Sunday, 19 May 2019

The Bangor Bell

McCance of Knocknagoney

THE BELL of Bangor Abbey, County Down, dating from 825AD, was reputedly found at the Abbey ca 1780, and it is speculated that it had been hidden at the time of the Viking attacks on Irish monasteries.

It was in private hands for some 150 years, and then housed in the Ulster Museum before coming to Bangor Borough Council in the 1950s.

The cast-iron bronze bell would have been used to call the monks to prayer.

John McCance (1772-1835). Photo Credit: Ulster Museum

THIS Bell was in the possession of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCance (1843-1922), of Knocknagoney House, near Holywood, County Down, whose great-grandfather found it in the ruins of the Abbey.

Knocknagoney House

In the historic Ulster Journal of Archæology it was recorded that
"this bell was found in the ruins of the abbey about sixty years ago" (last decade of the 18th century) and was in 1853 in possession of Dr Stephenson, of Belfast." 
The Bell has been at North Down Museum, Bangor, since 1984.

It shows the flowering of Irish Christian civilisation which was set back by the pagan Viking attacks.

The bell would have been used to call the monks to prayer.

First published in June, 2015. 

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Skipper Street, Belfast

Merchant Hotel

Skipper Street, Belfast, runs from Waring Street to High Street.

This is one of the the oldest streets in Belfast, where the River Farset used to flow openly along High Street itself (it still does, though it's culverted).

High Street ca 1830

The street was thus named because skippers of sailing vessels lodged here.

This street is mentioned as far back as 1685; it was, however, significantly affected by the 1941 blitz.

In 1974, The Albert Inn stood at 3 Skipper Street; then it changed its name to the Blackthorn Bar.

High Street

The buildings are now all relatively recent since many, if not most, were destroyed by bombing during the 2nd World War.

The most notable premises today are The Merchant Hotel - formerly the Ulster Bank head office - which now runs along the entire left-hand side of the street (the even numbers).

The Spaniard Bar  is at number three and Jackson Sports is located at the corner of Skipper Street and High Street.

First published in July, 2009.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Ashfield Park


JOSEPH TRIMBLE, of Ashfield Park, County Tyrone (whose mother, Margaret, was daughter of George Brackenridge, of Ballymacan (Ballagh), County Tyrone), died in 1841, leaving issue, by Catherine his wife, daughter of Thomas Smith, of Lisnaskea,
Jane, m;
Margaret, m.
He was succeeded by his only son,

GEORGE CHARLES BRACKENRIDGE JP DL (1814-79), of Ashfield Park, Barrister, who assumed, in 1846, the metronymic of BRACKENRIDGE in lieu of Trimble, and the arms of Brackenridge quarterly with those of Trimble.

Mr Brackenridge married, in 1870, Matilda Anne (d 1919), daughter of the Rev Sir John Richardson-Bunbury Bt, and had an only child,


Photo credit:

ASHFIELD PARK, near Clogher, County Tyrone, stands close to the Fardross estate.

It was built in 1840 in the Italianate style.

It comprises two storeys and four bays, with a hipped slate roof.

A concealed glass dome is in the centre of the roof.

The doorway has a flight of steps; and above the door there is a rounded arch with fanlight.

There are paired, recessed windows with Corinthian columns forming mullions.

Canted, two-storey bays are on the eastern side.

Photo credit:

George Charles Brackenridge built a monumental tower for himself on a hilltop, where he was interred.

This triple-tiered mausoleum of 1847 comprises a three-storey tower topped with an iron railing, above a vault.

The base is square and at ground-floor level there are arched door and window openings.

The entrance is accessible by means of a narrow stairway a mere 18" in width.

The top floor is reached by a ladder through a trapdoor.

Mr Brackenridge's memorial tower was plundered during the 2nd World War by troops garrisoned in the vicinity.

First published in April, 2015.

House of Caulfeild

The settlement of this noble family in Ireland took place in the reign of ELIZABETH I, when 

THE RT HON SIR TOBY CAULFEILD (1565-1627), a distinguished and gallant soldier, was employed in that part of Her Majesty's dominions against the formidable Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone.

