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Hare, Earl of Listowel – Convamore

The Weekly Irish Times featured an illustration of Convamore House, Ballyhooly, Co Cork, on its front page in 1885. The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1921.

 

Descended from a Cork merchant, the Hare family came to prominence when they bought significant lands in Counties Cork and Kerry in the late 18th century. Convamore, a splendid mansion just outside Ballyhooly, was built in the early 19th century to celebrate their elevation to the peerage. It was burned in the War of Independence.

 

The Hares of Norfolk

 

The Earls of Listowel reputedly descend from a Norfolk branch of the Norman family of D’Harcourt. From this line came Michael Hare, who arrived in Ireland in the wake of the Cromwellian conquest and settled in Monkstown, County Dublin.

Michael’s nephew and heir, John Hare, relocated the family to Cork City where he made a considerable fortune exporting dairy produce to Britain. He may have been a Presbyterian.

 

Richard Hare (1723-1794)

 

It appears that John’s son and eventual heir, Richard Hare (1723-1794) was well established in Cork by 1749 when he married Catherine Moyler (Maylor). According to Pue’s Occurrences of 22 April 1749:

‘On Saturday last … Richard Hare, Merchant in Cork, was married to Miss Moyler, an agreeable young Lady with £1000 fortune.’ [1]

She may have been ‘the Wife of Mr. Richard Hare, jun.’ whose death was recorded by the Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty, on 14 August 1775. (It is not clear how Richard was related to William Hare, a Cork City linen draper, who died on 12 December 1758. [2]) Richard’s daughter Mary married John Bagwell (with whom she had William, Richard, John and Benjamin) and his second daughter Margaret Ann married Edward Croker (with whom she had Richard and John).

Richard’s letter-book of 1771-1772 is here. He was a captain of the Cork Independent Artillery in the 1780s. In 1783, he was on the committee of the Cork Association ‘for the better support of the Police of this city.’[3]

In 1789, the year the French Revolution broke out, Richard purchased 20,000 acres of land in County Kerry from the 3rd Earl of Kerry, as well as other properties in Cork City and Counties Cork and Tipperary. The Kerry estate included the site of the present town of Listowel, then a small village with a ruined Norman fortress. When Richard died in Cork in November 1794, Saunders’s News-Letter described him as ‘formerly a merchant of great respectability.’ [4] He was buried in the family vault at St Finbar’s Cathedral, Cork, on 5 November 1794.

 

William Hare, MP (1751-1837), 1st Earl of Listowel

 

Richard and Catherine’s only son William was born in Cork in September 1751.  He was married on 30 May 1772 to Mary Wrixon, only daughter of Henry Wrixon of Ballygiblin, County Cork, with whom he had 6 children, namely Richard Lysaght Hare MP, Mary Morgell, Louisa Bushe, Margaret Anne White, William Henry Hare and Catherine Maunsell.

In 1796, two years after succeeding his father, William was elected MP for Cork for the Whig (or Liberal) interest. That same year, he increased the families’ Kerry holdings by purchasing the lands of Ennismore from Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, Knight of Kerry.

The disastrous rebellion of the United Irishmen in 1798 spelled the end for the Irish Parliament in which William Hare represented Athy on behalf of the Duke of Leinster from 1798 until 1801. With the very real threat of a French invasion of Britain from Ireland, the British Government were adamant that Irish affairs be henceforth decided in Westminster. William’s awareness of the French threat were amplified in 1799 when his daughter Margaret Ann married Richard White of Bantry House, a man who did more than anyone to prevent Wolfe Tone landing a Fremch fleet in Bantry Bay in 1796.

In 1800 the Irish Parliament voted itself out of existence and ceased to exist, an event formalised by the Act of Union. There had initially been strong opposition to the Act from the Anglo-Irish elite but many found themselves re-evaluating their position when London offered substantial “compensation” to those of a wavering disposition.

Discontent amongst the aristocracy was further quelled by the reassurance that their order – the peerage – would continue to exert an influence in London through the 28 “Representative Peers of Ireland” in the British House of Lords. Among the 28 new peers was William Hare who was created Baron Ennismore of County Kerry on 21 July 1800, he. His father had successfully advanced his status from merchant to landowner. William now went one higher and joined the British aristocracy.

