Friday, 10 July 2020

Portballintrae Visit

Seaport Lodge (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

Portballintrae is a pretty village on the north County Antrim coast, within a few miles of the famous Giant's Causeway.

The village of Bushmills is inland, a mile or so from Portballintrae, on the River Bush.

When I was twelve years old, in 1972, we spent a few days at the Beach Hotel, which stood at a picturesque little bay named after the Salmon Rock.

The Beach Hotel, image from a picture postcard

I have happy memories of our times there.

The hotel was demolished several decades ago for a new apartment block called, I think, the Beach Apartments.

Today Portballintrae has one hotel, a boat club, a nine-hole golf club, and a small shop and village hall at the main car-park.

I spent a few days at Portballintrae this week. After breakfast, I usually strolled past the cliffs, with their sand martins dashing in and out, to Seaport Lodge, probably the oldest building in the village, which was built about 1770.

The Lodge is a handsome building, presently being restored by its owner.

The white paint which formerly covered the stone has been stripped away, revealing the fine craftsmanship.

The building work now seems to be focussed on the interior.

Dunseverick Harbour (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

The next morning I drove along the coast to Dunseverick Harbour, a charming haven far from the madding crowd.

A winding, narrow road leads down to it, and the prospect is spectacular.

The National Trust owns part of the coast here, a spot equidistant from Portbraddan and Dunseverick Castle, popular with ramblers.

When I stopped off at the Castle (or its site; only the ruinous gate lodge remains) there were two tents there.

Lamb Cutlets at Ramore (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

In the evening I went to the popular and busy Ramore Harbour restaurant for dinner.

Portrush Harbour from Ramore (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

THE next day I went for a walk from Portballintrae to Runkerry, a distance of about two miles, where the little narrow-gauge railway begins for Bushmills.

Giant's Causeway Railway (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

It wasn't operating on Thursday, though the verges of the railway line have been trimmed and cut very recently, so perhaps it will reopen imminently.

(Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

On my way home I paid a visit to Bushmills Garden Centre, where I encountered a young fox.

House of Brownlow

The first member of this family to settle in Ulster was

JOHN BROWNLOW, of Nottingham, who offered himself as an undertaker, at the barony of Oneilland, County Armagh, during the plantation.

His son,

SIR WILLIAM BROWNLOW (1591-1661), of Brownlows Derry, County Armagh, born at Epworth, Derbyshire, settled in Ulster, and was knighted, 1622, by Henry Cary, 1st Viscount Falkland, Lord Deputy of Ireland.

Sir William, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1623, was granted 1,000 acres of land by JAMES I, close to the southern shore of Lough Neagh.

He married Eleanor, daughter of Sir John O'Doherty, of Londonderry, by whom he had several daughters, the eldest of whom,

LETTICE, married Patrick Chamberlain, of County Louth, and had issue,

ARTHUR CHAMBERLAIN (1645-1711), High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1668-9,  who assumed the arms and name of BROWNLOW.

He wedded Jane, daughter of Sir Standish Hartstonge Bt, of Hereford, and of Bruff, County Limerick.

Mr Brownlow was succeeded by his son and heir,

WILLIAM BROWNLOW (1683-1739), of Lurgan, County Armagh, MP for Armagh County, 1711-39, who married, in 1712, the Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, eldest daughter of James, 6th Earl of Abercorn, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
Jane; Elizabeth; Anne; Mary; Isabella.
Mr Brownlow was succeeded by his son,

THE RT HON WILLIAM BROWNLOW (1726-94), High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1750, MP for Armagh County, 1753-94, who espoused firstly, in 1754, Judith Letitia, daughter of the Very Rev Charles Meredyth, Dean of Ardfert, of Newtown, County Meath, and had issue,
William, dsp;
CHARLES, his heir;
He married secondly, in 1765, Catherine, third daughter of Roger Hall, of Mount Hall, County Down, and had issue,
Francis (Rev);
Catherine; Elizabeth; Isabella; Frances Letitia; Mary Anne; Selina; Louisa.
Mr Brownlow was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL CHARLES BROWNLOW (1757-1822), of Lurgan, who wedded, in 1785, Caroline, daughter of Benjamin Ashe, of Bath, and had issue,
William (1787-1813);
CHARLES, of whom hereafter;
John (Rev);
Isabella; Anna; Mary.
Colonel Brownlow was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

