Sunday, 20 January 2019

The Viscountcy

The Viscountcy is the fourth grade in the peerage, which title formerly applied to the sheriff of a county, but was not used as a designation of nobility before the reign of HENRY VI, when that monarch created John, Baron Beaumont, KG, by letters patent, in 1440, Viscount Beaumont, a dignity which expired with his lordship's son and successor in 1507.

A viscountcy is always created by patent, and it descends according to the specified limitation.

The honour was originally conferred as an advancement to barons, but afterwards created frequently with the barony; and latterly it has been created without a barony.

The style of a viscount is Right Honourable, and he is officially addressed by the Crown, "Our right trusty and well beloved Cousin".

The last non-royal viscountcies to be created occured in 1983 and 1984, for the Viscounts Whitelaw, Tonypandy, and Macmillan of Ovenden.

THE ROBES of a viscount differ from those of an earl in having two rows of plain white fur only.

His lordship's cap is of crimson velvet, lined with ermine, having a gold tassel at top; and the golden circle of his coronet is surmounted by fourteen pearls.

First published in December, 2013.

The Countess of Wessex


Her Royal Highness's full style is as follows,
Her Royal Highness The Princess Edward Antony Richard Louis, Countess of Wessex, Viscountess Severn.

HRH received the Royal Family Order of QUEEN ELIZABETH II in 2004.

She was appointed Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in 2010.

The badge of the Royal Victorian Order features on The Countess of Wessex's armorial bearings.

When the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne, The Countess of Wessex shall become Baroness Greenwich, Countess of Merioneth and Duchess of Edinburgh.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Ross's Auction-House

The premises at 22-26 May Street, Belfast, were built about 1873 for the Presbyterian Church.

This building comprises two storeys over a ground-level basement, and is built of red brick and matching sandstone.

Windows are paired.

The centre bay on the May Street elevation protrudes slightly, with an arcaded balcony, corbels and Venetian-style capitals.

The door is fan-lighted with a rose window below.

The pediment at the top of the building has the carved burning bush emblem of Presbyterianism.

At the Montgomery Street side, there was a four-storey, ecclesiastical-style tower with a pyramidal roof (now the main entrance), though its top has been shorn off.

May Street elevation

The section of the building at the corner of Montgomery Street and Music Hall Lane is of four storeys, with a large rose window at the top.

It's thought that the premises ceased to be church property post 1905, when the new Church House was built at Fisherwick Place.

This building has been occupied by Ross’s Auctioneers and Valuers for several decades.

It was originally constructed to house the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

When originally constructed the building was owned outright by the Assembly, serving as its headquarters and other Presbyterian organisations and offices.

In 1877 there were also offices for the Bible & Colportage Society, the Presbyterian Orphan Society and the Sabbath School Society in Ireland.

Offices in the building were also leased out to private businesses and, in 1877, a land and rent agency office operated from the site.

Similar to the construction of Belfast’s Old Town Hall on Victoria Street, the General Assembly found the building on May Street to be too small and inadequate for its needs.

After the town’s promotion in 1888, the Assembly sought a new location for their headquarters.

A suitable plot of land was selected on Fisherwick Place (the former site of Fisherwick Presbyterian Church before moving to south Belfast). 

Church House ca 1907

The current Presbyterian Assembly Building was constructed between 1899-1905, during which time the offices on May Street continued to be occupied by the various ecclesiastical organisations.

In 1905 the former headquarters in May Street were vacated.

22-26 May Street remained vacant until 1912, when it was occupied by John Wilson & Son and was renamed Downshire House.

Wilson & Sons were linen, damask, handkerchief, ladies underclothing, gentlemen’s shirt and collar manufacturers.

About 1935, John Wilson & Sons vacated the site.

The current occupants of the former Presbyterian Assembly Building, John Ross and Company, came into possession of the site ca 1937.

22-26 May Street survived the heavy bombardment of Belfast’s city centre during the 1941 Blitz.

