The Brodricks, the ‘bribe’ and the borough of Midleton – Lunchtime talk in Midleton Library.

Alan Brodrick (1656?-1727), 1st Viscount Midleton, former Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Alan Brodrick (1656?-1727), 1st Viscount Midleton, former Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Who were the Brodricks of Midleton? Where did they come from? How did they get the land on which Midleton now stands? What was this ‘bribe’?  What did the Corporate Borough of Midleton actually do?

These are just some of the questions to be addressed – but perhaps not fully answered – at a public lunchtime lecture I am presenting in Midleton Library on Friday 29th May 2015 at 1.00 pm.  Expected duration: 45 minutes.

The aim of this lecture is to give some insight into the relationship between the Brodrick family and the Corporation of Midleton up to 1840.  Do come along if you are in the area!

Midleton Workhouse – a lecture by Sean Horgan at MyPlace, Midleton, on 22nd May 2015.

Built to the designs of George Wilkinson in 1840-41 and opened in August of 1841, the Midleton Workhouse was considered too big by the local Poor Law Guardians - it was designed to take 800 inmates.  Little did they know that during the Great Famine of 1845-1850 the workhouse had to be supplemented by an auxiliary workhouse during the worst years!  The former workhouse became a hospital in the 1920s and today serves as Midleton Community Hospital.

Built to the designs of George Wilkinson in 1840-41 and opened in August of 1841, the Midleton Workhouse was considered too big by the local Poor Law Guardians – it was designed to take 800 inmates. Little did they know that during the Great Famine of 1845-1850 the workhouse had to be supplemented by an auxiliary workhouse during the worst years! The former workhouse became a hospital in the 1920s and today serves as Midleton Community Hospital.

Carrigtwohill invades Midleton!

Actually, the Carrigtwohill and District Historical Society will present a public lecture by Sean Horgan on the history of Midleton workhouse.  This lecture will take place on Friday 22nd May (yes, tomorrow, so be sure to vote in the two referenda before you come along). The venue is the former Fire Station (Firehouse to the Yanks!) which has been superbly converted into a new community facility under the name MyPlace. The lecture starts at 7.30 pm and the society’s usual entry fee of 5 Euros per person applies.  Do come along!

The principal range of Midleton Workhouse is still preserved as Midleton Community Hospital.

The principal range of Midleton Workhouse is still preserved as Midleton Community Hospital.

MyPlace is a new community facility set up by a group of local citizens to provide, first and foremost, a comfortable (i.e. dry!) and sociable gathering place (with supervision!) for young people (teenagers) in Midleton.  The organisation has leased the former Fire Station on Mill Road from the local authority. The structure has been converted (and upgraded) to be a two-part facilty – the youth cafe/hangout/club and a community facility. The building (which was of no architectural merit) is a modern structure that had been lying idle since the new Fire Station was built.  Pat Horgan was the architect who transformed an eyesore into a superb bright and warm facility with triple glazing and passive heating into a youth centre, community hall (where the fire tenders were housed – the windows are huge!) and smaller rooms for various activities, as well as a kitchen and dining room with that rarity in Midleton – a sheltered riverside terrace (it’s a suntrap too!)!  I viewed it last weekend when it was opened for a public preview and I was VERY impressed.  The large windows are the most unusual feature – Irish community halls generally look like factories or bunkers whereas this has large and inviting windows. At present it is unfurnished but will be fully equipped for its official opening in September.  Well done to everyone involved!

The former Fire Station with the large doors for the fire tenders prior to work starting on converting it to MyPlace.

The former Fire Station with the large doors for the fire tenders prior to work starting on converting it to MyPlace.

Sean Horgan teaches in Mallow, but is a native of Midleton and his MA was on the subject of the Midleton workhouse and the famine.  Copies of Sean’s book on the topic will be on sale following the lecture with the proceeds going to benefit Midleton Community Hospital – which is housed in the former workhouse!  There will be a visit to the former workhouse and to the Famine Graveyard following the lecture if the weather permits.

The architect's sketch for the proposed conversion of the former fire station into a new community facility.

The architect’s sketch for the proposed conversion of the former fire station into a new community facility. The finished design dispensed with the wooden siding in favour of floor to ceiling windows. A MUCH better idea!

The Carrigtwohill and District Historical Society was established in 2013 and has been doing very well indeed.  It hosted a spectacular World War I event last Autumn that drew a lot of people from Midleton.

