‘As violent as a tiger’ – Alan Brodrick becomes first Viscount Midleton in 1717

Alan_Brodrick

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

Jonathan  Swift, born 350 years ago, knew an irascible character when it met one – after all Swift was himself a quite difficult character when it suited him. His description of Alan Brodrick as being as ‘violent as a tiger’ is a case in point. It took one to know one. However, Swift was not saying that Brodrick was a physically violent man, but that the language Brodrick employed in law and politics was often intemperate.

Alan Brodrick was the second son of Sir St John Brodrick and his wife Alice Clayton. He was almost certainly born in Ireland in 1656 – just as the Down Survey was being compiled. Sir St John had been granted large estates in Ireland under the Protectorate (Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth). These were centred on the market-town of Corabbey, which was renamed Midleton in 1670.

Alan was educated in Magdalen College, Oxford, and later at Middle Temple, one of the Inns of Court in London. Brodrick was called to the English Bar in 1678. This automatically entitled him to practice as a lawyer in Ireland. Almost certainly, Alan was being set up for a legal career  – necessary due to his older brother Thomas being their father’s principal heir. Under the rules of primogeniture, Thomas stood to inherit all of the Brodrick estate in Ireland.

Magdalen College Oxford

Alan Brodrick was sent to Magdalen College, Oxford, for his education. 

However, Alan would go on to create his own estate. When James II came to Ireland to fight for his throne against his son-in-law, William, Prince of Orange,  in 1689. James’s Irish parliament attainted the Brodricks, who fled to England and gave their support to William. On returning to Ireland following the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, Alan was made Recorder of Cork. This meant that Alan was now the principal magistrate in Cork, the most important judicial office in the city. and he was responsible for keeping law and order in the city. Alan was also appointed Third Serjeant (a legal office) in 1691, but was dismissed in a few months as there was no work for him to do, as he admitted himself, although he complained bitterly!

Alan Brodrick was appointed Solicitor General for Ireland in 1695, a post he held until  1704. He was appointed Attorney General for Ireland from 1707 to 1709.

In 1710, Alan became the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland – this meant that he was the head of the Court of Queen’s Bench. However he was removed from office by the government for his disagreements over policy.

(c) Palace of Westminster; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

William of Orange and Princess Mary accept the crown following William’s successful invasion of England in 1688.

Brodrick was elected to  the Irish House of Commons in 1695 as MP for Cork city, a post he held until 1710. In 1703, he was elected Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, but had to step down in 1710 when he was appointed a judge. Elected MP for Cork County in 1713, Brodrick was immediately chosen to be Speaker of the Irish Commons again. As an MP Alan Brodrick was instrumental in framing the notorious Penal Laws against Catholics and Jacobites.

Act against papists

From 1695 a series of punitive penal laws was passed in Ireland to prevent Catholics from challenging the Established order.

His second term as Speaker didn’t last, because the government of King George I appointed him Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1714. Naturally, the Lord Chancellor was also President of the House of Lords, so Alan Brodrick was ennobled as Baron Brodrick of Midleton in 1715. This was a bit odd, since his brother Thomas was due to inherit their father’s estate. However, by then it was clear that Thomas only had daughters, while Alan had one son, St John Brodrick, by then. In 1717, three hundred years ago this year

King George I

The accession of King George I, a descendant of King James I, in 1714 led to Alan Brodrick being appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

, Alan Brodrick, Baron Brodrick of Midleton, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was elevated as Viscount Midleton. This, presumably, was a sort of bribe to a difficult political character, to keep him in line with government policy.

It was a court case that led to the great crisis of Alan Brodrick’s political career. The Shercock-Annesley Case led to a question of whether or not the House of Lords in London was the final court of appeal in Irish legal cases. Brodrick did his best to calm down the passions the case raised. He warned the Irish House of Lords to be very careful, but the Lords pig-headedly made it clear that they thought the IRISH House of Lords should be the ONLY court of final appeal for Irish cases. In 1719 the Westminster parliament curtailed the powers of the Irish parliament by passing the notorious Dependency of Ireland on Great Britain Act or ‘Sixth of George I‘. this act remained in force until 1782.  Alan Brodrick was blamed for this act, although he had sternly advised the Irish Lords not to pursue their confrontational policy.

