BURTON PARK, CHURCHTOWN HOUSE AND BALLYADAM
by Jim McCarthy
Burton Park lies a short distance to the East of the Village with its great castellated entrance about one hundred yards from the village square.
In the year 1637 this place was the property of Sir Philip Percival. It was (probably) named Burton after the Manor of Burton, in Somerset, the English home of the Percivals at that time. It was originally owned by James Fitznicholas Barry who also owned Annagh and Walshestown.
In 1670 the Percivals erected a great mansion at Burton. The outside length of the house was 76 feet, by 57 feet wide. The outer walls were 3.5 feet thick and the inner walls were 7 feet thick for the first storey. The house had 12 chimneys, four in the hall story, four in the dining room story, four in the garret, to rise seven feet over the top of the roof. The house was completed in 1676. Sir John Percival died at Burton House in September 1680. He was buried in the old Churchtown Church and his funeral cost £700.
The original mansion which stood in Burton Park Demesne was built in 1676 by the Percival family. However, in 1690, along with much of Churchtown, the Burton Park House was plundered and burnt by the Duke of Berwick’s Jabobite forces retreating from the Battle of the Boyne. The house was subsequently rebuilt on a smaller scale. In 1889, Matthew John Purcell purchased Burton House and demesne from the Percival Family (Earl of Egmont) under the Land Acts. The Purcell’s had rented Burton Park since 1800. In the 1890s, through his agent Robert Sanders and in conjunction with the Board of Works, the Purcells embarked on imaginative (and expensive) alterations and improvements to the house and estate: bedroom floors were renewed, ceilings remoulded, chimney shafts rebuilt, a kitchen was added, pantries were provided, a porch built, slating and skylights were repaired and renewed, staircases removed or altered, and windows and shuttering replaced. Extensive work on the coach house, gate lodge, sheds and stables was also undertaken.
CHURCHTOWN HOUSE AND THE CROFTS FAMILY
The Crofts family first settled at Velvetstown, near Buttevant in 1691. The place was then called Ballyvilla Vakie. George Crofts of the same family settled at Churchtown in 1700. He was MP for Charleville and was expelled from Parliament for giving his services to King James. His son George married a lady named Mary Wills and their son was named Wills Crofts. Wills Crofts married Eleanor, daughter of William Freeman of Ballinguile.
Rev George Spread Crofts of Churchtown House married Eliza daughter of Rev Matthew Purcell of Burton. They were married in Kilworth on January 25, 1830. They lived for some years at Walshestown House about two miles east of Churchtown village when they leased the place from the Wrixon family.
Around 1830 the Crofts family left Churchtown House and went to live at Clogheen House, near Doneraile (now demolished). That branch of the Crofts family eventually left the district and moved to Belfast where one member of the family became a well known writer of detective novels.
Churchtown House was occupied for some years by Major Trench who was agent to the Earl of Egmont. Sir Edward Tierney lived there on and off for some time. For many years it was occupied by caretakers until 1895 when it was purchased by the Cowhey family. Around 1950 it was sold to the Massarella family.
Ballyadam lies just less than a quarter of a mile from Churchtown Village on the road leading south to Buttevant. Here around the year 1947 the new national school was erected and here also in recent years a new parochial house for the Parish Priest.
In the year 1642 Ballyadam was occupied by a family named Damper. I have here a letter written by William Damper to Sir Philip Percival, dated September 21, 1642.
By reason of the great troubles I cannot sell my wool, or get any of by debts and I have here lost seventeen hundred fat weathers, three hundred beasts and 25 good horses and have not saved a sheaf of my corn here at Ballyadam.
Recently I was looking through a copy of the old Egmont MSS and I saw a list of tenants who held Ballyadam at different times. The Barry’s held the place before the rebellion of 1641 but were later dispossessed. It was then granted to Damper, then to Bowes, then to John Fisher and later to William Young. Ballyadam then came into the possession of a family named Magrath.
James Magrath was living there in the year 1814. In 1890 his son also James Magrath was living there.
Around 1895 Mr Henry Brasier-Creagh of Ballyhoura leased the house. As a schoolboy I remember Ballyadam as an old single story thatched house with a two story slated house at the rear. Looking through an old Church of Ireland Parish Register I noticed an entry for the year 1857. William Philip Glover of Mountcorbett married Isabella, daughter of James Magrath of Ballyadam.
The Magraths were a very old family in the Churchtown district. The family originally came from Co Tipperary and were in Churchtown for more than two hundred years. They were recorded as being the oldest tenants on the Egmont Estate. James Magrath lived at Ballyadam in 1875. He had two sons, James and Jerome and two daughters, Catherine and Mary. Mary Magrath was the last of the family to reside in the district. She owned Ballyadam and Cregane near Buttevant. She married William Bernard Guinea and they lived in Buttevant Castle.
TALES OF BALLYADAM
When I was a young lad many were the tales we were told of Ballyadam and I have here a copy of a note written by the late Mrs Guinee to Col Grove White, the historian of Doneraile when he was writing his famous notes. Mrs Guinee writes, Ballyadam has quite a wealth of folk and fairy lore. Every field its own history. Many weird and amusing traditions of the little people who on moonlight nights held revels in the orchard field. I can speak of my own experience of the Ballyadam Banshee and other strange visitants to the place.
Ballyadam contains 136 acres and one field in my youth was planted all over in daffodils.