Monday, 17 May 2021

The Coates Baronets

VICTOR COATS (1760-1822), of Snugbrooke, BALLYMACARRETT, Belfast, son of Israel Coats, of Falls Road in the same town, by his wife Grace (née Harris), carried out business as a surgeon-barber and perfumer. 

Snugbrooke shown in the middle of the drawing

Snugbrooke, or Snug Brook, was a substantial residence immediately to the north of the porter's lodge at Ormeau Park. Today that would be close to the junction of Ravenhill Road and Ormeau Embankment (I estimate in the vicinity of  Coates Row).

Mr Coats established the Coats Pottery at Ballymacarrett,
"Coats has for sale a good assortment of butter crocks and milk pans of different sizes. Also, flooring tiles of remarkable good quality, and chimney pots made to any shape."
About 1800 Mr Coats inherited a heavy engineering firm, which was to become one of the most successful in Belfast.

His son,

WILLIAM COATES JP (1796-1878), of Glentoran, Belfast, married Mary, daughter of Thomas Lindsay, and was father of

DAVID LINDSAY COATES JP (1840-94), of Clonallon House, Strandtown, Belfast, who wedded, in 1864, Sarah, daughter of George Mulligan, and had issue,
Harold Vivian Edmund;
Anna Maria.
Mr Coates was succeeded by his elder son,

WILLIAM FREDERICK COATES JP DL (1866-1932), Lord Mayor of Belfast, 1920-22 and 1929-30, High Sheriff of Belfast, 1906, County Antrim, 1931.

Mr Coates established the stockbrokers William F Coates & Co.

He was created a baronet in 1921, designated of Haypark, City of Belfast.

Sir William espoused, in 1907, Elsie Millicent, daughter of Colonel Frederick William Gregory, and had issue,
Jean Ann Dorothy.
Sir William Coates Bt (Image: Belfast City Council)

He hosted King George V and Queen Mary when they visited Belfast to open the new NI Parliament Buildings of which he was also a senator (both ex officio as Lord Mayor and as an elected member 1924-29).

The following entry was circulated in the London Gazette, 1921:-
THE KING has been graciously pleased on the occasion of the opening by His Majesty of the Parliament of Northern Ireland to signify his intention of conferring a Baronetcy of the United Kingdom on the undermentioned: — William Frederick Coates, Esq., D.L. For two years successively Lord Mayor of Belfast. Has rendered conspicuous valuable service during very anxious times.

Clonallon House was a large Victorian villa in its own grounds, between Belmont Road and Sydenham Avenue.

The main entrance was probably at Belmont Road, where there may have been a gate lodge.

Clonallon Park and Clonallon Gardens now occupy the site.

Sir William lived for a period at Glynn Park House (above), near Carrickfergus, County Antrim, which features in Dean's Gate Lodges of Ulster.

He was succeeded by his only son,

BRIGADIER SIR FREDERICK GREGORY LINDSAY COATES, 2nd Baronet (1916-94), who married, in 1940, Joan Nugent, daughter of Major-General Sir Charlton Watson Spinks, and had issue,
Elizabeth Sara Ann; Moira Louise.
Sir Frederick was succeeded by his only son,

SIR DAVID FREDERICK CHARLTON COATES, 3rd Baronet (1948-), of Dorchester, Dorset, who wedded, in 1973, Christine Helen, daughter of Lewis F Marshall, and had issue,
Robert Lewis Edward, b 1980.
Sir David is vice-president of the Poole Maritime Trust.

First published in July, 2010.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Bushmills Miscellany

The Diamond, Bushmills, pre-1921

Bushmills in County Antrim is one of my favourite villages in Northern Ireland.

It stands on the River Bush, about two miles south of the Giant's Causeway, eight miles north-east of Coleraine, and almost sixty miles north by west of Belfast.

The Macnaghten Baronets, who lived at their seat, DUNDARAVE, were the landlords of Bushmills, and did much to improve the village.

It contains a commodious hotel, viz. the Bushmills Inn; and a large and well-known distillery.

The village used to have a court-house (the building remains); a small factory for spades and shovels, paper and flour mills.

The principal residences are Dundarave House, in its extensive demesne; BENVARDENBEARDIVILLE; and SEAPORT LODGE, in Portballintrae.

The following photographs were taken in 2014.

Former premises of Causeway Books

My first port-of-call was the former second-hand and antiquarian bookshop, which, alas, closed down in the autumn of 2013.

I always enjoyed a good browse here and looked forward to my visits.

The erstwhile proprietor had been good enough to suggest two other sources in the vicinity, one of which is in Society Street, Coleraine (almost opposite the parish church on the main street).

The owner's son, James, now owns the Coleraine shop.

The Old Courthouse in 2014

The former courthouse in Main Street, with its distinctive portico, was built in 1834 by the Macnaghten family, of Dundarave, to serve as a petty sessions court and as a symbol of authority in the area.

The building contained a courtroom and cells, with apartments above for the police.

It served as a petty session court well into the first half of the 20th century, when it became a private residence.


I have already mentioned the former National School of 1842, which has lain neglected and derelict for many years.

Bushmills National School in 2014

This fine old building is yearning for a sympathetic new owner to restore its fabric and historic character.

In March, 2014, the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment (DoE) served an Urgent Works Notice on the agent for the owner.

The old school is a listed building, built as part of a nationwide initiative launched in 1830 by Edwin Stanley, Chief Secretary for Ireland and later Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

The building is not watertight and is not well secured.

The DoE has tried repeatedly to encourage the owner to take steps to remedy the situation, to no avail.

The Northern Ireland Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan MLA, said:
“The serving of this Notice is a further tangible commitment by my Department to Bushmills’ rich heritage and builds on previous funding to tackle dereliction in Portrush and Portstewart. Our listed buildings are jewels from the past which we need to conserve for now and future generations.
Once gone they can never be brought back. Listed buildings attract much tourism and there is always the potential to develop this further by securing and preserving them. I am determined that we should do that and this Urgent Works Notice is an example of that determination.”
The school is regarded as a dignified and well proportioned building of two storeys.

