford in 1807 and 1811. William had one son and six daughters. His son, Jacob William Goff, married twice but had no family; however, he must be the J.W. Goff recorded as the Estate Agent of Caesar Colclough of Tintern, who at that stage was laying out his wonderful walled gardens near the main house in Tintern6. Some of the Tintern estate records describe the purchase of plants by the estate during Jacob’s time there and Alan Ryan, who has overseen the restoration of those gardens, believes that some of the species to be found in Horetown today are consistent with the order records of Tintern. Jacob was clearly ‘taking some of his work home’ with him, but the net result is that plants which are known to have been once growing in the gardens at Tintern in the 19th century, and which are now long gone, are apparently thriving in the undergrowth in Horetown. Jacob died in 1845, and as he had no children, he left Horetown and his estates to his nephew Strangman Davis. Strangman was the son of his sister Rebecca who had married Francis Davis of Waterford.
5 This appears to be a point of confusion for several writers, who mix up Richard’s son Jacob with his grandson of the same name. The mistake is repeated in the hotel’s own literature: the Jacob Goff who inherited Horetown in 1763 was Richard’s grandson, not his son.
6 The hotel literature mistakenly records William Davis Goff as the Tintern Agent, but William was not born until 1838.
Under the terms of his uncle’s will, when he took over Horetown Strangman was to change his name to Strangman Davis-Goff, which he did by Royal Licence on 7 April 18457.
Strangman Davis-Goff was born in 1810. When he inherited Horetown in 1845, the estate – comprising 2,691 acres of land – was valued at £1,601, equivalent to about €27m today in terms of current agricultural land values. Strangman was one of the pioneers of photography in Ireland and he is credited with producing the very first photographs of Co. Wexford.
Early photography at Horetown: (Left) Francis and Rebecca Davis, parents of S.D. Goff, in the gardens at Horetown; (Right) Croquet on the south lawn.
Strangman died in 1883 and was succeeded by his son
William Davis-Goff. However, William never took up
residence at Horetown, opting to live at Glenville in Co.
Waterford instead, where the Davis side of the family were
based. William was a remarkable character, with a strong
eye to innovation and modern invention. He collected
automobiles of all kinds, was President of the Automobile
Association and one of the founders of the Dunlop
Pneumatic Tyre Company. In 1905 he was made first
Baronet Davis-Goff of Glenville and Horetown. Since he
was not to live at Horetown, he opted to lease it to a succession of different tenants instead. From 1887 to 1889, the house was occupied by a mill-owner from Tullow called Morris, and from 1909 to around 1918 by a Mr Townsend. Sometime within the tenancy of Townsend, one Major Michael Lawrence Lakin appears to have rented the property and when he married Kathleen Fitzgerald, daughter of Lord Maurice Fitzgerald and Lady Adelaide Forbes of Johnstown Castle, on July 18th 1914 the couple moved into Horetown and set up home there. When William Davis Goff died four years later in 1918, Major Lakin succeeded in purchasing the house outright. The centuries-long tenure of the Goffs at Horetown was over.