In the early 17th century, an English merchant, Gregory Hickman, settled in County Clare and acquired land in an area south of Ennis called Barntick. All seemed well until the outbreak of the Confederate Wars in the early 1640s when he found himself displaced. A deposition made by Hickman in 1642 states that he ‘was robbed of property worth £3,672. It consisted of cattle, sheep, horses, wool, furniture, and of the following farms held under leases for terms of years. Barntick, Cragforna, Drumcaran, Cragnanelly, Termon of Killinaboy, and Inchiquin.’ Hickman also lost the tithes of the parish of Dromcliff, and of debts owed to him by a large number of individuals. He went on to complain that goods belonging to him were ‘carried off by Conor O’Brien of Ballymacooda and by Richard and Mannagh O’Grady. Eighteen packs of his wool were taken away by Laurence Rice, and by another merchant, both of Ennis. Poultry, a side saddle, and furniture, were swept off by Boetius Clancy, by Shevane ny Hehir, wife of Loughlin Reagh O’Hehir of Cahermacon, by James McEncroe of Skagh-vic-Encro; Conor O’Brien of Leamaneh, aided by Mauria Roe his wife, by Melaghlan Oge O’Cashey, and by Conor O’Flanagan possessed themselves of fourteen English hogs and four hundred sheep his property. He states that his servant, Thomas Bacon, was murdered, and that another of his servants, named Joe Preston, was murdered at Clare, by Teige Lynch.’ Poor Mr Hickman then found himself directed hither and thither about the county, at one stage being directed by Murrough O’Brien, Baron Inchiquin ‘to proceed on board the ship “Dragon” to Kinsale, and to bring thence a quantity of tobacco, there lying useless, which he was to sell in the Shannon, and pay over the proceeds to the Baron to help to sustain his army.’ That expedition ended badly and he subsequently found himself stuck in Clonderalaw Castle while it was under siege. Eventually he managed to reach safety and to regain control of the lands at Barntick, passing these on to his eldest son Thomas who in 1661 built a new house for the family, commemorating this event with a date stone carrying the year and his initials, T.H. This date stone can now be seen – upside-down – acting as the door lintel for a building in the yard behind the main house.
Thomas Moland’s Survey of County Clare (1703) states that Barntick had on it ‘a good house, stable, barn and other out houses’. By that date, Thomas Hickman had been succeeded by his own eldest son, also called Thomas, and when the latter died in 1719, Barntick passed to the last of the family to live there, Colonel Robert Hickman, who represented Clare in the Irish House of Commons from 1745 until his death. The colonel’s estate ran to almost 3,000 acres, and he also held other property elsewhere in the county. All of this, however, was heavily mortgaged, so that when he died without an immediate heir in 1757, the entire Hickman lands were sold, Barntick being bought by George Peacocke, who already owned another substantial property, Grange, County Limerick. On his death in 1773, he was succeeded by his son Joseph, a Justice of the Peace and one time High Sheriff of Clare. In 1802, having supported the Act of Union, he was created a baronet and when he died ten years later, the estate was divided between his two sons Sir Nathaniel Peacocke, and the Reverend William Peacocke. But evidently this division was not successful, as by the 1820s the estate was put up for sale by the Court of Chancery. Barntick next belonged to Sir David Roche, an M.P. for Limerick, 1832-1844, who was created a Baronet in 1838. However, in 1855 the house, along with 238 acres, was recorded as being leased to John Lyons and later his family bought the property: his descendants live there still.
Barntick is thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited house in County Clare. The building is a deep square, the east-facing rendered facade of three storeys and three bays, its carved limestone entrance doorcase approached by a shallow flight of six stone steps. Inside, the front half of the house is divided into three almost equal spaces, comprising a hall with drawing room and dining room on either side. To the rear, a handsome staircase, lit by a single tall window on the return, leads to the bedroom floor. Here the space is divided by a thick central wall running north to south and with a barrel-vaulted ceiling, indicating the house’s early date of construction. The stairs then climb to the top of the building where the entire front is given over to a single room, at present in poor condition. Fortunately, the present generation of the family to own this house appreciates its importance and has begun to carry out essential structural repairs as funds become available. His work is to be thoroughly commended and it has to be hoped that all possible support will be provided by the relevant authorities, both local and national. Barntick is such a special place, and such a rare surviving example of domestic architecture from the post-Restoration period in Ireland, that its preservation ought to be regarded as a matter of considerable importance.