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Oldbridge House and the slave trade...

Oldbridge House and Battle of the Boyne Visitors Centre, situated along the southern banks of the Great Boyne River in County Meath, attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year from at home and overseas, The following article - by Community Historian Brendan Matthews - and published in the Journal of the Old Drogheda Society Vol. No. 22 in 2016 - takes a brief look at the origins of Oldbridge House and Estate and the wider connection with the family of Oldbridge House and the slave trade of the West Indies...

Dixie Coddington was born in the year 1665. He was the son of Nicholas Coddington and Anne Dixie who resided at Holm Patrick in Skerries in Co. Dublin. Records show that Dixie Coddington`s Grandfather, William Coddington, had been resident at Holm Patrick in the mid 1650`s and had held the position of High Sheriff of Co. Wicklow in 1656; William died at Holm Patrick in 1657.

Dixie Coddington took part in the Battle of the Boyne on the side of King William in 1690 and in 1695, while still residing at Skerries, he held the position of High Sheriff of Co. Dublin. On the 16th February 1710, John Coddington, son of Dixie, married Frances Osborne of Dardistown Castle, near Julianstown Co. Meath and in 1725 John Coddington was made High Sheriff of Co. Meath.

Four years later, in 1729, this same John Coddington purchased the lands at Oldbridge on the south bank of the River Boyne from the Earl of Drogheda, Viscount Moore of Mellifont and so began the Coddington and Oldbridge Estate; the family to remain here until around 1981. 1.

John Coddington and Frances Osborne had only one child, a son, whom they also called John, however, tragedy was to strike the family in the last days of September 1737, when, at the age of just 22 years old, John Coddington was drowned in the Boyne River at Oldbridge while he was attempting to cross the river to the north bank to meet up with some friends to go hunting. According to contemporary reports, Coddington attempted to get into a small boat when his footing slipped and he was swept quickly away by the strong current. 2.

Following the drowning of young John Coddington in the Boyne in 1737, the Oldbridge Estate then passed down through a Henry Coddington, uncle of John Coddington, then to Henry's son, Nicholas and then to Henry-Barry Coddington, son of Nicholas. Henry-Barry Coddington was born on May 22nd in the year 1802; he was the eldest son of Nicholas Coddington and Laetitia Barry. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin and at Cambridge University in England. He married Maria Crawford, daughter of William Crawford of Bangor Co. Down on September 26th in 1827. 3

It was during Daniel O'Connell's struggle and fight for a Repeal of the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland in the month of November 1830 when Henry Barry Coddington of Oldbridge House signed his name to what was termed, `The Protestant Declaration of Loyal Gentlemen in Ireland to the Crown of England. 4.

Daniel O'Connell was also a very strong advocate of anti-slavery, constantly denouncing it from the early 1820`s and following the announcement of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, the English Government finally abolished the Act on August 1st of 1834. However, with the abolition of slavery, the Government also paid in excess of £20 million in what was termed the `loss of their property` and this exceptionally generous payment, was paid to many members of the English and Irish establishment including M.P`s, Peers and Archbishops among others.

Daniel O'Connell protested vigorously against such a compensation payment and requested that all the names of those who were to receive payment be made public. Finally, a parliamentary Return of 1837-38 and which was over 300 pages long, presented the list of names of those who made claims for payments. 5.

Among the Irish claimants for compensation payment for `loss of property`, i.e. slaves, was Mr Henry-Barry Coddington of Oldbridge House Drogheda Co. Meath. Coddington was also the owner of a vast Estate called Creighton Hall in the parish of St. Davids in Jamaica where he was recorded as the `Master` to 235 enslaved individuals. 6.

Coddington`s claim was dealt with on March 21st 1836, where he was seeking a compensation payment of £4532 14 shillings and 7 pennies for the loss of the 235 slaves. The payment was however, contested and a counterclaim was made by two trustees named as Robert Snow and William Curtis and although it was clearly shown that it was certainly Coddington who was the `owner` of the slaves, he was unsuccessful in his claim for the compensation.7.

Historical Researchers at University College London have looked through the Parliamentary Return records of all the Slave Owners of both Britain and Ireland and have concluded that almost 100 individuals, either born and/or based in Ireland had benefited directly from the slave compensation claims compared to only 36 individuals in Wales, 394 in Scotland and 1,879 in England. 8.

Henry-Barry Coddington went on to become High Sheriff of Co. Meath in the 1840`s.

On Sunday, January 16th 1848 while he was returning home to Oldbridge from `Divine Service` in nearby Drogheda, he was apprehended on the road close to his home by two highway robbers named Parland and Dignam and while they were attempting to rob him, Coddington lashed out with his horsewhip and levelled one of the robbers to the ground. A shot was then fired at Coddington, but missed him and both Parland and Dignam took to their heels. 9. Parland and Dignam remained at large until March 8th 1848 when they were eventually captured in Co. Louth by the military who had relentlessly pursued the men on the direct orders of Coddington. 10.

Yet another tragic death was to affect the Coddington Estate in late September 1866 when it was announced that;

`The son of Henry B. Coddington died by shooting with a pistol. Inquest found that "Death resulted from a pistol wound inflicted on himself while in a state of temporary insanity`. 11.

Henry-Barry Coddington of Oldbridge House & Estate, High Sheriff of Co. Meath, Justice of the Peace, Loyal Protestant Gent to the English Crown and `Master` of 235 Enslaved souls at Creighton Hall St. David`s in Jamaica, died in the year 1888 aged 86 years old.

End-notes

1. A genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry of Ireland, 1912, Bernard Burke; see also; The Peerage. A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe. http://www.thepeerage.com/p36683.htm Person Pages 36681, 36683, 36684 & 36689. Website viewed Saturday September 24th2016.

2. Newcastle Currant Sat. Oct 1st 1737.

3. The Peerage. A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe, http://www.thepeerage.com/p36683.htm Person Page, 36689. Website viewed Saturday September 24th2016.

4. Dublin Evening Packet & Correspondence newspaper Tuesday Nov. 16th 1830.

5. The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (citation 3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73)

6. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/project/research (Website viewed Saturday September 24th2016.

7. Enslaved Claim details of associated individuals & estates 21st march 1836. Claim Notes: T71/866:+ T71/144 p. 3: parliamentary papers p.298. 8. `Legacies of British Slave Ownership`. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/16907 Website viewed Saturday September 24th 2016.

9. Dublin Evening Mail Monday 24th January 1848.

10. Newry Examiner & Louth Advertiser Wed. march 15th 1848.

11. Dublin Evening mail Friday 28th Sep. 1866.

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