George Bomford of Oakley Park 1838 - 1849
George (the Younger) and Arabella (Winter) were married in July 1832 (24.1) and they moved to Oakley Park on 5th October 1837 (24.6.2); this chapter is concerned with their early days at Oakley Park and starts with the children. Paragraph 18.8.9 includes the first entries from the ‘Big Family Bible’ about the children of George the elder; these entries continue with the children of George the younger. Details from the Agher Parish Register have been added in brackets.
“Children of George and Arbella Bomford married 23rd July 1832 (at Agher by the Rev Francis Pratt Winter).
- Anne born in Dublin September 13th 1833.
- George Winter born in Dublin November 12th 1834.
- Arbella Anna born in Dublin November 17th 1836. Died (three months later) February 24th 1837 (buried at Agher, see below).
- John Francis born at Oakley Park December 22nd 1837. (Baptised at Agher 4th of March 1838 by the Rector, John Kellet.)
- Arbella Anna born at Agher 19th August 1839. (Baptised at Agher 29th of September 1839 by the Rector, John Kellet.)
- Samuel Stephen born at Oakley Park 18th of April 1841. (Baptised at Agher 3rd June 1841 by Rev Francis Pratt Winter who was then aged 70). Died August 22nd 1872 (in India, aged 31).
- Elizabeth born at Oakley Park 18th May 1843. (Baptized at Agher 30th of June 1843.)
- Victoria Adela born at Oakley Park the 19th November 1849.
- Arthur Chichester born at Oakley Park 27th July 1851. (Died 14th October 1854 and buried at Agher 17th October, see below).
- Margaret Winter born at Oakley Park 16th October 1855.
- Robert Laurence born at Oakley Park 3rd September 1857.”
So when Robert, the youngest, was born in 1857 George and Arbella had nine living children, four boys and five girls. The two who had died were buried in the Agher Churchyard below the east window. The headstones read:
1. “Here Lyeth the body of – Arbella Anna – infant daughter of – George and Arbella Bomford – who departed this life – February 1837 – aged 3 months. Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” Inscribed on a grey stone headstone.
2. “Sacred – to the memory of – Arthur Chichester Bomford – youngest – and dearly beloved child – of George and – Arbella Bomford – of Oakley Park – who departed this life on – the 14th October 1854 – in the 4th year of his age.” The headstone is of red sandstone and is to the left of that of Arbella Anna.
There is a third headstone in line with and on the left of these two. It belongs to a great-grand-daughter and will be mentioned later (35.5.1).
As was the custom, the Christian names were those of the family and were carefully selected with virtually the same number coming from the Bomford and Winter families. Those commemorated include:
George’s grandparents, Stephen and Elizabeth
Arbella’s grandparents, Samuel and Margaret (Winter) and Arthur (Gore)
George’s parents, George and Arbella
Arbella’s parents, John and Anne
George’s uncles, Robert and Chichester
Arbella’s uncle, Francis
George’s aunt, Margaret
Arbella’s aunt, Anna
Laurence probably commemorates the Bomford founder, Colonel Laurence, and this only leaves the one daughter with the names Victoria Adela.
It is not known precisely when George increased the size of Oakley Park. When the family first moved there, only the original c1712 – 1717 centre part of the house was in existence. Work must have commenced after 1837 and after John Francis was born in Oakley Park in December of that year. Arbella Ann, the next and fifth child was born at Agher in 1839, and the sixth child, Samuel Stephen, was born at Oakley Park in April 1841. It is therefore possible that the extension, which was considerable and involved the removal of at least part of the roof with the result that the family could not live in the house, was done in the three years between the beginning of 1838 and the end of 1840, or more likely during the two years of 1838 and 1839 since George was churchwarden in Kells for the year of 1840. It is unlikely that the building was done in 1845 or later because of the disastrous famine (1845 – 1849) with its consequences, which lasted into the 1850s. Further the rateable value of the house in 1854 was £50 and this figure was repeated into the 1900s, which indicates that the extension was carried out before 1854. It is of course speculation but the facts do point to the date 1838 and 1839 for the building, and these dates were confirmed in 1900 in a letter of John Francis who wrote that the furniture was brought between 1836 and 1840.
The Actual Extension
There are two plans showing the extension; one shows the ‘Principal Story’, and the other a transverse section through the ‘principal stairs’. The old house is shown in grey and the new part, plus adaptations to the old part, are shown in pink. The plans are not dated and there is no clue as to the architect. The extension at the front almost doubles the size of the house.
The Ground Floor Plan
The old part of the house, 60 feet wide by 52 feet long, consisted of four rooms, partly curved staircase, later to become the back stairs, and a hall. The rooms on the left are shown as ‘Own Room’ later to become the Billiard room, and ‘Drawing Room’ later to become the library with a new door through what used to be one of the windows at the front of the house. On the right was the ‘Dining Room’ which remained as such but had a new door in place of the front window, and a ‘Store Room’. The storeroom was to be divided into two and the old door leading from it into the dining room was blocked by an alcove to hold one of the sideboards. Some time later, probably around 1860 when the new north wing to the house was added (30.1), this dividing wall was removed.
The new part of the house at the south end, 64 by 34 feet, plus a porch 25 by 10 feet, consisted of only two rooms: on the left a ‘Drawing Room’ taking up the whole length (20 by 33 feet), and on the right the ‘Breakfast Room’ which was later known as the boudoir. The rest of the extension was taken up by the front ‘Hall’ with a floor of black and white chequered flagstones and with a door leading into the open area of the ‘Vestibule’ and the ‘Principal Stairs’. Effectively the centre of the whole length of the house was filled with four halls leading into each other, with three rooms on either side and, on the right, the impressive new rose-wood bifurcating staircase wide enough to take a lady in a crinoline and her escort.
Oakley Park: Copy of plan for the “Principal Story” of the 1839 Extension. Click on image to see enlargement.
The shaded walls are either the new extension or those parts of the old house which were altered.
The ground floor central door used to be the old front door, and the other three doors used to be windows at the front of the old house. One may assume that the old house used to have two additional windows on the first floor.
The Transverse Section Plan. Click on image to see enlargement.
This shows the new staircase and what used to be the front of the old house. The height of the ground floor rooms is 12 ½ feet, the first floor 11 feet and the basement 9 ½ feet. This made the height from the ground level to the top of the chimneys 40 feet, or 50 feet if measured from the stone flags in the basement.
The basement windows got their light from the area on the side of the house, which is shown as 4 feet wide. However this width was changed to a good 12 feet across and this is the only change to the plans. In all other respects the house was built according to the drawing.
It is a pity that the other plans of the first floor and the basement are now missing, because there must have been considerable changes to the roof and to the south front of the house. However it is clear that the original house had a central front door on the south side with a window on either side. The old front door became the door between the second and third halls, and the two windows were changed to doors; one leading from the new drawing room into the old drawing room or what was to become the library, and the other leading from the stair case hall into the dining room. Upstairs the old front had three windows: the two outer ones were filled in and the middle one was changed to a door.
Structurally the major change would have been to the roof. We do not know what sort of a roof the old house had, but houses of the 1700s normally had the outside walls ending in a parapet with the guttering inside the parapet, and since the structure was virtually square, a single roof probably covered it. If this was so then the whole roof had to be removed for the extension. The new roof had a valley, and to give light to the middle of the house, two glass domes were inserted in the valley. A circular dome gave light to the new upstairs hall above the vestibule and a rectangular dome gave light to the hall above the original front hall. However the original ground floor entrance hall now had no window so a well was cut through the first floor immediately below the rectangular dome so that the light could shine right into the centre of the house.
There are no plans of the basement but it ran the whole length of the house, with a 15 feet wide arched passage below the ground floor halls. There were a number of rooms on either side with a wine cellar underneath the porch. The kitchen, together with the larder and scullery, were underneath the library and the billiard room, so food had to be brought to the dining room up wooden stairs which came out on the ground floor below the curve of the back staircase. Apart from the laundry the other rooms were mostly for the house servants of whom there would have been probably about eight. Access was through the back door at the north end of the passage but, because it was below ground level, there were a number of stone steps leading into the yard, which housed the pump at the yard end. This hand pump was the only supply of water, which at this early date was not piped into the house. The basement was never used in my time; I only remember it as a vast empty area, great fun to play in during daylight, but very spooky at night.
This consisted of ten rooms including three dressing rooms so the extended house had seven bedrooms, three with dressing rooms. Later the dressing room over the front hall became a schoolroom; indeed it may always have been the children’s room. It had a triple window looking out over the porch.
A. Lease To Francis Reilly, Before 1709
A lease, which George inherited, was of that part of Oakley Park which lay to the west of the back road (see map) and was termed ‘Ye Mountain’ in the 1730 map. This lease was included in the first deed of Oakley Park of 5th of January 1709 at which date Edmund Reilly, then spelt Reyly, had 44 acres and which has been in the Reilly family ever since.
B. Lease To Thomas Barnes, 21st June 1838
Lease from George Bomford to Thomas Barnes of Westlands, of 128 plantation acres (207 statute) of the northern part of Oakley Park for a rent of £253.14.0 a year (£1.19.6 per plantation acre) for the life of Thomas Richard Barnes, eldest son of the above Thomas Barnes, aged 11, or for 31 years.
George retains the right to hunting, shooting, fishing, all timber and quarrying, and the right to ‘perambulate and view’ all houses, fields and ditches, which Thomas Barnes must maintain. The number and type trees are all recorded and were much the same as in the 1930s except that one small wood had disappeared; there was a large and deep quarry in one of the leased fields, called at one time the Rampark and later the Horsepark.
It is interesting that George retained the right to hunt ‘all hares rabbits, partridges, quails, pheasants, birds and beasts’ because amongst the documents is a well thumbed pamphlet with George’s name on the front cover and titled ‘Observations on Dog-Breaking’ by William Floyd, gamekeeper to Sir John Sebright (7th Baronet of Hertfordshire), printed in 1828 and priced 2/6. George must have been interested in dogs and have had a number. There was a dog-yard with a couple of rooms below the main yard which was still called the kennels in my day and was where George kept his pack of hounds which family tradition records that he hunted himself (30.1).