Alan Brodrick was a political Whig, supporting the Williamite settlement. He also controlled the nearest thing to a political party in the Irish House of Commons, the ‘Cork interest’ (also called the ‘Boyle interest’ due to the Boyle family’s participation, or ‘Brodrick interest’). This grouping didn’t resemble modern political parties, but was a looser grouping. In reality, Alan Brodrick was a parliamentary undertaker – that is he undertook to produce the required number of votes to get the government’s legislation through the Commons. Alan Brodrick’s great rival in parliament was the fabulously wealthy William Connolly, who also touted for the job of government parliamentary undertaker. The two men had an often bitter relationship. William Connolly eventually won the parliamentary battle, going on to build the magnificent Castletown House in County Kildare as a testament to his success and wealth. Sadly, Alan Brodrick invested in Peper Harrow, an estate in Surrey, to which his successor as Viscount removed himself and his heirs.

Irish house of lords 1704

The Irish Parliament that Alan Brodrick knew met in Chichester House in Dublin. The old parliament house was replaced by Sir Edwards Lovett Pearce’s masterpiece from the 1720s.

All these posts allowed Alan Brodrick to accumulate or acquire lands in several counties, but mostly in County Cork, adjoining his father’s lands. His three successive marriages, to Catherine Barry, Lucy Courthorpe and Anne Hill, gave him additional family and political connections and two sons – St John Brodrick born to Catherine Barry died just months before his father, and Alan, born to Lucy Courthorpe, would outlive his father as Second Viscount Midleton.

Alan Brodrick, first Baron Brodrick of Midleton, and first Viscount Midleton, died in August 1728, a few months after his son, St John, had died.  He was succeeded by his second son,Alan, second Baron Brodrick of Midleton and second Viscount Midleton.

In 1920, William St John Fremantle Brodrick, the ninth Viscount Midleton was elevated as first Earl of Midleton, and his son, George St John Brodrick, became the second Earl and tenth Viscount in 1942. The earldom became extinct with the death of George in 1979, but the viscountcy and baronage survived, transferring to a cousin.

The titles continue today with the Alan Henry Brodrick, 12th Baron Brodrick and 12th Viscount Midleton, who has a son to succeed him.

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2017 -Tercentenaries and other commemorations.

midleton-college-pic1

The original foundation building of Midleton Endowed School (now Midleton College) was completed under the supervision of Thomas Brodrick in 1717 and opened to take in pupils later that year. The present appearance of the front of the building is affected by the loss of the original cupola over the front door before 1750, and the blocking of windows probably in the 1820s refurbishment by the architect Joseph Welland, who was born about a mile away. The wing on the left is a later nineteenth century addition.

This year will see two tercentenaries marked in Midleton. First up comes the 300th anniversary of the first teaching year at Midleton College. The College, or Endowed School, was founded in 1696 by Elizabeth Villiers, Countess of Orkney, on a site in Midleton provided by the Brodrick family as a sort of payment for their political and legal assistance in helping her to resolve the disputes over King William III’s (William of Orange) grant of her Irish estates. The Free School, as it was also called, was finally completed in 1717 and George Chinnery was appointed its first Headmaster. It also took in its first pupils shortly after Chinnery’s appointment. Oh, and the School Governors finally paid off one of the joiners for providing the wainscotting to the schoolroom! I’ll follow up with a post on the vicissitudes of the foundation, and delayed completion, of the school in a later post. Suffice to say that the design of the original foundation building is intriguing because of its ultimate source. The design and construction of the building was specifically placed in the hands of Thomas Brodrick, the older of St John Brodrick’s two sons.

