Friday, 22 November 2019

Ross of Bladensburg


ROBERT ROSS, of Rostrevor, County Down, derived from SIR DAVID ROSS, was commissioner of Ulster under JAMES I, High Sheriff of County Down, 1709, MP for Killyleagh, 1715-27, Newry, 1727, until his decease in December, 1750, married firstly, Anne, eldest daughter and co-heir of Robert King MP, of Lissenhall, Swords, and had issue,
ROBERT, his heir;
Mary; Anne.
He wedded secondly, Jane _____, and had further issue.

The eldest son,

ROBERT ROSS, of Rostrevor and Dublin, MP for Carlingford, 1723, 1727, 1761 and 1768, Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1748-9, High Sheriff of County Down, 1771, had issue by his first wife,
Robert, Colonel in the army, b 1728; d unm;
DAVID, of whom hereafter;
Anne, b 1732.
The younger son,

MAJOR DAVID ROSS (1729-), espoused Elizabeth, half-sister of James, Earl of Charlemont, and daughter of Thomas Adderley, of Innishannon, and had issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
Robert of Bladensburg, father of DAVID ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG;
James, Lieutenant RN, drowned at sea;
Mary, m Rev Dr Blacker.
The eldest son,

THE REV THOMAS ROSS, of Rostrevor, County Down, wedded, in 1796, Maria O'Brien, granddaughter of Sir Edward O'Brien Bt, of Dromoland Castle, County Clare, and had issue,
DAVID ROBERT, his heir;
Edward, m Anne, dau. of Rt Hon TP Courtenay, niece to Earl of Devon;
The Rev Dr Ross died in 1818, and was succeeded by his elder son,

DAVID ROBERT ROSS JP DL (1797-1851), of Rostrevor, High Sheriff of County Down, 1837, MP for Belfast, 1842-47, Governor of Tobago, 1851, married, in 1819, Harriet Anne, daughter of the Rt Rev the Hon Edmund Knox, Lord Bishop of Limerick, by his wife, Charlotte, sister of Sir Thomas Hesketh Bt, of Rufford Hall, Lancashire, and had issue,
THOMAS, Royal Navy;
Edward Charles (Sir), CSI;
Jessie; Harriet Adele.
Following his decease, in 1851, the part of Mr Ross's Rostrevor property was purchased by his cousin,

DAVID ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG JP (1804-66), of Rostrevor, who married firstly, in 1838, Mary Anne Sarah, only daughter of William Drummond Delap, and had issue, a daughter,
KATHLEEN ELIZABETH, m, 1861, Colonel F J Oldfield, Political Agent at Kolapore.
Mr Ross-of-Bladensburg wedded secondly, in 1843, Harriet Margaretta Skeffington, sister of John, 10th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard, KP, and had issue,
JOHN FOSTER GEORGE (Sir), heir to his brother;
Edmund James Thomas;
Harriett Margaret.
Mr Ross-of-Bladensburg was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV ROBERT SKEFFINGTON ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG, SJ, of Rostrevor, Captain, South Down Militia, who died in 1892, and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR JOHN FOSTER GEORGE ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG KCB KCVO JP DL, of Rostrevor (1848-1925), who espoused, in 1870, Blanche Amelia, youngest daughter of John, 10th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard, KP, though the marriage was without issue.

Sir John was Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, Lieutenant-Colonel, Coldstream Guards, ADC to the Earl Spencer when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ADC to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

He served in the Soudan Campaign, 1885, and was Secretary to the Duke of Norfolk's mission to the Holy See, 1889, and to Sir Lintorn Simmons' mission to the Holy See, 1890.


Major-General Robert Ross served with the highest distinction in the Peninsular War.

He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the army sent against the United States, and after a short career of uninterrupted success, during which he achieved the victory of BLADENSBURG, and possessed himself of the American capital, fell in 1814, whilst advancing to attack the enemy's position near Baltimore.

On his widow and his descendants was conferred by The Prince Regent, in 1816, the honorary distinction "of Bladensburg", to be added to the family name, and an augmentation of arms.

For his conspicuous gallantry, leadership, and heroism, General Ross was awarded three Gold Medals, the Peninsula Gold Medal, a Sword of Honour, and he received the thanks of Parliament.

He married, in 1803, Elizabeth Catherine, eldest daughter of William Glassock.

The Ross Monument, a large obelisk in the General’s native village of Rostrevor, County Down, was restored in 2008.

With uninterrupted views of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains, the monument is situated almost on the exact spot where General Ross had planned to build his retirement home, had he returned safely from his expedition to America in 1814.