C. Lease To Samuel Arthur Reynell, 21st June 1838
There was a third lease of land to Samuel Arthur Reynell. This lease appears in the 1854 Griffith’s Valuation but no lease has been found; however it was probably dated from about the same time as the Barnes lease. It consisted of 207 acres and took in the land to the east of the back road to Mullagh up to the line of which was later named the Big Wood and included the marshy land around the Duckoy.
The remaining portion of Oakley Park left George about 270 acres and the three leases would bring in about £500 a year. These leases are shown on the map which, was annexed to the Barnes leases and which also showed the neighbouring townlands together with their owners; however the map has been changed slightly in accordance with the more accurate Ordnance Survey map of 1836.
The Barnes family was first mentioned in the deeds when Thomas Barnes was made a trustee of the 1822 marriage settlement of George and Arbella (24.1). Since then they have occurred a number of times. Not only was Thomas Barnes a second cousin to Arbella but also with the purchase of Oakley Park he was to become one of their closest neighbours.
1. The first Barnes to come to Ireland was Lieutenant Thomas Barnes who probably came from Derbyshire. He was granted at the time of the Commonwealth, lands at Grange (Kiltown) in the south of Co Killkenny, and at Donore (or Donover) near Moynalty in Co Meath. These land grants were confirmed by Charles II in September 1666. He had three sons and two daughters.
His eldest son, John Barnes, was ‘Sovereign’ of New Ross on the border between Counties Kilkenny and Wexford in 1704 and on his marriage he was give Donore. The second son, Thomas (will 1710), stayed at Grange, and the third son, Caleb, was of New Ross and was Sheriff of Co Kilkenny between 1709 and 1714.
2. John Barnes had five sons and two daughters, His eldest son George inherited Donore but died without children (will 1732), and left Donore to his brother Thomas. Thomas, the second son, was Alderman of Kilkenny and the Mayor there in 1725. However it looks as thought he moved to Donore, at any rate he married a Meath girl, Joyce Watch of Belair.
The Civil Survey of 1654 records that before Cromwell “Donnowre” was in the hands of William Betagh ‘Irish Papist’, there being ‘on the premises a castle, three stone howses with bawnes (enclosed yards) and cabbins’. No doubt Thomas improved the castle before he moved in or he may have built himself a house; the site is just to the west of the bridge in the village of Moynalty and I can vaguely remember the place as a ruin but it has since been demolished.
3. Thomas and Joyce had a son and a daughter, Juliana who died in 1751. The son, another Thomas born 1721, was ‘of Donore’ and also of Killkenny, and he did live at Donore. In 1761 he married Jane, daughter of John Robbins of Ballyduff (18.8.4); she must have died before her father died (will July 1769) since her sister Frances, later Lady Blunden, was the sole heir of John Robbins. It was this Thomas Barnes who built Westlands House about 1790; his will was dated 30th December 1796.
The 1835 Name Book of the Ordnance Survey reports “Westlands House is in the centre of the townland of Donore and is the residence of Thomas Barnes, JP. The house is a fine building with suitable offices and a garden attached. The family had previously lived at Donover House and the present house gets its name from being West of the previous dwelling”.
4. Thomas and Jane had four sons and a daughter.
The second son Joseph became Rector of Ballyboe in King’s Co; he probably married one of the Coote family (15.10.1) and had three sons, Thomas born 1803, John Robbins born 1805, and John Oliver Coote born 1809; there must have been a fourth son named Chidley since the 1835 Name Book states that Chidley and John Coote Barnes were brothers and owned neighbouring townlands to Oakley Park; John Coote Barnes had Baltrasna and was living there in 1854, and Chidley had Turkestown but lived with John Coote at Baltrasna. In 1878 John Coote also owed Mahonstown which lies to the east of Baltrasna and Oakley Park on the Moynalty River.
There is no information on the third son George.
The fourth son, Samuel Edward Barnes, born 1778 was an attorney and lived on Usher Island in the Liffey. In 1812 he married Letitia, a daughter of John Bateman of Altavilla (15.8.5). One of his grandsons became private secretary to President Theodore Roosevelt of USA, and another become editor of the New York Times. Other grandchildren emigrated to Natal in South Africa.
5. The eldest son Thomas, JP, of Westlands, became a barrister and married twice. In 1794 he married Margaret, daughter of Rev Edward Reynell, DD, of Killynon (24.5). She had one son, Thomas, who was born in 1796, the year she died, so she may have died in childbirth. In 1806 Thomas married secondly Jane, a daughter of Rev Smith of Lismorcany; this Rev Smith might be Thomas Smith of Lismacrony (8.5.1) and, if so, Jane’s mother was a younger sister of Ann Smith of Violetstown who married Stephen Bomford of Gallow (2.13).
6. Thomas, 1796 – 1871, the eldest son by Margaret Reynell, married his cousin Jane Kellet, 1800 – 1850, in 1825 (24.5). She was the daughter of her mother’s sister Jane Reynell who had married about 1798 Rev William Kellet, Vicar of Moynalty 1803 – 1851 and lived at Moynalty Glebe House. Both Margaret Barnes and Jane Kellet were first cousins of the first Arbella and George Bomford, and so the Barnes family were further related to the Bomfords through marriages with the families of Robbins, Reynell, Smith, Bateman, and Kellet.
Thomas had one stepsister Anne and five stepbrothers (by Jane Smith); these were John, a solicitor in Dublin, Joseph, a barrister in Dublin, George and William who both emigrated to Canada, and Caleb who died in 1869. William Barnes (1814 - 1895, emigrated 1834) has many descendents now living all over Canada (Fred Nix email 8 Aug 2012: Fred has a folder of his aunt's research on Barnes connections: contact us if you are interested).
Thomas lived in Westlands and was trustee of the 1832 Bomford marriage settlement (24.1), and it was he who leased the northern part of Oakley Park in 1838. His eldest son Thomas Richard aged 11 was a life in that lease which lasted until Thomas’s death in 1871.
7. Thomas and Jane (Kellet)’s eldest son Thomas Richard went to Australia but after some years returned. He married but had no children and must have died soon after his father because in 1878 Westlands, consisting of 464 acres, was in the hands of his younger brother, William Arthur.
8. William Arthur Barmes JP, 1839 - 1912, was Professor of Agriculture at Trinity and won a prize for Westlands farm in 1894. In 1876 he married his cousin Frances Georgina daughter of his uncle John Barnes the solicitor. They had one child Hester Frances, 1879 - 1942, who inherited Westlands. In 1908 she married Alfred Hubert Marshall who took the name Marshall-Barnes in 1912 when they inherited.
9. Hester and Alfred Marshall-Barnes had three daughters, Zoe 1910 - 1975, Ruby 1912 – 2002, and Sandy (Madge Vivien) 1913 – 2003. Alfred was in the RAMC in World War I and was killed in action in France in 1916.
North of Oakley Park
1. Rathenreigh spelt many ways but pronounced Rath-en-rye and later called Kingsfort consisted of 696 acres in which were two large houses both owned by the Chaloners. Kingsfort, where Richard Chaloner lived, and Cherrymount, where Rev Philip Smith lived as did his father William Smith. Cherrymount was where the first Kingsfort Chaloner, John, lived until his new house Kingsfort was completed in 1735. Kingsfort was a brick-built house of two stories over a basement; Richard Chaloner made changes to the interior around 1815 in which the ground floor rooms were vaulted with stucco decorations on the vaults. One room had plaster panelling and he also rebuilt the staircase. The house was pulled down about 1950 -1960 but the Chaloners had moved back to Cherrymount before then.
Richard Chaloner died in 1832 having spent much of his life planting trees and shrubs in the estate, particularly in the glen, which runs between Cherrymount and Kingsfort, and he was known to his friends as ‘Dicky of the Glen’. When he died he had five daughters and he left Kingsfort to his eldest daughter’s second son, Richard Cole-Hamilton (1810 - 1879). Richard took the name of Chaloner; it is he who is mentioned in the map of the Barnes’s lease. In 1835 he married Harriet, a daughter of Charles Tisdall of Charlesfort on the other side of Kells. One of the Chaloner girls married Trevor Bomford in 1911 and more of the Chaloner family history will be found in paragraph (33.9.1).
2. Knockaranny (Knockreny) a small townland of 40 acres belonged to the Rev George Garnett according to the Ordnance Survey of 1838 but to William Garnett according to the Barnes’s lease map. William Garnett lived at Donover (Donore) which he occupied after the Barnes family had moved to Westlands.
3. Baltrasna, 270 acres, has a small house of the same name. In 1838 it belonged to John Coote Barnes who later leased Mahonstown between Turkestown and Williamstown and in 1854 his brother Chidley Barnes was living with him in Baltrasna House. These brothers were first cousins of Thomas Barnes of Westlands
East and South of Oakley Park
4. Turkstown, 132 acres, belonged to Chidley Barnes. It contains a small house and some farm buildings.
5. Knockglass, 304 acres, owned by Rev George Garnett of Williamstown.
6. Dulane, 231 acres, was owned by Rev George Garnett. There is a crossroads here and there used to be a forge, which is now a shop. Dulane, or Tuilen, owes its fame to its ancient Church founded by Saint Cairnech, a contemporary of Saint Patrick, who flourished in the fifth century. The Church thrived and even had a bishop in the 10th Century, but it was sacked on numerous occasions by the Danes and gradually succumbed to Kells.
Townland of Oakley Park 1836, redrawn from the Ordnance Survey map. Click on map to see larger size.
Ordnance Survey Maps (the 6" OSI maps are dated 1829-1841; the 25" series is from 1897-1913).
