Cork City

Beesborough Estate & The Pike Family

Beesborough House and Estate: The estate of Bessborough House stretches from Lakelands to Skehard Road in Blackrock, a suburb of Cork City. Little is known of the early history of the house and estate. A date on the exterior of the house suggests that the original house was built in 1760. It appears that the house was built for the Allen family, after that a Mr. J Spence bought the property in 1814 and subsequently it passed into the hands of the Bousefield family. In 1820 Joseph Pike acquired the property when it was an ordinary house with extensive lands. Either Joseph or his son Ebenezer modernized the interior of the house and over successive generations the estate was developed.

Family names such as Cox, Sargent, Coulson, Madden, Fergson, Nagle, Cragg, Addis, Pim and Sleeman may be associated with the estate in one capacity or another. The Pike’s were a Quaker family who were well known in commercial circles and ran a number of successful businesses. The Pike’s lived in the estate until the early 20th century. The Sacred Heart Order of Nuns bought the property in 1922 and the still own it today.

Beesborough House is a fine Georgian three-storey mansion, which enjoyed its best period in the mid-nineteenth century. The house has many architectural features, both internally and externally. The house has three stories with seven cut stone facing windows on each story. There is a pediment situated above the main doorway, possibly substituted for the original door case in the Victorian period. The many architectural features of the house include the staircase, fireplaces and the ornate ceilings. Two plans of the house and grounds exist for 1841 and 1901 and they highlight the changes that took place in the intervening years. Change was constantly happening in Beesborough and its estate. Significant changes took place in the ground from when they were first laid out. Each generation of the Pike family left its own individual mark on the estate. In the management of the estate during the 19th century many changes took place. The farm became more self sufficient. A new wind pump was installed to pump water to the house, emphasising self-sufficiency and economy.

In keeping with the fashion of the time a Keep was situated to the south east of the house. It was built mainly as a Folly. It is about 25ft. tall, 20ft. wide, and 15ft. in length. There is a large stone block at each corner and a small window at each side. A small arched doorway serves as an entrance, which is flanked by two small windows of the same design. Above the door are two small half size windows. Inside it there are two small rooms, which are divided by a wall. The roof has since collapsed.

Behind the Keep there was a children’s burial ground. It is not very clear as to whether it was used by the Pike’s or by the the families who once worked the estate. Since the Sacred Heart Nuns came to Beesborough in 1922, they have used it for the burial of their sisters.

Behind the Boathouse on the right hand side are five islands which are called the “Miniature Lakes of Killarney”. These were created by one of the Pike family probably during the mid 19th century. Five mini islands were artificially created and surrounded by a deep moat. Small paddleboats were said to have been stored in the nearby Boathouse and were used by the Pike Family to go boating around the islands. A number of stone bridges were built to connect the islands some of which have since collapsed. The grounds now include workshops, garden, a Heritage Centre and a crèche. The garden leads down to the shore by the Douglas Estuary and to the line where the old Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway ran.

The census for both 1901 and 1911 gives us a glimpse of life at Bessborough House in the early part of the 20th century. The two elderly Pike ladies were the last generation of Pike’s to live at Beesborough. The census reveals that Ann Emily Pike and her sister Florence Lilas Pike had ten servants to care for them. They had a visitor who was also being looked after by the servants. From the census you can see that all the servants and owners of the House were literate and all the servants were unmarried. This was considered most unusual especially when most of them were over 30 years. Possibly this could have been due to the fact that the two sisters were spinsters and that their wish could have been to keep the residence that way. In past years most of the Pike family were Quakers, but by 1911 only Florence Pike held the faith. By this year most members of the household either belonged to the Church of Ireland, Methodist or the Catholic religion. Listed in the census the servants included a butler, a cook, two housemaids, a kitchen maid, a footman and a groom. The presence of the groom indicated that horses must have been kept in the grounds.

