History of the Foster family




The Foster family came from Cumberland in England around the 1660s; and settled at Stonehouse near Dunleer, Co. Louth. Samuel Foster’s name appeared in the hearth money return for Dunleer parish in 1666.


Samuel’s son Col. Anthony Foster (died 1722), a small farmer with a tenancy of 270 acres, was named as one of the thirteen original burgesses by the charter of Dunleer Borough in 1683.


Col. Anthony’s son, John (b 1665) married Mary Fortescue in 1704; she was first cousin to William Henry Fortescue, High Sheriff of Louth (1746) and became first Earl of Clermont in 1777. John managed to acquire an estate of over 6000 acres by his death in 1747. Much of the land they acquired belonged to the Moore family of Ardee, a branch of the Earls of Drogheda, including the estate in Dunleer and the Estate in Collon where John’s son Anthony Foster (1705-1779), built Collon House in 1740. The Foster Estate which was famous for its great variety of trees and shrubs was started by Anthony and his son, John “Speaker“ Foster who was equally enthusiastic about the planting, introducing the copper beech variety to Ireland.


The Fosters gained control of a Parliamentary seat in the Borough of Dunleer through the Tenison family. Anthony married his first wife, Elizabeth Burgh in 1736, for whom Burgh Quay on Dublin’s River Liffey

was named. Anthony Foster was the first of the family to be elected to the Irish House of Commons when returned for Dunleer in 1737. The Fosters retained the seat until the Act of Union in 1801. From 1760 to

1766 Anthony held the Office of the First Counsel to the Commissioners of the Revenue, and in the latter years he was appointed Lord Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer.


Anthony’s son, John was born in 1740 and enjoyed a particularly successful political career, he was MP

for Dunleer from 1761 to 1768, and MP for Co. Louth from 1768 to 1821 when he was elevated to the Peerage as Baron Oriel of Ferrard in the County of Louth. He was also Chancellor of the Exchequer for a short time

in 1784-85, and Speaker of the Irish House of Commons between 1785 and 1800.

John Foster was married in 1764 to his first cousin, Margaretta Burgh, daughter of his Mothers only Brother. Margaretta was created Baroness Oriel in 1790 and Viscountess Ferrard in 1797, both in the peerage of Ireland. John & Margaretta had three children, Anna, John and Thomas-Henry.


After the abolition of the Irish Parliament he twice served as Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer at Westminster (1804-06 and 1807-11), and then ended his career as Father of the House of Commons.

He was also the Anglo-Irish Ascendency’s most effective spokesman against Catholic Emancipation. John was also a leading light in Dublin society, and president of the farming society, in the 1790’s he played a

key role in the formation of the Botanical Gardens at Glasnevin, Dublin.


During the 1780’s John built a lakeside garden folly near Collon House, which later became known as Oriel Temple, by 1812 he had extended the building extensively and taken up permanent residence there. (Now the Cistercian Abbey, greatly altered)


John Foster developed the linen industry in the area, building mills and encouraging Protestant weavers to settle in Collon. However the costs of this were enormous and the family were still paying heavy interest on the loans that they took out to purchase their estate in the first place. By 1810, Speaker Foster’s debts were estimated at £72,000


Speaker Foster’s only surviving son Col. Thomas Henry (b1772, d1843) was MP for Dunleer 1792-1800, Drogheda 1807-12, and Co. Louth 1821-24,  and was also a Colonel in the Louth Militia 1793-1816, and Governor of Co. Louth    1803-43, succeeding his Mother as Viscount Ferrard in 1824. He married Harriet Skeffington, daughter and heiress presumptive of the 4th Earl Massereene in 1810. The death of the 4th Earl in 1816 without male issue allowed Harriet to succeed in her own right as Viscountess Massereene and the Viscountcy along with the substantial estate descended through her. The Massereene marriage coupled with the mounting debts of the Collon estate caused the focus of the Fosters to move away from their estates in Counties Meath and Louth to Antrim Castle.


Thomas Henry’s grandson, the 12th Viscount Massereene was Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and a member of the Northern Ireland Senate from 1921 until 1929. Lord Massereene, his family and a house party were present in Antrim Castle when it was burned by the IRA in 1922; the Louth/Meath estate was eventually broken up by the Land Commission.


Bed & Breakfast in Slane, Bed & Breakfast in Collon, Bed & Breakfast in Meath, Bed & Breakfast in Drogheda, Bed & Breakfast in Louth, Bed & Breakfast in Slane, Bed & Breakfast in Collon