Writing of Carlingford Lough and Rostrevor, the famous English nineteenth century writer, William Makepeace Thackeray, wrote,
"were such a bay lying upon English shores, it would be a world's wonder; or if on the Mediterranean or Baltic, English travellers would flock to it". 
Aware of Ross's importance as a figure in world history, Newry and Mourne District Council provided seed funding to assist the Rostrevor-based historian, Dr John McCavitt, with his research into the career of the General.

Besides playing a pivotal role when British forces inflicted a morale-boosting first ever victory over Napoleon's 'invincibles' at the Battle of Maida (1806), Ross later carved out a highly distinguished career during the Peninsular War in Europe.

As the bicentennial of the War of 1812 approaches, it is also hoped that a deeper understanding of the nature and impact of Ross's brief career in the USA is realised.

Thus, besides the Battle of Bladensburg and the burning of the public buildings in Washington, it is also recognised that the manner in which Ross met his death at Baltimore in September, 1814, contributed in no small measure to inspiring the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner.

The ties that bind Rostrevor to this pivotal period in American history are remarkable.

There is some evidence that there were plans afoot to send an American privateer to burn Rostrevor in revenge for Ross's attack on Washington.

The inscription on the Obelisk in Rostrevor reads as follows:-




Ross Monument in St Paul!s Cathedral


Neither Ross nor his immediate descendants were knighted or received a title of nobility.

However, his descendants were given an augmentation of honour to the Ross armorial bearings (namely, a second crest in which an arm is seen grasping the American Flag on a broken staff) and the family name was changed to the Victory Title ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG which was granted to his widow.

In honour of Washington DC's history, there is also a portrait of General Ross in the Capitol's rotunda.

The Rostrevor demesne was very modest in size, comprising about 640 acres in 1870.

The park and garden setting of this early Tudor-Revival house (1835-37) was the focus of one of the most important tree and shrub collections of late Victorian and Edwardian Ireland. 

Although not maintained as a garden for some decades, many rare trees survive in these grounds, which are attractively located on the southern spur of the Mourne Mountains, overlooking Carlingford Lough. 

Rostrevor demesne has 18th century origins.

The original house, called Carrickbawn, was built by the Maguires and was known locally as ‘Topsy-Turvy’, because of the ‘unusual manner in which it had been built’. 

It was acquired by Major David Ross in the late 18th century, and in 1809 passed to his famous second son, Major-General Robert Ross (1766-1814), who is commemorated by the nearby obelisk built in 1826. 

After the Major-General's death in the American war in 1814, the property passed to his widow, Elizabeth Catherine Ross, while their descendants were granted the hereditary distinction 'of Bladensburg' in his honour by the Prince Regent. 

With a generous government pension, Mrs Ross was able to considerably expand the parkland planting; in 1820 for example, she is known to have put down some 30 acres of larch, oak and Scotch Fir. 

In 1835 the old Maguire house was demolished and the present Tudor-Revival mansion, one of the earliest examples of this style in Ulster, was erected in its place.

It was most probably designed for Mrs Ross by the Dublin based architect William Deane Butler (d 1857). 

After the death of General Ross's widow in 1845, the property passed to their eldest son, David Ross-of-Bladensburg.

He made little impact on the demesne, spending long periods on the continent, while his eldest son, Robert, who inherited Rostrevor House in 1866, decided to leave Ireland in the early 1870s and become a Jesuit and later a priest. 

Consequently, management of the property passed to his younger brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg KCB KCVO (1848-1925), who eventually inherited the place in 1892. 

The famous tree and shrub collection at Rostrevor was begun by Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg in the 1870s, though he was not able to take up full time residence in Ireland until 1882, when he was assigned as a member of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland's staff. 

His plantings were largely confined to the slopes to the north-east, east and south of the house, covering an area of about fifty acres.
His collection of 'hardy, half-hardy and very tender shrubs, trees and to a lesser extent, herbaceous plants, became one of the best known in Ireland, if not the United Kingdom', and in 1911 a comprehensive catalogue of the 'Trees and Shrubs grown in the Grounds of Rostrevor House' was published [University Press, Ponsonby and Gibbs]. 
This lists about 2500 plants, many of great rarity, and these numbers were to increase so considerably in subsequent years that in 1919 an article in Irish Gardening was able to state that the garden had 'the largest collection of plants growing in the open in the whole country'. 

Not surprisingly, the garden was described in numerous Edwardian journals and books, while Sir John himself contributed many lengthy articles on plants growing in his gardens, mostly published in the monthly journal Irish Gardening.

Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg had no male heirs and, after his death in 1925, the gardens went into decline. 

After standing empty for a number of years, the house was acquired in 1950 by a missionary order, the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, who established it as an inter-denominational retreat house and novitiate. 

