The Murphys of Carlow, the Langtons of Kilkenny and Cardinal Stephen Langton

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Family legend, passed down through generations in Australia, is that the Dunne family (descendants of Patrick Dunne and Jane Murphy) in Australia is descended from Sir John Langton, nephew of Stephen Langton. Stephen Langton is famous in English history as one of the key people who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in the year 1215, acknowledged even today as the first and most important step in containing the power of the absolute monarch and the evolution of modern parliamentary democracy.

The Langton Family Tree, as handed down through Dunne family in Australia

Several family members provided a copy of a pedigree document of the Langton family of Kilkenny, tracing back to Stephen Langton; it includes a reference to being prepared at Dublin Castle. There had been a suggestion that Jane Murphy, a member of the extended Langton family, brought the original document with her when she came to Australia. However, the document has entries relating to one branch of the family up to 1864. The document may have been posted to her from family in Ireland or somebody else may have obtained it in an attempt to prove a link. It does not clarify how Jane Murphy might have been related to the Langtons of Kilkenny.

The late Jeremiah (Jerry) Langton of Palmerstown, Dublin, had researched Langton family history and he brought to attention an essay Memorials of the Family of Langton of Kilkenny by John G.A.Prim who was a noted historical researcher in the 19th century. The paper was originally published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (R.S.A.I.)[1]

Prim wrote

There is on record in the office of Ulster King of Arms, Dublin Castle, a pedigree of the Langtons of Kilkenny, which, if one were satisfied as to its perfect authenticity, would leave nothing for speculation as to the origin of the family, as it deduces them in regular succession from a Sir John Langton of Langton in Yorkshire - there stated to have been the nephew of the famous Cardinal Stephen - in the beginning of the thirteenth century, to Nicholas fitz Michael Langton, who emigrated from Kilkenny to Spain in the beginning of the last century. This pedigree, however, I am assured by Mr William Langton of Manchester, who has carefully examined it, many descendants have indirectly honoured her memory with this decidedly incorrect in the early descents at least, the first three of which given are of the Langtons of Yorkshire, in no way connected with the Lancashire family, from whom the Kilkenny Langtons have always claimed, and apparently with the fullest propriety, to be derived. Giving up, therefore, all the English genealogy as fable, which the details in the notes to this paper compel me to do, I consider that we may safely assume the Irish portion of the pedigree to be authentic; and on that authority we have John, the third son of Richard Langton, Esq, fitz John, of Low, in Lancashire, coming into this country in the year 1486, a political fugitive from the punishment likely to be inflicted by the Crown on those who supported the pretensions of Simnel or Warbeck to the throne of England. Having settled in Kilkenny, he there married, in the year 1491, Lettice, daughter of Jenkin Rothe, of Callan, a member of the opulent and respectable mercantile family of Rothe, of Kilkenny; and had issue three sons and a daughter, viz., Richard, Edward, George and Lettice. From the eldest son, Richard, the curious family record which it is intended here to print as the most important of the existing memorials of the Langtons of Kilkenny, clearly deduces the head branch of the family, which subsequently settled in Cadiz, in Spain, and more recently in the city of Bath, in England.

The paper continues with a detailed discussion of the claimed lineage of the Langtons of Kilkenny.

Pedigree of Langtons of Kilkenny as originally issued

It is not certain where Jane Murphy's family might fit into the lineage. From the persistence of the legend in different branches of the family in Australia (e.g. both the descendants of her eldest son Peter Augustus Dunne and descendants of one of the youngest children, Edmund Charles Dunne who was twenty years younger than his older brother), it seems that Jane must have been quite certain of a link with the Langtons of Kilkenny. The name "Langton" continues as an honoured family name in various branches of Jane's descendants in Australia. However, with benefit of further research, a possible link now seems quite uncertain.


While information is not currently available to prove Jane's connection to the Langtons, a possible way is this : Michael Langton (1663-1737) married Eleanor, daughter of Perce Rothe in 1703. There are 13 children shown on the pedigree chart; more information is provided about the sons:

  • Nicholas Langton (1705-1779) who moved to Cadiz in Spain where he married and later died;
  • Peter Langton (1709-1797) who also married in Cadiz in Spain and was buried in the cathedral in Cordova;
  • Edmund (1711-1717);
  • John (1715-1717);
  • William (1716-unknown);
  • John (1718-1718);
  • Matthew (1720-1734);

The daughters are identified only by name

  • Jane
  • Mary
  • Cornelia
  • Anne
  • Rose
  • Margaret

Prim's article quotes an item written by Michael Langton stating My daughter Margaret :Langton was marryed , in this house, to Mr William Murphy, of Gralgara, February yo 11th 1745-6. My Memorials of the Family of Langton of Kilkenny Grandson Edward Murphy was born the 7th June 1747. Prim goes on to write There were several other children; but Edward the eldest went to Spain, and became a propserous merchant in Cadiz. There he married his cousin Josepha Langton; ... As shown below, that marriage took place in 1765. Edward and Josepha had eight children with six of them dying in early childhood. The two surviving children were

  • Edward J. Murphy of Castle Annaghs; Edward "became embarrassed in his circumstances, and lost the property acquired by his father, which was sold to pay his creditors, he himself dying in the debtors prison, in London, in 1841" (quoted from Prim).
  • Frances, who married Thomas Fitzgerald, Esq., and died at Caen, in Normandy leaving five children.

