Monday, 4 July 2022

Saintfield Visit

Price coat-of-arms

SAINTFIELD, originally called Taunaghnieve, Tonaghneave, or Tonaghnieve, now a village in County Down comprising one long street intersected by a shorter one, was sparsely inhabited woodland five centuries ago, when the entire region was owned by the Clandeboye O'Neills.

In 1605 it was acquired by SIR JAMES HAMILTON (c1560-1644), 1st Viscount Claneboye.

Sir James held this land until 1709, when he sold it to Major-General Nicholas Price, of HOLLYMOUNT, near Downpatrick, County Down, son of Catherine, daughter of Sir James Hamilton (1644-c1706), MP for County Down, 1692-3, Bangor, 1695-9 and 1703-6.

General Price purchased the newly-named Saintfield for his third son Nicholas, who lived initially on the main street of the new village on the site of the former hotel.

The Major-General's grandson Francis (1729-91), MP for Lisburn, 1759-76, moved with his family into their grand new mansion house, SAINTFIELD HOUSE, about 1750.

The chorographer of County Down remarked in 1776 that,
"It was, not many years ago, made a town by the care and industry of the late General Price, who began to improve here, opened and made the roads passable from Belfast to Down though it, encouraged linen manufacturers and other tradesmen to settle here, had a barrack fixed for a troop of horse, and promoted the repair of a ruinous, now decent parish church, to which he gave plate and other ornaments."
The Parliamentary Gazetteer apprises us that,
"Saintfield was the scene of an atrocity and a skirmish on respectively the 8th and 9th June, 1798. A number of insurgents assembled near Saintfield on the 8th June, under a leader named Jackson, and with furious resentment set fire to the house of one McKee, an informer, where eleven persons are said to have perished in the flames."

"This was the only act of atrocity, except in battle, committed by the armed malcontents in Ulster. Electing for their general Henry Munro, a shopkeeper of Lisburn, they placed themselves on the 9th in ambuscade, awaiting the approach of Colonel [Granville Anson] Chetwynd-Stapylton, with a body of York Fencibles and yeomen cavalry. Here the royal troops would have been totally routed, if the infantry, on whom the cavalry were driven back with slaughter, had not, with a cool intrepidity, extremely uncommon, if not altogether singular, at this time in Ireland, rallied and dislodged the foe."

"Stapylton, having remained master of the ground, retreated to Belfast, having lost about sixty men, including three officers, beside Mr Mortimer, a clergyman, Vicar of Portaferry, who had volunteered on this occasion."
The proprietor and lord of the manor in 1802, NICHOLAS PRICE, erected a large market-house and hotel.

The erstwhile residence of the Prices on the main street of the village became an inn or hotel; and, in 1803, a market-house was built beside the hotel.

The Market-House (Timothy Ferres, 2022)

The market-house also functioned as a court-house on the first floor, with its first sitting in 1804.

It's a rather elegant two-storey, rendered building with three bays, a hipped roof, and cupola.

The handsome clock on the facade of the market-house was made by William Spratt, of Ardmillan, near Killinchy, County Down (hence the letters "AM" after his name).

The three arched openings on the ground floor have been blocked up.

A wooden door now occupies the central arch; the two outer arches have been replaced with windows.

There is an inscribed stone panel above the central arch which proclaims:
In Usum hujus oppidi vcinuqu: hoc
forum venale sumtu suo aedificavit
armiger Nicholaus Price curante
seneshalle Joanne McBirnie
AD 1803
This translates approximately as, In the use of this town he built a market for sale at his own cost. Squire Nicholas Price. Seneschal John McBirnie. AD 1803.

During the summer months the fowl market opened at 2am, presumably a considerable boon for poachers, having helped themselves in the darkness to pheasants and other wildfowl from the landlord's adjacent demesne.

The former market-house now serves as an Orange Hall.

Price's former hotel (Timothy Ferres, 2022)

THE HOTEL or inn was built about the same time as the nearby market-house.

It comprises a square rendered block, with a fan-lighted entrance to the side, overlooking the market-house.

The elevation on the Main Street has four bays, with a large coach-arch; above which there used to be a Georgian iron lamp-bracket (which has unfortunately disappeared).

McRobert's bar, with its fascia of about 1840, nestles neatly at one side of the building.

During my highly enjoyable visit to Saintfield in July, 2022, I also visited the parish church, which has the family vault of the Prices tucked away to the side of the old graveyard.

The Price vault at Saintfield parish church (Timothy Ferres, 2022)

It's terribly neglected and overgrown with vegetation, unfortunately, at the time of writing (July 4th, 2022).

Killymoon Castle

Stewart of Ballymenagh

Early in the reign of JAMES VI and I,

JAMES STEWART (1595-1679) moved from Scotland, and purchasing Cookstown, County Tyrone, and the adjacent lands from Dr Allen Cooke, settled himself at Ballymenagh; while his brother, Andrew Stewart (ancestor of SIR JOHN STEWART, of Athenree, created a baronet, 1803), settled at Gortigal in the same county.