Alan_Brodrick

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

The second tercentenary to be marked is that of the creation of the Viscountcy of Midleton. In 1717, Alan Brodrick, Lord Chancellor of Ireland since 11th October 1714, was elevated as The Viscount Midleton. He already held a lessor title, Baron Brodrick of Midleton, since 1715 but this new title moved him up one rank in the peerage. It should be noted that his elevation was based on his own political acumen and credentials. Oddly, his older brother, Thomas Brodrick MP, was never given a title despite his chairmanship of the British parliamentary inquiry into the South Sea Bubble crash of 1720. Very likely the inquiry’s report accusing too many ministers of corruption left Tom Brodrick in a bad odour in Court circles.  Alan Brodrick remained Lord Chancellor of Ireland until 1725 when, in the wake of a dispute with Speaker William Connolly, he resigned. Unfortunately for him, Alan Brodrick was blamed by the Irish peers and MPs for the British Parliament’s Dependency of Ireland upon Great Britain Act of 1719 (popularly called the Declaratory Act) which asserted the British parliament’s right to make laws binding on Ireland notwithstanding the existence of the Irish parliament. In fact that Act came about due to the obstinacy of the Irish peers in Parliament who ignored the wiser advice of given them by Brodrick in the matter.  Alan Brodrick, 1st Viscount Midleton, Baron Brodrick of Midleton, held his titles as a member of the Irish peerage, which meant that he could not sit in the British House of Lords. However, he did sit in the British House of Commons as an MP following election for Midhurst. The title Viscount Midleton is still extant having passed to a cousin on the death of the second Earl of Midleton in the later 20th century.

midleton-market-house-clock

Midleton’s Market House now serves as the town library. The Tricolour was provocatively flown from the upper windows in 1917. Happily, the clock is due to be repaired this year.

In Easter 1917, a group of young nationalists in Midleton decided on a dramatic stunt to commemorate the first anniversary of the Easter Rising.  They got into the Market House on Main Street in Midleton and unfurled the ‘Republican Flag’ (the green, white and orange Irish tricolour) out of a window on the upper floor. At the time, this was a highly illegal gesture because the British authorities were still sensitive to any hint of sedition a year after the Easter Rising in 1916. It seems to have been the first know attempt to display in Midleton the flag that eventually became the national flag of the Irish state. The Market House now houses the public library. There are proposals to conserve and repair the Town Clock on the Market House this year. As an aside, a certain Henry Ford, whose family came from County Cork, established a tractor factory in Cork in 1917!

aghada-hall

Aghada Hall became the base of the US Naval Air Station Queenstown from 1918. The US Navy took up station in Cork Harbour in May 1917.

Of course there are other anniversaries to commemorate in 2017 – the centenary of the arrival of the US Navy into Cork Harbour as the United States was compelled to enter the First World War by the decoding of the Zimmerman Telegram which offered Mexico most of the western parts of the United States in return for attacking the US. It’s rather ironic that President-elect Donald Trump is indulging in sabre-rattling against Mexico a century later! The Germans were desperate in 1917 – is Trump desperate in 2017?

passchendaele

Battlefield or the swamp of Hell? They sent men to fight and die in that – the battlefield of Passchendaele in 1917.

Staying with the Great War, we will see the necessarily grim commemorations of the horrific battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres. It lasted as long as the Battle of the Somme (July to November 1916) which we commemorated in Midleton by unveiling and dedicating a World War I memorial. For all the horrors of the Somme, Passchendaele was worse for the ground in Flanders was churned to mud and many of those who died were actually drowned rather than died of wounds inflicted by weapons.

luther-theses

Martin Luther’s protest at the abuse of church power sparked off the Protestant Reformation from 1517.

October 31st 2017 (yes, Hallowe’en!) will mark the 500th anniversary of the famous incident when the Augustinian friar Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the University church in Wittenberg to spark a debate on the efficacy and validity of indulgences. This act (which may or may not have happened) sparked off a movement that led to the Protestant Reformation. This is undoubtedly the biggest commemoration this year – and, hopefully, historians will provide new insights into a complex development.

