Mitchelstown and Irelands Ancient East

Mitchelstown and Irelands Ancient East

Ireland is a land of rich culture, history and story’s, this land of a thousand welcomes easyily enchants visitors it could be easy to get lost in the myriad sites and places to visit however the Ireland’s Ancient East trail takes the hassle out of touring Ireland. If its history, craic agus ceoil, good food, dramatic landscapes, vivid story telling beautiful nature or stunning architecture your after, the Ancient East trail has it all for you.

Welcome to Mitchelstown, another gem along Ireland’s Ancient East. Nestled at the foot of the Galty Mountains, in the rolling pastures of the Gold Vale, Mitchelstown has a rich and engaging 6,000 year old history, ideally located close to the county borders of Cork, Limerick and Tipperary making is an ideal base for exploring the myriad activities and tourist attractions in easy reach of this bustling market town.

With world famous traditional brand names like Galtee and Dairygold as well as as newer additions of Hodgins Sausages, Eight Degrees Brewery and even Ballinwillin House’ own produce, Mitchelstown has a well established reputation as the ‘Home of Good Food’. The area has a host of delicatessens, cafes, restaurants and hotels suitable for everyones tastebuds!

Ballinwillin House & farm is the provides a tranquil and unique home from home as you explore the rich history and culture along Irelands Ancient East. Ballinwillin House has a long and interesting history, it is one of the oldest historic buildings in the area, built around 1770 by Robert Kingsborough, 2nd Earl of Kingston this elegant Georgian House and its surrounding parkland was an estate within the vast 100,000 acre Mitchelstown Estate, suitably grand enough to entice its first owner Arthur Young, the world famous agriculturalist and author. The Kingstons were one of the wealthiest and most inovative of their generation of landlords, they wanted Young to help establish Mitchelstown at the cutting edge of modern farming practices. His huge salary of £500 a year gives us a measure of his talent and capability.

Young’s travels through Ireland en route to Mitchelstown became the subjectof one of his most famous books and a valuable contemporary account of life in Ireland in the late 1700’s. His first impressions of Mitchelstown was quite favourable, saying; ‘Mitchelstown has at least a situation worthy of the proudest capital’. He was far less complimentary of the native Irish tenants of the Kingston’s he described the area as being; ‘a den of vagabonds, thieves, rioters and Whiteboys, but I can witness its being now as orderly and peaceable as any other Irish town, much owing to this circumstance of building and thereby employing such numbers of people’. He described the crowded market, where ‘ Hogs are kept in such numbers that the little towns and villages swarm with them; pigs and children bask and roll about, and often resemble one another so much, that it is necessary to look twice before the human face divine is confessed’.

Young was instrumental in reforming the estate; cutting out the inefficient and troublesome ‘middle-men’, setting up schemes to incentivise tenants to improve their holdings and become more efficient, he encouraged the planting of thousands of trees and neat hedgerows, he established the lakes, fruit trees and glass houses in the demesne as well as the ill-fated Mulberry tree plantation with a view to setting up an Irish silk industry, this went awry when the wrong silk worms were purchased. Young’s tenure in Mitchelstown came to an abrupt end when jealous relatives of the Kingsborough’s spread rumours of an alleged affair between him and the beautiful Lady Caroline, there was no truth to these but Young still had to go. He would continue to write, travel and influence modern agricultural practice for the rest of his life. His legacy of innovation and creativity at Ballinwillin House and throughout Mitchelstown can still be seen to this day.

