Sunday, 31 August 2014

Belfast's Cathedral Quarter


This morning I motored to what is now known as The Cathedral Quarter, Belfast.

I parked at Donegall Street and walked the short distance to Academy Street, which is dominated at one side by Belfast Cathedral.

In fact, the Cathedral is enclosed by Donegall Street, Academy Street, Exchange Street West, and Talbot Street.

Exchange Street West
I turned right at Exchange Street West, where the recent development, Saint Anne's Square, is directly opposite the east end of the Cathedral.


Standing in Saint Anne's plaza, there is a good prospect of the Cathedral's east end and pinnacle.
There was a proposal to build a lady chapel, 76 feet in length and 30 feet wide, holding a congregation of about 200 people, at the Cathedral's eastern extremity, though this plan was never realised, presumably due to financial constraints.
Hill Street ends at the junction of Exchange Street West and Talbot Street.

Gordon Street begins at 43 Hill Street
This is one of Belfast's most atmospheric and distinctive streets. It used to be known as Pott-house Lane.

The beginning of Hill Street

Hill Street leads from Waring Street to Talbot Street, with Gordon Street, Commercial Court and Exchange Place off it.

Commercial Court, from 31 Donegall Street to Hill Street

Commercial Court is celebrated, of course, for the Duke of York bar and the relatively new Hadskis restaurant, which is related to the opulent James Street South restaurant in Belfast.

Exchange Place, from 25a Donegall Street to Hill Street

Whereas Exchange Place is more of a narrow entry which leads from Donegall Street to Hill Street.

The Duke of York has a back entrance or exit at Exchange Place.

Whereas Hill Street and its entries used to thrive with commercial warehouses and premises, today they flourish with marvellous theme restaurants and bars.

There are several hotels in the Cathedral Quarter, including the august and luxurious Merchant Hotel; the Premier Inn; and the Ramada Encore.

Lord Archbishop of Tuam

Coat-of-arms of the Anglican Archbishopric of Tuam


Sapphire, three persons erect, under as many canopies of stalls, their faces, arms, and legs, proper:
The first represents an archbishop, habited in his pontificals, holding a crozier in his left hand;
the second, the Virgin Mary, crowned, with our Saviour on her left arm;
and the third, an Angel having his right arm elevated, and a lamb on his left arm, all topaz

The last Anglican Archbishop of Tuam and Primate of Connaught was the Most Rev and Hon Power le Poer Trench DD (1770-1839).

The archiepiscopal residence was Tuam Palace, Tuam, County Galway, which was built between 1716-41 by Archbishop Synge.

The palace was described thus in 1837:
"Large and handsomely built, though not possessing much architectural embellishment."

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Storm in A Teacup

My aunt and I caught up with each other this morning in Storm in A Teacup, at Massey Avenue, Belfast.

This bijou café is located in a former bank premises at the side entrance to Stormont, the seat of government in Northern Ireland.

We like it.

The room isn't large, though the loftiness of the ceiling, the plasterwork and ambiance enhance this place in an uncommon way.

Parking is easy.

This morning I ordered the toasted soda farls with butter and scambled eggs: perfectly seasoned eggs mixed with little cream, I reckon.

I enjoyed this breakfast with Earl Grey tea.

My aunt had a savoury scone with coffee.

Clarence Street West

Clarence Street West, Belfast, runs from 17 Bedford Street to McClintock Street.

It used to be a cul-de-sac, dating from about 1880.


During the mid-20th century, 4 Clarence Street West served as the premises of Stanley Harvey & Co, automobile engineers and Rolls-Royce dealers.

Later, it became a ten-pin bowling alley called the Belfast Superbowl.

In 2008, this garage was demolished and replaced by Radisson Hotels' Park Inn.


This hotel operates a grill-bar, RBG Belfast.

First published in September, 2012.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Portglenone House

Alexander of Portglenone

THE ALEXANDERS OWNED 4,215 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY ANTRIM

This family is said to derive from a common ancestor with the Scottish house of ALEXANDER, Earls of Stirling.  

