‘Known by the trees’ – Autumn glories from the behind the demesne wall.

midleton-lodge-2016

The view from the front of Midleton Lodge shows the grove of trees on the north bank of the Dungourney River in mid-October 2016. The grove stands in front of the wall that separates the demesne from the woollen factory built by Marcus Lynch in 1794. This is factory is now part of the Jameson Experience, while Midleton Lodge is now the local council office and Lynch’s demesne is a public park. Lynch planted the trees in 1806-09.

Autumn ended in Ireland on Thursday 17th November when a cold Arctic snap plunged the comfortable temperatures into a biting winter mode with a dusting of snow in many parts of the country. Midleton, happily, escaped the snow but not the cold. The long, dry, sunny and pleasantt autumn weather was a most welcome season before the onset of winter. One of the glories of Midleton, and East Cork in general, this autumn been the colour of the leaves as they changed from green to yellow to red and then to brown before falling.

This abundance of trees in East Cork is due to an ironic circumstance of history. William J Smyth of UCC referred to this in a lecture he gave to the Royal Dublin Society in 1996. The title of his lecture was ‘The Greening of Ireland – Tenant tree-planting in Ireland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries‘;  Smyth introduced his lecture with quotations from two Irish poems – one an anonymous but well known seventeenth century Irish (Gaelic) verse that we all learned at school, and the other twentieth century quotation came from a poem by Austin Clarke.

The seventeenth century reference from the poem Kilcash asks:

What shall we do without timber,

the last of the woods is down.

The Austin Clarke reference tells us:

For the house of the planter

Is known by the trees.

kilcash-castle

Kilcash Castle in County Tipperary is best known through the anonymous seventeenth century poem lamenting the passing of the old order, symbolised by the loss of woodlands.

The poem ‘Kilcash‘ refers to the systematic destruction of the ancient Irish woods and forests in the seventeenth century by the new English planters who had been granted estates in Ireland. Part of the reason for the destruction of the woods was to deny any Irish rebels and outlaws a place of refuge. A second reason was to enable the planters to make a quick financial return on their new estates – England was severely short of good timber for building houses and ships and for barrel staves. In addition wood was needed for making charcoal to smelt iron, especially iron for making cannon for the fleet. One of the key culprits in this activity was Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork. Between 1600 and 1670 most of the remaining Irish woodlands were lost as a result of the various plantations imposed on different parts of the country.

Clarke’s poem makes ironic reference to the fact that those planter families were later instrumental in planting new trees to take the denuded look off their surrounds – mind you, this was done mostly inside the high walls surrounding the demesnes of the ‘Big House’.Those walls screened the bare countryside from easily offended eyes, and protected both the inhabitants and their trees from the peasantry. Thus the descendants of the people who originally cut down the forests and woods were also the first to begin replanting, often with foreign species! Even today, a plantation of deciduous trees indicates the site of a ‘big house’, whether intact or in ruins.

It was really only from the 1690s that the new landlords began to plant trees as a policy of ‘improvement’ on their estates. Between 1697 and 1791 Smyth estimates that there were seven parliamentary acts relating to tree-planting in Ireland. It was only from 1721 that tenants were given parliamentary encouragement to plant trees, and by 1765 tenants had an entitlement to the value of all the trees they’d planted.The really big improvements came with the foundation of the Dublin Society (later Royal Dublin Society) in 1731 and the act of 1765, which required the registration of trees planted in order to claim ownership. It was the 1791 act that led to a spectacular surge in tree-planting in the decades that followed.  From the surviving registers we get a good idea of why East Cork is so well wooded. Smyth notes that the densest area of planting seems to have been the barony of Imokilly (between Midleton and Youghal), and the southern part of Barrymore  This was a region of dense tree-planting between 1790 and 1815. (There was a dip between 1815 and 1820 when planting began again.)

Despite all this planting, British visitors to Ireland in the nineteenth century frequently noted the bare appearance of the Irish countryside, noting that the few trees were to be found within the walls of demesnes. Even now, with all the State forestry planting programmes, Ireland has only 8% of its land under forest or woodland, the lowest percentage of tree cover in the EU.

Donal P. and Eileen McCracken published a paper with the title ‘A Register of Trees, Co Cork, 1790-1860‘ in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society in 1976 giving the register of tree-planting in County Cork. By the mid-1800s County Cork possessed nearly 52,000 acres of trees in plantations, nearly 15% of the Irish total.The register gives the numbers of trees planted by civil parish, with the townlands where the trees were planted being named. There are problems with the list – some townlands are clearly placed in the incorrect parish, so caution is advised when using this source.

path-in-midleton-lodge

A path in Marcus Lynch’s grove of trees between the Dungourney River and the wall of the old distillery in Midleton in October 2016.

