Browne, Thomas Wogan (1758?–1812), whig politician, was the elder son of Michael Browne (d. c.1778), a French army colonel with a modest property, Castle Browne, near Clane in Co. Kildare, and of his cousin and wife Catherine, daughter and (with her sister Frances) co-heir of Col. Nicholas Wogan (d. 1757) of nearby Rathcoffey. He married Sarah Pearson (1768?–1857), ‘a lady of considerable property in Westmorland’ (Burke), described later by Martha McTier (qv) as an ‘agreeable little woman though an aristocrat’ (Agnew, ii, 394). The couple lived for some time in London. Succeeding to Castle Browne, Wogan Browne began in 1788 to enlarge and decorate it in the gothic style. The alteration of two other big houses in the Pale, Ballinlough, Co. Westmeath (the Nugents’) and Malahide Court, Co. Dublin (the Talbots’), ‘may also be attributed to him on account of their stylistic similarity and the fact that the three families were all interrelated’ (Rowan, 23).
Politically and socially he belonged to the group of liberal gentry in north Kildare headed by the 2nd duke of Leinster (qv) which favoured constitutional reform and catholic relief. It included Archibald Hamilton Rowan (qv), who in 1784 leased the Wogan demesne at Rathcoffey. Wogan Browne was brought up a catholic and played a part on the Catholic Committee (December 1779–March 1780 and December 1783–March 1785), but at about the time of his marriage conformed (nominally at least) to the established protestant church (October 1785), which enabled him to be high sheriff of Co. Kildare (1789 and 1790) and to play a part in local life and politics closed to him as a catholic. His political tendency was indicated by his election to the Whig Club (19 August 1789). When Theobald Wolfe Tone (qv) visited Castle Browne (9 September 1792) a toast was drunk to ‘the spirit of the French mob to the people of Ireland!’ and when Thomas Russell (qv) was there (December 1793) he was favourably impressed not only by the house and its ‘large and well chosen library’ but by Wogan Browne himself who, he recorded, ‘understands the art of living well the best of any man I have seen . . . His theory of politicks is very rational for a man of fortune’ (Woods, 139).
Browne was in the thick of local controversy in the years preceding the rebellion of 1798. With Valentine Lawless (qv) he drafted and circulated in Co. Kildare a petition upholding the whig position and challenging Dublin Castle, which had proclaimed the Carbury barony (May 1796). For kicking off at a football match frequented by United Irishmen he was reprimanded by the lord chancellor (early 1797) and the yeomanry corps he had formed was denounced to Dublin Castle as seditious (June 1797). Under suspicion of being a United Irishman – he was denounced as a United colonel by the informer Thomas Reynolds (qv) – he was obliged to have troops billeted on him at Castle Browne (by April 1798). During the rebellion he narrowly escaped with his life when he was manhandled by soldiers at Naas. But after its suppression he kept the castle informed of radical tendencies in his county. His politics were probably the reason he was dismissed from the magistracy in 1797 and again in 1810 (having been restored in 1806).
When Wogan Browne died (aged 53, in debt and by his own hand) on 14 March 1812, the burial of his remains was a matter of dispute between catholics and protestants, though he himself seems to have had little time for religion. As he died childless, Castle Browne passed to his younger brother, Michael Browne (d. 1824), a lieutenant-general in the Saxon army, aide-de-camp to the king (by whom he was created a baron), a representative of Saxony at Vienna in 1815 and afterwards governor of Dresden. Michael's second and third sons, Arthur and Francis, entered the Austrian service. Michael's eldest son, another Thomas Wogan Browne (1799–1877), obtained a commission in the British army (1819) and was at the Cape of Good Hope when he inherited Michael's Irish property (1825); Thomas had two sons, the elder of whom, Arthur, is ancestor of John Wogan Browne of Australia, now custodian of the family's history. The library at Castle Browne (6,000 volumes) was auctioned off (1812) and the house and demesne (137 acres) were sold (1814) to Peter Kenney (qv), the Jesuit priest whose community (which had been mortgagees of the property to the extent of £2,000), restoring the old name, Clongowes Wood, opened a school there. One of Wogan Browne's two sisters, Judith Browne (1750?–1848), was a Brigidine nun.