Convamore was probably built to celebrate this newfound status. The lands at Convamore had been purchased from the O’Callaghan family some years before the Act of Union; a house was built in the mid 18th century by Colonel Bailey who married a daughter of Lord Doneraile. This house was demolished to build the new house, which Lord Ennismore almost immediately handed over to his eldest son, Richard.

The house, one of the first in Ireland to feature large plate glass windows, was much praised by contemporaries. Its architects were the celebrated Pain brothers, aka James and George Richard Pain. Trained in London under James Wyatt, the architect who reconstructed Windsor Castle, they also studied under the celebrated John Nash (of Cahir’s Swiss Cottage and Buckingham Palace fame) who sent them to Ireland to supervise the building of Lough Cutra Castle for Lord Gort. Having started their own practice, the Pains and were soon regarded as one of Ireland’s leading architectural concerns. During their hey-day, they built the enormous neo-Gothic mansion of Mitchelstown Castle for the Earl of Kingston, Dromoland Castle for Sir Edward O’Brien, Elm Park for Lord Clarina, the New Gaols in Limerick and Cork, and several churches, both Catholic and Protestant. James Pain was also a distinguished Freemason.

For the first in beauty and magnificence is Convamore, now the property of the Honourable Richard Hare, eldest son of Lord Ennismore. This place was much and justly admired for the singular beauty of its situation, before it derived any adventitious graces from the hand of art. The addition of a superb house and grounds, highly dressed and judiciously planted, fully entitle it to the pre-eminence here bestowed. This fine mansion is not less calculated to gratify the accomplished spectator within than without. Lord Ennismore and his son are both distinguished for their skill and love of painting, and have in consequence profusely adorned the house with pictures of the best Masters“.

The Old Masters collection was subsequently transferred to Kingston House, Knightsbridge, the Listowel’s townhouse in London. Originally built as a country house for Elizabeth Chudleigh, the notorious Duchess of Kingston, Kingston House stood in its own grounds just five minutes’ walk from Hyde Park Corner. The 1st Earl bought the house from the childless Earl of Stair in 1813. From 1837 to 1842, it was rented by the Marquis Wellesley, elder brother of the “Iron Duke” of Wellington. The Listowel family continued to live there from 1842 until its demolition in 1937. In Marjorie Dacres Dixon’s childhood, cows were still brought over from Ireland to graze in the adjacent pasture, now Ennismore Gardens, and provide fresh milk for the children.

Another visitor noted Convamore’s beautiful setting:

… in a fine domain stretching along the banks of the Blackwater, and commanding an interesting view of the winding of that river through rich masses of woodland to the picturesque ruins of the ancient castle of Ballyhooly, situated on a rocky prominence over the Blackwater, and, with the present church and the ruins of the former, both closely adjoining, presenting a highly picturesque and romantic group“.

Widowed in 1810, he was married, secondly, on 5 March 1812 to  Anne Latham, second daughter of John Latham of Meldrum, County Tipperary. He was created 1st Viscount Ennismore and Listowel [Ireland] on 15 January 1816 and 1st Earl of Listowel [Ireland] on 5 February 1822.

From the time he handed over Convamore to Richard, he lived in Kingston House, their London townhouse, and rarely returned to Ireland. He died in London in 1837, aged 85, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

 

Richard Hare, Viscount Ennismore (1773-1827)

 

Richard Lysagh Hare, Viscount Ennismore, firstborn son of William and Mary Hare, was born in 1773. As MP for Cork from 1812 to 1827, he proved himself a rabid anti-Catholic, vetoing all bills for Emancipation.

On 10 June 1797, he married Catherine daughter of Robert Dillon, 1st Baron Clonbrock, with whom he had seven children.

On 24 September 1827, the 54-year-old died suddenly of “apoplexy” – presumably the word used for a heart attack. As such, when his father died in 1837, the family estate and titles passed to Viscount Ennismore’s eldest son, William.