The figures for Midleton Parish (called Middletown in the text) are as follows: Marcus Lynch planted 2010 in the grounds of Midleton Lodge between 1806-09; Samuel McCall planted 5,590 trees at Charleston in Castleredmond in 1809-12, and Swithin Fleming (incorrectly named Southeen in the text) planted 1,770 trees at Lakeview in Castlererdmond in 1831 (which indicates that his house was built by then); William Mc O’Boy (McEvoy?) planted 2,830 trees in Gearagh in 1815; in Bawnard, John Lander planted 5,100 trees in 1824 and Daniel Humphries planted 26,000 trees in 1827; in Ballyedkin, John Leech planted 61,300 trees in 1827-32, while Thomas Wigmore planted 144,870 trees in 1828-33; in Deer Park South, George Turkey (Tuckey?) planted 3,240 trees in 1832; in Broomfield, Benjamin James Hackett (the distiller) planted 1,480 trees in his grounds in 1834. This list gives a total of 254,190 trees planted in the area in and immediately around Midleton between 1806 and 1834.

Sadly many of these trees have been lost, but a lot survives – Marcus Lynch’s plantings are still a joy to behold just off Main Steet, and on the Youghal Road, in Midleton. But further afield we can see that planting was just as intense.

rostellanwaterside

The woods at Rostellan were part of the demesne of the Marquis of Thomond’s East Cork estate. They are now run by the state forestry company. On the wall of the barrage in the foreground is one of three milestones installed there in 1734.

In the townland (and parish) of Aghada, Robert Austen planted 28,470 trees in 1814; Michael Goold planted 27,620 trees in Jamesbrook (Garranekinnefeake parish) in 1807-11;  in the parish and townland of Rostellan the Marquis of Thomond planted 55,140 trees in 1827, in Rossmore (Mogeesha parish), Edmund Coppinger planted 21,340 trees in 1824; in Barnabrow (Cloyne parish) in 1809-12 Timothy Lane planted 27,940 trees, while John Royal Wilkinson planted 20,100 trees there in 1831.

avenue-midleton-2016

Planted in the 1980s to mark the entrance to the newly built St Colman’s Community College, on Youghal Road in Midleton, this avenue looks very well established today. It emulates the type of planting established around the town in the years around 1800.  

This is not a complete list (it leaves out places like Fota and Ballyedmund) but it shows that many landowners in East Cork felt it necessary to plant trees to improve their estates in the early nineteenth century. Despite losses in the 1940s, the legacy of this planting is the rich tapestry of trees that enrich the local landscape especially in summer and autumn. The good news is that such planting continues – directly opposite Marcus Lynch’s old house stands St Colman’s Community College which was built in the early 1980s. One farsighted decision made by the school was to plant an avenue of trees leading from the gate to the main entrance – just a few decades later it looks splendid.

 

 

 

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The Bloody Hounds – a public lecture on the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly

The latest public lecture in Midleton Library will be a survey of the history of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly from 1177 to the early 20th century.

It will cover the early Fitzgeralds in Imokilly to the 1280s, the intervention of the 4th Earl of Desmond in the 1300s, and arrival of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald. Knight of Kerry, before 1400 followed by the arrival of his sons in the decades following. The Seneschals of Imokilly have a starring role as does the Elizabethan loyalist Dean of Cloyne, Sir John FitzEdmund Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe. The lecture will then follow the fortunes of the Fitzgeralds of Ballycrenane and of Corkbeg – the latter being the last of the Fitzgeralds descended from Sir Maurice to have kept their estates in the area.

The lecture will take place on Saturday 28th May at 12.00 noon.

It’s free and all are welcome!

 

Tony Poster

A VERY brief history of Midleton!

Doorway St John the Baptist Church

The doorway to St John the Baptist Church (Church of Ireland), Midleton. Standing on the site of the medieval Cistercian Abbey of Chore, this church was completed in 1825 by the brothers George and Richard Pain. It’s a classic Board of First Fruits ‘hall and tower’ type church – although in this case Richard Pain’s elegant spire replaces the usual tower. Curiously some people believe that the church was completed in 1823, despite the large date-stone above the door! it always pays to look up. The previous church on the site was a neat structure built by St John Brodrick in the 1650s. (Photo: Buildings of Ireland website) 

The first day of April is probably not the best date to publish something, but this time it couldn’t be helped. On Friday, 1st April 2016, the Irish Examiner newspaper published a supplement called Midleton Living. As the name suggests it was all about Midleton. The supplement also came with the Evening Echo newspaper. I was invited to submit a brief history of Midleton for this publication. However, some people never got the newspaper or the supplement. There are in fact four historical articles in the publication, two of them by the Examiner’s own staff reporter Mary Leland.

The final one, opposite mine, concerns the monuments and public sculptures recently erected in Midleton, although I notice it is actually based on a press release prepared three years ago by the now defunct Midleton Town Council. Sadly, the council had never sought the assistance of a historian to draft this item. I expect a bit of negative feedback over one or two facts in my article. Don’t worry my double-barrelled elephant gun is LOADED with ammunition, namely solid, referenced, historical FACTS!

