Sunday, 13 October 2019

Raphoe Palace

IT is not precisely known at what time this See was established, but it must have been prior to the 10th century, since bishops of Raphoe are mentioned in the ninth.

This diocese comprises the greater part of County Donegal, being 56 miles in length from north to south, and 40 in breadth.

The cathedral and parish church stands in the small town of Raphoe.

THE PALACE, Raphoe, County Donegal, formerly a strong castle, is about a quarter of a mile from the town.

This is a handsome and spacious castellated building, pleasantly situated in tastefully disposed grounds.

It was built in 1636 by the Right Rev John Leslie, Lord Bishop of Raphoe, 1633-61; partly fortified, with square corner towers and two storeys over a basement.

The front comprised three bays, with an extra bay in each tower.

A third storey, with bartizans and battlements, was added in the 18th century by the Right Rev John Oswald.

Raphoe Castle was burnt to the ground by an accidental fire in 1838 and has remained ruinous ever since.

Arms of the Bishopric of Derry & Raphoe

The Right Rev William Bissett was the last Lord Bishop of Raphoe before the diocese was amalgamated with that of Derry.

First published in October, 2015.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Digby of Stoke Dry

SIR EVERARD DIGBY, Knight, Lord of Tilton and Stoke Dry (Drystoke), Rutland, eldest of the seven sons of Everard Digby, of Tilton, by Jacqueta, daughter and co-heir of Sir John Ellys, of Devon, was Sheriff of Rutland, 1459, 1486, and 1499, and MP for Rutland.

He fought gallantly at Bosworth in support of HENRY VII, and died in 1509, having had issue,
Simon, ancestor of the BARONS DIGBY;
EVERARD, of whom hereafter;
The younger son,

SIR EVERARD DIGBY, Knight (c1472-1540), of Tilton and Stoke Dry, Sheriff of Rutland, 1513, 1518, 1528 and 1532, Leicestershire and Warwickshire, 1511.

He wedded Margery, daughter of Sir John Heydon, Knight, of Baconsthorpe, Norfolk, and was succeeded by his son,

KENELM DIGBY (c1518-90), of Stoke Dry, Sheriff of Rutland, MP for Rutland, 1545-84, who espoused Anne, daughter of Sir Anthony Cope, Knight, of Hanwell, Oxfordshire, Vice-Chamberlain to Catherine Howard, Queen Consort of HENRY VIII, and had issue,
Kenelm, his heir;
EVERARD, succeeded his brother;
The third son,

EVERARD DIGBY (c1550-92), of Stoke Dry, Fellow of John's College, Cambridge, a man of learning and publisher of several works, married Maria, daughter and co-heir of Francis Neale, of Keythorpe, Leicestershire, and had issue (besides a younger son, John, of whom no account is given, and two daughters), two sons,
EVERARD, his heir;
George, of Sandon.
Mr Digby was succeeded by his elder son,

SIR EVERARD DIGBY (c1578-1606), of Stoke Dry, who received the honour of knighthood from JAMES I.

Sir Everard was reputed to be one of the handsomest men of his time, and by the accomplishments of his mind, said to be one of the finest men in England.

Being led by religious motives to engage in the Gunpowder Plot, he was convicted on the 27th January, 1606, and executed three days afterwards, on the 30th January, at the west end of Old St Paul's Cathedral churchyard, leaving by his wife Mary, daughter and heir of William Mulsho, of Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire, with whom he had a large fortune, two sons,
KENELM, his heir;
John (Sir).
The elder son was the celebrated

SIR KENELM DIGBY (1603-65), of Gayhurst, reputedly one of the most faithful adherents of the royal cause during the civil war, and an exile in consequence during the Commonwealth.

He wedded the renowned beauty, Venetia, youngest of the three surviving daughters and co-heirs of Sir Edward Stanley KB, of Tong Castle, Shropshire, and had issue (with a daughter), two sons,
JOHN, his heir.
JOHN DIGBY, younger son and heir, inherited, under many disadvantages and vexations, most of his father's estates.

He espoused firstly, the Lady Catherine Howard, eldest surviving daughter of Henry Howard, 22nd Earl of Arundel, and sister of Thomas, restored to the Dukedom of Norfolk; and secondly, Margaret, fourth daughter of Sir Edward Longueville, 1st Baronet, of Wolverton, Buckinghamshire, and had issue by her, two daughters, his co-heirs,
Margaretta Maria;
Charlotte Theophila.
First published in October, 2017. 

Friday, 11 October 2019

Garron Tower


GARRON TOWER is a romantic, austere, cliff-top Victorian castle of black basalt, built as a summer retreat by Frances, 3rd Marchioness of Londonderry, daughter and heiress of Sir Henry Vane-Tempest, 2nd Baronet.

Lady Londonderry's mother was Anne, 2nd Countess of Antrim suo jure.