He was the son of Alexander Caulfeild, Recorder of Oxford, who was descended from ancestors of great antiquity and worth, settled in that county, and at Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.

In 1615, Sir Toby was appointed one of the council for the province of Munster.

The next year, 1616, he joined in commission with the Lord Deputy of Ireland (Oliver St John, 1st Viscount Grandison), and others, for parcelling out the escheated lands in Ulster to such British undertakers as were named in the several tables of assignation.

In these employments, the King (JAMES I) found him so faithful, diligent, and prudent, that His Majesty deemed him highly deserving the peerage, and accordingly created him, in 1620, Lord Caulfeild, Baron Charlemont, with limitation of the honour to his nephew, Sir William Caulfeild, Knight.

His lordship died unmarried, in 1627, and was succeeded by the said 

SIR WILLIAM CAULFEILD, 2nd Baron Charlemont (1587-1640), who took his seat in parliament, in 1634, after the Lord Chancellor of Ireland had moved to know the pleasure of the House, whether he should be admitted to this place, having brought neither writ of summons nor patent; whereupon it was resolved that his lordship should be admitted, inasmuch as they were all satisfied that he was a Lord of Parliament.

His lordship wedded Mary, daughter of Sir John King, Knight (ancestor of the Earls of Kingston), by whom he had seven sons and three daughters; from the youngest son, Thomas, descended the Caulfeilds of Donamon, County Roscommon.

He was succeeded by his eldest son, 

TOBY, 3rd Baron (1621-42), who also succeeded his late father as Governor of Charlemont Fort, and there resided, with his company of the 97th Regiment of Foot, in garrison.

Charlemont Fort

This fort was a place of considerable strength and importance during the rebellion of 1641; but his lordship suffered himself to be surprised, in that year; and being made prisoner, with his whole family, was subsequently murdered, by the orders, it is said, of Sir Phelim O'Neill.

This unfortunate nobleman died unmarried and was succeeded by his brother, 

ROBERT, 4th Baron (1622-42), who died a few months afterwards from an overdose of a prescription of opium, and was succeeded by his next brother, 

WILLIAM, 5th Baron (1624-71), who apprehended Sir Phelim O'Neill, and had him executed for the murder of his brother, the 3rd Baron.

His lordship having filled, after the Restoration, several high and confidential situations, was advanced to a viscountcy, in 1655, as VISCOUNT CHARLEMONT.

He wedded Sarah, second daughter of Charles, Viscount Drogheda, by whom he had four sons and three daughters, of whom,
WILLIAM, his successor;
His lordship was succeeded by his son, 

WILLIAM, 2nd Viscount (c1655-1726), who zealously opposed the cause of JAMES II, by whose parliament he was attainted; but WILLIAM III, after the rebellion was quelled, gave him a regiment of foot and made him Governor of counties Tyrone and Armagh etc.

He espoused Anne, only daughter of the Most Rev Dr James Margetson, Lord Archbishop of Armagh, by whom he had, with five daughters, five sons to survive infancy, viz.
JAMES, his heir;
Thomas, Governor of Annapolis;
Charles, in holy orders;
John, MP;
Henry Charles.

His lordship died after enjoying the peerage for more than half a century, and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,  

JAMES, 3rd Viscount (1682-1734), MP for Charlemont, 1703-5, 1713-26, who married Elizabeth, only daughter of the Rt Hon Francis Bernard, of Castle Mahon, County Cork, one of the judges of the court of common pleas in Ireland, by whom he had two sons; the younger, Francis, who wedded Mary, only daughter of John, Lord Eyre, was lost, with his lady, infant child, and servant, in a hurricane, during his passage to Ireland from London, in 1775, to fulfil his parliamentary duties as Member for the borough of Charlemont.

His lordship left issue, Colonel James Eyre Caulfeild, born in 1765, and Eleanor, who espoused William, 3rd Earl of Wicklow.

The 3rd Viscount was succeeded by his only surviving son, 

JAMES, 4th Viscount (1728-99), KP, who was created, in 1763, EARL OF CHARLEMONT.

