Monday, 15 August 2022

Portglenone House


The elder branch of this family was ennobled, in 1663, by the title of EARL OF STIRLING, in the person of WILLIAM ALEXANDER, of Menstrie, Clackmannanshire. The name of ALEXANDER was assumed from the Christian name of its founder, Alexander Macdonald, of Menstrie. This branch, on removing into Ireland, adopted into the family shield the Canton charged with the Harp of Ireland, and settled at Limavady, County Londonderry.

JOHN ALEXANDER, of Eridy, County Donegal, 1610, had issue,
ANDREW, his heir;
The eldest son, 

THE REV DR ANDREW ALEXANDER, of Eridy, married Dorothea, daughter of the Rev James Caulfeild, and had issue, 

CAPTAIN ANDREW ALEXANDER, of Londonderry, who wedded firstly, Miss Philips, daughter of Sir Thomas Philips, and had issue, JACOB.

He espoused secondly, Miss Hillhouse, daughter of the Laird of Hilles, and had another son,

JOHN ALEXANDER (c1670-1747), of Ballyclose, County Londonderry, and of Gunsland, County Donegal, who married Anne, daughter of John White, and had issue,
NATHANIEL, of whom hereafter;
The second son,

NATHANIEL ALEXANDER (1689-1761), of Gunsland, Alderman of Londonderry, 1755, who married Elizabeth, daughter of William McClintock, of Dunore, County Donegal, and had issue,
William, of London; barrister; d 1774;
ROBERT, of whom we treat;
James, created EARL OF CALEDON;
Mary Jane; Rebecca; Elizabeth; Ann; Jane.
The fourth surviving son, 

ROBERT ALEXANDER (1722-90), of Boom Hall, County Londonderry, wedded, in 1759, Anne, daughter of Henry McCullogh, and had issue,
NATHANIEL, his heir;
Henry, of Boom Hall;
William, Lieutenant-General;
Joseph Josias Du Pré;
Elizabeth; Jane; Anne; Rebecca; Dorothea.
Mr Alexander was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE RT REV AND RT HON NATHANIEL ALEXANDER (1760-1840), of Portglenone House, Lord Bishop of Meath, Privy Counsellor, who wedded, in 1785, Anne, daughter of the Rt Hon Richard Jackson MP, of Coleraine, and had issue,
Richard Jackson;
ROBERT, of whom we treat;
William Stuart;
Anne; Elizabeth Rebecca; Henrietta Frances; Jane Mary.
His second son,

THE VEN DR ROBERT ALEXANDER (1788-1840), Archdeacon of Down, married firstly, in 1813, Catherine, daughter of Rt Hon John Staples and Hon Henrietta Molesworth, and had issue,
NATHANIEL, his heir;
John Staples;
George William;
Harriet Catherine; Alicia Anne; Louisa Maria; Mary Jane;
Grace Frances; Melosine Elizabeth Charlotte; Catherine Staples.
Dr Alexander married secondly, in 1837, Hester Helena, daughter of Colonel Alexander McManus, but had no further issue.

The Archdeacon was succeeded by his eldest son,

NATHANIEL ALEXANDER (1815-53), of Portglenone House, MP for County Antrim, 1841-52, who espoused, in 1842, Florinda, daughter of Richard Boyle Bagley, and had issue,
JOHN STAPLES, succeeded his brother.
Mr Alexander was succeeded by his elder son,

ROBERT JACKSON ALEXANDER JP DL (1843-84), of Portglenone House, High Sheriff of County Londonderry, 1870, County Antrim, 1875, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

JOHN STAPLES ALEXANDER JP DL (1844-1901), of Portglenone House, Lieutenant RN, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his cousin,

ROBERT CHRISTOPHER ALEXANDER JP DL (1900-68), of Portglenone House, Major, Irish Guards, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1938 (son of Robert Arthur Moloney Alexander), who married, in 1933, Laura Ina Madeline, daughter of Edward Fraser Lenox-Conyngham.

Major Alexander died without issue.

Portglenone House comprises a square, late-Georgian block of three storeys over a basement.

