This family history is a spin-off from the story of the Fennells of Burtown House, County Kildare, Ireland, which was originally compiled in 2004. This is a work in motion and I am hugely indebted to many people for their ongoing assistance; the acknowledgments can be found at the bottom of this page. Anyone interested in the broader history of the Wakefield family is advised to visit Bob Sinton's Wakefield page which commences with Joseph Wakefield (1744-1821).
In 1865, a marriage took place between James Fennell (1816-1890), of the Fennells of Burtown House, Athy, Co Kildare, and Jemima Sarah Wakefield, youngest daughter of Thomas Christy Wakefield by his wife, Marianne Wilcocks. The marriage took place at the Friends Meeting House in Moyallon. Although James Fennell retained an interest in his native Tipperary until his death - his eldest son, William, was born at Ardfinnan in 1866 - he became increasingly involved with the Quaker community in Ulster. He later settled at the Victorian flax-spinning village of Bessbrook, County Armagh. Based originally on water-power from the little Camlough river, Bessbrook was a planned settlement established between 1845 and 1870 by Quaker industrialist John Grubb Richardson. It was the earliest such model town, serving as a prototype for Cadbury's garden village at Bournville. No pub, pawnshop or police station was deemed necessary and the solid slate-roofed weaver's houses were grouped together around two great open squares with a green in the middle. (10).
When James Fennell moved to Co. Armagh, he would have been aware of the Christy family, founders of one of the most successful Quaker communities in the county, centred upon the charming Moyallon Friends Meeting House.
The Christy family descended from Alexander Christy, a Scotsman born in Aberdeen in 1642. He moved to Ireland and acquired the townland of Moyallon in about 1680. He subsequently established a lucrative linen and bleaching enterprise in the locality. The Christy family soon became active members of the Quaker community then predominant in the Lurgan area.
In 1736, Alexander's grandson John Christy, also a linen bleacher, provided the site for the Meeting House in Moyallon. Of John's five sons, the three eldest returned to Scotland to teach the art of bleaching linen, including John Christy of Ormiston, the ancestor of the Hat manufacturing branch of the family.
John of Moyallon's fifth and youngest son, Thomas Christy (1711-1780), remained in Ireland and inherited an estate of some 3000 acres at Moyallon from his father in 1763. Arthur Chapman mentions another son, James Christy (I think, he was a son) who, in 1786, established a vitriol works in Moyallon (History of the Religious Society of Friends in Lurgan p. 45).
In 1780, the year of his death, Thomas increased the size of the Meeting House in Moyallon. His [only?] son John Christy was drowned in 1758. As such, when Thomas died, the Moyallon property passed to the Wakefield family through his elder daughter Hannah who married Joseph Wakefield on 18th December 1766.
Joseph Wakefield seems to have had some connection to the East India Company. They had seven children before Hannah's untimely death in 1779 at the early age of 31. Joseph was married again to Anna Doyle in Dublin, in 1781 and had five further children. (a)
Moyallon later passed to the Richardsons who retain the property to this day. The various owners of the property are recorded in the inscriptions on some headstones in the Richardsons' private cemetery within the larger cemetery adjacent to the Meeting-House. The building itself was listed in 1976 as of Special Architectural and Historic Interest.
Joseph and Hannah Wakefield had seven children of whom Thomas Christy Wakefield (1772-1861) of Marino, Co. Down was the fourth - and second son.
Thomas's eldest sister Isabella was born on 8th May 1768, married John Nicholson in 1785 and was, I think, grandmother to Brigadier John Nicholson, the Crimean War hero.
Thomas's elder brother Edward Wakefield was born in 1769, married Marian Watson about 1790 and died in 1819. Edward and Marian were painted by Romney and are apparently referenced in the artists' diary. They were also painted by the miniature artist Engelheart. Marian's father was the charismatic Commander Watson of Far East fame and her sister married Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore.
Thomas's second eldest sister Mary Christy Wakefield was born on 8th March 1770, married Thomas Hancock Strangman on 6th July 1788 in Moyallon and died on 19th November 1835 (or 1825).
Thomas's younger sister Hannah was born on 6th August 1773 (or 1775), married John Pim on 19th October 1794 at Moyallon and died on 12th June 1847.