I think that it is extremely imaginative of the Carrigtwohill and District Historical Society to present this lecture in Midleton – especially since they are not threading on anyone’s toes.  You see, for all its history, Midleton doesn’t have an historical society.  Shocking but true!  Despite the fact that there are societies in Aghada, Cloyne (the senior local history society), Castlemartyr (a new one!), Little Island and Carrigtwohill, Midleton, the largest population centre in the middle of this area, has no historical society.  I hope this presentation by the CARRIGTWOHILL & DISTRICT HISTORICAL SOCIETY will prove embarrassing enough to stimulate some action on this issue!

Commonwealth Wargraves in the Church of the Holy Rosary Graveyard, Midleton

Damian Shiels digs way again and comes up with another gem – the Commonwealth War Graves in Holy Rosary Cemetery in Midleton. These graves are scattered throughout the oldest section of the graveyard so they require a search to find them. Damian has done a lot to uncover the stories of men from Midleton involved in the Napoleonic War and World War I. He’s also an expert on the Irish in the American Civil War.

One thing to note: there is NO link between HMS Roxburgh and the Roxborough River in Midleton (also known as the Dungourney River) – the ship is named after a town in Scotland!

The Midleton Archaeology & Heritage Project

We went to the main Catholic graveyard in Midleton to have a look at the Commonwealth Wargraves related to World War One and World War Two, and to see if we could find any details on the men themselves. Of course there are numerous military-related graves in the Church of the Holy Rosary cemetery, from the I.R.A. volunteers killed and executed following the Clonmult Ambush during the War of Independence, to veterans of the armies and navies of both Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Below are those men buried in Midleton who died while in British service, and who are recorded by the Commonwealth Wargraves Commission. We supply short biographies of each one, but are eager to uncover more detail on their lives from readers. One of these men, Tasmanian Ambrose Augustine Haley, will be the subject of a more detailed post over the weekend.

Shipwright 2nd Class William…

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The Story of Ambrose Haley: The World War One Australian Digger Buried in Midleton Graveyard

This is a wonderful example of a local historian putting some flesh on the bones of history – in this case World War I and a Midleton/Australia connection. Damian Shiels is a ‘digger’ in a different manner from the men who joined up in 1914-1918. The story presented here shows how Ambrose Haley’s Irish relatives ‘brought him home’ to Midleton.

Reblogging articles posted on another blog might seem like a lazy way to update a blog – but I’d prefer readers and followers to view the original written by Damian Shiels rather than rewrite it for my own blog!

The Midleton Archaeology & Heritage Project

On 30th December 1918 a party of mourners were led by Canon O’Connor to an open graveside beside the main path at the Church of the Holy Rosary cemetery in Midleton. Those in attendance had walked to the church from the railway station at the other side of town, where they had met and formed a cortège behind a flag-draped coffin. The elm casket had been carried to the church by Timothy Murphy undertakers, who were based on the Main Street. Passers-by would have noted a number of unusual aspects to the funeral; the flag was not the Union Jack, as might be expected, but rather was adorned with the Southern Star. As well as that, the soldiers in attendance wore the slouch hat that marked them not as British troops, but men of the Australian Imperial Force. The young man in the coffin– Ambrose Augustine Haley– was…

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Bealtaine and the bright half of the year – with commemorations.

The white blossom of the hawthorn tree marks the arrival of summer in Ireland. The hawthorn or May Tree is associated with the festival of Bealtaine.  The tree shown here is growing in the Burren in County Clare.

The white blossom of the hawthorn tree marks the arrival of summer in Ireland. The hawthorn or May Tree is associated with the festival of Bealtaine. The tree shown here is growing in the Burren in County Clare.

As I noted at the end of October last, the ancient Irish divided the year in several ways, but one of the main divisions was between the dark half of the year and the bright half of the year.  Samhain, at the end of October and beginning of November, marked the beginning of the ‘dark half’ of the year. Bealtaine, usually celebrated around the beginning of May in the modern calendar, marked the beginning of the ‘bright half’ of the year. It also marked the beginning of the peak period of production of milk – this was the festival that marked the annual booleying, the movement of cattle into the outer or upland pastures for six months.  Milk was a critical addition to the ancient Irish diet, giving a crucial boost to the intake of protein before the cereal harvest and annual slaughter of excess livestock in the autumn.

