Sunday, 17 November 2019

Kilkenny Palace

The See of OSSORY, which, like that of Meath, takes its name from a district, was originally established at Saiger, about 402 AD, by St Kieran, after his return from Rome, where he had remained 20 years in the study of the Christian faith, and had been consecrated a bishop.

He was accompanied on his return by five other bishops, who also founded sees in other parts of Ireland, and after presiding over this see for many years is supposed to have died in Cornwall.

Of his successors, who were called Episcopi Saigerenses, but very imperfect accounts are preserved.

Carthage, his disciple and immediate successor, died about the year 540, from which period till the removal of the see from Saiger to Aghaboe, about the year 1052, there appears to have been, with some few intervals, a regular succession of prelates.

The monastery of Aghaboe was founded by St Canice, of which he was the first abbot, and in which he died ca 600 AD; and after the removal of the see from Saiger, there is little mention of the bishops of Aghaboe.

Felix O'Dullany, who succeeded him in 1178, removed the see from Aghaboe to the city of Kilkenny, as a place of greater security, where he laid the foundation of the cathedral church of St Canice, which was continued at a great expense by Hugh de Mapilton, and completed by Geoffrey St Leger, about 1270.

Richard Ledred, who was consecrated in 1318, beautified the cathedral and rebuilt and glazed all the windows.

He also built the episcopal palace, near the cathedral.

The diocese of Ossory continued to be a separate see until 1835, when, on the death of Dr Elrington, Lord Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin, both those dioceses were annexed to it, and their temporalities vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

The diocese, which is one of the five that constitute the ecclesiastical province of Dublin, constitutes almost the whole of County Kilkenny, a good part of the Queen's County (Laois), and some of the King's County (Offaly).

It extends 46 miles in length from north to south, and 29 in breadth.


THE PALACE, Kilkenny, is a Georgian house built on the foundations of an older medieval palace.

It was probably built by the Right Rev Charles Este, Lord Bishop of Ossory from 1735-40.

The palace has a plain façade.


In 1760, Bishop Pococke constructed a Doric colonnade which joined the palace to St Canice's Cathedral, including a splendid, single-storey, pedimented, bow-ended robing-room.

The colonnade was subsequently demolished; the robing-room, however, remains a feature of the palace garden.


The palace was restored about 1963 by Bishop McAdoo (later Lord Archbishop of Dublin).

The last bishop to live at the palace was the Right Rev John Neill, from 1997-2002.


Ross Willoughby has written about her childhood there.

In 2008, the palace became the headquarters of the Irish heritage council.

First published in November, 2015.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

1st Viscount Thurso

THE SINCLAIR BARONETS, VISCOUNTS THURSO, WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN THE COUNTY OF CAITHNESS, WITH 78,053 ACRES


This family, which descends from George, 4th Earl of Caithness, has possessed the lands of Ulbster, in an uninterrupted succession, for more than two centuries.

There is a charter extant, dated 1615, from the 4th Earl, confirming "for the particular love and favour that he bears his much beloved cousin, John Sinclair, of Ulbster, all and hail the town and lands of Ulbster etc" to the said

JOHN SINCLAIR, which grant was afterwards sanctioned by the Crown.

From this John Sinclair lineally descended

JOHN SINCLAIR (1691-1736), of Ulbster, Heritable Sheriff of the County of Caithness, who married, in 1714, Henrietta, daughter of George Brodie, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
James;
John;
Emilia.
Mr Sinclair was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE SINCLAIR, who wedded Janet, daughter of William, Lord Strathnaver, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Helen; Mary; Janet.
Mr Sinclair died in 1766, and was succeeded by his son,

THE RT HON SIR JOHN SINCLAIR (1754-1835), of Ulbster and Thurso Castle, who espoused firstly, in 1776, Sarah, daughter of Alexander Maitland, of Stoke Newington, by whom he had a daughter, Janet; and secondly, in 1788, Diana, daughter of Alexander, 1st Baron Macdonald, and had issue,
GEORGE, his successor;
Alexander;
John;
Archibald;
William;
James;
Elizabeth Diana; Margaret; Julia; Catherine; Helen.
Mr Sinclair was created a baronet in 1786, designated of Ulbster.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR GEORGE SINCLAIR (1790-1868), 2nd Baronet, of Ulbster, who wedded, in 1816, Catherine, daughter of William, Lord Huntingtower, and had issue,

SIR JOHN GEORGE TOLLEMACHE SINCLAIR DL MP (1825-1912), 3rd Baronet, of Ulbster, who married, in 1853, Emma Isabella Harriet, daughter of William Standish Standish.