Thomas's fourth sister Huldah was born on 20th November 1775 (or 1779) and married James Pim circa 1794 (or 1789).
Thomas's youngest sister Elizabeth was born on 11th June 1776 (or 1778), married William Strangman on 20th April 1794 at Moyallon and died on 31st March 1854. These details were obtained from Naomi Lloyd courtesy of Lurgan Monthly Meeting archives.
Thomas Christy Wakefield was born at Hallswill, now Lawrencetown (Laurencetown) House in County Down in 1772. His mother died when he was seven: 'she was an amiable and sweet-tempered woman, much beloved, and a great loss to the family'. A year later Thomas was sent, with a brother [unnamed] to school in Westmorland for three and a half years. He was to continue his education until the age of 14, when he was apprenticed to Joseph Richardson of Moyallon 'to learn the linen business'. His grandfather Thomas Christy left to him his 'bleaching concern'. By 1808, the Board of Linen Trustees named Thomas as one of the principle buyers of sail cloth, canvas and duck from mill spun yarn in Banbridge. The Board regulated linen affairs from 1711 to 1828. Wakefield, in his account of Ireland from 1808, wrote that Banbridge had twenty bleach-greens on the Bann bleaching on an average 8,000 pieces each.(b)
From 1850, Thomas kept a memoir, published after his death by his daughters, under the title 'A Brief Memoir of Thomas Christy Wakefield, compiled from his own memoranda'. (c) It comprised 27 pages and was published by E Cockrem, 10, Strand [London]. There is no indication of how much material was edited out, but what remains is scanty in terms of information and many passages are devoted to his spiritual life rather than being an account of his life and times. The Memoir begins on 2 October 1850, with a short account of his life; there is little detail about his career or his children.
When Thomas was 22, his father moved to Waterford and Thomas remained in his grandfather's house at Moyallon. He confesses that, at that time, he was an unruly and profligate young man, casting off his Quaker clothing and engaging in activities inconsistent with his religious upbringing. He was indifferent to the advice and strictures of his Quaker brethren until a serious fall from a horse brought him to his senses. This coincided with his meeting with his future wife Jane Sandwith Goff (1768-1836), daughter of Jacob and Elizabeth Goff. She is said to have been a direct descendent of General William Goffe (sometimes Goff), one of Oliver Cromwell's leading military commanders and one of Charles I's Regicides. In accordance with the custom of the time, he recounts, he took a friend with him to ask Jane's parents for her hand in marriage. With their consent he proposed to Jane, who took a few days to accept. Therafter 'a better wife no man ever had'. The couple were married in Forest, County Wexford, on 8 January 1795.
At this point in his narrative Thomas includes a letter to his daughter Charlotte, dated 17 July 1836, in which he recounts the funeral and burial in Gloucester of Jane, who had died on the 8th of that month. There is evidence to suggest Thomas and Jane lived apart as, following her death on 8th July 1836, he had to travel to Gloucester to attend her funeral. Further evidence comes from certain silver spoons in existence defiantly stamped with the initials JSC.
Among those who came to stay at Moyallon during Thomas's time was the travelling minister and former linen worker, John Conran, who died while staying with the Wakefields in 1827. (See 'A Journal of the Life and Gospel Labours of John Conran of Moyallon in Ireland'). Thomas remained in the linen trade until 1828, thereafter devoting himself to the church and to his family. At the time of his first diary entry, his daughter Charlotte and her children were staying with him, leaving two months later on 11 December 1850. His daughter Elizabeth remained to care for him, although she was afflicted by 'much bodily weakness'. A medical diagnosis of her health on 18 January 1851 urged a change of climate.
In 1851, Thomas Christy Wakefield was recorded as living in a house at 7 Higher Terrace Tormorham in Torquay - his daughter Elizabeth and a servant were in the house at the time. On 15 July 1851 Thomas recorded that he had been seized on 2 April by an inflammation of his chest and lungs, and was confined for weeks to his chamber, his youngest daughter Jane coming to help Elizabeth to care for him.
On 5 November 1851 Thomas writes that 'the sudden removal of a dear son, JGW [Jacob Goff Wakefield], in a foreign land, among strangers, where there was no kind friend to administer help in time of sickness, has weighed heavily on me'. Jacob had 'passed the last 25 years of his life in New Orleans'.