In the 1960s they added a large extension to the north side of the house, but in 1998, due principally to insurance considerations, the house's role as a centre for retreat had to be curtailed, while at the same time the sisters decided to share the old house with a small Benedictine community. 

It is believed that, as of 2011, Rostrevor House belonged to Ballyedmond Estates.

While many trees and shrubs disappeared from Rostrevor in the 1930s and subsequent decades, many evidently dying because of livestock grazing, there are still many rare and important plants in the grounds.
Most of these lie in the area south of the house and on the hillside above the house and drive. Some of the trees include a fine Nothofagus soalndri (70ft); a Nothofagus dombeyi (80ft), a Macedonian Pine (Pinus peuce- 90ft), Chilean Laurel (Laurela Serrata), Cupressus cashmiriana (30ft), a remarkably tall Pittosporum bicolor, an outstanding kowhai (Sophora tetraptera), a Sophora tetraptera (30ft), a Zelkovo carpinifolia and many others. 
First published in June, 2011.  

Thursday, 21 November 2019

1st Baron de Blaquiere


ANTHONY DE BLAQUIERE , a French noble of Guyenne, married Elizabeth de Montiel, and had a son, Florence, who settled at Lozère, Languedoc, and was father of

JEAN DE BLAQUIERE (1676-1753), who took refuge in England in consequence of the revocation of the edict of Nantes, 1685.

This Jean married Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Peter de Varennes, and died in 1753, having had issue,
Lewis, died unmarried, 1754;
Matthew, died in the East Indies;
John Elias, died in infancy;
James, a military officer;
JOHN, of whom hereafter;
Catherine; Jane; Mary; Susanna.
The fifth and youngest son,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN DE BLAQUIERE (1732-1812), was nominated Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in 1772, and invested, in 1774, as a Knight Commander of the Bath.

Sir John was created a baronet in 1784, designated of Ardkill, County Londonderry, and sworn of the Privy Council in Ireland.
He held various public offices and was secretary of Legation at Paris 1771-2 (one of his responsibilities it was rumoured was to keep an eye on Bonnie Prince Charlie) and later became Chief Secretary to Lord Harcourt, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1772-7, and Bailiff of Phoenix Park in Dublin.
Sir John was elevated to the peerage, in 1800, in the dignity of  BARON DE BLAQUIERE, of Ardkill, County Londonderry.

His lordship married, in 1775, Eleanor, daughter of Robert Dobson, of Anne's Grove, County Cork, and had issue, five sons and three daughters, viz.
JOHN, his heir;
WILLIAM, of whom hereafter;
Edmund, died young;
George (1782-26); m, in 1826, the relict of Mr Leigh;
Peter Boyle;
Anna Maria.
The eldest son and heir,

JOHN, 2nd Baron (1776-1844), of Ardkill, County Londonderry, was Alnager and Collector of the Subsidies of Alnage in Ireland, 1797-1817, when the office was abolished.

About 1812 he was a prisoner in France, and never established his right to vote.

His lordship died unmarried, and the family honours devolved upon his next brother,

WILLIAM, 3rd Baron (1778-1851), FRS, a distinguished general in the Army, who married, in 1811, the Lady Harriet Townsend, daughter of George, 1st Marquess Townshend.

His lordship and Lady Harriet separated in 1814.

He died at Norwood, Surrey, by shooting himself while suffering from smallpox.

His lordship served in Flanders, at the Cape of Good Hope, and in India; major-general, 1813; lieutenant-general, 1825; general, 1841.

His eldest son,

JOHN, 4th Baron (1812-71), married firstly, in 1849, Anna, daughter of John Christie; and secondly, in 1852, Eleanor Amelia, daughter of William, 1st Baron Hylton, though the marriage was without issue.

The titles thereafter devolved upon his next brother, 

WILLIAM, 5th Baron (1814-89), Captain, Royal Navy, who married, in 1862, Anna Maria, daughter of John Wormald, at St Marylebone Church, Marylebone, London.

His lordship died without issue and was buried at Brockworth Manor, Gloucestershire.

On the decease of the 5th Baron in 1889, the titles became extinct.

THE CHIEF SECRETARY'S LODGE, Phoenix Park, Dublin, was surrounded by 62 acres of parkland and was completed in 1776.

It was purchased by HM Government in 1782 and became the official residence of the Chief Secretary until 1922, when it became the US Ambassador's residence - the Irish White House, in a sense.

I have written an article about the Chief Secretary's Lodge here.


PORTLEMAN HOUSE (or Port Loman), near Mullingar, County Westmeath, former residence of the 1st Baron de Blaquiere, was an 18th century house of three storeys and six bays.