7. Williamstown, 280 acres, has a large house on it in which the Rev George Garnett lived. He had recently married, and died in 1856 leaving the place to his eldest son, William Stawell Garnett who was born in 1838. The early Oakley Park deeds concern both Thomas Williams who lived at Williamstown, and Joseph Williams, probably his brother, who lived at Oakley Park then called Lawrencetown. Joseph Williams built the early part of Oakley Park, and Thomas rebuilt Williamstown, which was previously called Boaravely. Boaravely is also the proper name for the river, which is usually called the Moynalty River. However the Williamstown House of the 1830s was built in the second half of the 1700s by Rev George Garnett’s father. It is an impressive three-story house, which looks very like nearby Rockfield, and the two houses are probably by the same architect. Towards the end of the 1900s the Garnetts left and Williamstown was occupied for a while by the Dyas family; they left it to Miss McCormack who died in the 1950s. Since then the house has been empty and is slowly decaying into a ruin.
West of Oakley Park:
8. Maperath, 683 acres, was the home of Thomas Taylor Rowley (died c 1860), who leased Oakley Park from 1829 until 1833 during the time he was rebuilding Maperath. The Ordnance Survey map show that Maperath had the largest parkland and gardens of all the nearby houses; it also shows a road leading from Oakley Park to Maperath which was laid down by Rowley to give him easy access during the rebuilding period. This road ran from the yard along the back paddock besides the Big Garden and the shrubbery and then along the river and in to Maperath. At some later date the Rowleys sold the house to the Archdales of Athboy, and during the 1930s the house was left vacant after the Archdale sisters had all died. It was demolished in the 1950s.
9. Wilmount was the house of John Radcliff (died c 1881), who probably built the present house. The Radcliff family remained there until just after the Second World War when they emigrated to South Africa. They sold Wilmount to Peter Thompson, a brother of Kenneth of Triermore, about 1950 and he lived there for about 10 years when the place was again sold. The new owner locked the door and no one entered the place for the next 30 or so years. In 1990 it was again occupied.
So in the immediate vicinity were five families of about the same age as George and Arbella, and whose land touched theirs, Rowleys, Chaloners, Barnes, Garnetts and Radcliffs, all of whom had large and recently restored or newly built houses. There were probably more Georgian houses around Oakley Park than there were around Rahinstown and Agher, and the social life would be equally greater.
If we move further afield there were even more neighbours, all within an easy ride and in similar circumstances. It is noteworthy that all these neighbours were resident landlords and it is thought that there were no absentee landlords in the vicinity. One of the first duties of the newly arrived George and Arbella was to visit each of their neighbours and to leave their visiting card. There is no record about their particular friends but cards would have to be left with all neighbours or offence might be taken, and some of those living further away would include the following.
1. Headfort House where the Second Marquess of Headfort, Thomas Taylor 1787 – 1870, lived, consisted of about 1,000 acres. The Marquess had vast estates around Kells and Virginia but for most of them he was the ‘Head’ landlord, only receiving a small rent in perpetuity; he was George’s head landlord as he was to a number of other landlords. His family is recorded in 2.11.3 but Thomas and his first wife Olivia (Stevenson) had a young family of three boys and three girls, the eldest being about 16 at this time. However Olivia had died in 1834 and it was not until 1853 that he married again; his second wife was Frances Martyn but they had no more children. They had a shooting lodge outside Virginia on the lake, which was sold in the 1960s and is now a hotel. Headfort House was sold by the 6th Marquess, Michael, in the 1980s and is now a preparatory school.
2. The Archdeaconry, called Blackwater Stud in 2005, was occupied by the Kells Rector who was an archdeacon at this time:
- Thomas de Lacy was Kells rector from 1799 to 1844; he was followed by
- Edward A. Stopford from 1844 to 1872, then came
- Joseph Samuel Bell from 1872 to 1887, then
- John Heally from 1887 to 1917, but he refused to live in the big house and built the present Rectory just outside Kells on the Dublin road.
3. Rockfield was where Richard Rothwell and his wife Elizabeth (Sutton) lived. His mother was living at Hurdlestown just off the Navan road, which they had bought from the Lowthers sometime between 1792 and 1829. When Richard died in 1853 his son Thomas took over Rockfield. Thomas was born in 1834 and in 1866 married Louisa Catherine, eldest daughter of Mervyn Pratt (20.2.1) of Cabra Castle. He died in 1906.
Rockfield was built in the second half of the 1700s with nine windows across the front and four deep. It has three storeys but the ground floor was treated as the basement so the dining room and sitting rooms were on the first floor. The interior was improved in the early 1800s with a library with Ionic columns and a curving staircase with ironwork balustrade behind a screen of columns. The house is very similar to Williamstown and may have been planned by the same architect. The Rothwell family sold the place about 1960 and Tony Cameron lived there with his family.
4. Balrath Burry was a monstrous long house with 21 windows across the front with a central front door. About all I remember of the house was the long passage going in both directions when you entered. The passage had windows on one side and what seemed like an untold number of similar doors opening into it, and I doubt if I ever entered the correct room first time.
It was built in the first half of the 1700s by Thomas Nicholson whose father was one of the ‘49’ officers in the Royal Army and was granted land in Co Monaghan; these lands were sold and Balrath Burry bought in 1669. Thomas’ great-grandson Christopher Armytage (1768 – 1849) and his wife Anna Lenox-Conyngham were living at Balrath at this time but he was soon to die and his son John Armytage (1798 – 1872) inherited in 1849. John and his wife Elizabeth Alexander had seven children at this date, the eldest being 13; his second daughter Anne married Samuel Winter in 1860 (20.6.2).
The Irish Army took the house over as a barracks in 1939 and in accordance with well-established military precedent damaged it considerably. It was rebuilt in 1942 but cut down in size, only the eastern end being used. The Nicholson family have recently moved away.
5. Randalstown was begun about 1710 by Colonel Everard; a third storey was added about 1780, and most imaginative plasterwork was added to the interior at the beginning of the 1800s. At this time Captain Richard Everard lived with his French wife, Mathilde, daughter of the Marquis d’Amboise. He died in 1863 when his son Sir Nugent Everard took over. In 1873 Sir Nugent married Priscilla, daughter of William Humphrys of Ballyhaise by his second wife (his first wife was Anna Maria Winter: see 20.6). Later Sir Nugent nearly ruined himself by trying to grow tobacco at Randalstown. He died in 1929. More recently, Randalstown was the Headquarters of a Navan mining company.
6. Gibstown House (or Gibbstown House) had just been built in the Italian style by John Gerrard (1838); at one end there was a single-storey domed wing ending with a bell tower. John Gerrard died in 1838 and was succeeded by his nephew Thomas of Boyne Hill, Navan, who was just four. The house was demolished after an accidental fire in the early 1900s but the yard buildings are still in use. OSI maps of Gibstown House in the 1800s (the 6" OSI maps are dated 1829-1841 and don't show the new house; the 25" series is from 1897-1913 and shows it before it burnt).
7. Bloomsbury was occupied by Joseph Barnewall, a connection of Lord Trimlestown, who died in 1852; his wife was a daughter of Thomas Everard of Randlestown. The house now belongs to Jack Whalley.
Originally Bloomsbury was called Mount Tisdall and the Tisdall family lived there until about 1753 when they moved to their newly built house called Charlesfort.
8. Charlesfort was occupied by John Tisdall (1815 – 1892). In 1837 he married Isabella Knox (1st cousin to Richard Chaloner). They had eleven children most of whom were the same age as George’s children. John Tisdall’s sister Harriett (or Henrietta) was married to Richard Chaloner of Kingsfort in 1835, and another sister Juliana married James Noble-Waller of Allenstown in 1838. Charlesfort remained in Tisdall hands until the death of Oliver in 1964; his wife Christina sold the place in 1968. The present owner removed the wing of the house built by John Tisdall in 1854 and the house stands now as it was originally built in the late 1740s.
9. Drewstown was built around 1740 and was bought in the 1780s by Major Joseph McVeagh who had married the daughter of a wealthy East Indian ‘Nabob’, the Governor of Madras. At this date his son Ferdinand Meath McVeagh (1789 - 1866) lived there. Ferdinand’s daughter Flora Harriett was married in 1835 to Rev Francis Sadleir, Rector of Raddanstown, and it was their daughter who married George Winter Bomford in 1861 (30.2.2). The house remained a McVeagh property until 1950 when it became a school run by a religious trust.
10. Triermore was occupied by Thomas Rotheram whose daughter married Ferdinand McVeagh the younger (1813 - 1888) of Drewstown in 1847. The lands of Triermore and Drewstown are adjacent. Thomas Rotheram died in 1851 and the place went to his son, Thomas Edward. The house is still there and is now owned by Major Kenneth Thompson, the brother of Peter who had Wilmount.
11. Allenstown was built about 1750 by William Waller (1710 – 1796). The Waller’s trace their ancestry back to the reign of Henry III and one of them fought at the Battle of Agincourt under Henry V. They were strongly royalist and William’s great-grandfather went to Ireland and was killed there in the rebellion in 1641, as was his brother; the third brother was a member of the ‘Long Parliament’ of 1640, led a plot to seize London for King Charles I and was expelled from the House of Commons in 1643, he was imprisoned in the Tower and banished in 1644 but was pardoned and returned to England in 1651.
In 1809 the Waller male line ended and Allenstown went to William’s grand-nephew named Noble. At this date the place was owned by James Noble-Waller (1800 – 1874) who had four boys and three daughters, born between 1839 and 1862. However in 1920 the male line again failed and Allenstown was passed to James’ grand-nephew Vice-Admiral Arthur William Craig (1872 – 1943) who became Craig-Waller. He sold the place in the late 1930s and the house was pulled down in 1940.
12. Moynalty House was occupied by John Farrell. His father James Farrell bought Moynalty and five townlands nearby for £34,500 in 1790. The Farrells were Roman Catholic and could not own land until in 1782 Grattan’s Parliament relaxed many of the Penal Laws. James had made his money as a brewer and moneylender in Dublin and, although he lived in Merrion Square, he made many improvements around Moynalty. However after James died his son John built Moynalty House around 1830 and lived there; he also rebuilt much of the village at this time. John’s son, John Arthur (1825 - 1904), inherited and in 1860 married Lucretia Pauline, a daughter of Edward Preston the 13th Viscount Gormanston (1796 - 1876). When he died in 1904 his son, John Edward, was recalled from Tasmania to run the estate but he had to sell it largely due to ill health.
