Sunday, 5 July 2020

The May Baronetcy

The family of MAY, anciently De May, traces its descent to John de May, who came to England with WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, and, for his services, obtained considerable grants of land in the counties of Kent and Sussex.

His descendants were seated for many generations at Kennington, in Kent; and subsequently at Wadhurst, and other places, in Sussex.

From William May, second son of Thomas May, of Wadhurst, descended

SIR HUMPHREY MAY (1573-1630), Vice-Chamberlain to JAMES I and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; and also

SIR THOMAS MAY, of Mayfield, Sussex, whose eldest son, Thomas May, a celebrated poet, died unmarried, and whose second son,

EDWARD MAY, settled at Mayfield, County Waterford, and married Margaret, daughter of Arthur O'Donnelly, of Castle Caulfield, County Tyrone; the grandson of which marriage,

EDWARD MAY (c1672-1729), of Mayfield, MP for County Waterford, 1715-29, wedded Elizabeth, daughter and co-heiress (with her sister, Anne, Countess of Tyrone), of Andrew Richards, of County Kilkenny.

Mr May was succeeded by his son,

JAMES MAY, MP for County Waterford, 1725-34, who espoused Lætitia, daughter of William, 1st Viscount Duncannon.

Mr May, dying ca 1734, left with a daughter, Elizabeth Richards, wife of Thomas Carew, of Ballinamona, and granddaughter of Thomas Carew, of that place, a son and successor,

JAMES MAY (c1724-1811), of Mayfield, MP for County Waterford, 1759-97, who was created a baronet in 1763, designated of Mayfield, County Waterford.

Sir James married Ann, daughter of Thomas Moore, of Marlfield, and niece of Stephen, Earl Mount Cashell, and had issue,
JAMES EDWARD, his heir;
HUMPHREY, 3rd Baronet;
Thomas, dsp;
Charles, died unmarried;
GEORGE STEPHEN, 4th Baronet;
Mary Tottenham.
He was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR (JAMES) EDWARD MAY, 2nd Baronet (1751-1814), MP for Belfast, 1801-14, who married firstly, in 1773, Eliza Lind née Bagg, of St George, Holborn, Middlesex; and secondly, ca 1809, Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Lumley, of Passage, County Waterford.

He had two illegitimate daughters and two illegitimate sons,
Stephen Edward;
Edward Sylvester (Rev), Vicar of Belfast, 1809;
Anna, m George, 2nd Marquess of Donegall;
Elizabeth, m Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Verner.
The eldest son, Sir Stephen Edward May (1781-1845), JP DL, of 1, Donegall Place, following his father's death in 1814, believing himself to be the rightful successor to his father's baronetcy, styled himself "Sir Stephen May Bt". Sir Stephen, MP for Belfast, 1814-16, received the honour of Knighthood, in 1816, from Charles, 1st Earl Whitworth, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Sir Edward, erstwhile Collector of the Revenue of the port of Waterford, was succeeded in that lucrative and important office by his younger brother,

SIR HUMPHREY MAY, 3rd Baronet, of Maypark, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1798, who wedded, in 1784, Jane, daughter of the Rev James Grueber.

Sir Humphrey dsp 1819 in France, and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR GEORGE STEPHEN MAY, 4th Baronet (1764-1834).
Sir Humphrey had married Jane Grueber in 1784. She survived him, but apparently would not continue to reside at Maypark; hence, in Ramsey’s Waterford Chronicle of 1819, an advertisement appeared that Maypark was to be let on such terms and for such a period as might be agreed upon or the interest would be sold.
The baronetcy expired in 1834 following the decease of Sir George Stephen May, 4th and last Baronet.


In 1795, George, 2nd Marquess of Donegall, married Anna, daughter of Sir Edward, described as "a moneylender who also ran a gaming house"

He managed to get Lord Donegall - then styled Lord Chichester - released from a debtors' prison in 1795 and offered his daughter Anna in marriage, an obligation which his lordship felt obliged to accept.

