Who was Adelaide Blake of Faithlegg

Adelaide Blake was the third daughter of Nicholas Mahon Power, landlord of Faithlegg from 1819 to 1873.  His youngest child, she was forty before she married John A Blake MP. Part of her legacy was the establishment of the Reading Rooms, Cheekpoint and the stained glass window behind the altar at Faithlegg Church.  Their story is a love story of the Victorian era and the strict conventions of the time.

Adelaide was the fifth and youngest child of Nicholas and Margaret Mahon Power who moved to Faithlegg in 1819. Adelaide would have grown up in the area and she was schooled like all the children, at least initially, in the school room which is now a dining suite at Faithlegg House Hotel.

John Aloysius Blake  was born in Waterford City (Gladstone St) the son of a merchant and landowner, and the family home was in O’Connell St.  Blake was elected to a position of mayor in 1855 when he was not yet thirty and was reappointed to the position for three years running.  The current people’s park in Waterford was constructed during his time, and thanks to his foresight.

In 1857 he was elected to parliament in Westminster as a liberal, and represented the city until 1869.  He stood down at this point as he was appointed as Inspector of Fisheries.  He served in this position until 1874 when the government of Gladstone fell. He seems to have taken to his duties with some energy and was an ardent supporter of an Irish fishing industry (something we have never had much vision around at official level).  Following this, he represented the county from 1880-1884 and finally he represented Carlow from 1886-87 cut short by his untimely demise.  An obituary at the time gives a sense of his passing.

I don’t know when John and Adelaide first met but it could have been at Faithlegg at one of the many balls that it was fashionable to attend in this era.  It could also have been at any of the fine houses that were sited in the city and county.  Mind you it could just have easily been in Dublin, where Adelaide’s mother hailed from, or perhaps the summer season in London, to which all the upper classes aspired, and to which Adelaide doubtless belonged.

Adelaide Blake nee Power

In any case the two fell in love and courted for many years.  However, Nicholas Mahon Power was not pleased with his daughters suitor and refused any marriage proposals.  It was not until her father died in 1873, that her brother Patrick, following a period of mourning, consented to allow the marriage to take place.

Adelaide was 40 years old (8 years younger than John A) when the two were wed and lived in Dublin or London, depending on her husbands schedule.   At the time the age was too great for children to be considered.  It must have come as quite a shock for her to loose her husband in his 61st year in 1877. He died in London and it was there that Adelaide had him buried, in Kensal Green Cemetery marking his grave with a Celtic cross.  The stained glass in the Faithlegg Church (which her father had built circa 1823) was also commissioned and installed by Adelaide in his memory.

Stained glass at Altar of Faithlegg Church

Adelaide continued to live in Dublin but was a regular visitor to the Faithlegg area according to locals.  She resided at Temple Hill in Dublin and one of her interests seems to have been historical studies and she was a member of the The Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland in 1896 and again in 1900.

She finally died herself on 20th Feb 1911 in her 77th year.  Her lasting legacy to the area is not just the stained glass window or indeed her name on a meeting room in Faithlegg House Hotel, but also the Reading Room in Cheekpoint, which I’ve described before.  There a copy of her obituary hangs on the wall, as does her portrait.

Adelaide’s obituary

Most of the information used in this piece is drawn from the work of Julian Walton’s On This Day Vol 1 pp 204-5.  Thanks also to Pat Murphy Cheekpoint for much of the local information.

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Snowhill House and Quay

Snowhill was, until recently, a mystery to me.  As a child I assumed it had to do with snowdrops, the late winter/early spring blooms that lift your spirits and reassure you that warmer, longer days are on the way.  Later I was told it’s origins related to an old mansion which was sited there, but infuriatingly no more.  It came as a lovely surprise one day to be in the Waterford County Museum an find the photo below.  Its an old scene of Cheekpoint and it has Snowhill in the distance and the mysterious house.  I was so intrigued by it, I bought a copy and it still hangs from our living room wall.

Recently however I came across some more information that helps me understand it a little more.  Snowhill is on the most south eastern tip of Co Kilkenny, and the townland is known as Drumdowney.  You will often see Drumdowney mentioned on maps and charts and particularly Drumdowney point or as we also call it “the point of the wood” where the Barrow Bridge connects Wexford to Kilkenny

But the Snowhill placename originates from a Cromwellian family, the first of which was a man called John Snow who was described as a “master tentmaker to the army in Ireland”.  I can only speculate that he received the land as a gift, similar to the Bolton’s of Faithlegg, for his part in the Puritan invasion. 

Apparently Snowhill House was built by a descendant, most probably Sydenham Snow who married a Mary Bonham in March of 1764 and they moved into their new home in 1765.  It was described as a “massive Georgian block, 5 bay front, doorway with a very large fanlight.  Impressive hall with columns, splendid oval stone staircase with balustrade of brass uprights”  It was also described thus; “…demesne of 100 acres with a 6ft. wall all round.  A deerpark of 30 acres with a wall of 8ft high”

spectacular front of the house

The last of the Snow family was Elizabeth and she married a merchant by the name of Patrick Lattin1792 but financial problems followed.  It was sold to help pay of the debts in 1808.

A good sense of perspective on the House

In 1808 it was purchased by the Power family who would later have first cousins on the opposite banks in Faithlegg & Cheekpoint.  The purchaser was one Nicholas Power and in much the same way that I think Faithlegg House was bought as a wedding present for Nicholas Mahon Power it would appear his cousin Nicholas purchased Snowhill for his son David and his Cork born wife, Elizabeth Nash.  The Powers retained the house until 1953 but under a new name – Power Hall.  Alas underinvestment had significantly undermined the structure and the house was pulled down in 1955.

