14 September 2017

Reconnecting with houses
that tell the family stories
through the generations

No 11 Beechwood Avenue (right), where James Comerford and Stephen Edward Comerford lived at the beginning of the 20th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

While I was in Dublin earlier this week and walking along Upper Beechwood Avenue, I stopped briefly at No 11, the house where my grandfather had lived at the beginning of the 20th century, and where my great-grandfather, James Comerford, died on 14 December 1902.

A few days earlier, I had been hanging some photographs and images of family homes in two sets of frames in the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick.

The photographs personalise this room in the Rectory, adding colour and some of my own story to the house.

Each frame holds eight prints that tell the family story over the centuries.

A collection of photographs tracing the story of the Comerford family from Quemerford in Wiltshire, through Co Kilkenny and Co Wexford, to Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Collection 1:

1, Top right, Quemerford House: although the Comerford family never lived at Quemerford House, this house is main home in the village from which the Comerford family derives its name. Quemerford is a small village on the east edges of Calne in north Wiltshire.

Philip de Quemerford, sometimes recorded as Philip of Cummerford, a lawyer from Calne, was living permanently in Co Kilkenny from the beginning of the 14th century, and was attorney to John de Earleye in 1302. The last mention of the Quemerford family in the Calne area of Wiltshire is on 17 March 1344.

2, Top middle, Ballybur Castle, Co Kilkenny: Richard de Quemerford (fl 1434-1457) held his lands from James Butler, 5th Earl of Ormond and 1st Earl of Wiltshire, in 1434, and was working for the Butlers in Waterford Carlow. He appears to have been the ancestor of the Ballybur branch of the family, and many other branches of the family. Ballybur Castle was built in that century, and Richard ‘Roe’ Comerford, who inherited Ballybur Castle ca 1532.

3, Middle right, Danganmore Castle, Co Kilkenny: Richard ‘Boy’ Comerford (died 1622), younger son of Richard ‘Oge’ Comerford of Ballybur (died ca 1579/1580) and younger brother of Thomas Comerford of Ballybur, moved to Danganmore Castle by the early 1570s. Later, in France in the 18th century, Joseph Comerford claimed the head of the family held the ‘Palatine’ title of Baron of Danganmore.

4, Middle centre, Coolgreany House, Co Kilkenny: John Comerford lost Ballybur during the Cromwellian confiscations in the mid-17th century. His grandson, Richard Comerford, is said to be the first member of the family to live at Coolgreany – a farm that still remains in the Comerford family.

5, The Butterslip, Kilkenny: This Richard Comerford’s eldest son, William Comerford (ca 1692-post 1765), later moved into the Butterslip Kilkenny City after his son James Comerford married Anne Langton of the Butterslip in 1754.

6, Bottom right, The Mall House, Bunclody, Co Wexford: At the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, one line of the Comerford family of Ballybur moved from Kilkenny to the area around Newtownbarry (Bunclody), in north Co Wexford. The ancestor of the main line of this branch of the family was Edmond Comerford (ca 1722-1788), a younger son of William Comerford who moved into the Butterslip. The Comerford house later passed by marriage to the Lawler family, and at the beginning of the 20th century it was known as the Mall House. Today it is the Post Office.

7, Bottom left, No 11 Beechwood Avenue: my great-grandfather, James Comerford (1817-1902), moved from Newtownbarry (Bunclody) in the 1850s. He lived in different houses in the Clanbrassil Street area of Dublin, and was living in this house at the time of the 1901 census, when he described himself as a ‘civil servant, retired.’ He died in this house, where my grandfather was living, on 14 December 1902.

8, Bottom centre, No 2 Old Mountpleasant, Ranelagh: My grandfather, Stephen Edward Comerford (1867-1921) was born 150 years ago at 7 Redmond’s Hill on 28 December 1867. He lived at a number of houses in the Ranelagh and Rathmines area, including No 11 Upper Beechwood Avenue (1900-1905), and No 2 Old Mountpleasant (ca 1909-ca 1913), a house now incorporated in ‘The Hill,’ Ranelagh. Later, he lived at No 7 Swanville Place, Rathmines, from 1913 until his death in 1921.

A collection of images tracing the Comberford family’s links in the Lichfield and Tamworth areas, and the link with the Comerford family of Ballybur (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Collection 2:

1, Top, three images: the Lichfield District Council sign at the entrance to Comberford; the plaque erected in the Comberford Chapel at the north transept in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth by the Comerfords of Ireland, commemorating the links between the two families; and a hassock in Lichfield Cathedral that is a reminder of the recently-closed Saint Mary’s and Saint George’s Church in Comberford, with symbols of Saint Mary and Saint George, a cross and rose, which also appear on the Comberford family coat-of-arms.

2, Top right, Comberford Hall: the 15th-century, half-timbered Comberford Hall, built in 1439 by William Comberford, MP, was still standing in the late 18th century, but by 1798 it had been ‘entirely demolished’ and a new house had been built on the site by Lord Donegall, although the present house may date back earlier to about 1720.

3, Top left, Chesterfield Farm, south of Lichfield: the Comberford family held the Manor of Chesterfield from the early to the late 12th century.

4, Middle left, Comberford Manor Farm: this is a possible location for the original Comberford Hall, at the north edge of Comberford Village and close to the site of the ford across the River Tame, and the centre of the manor once owned by the Comberford family.

5, Middle right, The Moat House, Lichfield Street, Tamworth: this Tudor-era manor house was the Comberford town house in Tamworth. When the English Civil War was finally over, the Comberfords were forced to sell the house, which was bought by Thomas Fox (1622-1666), a Roundhead captain, for £160.

6, Middle Centre, artist’s image of Wednesbury Manor: This image by D. Clarke is based on an old photograph taken in the 1890s before Wednesbury Manor was demolished. Wednesbury Manor was inherited by the Comberford family by marriage from the Beaumont family.

7, Bottom left, Bradley Hall, Staffordshire: many 18th century family trees identify Richard Comerford of Ballybur with Richard Comberford, ancestor of the Comberfords of Bradley, near Penkridge. Richard was the Senior Bursar of Saint John’s College, Cambridge (1542-1544), a senior barrister, a serjeant-at-law and the King’s Remembrancer from about 1547. in 1530, his wife Dame Isabella Comberford was admitted to membership of the Guild of Saint Mary and Saint John the Baptist, which acted as the city government in Lichfield.

8, Bottom right, The Cathedral Close Lichfield: as well as the Moat House, the Comberford family may also have had a town house in Lichfield. Four successive generations of the family being admitted to the Guild of Saint Mary and Saint John, which was the effective city government of mediaeval Lichfield, and in 1530 Humphrey Comberford was Master of the Guild, a position equivalent to that of Mayor. His brother Henry Comberford was Precentor of Lichfield Cathedral. Both Colonel William Comberford and his nephew, William Comberford, fought at the sieges of Lichfield during the English civil war, defending the Cathedral Close for the Royalists. I have stayed in one of these houses in the Cathedral Close on many occasions.

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