Mallow (Co. Cork / Central)
Mallow (Magh Ealla – ‘Plain of the Swans’; Mala and other variations are erroneous re-Gaelicisations) (pop. 10,000) is the “Crossroads of Munster” and the administrative capital of north County Cork. (Photo – www.PeoplesRepublicofCork.com )
Set deep in the Blackwater River Valley, Mallow prospered as a market town throughout the centuries due to its rich agricultural hinterland, and in recent years has become a thriving business centre and satellite commuter town for workers and students travelling to and from Cork City by road and local rail. It has several good pubs and eateries, and a jolly atmosphere prevails.
Mallow Castle, originally constructed in 1185 by the de Rupe / Roche family, was rebuilt by Thomas FitzMaurice in 1282, and remained a powerful Geraldine stronghold for three centuries. At its apogee it was extensively fortified and had three courtyards. This medieval castle fared badly during the late C16th Geraldine Rebellions. The rebel Earl’s brother Sir John FitzGerald was killed while in captivity in 1581, and his dismembered body hung from the gates of Cork.
The property was acquired by the sons of Queen Elizabeth I‘s lifelong friend Lord Norreys of Rycote in Oxfordshire – first Sir John Norreys, Lord President of Munster (d.1587) and then his brother Sir Thomas Norreys, who commissioned a replacement for the ruined medieval castle before his death in 1599 during the course of the Earl of Essex‘s botched Munster campaign. In 1607 his daughter and heiress Elizabeth, the Queen’s godchild, was married to Sir John Jephson, an army officer, and on attaining her majority in 1615 was presented with “the Castle and Town of Mallow and Short Castle, alias Castle Garr” by a patent of King James I.
During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, their son General William Jephson declared his support for the English Parliament. Kilkenny Confederacy troops under Lord Moutgarrett took Castle Short and razed Mallow in 1642; the mansion was successfully defended then, but was forced to submit three years later to Lord Castlehaven, only to be retaken by Parliamentarian forces under Lord Inchiquin in 1646.
The building was further damaged durng the Williamite War when a Jacobite force led by MacDonogh MacCarthy after the debacle at the Battle of the Boyne was again defeated locally, this time by Maj-General Scavemore‘s troops led by Col. Dundas. When the Jephsons returned they decided that the building was too far gone for repair, and abandoned it to fall into ruin.
In 1693 the Jephson-Norreys family settled in what had been the stables and eventually made them into the ‘new’ castle. Over the next few hundred years they were generally held in respect as relatively reasonable landlords, and continued to live on the premises after the Land Acts stripped them of most of their land.
Brigadier Maurice Denham Jephson and his wife were killed in the tragic 1968 Aer Lingus Viscount crash near the Tuskar Rock. Their son Commander Maurice Christian Mounteney Jephson disposed of the property, breaking his family’s 400-year link with Mallow.
The fine baronial “new” castle, superbly maintained until 2005 by the McGinn family of Washington DC, was until recently available for luxury holiday rental (with resident cook and staff) for parties of 8-2 guests, but now appears to be for sale.
The “old” castle, widely believed to be haunted, was declared a National Monument in 1928 and is open to the public.
The grounds are home to a unique herd of white fallow deer, descended from two white bucks presented by Queen Elizabeth I to her godchild and namesake. (Photo – www.tourismresources.ie)
The Mallow Field Club / Archaeological & Historical Society organises lectures and field trips, and publishes an interesting annual journal. More Info.
St Anne’s Historical & Heritage Society is a registered charity dedicated to the preservation of Mallow’s buildings and the establishment of a Visitors’ Centre.
The Spa Years
1724 saw the discovery by Dr Rogers of Cork of the first recorded warm water springs found in Ireland, soon known as Lady’s Well and the Spa River. Supposedly full of curative powers, “the waters” made Mallow one of the chief holiday resorts in the country from the mid-C18th to about 1815.