JOHN ALEXANDER, of Eredy, County Donegal, in 1610,
lands he rented from Sir James Cunninghame of Glengarnock, Ayrshire, who had acquired them on condition that he did not "alienate the premises to no mere Irishman or any other person unless he or they first take the Oath of Supremacy", was succeeded by his eldest son, 
THE REV ANDREW ALEXANDER DD, of Eredy, a Presbyterian minister, who married Dorothea, daughter of Rev James Caulfeild. Dying ca 1641, his only child,

CAPTAIN ANDREW ALEXANDER, married twice.
In 1666 he was granted the lands of Ballyclose, near Limavady, by Sir Thomas Phillips, Governor of Culmore Fort. In 1689 he was attainted by JAMES II's parliament in Dublin.
His second son,

JOHN ALEXANDER, married and died in 1747. His second son,

NATHANIEL ALEXANDER (1689-1761), married Elizabeth, daughter of William McClintock. He was an alderman of Londonderry in 1755. By his wife he had issue,
William;
ROBERT, of whom we treat;
James, 1st Earl of Caledon;
Eliza.
Mr Alexander's second son, 

ROBERT ALEXANDER, of Boom Hall,
was grandson of Captain Andrew Alexander, of Ballyclose, County Londonderry. On his estate of Boom Hall, near Londonderry, he erected a family mansion, at the spot where a boom was constructed to prevent ships sailing towards the city during the siege of 1689. At Londonderry he engaged in merchandise, and became prosperous. He died in 1790, aged sixty-eight, and his remains were deposited in the family burial-ground in the Chapel of Ease churchyard, Londonderry (Tombstone Inscription).
By his wife, Anne, daughter and co-heiress of Henry McCulloch, of Cladymore and Ballyarton, County Londonderry, he had five sons and five daughters, viz.
NATHANIEL, of whom presently;
Henry;
William;
James;
Josias Dupre;
Elizabeth; Jane; Anne;
Rebecca; Dorothea. 
This gentleman was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE RT REV AND RT HON NATHANIEL ALEXANDER DD (1760-1840), of Portglenone House,
who wedded Anne, daughter of the Rt Hon Richard Jackson MP, of Coleraine, in 1785. This divine was Lord Bishop of Meath. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge. The Bishop, a privy counsellor, lived at Portglenone House, County Antrim, which he built, and took up residence there.
His second son,

THE VEN ROBERT ALEXANDER DD (1788-1840), Archdeacon of Down, married firstly, Catherine, daughter of Rt Hon John Staples and Hon Henrietta Molesworth, in 1813.

Dr Alexander married secondly, Hester Helena, daughter of Colonel Alexander McManus, in 1837.

There were no children of the second marriage. His eldest son,

NATHANIEL ALEXANDER, MP for County Antrim (1815-53), extended Portglenone House. He had issue, two sons, 
ROBERT JACKSON,  JP DL, of Portglenone House, (1843-84), High Sheriff of Co Londonderry, 1870, and of County Antrim, 1875; 
JOHN STAPLES, JP DL, lieutenant RN, of Portglenone House (1844-1901).
A cousin of the above,

MAJOR ROBERT CHRISTOPHER ALEXANDER JP DL, of Portglenone House (1900-68), son of Robert Arthur Moloney Alexander, succeeded to the estate.

Major Alexander married Laura Ina Madeline, daughter of Edward Fraser Lenox-Conyngham, in 1933; was educated at Eton and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst; High Sheriff in 1938.