The front elevation has a central projection which is carried up to a pediment and has a distinctive use of a double chimney as a terminating feature.

Built in random rubble with the quoins, hood mouldings, cornice, chimneys and ornamental details all in dressed stone, the building has a pleasing civic quality and could make a valuable contribution to the town if brought back into use.

I wonder who actually owns this building?

First published in June, 2014.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Belmont Tower

BELMONT TOWER, as it is now known, is a two-storey five-bay former schoolhouse situated at the corner of Belmont Road and Belmont Church Road, Belfast.

The building was constructed between 1889 and 1892.

Before 1889, Belmont Primary School had been located in the grounds of Belmont Presbyterian Church, in a schoolhouse first opened in 1863.

The school continued to meet at the church site for over 25 years until the erection of the present building.

The architect of the new school was Vincent Craig (1869-1925), a local architect who was articled to W H Lynn between 1885-89, and who was the younger brother of the RT HON SIR JAMES CRAIG Bt (the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland).

Belmont Primary School was built in the Gothic-Revival style, and locally quarried Scrabo sandstone was used in the masonry of the building with Locharbriggs sandstone as a secondary material.

The construction of the school was undertaken by the local building firm of Dixon & Campbell.

Belmont Primary School is said to have been erected in memory of Mrs Mary Ferguson, of Sydenham House.

Following her death in 1888, Mrs Ferguson's widower, Robert Ferguson, donated £1,000 to the Belmont Presbyterian Church Committee in order to ‘build and furnish a school and enclose the ground as a memorial to my dear wife and to be named as such.’

Robert Ferguson, of Sydenham House, Strandtown, was a prosperous merchant and businessman who co-owned Robertson, Ledlie, Ferguson and Company.

The school was originally known as The Ferguson Memorial School and was administered under the state-managed National School System until after the partition of Ireland in 1922.

The Belmont Tower website states that the old school was originally divided between its two storeys: the boy’s school occupied the ground floor; whilst the girls school utilised the upper floor of the building.

The southern extension of the school was added in 1910 by a local architect, Thomas Houston (1873-1938).

The Ferguson Memorial School continued to be administered by the National School System until partition.

In 1926, the school came under the auspices of Belfast Corporation’s Education Committee, and consequently the school was renamed Belmont Public Elementary School.

Belmont Public Elementary School was sold to the Belfast Education and Library Board in 1975 and was listed in the following year.

By 1994, the condition of the building had deteriorated to a point where Belfast City Council did not consider refurbishment to be economically viable, and the building was declared redundant in May, 1999.

Staff and pupils moved to a brand new school that was built in the grounds.

Nevertheless, local residents, many of whom were also parents of children at the school, were concerned for the future of the school building and established the Old Belmont School Preservation Trust in May, 2001.

The National Trust subsequently acquired the building.

Work began to restore the fabric and introduce 21st century facilities, for various community uses such as a pre-school play group, coffee shop, function and meeting rooms.

Belmont Tower was officially opened by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in September, 2004.

The old school is today used for small conferences, seminars, "away days", staff assessment centres, training, exhibitions, product launches, breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings, business networking, board and committee meetings, and receptions.

This was my primary school in the 1960s: Miss McMinnis was the headmistress, and Miss Cartright -  Cartyballs -  zealously banged children's heads together when she felt so inclined.

Little bottles of milk (1⁄3 of a pint, I think) were delivered in a metal crate for us every day.

First published in April, 2013.

Friday, 14 May 2021

Mourne Park

40,902 ACRES

WILLIAM DE NEDEHAM, Lord of Staunton, Cheshire, living in 1102, was ancestor of,

THOMAS DE NEDEHAM, of Needham Grange, Derbyshire, living in 1330, whose youngest son,

WILLIAM DE NEDEHAM, Justice of Chester, living in 1375, married Alice, daughter and heir of William de Cranage, of Cranage, Cheshire, and was succeeded by his elder son,

ROBERT DE NEDEHAM, of Cranage, who wedded Dorothy, daughter of Sir John Savage KG, of Clifton, Cheshire, and had, with other children,
THOMAS, his heir;
John (Sir), MP, Common Sergeant of London, 1449.
He was succeeded by his eldest son,

THOMAS DE NEDEHAM, of Cranage, who wedded Maud, daughter of Sir William Brereton, of Brereton, and was succeeded by his only son,

SIR WILLIAM NEDEHAM, of Cranage and Shavington, who espoused Isabel, daughter and co-heir of Sir John Bromley, and was succeeded by his son,

SIR ROBERT NEDEHAM, Knight, who purchased, in 1506, the estate of Shavington, near Whitchurch, Shropshire, and served the office of Sheriff of Shropshire during the reign of HENRY VIII.

He died in 1556, and was succeeded by his only son,

THOMAS NEEDHAM, of Shavington, who married Anne, daughter of Sir John Talbot, of Grafton, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT NEEDHAM, of Shavington, who served the office of Sheriff of Shropshire in the reign of ELIZABETH I; and in the same reign had important commands during the war in Ireland.

Mr Needham, who was subsequently appointed Vice-President of the Council in the Welsh Marches, wedded Frances, youngest daughter of Sir Edward Aston, of Tixall, Staffordshire, and was succeeded by his elder son,

SIR ROBERT NEEDHAM, Knight (c1567-1631), of Shavington Hall, who was elevated to the peerage, 1626, in the dignity of Viscount Kilmorey, of County Clare.

