Turtle Bunbury

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The Henry Family


In the early 18th century, a Presbyterian minister’s son from Co. Antrim who struck rich in the banking world acquired the former Tyrconnell estates at Straffan on the banks of the River Liffey. A high profile marriage to the Earl of Milltown’s daughter subsequently enabled Hugh Henry’s descendants to enjoy a prominent position in Kildare society during the 18th and 19th century. Among these was Joseph Henry, one of Ireland’s greatest art connoisseurs, and Admiral Hastings Yelverton, sometime First Lord of the Admiralty. An extravagant lifestyle obliged the Henrys to sell Lodge Park to the Bartons in 1831. Lodge Park was sold to the Guinness family in 1948.[1] Meanwhile the Henry family continued to enjoy a fruitful life that would take them from Monte Carlo to the Cold War to Kosovo.

Henry of Straffan House

The Straffan estate formed part of the original land grant bestowed upon Maurice Fitzgerald by Strongbow for his role in the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169.[2] In 1679, the property was purchased by Richard Talbot, the Catholic Earl of Tyrconnell who commanded the Jacobite army in Ireland during the war between James II and William of Orange. It is said that Tyrconnell’s great army actually crossed the ford at Straffan during their retreat from Derry in the summer of 1689. Tyrconnell’s estates were forfeited to the crown in the wake of the Williamite victory. In about 1710, the property was purchased by Hugh Henry, a prosperous merchant banker with offices on Upper Ormond Quay in Dublin.[3] Hugh’s father, the Rev Robert Henry, who died in 1699, was Presbyterian Minister at Carrickfergus and later Dublin.[4] When Hugh purchased Straffan in 1710, the estate amounted to nearly 7000 acres, extending as far as Henry Bridge on the Grand Canal near Lyons. Hugh was elected MP for Newtownlimavady in 1713 and for Antrim in 1715. On 17 July 1717 he married Anne Leeson, a sister of the brewing magnate Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown.[5]

On 28 April 1732, the Leixlip Chronicle named fifteen trustees appointed by Parliament to operate an Act for repairing the road leading from the city of Dublin to the town of Kinnegad, including Henry Sandford, George Caulfield and William Beckett. The same Act 'assigned and made over to Hugh Henry and James Swift, of Dublin, the levying, collecting and holding the tolls for a consideration mentioned in the deed, from the previous 25th March, for a period of 31 years subject to a proviso for making it void on payment on the first anniversary of a sum of £4,000 plus interest at 6% to Henry and Swift.' [Registry of Deeds Memo No 69-259-46201]

He was an MP for the boro' of Randalstown, Co. Antrim, in 1744 [Watson's Almanack] A Hugh Henry & Co., were bankers, at Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin and George Caulfeild was Counsel to the Revenue Commissioners, with office at the Custom House, Dublin, in 1738 [Directory of Dublin 1738]

Hugh Henry died in December 1743 leaving two teenage sons, Joseph and Hugh.

The eldest son Joseph Henry succeeded to Straffan. In 1748, 21-year-old Joseph embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe that would ultimately last for more than eleven years.[6] After two years in Spain and the south of France, he arrived at his uncle Joseph Leeson’s villa in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna. One of his contemporaries, Dick Marlay wrote to Lord Charlemont, also in Rome, enquiring after the young dilettante: “Is he as fine a gentleman as ever, as conceited and as full of himself as he was in his native country or is he more affected since he has trod on the classic ground, seen every court, heard every king declare his loyal sense of Operas or the fair”.[7] Marlay’s sarcasm must be tempered by the remarks of others. The Roman artist Pier-Leone Ghezzi, who caricatured Joseph in 1750, described him as a man of erudition.[8] When Robert Adam met him in Florence in 1757, he described him as “an Irish gentleman of great estate and esteemed the traveller of most taste that has been abroad these many years”.[9] The art historian Joseph McDonnell has also recently drawn attention to Joseph’s “acute eye and refined connoisseurship”.

Joseph subsequently became one of Ireland’s most influential art collectors. He was a patron to both CJ Vernet and Richard Wilson in 1752 and had his portrait painted by Pompeo Batoni.[10] He was one of the principal sitters in Sir Joshua Reynold’s acclaimed 1751 parody of Raphael’s The School of Athens.[11] Indeed, Joseph, portrayed as Diogenes the Cynic was the first owner of the Parody and may have actually commissioned it. In 1757, while staying with Sir Horace Mann, the British representative to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, he commissioned a pastel drawing of the Madonna della Sedia from the English artist Charles Martin.