In 1956 the ground and first floors were occupied by a Mr (or Mrs) D W Gray, who utilised the space as offices, showrooms and stores for John Ross & Co.

This Victorian building has since been the auction-house of John Ross & Company, of whom Daniel Clarke has been proprietor since 1988.

First published in January, 2013.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Dunleckney Manor


This family, originally from Lancashire or Cheshire, accompanied WILLIAM III to Ireland in 1688.

The first settler was Bartholomew Newtown, whose son,

JOHN NEWTOWN, wedded, in 1730, Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Lodge, of County Kilkenny and the city of Dublin, and founded the family residence at Bennekerry, a short distance from the town of Carlow, which, though still in the family's possession, was not then the family seat.

He died in 1748, leaving an eldest son,

BARTHOLOMEW NEWTOWN (d 1780), of Busherstown, County Carlow, who married, in 1767, Anne, daughter of Philip Bernard (by whom he acquired considerable property in the town of Carlow), and had issue (with a daughter, Catherine) two sons,
JOHN, Colonel, Carlow Militia, d unm;
PHILIP, of whom we treat.
The second son, 

PHILIP NEWTON (1770-1833), married, in 1785, Sarah, daughter of Beauchamp Bagenal, of Dunleckney.
Sir Nicholas Bagenal came to Ulster as Marshal of ELIZABETH I's army, settled in County Carlow and founded Bagenalstown.

The family's first house at Dunleckney was built ca 1610, but a new house was built for Walter Newton, who inherited the estate from his mother, the Bagenal heiress, in about 1850.
Mr Newton was succeeded by his son,

WALTER NEWTON (1790-1853), of Dunleckney, County Carlow, who married, in 1817, Anne, fifth daughter of the Hon George Jocelyn (second son of Robert, 1st Earl of Roden), and had issue,
Thomasina Jocelyn.
Mr Newton was succeeded by his only son,

PHILIP JOCELYN NEWTON JP DL (1818-95), of Dunleckney Manor, who married, in 1841, Henrietta Maria, daughter of John Kennedy, of Dunbrody, County Wexford, and Cultra, County Down, and had issue,
Maria Charlotte;
Anne Henrietta;
Adeline Sarah.
Mr Newton died without male issue, and was succeeded by his second daughter,

ANNE HENRIETTA, MRS W M VESEY (d 1927), of Dunleckney Manor, whose elder son,

SYDNEY PHILIP CHARLES VESEY CBE JP (1873-1932), Captain, King's Royal Rifle Corps, married, in 1902, Edith Blanch Power.

Dunleckney was sold in 1942.

It was subsequently owned by Mr Thomas Donnelly, who re-sold in 1958.

DUNLECKNEY MANOR, Bagenalstown, County Carlow, is a 19th century Tudor-Gothic house by Daniel Robertson of Kilkenny.

An early Irish example of the Tudor-Gothic style, the manor house, built about 1850, incorporates parts of an earlier house.
Robertson was a talented architect with a large country house practise, who worked comfortably in a variety of styles, from Classical to Gothic. His major buildings are at All Souls, Oxford, Johnstown Castle and Castle Boro, both in County Wexford.
Robinson's work at Dunleckney is certainly of a very high order.

The smooth ashlar surfaces make a superb foil to the crisp, delicately carved tracery details of the tower, door-case and oriel windows.

The interior has fine plaster fan vaulting in the late Perpendicular-Gothic style, and an elaborate wooden staircase which incorporates number of medieval wooden carvings ‘rescued’ from St Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny.

Helen and Derek Sheane purchased the house in 1989, and have spent the ensuing years in restoration.

They have carried out considerable works to the garden and parkland though the superb, straight, 18th century lime avenue was a casualty of long neglect.

First published in November, 2012.

Prehen House


This appeared to be the direct representative line of the ancient and extended family of KNOX, the founder of that name.

ADAMUS, son of Uchtred, obtained from the High Steward, during the time of ALEXANDER II, King of Scotland, 1214-49, grants of the lands of Knock, Ranfurly, Crieff Castle, Craigend, etc, in Renfrewshire.