CHARLES (1795-1847), who wedded firstly, in 1822, the Lady Mary Bligh, daughter of John, 4th Earl of Darnley, and had issue,
Clara Anne Jane;
Mary Elizabeth.
He espoused secondly, in 1828, Jane, daughter of Roderick Macneill, of Barra, and had issue,
CHARLES, his successor.
Mr Brownlow, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1834, was elevated to the peerage, in 1839, in the dignity of BARON LURGAN, of Lurgan, County Armagh.

His lordship was succeeded by his son,

CHARLES, 2nd Baron (1831-82), KP,  who married, in 1853, Emily Anne, daughter of John, 3rd Baron Kilmaine, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his successor;
Louisa Helene; Isabella.
His lordship was appointed a Knight of St Patrick in 1864.
  • William George Edward Brownlow, 4th Baron Lurgan (1902–84);
  • John Desmond Cavendish Brownlow, 5th Baron Lurgan (1911–91).
I have written about Brownlow House and the Barons Lurgan here.

The Brownlow Papers are deposited at PRONI. 

First published in February, 2012.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Craigdun Castle


TORQUIL MacNEILL, chief of the Clan Neill, of Taynish and Gigha, born ca 1380, was constable of Castle Sween, in Knapdale, Argyllshire.

LACHLAN McNEILL, of Terfergus and Losset, Argyllshire, fourth son of Torquil MacNeill, married firstly, Mary McNeill, of Colonsay, and had a large family.

The third son,

NEILL McNEILL, settled in Cushendun, County Antrim, about 1676, and married Rose Stuart, of Garry, in the same county, and was father of

LACHLAN McNEILL, who wedded Jane Macnaghten, of Benvarden, and had several children, of whom the eldest son, 

NEILL McNEILL, of Cushendun, County Antrim, espoused Christian Hamilton, of Londonderry, and was father of

EDMUND McNEILL, of Cushendun, married Elizabeth, daughter of John Hamilton, of Londonderry, and died in 1790.

The eldest son,

EDMUND ALEXANDER McNEILL JP (1787-1879), of Cushendun, County Antrim, married, in 1817, Rose, eldest daughter of Alexander McNeile, and had an only son,

EDMUND McNEILL JP DL (1821-1915), of Craigdun and Cushendun, County Antrim, High Sheriff, 1879, who married, in 1851, Mary, eldest daughter of Alexander Miller, of Ballycastle, and had issue,  

©National Portrait Gallery, London


CRAIGDUN CASTLE, near Cullybackey, County Antrim, is a Victorian-Baronial style house built of basalt, in 1867, by Edward (Eddie) McNeill.

It comprises two storeys with a gabled attic.

There is a substantial five-storey tower with pepper-pot bartizans.

The drawing-room is notable for its Classical plasterwork ceiling.

The house is said to have thirty rooms in total.

Craigdun Castle is believed to have been designed by Sir Charles Lanyon, who was responsible for many of Northern Ireland’s best known Victorian buildings, including Belfast Castle and Ballywalter House.

The Scottish baronial architecture was a fashionable style of the period, incorporating crow step gables and conical turrets and mock defensive features such as crenellations and arrow slits.

The McNeills owned 609 acres in County Antrim during the 19th century.

Although their original seat was Glenmona House, Cushendun, which was increasingly used for holidays, the family tended to reside at Craigdun.

Today Craigdun comprises a more manageable ten acres.

In 1912, the estate was purchased by a Belfast man, John Percy Stott, and it passed to his daughter Doreen on his death in 1949.

Upon the death of her son, Peter Stott-Martin, from Multiple Sclerosis in 1952, she and her husband, Commander Stott-Martin, bequeathed the castle to the National Health Service as a respite care home for MS sufferers.

Much work was carried out during the 1960-80s, including many internal alterations for the installation of a lift in the early 1980s.

The NHS sold the castle in the early 1990s. William and Romayne Baird owned Craigdun for nine years, till it was bought by Andrew Clark in 2002.

