Charles H. Leslie

Charles Henry Leslie (1762-c1842)

Charles Henry Leslie

Charles Henry Leslie

The image above, is of Charles Henry Leslie, founder of Ballincollig Gunpowder Mills. The actual miniature is held in a private collection.

Charles Henry Leslie was born in 1762 in Cork City. His parents were Charles Leslie, doctor and banker of Patrick’s Place, Cork City and Anne Lawton formerly of Castle Jane, Co.Cork. Charles Henry’s siblings were: Lawton, Matthew, James Wolfe, John, Mary, Jane, Charlotte and Sarah. Charles Henry was admitted a freeman of Cork in November 1784, at the age of twenty two. In 1794, possibly with the money inherited from the estate of his father (who died in 1793), Charles established a gunpowder mills in Ballincollig on the banks of the River Lee, near Cork City, Ireland. He also had John Travers as a business partner in this venture.

Charles Henry Leslie married Lucia Izod of Wilton in September 1784. Wilton was where they were to establish their home. This union gave rise to at least two sons – Matthew Leslie (1788-1863), Kevin Izod Leslie (1781-1836) and daughters including Anne. Lucia Leslie died at Wilton on the 13th August 1822.

Charles H. Leslie took over the ownership of the River Lee Porter brewery c1796-97.

In 1804, the year of his brother, Matthew’s death, Charles was able to buy out the interest John Travers held in the lands on which part of the mills stood. However, it was not long after this that the British Government purchased the business due to the threat of the Napoleonic invasion. In 1805, Leslie, as sole owner of the mills, sold it to the Board of Ordnance on a lease of 99 years for £30,000 and an annual rent of £1,275.

Charles Henry Leslie gave a rent free site for a new Catholic Chapel in the village of Ballincollig and he also advanced 150 guineas towards the expenses of building the chapel which was built in 1808.

Besides his involvement in the gunpowder business, Charles was also a substantial landowner and member of the Cork Farmer’s Society. George Kelleher also mentions, in his book, that the Leslies “were very much involved in parliamentary elections as agents for the family of Hely Hutchinson, Earls of Donoughmore, who sat for Cork from 1761 to 1829”

Charles, turned his hand to banking – following his father’s footsteps. At this time there were many private banks in Ireland in the hands of rich merchants and Charles teamed up with his brother John, who was already established as a banker, and they took over Roberts’ bank after the retirement of Sir Walter Roberts in 1819. The bank was renamed Leslie’s bank and became one of the biggest private banking concerns in southern Ireland. G. L Barrow in the book Emergence of the Irish Banking System 1820-1845 mentions, however, that:

“It{the bank] suspended payments during the1820 crisis. Investigation by a creditors’ Committee produced a rather shaky balance sheet but with the backing of local guarantors led by the Earl of Shannon, brother in law of John Leslie’s wife, a loan of £80,000 was obtained from the Government and the bank reopened in 1822”

The bank never regained the public’s confidence and closed, with so many others, in 1826 with many creditors being left out of pocket. Estates belonging to the partners were sold in 1828. Charles Henry leslie held onto his home at Wilton and this remained in the family until the late 1800s. Charles H. Leslie’s own will went to probate in 1842.

Compiled by Margaret Jordan with help from Beverly Hallam, December 2008

References:

Rosemary Ffolliott’s Newspaper Biographical Index
Burke’s Landed Gentry
The Gunpowder Mill at Ballincollig by George Kelleher
Emergence of the Irish Banking System 1820-1845 by G.L. Barrow
The Private Banks of Cork and the South of Ireland by C.M. Tenison. B. I., M.R. I.A. (Hobart, Tasmania) in the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society Journal

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