Historyrant's Blog

Images of Aldworth House, Newmarket

Posted in Uncategorized by historyrant on November 9, 2009

Aldworth House

Aldworth House

These are photos of Aldworth House, Newmarket.  It is presently called ‘The James O’Keeffe Memorial Institute’ but I like its original name far better.  Rather than take photos of historical importance in Cork city, I decided instead to focus on my little village.  At first glance, the photos only seem to be further evidence of past British rule in Ireland but this house holds a certain important significance in Ireland, and one could argue, world wide.  It is here thatthe first female freemason came to live in the early 18th century.  Lady Elizabeth Aldworth had been born in Doneraile, Co Crk to Lord and Lady Doneraile (the St Ledger’s).  Her father was a freemason and held, at various times, the meetings of the local lodge.  There is conflicting evidence as to how, or indeed when, Elizabeth St Ledger became a freemason herself.  From the little bit of research I have done, I found a reference to her from a freemason in the late 19th century.  By all accounts, a meeting was taking place at Doneraile whilst renovations were taking place.  Elizabeth, it was said, went to the library to read, and perchance discovered light through one of the bricks in the wall where at the other side her father and other masons were conducting a meeting.  Startled, she left the room, but was discovered by the butler who was guarding the other door.  He informed her father etc, and it was decided that she should inducted.  How true this particular account is no one will ever really know.  A few years later she married Lord Aldoworth of Newmarket.  Her grandson, Richard Aldworth and his wife (name unknown) were said to be an unusually kind landlords.  During the famine years, they set up the Fever hospital, donated funds to the building of the R.C. Church, and Lady Aldworth funded and was patroness of two Catholic primary schools: one for boys and one for girls.  This may not seem like much now but considering there were very few fatalities during the famine years in Newmarket, it wold appear that they went out of their way to help the people of town.  The village of Scarteen, some 4 miles away, certainly didn’t fair so well.  The entire village was wiped out, and nothing remains to indicate that a thriving village once existed.

2 Responses

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  1. Myself said, on November 9, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Much as I am an enthusiast for 20th century history, the Aldworths have always fascinated me. The last descendants of the family sold the house in the early 20s to nuns and it became a boarding school for girls. Some time in the 60s/early 70s, the people of Newmarket, raised enough money to buy the house for the community. However, last year the house sadly passed to the hands of I.R.D. Duhallow, in what can only be described as a clear indication of how shady government agencies operate. There was no consultation with the people of town, and when we did get wind of the rumour that trustees were about to sign over the deeds to I.R.D., none of us were given a chance to have our opinions heard. A very sad event indeed. It saddens me too, that in late 86′-87′, so much restoration was done, and now it is no longer ‘ours’ to admire if we wish. Though the inside still looks rather remarkable well, the outside is beginning to resemble offices. Notices can be seen in the windows, and an extra car park was created for workers. This beautiful building, which represents so many years, indeed centuries of Newmarket’s history, should have been preserved with the respect it deserves. I.R.D. do facilitate such a lot for the area but I suppose my love for the building overshadows the rational!

  2. dairyofanonnymoose said, on April 19, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Hi there,
    Great to see your blog. My grandmother was born in Newmarket House and left when she must have been 15. She’s called Katherine (I think, she was known as Hazel) and her older sisters were Dorothy and Susan and her younger brother John who died in WW1. His family live near Toronto.
    I’ve visited it once and St Finbarr’s in Cork in 2006 and am doing an MA in professional writing at Falmouth uni. Wondered if you may be able to help me put together a story about the women’s lives of the Aldworth family as many of the men were in the military. I’ve got documentations and there are picturesof various aldworths at my parents’s house. I never met my grandmother and my mum died 20 years ago. I descend from Elizabeth Aldworth and anthony st leger who was from Kent. Also my Dad’s side were military/political working in Kenya and, I think, Zanzibar.
    I’m a bit Jane Austen fan too. An author you may be interested in, or may have heard of, is Helen Ashton who wrote Parson Austen’s Daughter and Return to Cheltenham (dedicated to Susan Aldworth). She wrote many more books as well.
    I’ve been trying to research the female aldworth lives since 2006, living in Ireland during the famine, and what they did as English people for their Irish community. We’ve got a family Bible showing many infant deaths from the family and if I could be of any help, or you could help me with your history skills (I got E twice at O level) I’d love to hear from you.
    Best regards

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