He married Barbara Lindsey, of Leith, and dying at Derryloran, County Tyrone, left a son,

WILLIAM STEWART (1625-1706), who moved to Killymoon, County Tyrone, which his father had purchased in 1634, and wedded Margaret, eldest daughter of John Shaw, of BALLYGALLY, County Antrim, by whom he had issue,
Henry, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1711;
John, drowned in the river Killymoon whilst yet a boy;
Margaret; Mary.
The eldest son,

JAMES STEWART (1665-1726), of Killymoon, married, in 1709, Helen, daughter of Patrick Agnew, of KILWAUGHTER, County Antrim, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
Margaret, m William Agnew, of Kilwaughter.
The eldest son,

WILLIAM STEWART (1710-97), of Killymoon and Ballymenagh, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1738, MP for County Tyrone, 1747-68, espoused, in 1740, Eleanor, eldest daughter of Sir Henry King Bt, of Rockingham, and had issue,
JAMES, of Killymoon, MP;
HENRY, of whom presently;
Edward, of London;
Isabella; Frances.
William Stewart (Image: the National Trust)

The eldest son,

JAMES STEWART (1742-1821), of Killymoon, MP for County Tyrone, 1768, married, in 1774, Elizabeth, daughter and eventually co-heir (with Lady Ponsonby, wife of 1st Lord Ponsonby, and Mrs Staples, wife of the Rt Hon John Staples, of Lissan) of Richard, 3rd Viscount Molesworth, had, with other issue,
WILLIAM (1780-1850), at whose death Killymoon was sold;
Louisa, m H J Clements MP, of Ashfield Lodge.
James Stewart (Image: Ulster Museum)

James Stewart was Colonel of the Strabane Volunteers, 1780, Captain, Cookstown Cavalry, 1796, and served in the Newmills Yeomanry. 1802.

KILLYMOON CASTLE, Cookstown, County Tyrone, was built in 1802-3 for Colonel James Stewart MP, to the designs of John Nash.

Colonel Stewart's family had held the property since 1634.

He had obtained plans for a new house incorporating parts of the old one, which had been destroyed by fire ca 1800, from the Dublin architect, Robert Woodgate; however, in 1802 he was replaced by Nash.

Nash exhibited two drawings for his scheme at the Royal Academy in 1802.

Killymoon was Nash's first castle in Ireland, and reputedly cost £80,000 to build (about £7.4 million today).

It was described in the Irish Penny Journal of 1841 as "one of the most aristocratic residences in the province of Ulster", with state apartments consisting of "a breakfast-parlour, dining room, ante-room and drawing-room, all of which are of noble proportions and their woodwork of polished oak".
When sold in the 1880s the details of the sale referred to the demesne being almost entirely surrounded by a wall of 10 to 12 feet in height, the demesne being entered by four lodges and avenues, containing two stone quarries, a huge quarry and kiln, a gravel pit, labourers' cottages, and two ornamental cottages; a walled garden and kitchen gardens, with lawns and ornamental shrubberies; vineries, peach and fig houses; a conservatory, stove, mushroom and forcing houses, potting sheds, tool houses, two excellent gardeners' dwelling houses, and an ice house.
This park was clearly approved of by Sir Joseph Paxton, who wrote:
I have visited most of the celebrated country seats in the Kingdom and a very large number on the continent, and I have never seen one - for the extent of it - more compact, more perfect in itself, or where the highest natural beauties have been more aided by refined taste and judgment, than Killymoon.
This demesne was, in 1922, nevertheless, decimated and sold off in lots, mostly for its timber.

Part of it is now used as a golf course.

The gate lodges and the two gardeners' houses no longer stand; the conservatory is ruinous; though substantial 18th century outbuildings, for farm use, and an 18th century saw mill remain intact, close to the castle.

Colonel James Stewart was an absentee client for Nash and much of the supervision of the new castle fell to his wife.

She is known, through surviving correspondence, to have been discussing the design of two cottages with Nash as late as 1805.

For his part, Colonel Stewart is notorious for having 'lost' his new castle in a night's gambling, but the next day the winner, the Prince Regent (later GEORGE IV), told him he could keep his "little cabin" in Ireland.

In 1850 the property was sold, following the decease of William Stewart, who was a bachelor, and was bought by the Moutray family.

The present owner's family bought it at the break-up of the estate in 1922.


TODAY'S CASTLE has a romantic silhouette in a splendid location above the Ballinderry River with a back-drop of sweeping woodland and parkland.

The principal front is dominated by an almost central battlemented, machicolated round tower and turret; at one end, an octagonal tower with similar features; and at the other end the profile of the square tower in the adjoining front, the base of which is arched to form a porte-cochére.

The latter tower has slender, octagonal corner turrets with cupolas.

The windows are pointed, grouped together under segmental hood mouldings, which Nash and his ilk regarded as being Saxon.

There is good interior planning with square, circular and octagonal rooms fitted together.

