Monday, 25 March 2013

(19) Acton (later Ball-Acton) of Kilmacurragh alias West Aston


Acton coat of arms
© Jimmy Nicolle CC licence

Thomas Acton (d. 1671) (whose presumed relationship to the Actons of Aldenham has never been established, although the family used the same coat of arms; a possible link is suggested here) went to Ireland with the army in 1640 and leased Bog Hall at Ballyshannonbeg (part of the later estate).  By 1716 his grandson, Thomas Acton (d. 1750) was established at Kilmacurragh (also known as West Aston until the 19th century), where he built the centre of the present house.  The property then descended from father to son to Thomas Acton (1826-1908), who created an important garden with the assistance of David and Sir Fredrick Moore, directors of the Botanic Gardens in Dublin.  On his death, the estate passed in quick succession to two of his nephews, both killed in the First World War, and then to Charles Acton (1914-99), who inherited at the age of two and later became the literary critic of the Irish Times.  He sold it in 1944.  

Charles Ball-Acton (1830-97), a younger son of Lt-Col. William Acton (1789-1854), owned Syddan (Meath) and Eggington House (Beds); Charles Acton (1914-99) also lived at Stradbrook House, Blackrock (Dublin).

Kilmacurragh, Wicklow

Kilmacurragh House before the addition of the wings.

The five bay, two storey pedimented centre of the present house was built on a new site for Thomas Acton (d.1750), traditionally in 1697 and to the designs of Sir William Robinson (1645-1712).  However it would seem that Acton did not acquire the lands on which the house was built from the Parsons family until 1716, and the house looks more likely to date from the 1720s or 1730s.  

Kilmacurragh House, probably in the 1930s. Image: Terence Reeves-Smyth

Kilmacurragh House in 2006. Image: Terence Reeves-Smyth.

Col. William Acton (1789-1854) added the single-storey two bay wings in 1848, and his son Thomas created an important garden with the assistance of David and Sir Fredrick Moore, directors of the Botanic Gardens in Dublin.  The house was leased in the 1930s to Charles Budina, a German who used it as an hotel where various Nazi gatherings were held before the War, and it was finally sold in 1944.  It served a variety of uses in the 1950s and 1960s but became ruinous after a fire in 1978.  In 1996 the house and arboretum were purchased by the Office of Public Works and the shell of the house has been partially stabilised.  The grounds are open to the public as an arboretum. In 2016 plans were announced for the restoration of the house when funds permit.

Descent: Thomas Acton (d. 1671); to son Thomas Acton (1655-1750); to son William Acton (1711-79); to son Thomas Acton (1742-1817); to son Lt-Col. William Acton (1789-1854); to son, Thomas Acton (1826-1908); to nephew, Maj. Charles Annesley Acton (1876-1915); to brother, Maj. Reginald Thomas Annesley Ball-Acton (1877-1916); to son, Charles Ball-Acton (later Acton) (1914-99), who sold it in 1944...sold 1996 to Office of Public Works.

Syddan House, Meath

Syddan House. © National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

A three bay two storey Classical house, built c.1880 for Col. Charles Ball-Acton, but still maintaining a Regency look.  It is built of limestone rubble with red brick surrounds to the windows, and was no doubt originally rendered.  In the centre is a round-arched stone doorcase with carved keystone and fanlight above.  The setting of the house is enhanced by the wrought- and cast-iron entrance gates and by the stone outbuildings.


Eggington House, Bedfordshire

Eggington Hall in 2009.

Eggington House in Bedfordshire is an unassuming but extremely attractive house, believed to have been built for a Huguenot, John Renouille alias Reynal (fl. 1696-1722), who after being forced to flee Montauban in France following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, became a prosperous tailor in London. The date traditionally ascribed to the house is 1696, but there seems to be nothing to support this, and both stylistically and on the grounds of the limited archival evidence a date in the 1710s seems much more probable. A property consisting of two houses and about 60 acres of land at Eggington seems to have been bought by Reynal from Richard Andrews between 1710 and 1717, and the building of the present house probably followed shortly afterwards. It had definitely been built by 1728, when it was depicted on a survey plan of the estate. It is a three-storey house of brick with a panelled parapet with urns; the entrance front has seven closely-spaced segment-headed windows and a central door-hood carried on carved brackets, while the garden front has five bays, more widely-spaced. Inside, the house is panelled throughout and has four main rooms on each floor; the drawing room has shell-headed niches. The fine staircase has three twisted balusters per step. The house has been almost continuously let since it was built, which may have preserved it from later alterations. It was restored by Mr & Mrs J.L. Hodgson, tenants from 1918, and again by later 20th century owners. Sir Albert Richardson, who was a friend of the Hodgsons, greatly coveted the house, which he admired because it was so unspoilt.


Eggington House: drawing room in 2009.