In an entry written on 23 May 1854, Thomas records that 'I have derived consolation from reviewing the uninterrupted attachment which lasted between myself and my beloved sister Elizabeth Strangeman, whom it has pleased our Heavenly Father to take'. The date of her death is not given, but is known from independent sources to have occurred on 31 March that year.
The continued delicacy of his daughter Elizabeth's health induced them to leave in 1854 for the warmer climate of Torquay in Devon, 'a new place for her'. They returned to Moyallon on 24 April 1855 but went back again to Torquay on 15 February 1856, where they remained for the rest of Thomas's life.
In a tailpiece his daughters write: 'After an illness of seven months our precious father peacefully closed his long life on the 8th of 6 month 1861, and was interred (by his own desire) in Friends' burying-ground in Gloucester, on the 26th. In a feeling of confidence in the fathfulness of a loving Saviour, we reverently express our belief that the immortal spirit was made meet for the inheritance which He has prepared for those who follow him'. He died in his ninetieth year, passing away at Torquay on 9th June 1861, and was buried in Gloucester on 17th following.(d)
Thomas is said to have survived a famous sinking. He also collected a considerable amount of armorial porcelain from China. Some had the Wakefield crest quartered with the arms of Christie. There was also a blue bordered armorial service, known as "Fitzhugh" pattern, with the initial 'W' and the image of a bat, the family crest. Curiously, George Washington had an exact copy of this latter Fitzhugh service, except for the bats.
Linen merchant and porcelain collector
Thomas Christy Wakefield
(1772 - 1861) was
the father of Jemima Fennell.
(Photo courtesy of Sir Humphrey
Wakefield, Chillingham Castle).
Thomas and Jane Wakefield had eleven children, all born at Moyallon.
The eldest was Thomas Christy Wakefield Junior (1795-1878), see below.
The second, Jacob Goff Wakefield, was born in Dublin on 21st March 1797 and died in New Orleans in 1851.
A daughter Elisa born on 8 May 1798, who lived for four months. (There are unverified claims that she ahd a twin sister Mary Anne but there is no such record in the birth register held by the Friends' Historical Library in Dublin).
Hannah Christy Wakefield was born on 15th September 1799 and married on 23rd March 1820 to William Bell.
Mary Phelps Wakefield arrived on 3rd April 1801.
Jane Sandwith Wakefield was born on 21st January 1804 and was married at Moyallon on 16th July 1829 to her cousin, Thomas Christy of the hat manufacturers. (e)
The eighth child Charlotte Wakefield was born on 18th February 1805 and married James (or John) Greer Richardson (born 20th November 1831 in Lurgan).
A third son Charles Frederick Wakefield was born in 1807 and is dealt with below.
Another daughter Isabella Nicholson Wakefield was born on 27th June 1808 and married Charles Lloyd Harford on 14th July 1839.
Sophia Wakefield was born in 1810 and died in 1835.
The eleventh and youngest child, Elisabeth Wakefield,
was born on 8th October 1811 and married Charles Prideaux on 20th
April 1864 at the Friend's Meeting House in Plymouth, Devon, England.
Thomas and Jane Wakefield's third boy was born on 11th June 1807 and christened Charles Frederick Wakefield. He became a minister and, on 12th September 1839, married Anne Moore of Clonmel, a fellow minister fourteen years his senior. James Nicholson considered him quite pretentious. He succeeded to Moyallon upon his fathers' death in 1861, at which point his earlier Tory-based opposition to all reform seems to have yielded to a more open-minded soul.
He owned a small property near Portadown and was the only landlord of whom his tenants spoke affectionately in the pages of the "Bessborough Commission" of 1880. Charles Street in Portadown is reputedly named after him. (History of Friends in Portadown, 1665 - 2005). He built one of the earliest house's in the area, 'Corcrain Villa', next to Shillington's Alta Villa. 'Charlie's Wall's' is named for a high boundary wall he also built which extended past Alta Villa.
On 24 March 1883, the Belfast Newsletter reported on Anne's death three days earlier, aged 87, after a short illness. Both Charles and Anne Wakefield are buried in the Friend's Burial-ground at Moyallon,
along with Thomas Christy Wakefield Jnr. They left no direct descendants.