He fought during the 2nd World War in the Irish Guards. 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, have stone capitals of Adam's "Dioclesian" order. They 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 DANI 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 Hamilton Baronetcy (1662)

Clanbrassil Arms
THE HAMILTON BARONETCY, OF MONILLA, WAS CREATED IN 1662 FOR SIR HANS HAMILTON MP

JOHN HAMILTON  (1576-1639), of Carronery, County Cavan, and of Monella, County Armagh (next brother of James Hamilton, created Viscount Claneboye in 1662), married Sarah, daughter of Sir Anthony Brabazon, Governor of Connaught, and was succeeded by his son,

THE RT HON SIR HANS HAMILTON, knight, of Monilla and Hamiltonsbawn,
Founder of Hamiltonsbawn; MP for Armagh, 1661-66; High Sheriff of Armagh, 1669; Privy Counsellor.
Sir Hans was created a baronet in 1662.

He married Magdalene, daughter of Sir Edward Trevor Kt, and had an only daughter,

SARAH, married to Sir Robert Hamilton, knight, of Mount Hamilton, County Armagh.

Sir Hans died suddenly, in 1681, when the baronetcy became extinct, but the estates devolved upon Sir Hans's son-in-law,

SIR ROBERT HAMILTON, knight, of Mount Hamilton, who was appointed Sir Hans's successor as custos rotulorum of the county; and, in 1683, created a baronet.

*****

Louise Duncan from Australia has researched the family:
Of John's (ie John Hamilton of Monilla) family was first Hans. In his youth he was bred at (unclear) Schools; went to the college of Glasgow, in Scotland; was much disposed for learning, and very capable of it, but by his father's death, and the urgency of his affairs, was soon called back again to Ireland.

He attended his affairs carefully and discreetly till the war of Ireland broke out, at which time duty and necessity obliged him to give his assistance therein, by my Lord Claneboy's advice. His years and parts early promoted him to be a captain of horse; as in progress of time he became lieutenant-colonel. He joined, with the Earl of Clanbrassil, in Ormond's Association.


That war being ended, he married Magdalen Trevor, daughter to Sir Edward Trevor, (and sister to Marcus Trevor, 1st Viscount Dungannon) and had by her some children, whereof only his daughter Sarah came to maturity.


His business then being to improve and plant his estate, lying mostly in the upper country; and, by reason of his very good natural and acquired parts, and justice to the King's interest and family, after King Charles II’s restoration, was knighted and made Baronet., and afterwards one of his Majesty's Privy Council in Ireland, and was very much entrusted by the Government in the oversight of the upper country (at Hamilton’s Bawn in County Armagh).


He died of a good age, in great esteem, and generally much bewailed; lies in the tomb with his father, mother, lady, and daughter.


He was guilty of great errors—whereof afterwards, His natural parts and improvements were both very considerable; his deportment, in his younger years, very commendable; but, his estate being much burthen'd, his disposition to live high and aim to purchase great things, occasioned many to think (as a gent, of his neighbourhood and great acquaintance once say'd) that.


Sir Hans Hamilton was never so honest as Hans Hamilton by half. He was unfortunate in that his daughter married contrary to his disposition, and the measures he had proposed to himself.


He fell at last in great variance with his nearest friends, and affliction by the death of his lady and daughter; went to Dublin, with design, as it is believed, to do something that was great for his family against his friends, but failed of it, and died in the enterprise, but did not perform it.

 First published in April, 2011.  Clanbrassil arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

2 Royal Avenue, Belfast


2, ROYAL AVENUE, BELFAST, formerly Hercules Street, was restored in 2008 by the supermarket group, Tesco.

This mid-Victorian building - the only building in Royal Avenue to survive from that period - was erected between 1864 and 1869 by W J Barre, for the Provincial Bank.

It remained a financial institution till the 1990s.

It is now a Tesco Metro supermarket.

Hercules Street was narrower than Royal Avenue

The fine, Cookstown sandstone has now been revealed for all to see, having been covered in paint for a very long time - perhaps even since its original construction.

It particularly interests me because I worked there for a brief period in the early 1990s.

Anderson & McAuley's department store was still trading then, too.

Tesco deserves credit for keeping this important Belfast edifice in such good repair.

First published in 2008.