Descent: John Renouille alias Reynal (fl. 1696-1722); to son, John James Reynal (1714-62); to son, John Sayer Weale Reynal (1749-84); to widow, Sarah (1749-1835), later wife of Col. Francis Moore (1746-1810); to nephew, Millard Adams (1792-1871); to son, John Warner Adams (1823-1903); to son, John James Reynal Adams (1848-1909) who left the house in trust for his housekeeper, Sarah Mann (d. 1925); to Groom Cooper Bunker (1857-1932); to children, who sold 1950 to Sir Gilbert Inglefield (1909-91); sold 1976 to Gordon Slynn, Baron Slynn of Hadley (1930-2009); to widow, Odile, Lady Slynn, who sold 2010 to Olivier and Suzie Garrigue. The tenants including Charles Ball-Acton (1830-97) and Mr & Mrs John Lawrence Hodgson (fl. 1918-36).

The Actons of Kilmacurragh

For portraits of several members of the Acton family, see here.

Acton, Thomas (d. 1671).  Only son of Thomas Acton, a soldier in Cromwell's army, who settled at Bog Hall, Ballyshannonbeg (Wicklow).  He married Alice Coventry and had issue:
(1) Thomas Acton (q.v.).
He inherited the estate at Ballyshannonbeg in co. Wicklow from his father.
He died in 1671.

Acton, Thomas (fl. late 17th cent.) Only known son of Thomas Acton (d. 1671).  He married and had issue:
(1) Thomas Acton (d. 1750) (q.v.).
He inherited the estate at Ballyshannonbeg in co. Wicklow from his father in 1671.
He died at an unknown date before 1697.

Acton, Thomas (d.1750).  Only son of Thomas Acton (fl. late 17th cent.).  He married Elinor (d.1747), daughter of Col. Nicholas Kempston of Dunmurry (Cavan) and had issue:
(1) William Acton (1711-79) (q.v.); 
(2) Grace Acton, m. Thomas Ball of Sea Park (Wicklow), barrister; 
(3) Elinor Acton, m. Rev. John Blackford DD (d. 1748); 
(4) Alice Acton, m. her cousin, Henry Kempston.
He acquired the estate of Kilmacurragh (Wicklow) in 1716, also known until 19th century as West Aston, and built the central portion of Kilmacurragh House.
He died 2 January 1750.

Acton, William (1711-79). Only son of Thomas Acton (d. 1750) and his wife Elinor (d.1747), daughter of Col. Nicholas Kempston of Dunmurry (Cavan); born 1711.  Educated at Trinity College, Dublin (admitted 1726). He was Keeper of Writs in the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland and Serjeant of the Coif.  He married 2nd?, 4 March 1756, Jane, daughter of William Parsons and granddaughter of Sir William Parsons of Birr Castle (Offaly) and had issue:
(1) William Acton, dsp; 
(2) Thomas Acton (1742-1817) (q.v.)
(3) Martha Acton, died unmarried and without issue; 
(4) Maria Acton (d. 1837), m. 1783, Thomas Walker (d. 1837) of Tykillen (Wexford), Master in Chancery; 
(5) Jane Acton (d. 1794), died unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Kilmacurragh (Wicklow) estate from his father in 1750.
He died in 1779, aged about 68.

Acton, Thomas (1742-1817).  Only surviving son of William Acton (1711-79) and his 1st wife, born 1742.  He married 1780 Sidney, daughter of Joshua Davis of Dublin, barrister and had issue:
(1) Lt-Col. William Acton (1789-1854) (q.v.); 
(2) Rev. Thomas Acton (d. 1846) of Dunganstown Glebe (Wicklow), m. 1818 Sidney, dau of Hampden Evans of Portrane (Dublin) and had issue three sons and two daughters; 
(3) Anna Maria Acton, m. 1800 Maj. George Warburton of Aughrim (Galway), Inspector-General of Royal Irish Constabulary; 
(4) Jane Acton, m. George Mears John Drought (d. 1844) of Glencarrig (Wicklow), younger son of John Drought of Whigsboro, Birr (Offaly) and had issue.
He inherited the Kilmacurragh (Wicklow) estate from his father in 1779.
He died in 1817.

Acton, Lt-Col. William (1789-1854).  Elder son of Thomas Acton (1742-1817) and his wife Sidney, daughter of Joshua Davis of Dublin, barrister.  He was a JP for Co. Wicklow and High Sheriff of the county in 1820.  He served as Lt-Col. of the Wicklow militia and as MP for the county 1841-48.  He married 16 June 1818 his first cousin, Caroline (d. 1879), daughter of Thomas Walker of Tykillen (Wexford), Master in Chancery, and had issue:
(1) Maria Acton (1819-35); died unmarried and without issue;
(2) Sidney Acton (1820-41); died unmarried and without issue;
(3) Caroline Acton (1822-34); died unmarried and without issue;
(4) Janet Acton (1824-1906); died unmarried and without issue, 5 November 1906;
(5) Thomas Acton (1826-1908) (q.v.); 
(6) Col. William Molesworth Cole Acton (1827-1904), born 29 December 1827; Col. of 77th Regiment; for an account of his role in the Battle of Inkerman see here; married 7 August 1861 Elizabeth Frances (d.1928), daughter of Capt. Frederick Adolphus Robinson, but died without issue, 22 April 1904;
(7) Col. Charles Ball-Acton CB (1830-97) (q.v.) .
He inherited the Kilmacurragh (Wicklow) estate from his father in 1817, and added the wings to the house in 1848.
He died 10 April 1854.