He married, in 1768, Mary, daughter of Thomas Hickman, of County Clare, and had issue,
FRANCIS WILLIAM, his successor;
Henry, MP;
His lordship, a distinguished patriot, had the honour of commanding-in-chief the celebrated Irish Volunteers in 1779.

His son and heir,

FRANCIS WILLIAM, 2nd Earl (1775-1863), KP, wedded, in 1802, Anne, youngest daughter and co-heir of William Bermingham, of Ross Hill, County Galway, but had no surviving issue, when the family honours devolved upon his nephew,

JAMES MOLYNEUX, 3rd Earl (1820-92), KP (son of the Hon Henry, 2nd son of 1st Earl), Lord-Lieutenant of County Tyrone, MP for Armagh, 1847-67.

His lordship died in 1892, when the earldom and barony became extinct, and the remaining peerages devolved upon his cousin,

JAMES ALFRED, 7th Viscount (1830-1913), CB JP DL, of Loy House, Cookstown and Drumcairne, County Tyrone,
Vice Lord-Lieutenant of County Tyrone, 1868, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1868; Comptroller of the Household of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1868-95; Honorary Colonel, 3rd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers; Usher of the Black Rod of the Order of St Patrick, 1879-1913.
The 8th Viscount (1880-1949), PC DL, was elected to the Northern Ireland Parliament as a senator, where he sat from 1925-37, and was Minister for Education.
James Alfred Caulfeild, 7th Viscount (1830–1913);
James Edward Caulfeild, 8th Viscount (1880–1949);
Charles Edward St George Caulfeild, 9th Viscount (1887–1962);
Robert Toby St George Caulfeild, 10th Viscount (1881–1967);
Charles St George Caulfeild, 11th Viscount (1884–1971);
Richard St George Caulfeild, 12th Viscount (1887–1979);
Charles Wilberforce Caulfeild, 13th Viscount (1899–1985);
John Day Caulfeild, 14th Viscount (1934–2001);
John Dodd Caulfeild, 15th Viscount (b 1966).
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, the Hon Shane Andrew Caulfeild (b 1996).

The Viscounts Charlemont were a Patrick family, three members of whom were Knights of St Patrick.

© "CastleCaulfeild 2008" by Skremer at English Wikipedia

Sir Toby Caulfeild built Castle Caulfield [sic] in County Tyrone. 

ROXBOROUGH CASTLE (above), Lord Charlemont's main country seat, was near the village of Moy, County Tyrone, the exquisite gates being all that are left as a reminder.

The Castle and the nearby Charlemont Fort, on the County Armagh side of the river, were both burnt by the IRA in 1922.

Subsequently Lord Charlemont resided at another residence, Drumcairne, near Stewartstown in County Tyrone.

It is thought that he eventually moved to Newcastle, County Down.

He inherited the titles from his uncle in 1913.

Having no children, the titles passed, on his death, to a cousin.

The 14th Viscount lived in Ontario, Canada and the viscountcy is still extant with the present 15th Viscount Charlemont.

First published in May, 2013.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Derryquin Castle



This family was originally seated in Yorkshire.

The first who settled in Ireland was

THE VERY REV JAMES BLAND, Archdeacon of Limerick and Dean of Ardfert.

In a deed of sale registered in Wakefield, 1717, he is described as "of Killarney, County Kerry", and as disposing of his estates in Sedbergh, Yorkshire, to Richard Willen.

Dr Bland was the son of John Bland, of Sedbergh, as proved by the records of St John's College, Cambridge, where he was admitted in 1684.

He went to Ireland as Chaplain to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Henry Sydney, Earl of Romney, in 1692.

Dr Bland wedded Lucy, eldest daughter of Sir Francis Brewster, Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1674-5, by whom he had issue, and was father of the Rev Francis Bland (whose great-grandson, THE VEN NATHANIEL BLAND, Archdeacon of Aghadoe, was the head of the family); and of

NATHANIEL BLAND LL.D, Judge of the Prerogative Court of Dublin, Vicar-General of the Diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, who married firstly, Diana, only daughter and heiress of Nicholas Kemeys, and had issue,
JAMES, his heir;
He wedded secondly, Lucy, daughter of Francis Heaton, and had further issue,
Lucy; Hester; Dorothea.
Dr Bland was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV JAMES BLAND, of Derryquin Castle, who espoused firstly, Elizabeth, daughter of Christopher Julian, and had issue,
Letitia; Diana; Maria; Elizabeth.
He married secondly, Barbara, daughter of _____ Nash.