His grandson,

THE RT HON SIR ARCHIBALD HENRY MacDONALD SINCLAIR (1890-1970), 4th Baronet, KT, CMG, JP, of Ulbster, espoused, in 1918, Marigold, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel James Stewart Forbes.

Sir Archibald was elevated to the peerage, in 1952, in the dignity of VISCOUNT THURSO, of Ulbster in the County of Caithness.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, the Hon James Alexander Robin Sinclair.

THE CASTLE, Thurso, Caithness, was built in the 1870s by the architect David Smith for Sir Tollemache Sinclair, 3rd Baronet, replacing the original castle of about 1660.

The Victorian castle was built in the style of a French chateau close to the shore on the east of the river mouth.

During the 2nd World War, a sea mine exploded nearby and the castle became structurally unsafe.

Consequently, much of it was demolished to make it safe in 1952.


The contractor who had the job of taking the roof off and demolishing other parts to make it safe was paid by being allowed to keep the lead from the roof.

What is left standing shows the height and number of floors that made it a very impressive structure given its position on the coast where it could be seen a long way off.

Its position gave it marvellous views over Thurso Bay.

First published in November, 2013.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Huntley House

THE CHARLEYS OWNED 348 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY ANTRIM

The family of Charley, or Chorley, passing over from the north of England, settled in Ulster in the 17th century, firstly at Belfast, where they were owners of house property for two hundred years; and afterwards at Finaghy, County Antrim, where  

RALPH CHARLEY (1664-1746), of Finaghy House, was father of

JOHN CHARLEY (1712-93), of Finaghy, who left a son and successor,

JOHN CHARLEY (1744-1812), of Finaghy House, who married, in 1783, Anne Jane, daughter of Richard Wolfenden, of Harmony Hill, County Down, and had issue,

JOHN, of Finaghy House 1784-1844, died unm;
MATTHEW, of Finaghy House;
WILLIAM, of Seymour Hill.
The third son,

WILLIAM CHARLEY, of Seymour Hill, Dunmurry, married, in 1817, Isabella, eldest daughter of William Hunter JP, of Dunmurry, and had issue,
JOHN, of Seymour Hill;
WILLIAM, succeeded his brother;
Edward, of Conway House;
Mary; Anne Jane; Eliza; Isabella; Emily.
Mr Charley died in 1838, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN CHARLEY, of Seymour Hill, who died unmarried, in 1843, aged 25, and was succeeded by his brother, 

WILLIAM CHARLEY JP DL (1826-1904), of Seymour Hill, who married, in 1856, Ellen Anna Matilda, daughter of Edward Johnson JP, of Ballymacash, near Lisburn, and granddaughter of Rev Philip Johnson JP DL, and had issue,

William, 1857-1904;
EDWARD JOHNSON, of Seymour Hill;
John George Stewart, 1863-86;
Thomas Henry FitzWilliam, 1866-85;
Arthur Frederick, of Mossvale, b 1870;
Harold Richard;
Ellen Frances Isabella; Elizabeth Mary Florence;
Emily Constance Jane; Wilhelmina Maud Isabel.
The second son,

EDWARD JOHNSON CHARLEY (1859-1932), of Seymour Hill, was succeeded by his sixth son, 

COLONEL HAROLD RICHARD CHARLEY CBE DL (1875-1956), of Seymour Hill, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles; fought in the Boer War and First World War, with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, and was wounded and became a PoW. 

In 1916 he started workshops for interned British servicemen at Murren. He was Officer-in-Charge for Technical Instruction for servicemen interned in Switzerland in 1917; Commissioner of British Red Cross Society, Switzerland, 1918; commander of the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, 1919-23.

Appointed CBE, 1920; City Commandant, Ulster Special Constabulary, 1924-52; originator of the British Legion Car Park Attendants scheme (adopted throughout Great Britain); Honorary Colonel, 1938, Antrim Coast Regiment (Territorial Army).
His eldest son, 

COLONEL WILLIAM ROBERT (Robin) HUNTER CHARLEY OBE (1924-2019), married Catherine Janet, daughter of William Sinclair Kingan, in 1960. 



