“The Family Hotel”
It is not unusual to be asked “Why the hospitality business?” Of course, there was the need to become occupied after redundancy, but there was also our initial market survey showing a high demand for letting accommodation in West Cork; an obvious business opportunity for two empty outbuildings at Ballynoe House.
As a family historian, my own research should find evidence of entrepreneurship in hotel management. There is nothing to be found in the direct line, as might be revealed in a “Who Do You Think You Are?”, apart from a few publicans. My previous career as a geologist is probably best explained, genetically, by coming from a long line of stonemasons and coalminers, and the love of gardening from numerous yeoman farmers.
Albeit quite distant, there is a “family hotel” founded by my 8th cousin 4x removed, William Waldorf “Willy” ASTOR (1848-1919, 1st Viscount ASTOR), who built the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York in 1893.
The Astor Family Connection
Willy’s father, John Jacob ASTOR III, married Charlotte Augusta GIBBES from the US-branch of my GIBBS family. My 3x great grandfather, Jeremiah GRACE, married Mary Ann BOWLES of Kent, England, the granddaughter of Sarah GIBBS of Elmstone, part of the family who remained in Kent from earliest times.
The settlement of the Carolinas by Britain was early enough that the US family kept the old English spelling of the name, GIBBES. The English side eventually modernised to GIBBS. Two sons of Kent moved first to Barbados and then on to the Carolinas. The family expanded to become the noted wealthy group in the Charleston area. In Charleston, for example, the GIBBES Museum is named after a family benefactor, and contains many portraits of the family.
By this time, however, the greater GIBBS family in Kent had survived harder times and had become the “poorer relations” as tenant farmers or mariners. They were no longer the landed gentry in their homeland.
Plaque on frame reads: “James Shoolbred Gibbes Sr 1819-1888 Charleston merchant and patron of the arts he bequeathed the funds for the building of this gallery (Gibbes Museum, Charleston, SC) by George W. Flagg”
Norman French Origins of the GIBB(E)S Family
My direct descent along the GIBBS line is over 17 generations from my 14x great grandfather Jenkin or Jenkings GIBBS or GIBBES (c1430–1482) of Combe near Folkestone, Kent, England. As gentry, there is a paper trail supporting most of the family tree (for example in “Kentish Pedigrees”), although the ancient roll mentioned in “Patronymica Britannica” (1838-1860 by Mark Antony Lower), has not been located. It is interesting to discover that an early branch of my GIBBS family also settled in County Cork:
“several of the gentry families of this name, viz., those of Belmont, co. Somerset; Aldenham, co. Herts; Tyntesfield, co. Somerset; and apparently those of Derry, co. Cork, are descended from two brothers, Gibbe or Gibbes, temp. Richard II., one of whom was settled at Honington, co. Warwick, and the other at Fenton, co. Devon. Jenkin Gibbes, temp. Henry VII., a scion of the house of Fenton, whose descendants were of Elmerstone, co. Kent, possessed an ancient roll deducing the family from Normandy, where they were resident long before the Conquest of England.”
While it was common for the rising middle classes in Elizabethan times to gentrify themselves, there is at least genetic evidence to support the claims of Norman French origins. There are two living English GIBBS men whose Y-DNA has matched with ancestry in Elmstone or nearby in Kent. There is also a partial match to a GIBBES in North America. The genetic haplotype for these three men is I-M253, which may indicate the haplotype to identify a common family origin, i.e. “The Norman GIBBS Haplotype”. Of the 204 GIBBS men tested in the FTDNA GIBBS Y-DNA project, only 11 match I-M253 and may have a proven history back to Kent or the other places mentioned for the family. Generally, “I” is recognised as the Viking marker, and it is now historical fact that the “Men from the North” were the ones who settled in northern France and created the Duchy of Normandy.
From The Court of Richard III of England to Barbados….
In the direct line from Jenkin GIBBS, his grandson John GIBBS (abt 1485 Combe, Kent – abt 1526 Patrixbourne, Kent) married Margaret CHAMPNEYS (1497-1559) about 1515. Margaret is given as the sole heir of Richard CHAMPNEYS aka “Gloucester King of Arms” in his Will of 1518. Richard (my 13xGGF) was a herald in the new College of Arms founded by king Richard III on 2nd March 1483, in the first year of Richard’s reign, responsible for Wales. He survived the fall of Richard III at Bosworth Field.
William GIBBS (c1532-c1599), son of John GIBBS & Margaret CHAMPNEY, married Jane GASON. Their fourth son Stephen GIBBS (c1562-1594) is recorded as being resident in Saltwood Castle in Brockhill, Kent. Stephen married Jane FORNEY. Two of Stephen & Jane’s sons John GIBBS (c1594-1689) and Robert GIBBS (c1594-1676) provide the colonial link.
