As you know our last post examined the history of the name Midleton House associated with two different houses, each on opposite banks of the Roxborough or Dungourney River in Midleton. The National Library of Ireland has a lovely early twentieth century image showing part of Midleton House , The Rock. What is of note is not just the dominant position of the newly built Holy Rosary Church (spire completed in 1908) but the fine gardens around the house. Today there are a lot more large trees around the house.
During a tour of Midleton during Heritage Week at the end of August 2014, I was nearly handbagged by a group of ‘Old Midleton’ ladies who’d joined the tour. Their outrage was sparked by my use of the name ‘Midleton House’ while referring to the very first house at the southern end of Main Street. But this was not the building standing across the river from it that ThEY called Midleton House.You will be glad to know that handbags were not employed on this occasion, because I managed to deflect their collective ire by promising them a juicy piece of gossip!
One of the mysteries of Midleton is why the town has two houses, each called Midleton House, facing each other across the narrow Roxborough or Dungourney River. Now there are a lot of people in Midleton who would object that the above statement is factually incorrect – like the ladies on my tour, they would assert, beyond any fear of contradiction, that there is only ONE Midleton House. Well, let’s look at this matter more carefully.
When I lived in Limerick, I had heard a rumour that the town council had directed the owners of the house at the southern end of Main Street to remove a new house sign bearing the name Midleton House. The tale I heard was that the council asserted that the other house directly across the river was Midleton House, and that no other house was entitled to the name. Now I haven’t corroborated this tale, but I can think of a perfectly good reason why the council might have objected to a sign – but it has nothing to do with the name of the house. My concern would be that the original forged and cast iron railings might be harmed by the addition of a new sign. This, in my opinion is the ONLY proper objection that the council should have had to the sign – NOT the ‘fact’ that there was only one house entitled to the name ‘Midleton House.’
So, it’s time to examine why Midleton has two houses with the same name apparently glaring at each other across the river.
The first thing to note is that the first edition Ordnance Survey map shows both houses in the 1840s. But only one house is actually named – this is the house on the southern bank of the Roxborough or Dungourney River. It is called Lewis Place – a name that is virtually unknown in Midleton, despite the fact that the house is located next to Lewis Bridge. The lawn at the front of the house contained a well – Lewis Well, now covered over and entirely forgotten.
One might ask who was Lewis? That a house, bridge and well should be named after him suggests someone of improtance. The answer is that we simply don’t know, although Charles Smith’s History and Character of the the County and City of Cork (1750) notes that some of the monuments in St John the Baptist churchyard (C of I) bore the family name Lewis. So the family must have been resident in the town or parish into the middle of the eighteenth century. And this is important, for clearly the house is older than its earliest recorded deed from the 1790s, when it was leased to Rev Mr Greene, a onetime Sovereign of Midleton. The slope of the roof and the placement of windows and door at the front suggest that it even LOOKS older, with a bit of gentle modernisation around 1800. I suspect that a date somewhere between 1750 and 1760 is about right. At one point this house enjoyed a view right up the entire length of the Main Street towards the mill at the northern end of the town.
Sadly, the view is no longer open because the trees and shrubs planted in the front garden of the house across the river have grown up to block the vista. THAT house is clearly a much later building than Lewis Place. The size and disposition of the windows and door, as well as the shallower slope of the roof, and the good manners of the house in following line of the western side of the Main Street all suggest a building from about 1790 – 1800. Behind this building is a large yard and a huge grain store, about six to seven storeys in height. Until the 1930s the yard was known as Coppinger’s Yard thus revealing the name of the family that developed the site at the end of the eighteenth century. This house was NOT not given a name in the first edition Ordnance Survey map. It is worth noting that Coppingers Brewery stood across the Main Street from the yard.
Returning to our Ordnance Survey maps, but this time to the 1896 25-inch survey of Midleton. BOTH houses are called Midleton House on the map! This is why I believe that the former Coppinger residence at the southern end of Main Street is entitled to be called Midleton House, along with the former Lewis Place across the river. Sadly it would appear that nobody in the council bothered to look at the Ordnance Survey maps!
It might serve to give some history of the occupation of the two houses.
First, Midleton House, The Rock, formerly Lewis Place, on the southern bank of the Roxborough River. As noted this is clearly the older of the two houses by several decades. From the 1790s it was the home of the Greene family who developed most of the western side of St Mary’s Road (at one time to the dismay of Lord Midleton’s agent!)..