Thomas Christy Wakefield was succeeded by his eldest son and namesake, Thomas Christy Wakefield Junior of Marino, elder brother of Jemima Fennell. Thomas was born in Dublin on 17th October 1795.
There is some confusion as to the date on which Thomas married his wife Mary Anne Wilcocks (sometimes spelt Marianne Wilcox) of Lurgan. The Ulster Archives suggest 16th October 1817 which tallies with a marriage settelement date of 14 September 1817 given on a handwritten family tree at Burtown House, County Kildare. (a) However, Thomas Christy's own memoirs give the date as 1813. The marriage took place in Rathfriland, Co. Down. Mary Ann was a daughter of Thomas and Deborah Wilcocks; her mother was the only daughter of Thomas Haughton of Burtown House and it was from her that Burtown passed to the Fennell family.
James Nicholson Richardson's Reminiscences suggests that Mary Anne came with a large fortune, mainly in land, enabling Thomas to be independent of his father. He duly defied his father, set up house in Dublin and 'went in for all the gaieties'. However, his fun-loving lifestyle was cut short by a severe illness which in turn prompted a change of heart. He returned to live near his father at Moyallon and started "Moyallon Flour Mills".
The business was not a success and, during the 1840s, Thomas and Marion moved to Falmouth in England 'for the education of their children'. However, the famine in Ireland meant his wife's income tumbled dramatically and the family were forced to return to Ireland due to non-payment of rents after five years (circa 1851) and settled on one of his wife's farms in Co. Kildare. When his father died in 1861, Thomas 'found himself again in affluence, and he paid off his encumbrances like a man; but the iron had entered into his soul, and he could never be persuaded afterwards that he was not a poor man'. (J.N.R's reminiscences). In later life, he moved back to the Moyallon neighbourhood, becoming a Clerk of the Lurgan Monthly Meeting for a time and an Elder of the Society. He is said to have had a residence in Marino, Co. Down. Thomas died on 22nd November 1878.
Thomas and Mary Anne Wakefield had at least five children. The eldest daughter, Sarah Wilcocks Wakefield was born on 17th January 1819 but died as an infant according to the tree found at Burtown House. (Another unidentified source suggests she died in about 1833 but 14 is hardly an infant).
The eldest surviving son, Edward Thomas Wakefield, BL (1821-1896), was born on 24th January 1821 in Leeson Street, Dublin, and studied at Trinity College Dublin. (a) The Mormon website claims he married 26-year-old Mary Jane Unett in about 1845. She was born in 1819 or 1825, the daughter of Henry Unett and Mary Lechmere of Marden and Freen's Court, Hereford. Mary Jane died young in 1854, leaving a son, Edward Watson Wakefield born in Bristol on 29th January 1847, and a daughter, Marion Charlotte Wakefield, born in Bristol on 18th December 1850.
As a barrister, Edward helped Samuel Gurney, an MP and philanthropist, set up the London-based Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association in 1859. In 1867 it became the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association for animal welfare.
Edward was due to inherit Burtown House until a cricket ball intervened. According to the British Census of 1881, 57-year-old Edward Thomas Wakefield was born in Harmar, Ireland, and was a retired barrister living in Westhill Hanover Lodge, Harrow On The Hill, Middlesex. There was no mention of the two children from his possible first marriage to Mary Unett (if indeed that was the same Edward T. Wakefield). Instead it proposed that Edward's wife was called Florence and that his four children were Claud (b. 1866), Edward (b. 1875), Florence (born 1870) and Marion (b. 1876, said to have lived in Cloncore, Co. Armagh in a somewhat less affluent home than her cousins). It is all quite complex. Was this the same Edward Wakefield who died in 1896 in Margate, Kent, where he had resided for a considerable time for the benefit of his health and whose remains were interred in the Friends Cemetery in Islesworth? Alas, there seems to be no mention of the cricket ball which, according to Quaker sources, is said to have fatally struck him so that Burtown passed to his younger sister Jemima.
Edward's brother Thomas Haughton Wakefield was born in 1824 and died a bachelor on 5 June 1861 (probate 2/4/1863). He had a connection with Trinity College, Dublin.