It is lovely to see that my article shares the same page as a lovely item about Kevin Aherne and his innovative Sage Restaurant, recently voted the best in the county! The ethos of this restaurant fits in beautifully with the origins of modern Midleton as a market town since 1608.

So, for the benefit of those who missed out, here’s the published article, which the editor titled Evolution from a market town to a thriving business hub. Please note that you may have to enlarge the resolution on your screen!

Brief History 1

Readers of this blog will be aware that I left out quite a bit of history from the article. There is no mention of scheming abbots, or mad monks, no mention of the attempted assassination of Walter Raleigh, and other matters. Space constraints obliged me to limit the article to just 800 words. But I reckon I covered the essentials of the development of Midleton as a market town.

 

Searching for Midleton’s ‘lost’ 19th century brewery.

View of Drury's Avenue through the archway under the granary which marks the north-eastern boundary of the site of the 'lost' brewery.

View of Drury’s Avenue through the archway under the granary which marks the north-eastern boundary of the site of the ‘lost’ brewery. This archway seems to be too low to be the main entrance to the brewery. Very likely the entrance was on Charles Street, now Connolly Street.

When researching the history of Midleton, one must admit that it can be very frustrating trying to put together an accurate picture of the town’s past. There really must be something in the local water supply that allows people to forget that there were once TWO distilleries in Midleton. And there were TWO breweries. As already noted on this blog, Midleton had a brewery established and run by the Coppinger family from at least the 1790s to the late 1830s when it closed, probably under pressure from Fr Theobald Mathew’s temperance campaign. The site and the main brewery building are still extant at the southern end of Main Street.

In his Topographcial Dictionary (1837), Samuel Lewis mentions ‘….two very large breweries and two extensive malting establishments….’ We know that the malting establishments were in Ballinacurra, and one brewery was the Coppinger establishment in Midleton, which was noted by the Ordnance Survey in its first edition six inch map of the town c.1843. But the Coppinger brewery had closed by then. William Shaw Mason’s Statistical Account or Parochial Survey of Ireland (Vol 3), from 1819, notes only one brewery in Midleton. So where was the other brewery mentioned in Lewis?

Midleton's 'lost' brewery (outlined in orange) was located between Main Street and Drury's Lane (now Drury's Avenue) but seems to have closed as a brewery before the first edition six inch Ordnance Survey map of the town was published.

Midleton’s ‘lost’ brewery (outlined in orange) was located between Main Street and Drury’s Lane (now Drury’s Avenue) but seems to have closed as a brewery before the first edition six inch Ordnance Survey map of the town was published. The ‘Old Brewery’ at the bottom of the map was the establishment of John and Joseph Coppinger.

A gentleman who joined my second Heritage Week walking tour of Midleton’s commercial and industrial heritage on Sunday 30th August has supplied me with information from the preliminary maps made by the Ordnance Survey. These preliminary maps or surveys were never published, but they do show the presence of a brewery on a site just off Main Street.

It seems the site of the brewery stretched from Main Street to Drury’s Lane (now called Drury’s Avenue, although it is still a laneway in its dimensions). It seems that the premises on Main Street may have been a public house or a shop selling beer. Because the old archway into the site from Drury’s Avenue is so low, it is likely that the entrance to the brewery was almost certainly on Charles Street (no Connolly Street), at the former Tattan’s Yard, now redeveloped into an apartment complex called Granary Court. The granary referred to by this name is actually located on Drury’s Avenue and stretches down both the northern and southern side of the site. The large building is now converted into apartments. Almost certainly part of this was actually a malthouse for supplying malt barley for brewing.

The site of Midleton's 'lost' brewery was a long narrow town plot with tall maltings and grain stores on each side. Behind the building on the right was a tannery.

The site of Midleton’s ‘lost’ brewery was a long narrow town plot with tall maltings and grain stores on each side. Behind the building on the right was a tannery. The buildings are now converted into apartments. The spire in the distance is that of St John the Baptist’s Church (Anglican). The archway noted above would be located behind the viewer.

The key difficulty now presented to us is to identify the owner. Pigott’s directory of 1824 gives us John and Joseph Coppinger as brewers and maltsters in Midleton. But it also gives us John Lomasney as a maltster. No address is given for him so we must presume that, like the Coppingers, he was based in Midleton itself rather than in Ballinacurra. To make matters even more interesting, the adjoining plot to the north of this brewery was a tannery. One can hardly imagine two less congenial neighbours. Obviously the brewers had to ensure that their water supply was not contaminated by runoff from the tannery.

Two things come out of this. First is Lewis’s description of TWO…’..very large breweries…’ in Midleton. The scale of the buildings remaining on this second site seems to support this. Midleton could easily have developed into a major brewing center in County Cork. Secondly, the fact that the second brewery seems to be omitted from the local memory or even the local record is striking, almost as if the town wished to forget its association with brewing, whilst acknowledging its links to distilling.

There’s more work to be done on this! Watch this space!

I wish to acknowledge the assistance of Caen Harris in providing valuable information for this post.