This is just a sample of the events for this year.

Happy New Year!

 

The Honorable Albinia Brodrick: from English Aristocrat to Irish Revolutionary Republican. A public lecture to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.

Hon Albinia Brodrick Nurse

The Hon. Albinia Brodrick as a nurse.

As part of the Cork County Council 1916 Centenary Commemoration programme a public lecture will take place in Midleton Library on Saturday 16th January.

The Hon. Albinia Brodrick (sometimes incorrectly called Lady Brodrick) was born into the English aristocratic Brodrick family, the absentee landlords of Midleton in County Cork. Brought up in a firmly Unionist milieu she supported her family’s commitment to preserving the Union between Britain and Ireland and their rejection of Home Rule for Ireland. This stance was so pronounced that as a young woman she read the newspaper to her partially blind father, William, 8th Viscount Midleton, but only on the stipulation that she never read out William Gladstone’s name whenever it was mentioned in the news reports. Gladstone, of course, tried to pacify Ireland with various Home Rule proposals but nothing came of this endeavour.

Albinia's Hospital

The remains of Albinia Brodrick’s hospital at West Cove, near Caherdaniel, County Kerry.

Extremely well educated privately, and well travelled, Albinia later acted as hostess to her uncle who was Warden of Merton College, Oxford. At some point in the early 20th century Albinia underwent an extraordinary change in her political, social and national loyalties. First, she trained as a nurse and became a staunch advocate of reform in nursing education – especially in training nurses to deal with venereal disease. Then she became interested in the condition of the Irish rural poor, particularly in the Caherdaniel are of County Kerry, where she established a hospital to provide improved treatment for local people. But her most radical change was to identify herself entirely with Ireland – she learned to speak Irish, changed her name to Gobnait Ni Brudair. Albinia went further by becoming a radical Irish republican, supporting the 1916 Easter Rising, opposing the Treaty of 1921, supporting the Anti-Treaty forces during the Civil War. During this time, Albinia’s brother, William St John Fremantle Brodrick, 9th Viscount Midleton, was the leader of the Southern Unionists -a very different group from the Ulster Unionists.

St John Brodrick as Minister

William St John Fremantle Brodrick as a British Minister, at the dispatch box of the House of Commons, The leader of the Southern Unionists, he became the 9th Viscount Midleton, and in 1920 was created 1st Earl of Midleton.

Albinia died in relative poverty in 1955 and was buried in the Church of Ireland graveyard in Sneem, County Kerry. She left her property to the members of the old IRA – but in fact the true heirs could not be identified by the High Court in Dublin. The lecture will illustrate Albinia Brodrick’s life and radicalism.

The 1916 Centenary Commemorative lecture will take place at Midleton Library on Saturday 16th January at 12.00 noon. All are welcome.

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An East Cork Mystery – Pugin’s missing potato house in Dungourney.

The barn at Oxenford Farm, Surrey, was designed by Pugin for George Brodrick, 5th Viscount Midleton. (1843-1844) (Photo - SovalValtos)

The barn at Oxenford Farm, Surrey, was designed by Pugin in 1843 for George Brodrick, 5th Viscount Midleton. (Photo – SovalValtos, 2014)

…I have already produced almost as many drawings for this potato house as I have for any of my churches!

AWN Pugin in a letter to Viscount Midleton, (1845-48?).

When an architect as celebrated as Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin tells you that he has put so much effort into designing a potato house in a farm complex, you’d think that the self same potato house, or farm complex, would appear on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, which officially lists all of our protected historic buildings. But Pugin’s Dungourney farm isn’t there. So we are left with a mystery. The only clue I have is that the farm was then ‘…now building….‘ near Dungourney, just a few miles north east of Midleton.