The descendants of ADAMUS assumed the name of Knox, derived, according to Patronymina Britannica, from the lands of Knocks or Knox, Knock being Gaelic for round-topped hill.

For many generations they were seated at Ranfurly Castle, the ruins of which lie between Glasgow and Greenock.

This Adamus was father of

JOHANNE DE KNOX, whose eldest son,

UTRED DE KNOCX, was father of

ALANUS DE KNOCKIS, during the time of ROBERT THE BRUCE, who had a son,

SIR JOHN DE KNOX, Lord of Ranfurly, who wedded, in 1371, the second daughter and co-heiress of Sir David Fleming, of Biggar, whose son was

ROBERT DE KNOCK, father of

UCHTRED DE KNOCKS, who had a son,

JOHN DE KNOCKS, who, by his wife, the only child of Sir Robert Maxwell, of Calderwood, had a son,

UCHTRED, father of

UCHTRED KNOX, of Craigend, Renfrewshire, who married Agnes, daughter of Lord Lyle, and had two sons,
UCHTRED, his heir;
The elder son,

UCHTRED KNOX, espoused Janet, daughter of Lord Sempill, and had issue,
UCHTER, his heir;
William, of Silvyland, ancestor of the EARL OF RANFURLY, and KNOX OF BRITTAS.
The elder son,

UCHTER KNOX, of Ranfurly, wedded Isabella, daughter of ______ Cunningham, of Craigend, and had two sons,
John, of Ranfurly;
ANDREW, who eventually carried on the family.
The younger son,

THE RT REV ANDREW KNOX (1559-1633), was consecrated Lord Bishop of the Isles, 1605, and Lord Bishop of Raphoe, 1610.

The Bishop had a grant of the monastery and lands of Rathmullen, County Donegal, in 1614.

He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Ralph Bingley, Knight, of Rosguill, County Donegal, and had issue,
Thomas (Rt Rev), Bishop of the Isles, 1622;
ANDREW, of whom hereafter;
John, in holy orders;
Claud, in holy orders;
His lordship's second son,

ANDREW KNOX, of Rathmullen, County Donegal, wedded Rebecca, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Galbraith, of Dowish, County Londonderry, and had issue,
ANDREW, his heir;
Mr Knox was succeeded by his elder son,

ANDREW KNOX, Major in the besieged army of Londonderry, attainted by the parliament of JAMES II, 1689.

By Mary his wife he left a son and successor,

GEORGE KNOX, of Rathmullen and Moneymore, County Donegal, who espoused Mary Wray, and had two sons, ANDREW, his heir, and a younger son (from whom descended Letitia, daughter of the Rev George Knox, Rector of Strabane, mother of General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence and John, 1st Baron Lawrence, Viceroy of India, 1864).

The eldest son,

COLONEL ANDREW KNOX  (1709-74), of Rathmullen and Moneymore, MP for County Donegal, 1743-68, married, in 1738, Honoria, daughter and heiress of Andrew Tomkins, of Prehen, County Londonderry, and had (with a daughter, Mary Ann, shot by John Macnaghten in 1760) a son, his heir,

GEORGE KNOX, of Prehen, who wedded, in 1760, Jane, daughter of Thomas Mahon, of Strokestown, County Roscommon, and sister of Maurice, 1st Lord Hartland, and had issue,
ANDREW, his heir;
Thomas, in holy orders;
Mary Anne.
Mr Knox was succeeded by his eldest son,

ANDREW KNOX (1766-1840), of Prehen, Colonel, Donegal Militia, MP for Strabane, 1798-1800, wedded, in 1790, Mary, daughter of Dominick McCausland, of Daisy Hill (Drenagh), County Londonderry, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
Andrew, in holy orders;
Marcus, captain RN;
Jane; Honoria; Mary; Caroline; Benjamina.
Mr Knox was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE KNOX JP DL (c1789-1848), of Prehen, Captain, 2nd Dragoon Guards, who espoused, in 1827, Anna Maria, daughter of Robert Johnstone, of Magheramena Castle, County Fermanagh, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
Letitia Mary;
Captain Knox was succeeded by his only son,