HUNTLEY, Dunmurry, originally known as Huntley Lodge, was built ca 1830 by William Hunter (1777-1856), of Dunmurry House, on land leased by the Stewarts of Ballydrain from the Donegall Estate.

His son William (1806-90) lived in Huntley for a time and brought up his family.

In the mid 1850s, he moved with his family to the Isle of Man.

The house was then left by his father William (1777-1856) to his widowed sister, Mrs Isabella Charley (1800-82).



Isabella's husband, William Charley of Seymour Hill, had died in 1838 and she lived at Seymour Hill until her eldest son William was married in 1856.

Isabella then moved to Huntley, where she was joined by her late husband's sisters Mary (1820-86) and Anne Jane Stevenson (1822-1904), whose husband had died in 1855, and Emily (1837-1917).

The ladies at Huntley were talented artists, did embroidery and kept beautiful scrapbooks.

They supported many charities and gave generously to local churches, schools and church halls.

They founded the Charley Memorial School at Drumbeg in 1892 in memory of their brother William Charley (1826-90) of Seymour Hill; and also established the Stevenson Memorial School, Dunmurry.

They built the church hall in Dunmurry on the condition that a service must be held there every Sunday afternoon.

Huntley remained in the possession of the Charley family until 1932, when Edward Charley, of Seymour Hill, died.

The house was sold to Mr George Bryson, who had been a tenant there since just after the 1st World War.

Huntley now operates as bed & breakfast accommodation.

First published in March, 2011.

Garbally Court

THE EARLS OF CLANCARTY WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY GALWAY, WITH 23,896 ACRES


This family, which has been ennobled in two branches, assumed the name from the Seigneurie of LA TRANCHE, in Poitou, of which they were formerly possessed.

The first of the family in England was

FRÉDÉRIC DE LA TRANCHE, or TRENCH, who fled from France after the massacre of St Bartholomew, and took up his abode in Northumberland about 1575.

He married, in 1576, Margaret, daughter of Thomas Sutton, and had issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
James (Rev), Rector of Clongill, m Margaret, daughter of Hugh, Viscount Montgomery;
Adam Thomas.
Mr Trench thereafter crossed into Scotland, where he died in 1580.

The eldest son,

THOMAS TRENCH, married, in 1610, Catherine, daughter of Richard Brooke, of Pontefract, Yorkshire, and had issue,
FREDERICK, of whom we treat;
John (Very Rev), Dean of Raphoe; ancestor of BARON ASHTOWN.
The elder son,

FREDERICK RICHARD TRENCH (1681-1752), MP for Galway County, 1715-52, succeeded at Garbally; from whom descended the 1st Earl's grandfather, Richard Trench, who espoused Elizabeth, second daughter of John Eyre, of Eyre Court, County Galway; and was grandfather of

RICHARD TRENCH (1710-68), MP for Banagher, 1735-61, Galway County, 1761-68, who wedded, in 1732, Frances, only daughter and heir of David Power, descended from the Barons de la Poer, and, in the female line, from the Lords Muskerry, afterwards Earls of Clancarty, by the marriage of John Power with Elena, daughter of Cormac, Lord Muskerry.

Through this marriage, Mr Trench obtained the united fortunes of the families of POWER and KEATING.

He died in 1768, having had issue,
FREDERICK and DAVID, both died in infancy;
WILLIAM POWER KEATING, of whom hereafter;
John, a major in the army;
Eyre, a Lt-Gen in the army;
Nicholas;
Elizabeth;
Hester;
Rose;
Jane;
Anne, m C Cobbe, of Newbridge.
Mr Trench's eldest surviving son,

WILLIAM POWER KEATING TRENCH (1741-1805), MP for County Galway, 1768-97, was elevated to the peerage, in 1797, in the dignities of Baron Kilconnel, of Garbally, County Galway, and Viscount Dunlo, of Dunlo and Ballinasloe, in the counties of Galway and Roscommon.

His lordship was further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1803, as EARL OF CLANCARTY (2nd creation), in consequence of of his descent from Elena MacCarty, wife of John Power, daughter of Cormac Oge MacCarty, Viscount Muskerry, and sister of Donough MacCarty, Earl of Clancarty in the reign of CHARLES II.

