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Bantry Estate Collection: Home

About the Collection

Collection Ref.:             IE BL/EP/B
Title:                            Bantry Estate Collection
Dates:                            1671-1980s 
Level of description:     Item
Extent:                           214 boxes & outsize material
 
Administrative History:

BL/EP/B are the estate and family papers generated by the White/Leigh-White/Shelswell-White family of Bantry House, Bantry, Co. Cork. On the 20th May 1997 the owner of the Bantry Estate, Egerton Shelswell-White, formally donated the Archive to UCC. The archive contains the formal records regarding the legal, financial and general administration of this large house and estate over a period of 300 years, and also the more personal records relating to the lives and personalities of the family who owned the estate. However not all of the original records have survived. Due to a fire in the Estate Office in early 1900s a significant part of the original collection was lost. Principally, there are no rental ledgers for the 19th century. However there are Rental Sheets for 1840, 1856/57, 1865-1866 and 1881 which provide information for certain areas of the Estate. Similarly very few records survive for the design and development of the magnificent gardens at Bantry House. These were presumably destroyed prior to the transfer of the archive.

By the end of the 18th century the Whites held most of the land in Bantry and the Beara Pennisula, becoming the largest landowners in this part of Cork. In 1796  Richard White was instrumental in alerting the English Army Headquarters in Cork to the appearance of French ships in Bantry Bay. He gathered intelligence of the enemy’s movements, organised local resistance and opened his house, then known as Seafield, to the Army and made it their Headquarters. He was rewarded in 1797 by being created Baron Bantry. In 1801 the title Baron Bantry was advanced to Viscount and in 1815 Richard White assumed the title Earl of Bantry. Richard married Margaret Anne Hare, daughter of the 1st Earl of Listowel in 1799. It was his son who, while still Viscount Berehaven, laid the plans for the magnificent house and gardens extant today. The White family throughout the 19th century intermarried with other well known landed families including the Herberts of Muckross House, Killarney and the Guinness family of Dublin.

Biographical History:

From research carried out by Geoffrey Shelswell-White (the donator’s father), it appears that the first member of the White family of whom there is any record at Bantry was Captain Richard White. Son of Simon White of Knocksentry, Co.Limerick, Captain White lived on Whiddy Island at the end of the 17th century, later acquiring property in the Bantry area from the Earl of Anglesey. His son, Richard, was born on Whiddy Island in 1701, and was later called to the Irish Bar. At some point in the 1760s this Richard White bought Blackrock (as Bantry House was then called) from a Samuel Hutchinson. He was eventually to become the largest landowner in the area.

In 1766 Richard’s son, Simon, married Frances Jane Hedges Eyre, the daughter of Richard Hedges Eyre of Mount Hedges and Macroom Castle. They had a large family together though Simon died in his thirties in 1776, the same year as his father. By the end of the 18th century the Whites now held most of the land in Bantry and the Beara Pennisula, becoming the largest landowners in this part of Cork. It was Simon’s son, also named Richard, who established the family name in the area, when in 1796 he was instrumental in alerting the British Army Headquarters in Cork to the appearance of French ships in Bantry Bay. He gathered intelligence of the enemy’s movements, organised local resistance and opened his house, then known as Seafield, to the Army and made it their Headquarters. He was rewarded in 1797 by being created Baron Bantry. In 1801 the title Baron Bantry was advanced to Viscount and in 1815 Richard White was granted the title Earl of Bantry, his eldest son receiving the title Viscount Berehaven. Richard married Margaret Anne Hare, daughter of the 1st Earl of Listowel in 1799.

It was the first Earl’s eldest son, again named Richard, who in the 1830s-1840s while still Viscount Berehaven, laid the plans for the magnificent house and gardens extant today. Prior to and after his marriage he extensively toured the Continent, travelling as far as Russia and Poland, making sketches of landscapes, vistas, houses and furnishing which he later used as inspiration in expanding and refurbishing Bantry House. As Viscount Berehaven he married Lady Mary O’Brien, the daughter of 2nd Marquis of Thomond in [1834]. They did not have family and when Richard died in 1868 the title went to his brother, Col. William Henry Hare Hedges White, who lived with his wife, Jane Herbert of Muckross House, Killarney and family in Macroom Castle, an inheritance from his grand-uncle, Robert Hedges Eyre.

