In the late 1700’s / early 1800’s Nantenan House was a Queen Anne style house , which was occupied by the Royce family. One of the Royce elders was a rector to Nantenan Church of Ireland Church situated beside the House surrounded by lands of the estate.

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Nantenan church and graveyard

During the early 1800s it appears that quite a number of landed estates got into difficulty financially and some landlords took out loans putting up parts of their estates as collateral.

For approximately  a hundred and fifty years after the siege of Limerick and the flight of the wild geese  it was law that Roman Catholics were not allowed own land. There were a number of substantial families of historical influence in Limerick who had been dispossessed of their estates, being unwilling to change their beliefs, One of these families was the White family who originally owned large estates in East Limerick in Ballyneety ( Baile na Faoite) White’s town. By 1800 they were a wealthy merchant family living in Castleconnel on the banks of the Shannon in Fairy hill. They traded with contacts in  Spain, which had been established whilst fighting for the Papal armies on the continent and from serving at the Spanish Court in Holland.

A second son of Jasper White of Fairhill, John White rose to the rank of Colonel in the West Indian militia and accumulated a sizable fortune in Sugar plantations. He returned from Jamaica in 1830. It appears that over the next fifteen years or so he lent substantial monies to the then Royce.  When Royce had to sell Nantenan Col White already owned a portion of the estate. By then Daniel O’Connell had been at the front of successful movement to win the Catholic emancipation act. This now allowed Catholics and Presbyterians own land again. So Col White bought the remnants of the estate including the House sold under the encumbered estates act.

Now for members of families who had been dispossessed there was a deep desire to regain the status of landowner, something they had to forgo in their loyalty to Rome which had cost them dearly.

So once Col John White had managed to acquire an estate, he like many others, wished to make a statement by building a House to be proud of. So the house that the Royce Family had occupied was demolished and between 1848 and 1850 the present House was built. But he, John, never lived in the house falling ill and spending his last years in his residence in Castleconnell Belmont, which still exists today.  The large imposing gate to Nantenan dates from the original Queen Anne House and is therefore significantly older than the present Nantenan House.

nantenan house

The house bears a striking resemblance to the Mustard seed House in Ballingarry. So much so that he same architect was probably employed.  It is a beautifully proportioned house with very high ceilings incorporating ornate cornice plasterwork. The roof was a double hip roof with a valley. But like all such roofs gave immense problems of internal  leakage and in 1904 it was changed to a flat roof with a raised central skylight.

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It was John’s second son John Patrick White who first took up residence at Nantenan.

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JP White

He had a large family and he and his wife were staunch supporters of the Catholic Church in Cappagh. Two of their daughters were Sisters of the order of the Holy Child Jesus in St Leonards on Sea. A son Tom was a Jesuit priest.

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2 sisters Emily and Aileen (Rev Mother Theadore and Sr Salome)with their brother Tom, a Jesuit priest

In all four boys and three girls of that family grew up in Nantenan.   This explains why the house has an oratory, which was necessary if the family reunion after the death of their youngest brother, killed in the boer war in South Africa was to take place as it did. Indeed Nantenan was appointed head house of the order of the Holy Child Jesus in Ireland so that the Nuns could stay there. I suppose strictly speaking it remains so today.

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Due to the fact that none of this family had children it would be another one hundred years after the birth of the last youngest child before another child was born to a White living at Nantenan.

John Patrick’s eldest son Captain John Joseph White inherited Nantenan from his father on his return from serving in the boer war. Although he did not die, as his brother did, he did not survive unscathed. He suffered a bad wound to his leg and always walked with a limp aide by a stick.

When John Patrick died, another son Jasper White JP, ran Nantenan whilst his brothers were abroad at war and it is said that this was about the only time the farm prospered.

Captain John like his father had a great interest in horses.  Race horse breeding became his passion. After something like twenty years running Nantenan with his sister Minnie

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Minnie White

as his  housekeeper, he married Dorathea Conyers on Feb 25th 1917.  She was a young widow who’s husband had been killed in the Great war. She had a son and a daughter already by her late husband.  She was quite a well known author of novels depicting Irish Country life of the time, a bit like Somerville and Ross. Minnie meanwhile left to join her brother Jasper and his wife who had settled in England.

In 1940 Captain White died. It is said that he had a crop of foals , the culmination of years of thoughtful planned breeding, for the Newmarket sales in 1939 just as war broke out. The war put paid to the sale and he basically died of a broken heart.

He left Nantenan to his wife for her life and, as the Nantenan White line had virtually died out, he left Nantenan to his Cousin Lt Col M W H White MBE, on condition that he took up residence in Nantenan within a year of the death of Dorathea. She died in 1949 and “the Colonel” moved in almost immediately having given up his Military commission in order to be able to comply with the terms of a complicated will.

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Lt Col MWH White (Bill)
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Lt Col M W H White MBE. (Bill)

During the time of Captain White and Dorathea Nantenan was well known for social events such as weekly tennis afternoons. As a stud farm it was beautifully kept if not exactly all that profitable.

At the beginning of this I mentioned that Col John White who acquired Nantenan was a second son. His eldest brother William continued the White Family main line. He like his brother was successful in business in Jamaica and bought an estate, Shannondale, in east Limerick in Dromkeen. Lt Col Martin White was his grandson, becoming head of the family himself in time. This was recognised by Captain White in trying to maintain a family continuation. This however was not greeted with great delight by Dorathea , who had assumed her son would inherit.

Col Martin White (referred to within the family as “Bill”, and to close friends as Billy) was a soldier in the Indian army, the 9th Gurkha Rifles, and an explorer at heart. He won a geographical award mapping passes in the Himalaya and Hindu Kush Mountain ranges. One of his assistants in doing this was Sherpah Tensing Norquay, who went on to be one of the two men first to climb Mount Everest . He was further awarded the MBE for services to the British Empire in the hand-over of power to India and Pakistan. He attempted to farm Nantenan, but  he was not a farmer. But he developed an amazing interest and skill in growing flowers and market gardening. When he inherited the estate in 1949 there were 13 men working on the place. After ten years farming he decided to cease farming and concentrate on his garden. With the assistance of Jack Shire, Ned Willmott and Jimmy Cuthbert he built up a magnificent operation winning many awards for his produce and propagating new varieties of Dahlias, Chrysanthemums and Freesias.

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Workers on the Nantenan estate

In 1974 Col White brought in his nephew Simon to restart the farm and carry on the family tradition in more modern times.

In 1997 Col White Died and Simon inherited the place. He is married to Hilary and they have four daughters and three grandchildren. Simon managed a dairy enterprise for 30 years. He is now running Nantenan as a drystock farm and has planted 75 acres of mixed forestry. He and Hilary, with the help, skill and direction of Mr William Conroy have completed substantial work on the house, with the result in it being structurally as sound as it can be.  It remains in good condition but, as part of an Irish heritage under strain in this day and age, could be considered an endangered species.

Simon White

2018

More photographs under the gallery heading.

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