‘…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)

‘Happy Birthday, Midleton!’ The Charter of Midleton was issued 345 years ago by King Charles II.

King Charles II granted the Charter of Midleton to Sir St John Brodrick in 1670.

King Charles II granted the Charter of Midleton to Sir St John Brodrick in 1670. He also gave his name to the former Charles Street in Midleton, now Connolly Street.

‘…constitute, ordain and appoint the said Castle, Town & Lands of CastleRedmond & Corabby aforesaid, with the appurtenances in the County of Corke aforesaid, shall from henceforth forever be a free Borrough & Corporation & shall be called by the name of Borrough & Town of Middleton.….’,

These are the words that give the town of Midleton in County Cork its modern name. As you can observe, spelling was rather flexible in those days. The above statement is buried within the charter issued by King Charles II to Sir St John Brodrick in June 1670. We have already noted in a previous post that the date of the charter ( ‘…the Tenth day of June in the Two and twentyeth year of our Reign & in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Six hundred and Seventy…‘, 10 June 1670) was actually ten days behind the corrected calendar authorised by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, but the British, being suspicious of any ‘papist’ innovations, preferred to stick to the old Julian calendar until 1752.  So the correct date for the issuing of the Charter of Midleton is 20 June 1670, which is why I’m discussing it now.

On Thursday 18 June I spent the morning at the Cork Archives examining the only copy of the charter to have survived. This is a manuscript copy made by Rev Mr Verney Lovett on Saturday, 7 February 1784 and copied ‘verbatim’ from the text then preserved in the Rolls Office in Dublin. Anyone familiar with Irish history will know that the Public Record Office in Dublin was destroyed at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1922, thus incinerating centuries of Irish historical records – including the text which Mr Lovett consulted. The fact that Lovett made a copy of the charter suggests that the original Charles II charter document given to St John Brodrick had already vanished. The Rev Mr Lovett, being a burgess of Midleton, was obliged to make a fair copy from the surviving record, which he had neatly bound in a soft leather cover with the inscription Charter of Middleton 1670 embossed on it. Clearly this was intended to be a working document for the charter only takes up thirty pages, with most of the folio being blank.

John, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton was the co-founder of New Jersey with George Carteret. He was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland when Sir St John Brodrick applied for a charter. Despite is relaxed attitude to Catholics, Berkeley got on very well with the staunchly Protestant Brodrick.

John, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton was the co-founder of New Jersey with George Carteret. He was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland when Sir St John Brodrick applied for a charter. Despite is relaxed attitude to Catholics, Berkeley got on very well with the staunchly Protestant Brodrick.

The charter was issued by the king on the suit of Sir St John Brodrick (or Broderick, as the text has it) on the advice and consent of ‘our Right & well beloved cousin John Lord Berkeley Lieutenant General & General Governor of our said Kingdom of Ireland‘. This was John, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton, who with Sir George Carteret founded the Province of New Jersey in North America in 1664-1674.  Berkeley had fought for Charles I in the Civil War and was exiled during the Commonwealth.  Appointed Lord President of Connaught for life in 1661, he appointed a deputy to do his work there shortly thereafter. Berkeley was sent back to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant in 1670 and stayed in office until 1672. He was  considered very pro-Catholic (not surprising given his French and Spanish-Netherlands exile under Cromwell). This apparent pro-Catholic stance makes Berkeley’s friendship with Sir St John Brodrick all the more surprising, for Brodrick was a staunch low-church Protestant.

The sprawling Whitehall Palace was originally Cardinal Wolsey's London residence, then the home of Henry VIII. More of a town than a coherent palace, it burned down in the 1690s, to the relief of William of Orange who hated its damp atmosphere.  It was from here that Charles II issued Letters Patent to Berkeley to draw up the Charter of Midleton.

The sprawling Whitehall Palace was originally Cardinal Wolsey’s London residence, then the residence of Henry VIII. More of a town than a coherent palace, it burned down in the 1690s, to the relief of William of Orange who hated its damp atmosphere. It was from here that Charles II issued Letters Patent to Berkeley to draw up the Charter of Midleton.

The charter was issued from Whitehall Palace under letters bearing the king’s privy signet and sign manual (the king’s personal seal and signature) but was formally registered in the rolls of the High Court of Chancery of Ireland on 3 January 1671. This was a month overdue since the king had commanded that the charter be enrolled within six months of issuance – so it should have been enrolled in early December 1670. The legal profession’s Christmas break must have delayed matters.

Charter of King Charles Ii to the colony of Rhode Island, 1663. This is what an actual charter document looks like. Sadly the Midleton charter seems to have vanished by 1784 when Rev Verney Lovett made his copy from the Chancery Rolls copy.

Charter of King Charles Ii to the colony of Rhode Island, 1663. This is what an actual charter document looks like. Sadly the Midleton charter seems to have vanished by 1784 when Rev Verney Lovett made his copy from the Chancery Rolls copy.