It was built on rising ground above Lough Owel. The grounds comprised eight acres.

The main entrance was in a pillared recess; elaborate curved staircase. It is now demolished.



Blaquiere was the fifth son of Jean de Blaquiere, a French merchant who had emigrated to England in 1732, and his wife Marie Elizabeth de Varennes.

He at first served in the Army, in the 18th Dragoons (later the 17th Dragoons), where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

In 1771 Blaquiere was appointed Secretary of Legation at the British Embassy in Paris, a post he held until 1772.

The latter year Lord Harcourt, HM Ambassador in Paris, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Blaquiere joined him as Chief Secretary for Ireland.

He became a Privy Counsellor the same year and was appointed a Knight Commander of the Bath two years later.

Blaquiere was to remain Chief Secretary until Harcourt's resignation in January, 1777.

He had been elected to the Irish House of Commons for Old Leighlin in 1773, a seat he held until 1783.

After a few months for Enniskillen in 1783, he sat then for Carlingford from 1783-90; for Charleville from 1790-98; and for Newtownards from 1798 till the Act of Union in 1801.

In 1784 Blaquiere was created a baronet, of Ardkill in the County of Londonderry; and in 1800 he was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron de Blaquiere, of Ardkill in the County of Londonderry.

Lord de Blaquiere also sat as MP for Rye from 1801-02 and for Downton from 1802-06.


I HAVE BEEN so far unable to find any record of the de Blaquieres owning a residence in County Londonderry, despite the name Ardkill being in their territorial title.

It is, perhaps, more likely that they simply owned land.

The Ardkill estate, Clondermot, County Londonderry, by marriage: The estate was bought for him by Alexander Tompkins, of Prehen, County Londonderry, father of Maria Tompkins (wife of Robert Dobson), and grandfather of Eleanor Dobson, the 1st Barons' wife.

First published in September, 2010. Blaquiere arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

The Reeks


CORNELIUS or CONNOR McGILLYCUDDY was born ca 1580; died by shipwreck, 1630, having married firstly, Joan, daughter of the Rt Rev John Crosbie, Lord Bishop of Ardfert; and secondly, Sheelagh, daughter of Richard Oge McCarty, of Dunguile, by whom he had a son, Niell, and a daughter.

By his first wife he had, with other issue,

DONOUGH McGILLYCUDDY (1623-c1695), of Carnbeg Castle, County Kerry, Sheriff of County Kerry, 1686.

This Donough obtained a grant of arms from Sir Richard Carney, Ulster King of Arms, in 1688.

He wedded, in 1641, Marie, youngest daughter of Daniel O'Sullivan, of Dunkerron, County Kerry, and had issue,
CORNELIUS, the heir;
Daniel, Colonel, Captain Monck's Regiment; father of DENNIS.
Mr McGillycuddy was succeeded by his elder son,

CORNELIUS McGILLYCUDDY, who married Elizabeth McCarty and dsp 1712, being succeeded by his cousin,

DENNIS McGILLYCUDDY, who married, in 1717, Anne, daughter of John Blennerhassett, by whom he had issue, with four daughters,
DENNIS, his heir;
CORNELIUS, succeeded his brother;
John, dsp;
Philip, dsp.
He died in 1730, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

DENNIS McGILLYCUDDY (1718-35), who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

CORNELIUS McGILLYCUDDY, born ca 1720, who wedded, in 1745, Catherine, daughter of Richard Chute, of Tullygaron, and had issue,
Denis, b 1747; d unm;
RICHARD, succeeded his father;
FRANCIS, succeeded his brother;
Charity; Mary Anne; Margaret; Ruth; Avis; Agnes.
The eldest son,

RICHARD McGILLYCUDDY (1750-1826), of The Reeks, High Sheriff of County Kerry, 1793, espoused, in 1780, Arabella Mullins, daughter of Thomas, 1st Baron Ventry.

He dsp 1826, and was succeeded by his brother,

FRANCIS McGILLYCUDDY (1751-1827), of The Reeks, who wedded Catherine, widow of Darby McGill, and daughter of Denis Mahony, of Dromore, County Kerry, and had issue,
RICHARD, his heir;
Frances; Mary Catherine; Elizabeth.
Mr McGillycuddy was succeeded by his son,

RICHARD McGILLYCUDDY (1790-1866), of The Reeks, who married firstly, in 1814, Margaret (d 1827), only daughter of Dr John Bennett, and had issue, a daughter, Dorothea.