Her daughter, the Lady Frances Anne Emily (Fanny) Vane, married the 7th Duke of Marlborough and their son, Lord Randolph, was later to become the father of Winston Churchill.

The estate lies midway between Cushendall and Carnlough on the County Antrim coast.

The problems of the Antrim estates were compounded by the failure of the 6th Earl of Antrim to produce a male heir.

Although he was granted a new patent for the earldom, which allowed his daughters to inherit and transmit the title to their children, the inheritance of the estate itself proved much more problematical.

The 6th Earl bequeathed his estates in his will to his three daughters and the resulting litigation lasted more than twenty years.

The Antrim estate itself was eventually divided: Lady Antrim's daughter, Lady Frances, who married the 3rd Marquess of Londonderry, received one sixth; and the remainder passed to Lady Charlotte, afterwards 3rd Countess of Antrim suo jure (Lady Mark Kerr) and her descendants.

Frances, Lady Londonderry, eventually bequeathed her portion of the estate to her younger son, who had no love for Garron Tower and neglected it.

After his death in 1884, the estate passed to her grandson, Lord Herbert Vane-Tempest KCVO VD JP (1862-1921), who was tragically killed in a train accident in Wales.

After his death the estate, including the property which is now the Londonderry Arms Hotel, passed to his second cousin, Sir Winston Churchill, who owned it until after the 2nd World War.

Being the Prime Minister, Sir Winston had no time for Garron Tower so it was donated to the British Tourist Industry which transformed it into a hotel.

Garron Tower was subsequently devastated by fire and was later turned into a school which it remains today.

The main portion of the estate remained in the hands of the Earls of Antrim.

Following the death of her mother in 1834, Frances Lady Londonderry inherited a portion of the Antrim Estate, almost 10,000 acres lying mostly between Glenarm and Glenariff.

Following much debate she decided to build a summer residence and in 1848 the foundation stone was laid for Garron Tower.

The principal guest at the opening of the Tower was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Clarendon.

Coinciding with the end of the Famine in 1849, the four Coastguard cottages at 91 Garron Road were built as part of that estate.

Lady Londonderry showed a considerable interest in the day to day administration of her estate, demanding detailed reports from her agents.

She was a relentlessly improving landowner, encouraging agricultural improvement and endowing schools, clothing societies, etc.

The link with Lady Antrim's ancestral seat, Glenarm Castle, a few miles to the south is such that it was suspected Lady Londonderry's intention had been to upstage Glenarm Castle with the erection of Garron Tower.

GARRON TOWER, near Carnlough, County Antrim, was built in stages from 1848-56, initially to the designs of Charles Campbell, architect, of Newtownards, who had selected the site in 1847.

The house was ready for occupation by 1850.

A new hall, with a projecting rectangular bay facing eastwards, was added to the north of the polygonal tower in 1852, attributed to Lewis Valliamy of London.

A front porch was added in 1854.

The oak doors, which still survive inside, were carved by Austrian craftsmen.

After Lady Londonderry's death in 1865, it remained in the private hands of the family until rented by Henry McNeill of Larne in 1889 and opened as a hotel.

Garron Tower was leased from 1898.

Many of the original contents were sold by public auction in 1911.

The house was badly damaged by accidental fire in 1914; then it was bought by McNeill's firm in 1915.

It was burnt maliciously in 1922; and closed as a hotel in 1939.

From 1941-46, it was occupied by evacuated residents from the Belfast Charitable Society home at Clifton House, Belfast.

The Tower was converted for use as a school for the Catholic diocese of Down and Connor in 1951 to the design of Padraic Gregory, a Belfast architect, whose firm also designed various school buildings, added to the rear from time to time.

The battlemented retaining wall to the terrace walk in the garden, terminating in a circular magazine, was built in 1848 to the design of Campbell.

The cannon on the terrace were reputedly used at the Battle of Waterloo, and originally stood here on their original wheeled carriers.

The gate lodge was built in 1854; the stable block added in 1860 to the design of Lanyon and Lynn; and the new chapel built in 1956 to the design of Mr Gregory.

The main gateway originally comprised two openwork iron piers with a pair of gates, all cast at the Londonderry foundry in Seaham, County Durham.

Garron has a dominant tower at one end of a lengthy building, polygonal with a square turret.

At the opposite end of the front a short wing projects forwards, ending in a rectangular tower and turret.

With the exception of somewhat prosaic machicolations and crenellations, the walls are quite featureless.

The mansion was enlarged in 1852 with the addition of a hall.

The main front used to be flanked by a terrace with a battery of cannon. Is this still the case today?

The position of Garron Tower is spectacular, on a plateau above the County Antrim coast.

There is some natural shelter on the west side from steeply rising ground and this has been clothed with trees.