So what exactly was a charter and what did the it do?  A charter is a legal document that could be issued by an authorising authority (the king) under its seal granting certain legal rights and privileges to a person, or a group of persons, or to a place or estate. This particular charter did three things. Firstly, as we’ve already discovered, the charter named the town formerly known as Mainistir na Corann or Corabbey as Middleton. To be honest, I was intrigued to note that the spelling Middleton appeared to apply only to the town, with the spelling Midleton applying only to the manor or estate of Sir St John Brodrick – until the spelling of the town’s new name changed near the end of the document – Middleton or Midleton were used for the name of both the town and the manor interchangeably. Perhaps there was a change of clerk during the drafting of the charter? it should be noted that this new name for the town is the only part of the charter still in force.

However the charter actually opens with the erection of the estates of Sir St John Brodrick into a manor, or Mannor, as it is sometimes spelled. A manor was an estate with specific identity bearing clear legal rights and powers. These rights and powers would apply to specific denominations of land. In the case of Midleton these were spread over four baronies. grouped by barony the denominations were the townlands of Castle-Redmond, Corraby, Killeagh, Knocknagoure, Knockgriffin, Curtistowne, Cahirmoan, Storm.Cotter, Carrigbane, Coppingerstown, Butlerstowne, BallyBane, Ballyrarla, Ballysimon,Ballymartin, Ballyknock & Coolerath, Rathcannon, Donigmore,& Kippane, Monemerrig, Bridgefield, Carrignasheny & Lictur Dowre, & Coolcurrig, Dromfaranie in the barony of Imokilly. Clearly the Imokilly lands constituted the larger part of the manor.

Then came Garriduff, Knocknacottig, Ballyannan, East Ballyvodick, West Ballyvodick, Ballintubber, Ballinecurrig, Ballyhasna, & Glanawillin in the barony of Barrymore.The outlying denominations were Donivally Ballygreggin, Temple Roane & Killehenisk in the barony of Fermoy, with Gallinguile and Kilbrony in the barony of Orrery in North Cork.  All of these denominations were in the county of Cork. All of these lands were to be constituted an ‘intire Manor‘ with all the rights and privileges attached to a manor. Clearly the intention was that the estate should remain complete and intact for evermore.

The most important right attached to a manor was the right to hold manorial courts. There were three such courts in the Manor of Midleton: a Court Leet and View of Frank Pledge, and a Court Baron, and a Court of Record. Sir St John Brodrick could exercise his rights to hold these manorial courts by appointing one or more seneschals and a recorder to preside over these courts. The Court of Record was given jurisdiction over actions ot the value of £200 in English currency! This was a surprisingly large sum at the time.  A Bailiff Minister was to serve as the agent of the Court of Record. In addition to keeping his manor courts, Sir St John Brodrick was given the right to keep and maintain a prison and to appoint a keeper to serve the Court of Record.

St John Brodrick was also granted the right to create a demesne of 800 acres for his exclusive use and to enclose a ‘park venery’ (deer park) and rabbit warren of 800 acres ‘more or less’!  Indeed he did create a deer park at Cahermone which ran right up to the edge of the town (hence the two townlands of Park North and Park South). This park existed right up until the estate was sold off under the Land Acts of the late 1800s and early 1900s, although by then it was much reduced in size. And just in case anyone didn’t understand how powerful Brodrick had become, the lord of the manor was to ‘…have, receive, perceive, seize, Enjoy & convert….’ all ‘…waifs, strays, ffelons, goods of fugitives, & Deodands, ffishings, weers, Royalties, free warren & privileges…‘ for his own benefit, profit, use and enjoyment!

It was the Lord of the Manor who controlled the town’s market – he was obliged to appoint a ‘clerk of the Markett‘ to keep order in the market and to collect the dues owed to him by the stall-holders.

Seal of the Corporation of Midleton as illustrated by Samuel Lewis in the Topographical Dictionary of Ireland.

Seal of the Corporation of Midleton as illustrated by Samuel Lewis in the Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. The spelling of Midleton was amended in the 19th century to prevent the mails from going astray!

The final major decision under the charter was to constitute the town on the estate as a borough as noted at the head of this post. The borough would ‘…extend into the said county of Corke every way from the middle of the said town one hundred acres in the whole….‘ Within the town there was to be a ‘..body Pollitick & Corporate consisting of one Sovereign, Two Bailiffs & two Burgesses.‘  This posed a problem for Mr Verney Love, because a few lines later we find that the Corporation would consist of .’…a Sovereign, Two bailiffs & TWELVE Burgesses.’  Mr Lovett underlined the word ‘twelve’ in his text, and, indeed, this was the structure of the Corporation thereafter, the same Corporation that Mr Lovett served on. This group of men would thereafter be called ‘The Sovereign, Bailiffs and Burgesses of the Burrough and Town of Middleton.‘.

