The Marcus Annesleys

 of Castlewellan

Annesley of Castlewellan, Mount Panther and Donard Lodge.

The Annesley family name originated in France as de Annesley. The first record of their arrival in England was with William the Conqueror in 1066 and the name de Annesley was used up until the early 15th Century. The Annesleys held senior legal and military positions from the start of the 15th Century until the latter half of the 16th Century.

The first Annesley of note was Captain Robert Annesley, sent by Queen Elizabeth to suppress the Earl of Desmond uprising in Ireland in the 1580’s which resulted in the annihilation of the “Desmonds” and the confiscation of their estates and lands in Munster. This gave the English authorities the opportunity to settle the province with colonists from England and Wales (known as the Munster Plantation) to control the Irish Catholics.

Up until the beginning of the 17th Century the Annesley family were almost exclusively centred around Newport Pagnell, 20 kilometres south of Northampton in England. It was there that Robert married Beatrix Cornwall and had their only son Francis. Around the beginning of the 17th Century Robert, Beatrix and Francis moved to Mountnorris, Ireland.

Francis began his working life in Ireland as the butler to Baron Chichester but quickly moved into senior administrative positions and was eventually elected as a Member of Parliament. King James I rewarded Francis for his loyal service with a Knighthood in 1616 followed by Viscountcy (1st Viscount Valentia) in 1621 and eventually the 1st Baronet of Mountnorris in 1628. It was during this time that the Annesley family moved to Castlewellan, County Down, and into “The Cottage”.

In 1635 Baron Mountnorris (Francis) was sentenced to death for supposed insubordination to Lord Wentworth, who disliked his rapid rise within the English peerage but the sentence was commuted to house arrest and he was relieved of all his posts on grounds of corruption. In 1642 he was reinstated as 1st Viscount Valentia.

Francis had purchased a parcel of land near Mountnorris County Armagh in 1609. Over the next 50 years Francis extended his estates into a number of Irish counties including, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Down, Kerry, Meath, Tyrone, Queens, Waterford and Wexford. Castlewellan, County Down, became the headquarters of the Annesley estate which encompassed somewhere around fifty townland's.

Viscount Francis Annesley married twice. The first to Dorothy Phillips in 1608 which resulted in 11 children followed by Jane Stanhope in 1624 which produced a further 9 children. The first child of the second marriage was the Hon Francis Annesley, born in 1628. It is not clear why he seems to have been the one chosen to inherit the family estate and pass it onto his descendants. 

The Hon Francis Annesley (the second Francis and son of Viscount Francis) was best known as a Member of Parliament in England and Ireland. It is believed he died at a reasonably young age although no specific date can be accurately identified. He married Deborah Jones in 1662 which followed with the birth of their only child, Francis (the third Francis), in1663.

Francis Annesley (the third Francis) followed very much in the footsteps of his father becoming a Member of Parliament in England and Ireland. Francis married Elizabeth Martin in 1695 and they had three sons. The first two became religious ministers; both completing doctorates and both achieving senior positions within the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. On his death in France in 1750, Francis’s youngest son William, born in 1710, inherited his father's Castlewellan estate.

Over several generations this branch of the Annesley family had a passion for building and gardening, and thanks to a succession of good marriages and the profits of law and public office, they had the means to indulge it. They built up a substantial estate in the south of County Down, with fine views of the Mourne Mountains.