John Roche of Aghada

John Roche was a mystery right from the start, and remains so. But it’s probably time to put together some bits of the jigsaw. He’s a great, great, great, great, great grandfather to the youngest generation.

Aghada Hall

We know a few documented bits; from the “Barrymore Records” [1902]  he “amassed great wealth during the French wars, and built Aghada House.”  Aghada  Hall was, apparently, a large  Georgian house designed by the Cork architect  Abraham Hargrave (1755-1808); though it seems to bea comfortable gentleman’s residence rather than a vast mansion.” It was completed in 1808. John Roche was also responsible for building  the Aghada National School in 1819. The house remained in the family until 1853.

He seems to have made quite significant efforts to establish some sort of Roche dynasty to maintain the family name, and the house that he had built for himself.  From Henry Hewitt O’Bryen and Mary Roche’s marriage settlement of 1807, we know that John Roche had at least one child, Mary, and can speculate, probably, a son called John. The two trustees of the settlement are “John Roche the younger, and Stephen Laurence O’Brien,” but by the time John Roche [senior] drew up his will in January 1826, there is no reference to John Roche the younger, and we can probably conclude he had died. It would be likely that family members were the trustees of the settlement, and also likely that John Roche the younger, and Stephen Laurence O’Brien, were the brothers of the bride and groom respectively.

There were three significant beneficiaries of John Roche’s will of 1826, with a later codicil. They were his nephews James Joseph Roche, and William Roche; they seem to be cousins rather than brothers. The third main beneficiary was John Roche’s eldest grandson, John Roche O’Bryen. The total estate amounted to about £ 30,000 when John Roche died in 1829, the modern day equivalent of £45,000,000.

The house and land was left to James, and his male heirs, first of all, and then William, who also inherited £ 10,000, “in case of his not coming into possession of the estate by the means before-mentioned,  I leave him  £6,000″ plus John’s grand-daughter, Jane O’Brien’s ……  £4,000 £4 per cent. stock ;” . Jane O’Bryen, John Roche’s granddaughter was married to his nephew William Roche, and their daughter Pauline Roche inherited their share as a one year old orphan. The final third was John Roche O’Bryen’s  £ 10,000, presumably in the expectation that a male Roche heir would inherit the house and land.

John Roche O’Bryen,  and Jane O’Bryen were Catholic. All their  five remaining younger siblings were Church of Ireland. JROB and Jane/William Roche are the only O’Bryen beneficiaries of John Roche’s estate. The O’Bryen siblings seem to be John Roche’s only grandchildren.

John Roche also left  a series of £ 100 legacies (present-day £ 150,000)  to various sisters, and nephews and nieces, and “To the parish of Aghada, I leave the school-house, and £20 ( £ 30,000) a-year for its support, and also the chapel and priest’s house  I leave to the parish rent-free for ever, as long as they shall be used for such qualified purposes ; the five slate houses I built in the village, I leave to five of the poorest families rent free ; to David Coughlan I leave the house he now lives in during his life ; to my servant, James Tracy   I leave the house his wife now lives in;  and to my wife’s servant, Mary Ahearne, otherwise Finne, her house rent-free during their lives ; and to each of those three, viz.,David Coughlan, James Tracy, and Mary Ahearne,  otherwise Finne, I leave £10 (£15,000) a-year during their lives :”

So working from the above, we know that John Roche [c.1755 – 1829] is the father of Mary Roche, [1780 – 1852] who married  Henry Hewitt O’Bryen (1780 – 1836) in Nov 1807; and the grandfather of John Roche O’Bryen, Jane Roche (nee O’Bryen), and their siblings, Hewitt O’Bryen, Robert Hewitt O’Bryen, Henry Hewitt O’Bryen Junior, Stephen Hewitt O’Bryen, and Mary O’Bryen .  At the same time, he is both the great-grandfather, and great uncle of Pauline Roche. Pauline Roche’s mother is John Roche’s grand-daughter Jane O’Bryen, and her father is his nephew William Roche.