The charter names William Hutchings as ‘.. a free burgess & first & modern Sovereign.‘  He was to hold office until ‘…the Thursday next after the Feast of St Michael the Archangel...’ in 1672!  Hutchings was obliged to be sworn into office ‘…before 29th September next before the Justices of Assizes of County Corke…’ taking the Oath of Supremacy, and other oaths as required by law, including the ‘Corporal Oath‘ of Midleton. September 29th is Michaelmas or the Feast of St Michael, an important date in the legal and academic calendar since it marked the start of the autumn law term. The sovereign was to be the sole coroner for Midleton and would serve as a Justice of the Peace for one year after the conclusion of his term of office. From 1730, the sovereign was usually the agent for the absentee Viscount Midleton, often holding office of sovereign for many years in succession.

John Downing and John Gemings were appointed free burgesses and bailiffs of Midleton, also holding office until the Thursday following Michaelmas 1672.  The burgesses were named as: Adam Wener, Peter Bettesworth, Richard Downing, Richard Walkham, Edward Laundy, Thomas Guard, John Wally, Nicholas Seward, Robert Cole, Thomas Knight, William Kinnagh, & Richard Hargrove.

Cooper Penrose of Cork was a burgess of Midleton in 1784. He commissioned this portrait of himself from Jacques-Louis David in 1802. This is the only portrait of an Irish subject by David. Sadly this superb portrait was sold by the family to a museum in San Diego.   A huge loss to our artistic patrimony.

Cooper Penrose of Cork was a burgess of Midleton in 1784. He commissioned this portrait of himself from Jacques-Louis David in 1802. This is the only portrait of an Irish subject by David. Sadly this superb portrait was sold by the family to a museum in San Diego. A huge loss to our artistic patrimony.

Rev Verney Lovett usefully supplied the names of most of his colleagues on the Corporation in 1784: Martin Delany and Thomas Wigmore were the bailiffs that year. The burgesses were: George Courteney, George Courteney of Ballycrenan, the Earl of Shannon, Broderick Chinnery, Aubrey (?) McCarthy, Cooper Penrose, William Garde of Broomfield, Rev Verney Lovett himself, and Rev Laurence Broderick.  The Courteneys were cousins, the Earl of Shannon’s Irish seat was at Castlemartyr, just a few miles east of Midleton, Brodrick Chinnery was descended from the first and second headmasters of Midleton College and was related to the Brodricks, Cooper Penrose was a wealthy Cork merchant, Rev Laurence Broderick was a cousin of the fourth Viscount Midleton at the time.  Sadly Mr Lovett didn’t give us the name of the sovereign, but it might have been Rev Mr Green, Rector of Tullylease in north Cork – but this is uncertain.

Built or rebuilt by George Brodrick, 4th Viscount Midleton, in 1789, the Market House is the most important building on Main Street.  It replaced a market house dating from the 1680s and was the location for the Corporation's meetings and elections, as well as being the Borough and  manorial courthouse. It's now the town library.

Built or rebuilt by George Brodrick, 4th Viscount Midleton, in 1789, the Market House is the most important building on Main Street. It replaced a market house dating from the 1680s and was the location for the Corporation’s meetings and elections, as well as being the Borough and manorial courthouse. It’s now the town library. Historically only the central arch of the arcade was open – the rest were shops.

Elections for the sovereign and bailiffs were to be held annually on the Thursday following the Feast of St James the Apostle, which fell on 25 July, with the officers taking office on the Thursday after Michaelmas. The sovereign, as noted above, rarely changed, but the bailiffs were changed almost every year. The sovereign, bailiffs and burgesses were to elect ‘two discreet burgesses‘ as members of Parliament to sit in the Irish House of Commons whenever a general election or a by-election was called. Furthermore, the sovereign, bailiffs and burgesses could admit any number of freemen to the town on payment of a 5 shilling fee to be used for the benefit of the Corporation. Sadly, there’s no surviving list of freemen.

The Corporation was also free to possess and use a common seal for authorising Corporation business, with a design and inscription of their choice. They were also permitted to ‘…build or cause to be built in some convenient place in the said town of Middleton a common hall or Tholsell to be called the Tholsell of Middleton….’ wherein they might conduct the business of the Corporation.  And to think we called it a market house or town hall all along! The Corporation was also permitted to organize a guild of merchants for the regulation of trade in the town (except the market) – but there’s no evidence that they bothered with this provision.

Not mentioned in the Charter, the Midleton Mace was almost certainly made by Robert Goble of Cork around 1700 to symbolise the Corporation's authority. It shows the Royal Crown on top with the arms of the Brodricks on the head. The mace is now preserved in the Hunt Museum in Limerick.

Not mentioned in the Charter, the silver Midleton Mace was almost certainly made by Robert Goble, a Huguenot goldsmith of Cork, around 1700 to symbolise the Corporation’s authority. It shows the Royal Crown on top with the arms of the Brodricks on the head. The mace is now preserved in the Hunt Museum in Limerick.