Meanwhile John Arthur’s second son, Colonel Edward Farrell, took over the neighbouring estate of Walterstown from the Kellett family and his daughter Dorothy, Mrs de Stacpole, lives there today.
13. Mountainstown was bought by John Pollock, a successful solicitor in Dublin from a daughter of Samuel Gibbons about 1796, and he added a wing about 1811. John died in 1825 and was succeeded by his son, Arthur Hill Corwallis Pollock, who continued improving the family’s famous herd of cattle, which won many prizes. In 1846 Arthur died and was followed by his son, John Osborne George, who died in 1871. The Pollooks still live at Mountainstown.
14. Westlands House was at this date occupied by Thomas Barnes, 1796 – 1871 and his wife Jane (Kellet), 1800 – 1850. They had a young family of three boys and two girls, the eldest being aged 11 (see 25.2.2).
Then there were:
- Drumbaragh (Woodward family)
- Sylvan Park (Keating family)
- Johnsbrook (Tandy family)
- Boltown (Battersby family)
- Lakeview (Mortimer family)
- Arch Hall (Garnett family)
- Chamberlainstown (Chamberlayne family)
and many others.
Kells is now a market town, but in the early days it was a centre of repute due to its religious ties. At one time it was called Ceanannus Mor, meaning the white-headed fort, referring to the legend of the tribute of white-headed cattle paid to the builder of the fort in prehistoric times; Cenlis Mor and Kenlis are some other forms of the name. Originally a royal residence where ‘Conn of the Hundred Fights’ lived in the 2nd Century and where years later between 544 and 565 it was the palace of Dermot, High King of Ireland. About this time it was granted to St Columcille or St Columba of Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland, and he founded a monastery about 550, which was to become a centre of learning. During the 7th and 8th centuries the monks erected the first of the stone crosses which were sculptured with biblical scenes and used as teaching aids; the Book of Kells was written about this time; it is now in Trinity College, having been deposited there in 1653 by Henry Cromwell and is reckoned to be the finest example of early Christian art of its kind. The only building of this period still standing is “St Columbcille’s house” which was built in the early 800s and roofed with stone slabs. About 807 Kells became a bishopric and a little later the monks of Iona had to fly from the Norsemen and they settled at Kells. A century later the Norsemen penetrated as far as Kells and stripped the monastery of all its wealth. The 95 feet high round tower of six floors was built at this time; it still stands by the gate of the Church but it has lost its top and is unusual as it has five windows at the top, one for each of the roads coming in to the town. Close to the round tower stand the famous stone crosses in the churchyard except for one which was moved to the market place opposite the castle; the latter was demolished a couple of centuries ago. This cross was used as a gallows in Cromwell’s time and again in 1798.
A quarter of a century after the Synod in Kells of 1152, Hugh de Lacy, was granted Meath after the Anglo-Norman invasion, and he proceeded to build castles around his domain which bordered the English Pale. Hugh de Lacy’s main stronghold was his castle at Trim but he also built a castle at Kells and walled in the town, and Kells became a strongpoint on the frontier of the 15th Century Pale. Under the Anglo-Normans the religious establishments flourished and continued to do so until Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.
It looks as though Kells went through a peaceful period but this is far from the case. For nearly 900 years numerous battles were fought at Kells, firstly between the Irish Kings, then against the Norsemen and finally the Anglo-Normans fought battles defending the Pale against the Irish. Kells sustained several sieges, and was frequently plundered, sacked, burned and destroyed. For instance in 951 the Vikings raided the monastery and at least 3,000 men were said to have been captured as slaves, and a great spoil of cattle, horses, gold and silver taken; even if exaggerated this report demonstrates the scale of the slave trade and the wealth of the monastery. Then in 1108 Kells was attacked by the Danes of Dublin and the Abbey pillaged and destroyed. Edward Bruce defeated Lord Roger Mortimer and burned Kells in 1315. It is not surprising that for safety the famous Book of Kells was buried ‘under the sod’ and lost for a number of years.
The Cromwellian War caused the usual unsettlement and his cavalry stabled their horses in the Church and were largely responsible for disfiguring the priceless crosses, even breaking the crosspiece of the one in the market square. In 1654 Lieut-Colonel Richard Stephens was granted the town and commenced to rebuild it after the devastation but, perhaps daunted by the task, he sold it around 1675 to Thomas Taylor, the ancestor of the Marquess of Headfort (2.11.3). Thomas chose to live in the town in a large house on the south side of what is now Headfort Place; one of the early Corporation records of 1698 states that money was paid for cleaning the new pavement leading to Captain Taylor’s gate.
Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of 1831 states that Kells is “an incorporated market and post-town on the mail-coach road from Dublin to Enniskillen containing 4,326 inhabitants. It is pleasantly situated on the southwest bank of the River Blackwater and in 1831 contained 734 houses, in general neatly built, though in some instances without much regularity. A silk and cotton lace manufactory was established in 1824, nearly the whole of the lace is sent to England. There is a brewery and a tannery in the town and a considerable retail trade is carried on. There is a police station and the sessions house (court house built in 1801) is a neat building. The bridewell, or house of correction, for the county is a spacious and well-arranged building. The church is a spacious ancient structure with a detached square tower on the north side, surmounted by a spire erected by Thomas, 1st Earl Bective. (The bell tower was rebuilt in 1578, the present church was built in 1778, and the spire was put on the bell tower in 1783). The Roman Catholic chapel is a spacious and handsome stone building in the form of a ‘T’ with two towers erected in 1798 (demolished and rebuilt further from the road in 1960). A new national school upon a large scale is about to be built.”
Two other large buildings were about to be built; the workhouse in 1842 at the bottom of the hill into Kells from Oakley Park, and the new fever hospital at the top of the hill. The Dublin and Drogheda Railway Co extended their line to Kells in 1853 and the line on to Oldcastle in 1863.
Kells was a typical go-ahead country town, but there was the not-so-good side, which is not commonly reported. In 1836 Freeman reported that in Kells there were “a number of cabins situated in little courts at the back of the main row of cabins which form the front of the street or road. These courts are seldom more than six or seven feet wide, and that space, which forms the only passage or entrance to the cabins, is usually blocked up with heaps of manure made by the pigs, and with rubbish and filth thrown out of the houses at the very doors.”
Thirty years on in 1871 Thom’s Almanack records about Kells, “a good market town in the County of Meath. The principal proprietor of the town is the Marquess of Headfort, whose seat is in the immediate neighbourhood. There is something very imposing about the entrance to Kells - the spacious well wooded avenue - the wide streets adorned with old trees, terminated by the venerable Protestant church and very old round tower, hansome Roman Catholic church and sessions-house; and recently a Presbyterian church has been erected. The town is improving, new roads have been formed; and the schools endowed by Miss Dempsey, the new hospitals, union workhouse, etc, add much to its appearance. There is a good hotel; and at the weekly markets considerable quantities of produce are disposed of. The ‘Meath Herald’ newspaper is published here.
Town revenue in 1871: £1,161.13.6
Population: in 1871 2,953; in 1861 3,225”; (in 1986 2,448).
Moynalty and its surrounds suffered disturbances just before and at the time that George and Arbella moved to Oakley Park, which is exactly half way between Moynalty and Kells. This area of Meath contains more tillage than south Meath around Rahinstown and Drumlargan, and as a result there was a heavier population of agricultural workers; this posed no particular problem whilst agriculture was flourishing, but after the Napoleonic War prices slumped and landlords cut down on tillage with the consequence that labour was laid off. A few farmers, particularly the poorer ones, were therefore inclined to recoup their losses by raising rents and so the resident labour force was squeezed two ways. This was impossible for the workmen and they had no official redress; so they formed themselves in to groups with the two-fold aim of keeping rents down and to keep out strangers, particularly those coming in to lease land at a higher rent over the heads of evicted tenants, and the annual influx of labour from western counties at harvest-time. By banding together they could threaten and take action against farmers who broke either of their two rules; indeed they were taking the law into their own hands but they felt that it was the only type of action available to them since neither the government nor the farmers were likely to listen to them. At this time these labour groups were called ‘Ribbonmen’ and there were a number of incidents, naturally called ‘outrages’ by the landowners. It is difficult to glean comparative details in Meath, but Moynalty stands out as a bad area, which is well documented as Richard Chaloner, the local magistrate of Kingsfort, kept a diary. In it he writes of many attacks on property in the area, and indeed there was an attempted assassination of one of his own servants. Attacks on houses and robberies increased to such an extent that Chaloner approached a fellow magistrate, John Pollock of Mountainstown with a view of getting the military into the area from their base at Kells.
The Ribbonmen were so successful or, depending on one’s point of view inspired so much dread that at one stage Jason Crawford of Oakley Park, another magistrate, refused point blank to support Chaloner’s deposition to get the Moynalty area proclaimed; to quote Chaloner’s diary, “Called at Laurencetown (Oakley Park) to procure Mr Crawford’s name to my memorial which to my astonishment he refused; confessing his dread of the resentment of the Ribbon Men”. It may indeed have been this dread and the general unsettlement of the area which contributed ultimately to the Crawfords moving out of Oakley Park and which led to the sale of the place by his son to George Bomford.
But to return to Moynalty disturbances, a much earlier occurrence was in 1793 when Moynalty hit the headlines with the Battle of Coolnahinch. Coolnahinch is two miles north of Moynalty on the old Kingscourt road; it was renamed Petersville from a notorious Cromwellian planter and priest hunter, and subsequently acquired by the Tucker family who in the mid 1700s were party to mortgages on Oakley Park and other lands of Jason Crawford. The forerunners of the Ribbonmen were the Defenders and in the early 1790s they raided houses “at the silent and unprepared hour of midnight and robbed them of their arms”. To meet this threat the landowners of Moynalty, Kingscourt, Baileborough and Virginia formed the County Meath Association. In 1793 the Association had infiltrated the Defenders ranks and learned that they were meeting at Coolnahinch, so the Association gathered together and laid an ambush. The Defenders were caught unaware, routed and fled into the Tucker house, but they were soon recognised, pulled out and killed or captured. 38 Defenders were killed and many more captured at a cost to the Association of one man wounded. Nothing now remains, of Petersville, the Tucker home, but a few feet of outside walls, but the Tuckers did re-occupy the house after the battle for about thirty years.