GEORGE KNOX JP DL (1832-1910), of Prehen, High Sheriff of County Donegal, 1862, Lieutenant-Colonel, Londonderry Artillery, who wedded Rose Virginie Grimm, of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, and had issue,
EUGENIE, of whom we treat;
Augusta Georgina.
The elder daughter,

EUGENIE KNOX, wedded Ludwig Otto von Scheffler PhD, and had issue,
Their only son,

GEORGE CARL OTTO LOUIS VON SCHEFFLER-KNOX (1884-1966), inherited Prehen in 1910.

PREHEN HOUSE, County Londonderry, is a noble mid-18th century mansion, perhaps the finest early Georgian country house in Northern Ireland.

It was probably designed by Michael Priestly.

Prehan comprises two storeys over a basement of brick vaulting; of rubble, with ashlar dressings.

The entrance front has a pedimented breakfront centre, including acroteria.

The upper storey has four bays; while the lower storey has one bay on either side of the centre.

The front windows boast fine rusticated surrounds with keystones.

There is a lofty roof with a high parapet.

The rear of the house is U-shaped.


Prehen means "place of the crows" in Gaelic; and during the 17th century the banks of the River Foyle in this vicinity were still thickly wooded.

The townland of Prehen, part of civil parish of Clondermot, and barony of Tirkeeran, was acquired as part of Goldsmiths' Proportion in 1614.

Thomas Raven's map of the Proportion, made in 1619, shows the townland clearly with a house located close to the water, south-west of the present mansion.

This building, evidently a single storey gable-ended dwelling, occupied by one William Taylor, was destroyed in the 1641 Rebellion.

The property was acquired in 1664 by Alderman Alexander Tomkins and his wife Margaret, daughter of Alderman Thomas Moncreiffe.

Tomkins was Mayor of Londonderry at the time of the siege in 1689, and there is a memorial dedicated to "Tomkins of Prehen" in St Columb's Cathedral, erected in 1678.

His house at Prehen, which was probably built in the 1660s, must have stood on the site of the present building.

Alderman Tomkins' son George served as MP for the city from 1715-39 and lived at Prehen.

It can confidently be deduced that the present house was built in the early 1740s.

It is therefore most likely to have been built by Colonel Andrew Knox, who, in 1738, married Honoria, daughter and heiress of Andrew Tomkins of Prehen.


George Carl Otto Von Scheffler, born in 1884, was appointed a Page to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenbach and later Governor of the Royal pages at the Emperor's Court in Berlin, where he was honoured with the title of Baron.

He inherited Prehen from his grandfather aged only 26, but a condition of the inheritance was that he add the surname KNOX to his own for the term of his natural life, and that he become a British Citizen within two years of the testator's decease.

The inheritance was contested in court, which Baron Von Scheffler-Knox won, and he subsequently settled at Prehen.

Unfortunately, the 1st World War broke out in 1914 and Baron Von Scheffler-Knox was declared an enemy alien.

Consequently, the house and lands of Prehen were sequestered by the government and later placed on the open market under the Enemy Property Act.

The Baron died in 1966.

During the 1920s, the demesne was sold off in lots, and the house was subsequently subdivided into flats.

The once fine woodlands, for which Prehen was well known, were sold in 1927 to the McGregors, timber merchants (Londonderry), who thereafter felled many of the trees.

The felling caused controversy at the time and a portion of these woodlands were saved - the area now known as Prehen Wood.

Prehen Wood (18.48 acres) was purchased in 2003 by The Woodland Trust with support from the Prehen Historical and Environment Society.

During the 2nd World War the house was requisitioned by the army for troop accommodation.

Eventually, the mansion, its outbuildings, and some of the surviving parkland were acquired by in 1971 in the name of Julia Peck, granddaughter of Winifred Knox.