The Rev James Bland was succeeded by his eldest son,

FRANCIS CHRISTOPHER BLAND, of Derryquin Castle, who wedded, in 1798, Lucinda, daughter of Arthur Bastable Herbert, of Brewstersfield, near Killarney, by his wife Barbara, daughter of Maurice FitzGerald, Knight of Kerry, and had issue,
Francis Christopher;
Elizabeth; Lucy; Frances Diana; Mary Matilda;
Christina Frances; Laetitia; Barbara; Laetitia; Clara Delinda.
Mr Bland died in 1838, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES FRANKLIN BLAND JP (1799-1863), of Derryquin Castle, High Sheriff, 1835, who espoused, in 1825, Emma, daughter of Major Joseph Taylor, of Dunkerron Castle, County Kerry, and had issue,
James Franklin;
Nathaniel Franklin;
Alice Phillis.
Mr Bland was succeeded by his eldest son,

FRANCIS CHRISTOPHER BLAND JP (1826-99), of Derryquin Castle, High Sheriff, 1859, who married, in 1849, Jane, daughter of the Rev Archibald Robert Hamilton, and had issue,
Archibald Robert Hamilton;
Francis Christpher Earle;
Richard Townsend Herbert;
Emma Alice; Jane Hamilton; Catherine Cotter;
Alice Phillis; Mary Evelyn.
Mr Bland was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES FRANKLIN BLAND (1850-1927),  late of Derryquin Castle, and of Drimina House, Sneem, County Kerry, who wedded, in 1873, Agnes Margaret, eldest daughter of Samuel Wilson Block, of 15, Talbot Square, Hyde Park, London, and had issue,
Archibald Franklin Wilson;
Godfrey Hamilton;
Agnes Emma; Evaleen Wilson; Ethel Hamilton.
Mr Bland was succeeded by his eldest son,

FRANCIS CHRISTOPHER CECIL BLAND (1875-1953), of Drimina House, who married, in 1904, Mary Green, daughter of Henry Albert Uprichard, and had issue,
Henry Archibald Forster.
Mr Bland was succeeded by his elder son,

JAMES FRANKLIN McMAHON BLAND (1905-84), of 14, Tullybrannigan Road, Newcastle, County Down, who married, in 1936, Jess Buchan, daughter of Major Harry Campbell Brodie, and had issue,
Godfrey Hamilton.
The elder son,


DERRYQUIN CASTLE, Sneem, County Kerry, was a Victorian pile of rough-hewn stone by James Franklin Fuller, built for the Bland family.

The main block was of three storeys, with a four-storey octagonal tower running through its centre.

The entrance door was at one end, flanked by a two-storey, part-curved wing.

There were rectangular, pointed and camber-headed windows; battlements, and machiolations.

The castle was eventually sold by the Blands to the Warden family.

In 1906, it was owned by Colonel Charles W Warden and valued at £70.

The Wardens resided there until it was burnt in 1922.

It was located in the grounds of what is now the Parknasilla Hotel, but the ruins were demolished in 1969.

In 1732, the Rev Dr Nathaniel Bland obtained his grant of the Parknasilla area, the grantors being described as 'Rt Hon Clotworthy, Lord Viscount Massareene, and Philip Doyne, with the consent of James Stopford.'

The link with these three gentlemen is Elizabeth Smyth.

Her father, the Rt Rev Edward Smyth, Lord Bishop of Down and Connor, married secondly, the Hon Mary Skeffington.

She was the daughter of Clothworthy, 3rd Viscount Massareene. Elizabeth married James Stopford in 1726.

In 1762, he was created Viscount Stopford and Earl of Courtown.

His sister, also Elizabeth Stopford, was the third wife of Philip Doyne.

The Rt Rev Richard Pococke, Lord Bishop of Ossory, visited the area in 1758.

He was an avid traveller who published accounts of his visits to the Middle East, Scotland and England.