Young George Bomford must have been aware of this agrarian violence around Moynalty; and around Kells also, but Kells was a garrison town so the military, who acted as the police, were better able to keep a check on outrages. South Meath was not so prone to violence as it was basically cattle raising country and so less populated. However records of outrages were spotted in Summerhill, Garadice, Dunsany and some other nearby places but none were spotted on either Winter or Bomford land. There must be a conclusion to be drawn from this and it may be that, as we know, the Winters treated their tenants and labour well; that George Bomford was brought up and trained by Winter and so had similar views, and it was for this reason that the Ribbonmen and others left George alone because he was known to be of ‘a good family’; the word ‘good’ in this Irish context being interpreted as ‘just’. Nevertheless the Bomford move to Oakley Park is now even less easily understood as George was moving from a fairly stable and peaceful area into one where there was, or had been, much frightening violence.
Another item of frightening violence follows but is of quite a different kind. This was the “Big Wind” which occurred in January 1839 during the time of the extension to Oakley Park, and hit the whole island.
This night has passed into folklore of Ireland and stories of it have been passed from generation to generation. It was the night of Ireland’s greatest natural disaster and these notes have evolved from the newspaper reports of the day, mostly from the Dublin Evening Post.
In this night, the Twelfth Night, the night of the Epiphany, Ireland was hit by what was perhaps the most violent storm to strike the country in the last six hundred years. The violence of the storm, its sheer brutality, horrified those who lived through it and its magnitude was such that it was widely seen not as an extreme version of the normal but as a supernatural event; the latter being aided by the fact that it occurred on the Twelfth Night, the night traditionally associated with the Day of Judgement and Death; as Lady Wilde wrote “On Twelfth Night, the dead walk, and on every tile of a house a soul is sitting waiting for your prayers to take it out of purgatory.” (From ‘Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland’ by Lady Speranza Wilde, wife of Sir William Wilde, 1815-1876, a famous ophthalmic surgeon of Dublin, who wrote ‘Beauties of the Boyne and the Blackwater’ in 1849, recently re-published and very readable.)
However 6th January was also a day of celebration because it was ‘Little Christmas’. This was the day that used to be Christmas before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, after which it had been changed into a day of treats, good food and celebration. Everyone was looking forward to the evening’s entertainment, and in most cases that entertainment was over when it happened.
The storm began innocently, almost casually. Around nine o’clock a light westerly breeze sprang up. There followed a steady, relentless increase. As the Dublin Evening Post recorded of Dublin, “about half past ten it rose into a high gale, which continued to increase in fury until after midnight, when it blew a most fearful and destructive tempest”. Elsewhere its arrival was sudden and explosive; in Kilbeggan in Westmeath “there was at first a rumbling noise, like thunder, heard, which was followed by a rushing blast of wind, which swept across the town like a tornado, and shook the houses so much that the glass and delft were thrown from the shelves. Those who were in bed hastily jumped up and dressed them selves. Many ran out of their houses into the fields and gardens, and in several instances where the inmates fled, the houses were soon after levelled to the ground.”
Disquiet turned into consternation. In Limerick “the watchmen took refuge in terror of their lives…. No living creature being able to stand in the streets, while the spirit of the tempest was careering in all his might through the air, and a shower of slates at every angle which was exposed to the blast, strewing the ground with broken particles, and flying before the tempest like shreds of paper.”
The people became frantic, their fears excited “almost to madness”. Vast numbers deserted their houses, seeking shelter wherever they could find it. In Moate a man got into a barrel for safety and was blown around the town. If their shelter was blow down, as frequently happened, they would all move again, one woman having to go to three houses to give birth to her baby. The wind was so forceful it blew many off their feet and in County Monaghan “those who took courage and volunteered to assist their neighbours had to travel on all fours. They were obliged to embrace each other and shout at the top of their voice to make themselves heard”. Crowds gathered in churches and in Dublin under the Corinthian columns of the Bank of Ireland. Some were seen “walking the roads where no houses were to avoid death”. Others stayed put, huddling together in whatever part of the house they judged to be the safest; in Ross in County Galway, the Martin family including James (21.8.3) emerged from the cellars of their mansion to see nothing between them and the sky.
Often the wind came in gusts. In Dublin the wind would rake the street first one way then the other, and when contrary blasts met a whirlwind formed, which made the stoutest house “tremble and rock to their foundations”. This rocking of the houses was experienced all over the country. In Wicklow John O’Donovan wrote of his house rocking beneath him “as if it were a ship”, and in Portadown the houses “groaned like a vessel at sea”, the beds and furniture being “visibly agitated”. Hundreds of well made buildings collapsed, and many more subsequently had to be demolished. Much of the south wall of the medieval Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul at Trim (Appendix ‘C’) was blow down
Roofs suffered particularly badly. Slated roofs were plucked clean, the back roof of the barrack at Longford disappeared “as if an explosion of gunpowder had taken place inside”. Once the roof had gone the room’s contents were fair game, “beds, palliasses, pillow cases, and other bedroom articles being carried on high like so many feathers”, (Dublin Evening Mail). In many cases the chimmy-stack was blown down, perhaps coming through the roof and on through the house, carrying all before it. This happened to Lady Mountjoy’s ‘fine mansion’ in Rutland Square, and in Clare Street another falling stack ‘destroyed a female’, (Newspaper reports described gentlefolk as dying whereas servants and poor people tended to get destroyed:). The majority of roofs in the country were thatched and many of these simply disappeared, one in Westmeath was blown into the next townland, and another in Leitrim sailed serenely across Fenagh Loch; other roofs simply collapsed and this was often the cause of another hazard of the night, fire.
Few people thought to put out the kitchen fire so, when the straw from a collapsing roof landed on it, the flames spread and sparks and flaming pieces of timber were blown from house to house. Over a hundred houses were gutted in Athlone, eighty-nine in Loughrea, sixty-three in Moate, and in Dublin there were fears that the fires would spread like those in the Great Fire of London of 1666, (see 23.6, Bethesda fire). Along the Tyrone-Monaghan border ‘there was a fire in every townland’.
As the Dublin Evening Post described the storm:
Every field, every town, every village in Ireland, have felt its dire effects. The damage, which it has done, is almost beyond calculation. Several hundreds of thousands of trees have been levelled to the ground. More than half a century must elapse, before Ireland, in this regard, presents the appearance she did last summer. The loss of farming stock, of all kinds, has been terrible; many hundreds of cattle have had to be killed. Many of the most thrifty and industrious husband-men, whose haggards were filled with unthreashed corn on Sunday night, found themselves without a sheaf of grain in the morning The poor, of course, as being the most numerous, have been the greatest sufferers. Tens of thousands of their wretched cabins have been swept away or unroofed, and many have become a prey to the flames. Trees, ten to twelve miles from the sea, were covered with salt brine. Such was the fury of the storm, that, had it lasted six hours longer, it is not the house that would have been prostrated, but whole streets and towns levelled.
These days much of the storm damage would be covered by insurance, but in the 1830s most property was not even insured against fire, and none against storm damage. The idea of insurance in those days being fairly novel outside the cities where the different insurance companies had their own fire fighters. There was no insurance then for storm damage and the dire results of the Big Wind had to be paid for by the householder. The poorer people had a shockingly bad time as there was need for massive relief, and the only relief available was from neighbours and landowners. At first sight this might seem to reflect British indifference towards Ireland’s sufferings; but it was not. Places in England like Liverpool and Manchester which were only a little less smitten by the storm, received no help either. In the 1830s governments throughout Europe were only just beginning to appreciate that they might have some responsibilities in the fields of relief and welfare. Non-intervention was the rule and even if governments wished to intervene the apparatus to do so hardly existed. In most places it was down to self-help and charity. Schools were opened to accommodate some of those who had lost their homes, soup kitchens were set up, and straw was donated for thatching.
The earliest records of insurance in these documents were, for life insurance, that of David George North-Bomford (27.8.1) of 1867, and, for fire insurance, that of Oakley Park (29.2.2) of 1874. There are no records of any storm damage insurance. Neither are there any records in the documents of any damage done by the Big Wind. No doubt the major damage would have been trees blown down with the consequent loss of cattle, stocks of hay straw being blown away, and probably slates and maybe chimney pots blow off the roofs. Although the newspapers reported losses by neighbours I spotted none by the Bomfords but there must have been some damage. Headfort and Ardbraccan both had over 2,000 trees blown down, and many other estates were noticed in the reports, as at Mountainstown (Pollock, 25.3.1) where “not a large tree remains standing”, Gibbstown (Gerrard, 25.3.1), Collon House (Foster, 6.3, now Lord Oriel) where “the grounds, which have been so much improved, are a scene of desolation; the towering silver firs, the rare black larch, the fine magnolias, the cedar and Goa cedars, and other specimens of the rarest trees which have been collected from all quarters of the globe, now lie prostrate, - nothing can equal the desolation of the scene”, Slane Castle, Annadale (Kennedy, 22.4.2), Clover Hill (Sanderson, 24.5), and many others throughout the country.
In Dublin the police estimated that out of 23,000 houses, 38 were blown down, 119 were partly blown down; 243 houses were completely unroofed with 1,143 partially unroofed, but ‘there is scarcely a house the roof of which has not been injured’; 4,846 chimneys were blown down and 1,527 windows blown in. No such estimates were made in the country.
Two large twin framed portraits, 34” x 45”, used to hang in the dining room at Oakley Park. They are now in England with the two sons of Mrs Joan David (Bomford). They were painted by Arbella’s brother, John Winter, in Dublin in most probably 1847 (see below).