Andrew and Julie Clark were married at Craigdun in 2010 and together they restored the building into a comfortable family home, which featured in the final of the BBC House of the Year programme in 2011.

Craigdun Castle itself remained a private family home, though the walled garden and grounds could be hired as a venue for marquee weddings, receptions and photographs.

The gardens are associated in the past with the early 17th century Craigs Castle.

There are fine mature trees in the shelter belts and parkland, including exotics.

A champion parkland sycamore has a circumference of eleven yards at the base.

The walled garden is adjacent to the house and has a circular pavilion, with a conical slated roof, in one corner.

The two gate-lodges have been demolished.

First published in July, 2012.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Fermanagh DLs


The Viscount Brookeborough KG, Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, has been pleased to appoint:-

Mrs Jennifer Hannah Irvine
County Fermanagh

Mrs Jenifer Alison Johnston
County Fermanagh

Mr Jisbinder Singh Sembhi
County Fermanagh

To be Deputy Lieutenants of the County, their Commissions bearing date, the 29th day of June, 2020.
Lord Lieutenant of the County

Ballymoyer Painting

Anthony Knight, director and trustee of Beleura House and Garden, Australia, has sent me a watercolour of Ballymoyer House, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.
"In the early 19th century a more imposing house in the classical style, with a stucco fa├žade of three stories and a colonnaded porch, had been added onto the earlier, rougher building, and the two were linked with creaking corridors and staircases.
"The library, the smaller bedrooms, and the servants' hall were in the old section at the back, but the principal bedrooms, drawing room, and dining room were in the grander addition, looking across the lawns and parkland to stands of beech on the hillside."
Comprising some 7,000 acres of low hills, moorland and small tenant farms, Ballymoyer was one of the largest demesnes in County Armagh.

The Synnots had made their money in the linen trade and mining and had always been resident landlords.

Ballymoyer House was later demolished and Brigadier-General Hart-Synnot gave the demesne to the National Trust ca 1938.

I have written about the Synnot family here.

First published in April, 2012.


It has been five years since I visited Northern Ireland’s legendary rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede, near Ballintoy, County Antrim.

It was at that time, March, 2015, that I lost a dental crown at the car-park when chewing a fruit pastille.

The rope bridge has become a mecca for tourists and travellers alike.

The bridge is made from planks between cables and robust rope handrails.

Salmon fishermen crossed from the cliffs - a sea chasm of 100 feet - to their fishery cottage on Carrick Island.

The bridge was formerly assembled in May and dismantled in September, though it now opens for longer.

On the island the fishing boats were hoisted and lowered by derricks.
Ballintoy and Carrick-a-Rede were granted to Archibald Stewart in 1625 by Randal, 1st Earl of Antrim, for the annual rent of £9. 
This grant included Sheep Island and the isle of Portcampbell.
The National Trust acquired 56 acres of the property in 1967 from Frank Gailey and Iris Bushell.
The prospect is truly spectacular.

The Weighbridge Tearoom serves light lunches and refreshments:

I enjoyed a bowl of piping-hot leek & potato soup, with a thick slice of fresh wheaten bread.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

House of Cromwell

THE RT HON THOMAS CROMWELL, EARL OF ESSEX, KG, Statesman, Chief Minister to HENRY VIII, was attainted and executed in 1540.

His son,

 SIR GREGORY CROMWELL KB (c1514-51), born at Putney, Surrey, was tutored by Richard Southwell and attended Cambridge University.

In 1539, he was summoned to Parliament as Lord Cromwell, servant of HENRY VIII, and in 1540 he was created BARON CROMWELL.

He wedded Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Seymour, sister of Edward, Duke of Somerset, and widow of Sir Anthony Oughtred; by whom he had three sons, of whom the eldest,

HENRY, 2nd Baron (1538-92), summoned to parliament in the reign of ELIZABETH I, wedded Mary, daughter of John, Marquess of Winchester.

His elder son,

EDWARD, 3rd Baron (1559-1607), was with the Earl of Essex in his expedition at sea against the Spaniards, and joined in the insurrection three years afterwards, which cost Lord Essex his head.