He wedded, in 1762, Anne, eldest daughter of the Rt Hon Charles Gardiner, and sister of Luke, 1st Lord Mountjoy, and had issue,
RICHARD, his successor;
Power (Most Rev), Lord Archbishop of Tuam;
William, Rear-Admiral;
Charles (Ven), Archdeacon of Ardagh;
Thomas;
Luke Henry;
Robert le Poer (Sir), KCB;
Florinda; Anne; Elizabeth; Harriet; Frances; Louisa; Emily.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD LE POER, 2nd Earl (1767-1837), GCB, PC, who was created a peer of the United Kingdom, as BARON TRENCH, 1815, and raised to an English viscountcy, in 1824, as VISCOUNT CLANCARTY.

In 1813, his lordship was appointed ambassador to The Hague, and was created by the King of the Netherlands, in 1818, Marquess of Heusden, having obtained permission of his own Sovereign to accept the said honour.

Lord Clancarty wedded, in 1796, Henrietta Margaret, second daughter of the Rt Hon John Staples, and had issue,
WILLIAM THOMAS, his successor;
Richard John;
Robert;
Louisa Augusta Anne; Harriette Margaret; Emily Florinda; Lucy.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM THOMAS, 3rd Earl.
There is no heir to the peerages.

GARBALLY COURT, Ballinasloe, County Galway, is a large, austere, two-storey mansion, built in 1819 to replace an earlier house burnt in 1798.

It is square, built round what was originally a central courtyard.

The eleven-bay entrance front has a single-storey Doric porte-cochere.

There is an adjoining front, also of eleven bays, with pediments over the ground-floor windows.


The rear elevation has a single-storey curved bow.

The hall boasts Ionic pilasters and niches, with an arch leading to a grand picture gallery, built in the central courtyard about 1855.

The 5th Earl of Clancarty sold Garbally Court in 1907, following the decimation of his estate caused by the Land Acts.


Garbally College, a Roman Catholic boys' school, purchased Garbally Court in 1922.

First published in December, 2012.  Clancarty arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

The Prince of Wales

THE PRINCE OF WALES is 71 today:

His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Great Steward of Scotland, KG, KT, GCB, OM.

His Royal Highness is heir apparent and first in line to the Throne.

Born at Buckingham Palace on the 14th November, 1948, HRH was educated at Cheam School; Gordonstoun; and Trinity College, Cambridge.

His Royal Highness is Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy, Field Marshal in the Army, and Marshal of the Royal Air Force in the RAF.

These ranks are known as "Five Star" in the United States.

  • Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter 
  • Royal Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle 
  • Grand Master of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath 
  • Member of the Order of Merit.
His Royal Highness shall ascend the throne as CHARLES III.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Old Belfast Castle

Belfast Castle ca 1611

When Sir Arthur Chichester, the younger son of Sir John Chichester, was granted a patent by JAMES I, dated the 8th November, 1603,
"the Castle of Bealfaste, or Belfast, with the Appurtenants and Hereditaments, Spiritual and Temporal, situate in the Lower Clandeboye"
he did not fully realize the value of the property thereby granted.

Chichester was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in the following year, at a salary of £1,000 per annum, together with £500 for an outfit and some fees attaching to his office.

But on the death of the preceding Lord Deputy, Charles Blount, 5th Baron Mountjoy and Earl of Devonshire, Sir Arthur wrote to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, 25th April, 1606, asking to be transferred to
"some meaner office" giving as his reason that his "fortunes are poor, not having a foot of land or inheritance, but such as his Majesty gave him in the North, of which he makes small benefit, and his expenses last year greatly exceeded his income."
Even three years after he had become the proprietor of the lands upon which that part of the City of Belfast, situated in County Antrim, now stands, he apparently failed to realise the potential value of his acquisitions.

High Street, Belfast, in the 17th century

In the development of that property, however, he was retarded by the onerous and exacting duties attaching to his high office, and it was not until after 1610 that the project of building a new castle upon "the ruynes of the decayed Castle" was carried to completion.

The report, undated, but supposed to be about 1611, bears the following signatures:
  • Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy, Baron Chichester 
  • George Carew, Earl of Totnes, Baron Carew 
  • Thomas Ridgeway, Earl of Londonderry 
  • Sir Richard Wingfield, Viscount Powerscourt 
  • Sir Oliver Lambart, Baron Lambart of Cavan
"We came to Belfast where we found many masons, bricklayers, and other labourers working, who had taken down the ruins of the decayed Castle there almost to the vault of the cellars, and had likewise laid the foundation of a brick house 50 foot long which is to be adjoined to the said Castle by no staircase of brick well [sic] is to be 14 foot square.