George is seated facing the artist but looking to the right, and dressed in a black coat, chocolate waistcoat, white ‘T’ cravat with white shirt and white trousers. A thin gold chain joins the gold buttons in his shirt, a gold watch chain also shows and he is wearing a gold signet ring. He is a smallish, dapper looking man with black hair, trimmed moustache and beard. His eyes are brown and he wears glasses; apparently it is unusual for paintings of this period to show the sitter wearing spectacles and so, if they were only used for reading, George would have removed them probably; they figure twice in George’s account book, firstly in February 1832, ‘spectacles and glass £3.18.0’ and again in August 1834 ‘for new specks £1.5.0’.
The background of both portraits is dark and indistinct, but in the top right corner of George’s portrait is a rampant Griffen, which is the Bomford crest. George’s portrait has the number ‘117’ pasted in the lower left hand corner, which indicates that it was exhibited, probably at the Royal Hibernian Academy where it is known that John Winter exhibited.
Arbella is seated and her portrait includes her eldest son, George Winter Bomford, then aged 11 or 12. George Winter is standing to her right and is dressed in a dark green smock, white trousers, and a wide lace collar, which overhangs his shoulders. He has brown eyes and brown rather unruly hair; the eyes are looking straight at you with a youthful innocent gaze. Arbella’s blue eyes are looking at her son and her long gold necklace, which George Winter is holding, joins the two. His right hand is clasped by his mother’s right hand. She is dressed all in pink and white; her crinoline is white with pink check and her frilly blouse shows a slight trace of pink; pink ribbons are tied at her waist, elbows and neck. Her brown hair has two partings, fore and aft, and from ear to ear, a bun at the back and two locks hang down almost to her mouth and cover her cheeks. On her bare arm she is wearing a black band with gold on it, and there appears to be additional gold encrusted in the gold.
The clue to the date of the portraits is an inscription on the back of George’s, which reads “Portrait of George Bomford Esq. by John Winter, Aardeven, Rathgar.” According to the Dublin Almanack, John Winter moved to Aardeven in 1845 and lived there until his death in 1864. 1845-6 was first selected because of the youthful appearance of their son, but 1847 is the most likely date because that was the year that they rented a house in Dublin and further, a number of sittings would be required and travel would have been difficult during those famine years.
There is a much earlier and smaller, 9” x 6”, portrait at Crodara of Arbella, painted before she married. The artist is not known but the painting in its original mount has a piece of printed paper stuck across the back which reads “Alphonse Giroux, Rue du Coq, Saint-Honore, No 7.”
This is followed by five lines in French, which state that Alphonse Giroux sells everything of use to an artist. It is not known whether he is the artist or whether he only framed the portrait, but it can be assumed that it was done in Paris when the Winter family were living there between 1817 and 1825. Arbella looks to be in her early teens so the painting was probably done between 1823 and 1825.
Arbella is looking at the artist with a humorous expression. Her brown hair dissolves into curls, which partly cover her ears and forehead. She is wearing a simple cream dress held in by a black belt at the waist, circular collar and long sleeves puffed out at the shoulder.
Her son, John Francis Bomford (1837 - 1911), has written on the back “Arbella Bomford, my loved mother, John F Bomford, 5th August 1902. Kind gift from my dear sister ‘Nanny’.” Nanny was the family name for John’s eldest sister Anne (1833-1912).
The first reference to the family arms and crest is on Colonel Laurence’s tombstone (c 1725) which has been described as “an animal standing on its hind legs like a weasel and underneath an elaborate coat of arms which we cannot describe as it is rather indistinct” (1.3). The tombstone was erected by Laurence's son, Stephen (the elder).
During my research the Genealogical Office was in the process of being moved out of Dublin Castle, and the only available references were on microfilm in the National Library. These films are largely illegible, but at least the pedigrees of the Bomfords can be recognised and substantiate what has already been listed. The pedigrees are recorded in May and July 1825 on manuscript 149 pages 287-91, manuscript 160 pages 159 and 160, and manuscript 107 pages 130 and 131 [I have been unable to find these in the on-line collection of registered pedigrees of the Genealogy Office: RB 27 Aug 2018], but the portions of these concerning the arms are too illegible to record. These 1825 manuscripts concern the Bomford arms being transferred to the North-Bomford branch of the family (Chapter 23); they were confirmed in March 1867, manuscript 109 pages 139 and 140.
Manuscript 109, Grants and confirmations of arms volume E, 1803 - 1848, page 130 concerns a grant on 23 November 1837 of a North Bomford arms and crest. It has this drawing:
and this text:
North to Bomford
To All and Singular to whom these Presents shall come I Sir William Bentham Knight Attendant on the Most Illustrious Order of Stain Patrick, Ulster King of Arms and principal Herald of all Ireland send greeting. Whereas Her Majesty under her Royal Signature and Sign Manual bearing date at Saint James's the tenth day of November One thousand eight hundred and thirty seven has signified unto His Excellency Conftantine Henry Earl of Mulgrave Knight Grand Crofs of the Royal Hanoverian Order Lord Lieutenant General and General Governor of that part of the United Kingdome of Great Britain and Ireland called Ireland that she had been graciously pleased to give and grant to Isaac North of Ferrans in the Co of Meath Esquire her Royal licence and authority that he and his ifsue might take the name of Bomford in addition to and after the name of North and bear the Arms of Bomford quarterly before those of North out of respect to the memory and in compliance with the desine exprefsed by his Uncle Isaac Bomford late of Blefsington Street in the City of Dublin Esquire deceased, such Arms being first duly exemplified according to the Laws of Arms and recorded in the Office of Ulster King of Arms in Ireland to the end that the Offices of Arms there and all other upon occasion may take full notice and have knowledge thereof otherwise the said Royal and authority to be void and of none effect. And Whereas the Lords Justices of Ireland by Warrant under their Sign Manual bearing date at Dublin Castle the twenty second day of November one thousand eight hundred and thirty seven have authorised and commanded me the said Ulfter King of Arms to register the said Royal Licence and to exemplify the said Armorial bearings in my office of Arms Know ye therefore that I the said Ulster in subservience of their Excellencys said Warrant have caused the said Royal Licence to be registered in my office accordingly and in obedience to her Majestys commands and in virtue of the power and by the Authority of the same do by these presents give grant afsign notify exemplify and confirm unto the said Isaac North now Isaac North Bomford the Arms following that is to say Quarterly 1st and 4th Azure on a fefs ermine three crofs crofsletts fitchey gules for Bomford 2nd & 3rd per pale or and azure a lion pafsant between three fluers de lis counter charged for North - Crests An eagle displayed per pale azure and gules in the dexter claw a dagger proper for Bomford - 2nd Crest A Wyverns head erased vert langued gules collar'd and chained or and for Motto VIRUTUS-ET-FIDELIS. The whole as above appears more clearly depicted to be used and borne by the said Isaac North Bomford and his descendants. And the said Arms and Crests reversing the Quartering that is to say Quarterly 1st & 4th per pale Or and azure a lion rampant between three fluers de lis countercharged for North and 2nd & 3rd Azure or a Fefs ermine three crofs crofsletts fitchy gules for Bomford and for Crests A Wyverns head erased vert langued gules collared and chained for North second crest An eagle displayed per pale Azure and gules holding in the dexter claw a dagger proper for Bomford to be used and borne severally by the other descendants of John North Esquire father of the said Isaac North now Isaac North Bomford for ever according to the Laws of Arms without let hindrance or molestation or interruption of any person or persons whatsoever. In Witnefs whereof I have subscribed my name and title and affixed by Official Seal this twenty third day of November in the first year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Victoria by the Grace of GOD of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen Defender of the Faith and so forth and in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty seven
The Bomford crest recorded in that grant apparently was not the Bomford crest so on 6 March 1867 a different version was granted and confirmed (Grants and confirmations of arms volume G, 1863-1880, at page 139).
It has this illustration of the crest:
and this text:
To all and Singular to whom these Presents shall come I Sir John Bernard Burke, L.L.D. Ulster King of Arms and Principal Herald of all Ireland, Knight Attendant on the Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick send greeting. Whereas application has been made to me by John North Bomford Esq late Captain in Her Majesty's 29th Regiment now eldest son of the late Isaac North Bomford of Gallow in the County of Meath Esquire setting forth that by a Royal Licence bearing date at Saint James's the Tenth day of November one thousand eight hundred and thirty seven Her Majesty was graciously pleased to authorize his aforesaid father and his descendants to take and use the additional surname and Arms of Bomford and that in accordance therewith Sir William Bentham Knight then Ulster King of Arms of all Ireland granted a certain Crest for the name of Bomford which has since be ascertained not to be the Crest of the said family of Bomford. And whereas the said John North Bomford Esquire has prayed me to rectify the error and to grant and confirm to him and the other descendants of his aforesaid father the Crest as borne by his ancestors of the family of Bomford. Know ye therefore that I the said Sir John Bernard Burke Ulster King of Arms having taken into consideration these circumstances deem the said application and request to be reasonable and just. And by the power to me given by Her Majesty's Royal Letters Patent under the Great Seal of Ireland and by authority of the same do by these Presents give grant ratify and confirm unto the said John North Bomford Esquire late Captain in Her Majesty's 29th Regiment and other descendants of his aforesaid father for Crest of Bomford (in lieu of an Eagle displayed per pale Azure and Gules, holding in the dexter claw a dagger proper.) the Crest following Viz - On a wreath of the colours a Griffin segreant Argent, charged on the shoulder with a Cross Crosslet fitchee Gules, as above is more clearly depicted to the borne and used for ever hereafter by him the said John North Bomford Esquire late Captain in Her Majesty's 29th Regiment and his descendants and by the other descendants of his aforesaid father according to the laws of Arms without let hindrance molestation or interruption of any person or persons whatsoever. In Witness whereof I have subscribed these Presents and affixed hereto my Official Seal this Sixth day of March in the Thirtieth year of the Reign of Our Sovereign Lady Victoria by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen Defender of the Faith and so forth and in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty seven.