 

William Hare, 2nd Earl of Listowel (1801-1856)

 

William Hare, eldest son of Richard, Viscount Ennismore, and his wife Catherine, was born on 22 September 1801, just a few months after his grandfather was first raised to the peerage. Educated at Eton College, he was elected MP (Whig) for County Kerry in 1826, holding his seat until 1830. His early parliamentary career is best remembered for “Hare’s Election” of 1826 in which, following major allegations of vote-rigging against Hare, a riot broke out in Kerry leaving 16 people dead. One major fear was that Hare, like his father before him, would demand his substantial tenantry vote against the bill for Catholic Emancipation then being put before Parliament. However, the 2nd Earl proved a more enlightened individual. A Free Trader and a Liberal, he regularly addressed his audience at Westminster with such speeches as:

No, Sir, the cause of these evils is as clear as the noonday sun, and may be expressed in three words, Protestant against Catholic. The people of Ireland were oppressed solely because they maintained that religion which was once your own – a Protestant Church was forced upon a Catholic people“.

Lady Listowel (née Marie Augusta Wyndham)

On 23 July 1831, he married Marie Augusta Wyndham, a kinswoman of the Earl of Dunraven. She was the widow of George Thomas Wyndham of Cromer Hall, Norfolk, and second daughter of Vice Admiral William Wyndham of Felbrigge Hall. Marie Augusta gave the 2nd Earl five sons and six daughters, namely:

  1. Lady Augusta who was married in 1853 to the 4th Earl of Carysfort.
  2. William Hare, 3rd Earl of Listowel
  3. Lady Emily who was married in 1857 to Sir John Wrixton-Beecher.
  4. Lady Sophia who was married in 1854 to Arthur MacNamara of Caddington Hall, Hertford, and was Lady of the Bedchamber to Princess Louisa, the Duchess of Argyll.
  5. Rear Admiral Richard Hare (1836-1903), whose son Harry was killed in France in September 1914
  6. Major Ralph Hare, RHA (1838 – 1879)
  7. Lieutenant Hugh Henry Hare (1839-1927), Bengal SC, Queen’s Foreign Service Messenger (1865-95) and father of the much decorated Captain Percy Hare.
  8. Lady Victoria, who was named for her godmother, Queen Victoria. She married the 2nd Earl of Yarborough and was grandmother to Marjorie Dacres Dixon.
  9. Edward Hare
  10. Lady Adele, twin of Eleanor, who was married in 1864 to Colonel Cuthbert Larking, 15th Hussars, and was Lady-in-Waiting to the Duchess of Connaught.
  11. Lady Eleanor, twin of Adele, who was married in 1864 to Edward, 1st Baron Hennage, PC.

William held the office of Sheriff of County Cork in 1834. He succeeded his grandfather as 2nd Earl of Listowel in 1837. Appointed Vice-Admiral of Munster in 1838, he was invested as a Knight, Order of St. Patrick (K.P.) in 1839. He was Lord-in-Waiting between 1840 and 1841 and again from 1846-1852 and 1853-1856.

Robert Holbrook and his wife Sally lived at Convamore, where Robert was the overseer of the estate during the famine.

The 2nd Earl retired from party politics in 1846 and became a Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria. He died at Morrison’s Hotel, Dublin, on 4 February 1856 at the early age of 54 following ‘an attack of paralysis.’ The 2nd Earl was succeeded by his son, another William.

In 1862, his widow Lady Listowel (née Marie Augusta Wyndham) paid for the restoration of the old Roche castle in Ballyhooley, wrecked during the Cromwellian Wars, and converted it into a residence.

 

William Hare, 3rd Earl of Listowel (1833-1924)

 

Born at Convamore on 29 May 1833, William was educated at Eton and joined the Scots Guards aged 19. He was soon dispatched to serve in the Crimean War where he was seriously wounded at the battle of the Alma in September 1854. His uncle, Captain Charles Hare, was killed in the same action. Invalided home, he took up service as ADC to Baron Wodehouse, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, until he succeeded his father in 1856. He chiefly lived at Kingston House in London where he was much involved in politics although he occasionally returned to Convamore for the fishing and hunting seasons.

He was also presumably present in 1870 for the opening ceremony of the new Protestant church in Ballyhooley, designed by George C. Ashlin, a pupil of Pugin.

In 1865 he married Lady Erenestine Brudenell-Bruce, daughter of the 3rd Marquess of Ailesbury.

