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History of the castle

This summary of  Sigginstown Castle, in Tacumshane, County Wexford comes from our research over the past few years.  Like any research, it depends heavily on a number of sources, published in original texts, republished in books, and then on the Internet. Any readers who have additional information are most welcome to contribute it, along with old photos, drawings, folklore or stories.  

The history of the castle follows three main families...


Before the Anglo-Norman settlement of Ireland in 1169, this area was home to the Fothairt people, with the Ui Bairrche group nearby. The modern names became the Ancient Baronies of Forth and Bargy, after settlement by the Anglo-Normans who mostly came over from South Wales on the invitation of Diarmait Mac Murchada to reclaim his kingdom of Ui Chennselaig. The Siggins were not on the original list of settlers who received burgages or knights fees under the conquest, but they seem to have come (probably from South Wales with many others) by the 13th century. The castle was built by the Siggins family, who are resident in "Sigginstown" or various spellings, as early as 1342. Spelling variants for Sigginstown (Baile an tSiginigh): Siggenston, Syggenstown, Sygeneston, Sigenstown, Siggenstowne, Sigginstowne, Sigganstown, Syganstown, Sigginstown & Sagginstown! Tacumshane was once a more vibrant village, with a Norman Church, mills, blacksmiths, and multiple castles. It has a strong connection to the Celtic Sea, which is so close, and Tacumshin Lake, which supported a lot of fishing. Landowners on the coast would have benefited from fishing rights and fees, trade with passing ships, and salvage from shipwrecks. These lands have been held and farmed in the same configurations for 900 years and there was a watermill (for grain) associated with the castle which still stands nearby (now just a house) The fields around Sigginstown were in use before the tower is built and through recent archeology we have found medieval remains and ditches which relate possibly to the 14th century. Certainly it is likely there was human habitation there well before the tower, and possibly pre-dating the Siggins family also. Most castles of this type, often called towers or "towerhouses" in modern English, were built in the late 15th to late 16th century. The castle looks older than it is because this style of tower, donjon or keep worked for the Normans and also their descendents. The tower seems to date from early 1500s - we have selected 1520 as a nominal date. We had a grant to carbon date the wicker in the tower vault, which indicated a range from the late 15th century to early 17th century dates provided The wicker is gorse! When the tower is built by the Siggins, there is probably an earlier detached hall house used for most domestic activities. The tower was probably used as sleeping quarters, for defense and official matters where their wealth and importance would be noted. Possibly it is Thomas Siggins, recorded in 1547 with legal matters, who built the tower, and may also have built Siginshaggard castle, north in Taghmon (west of Wexford town). The Siggins family hold Sigginstown and Siginshaggard and their lands until the terrible times of Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth. Along with other "Old English"/Catholic landowners of the time, Edward Siggins is accused of treason, and loses his lands in Wexford. He is one of the few who actually chose to leave and receive "equivalent" lands in Connaught (Balla Mayo). They left some time around 1654. Edward Siggins tried to get back his Wexford lands in 1690 but was not successful. Edward’s son settles in Sligo, and the Siggins from there still visit, along with ones from all over the world, and Wexford too!

Jacob of horseheath1Arms-KenJacob.jpg
William Jacobs and his Descendants

After Cromwell, the Wexford lands of Old English like the Siggins are granted to Protestant "New English" settlers. Some were merchant adventurers who invested in the hopes of benefiting from the Commonwealth activities in Ireland. In order to disinherit and diminish the power of the Old English, most of their lands were redistributued in the Down Survey, which also identifies the new landowners. William Jacob (circa 1610-1688), was a lieutenant in Cromwell’s army. The lands of Sigginstown are granted to him on 22nd of June 1667, in consideration of his military service. This property consisted of 533 acres. Twenty-eight other soldiers sold William Jacob lands in return for small amounts of cash, and most return to England. From the Down Survey data in 1671 (a great online resources), he gets lands from many other owners aside from the Siggins, including Nicholas French, Nicholas Stafford, Jasper Codd, John Hay and Philip Lambert. Since Edward Siggins is attainted of treason in 1641, transplanted in 1654 and William Jacob gets it in 1667, this raises the interested question of what was happening to the property during this 13 year period? Did the Siggins family continue to live there or is it vacant? We are not sure. We are certain that either William or his son built the Big House and attached it to the tower. They demolished a (probable) earlier hall house - we found footings of a wall underneath the Big House during archeology. The Big House stone wall dates to about 1670/80 due to the presence of North Devonshire pottery fragments used in the wall. The Big House had two dutch-style corner fireplaces, and was three-story. The brick wall was possibly added later, or was a very early example of brick in Wexford. The classic facade led into a cobblestone courtyard and out to the main road. William died in either 1668 or 1688 (The Jacobs family history has both dates, one in error). The property goes to his son John. The Jacob family holds Sigginstown Castle until the early 19th century. They are listed as the best gentry of the county and intermarry with other landowners. Like the Siggins before them, they serve as jury and magistrates, additionally two are Reverends. There are Jacob family members buried in nearby Ishartmon Church, another local Norman Church in the lovely "Paradise" townland! Reverend Ulysses Jacob was buried at Johnstown, The Wexford Herald on January 30, 1813 published, 'On Saturday, at Sigginstown, in the 86th year of his age, the Reverend Ulysses Jacob, one of the oldest Magistrates of the County'. The property devolved upon one of Ulysses sons, either John or Richard who seems to have been "weak-minded' and was cared for by one of his sisters, either Mary or Jane, who marries a farmer named Wilson.. This is the end of the Jacob line and ownership of the castle.

the Wilsons

The property now belonged to the Wilsons through the marriage of Miss Jacob to Mr. Wilson. During the 1798 rebellion a "Mr. Wilson" is associated with the castle on the Valentine Gill map published later. But Ulysses Jacob lived until 1813, so the castle was probably run by Mr (Michael?) Wilson by then. We think Mary and Michael's son was John Wilson. The Jacobs book in 1875 says he 'alienated most of the property, and now lives (maybe up to his death in 1869) in the half-ruined house, adjoining the old tower of Sigginstown Castle.' If this is true, then the house was well into decline 75 years after the rebellion. This coincides with research that by 1853 John Wilson had sold 2/3 of the land, with a further sale in 1880. From “Treasures of Tacumshane” there is reference in the early 19th century a family by the name of Heron were said to have lived at the castle. Apparently they had five children, all of whom died very young. (We have found no record yet of this family, and would be interested to hear of any documents). In 1840 for the OSI survey the castle was described as being in "good preservation and much used as a store by a farmer whose house is built against it." From the 1853 Griffith’s Valuation record and Map: John Wilson listed in Sigginstown and owns most of the property including land across the street and Sigginstown Island. The Wilson lands included the corn mill marked on the original Down Survey map as part of the Siggins holdings. The mill was converted in the late 20th century and the mill works and water course are now gone. There are a few more John Wilsons and children, but by the late 1800s the castle is definitely in decline or ruined. It is unclear who the last resident of the actual castle is. By the 1901 Census James and Fannie (Furlong) Wilson are listed as living in House 7 with five children and are Roman Catholic. This house is down the lane from the castle and may be the house noted on the Down Survey along with the mill. In common local memory, all the Wilsons live in that house, not the castle. The Wilsons marry into the Pierce family, and the property is passed down to Richard Pierce, who sold us the castle in 2016

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