Heritage Week 2015 ends successfully in Midleton.

Midleton in early 1900s

Main Street Midleton about 1900. The Market House (1789) is on the left with the town clock in the cupola on the roof.

Today at 2.30 pm a group of us set off from the Library (formerly the Market House) to view some sites associated with aspects of Midleton’s commercial and industrial heritage. I suspect a few eyes were opened – but I must say one or tow knew their stuff. And why not – they were dyed-in-the-wool natives of Midleton. I hope they enjoyed the tour!

I wish to put on record my gratitude to all those who helped organize the various events, especially the staff at Midleton Library and at MYPlace, as well as the shopkeepers who displayed the posters and last, but not least, all the members of the public who attended the two lectures and who came along for the two tours of the town.  Well done to everybody – and clearly someone was smiling on us – the tours enjoyed lovely warm and dry weather!

It was nice to see other places celebrate Heritage Week too – Youghal, Cloyne Cathedral, Carrigtwohill and Ladysbridge in particular,

Now I wonder what the Heritage Council will propose as the theme for Heritage Week 2016? Check out this blog for details of next year’s Heritage Week – when the details are available.

A Midleton Mystery: WHERE exactly was Drohidfynnaght?

The five arched bridge leading from the northern end of  Midleton town center to Cork. It has one end higher than the other due to the high ground sloping down on western bank of the Owenacurra River.

The five arched bridge leading from the northern end of Midleton town center to Cork. It has one end higher than the other due to the high ground sloping down on western bank of the Owenacurra River.

‘Grant…to John Fitz Gerald Fitz Edmond of Clohermony….of 10 acres between Drohidfynnaght on the east, and the river running from the mill there on the west….’   From The Irish Fiants of the Tudor Sovereigns, 1994.

In the Irish Patent Rolls of Queen Elizabeth I there is a grant of 1573 to John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cahermone (Clohermony) of the ‘site of the monastery of the B.V.M. de Choro S. Benedicti alias the abbey of Chore, lands in Castle Redmond, Chore, with a mill and salmon weir,’ etc. This grant was awarded to John FitzEdmund FitzGerald a year after the 1551 lease of the same property to Giles Hovenden and his heirs male finally expired after twenty one years.

However, the FitzGerald lease included some additional properties. There was a messuage and garden in Carrigtwohill, a parcel of land called Fearryn Edmund Roe, plots in Knockacottig, and several rectories and vicarages. In the middle of all these was the statement about Drohidfynnaght. But this location isn’t on a modern map of East Cork.

The wording suggests that it was a townland. Drohidfynnaght appears to be located in the east with the river and mill on the west. However, you must remember that this is an abbreviated 19th century transcription of a document that was destroyed in the Four Courts fire of 1922. The essentials were recorded by the Keeper of Public Records during the 19th century and published in the series Calendar of State Documents (Ireland)Elizabeth I. All the published, and known fiants, of the Tudor sovereigns were later republished as a group by Eamonn de Burca in 1994, with a new introduction by Kenneth Nicholls.

I decided to consult Dr Seosamh O’Ceallaigh in Donegal about the possible meaning of the name Drohidfynnaght. He was a good choice since his PhD is in Irish, especially the Classical Irish of this late medieval and early modern period. He must have been in stitches with laughter when I sent him my message – because he was probably the very best person to solve this mystery. Drohidfynnaght consists of two conjoined words. Drohid refers to a bridge. That I already knew, but it was nice to know that there was a bridge in the area of Midleton. Well, there were two rivers or streams to cross. But ‘fynnaght’ stumped me. I thought it might refer to ‘fine’ which is a kin-group or might perhaps refer to a religious community (monastery). But Joe, being from Fanad in County Donegal, was very quick to get back – ‘fynnaght’ is the same word as ‘fanad’! It means a sloping piece of ground. Thus Drohidfynnaght means a bridge of the sloping ground.

At once, Joe doubled my difficulties – you see, he’s never been to Midleton, and really had no idea that there are TWO places in the modern townland of Townparks that could fit the bill perfectly! The first is the northern part of Townparks running beside the Owenacurra River and up the Mill Road. The river here runs from north to south. The eastern bank is perfectly flat. The western bank drops to the river in a steep slope exactly where the present Cork Bridge is located. And there was at least one mill on this river in the sixteenth century. The shape of Townparks townland at this point suggests it might be an addition to the old townland of Chore or Mainistir na Corann which later became Townparks.

The other site is at the opposite end of the town at the southern end of Main Street. The north bank of the east-west flowing  Roxborough, or Dungourney, River is flat. But the south bank is a steep slope up the Rock which marks the high ground south of Midleton town centre. The two roads here lead to Cloyne (due south) and Youghal (due east). These were the two most important towns in Elizabethan Imokilly. The area on the south bank is part of Townparks and it stretches out the Youghal Road and down towards Lakeview. This could easily have been the Drohidfynnaght mentioned in the grant of 1573, except at the present state of research we have no idea if there was a mill there at the time.  Indeed there seems to be no evidence of a mill in this area even in later centuries.