His lordship was succeeded by his son,

ROBERT, 2nd Viscount (c1587-1653), who espoused firstly, Frances, daughter of Alderman Sir Henry Anderson, by whom he had one son and two daughters; and secondly, Eleanor, daughter and heir of Thomas Dutton, by whom he had several children.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT, 3rd Viscount; who died without issue, 1657, when the title devolved upon his half-brother,

CHARLES, 4th Viscount, who wedded Bridget, daughter and heir of Sir William Drury, of Besthorp, in Norfolk, and was succeeded by his son,

ROBERT, 5th Viscount (1655-68), who was succeeded by his brother,

THOMAS, 6th Viscount (c1660-87), who espoused Frances, daughter and heir of Francis Leveson Fowler, of Harnage Grange, Shropshire, by whom he had an only son,

ROBERT, 7th Viscount (1683-1710), who married Mary, daughter of John Offley, of Crew, Cheshire, by whom he had four sons (three of whom, ROBERT, THOMAS, and JOHN, became successive Viscounts) and four daughters.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT, 8th Viscount (1702-17), who died in boyhood, when the title devolved upon his brother,

THOMAS, 9th Viscount (1703-68), who wedded, in 1730, the Lady Mary Shirley Ferrers, third daughter and co-heir of Washington, 3rd Earl Ferrers, but had no issue.

His lordship was succeeded by his brother,

10th Viscount Kilmorey. Photo Credit: Tate Gallery

JOHN, 10th Viscount (1711-91), Colonel in the army, who espoused, in 1738, Anne, daughter and co-heir of John Hurleston, of Newton, Cheshire, and widow of Peter Shakerley, by whom he had three sons, viz.
THOMAS, died unmarried, 1773;
ROBERT, his successor;
FRANCIS, successor to his brother Robert.
His lordship was succeeded by his elder surviving son, 

ROBERT, 11th Viscount (1746-1818), who married, in 1792, Frances, eldest daughter of Sir Robert Cotton Bt, and sister of Lord Combermere; but having no issue, the viscountcy, at his lordship's decease, devolved upon his only brother,

FRANCIS, 12th Viscount (1748-1832), who was created, in 1822, Viscount Newry and Mourne and EARL OF KILMOREY.

His lordship espoused, in 1787, Anne, second daughter of Thomas Fisher, of Acton, Middlesex, and had issue,
FRANCIS JACK, his successor;
Francis Henry;
Anna Maria Elizabeth; Amelia; Francis Elizabeth; Selina;
Georgiana; Alicia Mary; Mabella Josephine.
The 1st Earl, who attained the rank of General in the army, and was Colonel of the 86th Foot Regiment, was succeeded by his elder son,

FRANCIS JACK, 2nd Earl (1787-1880), MP for Newry, 1819-26, High Sheriff of County Down, 1828, who married firstly, in 1814, Jane, daughter of George Gun-Cunninghame, and had issue,
Francis Jack, Viscount Newry (1815-51), father of the 3rd Earl;
Francis Henry;
Jane Selina Elizabeth.
His lordship wedded secondly, in 1867, Martha, daughter of John Foster, and had further issue,
He was succeeded by his grandson,

FRANCIS CHARLES, 3rd Earl (1842-1915), KP, DL, MP for Newry, 1871-4, High Sheriff of County Down, 1871, who espoused, in 1881, Ellen Constance, daughter of Edward Holmes Baldock, and had issue,
Francis Edward, father of the 5th Earl;
Cynthia Almena Constance Mary.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

FRANCIS CHARLES ADELBERT HENRY, 4th Earl (1883-1961), OBE JP, Lord-Lieutenant of County Down, 1949-61, High Sheriff of County Down, 1913, who espoused the Lady Norah Francis Hastings, daughter of the 15th Earl of Huntingdon, and had issue, two daughters,
Eleanor Noreen Patricia;
Hyacinth Kathleen Anne.
His lordship died without male issue, and was succeeded by his nephew,

FRANCIS JACK RICHARD PATRICK, 5th Earl (1915-77), who married, in 1941, Helen Bridget, daughter of Sir Lionel Fandel-Phillips Bt, and had issue,
RICHARD FRANCIS, his successor;
Christopher David (1948-2011);
Patrick Jonathan.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD FRANCIS, 6th Earl (does not use the title).

The heir is Sir Richard Needham's son, Robert Francis John Needham, styled Viscount Newry and Mourne.

THE RT HON SIR RICHARD NEEDHAM, 6th and present Earl, Hereditary Abbot of the Exempt Jurisdiction of Newry and Mourne, does not use the title.

MOURNE PARK is situated south of Kilkeel, County Down.

The main block suffered  a catastrophic fire in the early hours of Saturday morning, 18th May, 2013.

At the time of writing (May, 2017) the estate is for sale.

The 6th Earl (the Rt Hon Sir Richard Needham) said at the time (2013) that he had been devastated by the fire:
"It's a dreadful end to a house which had been connected to my family for over 500 years and a house which although when I started first going there in 1970 had lost most of its grandeur and glamour. 
There were buckets in most of the bedrooms to stop the rain coming through - it still was a wonderful happy house where I have fantastic memories of good and great times.

My aunt asked me to go over and stay there because my father had inherited it but he didn't actually want to live there so he sold his interest back to our cousins, and when he died my aunt said you better come and see what once might have been yours.

I went over there and it was a stunning wonderful estate, absolutely beautiful. 
I looked at this and thought to myself 'goodness me, that might have been mine' but it wasn't."
Mourne Park has (May, 2021) gained full planning approval to be the first major hotel development within the Kingdom of Mourne, with the aim of making the Mournes the top destination in Northern Ireland.

The current ownership of Mourne Park originates with the founder of the Kilmorey family’s Irish estates, Sir Nicholas Bagenal, who was granted extensive lands in Newry and Mourne, in 1552, by EDWARD VI.

The present mansion was extensively re-built in 1806 on the instructions of the 12th Viscount and 1st Earl of Kilmorey, known as ‘The Little General’.

Later extensions were made in 1820 and again in 1859.

The main family seat was at Shavington Hall in Shropshire.

