As this year is the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, our previous post looked at some Midleton men who served during the Peninsular War and at Waterloo. One of the reasons that many locals enlisted was the fact that they had a military barracks on their doorstep. During the Napoleonic Wars Midleton was teeming with soldiers of different nationalities, many stopping off on their way to and from the Iberian Peninsula where they were taking on French forces. We are very fortunate that the building these men were housed in still survives today- and forms a key part of what is now the Jameson Distillery. We have spent some time looking into the history of this Barracks, and some of the very interesting units that spent time there.
The barrack building within the Midleton complex did not spend long in army use. In fact it had already become a distillery by 1825, when it was purchased by the Murphy Family. It still forms a major part of the Jameson Experience tour, where visitors can view the impressive cast-iron waterwheel that dates to 1852. Neither did this building start life as a purpose-built army structure. It was constructed in 1793 to serve as a woollen mill, run by the Lynch family. With the renewed outbreak of war with France in 1803, and the army’s need for more accommodation around Cork Harbour, the mill was sold to the military. So began its brief but fascinating life as a military barracks. Remarkably, during the course of research, we discovered the original advertisement for the sale of the equipment from the Mill building, which you can see below. (1)
We were interested in exploring just who served in Midleton during the conflict. In order to ascertain this with some degree of surety it would become necessary to travel to archives in locations such as the Public Record Office in Kew, to extract details concerning the British garrison in Ireland. This is (unfortunately!) currently beyond the scope of the project, but as an alternative we took to contemporary newspapers and a number of online sources to see if we could discover references to the types of troops stationed in the town. Although newspaper accounts have to be treated with caution, they nonetheless do give us an insight into the important military hub that Midleton became during this period. Indeed the first references to troops we come across relate to increased militarisation as a result of the 1798 Rebellion. To give a flavour of this information, we have created a table which chronologically lists the references we have uncovered:
|Carlow Militia||1798||Stationed in Midleton (2)|
|Caithness Highlanders||1798||Public Meeting, 12 March, to express thanks to Regt for 2 years quartered there (3)|
|Barrymore Legion||1803||Entertained at Midleton’s Globe Inn following manoeuvres in the Deerpark of Castlemartyr (4)|
|96th Regiment||1804||No details (5)|
|62nd Regiment||1805||The regiment, quartered in Midleton, was to embark for foreign service. Convoy of HMS Narcissus, Sloops of War Favourite and Argus (6)|
|8th Regiment||1805||Marched from Cobh to Midleton, and embarked on transports at East Ferry (7)|
|50th Regiment||1805||Understood to be marching to Midleton from Clonmel (8)|
|German Regiments||1806||15 transports arrived in Cobh to take some of the German Regts, 2 battalions understood to be in Midleton, for embarkation to Gibraltar (9)|
|Hanoverian Rifle Corps||1806||The 2 battalions of Hanoverian Rifle Corps who had been at Tullamore are marching for Midleton where they will be quartered until transports arrive to take them with the 59th and 82nd Regiments, presently in Cork, for foreign service (10)|
|Donegal Regiment||1807||The remainder of the Donegal Regiment marched into Cork from Midleton (11)|
|26th Regiment, 3rd Battalion||1808||The 3rd Battalion of the 27th Regiment arrived at Midleton (12)|
|71st Regiment||1808||Quartered in Midleton (13)|
|27th Regiment||1808||3rd Battalion of 27th Regiment embarked at East Ferry from Midleton (14)|
|German Corps, Duke of Brunswick Oels||1810||Arrived from Jersey and Guernsey, light troops landed at Cobh and proceeded to Midleton (15)|
|Kerry Militia||1811||Earmarked to replace Longford Militia at Midleton (16)|
|Longford Militia||1811||To be replaced by Kerry Militia at Midleton (17)|
|Roscommon Militia||1813||Arrived in Cobh in ten transports from Plymouth, disembarked and marched to Midleton (18)|
|Londonderry Militia||1813||Marched into Cobh from Midleton to head for Ramsgate (19)|
|28th Regiment||1814||Reports 28th are ordered from Birr to Midleton preparatory to sailing for service in America (20)|
|34th Regiment, 2nd Battalion||1814||No details (21)|
|3rd West York Militia||1814||Marched into Cobh from Midleton to go to England (22)|
|26th Foot||1822||Stationed in Midleton (23)|
Some of the men station in Midleton even left an account of their views on the barracks and the town. Lieutenant Francis Simcoe of the 27th Regiment recorded in 1808 that ‘Middleton Barracks are much larger & handsomer than Enniskillen, the town very small & neat about 7 m. from Kilworth.’ (24)
Two of the units that stand out among those we know to have been quartered in Midleton are the Hanoverian Rifle Corps in 1806 and the Brunswick Corps of the Duke of Brunswick Oels in 1810. The Hanoverian Rifle Corps (who are the same unit as the ‘German units’ in the previous table entry) were better known as the King’s German Legion, an expatriate force of Germans who fought throughout the Napoleonic Wars and at Waterloo. The Brunswick men had fought in Germany from where they had fled in 1809, and were known as the ‘Black Brunswickers‘. They were passing through on their way to service in the Peninsula and ultimately Waterloo. Many of the other regiments of foot would later develop names that are familiar to us today- the 71st Foot were known as the Highland Regiment, while the 50th Regiment of Foot would become known as the ‘Queen’s Own’ later in the 19th century.