The 3rd Baron, however, received an especial pardon in 1601. 

His lordship, having alienated his estates in England by sale, purchased the barony of Lecale in County Down from Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport, or "made an exchange thereof".

He married twice, and, dying in Ulster, was succeeded by his son,

THOMAS, 4th Baron (1594-1653), who was created by CHARLES I, in 1624, Viscount Lecale. 

His lordship was advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1645, as EARL OF ARDGLASS.
Lord Ardglass remained firmly attached to the interests of the King during the civil wars, notwithstanding his friendship with the Earl of Essex. 

Ardglass was an important town during the middle ages, which would explain Cromwell's choice of title.

The 1st Earl was commander of the Regiment of Horse in Ireland for CHARLES I during the Civil War; and subsequently made his peace with Parliament, paying £460 for his "delinquency".
The 1st Earl married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Robert Meverell, of Throwleigh, Staffordshire.

He was succeeded by his eldest son, 

WINGFIELD, 2nd Earl (1622-68), who was educated at Stone School in Staffordshire; matriculated at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1637/8; was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Laws at Oxford University in 1642. In 1649, he was taken prisoner in the Royalist cause.

His only son,

THOMAS, 3rd Earl (1653-82), married a daughter of the Most Rev Michael Boyle, Lord Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland; but dying without issue, 1682, the family honours reverted to his uncle,

VERE ESSEX, 4th Earl (1623-87), PC, a son of the 1st Earl, who married, in 1672, Catherine Hamilton.

He died at Bonecastle, County Down, and was buried at Downpatrick Abbey [Down Cathedral].

Lord Ardglass was educated at Stowe School and at Finstock, Oxfordshire.

This nobleman married, though died without male issue, when the titles expired; except the barony of CROMWELL, originating in the writ of 1539, devolved upon his daughter,

ELIZABETH CROMWELL, as Baroness Cromwell, in which rank her ladyship assisted at the funeral of MARY II, and the coronation of Queen Anne.

She wedded the Rt Hon Edward Southwell MP, Principal Secretary of State in Ireland, and had issue, two sons and a daughter, who all died sine prole; and another, a son, Edward Southwell, who, marrying Catherine, daughter of Edward Watson, Viscount Sondes, and sole heiress of her brothers, Lewis and Thomas, Earls of Rockingham.

Her son,

EDWARD SOUTHWELL (1705-55), succeeded to the barony of DE CLIFFORD.

Her ladyship died in 1709, and the barony of CROMWELL is now considered to be vested in the Barons de Clifford.

Dundrum Castle was held by the 1st Earl between 1605-36.

The colours of Downpatrick High School's crest are taken from the arms of Elizabeth, Baroness Cromwell, owner of the Downpatrick estate.

The Earls of Ardglass were landlords of most of the barony of Lecale.

Dr Eileen Black has written about the Southwells here.

The lands of Lecale were held, prior to the Reformation, either by the great religious corporations in Downpatrick or by the descendants of the early English colonists.

The Church lands, having become vested in the Crown, were leased to the Earl of Kildare and, after the expiration of that lease, came into the possession of the Cromwells, Earls of Ardglass.

They still form the Downpatrick estate, except large portions of them that have been sold or leased by the Cromwells or their descendants.

The estates held by the descendants of the early English colonists were almost all confiscated under the Act of Settlement, after the termination of the civil wars of 1641.
Throwley Old Hall, Staffordshire, was a seat of the Cromwells through marriage. Elizabeth, the last of the Meverells, married Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's chief minister, responsible for the disillusion of the monasteries. A descendant of them was Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector.
The writer and poet Charles Cotton married into the Cromwell family in 1669 – his 2nd wife Mary was a widow of Wingfield Cromwell. He spent time fishing the local river with his great friend Izaak Newton and building his famous fishing lodge on the River Dove.
Following the Cromwells the house passed to the last Baron de Clifford, Edward Southwell, who sold to Sir Samuel Crompton in 1790, who let the property to the reputable Phillips family.
Several members of the family are interred at Down Cathedral. The 1st Earl held Dundrum Castle between 1605-36.

Ardglass arms courtesy of European Heraldry.   First published in February, 2012.