Pigott’s Directory of 1824 gives us the information that the Rev Wm Greene, LLD, Rector of Tullilease (in north County Cork) resided in Midleton, under the heading of ‘Nobility, Gentry and Clergy’. The name or precise address of the house is not given and there is no mention of the name Lewis Place anywhere – remember this was BEFORE the first edition Ordnance Survey map was produced. Mr Greene’s near neighbour was the Rev William Maunsell, Archdeacon of Limerick, residing at Midleton Lodge (now the council offices). In 1856, Slater’s Directory gives the detail that Rev William Greene, LLD, resided at Midleton House. Now this is the ONLY Midleton House noted in the Directory. So shortly after the Ordnance Survey completed their survey of Midleton the name Lewis Place was changed to Midleton House. It is not at present known if Viscount Midleton gave his consent to this change.
Slater’s Directory (1881) gives us Mr Michael Greene as resident at Midleton House. A solicitor who was also a ‘commissioner for taking affidavits’ and a registrar of marriages, he was the son of Rev. William Greene, Rector of Tullilease. Michael Greene was the same man who, in 1867, provided refuge tor three constables following their violent encounter with Midleton’s Fenian rebels directly in front of his own gate. During this encounter, one constable was shot dead and another was wounded, after which the rebels marched on to Castlemartyr to attack the constabulary barracks there. Mr Greene was still resident and performing the same official functions in 1893, but the house was occupied by, his son, William B Greene in 1897. This latter gentleman is recorded as a District Commissioner and town councillor in 1909. Thus in one sense the offended ladies on the tour were right – Midleton House, The Rock, previously Lewis Place, seems to have been the original Midleton House. (Note: The Rock is the part of Midleton directly south of the Roxborough River once dominated by a large outcrop of rock that has been quarriee away to provide access to the road to Youghal.)
The other house, at the southern end of Main Street, on the north bank of the Roxborough River, was built by the Coppinger family between 1790 and 1820 (more likely at the earlier part of this period). The Coppingers were the wealthiest Catholic residents of Midleton from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. Thomas Stephen Coppinger is noted as a merchant in Piggot’s Directory of 1824, while John and Joseph Coppinger are identified as brewers and maltsters. Thomas Stephen lived in the unnamed house marked on the first edition Ordnance Survey map, with his grain store and yard behind the house. However, by 1842, Thomas Stephen Coppinger, now a Justice of the Peace, had moved to Midleton Lodge and a Richard Coppinger, merchant, is noted as living in Midleton almost certainly in the former residence of Thomas Stephen Coppinger.
In Slater’s Directory of 1881 Thomas Coppinger Esq, JP is resident at Midleton Lodge, but we now see TS & R Coppinger, as corn merchants on Main Street – presumably in the original Coppinger residence backing on to their grain store. By 1897 TS & R Coppinger of Main Street were now coal merchants and seed and manure merchants, a business they ran into the twentieth century.. Note that the house on Main Street is not given a name in these directories, yet the name Midleton House appears attached to this house on the 1896 map. It seems highly unlikely that the Ordnance Survey made a mistake – it is far more likely that the managed to correctly ascertain the name of the Coppinger house.
Thus, according to the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, we DO have two houses on the banks of the Roxborough River bearing the name Midleton House. One clearly had the name since the mid-1850s, but the other acquired the name by 1896. Somehow I don’t think the Midleton Post Office required postcodes to ascertain which letter was destined for which house!
Townlands have been the basic unit of land division in Ireland since the medieval period, with origins perhaps going back much further. some are relatively new – such as the townland of School-lands in Midleton which certainly didn’t exist before 1696, when Midleton School, or Midleton College as we now call it, was founded. As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, townlands (or ploughlands) are not of a uniform size – being dependent on the fertility of the land contained within the townland boundaries. And they were not always rigidly fixed either – several of them changed over the centuries, such as the cre. Many of them have local sub-divisions which never appear on a map because these sub-divisisons are unofficial. Castlredmond townland, which lies between Midleton town and Ballinacurra village is a classic example. It sprawls from the shore of the Owenacurra estuary and Ballinacurra creek to Carrigshane rock. A sprawling townland needed to be subdivided by the inhabitants as a way of ascertaining who actually lived where.
Bailick, Lakeview, Cronin’s Rock, Rocky Road, Ashlin Road, Carrigshane Rock (which is NOT in the townland of Carrighane!) all mark out divisions of the townland. But these names may not appear on official maps except for very specific locations or reatures, such as a road or a house. Technically these names should only apply the specific feature but in Ireland, this is usually disregarded. Well, rules were made to be broken.