The house, then in an very poor state of repair, was subsequently restored by her parents, Carola and the late Julian Peck, who moved here from Rathbeale Hall, County Dublin, in 1974.

Mr Peck died in 2001 and Prehen now belongs to his son, Colin Peck, who has opened the house to the public.

First published in January, 2015.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

BH Memoirs: IV


In 1929, I was offered the post of the ADC [Aide-de-Camp] to Lord Stonehaven, the Governor-General of Australia.

After a certain amount of misgivings at first, I accepted and thus commenced one of the happiest and most interesting periods of my service.

The trip out took us six weeks but time went quickly.

Geoffrey Millar, 11th Hussars, who is an Australian, came out with me on the P&O “Multan.”

When we got to Port Said I thought I would like to go down to see my old friends in Cairo and the Royals who were then stationed there.

The Captain kindly arranged that I should join the ship again on a pilot boat in the middle of Lake Timash in the Suez Canal.

Geoffrey came with me to Cairo and after a night there we went off to Ismaïlia to wait for our ship.

While waiting I found the officers of a naval sloop which was lying there was holding a regatta and the Commander offered to allow me to sail the Captain’s longboat (or whatever it is called) in the race.

I had a sailor with me but he knew even less about sailing than I did.

After becoming becalmed I think we finished a good last but got back just in time to join our ship again.

HRH Prince Henry [Duke of Gloucester] was on board another P&O on his way to bestow the Order of the Garter or some such decoration on the Emperor of Japan.

When we arrived at Colombo, HRH and his party were there and we watched him play in a game of polo.

We also found time to motor up to Kandi, the hill station above Colombo and saw something of that lovely island.

We touched at Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne, and I reported for duty at Admiralty House, Sydney, in March, 1929.

I found the atmosphere at Government House most strained and unhappy.

Ken Nicholl was Military Secretary and there were two ADCs, David Nicholl, a gunner subaltern, and Ronald Leggett, RN, whom I was to succeed.

Ken Nicholl was exceptionally rude to Lady Stonehaven and to my mind very disloyal to His Excellency as well.

Ken Nicholl had made up his mind that Lady Stonehaven should have no private friends as it might cause jealousy, and seemed to have persuaded His Excellency to back him up in this policy.

I made friends at once with Lady Stonehaven, played tennis with her, and took her for walks.

Lord Stonehaven was a very active and conscientious Governor-General.

He was, perhaps, rather guarded and appeared to be on his dignity in his dealings with the Australians.

I think this was largely the fault of his staff.

He was intensely fond of travelling and we travelled thousands of miles by car, train, air and ship during my 18 months with him.

My first assignment was to accompany him to New England.

Here we stayed for the Inverell Carnival Week.

There were agricultural shows or Polo Tournaments every day and dances every night.

I’ve never before seen so many really lovely girls together.

Thanks to the generosity of an old Mr Ronald McKie, and Gordon and Douglas Munro I was mounted to play with them in one of the Polo Tournaments.

I was not long off the boat and was not in hard condition.

The Australians play polo in a saddle with a “roller” which I found rubbed my knees.

At that time everyone played in snaffles.

A few months later a team from India came out and defeated all their best teams.

After this the Australians schooled their ponies to play in double bridles and the saddler in Sydney
told me he did an enormous trade in bits.

David Nicholl was also keen on polo and we decided that as one of us had always got to be in attendance on HE we would get no polo unless we made him play too.

David was commissioned to buy him a couple of ponies and from then on we ran a Government House team.

From time to time we had different people to make the fourth player but while we were in Melbourne we often had that good sportsman “Bran” Davidson, who I had known well in Egypt.

HE told me afterwards that this polo changed his whole outlook on life.

We stayed up on one occasion with Alan Currie for a polo week in the Eastern District of Victoria.

I still have a Cup we won there at the Caramut Tournament.

The Governor-General had three homes in those days and he divided his time between them.