He wedded secondly, in 1849, Anna, daughter of Captain John Johnstone, of Mamstone Court, Herefordshire, and had further issue,
Agnes; Anna Catherine; Mary Ruth; Sylvia Emily.
Mr McGillycuddy was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD PATRICK McGILLYCUDDY (1850-71), of The Reeks, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

DENIS DONOUGH CHARLES McGILLYCUDDY OF THE REEKS (1852-1921), DSO, Lieutenant RN, who married, in 1881, Gertrude Laura, second daughter of Edmond Miller, of Ringwood, Massachusetts, USA, and had issue,
ROSS KINLOCH; his heir;
Richard Hugh (1883-1918).
The elder son,

ROSS KINLOCH McGILLYCUDDY OF THE REEKS (1852-1950), DSO, Lieutenant, 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, wedded Victoria, daughter of Edward Courage, of Shenfield Place, Essex, and had issue,
JOHN PATRICK, his heir;
Denis Michael Edmond (1917-44);
Phyllida Anne.
Mr McGillycuddy was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN PATRICK McGILLYCUDDY OF THE REEKS (1909-59), who wedded, in 1945, Elizabeth Margaret, daughter of Major John Ellison Otto, and had issue,
Sarah Elizabeth.
Mr McGillycuddy was succeeded by his only son,

RICHARD DENIS WYER McGILLYCUDDY OF THE REEKS (1948-2004), who married, in 1984, Virginia Lucy, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon Hugh Waldorf Astor, and had issue,
Tara Virginia, b 1985;
Sorcha Alexander, b 1990.
Richard McGillycuddy was succeeded in the title by his first cousin,

(DERMOT PATRICK) DONOUGH McGILLYCUDDY OF THE REEKS (1939-), who married, in 1964, Wendy O'Connor, daughter of George Spencer, and has issue,
Michael Dermot, b 1968;
Jocelyn Patrick Spencer, b 1970;
Lavinia O'Connor, b 1966.

THE REEKS, near Beaufort, County Kerry, is a two-storey, five-bay, late Georgian house.

It has an eaved roof and pilastered porch, doubled in length with an extension of the same height and style.

Effectively this forms a continuous front of ten bays, the original porch, no longer central, remaining the entrance.

The two end bays of the extension protrude slightly.

AT THE end of the 19th century, before the Land Purchase Acts, Richard McGillycuddy's grandfather, whose mother had injected American money into the family, distinguished himself in the 1st World War, winning the DSO and the Légion d'Honneur.

From 1928 to 1936, he sat in the Senate of the Irish Free State as a supporter of the moderate WT Cosgrave and an opponent of the republican Eamon de Valera.

In the 2nd World War, he returned to the colours and became a regular informant on what was happening in neutral Ireland.

His grandson, Richard Denis Wyer McGillycuddy, was born in 1948. Richard's father, the senator's son, who had succeeded in 1950, himself died in 1959 as a result of wounds sustained during the 2nd World War in the Northampton Yeomanry.

At the time Richard was only 10 and still at his preparatory school before going on to Eton.

His English mother, although never feeling at home in Ireland, carried on dutifully at Beaufort to preserve the family inheritance for her son.

Every August, she organised a rather gentrified cricket match played on the lawn of the house - but it was abandoned around 1970 after young Richard, who had little interest in cricket and was not watching, was knocked unconscious by a mighty drive by a visitor who had played for the Cambridge Crusaders.

The young McGillycuddy's passion was cars, and he went into the motor trade in London after a brief sojourn at the University of Aix-en-Provence.

He was unreceptive to the efforts of his uncle Dermot, a Dublin solicitor much beloved of McGillycuddys of every class and creed, to interest him in Ireland.

Tall and dashing, the rugged and auburn-haired young McGillycuddy of the Reeks was much in demand in London among the Sloane Rangers.

Eventually, in 1983, at the age of 35, he married Virginia Astor, the granddaughter of the 1st Lord Astor of Hever.

Feeling that he had little in common with the local people in Kerry, McGillycuddy decided to sell The Reeks, and moved to France, where he acted as a property consultant to prospective British purchasers of chateaux and lesser French properties.

After the birth of his second daughter in 1990, the family returned to live in Ireland - not, however, in their ancestral territory, but nearer Dublin, where they rented a succession of houses, the last of them in Westmeath.

He continued to dabble in property, and latterly sold insurance; but it was a handicap that his upper-class English demeanour disappointed expectations raised by his Irish-sounding name.

Although he could be charming in the appropriate company, he did not relate well to Irish people outside his own class.

Meanwhile, despite poor health, his wife carved out a niche for herself doing valuable work as a prison visitor.

McGillycuddy was active in the council of Irish chieftains who had been recognised by the Irish Genealogical Office.

Richard McGillycuddy was survived by his wife and two daughters.