He finally left Italy in 1761, shortly after he was made a member of Florence’s elite Accademia del Disegno. Back in Ireland by the summer, he was elected MP for Longford in October, a seat he retained until 1768. In April 1764 he married Lady Catherine Rawdon, eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Moira. Straffan remained his principal country seat but he also owned a house on Dublin’s Henry Street, part of his father’s original banking premises, where he kept his art collection.[12] When Richard Twiss published his controversial book A Tour of Ireland in 1775, this collection was deemed the greatest in Ireland. In 1770 he was elected MP for the Borough of Kildare (until 1776) and in 1771 he stood as High Sheriff for Kildare. In 1788 Joseph’s benevolence extended to the construction of an elegant Catholic chapel in Straffan “for accommodation of persons professing the Roman Catholic Religion in his neighbourhood”. This was one of the first Catholic churches built in Ireland in the 18th century.[13] In his memoirs, Lord Cloncurry recalled the elderly Joseph as a supporter of the young revolutionary, Lord Edward FitzGerald.

Joseph Henry died at his townhouse on Henry Street in November 1796. He left one son John Joseph Henry, who succeeded to Straffan, and four daughters.[14] On 13th March 1801, John Joseph married Lady Emily Fitzgerald, the 23-year-old daughter of the 2nd Duke of Leinster and niece of the slain patriot, Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Lady Emily, who died in 1856, bore him five sons and three daughters. In 1803 he was appointed High Sheriff for Co. Kildare.

John was considered one of the wealthiest men in Ireland but soon earned a reputation as a lavish spender. One of his projects was the construction of an underground passage from the original Straffan House to the stables. In 1832 Fraser's Magazine described “Squire Henry of Straffan” as a “very patriotic landlord [who] had hit on an expedient to benefit the wool-growers in general, and his numerous tenantry in particular. Knowing that market value is in the direct ratio of demand and scarcity, he annually buried the wool shorn from his own sheep, lest it might interfere with the profitable sale of his tenants' fleeces. But, alas! this generous system of self-sacrifice did not "work well." The result was—though Squire Henry never suspected the existence of such turpitude in the human heart—the ungrateful tenantry dug up by night what he buried by day, wool never rose in price, and they never were able to pay up their arrears of rent”. His extravagance – and passion for fine wines - eventually caught up with him and he was obliged to leave Ireland. Straffan House was sold to the Bartons in 1831.

John died on 28th June 1846. His widow, Lady Emily, died on 9 Feb 1856. Of their five sons, the eldest, William, married Catherine Lovett in 1832 but died without issue in June 1847.[15] The second son Captain Charles Henry purchased an estate at Fort Henry, Birdhill, Co. Tipperary. On 25th June 1838, he married his cousin Lady Selina Hastings, younger daughter of the late Marquess of Hastings, sometime Viceroy of India. The following year, Lady Selina’s elder sister, Lady Flora, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria’s mother, became the tragic victim of an absurd Royal scandal. An unfounded story began to circulate that the virgin Lady Flora was pregnant. The Queen herself played a prominent role in the disapproving tongue-wagging which followed. Lady Flora was in fact suffering from a disease of the liver but the shame of these rumours was enough to carry her off at the tender age of 33; she died in Buckingham Palace. Her family responded to her death by making sure the Queen’s head was always upside down whenever they used a postage stamp. Lady Selina died in November 1867, leaving three daughters, Mabel, Agnes and Eva. Upon Captain Henry’s death in 1879, Fort Henry passed to his nephew Frederick (see below).

John and Lady Emily’s third son Admiral Sir Hastings Henry Yelverton, GCB, was First Lord of the Admiralty from 1876 until his death in 1878.[16] Born in 1808, he married Barbara, 20th Baroness Grey de Ruthyn in April 1845.[17] Their only child Barbara was born at Efford House, Hampshire, in 1849.[18] The fourth son George married a daughter of Mr. Ferrers, Treasurer of the Mauritius. The youngest son, Captain Clifford Henry of the 40th Regiment, was born in October 1817 and married Zoe St. Leger, daughter of Henry Hungerford St. Leger.[19] The eldest daughter Emily married the 3rd Baron de Robeck (qv), the middle daughter Geraldine died unmarried and the youngest, Olivia, was married in July 1850 to the Herefordshire landowner Sir Thomas Seabright of Beechwood Park, with whom she had four sons.