My own preference is for the northern area of Townparks by the Cork Bridge. This bridge is older than it appears because it was widened twice. I examined it during the summer and it was clearly an older bridge with two side additions. The first extension was in the early 19th century, and then in the middle of the 20th century (around 1950). The original bridge is still preserved directly under the roadway. But it isn’t as old as the 1573 grant – it’s clearly of eighteenth century date and was quite narrow compared with today’s bridge. Also, Lewis Bridge, across the Roxborough River, is a late eighteenth century single span bridge, with no surviving evidence of the earlier crossing.

Lewis Bridge

Lewis Bridge crosses the Roxborough or Dungourney River at the southern end of Main Street in Midleton. It’s a late eighteenth century elliptical arched single-span bridge.

The proximity of the former monastic mill in the 1543 dissolution record for the abbey suggests that Drohidfynnaght is on or near the area of the old Fair Green in Midleton. The text says ‘from Drohidfynnaght’ to the mill and river. But this could be from the boundary of the townland of Drohidfynnaght to the river. So it suggests that John FitzEdmund FitzGerald didn’t get ALL of Drohidfynnaght, if it was a townland – he only got the most lucrative bit of it!

Heritage Week 2015 – Tour of Midleton’s commercial and industrial heritage.

Now converted into apartments, Allin's Mill or Midleton Mill may stand on the site of the old monastic mill. it was established to supply grain to Cork and England in the 1820s in the wake of the Corn Laws.

Now converted into apartments, Allin’s Mill, or Midleton Mill, may stand on the site of the old monastic mill. it was established to supply grain to Cork and England in the 1820s in the wake of the Corn Laws.

About twenty people joined our tour of Midleton’s commercial and industrial heritage today at 2.30 pm. Starting at the Library (the Market House of 1789) we proceeded to Church Lane (site of the old butter market) then up Main Street to Old Bank House (former Munster Bank) and on to the Munster and Leinster Bank (now AIB).  On the Clonmult Monument island we discussed the Fair Green, Allin’s mill, Hackett’s distillery and the railway from Cork to Youghal. Down the eastern side of Main Street we assembled in Connolly Street (former Charles St) to discuss the changing businesses in the town from 1824 to 1856 and then in 1881. This was followed by a stroll to the Pugin building (former Midleton Arms Hotel/McDaid’s pub), a look at Brodrick Street (site of Midleton Gasworks and JJ Coffey & Sons, builders), and into the former Coppinger’s brewery. Then at the entrance to Distillery Walk we examined Coppinger’s grain stores and the old distillery, previously Marcus Lynch’s wool factory of 1793). We finished up by discussing the first bank in Midleton (the National Bank of Ireland at the Rock, run by the Coppingers).

Despite the best efforts of Met Eireann to scare everyone off with horrible weather warnings, it turned out to be a lovely day for a walk – the best of the sunshine coming as we walked back down the Main Street.

I’d like to thank everyone who turned up today. You helped to kick off Heritage Week 2015 in Midleton in fine style! The vintage cars motoring to Carrigtwohill were an unexpected bonus!

Other events during the week include:

…a good market for flesh…and fish…’ – the Commercial and Industrial history of Midleton and Ballinacurra, 1608-1948. Public local history lecture, Wednesday, 26 August at 2.00pm in Midleton Library.

From Mainistir na Corann to Midleton, 1177-1670. Public local history lecture, Thursday, 27 August at 8.00pm in MyPlace, Midleton.

Discover the Commerical and Industrial Heritage of Midleton. Walking tour, Sunday, 30 August at 2.30pm. Meeting at the Library.

All welcome!

Markets and Fairs in early Stuart Imokilly and Barrymore.

With Cork, Youghal was the most important town in the county in 1600. It was the center of commerce in the eastern part of County Cork.

With Cork, Youghal was the most important town in the county in 1600. It was the center of commerce in the eastern part of County Cork. Its development was promoted by Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork for forty years until 1642.

One of the aspects of regional history in Ireland was the existence of Presidencies in the provinces of Munster and Connacht. These were subordinate authorities set up in the sixteenth century to impose greater governmental control over these provinces.They alleviated the burden of control placed on the Castle (the government in Dublin Castle) and allowed for more rapid response to local issues.

Shortly after the climactic Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the ending of the Nine Year’s War in 1603, the Council of Munster (the Lord President of Munster and his chief officials) set to work on modernizing the regional economy. The key to this was the encouragement of a monetary economy based on licensed and regulated markets and fairs.  Margaret Curtis Clayton has done a splendid job of compiling the information on the markets and fairs that were newly licensed in Munster in the period 1600-1630. It should be noted that the establishment of a market or fair on someone’s property generated additional lucrative income and often enhanced an existing settlement or improved its economic prospects. The period from 1603 to 1642 was one of rapid economic change in south east Cork.