Mourne Park was used mainly as a holiday residence, designed and used for lavish entertainment and house parties.

On the death of the 1st Earl his son, the 2nd Earl, ‘Black Jack’, inherited the estates and the role of MP for Newry.

He lived a notorious and colourful life, travelling extensively.

Part of his legacy is the ‘famine wall’ which surrounds Mourne Park.

He died in 1880 aged 92 and was succeeded by his grandson.

The 3rd Earl was involved with the London stage and built the Globe Theatre.

His extravagance lead to the sale of Shavington and the family moved to Mourne Park, which was extended further.

A variety of specimen trees were planted at Mourne Park and today the gardens are a recognised arboretum.
The 3rd Earl, also MP for Newry, married Ellen-Constance Baldock in 1881, a renowned beauty who caused a scandal by being bequeathed the ‘Teck Emeralds’ among other jewels, from her lover, Francis of Teck, brother of Queen Mary. She also reputedly had a liaison with EDWARD VII, a frequent visitor to Mourne Park.
During the 2nd World War, the house was used as an officer’s mess for British and US regiments who were on their way to France and the Normandy landings.


Lord Kilmorey, who died in 1961, was the 4th and last Earl to live at Mourne Park, which subsequently passed through the female line to the current owners.

The original house was modest in scale. However, after 1820, a third storey was added; then, after 1859, a new two-storey front, of granite and ashlar, was built.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the 3rd Earl added rectangular bows to this front; and around 1904, he built a single-storey wing containing a large room known as the Long Room.

Finally, between 1919-21, the 4th Earl built a wing to the left of the front.

The entrance was subsequently relocated to this side of the house.


Thus the mansion house, with its seventeen bedrooms and eight reception rooms, has had many additions encompassing a period of two centuries.

The parkland presently comprises 160 acres.

The estate, which had diminished in size to about 800 acres, was not, however, inherited by the 5th Earl, who opted instead to inherit contents to the value of the estate, as he lived in England.


It is currently owned by the Anley family, descendants of the late Lady Eleanor Needham, elder daughter of the 4th Earl, the last Earl of Kilmorey to live at Mourne Park, till he died in 1961.

The 4th Earl was distinguished as having been a captain in the Life Guards, HM Lord-Lieutenant for County Down and High Sheriff, 1913, and Vice-Admiral of Ulster, 1937-61.

Following the 4th Earl's decease, his nephew and heir, Major Patrick Needham, subsequently 5th Earl, waived his right of succession to Mourne Park in return for assets of equal value.

This arrangement allowed the 4th Earl’s widow, Norah, and her two daughters to continue living in the house.

Nicholas Anley, the son of the elder daughter of the 4th Earl, married Julie Ann in the early 1960s and moved into the converted stables at Mourne Park.

He inherited the house in 1984.

Norah, Dowager Countess of Kilmorey, died in 1985.

Formerly known as Ballyrogan and Siberia, the demesne was founded in the 17th century and about 2,000 acres are walled in.

It lies on a fine site on the south-facing slopes of Knockchree and was admired by 19th century travellers and artists.

Mature beech woods were photographed by R Welch at the turn of the century and many remain amongst mixed planting at the base of the mountain.

There are extensive stands of mature trees in the woodland, shelter belts and parkland.

The river Whitewater runs from north to south on the west side of the demesne and riverside walks are edged by mature trees.

There are three avenues: the Jubilee Avenue; the 1920s Christmas Tree Avenue; and the Walnut Avenue, which was replanted in the 1990s.

Many trees were felled during the 1940s and there has been recent re-planting.

The structure of the planting has been examined as part of a tree survey of the Mournes, published in 1996.

The ornamental gardens to the south of the house begin with a terrace man-made lake, which once provided a vista but is now silted up and surrounded by trees.

The thatched boat house has collapsed.

Grounds to the east of the house are well planted and contain many features including exotics and specimen trees, a rockery and pool.

The walled garden is a considerable distance from the house and is attached to the farm buildings to the north-east.

There is a head gardener’s house, but the garden is no longer cultivated.

The farm buildings are used by a pony-trekking business.

The 19th century school-house has its own garden.

The south-eastern area is now a golf course and the club-house is in the former land steward’s house.

About 700 acres were sold for forestry.

Four gate lodges were constructed at different times during the 19th century: the East Lodge of 1820; West Lodge, 1840; Whitewater Gate lodge, 1830; and Green Gate Lodge, 1890. 

 First published in June, 2010. 



HOLYWOOD, a post town and parish, in the barony of Lower Castlereagh, County Down, four miles from Belfast.

In 1200, Thomas Whyte founded at this place a Franciscan [Augustinian] priory, which was amply endowed, and continued to flourish till the dissolution.

Among its possessions were the COPELAND ISLANDS, and RATHLIN ISLAND, or Raghery, to the north of the country, which, with its other endowments, were granted to Sir James Hamilton in the third year of JAMES I's reign.

On the 8th April, 1644, a meeting of the Presbyterian clergy and laity was held here, at which several persons entered into "a solemn league and covenant for the defence of the reformed religion, the safety of the King, and the peace, happiness, and security of the three kingdoms; and to secure and hold fast the league and covenant with England."

The original document, signed by 32 gentleman, is preserved in the museum at Belfast.

The village, which is delightfully situated on the eastern shore of Carrickfergus bay [Belfast Lough], and on the road from Belfast to Bangor, previously to 1800 contained only about 30 dwellings, chiefly poor cabins; but from its proximity to Belfast, and its fine sandy beach, it has since been greatly extended, and is now become a favourite place of resort for sea-bathing.

It contains at present 225 houses, mostly well built; bathing-lodges have been erected for the accommodation of visitors, a new road has been made along the shore, and a daily mail has been established.

There are several good lodging houses in the village and its environs; and from the increasing number of visitors, several houses in detached situations, and chiefly in the Elizabethan style of architecture, are now in progress of erection on the Cultra estate, by Thomas Ward, after designs by Millar.