Sadly, Mitchelstown Castle, Irelands largest private residence in its time was looted and burned during the Civil War. Hidden away in its glade of mature tree’s Ballinwillin House survived the turbulence of the Land War and subsequent times which rocked Irelands estates seeing many of its kind destroyed. Inspired by its history and with innovative ideas of their own the Mulcahy family came to establish their Red Deer, Wild Boar and rare breed farm here in 1985. As the British Isles largest producer of Venison and Wild Boar products Ballinwillin House Farm supplies many of the top restaurants and hotels at home and abroad. The wine tastings of wines produced from their Hungarian vineyards have become legendary, the perfect way to spend an evening after traveling along Ireland’s Ancient East. Tours of the farm allow visitors to get up close to the majestic Red Deer, bristly Wild Boar or the herds of rare Kerry Cattle or goats. If you prefer things a little more lively, you could join over 12,000 campers & festivalgoers for the Indiependence Music Festival on the farm each August Bank Holiday.

Once in Mitchelstown there is lots to see and do close to hand. Visit the towns many restaurants, pubs and shops for all your food, entertainment and shopping needs. Play a few rounds of golf at the Mitchelstown Golf Club, raise a racket at the Tennis Club, work out at our Leisure Centre or go for a ramble in the nearby Galtee Castle Woods or Galtee Mountains. You can follow 13.6km of the local self-guided Heritage Trail through 32 sites of historic importance in the town.

Mitchelstown Caves, Doneraile Park, the Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Centre, Ballyhass Lakes Activity Centre, Blackwater Activities, Cahir Castle & Swiss Cottage, Midleton Distillery, The Titanic Experience in Cobh, hill walking in the nearby Galtee Mountains or Ballyhouras, Fota Island Zoo and Cork City are all within close range and worth taking in while in the area. Whether your stop off in Mitchelstown is only brief or a more lengthy stay the area adds enormously to the diversity of culture, entertainment and history which you’ll encounter along Irelands Ancient East.

Arthur Young, Ballinwillin House & Mitchelstown.

“Mitchelstown has at least a situation worthy of the proudest capital”
Arthur Young, 1777

This was glowing description of Mitchelstown, as described by the world famous agriculturalist Arthur Young in 1777 on his arrival in Mitchelstown to take up the lucrative position of Land Agent or Estate Manager for the young Lord Kingsborough. Like most young gentlemen of his time, Robert Kingsborough was intent on spending his vast fortune in making his vast 100,000 acre estate at the foothills of the Galtee Mountains, the envy of all in Ireland. He needed men equal to his own imagination and enthusiasm. Arthur Young was the man for the job. Coming with the patronage of none other than King George III as well as having ‘an unquestionable knowledge in the management of estates’, he would go on to revolutionise the Mitchelstown estate and make his name throughout the British Isles as the greatest agriculturalist of his age.

He was born in 1741 at Whitehall, London, the second son of Arthur Young, who was rector of Bradfield Combust in Suffolk. After attending school at Lavenham from 1748, he was in 1758 placed in a mercantile house at King’s Lynn, Messrs. Robertson. Young’s father also died in 1759. In 1761 Young went to London and started in 1762 a magazine entitled The Universal Museum. It only ran to five editions. Following this failed venture, Young’s mother then gave him charge of the family estate at Bradfield Hall, a small property in severe debt. It was here from 1763 to 1766 that he seriously began concentrating on agriculture and modern techniques.

In 1767 Young took over a farm in Essex, at Sampford Hall, for financial reasons he had to move on in 1768, to Bradmore Farm, North Mymms, in Hertfordshire. There he engaged in experiments, describing the results in A Course of Experimental Agriculture (1770). Though the experiments were, in general, unsuccessful, he acquired a working knowledge of modern agriculture.

He toured the Kingdom of Ireland in 1776–77, publishing his Tour in Ireland in 1780. The book was subsequently republished in 1897 and 1925, but with large sections of Young’s social detail edited out

It was through this thirst for new methods and thinking along with the advantage of Royal connections that Arthur Young came into the sphere of the wealthy and ambitious Kingsboroughs. Robert and Caroline brought all their experiences on the Grand Tour of Europe to Mitchelstown when they settled in the old Kingsborough estate in 1775. They sought out the best minds of their age to improve their estate; John Webb, Capability Browns assistant was employed to lay out the new town, making it one of the best planned towns in Ireland. The displaced tenants, weren’t disgruntled at being moved they all got fine new houses, land and new tree’s. Richard Hartland, took to planting the entire estate, former patrons of his were King George III & the Marquis of Brute.

