The family of CHARLEY or CHORLEY, passing over from the north of England, settled in Ulster in the I7th century, at first at Belfast, where they were owners of house property for two hundred years; and afterwards at Finaghy, County Antrim, where
RALPH CHARLEY (1664-1746), of Finaghy House, County Antrim, left a son,
JOHN CHARLEY (1712-93), of Finaghy House, who died aged 81, leaving a son and successor,
JOHN CHARLEY (1744-1812), of Finaghy House, who married, in 1783, Anne Jane, daughter of Richard Wolfenden, of Harmony Hill, County Down. His second son,
MATTHEW CHARLEY (1788-1846), of Finaghy House, married, in 1819, Mary Anne, daughter of Walter Roberts, of Colin House. His eldest son,
JOHN STOUPPE CHARLEY JP (1825-78), of Finaghy House, and of Arranmore Island, County Donegal,
a magistrate for counties Donegal, Antrim, and Belfast; High Sheriff of County Donegal, 1875-6. Mr Charley owned 6,498 acres of land in County Donegal.
WILLIAM CHARLEY, of Seymour Hill, Dunmurry, married, in 1817, Isabella, eldest daughter of William Hunter JP, of Dunmurry; and dying in 1838, was succeeded by his eldest son,
JOHN CHARLEY, of Seymour Hill, who died unmarried in 1843, aged 25, and was succeeded by his brother,
WILLIAM CHARLEY JP DL (1826-1904), of Seymour Hill, who wedded, in 1856, Ellen Anna Matilda, daughter of Edward Johnson JP, of Ballymacash, near Lisburn, and granddaughter of Rev Philip Johnson JP DL.
Mr Charley was juror of Great Exhibition, 1851; chairman of J & W Charley & Company. He wrote the book Flax And Its Products.
EDWARD JOHNSON CHARLEY (1859-1932), of Seymour Hill; whose sixth son,
COLONEL HAROLD RICHARD CHARLEY CBE DL (1875-1956), of Seymour Hill,
officer, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles; fought in the Boer War, and 1st World War, with 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles; wounded and became a PoW. In 1916 he started workshops for interned British servicemen at Murren. He was Officer-in-Charge for Technical Instruction for servicemen interned in Switzerland, 1917; Commissioner, British Red Cross Society, Switzerland, 1918; commander, 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, 1919-23. CBE, 1920; City Commandant, Ulster Special Constabulary, 1924-52; originator of the British Legion Car Park Attendants scheme (adopted throughout Great Britain); Honorary Colonel, 1938, Antrim Coast Regiment (Territorial Army).
COLONEL WILLIAM ROBERT (Robin) HUNTER CHARLEY OBE (b 1924), married Catherine Janet, daughter of William Sinclair Kingan, in 1960.
|Seymour Hill House|
SEYMOUR HILL HOUSE, Dunmurry, Belfast, was built ca 1790 by the son of Archibald Johnston, Robert Allen Johnston, who owned the Seymour Hill estate (which, by 1813, comprised 89 acres and included a bleaching green, mill, yard and a mill dam at the Derriaghy Burn).
Seymour was the Marquess of Hertford's family surname, and at the time Mr Charley owned 400 acres of land surrounding the house.
However, the house does not appear captioned as "Seymour Hill House" until 1858.
William Charley bought the estate in 1822 and quickly invested capital to improve the bleach works.
Mr Charley had also purchased and remodelled the Dunmurry and Mossvale Bleach Greens two years previously in 1820, and subsequently transferred his business to Seymour Hill.
The House itself by this stage was in a ruinous state, but by 1825 Charley expended almost £5,000 in remodelling and reconstructing the house, having engaged the architect, John McHenry.
It is thought that much of the detailing found on the building, such as the heavily vermiculated double quoins, was added as a result of the improvements.
By 1865, the additional buildings included a steward's house, a coachman's house and a gate lodge, suggesting that the family's linen business was flourishing.
William Charley was chairman of J&W Charley & Co, linen merchants, whose high quality work received several commissions from the Royal family.
He was also a founding member of the Northern Banking Company.
The Charley family continued to occupy Seymour Hill House throughout the 1800s, developing their linen business and bleaching techniques, eventually coming ownership of several bleach greens in the area.
They were credited with introducing the use of chlorine into the bleaching process.
The last of the Charley family to occupy Seymour Hill House was Captain Arthur Charley who, in 1944, met his death during an accident felling trees in the grounds.
Arthur's brother, WRH Charley, desired to pursue an army career rather than stay in the linen industry, which subsequently lead to the Charley business merging with Barbour Linen Thread Ltd; and the sale of Seymour Hill House and the surrounding grounds to the Northern Ireland Housing Trust.The once extensive kitchens, wine cellars, servants hall, dining rooms, morning rooms, bedrooms and library were converted into six apartments.
By this stage the house was losing much of its internal character.
Following further vandalising and extensive fire damage in 1986, a local account describes the house as being an empty shell with no roof.
In 1990, the house was transferred to the then named BIH housing association, which invited WRH Charley, OBE, officially to open the fully-restored house providing six new one person flats.
SEYMOUR HILL stands on a hill with a wide view of the Lagan Valley.
The Charley estate on both sides of the River Lagan in counties Antrim and Down once comprised over 400 acres.
They were tenants of the Marquess of Hertford, who owned all the land from Dunmurry to the southern shore of Lough Neagh.
A large walled garden and grounds were maintained by a head gardener and five or six under-gardeners.
Between the house and the walled garden there were lawns with landscaped trees and shrubs.
Near the rock garden was the dogs' cemetery, all with their individual headstones.
Every day the head of the family would walk across the paddock field to the factory of J & W Charley & Company, which was hidden from the house by a line of trees.
Here he supervised the finishing and production of the finest Ulster Linen.
It was of a particularly high quality and for many years the usual gifts from Northern Ireland to any member of the Royal Family when they married were linen sheets from J & W Charley, specially embroidered with the relevant royal cypher.
Within the grounds of Seymour Hill was a lake and a waterfall leading into a fish ponds.
The River Derriaghy flowed under the main Belfast-Lisburn road into the lake and then was divided into two mill races to work the factory water wheels.
The top stream was known locally as 'Little Harry' because baby Harold Charley's (1875-1956) pram once ran away down the drive and ended up upside down in the river!
He was none the worse for the experience, it is said.
During World War II the laundry in the upper yard was occupied by up to 100 women and children evacuated from the centre of Belfast during the air raid blitzes of 1941-42.
I am grateful to Lisburn Historical Society as a source of reference for this article. First published in February, 2011.