Oxenford Farm gate lodge was designed by Pugin in 1843 and, after recent restoration by the Landmark Trust, it can be hired as a weekend retreat.

The Oxenford Farm gate lodge was designed by Pugin in 1843 and, after recent restoration by the Landmark Trust, it can be hired as a weekend retreat. (Photo – Ainslie, 2013)

You might think that Pugin (1812-1852) was too busy designing churches and houses of Parliaments for him to give any attention to a farm complex, but he already had form, having designed an ornamental farm on the Peper Harow estate in Surrey for the 5th Viscount Midleton between 1843 and 1845. This was Oxenford Grange Farm which was once a grange of Waverley Abbey – so appropriately Pugin created a gothic revival farmyard, including gatehouse, barn and other farm buildings.  The (British) Landmark Trust have renovated the gatehouse and rent it out for short stays.  The Landmark Trust have also superbly restored Pugin’s home at The Grange in Ramsgate, Kent, for the same purpose.

The former Midleton Arms Hotel was designed as two town houses by Pugin, with shops on the ground floor. The building is probably older than its assumed completion date of 1851.

The former Midleton Arms Hotel was designed as two town houses by Pugin, with shops on the ground floor. The building is probably a few years older than its assumed completion date of 1851.

Midleton already has a building attributed to Pugin – two townhouses with shops on the ground floor built in a lovely understated late gothic or early Tudor style. The completion date for these is said to be 1851 – the year before Pugin’s death. But the houses may have been completed by the architect’s son, Edward Welby Pugin. However, I suspect that the pair of houses may actually be older – they were mentioned in 1845 as part of the improvements of the town by the landlord, George, 5th Viscount Midleton. It is likely that these houses were knocked into one structure as a hotel by the early 1850s. They certainly served as the Midleton Arms Hotel until the beginning of the 1980s. Sadly, to date, the structure hasn’t been researched properly.

The largest work by Pugin was his decoration for the interior of the Palace of Westminster.  Although the architect is ususally stated to be Charles Barry, I suspect Pugin's role was far greater than Barry ever admitted.

The largest work by Pugin was his decoration for the interior of the Palace of Westminster. Although the architect is usually stated to be Charles Barry, I suspect Pugin’s role was far greater than Barry ever admitted.

Augustus Pugin was famous for being a strong champion of the gothic revival style of architecture, setting new standards in design. His most famous work was the interiors of the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) in London. Sadly the building was damaged by Luftwaffe bombing during the Second World War and some of his work was obliterated.  The building is usually credited to Charles Barry but Barry was a classicist and he had to enlist Pugin to give the building a romantic gothic dress. The dramatic skyline is really by Pugin as is the clock tower commonly called ‘Big Ben,’ but now officially the Queen Elizabeth II Tower.

The reason Pugin went mad in February 1852 was a nervous breakdown caused by overwork on such items as the Throne in the House of Lords in Westminster.

Clearly not a pototo house! The reason Pugin went mad in February 1852 was a nervous breakdown caused by overwork on such items as the Throne in the House of Lords in Westminster.

The other Midleton connection to Pugin is that his daughter Mary married a local lad from East Cork – George Coppinger Ashlin, who was born in Little Island.  George’s older brother, John Coppinger Ashlin, lived in Castleredmond House, just yards from my present home. The road leading from Rocky Road to the Ballinacorra road was called Ashlin Road – but the by-pass built in the 1980s obliterated part of the route and the road had to be re-routed. Happily it kept the name Ashlin Road. George Coppinger Ashlin was himself a prolific architect, especially of Catholic churches, but his style was more varied than Pugin’s.  Ashlin designed the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Midleton as well as the Munster and Leinster Bank on Main Street – now the Allied Irish Bank.

The red-brick Munster and Leinster bank designed by Pugin's son-in-law GC Ashlin still dominates the northern end of Midleton's Main Street. This photo was taken shortly after the bank opened in 1901.