Edward's sister Jane Marion Wakefield was born at Moyallon on either
6th March or 14th June 1831. In time she became the second wife of John Grubb Richardson,
one of seven sons (and three daughters) of James N. Richardson of Richardson,
Sons & Owden. John had enjoyed four years of marriage between 1845
and 1849 to his distant cousin, Helena Richardson (nee Grubb), from Cahir
Abbey, County Tipperary. Helena was mother to his son, James Nicholson
Richardson (born in Belfast 7th February 1846, married Sophia Malcomson,
died in 1921) and daughter, Sarah Helena (1850-1929, buried at Bessbrook).
Helena died in 1849. John and Jane were married four years later at the Ballitore Meeting House in County Kildare, where her father, Thomas
Christy Wakefield Jnr was living. The Richardsons settled at Brookhill,
near Lisburn (1853-1858) but moved into Jane's uncle Charles's house at
Moyallon in 1858 (probably because Charles, didn't have children) five years
later in 1858. Jane Richardson mentions that this move "brought
him within driving distance of Bessbrook" (Six Generations). John
then enlarged the house at Moyallon and made it residence for part of the
year. Jane died in 1909. They had nine children, born between Brookhill,
Antrim, and Moyallon. Their only son, Wakefield Richardson (7th Dec
1856 - 1928) married Hilda and had one child John Stephens Wakefield
Richardson (1898-1985). The eight daughters were Marion (b. 23 Nov 1854),
Sarah A. (1855?-1946), Maria (b. about 1857), Anne Wakefield (18th Sept
1859 -1942), Sarah Edith (born c. 1861), Jean Goff (born 31 May 1861, married
George Maynard), Gertrude (b. 21 April 1865, married Mr. Leverton Harris)
and Ethel Jasmine/Johanna? (17th Sept 1868 - 1938, married her cousin, R.
H. Stephens Richardson.
The youngest of Thomas and Mary Anne's children was Jemima Sarah Wakefield (12 August 1836 - 24 May 1896), who married James Fennell (d. 9/10/1890). They had one son, William James Fennell, and five daughters.
In 1748, an unknown Englishman visited Ballitore, Co Kildare, and wrote: "Our eyes were charmed with the sweetest bottom where, through lofty trees, we beheld a variety of pleasant dwellings. Through a road that looked like a fine terrace walk, we turn to this lovely vale, where Nature assisted by Art, gave us the utmost contentment. It is a colony of Quakers, called by the name of Ballitore". The village itself was surrounded by large houses, built by descendents of Barcroft, Strettel,and Shackleton. Burtown House (also called Birtown, Berton, Birdtown) was one such house, built in about 1710 by Robert Power. (12) On early maps the house seems to have been called Powers Grove. It later passed to the Houghton or Haughton family and then, in the early 19th century, was passed again by marriage to the Wakefields. (13) In the mid 19th century, the property passed to Edward Thomas Wakefield, son of Thomas Christy Wakefield Junior. Edward was great-great-uncle of Burtown's present incumbent, William Fennell. Edward is said to have been born in 1821 although his parents wedding is sometimes stated as taking place in 1829. In about 1845 Edward was married in Trinity College Dublin to a 20-year-old Engliush girl, Mary Jane Unett. Their daughter, Marion Charlotte Wakefield, was christened in Bristol on 18th December 1850. In anticipation of inheriting Burtown from his from his maternal Grandmother's family, he changed his name to 'Edward Wakefield Haughton'. It is not known when exactly he died but his cause of death was recorded by Quakers as the result of an evil-minded cricket ball. As such, Burtown passed to his sister Jemima, wife of James Fennell. Quite why Marion was left out of the loop is unknown. There are reports of a Marion Wakefield living in somewhat reduced circumstances in Cloncore, Co. Armagh. This Marion had a sister named Florence and is believed to have been the daughter of Edward Thomas Wakefield.
James and Jemima Fennell had one son and five daughters:
1) William James Fennell.
2) Marion Fennell.
3) Susan Ada Fennell.
4) Jane Wakefield Fennell.
5) Emma Fennell.
6) Jemima Sarah Fennell.