These houses are sheltered with thriving plantations, and beautifully situated on a gentle eminence commanding a richly diversified and extensive prospect of Carrickfergus bay [Belfast Lough], Black Mountain, Cavehill, Carnmoney mountains, and the town and castle of Carrickfergus, terminating with the basaltic columns of Blackhead.

Close to the shore is an extensive mussel bank, and about a mile to the north-west of the town, in the lough, is a sandbank, called the Holywood bank, the greater part of which is dry at low water, but which vessels may easily avoid by sailing nearer to the northern shore.

It is a constabulary police station, and also a coastguard station, forming part of the district of Donaghadee.

Fairs, principally for cattle and horses, are held on the first Monday of each quarter.

A court leet and baron is held every three weeks by the seneschal of the manor; its jurisdiction extends over 27 townlands in the parish of Holywood, Knockbreda, DUNDONALD, and BALLYMACARRETT; but the prison not being now used for that purpose, defaulters are sent to the county gaol.

The parish comprises the two ancient parishes of Ballymaghan, or Columbkill, and Craigavad, both rectories, one belonging to Holywood priory, and the other to the abbey of Bangor, whcich were united in 1626, under the name of Holywood.

The surrounding scenery if finely varied, and embellished with numerous gentlemen's seats, among which are the principal PALACE of the Bishop of Down; CULTRA, the seat of H Kennedy; BALLYMENOCH, of T Gregg; ROCKPORT, of I Turnly; CRAIGAVAD, of A Forbes; Garnerville, of Captain Garner; Holywood House, of J Macartney; Turf Lodge, of J Kane; Knocknagoney, of Mrs Kennedy; Bloomfield, of J Agnew; Clifton, of Dr Halliday; RICHMOND LODGE, of F Turnly; Wellington, of W Crawford; Marino, of T Ward; Greenville, of I Scott; Glencraig, of Miss Symes; and The Spa, of J Cordukes.

The living is an impropriate curacy, in the diocese of Down, and in the patronage of the VISCOUNT DUNGANNON, in whom the rectory is impropriate.

The [Old Priory] church, which is at the eastern extremity of the village, is an ancient building, with several antique heads in the outer wall, which are supposed to have been the corbels of a former church.

In the RC divisions the parish forms part of the union or district of Belfast, and has a chapel, which was built in 1828.

There is a Presbyterian meeting-house, of the second class, and one belonging to the Presbytery of Antrim.

About 230 children are educated in five public schools, one of which is supported by Mr Turnly.

The Priory Church, Holywood, by Hugh Frazer (1795-1865)
(Image: Belfast Harbour Commissioners)

The church occupies the site of the ancient priory, of which there are no other remains; and of the churches at Ballymaghan and Craigavad not a vestige can be traced; the cemeteries of both were used as places of interment till 1765, and in the former were deposited the remains of Conn O'Neill, the last of that powerful sept, whose possessions comprised more than one-third of County Down, and an extensive district in County Antrim, in which was included the town of Belfast.

Some carved stones are preserved at Ballymaghan, which are supposed to have belonged to his tomb, but the sculpture is of an earlier date; the site of that church is now a garden and the churchyard an orchard, and at Craigavad only one solitary stone remains to mark the site of the churchyard, which is now under cultivation.

A new species of rose was discovered in this parish by John Templeton, which by the Dublin Society was called "Rosa Hibernica," and afterwards "Rosa Templetonia," in honour of the discoverer.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Castle Hyde


The BECHERS settled in County Cork in the reign of ELIZABETH I.

The family has a pedigree in its possession tracing their ancestors in that line to Sir Eustace D'Abrichecourt, who came from Hainault with Philippa, consort of EDWARD III, in 1328.

HENRY WRIXON, of Assolas, County Cork, married Anna, daughter of William Mansfield; and dying in 1794, left a daughter (Mary, who wedded William, Viscount Ennismore) and a son and heir,

WILLIAM WRIXON (1756-1847), of Cecilstown, County Cork, who espoused Mary, daughter of John Townsend Becher, of Annisgrove, and sister and heir of Henry Becher, of Creagh, both in County Cork, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
Nicholas, in holy orders;
Mary Anne; Jane; Georgiana.
Mr Wrixon was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM WRIXON (1780-1850), of Ballygiblin, MP for Mallow, 1818-26, who assumed the additional surname of BECHER, and married, in 1819, Eliza O'Neill, the very celebrated actress, and had issue,
HENRY, his heir;
Mary; Elizabeth.
Mr Wrixon-Becher was created a baronet in 1831, designated of Ballygiblin, County Cork.

Sir William was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR HENRY WRIXON-BECHER, 2nd Baronet (1826-93), DL, who wedded, in 1878, Florence Elizabeth, daughter of Frederick John Walker; though died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR JOHN WRIXON-BECHER, 3rd Baronet (1828-1914), JP DL, High Sheriff of County Cork, 1867, who espoused, in 1857, the Lady Emily Catherine Hare, daughter of William, 2nd Earl of Listowel, and had issue,
Arthur Nicholas;
Charles Edward;
Alice Elizabeth; Victoria Emily; Mary; Cecil Eleanor; Barbara Elizabeth;
Adelaide Maud; Georgina Victoria; Hilda Mary.
Sir John was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR EUSTACE WILLIAM WYNDHAM WRIXON-BECHER, 4th Baronet (1859-1934), DL, High Sheriff of County Cork, 1859, who married, in 1907, Constance, daughter of Augustus, 6th Baron Calthorpe, and had issue,
WILLIAM FANE, his successor;
Muriel Mary; Aileen; Shiela; Rosemary.
Sir Eustace was succeeded by his son,

SIR WILLIAM FANE WRIXON-BECHER, 5th Baronet (1915-2000), MC, who wedded firstly, in 1946, Ursula Vanda Maud, daughter of George, 4th Baron Vivian, and had issue,
JOHN WILLIAM MICHAEL, his successor;
Susannah Elizabeth.
He wedded secondly, in 1960, Yvonne Margaret, daughter of Arthur Stuart Johnson.