The North-Bomford application is entered in the General Armory by Burke in the 1884 edition, which reads:
Exemplified in 1837 to Isaac North Esq. of Ferrans, Co Meath, on his assuming the additional surname of Bomford.
1st and 4th, Az on Fesse erm, three crosses crosslet fitchẽe gu.
2nd and 3rd, Per pale or and az a lion pass, betw three fleur-de-lis countercharged.
an eagle display per pale Az and Gu, in the dexter claw a dagger ppr. (This is also recorded in Burke 1842 edition.)
a wyvern’s head erased vert Langued gu collared and chained.
The crest of Bomford in the preceding grant having been discovered to be erroneous, a Confirmation was issued in 1867 to John North-Bomford Esq., late Captain 29th Regt., eldest son of the aforesaid Isaac North-Bomford.
A griffin segreant or, charged on the shoulder with a cross crosslet fitchẽe gu.”
On 22 August 1900 the Genealogical Office manuscript 111, pages 73 and 74, gives confirmation of arms 'to the descendants of Robert Bomford, elder son of Stephen Bomford, both of Rahinstown, and to his great grandson Richard Southcott Mansergh of Greenane, County Tipperary, eldest son of Richard St George Mansergh of Friarstown, County Tipperary' (21.3.2).
It has this illustration:
And this text:
To all and singular to whom these presents shall come, I, Sir Arthur Edward Vicars, …. send greeting. Whereas application has been made unto me by Richard Southcote Mansergh of Grenane, Co Tipperary, Esquire, one of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said County, setting forth that he is the eldest son of Richard St George Mansergh, late of Friarsfield in the said County, third son, but eldest son to leave issue of Richard Martin Southcote Mansergh of Greenane aforesaid by Jane Rosetta, his wife, second daughter of Robert Bomford, eldest son of Stephen Bomford [the younger] both of Rahinstown, all deceased, that certain Armorial designs were used and borne by the said family of Bomford which do not appear to have been heretofore recorded in my office as appertaining unto them but which were granted and confirmed as a quartering unto Isaac North-Bomford, nephew of Isaac Bomford and grandson of David Bomford of Gallow who was the younger (brother) of the said Stephen Bomford of Rahinstown, that he is desirous that the same may be duly confirmed by lawful authority unto the descendants of his great grandfather the said Robert Bomford of Rahinstown and registered and recorded in this office as appertaining unto them but which were granted and confirmed as a quartering unto Isaac North-Bomford, nephew of Isaac Bomford, and grandson of David Bomford of Gallow in the said County of Meath who was younger brother of the said Stephen Bomford of Rahinstown, that he is desirous that the same may be duly confirmed by lawful authority unto the descendants of this great grandfather the said Robert Bomford of Rahinstown and registered and recorded in the Office of Ulster King of Arms in Ireland to the end that Officers of Arms there and all others upon occasion may take full notice and have knowledge thereof, and he hath therefore prayed for a full confirmation of the same to be borne and used by him, the said Richard Southcote Mansergh, and all his descendants and all other descendants of his great grandfather, the said Robert Bomford, as a quartering with his and these paternal Arms. Know ye therefore that I, the said Ulster King of Arms, having taken the request of the said applicant into consideration and having examined into the circumstances, am pleased to comply therewith and by virtue of the power unto me given by Her Majesty … have ratified and confirmed …. the Arms following, that is to say: - Azure on a fesse ermine, three cross crosslets fitchée gules, the whole as is more clearly depicted in the Margint [?] to be borne and used hereafter by him the said Richard Southcote Mansergh and his descendants, and the other descendants of his great grandfather the said Robert Bomford as a quartering with his and their paternal Arms for ever, with the due and proper differences according to the laws of Arms without let, hindrance, molestation, or interruption of any person or persons whatsoever In Witness whereof I have subscribed these Presents and affixed hereunder my Official Seal this 22nd day of August in the Sixty fourth year of the reign of Our Sovereign Lady Victoria by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, and so forth, and in the year of Our Lord One thousand nine hundred
Arthur E. Vicars. Ulster.
Lieut-Colonel George W. Bomford found a number of plates of the Bomford arms in Oakley Park, one of which is in the possession of Joan David (Bomford). This shows the arms as described, however the crest is an erroneous one of a winged rampant dragon. In addition there is a motto which reads – “Justus et Fidelis”. The two sideboards in the Oakley Park dining room, one of which is now at Dowdstown, Ardee, were made with carved griffins acting as legs; the griffin’s head and outstretched wings hold up the top. Although the change from the erroneous eagle with a dagger to the griffin officially took place in 1867, the change must have taken place earlier since the sideboards were constructed in the late 1830s and also George’s portrait of 1841 included the griffin.
Nicholas Bomford has attempted to recreate the original Bomford arms as follows. He did it some time ago and will have to go back to his notes to sort it out, some day.
‘The Bomford Story’ by Theo Sherwen was written in 1978 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Bomford and Evershed Company of Worcestershire and published privately by the Company. In it there is a coat of arms (below right, though Sherwen's original is an uncoloured line drawing), which is that of 1837 with the quarterings as granted to the North-Bomfords. Bruce Bomford in his book “The Bomfords of Worcestershire” believes that Theo Sherwen’s illustration ‘is probably derived from the Irish branch since to my knowledge no such achievement was granted to the family in England’. However it would appear that some arms and crest, not these ones, were carried by the family for some considerable time, but were only made official when the Bomford and North families were united. In this context it should be noted that the ratification only goes back to Stephen Bomford (c1718 - 1806) [the younger] of Rahinstown and not to his grandfather Colonel Laurence whose children [Stephen the elder] inscribed a set of arms and crest on his tomb at Laracor. It is doubtful if Cromwell approved of any arms and, if so, then the arms on the Colonel’s tombstone pre-dated Cromwell and must have originated in England; however these early arms were not recorded by the King of Arms and so were not recognized.
Above left: a reconstruction of the unofficial Bomford arms and crest, based on the description below.
Above centre: a reconstruction of the unofficial Bomford arms and crest by Nicholas Bomford.
Above right: a coloured version of the arms and crest as depicted in Theo Sherwin's The Bomford Story 1978 at page 3, from the family of Bruce Bomford. This is the official North-Bomford arms and crest of 1867 (see description above) and motto of 1837, with elements of the prior Bomford arms in the top left and bottom right quadrants, the North arms in the top right and bottom left, and the Bomford crest above.
Click on images for a larger view.
The Bomford elements of the official North-Bomford arms and crest (1867 version, described above) are as follows, with a translation into ordinary English.
“Az on a fesse erm.
Azure (blue) with two horizontal lines drawn across the field in ermine (white); so that the whole field, shaped like a shield, is blue with a broad band of white, just under 1/3rd of the total height, drawn across it.
On the white band are three crosses in line,
each cross being made of three crosses,
pointed at the ends,
Gules, in red.
The fesse is emblematic of the military girdle worn around the body over the armour, and being white denotes peace and sincerity.
The cross signifies belief in the Trinity, and when tripled signifies taking part in the Crusades. (Our lineage does not go back that far, but it is a nice thought and does give backing to the idea that the arms originated in England).
A mythical creature with a lion’s body and a eagle’s beak and wings,
seated with raised wings,
charged on the shoulder with a
placed on the shoulder,
a single cross being made of three crosses
pointed at the ends
in red. (The griffin must be drawn as a side view so that the cross on the shoulder can be seen. This cross is the same as in the arms)
“Justus et Fidelis”
Just and Faithful.
George and Arbella’s children are growing up and these two letters are written on the same sheet of paper, the original being with Joan David. The first is from Anne Bomford, aged 8, and in it she mentions Sammy, her younger brother Samuel Stephen, aged 10 months. The second letter is from George Winter Bomford, aged 7, and he mentions Johnny who is his brother John Francis, aged 4.
Oakley Park 13th Febry 1842
My dear Mamma
On Saturday afternoon Sammy got worse, we sent for the doctor he said it was only his teeth, he lanced his gums, and when he called yesterday, said he was much better: today he is quite well and very merry. Give our best love to dear Papa. Will you buy me some riband for my hair.
I remain dear Mamma
Your affectionate daughter
My dear Mamma
We all continue well. It was so wet yesterday we did not go to church. Will you buy Johnny a spelling book. Miss Chatfield desires me to thank you for getting her boots, the(y) fit very well, and we will go to the lake the first fine day. When will you come home?
I remain dear Mamma
Your affectionate son
George Winter Bomford
Twelve years later another letter was kept; this one in rhyme and beautifully illustrated around the border with spiders, even showing two seated and writing their verse.
M. W.’s SPIDERS addressed to G.B. of O.P.
Oh Dear, Mr Bomford: - and so it is you
Who have caused us to bid all our comforts Adieu,
It is you who deserve from our wives to get scoldings,
For turning us out of our lodgings and holdings,
Quite happy we lived with your sister and cousin,
And our beautiful webs you might count by the dozen,
For she gave us house-room in each corner and cornice,
Till you wrote a letter, and taught her to scorn us,
We thought the epistle was nothing but rudeness,
But she - foolish woman - mistook it for goodness,
And, as soon as she read it, so changed were her feelings,
She got out a long brush that reached up to the ceilings,
With a head, which for dusting had many a feather,
And she swept away us and our net-work together.
Where now shall we go? – ‘Tis a wholesale eviction,
And to you we appeal from this depth of affliction,
You surely will deem it no subject for laughter,
But will give the poor outcasts some loft or some rafter-
We send you our portraits - our features you’ll mark,
And you’ll know us again in your own Oakley Park.
It is not known who ‘M. W.’ is, but probably Mary Winter who was George’s sister-in-law who married George’s cousin, and hers, John Winter (line 5), the portrait painter. They lived in Dublin and this also fits since the letter was postmarked “Round town Penny Post Fe 25 1854”. The authors were two married men (line 3).