His only son William White, the fourth and last Earl of Bantry, married Rosamund Petre in 1886 but died without issue in 1891. The ownership of the estate passed to Edward Leigh, his nephew. He was the only son of Elizabeth White, eldest sister of the 4th Earl, who had married Egerton Leigh (D.L.) J.P., Cheshire, in 1874. Edward assumed the additional name of White in 1897. In 1904 he married Arethusa Hawker, daughter of Peter Hawker, Longparish House, Hampshire. Their daughter Clodagh Leigh-White inherited Bantry House and estates on the death of her father in 1920 when she was 15. In 1926 she married Geoffrey Shelswell who assumed the additional name White. In 1978 Clodagh Shelswell-White died and the ownership of the house and estate passed on to her son, Egerton Shelswell-White, who donated the papers to UCC in 1997. Egerton Shelswell-White died on 9 December 2012. His wife and children continue to keep the house and gardens as a family home and tourist attraction. 

Content:

The Bantry Estate Collection falls naturally into two main parts. Firstly formal records regarding the legal, financial and general administration of this large Irish country house and estate. Secondly, less formal records containing personal and social information about the personalities and lives of the family who ran the estate and who shaped its orientation and character.The Collection is divided into nine sections, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I, each containing records of similar origin and content.

Section A, Estate Ownership is further divided into seven sub- sections. It begins with 1-2 Deeds of Title (Pre-White Ownership and White Ownership); 3. Wills (White Family/Associated Families), Marriage Settlements (White Family/Associated Families), and Trusts (White Family); 4. Land Sales and Transfers; 5 Legal Case Papers with counsels’ opinions, affidavits, costs and searches; 6. Re-settlement of the Estate, which included the appointment of Receivers; and finally 7. the Bantry Estates Company (est. 1964).

Section B, Estate Administration, contains financial records of the working of the Bantry Estate; rentals, leases, ledgers, tenancy agreements, accounts, sundry estates, industry within the estate; and information on the family’s two residences, Bantry House and Glengarriff Lodge. Of particular value are two rental ledgers belonging to Richard White (grandfather to the 1st Earl of Bantry) dating from 1755-1775 (BL/E/B/440 & 441). Not many employee records still survive but there are workmens’ account sheets, insurance and tax payments and some correspondence from the twentieth century.

Copious correspondence relating to the administration of the estate in the twentieth century is described in this section. The White family was assisted in the administration of their property by a succession of Agents. There is a marked absence of correspondence from the early part of the twentieth century compared to later years. There also seemed be a practise of re-using paper within the Estate office, so letters dating from 1911-1919 are found within later correspondence files from the 1950s; the reverse of a mss letter having been typed on. Where possible, this has been noted within the item description.

Also in Section B is material relating to Bantry Town, its history and the development of tourism in the area.

Estate maps and surveys complete this section. These are mainly official Ordinance Survey maps of the immediate and surrounding areas of Bantry, Glengarriff and Castletownbere. In many cases, tenancy plots are highlighted. The Collection holds a hardback book of original OS 6" maps of Cork County (West Riding) (BL/E/B/2049). However there are some unique maps; of the plowlands of Killcaskane, Barony of Beare, dating from [1655] (BL/E/B/2041); and a coloured paper map of Inchiclough Demesne dating from 1791 (BL/E/B/2042) this item in particular is a lovely example of aesthetic cartography. 

Information on the two principal homes of the family, Bantry House and Glengarriff Lodge, can be found in Section B.7. 

Section C, Family and Personal Papers contains those records generated by members of the White/Leigh-White/Shelswell-White families, which related to their day to day lifestyle. Letters, diaries/journals, accounts, awards, personal memorabilia, etc. are all grouped under the name of their originator/recipient and cross-referenced where necessary. Descriptions in this section are in date order and begin with the records of Richard White ([1701] – 1776) which are business orientated showing consolidation of his Estate. 