Sir William was succeeded by his son,


CASTLE HYDE, near Fermoy, County Cork, was built about 1801 for John Hyde MP.

The architect was Hargrave of Cork.

It comprises a central block of three storeys over a basement and seven bays, joined by straight corridors to bow-fronted pavilions on either side (of one storey over a basement).

The centre block has a three-bay breakfront.

The corridors are of three bays each, with dividing Ionic pilasters.

The pavilions have round-headed windows.

The interior boasts a large hall with a screen of fluted Corinthian columns; a frieze of transitional plasterwork, and plaster panelling on the walls.

The stone staircase is magnificent, being oval and cantilevered, with an exquisite wrought-iron balustrade which ascends to the top of the house in the domed staircase hall, which is behind the principal hall.

Castle Hyde is situated behind the River Blackwater, directly against a cliff, where there is an ancient ruined castle.

The entrance gates are no less impressive to visitors, with their trefoil-arched wickets surmounted by sphinxes, flanked by lofty piers with Doric friezes.


In the early 1850s John Hyde's estate was located in the baronies of Fermoy, Condons and Clangibbon, and Barrymore, county Cork and Ardmayle and Holycross, barony of Middlethird, county Tipperary.

The first division (over 11,600 acres) of the estates of John Hyde, comprising the manor, town and lands of Castle Hyde with other lands, was advertised for sale in December, 1851.

Printed papers accompanying this rental in the Irish National Archives refer to the history of the Hyde family and the surprise at the sale of their estates which is "attributed to mismanagement of the estates by agents rather than to any faults on the part of the possessors".

There is also a newspaper cutting listing the purchasers of the various lots: John Sadleir MP bought Castle Hyde in trust for £17,525.

In 1861 Castle Hyde was for sale again, the estate of John W. Burmester, William Corry and James Andrew Durham (bankers).

Douglas Hyde, founder of the Gaelic League and first Irish President, was a scion of this family.

Castle Hyde subsequently became the seat of William Wrixon-Becher, a great yachtsman and, indeed a hunting man who hunted for sixty years with most packs in Ireland.


In 2000, Castle Hyde was purchased by the Irish-American dancer and musician, Michael Flatley, who spent a considerable amount of money in the mansion's total restoration.

In 2003, the Irish Sunday Independent newspaper reported that:-

Costing a staggering €30m, Castlehyde House now boasts 14 lavish bedrooms, an entire first-floor suite for Flatley and his partner, Lisa Murphy, two climate-controlled wine cellars, a Roman spa, a 20-seat private cinema, an African safari room, a Jameson-designed whiskey room, a three-storey 3,000-volume library, a music room, a gym and various reception rooms, not to mention a reinforced steel, eight-bay garage for the star's collection of Ferraris, BMWs and Rolls-Royce cars.

Incredibly, that €30m price-tag does not include the collection of artwork, antiques and collectibles that Michael Flatley is now hoarding for his private palace.

As if that isn't enough to impress, consider the fact that Castlehyde's red-wine cellar will, thanks to the star's collection of fine Bordeaux labels, become the most valuable collection in the country.

The three-storey library - topped with a meticulously painted ceiling mural and American walnut shelves - will house 3,000 volumes and, at the dancer's insistence, will boast first editions and signed copies of the most famous works of Irish literature.

"Michael loves Joyce's Ulysses so we have private buyers now searching out suitable works for the collection," architect Peter Inston explained.

Incredibly, just four years ago this famous mansion - built in 1760 and extended in 1800 - was falling apart with flood damage to its basement and roof. Its foundations were subsiding due to over 100 years of flood damage and its main walls were leaning outwards by over ten inches at their outer peaks.

"To be honest, it would have been easier to demolish the house," explained David Higgins, co-owner with his wife, Monica, of Cornerstone Construction, the family firm entrusted with turning Flatley's dream into reality.

But, with the Riverdance and Lord of the Dance star determined to retain the mansion's original character, a painful and laborious process of restoring and rebuilding was launched.

"Just to put it in context, every window in this house has been restored from the original. It cost over €500,000. But if we had torn them out and put in cheaper PVC windows, it would have cost less than €250,000," he explained.

Hailed by Flatley as "my dream home", the four-storey River Blackwater mansion will now be formally completed in October when the Chicago-born dancer is scheduled to move in.

Flatley's friend and world-renowned architect, Peter Inston, admitted he has never handled a project of such magnificence in 20 years of work for the world's rich and famous.

"I'VE worked for the King of Qatar and other royals but I've never seen anyone take such a hands-on interest in restoring a property as Michael has," Inston told the Sunday Independent. Peter stressed that, in his opinion, Castlehyde House would be regarded as the finest restoration project in Ireland and, quite probably Europe, for decades to come.

"The point is that everything in this house is original. We've saved absolutely everything we could. We've repaired and restored the original floors, windows, ceilings and slates. In the basement, we even stripped out the original bricks, numbered them, repaired the flood damage and then replaced the bricks exactly as they were," he added.

Castlehyde Estate caretaker and local historian Pat Bartley admitted that the house is now back to its 18th-century splendour, when it was one of the most famous features on Ireland's aristocratic 'social circuit'. "This house is a treasure and only Michael could have ensured that it was restored the way it is," Bartley explained.

Castlehyde's location is a suitable setting for such a project - the River Blackwater was, for a time, known as "the Irish Rhine" thanks to its plethora of great houses and castles.

Landscaping is now under-way on the rolling parkland which sweeps in front of Castlehyde House down to the banks of the river. But if the location of the house is spectacular - with the river providing its frontage and, to the rear, a sheer cliff-face topped by the ruin of a 13th-century Condon Castle - entering the mansion literally takes the breath away.