Henry of Lodge Park

Joseph Henry’s younger brother Hugh was also a merchant banker. In August 1770 he married his cousin Lady Anne Leeson, daughter of the 1st Earl of Milltown.[20] They had three sons and three daughters.[21] In 1775 he commissioned the construction of the important Palladian villa of Lodge Park. Hugh’s brief to the architect was to create a frontage as long as that of his father-in-law’s house at Russborough. The architect was most likely the elderly amateur Nathaniel Clements (qv) who lived nearby. As Clements died in 1777, Lodge Park may well have been his final project. When the house was completed, Hugh constructed a Protestant church in Straffan village. Shortly after this, his brother Joseph erected a Roman Catholic church in the same village.

Hugh Henry’s eldest son Joseph died unmarried in 1809 aged 34.[22] The second son Arthur succeeded to Lodge Park. Born on 30th June 1871, he was married in 1812 to Eliza, third daughter of George and Jane Gun-Cuninghame of Mount Kennedy, Co. Wicklow.[23] In 1820 he stood as High Sheriff for Co. Kildare. Arthur established Lodge Park as the Henry’s principal country residence following the sale of Straffan House by his uncle in 1831. He subsequently added a west gate lodge in the Victorian Gothic style and built a walled garden with its Victorian fountain.

Arthur and Eliza Henry had seven sons and three daughters. The sons were all military men and died without children save for the eldest, Frederick, and the sixth, Colonel George Henry, whose son Charles would ultimately inherit Lodge Park. In 1846, Colonel George Henry was presented with a sword for his exemplary conduct at the Royal Artillery College, Woolwich. He and his elder brother, Lieutenant General Charles Stuart Henry (1822 – 1892), served with the Royal Artillery in the Crimean War, during which campaign Charles lost an arm. The fifth son, James, was Superintendent of the Ahmednuggur Police in Bombay when the Indian Mutiny broke out in 1857. He was subsequently ambushed and murdered by mutineers at Nandoor.

The eldest son Frederick was born on 25th April 1815, two months before the battle of Waterloo. He served with the 35th Regiment before retiring to Lodge Park where he stood as JP for Co. Kildare. He was High Sheriff of Co. Antrim in 1862 and of Kildare in 1863. On 30th April 1860 he married Adolphina, eldest daughter of Robert Gun-Cuninghame of Mount Kennedy, by whom he had a son Frederick Robert, born in 1862. In 1870 Frederick succeeded to Lodge Park as well as to an estate of 1044 acres in Galway.[24] He never married and died without male heir in 1915. Lodge Park then passed to his cousin Charles Cecil Henry, the son of Colonel George Cecil Henry, sixth son of Arthur Henry.

Charles Henry was born in 1865 and served in World War One as a Captain with the Royal Flying Corps, though he did not see any actual air action. By his wife Mary Kewley, he had a son, John Charles, born in 1906 and a daughter Barbara. In 1937 he sold Lodge Park to J Keith Donaldson. Lodge Park was purchased after World War Two by Richard Guinness and is now home to the family of his son Robert Guinness (qv).

John Charles Henry married Joan Hanmer West of Leixlip and had a son, Michael Charles, born in 1928, and a daughter, Mary Christine, born in 1933. The family lived in Monte Carlo from 1929 to 1935, John being British Pro-Consul in Monaco. The family arrived shortly before the first Monaco Grand Prix (1929), an event which later inspire young Mary Christine’s passion for motorcar racing. She remains an avid competitor at vintage car events today, most recently driving a 1927 Lancia Lambda Mary. (She married a Scot, Alan Bre, with whom she had had two sons and two daughters). In 1931, Monaco’s cultural life received a major boost when Prince Louis II recruited Rene Blum to form the Ballet de l’Opera a Monte Carlo.

