Colonel James Grove White: Ballyheen or Rockfield

Sheet 23, 6 inch O.S. Sheet 175, 1 inch O.S.

Ballyheen is the Irish for “ a little road or pass", “Finstown” (O’Donovan).

Parish of Kilbrin. Barony of Duhallow.

Rockfield House is in townland of Ballyheen Middle. It lies 3 miles east of Kanturk, which is the post town.

Smith’s Cork (pub. 1750) states: - “To the south of this (i.e. Assolas) is Ballyheen, alias Rockfield, a good improvement, belonging to Mrs. Thornhill. (Vol. I., p. 285). (Journal, p. 41, 1895). Mr. C. M. Tenison’s article on Cork M.P.’s: - “Brettridge Badham, Esq., of Ballyheene, was M.P. For Charleville, 1713-14, Rathcormac 1743-44. He was the son of Alderman Thomas Badham, of Cork, who m. (1677) Jane, daughter of Roger Brettridge, of Castlecope. He married first, 1709, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Henry Boyle, M.P., of Castlemartyr, but by her had no issue; secondly, 28th April, 1715, Hon. Sophia King, daughter of the third Lord Kingston, and had two sons (who both died young and unmarried), and one daughter, who married, first, R. Thornhill, and, secondly Lord Desart. Mr. Badham presented the address of the ‘Sovereign, Bailiff`, Freemen,’ &c., of Charleville to King George I. on his accession in 1714. He died July, 1744.”

By an indenture dated 6 Oct., 1774, between Edward Badham Thomhill, of Castlekevin, Co. Cork, Esq. (landlord), and Henry Wrixon, of Ballygibbin, same County, Esq., and John Wrixon, containing 87a. 17p., Irish plantation measure.

The tenure was for the lives of William Wrixon, only son of said Henry Wrixon, aged 18, Richard Harris, 4th son of Richard Harris, of Lisgriffin, aged 22, and said John Wrixon, aged 30, at a yearly rent of£60 19s. 6d.

This indenture appears to have been drafted by Daniel Bastable, of 4 Gloucester Street, Dublin. Marriage licence bonds in Dublin Record Office. John Nash, of Rockfield, gent., and Thomas Nash, of Ballynar, in Co. Cork, gent., to Mary Egan, of Parish of Clonfert. Applied for on 2nd Sept., 1780. A correspondent supplied me with the following: — Lease dated May 6th, 1788. John Nash, then of Rockfield, demised unto Michael Nash, therein described as of Rosacon, which were then in possession of John and Michael Nash lives of said John Nash, son of Thomas Nash, of Clonribbon, in the Co. of Cork, gentleman.

Lease of Rockfield for three lives, rent £100. Edward Badham Thornhill, Esq., to John Nash, Esq. Indenture made 23rd February, 1795, between Edward Badham Thornhill, Esq., City of Dublin, one part, and John Nash, Esq., of Ballymagooly, the County of Corke, of the second part, the lands about 88 acres of Ballyhen, called Rockfield, now and for some time past in the possession of the said John Nash and his under—tenants, during the natural life and lives of John Nash, Thomas Nash, and Patrick Nash, first and second and third sons of Thomas Nash, of Rockfield, aforesaid, gentleman. Witnessed by Henry Badham Thornhill, Cha. Croker, and Michael Nash.

It will be noted this has to do with extra lands, not house of Ballyheen, which was then and for some time past in possession of said John Nash.

The following is the inscription on the Nash vault, Kilbrin Graveyard:

"The burial place 0f Nashes, of Rockfield. 1801 .”

The burials in the Nash family vault in Kilbrin graveyard are given in the Kilbrin Parish Register at the Public Record Office, Dublin.

Indenture of fee farm grant, dated 13th October, 1859, and registered 1st November, 1859, made between Christopher Crofts Nash, then of Ballyheen, Co. Cork, Esq., 1st part, and Caroline Margaret Nash, of Bath, England .... quotes from a certain grant perpetuity, dated 4 April, 1859, from Richard Aldworth to Christopher Crofts Nash. Probate of the last will and testament of John Nash, late of Rockfield in Co. Cork, gentleman, deceased. Will dated 10th May, 1832. Probate 15 Dec., 1832.

In the name of God. Amen.

I, John Nash, of Rockfield, in the Co. of Cork, gentleman, being of sound mind .... "

Lease of Rossacon by Peter Bunworth, of Newmarket, to John Nash, of Rockfield, dated 2nd July, 1772. In Record Office, Dublin. 28 September, 1809. Settlement on the marriage of John Nash, Esq., and Miss Crofts.