"This house was restored to bring it back to its former glory," Peter Inston explained. "But we restored it so that it could once again be lived in and enjoyed. This isn't going to be a museum. It's a family home."

Castlehyde's most famous features are its collection of 18th-century fireplaces - regarded as priceless - as well as its stone cantilever staircase which is widely acknowledged as the finest in Ireland. But guests arriving for one of Flatley's future parties will savour not only an 18th-century mansion but a palace equipped with every conceivable 21st-century mod-con.

The entrance hall is now equipped with an electric, conveyor-belt operated coat rack. All coat-rooms are climate-controlled. The main ground-floor hallways can also have their doors opened so that, in one giant room stretching the entire length of the house, guests can dine at a single long table a la royalty.

All the original plaster cornices and murals are being restored with specialist gilt-work by British artists including Keith Ferdinand and Tony Raymond, both of whom have worked on numerous Royal palaces.

The music room - fully sound-proofed and with spectacular views over the Blackwater valley - is equipped with a Steinway grand piano, a concert harp and Flatley's valuable collection of flutes. Every chimney in the house has been relined - and all the marble fireplaces, many of which were in poor repair, have been restored and can be used.

The entire first floor is Flatley's personal suite - complete with a butler's chamber, an Italian-style bedroom with four-poster bed and hand-crafted silk hangings.

Off the bedroom are matching 'his' and 'hers' bathrooms and dressing rooms - with the 18th-century baths raised on a special dais so that bathers can enjoy full views of the river.

A complete wardrobe can be stored in the changing room - and altered, with the season, with clothing in a basement storage room.

Off the first-floor hallway, the dancer can savour direct access to his stunning library.

The books will be stored on hand-carved American walnut shelves with special display cases for the more valuable volumes.

Upstairs lie the guest bedrooms. Each is decorated to a theme reflecting Flatley's interests or the house's own heritage. Themes include the China room, the American Presidents room, the French room, the Napoleon room, the Venetian room and the Beecher-Wrixon room, complete with a nautical theme to reflect the yachting exploits of the family that formerly owned Castlehyde.

Each bedroom has its own specially-designed wallpaper or hangings - each is also complete with its own marble bathroom.

The entire house boasts a centralised, computer-controlled audio-visual system offering satellite TV to all rooms as well as a selection of classic and popular music.

But it's in the basement that Castlehyde's lavish decadence truly comes to the fore.

The African Safari room has canvass-lined walls to given an authentic feel to anyone wishing to feel 'Out of Africa' while playing billiards, drinking whiskey or smoking the stock of fine Cuban cigars.

Down the corridor lies the Jameson-designed whiskey room - complete with four giant casks of Irish whiskey and cabinets lined with rare malts and distillations.

Nearby is the 20-seat private cinema complete with 20-foot screen and bar. There is also American pop-corn and Coca-Cola machines. In minutes, the cinema can also be transformed into a private audition room for rehearsals or dance preparations.

THERE are two wine cellars - one for red and white - with a special climate control system. Red wines will be stored by the case - Michael Flatley's collection, includes fine Chateau Latours and Margaux.

Those opting for fitness over indulgence will be catered for at Castlehyde's own Roman spa - which includes a massage room with heated-floor, a relaxation room, steam room, sauna, salt-water flotation tank, showers, mechanical massage room, hair-salon and a state-of-the-art gym.

Guests who arrive with children needn't be too concerned - there is a special children's dormitory complete with plasma TV screen and computer games.

Staff are also catered for with a laundry room, fully-fitted kitchens and a butler's room.
Because the basement is located at the foot of the cliffs and was prone to flooding, exacerbated by the nearby river, the entire sub-structure had to be water-proofed. That water-proofing programme alone cost almost 25 per cent of the original purchase price of the house.

"I don't think any private individual has ever undertaken a restoration project of this scale or cost," Peter Inston admitted.

Even the grounds are being restored at lavish expense - Castlehyde's famous stone gateway is being repaired while the caretaker and lodge-keepers homes are also being restored.

As if all that wasn't enough, consider the eight-bay garage.

Because it is located near Castlehyde's cliffs, it was decided to build it of reinforced steel complete with a toughened concrete roof - to protect the priceless vehicles housed inside.

The centrepiece of these will be Michael's new Rolls-Royce Phantom - which, at 20 feet in length, forced the garage to be redesigned.

Also stored will be the dancer's sports cars, a Ferrari and BMW roadster, as well as a pre-1904 vintage car he is currently negotiating to buy.

And the star needn't worry too much about taking them onto North Cork roads because his estate will also boast one-and-a-half miles of resurfaced roadways for private jaunts.
 First published in May, 2012.

Torrens of Edenmore


JAMES TORRENS JP (1816-1884), of Edenmore, County Antrim, second son of JOHN TORRENS, of Clough (or Clogh), County Antrim, married, in 1848, Sarah Hughes (daughter of Samuel Gelston JP, of Rosstulla, County Antrim, and Eliza his wife, daughter of Thomas Hughes, and had issue,
Thomas Hughes (1851-1928), of Edenmore, DL, High Sheriff, 1903.
The elder son,

JOHN TORRENS JP (1849-1908), of Rosstulla, wedded, in 1876, Florence, daughter of Robert Stewart Lepper JP, of Trainfield House, Belfast, and had issue,
JAMES ROBERT, his heir;
Florence Muriel (1881-93);
EILEEN, of whom hereafter.
Mr Torrens's only son,

JAMES ROBERT TORRENS (1877-1921), Captain, 4th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, espoused, in 1902, Enid Maude (whom he divorced in 1908), daughter of the Hon William Forster, Agent-General of New South Wales, and had issue, JOHN BASIL HUGHES TORRENS (1902-).