James and Jemima's son, William James Fennell (1866-1928), a farmer, was born at Ardfinnan, Co. Tipperary, on 15th July 1866. On 13th August 1890, seven weeks before his fathers' death, he married Isabel Shackleton at St Mullins Church, Timolin, Co. Kildare. (14) She was a daughter of Richard Ebenezer Shackleton of Belan Lodge, Moone, Co. Kildare, and first cousin of the great Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Her great-grandson James, current head of the Burtown branch, is a frequent collaborator with Turtle Bunbury. See here for more on Fennell of Burtown.
With thanks to the late William Fennell, Harriet Landseer, James Fennell, Bob Sinton, Peter Must, Sir Humphry Wakefield, Naomi Lloyd, Hillary Lamb, Andrew Bunbury, Jeff Record, Robert Moore, Ron Knight, John Knightly, Peter Marstin, Emily Holme, Dr RS Harrison, Gillian Fennell and Tom Russell.
The Richardsons of Bessbrook - Ulster Quakers in the linen industry (1845-1921), Richard S Harrison.
This study in Irish commercial and industrial history has as its core theme the Richardsons of Bessbrook, Co. Armagh, one of the several Irish Quaker families of Ulster and the Lagan valley who were involved in the linen industry from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. The Richardson linen-spinning enterprise at Bessbrook was set up as the Great Famine of 1845-49 threatened. In their purpose-built town they endeavoured to promote the best conditions for their workers, as well as for the productivity of their firm. Although this study is primarily a business history, the introduction brings out the philanthropic and physical background of Bessbrook. John G. Richardson its founder, was a promoter of temperance and his son, James N. Richardson III, was elected in 1880, as Liberal MP for Co. Armagh.
Biographical Dictionary of Irish Quakers (Second edition, 2008),
Richard S. Harrison.
This revised and expanded second edition of a book first published in 1997 offers sketches of a wide range of Irish Quakers, mostly 18th- and 19th-century figures. The information provided in these biographical pieces is a mixture of family history, information on commercial life and anecdotal material. In addition to the expected entries for different Bewleys, Pims, Jacobs, Newsoms, Richardsons and others, there are many names listed not now remembered as Quakers. It covers Quakers from all four provinces and most major towns and cities are well as Quakers who emigrated to North America. Coffee merchants, grocers, soap-boilers, spademakers and others emerge in a lively, familiar way. Activists in concerns dear to Quakers are here, in anti-slavery, prison reform, famine relief, anti-hanging and temperance. Whilst many English and American Quakers are remembered internationally, Irish Quakers are mainly of significance in Irish history, but even then they reveal numerous traits shared with a wider Quakerdom, in its emigration patterns, its transatlantic, commercial and philanthropic links. Richard S. Harrison is a member of the Religious Society of Friends and a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. He has written several books on Quaker business and Cork themes. This book is now available through all good bookshops. Copies are also available at a 10% discount via www.fourcourtspress.ie
The Annals of Ballitore: Being a Compiliation of Mary Leadbeater's 'Annals of Ballitore' and Betsy Shackleton's 'Ballitore Seventy Years Ago', by Mario Corriean (Editor), Karel Kiely (Editor), Michael Kavanagh (Editor)
10. For this and many other references, I am indebted to Michael Ahern's
article, "The Fennells of Cahir".
11. Another Quaker prominent in Bessbrook in 1869 was Henry Barcroft of the Bessbrook Spinning Company who in 1869 patented the Bessbrook self-twilling machine which greatly aided the process of damask weaving. It proved enormously popular and Bessbrook's linen damasks made a great impact at the international exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876. "The Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland", WA McCutcheon (Associated University Presses, 1984), p. 307.
12. Shackleton's school closed down in 1836 but the local economy picked up again with the construction of the Crookstown Mill by John Bonham in the 1840s. The population of the village was 441 in 1841 (as compared to 290 in 1986).
13. Power is buried in a small graveyard across the road from Burtown.
14. The Haughtons were a Quaker family in Kildare and may have had a connection to the Haughton Mills in Celbridge. There may also be a connection to Samuel Haughton, President of the Royal Irish Academy from 1886 to 1891, and twenty years secretary of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland.
15. James and Jemima Fennell are buried in the Friend's Meeting House graveyard in Bessbrook.