Roger Boyle and the founding of Charleville
Charleville was founded upon the laying of the foundation stone of Charleville House on May 29th 1661. The man responsible was Roger Boyle better known as Lord Broghill, 1st Earl of Orrery. Son of the First Earl of Cork, Richard Boyle, Roger largely spent his formative years abroad. His father had acquired much wealth in land speculation during the reign of Elizabeth I and had bequeathed the title of Lord Broghill upon his son at the age of seven.
When Oliver Cromwell came to power in the 1640s, Boyle had evidently inherited his father’s opportunist streak and joined Cromwell’s ranks in Ireland upon noticing that the fortunes of war appeared to be in Cromwell’s favour and aided the puritans in their conquest of Ireland in 1649-53. Some ten years later, when the monarchy was once again restored in England, Lord Broghill was one of the first to submit to King Charles II. Broghill was thus awarded with the job of Lord President of Munster by the King. Owning large tracts of lands centrally located at Broghill and Rathgoggan, he decided to build his court and residence here.
In a letter to the Duke of Ormond dated the 11th of December 1661, he stated,
"I am now building a house for myself in Munster, of which I am the architect, and therefore pretend something of engineership, by virtue of which I spent an hour yesterday in designing....”
Two years later he wrote about his aspirations in having his new town of Charleville, named in honour of King Charles II, officially recognised by the crown.
"This 11th. December from Charleville, which is the name some godfathers have given the new house. I am now in, for the foundation of it was laid on 29th May, 1661. I hope by your grace’s favour to get it made a borough, and have the borough bear that name, it being called by the heathenish name of Rathgoggane. I admit neither presbyter, papist, independent, nor any other sort of fanatics to plant there, but all good old protestants, and am setting up manufactories of linen and woollen cloths, and all other good trades.”
The town was subsequently created a borough in June 1671, to be governed by a sovereign, tow bailiffs and twelve burgesses, who were to be a body corporate. The borough was able to return two members to parliament.
Lord Broghill died at Castlemartyr in 1679. The great house which be built in Charleville was to survive just eleven more years. In 1690, at the height of the Williamite Wars, the Duke of Berwick and his forces left Limerick for Cork after successfully defending the city from the Williamite army. Having learned that Cork had already been taken, he returned to Limerick via Charleville from Kanturk.
He and his soldiers were well received by the staff of Charleville House although no Boyle was in residence. They drank much wine and before departing, the Duke ordered the mansion to be set on fire. The ruined mansion provided the building materials for much of the present-day town of Charleville. Moatville House now occupies the site of Boyle’s stately mansion.