The couple came to Belfast in 1802 to escape his debtors and brought the May family with them.

Anna (May), 2nd Marchioness of Donegall, had been under-age at the time of her marriage and should have had the permission of the courts in 1795 but this had not been sought; so, as a consequence, the marriage was declared unlawful. 

Edward Street in Belfast was named after Sir Edward May; as was Great Edward Street, May Street and May's Market.

Sir Edward pioneered the reclamation of land from the edges of Belfast Lough; however, more infamously, he was regarded as the man who desecrated the graves of those buried at St George's graveyard at High Street and Ann Street in order to sell the land for the development of Church Street and Ann Street in Belfast. 
May's Dock in Belfast was also named after Sir (James) Edward May, brother of Lady Donegall.

Sir Edward reclaimed the land to form May's Dock from the original bed of the river and the high water line was where Great Edward Street now continues into Cromac Street.
The principal seat of the Mays was once Maypark House in County Waterford, now a nursing home. 

Maypark House was built in 1783-84 and named after Humphrey May, who gave his name to Mayfield (near Portlaw) and was MP for Waterford from 1757-97. 

The house was evidently built around the time that Sir Humphrey married Jane Grueber.

Sir Humphrey died approximately seven years after the death of his father, Sir Edward.

Lady May, after the death of her husband and father-in-law, obviously decided to move out of Maypark.

Wherever Lady May was moving to, she had no use for her furniture.

It is not clear, from research, whether of not Sir Humphrey and Lady May had been living in France at the time of Sir Humphrey’s death.

There is no record of a "Jane May" of Waterford to be found after approximately 1820. 

It would appear that she may have moved away from Waterford after her husband’s death.

It is probable that Lord Waterford bought the place for, in the Waterford Chronicle of 9th June, 1827, there was an advertisement announcing "the sale of Lady May’s furniture of Maypark....”

Maypark is listed as being in the occupancy of George Meara in the Slater’s Directory of 1846.

The property consisted of house, offices and land with a total area over 46 acres.

It was valued at £181.

The house appears on the 1840 Ordnance Survey Map with a farm.

The area down to the river is identified as a rough area, possibly marshland.

Some areas are heavily planted.

In the 1909-10 Thom’s directory a Herbert Gough is listed as resident at Maypark.

The house was converted to a private hospital sometime after 1910 and before 1938.

First published in January, 2011.


Anne Young said...

The fourth baronet was a son of the 1st baronet and brother to Humphrey the 3rd baronet who died without issue. See and for the next page

Timothy Belmont said...

Anne, thank you so much for this information. I have amended the article, and now see, thanks to you, that the fourth baronet was the youngest surviving son of the first baronet. Tim.

Robin Freestun said...

Hello, I am fascinated by these stories. They tantalise me because my GGG-Grandfather Edward Freestun worked in the Customs service in the 1790-1800s, and his eldest son, born 1794, was named Humphrey May Freestun. I would love to know more - my father and I initially, thought our Humphrey May was the one mentioned here, who perhaps changed his name, but it seems much more likely that Edward and Humphrey were good friends, and probably Edward lived at MayPark. He had a house at Primrose Hill in Tramore - a long-ish coach ride from Waterford, and I cannot imagine him travelling to work each day over a 15-mile track!
How would I find out more about the residents of MayPark in the 1790-1810 period. Please, moderator - my comment doeswn't need to stay here, but if someone could contact me at, rather than my Google Account - but I will see it there if that is necessary. I would greatly appreciate it. I have been to Waterford and spent time in the library, in the church library in Dublin and the library in Plymouth, plus visited the house and current residents at Tramore, but didn't go to RocketsCastle or MayPark as I thought no one would have history of 200 years ago!
Best Regards, Robin Freestun, Australia (destination of two of Edward Freestun's boys).