They were Admiralty House, Sydney; Government House, Canberra; and Government House, Melbourne.

David and I liked Canberra best. The new capital of Canberra.

HE, David, and I used to go up to the Brindabella River in the snowy mountains to fish.

We stayed in a hut up there belonging to John Joceland.

HE was very keen fisherman.

The river was as clear as crystal and ran through one of the loveliest bit of mountain scenery in Australia.

It was all up-stream fishing and we used to catch very good baskets of rainbow trout.

Later on I started a small “bobbery” pack of hounds at Canberra.

I was given hounds by both the Findon Harriers, and the Melbourne Hunt.

We usually hunted hare.

The country was not ideal; it was mostly fenced with barbed wire and we had to gallop for the gates.

One day I remember running a hare down into Canberra, and checking opposite the Parliament House, just as all the government clerks and officials were going home from their offices.

There was an Irish policeman on duty at the crossroads when we checked.

He left his point and with his hat held high cheered us unto the line of our hare.

HE’s two daughters, Ariel and Ava, aged 13 and 11, used to come out to their ponies.

First published in January, 2015.  Extracts reproduced by kind permission of RP Blakiston-Houston OBE JP DL.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Earl of Blessington

The ancestor of first and last Earl of Blessington of the first creation, the Rt Hon Luke Gardiner (c1690-1755), MP for Tralee, 1725-7, Thomastown, 1727-55, Privy Counsellor, Vice-treasurer of Ireland, married, in 1711, Anne, only daughter and sole heiress of the Hon Alexander Stewart, second son of William, Viscount Mountjoy and Earl of Blessington.

Mr Gardiner was succeeded in his estates by his son,

THE RT HON CHARLES GARDINER MP (1720-69), also of the Privy Council, MP for Taghmon, 1742-60, who inherited the estates of his maternal great-grandfather, Lord Blessington, upon the extinction of the male issue in that family.

He married, in 1741, Florinda, daughter of Robert Norman, and had issue,
LUKE, his successor;
Florinda; Anne;
William Neville, General in the Army.
The eldest son,

THE RT HON LUKE GARDINER MP (1745-98), Privy Counsellor, Colonel, the Dublin Militia, succeeding to his ample possessions, MP for County Dublin, 1773-79, Colonel, the Dublin Militia, married, in 1773, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Sir William Montgomery, and had issue,
CHARLES JOHN, his successor;
Margaret; Louisa.
Mr Gardiner was elevated to the peerage, in 1795, in the dignity of VISCOUNT MOUNTJOY, of Mountjoy, County Tyrone.

His lordship's first wife died in 1783, and he wedded secondly, in 1793, Margaret, eldest daughter of Hector Wallis.

Lord Mountjoy fell at the head of his regiment, during the unfortunate rebellion in Ireland, in 1798, and was succeeded by his son and heir,

CHARLES JOHN, 2nd Viscount (1782-1829), who was created, in 1816, EARL OF BLESSINGTON (second creation).

His lordship married firstly, in 1812, Mary Campbell, daughter of Alexander MacDougall, and had issue,
Luke Wellington (1813-23);
Harriet Anne Jane Frances.
He espoused secondly, in 1818, Margaret, daughter of Edmund Power.

The peerages expired on the decease of the first and last Earl in 1829.

Charles John Gardiner, 1st Earl of Blessington (1782-1829)  was best known for his marriage to Margaret Farmer, née Power, whom he married at St Mary's, Bryanston Square, London, on 16 February 1818 (only four months after her first husband's death).

He was present at the trial of Queen Caroline.
After she left her first unhappy marriage, Margaret Power had stayed for almost three years with her parents, then moved to Cahir, in 1809 to Dublin, and from 1809-1814 with a Dublin acquaintance, Captain Thomas Jenkins, of the 11th light dragoons, with whom she formed a close relationship.