The hall has a double staircase and is lit by a Gothic lantern on a plaster, fan-vaulted ceiling.

The Library is in the form of a Gothic chapel, with stained-glass windows.

Extensive stables, out-houses and labourers cottages were built on the demesne, and on completion of the residential quarters Colonel Stewart had the 585 acres of the Killymoon demesne enclosed by a wall 10 to 12 feet high.

Entrance to the demesne was by way of four stone lodges and avenues at various points along the boundary wall.

The Killymoon estate remained the property of the Stewart family for six generations; however, their extravagant lifestyle caused the Stewart family to fall on hard times, especially during the years of the Irish famine.

The Killymoon estate was sold in 1852 for £100,000.

In 1857, the castle had again been sold to the Cooper family; and, in 1865, Colonel Bolton, an English gentleman, purchased the castle.

A mere ten years later, Mervyn Stuart Thomas Moutray JP,  became the owner of Killymoon Castle until 1916, when Gerald Macura bought the castle and town of Cookstown for almost £100,000.

By 1918, Macura was also in financial difficulties and was compelled to sell off his assets.

Hence, in 1922, John Coulter bought the castle and grounds for the merely £100.

Today the castle remains the home of the Coulter family.

In addition, situated on what was previously some of the castle’s estate lands, is an 18-hole golf course.
Shortly before embarking on his long parliamentary career, the young James Stewart did the Grand Tour in Europe. A splendid portrait of him (now in the Ulster Museum) was painted in Italy some time in 1767 by Pompeo Batoni.
Stewart succeeded his father as one of the MPs for County Tyrone in 1768, retaining the seat continuously and without a contest for the next thirty-two years in Dublin and a further twelve after 1800 at Westminster. 
The Stewart of Killymoon Papers are held at the Public Record Office of NI.

From Killymoon Castle there are views across the parkland, where few trees remain.

The grounds were possibly designed by W S Gilpin for the present house.

Grass terraces to the south of the house descend to the river and are enlivened by yew trees.

Rowan quotes Paxton,
"I have visited most of the celebrated country seats in the kingdom and a very large number on the continent, and I have never seen one – for the extent of it - more compact, more perfect in itself, or where the highest natural beauties have been more aided by refined taste and judgement, than Killymoon."
Unfortunately the demesne is not as it once was: Ornamental garden buildings are lost; the vistas are over bare farmland to distant woods.

Extensive walled gardens, with some glass, are partially kept up.

The gardener’s house is ruinous; 18th century offices that pre-date the present house are extensive; one of three gate lodges survives; the northern part of the estate is now a golf course.

First published in November, 2010. 

Sunday, 3 July 2022

Causeway Hotel: A Brief History

In November, 1836, Elizabeth Henry leased just over four acres of land in the townland of Ardihannon, County Antrim, from SIR FRANCIS WORKMAN-MACNAGHTEN, 1st Baronet.

The Macnaghten Baronets, of DUNDARAVE, Bushmills, County Antrim, were the major landowners in the area, owning 7,134 acres in 1876.

Miss Henry, formerly the proprietress of The Copeland Arms in Coleraine, proceeded building on the site.

By 1841, however, her financial circumstances were such, that she was unable to complete the construction of her hotel on the Macnaghtens' land at the Giant's Causeway.

When she died, the Macnaghten mortgage debt was still outstanding.

In 1844, the Hotel was let to William McNaul, who pledged
By diligence and attention to do all in my power to promote the comfort of my Guests, and they may depend on my always keeping a well stocked larder and being well supplied with the choicest Wines and Liquors.
Twenty years later, in 1863, a new lessee, William Coleman, ran the Hotel, the business at least servicing the interest on the debt for the Macnaghtens.

Mr Coleman was the proprietor of Coleman's Portrush Hotel.

The Causeway Hotel (Robert French/ Lawrence Collection/ NLI)

On acquiring the Causeway Hotel, he demonstrated his flair for the catering industry in his press advertisement:
W Coleman begs to inform his patrons that he has become Proprietor of the GIANT'S CAUSEWAY HOTEL, which he has completely refitted. 
The arrangements and rates are the same as those which have given so much satisfaction at his Portrush Establishment.
The GIANT'S CAUSEWAY HOTEL, being immediately above the Causeway itself, is admirably situated for Tourists having only a short time to spare, and also for those who wish to spend some time in the neighbourhood. 
The Hotel is commodious, and, in every respect, a First class Establishment.
Mr Coleman added,
Tourists are particularly requested not to engage either Guides or Boatmen till arrival at Giant's Causeway Hotel.
Sitting-room per day ~ from 2 shillings (/) to 3/-
Bed-room ~ from 1/6 to 2/-
Sitting-room fire per day ~ 6d
Breakfast ~ from 1/6 to 2/-
Hot Lunch ~ 1/6
Cold Lunch ~ 1/3
Dinner ~ from 1/8 to 3/-
Visitors' Servants per day ~ 4/-
VISITORS taken at the under-mentioned charges:-
Board, including Bed-room ~ 35/- each per week
Sitting-room ~ from 12/- to 21/- each per week
Attendance ~ 5/-  each per week
Visitors' Servants ~ 21/- each per week

A Two-horse van leaves daily, from The Portrush Hotel for The Giant's Causeway, from 1st June to 1st October, at 9.40am, on arrival of first train from Belfast, returning at 2pm, in time for the afternoon trains. Fare:- Return, 2/-; Single, 1/6.
£2 (40/-) in 1860 was worth about £200 today.