He was succeeded by his first cousin, Donogh, who lives in South Africa.

First published in March, 2013.

The Queen's Wedding Day

TODAY is Her Majesty’s 72nd Wedding Anniversary.

On the 20th November, 1947, Her Royal Highness THE PRINCESS ELIZABETH, elder daughter of KING GEORGE VI and QUEEN ELIZABETH, married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN).

On the morning of the Wedding, Prince Philip was created  His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich.

The Royal Couple on their Platinum Wedding Anniversary

Their Royal Highnesses were married at Westminster Abbey and the new Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh moved in to their new official home, Clarence House.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Sir Richard Wallace Bt


The Hertford Estate, centred round the area known as Killultagh at Lisburn, was one of the largest estates in County Antrim and, indeed, Ulster.

Sir Fulke Conway, ancestor of the Marquesses of Hertford, founded Lisburn.

Killultagh includes Ballinderry, Glenavy, Knockmore, Maghaberry and Moira.

In 1869, perhaps the most important political phenomenon in County Antrim was landlord influence and, in particular, the power of Lord Hertford, the county’s greatest landowner, and his agent, the Very Rev James Stannus, Dean of Ross and Rector of Lisburn.
Their influence on elections was considerable, especially since the secret ballot was not introduced until 1872. 
During an investigation into the running of the Hertford estate, which was located in the south of County Antrim. 
Dean Stannus stated that it comprised 66,000 acres, supporting a population of about 200,000.
There were 4,000 holdings within the Hertford Estate, of which 1,000 were leasehold and the remainder let on a yearly basis.

There were approximately 10,000 electors in the entire county and at least 1,000 of them lived on the Estate.

In addition, every elector in the Borough of Lisburn was either a tenant or sub-tenant.

The estate rental in 1871 amounted to £58,000 (about £5 million today).

This would appear to have represented a formidable source of political power.

There were only a number of other large estates owned by conservative families in the county, although none, with the exception of the O'Neill estate, could match the Hertford acreage during the Victorian era.

Many of the officers who had commanded the forces of the Crown against the Irish in rebellion were younger sons of gentlemen who, under English and Scottish law, did not inherit lands at home.

Victory against the Irish gave them the opportunity to set themselves up as independent, landed gentlemen including Sir Fulke Conway.

SIR RICHARD WALLACE, 1st and last Baronet (1818-90), KCB JP DL MP, of Sudbourn Hall, Suffolk, and Lisburn, County Antrim, philanthropist, art collector and connoisseur extraordinaire, inherited the Hertford estate from his father in 1871.

He was created a baronet in the same year, designated of Hertford House, London.

Sir Richard was the illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess of Hertford, for whom he worked as  personal secretary, and inherited his father's estates, and extensive collection of European art in 1871.

Wallace expanded the collection himself, and in 1897, after his death, the collection was donated to the nation by Wallace's widow.

It is now located in what was his London residence, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London - which houses  the Wallace Collection.

His bequests to the town of Lisburn included Wallace Park and Wallace High School.

Sir Richard's residence in Lisburn, Castle House (above), is a large, imposing mansion of 1880, though he seldom stayed there.

His country house, Sudbourne Hall in Suffolk, was demolished during the 20th century.

Here is a fascinating article about Sir Richard and his visits to Ulster.

Both the 3rd and 4th Marquesses of Hertford paid little attention to their Ulster estates, the 4th Marquess visiting Lisburn only once in his lifetime, briefly in 1845.

Sir Richard, on the other hand, took his responsibilities as a landowner very seriously.

In 1873, after his selfless behaviour during the siege of Paris had made his name famous throughout the UK and France, he made a celebrated visit to Lisburn, where he and Lady Wallace received a tumultuous welcome.

Having no house in the town until 1880, he rented Antrim Castle from Lord Massereene for his stay in Ulster and it was from there that he travelled in a private railway carriage to the town.

At Brookmount station it was stopped and the party alighted.

Here, in a marquee in the station yard, were gathered the Lisburn Town Commissioners and their ladies to welcome the distinguished visitor and his entourage.

The Address of Welcome from the Commissioners was read by the Rev W D Pounden, rector of Lisburn Cathedral; and Sir Richard, in his reply, expressed his pleasure at being in the district.

Sir Richard became MP for Lisburn in 1873 and served until 1884.

He became the principal benefactor of the city, paying for the improvement of water supplies as well as the building of Assembly Rooms, a court house (now demolished) and a school, which survives as Wallace High School.

Wallace also employed the architect Thomas Ambler, who had remodelled Hertford House for him, to build a house in Lisburn, Castle House.

