Middleton vs. Midleton: Why is the East Cork town spelled with just one letter D?

7 June 2020
By Bryan Smyth
bryan@TheCork.ie

Middleton vs. Midleton

Did you know? there is still a person called Viscount Midleton (Lord Midleton), but first let’s consider the issue of how to spell the ‘M word’

Whenever I see the name ‘Kate Middleton‘ in the news it annoys me. This does not stem from any personal dislike of the British Royal Family. Infact, I am something of a history buff and find family histories to be of interest. My dislike of ‘Middleton’ instead is simply due to the spelling of the word. I am from County Cork, Ireland so am I used to seeing the ‘M word’ spelled as Midleton (one letter D), because there is a town here in County Cork called Midleton.

Kate Middleton pictured in Ireland

The source of the town’s name lies in the Charter issued by King Charles II in 1670. Sadly, the original document did not survive. According to Cork Historian and Tour Guide Tony Harpur, what does survive is a leather-bound manuscript copy which was made a century later in 1784. The embossed cover states that it contains the Charter of Middleton (2 letter D’s). However, the text of the charter starts by using the spelling Midleton (one letter D), but goes on to use Middleton (two letter D’s). Confusing!

The spelling of Midleton as we know it today is thanks to a peer.

In 1715 Sir Alan Brodrick (b. 1556 – d. 1728) – already a Knight – was was ‘raised to the peerage’ as Baron Brodrick of Midleton (one letter D). The ‘of Midleton’ suffix is known as ‘territorial designation’. Just 2 years later, in 1717, he was elevated again, this time to being Viscount Midleton (one letter D).

However, while we can say that the peer has one letter D, it remained the case that the town was spelled both Midleton and Middleton.

Matters came to a head in 1845 when the 5th Viscount Midleton wrote to the Postmaster General in London to complain about confusion in the delivery of post. It appears some post was incorrectly being routed to Middleton in Armagh, or Middleton near Birmingham.

The Postmaster General replied and said he had looked up the title of his correspondent and found it to recorded as ‘Viscount Midleton of Midleton in the County of Cork’. The postmaster then directed that the spelling for the Cork town for postal purposes should henceforth be Midleton only (one D), to avoid further confusion.

So, the town of Midleton got its current spelling from a peerage, rather than the opposite being the case!

Fast forward a few generations, and in 1920 a St John (pronounced as Sin Gin) Brodrick was elevated to being the Earl of Midleton.

Keen readers will have noted above that we mentioned three peerages. What became of them? The ranks of the English peerage are, in descending order, Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron. The Midleton title existed at three ranks.

What is the status of the three Midleton peerages today in 2020?

Firstly, we must state that none of the titles has any political power in Ireland today, so our mysings here arr out of historical interest only. Plus, the Brokrick family moved back to England early on; as far back as 1765, when the family seat became a stately home called Peper Harow House, in England.

  • Baron Brodrick of Midleton (created 1717 in the peerage of Ireland):
    Still exists, and is held by Alan Henry Brodrick who was born on 4 August 1949. He is the 12th Baron Midleton.
  • Viscount Midleton (created 1717 in the peerage of Ireland):
    Still exists, and is held by Alan Henry Brodrick who was born on 4 August 1949. He succeeded to the Viscount title in 1988. He is the 12th Viscount Midleton.
  • Earl of Midleton (created 1920 in the peerage of Ireland): This particular title became extinct in 1979, as the line of succession specified within it came to an end. So while one title ended the other two continued. It was a case of ‘Lord Midleton had died, long live Lord Midleton.’

The Rt Hon Alan Henry Brodrick (b. 1949) is currently President of the British Horological Institute, one article refers to him as Alan Midleton (peers often use their peerage name as their surname). He does not enjoy a seat in the House of Lords, because the automatic right to site for hereditary peers was abolished in 1999.

Coat of arms of the Viscounts of Midleton, who used the Brodrick surname. Motto ‘A cuspid corona: from a lance to a crown’. Scanned from p. 365 of ‘The Peerage of the British Empire, 13th Edition’ by Edmund Lodge, Norroy King of Arms, published in London, 1844

As was so many Irish peers the Brodrick family also have a peerage from Great Britain. So the current holder – Alan Henry Brodrick – is also styled as the 9th Baron Brodrick of Peper Harow, Co Surrey.

Why isn’t there a stately home in Midleton today?

Peers usually had stately homes in their hometowns. Many ‘big houses’ were burned in the 1920’s during Ireland’s struggle for Independence. The seat of the Midleton peerage (Surname Brodrick) was Ballyannan Castle. It is located West of Midleton, across the River Ballynadorra. It was a ruin long before the 1920’s!

The Castle was a two-storey, fortified house with an attic. In 1653, Sir John Broderick, a Cromwellian settler took possession of an existing estate and rebuilt it into a fortified Tudor mansion. Ballyannan is still the name of the townland. The lands were a reward for his military services in Cromwell’s New Model Army.

By 1752 the Brodrick family (by then holding the rank of Viscount) had left Ballyannan Castle and were managing their lands through agents. In 1782, records show the Ballyannan Castle estate was still owned by the Brodricks, in the person of George Broderick, the 4th Viscount Midleton. By 1837, the castle was said to be in ruins. The estate, which managed the Ballyannan Woods, closed in 1964.

Ballyannan Castle consists of a rectangular block, of 3 bays long and 2 storeys high, with a rectangular projection near the centre of the west wall and circular towers, with gun loops at ground floor level, at 2 corners.

Today, the remains of Ballyannan Castle are situated on the grounds of a local farm (registered in the Land Registry in the name of Richard Barry of Baneshane, Midleton, Co Cork), so the ruins of the Castle are not accessible to the public, but can be seen from a local causeway road which passes to the East of the site.

Is there any remnant of the Ballyannan estate open to the public?

Yes, you can access Ballyannan woods, which are located further North of the ruined castle. Tourism marketing group ‘Ring of Cork’ publishes a map of the wood here. The 23.23 hectare (57.40 acre) woodland was purchased by Coillte in 1980.

Looking back at the history of forestry; In 1840, the 5th Viscount Midleton followed the advice of a valuer, Charles Bailey, and established a small nursery of about ¼ acre in a wood clearing. Fruit trees and conifers were grown here until the estate closed in 1964. Despite the persistence of the site as a woodland through at least the last three centuries, the oldest trees recorded on the Coillte inventory are only estimated to date to 1830. In a 2006 Forestry Management Plan the following was written:

“Visually, however, many trees are large and appear old. Oaks (Quercus sp.) estimated by Coillte to date from 1880 line the estuary foreshore. Large old lime (Tilia sp.) trees, thought to date from 1830, line part of the drive on the northern side of the forest. There are a few relatively uncommon trees, such as a large hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and some relatively old crab apple (Malus sylvestris) trees. About a fifth of the site is dominated by sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) and/or beech (Fagus sylvatica) canopy with an open internal structure, allowing good visibility for walkers from the forest road into the forest and promoting the vernal flowers like bluebell. The shrub layer is primarily composed of patches of elder trees (Sambucus nigra), while sycamore saplings are also frequently present throughout the site. The composition of the field layer depends on the shade coming through the canopy and ranges from ivy and shadetolerant moss under heavy canopy, to thick, tall bramble under light canopy and in gaps.”

Further reading

We recently wrote about another peerage in Cork, which is still extant. Check out our article: DID YOU KNOW: There is still an ‘Earl of Cork’ also known as ‘Lord Cork’ who sits in the British House of Lords

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