Holger Smyth, Inanna Rare Books, Skibbereen, revisits houses shown in the rare Hodges publication ‘Cork and County Cork in the Twentieth Century’.
Episode 3: Norton, Skibbereen, the home of solicitor and Teachta Dála, Jasper Travers Wolfe
Norton, originally ‘Norton Cottage’, still towers prominently, overlooking the River Ilen and the West Cork countryside in Skibbereen. This was the home of one of West Cork’s most respected solicitors and independent TDs, Jasper Travers Wolfe (1872 – 1952).
Jasper Travers Wolfe’s life is described in detail in the excellent biography by Wolfe’s grandson, Jasper Ungoed-Thomas.
His residence, Norton, reflects the position that Wolfe held in the West Cork community. “Greatly admired in legal circles” (Ungoed-Thomas), Wolfe was not only a strong supporter of Home Rule but even “gave an acclaimed speech at a rally in London in 1912 to launch the Irish Protestant Home Rule Movement”. He lived through all the important events of the formative years of the Irish Republic and was, at the time of the publication of Hodges’ book, Director of the Skibbereen Eagle.
Even though Wolfe was repeatedly a target of the IRA because of cases he accepted (e.g. the case of the murder of Tomas MacCurtain), the Norton residence was left untouched during a time of burnings, a testament to a solicitor who had to navigate serving a community of Protestants and Catholics alike, not betraying his beliefs and still acting in the spirit of the law.
Built in 1820 and set within landscaped, terraced gardens, Norton looks today like a reflection of a Tuscan mini-
villa and is now the home of the Planning Office of Cork County Council West. Framed by mature trees, the courthouse at its feet, elevated but not intimidating, the house is an important feature in the heritage of West Cork architecture.
The book by Hodges, from which the original photograph of Norton, and the biographical text, are sourced, also gifts us the excellent and telling portrait of Wolfe you see below. An ascetic presence with a distinguished mustache, hiding the true, “clever, convivial, hard-drinking and fearless Jasper Wolfe in West Cork”.
The book by Hodges was published in 1911, showing us Wolfe exactly one year before his memorable speech in London in which, according to his grandson, Jasper Travers Wolfe even “upstaged George Bernard Shaw and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who also spoke”.
Homes are reflections of the people who live in them. Norton is still here in all its glory, as is its neighbouring courthouse, and so too is the memory of Jasper Travers Wolfe.
The article above refers to a rare publication, now available in a high-quality reprint and hand-bound limited edition from
Inanna Rare Books, Skibbereen. Phone: 087 1025412.
W: www.inannararebooks.com / e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cork and County Cork in the Twentieth Century /
[Half-Leather version €450 / Full Leather version €550]
Originally published in Brighton in the year 1911. With 315 pages of photographs and stories of big houses, town houses and country estates in Cork City, North Cork, East Cork and West Cork, as well as biographies of the men and their families who lived in these houses.