It was built in 1823 by the Rt Rev Nathaniel Alexander.

The house has a three-bay front, the central bay being recessed.

There is a fine classical hall, with a screen of columns separating it from the corridor and stairs.

The columns, subtle mushroom pink marble with stone capitals of Adam's "Dioclesian" order, were originally at Ballyscullion, along with some the the house's chimney-pieces.

In 1850, a wing was added by Nathaniel Alexander MP, containing a new staircase lit by a stained-glass dome.

The entrance front was also given a large porch and Ionic porte-cochere.

The main rooms were enhanced with cornices and heavy moulded door-cases in the form of aedicules.

Portglenone House was sold by Major Alexander in 1948 and is now part of Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey, run as a guest-house.
The guest house provides for those who wish to make private retreats, and can cater for groups who seek to make days of recollection. As such, it does not function as a B&B, nor as a half-board hotel. Guests are encouraged to enter into the silence and solitude which characterize the monastic life in this place, and to take the opportunity for spiritual renewal which is offered.
Portglenone House is set in parkland by the River Bann.

An earlier house in the vicinity is recorded.

The present house now forms part of the Abbey, which also has further buildings added from 1962 in the grounds.

This includes the Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey, which was built in 1948 to the designs of Patrick Murray.

Part of the gardens are private for the monks (the walled garden); parts are ornamental grounds for the Abbey; and parts are cultivated for organic vegetables.

There are mature trees in the remnants of former parkland, an ice house, the Bishop’s Well and two 19th century gate lodges.

Within the walls, part of the demesne is administered by the Department of Agriculture as a forest, which was planted from the 1950s.

There is public access and paths are laid out.

In a glade in the forest there is a commemorative plot to Augustine Henry, who was reputedly born nearby.

It was laid out in 1969 with examples of some of the plants that he discovered or introduced from the far east.

First published in August, 2012.

The Princess Royal

Her Royal Highness THE PRINCESS ROYAL KG KT GCVO is 72 today.

The Princess Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise was born at Clarence House, London.

HRH is married to Vice-Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence KCVO CB.

Princess Anne is a Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter and an Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle.

Her Royal Highness is also Grand Master and Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order.

The Princess Royal holds the ranks of Admiral in the Royal Navy, General in the Army, and Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Air Force.

Sunday, 14 August 2022

Stranmillis House

In 1603, Sir Arthur Chichester was granted expansive lands in Ulster, including all of the County Antrim side of the River Lagan from Carrickfergus to Dunmurry and the site of the future city of Belfast.

The date of the grant marks the date of the foundation of the town.

Sir Arthur leased his Stranmillis lands in 1606 for 61 years to his associate Sir Moyses Hill (ancestor of the Marquesses of Downshire), who built a plantation castle.

This castle was the predecessor of Stranmillis House and was probably built to control a Lagan crossing.

The ford as indicated on the Donegall estate map of 1770 was situated just below the tidal limit and provided a crossing point for carts.

The Hills moved before their lease expired, and the property reverted to the Donegall family (to become Lady Donegall's deer-park). 

Richard Dobbs, writing in 1683, described the deer-park thus:
"From Lambeg the way leads direct to Belfast, which is all along for the most part furnished with houses, little orchards and gardens and on the right hand the Countess of Donegall hath a very fine Park well stored with venison and in it a Horse Course of Two Miles, and may be called an English Road."
A Donegall family document of 1692 more precisely defines the deer park, ..."100 acres were then enclosed in a Deer Park, and called Stranmellis Park."

It is probable that this estate included all of the area now enclosed by the Stranmillis and Malone Roads and that the horse course followed its perimeter, possibly formed by the roads themselves.

On the Donegall estate map of 1770 the area is referred to as the course lands, almost exactly 100 acres enclosed by about two miles of road.

From 1770 most of the demesne was put up for lease after being divided into small parcels of land, the size and shape of the farms perhaps relating to the hilly topography of the area. 

An area of 40 acres in the southern part of the former deer-park was leased by prominent merchants, the Black family, who built a summer residence, the predecessor of the present Victorian Stranmillis House.