During this period “the ‘Grattans and Ned Lysaghts’ of the day proffered snuff boxes, sat at card tables and danced minuets in the evening after drinking the waters.” The atmosphere of the time is captured in a famous song called The Rakes Of Mallow, which includes the verses:
Ye ladies fair who want an heir, Whose fruitful fields lie fallow, Leave spouse at home and hither come To drink the wells at Mallow. Beauing, belling, dancing, drinking, Breaking windows, cursing, sinking, Ever ranking, never thinking Live the Rakes of Mallow. Spending faster than it comes, Beating waiters, bailiffs, duns, Bacchus’ true begotten sons, Live the Rakes of Mallow. Living short but merry lives, Going where the devil drives, Having sweethearts, but no wives, Live the Rakes of Mallow. Racking tenants, stewards teasing, Swiftly spending, slowly raising, Wishing to spend all their days in Raking as at Mallow. Then, to end this raking life They get sober, take a wife, Ever after live in strife, And wish again for Mallow.
Visitors to Mallow during the heyday of the Spa give colourful accounts, from which we learn that promenades were constructed, new walks were planned and bands discoursed music while the company drank at the wells and in various Inns.
According to Pue’s Occurrences, dated 18th April 1738, “there is a spacious Long Room at Mallow …. lately built to entertain the nobility and the gentry during the season of the Spa. There will be Balls, Ridottos, Music Meetings and all other diversions as are at Bath, Tunbridge, Scarborough etc.”
The Long Room was run by Mr. Murt Murphy, who provided “teas, coffee, chocolate and other necessary things along with providing some of the best Dublin newspapers twice a week.” When the Spa went out of fashion, the Long Room was converted to Mallow’s first Primary School for Boys. Canon Sheehan and William O’Brien were pupils. It was demolished c. 1850, as it obstructed the path of the new Spa Road.
The Spa House was erected over the spring well in 1828 by Charles Denham Orlando Jephson, whose idea it was to build a Tudor Style building rather than the Greek Temple favoured by its architect, George Pain. The house contained a pump-room, an apartment for medical consultation, a reading room and baths. The number of genuine valetudinarians / hypochondriacs continued to decrease and the Spa House became in time the headquarters of the few Rakes of Mallow still roistering to the bitter end. The edifice is now privately owned, but Cork County Council has rented the premises since 1995 as an Energy Agency Office.
The Spa Park is still an important green amenity. Other souvenirs of the glory years include the names of Spa Glen, Spa Square and Spa Terrace.
St Anne’s church was Mallow’s original medieval parish church. Now in ruins, it is surounded by a very old graveyard containing several interesting slabs.
From Cromwellian times until the early C19th, the Roman Catholic majoriy population was forced to attend Mass in various humble locations around the town. When the thatched Mass-house on the side street known as Chapel Lane was demolished in 1940-41, a small silver Chalice and accompanying Paten were found concealed in a wall cavity. The Chalice, of Spanish design and craftsmanship, bears the date 1680 and the inscription “Ora Pro P.N.M.”. The Chalice and Paten are still used on special occasions in St Mary’s church.
St Mary’s church (RC) was built in 1818 on a site donated by Charles Denham Jephson-Norreys of Mallow Castle – a triumph for ecumenism eleven years before Catholic Emancipation, although later described by Nationalist MP William O’Brien as “barn-like as humility could make it, in order to soften the wrath of the Ascendancy“. The present Romanesque facade and campanile were completed in 1905, when an Italian family named Orangie produced some lovely tracery works on the ceilings.
St James church (CoI) was built by the Pain brothers in 1824 adjacent to the old St Anne’s church, which had been damaged in the Williamite Wars and was thought to be beyond repair, on land provided by the Jephson family of Mallow Castle. Fine stained glass windows commemorate the famed explorers, Henry Mortem Stanley and Arthur Mounteney Jephson, and also the latter’s son, Desmond Jephson, who was killed in London in 1938. Its impressive spire is a focal point over a wide area. The cut limestone piers and iron gates, originally on the Main Street, were relocated to their present position by the Urban District Council in 1983.
An interesting footnote regarding ecumenical relations in Mallow at the time concerns an exchange of bells between the churches of St Mary and St Anne. Before the front of St Mary’s was erected in 1900, the church bell was mounted on timbers at the back of the church. When the campanile was first erected, the old bell suspended on irons was affected by resonance from the limestone structure. The bell at St Anne’s church was found to be suitable for the campanile, so an exchange of bells took place. The old bell from St Mary’s was transferred to St Anne’s belfry where it worked perfectly and is still rung to this day.
