The Barton family descend from Thomas Barton, a Protestant soldier
from Lancashire who came to Ireland with the Earl of Essex’s
army in 1599. Ten years later, Thomas was awarded an estate of
1000 acres in County Fermanagh for his services to the Crown.
His son Anthony was one of untold thousands of Protestant settlers
murdered during a savage uprising by Ulster Catholics in October
1641. During the reign of Charles II, her son William recouped
the family fortunes and became a substantial landowner in Fermanagh
In 1725, William’s grandson Tom Barton settled in Bordeaux
and established himself as a wine merchant. The business boomed
over the ensuing decades. Tom’s only son married Grace
Massy, a daughter of the Dean of Limerick, and sister of Sir
Hugh Dillon Massy of Doonas, Co. Clare.
William and Grace’s fourth son, Hugh succeeded to the
family’s wine estates on the death of his grandfather
in 1780. In 1794, during the reign of terror at Bordeaux, a
large number of the leading merchants were thrown into prison
and their offices closed. Among those arrested was Hugh Barton,
who was confined in the prison of the Fort du Ha, from which,
through the connivance of his wife Anne (naturalized daughter
of Nathaniel Weld Johnson, himself a naturalized French subject
of Scotch origin), he made his escape to Ireland .
A very interesting story is told of the way in which his French
property was preserved. Not being allowed as an alien to hold
property in Bordeaux, he arranged with one Daniel Guestier to
take over and manage the business there, while Hugh Barton would
manage it in Great Britain. This was done without any act of
Bartons of Straffan
In 1831 Hugh Barton purchased the estate of Straffan in county
His son, Thomas Johnston Barton settled in Glendalough, county
Wicklow. The Straffan estate remained with the Barton family
until 1949 when Derick Bartonsold the house to John Ellis of
Thomas Johnston Barton
Hugh and Anna’s third son, Thomas Johnston Barton, was
born in September 1802. On 25th March 1830 Thomas married Frances,
a granddaughter of Thomas, 1st Lord Erskirne, the eloquent Scots
barrister who famously defended Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights
of Man’ in 1792 (his great-great-grandson was Erskirne
The Hugo family and Glendalough
In the late 1830s, Thomas and Frances Barton purchased the
Glendalough (or Drummin, Dromeen) estate at Annamoe, County
Wicklow. Situated between Djouce Mountain and close to the waters
of Lough Dan, the estate previously belonged to the Hugos, an
English Protestant family settled in Wicklow since the late
Thomas and Frances raised 4 sons and 4 daughters in Glendalough.
Thomas served as Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant
for County Wicklow. He died on 4th September 1864.
Charles Barton & Charles Parnell
Thomas Barton’s second son, Charles William Barton, was
born on 13th July 1836. As a young man he was friendly with
his neighbour, Charles Stewart Parnell, sharing a passion for
cricket and sawmills! However Charles became a committed Unionist
and fell out with Parnell.
Charles succeeded to Glendalough in 1874. He married Agnes Alexandra
Childers. Charles’ sister, Anna – Erskirne’s
mother- marries Professor Robert Caesar Childers. This is how
the destiny of the Barton and Childers families became entwined.
Anna and Professor Childers died of tuberculosis. Erskirne Childers
and his orphaned siblings were sent to Glendalough to live with
their aunt and uncle in 1883.
Robert Barton – An Anglo-Irish
The eldest of the Barton boys, Robert, was educated in Christchurch
College, Oxford and at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester.
By the time of his road trip with Erskirne in 1908, he was seen
as a progressive landlord. He was elected Sinn Fein MP for West
Wicklow in 1918. He was simultaneously appointed Chairman of
Wicklow County Council. . In February 1919 he was arrested for
making seditious speeches and imprisoned at Montjoy. Collins
helped him escape on 16th March (Robert left a note to the Governor
explaining that he could no longer stay as the service was dissatisfactory.
Moreover, he wondered, would they mind looking after his luggage
until he sent for it?). He was re-arrested in 1920 and sentenced
to three years in England’s Portland Gaol.
Barton was released on the signing of the Truce in 1921.
After Erskirne’s execution in 1922, Robert Barton continued
to support Eámon de Valera. He was elected to the Dáil
in June 1922 but did not take his seat or seek re-election later.
Robert Barton was also Chairman of the Agricultural Credit
Corporation from 1934 to 1954 and Director and Chairman of Bord
na Móna for many years. In the summer of 1950, the 69
year-old finally took wife – Rachel Lothrop Warren, the
daughter of Fiske Warren.
Robert Barton died peacefully in Glendalough on 8 August 1975,
Shortly before the end of his life, Robert Barton told Roy
Foster about an early memory of his nurse lifting him up to
a window to see the enigmatic red-bearded patriot arriving at
Glendalough House on his horse to inspect a fallen tree in the
wake of the great storm in 1888: ‘The inspiration of that
glimpse from the window remained. It is in its way a Carlylean
moment: a sudden conjunction of the personal and the ‘world-historical’.
But it also puts backing focus the world of Parnell and his
neighbours, the symbiotic way in which his life reacted upon
theirs and theirs upon his’