Biography, Cork history

Stephen Mills of Cork, merchant and banker

Stephen Mills of Cork, merchant and banker

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

In 1892 C.M. Tenison, writing about the private banks of Cork and the south of Ireland mentioned Stephen Mills as a partner in the baking firm of Falkiner and Mills but that Tenison didn’t know much about Stephen Mills.[1] This article seeks to put some fresh on the life of Stephen Mills, merchant and banker in Cork City in the mid decades of the eighteenth century. It is not known when Stephen Mills was born or who were his parents?

Crawford Art Gallery, Cork near Falkiner and Mills Bank

Possible ancestors of Stephen Mills

He could have been related to Stawell Mills who held property in Cork City and County in the early years of the eighteenth century. Sometime before September 1713 Stawell Mills held property in Cork City, houses in the north liberties of Cork City and land in the barony of Orrery and Kilmore. In September 1713 Joseph Damer of Dublin granted a mortgage of £1,200 to William Ford of Limerick City, subject to the properties once held by Stawell Mills who was then deceased.[2] Elsewhere it is said that Stawell Mills lived at Ballybeg House near Buttevant, later occupied by Hugh Lawton.[3] Thomas Mills (will January 1700), father of Stawell Mills, held Ballybeg House in the 1690s and a sister of Thomas married John Glover of Mount Glover (later called Mount Corbett), Co. Cork.[4] In 1657 Randel, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Mills of St. Peter’s Parish was baptised in Holy Trinity Cork.[5] In 1667 Thomas Mills was sheriff of the city with George Wright. In 1673 Thomas Mills was mayor of Cork while James Mills was one of the two city sheriffs.[6]

Stephen Mills early years

In about 1744 Stephen Mills began his apprenticeship under Riggs Falkiner to learn the trade of being a merchant allowing seven years for the apprenticeship as Stephen ended his term by 1751.[7] Over the next quarter century Stephen Mills would have many interactions with Riggs Falkiner via social activity, property investments and partners in their own bank. The first direct reference to Stephen Mills appears in 1747 when he was at least twenty years old as he was a witness to a marriage deed. In March 1747 Stephen Mills was a witnessed to the marriage settlement between John Lapp of Cork and Ann Falkiner, daughter of Caleb Falkiner, deceased. William Conner of Connerville and Riggs Falkiner, merchant, were trustees of the marriage settlement.[8] Stephen Mills continued his association with the Falkiner family over the following two decades becoming a partner in the 1760s in the banking firm established by Riggs Falkiner. On 4th May 1747, Robert Warren of Kilbarry, Cork, gave a lease to Catherine, wife of John Allen, clothier of Cork, of a house in Cove Lane, Cork City, for the life of Catherine, her husband John and Stephen Mills.[9]  

In 1751 Stephen Mills had completed his merchant apprenticeship with Riggs Falkiner, merchant.[10] On 18th May 1751 Stephen Mills was described as a merchant when he was admitted to the freedom at large of Cork.[11] It is not known what kind of merchant trade he was involved in but considering that he later became a senior partner in a banking firm, the trade must have been profitable. In December 1751 Stephen Mills, merchant of Cork City, married Mary Taylor of Dublin. Mary was the daughter of Francis Taylor, merchant of Dublin, deceased, and Phoebe Taylor, executor of her husband. Stephen Mills promised, as part of the marriage settlement, to give to Mary Taylor one third of his estate in his will or one half if he left no children by Mary. The settlement was witnessed by James North of Drumanhane, Co. Tipperary, along with Daniel Rogers and William Groon, both from Dublin City.[12] In 1723 Francis Taylor had married Phoebe Edwards through the Prerogative Court.[13] Francis Taylor, merchant of Dublin, died in 1751 shortly before the marriage of his daughter to Stephen Mills.[14]

