Ref NoLE7
TitleBlake of Ballyglunin Papers
DescriptionThe content of this collection barely relates to the Blakes of Ballyglunin but rather to the ffrench family of Rahasane. Four diverse items represent the Blakes in the form of a letter book, rent account book, printed lease and scribbling diary. The letter book of Pierce Joyce portrays the extensive trade of one of Galway's leading merchants in just one fortnight in February 1778. The rent account book of John Blake records the administration of part of the Ballyglunin estate, during the minority of his nephew Martin J. Blake. Only part of these two items has survived.

The papers generated by the ffrench family are more coherent and reflect the financial difficulties of some land owning families, even before the Great Famine. They include legal papers, accounts and letters. Letters from Brabason Browne, attorney, comprise the main part of the collection and include letters to Robert J. ffrench, Mrs. Ffrench, James Smyth and others. The letters relate to Robert J. ffrench's legal and financial affairs and to the settlement of his debts over a period of thirteen years. They give an insight into the relationship between a landlord and his legal representative. B. Browne often writes that his standing in Dublin business circles was frequently discredited by Robert J. ffrench's treatment of him. B Browne was also legal advisor to Charles, 2nd Lord Clanmorris and may have become involved in Robert J. ffrench's affairs after Robert J. ffrench's marriage to Lord Clanmorris' sister. There are also some personal letters to Lady Clanmorris from her sons and nephews.

Conservation note: most of the papers in this collection are in a delicate state. Many of the items have been damaged by hydrolysis and should be handled with great care.
Extent124 items
ArrangementThis collection has been divided into two main sections relating to the Blakes and the ffrenches. The section of ffrench family papers had been divided into five sub-sections, relating to the legal case with the Hennessy family over lands inherited in County Cork from the Nagle family, financial statements with the Clanmorris family; letters; accounts and miscellaneous items. The letters subsection had been further divided into business and family letters and arranged according to the individual recipient.
Administrative HistoryDuring the 18th century the Blake family of Ballyglunin, County Galway, used their merchant wealth to buy and lease lands and by the early 19th century they had built up an extensive estate. Although part of the landed gentry they continued in business and lent money to a wide circle of the Galway merchant families.

Edmund Blake of Ballyglunin married Mary ffrench of Rahasane in 1724. Their son Martin Blake married Bridget, daughter of Walter Joyce of Merview, Galway in 1751. Bridget's brother, Pierce Joyce, was one of Galway's leading merchants and acted as agent to Edmund Blake. Martin and Bridget Blake had four sons, the second son, Walter, married Mary Archdeacon in 1789. When Walter Blake died in 1802, his brother John represented the interests of Walter's son, Joseph Martin Blake, during his minority. Martin Joseph Blake died unmarried in 1861 and Ballyglunin passed to his nephews.

The ffrench family of Rahasane, near Craughwell, County Galway was a Catholic land owning family, a junior branch of the ffrench family of Monivea. They bought Rahasane from the Geoghegans in 1671 and the lands of Cummer and Cargins in 1675 and 1737 respectively. In 1758 Robert ffrench consolidated the family's fortune further, by marrying Elizabeth Nagle. The Cork Evening Post of 9 February 1758 described her as 'an agreeable lady with a fortune of £12,000'. She was a sister of Nano Nagle, who brought the Ursuline nuns to Ireland and founded the Presentation Order. Another sister Mary, married Pierce Nagle of Annakissy, County Cork and it was their grandson Pierce Creagh, who became agent to the County Cork estates of the second cousin, Robert Joseph ffrench. Robert J ffrench's father had inherited these estates from his uncle Joseph Nagle, who died in 1813, leaving his Irish property to his nephew and his English property to Charles Joseph Chichester, husband of his niece Honora ffrench.

Despite making advantageous marriages, the ffrenches of Rahasane borrowed heavily in the latter half of the eighteenth century and early part of the nineteenth century and the estate became encumbered with many debts. In each of the last two generations of the family there was only one son and several daughters to be provided for. Not long after inheriting Rahasane from his father Robert J. ffrench senior, Robert J. ffrench junior married the Hon. Maria Letitia Bingham, daughter of John, 1st Baron Clanmorris and sister of 2nd and 3rd Barons Clanmorris. Their married life appears to have been beset by financial difficulties and these are documented in a series of letters from Robert J. ffrench's lawyer, Brabazon Browne. Robert J. ffrench became heavily indebted to James Smyth of Masonbrook, near Loughrea, who bought the mortgaged Cummer estate in 1828. Patrick Melvin also records that the Lynches of Barna obtained a judgement of £4,000 against Robert J. ffrench and that he had borrowed £25,000 in 1829, £10,000 for his own use and £15,000 for the use of his sisters by mortgaging his estates to John, 1st Lord Clanmorris.

Robert J. ffrench made his will on 5 April 1831 and died in May. His wife died the following year in Florence, Italy. They had no children. Henry Blake, brother of Martin Blake of Balluglunin and other creditors of Robert J. ffrench filed a bill against his two sisters, Frances ffrench and Elizabeth Power, in the Court of Chancery which eventually ordered that the estate be sold. It was sold on 29 April 1846 to Thomas Joyce, grandson of Pierce Joyce of Merview. Henry Blake is described as 'of Rahasane' in the Tuam Herald of 4 May 1844, so it is likely that he lived there before the sale to Thomas Joyce and this may be how these papers relating to the ffrenches of Rahasane came to be in Ballyglunin. Thomas Joyce was forced to sell Rahasane in the Encumbered Estates Court in 1871. It was bought by Walter Bourke of Curraghleagh House, in the parish of Kilcolman, County Mayo, who was murdered outside the entrance to Castle Taylor, Ardrahan, County Galway in 1882. The house burned down in 1896.

John Bingham, 1st Baron Clanmorris married Anna Maria, only daughter of Barry Yelverton, 1st Viscount Avonmore in 1791. They had two sons who became the 2nd and 3rd Barons Clanmorris and five daughters, the eldest of whom married Robert J. ffrench. The Lady Clanmorris referred to throughout this collection is the widow of John 1st Lord Clanmorris, she died in 1865 aged 88, many years after her daughter Mrs. ffrench.
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