What exactly did the Corporation do?  Well, it seems that it did very little – but that’s because the minute books and court records haven’t survived. Thus we can’t really say if the Corporation really did anything to turn Midleton into the town it is today – I suspect that the Lord of the Manor had more say in those developments since he benefited from the rents. The two bailiffs were required to maintain order in the town, but that basically was it. The loss of the two parliamentary seats in the Act of Union stripped Midleton of its unique parliamentary franchise. From 1801 the town was now represented by the MPs for the county! The most damning indictment of the Corporation of Midleton came in the First Report of the Commissioners on Municipal Corporations in Ireland in 1835:

‘...the Corporation has been kept up, and the annual election of officers has been held, but for what purpose it is not easy to discover; the members having no duties to discharge, nor any privileges or emoluments, except the occasional presence of a local justice of the peace within the town, who seldom acts as such…..

The commissioners noted that even the manor courts had ceased to function, presumably because the courthouse built to the designs of Richard Pain in 1829 now hosted regular Petty Sessions of the County Court, which was much more independent of the landlord and Corporation.

The Corporation of Midleton, along with many others in Ireland, was abolished in 1840. The manor had effectively ceased to exist as such after 1850 when the whole Midleton estate was spit in an inheritance dispute. From then on, all that remained, apart from hunting and fishing rights, was the name given to the town 345 years ago – Midleton.  And to think that the place could have been called Charleville! But St John Brodrick’s friend, Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill and Earl of Orrery, had already appropriated that name in 1661 for his new town at Rathgoggan in Orrery barony in north Cork.  So Brodrick’s town was named prosaically for its position half-way between Cork and Youghal.

So today it might be fair to say……Happy Birthday, Midleton!  

Mainistir na Corann – the origins of the market town in 1608.

Midleton Farmers Market was founded in the year 2000, but the founders didn't realise that their market day, Saturday, was the very same day designated for a market in 1608!

Midleton Farmers Market was founded in the year 2000, but the founders didn’t realise that their preferred market day, Saturday, was the very same day designated for a market in 1608!

On Saturday, 30th May 2015, Midleton Farmers Market celebrated fifteen successful years of business. But little did the founders of this market realise in 2000 that their decision to hold the market on Saturday actually chimed with the earliest evidence for a market town at Mainistir na Corann or Corabbey. It really proved to be a serendipitous decision by the Midleton Farmers Market!

When exactly did the town now called Midleton actually begin? The truth is we’re not really certain. But we do have one date that certainly suggests a town either existing on the site, or being developed – 1608. There is some evidence for an earlier town or village – it comes from maps made during the sixteenth century by Continental or English cartographers working for the Crown.  Maps by Robert Lythe showing M Coragh (1571), Abraham Ortelius showing Cor (1573), and Francis Jobson showing Coragh (1589) all suggest the presence of a town or village at the site of the abbey. Robert Lythe’s map is especially precocious given its accuracy. Clearly there was something on the site – and not just the old abbey (whether in ruins or intact).

Midleton Bridge or the Cork Bridge spans the Owenacurra at the northern end of Midleton.  The riverbed here is quite shallow and makes an excellent ford.

Midleton Bridge or the Cork Bridge spans the Owenacurra at the northern end of Midleton. As can be seen from the photograph, the riverbed here is quite shallow and makes an excellent ford.

Paul McCotter has produced evidence that suggests that there may have been a settlement in the area before the monastery was founded in 1180, and that it developed further after the foundation of the monastery.  He notes the name Drohidfinagh (or Droichead Fineadh) which may refer to a settlement near the present Cork Bridge in Midleton. That area, at the northern end of Main Street later included the Fair Green. The current bridge was built on the last crossing point on the Owenacurra. Indeed the short stretch of the riverbed immediately north and south of the modern bridge is quite shallow, and is easily fordable, especially after a spell of dry weather. But the stream above and below this short stretch is deeper and less easily forded. It should be noted that Drohidfinagh is not a name in current use in Midleton. The name appears to suggest a community bridge – but this is a community in the sense of a clan rather than a community in the sense of a settlement. Perhaps the name refers to the ancient Gaelic chieftans, the Mac Tire, whose family dominated the area before the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in 1177/78.

Despite the fact that we have a record of the possessions of the Cistercian Abbey of Chore (Mainistir na Corann) from 1541, that record does not show clear evidence of a town or village attached to the monastery.  It isn’t until the former monastic estate was transferred to a new leaseholder, John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne, in 1573 that things begin to change.  It is unknown the abbey buildings were damaged during the First Desmond Rebellion (1569-73), but it should not surprise us if some harm was done.  The Second Desmond Rebellion (1579-83) was, however, much worse. Mainistir na Corann, as we have noted, had already appeared as M Coragh on Lythe’s map which was based on a survey of Imokilly and East Cork conducted between November 1569 and January 1570. The town or village was clearly on those maps made up to 1612 usually under variations of Cor, Corabbey, M Cor, M Coragh. Clearly the place was developing into a town, but ,with the late sixteenth century wars. it didn’t have the most auspicious start.

