Our Archival Collections > Bantry House

NAME: Bantry House                   Descriptive List                Back to list of Collections


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Bantry Estate Collection

1671 – 1980’s


214 boxes + outsize material




BL/EP/B are the estate and family papers generated by the White/Leigh-White/Shelswell-White family of Bantry House, Bantry, Co. Cork. On the 20th May 1997 the owner of the Bantry Estate, Egerton Shelswell-White, formally donated the Archive to UCC. The archive contains the formal records regarding the legal, financial and general administration of this large house and estate over a period of 300 years, and also the more personal records relating to the lives and personalities of the family who owned the estate. However not all of the original records have survived. Due to a fire in the Estate Office in early 1900s a significant part of the original collection was lost. Principally, there are no rental ledgers for the 19th century. However there are Rental Sheets for 1840, 1856/57, 1865-1866 and 1881 which provide information for certain areas of the Estate. Similarly very few records survive for the design and development of the magnificent gardens at Bantry House. These were presumably destroyed prior to the transfer of the archive.

By the end of the 18th century the Whites held most of the land in Bantry and the Beara Pennisula, becoming the largest landowners in this part of Cork. In 1796  Richard White was instrumental in alerting the English Army Headquarters in Cork to the appearance of French ships in Bantry Bay. He gathered intelligence of the enemy’s movements, organised local resistance and opened his house, then known as Seafield, to the Army and made it their Headquarters. He was rewarded in 1797 by being created Baron Bantry. In 1801 the title Baron Bantry was advanced to Viscount and in 1815 Richard White assumed the title Earl of Bantry. Richard married Margaret Anne Hare, daughter of the 1st Earl of Listowel in 1799. It was his son who, while still Viscount Berehaven, laid the plans for the magnificent house and gardens extant today. The White family throughout the 19th century intermarried with other well known landed families including the Herberts of Muckross House, Killarney and the Guinness family of Dublin.


The Bantry Estate Collection falls naturally into two main parts. Firstly formal records regarding the legal, financial and general administration of this large Irish country house and estate. Secondly, less formal records containing personal and social information about the personalities and lives of the family who ran the estate and who shaped its orientation and character.The Collection is divided into nine sections, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I, each containing records of similar origin and content.

Section A, Estate Ownership is further divided into seven sub- sections. It begins with 1-2 Deeds of Title (Pre-White Ownership and White Ownership); 3. Wills (White Family/Associated Families), Marriage Settlements (White Family/Associated Families), and Trusts (White Family); 4. Land Sales and Transfers; 5 Legal Case Papers with counsels’ opinions, affidavits, costs and searches; 6. Re-settlement of the Estate, which included the appointment of Receivers; and finally 7. the Bantry Estates Company (est. 1964).

Section B, Estate Administration, contains financial records of the working of the Bantry Estate; rentals, leases, ledgers, tenancy agreements, accounts, sundry estates, industry within the estate; and information on the family’s two residences, Bantry House and Glengarriff Lodge. Of particular value are two rental ledgers belonging to Richard White (grandfather to the 1st Earl of Bantry) dating from 1755-1775 (BL/E/B/440 & 441). Not many employee records still survive but there are workmens’ account sheets, insurance and tax payments and some correspondence from the twentieth century.

Copious correspondence relating to the administration of the estate in the twentieth century is described in this section. The White family was assisted in the administration of their property by a succession of Agents. There is a marked absence of correspondence from the early part of the twentieth century compared to later years. There also seemed be a practise of re-using paper within the Estate office, so letters dating from 1911-1919 are found within later correspondence files from the 1950s; the reverse of a mss letter having been typed on. Where possible, this has been noted within the item description.

Also in Section B is material relating to Bantry Town, its history and the development of tourism in the area.

Estate maps and surveys complete this section. These are mainly official Ordinance Survey maps of the immediate and surrounding areas of Bantry, Glengarriff and Castletownbere. In many cases, tenancy plots are highlighted. The Collection holds a hardback book of original OS 6" maps of Cork County (West Riding) (BL/E/B/2049). However there are some unique maps; of the plowlands of Killcaskane, Barony of Beare, dating from [1655] (BL/E/B/2041); and a coloured paper map of Inchiclough Demesne dating from 1791 (BL/E/B/2042) this item in particular is a lovely example of aesthetic cartography.

Information on the two principal homes of the family, Bantry House and Glengarriff Lodge, can be found in Section B.7.

