Thursday, 8 October 2015

Belfast Castle

THE MARQUESSES OF DONEGALL WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY ANTRIM, WITH 14,617 ACRES

This family's first known ancestor was Walleran de Cirencester (said to be descended from a brother of Robert of Chichester, Bishop of Exeter, who died ca 1160).

Thirteenth in descent from this Walleran was

SIR JOHN CHICHESTER (c1520-69), of Raleigh, Devon, father of
JOHN, ancestor of Sir John Chichester Bt;
ARTHUR, 1st BARON CHICHESTER;
EDWARD, 1st VISCOUNT CHICHESTER;
Charles;
John (Sir), governor of Carrickfergus;
Thomas (Sir);
Adrian;
Elizabeth; Cecilia; Eleanor; Mary; Grace;
Dorothy; Urith; Bridget; Susanna.
The first of the family settled in Ulster was

SIR ARTHUR CHICHESTER, Knight (1563-1625), a distinguished military officer.
This gentleman was the second son of Sir John Chichester, Knight, by Gertrude, daughter of Sir William Courtenay, Knight, of Powderham Castle, Devon.
In 1595, Sir Arthur commanded two hundred foot at Carrickfergus; and at the end of November, in the following year, being garrisoned at that place, laid all the country waste within a circumference of twenty miles.

In 1603, he was sworn of the Privy Council; and, in 1604, appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland.

Sir Arthur, in consideration of his eminent services, military and civil, obtained considerable grants of land in the province of Ulster, and was elevated to the peerage, in 1612, as Baron Chichester, of Belfast.

His lordship continued in the government of Ireland for ten years successively, and was re-appointed in July, 1613; in which year the harp of Ireland was first marshalled with the arms of England; and has since continued to be impressed upon the coin of the Realm.

In 1615, he retired from his high office, and was appointed, in 1616, Lord High Treasurer of Ireland.

His lordship chiefly resided at Carrickfergus, where he erected, in 1618, a magnificent mansion called Joymount.

In 1622, he went as ambassador to the Palatinate, and thence to treat of a peace with the Holy Roman emperor.

His lordship married Letitia, daughter of Sir John Perrott, sometime Lord Deputy of Ireland, and died in London in 1625.

He left no surviving issue and the barony expired, while his large estates devolved upon his brother,

SIR EDWARD CHICHESTER (1568-1648), in whose favour the dignity was revived, with the additional honour of Viscount Chichester, of Carrickfergus, in 1625.

His lordship wedded firstly, in 1605, Anne, daughter and heir of John Coppleston, of Eggesford, and had issue,
ARTHUR, his successor;
John;
Edward;
Elizabeth; Mary.
He espoused secondly, Mary Denham.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

ARTHUR, 2nd Viscount (1606-75), MP for County Antrim, in 1630, who, in consideration of his eminent services against the rebels, when Colonel Chichester, and at the express solicitation of the Marquess of Ormonde, had been elevated to the peerage as EARL OF DONEGALL.

His lordship was one of the four hostages sent by Lord Ormonde, in 1647, to the English parliament, as surety for the delivery of Dublin to their commissioners.

After the Restoration, he was Governor of Carrickfergus.

His lordship married firstly, Dorcas, daughter of John Hill, of Honiley, Warwickshire, by whom he had a daughter, Mary; and secondly, Lady Mary Digby, daughter of John, 1st Earl of Bristol, by whom he had eight children, all of whom died young.

The 1st Earl wedded thirdly, in 1651, Letitia, daughter of Sir William Hicks Bt, by whom he had issue,
William, died young;
Anne, died young.
His lordship died in 1675, when his honours devolved, according to the limitation, upon his nephew,  

SIR ARTHUR CHICHESTER, as 2nd Earl (eldest son of the Hon John Chichester, by Mary, youngest daughter of Roger Jones, Viscount Ranelagh).

His lordship wedded Jane, daughter of John Itchingham, of Dunbrody, County Wexford, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

ARTHUR, 3rd Earl (1666-1706).
This nobleman, having distinguished himself in the military service of his own country, was appointed, by the Prince of Hesse, in 1704, major-general of the Spanish forces; and fell, in 1706, at Fort Montjuich.

His lordship's second wife was Lady Catherine Forbes; and by this lady he had two sons and six daughters; three of the latter, Jane, Frances and Henrietta, were unfortunately burnt to death in Belfast Castle, consumed by the carelessness of a servant.
His lordship was succeeded by his elder son

ARTHUR, 4th Earl (1695-1757); at whose demise without issue, in 1757, the honours devolved upon his nephew,

ARTHUR, 5th Earl (1739-99), eldest son of the Hon John Chichester, MP for Belfast in 1745, by Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Sir Richard Newdigate Bt, who was created Baron Fisherwick, of Staffordshire, in 1790.

In 1791, Lord Fisherwick was advanced to the dignity of an earldom, as Earl of Belfast; and a marquessate, as MARQUESS OF DONEGALL.