By 1884, the Causeway Hotel and its strategic importance had, not surprisingly, come to the notice of the entrepreneurial Traills of BALLYLOUGH HOUSE.

Sir Francis Workman-Macnaghten, 3rd Baronet, had a meeting with William Atcheson Traill and his brother, Anthony, the result being that the Giant's Causeway Tramway took over the Causeway Hotel.

William Winter was employed to manage it.

This was a mutually beneficial arrangement: Sir Francis acquired a good tenant (with an option to purchase the hotel) to pay off the old debt; whereas the Traills' tramway company got vertical integration in their business.

Their passengers would be directed to their hotel to avail of the conveniences (!) etc.

Advertisements proclaimed that “the Causeway Hotel is now worked in connection with the Tramway."

In 1910, the Kane family purchased the Causeway Hotel; and in 1963 it was sold to Frank Fleming.

A more recent image of the hotel

The last private proprietors of the hotel were the Armstrong family, who sold it to The National Trust in 2001.

If there are any inaccuracies in this article, please let me know.

First published in May, 2014.

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Belfast Castle: II



"In the foreground is the Farset River, flowing down High Street, with Chads' Bridge opposite the Market House."

"The small houses to the extreme right, or west, are on the site of the present Bank Buildings, where Castle Street terminated as a continuation of High Street."

"The Castle had a north-easterly aspect, and opposite the entrance gates, on the east side of the Corn Market, was the Market-House with its square tower, on the first floor of which, above the market stalls, was the room in which the burgesses met at their assembly meetings."

"The house adjoining on the east side of the corn market was the Castle brew-house, wherein the cider was brewed from the apples gathered in the orchards."

"On the west side of the Corn market, and opposite the brew-house, was the house containing the pleasure boats in the barge-yard, from which in a south-east direction was the castle wharf, joining "The New Cutt River" at the sluice, and entering the Lagan on the south side of the Long Bridge."

High Street, Belfast, in the 17th Century

"The garden path in front of the barge-yard, running in a south-west direction, was the Long Walk, extending the entire length of the Pleasure Garden."

"The Pigeon House was the small house with the pointed roof."

"Proceeding from the Pigeon House, past the back of the Castle are the stables, with their five dormer windows, having a carriage entrance from Castle Street."

"The Ash Walk, as it appears in Phillips' Map of 1685, did not extend the whole length of the gardens."

"It seems, however, to have been extended, at a later date, as in a lease, bearing the date 14th June, 1717, its measurement is given as 530 feet from Castle Street in a southerly direction."

"According to that measurement, it formed the western boundary of the Castle gardens, and was probably planted with ash trees as a shelter to the fruit gardens from the prevailing westerly winds."

"Its frontage to Castle Street was 250 feet, so that we can fix its area as three acres."

"To the east of the Ash Walk was Robin's Orchard, having a frontage to Castle Street; and the garden situated between Robin's Orchard and the Castle was the Melon Garden."

"The small building, with an entrance through the Melon Garden, was originally the Coach House."

First published in July, 2012.

Friday, 1 July 2022

Nugent of Portaferry

The very ancient Anglo-Norman house of SAVAGE was settled at Portaferry, County Down, since the time of the first conquest of Ireland by John de Courcy, Earl of Ulster, in 1117. Under that famous warrior, the original ancestor in Ireland established himself in County Down; and by a written document, dated 1205, in the Tower of London, we find Robert, son of William Savage, named as one of de Courcy's hostages for his appearance before KING JOHN.

The present barony of Lecale was anciently termed the "Territory of the Savages,” wherein, at Ardglass, they and their dependants erected seven castles, the ruins of which are still extant. It appears, also, that a stately monastery of Dominicans was founded at Newtownards, in 1244, by the Savages, "gentlemen of English extraction." From the extreme scarcity of records in Ireland, it is impossible, at this remote period, to determine, without liability to error, which is the senior branch of the family, that of PORTAFERRY or ARDKEEN CASTLE.

In 1400, HENRY IV granted to Robert FitzJordan Savage the office of Sheriff of the Ards; and it appears, by an indenture dated 1538, that
Raymond [Savage] should have the chieftainship and superiority of his sept in the Territory of the Savages, otherwise called Lecale. 
However, in 1559, 
The Lord Deputy, Sir William FitzWilliam, made a division between Roland and Raymond Savage of several towns and territories in the Ards.
By pedigree annexed, Roland, in 1572, was in possession of Portaferry Castle, and styled himself "Lord of the Little Ards;" and Lord Deputy Chichester, some years afterwards, addressed him as such by letter.