In fact the subdivisions were derived from local usage and existed for the convenience of the inhabitants themselves. For example, if you take the townland of Castleredmond, which lies between Midleton and Ballynacorra, this covered 486 acres, 3 roods and 33 perches, containing 259 inhabitants in what was then a mostly rural district in 1881 when these figures were published. Now many of these inhabitants probably lived close to the wharf on the Owenacurra estuary in the west.area. But there might be clusters of inhabitants in other parts, say bordering the Youghal Road or on the Rocky Road or perhaps on the Ballinacorra Road. That gives four different clusters of housing where people were concentrated..Imagine a townland where several men bear the name Patrick Murphy. There might be several Pat Murphys spread among the different clusters in different parts of the townland. And one ot two living in more apart in isolated farms or cottages. How would you recognize which Pat Murphy someone is talking about? In speech a nickname was given – Pat Jim Murphy might be the Pat Murphy who is the son of Jim Murphy. Pat Michael or Mick’s Pat might be the Patrick Murphy, son of Michael Murphy. But an official letter is likely to be addressed to Mr Patrick Murphy, Castleredmond, Midleton, County Cork. To whom does the postman deliver the letter?
One way of getting over this was to insert a local designation into the address – somewhat unofficial, but useful for the postman. So, Pat Jim Murphy might live in a cottage on Bailick Road and might give his address as Patrick Murphy, Bailick, Castleredmond, Midleton while Mick’s Pat could be Patrick Murphy, Lakeview, Castleredmond, Midleton. Perhaps there’s another Patrick Murphy called Pat John, or PJ, for identification, living on Bailick Road – he might liver near Charleston Maltings (run by Bennetts) so his address might be given as Patrick Murphy, Charleston, Bailick, Castleredmond Midleton. Remember these are not entirely official designations, but they were useful for the postman who had to distinguish between the several Patrick Murphys living in one townland. It is possible that similar designations might appear in the local church registers – but this was entirely at the discretion of the priest or clergyman. The practice was probably also used by local landlords who sublet to small tenants.
I have suggested that these subdivisions of townlands were somewhat unofficial, but sometimes they were recognized by the Post Office – Lakeview Terrace still stands at the northern end of Castleredmond right next to the modern by-pass, The small terrace of three good houses appears in the first edition Ordnance Survey map so it has been in existance since the early 1840s or late 1830s. But it takes its name from the large house next door – Lakeview or Lake View in the original designation. This house was inhabited by Mr Swithin Fleming, a lawyer, from the 1830s to the 1880s. The lake viewed from the house was actually a broad stretch of the estuary of the Owenacurra River to the west. I suspect that the view as better from the upper floor of the house since the site stands well back from the estuary, at the top of the slope. Today, Lakeview is the name given locally to this area of the townland of Castleredmond – indeed the junction of by-pass with the Midleton to Ballinacorra Road is called Lakeview Roundabout (Rotary to you Americans), and the nearby service station is called Lakeview Service Station. But the houses in the area can be designated ‘Castleredmond’ or ‘Lakeview, Castleredmond’.
Why does all this matter? In searching for one’s Irish ancestors, it is necessary to be careful that the correct person in the correct part of the townland be identified. If you are dealing with a name like Murphy, MacCarthy, O’Sullivan, O’Brien, O’Neill etc, this can pose difficulties. If there is another placename linked to the family this can prove to be a subdivision of the townland name – a very useful aid in finding one’s ancestral homestead – even if it is now a ploughed field.
Midleton has several areas like this in different townlands. For example, the townland of Townparks, which covers the town center and extends well south of the Roxborough River, includes two areas with very local identification within its boundaries. These are Coolbawn and the Rock. They are not official designations – Coolbawn is the locally employed name for Brodrick Street. Imagine the confusion on the faces of a visitor who is told you can find the Farmgate Restaurant on Coolbawn. Now there are not many streets in Midleton – just five in fact. These are Main Street, Thomas Street, Connolly Street, Oliver Plunkett Street (formerly Bridewell Lane), McDermott Street (formerly Free School Lane)….and Brodrick Street. Every other route is a road or lane, as in Mill Road, Youghal Road, Cork Road, Old Cork Road, St Mary’s Road (still called Chapel Road by locals) or Bridewell Lane (now Oliver Plunkett Street- although its dimensions haven’t changed – it’s still a lane!), Church Lane, Coach Horse Lane (self-explanatory really) Dickinson’s Lane, Darby’s Lane – and the former Free School Lane (which is still a lane!).
