Wednesday, 15 August 2018

The Princess Royal

Her Royal Highness THE PRINCESS ROYAL KG KT GCVO is 68 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.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Bovagh House

Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Hezlet KBE CB DSO DSC


The family of HEZLET appears to have had a long connection with County Londonderry.

Some sources claim that the Hezlets derived from Haesluyt in Holland, a place name which means 'the hazel-lot.'

They are first recorded in Ulster during the early 17th century: Thomas Heslett [sic], of Artidillon, appeared in the Coleraine rent roll of 1620-41.

The Rev Robert Hezlet (d 1821) was Mayor of Coleraine in 1781, and rector of Killowen for forty years.

Robert Knox Hezlet, by Bassano, 3 March 1931 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London
Major-General Robert Hezlet ©National Portrait Gallery, London

Major-General Robert Knox Hezlet CB CBE DSO DL (1879-1963) lived at Bovagh House. His son,

Vice-Admiral Sir Arthur Richard Hezlet KBE CB DSO DSC, Legion of Merit (United States) (1914-2007), a distinguished Royal Navy officer and submariner, lived at Bovagh House.

Sir Arthur's honours included:- 
  • Knight Commander (Military Division) of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
  • Companion (Military Division) of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath
  • Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and Bar
  • Distinguished Service Cross

He became the Royal Navy's youngest captain, aged 36, and its youngest admiral, aged 45.

Sir Arthur died at Bovagh in 2007, aged 93.

In my youth, I once stood beside Sir Arthur, then Area President of the Royal British Legion in Northern Ireland. My late father supervised the lighting in a voluntary capacity at the annual RBL Festival of Remembrance in Belfast.

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the festival was held in the Ulster Hall, one week before the national Festival at the Royal Albert Hall.

About 1979, Sir Arthur - as Area President - recited "As We Grow Old" on the stage; and a young teenage army cadet, Timothy Collins (Colonel Timothy Collins OBE), also recited a poem.

What struck me was how Sir Arthur always made a point of going over to these young people, encouraging them and saying a few words, like "very well done".

BOVAGH HOUSE, near Aghadowey, County Londonderry, was formerly a land agent's house of the Beresfords, Marquesses of Waterford. It was built ca 1740.

The Beresfords were major landowners in the county and were seated at Bovaugh Castle in the vicinity. 

Theobald Jones MP (1790-1868), of Bovagh House, and of 54 Curzon Street, London, was a second cousin of the 3rd Marquess of Waterford.

The house has a small, high quality parkland with mature trees set on the southern banks of the Agivey river, having replaced an earlier house.

The main avenue, which meets the road near Bovagh Bridge to the west, contains the remains of a collection of exotics.

The walled garden, which lies to the south of the house, is not planted up.

There is a very pretty Victorian glasshouse immediately to the west of the house, with a small box parterre in front.

An area in the stable yard is kept up as a modern ornamental garden.

The gate lodge has been demolished.

The property is approached by a sweeping, tree-lined, pebbled driveway.

To the rear of the property there is also a walled courtyard with various outbuildings and garaging with large stone barns and former stables.

There is also an ancient woodland and an old orchard dotted with bluebells and wild flowers.

The grounds today extend to approximately 44 acres.

The lands which surround the house are laid out in three fields.

First published in August, 2012.

Monday, 13 August 2018

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 Sir Moses (or Moyses) Hill (ancestor of the Marquesses of Downshire), who built a plantation castle (described in the Report of the Plantation Commissioner ca 1611 as being located at a place called "Stranmellis").

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 'Deerpark" 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. 

Thomas Batt once had a town residence at 4 Donegall Place in Belfast.

Batt was from one of Belfast’s most prominent business families, founders of the Belfast bank and owners of Purdysburn House (later the 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 have been 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.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Cultra Manor Memories


On old maps of the 1830s the demesne is spelled "Cultraw", hence the pronunciation in use today.

"I CAME across your blog when searching for information about the Kennedys who formerly lived at Cultra Manor, now part of the Ulster Folk Museum.

I grew up there.

My father was live-in caretaker at the Folk Museum from approximately 1961 till 1977, when he retired.

The resident caretaker position was not replaced.