Bonfires were lit at Bealtaine to celebrate the arrival of summer and protect cattle from disease before they were moved to their upland summer pastures.  This image is from the Midleton-based company knowthyplace.com

Bonfires were lit at Bealtaine to celebrate the arrival of summer and protect cattle from disease before they were moved to their upland summer pastures. This image is from the Midleton-based company knowthyplace.com

Symbolically, just as at Samhain, the denizens of the underworld were particularly active at Bealtaine and to protect the cattle from any ailments, or fairy mischief, they were driven between two bonfires. This ritual bonfire was a key part of the festival. It is likely that this bonfire tradition has mostly died out, but I recall that sometimes there were bonfires in some communities in Limerick city – this is unusual because such traditions are normally thought to survive in rural communities!

(It should be noted that the bonfire tradition on St John’s Eve (23rd June) is linked to the summer solstice. It can be difficult to light a bonfire in the depths of a wet Irish winter, so ‘bonfire night’ is more likely to be a summer celebration in Ireland, although there is no guarantee of any co-operation from the gods who control the Irish weather!)

The flowering of the hawthorn tree is a very visible reminder that we have entered the brighter and warmer half of the year.  The tree usually blossoms around Bealtaine.

The flowering of the hawthorn tree is a very visible reminder that we have entered the brighter and warmer half of the year. The tree usually blossoms around Bealtaine.

The white blossom of the hawthorn tree is the floral equivalent of the bealtaine bonfire.  Because it usually blossoms around the beginning of May, it is also called the May Tree.  It is considered unlucky to bring the haw blossom into the house, but some people still decorate locally regarded hawthorn trees, decorating them with ribbons or other amulets. Nowadays in Ireland, Bealtaine has been transformed into a month-long festival of creativity as we age – it is a festival for our senior citizens to get out and do something different!  Mullingar in County Westmeath has a Festival of the Fires – given that Mullingar is near the ancient site of Uisneach a site that was anciently associated with the festival of Bealtaine..

The Festival of Fires is a modern attempt to celebrate Bealtaine in Mullingar and at the ancient site of Uisneach in County Westmeath.

The Festival of Fires is a modern attempt to celebrate Bealtaine in Mullingar and at the ancient site of Uisneach in County Westmeath.

Sadly, Bealtaine in 2015 was marked by a very cold wind and outbreaks of rain – indeed, for the first day of summer, in traditional parlance, 1st May 2015 in Ireland was a day to be indoors beside a roaring fire!  But then, ‘summer’ in Ireland means that it gets bright around 5.30 am and stays bright until after 9.00 pm.  It has nothing to do with clear dry and warm sunny days – these should be regarded as a bonus! The week just gone was one of showers, winds and sunshine – a very Irish mix!

Lusitania Memorial in Cobh (formerly Queenstown).

Lusitania Memorial in Cobh (formerly Queenstown).

The first week of May this year saw events linked to the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania.  Courtmacsherry, the Old Head of Kinsale, Kinsale itself and Cobh (formerly Queenstown) all saw events to commemorate the dead of the Lusitania.  President Higgins was joined by the ambassadors from Uk, USA, Germany and France for the commemoration in Cobh on Thursday 7th May. Last Wednesday I attended a day long conference organised by Gabriel Doherty of the School of History of UCC.  Starting at 9.10 am, it drew a full crowd.  By lunchtime it was standing room only. The questions addressed to the various speakers from the audience were indicative of the enormous interest that people had in the subject. This Decade of Centenaries is a welcome addition to the social life of our communities, especially since it gets people asking questions about the history of their communities and families a century ago. Hopefully it will lead to new discoveries as more information is uncovered.  It is worth remembering that only a fortnight ago we recalled the landings at Gallipoli – a reminder that various events in World War I overlapped. .

Irish military and naval personnel at the official ceremonies commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania on 7th May.

Irish military and naval personnel at the official ceremonies commemorating the sinking of the Lusitania on 7th May.

At heart, it’s older than it looks – honestly!

Midleton Park Hotel

The Midleton Park Hotel marks the entrance to the town centre from the Cork Road. Difficult to believe, but the hotel, which was redeveloped in the 1990s, contains fabric from the glebe-house built here in 1788.

‘What was on the site before the hotel was built?’

The question was posed to me last week in anticipation of the relaunch of the refurbished Midleton Park Hotel. The hotel is unlikely to win architectural prizes for it is a redevelopment of two buildings on the site. The fabric of these two premises are still incorporated in the modern hotel. At first glance it looks like a building that was constructed in the last decade of the twentieth century, but the actual history is hidden by the current appearance.