Section C, Family and Personal Papers contains those records generated by members of the White/Leigh-White/Shelswell-White families, which related to their day to day lifestyle. Letters, diaries/journals, accounts, awards, personal memorabilia, etc. are all grouped under the name of their originator/recipient and cross-referenced where necessary. Descriptions in this section are in date order and begin with the records of Richard White ([1701] – 1776) which are business orientated showing consolidation of his Estate.

Section D, Records of Associated Individuals deals with material generated by relatives or acquaintances of the White’s which for various reasons was stored in Bantry House, and became integrated with the family collection there. The Eyres of Galway and Macroom are a prominent example of a family which married into the Whites in the eighteenth century, in fact Macroom Castle was the home of William White Hedges until he became the 3rd Earl of Bantry on the death of his brother Richard White. Another such family is the Longfields of Castlemary and Mallow. As mentioned previously Margaret White married Richard Longfield in 1756, who later became Viscount Longueville. He held leases in the Bantry area. A descendant, Richard Edmund Longfield ([1843] – 1933) was made a Trustee of the Bantry Estate from 1875 by the third Earl, remaining on until Clodagh Shelswell-White came of age in 1926. One item in the Hawker section is that of a first-hand account of conditions experienced by an individual who fought in the [Crimean] War (BL/E/B/3208). It is dated Sept. 1854, and on its reverse a sketch of the position of ships, the regiments and commanders in each, and their distinguishing flags.

Other items of interest in this section; the Conferring of title Baron Ardilaun of Ashford to Sir Arthur E. Guinness (BL/E/B/3071); and the personal diaries of William Somerville of Co. Wicklow, who served in the British Army in Malta and India (1899-1909).

The section is completed with legal documents of various individuals that happened to have been preserved with the Collection.

In Section E, Official Papers are found documents relating to associations the Leigh-White/Shelswell-White families were involved in, eg – The Nursing Association; the Bantry Voluntary Aid Committee; the Scouts and Girl Guides Association; The Red Cross; the Catholic Committee for Relief Abroad and the Cork Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CSPCA).

Section F, Family History relates to research undertaken primarily by Geoffrey Shelswell-White in the 1950s on the White family and their related families through marriage – the Herberts, the Eyres, and the Hawkers. Charts, crests and family trees can also be found here.

In Section G, Maps and Plans there are general and nautical maps that do not directly relate to the running of the Bantry Estate (see Section B.11). Items of interest – a map of Cheshire, England (1748); maps of Europe, Asia, Africa and North America (1878-1802); a survey of Muckross Abbey and Burial Ground, Killarney, Co. Kerry (1908); and of Zanzibar, Europe and Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s. In the nautical section there is an interesting book of maps of the Mediterranean belonging to William 3rd Earl of Bantry from [1764] (BL/E/B/3255). The remaining maps show the coastlines of the British Isles. The second part of the section is devoted to Plans, architectural and construction.

Sketchbooks and drawings belonging to the Whites throughout the nineteenth century can be found in Section H, Printed and Pictorial Material, showing scenes and individuals from Ireland, England and Europe. Other items in this section are newspapers gathered by the family relating to them, the Estate and Irish history. A large number of photographs have been preserved, again showing the family through generations, family friends and relations and their houses. Many were not identifiable and so have been placed together, marked accordingly. There are also a large number of postcards from around the world.

Finally, in Section I, Miscellaneous, there are documents that do not directly relate to the Bantry Estate or the White family. There are a number of interesting items; a letter from Bat Sullivan to his family from Macroom, Co. Cork, whilst serving with the British Army in Portugal and Spain in 1811; and a collection of letters belonging to an individual named [London/Landon]. They include items from Disraeli, Maria Edgeworth, and Rudyard Kipling to name but a few. It is likely that it is a type of autograph collection (notably BL/E/B/3708).

Related Material: See also Cork Baronies and Cork Deeds.

See also rent & account books in the National Archives of Ireland:

M5945: Richard, Visct. Bantry - Rentals of Carbery, Bantry, Glengarriff and Clanlaurence estates, 1806-09. 1 Jan 1806-31 Dec 1809.

M5946: Richard, Visct. Bantry - account book for Bantry and Glengarriff estates, 1808-25. 1 Jan 1808-31 Dec 1825.


Access: Available by appointment with the Archives Service to holders of  UCC Readers tickets.

Language: English

Finding Aid: Descriptive List Click here for PDF (217 MB)

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Author: Emer Twomey, Archivist, UCC Library, University College Cork

Last updated: 19 August 2014

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