After another brief sojourn in Ireland, they moved to England where John worked for Imperial Airways. 1937 was a remarkable year for the company. They carried 70,000 passengers over a distance in excess of 6,000,000 miles. They commissioned the world's largest fleet of commercial flying boats. Their Empire Air Mail Programme made ten crossings of the North Atlantic on schedule. And the first steps were taken to open the longest air route in the world, the 15,000-mile stretch from England to New Zealand.

At the outbreak of World War Tow, John was commissioned into the RAFVR as an Intelligence Officer and served throughout the war, rising to the rank of Squadron Leader. He worked in or with the secret intelligence Service. John and Joan were divorced and he remarried Anne Mitcheson, also of the Intelligence circle. A son, Dominick Hugh, born in 1946, is the present head of the family. After the war, John joined the British Overseas Airways Corporation (the successors to Imperial Airways), moving later to MI6, possibly through a connection made during his time as Pro-Consul. He died in 1971.

Michael Charles Henry was the last Henry to have lived at Lodge Park. When he was a small boy, his father took him on a visit to see the Captain of the battleship, HMS Royal Sovereign, anchored outside Monaco Harbour. A lifelong passion for the ocean was born and, in 9142, 13-year-old Michael joined the Royal Navy College, Dartmouth. On completion of his training, he joined the Submarine Service in 1949. He commanded two former wartime submarines, HMS Seraph (which conducted the “The Man Who Never Was” operation in Spain, 1943) and HMS Trump. As Captain Henry, he was also Commander in charge of the Port Crew (who alternated with the Starboard Crew, three months on, three months off) on board the first Polaris Submarine, Resolution, from its construction through to the first deterrent patrol in 1968. The Polaris Missile was a submarine-launched ballistic missile, carrying a nuclear warhead, developed by the USA during the Cold War. James Bond was frequently to be found clambering on their bonnets. Britain acquired Polaris technology from America under an agreement reached in December 1962, enabling it to build its own warheads under its own national control. By 1968, after a period of intensive development, the United Kingdom's independent nuclear deterrent was ready. The Resolution, the first of four such ballistic missile-carrying submarines, launched on 15 September 1966, sailed on its first deterrent patrol in June 1968.

Captain M.C. Henry, RN, retired in 1978 to live in Scotland. After two years with the fledgling British National Oil Corporation, he returned to naval service in a retired capacity as Naval Regional Officer for Scotland and Northern Ireland (1980 – 1990). In 1988, he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Dunbartonshire, in which county he still lives.

In 1950 he married Nancie Elma Nicol in Paisley Abbey. They had two sons and three daughters. His heir is Timothy John Henry, born in Malta in 1955. He also served in the Royal Navy, resigning as a Lieutenant Commander in 1988. He was married and later divorced, having no children. He served for nine years as Supply Officer in the Sultan of Oman’s Royal Yacht Squadron before returning to the UK in 1999 to work for a time in the Liverpool Cotton Association as General manager and subsequently for 2½ years in Kosovo with the United Nations. He currently lives in Switzerland.

With thanks to Patrick Henry.


[1] Henry: Henry of Lodge Park, Vol II p 388 Kildare Journal; Barton: Volume IV, p 112, (Straffan). Kildare Journal; Henry, Mrs. (W. Sherlock ed.) The Henry Family in Kildare, 386-388. JCKAS Vol. III, No.6 (Jan 1902)

[2] See Fitzgerald of Carton.

[3] The original partners of Hugh Henry’s bank were Hugh, Ephraim Dawson (a forbear of Lord Portarlington) and William Lennox. The bank went into voluntary liquidation in 1737 although it was still paying the notes of another bank, Gardiner & Hill, as late as 1739. In that year, Hugh passed his interests in the bank his nephew Henry Mitchell. The bank was subsequently called Mitchell & Macarell.

[4] The Rev. Robert Henry was ordained on 22 April 1674.

[5] The brewer and banking magnate had amassed a fortune in Dublin during the 1720s and 1730s. In 1742, he commissioned Richard Castle and Francis Bindon to build Russborough in Co. Wicklow. He was subsequently created Earl of Milltown. He was a member of the Society of Dilettanti and seems to have personally started the craze for portraits by Batoni which swept over the Irish grandees in the mid 18th century.

