|Ownership of land|
With the adoption of surnames in the 11th century, land in this area was controlled by the O’Byrnes and the O’Tooles. Following the Norman Invasion in 1170, Myler Fitzhenry, one of Strongbow’s original invading army, gained possession of this land. Mylerstown gets its name from him.
Towards the end of the 15th century, most of the present parish of Allen was owned by a member of the Fitzgerald family. This family owned a castle in Kilmeague and castles at other locations, including Ballyteague and Blackwood.
The site where the Fitzgerald castle in Kilmeague was located
During the 16th century the Fitzgeralds were often referred to as the ‘Lords of Allen’. In 1641, Allen lands were in the possession of Maurice and Philip Fitzgerald and indeed, in 1649, a Cromwellian force under General Hewson attacked Kilmeague castle with a force of 1,000 horse and foot but could not take the castle, so instead he took Rathbride and Punchesgrange and placed a strong garrison there. The following year, Hewson returned with a stronger force but, on arrival, found that Philip Fitzgerald and his followers had destroyed the castle and fled. Charles II, on his restoration in 1660, wished to return the lands of Philip Fitzgerald who had an only child, a daughter Jane. Instead Philip petitioned that the land be granted to his son-in-law Captain Garret Aylmer, son and heir to Sir Andrew Aylmer, 2nd Baron of Donadea. This was sanctioned by the king in 1662.
The castle in what is now Donadea National Park
During the following years, much of the estate was sold to pay off family debts and there is no doubt that, when Sir Gerald George Aylmer succeeded his father as 8th Baron of Donadea in 1816, the estate was near bankruptcy. Until his death in 1878, Sir Gerald devoted his life to organising his estate and putting it back on a sound financial footing. Among his many achievements were the complete restoration of Donadea Castle, the construction of a new road from Donadea to Prosperous, the building of houses for his workers (e.g. the Range, Donadea) and a major drainage scheme of Rathangan’s river, the Slate. He also had an input into the building of Kilmeague village and, of course, the building of the tower on the Hill of Allen, often referred to as Aylmer’s Folly.
Due to his benevolence, the effects of the Great Famine were not as catastrophic in this area as in other parts of the country.
It can be assumed that the land for the Church of the Holy Trinity in Allen was donated by Sir Gerald.
The following return, made in April 1766, describes “the state of Popery” in this district as follows:
“In Pollardstown, one Protestant family, 13 Popish do[ditto]. In Kilmeague and Rathernan 45 Protestant individuals and 1,159 Popish.” – Signed by Jn. Jackson, Minister of said parishes.