Thursday, 6 January 2022

Bellarena House


This is a branch of the ancient family of HEYGATE, seated in the counties of Essex and Suffolk.

THOMAS HEYGATE (c1540-76), of Hayes, Middlesex, Provost-Marshal-General of the army in 1557 which, in alliance with the Spaniards, besieged St Quentin (held by the French), and subsequently Provost-Marshal in Scotland, married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Stonor, of Stonor.

This Thomas Heygate was succeeded by his eldest son,

THOMAS HEYGATE (c1565-1616), of Hayes, Justice of the Peace for Middlesex, Provost-Marshal-General under the Earl of Essex during the capture of Cadiz, 1596, who wedded Margery, daughter of Ralph Skipwith, of Parkbury, Hertfordshire, and had surviving issue,
Thomas, of Hayes, barrister-at-law;
RALPH, of whom presently;
Katherine, m R Tyrwhitt, master of the buck-hounds to CHARLES I;
Letitia, m Dr P Heylin, Prebendary of Westminster.
The second son,

RALPH HEYGATE (1606-65), settled in London and married twice, but had issue by his second wife (Anne, daughter of Nicholas Spicer, of the city of Exeter) only.

His elder son,

NICHOLAS HEYGATE (1635-97), one of the Court of Assistants of Merchant Taylors' Company, and a collector of curious books and writings, espoused Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Cotton, of Loughton (and granddaughter of Edward Shuckburgh, of Naseby, Northamptonshire), by whom he had an only surviving child,

ROBERT HEYGATE (c1665-1736), of Husband's Bosworth, Leicestershire, who wedded Anne, daughter of John Freeman, and left at his decease, in 1736, an only surviving son,

NICHOLAS HEYGATE (1705-74), of West Haddon, Northamptonshire, who espoused Mary, daughter of John Cooke, of Hill Morton, Warwickshire, and had issue,
THOMAS, of Husband's Bosworth, father of THOMAS;
JAMES, father of
WILLIAM, created a baronet.
Mr Heygate's youngest son,

JAMES HEYGATE (1747-1833), of Hackney, Middlesex, and Southend, Essex, banker, married and was father of

WILLIAM HEYGATE (1782-1844), of Chatham Place, Blackfriars, London, and Holwood, Kent, who married, in 1821, Isabella, fourth daughter of Edward Longdon Mackmurdo, of Upper Clapton, Middlesex, and had issue,
William Unwin;
Edward Nicholas;
Robert Henry John.
Mr Heygate, an alderman of the city of London, Lord Mayor of London, 1822, MP for Sudbury, was created a baronet in 1831, designated of Southend, Essex.

Sir William, a partner in the banking firm of Pares and Heygate, Aldermanbury, was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR FREDERICK WILLIAM HEYGATE, 2nd Baronet (1822-94), DL, who was baptized at the Mansion House during the mayoralty of his father and in the presence of HRH The Duke of York (who stood sponsor), and at whose wish the baronetcy was conferred. 

Sir Frederick, MP for County Londonderry, 1859-74, wedded, in 1851, Marianne, daughter of Conolly (McCausland) Gage, of Bellarena, County Londonderry, and had issue,
FREDERICK GAGE, his successor;
Robert Henry Gage;
Arthur Conolly Gage, father of 4th Baronet;
Henrietta Constance; Isabella Mary Anne; Maud Alice; Rosamond Anna.
Sir Frederick was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR FREDERICK GAGE HEYGATE (1854-1940), 3rd Baronet, JP, DL, of Bellarena, who espoused, in 1888, Flora, daughter of John Walter, though the marriage was without issue.

Sir Frederick, Major, Mid-Ulster Artillery, Barrister, Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1887-88, died without issue, when the baronetcy reverted to his cousin,

SIR JOHN EDWARD NOURSE HEYGATE, 4th Baronet (1903-76), of Bellarena, who married firstly, in 1930, Evelyn Florence Margaret Winifred, daughter of Herbert, 1st Baron Burghclere of Walden; and secondly, in 1936, Gwyneth Eliot, daughter of John Eliot Howard Lloyd, by whom he had issue,
GEORGE LLOYD, his successor;
Richard John Gage, 6th Baronet.
Sir John married thirdly, in 1951, Dora Luz, daughter of John Harvey.