Following the approval to colonise the island of Barbados by Charles I, once it became under British rule, both men are recorded as some of the early settlers. They were heavily involved in sugar plantations and African slavery. While some descendants remained on the island, others moved on to the Carolinas, subsequently spreading out to Mississippi, Arkansas and California. Descendant Robert GIBBES was British Colonial Governor of South Carolina between 1710 & 1712, and later family members were active in overthrowing British rule.
Elmstone Manor, Kent (one of six and half houses)
Sarah GIBBS (1715-1794) of Elmstone (my 6x great grandmother) was the 2nd wife of George KNIGHT of Preston by Wingham. As local gentry, the family is recorded in Elmstone back a further five generations to Sarah’s 3xgreat grandfather William GIBBS, who died there abt 1599. Prior to that the family lived in Combe near Folkestone, and before then had origins in Devon.
Elmstone is rather a unique place due to its small size. In 1800 it was described thus: “The Parish of Elmstone is very small, it is a retired unfrequented place, having no village, and only six houses and an half in the parish, which happens from one of the houses standing over the stream, one half of which is in this parish, and the other half in Preston….”
How William GIBBS (my 11x great grandfather) came into the possession of Elmstone Manor in the time of Elizabeth I is also noted in the 1800 summary: “Simon Lynch, gent. of Grove, in Staple, who sold this manor, with the advowson of the church appendant to it, in the beginning of queen Elizabeth’s reign, to Mr. William Gibbs, descended from a family who were of the rank of gentility in Devonshire, and settled at Folkestone about Henry VII.’s reign, and bore for their arms, Argent, three pole-axes, sable; the patent of which was confirmed by Robert Cooke, clarencieux. (fn. 2). His descendant of the same name, alienated it at the latter end of king Charles I.’s reign, to Robert Jaques, alderman of London, who kept his shrievalty here in 1669.”
Venton (Fenton) was the seat of the Ventons or Fentons from at least 1242 until 1392, when it passed to the GIBBES, who held it until 1570, when it passed to the Woottons, who sold it to the Glanvilles circa early C17th. The name means ‘marshy farm’.
Its early history is unknown, though it may have been part of the Manor of Dartington. Three generations of the GIBBES family from the 1470s to the 1530s are well-documented. The GIBBES were notorious local insurgents, who maintained a small private army from about 1501 to 1549. On several occasions they attacked their neighbours, often driving away stock and purloining valuables. On one occasion, they attacked the nearby village of Rattery, besieging the church and threatening to kill the Rector. For this and other misdemeanours, they were brought before the Court of Star Chamber in London several times, the proceedings at which are recorded. The buildings have been used as a farm since the C18th.
As a Grade II-listed building it is described as “Remains of courtyard mansion. Remains of circa late C15th hall; early C16th and late C1th6/early C17th lodging ranges; remains of circa early C16th gatehouse; early-mid C19th partly rebuilt and extended. Local limestone rubble with some granite, red sandstone and Beerstone windows and doorframes. Steeply-pitched Welsh slate roof with gabled ends, left end half-hipped, right end higher roof; roof over early-mid C19th extension to north west is hipped.”. The building recently has its interior refurbished and many of the old elements of the house can still be seen.
…And So Back to County Cork
The GIBBS family of Cork city and Derry, County Cork, are indicated as being descended from GIBBES of Devon, and any surviving male lines should match the established Y-DNA haplotype. Daniel GIBBES is mentioned as having made “very good improvements” at Derry in the mid C18th. He married Frances, daughter and co-heiress of George Bennett, Alderman of Cork. They had two sons Daniel of Derry and the Reverend John. In 1778, Daniel married Mary Warren of Warrenscourt and they were the parents of John Bennett GIBBS and the Reverend Robert Warren GIBBS who married Maria Cross of Shandy Hall. The descendants of the Reverend John GIBBS of Inchigeelagh and Ballynora, County Cork, were living in Sheffield, Yorkshire, in the 1880s. At the time of Griffith’s Valuation (1850’s) the Reverend Robert GIBBS owned land in the parish of Donaghmore, barony of East Muskerry, County Cork. The GIBBS are not recorded as owning land in the county in 1876.
The home of the GIBBS family in the C18th and early C19th was recorded as being occupied by J.B. Gibbs in 1837 and by John Hassett in the early 1850s, when the buildings were valued at £11 and held by the Reverend Robert GIBBS.
So while Felicity’s family is from Cork, it appears I have found a Cork connection I did not expect to find.
Mark Grace, “The Geneal Geologist”, Resident Genealogist at Ballynoe House