It’s worth noting that Chore Abbey (Midleton) had a market licence from 1608 renewed in 1624 – suggesting that the settlement that survived the dissolution of the Cistercian abbey was now thriving. The proximity of an annual fair in Castleredmond, first licensed in 1609, was a further boost to the local economy. In each case the licence was issued to the proprietor or landlord, who was then obliged to appoint a clerk of the market to regulate it. The proprietor also had to designate a place for the market or fair and ran a pie-powder court to settle disputes. (The name comes from the French term pied poudre, or dusty feet, for the court was a summary court conducted on the spot.) The proprietor had to pay an annual fee to the Crown for the licence and was entitled to keep the fees charged to stall-holders and the profits of justice from the pie powder court.  It is worth noting that fairs were often linked to church feastdays.

John Speed's map of Munster 1600-1611.

John Speed’s map of the province of Munster 1600-1611.

In this post our concern is the licensing of such markets and fairs in the south east Cork baronies of Imokilly and Barrymore.

Carrigtwohill: 5 Feb 1607/8. Fair – no details. Prop. David Barry, Viscount Buttevant. Renewed 1618, details lost.

Castleredmond: 24 June 1609. Fair on 3 May & 1 day following. Prop. Sir James Craig. Rent. 6s 8d Irish. Renewed, with one additional day, on 23 Dec 1624 in favour of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, for a rent of 6s.8d. (Note: the date 3 May was the traditional Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross.)

Chore Abbey (Midleton): 14 Oct 1608. Market on Saturday. Prop. Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald. Rent: 5s English. Renewed in favour of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, on 23 Dec 1624, for a rent of 6s.8d.

Dangandonyvane: 25 Nov. 1606. Fair on Feast of St James (25th July) & 2 days following. Prop. Thomas FitzGerald. Rent not recorded.

Killeagh:11 July 1631. Market on Tuesday. Fairs on 1 June and 1 November each with one day following. Prop. William Supple. Rent not recorded.

Rostellan: 25 Nov. 1606. Market on Saturday. Prop. Thomas FitzGerald. Rent not recorded.

Youghal: 22 Dec 1609. Market on Wednesday and Saturday. Fairs on Eve of St Luke (18 October) & 3 days following and on the Feast of the Ascension (usually late May). Prop Youghal Corporation. Free of rent.

What is of interest are the two market days in Youghal and the two annual fairs there. Clearly Youghal was of major importance. Cork appears to have had a market every day until 1613 when a shortage of goods led to the market being restricted to Wednesday and Saturday. Also of note is the absence of any licence for a market in Cloyne, Ballinacorra, Mogeely or Ballymartyr (Castlemartyr). Nor is there any market on Great Island – the nearest one being in Carrigtwohill. The absence of a market in Cloyne suggests that Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald was wary of intruding on pre-existing market rights established by the bishops during the medieval period. The market in Carrigtwohill followed a tradition of markets going back to the 1200s. In respect of Chore Abbey (Midleton), it is interesting to note that Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, succeeded Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald as leaseholder of both the old monastic estate, and Castleredmond. FitzGerald had died in 1612.

Reference: Margaret Curtis Clayton: ‘Early Stuart markets and fairs in Munster, c1600-1630.’ Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, vol 115 (2010), pp 167-177.

‘A good market for flesh…..and fish.’ Heritage Week 2015 in Midleton.

https://i2.wp.com/www.heritageweek.ie/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/NHW-2015-Logo.jpg

I thought the opening words of the title would get your attention!  This year’s Heritage Week is almost upon us. Starting on Saturday 22 August and running to Sunday 30 August, Heritage Week 2015 has our industrial heritage as its theme. I’ve expanded this slightly to include Midleton’s commercial history as well as its industrial history. It should be noted that I’m including Ballinacorra in this – because we simply cannot talk about the industrial and commericial heritage of Midleton without reference to the port at Ballinacorra. I hope people will take the time to attend something during the week or, at least, visit a heritage site.

In co-operation with Midleton Public Library and MyPlace the following events have been organized in Midleton:

Sunday 23 August: Walking Tour – Discover Midleton’s Commercial and Industrial Heritage. Meet at Midleton Library, starting at 2.30 pm. Guide: Tony Harpur.

Wednesday 26 August: A good market for flesh….and fish.’ The commercial and industrial history of Midleton and Ballinacorra. 1608-1948. Public lecture in Midleton Public Library. Time: 2.00 pm. Speaker: Tony Harpur.

Thursday 27 August: A Heritage Week Extra! From Mainistir na Corann to Midleton. 1177-1670. Public lecture at MyPlace Midleton. Time: 8.00 pm sharp. Speaker: Tony Harpur.

Sunday 30 August: Walking Tour – Discover Midleton’s Commercial and Industrial Heritage. Meet at Midleton Library, starting at 2.30 pm. Guide: Tony Harpur.

Main Street, Midleton, around 1900.

The parking on Main Street, Midleton hasn’t changed much in over a hundred years!

Other events in the East Cork area worth visiting:

Saturday 22 August: Discover Cloyne Cathedral. The cathedral is open from 11.00 am to 4.00  pm. Tours: 11.30 am and 2.30 pm..Free event.