The Bishop went in search of Dr Bland's house, which was a summer residence located between the Sneem River and the Owreagh River.

He found the house, known as 'The White House', abandoned by its owner, in favour of Parknasilla, a fine Georgian residence a little further east.

Nathaniel Bland's first wife Diana, was the daughter of Nicholas Kerneys or Kemis of County Wexford. They had two sons, John and Rev James.

It was to Rev James that Nathaniel left the bulk of his estate and we shall return to him presently.

John served in the army at Dettingen, Fontenoy and Clifton Moor.

Nathaniel's son Francis, by his second marriage, was a captain in the army and gave it up to become and actor in Thomas Sheridan's company in Dublin.

He fell in love with Grace Phillips, a Welsh actress, and married her in 1758.

They had several children. Grace was the daughter of the Rev Phillips of St. Thomas's Haverfordwest.

Nathaniel  died in 1760 just before the birth of Francis and Grace's child, a daughter, in 1761.

She was christened Dorothea and known as Dorothy, although she referred to herself as Dora and acquired a surfeit of names.

In 1774, Francis decided to leave Grace and his family and marry an heiress.

This time he chose the well-to-do Catherine Mahony from Kerry.

Dora became an actress and was also known by her stage name, Mrs Jordan. She was seduced by her actor manager in Dublin.

Shortly afterwards she became pregnant and fled to England and fell in love with Richard Ford , a handsome lawyer, who was knighted some years later.

She lived with Ford and had three children by him.

When he failed to do the decent thing and marry her, she left him.

She became mistress to William Henry, Duke of Clarence, 3rd son of George III in 1790. He became William IV upon the death of his brother George IV.

They lived together in Busy House in Teddington, near Hampton Court from 1797 until 1811, when he took a new mistress.

Their children, ten in total and all illegitimate, were known as the FitzClarences. The boys were ennobled, the eldest was created Earl of Munster.

The girls married well, viz. two earls, a viscount, the younger son of a duke and a general in the army.

The Duke pensioned Dora off. She was swindled out of money by a son-in-law.

When Nathaniel Bland died in 1760, his son, the Rev James Bland, inherited the estate. Derryquin Castle was probably built during his era.

His son, Francis Christopher Bland, married Lucinda Herbert in 1798.

His son, James Franklin Bland, was born in 1799. Under him the Derryquin estate witnessed its golden years and was self-supporting.

His sister Frances "Fanny" Diana married Thomas Harnett Fuller of Glasnacree and their son James Franklin Fuller was to become the architect of the new Parknasilla hotel in 1897.

James Franklin Bland was succeeded in turn by his son Francis Christopher.

This Francis Christopher joined the Plymouth Brethren.

He neglected his estate and devoted his energy to preaching.

Land agitation was rife in Ireland at this juncture and it was unfortunate that Bland decided to absent himself.

The estate inevitably went into rapid decline.

First published in September, 2012.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

South Island

Immediately to the south-west of Greyabbey, County Down, on the Ards Peninsula, there is a cluster of three islands.

Chapel Island is to the west; Mid Island directly to the south of Skillin's Point; and South Island (20 acres) lies immediately to the south of Mid Island.

The National Trust owns the land at Skillin's Point, Chapel Island and South Island.

Prospect of Mid Island from South Island

I think Mid Island belongs to the Montgomerys of Grey Abbey House.

Today there were about ten of us - National Trust volunteers.

We assembled at the old schoolhouse on Portaferry Road and went in a convoy to South Island, via Mid Island.

There is a causeway linking Mid Island to the mainland, and another causeway links Mid Island to South Island.

South Island does not have any particular features - no trees, for instance.

There is, however, an overgrown pond which could be revived.

The main task today was to erect fencing in a section of the twenty-acre island.

After lunch we ambled round the island picking up litter.

Fortunately we were blessed with good weather, especially in the morning.