On 8 December 1868, he achieved his life-long ambition when Prime Minister Gladstone rewarded his support for the Liberal party with a Peerage in the British House of Lords – “Lord Hare of Convamore”.

In 1873 he became, like his father, a Knight of St. Patrick, and in 1880 he became a courtier as Liberal Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria, again following in his father’s footsteps. His tenure as a Lord-in-Waiting started in May 1880, and ended abruptly that August. In that month he resigned, in protest against W.E. Forster’s tenant-friendly “Compensation for Disturbance (Ireland) Bill”.

He also increased the family property in County Kerry from 25,500 acres in 1870 to 30,000 in 1883.

In the spring of 1885, the Earl of Listowel and Lady Erenestine received at Convamore perhaps the most prestigious visitors in Great Britain, namely the Prince (the future Edward VII) and Princess of Wales. The Royal couple stayed at Convamore from 8-27 April 1885. A beacon blazed atop Ballyhooly Castle to welcome the guests and announce their arrival to people for miles around. There was, however, a disruptive element to the greeting crowd, including some young fellows who stood by the road roaring “Up the Mahdi!” in support of the Sudanese leader who had just killed the great Victorian hero, General Gordon, at Khartoum. Gladstone urged the Royal couple to make the trip to Ireland to boost their popularity but things went from bad to worse when a crowd showered them with rotten onions during a subsequent visit to Cork City.

As reported by the Prince’s equerry, Arthur Ellis, to Queen Victoria on 15 April 1885:

The fact is that the lower class, the lazzaronis of Cork, which exists in overpowering numbers, were rabid rebels. No other word can convey their hostility and behaviour.”

However, there was a well-dressed middle class crowd to cheer the Prince and Princess outside the Protestant Cathedral.

The Earl of Listowel sold off most of the Convamore estate in the wake of the Irish land reforms of the early 20th century.

In 1906, the 3rd Earl was described thus:

‘In addition to his Irish estates, Lord Listowel is the fortunate possessor of a fine, if not large, London property. It is situated near the Albert Hall, and close to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It comprises Kingston House and Ennismore Gardens. There are scores, if not hundreds of houses on the estate, and probably not one yields a ground rent of less than one hundred pounds per annum, while some of the larger mansions produce hundreds a year in ground rents. It is to this property that the Earl of Listowel’s grandson, born yesterday, is the ultimate heir, as well, of course, as to the Irish estates.’

The 3rd Earl died on 5 June 1924 at the ripe old age of 91. He was the second oldest member in the House of Lords at the time. He was succeeded as 4th Earl by his son Richard.

 

Richard Hare, 4th Earl of Listowel (1866-1931),

 

Born in 1866, Richard Hare studied at Eton and Oxford before joining the First Life Guards in 1890. During the Boer War, Viscount Ennismore – as he was then – was part of the “Irish Hunt Contingent” so sensationally captured at Lindley. A combination of Boer cunning and British ineptness led to the seizure of the regiment after a battle in which 80 British and 500 Boers were killed or wounded.

A still more humiliating coup (inflicted by de Wet’s brother, Piet) was the capture of the thirteenth battalion of the 31st. To British eyes, this mounted Battalion was the social and political show-piece of the new Volunteer Army; a company of Irish M.F.H.’s known as the Irish Hunt Contingent, including the Earl of Longford and Viscount Ennismore; two companies of Ulster Protestant Unionists, including the Earl of Leitrim, a whiskey Baronet (Sir John Power) and the future Lord Craigavon; and a company of English and Irish men-about-town raised by Lord Donoughmore, who had insisted on paying their own passage to South Africa“.[5]

River Blackwater

On 1 December 1904, he married Hon. Freda Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone (1885-1968), the daughter of Francis Vanden-Bempde-Johnstone, 2nd Baron Derwent and Ethel Strickland-Constable. They had a son John Hugh Hare and two daughters, Ethel Patricia (Hare) Milnes-Coates and Elizabeth Cecilia (Hare) O’Ferrall.

