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Brazeel House, Swords, Co. Dublin

Brazeel House, also known as Brazil House, was a significant historical residence located to the west of Brackenstown House, near the old road to Drogheda in Swords, County Dublin. The house was situated in an area rich with history, dating back to at least the 14th century when Sir Elias Ashbourne held various lands in the vicinity, including Brackenstown, in 1359.

The Bolton Family

Brazeel House was primarily associated with the Bolton family, who owned the property from the early 17th century until its destruction in the 19th century. One of the most notable residents was Sir Richard Bolton, who served as Lord Chancellor of Ireland in the 1640s.

Sir Edward Bolton, son of Sir Richard, also lived in Brazeel House. He had a prominent legal career, serving as Solicitor General for Ireland and later as Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer. Edward Bolton was attainted in King James II’s parliament for his support of King William, demonstrating the family’s involvement in the political upheavals of the time.

Notable Visitors and Historical Events

Brazeel House witnessed several significant historical events and hosted many notable figures:

  • Owen Roe O’Neill, the Irish Catholic general, encamped here with Sir Thomas Esmonde and their royalist forces in November 1647.
  • Oliver Cromwell reportedly stayed at Brazeel House.
  • After the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, King James II retreated past Brazeel House.
  • On the night of James II’s defeat, his son, the Duke of Berwick, rallied about 7,000 infantry near the house for a last stand against William of Orange. However, most of this force dispersed during the night.

The Molesworth Connection

While not directly related to Brazeel House, the nearby Brackenstown House was the residence of the Molesworth family. Viscount Robert Molesworth, who was attainted in King James’s parliament, later became an ambassador and was elevated to the Irish peerage. He wrote influential works on agriculture and the employment of the poor in Ireland, advocating for various reforms in land management and education.

Decline and Destruction

Brazeel House was largely destroyed by fire in 1810 (some sources say 1812). A unique portrait of Sir Richard Bolton is said to have been lost in this fire. The ruins of the house remained visible for many years afterward, described as a picturesque sight to travelers passing from Brackenstown.

Legacy and Modern Connections

Though Brazeel House no longer stands, its legacy lives on through historical records and unexpected family connections. One such connection links the house to modern-day celebrity:

Dame Judi Dench, the acclaimed British actress, discovered through genealogical research that she has ancestral ties to Brazeel House. Her great-great-grandmother, Eleanor Francis Bolton, who was born in 1802, spent her childhood in the rarefied surroundings of Brazeel House. This connection was revealed during Dame Judi’s appearance on the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?”, where she learned about her mother’s mysterious Irish roots.


Though Brazeel House no longer stands, its legacy lives on through historical records. The site serves as a reminder of Ireland’s rich architectural heritage and the complex interplay of politics, law, and society in Irish history from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

The history of Brazeel House is intertwined with the broader history of the area, including the nearby Brackenstown House and the various families who shaped the region’s development over the centuries. From the Ashbournes in the 14th century to the Boltons and Molesworths in later centuries, the area around Brazeel House has been a witness to significant events in Irish history.

Brazeel House, Swords, before its demolition.

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