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Light in the Forest - The Story of Coollattin, 1633-2019

Light in the Forest

The Story of Coollattin, 1633-2019

By Kevin Lee
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Paperback : 9781771124607, 350 pages, November 2020

Table of contents



Titles, Lords of Coollattin and their Agents



1. Black Tom

2. A Thousand Pikes

3. Legacy of 1798

4. 1800 & Froze-to-Death

5. Poor Laws and Workhouses

6. In Sight But Not In Hand 

7. The Matter of Education

8. Men of Many Parts

9. Let Justice Be Done

10. A Kinder Way Out

11. Life at Sea

12. Recrossing

13. The Longest Serving Earl

14. The Legend of Sentiment

15. Frank Brooke & the IRA

16. Lady Juliet

Appendix A—Administrative Divisions in Ireland

Appendix B—Coollattin House

Appendix C—Class Structure on the Estate

Appendix D—Iron Smelting at Coollattin

Appendix E—Woodland Management at Coollattin

Appendix F—Ulster Custom at Coollattin 

Appendix G—Carnew Endowed School: Educating the Privileged

Appendix H—Sources 

The story of an Irish estate and its families over the centuries.


Light in the Forest tells the story of Coollattin, in County Wicklow, for 386 years one of Ireland’s most successful commercial and social enterprises. As with most holdings of landed families in Ireland, the estate was an agricultural business that depended on the labour of its inhabitants for revenue. What distinguishes this estate, however, is that the landowners—the Wentworths, Rockinghams, and Fitzwilliams—were, within the framework of enterprise, progressive, attentive, respectful of, and grateful for the industry, ingenuity, and loyalty of their tenants.

Kevin Lee, historian and lifelong resident of Coollattin, consulted multiple hitherto unpublished primary sources, finding records in the National Library of Ireland and in the UK National Archives of thousands of decisions made to benefit the families of the lands. He details the estate’s impact on its tenants through events such as the 1798 Rebellion, the Napoleonic Wars, potato famines, and the ongoing struggle for Irish independence. The author’s findings run contrary to the oft-quoted stereotypical image of Irish landlords and their estate agents.