He is chiefly remembered for his liaison in 1929 with Evelyn Gardner while she was married to Evelyn Waugh.

Heygate and Gardner subsequently married, then divorced.

He is portrayed as 'John Beaver' in Waugh's novel, A Handful of Dust.

By the 1970s, the fourth Baronet was living alone in Bellarena when, in 1976, he took his own life.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR GEORGE LLOYD HEYGATE, 5th Baronet (1936-91), who married Hildegard Mathilde Kleinjohann, and had issue,
Catherine Ellen Rowley; Joanna Elliot Nourse; another daughter.
Sir George died without male issue, when the title devolved upon his brother,

SIR RICHARD JOHN GAGE HEYGATE, (b 1940) 6th and present Baronet.

It is thought that the Heygates live in London today.

Former seats ~ Porter's Grange, Southend-on-Sea, Essex; Bellarena, County Londonderry; 43 Eaton Square, London. 

Photo Credit: Brian McElherron

BELLARENA HOUSE, near Magilligan, County Londonderry, is a mainly late-Georgian house which developed in several different phases around what is probably a late 17th century core.

The land was settled in 1603 by William Gage, of Northamptonshire, who bought the lease of the estate - then called Ballymargy - from the Lord Bishop of Derry.

It was named Bellarena - the beautiful strand - in the late 18th century by Frederick Hervey, the Earl Bishop.

Marcus McCausland, of Drenagh, Marcus, born in 1755, succeeded under the will of his mother to the Bellarena estates and assumed the name of GAGE.

He extended the house in 1797.

His son, Conolly McCausland-Gage, created the present library and managed to fit in a third storey at the rear of the house in 1822.

In the 1830s, Sir Charles Lanyon was employed to redecorate Bellarena, rearrange the hall and add a porch.

Seemingly there was a degree of rivalry between cousins and in-laws at Bellarena and Drenagh!

A final extension was made by Conolly and Henrietta Gage's daughter, Marianne, who married Sir Frederick Heygate, 2nd Baronet, in 1851.

Bellarena House has a two-storey, five-bay entrance front faced in dark-coloured basalt; a notably wide Venetian window in the centre of the upper storey, which rises into a baseless, floating pediment.

Below this window is Lanyon's semi-circular porch, fronted by a pair of Ionic columns either side of the doorway.

On one side of the entrance front there is a wing, set back.

The rear of the main block consists of four bays, all having Wyatt windows in both storeys.

The hall contains a double staircase with cast-iron balusters, which rise between two Corinthian columns, painted to resemble marble.

The drawing-room ceiling has elaborate plasterwork, remarkably similar to that of Drenagh House.

The most noteworthy room in the house is probably the library of 1822,  a tall, spacious room with a coved ceiling, surrounded on three sides by a gallery with a balustrade of exquisite ironwork.

This balustrading might possibly have originated from Ballyscullion, along with the library chimney-piece and that in the smoking-room.

To the rear of the house there is a commodious, cobbled office courtyard, with a central pond and fountain; while the impressive stable block boasts a spire and pediment.

Beyond the courtyard is a complete range of early 19th century farm buildings.

The demesne was founded in the mid 17th century on flat ground on the River Roe.

The site is excellent, with fine views of Binevenagh.

There are lawns round the house and large mature shrubs with requisite shelter trees beyond, both around the house and as shelter belts for the fields.

Sampson, in the Statistical Survey of the County of Londonderry of 1802, noted that it had
‘… been well planted with variety of forest trees and shrubs; considering the lightness of the soil, which, for the most part, is sandy, these plantations succeed remarkably well’.
The walled garden, which is pre-1830s, has been cleared of original planting for modern convenience.

The eastern end was formerly an orchard, with a gardener’s house at the north-east corner.

Glasshouses are gone.

There is a roughly-built folly tower, or look-out, in a field to the north of the house, and an ice house.

There are three gate lodges, the oldest having been built in 1797.

In 1742, Conolly McCausland, of Drenagh, married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Gage, of Magilligan.

Conolly's son Marcus, under the terms of his mother's will, succeeded to the Bellarena estates and assumed the name of Gage in 1816; hence the proud name of Gage lived on at Bellarena.

Bellarena was acquired by the Heygate baronets when the 2nd Baronet, Sir Frederick, married Marianne Gage in 1851.