The Second Desmond Rebellion did enormous damage to the fabric of buildings and to the local economy.  John FitzEdmund FitzGerald of Cloyne claimed that he had lost some 3,200 head of cattle (valued at £2,160), over 1,000 horses (valued at over £1,000) and 21,000,sheep and goats (valued at over £2,100). Additional losses included 1,400 pigs (value £400) and five hackneys and five mares (valued at £20).  With other losses, FitzGerald estimated he had lost property valued at over £6,160 by the summer of 1581. He didn’t include the burning of Cloyne and the burning of his castle at Ballycotton in these figures. Anthony McCormack reckons that John FitzEdmund FitzGerald had sustained losses of over 310,000 sterling by the close of the war. This was a huge sum, even for one of the greatest and most crooked land-grabbers in Ireland! McCormack estimates that out of the 150,000 strong population of Munster, some 48,600 people may have died of war, starvation, disease and plague during this rebellion.

Cahermone Castle was acquired from impecunious relatives in 1571 by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, who built the walled garden seen on the left.  Cahermone stands at the edge of Midleton town.

Cahermone Castle was acquired from impecunious FitzGerald relatives in 1571 by John FitzEdmund FitzGerald, who built the walled garden seen on the left. He also added a more modern house on the right. Clearly FitzGerald had his eye on the monastic estate of Corabbey.  Cahermone stands at the edge of Midleton town.

It is worth noting that John FitzEdmund Fitzgerald of Cloyne was a Catholic who was totally loyal to Queen Elizabeth; an illegitimate son, he had become the Dean of Cloyne Cathedral in succession to his father and kept the cathedral operating as a Catholic place of worship until his death in 1612! One wonders if he also maintained a small community at Chore Abbey. Sadly there would be another war at the end of the sixteenth century when the two Ulster lords, Hugh O’Neil and Red Hugh O’Donnell, brought their forces south to join the Spanish at Kinsale – Imokilly was seriously spoiled by the northern army in its search for provisions. FitzGerald had first moved into the area of Mainistir na Corann/Corabbey in 1571 when he acquired the neighbouring Cahermone Castle from some impecunious FitzGerald relatives..

On 14th October 1608, Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald (he had been knighted in 1601) was granted a license to hold a weekly market at Corabbey. Market day was to be on Saturday – just like today’s Farmer’s Market! Sir John had to pay an annual ‘rent’ of 5 shillings in English currency to the Crown for the license. He was now obliged to appoint a place for the holding of the market and to police this market by means of a clerk of the market and a piepowder court. This latter was a summary court that settled disputes on the spot between traders and their clients. It took its name from the old French term pieds poudres or ‘dusty feet.’ All stall-holders had to pay a fee (either a portion of their goods or give the equivalent value in currency). The fines from the piepowder court and the market fees represented quite a profit for the landlord, especially since the fees could be collected weekly.

It’s worth noting that in the following year, Sir James Craig was granted a license to hold an annual fair at Castleredmond on 3rd of May and one day following.

Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork, acquired the estate of Corabbey some time after Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald's death in 1612.  Strangely, nobody ever talks about him in relation to Midleton.

The Elizabethan adventurer, Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork, acquired the estate of Corabbey some time after the death of Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald in 1612. Strangely, nobody ever talks about him in the context of Midelton’s history. He’s Midleton’s forgotten figure really.

By the 1620s, the monastic estate of Corabbey had clearly come into the hands of a new leaseholder – the formidable Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork. An extraordinary property-developer, Boyle applied for and was granted a new license for a market in Mainistir na Corran/Corabbey. This license was granted on 23rd December 1624 and it too designated Saturday as the market day. Boyle was charged 6 shillings 8 pence (Irish currency) each year for this privilege. On the same day he was granted a license to hold an annual fair in Castleredmond on 3rd of May and two days following.

One interesting context for these market licenses – there is no record of such a license being issued for Ballinacorra village. Nearby locations like Rostellan, Dangandonovan, Carrigtohill, and even Killeagh are recorded as having a licence for a market or fair or even both.  This suggests that these areas are held by influential landlords and have a sufficient population  and commerce to warrant the issue of such licenses.

None of the men mentioned above would have applied for their licenses if they didn’t believe in the commercial opportunities that would benefit them. It seems highly unlikely that a license would have been issued if the applicant could not demonstrate a realy local need for a market. Clearly there must have been a town developing at Corabby/Mainistir na Corann to sustain all this activity – the market town that became Midleton was born. It is obvious that, if he didn’t found the town, then Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald was intent on developing it, as was Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork.

I understand that the founders of Midleton Farmers Market had absolutely no idea that Saturday was the original market day designated in 1608 and reaffirmed in 1624. They chose the day because it is a popular shopping day in Midleton. Serendipity indeed!

Sources: Margaret Curtis Clayton, ‘Early Stuart markets and fairs in Munster, c1600-1630’. Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 2010.   Anthony McCormack, ‘The social and economic consequences of the Desmond rebellion of 1579-83.’ Irish Historical Studies, May 2004.