Belleisle Castle


THE RT REV DR JOHN PORTER, Lord Bishop of Clogher, formerly Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, came to Ireland in 1795 as viceregal chaplain to the 2nd Earl Camden, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1795-98.
There was a convention that viceregal chaplains became bishops. Dr Porter, however, fared exceptionally well because, after only a two-year purgatory in the remote and undesirable bishopric of Killala in County Mayo, he was translated to the singularly valuable bishopric of Clogher, where he remained from 1797 until his death in 1819.
He married, in 1786, Mary Smith, of Norfolk, and had issue,
JOHN GREY, his heir;
Thomas, captain RN;
Charles (Rev);
Henry Edward, General in the Army;
Elizabeth; Margaret.
The Bishop died in 1819, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV JOHN GREY PORTER (1789-1873), Rector of Kilskeery, County Tyrone, who wedded, in 1816, Margaret Lavinia, eldest daughter of Thomas Lindsey, of Hollymount, by his wife, the Lady Margaret Bingham, daughter of 1st Earl of Lucan, and had issue,
JOHN GREY, his heir;
Lavinia; Louisa; Elizabeth Phœbe; Emmy; Frances;
Adelaide Mary, m Nicholas Montgomery Archdale, of Crocknacrieve, County Fermanagh, who died in 1877, leaving issue. Their second son, JOHN PORTER, of Belle Isle, assumed, in 1876, the surname and arms of PORTER. 
The eldest son,

JOHN GREY VESEY PORTER JP DL (1818-1903), of Belle Isle, County Fermanagh, High Sheriff of County Fermanagh, 1844, married, in 1863, Elizabeth Jane, daughter of Richard Hall, of Innismore Hall, County Fermanagh.

Mr Porter dsp 1903, when the estate devolved upon his nephew,

JOHN PORTER PORTER JP DL (1853-1939), High Sheriff of County Fermanagh, 1883, who married, in 1884, Josephine Henrietta, daughter of Colonel Jesse Lloyd, of Ballyleek, County Monaghan, and had issue,
JOHN GREY ARCHDALE, DSO (1886-1917), killed in action;
NICHOLAS HENRY ARCHDALE, successor to his brother;
William Wauchope Montgomery;
Coralie Adelaide Mervyn.
Mr Porter was the second son Nicholas Montgomery Archdale, of Crocknacrieve, and Adelaide Mary his wife, fourth daughter of the Rev John Grey Porter, of Kilskeery and Belle Isle, and granddaughter of the Rt Rev John Porter, Lord Bishop of Clogher.

His brother,

NICHOLAS HENRY ARCHDALE PORTER MC JP DL (1890-1973), of Belle Isle, High Sheriff of County Fermanagh, 1941, married, in 1919, Amy, daughter of Charles B Gunther, though the marriage was without issue.

The heiress to Belle Isle was his niece, Miss Lavinia Baird, only daughter of his sister, Audley Josephine, and William James Baird of Elie, Fife.

Miss Baird sold the Belle Isle in 1991 to the 5th Duke of Abercorn KG.

BELLEISLE, one of the largest of the islands of Upper Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, is siutauted near the east shore of the foot of the lake; and is accessible by means of a causeway and a one-arched bridge.

Its area is 112 acres.

The Earl of Ross's former residence has been almost wholly destroyed.

When the original castle and the groves still stood, the demesne was described thus:-
Adjacent to it is another island, nearly of the same extent; and both exhibit a most agreeable prospect, being covered with thriving woods of ash, oak, beech, and firs. 
The house fronts the south, and has before it a neat lawn, ornamented with gravel walks and plantations. Immediately before it, at the distance of about three miles, stands a green hill called Knockninny, which was formerly a deer park, but is now let as a farm. 
Behind this hill the scenery consists of a greenish mountain, which appears to be cultivated to a certain height; and connected to the right with a ridge of much higher mountains, the termination of which becomes lost in the horizon. 
Immediately to the westward, within about a quarter mile of West Island, is a range of eleven other islands, all covered to the water's edge with timber, which stretches directly across the lake.

BELLEISLE CASTLE, near Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh, is situated on an island in Upper Lough Erne.

The Castle seems to incorporate a two-storey, 18th century range with a three-sided bow at one end, to which a range of 1820-30 was added at right angles, including a staircase hall, lit atop by an octagonal lantern.