Sir John, 4th Baronet, was the last of the Heygates to live at Bellarena.

By the 1970s, he was living alone in the house and, in 1976, he took his own life by shooting himself.

Bellarena is now the residence of Sir Denis Desmond KCVO CBE, and his family.

Select Bibliography: Burke's Peerage & Baronetage 1832, Volume 1, page 609.  First published in February, 2010.


Anonymous said...

Found this rather macabre reference to the 4th baronet at the time of his death; "A neighbour met him looking dreadful, dressed in black and enquired if he was off to a funeral. "Yes, my own". he replied."

Anonymous said...

I live close to Bellarena House and it it a beautifull resedence and is now extrenly well cared for.

Anonymous said...

As someone who grew up on the estate during World War II years, it is a pleasure to see the current owner restoring the estate to that which I remember as a boy!
My grandfather was gardner on the estate for 60 years.

Anonymous said...

I grew up on the Bellarena Estate during the years of World War II, when the estate was occupied by British and American forces. My grandfather was gardner to the Heygate family for 60 years. It is now a pleasure to see the exterior of the estate restored to that which I can remember as a child.

Anonymous said...

I used to live in this house during the 1980's

My dad ran the attached fish processing plant , Brilliant times there and a fantastic house.

Anonymous said...

Its no secret, its well known in the north west area that the estate is owned by a local man made good, and has been for many years, He has over seen a massive restoration of the property. Very nice to see the property restored.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the Somers Family. They lived in Bellarena

Anonymous said...

Any christian names for the Somers family?

Anonymous said...

I think calling Denis Desmond a local boy who "made good" is pushing it somewhat!


Anonymous said...

'Don't be fooled by the rocks that he got, he's still Denny from the block'. VC (Thanks to Ms J. Lopez).

Anonymous said...

Whilst I appreciate the sentiment, Denis is not self-made. He's an Old Glenalmond, hardly a rough-diamond!


Anonymous said...

My grandfather and great grandfather worked on the estate. Thanks for this description.

Anonymous said...

I am very interested to read the comments about this historic estate. I live in Canada. My father and his siblings grew up on the estate 1902-1926 when he emigrated. His father (family name Campbell)was a shepherd for the Heygates, and his uncle was the gardener(family Dunlop).
I visited the house with my family in the mid eighties having a tour with Mr. Desmond. The restoration was in progress. Nice to see.

Anonymous said...

Sir John Heygate was my God father, and, it was my grandmother who made the dicovery of his body after the shooting. We still live close to the estate and I am pleased to see the superb restoration that Mr Desmond has carried out. The house looks aswell if not better now than it ever did

Unknown said...

My Grandmother Rebecca McGill nee Somers was born on the Estate her Dad Daniel Somers worked there he was a Shepherd also, her cousins the McIvors also worked there some of whom were Coachmen
I would love to hear from anyone who had any connection to the two mentioned families
Best Regards

Unknown said...

I find this site enormously interesting and informative
well done Lord Belmont

Robin Mitchell said...

I visited Lord and Lady Heygate as a child (aged seven or eight )in 1963. I remember we were allowed to wander around all the rooms in the house, some hadn't been used for years. There was a library with a hidden door and in one room a tin train track.

Anonymous said...

My Great Great Grandfather also worked there as a Coachman. I would love to see some documentation from the Estate in the early to mid 1800's with his name, Dennis McFeely.

Anonymous said...

I remember meeting Sir John Heygate as a child in late 1950s, hoping to learn the harp. He had very kindly offered to lend me a very old Erard pedal harp to practise,which was in the drawing room. Unfortunately it was a single action harp and had few strings, so we did not pursue the matter further. However Sir John showed my mother and I around his house,he was a most charming and courteous person and the occasion will be remembered with fondness.

Harry Williamson said...

I stayed at Bellarena for weeks each year during the summer holidays in the 50's. I remember very well the library with the secret door and false books, the billiard room, and the rest of the house including the live steam train in the attic. We helped net salmon day and night which Sir J iced and flew to London. The walled garden was a magical place. So many memories that are currently the subject of written memoirs. Harry Williamson

Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me about the history of the small cottage and dispensary as it became known, just outside the estate walls? Who were the original occupants and what if anything was the connection to the estate? Thanks.