In 1762, Stephen Mills, merchant, joined up with Abraham Devonshire, Riggs Falkiner, Christopher Carlton and Robert Gordon to fill in some 210 feet of the River Lee on its north bank to make a quay from French Quay eastward to a quay by a small house. The property was leased to the partners for 999 years at one shilling per year rent. The partnership was to make a public quay 36 feet wide along the length of the property.[15] On 4th January 1766 Stephen Mills, merchant of Cork City, was a witness, with Anthony Ivors of Waterford, to the lease by Viscount Mountmorris, Shapland Carew and Edward Woodcock of Ballygunner castle, Ballygunnermore, Elaghan, Kilbrickham and Little Island, Waterford to William Finch, merchant of Cork City.[16] In 1767 Stephen Mills, merchant, was mentioned among a host of city freemen who were allowed to benefit from the provision of piped water as part of a parliamentary grant.[17]

Falkiner and Mills bank

In about 1760 Riggs Falkiner, merchant of Cork and son of Caleb Falkiner by Ruth, daughter of Edward Riggs, merchant of Cork, established a bank in the city, possibly wishing to follow the example of his uncle, Daniel Falkiner who was a partner in the Dublin banking firm of Burton’s Bank. By 1767 Riggs Falkiner had acquired a new partner in Stephen Mills to become the firm of Falkiner & Mills.[18] On 28th July 1768 the bank of Falkiner and Mills placed an advertisement in the Cork Evening Post saying that a number of banknotes were lost on the road between Cork and Killcreaght. One of the notes was for £50 and dated 15th April 1765 with a serial number of 884 produced by Falkiner and Mills. A reward of five guineas was offered for the return of the banknotes but we don’t know if a successful recovery was made.[19]

The bank of Falkiner and Mills was situated near the Old Custom House in a street called Falkiner’s Lane, now called Opera Lane.[20] The bank was a friend and creditor of the Earl of Shannon and in 1769 Riggs Falkiner became an M.P. for one of Shannon’s borough constituencies, Clonakilty.[21] In 1778 Riggs Falkiner was made a baronet. After Stephen Mills died in 1770, Riggs Falkiner continued the business on his own until 1776 when he went into partnership with John Leslie and Richard Kellett.[22]

Banks established in Cork in the first half of the eighteenth century were partnered by merchants who used their surplus cash from overseas trade to provide bill discounting, remittance services and make short term loans. In 1756 an act of parliament prevented merchants involved in foreign trade to describe themselves as bankers. The firm of Falkiner & Mills kept their merchant associations but also acquired new partners in the landed gentry and professional sectors of Cork city and county.[23] Among the county gentry, Sir James Cotter, baronet, and Sir Richard Kellet became a partners in the 1780s and 1790s[24] In the 1780s, before his death on 20th January 1786, Doctor Bayly Rogers, doctor of physics, was a partner in the bank which was briefly renamed Falkiner, Rogers, Leslie & Kellet.[25] Bayly Rogers of Floraville came from a strong medical family as he was the eldest son of Joseph Rogers, M.D., of Cork by Margaret, daughter of John Bayly, and in turn Bayly was the father of Joseph Rogers, M.D., of Seaview in Cork.[26]

Falkiner’s bank survived the financial crisis of 1793 when other Cork banks closed their doors. After the death of Riggs Falkiner in 1799 the bank continued under the new name of Cotter & Kellets with some £131,630 banknotes in circulation.[27] Over the next ten years the bank increased its money supply to £447,000 which was £27,000 more than its assets and in June 1809 the bank closed its doors.[28] It would appear that the bank was struggling for a few years as it temporary closed in 1807.[29] The liquidation process continued until 1826 even with an act of parliament in 1820 with creditors only getting about ten shillings in the pound while the lawyers clocked up over £60,000 in fees.[30]   

The family of Stephen Mills

On 4th June 1770 Stephen Mills, a banker of Cork City, died.[31] In 1770 the will of Stephen Mills of Cork was registered.[32] In his marriage settlement with Mary Taylor, Stephen said he would give half his estate to Mary if he died without children.[33] In 1770 Mary received a third of the estate as Stephen had at least two children with Mary. In July 1788, Stephen Mills, aged 18, son of Stephen Mills of Cork, deceased, was admitted into Trinity College Dublin. He was previously taught by Mr. Cary.[34] In 1832 Stephen Mills married Elizabeth Murphy.[35] In 1849 a person called Stephen Mills was living in Lamb Street, Clonakilty.[36] In 1850 Stephen was renting the house and small garden from John Fitzpatrick worth just one pound.[37] No further details are yet available concerning Stephen Mills.

