Saturday, 9 May 2015

Cairnburn: 1903

Norwood Tower
A FICTIONAL TALE OF A DAY-TRIP FROM BELFAST IN 1903

I have just come from the magnificent new City Hall being built in Donegall Square, Belfast.

The old Linen Hall has been razed to the ground and the new edifice is taking shape very nicely indeed.

The coronation of our new King, Edward VII, has taken place. Old Queen Victoria rests in peace.

I've taken a Hansom cab to an up-and-coming area near Belfast known as Strandtown.

I'm visiting the Ewarts at their fine home, Glenmachan.

Glenmachan House

The cab driver is taking me via a semi-circular road to a junction with Cairnburn Road, and I alight there in order that I may stroll the rest of the way.

These country roads are narrow: another cab passed us as it turned up the drive of Norwood Tower, the Hendersons' rambling Tudor-Revival mansion, and my cab-driver had to slow right down to avoid it!

Norwood Tower has two gate-lodges, each about a quarter of a mile apart.

The first lodge we passed on this circular road was a little beyond the entrance to Clonaver House, the Hendersons' former dower house, which now belongs to James Girdwood; while the second lodge was almost opposite Ardvarna House.

The Henderson grounds are extensive and extend to the top of Circular Road.

It is said that they own fifty acres.

The gate lodges are both battlemented, while the house, set in a landscaped park, is dominated by a lofty, castellated tower.

Passing Norwood, I notice a gardener working in the grounds with a scythe; and a paddock with a number of horses grazing.

On the left-hand side of the road, the first gate-lodge belongs to Ardnagreena House, home to the solicitor, Charles Black; and further along, we pass Ballymisert House's gate lodge.

Ballymisert, I am told, belongs to the tea merchant, Masterson.

My cab reaches the top of the hill, and we veer left as we pass yet another gate lodge for Garranard House which belongs to William Patterson, who is the proprietor of a flourishing ironmongery business.

At last I have arrived at the junction with Cairnburn Road. I pay the cabbie a few shillings - daylight robbery! - and begin my stroll.

There are fields to the right; Glenfurlough House to the left, where James Taylor, the linen merchant, lives.

A few minutes' walk further along, I pass the red-brick labourers' cottages which belong to Glenfurlough.

These workers' cottages are beside a steep decline, where there is a pretty glen.

I cross the old bridge, surrounded by woodland and the song of birds.

From here the lane ascends and cuts through more woodland.

At the top of the road, there is a cross-roads, where the old Holywood Road traverses Cairnburn Road.

I pause and observe: the woodland and the roads are so narrow with no traffic at all, except one solitary horse and cart.

I catch a glimpse of some workers' cottages on the other side of the Holywood Road.

Immediately ahead is my destination: Glenmachan, seat of my friends, the Ewarts.

First published in December, 2009.

4 comments :

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Tim. I am afaraid that my comments are starting to take a worrying pattern, in that they always contain a request for something! So - do you think you could post a map (or a link to one) of this area circa 1900? It would be interesting to compare it with the way things are now, along side you rather nice prose (Mr Craig would be proud!).
Cheers,
J

Anonymous said...

Yes, I must agree with J, really was quite exquisite. It almost brought a tear to my eye. Have you considered writing a novel or some short stories? I suggest you appoint a literary agent forthwith! Maybe you could write an Irish version of Downtown Abbey, to appear on BBC NI? Belmont Abbey perhaps? I'm sure you could borrow Stormont as the grand country house of Viscount Robinson and the wayward Lady Iris!

Anne Higgins said...

My parents lived on the Circular Road opposite the entrance to Ardvarna from 1951 and I was brought up there. Enjoyed this very much as I remembered some of the old houses having played in the grounds. If you found a map I would love to see it. Where did the "Ballymisert" bit come in? During the 50 years plus my parents were there our address was always "Strandtown" till postcodes came in. Most look out the old house deeds.

Timothy Belmont said...

Hi Anne,

Ballymisert is the townland; it's always entered on the rates bill!

Alan Godfrey maps publish old ones, if you have a look on the web.

Tim