Wallace had hoped that his son Edmond would take up residence in Lisburn, but this was not to be and Castle House was only rarely used.

After his death in 1890, the citizens of Lisburn erected a magnificent monument to Sir Richard in Castle Gardens, where one of two Wallace fountains in the city may also be found.

Wallace’s name survives elsewhere in Lisburn, in Wallace High School, Wallace Park and even in a recently opened shopping centre, Wallace Colonnades.

Wallace Park is a public park of twenty-five acres created on land presented to the people of Lisburn by Sir Richard Wallace in 1884.

The area was formerly the outer park for Castle House, his Lisburn residence. He also furnished it with a bandstand, entrance gates and lodges.

The pond was made from what was formerly a town reservoir.

There are mature trees and further planting has been undertaken.

Most of the grounds are grassed, the northern part consisting of tree-lined paths, and the southern end is occupied by sports fields.

Sir Richard died in Paris on the 20th July, 1890.

I last visited the excellent Wallace Collection in London in 2015.

First published in May, 2010.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Rowan-Hamiltons at Home



When Lieutenant-Colonel Denys Rowan-Hamilton MVO DL handed over the keys of Killyleagh Castle to his son five years ago [2001], he reassured him that he mustn't let the property become a millstone around his neck and that, if it ever became too great a burden, he could sell it.

Then, on his way out the door, he reminded him gently that the castle had been in the family for 400 years.

"It was a bitter-sweet moment," Gawn Rowan-Hamilton ponders, sitting in a cosy, but strikingly high-ceilinged, room in Ulster's oldest inhabited castle.
"But I always knew, growing up, that if things worked out I would come and live here. I also knew that I had to earn a living to be able to afford its upkeep as, unfortunately, the castle isn't surrounded by masses of land. The handover went very smoothly and it is a far nicer place to raise a young family than London, where we used to live."
It certainly seems like an idyllic existence for Gawn, his wife Polly and five children Tara, Archie, Jake, Charlie and Willa.

There is endless scope in the nine-bedroomed castle for searching for secret passages and the several spiral staircases leading to the top of the towers provide hours of fun.

The castle even has its very own dungeon.

And outside, there are enough lawns to host Wimbledon and a swimming-pool worthy of any Olympics.

Built in 1180 by John de Courcy as one of a series of fortifications around Strangford Lough to protect against the Vikings, the castle, with its handsome turrets and seemingly impenetrable walls, looks like it has been lifted straight from the Loire valley.

The constant stream of tourists, who gaze in wonder through its iron gates, compare it to Hogwarts or a castle from Disney.

It has been kept in excellent repair through the years and, says Gawn, only needs painting on the inside - although that's not going to happen any time soon because of the children.

Even the nursery is the same as when Gawn was a child, and now his children are enjoying it too.

Gawn, who is his father's only son and has three half-brothers, one half-sister and two full sisters, attended Killyleagh Primary School and his closest friends lived on High Street.

He was then sent to Eton and after that studied at Cambridge - but returned to the castle at every opportunity.

"Family stands out most of all from my childhood memories," he says.
"I am the youngest of my mother's seven children and the house was always full of people. I remember sitting around the dining room table with a very large family having quite intensive discussions and arguments. 
Because I was at boarding school, mum would compensate by asking people to stay when I came back for holidays, and she didn't mind if there were 10 or 20 people for lunch. 
She was determined that we would have a good time here. And because it was known that I was going to come and live here one day it made it easier on the others."
What was it like, living in a castle?
"Up to the age of 14 I wasn't aware of the significance of living in a castle," Gawn says. "You think you're lucky but you just take it for granted. I went to Eton so living in a big house didn't distinguish me at all, but one hopes my children will be comfortable with it. 
If they are comfortable with it then they will take little notice of what people think." 
As Gawn spends half of each week in London as director of a major mergers and acquisitions firm, Polly spends much of her time looking after the castle, its self-catering accommodation in the gatehouses and events it hosts such as outdoor concerts. 

The family conducts tours for schools and, with the castle holding a registry licence, weddings also take place.
"I just love Killyleagh and the sense of community," says Polly. "It's so much nicer than London, the people are wonderful and because the house is right in the village we feel part of everything that's going on." 
Indeed, the Hamiltons have been part of goings-on for some 400 years since, in 1606, in an event described as the most important in Ulster-Scots history, Gawn's ancestor, James Hamilton, and his fellow Scot, Hugh Montgomery, arrived.

Montgomery had spied his opportunity to acquire a chunk of eastern Ulster when the Irish chieftain, Con O'Neill, was imprisoned and needed his help to escape from jail and secure a Royal pardon from Montgomery's friend, King JAMES I.