Saturday 22 August and Sunday 23 August: Mrs Kevin’s Cat! A family living history event – join the search for Mrs Kevin’s lost cat in Fota House. Time: 12.00 noon to 14.00 pm.

Sunday 23 August: Youghal Medieval Festival. Family event. Venue: St Mary’s College gardens. Time: 12.00 noon to 6.00 pm.

Wednesday 26 August: Why can’t I find my ancestors? Genealogy event in Cork County Library HQ, Carrigrohane Road, Cork. Time: 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm.   Note: one to one genealogy sessions are also available that week in the same venue. Times: Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday 9.30 am to 4.30 pm. & (NB) Wednesday 9.30 pm to 12.00.*

Sunday 30 August: History Hunt in Cloyne Cathedral. Family event. Time: 2.30 pm to 5.00 pm.

Other events for National Heritage Week 2015 can be found on http://www.heritageweek.ie or on the County Heritage Service webpage: http://www.corkcoco.ie/co/pdf/609621658.pdf. You can also pick up a booklet or leaflet in any local library branch.

A radio broadcast from Limerick – Bishop Cornelius O’Dea and his mitre and crozier.

Detail from the volute of the O'Dea Crozier of 1418. The moment the Virgin accepts the word of the Angel - the finest medieval Irish depiction of the Annunciation.

Detail from the volute of the O’Dea Crozier of 1418. The moment the Virgin accepts the word of the Angel – the finest medieval Irish depiction of the Annunciation. (Diocese of Limerick)

On Wednesday last, 12th August, I gave a radio interview to John O’Carroll for the History Show on Limerick City Community Radio on the topic of Cornelius O’Dea, Bishop of Limerick 1400-1426, and his mitre and crozier. The subject sounds very esoteric, but actually it was a way of introducing the public to the a different view of medieval Ireland, especially medieval Limerick. It is also the topic I researched for my MA dissertation. The programme covers the bishop’s life, his peccadilloes (he had a mistress, and three sons!), his appointment as bishop and his connections, the context (why did they have two popes at the same time?), the theology, the craftsman and the artistic influences on the images used on the mitre and crozier. The jewelled mitre and crozier are the greatest medieval treasures from Limerick and are of European importance.  Tune in to Limerick City Community Radio online at 12.00 noon Irish time on Sunday 16th August to be sure of catching the broadcast. If you miss it they should have available on a podcast within a day or two..

Ballinacorra’s medieval import? Dundry stone for Cloyne Cathedral.

The blocked up great window of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral. The carved stone that marks the outline of the window is not native to Cloyne or even to Ireland. It was imported from Dundry near Bristol in the thirteenth century.

The blocked up great window of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral. The carved stone that marks the outline of the window is not native to Cloyne or even to Ireland. It was imported from Dundry near Bristol in the thirteenth century. Sadly the great window was crudely blocked up in the middle of the eighteenth century to accommodate the memorials of the Longfield family of nearby Castle Mary.

‘The only part of the building to survive more or less intact from the early Gothic era is the south transept, where there are plenty of original details cut in imported Dundry stone.’

Professor Roger Stalley.

The old phrase ‘coals to Newcastle’ refers to the shipping of coal from Newcastle to London from the seventeenth century. The idea that anyone would ship coal TO Newcastle in the far north of England was so odd that the phrase  was used to  describe very peculiar behaviour. Yet Ireland, a land rich in stone, imported tons of stone from England during the medieval period! Sometimes, if you know where to look, you can just pick up evidence of the trading links that existed in a place centuries ago. However, some of this evidence may reveal something of the local Irish trading patterns and infrastructure in medieval times.

The Waterford Museum of Treasures is the best municipal museum system in Ireland. The medieval museum is a modern building built on the vaulted undercroft of the Choristers' Hall beside Christchurch Cathedral in Waterford. Dundry stone was used to clad this building in recognition of the original use of the stone for the medieval cathedral.

The Waterford Museum of Treasures is the best municipal museum system in Ireland. The medieval museum is a modern building built on the vaulted undercroft of the Choristers’ Hall beside Christchurch Cathedral in Waterford. Dundry stone was used to clad this building in recognition of the original use of the stone for the medieval cathedral. This picture gives a good idea of the pale honey colour of the stone.

Recently I read a fascinating book edited by Professor Roger Stalley of Trinity College Dublin. The book, Irish Gothic Architecture: construction, decay and reinvention, is a collection of excellent research essays on the topic of later medieval Irish architecture, particularly Gothic architecture, although it also looks at nineteenth century perceptions of Gothic architecture. The essays are wonderful, but one made me sit up and go back over it carefully. The reason was the sentence quoted at the top of this post. The essay discussed the building of several cathedrals in Ireland in the thirteenth century, but the discussion of Cloyne Cathedral is important for those interested in south-east Cork.  While most of the stonework in the windows of the cathedral has been redone at a later stage, especially in the nineteenth century, those windows in the south transept are original to the building. They were created when the transept was first built in the 1200s.