One suggestion in the Australian family was that Jane's father Laurence Murphy was the son of Edward Murphy and Josepha Langton. The above information indicates that this could not be so.

The dates of some of the above events are unknown; it is unclear if Edward the son of Edward Murphy and Josepha Langton had any children and, if so, when they were born. If Edward were the eldest child and was born shortly after the marriage, and he married young giving birth to a son who happened to be called Laurence and who also married young, it is just possible that this could explain a link; but there seem to be too many "ifs" and, subject to locating family records, it is an unlikely explanation.

It is also possible that, rather than be descended from Edward Murphy who had married his cousin Josepha Langton, Jane was descended from another child of Margaret Langton and William Murphy of Gralgara. If Edward, born 1747 was the eldest, it is quite possible that the younger children included a son named Laurence. Records of these branches of the family have not yet been located. Until records can be located, it remains just conjecture.


CLAIMED ENGLISH LINEAGE - almost certainly wrong

STEPHEN LANGTON Doctor and professor at the University of Paris and Chancellor of same. Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal in 1206. He was a personal friend of Pope Innocent III. He was a celebrated writer and reckoned to be one of the most learned men of his time. Was present at Runnymede in 1215 when King John signed the Magna Carta.

SIR JOHN LANGTON, of Langton in Yorkshire, was nephew of Stephen Langton. In 1216 he married Margaret, daughter and co-heir of Sir John Nevil

THOMAS LANGTON, Lord of Farnly (or Farnley ?) & Huddlestone, was son of Sir John Langton. Thomas married Margaret, daughter of John de la Pont Esq. He died in 1280.

JOHN LANGTON, of Langton, was son of Thomas Langton, and also became Lord of Farnley & Huddlestone. John senior reported to have married Anastatia, daughter of John Vavasor of Weston, Esq. in 1240 (but this date is only 24 years after the marriage of his grandfather, therefore seems irregular).

RICHARD LANGTON, second son of John Langton, married Margaret, daughter of John Langton, the Baron of Walton, Lincolnshire.

JOHN LANGTON fitz RICHARD, the son of Richard and Margaret Langton, settled in Lowe in county Lancaster and adopted his mother's coat-of-arms (Langton of Lincolnshire). He married Margaret, daughter of William Rothe, of Haverford West in Wales.

RICHARD LANGTON fitz JOHN, was son of John Langton fitzRichard. Richard was reported to have died in 1483, more than two hundred and forty years after his great grandfather's marriage date; therefore appears irregular. Although if that date is wrong, his death would have been 264 years after the marriage of his great great great grandfather and it is possible that only five generations link this time period. Reported to have married an unnamed daughter of John Langton of Lincolnshire, Esq.

CLAIMED IRISH LINEAGE - possibly correct but no apparent connections

JOHN LANGTON, also identified as Langton FitzJohn, third son of Richard Langton fitz John, moved to Ireland in 1486 to avoid the fate of those who adhered to the House of York, and took part with Lambert Simuel and Perkin Warbeck or Warbeck, settling in Kilkenny. In Kilkenny, he married Letice, daughter of Jenkin Rothe, of Callan Esq. (also reported to be the ancestor of "General Roth" (whoever he was))

RICHARD LANGTON fitz JOHN was son of John Langton. He married Isabel (also identified as Elizabeth Isabel), daughter of William Blanchville. Richard died in 1566 and is buried with his father in the family's monument in St John's Abbey, Kilkenny. His wife lived until 1604.

NICHOLAS LANGTON fitz RICHARD was born in 1562, son of Richard Langton FitzJohn. In 1588, he married his first wife Lettice, daughter of William Daniel of Kilkenny; she bore eleven children and died 3 September 1604 and was buried in St. John's Abbey. The following year, 1605, he married his second wife NICOLASA, daughter of Patrick Archer fitz Edward of Kilkenny. One report states that Nicholas and Lettice were "in the third or fourth degree of kindred" but obtained a dispensation from Malachy Malsony, Bishop of Quam. Nicolasa (in another place referred to as Nicolle) bore him fourteen children. Nicolasa died in 1623 and is buried in St John's Abbey. In 1609 Nicholas went to London and obtained a charter to elevate Kilkenny to the status of a city and, in 1610, Nicholas was elected mayor of Kilkenny. His year of death is uncertain, possibly 1632.