It is hard to believe that such a delightful little verse could have real malice behind it, and George did keep it. On the other hand it does look as though George did write suggesting that they be moved on, and this places him as a bit of a busy-body.
The next piece of verse has absolutely nothing to do with the Bomfords but it was found scribbled in a Dublin Almanack of 1746. It is an indication of the male orientated world of the days before women’s lib.
How hard is the fate of Poor Woman kind
For ever rejected, for ever confined,
Our Parents confine us til we are wives
And our husbands enslave us the rest of our lives.
Tho fondly we love yet we dare not reveal,
In secret we long wish compelled to Conceal,
Deny’d every freedom of life to enjoy,
Ashamed if we love and blamed if we’re Coy.
Among the documents is a hand-written slip showing the half-year’s rent on Drumlargan due by Francis Pratt Winter, £435.14.10½, plus half a year’s Tithe composition, £7.18.1½, a total of £443.13.0.
The Rev Francis was George’s uncle-in-law, the retired ‘hunting parson’ now aged 75 and living at Agher (20.4). When George was a minor Francis rented 94 acres of Drumlargan for £261, in 1832 his rent was £453 so sometime in the intervening years he increased his leased acreage; again between 1832 and 1846 he must have nearly doubled his acreage to match the £887 a year figure of this document. The 1836 Ordnance Survey states that George had Drumlargan leased in two farms at £2 an acre; this would give Francis one of the farms of about 443 plantation acres or 718 statute.
In July the Rev Francis died and his lease was taken over by John Monaghan. John Monaghan was soon to be living in Bloomfield House, later called Drumlargan House, which in 1836 was ‘going into a further ruinous state’ so it must have been done up since then.
There are two schedules, the second one being undated, in which John Barnes hands over deeds and documents. The deeds of the first schedule were handed over to George Bomford. All concern Oakley Park from 1712 to 1839, and most are at Crodara. The second schedule lists deeds handed over to Samuel Reynell and mostly concern land currently held by George Bomford. Some are missing but many are at Crodara.
Samuel Reynell was George’s land agent who took over from Myles O’Reilly in 1837. Myles O’Reilly was a solicitor but Samuel Reynell was ‘not legally bred’ to use Myles’ words (24.4). It was necessary for George to find a solicitor and this appears to have been John Barnes of 69 Stephen’s Green, Dublin, who was the brother of Thomas Barnes of Westlands, the lessee of the northern portion of Oakley Park (25.2.1 B).
A note on the famine was attempted but became too long since it was found impossible to restrict it to Meath only. It has been placed as an appendix. Although there is no specific mention of the famine in the deeds it had an enormous effect on all landlords, including the Bomfords.
All rate payers, and about 90% of them were landlords, had to find the money to feed the starving masses, and many became insolvent as a result. George and Arbella had used much of their credit in rebuilding Oakley Park, but their bank balance was still healthy and would have remained so under normal circumstances. However circumstances were not normal and ever increasing payments had to be made to the Relief Committees during this period; particularly after the Rent-in-Aid Act was passed in London whereby no more aid was to come from the rest of the British Isles and solvent baronies in Ireland had to pay the debits of the insolvent ones. Up to that time Meath and the neighbouring counties had not suffered as badly as the rest of the country. Partly due to the emphasis on profitable pastoral activity, the eastern counties did not experience the same rapid growth in population that occurred in the western and southern counties. The 1841 census states that Meath, probably the most fertile county in Ireland, had an average population of only 201 people per square mile, while relatively infertile counties, Donegal and Kerry, averaged 476 and 415 respectively. As 80% of Meath was classified as arable, this county could have supported a much larger population density of peasants on smallholdings, had the land been subdivided for this purpose. However, the high profitability of sheep and cattle raising in the eastern counties meant that landlords were less inclined to lease their lands to middlemen and to subdivide their estates into smaller holdings as was common practice in the western counties. The more secure and attractive nature of life in Leinster meant that many more landlords were resident, and participated in the management of their estates, than was the case in the west. In counties Meath and Westmeath prior to the famine, there was less evidence of absentee landlords leasing their holdings to rapacious middlemen who subdivided the land and ‘rack-rented’ the tenantry. Landlords in these eastern counties often farmed their own estates themselves using cottier labour, and leased the remainder to substantial tenant farmers on determined long leases. These leases were mostly for grazing only and did not allow for successive subdivisions that proved so ruinous in the west. This meant that landlords, like the Bomfords, who were resident not only knew all their tenants personally but also knew all their labour; this personal touch meant that whole families were employed from one generation to the next, and both sides respected the other and worked together for their common good. In time of trouble the cottier would rely on the landlord for assistance. This bond also meant that outside families were kept away, since small plots of ground were harder to obtain than in the western counties; this in turn further reduced the incentive for young Irish couples to marry in the hope that they could readily establish their own household on tiny allotments in primitive cabins.
The peasant population of the eastern counties was not only less affected by the pressures of over-population that occurred in the west, but were less dependent on the potato to provide their subsistence. The cottiers of Meath generally had their own vegetable garden as well as potato ground, and raised poultry for their own use. A large portion of peasants in Leinster were cottiers with regular employment as labourers on estates where their annual wages generally exceeded their total rent. In many areas of Meath, tenants gained additional income by raising livestock for sale, and weaving linen at piece rates; there was a bleach-green at Oakley Park though it is doubtful if it was used at this time. Thus the famine caused considerably less suffering and death in the counties of Leinster compared with the misery and devastation in Munster and Connaught with less population to feed, a greater diversity of subsistence crops and additional sources of family income, peasants in the eastern counties were, much better placed than those in the west or south to withstand those dreadful years where, for many, subsidised mass emigration became the only escape from death from starvation.
In spite of the better circumstances in Meath, the scale of payments, to the workhouse to feed the starving and to the fever hospitals to feed and perhaps cure the sick and, later, to assist other insolvent baronies, became so great that only the richer landlords came through the famine period, and many poorer ones went broke and had to sell their land. This is what almost happened to George and Arbella; they had no need to sell but their savings had gone and they had to rely on income from the land only. George found it impossible to pay back to his brother the £10,000 which he had borrowed, and Samuel allowed the debt to continue for a further 40 or so years. If large sums of money were needed then land had to be sold with the consequent loss of income. George managed without having to sell land but the situation got worse and his son and grandson had to sell to make ends meet. It was the famine, which was the root cause, and it was indeed lucky for George that Samuel was so understanding because the price of land slumped in post-famine Ireland and the market never really regained the pre-famine value until the late 1950s.
Apart from the financial troubles, George and Arbella had two other worrying concerns at Oakley Park; namely the wandering unruly element of semi-starved peasants, and the threat of disease to themselves and their children.
The roving destitute which gravitated to Kells and its workhouse must have overflowed into the surrounding countryside including Oakley Park; in all probability family bands would go out to glean the countryside of roots and berries and anything else that they could find edible; a single turnip was known to have kept a family alive for a day, and there was not a nettle to be found. This problem did not only concern George but also his tenants and above all his labour who were also eating berries, roots and nettles. Any problem with the ‘big house’ caused by the emigrants from other counties would reflect on George’s labour and their families. The whole population of Oakley Park (104 in 1841), as in other townlands, would band together and certainly assist the destitute whenever possible, but they would make certain that none squatted on the land. If those in the big house left for any reason, then assistance to them would cease and the labour would be in the same situation of starvation as the emigrants. There is no doubt in my mind that, like many other landlords, George employed as many of the destitute as possible, and, although nothing specific is mentioned in the documents, it is thought that the estate wall for instance, was built by them at this time, possibly also the wall around the Big Garden, and maybe even that additional sections of the river were dug in a further attempt to drain the bottoms. By giving employment even to starving wretches they were able to buy whatever food was available and so keep alive.
To illustrate what George and Arbella were up against, with a roving and foraging population, the following account, written by General Clifford of Carn Cottage near Belturbet (35.6.2) to my grandmother, is included. The General’s father purchased and transported a convoy of grain from Dublin to Co Cavan by cart during the height of the famine. This was a private purchase for the destitute of his own area and had nothing to do with the government. A begging mob constantly surrounded the convoy but his band of tenant-guards had no real problem until they reached Kells; his convoy was attacked a number of times as it went through the town by a mob of semi-starved peasants who had congregated there in the hopes of being fed. The General wrote that the mob were bought off by tossing a few sacks of grain from the carts as they galloped through the town.
The other problem, which possibly worried George and Arbella more than anything else, was the very real chance that they and their children might catch one of the many fevers that accompanied the famine. They must have known of many upper and middle class people who had died; in neighbouring County Cavan, for instance, upper class mortality from this cause was estimated at 66%. Indeed it is quite possible that the unexpected death of George’s cousin, Robert George Bomford who was only 45, in December 1846 may have been from one of the famine related diseases. Another fear that they would have had, although possibly not so great, was that the government anticipated a general uprising in the country. Whatever the reason George rented a house in Dublin for the year 1847. This was a large house, No 4 Fitzwilliam Square North, with a rateable value of £125. There was of course fever in Dublin but provided the family stayed indoors as much as possible they were probably better off there than in the country. At this time Anne was aged 14, George Winter 13, John Francis 10, Arbella Anna 8, Samuel Stephen 6 and Elizabeth 4, all tender ages at which the ‘famine fevers’ could so easily cause death.
Although George naturally kept his family as much as possible isolated from the horrors of the famine and consequent disease, George himself was very much involved. The Meath Herald records that he was a Guardian of the Kells Workhouse, and in 1851 was Chairman of the Guardians. In fact he attended the first-meeting of the Guardians on 19th August 1839 together with the Marquess of Headfort, John Rothwell, Christopher Nicholson, Hugh Reilly, Harry Coliston and Patrick Bennet; this meeting was three years before the new workhouse actually opened. Thus George was a Member throughout the famine period. As a Guardian his major concern was to see that there was enough food for the hapless inmates, an extremely difficult and disheartening job since the Workhouse was insolvent. Indeed towards the end of 1847 the whole board threatened to resign, but the British Government would not allow them to do so. (See Appendix D on the famine).