In 1779 Mary, daughter of Stephen Mills, banker of Cork, married William Sankey M.P., 3rd or 5th or 6th son of Matthew Sankey of Coolmore, Co. Tipperary by Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of George Villiers of Waterford, of Harcourt Street, Dublin.[38] Elsewhere William Sankey’s mother was described as Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of John Villiers of Hanbury Hall, Co. Stafford.[39] William Sankey (b.c.1745-7, d. 25th November 1813) was M.P. for Philipstown (1790-1797).[40] William Sankey and Mary Mills were the parents of Matthew Sankey, barrister, of Bawnmore, Co. Cork and Modeshill, Co. Tipperary.[41] On 23rd March 1832 Matthew Sankey died at Clydaville near Mallow and was the husband of Eleanor O’Hara by who he was the father of eight children.

Bawnmore in the parish of Kilbrin, barony of Duhallow, appears to have been part of the estate of Stephen Mills left to his family in 1770. During the 1780s Mary Mills and Falkiner’s bank had a number of property deeds with the townland. On 22nd/23rd May 1780 Sir Riggs Falkiner, baronet, of Ann Mount, Co. Cork, and Mary Mills, widow of Stephen Mills of Cork City, made a lease of the town and lands of Bawnmore (otherwise known as Rathanane) to Bayly Rogers of Cork City for £777 8s with the proceeds to benefit, Sir Riggs Falkiner, Bayly Rogers, Richard Kellett and Charles Leslie.[42] On 24th/25th February 1782, by an instrument of a deed of lease and release (registered 12th March 1784), Bayly Rogers sold a third part of Bawnmore to Francis Woodley of Cork city on the direction of William Sankey (husband of Mary Mills junior), barrister-at-law in Dublin city, which property formerly belonged to Mary Mills. This was witnessed by Michael Fulham and Jonas Lander, both from Cork city.[43] In 1817 a person called Mary Mills died in Dublin.[44] She could possibly have been the widow of Stephen Mills but as her will was destroyed in the destruction of the Public Record Office in 1922 we cannot be certain.

Conclusion

In 1892 C.M. Tension could add little information about Stephen Mills apart from the fact he was a partner in the bank of Falkiner and Mills and died before 1772. In this article we have added extra information about the life of Stephen Mills. He came from a successful merchant family who occasionally got involved in city politics. In the early 1740s he became apprentice to Riggs Falkiner, merchant, beginning a quarter century relationship. He was witness to the wedding of Riggs sister and was successful in his own merchant business to buy corporation property with Riggs Falkiner and in the mid-1760s become a senior partner in the bank of Falkiner and Mills. In 1751 Stephen Mills married into a Dublin merchant family and had at least two children before his death in June 1770. Through the Sankey family of south Tipperary the blood line of Stephen Mills continued on to the present day. It is possible that further information on Stephen Mills may be discovered but for the moment we shall leave him rest two hundred and fifty years after his passing.

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End of post

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[1] Tenison, C.M., ‘The Private Bankers of Cork and the South of Ireland’, in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Volume I (1892), pp. 221-224, at p. 224

[2] Registry of Deeds, Dublin, Volume 13, Page 38, Memorial 4811, dated 28th September 1713

[3] The Dublin Weekly Journal, 8th January 1726, p. 166

[4] Notes & Queries, 1930, vol. 158, issue 2, p. 23

[5] Hood, Susan (ed.), Register of the parish of Holy Trinity (Christ Church), Cork, 1643-1669 (Dublin, 1998), p. 69

[6] Caulfield, Richard, The Council Book of the Corporation of Cork (Guildford, 1876), p. 1174

[7] Caulfield, The Council Book of the Corporation of Cork, p. 661

[8] Registry of Deeds, Dublin, Volume 126, Page 430, Memorial 88201, dated 4th March 1747

[9] Registry of Deeds, Dublin, Volume 125, Page 525, Memorial 85994, dated 14th May 1747