The house to be made 20 foot wide, and 2 storeys and a half high.

The Castle is to be built two storeys above the cellars, all the rooms thereof to be vaulted, and platforms to be made thereupon.

The staircase is to be made 10 foot higher than the Castle, about which Castle and house there is a strong bawn almost finished which is flanked with four half bulwarks.

The foundation of the wall and bulwarks to the height of the water-table is made with stone, and the rest, being in all 12 foot high above the ground, is made with brick, the bawn is to be composed about with a large and deep ditch or moat which will always stand full of water.

The Castle will defend the passage over the ford at Belfast between the upper and lower Clandeboye, and likewise the bridge over the River of Owenvarra between Malone and Belfast.

This work is in so good forward [sic] that it is like to be finished by the middle of the next summer.

The town of Belfast is plotted out in a good form, wherein are many families of English, Scottish, and some Manxmen already inhabiting, of which some are artificers who have built good timber houses with chimneys after the fashion of the English pale, and one inn with very good lodgings which is a great comfort to the travellers in those parts.

Near which town the said Sir Arthur Chichester has already made above twelve hundred thousand of good bricks, whereof after finishing the said Castle, house, and bawn, there will be a good proportion left for the building of other tenements within the said Town."

First published in July, 2012.   Source: Eddie's Book Extracts.

Shane's Castle

THE BARONS O'NEILL WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY ANTRIM, WITH 64,163 ACRES
The house of O'Neill boasts of royal descent, and deduces its pedigree from CONN O'NEILL, Prince of Tyrone, who, upon relinquishing his royalty, was created EARL OF TYRONE by HENRY VIII in 1542. 
PHELIM O'NEILL, Lord of Clanaboy, son of Niall Mor, dying in 1533, left two sons, of whom the eldest son, 

SIR BRIAN O'NEILL, married Amy, daughter of Brian Carrach MacDonnell (he married an unnamed Scotswoman in 1568).

This Sir Brian, Captain or Lord of Clanaboy, was later obliged to repulse an invasion by Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, who crossed the ford of Belfast and, though welcomed by Sir Brian as a guest, arranged the massacre of 200 of his people, and took Sir Brian and his wife in 1573.

Sir Brian died in 1574, and was succeeded by his son,

SHANE McBRIAN O'NEILL, of Edenduffcarrick, otherwise Shane's Castle, who married firstly, Rose Guinness, sister of 1st Viscount Magennis of Iveagh; and secondly, Anne, daughter of Brian Carrach O'Neill of Loughinsholin.
This gentleman was the last captain or lord of Clanaboy, and MP for County Antrim, 1585. In 1598, joined his cousin the 3rd Earl of Tyrone's rising, but was pardoned.

In 1603, at the plantation of Ulster, the Clanaboy O'NEILLs were stripped of over 600,000 acres; however, in 1607, JAMES I settled the castle and estate of about 120,000 acres upon Shane McBrian O'Neill.
He died ca 1616, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR HENRY O'NEILL, Knight, of Shane's Castle, born ca 1600, Lord of Clanaboy and chief of his name, who married Martha, daughter of Sir Francis Stafford, Governor of Ulster, and had issue, Rose, who married Randal, 1st Marquess of Antrim.

Lord O'Neill with a portrait of Rose, Marchioness of Antrim

Sir Henry died in 1638, and was succeeded by his brother,

ARTHUR O'NEILL, of Edenduffcarrick (Shane's Castle), who married, about 1677, Grace, daughter of Cathal O'Hara, and was succeeded by his son,

CHARLES O'NEILL, of Shane's Castle, who wedded the Lady Mary Paulet, eldest daughter of Charles, 1st Duke of Bolton; at whose decease without issue, in 1716, the estates passed to his brother,

JOHN O'NEILL (1665-1739), known as French John, of Shane's Castle, who married Charity, daughter of Sir Richard Dixon, and had issue,
CHARLES, his successor;
Clotworthy;
Catharine, m 7th Viscount Mountgarret;
Rachael; Eleanor; Rose; Anne; Mary.
Mr O'Neill was succeeded by his eldest son,