They later acquired the freehold and, in 1857, sold the property to Thomas Batt, a director of the Ulster Bank who, within a year, rebuilt Stranmillis House in the Gothic-Revival style. 

Batt had a town-house at 4 Donegall Place in Belfast.

He was from one of Belfast’s most prominent business families, founders of the Belfast bank and owners of Purdysburn House (later a hospital).

They also gave their name to Batt’s Mountain in the Mournes.

South Belfast, including Stranmillis, developed rapidly in the latter half of the 19th Century and especially during the 1870s.

However, building on the eastern slopes of the Malone Ridge was restricted by land ownership and hampered by stream erosion so that the Stranmillis Road itself remained little more than a country lane.

Cart traffic moving south took the Malone Road to avoid Stranmillis hill and it was not until 1882 that the city's tram line was extended to Stranmillis.

Some development of note did take place, however, with the construction in 1863 of the fine terrace at Mount Pleasant adjoining Summer Hill, itself built a few years earlier around 1854-56. 

The arrival of the tram line also saw the construction of the impressive Chilworth terrace in 1893-4 and the Kinahan Mansions followed around 1901.

The Victorian Stranmillis House was built for Thomas Batt by Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon.

Originally it had an open belfry and ogee pyramidal roof on the corner tower, but these features were removed.

The original entrance porch and low wing to the north have been replaced by a large extension in simplified Elizabethan style in 1924 after the house became part of Stranmillis (University) College.

About 46 acres of undulating grounds are walled in.

The demesne originated in the early 17th century, though the present house dates from ca 1855.

It replaced an earlier house of ca 1801 and much of the present planting is associated with these two buildings.

The site became a college in 1922 and was subsequently adapted.

The well developed and attractively planted ornamental grounds enhance the many buildings that now occupy the site, many of which are listed - the main building of 1928-30; two gate lodges of 1933 and 1940s. 

There is some interesting plant material amongst the maintained landscape.

There are fine mature shelter belt and woodland trees, including an impressive turkey oak and a sycamore avenue now hidden in woodland.

First published in January, 2011.

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Ely Lodge Letter

I have unearthed a concise, though interesting letter dated the 8th February, 1977, from the Estate Office, Ely Lodge Estate, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

It was written by Charles Plunket (latterly Major Charles Plunket MBE UD DL), the 5th Duke of Westminster's land agent at the time.

He wrote to me on behalf of the Duke.

Even in 1977 (when I was 17 years old) I was passionate about country houses and heritage!

Click on the images to enlarge them.

First published in August, 2018.

Friday, 12 August 2022

The Moat, Donaghadee

(Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

THE MOAT is a conspicuous landmark in the seaside town of Donaghadee, County Down.

I happened to be with friends for dinner at a well-known restaurant near the harbour one evening and, as we were walking back to their home, they pointed out this miniature castle to me.

Of course I’ve seen it many times before, having lived in Northern Ireland my entire life (I was born in Newtownards), though I’ve never visited it, nor known about the history of this miniature fortress.

View from The Moat(Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

It stands proudly on top of an ancient motte, affording spectacular views of the town and harbour.

Presumably the land once belonged to the De Lacherois family, of The Manor House, Donaghadee.

They were, after all, the landlords.

This building, akin to a folly, was built ca 1818-21, and comprises mainly two storeys.

(Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

It was built to house the explosives for the blasting involved in the construction of the harbour; so it was really a rather grandiose gunpowder store.

The fort has two adjoined sections, with octagonal and square turrets and a small, castellated round tower.

(Image: William Alfred Green, 1870-1958)

There are castellated parapets around the building.

It appears to be made of rubble masonry, with a rendered brick façade and faux slit windows.

The round tower has a long flag-pole, which flies the Union Flag (frayed at the end at the time of writing).

This castellated round tower seems to be hollow, because I could see daylight through the window slit.

Perhaps merely the upper section is hollow.

Several sections of render have fallen off the little building, revealing the bare brickwork.

On the western side there is a marble plaque, recessed into the wall, which reads:-

(Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020)

First published in August, 2020.

