Sunday, 12 July 2020

Ballynahinch Castle


 (1754-1834) owned much of Connemara, so much so that he boasted to GEORGE IV that he had "an approach from my gatehouse to my hall of thirty miles' length".

He was nicknamed "Humanity Dick" due to his beneficence towards the RSPCA.

Colonel Martin was born in 1754, the son of Robert Martin FitzAnthony, a member of an old tribal family of Connemara.

His mother died when Richard was only nine years old and his father soon remarried to Mary Lynch, who later gave Richard two brothers.

The families' combined wealth allowed Richard to receive an excellent Anglican education.

He attended Harrow and Cambridge while studying law, and afterwards started a most extensive 'Gentleman's Tour' to round out his knowledge.

With his cousin, James Jordan, Richard travelled all over Europe.

They eventually left Bordeaux bound for Jamaica, and later ended up in New England for the start of the American War of Independence.

The two young men promptly returned home, and by the end of the 1770s, Richard's education and his family's influence combined to make him an MP; a Colonel in the Galway Volunteers; and gained him a wife, Elizabeth Vesey.

His duties kept him away from home quite a bit, but the couple had several children, one of whom is rumoured to be the child of a liaison between Elizabeth and the tutor hired to educate Richard's sons, Theobald Wolfe Tone.

It was during this period that he began to acquire a reputation and nickname relating to his many duels, as "Trigger Dick", a nickname which was also held by his uncle.

In 1783, he duelled with "Fighting" Fitzgerald, a Mayo Landlord, over the man's shooting of a friend's dog.

He also apparently made friends with the Prince of Wales, later GEORGE IV, as the two men shared many ideals and both were seen in Parliament quite often.

Richard's wife Elizabeth continued to show her knack for indiscretion, and the two divorced in 1794 after a scandal over her affair with a Mr Petrie of Paris. Dick Martin remarried in 1797, and had several more children.

By the early 1800s, Martin's estate was vast and the biggest in Ireland, encompassing over 200,000 acres.

His wealth and friendship with the Prince of Wales continued to increase his influence in Parliament and elsewhere.

Dick was persuaded to vote for the Act of Union in 1800, something he soon bitterly regretted, and was responsible for excising the death penalty for forgery.

In 1809, Lord Erskine presented a bill in Parliament to prevent cruelty to such animals as horses, pigs, oxen, and sheep.

The bill failed, however and, later in 1822, Richard was responsible for the passing of the Martin Act, which applied to large domestic animals.

It is at this time that Dick acquired the nickname of "Humanity".

His friend, the Prince of Wales, later GEORGE IV,  gave him the nickname.

Two years later, Richard created the first animal welfare society - the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, with other like-minded people.

Richard Martin remained a Member of Parliament until his election to Westminster in 1826 was invalidated.

The scandal and his ensuing debt forced Richard to flee to Boulogne in France.

He died peacefully on the January 6th, 1834.

The great family estate, which he helped to create, was lost during the Great Potato famine within 20 years.

Richard Martin's life is largely marked by his efforts to attain human and animal rights. He supported Catholic Emancipation, and is generally considered the founder of the RSPCA.

It is rather ironic, that his families' great wealth, some of which came out of human injustice, was later lost during the Irish Famine.

His estates were heavily mortgaged and, as a consequence of this, his granddaughter and heiress, Mary Martin, was ruined after the Irish famine.

Ballynahinch was disposed of by the Encumbered Estates Court. Mary Martin and her husband emigrated to the USA, where she died shortly afterwards during childbirth.

Ballynahinch Estate was bought by Richard Berridge, whose son sold it in 1925; thereafter it was acquired by a celebrated cricketer, "Ranji".


The seat of Richard Berridge was Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway, Ireland, which became the residence of his son, Richard, who was a justice of the peace for the county and, in 1894, High Sheriff.

Richard Berridge the elder lived for over twenty years in Bloomsbury, first at 36 Bloomsbury Square, then, from about 1856 to 1877, at 18 Great Russell Street. Prior to this he had resided in Rochester, Kent, and he acquired property in that county as well as in Middlesex.

A return of landowners in 1873 describes his holdings in Middlesex as over 300 acres with a gross estimated rental of £577, and a smaller amount in Kent, 79 acres worth £184.15s. He also had mining interests and property in other counties.

Berridge entered into partnership with Sir Henry Meux of the Horse Shoe Brewery, Tottenham Court Road. He retired in July 1878 on the establishment of the new firm of Meux and Company.

In the late 1870s Berridge left Bloomsbury for an address in Putney, Surrey, and, after a few years, went to live in Bridgewater, Somerset. He died on 20 September 1887 leaving five daughters and one son, Richard, born in 1870.

The estate was administered by trustees until Richard Berridge the younger came of age. In his will, Berridge bequeathed a charity legacy of £200,000 to be applied for the advancement and propagation of education in economic and sanitary sciences in Great Britain.
The legacy was administered by his trustees, who donated large sums to the Worshipful Company of Plumbers and the British Institute of Preventive Medicine, and smaller amounts to other institutions and societies, such as the Sanitary Inspectors' Association and Queen Victoria's Jubilee Institute for Nurses.

Berridge's name was legally changed to Richard Berridge when he adopted his mother's surname in lieu of his father's surname. He was born with the name of Richard MacCarthy.

Richard Berridge, a London brewer, from the Law Life Assurance Society, also acquired Clifden estate (as well as Ballynahinch Castle).

In the mid 1870s, Berridge is recorded as owning over 160,152 acres, making him by far the largest landowner in County Galway.

The Berridge family retained a house in the locality and some fishing at Screebe until the late 20th century.

A grandson of Richard Berridge married an Orme of Owenmore, Crossmolina, County Mayo; and a great-grandson currently produces well known Irish cheeses on his farm in county Wexford.

BALLYNAHINCH CASTLE, Connemara, County Galway, is a long mansion with an abundance of windows, built in the late 18th century by Richard Martin MP.

Both the entrance front and the garden front (eight bays) have battlements and other distinguishing features.

Inside, the main rooms have particularly thick mahogany doors; the drawing-room, a chimney-piece of Connemara marble.

First published in April, 2011.


Sandy said...

Fascinating, thanks.
Wasn't aware of the Screebe connection (or most of the rest, in truth!)

Unknown said...

What does the crest represent? My last name is Berridge and it has caught my interest

Timothy Belmont said...



of Ballynahinch Castle,
co. Galway, J.P. and
D.L., High Sheriff 1 894,
b. 1870, son of the late
Richard Berridge, of
Ballynahinch Castle
(who^. 1887); m. 1905,
Marie Eulalia, dau. of
Robert W. Lesley, of
Lesselyn Court, Haver-
ford, Penn., U.S.A.,

Arms ~ Az., on a fesse between three dolphins naiant or, as
many anchors erect sa. Crest On an anchor fessewise sa., a dove
rising ppr. Motto Semper fidelis.