A branch of the Kerdiff family of Meath settled in the area of Johnstown, Naas, possibly in the latter half of the fifteenth century. The main stock of the family belonged to Ratoath and the surrounding areas in Co. Meath. The Kerdiffs are recorded as being in the neighbourhood of Ratoath in the fourteenth century, which was the family burial-place. The name of the family is derived from Cardiff, in Wales, and in early times it always had the ‘de’ before it, signifying that the name was of Norman origin.
Richard Kerdiff was a juror on a County Kildare Exchequer Inquisition in 1535. His parents were Robert Kerdiff and Ann Eustace. The Eustaces were another Anglo-Norman family, who settled in the Ballymore area of Kildare, hence the name Ballymore-Eustace. Nicholas Kerdiff, son and heir of Richard, appears as a juror on a County Kildare Exchequer Inquisition in 1551. He married Anne Fitzgerald of Coolduff, Co. Dublin, a branch of the Fitzgeralds of Allen.
The Kerdiffs continued to hold Kerdiffstown through the seventeenth century even though a number of them were outlawed for complicity in the 1641 Rebellion. In Griffith’s Valuation (dated 1851) Hans Hendrick was occupying 619 acres at Kerdiffstown, although Lady Charlotte Wolfe was the ‘immediate lessor’. The Wolfes, of Fournoughts, Naas, were connected to the Hendrick family through the marriage, in 1758, of Mary, the only daughter of Thomas Wolfe, of Blackhall, Clane, to Charles Hendrick.
Kerdiffstown House subsequently passed to the Aylmers, of Courtown, Kilcock, when Charlotte Hendrick, daughter and heiress of Hans Hendrick, married Michael Aylmer in 1853. In 1889 the Kerdiffstown estates passed to Hans Hendrick Aylmer the son of Michael Aylmer. He married Florence Edwards of Ballyhire, Co. Wexford.
Kerdiffstown House, a three-storey stone house, over basement, was built in the 1800s. In 1883 the Kerdiffstown estate consisted of 3,088 acres. In the 1901 Census Hans Hendrick Aylmer was recorded as a Justice of the Peace and a retired Barrister at Law. The Aylmers had a governess for their three children, Muriel (11), Violet (9) and Gerald (3). In the 1911 Census the house was recorded as having six rooms and twenty-nine windows in the front; twelve stables, three coach-houses, a harness room, three cow houses, six calf houses, two piggeries, a dairy, a barn and two sheds.
In the 1911 Census Hans Hendrick and Florence Aylmer were recorded as living at Kerdiffstown with their two daughters, Muriel and Violet. They had three female servants, a cook and two housemaids; staff was down from 1901 when they had five servants. Their son, Second-Lieutenant Gerald Hans Hendrick, was killed in action, in France, on 16 April 1917, while serving with the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was aged nineteen and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, France.
The mansion, along with 600 acres of land was sold by Lt. Colonel Richard M. Aylmer, in March 1938, to the Dominican Order of Nuns. It subsequently became a convent when a chapel was built in 1953 to one side of the front. A Chapter Room and Sacristies were also added. Sometime later an incongruous modern porch was added to the central bow.
Kerdiffstown House went up for auction in September 1966; two years later it was made available to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul for use as a holiday centre. In 1972 sixty-five people fleeing 12 July celebratory violence in Belfast were placed at the holiday centre. Again in 1979 Kerdiffstown was made available to refugees – ‘boat people’ from Vietnam.
Built originally as a family home for a landed and well-off family the use of Kerdiffstown House has come full circle as since the late 1960s the St. Vincent de Paul Society has used Kerdiffstown as a centre to provide holidays for people who otherwise might not have one at all.
Courtesy of the Local Studies Dept Newbridge Library (through James Durney)
James Durney (born 1962 in his hometown of Naas, Co.Kildare, Ireland) is an award winning Irish author, local and military historian and historical consultant.