Acton, Thomas (1826-1908).  Eldest son of Lt-Col. William Acton (1789-1854) and his wife Caroline, daughter of Thomas Walker of Tugunnan (Wexford), Master in Chancery.  He was a JP and Deputy Lieutenant of Wicklow, and served as High Sheriff of the county, 1857.  He inherited Kilmacurragh (Wicklow) on the death of his father in 1854 and created the gardens with the assistance of David and Sir Fredrick Moore.  On his death in 1908, unmarried and without issue, the estate passed to his nephew, Maj. Charles Annesley Acton (1876-1915).

Ball-Acton, Col. Charles (1830-97) of Syddan House (Meath) and Eggington House (Bedfordshire).  Born 17 December 1830, youngest son of Lt-Col. William Acton (1789-1854) and his wife Caroline, daughter of Thomas Walker of Tugunnan (Wexford), Master in Chancery.  Educated at Rugby and Cheltenham College.  Col. of 51st Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; for a biography of his life, see here.  He assumed the additional surname of Ball by deed poll in 1875.  He married 31 July 1869 Georgina Cecilia (d. 1912), daughter of George Annesley of London and had issue:
(1) William Parsons Annesley Ball-Acton (1871-83), dsp; 
(2) Evelyn Caroline Annesley Ball-Acton (1873-1965), m. 1898 Edward Nixon Wynne JP (d. 1923) of Wentworth House (Wicklow) and had issue one son and one daughter; 
(3) Grace Annesley Ball-Acton (1874-1923), born in India; died unmarried and without issue 5 December 1923;
(4) Maj. Charles Annesley Ball-Acton (1876-1915) (q.v.); 
(5) Maj. Reginald Thomas Annesley Ball-Acton (1877-1916) (q.v.)
(6) Vere Annesley Ball-Acton (1879-1900), 2nd Lt, Oxford Light Infantry, killed in action at Paardeberg, South Africa, 19 February 1900; 
(7) Irene Annesley Ball-Acton (1883-1966) of Glencapple, Kilmacanogue (Wicklow), died unmarried and without issue, 21 April 1966.
He died 3 February 1897.

Ball-Acton, Maj. Charles Annesley (1876-1915).  Born 14 February 1876, eldest surviving son of Col. Charles Ball-Acton (1830-97) and his wife Georgina Cecilia, daughter of George Annesley.  Educated at Rugby School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.  He served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was part of the China expedition in 1900, and returned to his regiment during the First World War; for a summary of his career see here.  He was a JP for Co. Wicklow and served as High Sheriff of the county in 1913.  
He inherited the Kilmacurragh estate (Wicklow) from his uncle in 1908; on his death unmarried and without issue it passed to his younger brother.
He was killed in action at the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915.

Ball-Acton, Maj. Reginald Thomas (1877-1916). Born 2 October 1877, second surviving son of Col. Charles Ball-Acton (1830-97) and his wife Georgina Cecilia, daughter of George Annesley.  Educated at Rugby and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.  He served in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during the Boer War, 1899-1902 and during the First World War. He married 1913 Isabel (d. 1971), daughter of Rev. William Richmond, rector of Rockhampton (Glos) (who m.2, 1920, Hugh Norman Digues La Touche) and had issue:
(1) Charles Acton (né Ball-Acton) (1914-99) (q.v.).
He inherited the Kilmacurragh estate (Wicklow) from his elder brother in 1915, but died the following year, leaving an infant son and heir.
He was killed in action at the Battle of Ypres, 22 May 1916; buried at White House Cemetery, Belgium.

Acton (né Ball-Acton), Charles (1914-99).  Only son of Maj. Reginald Thomas Ball-Acton (1877-1916) and his wife Isabel, daughter of Rev. William Richmond; born 25 April 1914 at Iron Acton (Glos).  Educated at Rugby School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He changed his name from Ball-Acton to Acton by deed poll in 1939.  Had a varied career including periods as lecturer, broadcaster and music critic of the Irish Times from 1955; Governor of the Royal Irish Academy of Music from 1954; Vice-President of the Association for the Promotion of Music in Education, 1970.  He married 1951 Carol, daughter of Francis Thompson Little of Clabby (Fermanagh), but died without issue.  For an obituary and appreciation, see here.
He inherited the Kilmacurragh estate (Wicklow) from his father in 1916, but let it in the 1930s and sold it in 1944.
He died in 1999.

Sources

Burke's Irish Family Records, 1976, pp. 1-3; Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Bedfordshire and the county of Huntingdon and Peterborough, 1968, p. 83; M. Bence-Jones, A guide to Irish country houses, 2nd edn, 1988, pp. 174, 266; http://www.botanicgardens.ie/kilmac/kilmhist.htm; http://www.parsonsfamily.co.uk/acton.php; http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_acton.html.

Where are their papers?

Acton family of Kilmacurragh: deeds and papers, 1643-1850 [Private collection: enquiries to National Library of Ireland]


Revision & Acknowledgements


This account was first published 25 March 2013, and revised 14 May 2014, and 15 January and 9 July 2017.

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