From the Newcastle Courant, 21 February 1747:
“Last Sunday was interred in a Vault in St George’s Church, the Remains of William Flemming, Esq, commonly called Lord Slane, who had an annual Pension of £300 from his Majesty. The Defunct’s Uncle had the Misfortune to be so attached to the Interest of King James the 2nd, that he forfeited a hereditary Estate of £24,000 a Year, and followed his unfortunate Majesty to France, where, not meeting with the Usage he expected, he made a Tour to Spain, where he got a Regiment, which he kept not very long, but, being piqued, went to England, where he had the Honour of kissing the Hand of Queen Anne, who gave him a Pension, and a Regiment on the Irish Establishment; soon after which he died in private Lodgings on the Inns-Quay. The deceased William being sorely afflicted that he has lost one of the finest estates in Ireland, by his Uncle’s folly, often not used to contradict the Saying of Mr Dryden, that Lands and Tenements can’t commit Treason. He was so chagrined by the Events, that he lived for some Years in a most obscure Manner in the Isle of Man, till not very long since he returned to his native soil…”
The Lord Slane who supported James II and then changed his mind before dying in lodgings on the Inns Quay was Christopher Fleming, 17th Baron Slane, who served as a colonel in the forces of James II during the 1689-91 war in Ireland, flighting at the Battle of the Boyne and Battle of Aughrim. Unfortunately for him, by the time he made his peace with Queen Anne, Slane Castle had been handed over to the Conyngham family, who still retain it today.
Christopher died in 1726, and his heir was indeed his nephew William Fleming, whose son, the last Baron Slane, who left a daughter, thereby ending the line. In the 1830s, George Byran of Jenkinstown, Kilkenny, made an unsuccessful claim to the title. Bryan, ‘the wealthiest commoner in Ireland,’ who kept a wife at 12 Henrietta Street and a mistress in Mountjoy Square, was a trustee of the Catholic parish of St Michan’s; his family arms were emblazoned on its chapel.
If the Inns Quay in which the ill-fated 17th Baron Slane resided at the time of his death in 1726 was not a particularly salubrious place, he had only himself to blame. The old Inns of Court there had never recovered from its garrisoning by the army in which he had been a colonel prior to the Battle of the Boyne. During its time on the site, James II not only attended Mass in the old Mass Lane church nearby but held a Parliament in the Inns in which he appeared in Royal State, seated on a throne and wearing a crown and robes.
After the victory of William III, the Benchers of the Honourable Society of King’s Inns returned, with the Inns of Court buildings being used for dining purposes, judges’ chambers and court offices throughout the 18th century.
But the site also comprised a large vacant area, on which fragments of the old cloisters of the preceding St Saviour’s Priory could still be seen. At the time of Slane’s death, Thomas Elrington was both Steward of the Inns of Court and Deputy Master of the Revels in Ireland; many entertainments were held in those cloisters during his tenure. Later in the 18th century, Mr Zechariah Foxall, carpenter, used this area as his timber yard, and it was on at least one occasion let out for equestrian displays by the famous Philip Astley, of Astley’s Amphitheatre.
There was worst to come! By the mid 18th century, much of the Inns of Court site had become ‘the haunt of prostitutes and thieves.’
But as readers of this site will know, Inns Quay, downtrodden as it was for most of the 18th century, had – unlike poor Lord Slane – its best days still to come!