How did Professor Stalley know this? Well he certainly didn’t consult any surviving documents. Instead he looked at the woindows, especially on  the outside, and realized that the stone used to build these windows wasn’t local. But he recognized the stone, nonetheless. It is an oolitic limestone that came from Dundry, a quarry located in the extreme north of Somerset and only a few miles south of Bristol, in the west of England!

The medieval vaulted undercroft of the Choristers' Hall in Waterford was built of Dundry Stone. The arcade was inserted later, in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.

The medieval vaulted undercroft of the Choristers’ Hall in Waterford was built of Dundry Stone. The arcade was inserted later, in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.

Dundry stone was imported into Ireland following the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169/70. This stone was famously used to build Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin, but in fact, was used in churches from Kinsale in County Cork to Trim in County Meath. It was used for parish churches, monastic churches and cathedrals, but now Cloyne Cathedral joins the list. But why import stone into a country that is already rich in building stone? The most likely reason is that some of the principal masons working on these churches were also English. These English masons came to Ireland because they were familiar with erecting and decorating large stone churches, which were still a fairly new phenomenon in Ireland, having been introduced here just thirty years earlier..

Now these English masons almost certainly came from the West Country of England, for the architecture of Christchurch, Dublin, and other buildings, suggest similarities to some of the architectural features used in the west of England.churches. These masons were entirely familiar with the stone that was available in the west of England.. But in Ireland they discovered that the local stone was different – mostly a hard limestone that the masons found difficult to carve. So they did what the first Norman masons did in England just after the Conquest in 1066 – they imported the stone that they were familiar with. So, just as the earliest Norman masons imported Caen stone for the Tower of London, so the earliest English masons in Ireland imported Dundry stone to make the carved window openings and other decorations. However, by the time the cathedral was built in Cloyne, it is possible that most of the work was done by Irish masons. Sadly, the cathedral accounts do not survive so we really don’t know who built the structure. Whoever they were, they knew about Dundry stone and they chose it for the window openings.

Building the Tower of Babel was a favoured imaged of medieval book illuminators because it depicted the vanity of man. These images are valuable for modern scholars seeking to understand the workings of medieval masons.

Building the Tower of Babel was a favoured imaged of medieval book illuminators because it depicted the vanity of man. These images are valuable for modern scholars seeking to understand the workings of medieval masons.

But what Stalley does not consider is the implications of importing this stone from England into south-east Cork . This is where economics come into play. Most of the Dundry stone used in Ireland went to places that were accessible by water, being located either on the coast or by a river.The reason this mattered was simple – it just cost too much to freight the stone by cart over land. The more of the stone that could be shipped by water as close as possible to the building site, the cheaper the cost of importing it.

The three eastern windows of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral are also framed in Dundry stone.

The three eastern windows of the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral are also framed in Dundry stone.

So we need to identify a port that could have been used to import the Dundry stone. Given the economics of moving building stone over land, I would suggest three possible candidates – Ballycotton (directly facing the Bristol Channel, Aghada, the first seat of Robert FitzStephen in Cork and just inside the entrance to Cork Harbour, and Ballinacorra. The first, Ballycotton, presents problems, because it does not seem to have been a major port with the appropriate facilities for offloading heavy cargo. By the time the cathedral was built in Cloyne, Ballycotton seems to have become a fishing village only. Aghada was only used as a caput baroniae (baronial seat) for a short period in the late twelfth century, by 1200 it had been replaced by Ballinacorra. Ballinacorra is much further from the open sea than Aghada, being part of the inner harbour area and possessed ancient links to Cloyne – its ‘great church’ was dedicated to St Colman, suggesting that it was founded directly from Cloyne, probably as a port within Cork Harbour. The present Ballinacorra village is located just a few miles from Cloyne and the terrain is not difficult, so getting shipments of Dundry stone to the cathedral site would have been relatively easy. Remember, only the cut stone was being shipped in – this was a very small amount of the overall amount of stone used in the cathedral. My own opinion, alas not supported by any documentary evidence, is that the Dundry stone for Cloyne came through the port of Ballinacorra.

Sadly, in the middle of the eighteenth century the Longfield family of nearby Castle Mary had the great thirteenth century five light window in the south transept of Cloyne Cathedral crudely blocked up to provide space for their family memorials.

(Note: I exclude Youghal from the above list of ports because it was really only established in the early thirteenth century.)

Reference:Roger Stalley, editior, Irish Gothic Architecture: construction, decay and reinvention. Wordwell Press, Dublin 2012. The quotation at the head of this post is is from the essay by Roger Stalley: ‘Cathedral-building in thirteenth century Ireland,’ contained within the volume. .

‘…mean thatched cabins…….’ The Masshouses in South East Cork in 1731.

Penal laws against the Catholic Church had existed in Ireland since the reign of Elizabeth I, but the most infamous laws were passed by the Irish Parliament in the 1690s into the early 1700s.

Penal laws against the Catholic Church had existed in Ireland since the reign of Elizabeth I, but the most infamous laws were passed by the Irish Parliament in the 1690s into the early 1700s.

These Masshouses are generally mean thatched cabins; many, or most of them, open at one end, and very few of them built since the first of King George the First.