We lived in a flat at the manor house for about ten years (it was riddled with rats and birds falling down the old chimneys), and then moved to the Gate Lodge when it was renovated for us.

We moved in not long after it was taken over as a museum and before extensive renovation had been carried out on the estate.

It was an ideal childhood for two little girls.

I dimly remember meeting Miss Katherine Kennedy walking her dogs when we were small.

She lived with her sister in the house they had built on the outskirts of the demesne.

She was very kind to two little girls and my parents were very fond of her.

I have been particularly sad to see the neglect of the Kennedy’s graveyard.

They were very fond of their dogs and horses, and had an animals’ graveyard outside the main graveyard complete with small, engraved headstones.

I haven’t been to the Folk Museum for years - I find it too sad – but saw all the animal gravestones had gone.

I also found the neglect and destruction of the rockery with beautiful old roses and rare trees very sad – it was once like a maze, with beautiful trees and plants around every corner.

The Kennedys collected rare plants and trees during their travels.

The entire grounds had been carefully landscaped and I find it a shame that this beauty could not be retained within the structure of a modern museum.

I note the Folk Museum is holding tours for European Heritage Open Days, including talks on the Kennedys – I hope they tidy the graveyard at least.

I agreed with your blog."

First published in August, 2016.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

New DL


Dr Angela Garvey, Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Londonderry, has been pleased to appoint
Mr Zola Sipo MZIMBA MB ChB
County Londonderry
To be a Deputy Lieutenant of the County Borough, his Commission bearing date, the 1st day of August, 2018.

Dr Angela Garvey
Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough

1 High Street, Belfast

BELFAST'S old Market House stood at 1 High Street, at the corner of Cornmarket.

In his admirable Central Belfast: A Historical Gazetteer, Marcus Patton OBE states that
The 17th century Market House was built in 1639 of "small red bricks" with sandstone dressings, and extended to provide a proper courthouse on the first floor after 1663. This was the first public hall in the town. It had an arcaded ground floor and three-stage tower with ogival-roofed turret and weathercock, and a hanging clock.
An observer, John Smyth, once recalled that
the front of the Market House was seldom without a skeleton in chains; the corner of it never without a ghastly head rotting in the open air.
The tower had a peal of bells which were probably rung at the beginning and end of market days; and for the funerals of prominent citizens.

The Market House, a building of considerable importance to the civic and political development of Belfast between the 17th and 19th centuries, was leased by Adam McClean in 1802.

The late historian Sir Charles Brett remarked that McClean, a local landowner who possessed many plots and leases in the centre of Belfast, accumulated his holdings from the Donegall family in the 1820s; and "it appears he was one of those who sought to benefit from the second Marquess’s financial difficulty by acquiring good, long leases at low rents which he then built up".

McClean demolished the Market House in 1812 and constructed two houses in its place.

The site was acquired in the 1860s by the tea merchant, Mr Forster Green, of Derryvolgie House, Malone Road, Belfast, who built a new emporium (above left) with granite plinth, arcaded ground floor and stucco upper floors.

Robust chimneys and urns adorned the balustraded parapet.

This block was demolished in 1929-30, to be replaced by a purpose-built store for F W Woolworth & Co, which operated from the building 1915-2003.

The building was sold for £17.9m and subsequently underwent significant internal refurbishment.

The retail chain Dunnes Stores have occupied the building since late 2003.

First published in July, 2014.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Boom Hall

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 surname of ALEXANDER was assumed from the Christian name of its founder, Alexander Macdonald, of Menstrie.

This branch, on removing into Ulster, 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 ALEXANDERof Londonderry, born in 1625, who wedded firstly, Miss Philips, daughter of Sir Thomas Philips, and had issue,
He espoused secondly, Miss Hillhouse, daughter of the Laird of Hilles, and had issue,

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 Dunmore, County Donegal, and had issue,
William, of London; barrister; d 1774;
ROBERT, of whom we treat;
James, 1st Earl of Caledon;
Mary Jane; Rebecca; Elizabeth; Ann; Jane.
His fourth surviving son,

ROBERT ALEXANDER (1722-90), of Boom Hall, County Londonderry, wedded, in 1759, Anne, daughter of Henry McCullogh, and had issue,
Nathaniel (Rt Hon & Rt Rev);
HENRY, of Boom Hall;
William, Lieutenant-General;
Joseph Josias Du Pré;
Elizabeth; Jane; Anne; Rebecca; Dorothea.
Mr Alexander's second son,

HENRY ALEXANDER (1763-1818), of Boom Hall and Glentogher, County Donegal, MP for Londonderry, 1801-2, Old Sarum, 1802-6, espoused, in 1807, Dorothy, daughter of Francis Rivers, and had issue,
ROBERT, General in the Army;
Mary; Ann; Catherine; Eliza; Frances.