Nowadays only the demesne walls and outhouses remain.  And despite the fact that Faithlegg House seems to have been a grander house, it had nothing like the connection with the River Suir.  Snowhill had a very fine quay – L shaped with a find breakwater of poles to the eastern side.  This was a deepwater quay and although the ebb tide meant the dock dried out was still a very safe haven.
 

Entrance arch to Snowhill Quay
Snowhill Quay and dock, Glazing wood in distance

Snowhill quay still has hints of its once significance and to walk up from the quay towards the house highlights how beautiful it must once have been.  An old boat house remains, roof gone and doors no more, but only begging to be refurbished.  The grand old trees, many fine and rare specimens of oaks and limes still adorn fragments of the old demesne. 

Old Boat house

Now a working farm, it appears to me like some once grand sailing boat now reduced to a sailing hulk, moored away on a redundant quayside.

All of the specifics about the house and history is information supplied from Jim Walsh’s account of Snowhill House and Estate in “Sliabh Rua, A History of its People and Places” p429

Julian Walton mentions another family in connection with Snowhill in his recent book – On this day Vol I pp154-55 which will require further study.

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

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and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
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The Reading Rooms Cheekpoint

Pat Murphy of the Green always told me that according to Aggie Power of Daisy Bank House (Susan Jacobs Grandmother) the Reading Room was built in 1895, the year a horse called The Wild Man of Borneo won the Grand National. Mrs Adelaide Blake, (originally Adelaide Power – Faithlegg House), who then resided at Fairy Mount had it built as a free library for the people of the area. I always wondered what it would have looked like in this era, with the pot bellied stove sitting in the middle of the floor and people sitting around in it reading a paper or a book or playing cards and chatting. 

At some point in my teens I read D.H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers.  In the story the central character, Paul Morel, struggled to move away from his working class mining roots in Wales through, in part, his visits to the mining unions sponsored Reading Rooms.  In it were stocked lines of books and a supply of current newspapers, that the miners and their families could be better informed and have broader horizons.  Had this been Adelaide’s intention? The
Reading Room has always been a feature in our lives in Cheekpoint.  For social, health, community matters and education, it has played a continuous role.  For some it was probably a tentative role, an occasional visit but to me it was always central, important and respected.

Jim Duffin playing “the Box” 1990’s
Photo credit Bridgid Power

One of my earliest memories was queuing to attend a sale of work coming up to Christmas time.  Doors opening, we rushed in to buy a comic, book or some toy or other. Home baking was also part of the day and if lucky we might get to share with others in a bag of homemade buns or biscuits and a fizzy lemonade.  Whatever few bob we had would be quickly spent, but I could always rely on my Grandmother for an extra dig out.

At the end of the day we might pick up some pieces that no one else would buy, as the place was cleaned up and I recall Martin Nugent (and later Jim Duffin) burning some magazines and other odds and ends outside by the back door.  In those days a tall hedge blocked the “Hall” as we sometimes called it, from the road and all around was a mixture of grass and mud.

The Hall in the past was a simple affair.  No toilet, a small porch, the large room that could be divided in two by sliding doors and the stage area and back door which was an addition in the early 1950’s.  Tommy Sullivan’s father Chris had taken on the job, with the help of local volunteers.  The Hall had been originally made of a timber framework with corrugated iron walls and roof and internally was panelled by wooden lathes.  The “insulation” was horsehair and there was many the night that we huddled around an old Superser gas heater trying to keep warm.

Sunday morning social gathering 1940’s

The stage at the rear of the hall was used for concerts and as a musical stage and in our own times as the space where the DJ’s of the youth club discos spun their vinyl discs.  Principal DJ was Philip Duffin and deputy was Michael “bugsy” Moran.  Philip preferred disco, Bugsy was rock and it was always a bone of contention.  I can still remember Bugsy stripping wires with his teeth in an effort to add an extra speaker to “burst some eardrums”.  My first and last appearance on the stage was a mid 70’s concert where I performed “Little Boy Blue”, not my finest hour!

Ray McGrath regales the villagers at a recent Heritage week event

There was also a brown wardrobe which gave the hall its other function this was the Dispensary.  I’m a little in the dark about the origins of it, but in our day it was where you went on a Tuesday to see the doctor and the wardrobe was unlocked and swung back to reveal an array of medications, timber spatulas for depressing your toung and worst of all – syringes.  At some point in the 1980’s the wardrobe disappeared and locally it was known that there was some issues about medications being stored in “inappropriate places”  It was only a few years back in Dungarvan that a local man told me how he and friends used to travel around the rural dispensaries in a search for drugs, he joked about how easy it was to break into these cabinets and to both medicate yourself and provide an income boost from supplying others! 

John Jacob entertaining the Thursday Club 1990’s
Photo Credit; Bridgid Power

I’ve written before about how important it was as a venue for civil defence.  But it was also a space for community meetings and social gatherings for young and old.  It was the need to improve conditions for all members of the community that spurred voluntary efforts in the 1980’s and many years after to improve the hall to the standards it is at now.  Details of those many volunteers were captured in a 2009 publication “Cheekpoint & Faithlegg; Through the Ages” via the Development Group



My Aunts Margaret O Leary and Ellen Doherty (RIP) at last years craft fair
photo credit Becky Cunningham – Cheekpoint FB page

I’ve often heard remarks about the Hall being unfit for modern purposes.  And to be honest, it probably is a bit modest compared to some of the venues that are on offer in the area and that citizens might be used to availing of.  But for me the Reading Room is a special place, filled with memories, fulfilling a modest useful purpose and a testament to the vision and probably the hopes for the community of Adelaide Power. Ar dheis Dé a anam Adelaide

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales