The Hertford Estate, centred round the area known as Killultagh at Lisburn, was one of the largest estates in County Antrim and, indeed, Ulster.
Sir Fulke Conway, ancestor of the Marquesses of Hertford, founded Lisburn.
Killultagh includes Ballinderry, Glenavy, Knockmore, Maghaberry and Moira.
In 1869, perhaps the most important political phenomenon in County Antrim was landlord influence and, in particular, the power of Lord Hertford, the county’s greatest landowner, and his agent, the Very Rev James Stannus, Dean of Ross and Rector of Lisburn.
Their influence on elections was considerable, especially since the secret ballot was not introduced until 1872. During an investigation into the running of the Hertford estate, which was located in the south of County Antrim. Dean Stannus stated that it comprised 66,000 acres, supporting a population of about 200,000.There were 4,000 holdings within the Hertford Estate, of which 1,000 were leasehold and the remainder let on a yearly basis.
There were approximately 10,000 electors in the entire county and at least 1,000 of them lived on the Estate.
In addition, every elector in the Borough of Lisburn was either a tenant or sub-tenant. The estate rental in 1871 amounted to £58,000 (£5 million today).
This would appear to have represented a formidable source of political power.
There were only a number of other large estates owned by conservative families in the county, although none, with the exception of the O'Neill estate, could match the Hertford acreage during the Victorian era.
Many of the officers who had commanded the forces of the Crown against the Irish in rebellion were younger sons of gentlemen who, under English and Scottish law, did not inherit lands at home.
Victory against the Irish gave them the opportunity to set themselves up as independent, landed gentlemen including Sir Fulke Conway.
Sir Richard, 1st and last Baronet (1818-90), a philanthropist, art collector and connoisseur extraordinaire, inherited the Hertford estate from his father in 1871.
He was created a baronet in the same year.
Sir Richard was the illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess of Hertford for whom he worked as secretary, and inherited his father's estates, and extensive collection of European art in 1871.
Wallace expanded the collection himself, and in 1897, after his death, the collection was donated to the nation by Wallace's widow.
It is now located in what was his London residence, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London - which houses the Wallace Collection.
His bequests to the town of Lisburn included Wallace Park and Wallace High School.
Sir Richard's residence in Lisburn, Castle House (above), is a large, imposing mansion of 1880, though he hardly ever stayed there.
His country house, Sudbourne Hall in Suffolk, was demolished during the 20th century.
Here is a fascinating article about Sir Richard and his visits to Ulster.
Sir Richard, on the other hand, took his responsibilities as a landowner very seriously.
In 1873, after his selfless behaviour during the siege of Paris had made his name famous throughout the UK and France, he made a celebrated visit to Lisburn, where he and Lady Wallace received a tumultuous welcome.
Having no house in the town until 1880, he rented Antrim Castle from Lord Massereene for his stay in Ulster and it was from there that he travelled in a private railway carriage to the town.
At Brookmount station it was stopped and the party alighted.
Here, in a marquee in the station yard, were gathered the Lisburn Town Commissioners and their ladies to welcome the distinguished visitor and his entourage.
The Address of Welcome from the Commissioners was read by the Rev W D Pounden, rector of Lisburn Cathedral; and Sir Richard, in his reply, expressed his pleasure at being in the district.
Sir Richard became MP for Lisburn in 1873 and served until 1884.
He became the principal benefactor of the city, paying for the improvement of water supplies as well as the building of Assembly Rooms, a court house (now demolished) and a school, which survives as Wallace High School.
Wallace also employed the architect Thomas Ambler, who had remodelled Hertford House for him, to build a house in Lisburn, Castle House.
Wallace had hoped that his son Edmond would take up residence in Lisburn, but this was not to be and Castle House was only rarely used.
After his death in 1890, the citizens of Lisburn erected a magnificent monument to Sir Richard in Castle Gardens, where one of two Wallace fountains in the city may also be found.
Wallace’s name survives elsewhere in Lisburn, in Wallace High School, Wallace Park and even in a recently opened shopping centre, Wallace Colonnades.
Wallace Park is a public park of twenty-five acres created on land presented to the people of Lisburn by Sir Richard Wallace in 1884.
The area was formerly the outer park for Castle House, his Lisburn residence. He also furnished it with a bandstand, entrance gates and lodges.
The pond was made from what was formerly a town reservoir.
There are mature trees and further planting has been undertaken.
Most of the grounds are grassed, the northern part consisting of tree-lined paths, and the southern end is occupied by sports fields.
Sir Richard died in Paris on the 20th July, 1890.
I last visited the excellent Wallace Collection in London during 2010, and it is well worth a detour.
First published in May, 2010.