BOOM HALL, near the city of Londonderry, was built ca 1772 by James Alexander to the designs of Michael Priestly.

He had returned from India.

Alexander was later to purchase the estate of Caledon, County Tyrone.

The house was built with cut stone; two storeys over a basement.

It has a seven-bay entrance front, with a three-bay breakfront centre.

A projecting porch was added later.

The garden front has a three-sided bow and side elevation of five bays.

The window surrounds have blocking and blocked quoins.

The roof was rather high, on a cornice.

There was was a large, cubical central hall.

Boom Hall estate eventually passed to James, 3rd Earl of Caledon.

The Hall was occupied in the early 1830s by the Very Rev Thomas Bunbury Gough, Dean of Derry.

The lessee was Daniel Baird and the lessor was the Honourable The Irish Society.

Daniel Baird lived there from 1849 until his death in 1862; and his widow Barbara continued to live there until her death in 1879.

Baird was a very successful businessman, merchant and ship owner who rose to prominence from fairly humble origins in the 1830s ~ the Cookes and McCauslands were friends and business rivals.

A one-time Mayor of Londonderry and alderman of the city, he was also High Sheriff of Tyrone, where he had acquired an estate of around 5,000 acres in and around Newtownstewart.
When Daniel Baird died, his entire estate was left in trust to his only surviving descendant, his grandson Daniel Baird Maturin-Baird, then aged 13; with his widow and second wife Barbara (nee Delap) having “the benefit and living of Boom Hall for her natural life”.
On her death, Boom Hall passed into Daniel Maturin-Baird's full control.

He was aged 30 by this time and had established a life for himself in London and chose not to live at Boom Hall, instead leased the house, grounds and contents to the Cooke family (John and Joseph Cooke were both trustees of Daniel Baird’s will).

Meanwhile Mr Maturin-Baird built himself a new house on the Newtownstewart estate.

It is believed that the Cooke family continued to live there until around 1920.

Charles Edgar Maturin-Baird inherited the estate in 1924.

It was then leased to Michael Henry McDevitt, whose family ran a hosiery business, until the war when it was requisitioned by the Royal Navy.

The WRNS left the house in a deplorable state and Mr Maturin-Baird received compensation for damages.

Prior to the war, Michael Henry McDevitt had expressed an interest in buying the house, and after repairs had been carried out in 1946-47, the estate was sold.

Mr Maturin-Baird had, by this time, acquired an estate in East Anglia.

Interestingly, McDevitt chose only to buy the house, contents and immediate surroundings of around 26 acres along with the stable block, but not the stack yard or majority of parkland, which originally totalled 135 acres.

The remaining land was sold to various purchasers in the 1950s ~ although it is believed that the Maturin-Bairds still own the foreshore, as it would appear that this was never sold.

Under McDevitt’s sister the house fell into a state of serious dilapidation and the contents were routinely and systematically ransacked.
Pat, who keeps horses in one of the fields now, described how, as a teenager, he witnessed a group of vagabonds remove the contents of the dining room to outside the house, and sit down for a makeshift dinner around the table, before loading it all into a lorry and speeding away down the drive!
A fire in the early 1970s destroyed the roof, since when Boom Hall has gradually decayed.

When Miss McDevitt died, the property was left to a niece who sold off the land separately, and then the bricks and mortar to a ‘developer’.

It is thought that the local Council now owns the stable-block and some of the surrounding land, though not the building itself.

The site of Boom Hall is still a valuable open space, though it has lost many of its attributes.

It is of interest because the core of the late 18th century house remains, with some fine mature trees and a walled garden.

The Foyle bridge sweeps above the grounds, which go down to the shore of the River Foyle.

First published in August, 2012.   I am grateful to William Maturin-Baird for providing information.