These words are from the official return made to the Irish government in December 1731 by Henry Maule, Bishop of Cloyne in the Established Church (Church of Ireland). The Irish House of Lords had ordered an inquiry into the ‘State of Popery’ in Ireland and each bishop was required to submit detailed returns. The House of Lords wished to know how effective the Penal Laws enacted since 1693 had been in curtailing the practice of Catholicism.There were a number of restrictions imposed by these laws. Catholics couldn’t build a place of worship that looked like a church, it couldn’t be located in sight of a church or beside a main road, and it couldn’t have a bell or belfry.

Interior of Mountjoy Presbyterian Meeting House in the Ulster American Folk Park gives an idea of the similarity to the Masshouses of the period. Presbyterian marriages were not recognized by law, although Catholic marriages were actually recognized. Such were the bizarre anomalies of the Penal Laws.

Interior of Mountjoy Presbyterian Meeting House in the Ulster American Folk Park gives an idea of the similarity to the Masshouses of the period, except for the dominant pulpit and box pews. Presbyterian marriages were not recognized by law, although Catholic marriages were actually recognized. Such were the bizarre anomalies of the Penal Laws.

Maule’s returns were published in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society in 1893. This publication proved fortuitous because the original returns were kept in the Public Record Office until until its destruction at the outset of the Irish Civil War in 1922. We owe a debt of gratitude to Rev Fr Patrick Hurley, PP Inchigeela, for publishing this document before the fire at the Public Records Office. .

In his report accompanying the returns, Maule noted that ‘It appears,then, from the Returns made by the Clergy that there are seventy Masshouses in the Diocese of Cloyne.’  He goes on to say that ‘The reputed Popish Priests officiating in these Masshouses are reckoned to be ninety-two.‘  In respect of the masshouses Bishop Maule noted that ‘Some new Masshouses have been attempted to be raised about three years ago, particularly at Cloyne and Charleville, within view of the Churches of those towns, and where no Masshouses were before. But the finishing of the same has been hitherto prevented by the care of the respective Magistrates of these places.‘ Here is clear evidence that in some locations Catholics had difficulty erecting a shelter for the altar so that they could celebrate Mass. It was a very hit and miss business – some landlords and magistrates allowed masshouses on their land, even new ones or the repair of old ones. Others simply refused to allow them – the Brodricks of Midleton were noted in this respect.

Bishop Maule also noted the absence of nunneries in the diocese, but he did record that one old Franciscan friar inhabited a thatched house adjoining the ‘Abbey of Buttevant‘ near Mallow. However, Maule noted that ‘strolling vagabond Friars‘ from Aglish in County Waterford, Kilcrea near Cork, Kinsale friary and even from Killarney in County Kerry regularly visited the diocese, to ‘do much mischief.’  This ‘mischief‘ included confirming ‘the Papists in their superstition and errors‘, marrying ‘Protestants to Papists contrary to Law‘, they haunted ‘the sick beds, even of Protestants; they endeavour to pervert them from our holy Religion‘, and finally ‘they are become greatly obnoxious even to the Papists themselves‘.

In all, Henry Maule calculated that there were 14,200 ‘Protestant souls‘ and 80,500 ‘Popish souls‘ in his diocese, reckoning at six to a family for both figures.  There were 47 Protestant clergy and 92 Catholic clergy with one friar to serve these populations. The diocese could boast 44 churches in repair for use by the Established Church (compared with the 70 masshouses identified in the returns).

Tullyallen Masshouse from near Dungannon was built in 1768 on land leased from the liberal Lord Charlemont. Here we see the west door, the plain white walls, thatch and the chimney at the opposite end indicating the schoolroom. The priest lived in a wing at the back. Surprisingly few of these buildings survive in Ireland. Most were replaced in the early 19th century.

Tullyallen Masshouse, from near Dungannon, County Tyrone, was built in 1768 on land leased from the liberal Lord Charlemont. Here we see the west door, the plain white walls, standard sash windows, thatched roof and the chimney at the opposite end, indicating the schoolroom. The priest lived in a wing at the back. Surprisingly few masshouses survive in Ireland. Most were replaced in the early 19th century. In appearance it could be a Presbyterian chapel. The masshouses described in this post were usually open at the end. Tullyallen Masshouse is now preserved in the Ulster American Folk Park.  (National Museums of Northern Ireland.)

An inspection of the parishes in Imokilly and Barrymore might give an idea of the conditions that Catholics faced throughout Ireland in observing their religion before 1750. The parishes are identified by their Anglican designation at the time. The words and spelling are those of Bishop Henry Maule. Here the parishes are here set out in alphabetical order.

Union of parishes of Aghada: one Masshouse with scarce a roof. Three Popish priests and two strolling Fryars haunt this and Cloyne.(Note the difficulty of maintaining the masshouse which served Whitegate, Rostellan, Aghada, Inch and Trabolgan. TH)

Ardagh: one old Masshouse. One Popish Priest. (Now part of Killeagh parish. TH.)