The Castle was re-fashioned after 1880 in the plain, English-Tudor manor-house style, incorporating a gabled entrance front with mullioned windows, projecting porch and a lofty, church-like battlemented tower at the corner of the 1820-30 range.

The latter range, at the garden front facing the lough, is unaltered with the exception of Victorian, plate-glass windows; and Georgian astragals at one end.

Inside the Castle, an oak staircase with barley-sugar balusters replaced the original stairs; and the walls were panelled with oak, too.

The octagonal ceiling lantern was left undisturbed.

In 1907, the entrance front was prolonged by a wing in the Tudor style containing a long, tall gallery with a timbered roof, an elaborate fireplace and a minstrels' gallery.

At this end of the entrance front there is a pedimented and gabled office wing, possibly 18th century.

BELLE ISLE is almost surrounded by the waters of Upper Lough Erne and at one time was an island.

It is reached via a bridge and the approach to the Castle is a straight avenue.

The original castle dates from 1629 and the present house was created round the core during the mid-19th century.

It is sited in a glorious position of great natural beauty, which has long been acknowledged. Loudon in his Encyclopedia of 1825 remarks that there were 200 acres:
‘… charmingly diversified by hills, dales and gentle declivities, which are richly clothed with old timber through which gravel walks are constructed, and a temple erected, from which a panoramic view is obtained, not only of this but all the other wooded islands of the lough. One of them is exclusively used as a deer park …’. 
Parkland still sweeps down to the lough shore, though the temple has gone.

As well as good stands of parkland trees, there are mature shelter belts and wooded areas.

Early 20th century ornamental gardens at the house have been grassed over.

There is a walled garden.

Two substantial gate lodges were built at the same time as the house was restored and extended.

The original Belle Isle estate came on the market in 1830.

Since the Plantation, it had belonged to the Gore Baronets of Manor Gore, County Donegal.

The last of this branch of the Gore family was Sir Ralph Gore, 6th Baronet, later Earl of Ross and Viscount Belleisle (1725-1802).

He had greatly ornamented the pleasure grounds, particularly with follies and garden buildings designed by the well-known Thomas Wright, but the main house was still the modest lodge built by his father in ca 1720.

Lord Ross had died without legitimate issue, leaving Belle Isle to his natural daughter, Mary, wife of Sir Richard Hardinge, 1st Baronet.

Lady Hardinge died in 1824; Sir Richard in 1826.

His nephew and successor, the Rev Sir Charles Hardinge, 2nd Baronet, of Tunbridge, Kent, had no connection with Ireland and presumably no interest in Belle Isle.

Accordingly, in 1830, Sir Charles and his trustees sold the entire Belle Isle estate, consisting of the manors of Belle Isle and Carrick, together with a small leasehold addendum acquired by Sir Ralph Gore, 4th Baronet, in 1724, to the Rev John Grey Porter of Kilskeery for £68,000.

In the 1830s, the Rev John made further extensive purchases of land, in both counties Fermanagh and Longford, this time from the 2nd Earl of Belmore.

The Fermanagh lands alone had a rental of £1,869 a year and cost him £75,000.
The combined rental of all these estates (Belle Isle included) was about £6,750 a year - a staggering scale of acquisition (even for one whose father had been in possession of the income of the bishopric of Clogher for 22 years), the more so as the Bishop and the Rev John Grey Porter had each in their time to make provision for six younger children.
Belle Isle remained in the ownership of the Porter family until 1991, when Lavinia Baird sold the estate to the 5th Duke of Abercorn KG.

Belle Isle Estate has published a fuller history here.

The Duke bought Belle Isle for his younger son, Lord Nicholas Hamilton.

The Abercorns have admirably transformed Belle Isle into a truly wonderful 470 acre estate with holiday apartments, cottages, a cookery school and the Castle itself.
One interesting feature on the estate is the new wood pellet burner: Belle Isle Castle currently consumes approximately 25,900 litres of oil per annum which should be reduced by approximately 85% with this new system.

A certain amount of oil is still  required to fuel the Aga cookers. The 22,000 litres of oil will be replaced by approximately 53 tonnes of wood pellets (based on approximately 2.4kg of wood pellets replacing 1 litre of oil).
 First published in January, 2011.