1st Earl of Carhampton

The Luttrells of Luttrellstown, County Dublin, claimed kinship with the Luttrells of Dunster Castle, Somerset, though the armorial bearings differ. Nevertheless, the land known as Luttrellstown, in Ireland, is said to have been possessed by the Somerset branch from the era of KING JOHN.

SIR GEOFFREY DE LUTEREL (c1158-1218), who had large estates in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Yorkshire, accompanying KING JOHN to Ireland, and diligent in public affairs, "obtained a grant from the crown of Luttrellstown, on the payment of twenty ounces of gold, to hold by military service, and had livery of these lands" from John Marshal, Lord Marshal of Ireland.

His son,

SIR ANDREW LUTTRELL (c1205-64), claimed certain estates, known as the barony of Irnham, in Lincolnshire, as heir to Maurice de Gaunt; and left a son,


SIR ROBERT LUTTRELL, was summoned to Parliament in 1295, and died in 1297, leaving a son and heir,


SIR GEOFFREY LUTTRELL (1276-1345), was one of the principal knights in EDWARD III's army.

ROBERT LUTTRELL (a younger brother of Sir John Luttrell, feudal baron of Dunster, Somerset, and one of the first Knights of the Bath) died in 1436, "seised of the castle and lands of Luttrellstown" (originally granted to Sir Gregory Luttrell by KING JOHN); and his great-grandson,

SIR THOMAS LUTTRELL, was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and a Privy Counsellor in Ireland during the reign of HENRY VIII.

THOMAS LUTTRELL, MP for County Dublin in the reigns of JAMES I and CHARLES I, died in 1634.

His lineal descendant,

HENRY LUTTRELL (c1655-1717), raised and commanded five squadrons of cavalry for JAMES II.
In 1702, he was appointed a major-general in the Dutch service; but, on the death of WILLIAM III, retired to his principal residence at Luttrellstown, where he was assassinated "in his sedan chair by a band of ruffians" in the city of Dublin.
General Luttrell's two sons were educated in England. Robert, the elder, died in 1717 while travelling; the younger brother,

SIMON LUTTRELL (1713-87), a prominent politician, was elevated to the peerage, in 1768, in the dignity of Baron Irnham, of Luttrellstown, County Dublin.

Simon Luttrell, 1st Earl of Carhampton, in Turkish Costume, 
by Jean-Étienne Liotard

The 1st Baron was advanced to a viscountcy, in 1781, as Viscount Carhampton, of Castlehaven, County Cork; and further advanced, in 1785, to the dignity of an earldom, as EARL OF CARHAMPTON.

His lordship married, in 1737, Judith Maria, daughter of Sir Nicholas Lawes, Governor of Jamaica, and had issue,
HENRY LAWES, his successor;
JOHN, 3rd Earl;
Temple Simon;
Anne; Elizabeth; Lucy.
The 1st Earl was succeeded by his eldest son,

HENRY LAWES, 2nd Earl (1743-1821), MP for Old Leighlin, 1783-7, who wedded, in 1776, Jane, daughter of George Boyd, though died without male issue, when the family honours devolved upon his next brother,

JOHN, 3rd Earl (1739-1829), who espoused firstly, in 1766, Elizabeth, daughter of John Omnius, 1st Baron Waltham, and had issue,
John, died 1769;
James, died 1772;
Frances Maria (1768-1848).
He married secondly, in 1798, Maria, daughter of John Morgan, and had issue, a daughter, MARIA ANNE (1799-1857).

The 3rd Earl died at Devonshire Place, London, without surviving male issue, when the titles expired.