Ballynoe: one Masshouse lately repaired, no Popish Chappell. Two Officiating Popish Priests. (The reference to a chapel was part of the survey, presumably to discover which of the better off Catholic family was likely to be harbouring seminary priests. TH)

Bohillane: no Masshouse. No Popish Priest. (Bohillane was the medieval parish situated between Ightermurrough and Cloyne civil parishes. TH)

Carricktowel: one Masshouse, one Popish Chapel. One Popish priest, a Popish Priest Officiating in this Chappel. (It seems that either the Coppingers or the Cotters had a private chapel in their house near Carrigtohill. TH)

Castlemartyr: no open Masshouse. One reputed Popish Priest.

Cloyne: Masshouse began, but not finished. An officiating Priest, with a Coadjutor.(Maule had noted the intervention of the magistrates in preventing the completion of the Masshouse in Cloyne. TH)

Cloyne Priest: no Masshouse. The same priest with Youghal. (This is Clonpriest which had long been attached to the parish of Youghal. TH)

Dongorney: one Masshouse, One Popish Priest.

Eigthermarah: one large Masshouse. Two reputed Officating Priests. (This is the civil parish of Ightermurrough, now incorporated into Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge Parish. Presumably the large masshouse was required to serve Garryvoe and Bohillane too. TH)

Great Island: one old Masshouse. Two officiating Priests assisted by two Itinerants. (The old parishes of Templerobin and Clonmel on Great Island are given as one. It is not certain if the ‘itinerants’ were friars. TH)

Killeagh: one large Masshouse built (since King George the Second’s accession) on ye great high road. Two Officiating Popish Priests. (This was an extraordinarily daring situation since masshouses were prohibited beside main highways. This one in Killeagh had been built in the previous four years, since 1727. TH)

Killmacdonogh: one old Masshouse, One Popish Priest. (This was part of the modern parish of Ballymacoda. TH)

Kilmahon: no Masshouse. No reputed Popish Priest. (Kilmahon is Shanagarry, now part of Cloyne parish. TH)

Lisgoold:one Masshouse. One Popish Priest.

Midleton: no open Masshouse. One Popish Priest. (Clearly the Brodricks did not tolerate an open masshouse on their property – yet there was one in Midleton before the Chapel of St John was built in 1803. TH)

Rathcormack: one Masshouse. Two Popish Priests.

Youghal: one large Masshouse, without the walls of the town. One Popish Priest Officiating therein.(Youghal had quite sectarian politics at times in the eighteenth century. The Corporation and the magistrates refused to allow a masshouse within the walls of the town until St Mary’s church was built within the town walls at the end of the century. TH)

The simple interior of Tullyallen Masshouse shows the wooden altar in the middle of the back wall, open rafters and whitewashed walls. The confessional stands near the door. The building had a T-shape plan, the stem of the T being the sacristy and priest's house.

The simple interior of Tullyallen Masshouse shows the wooden altar in the middle of the back wall, open rafters and whitewashed walls. The confessional stands near the door. The building had a T-shape plan, the stem of the T being the sacristy and priest’s house. The better off parishioners paid a pew rent to sit directly opposite the altar. (NMNI)

It’s worth noting Bishop Maule’s comments about ‘reputed‘ priests and ‘no open Masshouse‘ for these refer to the need for Catholic clergy, and congregation, to be circumspect in some areas  He also noted that Doneraile had ‘a kind of Shedd instead of a Masshouse,’ and Newmarket had ‘two old tattered Masshouses.

Source: Rev. Patrick Hurley PP, ‘The Past History of the Diocese of Cork’ in The Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Vol II a, Part III, 1893.

The reconstructed Mountjoy Presbyterian Meeting House in the Ulster American Folk Park. Note the similarity to the Tullyallen Masshouse, although the windows are smaller and higher.

The reconstructed Mountjoy Presbyterian Meeting House in the Ulster American Folk Park. Note the similarity to the Tullyallen Masshouse, although the windows are smaller and higher. (NMNI)

From Castlemartyr to the White House : John Saul, horticulturist.

Castlemartyr House is now a hotel. Here we see the old Fitzgerald castle on the right, the Boyle house on the left and the parterre on the south side of the house.

Castlemartyr House is now a hotel. Here we see the old Fitzgerald castle on the right, the Boyle house on the left and the parterre on the south side of the house.

One of the treasures of the Hunt Museum in Limerick is a late seventeenth century silver gilt pyx or box to contain the consecrated communion wafer (HCM 125). This pyx was once employed by a priest to convey the sacrament to a sick or dying person. Many seventeenth and eighteenth century Irish pyxes are anonymous – we often do not know for whom they were made, or even who made them. The Cashel pyx, apart from its depiction of the crucifixion, has three inscriptions in Latin.Two of the inscriptions are of interest to us here, for they identify the person who commissioned it: FR. AN. SALL. ME FIERI FECIT and PRO CONVTU. STI. FRANCI. CASSI. These really make up one long inscription: Frater Antonius Sall me fieri fecit, pro conventu sancti Franciscus Cassilensis which means Friar Anthony Sall had me made for the convent of St Francis in Cashel.  Anthony Sall was the Guardian (prior) of the Franciscan community in Nenagh during the 1670s, but he was almost certainly connected to the Sall (pronounced ‘saul’) family of Cashel for he commissioned the pyx for the Franciscans there. The Salls were an old Anglo-Norman family who had settled in County Tipperary, originally called de Salle or de la Sale.