 John Roche appears to have two brothers, and two sisters:

  • Hugh, who is the father of James Joseph Roche and Hugh Roche  
  • Lawrence who is the father of William who married Jane O’Bryen and is the father of Pauline Roche
  • Ellen m. John Verling and mother of Bartholomew Verling, Dr James Roche Verling, Catherine Ellis (nee Verling), and Ellen Verling Jnr.
  • Julia m. ? Enery [the surname is unclear from the transcript of John Roche’s will]

At this stage there are only hints, rather than facts, but John Roche (Senior) seems to be part of the merchant class in late C18th Cork, and the family’s marriages appear, at least in part, strategic. Bartholomew Verling,[the non-doctor one] was also a Cork merchant, and the Spanish Consul in Cork. He also seems to have been politically linked to Daniel O’Connell, and slightly ironically, to have been responsible for getting Cobh renamed Queenstown when Queen Victoria visited Ireland in 1849. There is also the mercantile/political connection between John Roche and the Callaghans with James Joseph Roche’s marriage to Catherine Callaghan, where JR provided her marriage settlement fund of £4,000, and left instructions in the codicil to his will that she should receive the money even if the marriage didn’t go ahead. So he really did have a lot of money or was really keen on a deal going through.


From     What is clear is our Bartholomew Verling isn’t this one “In the 1870s Bartholomew Verling, Springfield Lodge (Oxclose), Newmarket, county Cork, medical doctor owned 883 acres in county Limerick and 110 acres in county Cork. He appears to have acquired his county Limerick estate post Griffith’s Valuation. Bartholomew Verling (1797-1893) was a naval surgeon of Oxclose, Newmarket, county Cork. He was the son of Edward Verling and his wife Anne Ronayne. The Verlings were established at Newmarket by the late 18th century.” But they are almost certainly relations.

From the Irish Journal of Medical Science, January 1971, Volume 140, Issue 1, pp 30-44 – regarding the Irish doctors who attended Napoleon on St Helena including James Roche Verling. Dr James Roche Verling is the Doctor Verling referred to in John Roche’s will. The source references  (Ellen Verling) and her brothers John and Laurence Roche of Aghada as members of the council of Cork. It also refers to James Roche Verling having a brother Bartholomew who was a J.P.

From Roche v O’Brien, and his will, we know that John Roche has two sisters

Julia Enery [though the spelling and therefore the name is unclear], Ellen Verling

And at least four nephews

James Joseph Roche, William Roche, Bartholomew Verling, and Doctor (James Roche) Verling

And at least two nieces

Ellen Verling jnr, and Catherine Ellis (nee Verling)

From Burke’s Landed Gentry 1847 entry we know there is another brother Hugh, who is the father of James Joseph Roche, and Hugh Roche Junior. 

Roche Of Aghado 

Roche, James Joseph Esq of Aghado House, co Cork b. 12 May, 1794 m in Nov 1821 Catharine youngest dau of the late Daniel Callaghan Esq of Lotabeg in the same county and has issue

  1. Maria Josepha
  2. Emily

Mr Roche, a magistrate for the co. Cork s. his uncle, the late John Roche Esq in March 1829. He and his brother Hugh, an officer in the navy, are sons of Hugh Roche, Esq by Anne, his wife dau. of Daniel McCarthy Esq, a Spanish merchant son of John  McCarthy Esq.  Seat. Aghado House co. Cork.

We know William Roche is the son of Laurence Roche from  “Barrymore Records of the Barrys of County Cork from the Earliest to the Present Time, With Pedigrees. London:” published 1902

“Patrick Barry, of Cork, gentleman, died 1861, having married Mary Anne, daughter of Stephen Murphy, of the city of Cork, draper, and had with an elder son, Stephen Barry, of H. M. Customs, Cork, and a daughter, Kate, who both died unmarried, a younger son, William Henry Barry, of Ballyadam, gentleman, J.P., who was heir to his uncle, Henry Barry, of Ballyadam, and was for many years post­master of Cork. He married in 1857 Pauline Roche, only child of William Roche, son of Lawrence Roche, whose brother, John Roche, amassed great wealth during the French wars, and built Aghada House. John Roche’s only daughter, married to [Henry Hewitt] O’Brien, of Whitepoint, Queenstown, J.P., left a daughter [Jane O’Bryen], who married her cousin, William Roche, and with her husband died shortly after the birth of their only daughter, Pauline, who was entrusted to the guardianship of her uncle, Dr. O’Brien, of Liverpool [sic], and at marriage had a fortune of £7,000.

2 thoughts on “John Roche of Aghada

Leave a Reply