Nicholas' onetime residence was preserved and housed a restaurant in the early days of the 21st century: The renovated 16th century house off the High Street in Kilkenny in which Pordylos is based was a originally owned by English merchant Nicholas Langton, who married into an Irish merchant family and kept two wives and twenty children! The charm of the building has been maintained with the original stonework and beamed ceiling giving the first floor dining area an open and airy feel.[2]

JAMES LANGTON of Grenan, born 27 September 1589, son of Nicholas and Lettice, married Mary Anne, daughter of John Rothe of Kilree. James' estate at Grenan, the Castle and appurtenances and many other lands and houses were fortified soon after 1644 by Cromwell's Commissioners. (Grenan in Kilkenny is now known as Thomastown.[3])

MICHAEL LANGTON of Kilkenny, son of James and Mary Anne, married Anne (who was daughter of William Murphy; she was born 4 February 1629 and died 8 June 1687). Michael died on 9 December 1683. (If this and the date below are both correct, Michael died two days after his son).

NICHOLAS LANGTON (born 27 September 1631) was son of Michael and Anne. On 2 October 1659, he married Jane, daughter of William Slee of Clone who had died in 1657. Jane died in 1716. Nicholas and Jane were parents of 15 children. Nicholas was banished by Cromwell to Ballankire (or Ballanakill). In 1649 he was taken by the Moors on his return from France and remained a captive for three years and four months. Nicholas was sold for 360 crowns but made his escape to a Spanish garrison 5 leagues away and was sent by the Spaniards to Cadiz. He returned to Kilkenny in 1682, died 7 December 1683 and was buried St John's Abbey, Kilkenny.

MICHAEL LANGTON, born 1663, son of Nicholas and Jane, married Elinor, daughter of Pierce Rothe on 21 October 1703.

NICHOLAS LANGTON, son of Michael and Elinor, born 1705 and died 1779. Married Frances, daughter of Lorenzo Carew.

JOSEPHA LANGTON, daughter of Nicholas and Frances, was born in 1748. On 28 July 1765, in Cadiz in Spain, she married Edward Murphy of Jenkinstown, Co. Kilkenny. (Edward was born in 1747 and died in 1826). The following appeared in Faulkner's Dublin Journal edition dated Tues 3 Sep 1765 - Sat 7 Sept 1765 :

Mr. Edward MURPHY, of Jenkinstown, in the County of Kilkenny, at Cadiz in Spain the 28th of July last to Miss Josepha LANGTON, Daughter of Nicholas LANGTON, Esq. of that Place with a Fortune of £20,000.[4]

EDWARD MURPHY, son of Josepha Langton and Edward Murphy. Date of birth unknown; died in debtors prison in London in 1841. May have had son named Laurence.


MARGARET LANGTON, daughter of Michael and Elinor, date of birth unknown. Married William Murphy, of Gralgara, February yo 11th 1745-6. Records yet to be located, but possibly mother or grandmother of Laurence Murphy and grandmother or great-grandmother of Jane Murphy.

The name "Laurence" seems to appear in the Langton family only after Nicholas Langton (1705-1779) married Frances, the daughter of Lorenzo of Cadiz. If this impression is correct, it is perhaps more likely that Laurence Murphy was descended through this branch of the family. In Australia, Jane Murphy's second son was also named Laurence.


A link between Laurence Murphy (possibly born in approx. 1783) and the Langton family may eventually be proven or it may never be demonstrated.

Whatever might eventually be shown about a link between the family of Jane Murphy and the Langtons of Kilkenny, it seems that a link between the Langtons of Kilkenny and the famous Cardinal Stephen Langton of Magna Carta fame is unlikely to be correct and is probably the product of someone's enthusiasm to prove a link with a famous historical character of the same surname.

Laurence Murphy married Anne Bergan and their offspring include Mary Murphy and Jane Murphy. In repeating the claimed link, Jane Murphy would have been repeating (in good faith) the story she had been told, untrue though it now seems. None of the many children she bore was given the name "Langton". It does not appear in her family until it was given to some of her grandchildren. This suggests that she was unaware of any connection for much of her life and did not receive information about the purported link until late in her life. This is consistent with the information being disseminated and then discredited in Ireland in the period around the 1860s - Jane, who died in 1873 in faraway New South Wales, was part of the dissemination but never knew that the purported pedigree was largely discredited.

Family descendants who have been given the "Langton" name might be disappointed by what is written above. However they might also carry the name with pride because it provides a link to Jane (Murphy) Dunne, one of their early ancestors in Australia. It would have been important to Jane to know that so many descendants have indirectly honoured her memory with this name.


  1. Prim, J.G.A. Memorials of the Family of Langton of Kilkenny, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (R.S.A.I.), 8, (1864): 59-108. It is understood that copies of the journal may be available for reference in some university libraries in Ireland or through the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland at 63 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.
  2. from website which has since removed the information about Pordylos restaurant.

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