George Berkeley, the famous philospher, was Bishop of Cloyne during the middle of the eighteenth century.  He appointed his younger brother Robert, as Rector of Midleton and Treasurer of Cloyne.

George Berkeley, the famous philospher, was Bishop of Cloyne during the middle of the eighteenth century. He appointed his younger brother Robert, as Rector of Midleton and Treasurer of Cloyne.

We have to go back to 1787 and the appointment of Rev Robert Law DD as Rector of Midleton in succession to Rev Robert Berkeley DD, the younger brother of George Berkeley, the famous philosopher Bishop of Cloyne who gave his name to Berkeley College in California!  Dr Law was already Rector of St Mary’s parish in Dublin, but pluralism was quite common in the Established Church at the time. With a titheable valuation of £897 16s 7d by 1820, the Rectory of Midleton was quite lucrative. However, there was a problem. Dr Law discovered that while the parish church of St John the Baptist had been rebuilt in 1784, there was no designated residence provided by the parish for the incumbent rector! Rev Dr Robert Berkeley had lived in Ballinacurra House and when Law became the incumbent he discovered that this house was no longer available. Ballinacurra House was not parochial property for it belonged to the Earl of Shannon in Castlemartyr and was now leased to someone else.  The glebe lands of Midleton, a property that belonged to the parish, lay on the right, or western, bank of the Owenacurra River, at the entrance to the town from Cork.  This property of some eleven acres of good land was a good location for a rectory or glebe-house, so in the spring of 1788 Law began to build a new residence.

One question arises – since the appointment of the rector was in the gift of the bishop, was Law given instructions by the bishop to build a rectory in his new parish?  For the moment this question must be posed. We’ll have to tease it out to discover an answer. However, building a new rectory would certainly have had the approval of the absentee landlord of the town, George Brodrick, 4th Viscount Midleton, who had already commissioned the building of the present Market House as the seat of the Corporation or municipal government. Lord Midleton had already set in train further improvements, including the building of a fever hospital near the Fair Green at the northern end of the town, as well as probably setting out new conditions for building on the sites he leased on the Main Street.  It was at this period that Midleton gained the appearance that it mostly shows today.

In the middle of September 1788, the Rector of Navan in County Meath, Rev Daniel Augustus Beaufort, visited Midleton and viewed the new glebe-house as it was being built. Beaufort is the source of our information that the house was begun in the spring and by September the attic storey had been completed.  But the amateur architect in Beaufort was unhappy with the lack of a central door on the front – he thought it didn’t do the house justice to have the principal entrance to one side. Given the amount of time it takes to finish any newly built house even today, it is unlikely that Dr Law ever inhabited his new house, for he died on 11th June 1789 – just over a month before the storming of the Bastille in Paris!

The Hon Charles Brodrick, Archbishop of Cashel and onetime Rector of Midleton. He was probably the first occupant of the new Glebe House built by Rev Robert Law

The Hon Charles Brodrick, Archbishop of Cashel and onetime Rector of Midleton. He was probably the first occupant of the new Glebe House built by Rev Robert Law. His brother wsa the 4th Viscount Midleton and his father-in-law was Bishop Richard Woodward fo Cloyne.

Law was succeeded by the younger brother of Viscount Midleton – Rev the Honourable Charles Brodrick.  In 1791, Charles Brodrick paid out £2,123 for the glebe-house. Was this in compensation to the heirs of Robert Law for the expense of building the glebe-house? The situation is complicated by the existence of the Board of First Fruits.  When Johnathan Swift wrote about the appearance of the Irish landscape in the early 1700s he was scathing about the appallingly bad houses of the squirearchy and of the clergy of the Established Church.  He was also brutally dismissive of the churches he encountered – almost uniformly they were in atrocious condition. Swift was instrumental in persuading the government of Queen Anne to create the Board of First Fruits to improve the accommodation of the clergy and to improve the churches for worshippers. The Board was established in 1711 and was endowed with the first year’s annates of every clergyman appointed to a living in Ireland. The money was used to buy back impropriate rectories and to establish glebe lands as well as erecting new glebe-houses and churches.  The board squestered the entire first year’s income from a parish of every newly appointed rector or vicar for its income. The expenditure had to be approved by the Irish parliament and it took seventy years to get that expenditure up to a reasonable level.  Money was either granted or gifted or, more rarely, loaned to a parish for appropriate purposes.  In 1781-82 the Board paid out £6,000, the following year some £3,000 was paid out and from 1785 to 1800 the Board dispensed £5,000 per annum. These were considerable sums of money and it is very likely that the newly rebuilt St John the Baptist Church in Midleton was a beneficiary of the Board’s funds. The Board was certainly involved in funding the replacement church on the same site in 1825!