Formerly the ornamental and productive gardens were to the west, somewhat protected from sea breezes by the castle, which stood facing south amid severe lawns decorated with urns.

Trees cover the area below the plateau, which drops sharply to the sea.

The grounds are adapted for school use and cultivated areas have disappeared.

There are notable specimens of Eucalyptus Globulus, planted in 1857.

Garron Tower is now a school,  St Killian's College.

First published in April, 2010.   Londonderry arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Ormeau House

ORMEAU HOUSE, County Down, was a very large Georgian mansion of 1823, replacing Ormeau Cottage, a thatched country villa.
Ormeau Cottage had been occupied until 1803 by Lord Dungannon's agent and family (The Dungannons were seated at Belvoir Park, Newtownbreda, County Down).
The new mansion-house was designed in the Tudor-Revival style by William Vetruvius Morrison for the 2nd Marquess of Donegall, who had moved to Ormeau with his family ca 1807.

It had numerous gables; a lofty polygonal turret with a cupola at one corner; a smaller turret with a pyramidal roof at the rear of the house.

Photo Credit: Ulster Hall

Ormeau was probably the biggest private residence in Belfast, comprising some 20,000 square feet.

The floor area doubled that.
Ormeau, meaning young elm tree in French, was outside the city in a rural setting. It was separated from Belfast by the river Lagan.
It boasted a spacious entrance-hall; a long gallery; and a banqueting-hall.

There were said to be at least one dozen principal bedrooms.

Dozens of servants were required to maintain the household and grounds.

THE PARK comprised about two hundred acres.

Hay Park, the home farm, was opposite the main entrance gates on what is now the Ormeau Road.

There were two gate lodges: One was beside the Ormeau Bridge; the other at the Long Bridge.

The 2nd Marquess died at Ormeau House in 1844, leaving his son huge debts amounting to some £400,000 (£43 million in today's money).

Ormeau Park was abandoned ca 1862 by the 3rd Marquess in favour of the newly-built Belfast Castle.

The 3rd Marquess, with his son-in-law and daughter (afterwards 8th Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury), moved to Belfast Castle, a large Scottish-Baronial mansion which he had built at the opposite side of the city.

In 1869, Ormeau Park was acquired by Belfast Town Council from the Donegall family.

Ormeau House was subsequently demolished.

Ormeau Park remains the largest and oldest of Belfast's municipal parks and now extends to 137 acres.

First published in November, 2013.   Donegall arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

The Capper Series: I

Wilfrid Capper MBE (1905-98) was a former Northern Ireland civil servant whose true passion was for the preservation and conservation of the countryside.

He conceived and created The Ulster Way.

The following article is a selective extract from Caring for the Countryside: A History of 50 Years of the Ulster Society for the Preservation of the Countryside, published in 1987.


IT has never been the policy of the Society to acquire land or property itself, though it has helped to raise funds for special places.

However, we made an exception for Coney Island in Lough Neagh, in rather unusual circumstances.

I had come to know Lord Charlemont, the owner, through the Youth Hostel Association and he rang me up one day to ask me if  I would like an island.

I was rather taken aback and asked what island.

"Coney", he said, "I think you would appreciate it."

I thought it was rather like offering a pet dog to someone he thought would look after it.

Lord Charlemont then found he could not give it away and would have to charge even a nominal sum for it.

The minimum price he could charge was £300 and I could have it for that amount.

In 1946 I had not even £300 [about £12,400 in today's money] to spend on an island so our society undertook to raise the money by public subscription.

We then gave the island to the National Trust and allowed the Portadown Scouts to use it for training purposes.

Oddly enough I did later buy an island in Strangford Lough [Inisharoan Island] for the same £300.

I failed to acquire an island in Lough Erne, so as Hitler once said, "This is my last territorial claim."

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Prince Edward in NI

The Earl of Wessex has begun a two-day visit to Northern Ireland.

His Royal Highness arrived at Florence Court, County Fermanagh, where he met primary school children from County Cavan in the Republic of Ireland.

Prince Edward, who last visited Northern Ireland in 2015, toured the mansion house before touring the kitchen garden, which is undergoing restoration.

His Royal Highness also met staff and volunteers from the National Trust, which owns Florence Court estate.

HRH's next engagement was officially to open a new £400,000 extension and refurbishment at a scout hut in Cladagh Glen.

He was then entertained with songs around a campfire, before moving on to the Lakeland Community Centre in Belcoo, County Fermanagh.


Ballyseedy Castle


This family is of English origin, and has either received its surname from, or conferred it upon, the township of Blennerhasset, Cumberland, where it appears to have been stationary for several centuries.

Members of the family represented Carlisle in nearly every parliament from RICHARD II to JAMES I, and later frequently represented either Kerry or Tralee.