By 1917 Florence Pike was dead and her sister Ann Emily died in 1920. The connection of the Pike Family with the estate was now severed. In 1922 the house was sold to the Sacred Heart Sisters.

Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus & Mary: This order was founded in France in 1851. Twenty years later the order had established itself in England and came to Ireland in the early 20th century. The Bishop of Cork at the time was Rev. Dr. Cohalan and he invited them to Cork. After purchasing the estate a chapel, maternity hospital and dormitory were added which reflected the work done by the order since coming to the city. They also started an adoption service and a service for unmarried mothers over a few decades. Since the early 1990s the order has created the Cork Heritage Park on the grounds of the estate. Much of the buildings and land were under utilised and the order with the support of a local committee, created a Heritage Park, which transformed the old estate including many of the old farm buildings. The Park encompasses five separate sections illustrating essential aspects of the local environment and maritime history, the activities of the Pike family, a fire museum and local railway history.

The Pike Family: The Pike family came from Newbury in Berkshire. Richard Pike was a soldier in Cromwell’s army and he arrived in Ireland in 1663. He married Elizabeth Jackson daughter of J. Jackson of London in 1665. He was in charge of Sarsfields Court Glanmire. It is unsure whether Richard was in charge of the garrison or holding onto the lands while waiting for a grant. Edward Burroughs convinced Richard to become a Quaker. After his conversion he was discharged from the army and his lands at Sarsfield Court were confiscated. Richard then moved to a farm in Kilcrea. Nine years later he ceased farming to try his hand as a shopkeeper in Cork. Richard had three sons, Joseph (1657-1729), Richard (1659-1738) and Ebenezer (1662-1724). All three men became Freemen of the City during their lifetime because of their contribution to the commercial life of the city. The family prospered in business and some of their enterprises included the Cork Steamship Company and the Pike’s Bank, which was a continuation of Hoare’s Bank and was sited at Hoare’s Lane now Adelaide Street. They owned a linen-Draper shop and also were involved in railway development. Nearly all the early Pike’s were Quakers. This religious sect was very unpopular in the 17th century; almost all were of English birth and were either old soldiers or officers in Cromwell’s “New Model Army”. Even though successful in business they were not accepted as part of the establishment because they refused to take the oath in a court of Justice. The Quakers were treated very harshly, but still the faith spread rapidly throughout Ulster, Leinster and Munster.

Joseph Pike:  He was the eldest son of Richard, born in Kilcrea; he came to Cork as a young boy with his father. Starting adult life as a trader in the city, specialising mainly in wool. Travelling to Minehead near Bristol in England he continued here to deal in wool and other goods. He married Elizabeth Rodgers in 1682 and soon after this he went into partnership with his brother Richard and opened a linen drapery shop, which was the first of its kind in Cork. His growing prosperity reflects the importance of a good marriage in those days and family connections helped his business to prosper. At the age of 25 he was High Sheriff for four years. He established himself as a banker because of his links to Joseph Hoare, to whom he was related through marriage. By the time of his death he owned property in the Marsh area, the North Main Street and the North Mall. Joseph fathered 14 children, only one surviving to adulthood. Most of his children died at an early age presumably as a result of disease such as cholera, T.B. or smallpox. Joseph Pike was a man of understanding, sound judgement and helped the weak, but he was against the stubborn and the high minded. In 1708 he published two books “The Last Supper” and “Treatise on Baptism” at his own expense.

It is interesting to note that Joseph and his brother Ebenezer married two sisters Elizabeth and Mary Rodgers. This was possibly to maintain the Quaker religion and also because the Rodgers family were wealthy.

Ebenezer Pike inherited the house from his brother Joseph. He died in 1883, leaving seven daughters, five of whom married, and an estate valued at £168,000 (a fortune in that time). Ebenezer’s two unmarried daughters both remained in the house until heir own deaths; Florence died in 1917 and Anne Emily in 1920. The house was then sold ending the Pike family’s relationship with Bessborough.

Leave a Reply