Ballymaloe House – History

…place of honey (possibly the Gaelic meaning of  Ballymaloe)

Ballymaloe’s first structure would have been a wooden farm building with fields supported with milking herds. There would have been sheep, pigs, and fowl and the inhabitants would have eaten familiar foods such as: porridge, honey, trout, shellfish, milk and beef.

Around 1450: Ballymaloe is  a Norman Castle (part of the 15 century structure still stands), built by a branch of the Fitzgerald family, illegitimate descendants of the Knights of Kerry.

Lord Mountjoy

1578-1583 : Geraldine Wars rages in the vicinity. Normany famlilies were loyal so when the Geraldine war broke out the owner of Ballymaloe did not fight for or against his cousins. His refusal to participate lead to his cattle stolen and his outbuildings burnt.

March 1602 : John FitzEdmund Fitzgerald neutrality payed off and he is knighted at Ballymaloe by Lord Mountjoy for his neutrality during the wars and at the Battle of Kinsale. A stone commemorating the event and bearing the Fitzgerald  coat of arms is set into the back wall of the present house. The house in which Mountjoy was entertained must have been a tower house after the style of the 16’th century Ireland. A rectangular fortified house in one corner was a commanding turret.  Outside would be gardens and orchards. Attached to the building was a walled enclosure into which cattle would be driven at night for safety.  This lay-out is discernible at Ballymaloe. Live in the Irish household was relatively basic in those times. Much time was spent out doors. Household furniture was scant. Floors were covered with rush, rush was also used as beds and straw in winter. Ceilings were decorated with branches and the interior was dark. If the interior design was not lavish then the hospitality made up for it. Home brewed beer, whiskey and sack (a light Spanish wine) would be lavished on the guest. It is written that there was a variety of meals served although it was “ill cooked and without sauce” The meals were served in the great hall, one floor above the ground with a fire in the centre of the room. The tide of fortune had turned for the Fitzgerald after the Battle of Kinsale and that castle was enlarged and soon the family was described as the best estate commoners in the land.

1611-1617 : Then a strange marriage takes place: Sir John’s seconds son Edmund married  Lady Honoria Fitzgerald, the widowed daughter of James FitzMaurice, leader of the Geraldine war. Her first husband was cousin and name sake of  Sir John. This marriage was typical of Norman behaviour, strong ties of kinship and clan intermarriage. Records indicate that old Sir John was very found of Honoria. She was a charming and genteel woman and  hid persecuted monks fleeing from Youghal and protected holy relics, of which a little ivory carving -10cm in height of “our Lady of Grace” she even had a special silver case made for the statue with an inscription that read “pray for the soul of Honoria” . Currently displayed in the Dominican Priory, Cork, St Mary’s Pope, Quay.

1620’s: Honoria’s son John became master of the household. He has Donatus Filius Thadei- Donald, son of Timothy-to make him a harp which is now known as the Dalway or Cloyne Fitzgerald harp. Only the harmonic curve and the greater part of the fore pillar remain and these are preserved in the National Museum.

Roger Boyle, Lord Broghill

1641-1679:  The house passes to Roger Boyle (as there are no Fitzgerald heirs),  Lord Broghill.  (25 April 1621 – 16 October 1679) was a British soldier, statesman and dramatist. He was the third surviving son of  Richard Boyle,  1st Earl of Cork . He was created Baron of Broghill / Earl of Orrery on 28 February 1627. Boyle fought in the Irish Confederate Wars. He was also a noted playwright and writer on 17th century warfare. Roger brought his young bride to Ballymaloe and built the  South Wing.

Ballymaloe House Left: Part of the Geraldine Castle. Centre: early nineteen century building. Right, South wing, built by Earl of Orrery

It is a local tradition that Oliver Cromwell visit Ballymaloe during this period as well as William Penn, while farming in Shanagarry.

Circa 1700 – Ballymaloe passes to Col. Edmund Corker who fought in the Williamite army at the Battle of the Boyne. During this period the most colourful character in the household is, Chuff the dwarf. Said to be the illegitimate son of the owner. Chuff was apparently teased by the housemaids because of his small stature. He was bold and mischievous and once he was by mistake shot in the shoulder. It is believed that Chuff eventually went to far with his pranks and Corker, in a fit of rage murdered him. Chuff and the household jester  has become very present through a magnificent painting by Yeats, in  the right hand corner of the painting of master Chuff is written these words:

Master, Chuff

to please a good mistress, I’m drawn as you see,  With crutch, and my wounds, thus express’s,                                                 A brace of hard balls in my body still be,  That will ever disquiet my rest                                                                                                    Man’s life, and my length, are much of a size, Scarce either exceed a good span,                                                                                    Mankind perpetually do me despise, And the maids won’t allow I’m a man,                                                                                             Tho’ my inches are nine, besides a fair yard; and my years they are twenty and four;                                                                      Then pity my case, which you see is so hard, as I ne’ver shall grow half an inch more,                                                                        Plain Richard Normane they called my dad, And for him, a name good enough;                                                                                    But as I am form’d a more dapper lad, They call me but plain master Chuff.”

Circa 1720 – Ballymaloe passes to Hugh Lumley. The buildings on the North side of the castle wall are added. Cider orchards are planted and an excellent strong cider is made. Lumley becomes godfather to Bishop Berkley’s son, William.

Circa 1760 – Ballymaloe passes to Abraham Forster.

Circa 1820 – Clement John Foster knocked down the old buildings on the South side of the castle wall and the present dining and drawing-room are built.

Circa 1835 – The portrait of Chuff leaves Ballymaloe and the house is bought by the Lichfield family. The Lichfields were an old Cork family and John Lichfield was active as a linen draper, silk merchant and lottery agent at 47 North Main street. The Lichfiled bought Ballymaloe  after the death of Clement John Foster.The dairy and gardens are developed for supplying local communities.

1924 – James Simpson, nephew of the Lichfield’s, takes over Ballymaloe.

1948 – Ballymaloe passes to Ivan Allen and the farm is modernised.

1964 – The dining room is opened as a restaurant called; ‘The Yeat’s Room’.

1967 – On Good Friday, the portraits of Chuff and Jester are returned to Ballymaloe. A few of the bedrooms are made ready to accommodate staying guests.

About Annemarie Foley

I'm a house-historian that researches and documents the history of a house and the people that lived there. I bring together a snapshot of the story behind the house. This information is used by a variety of people from Historians to Architects, Estate agents, Ancestors or those generally concerned about the heritage of the property.

3 Responses to “Ballymaloe House – History”

  1. Annemarie,
    We met recently at your Talk in Aghada.
    The next Talk of the Cloyne Historical Society is on Thursday, November 20th, at 8.00pm.
    It is held in Ballymaloe House, with a fee at the door (6 euro) for light refreshments.
    Hope to see you there.

  2. I like your work- I need to contact you via email. Cheryl Velthuysen

  3. Gerald O'Carroll Reply July 25, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I knew some things about the Cloyne , Imokilly and Castlemartyr FitzGeralds, which may explain why I enjoyed Annemarie Foley’s history of Ballymaloe so much. I had read of Lady Honoria, the granddaughter of ‘Arch Traitor’ James FitzMaurice FitzGerald. Now I must try to see the image of the FitzGerald coat of arms preserved at Ballymaloe. Well done.

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