[10] Caulfield, The Council Book of the Corporation of Cork, p. 661

[11] Cork City and County Archives, 2007, List of Freemen of Cork City, 1710-1841, p. 121

[12] Registry of Deeds, Dublin, Volume 153, Page 515, Memorial 103541, dated 19th December 1751

[13] National Archives of Ireland, Diocesan and Prerogative Marriage Licence Bonds, 1623-1866

[14] National Archives of Ireland, Index to Prerogative Wills, 1536-1810

[15] Caulfield, The Council Book of the Corporation of Cork, pp. 763, 764

[16] Registry of Deeds, Dublin, Volume 246, Page 465, Memorial 158766, dated 4th January 1766

[17] Caulfield, The Council Book of the Corporation of Cork, p. 817

[18] Tenison, ‘The Private Bankers of Cork and the South of Ireland’, in the J.C.H.A.S., Volume I (1892), pp. 221-224, at p. 224

[19] Lenihan, Michael, Hidden Cork: Charmers, Chancers & Cute Hoors (Cork, 2010), p. 165

[20] Lenihan, Hidden Cork: Charmers, Chancers & Cute Hoors, p. 165

[21] Dickson, David, Old World Colony: Cork and South Munster, 1630-1830 (Cork, 2005), p. 166

[22] Tenison, ‘The Private Bankers of Cork and the South of Ireland’, in the J.C.H.A.S., Volume I (1892), pp. 221-224, at p. 224

[23] Dickson, Old World Colony: Cork and South Munster, 1630-1830, pp. 163, 164

[24] Lenihan, Hidden Cork: Charmers, Chancers & Cute Hoors, p. 165

[25] Lenihan, Hidden Cork: Charmers, Chancers & Cute Hoors, p. 166

[26] Ffolliott, Rosemary, ‘Rogers of Lota and Ashgrove’, in the Journal of Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Vol. LXXII (1967), pp. 75-80, at pp. 78, 79

[27] Lenihan, Hidden Cork: Charmers, Chancers & Cute Hoors, p. 166

[28] Lenihan, Hidden Cork: Charmers, Chancers & Cute Hoors, p. 167

[29] O’Sullivan, William, The economic history of Cork City from the earliest times to the Act of Union (Cork, 1937), p. 203

[30] Lenihan, Hidden Cork: Charmers, Chancers & Cute Hoors, pp. 167, 168

[31] The Gentleman’s and London Magazine or Monthly Chronologer, 1741-1794, 1770, p. 390

[32] Anon, ‘Original Documents: Index Testamentorium olim in Registro Corcagie (1600-1802)’, in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Volume III, Second Series (1897), pp. 194-200, at p. 197

[33] Registry of Deeds, Dublin, Volume 153, Page 515, Memorial 103541, dated 19th December 1751

[34] Burtchaell, G.D., & Sadleir, T.U. (eds.), Alumni Dublinesses (Bristol, 2001), p. 579

[35] National Archives of Ireland, Diocesan and Prerogative Marriage Licence Bonds, 1623-1866, Cork & Ross marriage licence bonds

[36] National Archives of Ireland, Valuation Office books, 1824-1856, House Book, 1849

[37] Griffith’s Valuation, parish of Kilgarriff, townland of Youghals

[38] Burke’s Landed Gentry, 1912, p. 625; Burke’s Landed Gentry, 1846, p. 1189; National Archives of Ireland, Diocesan and Prerogative Marriage Licence Bonds, 1623-1866, Cork & Ross marriage licence bonds

[39] Burke’s Landed Gentry, 1846, p. 1189

[40] Johnston-Lik, Edith, MPs in Dublin: companion to the History of the Irish Parliament 1692-1800 (Belfast, 2006), p. 121

[41] Burke’s Landed Gentry, 1912, p. 625

[42] Casey, A.E., & O’Dowling, Th. (eds.), OKief, Coshe Many, Slieve Loughter and Upper Blackwater (15 vols. Wisconsin, 1964), vol. 11, p. 1284

[43] Casey & O’Dowling (eds.), OKief, Coshe Many, Slieve Loughter and Upper Blackwater, vol. 11, p. 1284

[44] National Archives of Ireland, Diocesan and Prerogative Wills, 1595-1858

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