The Clock House, Mallow’s most striking landmark, was built c.1855 by Charles Denham Orlando Jephson, who is said to have designed it after he had returned from an alpine holiday. It is one of the few examples in Ireland of a Victorian era neo-Tudor half-timbered edifice. The Clock was supposedly brought from the tower of the “old” Mallow Castle. The upper floor sometimes houses Art Exhibitions.
Market Square now features a new shopping centre with shops, apartments, theatres and an underground car park. One of the clauses of the development of the shopping centre was that the front wall of the Market House be incorporated into the new development. A stone over the arched doorway bears the inscription 1823 CDOJ (Charles Denham Orlando Jephson). Before that markets and fairs were held in Main Street.
Jephson built the Market House at the top of New St. (now O’Brien St.), gave two fields nearby for fairs and built a new road leading to what was known as Kilmallock Road (now Fair St.). The advent of the Railway gave a great boost to the local fairs. Dealers from all over the country could now take part in the events as they became easily accessible via train. A sheep market was built in 1860. The end of the fair came in 1959, when Brigadier Maurice Denham Jephson sold the land.
The Hibernian Hotel, Main St. (Photo – http://www.tripadvisor.ie)
Mallow Town Hall, a mildly impressive edifice, stands at the junction of Main St / Davis St and O’Brien St., named after the Land League founder William O’Brien MP (1852 – 1928), who is buried locally. The monument facing the building commemorates JJ Fitzgerald (1872 – 1906), a local politician whoe showed much promise, and whose untimely demise shocked Mallow.
Mallow was the HQ of the infamous North Cork Militia, a mainly Roman Catholic force disgraced in popular history for their brutality at the outset of the 1798 Rebellion in Wexford, later incorporated into the British Army’s Kings Royal Rifle Corps as the North Cork Rifles, who served amidst some controversy in the Boer War.
Mallow’s barracks was raided by the IRB in 1871 and by the IRA in June 1920 (the only one taken nationwide during the War of Independence). In retaliation, the Town Hall and several main street premises were torched by British Army soldiers (not the Black & Tans as is sometimes claimed).
Mallow’s Town Park was presented by Katherine Jephson Norreys in 1907 on a 99-year lease. In 2006 Patrick Jephson, former equerry to and author of books about Princess Diana, and his brother Michael, head of catering at Buckingham Palace, created a media uproar by reclaiming the 34-acre amenity, long used for GAA, soccer and rugby pitches and a popular children’s playground.
Mallow Racecourse, established in 1924 and massively upgraded in 1996, is now known as “Cork Racecourse at Mallow“. The venue hosts major horse races of every sort at 19 meetings a year. (Photo – www.goireland.com)
Mallow Railway Station, located just outside the town at Annabella, was opened in 1849. It is one of the largest in Ireland, and is also regarded as one of the best. It was near here that in March 1921 an IRA attempt to assassinate RIC Captain W H King resulted in the death of his wife, in revenge for which British soldiers and Black & Tans killed three railway workers – Patrick Devitt, Daniel Mullane and John Bennett. The murders prompted industrial action by the National Railworkers Union in Britain and Ireland.
Dromaneen Castle, an atmospheric C16th ruin 1.5kms west of Mallow, was the seat of the O’Callaghan Clan. Donough O’Callaghan, a leading participant in the 1641 Rebellion, forfeited the land under the Cromwellian confiscations.
Longueville House, an impressive late Georgian mansion overlooking the Blackwater River Valley, is notable for its ornate ceilings, chimneypieces, staircase and splendid Victorian ironwork conservatory.
The house was originally built in 1720 by the Longfield family, who claimed to be of French origin. Richard Longfield was created Viscount Longueville in 1795. The 500-acre wooded estate contains mature gardens and trees said to have been planted according to the lines formed by the French and British armies at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo.
Now owned by a direct descendant of Donough O’Callaghan, Longueville has been run since 1967 as a very highly regarded award-winning country house hotel with open log fires, 20 comfortable bedrooms and exceptionally good food; superb meals are served in the Presidents’ Restaurant.