Section D, Records of Associated Individuals deals with material generated by relatives or acquaintances of the White’s which for various reasons was stored in Bantry House, and became integrated with the family collection there. The Eyres of Galway and Macroom are a prominent example of a family which married into the Whites in the eighteenth century, in fact Macroom Castle was the home of William White Hedges until he became the 3rd Earl of Bantry on the death of his brother Richard White. Another such family is the Longfields of Castlemary and Mallow. As mentioned previously Margaret White married Richard Longfield in 1756, who later became Viscount Longueville. He held leases in the Bantry area. A descendant, Richard Edmund Longfield ([1843] – 1933) was made a Trustee of the Bantry Estate from 1875 by the third Earl, remaining on until Clodagh Shelswell-White came of age in 1926. One item in the Hawker section is that of a first-hand account of conditions experienced by an individual who fought in the [Crimean] War (BL/E/B/3208). It is dated Sept. 1854, and on its reverse a sketch of the position of ships, the regiments and commanders in each, and their distinguishing flags.

Other items of interest in this section; the Conferring of title Baron Ardilaun of Ashford to Sir Arthur E. Guinness (BL/E/B/3071); and the personal diaries of William Somerville of Co. Wicklow, who served in the British Army in Malta and India (1899-1909). 

The section is completed with legal documents of various individuals that happened to have been preserved with the Collection. 

In Section E, Official Papers are found documents relating to associations the Leigh-White/Shelswell-White families were involved in, eg – The Nursing Association; the Bantry Voluntary Aid Committee; the Scouts and Girl Guides Association; The Red Cross; the Catholic Committee for Relief Abroad and the Cork Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA).

Section F, Family History relates to research undertaken primarily by Geoffrey Shelswell-White in the 1950s on the White family and their related families through marriage – the Herberts, the Eyres, and the Hawkers. Charts, crests and family trees can also be found here. 

In Section G, Maps and Plans there are general and nautical maps that do not directly relate to the running of the Bantry Estate (see Section B.11). Items of interest – a map of Cheshire, England (1748); maps of Europe, Asia, Africa and North America (1878-1802); a survey of Muckross Abbey and Burial Ground, Killarney, Co. Kerry (1908); and of Zanzibar, Europe and Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s. In the nautical section there is an interesting book of maps of the Mediterranean belonging to William 3rd Earl of Bantry from [1764] (BL/E/B/3255). The remaining maps show the coastlines of the British Isles. The second part of the section is devoted to Plans, architectural and construction.

Sketchbooks and drawings belonging to the Whites throughout the nineteenth century can be found in Section H, Printed and Pictorial Material, showing scenes and individuals from Ireland, England and Europe. Other items in this section are newspapers gathered by the family relating to them, the Estate and Irish history. A large number of photographs have been preserved, again showing the family through generations, family friends and relations and their houses. Many were not identifiable and so have been placed together, marked accordingly. There are also a large number of postcards from around the world. 

Finally, in Section I, Miscellaneous, there are documents that do not directly relate to the Bantry Estate or the White family. There are a number of interesting items; a letter from Bat Sullivan to his family from Macroom, Co. Cork, whilst serving with the British Army in Portugal and Spain in 1811; and a collection of letters belonging to an individual named [London/Landon]. They include items from Disraeli, Maria Edgeworth, and Rudyard Kipling to name but a few. It is likely that it is a type of autograph collection (notably BL/E/B/3708).

Access & Use

Email:  specialcollectionsarchives@ucc.ie

Finding Aid: Descriptive list (see separate tab above, next to 'Home' tab)

Additional Collection Information

Language: English

Related Material: Bantry Estate Collection: Ancillary; Cork Baronies; and Cork Deeds (collections in UCC Library Archives Service)

Rent & account books in the National Archives of Ireland:

  • M5945: Richard, Visct. Bantry - Rentals of Carbery, Bantry, Glengarriff and Clanlaurence estates, 1806-09. 1 Jan 1806-31 Dec 1809.
  • M5946: Richard, Visct. Bantry - account book for Bantry and Glengarriff estates, 1808-25. 1 Jan 1808-31 Dec 1825.

Copyright: UCC Library (in the main). The copyright of certain material is retained by the Donor. Publications may rest with original copyright holder, please check with Archivist.

Collection Image

Bantry House BL/EP/B/3555           Bantry House (mid-20th century)