Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Bantry House

THE EARLS OF BANTRY WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY CORK, WITH 69,500 ACRES.

The family of WHITE derives its descent from Sir Thomas White, of Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, the founder of St John's College, Oxford, and brother of the  Rt Rev John White, Lord Bishop of Winchester, 1557.

Following the restoration of CHARLES II, Sir Thomas White, of Rickmansworth, settled in Ireland, where he purchased land debentures granted by CROMWELL to his army officers during the civil wars, and had a son,

RICHARD WHITE, of Bantry (who was maternally descended from the Hamiltons of Armagh), who married, in 1734, Martha, daughter of the Very Rev Roland Davis, Dean of Cork, and had issue,
SIMON, of whom we treat;
Hamilton;
Margaret.
Mr White was succeeded by his son,

SIMON WHITE, who married, in 1760, Frances Jane, daughter of Richard Hedges, of Mount Hedges, County Cork, and predeceased his father, leaving issue,
RICHARD;
Simon;
Hamilton;
Edward;
Helen; Martha; Frances.
Mr White died in 1816, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD WHITE (1767-1851).

This gentleman was presented with a gold medal by the city of Cork for his spirited exertions on the arrival of the French forces in Bantry Bay, in 1797.

He was consequently created Baron Bantry in 1797; and elevated to the dignity of Viscount Bantry, in 1800.

In 1816, his lordship was further advanced to an earldom, as EARL OF BANTRY, and Viscount Berehaven.

He married, in 1799, the Lady Margaret Anne Hare, eldest daughter of William, 1st Earl of Listowel, and had issue,
RICHARD, 2nd Earl;
WILLIAM HENRY HARE, 3rd Earl;
Simon;
Maria.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD, 2nd Earl (1800-68), who wedded, in 1836, the Lady Mary O'Brien, third daughter and co-heir of William, 2nd Marquess of Thomond, though dsp 1868, when the family honours devolved upon his brother,

WILLIAM HENRY HARE (1801-84), 3rd Earl, who wedded, in 1845, Jane, eldest daughter of Charles John Herbert, of Muckross Abbey, County Kerry, and had issue,
WILLIAM HENRY HARE, his successor;
Elizabeth Mary Gore; Olivia Charlotte;
Emily Anne; Ina Maude; Jane Frances Anna.
His lordship assumed, in 1840, the additional name of HEDGES.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM HENRY HARE, 4th Earl (1854-91), who espoused, in 1886, Rosamund Catherine, daughter of the Hon Edmund George Petre, by whom he had no issue.

His lordship died in 1891, when the titles expired.

*****

THE WHITES had settled on Whiddy Island across the Bay in the late 17th century, after having originally been merchants in Limerick.

The family prospered and considerable purchases of land were made in the area surrounding the house.

After the failure of the 1641 Irish Rising the Cromwellian soldiers were rewarded with grants of land in the Bantry area, the Earl of Anglesey receiving 96,000 acres.

Many of the settlers became disenchanted with the lonely farming life and the lands granted to Lord Anglsey and his officers were bought by a member of the White family.

The Whites engaged in farming, clearance of the forests, iron ore smelting etc and prospered.

The town of Bantry, at the head of the bay, is associated with the Irish rebellion of 1798 as being the place where an earlier attempt to land launch a rebellion was made by a French fleet, including Wolfe Tone in December 1796.

The French fleet consisting of 43 ships carrying 15,000 troops had divided mid-Atlantic into smaller groups to avoid interception by the Royal Navy with orders to reform at Bantry Bay.

The bulk of the fleet arrived successfully, but several ships, including the flagship Fraternit√© carrying General Hoche were delayed.

While awaiting their arrival, bad weather intervened and the lack of leadership, together with uneasiness at the prospect of being trapped, forced the decision to return to France.

Tone wrote of the expedition in his diary, saying that "We were close enough to toss a biscuit ashore".

Richard White, having heard about the invasion had trained a militia to oppose the landing as he and his tenants were loyal to the Crown. Munitions were stored in Bantry House for safe keeping.

Look-outs were posted on Both Mizen Head and Sheep's Head to send warning of an invasion.

In the end the French armada never had a chance of landing.

The weather was too severe, and even ship to ship communication was too difficult. Ten ships were lost.

One of these vessels, the Surveillante, remained on the bottom of Bantry bay for almost 200 years.

For his efforts in preparing the local defences against the French, Richard White, a local landowner, was created Baron Bantry in 1797 by a grateful British administration.

A viscountcy followed in 1800 and, in 1816, he was created Viscount Berehaven and EARL OF BANTRY.

He was the grandson of Richard White, who had made an immense fortune through his work as a lawyer.

Lord Bantry was succeeded by his son, the 2nd Earl, who sat on the Conservative benches in the House of Lords from 1854-68.

His younger brother, the 3rd Earl, assumed in 1840 by Royal license the additional surname of Hedges, which was that of his paternal grandmother.

The titles became extinct on the death of his son, the 4th Earl, in 1891.

Egerton Shellswell-White, great-grandson of the 3rd Earl, took over the running of Bantry from his mother in about 1978.

It now comprises one hundred acres, mainly woodland.


BANTRY HOUSE (originally called 'Blackrock'), County Cork, was constructed ca 1740 on the south side of Bantry Bay.

In 1750, Councillor Richard White bought Blackrock from Samuel Hutchinson and changed its name to Seafield.


The main block of the mansion consists of a square, three-storey, five-bay house built about 1740 for the Hutchinson family.

A wing was added on one side later in the 18th century after the House was acquired by Richard White, being the same height as the original block, though only of two storeys with a curved bow at the front and rear; and a six-bay elevation at the side.


In 1845, Richard White,Viscount Berehaven and later the 2nd Earl, enlarged and remodelled Bantry House. He travelled extensively throughout Europe, building an enviable art collection.


The 2nd Earl added the long, fourteen-bay front at the opposite side of the original block to the late 18th century wing, comprising a six-bay centre of two storeys over a basement; and three-storey, four-bay bow-ended wings lined with huge Corinthian pilasters of red brick.

The House is entered through a glazed Corinthian colonnade, similar to the one on the garden front.

The Library, sixty feet long, has four scagliola columns which support the compartmented ceiling.

The Blue Dining-room (below) has life-sized portraits of GEORGE III and Queen Charlotte in sumptuous frames, presented to the 1st Earl by royal command.


The two drawing-rooms feature exquisite French tapestries from the Gobelin, Aubusson and Beauvais workshops brought to Ireland after the French Revolution by the 2nd Earl.

The Aubusson tapestries were manufactured for Marie Antoinette following her marriage to the Dauphin, later LOUIS XVI.

The gardens to Bantry House were developed by the 2nd Earl and his wife Mary.

Inspiration was taken from their travels across Europe.

The gardens contain seven terraces; the house is located on the third.

One hundred steps are located behind the house and are built to appear to rise out of a fountain and are surrounded by azaleas and rhododendron.

The gardens are constantly tended and maintained.

By 1997 the grounds of Bantry House were suffering from neglect in certain places.

A European grant was obtained to start the restoration process. Funding ceased in 2000.

Restoration work continues.

First published in April, 2011.  Bantry arms courtesy of European Heraldry.