The point of local designations is that they sometimes tell us something about an area – Coolbawn is the AREA in which Brodrick Street stands, being originally the whole area bounded by the Owenacurra River to the west, the Roxborough River to the south, Main Street to the east and the south wall of St John the Baptist’s Church on the north. The name suggests an meadow between two streams (check!) and subdivided into paddocks, prior to the building of Brodrick Street. However, Coolbawn now refers to Brodrick Street itself in popular parlance….to the dismay of visitors!
The Rock is somewhat different. This lies just south of the Roxborough River on higher ground. Crossing Lewis Bridge over the Roxborough Riverg at the southern end of Main Street, the road splits in two. The route to the right continues up a steep hill, passing Holy Rosary Church towards Convent Cross (a T-junction at the top of the hill where St Mary’s Convent once stood) and then continues down the other side towards Ballinacorra via Castlredmond (and its Lakeview subdivision). From Lewis Bridge the other road forks off to the left cutting through the rock (!) towards Castlemartyr, Youghal and Waterford. The Rock is literally that! A rocky outcrop of limestone. Actually if you drive along the Youghal Road, you’d be hard pressed to spot it. There seems to have been a spur of limestone going from the hill towards the north. This seems to have been cut through at a very early date to create a direct road to Youghal, but this was probably too narrow for most carts or coaches. For a long time the main route to Youghal ran up St Mary’s Road and through Ballinacorra. Gradually the need to ease the passage of heavily loaded carts in and out of Midleton and the desire to speed up the mail coaches to and from Youghal led to a change. The limestone rock was cut away, perhaps to provide building stone, and a wider road was created. The good news for carters and coachmen was that this route was a much gentler slope for draught horses. By the end of the 1700s this area where the two roads fork began to be built up – and it’s been called the Rock for as long as anyone can recall. The Coppinger family, who had property on the north side of the Roxborough, built the National Bank of Ireland at the Rock in the 1830s. They later built Rock Terrace next to their bank in 1861. Yet the terrace on the rock itself doesn’t even have this name, being simply The Rock!
Thus, if you are looking for your Irish ancestors, it is worth bearing in mind that even a small townland can have unofficial subdivisions within it. This is a particularly useful point to recall if your ancestor is one of several people with exactly the same name living in the townland at the same time – remember, the number of names in use in the nineteenth century was remarkably limited by our standards.
Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Ireland website: http://www.abandonedireland.com/Lakeview_House.html
Last week I had an email from Grace Fox at SECAD (South & East Cork Area Development). She asked me to give a tour of Midleton to a group taking a new Tourism and Heritage Programme at SECAD. Her suggestion was to do the tour on Tuesday 21st October. I said ‘yes’ subject to the weather – the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo was due to arrive overnight on Monday and continue into the next day. Fortunately the worst of the storm went north, and we got away lightly here in the deep south.
I met the group of about twelve people at the Courthouse at the northern end of Main Street (and believe me the wind was bitter – thermal underwear weather!). First we looked around the Fair Green and old Goose’s Acre area with the old Workhouse (now the Community Hospital), Allen’s Mill (now apartments), Neville’s garage (formerly part of the old US Naval Air Station at Aghada – moved here in 1921!), the Courthouse (by George and Richard Pain, 1829), the Munster & Leinster Bank by George Coppinger Ashlin (now the Allied Irish Bank).
The northern end of Main Street. Yes, that is a blue sky in the background! The red brick structure is the Allied Irish Bank, designed in a Dutch Renaissance style by George Coppinger Ashlin and built for the Munster and Leinster Bank in 1902. The Courthouse stands directly opposite (out of picture). The yellow building is one half of a structure that once contained the Post Office and was built in 1910. The building now houses a bookshop on the ground floor and law offices upstairs, convenient for the Courthouse.
It’s so nice to have an attentive group!
We then proceeded down Main Street looking Old Bank House, the predecessor of the Munster & Leinster Bank, the older of the two Market Houses in Midleton (the town is unique in having TWO Market Houses), the different building plots on Main Street, and then on to Connolly Street to look at Midleton College (founded 1696). This is a secondary school (boarding and day school) not a third level institution. It was also the site of one of the earliest known experiments in medical anesthesia in Ireland in the 1830s. The wind dropped and the temperature seemed more pleasant once we had the shelter of the buildings in Main Street.
From there we returned to Main Street, crossing over to Church Lane, to view St John the Baptist’s Church (Church of Ireland) and the oldest cemetery in Midleton, going back to the seveneeth century – I have ancestors buried there. This was also the site of the Cistercian Abbey of Chore (Mainistir na Corann in Irish, meaning the Monastery of the Weir, the weit being the most valuable asset of the monastery at the Dissolution). At one period the settlement was known as Corabbey, until the charter of King Charles II in 1670 gave the town an official corporate identity and a new name – MIDLETON. Even the spelling is by royal appointment! St John the Baptist’s Church is the third Anglican church on the site since 1670 and was also designed by George and Richard Pain (1825).