Arthur Young gives us the first real insight into the massive changes afoot in Mitchelstown at this time. He was in awe of the nearby Galtee Mountains and the abundant Golden Eagles and trout in the rivers. He was less complimentary of Mitchelstown and its tenants. He said prior to Kingsboroughs changes, Mitchelstown was ‘a den of vagabonds, thieves, rioters and Whiteboys, but I can witness its being now as orderly and peaceable as any other Irish town, much owing to this circumstance of building and thereby employing such numbers of people’. He described the crowded market, where ‘ Hogs are kept in such numbers that the little towns and villages swarm with them; pigs and children bask and roll about, and often resemble one another so much, that it is necessary to look twice before the human face divine is confessed’.

Young was to be paid £500 pounds a year, and provided with a house and land of his choosing on the estate, He was also paid £500 for signing the contract. This house and land would become Ballinwillin House. His role on the estate was to increase productivity and introduce modern farming techniques to the estate workers and tenants. His first action was to remove the Middlemen, these wealthier tenants sublet their lands in smaller parcels, this was costlier and inefficient. This initiative would prove his undoing but provide lower/fairer rents to the tenants but a stable income for the Kingsboroughs. All these projects would have made Mitchelstown a hive of activity in the late 1700’s and a place of easy employment and security. As well as building his new Palladian House, with formal gardens and a walled demesne, Kingsborough provided trees for his tenants, set up a brewery, linen mill, flax green and several corn mills.

Sadly despite these advancements, all was not peaceful in Mitchelstown. Major James Badham Thornhill, a relation of Lady Kingsborough and one of the displaced Middlemen, began a whispering campaign of an alleged affair between Young and Lady Kingsborough. Despite the falsity of the accusations, Young was dismissed. Robert must not have believed them either as he paid Young and annuity of £72 a year for life. Unsurprisingly Major Thornhill would go on to become Kingsborough’s Estate Manager. Youngs innovations and legacy in Mitchelstown was well established by now and Mitchelstown would remain a productive and prosperous estate until the recklessness of Big George’s spending in the mid 1800’s bankrupted the Kingstons.

Young returned to England and continued his work as an agriculturalist. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1774. Young was appointed secretary of the Board of Agriculture in 1793.Several of his books on England, Wales and Scotland’s agriculture were favourably received, and widely translated.

Young’s thirst for knowledge brought him to the European Continent, his first visit to France was in 1787. Travelling all over that country around the start of the French Revolution, he described the condition of the people and the conduct of public affairs at that critical juncture. His experiences of the violence of revolutionary France, tempered his own somewhat radical political leanings. He would continue to write on a myriad of topics into later life. He died in Sackville Street, London on 12 April 1820, and was buried at Bradfield Combust church

Back in Ballinwillin, Youngs House-Ballinwillin House would be taken over in the late 1800’s by Thomas Carroll, Agent or Manager with the National Bank in Mitchelstown. As well as being a prominent Banker, Carroll amassed an estate of 114 hectares in Cork and over 786 hectares in Limerick. Carroll had taken advantage of Bankrupt estates during the Famine to gain these properties. W.H. O’Sullivan M.P. described him as a ‘money lender and usurer’ in the House of Commons in 1870. The present owner, Patrick Mulcahy also spoke inn 1992 to both houses of the Hungarian parliament where Patrick was referred to as “The Right Honorable Gentleman from North Cork” Carrols wife Mrs Anna Maria Carroll would continue to live at Ballinwillin House until her death in 1904. A colourful local barrister by the name of Jim Meaghar bought Ballinwillin House from the the Carrolls at some point after this. The Thorntons would later become owners until the Mulcahy family purchased the house and farm in 1985.