It is likely that Dr Law also obtained funds from the Board to build the new glebe-house, which seems to have cost £2,123 – a considerable sum that supports Daniel Beaufort’s suggestion of a handsome house. But I do wonder if this sum also included the purchase of the eleven acres of glebe lands?  It seems possible that the Board paid for the glebe lands  and gave funds towards the construction of the house, but Law had funded most of the house himself.  Hence Charles Brodrick had to compensate Law’s estate in 1791. This was quite usual at the time when a new clergyman took up the living he compensated his predecessor, or his heirs, for costs incurred in any works undertaken. Brodrick waited until 1791 to pay because although he had a small living elsewhere in the neighbourhood, his income was not sufficient to pay the costs. Once his ‘First Fruits year’ was ended, Brodrick had the considerable income from his new parish, as well as his older parish. More importantly, Brodrick resided in the new glebe house – only a few miles from his father-in-law, Bishop Richard Woodward.  In 1795, Charles Brodrick became Bishop of Clonfert (mostly in County Galway). A year later he was transferred to the see of Kilmore and in 1801 he became Archbishop of Cashel. As archbishop, Brodrick was in a position to lease Cahermone House just east of Midleton. This allowed him to keep a close eye on his brother’s estates in Midleton whenever he was in residence. He also administered the diocese of Dublin while Archbishop Cleaver was mentally indisposed! Charles Brodrick was buried in a fine mausoleum in the graveyard of St John the Baptist Church in Midleton when he died in 1822. Two of his sons became successive Viscounts Midleton, and the present Viscount is a descendent.

The mausoleum of Archbishop Charles Brodrick is on the right of the picture. The other tomb belongs to the Chinnery family who  provided headmasters to Midleton College and a Bishop of Killaloe.,

The mausoleum of Archbishop Charles Brodrick is on the right of the picture. The other tomb belongs to the Chinnery family who provided headmasters to Midleton College and a Bishop of Killaloe.

In Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) the glebe-house of Midleton is described as ‘a large and handsome residence……pleasantly situated.’ This is a view supported by the first edition Ordnance Survey map of Midleton, showing the house set in mature and well-wooded gardens. The glebe-house continued as the residence of the Rectors of Midleton even after the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1870. Not until about 1890 was the present Rectory, or Deanery as we know it, built on the Dungourney Road. Then the old glebe was sold off as a private residence known as the Grange. At times it was used by Viscount Midleton on his visits to his Irish estates.

A 1948 aerial photo of the newly built Midleton Worsted Mills and Woolcombers Factory. The dwellings were erected for the management and the road in front is now called Dwyer Road for William Dwyer who founded the company.  The whole area is now built up as a residential suburb. Note the prominence of the Catholic church on the other side of the river.

A 1948 aerial photo of the newly built gleaming white Midleton Worsted Mills and Woolcombers Factory on the western bank of the Owenacurra River. The dwellings were erected for the management and the road in front is now called Dwyer Road for William Dwyer who founded the company. The whole area is now built up as a residential suburb. Note the prominence of the spire of the church of St John the Baptist (Church of Ireland) on the other side of the river.  This image is one of a series of aerial photos now owned by Historic England!

In the 1950s the Grange became the property of William Dwyer, a Fine Gael supporter and industrialist. Dwyer set up the Midleton Worsted Mills and Woolcombers Company on lands adjoining the Grange and began the development of the road linking the woollen factory to the Cork Road as a residential area. Importing wool from Australia and New Zealand, this company was a very important development in the industrial history of the town.  Sadly, cheaper competition and labour relations difficulties eventually forced the company to close. However the road leading to the old factory was named after Dwyer.  A supporter of the East Cork Motorcycle Club, Dwyer permitted motorcycle races on his lands on St Stephen’s Day (26th December) for some years!

In the 1970s, the Grange was sold to a hotelier and was redeveloped as the Keane County Hotel – Midleton’s first hotel since the Tara Hotel had collapsed in the late 1960s! Regrettably there was nothing to celebrate in the architecture of this hotel – it looked more like a factory than a hotel, in my opinion. Fortunately, the 1990s saw a total redevelopment under new owners as the Midleton Park Hotel.  Portions of the glebe-house built in 1788 are still embedded in the present building, although so many changes have taken place that the original features are unrecognisable!  .