The ARDKEEN family had some territories in the barony of Lecale, and also in County Antrim, that family always being sore enemies of the O'Neills. 

ROWLAND SAVAGE, Lord of the Little Ards, County Down, representative of the family in the middle of the 16th century, died at Portaferry in 1572, leaving issue, 
PATRICK, his heir;
Edmund; Richard; James.
The eldest son,

PATRICK SAVAGE (1535-1603/4), Lord of the Little Ards, wedded Anne Plunket, and left two sons, of whom the elder,

ROWLAND SAVAGE, Lord of the Little Ards, succeeded his father and married Rose, daughter of Russel of Rathmullan, County Down.

He was, however, succeeded by his brother, 

PATRICK SAVAGE,  of Portaferry, who married, in 1623, Jean, only daughter of Hugh, 1st Viscount Montgomery, and had issue,
HUGH, his heir;
ELIZABETH, co-heir to her brother;
SARAH, co-heir to her brother.
Patrick Savage died in 1644 and was succeeded by his son, 

HUGH SAVAGE, of Portaferry, who died unmarried in 1683, and was succeeded in the representation of the family by his cousin, 

PATRICK SAVAGE, of Londonderry, and afterwards of Portaferry, who, by his wife Anne Hall, of Narrow Water, left issue,

EDWARD SAVAGE, of Portaferry, who died unmarried in 1725, was buried at Portaferry.

His uncle and successor, 

JAMES SAVAGE, of Portaferry, wedded Mabel, daughter of Edmund Magee, of Lisburn, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
ANDREW, of whom hereafter;
James; Margaret; Elizabeth.
The eldest son,

JOHN SAVAGE, wedded Catherine, daughter of ___ Savage, and had issue, a son James, who died young.

At his decease he was succeeded by his brother,

ANDREW SAVAGE, of Portaferry, who espoused Margaret, sister and co-heir of Governor Nugent (of Tortola), and daughter of Andrew Nugent, of Dysart, County Westmeath, by his wife, the Lady Catherine Nugent, daughter and co-heir of Thomas, Earl of Westmeath, and had a son and heir,

PATRICK SAVAGE, of Portaferry, who married, in 1765, Anne, daughter of Roger Hall, of Narrow Water, and had issue (with daughters who died unmarried),
ANDREW, of whom presently;
Patrick Nugent, m Hariett, daughter of Rev Henry Sandford;
Roger Hall, Captain RN, died unmarried;
John Levallin, died unmarried;
William, in holy orders;
Barbara; Dorcas Sophia.
Mr Savage died in 1797, and was succeeded by his eldest son  (who assumed the surname of NUGENT and became co-heir of the barony of Delvin),

ANDREW NUGENT JP DL (1770-1846), of PORTAFERRY HOUSE, Lieutenant-Colonel, North Down Militia, High Sheriff of County Down, 1808, who wedded, in 1800, Selina, youngest daughter of Thomas, 1st Viscount de Vesci, and had issue,
PATRICK JOHN, of whom presently;
Thomas Vesey, m Frances, eldest daughter of Sir James Stronge Bt;
Andrew Savage, m Harriet, Viscountess Bangor;
Arthur, m Charlotte, only daughter of Major Brooke, of Colebrooke;
Charles Lavallin, major-general in the army;
Selina, m James, eldest son of Sir James Stronge Bt;
Colonel Nugent succeeded his father in 1797 and assumed his present surname, on succeeding to a portion of the estate of his maternal great-uncle, Governor Nugent, 1812.

His eldest son,

PATRICK JOHN NUGENT (1804-57), of Portaferry House, Lieutenant-Colonel, North Down Militia, High Sheriff of County Down, 1843, married, in 1833, his cousin Catherine, daughter of John, 2nd Viscount de Vesci, and had issue,
JOHN VESEY, lieutenant-colonel;
Arthur Vesey;
Frances Isabella.
The eldest son,

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL ANDREW NUGENT JP DL (1834-1905), of Portaferry House, High Sheriff of County Down, 1882, Colonel, Royal Scots Greys, died unmarried and was succeeded by his brother, 

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN VESEY NUGENT JP DL (1837-1914), of Portaferry House, who married, in 1886, Emily Georgiana, daughter of Herbert Langham, though the marriage was without issue.

I have written about the Nugent Baronets HERE.

First published in February, 2012.

Beech Hill House


CORNET JOHN KENNEDY (1615-80), of Ballymagowan, near Clogher, County Tyrone, of the house of Ochtrelure, founded by James, seventh son of Gilbert, 2nd Earl of Cassilis, went to Ulster in 1641 with the Scottish Army and acquired considerable church lands near Clogher.

He married Janet, daughter of Thomas Stewart, of Galston, and had issue,
HORACE, his heir;
James, of Ballymagowan.
Mr Kennedy died in 1680, aged 65, and was buried opposite the great door of the cathedral.

His elder son,

CAPTAIN HORACE KENNEDY (1648-1714), settled in Derry in 1667, was High Sheriff during the celebrated siege, attainted by JAMES II's parliament; and twice, by act of Parliament, appointed one of the commissioners of the poll tax for the county.

He wedded Katherine, daughter of Captain Gervais Squire, of Donoughmore, Commissioner for the Peace for Derry, 1677, and had issue, an eldest son,

GERVAIS KENNEDY (1675-1721), who espoused Jane, granddaughter of Thomas Maxwell, of Strabane and Kirkminster, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1681, and daughter of William Maxwell, and Jane, heiress of John Moderall, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1678, by Katherine Lecky.

By this marriage the Kennedys acquired the lands of Knockroe, County Tyrone.

Mr Kennedy died in 1721; his wife died the following year, leaving to the guardianship of her aunt, Mrs Tomkins, of PREHEN, two daughters and one son,

WILLIAM KENNEDY (1713-83), who married Easter, daughter and heir of George Crookshank, and had issue,
Maxwell Kennedy (Rev), dsp 1782;
John Pitt (Rev), Rector of Donagh;
The second son,

GEORGE CROOKSHANK KENNEDY (1752-1819), assumed by sign manual the name of SKIPTON in 1801, and succeeded his cousin and brother-in-law in the Beechhill estate.

Mr Kennedy-Skipton, a Deputy Governor of County Londonderry, married Sarah, third daughter of CONOLLY McCAUSLAND, of Fruit Hill, and had issue (with five daughters),
CONOLLY McCAUSLAND (1778-1854), dsp;
GEORGE, his successor;
The third son,

DR GEORGE KENNEDY-SKIPTON (1782-1847), married firstly, in 1814, Mary, daughter of the Rev Dr Henry Stacy, and had issue (with two daughters),
George Henry (1815-47);
HENRY STACY, his heir;
Thomas Kennedy (1820-24);
Conolly (1822-23);
Daniel Pitt.
The eldest surviving son,

HENRY STACY KENNEDY-SKIPTON, of Beech Hill, married Elizabeth, daughter of C Stewart, and had issue,

DR ALEXANDER KENNEDY-SKIPTON, of the Casino, the fifth son, who married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of James McCrea, of Derry, by Frances, his wife, daughter of William Law, of Dunmore.

Dr Skipton died in 1858, leaving two sons, the younger of whom,

GEORGE ALEXANDER KENNEDY-SKIPTON JP, of The Casino, County Londonderry, was High Sheriff in 1863.
About 1784 the Earl-Bishop, the Rt Rev Frederick Hervey, had a two-storey summer residence (known as The Casino) built next to his gardens on the site of the future Lumen Christi College's buildings. 
The Casino was purportedly designed by the Milanese architect Placido Columbani, who had supervised the construction of contemporary structures on the Earl-Bishop’s estate at Downhill. 
Calley remarks that The Casino (now demolished) was ‘a stuccoed building 50 feet in length of Ionic temple form with matching bows on its north east and south west elevations.’ 
The Earl-Bishop made little use of The Casino on Bishop Street and by the mid-19th century it formed the centrepiece of a small park that was owned by the Skipton family. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Derry, Francis Kelly (1812-89), acquired the plot of land and The Casino from the Skipton family in 1869.
Mr Kennedy-Skipton sold Beech Hill in 1875 and died unmarried in 1906.


In CLIFFE'S History of Ireland, it is mentioned, that in the reign of ELIZABETH I, Captain Skipton was sent to Ulster to command a fort in County Donegal.

He afterwards purchased considerable property in the neighbouring county of Londonderry.

ALEXANDER SKIPTON was appointed one of the Corporation, in the new charter given by CHARLES II to the city of Londonderry.

He purchased, about 1617, the lands of Ballyshasky, of the Ballymullins, now Learmount and others, in County Londonderry, and built a mansion house on the first named.

Mr Skipton was murdered by the O'Cahans in 1624, and left, with two daughters, a son and heir,

CAPTAIN THOMAS SKIPTON, Mayor of Londonderry, 1670, who styled himself, in his will, "of Skipton Hall," who married Charity, daughter of Sir Thomas Staples Bt, of Lissan, and died in 1685, leaving two sons and a daughter.

The second son,

THOMAS SKIPTON, married, in 1638, Charity, daughter of Sir Thomas Staples Bt, of Lissan, County Tyrone, and was father of

 (1642-1704), attainted by JAMES II's parliament, married Jane, daughter of Edward Cary, of Dungiven, by Sarah, his wife, daughter of Sir Tristram Beresford Bt, and was father of

 who built the mansion of Beech Hill in 1717.

He wedded, in 1712, Eleanor, daughter of Colonel John Forward, of Castle Forward, grandfather to the Earl of Wicklow, and was father of

THE REV ALEXANDER SKIPTON, Rector successively of Magilligan and Bovagh, who espoused, in 1745, Isabella, sister to William Kennedy, Alderman of Londonderry, and died in 1793, having had but one son,

THOMAS SKIPTON, of Beech Hill, who married, in 1776, Elizabeth, second daughter of Conolly McCausland, of Fruit Hill, by the heiress of the Gages of Alagilligan; but dsp 1802, bequeathed his property to his cousin and brother-in-law,

GEORGE CROOKSHANK KENNEDY, son of William Kennedy, by Easter his wife, daughter of Alderman George Crookshank, by Elizabeth Pitt his wife, and grandson of Gervaise Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy, on succeeding to the estate of his cousin, assumed, in compliance with the latter's will, the surname and arms of SKIPTON, in 1802.

He married, in 1777, Sarah, another daughter of Conolly McCausland, if Fruit Hill, and sister of Elizabeth, wife of his cousin Thomas, and had issue,
GEORGE, succeeded his brother;
Easter; Elizabeth; Sarah; Theodosia.
Mr Kennedy died in 1819, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

CONOLLY McCAUSLAND SKIPTON DL (1778-), of Beech Hill, Captain, Derry Militia, High Sheriff of Londondery, 1814, Mayor of Londonderry, 1828-9, who wedded, in 1812, Catherine, only child on John Spotswood, of Bellaghy, County Londonderry, who dsp and was succeeded by his brother, GEORGE.

The first house to stand on the richly-wooded Ardmore site was built in 1622 and was known as Ballyshaskey.

It was commissioned by Alexander Skipton, who was killed in a land ownership dispute with a local family.

His son, Captain Thomas Skipton, took up residence in 1638.

However, in a period of rebellion three years later, Thomas and his wife Charity were forced to flee under cover of darkness, narrowly escaping with their lives.

Their home was burned to the ground.

Seemingly undeterred by these disasters, in 1661 Captain Skipton built a new house which he called Skipton Hall.

It stood on the opposite side of the brook to the original building.

The family remained there until the siege of Derry, when a retreating army reduced Skipton Hall to ashes. 

Thomas’s son and heir, Captain Alexander Skipton, continued to live on the estate, in an out-house, until his death in 1704.

Captain Thomas Skipton built the present mansion house in 1739 and, because of the large number of surrounding trees, named it Beechhill.

Two generations later, Thomas Skipton added a wing stretching out towards the brook and made some significant changes to the gardens.

When he died the estate passed on to his cousin, George Crookshank Kennedy, who immediately changed his name to Kennedy-Skipton and continued a programme of improvements.

He planted a substantial number of new trees and much  improved the layout and appearance of the grounds which he believed  would give people much pleasure.

An impressive porch was added to the  front of the house and also the big room that is situated over it and which is known as The Library.

A change in ownership came in 1872, when Beech Hill was bought by the  wealthy Nicholsons of Newbuildings.

At this time, the estate comprised 1,169 acres.

The Nicholsons made a number of internal changes to the house during their tenancy but, in general, it remained  their simple family home.

In 1942, the United States Marines occupied Beech Hill.

They had been sent to protect Derry's war-time military installations.

In 1989, Beech Hill was bought by present owners, Patricia (Patsy) O’Kane, MBE, and her brother, Seamus Donnelly.

They undertook two years of refurbishment.

Beech Hill country house hotel opened for the first time in 1991. 

In 1998, the former US President, Bill Clinton, arrived.

By 2000, Beech Hill had become so popular that twenty-two bedrooms were inadequate, hence a new wing created ten more rooms and suites.

In 2011, restoration work costing almost £500,000 was completed.

It included new sash windows, extensive re-roofing and external and interior redecoration.

Atkinson wrote of Beech Hill in 1833:
‘… full grown timber, richly planted glen, an excellent garden, walled in and in full bearing, and sanded walks for the accommodation of the passenger through its richly
wooded lawns …’
The house is still surrounded by mature trees, with a lime and beech avenue and woodland walks. The raised portion to the north-west of the house.

The shape of the demesne has changed little: There are terraced lawns near the house and a series of ponds on descending ground, controlled by sluices.

Overflow car parks are amongst trees.

First published in July, 2012.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Lyons Demesne


The family of LAWLESS was of English extraction, but were settled for many years in Ireland, and became first enriched by commerce, and then ennobled on account of their wealth. SIR HUGH DE LAWLESS, of Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, settled in Ireland during the reign of HENRY II and obtained a grant from the crown of the manor of Shanganagh, County Dublin, where he erected a castle, the ruins of which are still visible.

RICHARD LAWLESS was Provost of Dublin, 1311, and held the office of Chief Magistrate for three successive years. STEPHEN LAWLESS was consecrated Bishop of Limerick in 1354, and died on Innocents' Day, 1359.

WALTER LAWLESS, of Talbot's Inch, County Kilkenny, had a grant from JAMES I, in 1608, of seven manors, situated in counties Tipperary, Waterford, and Kilkenny, with rights of patronage, to be held for ever, in capite, by knight's service.