Indenture made on 28 September, 1809, between Thomas Nash, of Rockfield, Esq., 1st part, Thomas Nash, junior, of Rockfield, Esq., 4th part, and it is further agreed by the said parties to those presents that in case Barbara Nash, now the wife of the said Thomas Nash, party hereto, should outlive the said Thomas Nash, that then and in such case she, the said Barbara, shall and will use, occupy, possess and enjoy the dwelling house and offices and kitchen garden on the demesne lands of Rockfield, aforesaid, so settled by the said Thomas Nash on the said John Nash, party hereto, together with the grass and hay for one horse and two cows, rent free, on said lands for and during the term of her natural life, and no longer ....

By this document it will be seen that John Nash, on his marriage with Miss Crofts, was to get Rockfield and lands on the death of his father, Thomas Nash, subject to the provision made for his mother, Barbara Nash, wife of said Thomas Nash. In a codicil written on the cover of deed it states that in it is included also "that part of the lands of Ballyheen called the west garden, held by the said Thomas Nash under a certain article or agreement bearing date 27 April, 1800, to him executed by John Purcell, Esq., for lives renewable for ever ...”

In 1814, Thomas Nash, Esq., lived at Rockfield. The post town as Kanturk. (Directory of Noted Places, Ireland, 1814). Thomas Nash, Esq., resided at Ballyheen in 1824. (Pigott.) Lewis (pub. 1837) gives: — Ballyheene, the deserted mansion of the Thornhill family (under Kilbrin). In 1893, Mr. Christopher Sherlock was living at Ballyheen House. He still resides there.

Mr. James Byrne, J.P., of Wallstown Castle, writes: — “There is a magnificent pair of outer or sweep piers built here. The inner or gate piers were never erected, and it is a question if they were ever intended, because if they were to be in proportion to those built for the sweep, they would be fit for a Royal Palace."

Mananaan Mac Lir states: - “I was informed that the pillars at Ballyheen were the entrance piers to the old and celebrated Fair Green of Ballyheen. The fair, which was an annual one, was held in October - Lewis, Top. Dict., says Oct. 2. In an old “Gazetteer of the World,” now by me, I find: - Ballyheen, a fair town in Co. Cork, Province of Munster. Fair held from 2 to 9 October. I saw an Irish MS. vol. of Ossianic poetry compiled by the eminent scribe, Willy Hayes, of Coolticormic old Barracks (Kilbolane parish), in 1826, and in a footnote at the end he says he finished it ‘la Aonach Ballichin,’ i.e., ‘the fair day of Ballyheen."’

There is also a local tradition that these piers were built by the English to celebrate their victory at Knocknanus, which is close by.

There are some interesting old arches in the yard at Rockfield House. The occupier, Mr. C.C. Sherlock, wrote in 1906:- "All the old arches and large stones you saw here belonged to the old castle (Ballyheen Castle). The mound that it stood on is about 300 yards from this house to the west, and the field is now taken with Rathmaher House, where the Walpoles lived (Mr. Smith resides there now). The mound is still called the old castle, and daffodils grow there. An old "passage” leads from it.”

The Field Book of 1840 gives:-

Ballyheen North - This is a small townland, all arable, contains a fair green, and is crossed by a stream.

Ballyheen Middle Townland - All demesne, contains a gentleman’s house, an old tannery in ruins, an orchard, and some ornamental fences, and nothing else remarkable.

Ballyheen South - This is a small townland, all demesne. It contains the site of an old castle in a planting. Is considerably ornamented by clumps of trees and ornamental fences.

Ballyheen North contains 142a 1r. 28p.

Ballyheen Middle contains 142a. 3r. 30p.

Ballyheen South contains 154a. 2r. 1p.

"Rockfield House: - A good house, in a ruinous state in 1838, unoccupied apparently.

The Kyle, ‘The Church or Burial Place.’ - An ancient graveyard not used now (1840), in townland of Ballyheen Middle.

Ballyheen White Piers. — The name of two stone piers, about 20 feet high and four chains apart, intended as the outer piers of an entrance gate to Rockfield House, never finished.

Ballyheen Old Castle. - The name of an old castle in ruins, only a part of the east wall standing, in townland of Ballyheen South.

Ballyheen Fair Field. - In townland of Ballyheen North. The name of a field on north side of the road leading from Kanturk to Buttevant, for which there is a patent for holding fairs from 1st to 9th October, generally held on the 5th. The fair held here is often changed from field to field as the proprietor wishes.” (Ord. Sur., Dub.)


Colonel James Grove White

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