CHARLES O'NEILL, of Shane's Castle, who married, in 1737, Catherine, third daughter and co-heir of the Rt Hon St John Brodrick (eldest son of Alan, 1st Viscount Midleton, Lord Chancellor of Ireland) by Anne, only sister of Trevor, Viscount Hillsborough, father of 1st Marquess of Downshire, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
St John;
Anne, m Rt Hon R Jackson.
Mr O'Neill died in 1769, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE RT HON JOHN O'NEILL (1740-98), of Shane's Castle, Privy Counsellor, MP for Randalstown, 1760-83, and for Antrim, 1783-93, who wedded, in 1777, Henrietta Boyle, daughter of Charles, Viscount Dungarvan, and had issue,
CHARLES HENRY ST JOHN, his heir;
JOHN BRUCE RICHARD, succeeded his brother.
Mr O'Neill was elevated to the peerage, in 1793, in the dignity of Baron O'Neill, of Shane's Castle; and advanced to a viscountcy, 1795, as Viscount O'Neill.

His lordship, Governor of Antrim at the outbreak of an uprising, was mortally wounded by an assailant in 1798, having received wounds from insurgent pikemen previously.

He was succeeded by his elder son,

CHARLES HENRY ST JOHN2nd Viscount (1779-1841), KP PC, of Shane's Castle, Colonel, Antrim Militia, Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, 1831-41, Vice-Admiral of Ulster.

His lordship was advanced, in 1800, to the dignities of Viscount Raymond and EARL O'NEILL.

He was appointed a Privy Counsellor and installed a Knight of St Patrick in 1809.

The 1st Earl died, unmarried, from a complication of gout and influenza at Shane's Castle.

The earldom of O'Neill consequently expired, though the viscountcy passed to his brother, 

JOHN BRUCE RICHARD3rd Viscount (1780-1855), MP for County Antrim, 1802-41, Constable of Dublin Castle, 1811-55, Vice-Admiral of Ulster, General in the Army, who died unmarried, when the titles expired.

The Barony was revived, however, in 1868, when the 3rd Viscount's second cousin twice removed, the Rev William Chichester (later O'Neill), was created BARON O'NEILL.


SHANE'S CASTLE demesne lies at Lough Neagh, between the towns of Antrim and Randalstown in County Antrim.

The original Shane's Castle took its name from Shane McBrian O'Neill, last captain or lord of Clanaboy.

There were two principal branches of the House of O'Neill: Tyrone and Clanaboy.

After a long and turbulent history, JAMES I finally settled the O'Neill estates, in excess of 120,000 acres, on Shane McBrian O'Neill, who had made his peace with the Crown.

After passing through several cousins, the O'Neill estates were eventually inherited by Charles O'Neill (d 1769), who built Tullymore Lodge in Broughshane, the dower house of the O'Neills till the 1930s.

Charles also built Cleggan Lodge, originally a shooting lodge until it was acquired by Sir Hugh O'Neill, 1st Baron Rathcavan, in the early 1900s.

Charles's son John, 1st Viscount O'Neill, was a highly respected parliamentarian and was tragically killed at the Battle of Antrim in 1798.

Charles Henry St John, 2nd Viscount, was further elevated to become 1st Earl O'Neill and Viscount Raymond (1779-1841), continued his father's tradition as a distinguished parliamentarian and, for his support of the Act of Union, was granted the earldom.

The 1st Earl's younger brother, John 1780-1855), succeeded to the titles as 2nd and last Earl O'Neill when the earldom became extinct.

However, his estates were inherited by his cousin, the Rev William Chichester, who assumed the surname of O'Neill in lieu of Chichester the same year.

In 1868, the barony was revived, when the Rev William was created 1st Baron O'Neill, of Shane's Castle in the County of Antrim.

This title is still extant today.

The 1st Baron was the great-great-great-grandson of John Chichester, younger brother of Arthur Chichester, 2nd Earl of Donegall.

The latter two were both nephews of Arthur Chichester, 1st Earl of Donegall, and grandsons of Edward Chichester, 1st Viscount Chichester..

Lord O'Neill was succeeded by his eldest son, the 2nd Baron, who sat as MP for Antrim.

