Walton Court is an Irish Georgian country house dating from 1776 and incorporating a fortified tower house from 1576.
A unique historic property overlooking idyllic Oysterhaven Bay, steeped in three centuries of history and intrigue; it was home to the colourful Walton family for more than 300 years.
The earliest recorded family history of Walton Court dates from 1576, when the original fortified Tower House, stable courtyard and 1000 acre farm estate were in the ownership of the Roche family of Norman origin, who first came to the area in 1167.
In 1642 James Oge Roche was executed for treason and the small tower house overlooking Oysterhaven Bay and surrounding land is subsequently recorded in the Down Survey as being in the ownership of a David Barry.
Walton Court House, estate cottages and 297 plantation acres were later forfeited to the English Crown and the 1659 Census of the Barony of Kinnelea in the Parish of Kinure shows the property in the ownership of Captain Swithin Walton.
In 1776 his son and heir Thomas Walton remodelled the house in the Georgian style, with stonemason George Keane employing 100 local men to cut the distinctive ashlar stone blocks now facing the house. The fortified courtyard and the original tower house were incorporated into the modernisation.
Robert Walton, a descendent and brother of Helena (n. Hosford) Walton emigrated to the United States, where he was one of the founders of the Rugby Commune in Tennessee, building a wooden “replica” of Walton Court in 1881.
The Walton family archives and historical documents show that they were a colourful family, relying on smuggling brandy and silk from France to Ireland for their living, outrunning the English coastguard cutters in and out of the many local bays and inlets.
Archives also show the Walton’s involved in the relief effort during the Great Famine, distributing produce from the then farm estate and bread from the estate bakery, now restored as a cottage in the old courtyard.
The house later passed to the Cork merchant banking family of Sir Thomas Roberts through marriage.
Shortly following the death of his wife Lady Amy Roberts in 1806, Sir Thomas (1st baronet 1738-1814) of Britfieldstown Estate, Robert’s Cove, County Cork, then aged 68, unexpectedly married Anne, daughter of Thomas Walton. Lady Anne went on to have two children. a daughter and a son, Thomas Walton Roberts.
Thomas Walton Roberts, after a series of family feuds and intriguing historical twists and turns, went on to inherit the Glassenbury Estate, seat of Jane, Duchess of St. Albans’, and Walton Court, Oysterhaven.
When he came of age in 1830, Thomas Walton Roberts left Oysterhaven for Glassenbury and never returned. He never married. The dowager Lady Anne Roberts lived at Oysterhaven until her death, followed by cousins of Thomas, from the Knolles family at nearby Oatlands Cross, now sadly demolished.
Subsequent owners have included an eccentric Church of Ireland minister Reverend Harold Hadden, whose obsession with the Walton legend of smugglers tunnels under the property led him to map and excavate the land in search of buried treasure, a retired Irish tea planter from India, and two colourful retired Catholic Priests from Glasgow, who ran the local pub here.
Modern Times – Restoration
An ambitious ten year restoration project of the derelict house, stable courtyard and gardens began in 1996 with artisans from Ireland, Wales, Switzerland, England and Belgium working on the project using traditional materials, many reclaimed from now sadly lost great houses of Ireland and beyond.
The result is an eclectic mix of old and new, preserving the eccentricity and atmosphere of the old estate so loved by families, guests and friends.
Walton Court House is listed as a building of local and national historical importance, and is catalogued as one of the historic houses of Ireland, with the sympathetic and painstaking restoration attracting comment from the Irish Georgian Society, Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings and Cork County Council planners.
The distinctive stone frontage of the house carries the inscription “TW 1776” below the gable which was added by Thomas Walton following his Georgian modernisation.
The Walton family crest bears the motto “Omnia Vincit Amor” or “Love Conquers All”.