The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 145 (1829) informs us that
"Though some distant branches of the Luttrells remain, the titles, from the failure of male heirs, have become extinct; being the thirty-third peerage of Ireland that has expired since the Union in 1801. The Irish estate at Luttrellstown was sold by the 2nd Earl; that in Jamaica now devolves on Captain Moriarty, nephew of the deceased, pursuant to the 2nd Earl's will."
First published in July, 2020.  Carhampton arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 11 August 2022

House of Stewart

According to a document in the Historic Buildings Branch of the Northern Ireland Department for Communities,
"Alexander Stewart was the great-grandson of John McGregor, a Scots Highlander who had migrated to Co. Donegal in the early 1600s, and who appears to have changed his name to 'Stewart' in an attempt to disassociate himself from the then attainted McGregor clan. Alexander became a successful linen merchant, working in both Belfast and London, who served in the Irish House of Commons as MP for Londonderry city for a short period."
WILLIAM STEWART, of Ballylawn Castle, County Donegal (great-grandson of John Stewart, who had a grant from CHARLES I of Stewart's Court Manor, where he erected Ballylawn Castle), took an active part in Ulster affairs in order to prevent the subversion of the constitution, which JAMES II and his chief governor, the Earl of Tyrconnell, were attempting to effect.

He raised a troop of horse at his own expense when the city of Londonderry was occupied, and actively promoted the Protestant interest there by protecting those who were favourably disposed to WILLIAM III.

Mr Stewart was appointed lieutenant-colonel in the regiment commanded by Sir William Stewart, Viscount Mountjoy.

He married the daughter of William Stewart, of Fort Stewart, County Donegal (grandson of the Rt Hon Sir William Stewart Bt, whose descendant was created Baron Stewart of Ramelton and Viscount Mountjoy), and died leaving issue, a daughter,

MARTHA, who wedded John Kennedy, of Cultra, County Down; and two sons, of whom

THOMAS KENNEDY, the eldest, succeeded at Ballylawn Castle, and served as a captain in Lord Mountjoy's regiment.

He espoused Mary, second daughter of Bernard Ward (ancestor of the Viscounts Bangor), by Mary, sister of the Rt Rev Michael Ward, Lord Bishop of Derry; and dying without issue, 1740, was succeeded by his only brother,

ALEXANDER STEWART (1699-1781), of Ballylawn Castle and Stewart Court, County Donegal, linen merchant of Belfast and London, who purchased the lands of Templecrone on the shore of Strangford Lough, County Down, later named MOUNT STEWART, from the Colville family.

Alexander Stewart (Image: the National Trust)

He married, in 1737, his cousin Mary, only daughter and heiress of Alderman JOHN COWAN, of Londonderry (by Anne Stewart, second daughter of Alexander Stewart, of Ballylawn Castle, and sister and sole heir of Sir Robert Cowan, Governor of Bombay), and had issue,
ROBERT, his heir;
William, died in infancy;
John, 1744-62;
Anne; Frances; Mary.
The eldest son,

ROBERT STEWART (1739-1821), of Ballylawn Castle, County Donegal, and Mount Stewart, County Down, who, having represented the latter county in parliament, and having been sworn a member of the Privy Council, was elected to the Irish peerage, in 1789, in the dignity of Baron Londonderry.

He was advanced to a viscountcy, in 1795, as Viscount Castlereagh and, in 1796, Earl of Londonderry.

(Image: the National Trust)

His lordship was further advanced, in 1816, to the dignity of a marquessate, as MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY.

He wedded firstly, in 1766, the Lady Sarah Frances Seymour-Conway, second daughter of Francis, 1st Marquess of Hertford, and had issue,
Alexander Francis, 1767-9;
ROBERT, his successor.
He wedded secondly, in 1775, the Lady Frances Pratt, eldest daughter of Charles, 1st Earl Camden, and had further issue,
CHARLES WILLIAM, 3rd Marquess;
Alexander John, 1783-1800;
Thomas Henry, 1790-1810;
Frances Anne; Elizabeth Mary; Caroline; Georgiana;
Selina Sarah Juliana; Matilda Charlotte; Emily Jane; Catharine Octavia.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT, 2nd Marquess (1769-1822), KG, GCH, PC.
The heir presumptive is his brother Lord Reginald Alexander Vane-Tempest-Stewart (b. 1977).
The heir presumptive's heir is his son Robin Gabriel Vane-Tempest-Stewart (b 2004).
Former seats ~ Mount Stewart, County Down; Wynyard Park, County Durham; Seaham Hall, near Stockton-on-Tees.

Former London residence ~ Londonderry House, Park Lane.

First published in March, 2012.