The Blennerhassetts maintained the highest rank amongst the gentry of County Kerry, where the first settlers,

THOMAS BLENNERHASSETT, of Flimby, Cumberland, MP for Carlisle, 1584-1604, and his son, ROBERT, settled in County Kerry as an undertaker in the plantations of the province of Munster (then forfeited by the Earl of Desmond), having obtained the grant of a considerable estate there, from ELIZABETH I.

His aforementioned son,

ROBERT BLENNERHASSETT, of Ballycarty, First Provost of Tralee, MP for Tralee, 1613-15-35-39, married Elizabeth, daughter of Jenkin Conway (who was granted lands in the same county), and had (with a daughter, Elizabeth) three sons,
JOHN, his heir;
Edward, High Sheriff of Kerry, 1642;
Arthur, ancestor of Blennerhassett of Riddlestown.
The eldest son,

JOHN BLENNERHASSETT, of Ballyseedy, Captain of a foot regiment, 1643, MP for Kerry, High Sheriff of Kerry, 1641, who wedded Martha, daughter of George Lynn, of Southwick Hall, Peterborough, and had issue,
John, his heir; ancestor of HILDA BLENNERHASSETT;
Mary; Alice; Lucy.
The second son,

ROBERT BLENNERHASSETT (c1622-c1689), High Sheriff of County Kerry, MP for Tralee, espoused Avice, daughter and co-heir of Jenkin Conway, of Killorglin, County Kerry, and had issue,
HENRY, his heir;
Anne; Lucy; Catherine; Avice; Alice.
The eldest son,

HENRY BLENNERHASSETT, who married Dorcas, daughter of Francis Crumpe, of Killarney, and had issue,
Arthur, who went to France and became a Doctor of the Sorbonne;
ROBERT, of whom presently;
Dorcas; Avice; Alice; Lucy.
The fourth son,

ROBERT BLENNERHASSETT, wedded Frances, daughter of Richard Yielding, and had issue,
ROWLAND, his heir;
Belinda; Alice; Millicent; Sarah.
The eldest son,

ROWLAND BLENNERHASSETT (1741-1821), of Blennerville, espoused Millicent Agnes, daughter of Richard Yielding, of Belview, County Limerick, and had issue,
ROBERT, his successor;
Richard Francis;
Arthur, of Blennerville;
Mr Blennerhassett was created a baronet, in 1809, designated of Blennerville, County Kerry.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR ROBERT BLENNERHASSETT, 2nd Baronet (1769-1831), High Sheriff of County Kerry, 1823, who married, in 1790, Rosanna, daughter of Arthur Blennerhassett, and had issue,
ARTHUR, his successor;
Sir Robert was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR ARTHUR BLENNERHASSETT, 3rd Baronet (1794-1849), High Sheriff of County Kerry, 1820, who wedded, in 1826, Sarah, daughter of John Mahony, and had issue,
ROWLAND, his successor;
Sir Arthur was succeeded by his only son,

THE RT HON SIR ROWLAND BLENNERHASSETT, 4th Baronet (1839-1909), JP, DL, MP for Galway, 1865-74, Kerry, 1880-85, High Sheriff of County Kerry, 1866, Privy Counsellor, who espoused, in 1870, Countess Charlotte Julia von Leyden, and had issue,
Paul Charles William Marmaduke Rowland;
William Lewis Rowland Paul Sebastian;
Marie Carola Franciska Roselyne.
Sir Rowland was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR ARTHUR CHARLES FRANCIS BERNARD BLENNERHASSETT, 5th Baronet (1871-1915), JP, who married, in 1899, Mary Frances, daughter of Ludwig, Baron von Aretin, and had issue, an only child,

SIR MARMADUKE CHARLES HENRY JOSEPH CASIMIR BLENNERHASSETT, 6th Baronet (1902-40), who wedded, in 1938, Gwenfra Mary, daughter of Harrington Morgan, and had issue,
Sir Marmaduke, Temporary Lieutenant, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, was killed in action during the 2nd World War.

He was succeeded by his only son,

SIR (MARMADUKE) ADRIAN FRANCIS WILLIAM BLENNERHASSETT, 7th Baronet (1940-), who married, in 1972, Carolyn Margaret, daughter of Gilbert Brown, and has issue,
Celina Mary Charlotte (b 1973).

BALLYSEEDY CASTLE, Tralee, County Kerry, is a large Georgian mansion of ca 1760.

The entrance front has two curved bows, with a battlemented roof parapet.

On one side of the front there is a low, castellated service wing, with square and circular turrets; and the other side has a "sham" wall containing false windows.

The Gothic features date from 1816.

Miss Hilda Blennerhassett (1884-1965) bequeathed Ballyseedy to her kinsman, Sir Adrian Blennerhassett, 7th Baronet.

Sir Adrian subsequently sold the estate, in 1967, to Arthur and Eileen Sheraton.

Ballyseedy, or Ballyseede as it is now called, is now a hotel.