His lordship espoused firstly, in 1761, Anne, eldest daughter of James. 5th Duke of Hamilton, by Elizabeth, eldest daughter and heir of Edward Spencer, of Rendlesham, Suffolk, and had issue,
GEORGE AUGUSTUS, his successor;
Arthur;
Spencer Stanley;
ARTHUR, cr BARON TEMPLEMORE;
George Augustus Frederick, in holy orders;
Anne; Elizabeth.
The 1st Marquess married secondly, in 1788, Charlotte, widow of Thomas Moore, of Barn, County Tipperary; and thirdly, in 1790, Barbara, daughter of the Rev Dr Godfrey, neither of which marriages, however, produced issue.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE AUGUSTUS, 2nd Marquess,
The heir apparent is the present holder's only son James Arthur Chichester, styled Earl of Belfast.
*****

THE 47 year-old Lord Belfast inherited a dreadful legacy from his prodigal father, the 2nd Marquess of Donegall KP PC, when he died in 1844.

The 2nd Marquess had inherited one of the greatest estates in the British Isles from his father, the 1st Marquess, in 1799, extending to over 250,000 acres.

Lord Donegall owned 160,000 acres in County Donegal; 90,000 acres in County Antrim; 11,000 acres in County Wexford; land on the County Down side of the River Lagan; the town of Belfast; Fisherwick Park in Staffordshire; and 3, St James's Square, in London.

The annual value of his property was estimated, in 1797, at £48,000 (£4.5m today).

This great wealth was utterly squandered by the 2nd Marquess, by means of gambling and other excesses. Indeed the 2nd Marquess actually owed money to creditors and found himself in debtors' prisons more than once. 

He ruined the family fortunes; indeed his disreputable circumstances meant that His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was most reluctant to recommend the 2nd Marquess for appointment to the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick (though he was eventually appointed).

This was the legacy left to Lord Belfast who, on his father's death, succeeded to the Marquessate as the Most Honourable George Hamilton Chichester, Marquess of Donegall KP GCH PC.

He was also Earl of Donegall, Earl of Belfast, Viscount Chichester, Baron Chichester of Belfast and Baron Fisherwick.

The family seat was, by the early 19th century, at Ormeau Park on the outskirts of Belfast; a large Tudor-Revival mansion of 20,000 square feet. 

The 3rd Marquess found Ormeau inconvenient and, in the late 1860s, together with their son-in-law and daughter, afterwards 8th Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury, built a sizeable Scottish-Baronial castle at the other side of Belfast, with a fine prospect on the lower slopes of Cave Hill overlooking Belfast Lough.

It was named Belfast Castle, after Sir Arthur Chichester's 1611 castle in central Belfast.
BELFAST CASTLE has a tall, square tower of six storeys, not unlike Balmoral; and a projecting pillared porch in "Jacobethan" style, with strapwork on columns.

The garden front boasts a fabulous, snaking Elizabethan, stone staircase - added in 1894 - which leads down to the terrace. 

The entrance hall is at the base of the tower; with a larger hall, opening at one end into a staircase well with a huge oak stair.

There is an arcaded first-floor gallery.

The reception rooms are en suite with fretted ceilings


The building was completed in 1870, having far exceeded the initial estimate cost of £11,000. 

The Donegall fortune had dwindled so drastically that the project was nearly left unfinished.

The son-in-law of the 3rd Marquess, Lord Ashley, heir to the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, stepped in and paid for its completion.

The 3rd Marquess died in 1884 and the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury the following year.

Lord and Lady Ashley (formerly Lady Harriet Chichester) thus succeeded as 8th Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury.

The two families are remembered in many Belfast street names e.g. Donegall Place, Square and Road and Shaftesbury Square. 
The Donegall coat of arms appears over the front door and on the north wall of the castle, while a section of the Shaftesbury crest appears on the exterior staircase. 

This unusual feature was not on the original plans but was added in 1894 by the 9th Earl of Shaftesbury as a present for his mother.

The Italian style serpentine staircase connects the main reception rooms to the garden terrace.
The Shaftesbury family were philanthropists, supporting various charities and hosting garden fêtes within the castle grounds.

The 9th Earl served the office of Lord Mayor in 1907 and Chancellor of Queen's University the following year. 

The family presented the castle and estate to the City of Belfast in 1934.

From the end of the 2nd World War until the 1970s the castle became a popular venue for wedding receptions, dances and afternoon teas.

In 1978, Belfast City Council instituted a major refurbishment programme that was to continue over a period of ten years at a cost of over two million pounds. 

The architect this time was the Hewitt and Haslam Partnership. The building was officially re-opened to the public on 11 November 1988.

The castle area was formerly a deer park on the slopes of Cave Hill. Tree planting on the hill-side was established for the house from that time, using both deciduous and conifer trees. 

There are photographs by R J Welch of juvenile trees growing on the site taken in 1896.

A photograph from the Lawrence Collection looking east from above the Castle shows how growth on the hillside and terraced lawns had progressed prior to 1909. 

The grounds of 200 acres are now administered by Belfast City Council Parks Department.

The formal gardens near the house are of recent layout and planting; and there are wonderful views from the terraces. 

Most of the area has informal woodland paths with wilder and grassy ways further up the hills, which are steep.

Early settlements on Cave Hill are recorded. 

First published in April, 2010.  Donegall Arms courtesy of European Heraldry. 

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