The Irish Family of de Bathe

The Irish Family of de Bathe

by Joseph Henry Bath, June 1835.


The Gentleman’s Magazine

Pt. 2, 1835

Pgs. 375 – 377


      Mr. Urban, Dublin, June 16.

    In the Gentleman’s Magazine for April 1803, p. 305, (see below) is an engraving of an old mansion called Barton House, in North Tawton, Devon, accompanied by a very brief letter, stating the correspondent could give no information about its ancient possessors. For the reasons which I am about to mention, I think it not unlikely but that the place alluded to by your correspondent was Bathe House (which being in the Barton of Bathe, he calls Barton house), the ancient seat of the family of Bathe, or De Bathe, "which name (says Harris, in his Biog. Brit. vol. i. p. 1633 the family either took from or left unto an ancient seat of that name called Bathe-house (in the parish of North Tawton, in the heart of the county of Devon), the principle place of the family’s residence, where we find it of so long standing, that our author says (Danmonii Oriental Illust. p. 50), it ran so very far back that he could not trace out and overtake the original thereof."

    Of this family was Sir Henry de Bathe, Chief Justice of England about the middle of the thirteenth century, whose tomb in Christ Church, Oxford, is the second in point of antiquity there, (See the Tomb of Henry de Bathe) and whom and his quarrel with King Henry the Third, Harris gives a long account,- that the King was so much exasperated to see de Bathe likely to be acquitted upon his trial, he mounted his throne and with his own mouth made proclamation as follows: "If any man will slea (slay) Henry de Bathe, he shall not be impeached for his death, for I do here plainly declare him acquit and guiltless for the same." (Holinshed, vol. i. p. 244.) But after this, the King again took him into favour, and even promised him to the Chief Justiceship. Of this family was Hugo de Bathe (from whom I am descended), who settled at a very early period in this country, where he obtained several extensive grants of land in the counties of Meath and Dublin; and it appears on the record that his descendant Mathew de Bathe obtained a grant from Edward the Third, of the manor of Rathfeigh, in the county of Meath, with the advowson of the church of the same, "as heretofore granted by Hugh de Lacy." The same individual obtained the custody of the King’s manor of Leixlip. He died in 1350, leaving John de Bathe his son and heir, who obtained a confirmation from the crown of the same manor and advowson. He was chief magistrate of Dublin, and became possessed of the manor of Drumcondra, near this city. James Bath was Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer in 1547. He died in 1572. His son John was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and died in 1586. His eldest son William was second Justice of the Common Pleas; but dying in 1599 without issue, the estates reverted to his next brother John, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, who died in 1634, and was succeeded by his eldest son James, whose eldest son Luke was created a Baronet at the Restoration, and in both Acts of Settlement were contained provisos for his restoration to his estates, which the then Duke of York (afterwards James II.) claimed under a proviso in the first Act of Settlement, vesting in him `The Regicides’ Lands,` meaning those which had been `possessed by Oliver Cromwell and 67 others therein named as regicides`; but although it appears by the report of the then Earl of Anglesley, that none of Sir Luke’s estates had ever been possessed by any of the said regicides, yet he was at length obliged to yield to the great power of the Duke, and to accept from him a lease of 99 years (which expired in 1767), at a pepper-corn rent of only one of his estates (Athcarne, county of Meath, containing 1200 acres), and to give up all his other estates, Drumcondra, Glassnevin, Ballybough, Balgriffin, Clontarf, Baldoyle, &c. co. Dublin, Laudenstown, &c. co. Kildare, besides valuable property in Dublin and Drogheda. Sir Luke died in 1672, leaving an only son Sir Peter who died without issue. Sir Luke had three brothers who survived him, his next brother, John, died unmarried; his second brother, Peter, was the grandfather of my grandfather, his youngest brother, Andrew, died without male issue. I have a full account and pedigree complete of the family, from the time of their settling here; but lest it should be deemed by you as not possessing sufficient public interest, I shall not trouble you further with it.

      Harris gives an account of William Bathe, an Irish author, who was born in 1564, and died in 1614. (Note: This is William Bathe, eldest son and heir of the family estates and one of Elizabeth I's courtiers, who ran off to Spain and became a Jesuit Priest. He renounced his rights to his brother John. Joseph Henry appears to be covering up part of the family's adherence to the Catholic religion.) He dedicated one of his works to his uncle Gerald Fitz-Gerald, Earl of Kildare. In a note, he (Harris) gives a list of the several branches of the Baths of Ireland, and a brief account of them, but he mistakes in representing Luke and Sir Luke to be two different persons, owing to the circumstances of his having been created Baronet between the time of passing the first and second Acts of Settlement. Sir Luke was then the representative of the Baths of Drumcondra, being the eldest branch, but Harris states it to be a distinct branch; so that instead of eight branches which he sets out, there were but six. There are now but two, Drumcondra and Knightstown. The former represented by myself, and the later (including Cashel and Morlon, as stated in Harris) by Sir William Plunket de Bathe, whose father James Michael Bath, on being created Baronet in 1801, re-assumed, by the King’s sign manual, the ancient family name of de Bathe, after its fallen into disuse for upwards of three centuries. The Athcarne estate (co. Meath), on failure of male issue in that branch in 1620, came back by settlement to the eldest branch. In the Dublin Penny Journal (No. 28, vol. 1.) there is given the view of Athcarne Castle, with an account of it; and in No. 12 is a view of the wooden house in Drogheda, built in 1570 by Nicholas Bathe and taken down in 1824.

    The writer of the article on Athcarne Castle is mistaken in stating that Knightstown, the property of Sir William de Bathe, has been so long possessed by the family, for it was not until about the year 1610 that his ancestor Thomas Bath became seized of it. The families of Knightstown and of Athcarne were both younger branches of the Baths of Drumcondra, near this city, which from the year 1350 they made their chief seat of residence. On the failure of the male issue in the Athcarne branch in 1620, that property, by family settlement, re-verted back to the Drumcondra line, from which I am descended.

    Sir Peter Bath was married to Margaret Talbot, the niece of Richard Talbot, the favourite of King James, subsequently created him Duke of Tyrconnel, and appointed him Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Through this influence the King, even before he had repealed the Act of Settlement, restored Sir Peter to his estates. Upon the death of Sir Peter without issue, his cousin-german (the son of his uncle Peter) James Bath, my great-grandfather, became entitled to the estates as heir at law; but the widows of Sir Luke and Sir Peter thereupon, in 1693, betrayed the possession to the Crown, and set up the ninety-nine years’ lease before-mentioned, which was allowed in 1700 by the trustees of forfeited estates. It was sold in 1703 to Mr. Somerville (subject however to the lease), as part of the private estate forfeited by King James.

Joseph Henry Bath.

Circa. 1796

The Gentleman’s Magazine, or Monthly Intelligencer. London: April, 1803. p.305.

Barton House, Devon
March 26th

Mr Urban

According to my promise, I send you the sketch (Plate I, fig. 1.) of Barton house, in North Tawton, Devon. I can gain little information about its antient [sic] possessors; indeed none that would be at all interesting to any of your readers. The house had formerly a right wing, which was cut down about 50 years ago.


Note: Joseph Henry Bath was mistaken. The building pictured above is actually that of "Cottles Barton" otherwise known as "The Barton". It lies just to the north of the present day De Bathe property. It was built in 1567, probably by Mark Cottle and has no relationship to the De Bathe family. For reference see "The Book of North Tawton" , Alison Baker, David Hoare and Jean Shields, Halsgrove 2002.