[6] He may have been accompanied for the early stages by his first cousin Joseph Leeson, 2nd Earl of Milltown. The 2nd Earl was also a celebrated patron and connoisseur but was said to have been somewhat overshadowed by his successful father. Emily, Duchess of Leinster, who enjoyed his gift for mimicry, referred to him as “poor Dody”. See: “Emily, Duchess of Leinster”, Brian Fitzgerald (Dublin, 1949), pp. 103 – 104.

[7] “Joseph Henry of Straffan: A Connoisseur of Italian Renaissance Painting”, by Joseph McDonnell, taken from “Lord Charlemont & His Circle”, ed. Michael McCarthy (Four Courts Press, 2001).

[8] Ghezzi’s caricature, Guiseppe Henry Inglese, is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

[9] “Joseph Henry” by Cynthia O’Conor, taken from “A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701 - 1800”, Brinsley Ford (Yale University Press, 1997).

[10] The Batoni painting is currently with the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore. In 1745 he had his portrait painted by Francis Hayman.

[11] This painting now forms part of the Milltown Bequest in the National Gallery of Ireland.

[12] It has been alleged Henry Street was named for Joseph Henry. It was in fact named for Henry Moore, Earl of Drogheda (see Moore of Moore Abbey).

[13] That same year, Lady Catherine Henry’s sister Anne married Thomas Brudenell, the long-legged Earl of Ailesbury, a keen architect, theatre-goer, landscape gardener, foxhunter and sometime tutor to the children of George III.

[14] Of the daughters, Catherine and Helen died unmarried, Ann married Henry Widman Wood of Rosmead, Co. Westmeath, and Louisa married Dr. Patrick Plunket, brother of the pro-Emancipation orator and sometime Lord Chancellor of Ireland, William Conyngham Plunket, 1st Baron Plunket.

[15] Her father Sackville Lovett was Comptroller of the Customs House for many years.

[16] The Admiral is buried at Brixham in Devon.

[17] Hastings Henry assumed the name of Yelverton in lieu of Henry on his marriage by Royal Licence. His wife, Barbara, Baroness Grey (1810-1858), was previously married to the 2nd Marquess of Hastings. She died on 19th November 1858.

[18] On 23rd September 1872 Barbara Yelverton married John Yarde-Buller, 2nd Baron Churston, at the Episcopal Church in Kilmarnock. The Churstons are great grandparents to the present Aga Khan

[19] Zoe Henry died in November 1898 and Captain Clifford Henry on 27th November 1874. They left, with two daughters, Frederick Thomas Clifford Henry, Principal Clerk in the Charity Commission, born in 1850. In 1881, Frederick married Catherine, daughter of Rev William Blake Doverton, Vicar of Corston. Their son Joseph Henry, born in 1882, served with the Northumberland Fusiliers and was married in April 1908 to Grace Peel, youngest daughter of Archibald Peel and Lady Georgina Peel of Westlea, Harts.

[20] The Freeman Journal of January 24th 1764 mentions a Mr. Hugh Henry as being a “Merchant, in Jervas-street, who has now Variety of Suits and fine and superfine Damask Table-Linen, Desart Napkins, and three yard-wide Diaper to dispose of, for ready Money only”.

[21] In September 1802, the eldest daughter Elizabeth married Richard Hornidge of Tulfarris, Co. Wicklow. Her two sisters died unmarried.

[22] Hugh and Lady Anne’s third son Hugh Robert Henry settled at Toghermore, Co. Galway and, in 1816, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Robert Langrishe, 2nd Bart. Their eldest son Hugh lived at Firmont, Sallins, Co. Kildare, and married his cousin Emily Henry of Lodge Park. The second son Robert succeeded to Toghermore married Isabella St. George and was father to the Victorian soldier, Major General St. George Charles Henry, CB. The third son, the Rev Joseph Henry, DD, died unmarried in 1885. The youngest son James married Anita West, became a merchant at Lima and died in London in 1884. The eldest daughter Anne Elizabeth married the Rev T Brooke, brother of Sir H Brooke, 1st Bart, and died without issue in 1902. Another daughter Cecilia married Frederick Nas while the youngest, Frances, married Monsieur Bourel.

[23] In 1814 Eliza’s sister married Francis Needham, the “Wicked Earl” of Kilmorey.

[24] It should be stressed that Mitchell Henry, the wealthy Liverpool merchant who built Kylemore Abbey and owned some 9252 acres around Recess in Galway was not a member of this family.