His eldest son and heir apparent, the Hon Arthur O'Neill, was Mid-Antrim MP from 1910 until 1914, when he was killed in action during the First World War the first MP to die in the conflict.

The 2nd Baron was consequently succeeded by his grandson, the 3rd Baron (the son of the Hon Arthur O'Neill), who was killed in action in Italy during the 2nd World War.

As of 2010 the title is held by his son, 4th and present Baron, who succeeded in 1944.
As a descendant of the 1st Viscount Chichester, he is in remainder to the barony and viscountcy of Chichester and, according to a special patent in the letters patent, the earldom of Donegall, titles held by his kinsman, the present Marquess of Donegall.
Two other members of the O'Neill family have been elevated to the peerage: Hugh O'Neill, 1st Baron Rathcavan, youngest son of 2nd Baron O'Neill; and Terence O'Neill, Baron O'Neill of the Maine, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, youngest brother of 3rd Baron.

The barony of the present creation really descends through marriage from the Chichester family, Earls and Marquesses of Donegall.

Shane's Castle remains one of the largest and finest private demesnes in Northern Ireland, extending to 2,700 acres.

It lies in a particularly scenic, not to say strategic, position on the north-east shore of Lough Neagh between Antrim and Randalstown.

Part of the Estate is a nature reserve.

The O'Neill family has had a hapless history with regard to the fate of their houses: the first Shane's Castle dated from the early 1600s and was utterly destroyed by an accidental fire in 1816.

The family moved to a small house adjoining the stables.


That house was replaced in 1865 by a larger, Victorian-Gothic castle which, tragically, was maliciously burnt in 1922 (as was the nearby Antrim Castle).


Its ruin was subsequently cleared away, and for the next 40 or so years the family lived once again in the stables.

The present Neo-Georgian house (above) at Shane's Castle, County Antrim, was built in 1958 for the present Lord O'Neill to the designs of Arthur Jury, of Blackwood & Jury, architects.

The formal gardens to the south were laid out from the 1960s.

The extensive and fine walled Shane's Castle demesne lies on the north shores of Lough Neagh.

It was established in the 17th century and surrounds a succession of houses on different sites.

There are ruins of the original dwelling on the shores of Lough Neagh and the 18th century house, with a lake-side terrace and a vault of 1722.

The attached and surviving camellia house, also by Nash, of 1815 is full of plants.

The present house (above) was built in 1958 in a pleasant spot to the north-west of the earlier house and south-west of the intermediate 1860s house (by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon), which was burnt by the IRA in the 1920s.

It is classical, well-proportioned, with a handsome fanlighted doorway.

The parkland is beautiful and contains many well distributed venerable trees.

There are substantial shelter belts, which once accommodated walks and rides. Clumps and plantations also grace the fields.

There has been a long history of ornamental gardens and productive gardens on the site.

It was visited, depicted and remarked upon by various commentators of the 18th and 19th centuries.

A portrait of the landscape gardener John Sutherland by Martin Creggan (1822), hangs in the house.

Early 20th century photographs show well maintained acres in the days when many gardeners were employed to keep up a high standard commensurate with the size of the demesne.

In 1933 the surroundings were described as, 
‘… exceedingly pretty, with old oaks, lovely flowers and enchanting vistas of both river and lake, and with rockeries, water-lily ponds and ferneries in profusion.’  
A large and impressive mid-19th century rockery built in a quarry near the lough shores is not planted up but is kept clear.

At the present time there are beautifully maintained contemporary gardens at the house and adaptations of the walled garden planting for modern use.

Glasshouses have been removed.

The arboretum is being reinforced and much new planting has been added in the vicinity of the house.

There is a family graveyard, with a statue of a harpist by Victor Segoffin of 1923.

There are many well maintained and listed estate buildings such as Ballealy Cottage of ca 1835.

The surviving gate lodges by James Sands are very fine: Dunmore Lodge, ca 1850; Antrim Lodge, ca 1848; White or Ballygrooby Lodge, ca 1848; and Randalstown Gate Lodge, ca 1848, all listed.

The latter lodges belong to a period of enhancement on the demesne.

Two pre-1829 bridges are Dunmore Bridge and Deerpark Bridge.

The deer-park, on the western side of the River Maine, was sold to the Department of Agriculture before the last war and is known as Randalstown Forest. 

First published in May, 2010.   O'Neill arms courtesy of European Heraldry.