It was during her Hampshire stay that she met Gardiner, seven years her senior (Gardiner's first wife died sometime after 1812, having borne him two illegitimate children prior to their marriage and two legitimate children, Lady Harriet Gardiner and Luke Wellington Gardiner, Viscount Mountjoy).
Jenkins received £10,000 from Gardiner to cover the jewels and clothing that he had purchased for Margaret, buying his approval for Gardiner's and Power's marriage, after which she changed her name to Marguerite.

Honeymooning in Ireland, they returned to a newly leased town mansion at 10 St James's Square, London, in 1820.

This address (now the base of Chatham House) soon became a social centre, but their heavy spending and extravagant tastes meant that, despite his annual income of £30,000 from his Irish estates, they were soon both heavily in debt.

On the 25th August, 1822, they set out for a continental tour with Marguerite's youngest sister, the twenty-one-year-old Mary Anne, and servants.

They met Count D'Orsay (who had first become an intimate of Lady Blessington in London in 1821) in Avignon on 20 November 1822, before settling at Genoa for four months from 31 March 1823.

There they met Byron on several occasions, giving Lady Blessington material for her "Conversations with Lord Byron".

After that they settled for the most part in Naples, also spending time in Florence with their friend Walter Savage Landor, author of the "Imaginary Conversations" greatly admired by Lady Blessington.

It was in Italy, on 1 December 1827, that Count D'Orsay married Harriet Gardiner to strengthen the tie between himself and her stepmother Lady Blessington.

The Blessingtons and the new couple moved to Paris towards the end of 1828, taking up residence in the Hôtel Maréchal Ney, where Lord Blessington suddenly died aged 46 of an apoplectic stroke in 1829.

D'Orsay and his wife then accompanied Lady Blessington to England, but the couple soon separated.

D'Orsay lived with Lady Blessington until her death, and she let out Lord Blessington's St James's house.

Lord Blessington's country seat was Mountjoy Forest Lodge, near Omagh, County Tyrone.

His London residence was at 10 St James's Square.

The County Tyrone estates, comprising about 40,000 acres in Newtownstewart, Rash and Mountjoy Forest, contained two residences of quite modest size, Rash House and The Cottage.

Given his wealth, status and interest in architecture, it is surprising that Gardiner never constructed a large country residence in County Tyrone, although it was reported in 1791 that he was ‘about building’ a great house near Omagh.

The Blessington estate stretched from Newtownstewart to Mountfield at its height.

The afforestation was supervised by John McEvoy from 1791.

Part of the estate was sold ca 1846 to a prosperous Omagh family balled Spiller, who acquired 400 acres, including Rash House, the original shooting-lodge of Old Mountjoy and built by the Gardiners.

Luke Gardiner, Viscount Mountjoy, developed large parts of the city of Dublin, including Mountjoy Square.

His principal Dublin homes were at 10, Henrietta Street, and Mountjoy House, Pheonix Park.

J A K Dean, in his useful gazetteer, The Gate Lodges Of Ulster, tells us that,
Mountjoy Forest was an estate with a convoluted history. Sir William Stewart bought the property here at Rash in 1631, his grandson becoming Lord Mountjoy in 1688. By 1782, the property had passed to Luke Gardiner, a rich Dublin banker, who became Viscount Mountjoy in his own right.

It was he who was mainly responsible for giving the estate its present appearance, planting upwards of 200,000 trees in a programme of afforestation that was to be continued by his son Charles John, who became Earl of Blessington in 1816. At this time the demesne was "7-8 miles in circumference, and enclosed in an 8' high stone wall for much of its length".

He also gave the house, then called "The Cottage", its present castellated Tudor character. The Earl is best known for his lavish theatrical entertainments here, his beautiful and wayward wife and the squandering of his inheritance before his death in 1829.

A visitor in 1854 refers to an auction six years previous: "...the once magnificent demesne ... affords nothing of the attention of the tourist , being quite broken up, and sold to different proprietors".
There were two gate lodges, both pre-1833.

S J Murphy has written an account of the Gardiners here. 

First published in June, 2012.  Blessington arms courtesy of European Heraldry.