But Hamilton discovered the plan and persuaded O'Neill to give him some land, too, a move that caused the Scottish settlers to become bitter rivals despite living close to each other in northern County Down.

When he settled in Killyleagh Castle, James Hamilton built the courtyard walls and then his son, the 1st Earl of Clanbrassil, built a second tower as a sign of rising prosperity.

In 1649, the castle was besieged by Cromwellian forces, who blew up the original gatehouse using gunboats which had sailed into Strangford. Lord Clanbrassil fled, leaving behind his wife and children.

A staunch supporter of the Crown, parliament fined him all his spare cash for the return of his castle and land.

But contrary to what their history might suggest, the current Hamiltons and Montgomerys - whose country seat is Grey Abbey House in Co Down - are good friends:
"I grew up with the Montgomerys and it makes me laugh when I think that when the two families first arrived here they fought battles with each other," Gawn says. "I suppose Montgomery felt slightly cheated out of the sweet deal he had concocted with Con O'Neill and probably felt quite bitter. 
When he was on his death bed he decreed that no Montgomery must ever marry a Hamilton and to this day I don't think the families have intermarried. 
I find that astonishing, actually, given the fact that we have lived beside each other for 400 years." 
For centuries the castle's first role was protection but in more recent times work was done to make it more comfortable:
"During the famines in the 1850s my great-great-great grandmother redeveloped the house and installed gas," Gawn says. "Because she received no income from the state she decided to spend all her maternal fortune on making the house habitable. "She employed Charles Lanyon, the architect of Queen's University, Belfast, to redesign and open up the castle."
This was a challenge for Lanyon, who was used to building on a greenfield site - but the castle was confined to a structure already in place which he couldn't change.

But he made sterling work of it nonetheless, and all the intricately detailed plasterwork and wood panelling dates from this period.
"Lanyon turned the castle from what would have been a dark and uncomfortable interior to a very light and comfortable one," explains Gawn. "And although people might think the castle is cold and draughty, the rooms are actually not as big as you may imagine because the walls are so thick."
And with all that colourful history, there must be a ghost or two, surely?

For instance, does the so-called Blue Lady, Lady (Alice) Clanbrassil, flit through the corridors at night?

She was married to the 2nd Earl, Henry Hamilton, and their only child died in infancy.

To her horror, the 1st Earl had decreed in his will that if Henry died without issue the estate should be divided between five cousins.

But in her determination to get her hands on the Hamilton properties for her own family, Alice destroyed this will and made her husband write a new one.

Henry received a letter from his mother with the grim warning that the day he changed the will would be the day he died.

So it proved, as Henry was poisoned by his wife shortly after bequeathing his estate to her.
"Yes, I suspect there are ghosts running around with tales to tell," says Gawn. "Although I haven't seen a ghost people say that some rooms are spookier than others. It certainly adds to the character of the castle to think there might be ghosts."
There have been explosive events more recently, too, for the castle was targeted during the Troubles in the 1920s:
"I have a cutting from the Belfast Telegraph which tells the story of my great-great uncle being woken at 2am and exchanging gunfire from the battlements, which was terribly exciting," says Gawn.
But, despite the family's history of settling on land once owned by Irish men, Gawn says the Hamiltons have never experienced animosity from Roman Catholics:
"Actually, my most famous ancestor was Archibald Hamilton Rowan, who was a United Irishman," he explains. "He was put in prison by the British in Dublin but escaped and went to the Americas before he was pardoned and returned. 
There was one occurrence of animosity from loyalists in the 1970s when my father stood for election to Westminster as an Alliance Party candidate. 
Although he didn't get in loyalists were angry as they believed he was establishment and was taking some of their votes, and they burned his effigy in one of the village estates. That shows how extreme the politics of that time were."
A happier event concerns Prince Andrew, Baron Killyleagh, who regularly visits the village, although he hasn't stayed at the castle during Gawn's tenure.
"My father was hosting an event one day which the Duke of York was attending," he says. "A wedding had been booked for that afternoon and, because the first event was running longer than expected, my father eventually had to tell [HRH] that he had to go as the wedding party would soon be arriving. 
Of course, on their way out Prince Andrew and his entourage bumped right into the wedding - but he jumped out of his car and went over to the wedding party and had his photo taken with them, which was very good of him."
Says Gawn: "To have such a long history of the family here is wonderful and that sense of continuity reinforces the feeling I have about the house." 

First published in September, 2011.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Kilkenny Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also built the episcopal palace, near the cathedral.

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

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

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

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

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

The palace has a plain façade.

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

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

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

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

Ross Willoughby has written about her childhood there.

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

First published in November, 2015.