 John Torrens's younger daughter,

EILEEN TORRENS (1886-1983), married, in 1911, Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Frederick Spence (1880-1937), Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment), who changed his name by deed poll, in 1928, to TORRENS-SPENCE, and had issue,
John Cecil (1913-91);
Kenneth Brian, b 1919.
Click to Enlarge

The second son,

FREDERICK MICHAEL ALEXANDER TORRENS-SPENCE DSO DFC AFC (1914-2001), Captain, Royal Navy, of Drumcullan House, near Downpatrick, County Down, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1979, had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, Ulster Defence Regiment, and Ulster Special Constabulary.

Captain Torrens-Spence succeeded SIR NORMAN STRONGE as Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh (1981-89) following Sir Norman's heinous murder with his son, James, at Tynan Abbey (my father and I attended their funeral in Tynan parish church).

He married, in 1944, Rachel Nora, eldest daughter of Edward Stanley Clarke, of Ballyauglis Lodge, County Antrim, and had issue,
Edward John, b 1953;
Alexander Thomas, b 1954;
Joanna Jane, b 1945.


WILLIAM SPENCE married Sarah ______ and had with other issue,
BENJAMIN, of whom presently;
George; Mary; Ann.
The seventh child,

BENJAMIN SPENCE, of Bramley, Leeds, Yorkshire, born in 1766, married, and had with other issue,
JOHN, of whom presently;
The eldest son,

MAJOR JOHN SPENCE, 86th Foot, served in the Peninsular War, 1810-14, born in 1795, wedded Honoria, daughter of ____________, of Limerick, and had issue, a son,

CAPTAIN SAMUEL SPENCE (1816-57), 28th Foot, served in Crimean War, 1854-56, who married, in 1841, Charlotte, daughter of ___________, of Dublin, and died on active service, 1857, leaving issue,
WILLIAM ALEXANDER, of whom hereafter;
Sarah Julia; Margaret.
The younger son,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL WILLIAM ALEXANDER SPENCE (1843-1900), espoused, in 1875, Margaret, daughter of the Rev Benjamin Dowding, and was killed in action, 1900, leaving,
HERBERT FREDERICK, of whom presently.
The youngest son,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL HERBERT FREDERICK SPENCE (1880-1937), of Rosstulla, Whiteabbey, County Antrim (see above).


EDENMORE HOUSE, Whiteabbey, County Antrim, was built in the Italianate style ca 1865 for James Torrens (1796-1884), a prosperous solicitor and land agent for the Donegall and Shaftesbury estates in Ireland.

The mansion was likely designed for Mr Torrens by the architects Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon.

There were two gate lodges, long since demolished.

It remained the Torrens residence for 63 years years, until the death of James Torrens's son, Thomas Hughes Torrens (1851-1928).

Following his decease, Edenmore became the quarters of Edenmore Veterinary Hospital under the patronage of the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In 1950, the house and demesne were adapted as RAF Edenmore, a base for No. 67 NI Reserve Group and No. 3502 (Ulster) Fighter Control Group.


Edenmore operated as a hotel from 1963 until the mid-1980s.

Its principal function rooms were called Eden, Torrens and Shaftesbury.

Subsequently Edenmore became a care home.

It was demolished in 2016 for a housing development.

DRUMCULLEN HOUSE, Ballydugan, near Downpatrick, County Down, was a part of the ancient Demesne of Down.

Through the Middle Ages the demesne, including the townland of Hollymount, was owned by the Downpatrick Benedictine Abbey.

During the Reformation, the land was seized by HENRY VIII and granted to Gerald, Earl of Kildare.

The ownership of the land passed through several hands to LADY CROMWEL, who married the Rt Hon Edward Southwell MP, Secretary of State for Ireland.

In 1695, Lady Cromwell leased Hollymount Townland to GENERAL NICHOLAS PRICE, of Hollymount.

Mrs Mary Delany stayed at Hollymount House in the summer of 1745, sketched the house and wrote a romantic description of it and the surrounding woodlands.

From the Prices, the property passed by marriage and inheritance, in 1779, to Francis Savage and then, when he died in 1723, to his widow, the Lady Harriet Butler.

Lady Harriet later married MATHEW FORDE, of Seaforde.

Her ladyship greatly enlarged Hollymount House, building a new Georgian-style wing in front of the old house, now ruinous.

In 1838, Lady Harriet sponsored the construction of Hollymount Church; and in 1841 arranged for the construction of a new house on her estate, Drumcullen, as a residence for the rector of the new church.

In 1853, she enlarged the house after a design by Charles Lanyon for herself and her nephew, the Rev Pierce Butler, Rector of Hollymount, 1852-56.

Later residents of Drumcullen House included the Rev F H Hall, William Russell, a solicitor in Downpatrick and Portaferry, the Whitesides and the Galways, from whom Captain Torrens-Spence bought the property ca 1948.

The estate comprises 113 acres including the house, garden, farmyard and woodland.

103 acres have been let on a con-acre basis to the same tenants for about 20 years.

There are farm buildings, including stables and three Dutch barns (recently re-roofed).

The property has recently been sold, following the death in 2017 of Mrs Rachel Torrens-Spence.

9, Wellington Place, Belfast

9, WELLINGTON PLACE, BELFAST, a red-brick Georgian townhouse of four storeys, was built ca 1830.

The premises were purchased outright in 1860 by Richard Davison and James Torrens, who were recorded as occupants in that year.

Davison and Torrens were solicitors who established an office at 9, Wellington Place, but also had a branch at 65, Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin.

Davison and Torrens continued to operate from their Wellington Place offices until the 1920s.

They also conducted business as estate agents and principally administered the estate of the Earl of Shaftesbury.

In 1910, Thomas Hughes Torrens was recorded as Lord Shaftesbury's agent.

The solicitors continued to operate from the address in 1918; however, by that time the firm had changed its name to Torrens & Bristow, when John Bristow took over as partner from Davison.

Mr Torrens still operated as Lord Shaftesbury’s agent at this time.

Torrens & Bristow had vacated the building ca 1924.

First published in May, 2017.