Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cultra Manor


DR HUGH KENNEDY, of Ballycultra, County Down, is stated to have been a member of the family of Kennedy, Earls of Cassilis, settled in Ireland. 

This gentleman married Mary, daughter of Arthur Upton, and had issue,

JOHN KENNEDY, who purchased the estate of Cultra from the 2nd Earl of Clanbrassil in 1671. 

He married Martha, daughter of William Stewart, of Ballylawn, County Down, and aunt of Robert, Earl of Londonderry, and was succeeded by his son,

HUGH KENNEDY, of Cultra, whose only son,

JOHN KENNEDY JP (d 1802) graduated from Glasgow University. In 1760 he (unsuccessfully) claimed the title Earl of Cassilis, after the death of the 8th Earl. 

He was High Sheriff in 1769, and lived at Cultra. John and Elizabeth Kennedy had twelve children, of whom the youngest,

HUGH KENNEDY JP (1775-1852), resided at Cultra. He was High Sheriff in 1802; and had an estimable eighteen children by two marriages. The ninth child, Robert Stewart Kennedy (1807-54), lived at Cultra. 

His elder son and heir was,

SIR ROBERT JOHN KENNEDY KCMG JP DL, of Cultra (1851-1936). Sir Robert was educated at Harrow; graduated from Oxford, 1874; was attaché at Madrid, 1874-76; Secretary at Constantinople, 1877-79; and Secretary at St Petersburg, 1879-81; Chargé d'Affaires in Bulgaria, 1882-84; Chargé d'Affaires in Roumania, 1886-88; Secretary of Legation to Persia, 1888-93.

He was a Knight of Justice, Order of St. John of Jerusalem (K.J.St.J.); HM Ambassador Extraordinary to Uruguay, 1906-12; Knight Commander, Order of St Michael and St George, 1913; lieutenant, Royal North Down Militia; Minister Resident at Cettinjé, Montenegro; Fellow, Royal Geographical Society.

Cultra Manor, Craigavad, County Down, was originally a large, plain house with a central bow and a battlemented parapet.

In 1902, Sir Robert Kennedy replaced the original house with a long, two-storey mansion built of rubble and ashlar facings, which he named Cultra Manor.

It was the seat of Sir Robert and Lady Kennedy (the Hon Bertha Ward) and their four daughters, only one of whom married.

The other three daughters lived at Cultra until 1952 when they built a smaller residence on the eastern edge of the estate and sold the Manor and 136 acres of demesne.

The front has projecting pedimented ends, joined by a balustraded Ionic parapet; the right hand projecting forth as a porch. 

There is a long, two-storey service wing, joined to the main block by a link.

The demesne created for the house of 1902-04, which lies in an elevated position, commanding fine views of Belfast Lough. Hills behind the shelter-belt trees protect the house from the westerly winds.

There are two planted glens running on the east and west side of the house, with walks and bridges.

The lawns to the north of the house descend to a rockery, which is not maintained, neither is the once-famous rose garden.

The site is now landscaped for the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the house is presently no longer the centre-piece. 

Kennedy family items, such as the graveyard and the pets' graveyard, have been absorbed into the subsequent development.

However, the Museum has benefited from the mature trees and sweeping carriage drive flanked by flowering shrubs since 136 acres were purchased in 1961. The gate lodge is dated 1905.

The site the museum occupies was formally the demesne of Sir Robert Kennedy, and was acquired in 1961, with the museum opening to the public for the first time three years later in 1964.

It was announced in 2010 that almost £3 million was being spent on a complete refurbishment of Cultra Manor, transforming the building into a leading venue for public programming and corporate hire. 

First published in February, 2011.


Anonymous said...

One wonders how much the demesne would be sold for to-day!


Anonymous said...

Sadly the museum has departed from its original ideals and is now in danger of descending into the realm of a theme park... a lot less weight given by the powers that be to it being a repository of knowledge. I believe they don't even have an agricultural historian now !