The Hunt Museum's Cashel Pyx was commissioned by Friar Anthony Sall for the Franciscan Community in Cashel, County Tipperary. The pyx was made of silver gilt around 1670. (Hunt Museum)

The Hunt Museum’s Cashel Pyx was commissioned by Friar Anthony Sall for the Franciscan Community in Cashel, County Tipperary. The silver gilt pyx was made around 1670. (Hunt Museum)

What I never realized when I was in Limerick is that the Sall family of Cashel had connections to East Cork. The 1766 religious census of Ireland (commissioned by the Irish House of Lords) recorded five different Sall families in Cashel, each headed by a John Sall, which must have confused matters. One of these men (it is not known which) was actually the father of a Barnabas Sall. Barnabas moved to East Cork where he worked as a gardener for Richard Boyle, the 2nd Earl of Shannon, and his son, Henry, 4th Earl, on the Castlemartyr Demense, which was so admired by Arthur Young on his tour of Ireland in 1776-1779.  Barnabas lived until 1821. Barnabas had a son, James, who married a Mary Hennessy and in 1819 they had a son, John Hennessy Sall, or Saul as the family began to write the name. Like his father Barnabas, James also worked for Lord Shannon as a gardener, but at Carewswood (or Careyswood as some have written it). Carewswood is a smaller house between Castlemartyr and Ladysbridge which served as a dower house for Catherine, Dowager Countess of Shannon at the time John Saul was born.

East Cowes Castle was bought by the Earl of Shannon after the death of the architect John Nash in 1835. Nash is most famous for designing Buckingham Palace.

East Cowes Castle was bought by the Earl of Shannon after the death of the architect John Nash in 1835. Nash is most famous for designing Buckingham Palace.

However, James and his family didn’t stay in Carewswood forever. Henry, 3rd Earl of Shannon, had bought East Cowes Castle, on the Isle of Wight. This was the home of the celebrated architect John Nash who designed Buckingham Palace and Regent Street in London. Nash died in 1835 and his property was sold to settle his debts. James Sall and his family were invited to move to the Isle of Wight to care for the gardens there. Thus John Saul learned his horticulture first in Castlemartyr under his grandfather, and at Carewswood in East Cork and East Cowes on the Isle of Wight under his father  This training must have been very good because, in 1841, following a few years in East Cowes, John Saul moved on to care for the gardens at Llantarnam Abbey, a country house in Wales. In 1843 John joined the Durdham Down Nurseries – within a year, he was the manager of the nurseries. John’s brother, James, had emigrated to the United States in 1849, and John followed in 1851. Meeting up in Philadelphia, the brothers moved to New York to work for Andrew Jackson Downing at the Newburgh Nurseries. Through Downing’s contacts, John Saul was invited to Washington DC, then more of a development site than a real city. Until 1853, Saul worked with William Dunlop Brackenridge at improving the National Mall, Lafayette Square, the Smithsonian Museum grounds and the gardens of the White House. Whilst doing all this, John Saul started a seed business and was eventually to found his own nursery in 1854. The same year he was appointed the first chairman of the Washington DC Parks Commission – the forerunner of the current Parks and Planning Commission. John Saul lived out his life in the US capital where he died in 1897 after a very fulfilled life in Ireland, England, Wales and the United States. His son, Bernard F Saul, later founded Washington DC’s first mortgage bank, BF Saul Company.

The National Mall in Washington DC at the end of the nineteenth century. This was the sort of scene that John Saul was familiar with.

The National Mall in Washington DC at the end of the nineteenth century. The Capitol is in the distance. This was the Mall that John Saul was familiar with.

Barnabas Sall and his son James, father of John Saul, are both buried in Ballyoughtera graveyard, which was formerly contained within the demesne of Castlemartyr House. Appropriately, Carewswood House is now a garden center.

The Macmillan Commission proposed a total redesign of the planting scheme of the National Mall in 1901. The proposal was mostly carried out up to the 1930s.

The Macmillan Commission proposed a total redesign of the planting scheme of the National Mall in 1901. The proposal was mostly carried out up to the 1930s.

Three years ago, the community in Castlemartyr decided to celebrate John Saul’s life and achievements with an annual John Saul Picnic in the grounds of the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel, formerly the residence of the Earls of Shannon. This year’s picnic takes place on Monday 3rd August and is in aid of MyPlace Midleton, a youth and community resource center in nearby Midleton. Somehow it seems appropriate to celebrate a gardener with a picnic in the grounds where his father and grandfather had worked.  Let us hope the wet summer of 2015 relents for the occasion.

Memorial to John Saul in the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel.

Memorial to John Saul in the Castlemartyr Resort Hotel.