Moving on to Main Street, we stopped to look at the library which is now housed in the ‘new’ Market House. Well, it was new in 1789 when it was built – just in time for the French Revolution! It later became known as the ‘Town Hall‘ – that is, a place used by the town as a reading room (how appropriate that it houses the library) and as a place of assembly for public meetings, dinners and even dances. Bear in mind the shambles was on the ground floor (the butchers’ market)! I’m sure this added a delightful aroma to the genteel proceedings upstairs.
We moved on further to look at a building designed by Augustus WN Pugin but executed under the supervision of his son Edward – now called McDaid’s Bar, but known to long established Midleton residents as the former Midleton Arms Hotel. This structure was originally two houses (with shops on the ground floor, but Viscount Midleton didn’t have the money to complete the rebuilding of the entire street in the same fashion. Main Street would have looked spectacular if the project had been completed. The building was occuppied by Crown Forces during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921). There are still traces of bullet marks on the building where the IRA had fired on the British troops who were stationed there to secure the southern end of the street (the Royal Irish Constabulary were based at the Northern end of the street).
From there we went on to Brodrick Street or Coolbawn as locals call it. In fact Coolbawn refers to the area in which Brodrick Street stands. And no, there’s no ‘e‘ in Brodrick – despite the official street sign! The Brodricks were the family who developed Midleton into the town we see today. Crossing Main Street (it’s a LONG street, about eight hundred yards) we entered the old Coppinger brewery. I had some funny looks when I told them this! Midleton is noted for distilling whiskey, not for brewing beer. However the Coppinger family had closed down the brewery by the time the first Ordnance Survey map of Midleton was surveyed in the late 1830s. The business almost certainly failed because of Fr Theobald Mathew’s spectacularly successful campaign against the demon drink – the Famine drove us back to drink! We then gathered at Distillery Walk (it should really be called Distillery Drive given all the cars parked there) to discuss the Coppingers and their importance in Midleton, with their house on the other side of Main Street. (More about that house below!)
Holding forth about the Coppinger family at Distillery Walk, with Lewis Bridge in the background (beyond the railings). The scene is dominated by Ashlin’s Holy Rosary Church (1896 & 1908). Just visible over the parapet of the bridge is the former Lewis Place, now called Midleton House, one of two houses with that name in Midleton. Later, I realized that I had forgotten to tell them about General John Joseph Coppinger (1834-1909), who fought on the Union side in the US Civil War – he’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery (yes, the one across the Potomac from DC!).
Note the attentive note taking by most of the group. There were plenty of questions too!
Then crossing over Lewis Bridge (which traverses the Roxborough River) we turned off to look at one of the two houses called Midleton House. There I explained that this house was originally called Lewis Place (queue shock and surprise in the group – NOBODY had EVER heard called THAT!). This house was probably built around 1760 (perhaps earlier!) and only later acquired the name Midleton House. People in the town believe this is the ONLY house entitled to that name, whereas, in fact, the house directly across the Roxborough River was also called Midleton House from the 1890s. That house was the home of the Coppinger family that I noted above. The Coppingers were prosperous brewers, maltsters, grain merchants and bankers, and were the most important, and wealthiest, Catholic residents of Midleton in the nineteenth century. We also considered the 1867 Fenian ‘incident’ in Midleton (I refuse to call it a rebellion, it was plain murder!) and the buildings of the area called the Rock (from a large rock that had to be cut away to create the road to Youghal). Among the buildings there are Bank House – built by the Coppingers as the Midleton branch of the National Bank of Ireland in the 1830s, as well as Rock Terrace (1861) and some earlier terraces and a lovely pair of late Georgian townhouses to complete the scene. We didn’t do the Holy Rosary Catholic Church because we could all see it from where we stood – this was also designed by George Coppinger Ashlin in 1894 and built in two years, opening in 1896! The spire was added to Ashlin’s original design in 1907/08. They knew how to build them back then! So, curiously, the Main Street and Rock are bracketed by George Coppinger Ashlin’s buildings.
In all the tour took just over two hours – and it was the first component of the group’s tourism studies. I hope they learned more about Midleton in those two hours than they had expected. A huge ‘thank you’ to the group for their enthusiastic attendance on a very chilly afternoon. And the best of luck to them in their course.