It is interesting to note that troops used Midleton as a staging area while heading to or returning from theatres such as the Peninsula. Also of note is that a number embarked from East Ferry; one can imagine the bustling route from Midleton to the Ferry, via the busy port at Ballinacurra- surely quite a sight during the Napoleonic Wars. This quick newspaper review offers us just a glimpse of the hidden history of the brief period when Midleton served as an important military base. There is little doubt that many other units were stationed here during this period, and that much historical detail remains to be uncovered. We hope to carry out more much more work on this in the future, and in the meantime would like to hear from any readers who can add to the story of Midleton’s Napoleonic Barracks. Although, as the table shows, military units would continue to use Midleton both before and after the Napoleonic Wars, the town would never again see the cosmopolitan military traffic that it grew accustomed to during the wars with France. Shortly after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo, the British Army sought to reduce the number of barracks it held around the country. Although there is some evidence to suggest they may have initially considered keeping Midleton, ultimately it appears they decided to offload it, as the advertisement below suggests. By the 1820s it would become part of a new story, one that it still shares with locals and tourists alike today, as part of what would ultimately become one of the world’s major whiskey distilleries.
(1) National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Record; (2) Online History of Carlow Militia; (3) Aberdeen Journal 24th March 1800; (4) Cork Mercantile Chronicle 17th October 1803; (5) 96th Regiment of Foot, Wikipedia, drawing on National Archives records; (6) Belfast Newsletter 25th April 1805; (7) Finns Leinster Journal 11th May 1805; (8) Hibernian Journal 24th December 1805; (9) Belfast Newsletter 15th May 1806; (10) Caledonian Mercury 13th October 1806; (11) Hibernian Journal 8th July 1807; (12) Finns Leinster Journal 16th August 1808; (13) Online Record of Service of 71st Foot; (14) Mary Beacock Fryer 1996 “Our Young Soldier”: Lieutenant Francis Simcoe, 6 June 1791- 6 April 1812, pp. 95-6; (15) Freemans Journal 5th June 1810; (16) Freemans Journal 20th November 1811; (17) Ibid.; (18) Freemans Journal 30th April 1813; (19) Freemans Journal 3rd November 1813; (20) Centinel of Freedom 11th October 1814; (21) Online Record of Service of 34th Foot; (22) Freemans Journal 12th May 1814; (23) The Naval and Military Magazine, Volume 4, 1828, p. 56; (24) Fryer, op. cit.;
This is excellent stuff – an important part of Midleton’s history that very few people know about! The government bought Marcus Lynch’s Woollen Mills for about £20,000! This was a staggering sum at the time – sadly Lynch was unable to pay off all his creditors and he later died in poverty in Paris. When the barracks were sold off by the government following the Battle of Waterloo, they were bought by Charles Brodrick, Archbishop of Cashel in the Established Church (Church of Ireland) and brother of the then Viscount Midleton. Brodrick actually lived at Cahermone House, in sight of the mills/barracks! Sadly, Cahermone is long demolished. Brodrick paid only a fraction of the price the government had originally paid to purchase Lynch’s mills. The sale of the mills to the Murphy brothers in 1824/25 was more lucrative, I believe.
One item in the post is very amusing – someone got Midleton mixed up with Mitchelstown! Midleton is NOT a mere ‘7 m'(miles) from Kilworth – but I suspect this is the distance from Kilworth to Mitchelstown! I have actually had a similar experience of people being confused by my address recently Midleton is still mixed up with Mitchelstown – nice to know some standards (of confusion) are maintained two centuries later!. It is also nice to know that the writer of the piece recognized the quality of the local building work!
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