The red-brick Munster and Leinster Bank (on the right, now the Allied Irish Bank, was designed by Pugin’s son-in-law GC Ashlin in 1899. It  still dominates the northern end of Midleton’s Main Street. This photo was taken a decade or two after the bank opened in 1901.

My family connection with Pugin’s architecture goes back to my grandfather, Richard Harpur, who came from Barntown in County Wexford. The local Catholic church there was designed by Pugin an is still one of his best preserved buildings – St Alphonsus, Barntown.

My grandfather worshipped in Pugin's St Alphonsus Church in Barntown, County Wexford.

My grandfather worshipped in Pugin’s perfectly preserved St Alphonsus Church in Barntown, County Wexford.

However, I’d really love to see the potato house that Pugin designed (during the Famine!) for Lord Midleton at Dungourney! Hopefully it hasn’t been demolished!  Pugin’s Dungourney farm complex needs to be listed for protection, so does anybody know where it is?  Given what Pugin said to Lord Midleton about his designs, I really want to see that potato house!

Source:- Margaret Belcher, editor: The Collected Letters of AWN Pugin. Vol 3, (1846-1848) Oxford University Press.2009.

The Sale of Midleton Town announced 50 years ago.

On 10th December 1964, the Cork law firm of Wm Montgomery & Sons announced that the second Earl of Midleton was putting his entire estate in that town up for sale, with a preference to having it purchased by an Irish buyer.  The news became public in Midleton on 11th December – and you can imagine the impact, not just in Midleton.

Midleton in early 1900s

Plenty of cars – but no motorcars! Main Street, Midleton, around 1900.

The idea that a whole town in Ireland would still be ‘owned’ by an English landlord went down very badly.  But people in Midleton had been paying ground rents and leases to Lord Midleton since his ancestors bought the town when it was offered for sale by the Encumbered Estates Court in the 1850s.  The 5th Viscount had committed suicide in 1848 and left estate in serious debt, and the inheritance in some disarray.  Eventually the Irish estate was split and parts were sold off, with the descendants of Charles Brodrick, Archbishop of Cashel, purchasing the portion that included the town of Midleton.  This branch of the family had inherited the title Viscount Midleton on the death of the 5th Viscount and they felt that the title was meaningless without possession of the town.

The first Earl of Midleton died in 1942, and his son sold up the estate at Peper Harrow in Surrey and decamped to the tax-friendly environs of Jersey.  With no direct heir, he decided to sell up the last of his Irish holdings in 1964.  The plan was to auction off the holdings in the early spring of 1965.  The Earl had hoped that the housholders would buy the freehold of their properties and thus become free of ground rent.

What exactly was on offer?  Nothing less than 300 houses, 100 acres of land, and the ground rents of almost all the urban area of Midleton!  Even Midleton College, founded in 1696, only held the freehold of its original buildings and one acre of land – it still paid rents on its playing fields!  Admittedly ground rents were fairly nominal, but for people on low incomes they were a cost.

But on the 9th of February, the inhabitants of Midleton discovered that the entire Midleton estate had been bought as a single lot by a newly formed group of Cork businessmen calling themselves The Midleton Estate Company Ltd.  This further upset the locals who simply didn’t have a chance to buy the freehold of their properties.

Thus began a two year battle by the inhabitants of Midleton to acquire the actual ownership of their town.  The former Cork hurler and native of Midleton, John Fenton, completed an MA in Local History on this topic and has since published a book describing the whole affair.

Fenton Book

A celebrated piece of controversial modern history in Midleton.

Tomorrow night, 11th December, to mark the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the sale of Midleton, John will give a lecture entitled ‘When Midleton Town was sold‘ in the GAA Hall in Midleton at 8.00pm.  This is being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the sale, and to raise funds for the Irish Kidney Association.  I’m looking forward to it.

Hurricane Gonzalo blows out – and a Midleton Walking Tour blows in!

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).

Main Street Midleton

Midleton Walking Tour

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!)

midleton walking tour

Midleton walking tour

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.