He married Margaret, daughter of Robert Wrothe, and died in 1627, leaving an only son,

RICHARD LAWLESS, who succeeding at Talbot's Inch, wedded Margaret, daughter of Patrick Den, of Grennan, County Kilkenny; and dying in 1670, left issue, two sons,
Walter, an adherent of JAMES II;
THOMAS, of whom hereafter.
The younger son,

THOMAS LAWLESS, of Talbot's Inch, espoused Elizabeth, daughter of James Butler, of Kilkenny; and dying in 1704, was father of

JOHN LAWLESS, of Shankill, County Dublin, who married Frances, daughter of John Usher, of Crumlin, and had issue, Peter, ancestor of the family seated at Shankill, and

JOHN LAWLESS, who wedded Elizabeth, daughter of Richard MacDonnell.

He died in 1730, and was succeeded by his only son,

ROBERT LAWLESS, of Abington, County Limerick, by Mary, daughter of Dominick Hadsor, of Dublin. and had issue,
NICHOLAS, his heir;
Mary (1736-67).
Mr Lawless died in 1779, and was succeeded by his only son and heir,

NICHOLAS LAWLESS (1735-99), of Abington, County Limerick, who, having returned to Ireland from Normandy subsequently to his father's decease and conformed to the established church, obtained a seat in parliament as MP for Lifford, 1776-89.

Mr Lawless was created a baronet in 1776, designated of Abington, County Limerick; and elevated to the peerage, in 1789, in the dignity of BARON CLONCURRY, of Cloncurry, County Kildare.

He married, in 1761, Margaret, only daughter of Valentine Browne, of Dublin, and had issue, 
VALENTINE BROWNE, his successor;
Mary Catherine; Valentina Alicia; Charlotte Louisa.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

VALENTINE BROWNE, 2nd Baron (1773-1853),  who wedded firstly, in 1803, Elizabeth Georgiana, daughter of Lieutenant-General Charles Morgan, and had issue,
Mary Margaret; Margaret; Valentine Anne.
He espoused secondly, in 1811, Emily, daughter of Archibald Douglas, and had further issue,
Cecil John (died 1853);
EDWARD, of whom hereafter.
The younger son,

EDWARD, 3rd Baron (1816-69), of Lyons, County Kildare, High Sheriff of County Kildare, 1838, County Dublin, 1846, married, in 1839, Elizabeth, daughter of Major John Kirwan, and had issue,
Edward, Colonel, died 1921;
VALENTINE, his successor;
FREDERICK, 5th Baron;
His lordship took his own life by throwing himself from the third floor of Lyons.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

VALENTINE, 4th Baron (1840-1928), of Lyons, High Sheriff of County Kildare, 1867, who wedded, in 1883, Laura Sophia Priscilla, daughter of Rowland, 1st Baron St Oswald, and had issue, two daughters,
Mary; Kathleen Emily Marie (1888-1957), of Lyons.
His lordship died without male issue, when the title devolved upon his brother,

FREDERICK, 5th Baron (1847-1929), who served on the staff of two Lords Lieutenant of Ireland, was unmarried; and the titles expired on his death in 1929.

LYONS, near Hazlehatch, County Kildare, was originally the seat of the Aylmer family, though they sold it to the 1st Baron Cloncurry, who had a new house built in 1797.

The present mansion house is a three storey block with a curved bow on either side of its entrance front, joined to two-storey wings by curved sweeps.

About 1801, shortly after his release from the Tower of London, the 2nd Baron hired Richard Morrison to undertake improvements and alterations to his father's house, work continuing till 1805.

During this period, Lord Cloncurry was in Italy, collecting antiques and objets d'art for the house.

The seven-bay garden front was left fairly plain, though an immense formal garden was laid out, with abundant statuary and urns.

Beyond the lake, reputedly the largest artificial lake in Ireland, lies the Hill of Lyons.

The Grand Canal passes along one side of the demesne, with a very fine range of Georgian buildings, comprising the Cloncurry private canal station.

The Hon Kathleen Lawless bequeathed the Lyons estate to a cousin, Mr G M V Winn, who sold it about 1962 to University College, Dublin.

Sir Michael Smurfit KBE owned Lyons from 1990-96.

Lyons was later purchased by Dr Tony Ryan, who reputedly spent €100 million on its restoration.

The house stands in nearly 600 acres, including some fine formal gardens.

The orangery and hall contain a large swimming-pool.

There are seven suites in the main house, a self-contained guest wing with four bedrooms, and staff quarters in the north wing.

A further five lodges are located around the estate which include a 22-acre spring-fed lake which is stocked with trout and, for equestrian enthusiasts, there are stables, stud farm facilities and outstanding natural gallops.

Dublin is a 45-minute drive, but private jet access is available on request at nearby Baldonnel's Casement Aerodrome which is three miles from the estate.

It has undergone a total refurbishment which was recognized as outstanding when it received the Europa Nostra and Institut International des Châteaux Historiques joint award for refurbishment.

Cloncurry arms courtesy of European Heraldry.   First published in June, 2012.