The 4th Earl was a man much given to field sports and spent much of his time salmon fishing in the Blackwater at Convamore and shooting woodcock in the surrounding woodlands. He was Master of the Dulhallow Hounds. In the autumn he often visited Scotland to stalk deer and shoot grouse. He also made several safari trips to Africa. His son, the 5th Earl, recalled their home in England being “a menagerie of dead animals – stuffed or affixed by their horns to the walls“. In later life he turned to gardening and embroidery.

He died of pneumonia in November 1931 and was succeeded by his son William.

 

The Burning of Convamore

 

Alas, Convamore was one of over 300 big houses burned during the Troubles of 1919–1923. During the War of Independence, a reign of terror swept across Ireland with a bloody tit-for-tat war between the Black and Tans and the IRA. The latter concluded that the big houses of pro-British gentry were “legitimate targets”. One fine summer evening in 1921 it was the first of three country houses in North County Cork that were burned down in retaliation for a reprisal. Lord Listowel’s elderly niece, Mrs. Wrixon-Beecher was in the house at the time. She survived but was found wandering dazedly around the house without her false teeth, which perished in the fire.

Mitchelstown Castle, the largest of the 200 or so big houses destroyed during the Troubles, was burned by Irish Republicans on 29 June 1922.

The following is an extract from The Times of 29 October 1921:

“£85,000 COMPENSATION – Lord Listowel’s burnt mansion: At Fermoy Sessions yesterday £150,000 was claimed for Lord Listowel for the destruction of his mansion, Convamore, Ballyhooly.

His solicitor submitted to the Court a typewritten document addressed to Lord Listowel from “Headquarters, Cork, No. 2 Brigade,” saying “On Wednesday, the 13th instant, the enemy bombed and destroyed six houses of Republicans as reprisals for IRA activities on the 10th instant. You being an aggressively anti-Irish person and your residence being in the Battalion area of enemy reprisals, I have hereby ordered that the same be destroyed as part of our counter-reprisals, – Commandant.”

The Recorder awarded £85,202, including £55,319 for the mansion, £21,234 for the furniture, and £7,430 for pictures. The article goes on to tell of : “A school teacher [who] was awarded £5,000 compensation for the loss of her husband, who was taken from his home by armed and masked men and was found by the roadside shot dead.”

 

William Hare, 5th Earl of Listowel (1906-1997)

 

Educated at Eton, Oxford and Cambridge, the 5th Earl recalled his childhood at Convamore as a time of “baked potatoes from the bottom of a bonfire in the garden, and a vast Christmas tree dressed by my grandmother, who was extremely annoyed when we dashed for the presents underneath it, instead of admiring her work in dressing it. This was not unnatural, as having a staff of at least 20 indoor servants and nothing to do in the house, she had spent hours tying little baubles to the branches of the tree. I also remember the golden pheasants which fluttered about like farm-yard fowls in the great park. There was general jubilation when my grandfather celebrated his 80th birthday by half a day’s woodcock shooting at Convamore”.

William was a Labour Party whip in the Lords from 1941 to 1944, while his younger brother John would become chairman of the Conservative Party.  He was also Deputy Leader of the House of Lords and Under-Secretary of State for India and Burma from 1944 to 1945. Indeed, he was the last Secretary of State for India, as well as the last Governor-General of Ghana (1957-1960).

Lord Listowel died in March 1997, aged 90, and was succeeded by Francis, the 6th and present earl, who was his elder son from his third marriage.

 

John Hugh Hare, 1st Viscount Blakenham (1911-1982)

 

Born in London on 22 January 1911, John Hugh Hare was the third son of 4th Earl and rose to become chairman of the British Conservative Party from 1963 to 1965. On 31 January 1934, he was married in Lambeth to the Hon. Nancy Pearson, daughter of Weetman Pearson, 2nd Viscount Cowdray.

He died on 7 March 1982 at the age of 71.

 

End-Notes

 

[1] Pue’s Occurrences of Saturday 22 April 1749

[2] ‘Cork, Dec. Tuesday Night died Mr. William Hare, Linen Draper.’ Pue’s Occurrences of Saturday 16 December 1758

[3] Dublin Evening Post – Thursday 13 March 1783, p. 4.

[4] Saunders’s News-Letter – Tuesday 11 November 1794, p. 2.

[5] Thomas Pakenham, The Boer War.