Saturday, 19 December 2015

Belvoir House

West front

I am grateful to the Northern Ireland Forestry Service for providing me with photographs of Belvoir House, Newtownbreda, Belfast, which enables me to share my passion and fascination of Belvoir with others.
BELVOIR HOUSE was a large, three storey, mid-18th century mansion set in a demesne of 6,348 acres in 1876.

The top storey was treated as an attic, above the cornice.

It had a seven-bay front and a three-bay break-front centre with four giant Doric pilasters supporting a pediment, flanked by two oculi.

East front

There was a curved bow on the eastern side elevation.

At the apex of the pediment the Bateson baronets' coat-of-arms was prominently displayed, their crest being a bat's wing; and their motto Nocte Volamus.

The great mansion boasted an impressive staircase hall and the stairs had a cast-iron balustrade.

The original owners of Belvoir were the Hill-Trevors, Viscounts Dungannon, who, in turn, sold the estate to the Batesons, Barons Deramore.
Lord Dungannon's seat at Belvoir was probably the largest and grandest private dwelling in Belfast, and remained thus until its deplorable demolition. The only other possible contenders would have been Lord Donegall's Tudor-Revival pile at Ormeau Park; or Orangefield, residence of the Houston family of bankers.
Belvoir House was demolished on the 18th February, 1961, by the NI Forest Service.

The site is now the main car park.

Today the forest park extends to 185 acres.

Belvoir House was considered a candidate for the new Parliament of Northern Ireland as a possible seat of Government before the Stormont Estate was chosen.

Belvoir was also contemplated by HM Government as the official residence of the new Governor of Northern Ireland (Hillsborough Castle, or Government House as it became known, was chosen instead). 
The two governments felt that the surrounding demesne and parkland was too extensive at the time.

The picture at the very top shows the west entrance front, which was opposite the present stable-yard where the RSPB has its office.

The west side of the house was long, so the actual door entrance would have been beyond the stables (the rear courtyard buildings and the conservatory attached to the House, at ground floor level, cannot be seen in the picture).

North front

The picture immediately above shows the garden front with its portico, facing northwards towards the motte and the formal gardens below.

The Irish Aesthete has written about the house and posted several good images.

Ben Simon has published A Treasured Landscape: The Heritage Of Belvoir Park.

First published in May, 2009.


Sandy said...

Very interesting, as usual, Tim.

Rossetti's Wombat said...

Did the Duke of Wellington stay at Belvoir?

Chloe said...

Would the owners of Belvoir House have kept any animals? Chloe Gillen Age 9

Timothy Belmont said...

Hello Chloe,

Yes, they had a farm on the Belvoir estate which was quite close to the present stables.

They'd have farmed all kinds of livestock - cows, sheep, pigs, horses, hens, pheasant and a lot more!


Anonymous said...

as a boy i watched the beautiful house blow up

Jill Edwards said...

hello Timothy, I worked for the Hill-Trevor's, at Brynkinalt Hall, Chirk Clwyd until a few years ago, I still stay in contact with them, there is a picture of Belvoir house up stairs and rooms are named after the house, also the Dungannon rooms, Brynkinalt hall is just up the road from me, so are you The Lord Belmont, and do you have any contact with Ian hill-Trevor,

Timothy Belmont said...

Hi Jill,

I'm afraid I don't know the Hill-Trevors. I might have sent them a link to my article at one time, though.


David P Finney said...

The costs of upkeep must have been off putting to the government when they inherited the property, what with other pressing needs. Northern Ireland is still not self-sustaining (billions shortfall transfered from UK treasury). Regrettably, south of the border, many of these great houses were burnt to the ground during the troubles c1922, memories of oppression and famine still prevail.

Anonymous said...

The family vault still stands in what is now Belvoir Park GolfClub.Arthur Hill Trevor was buried here in 1771.The walled Bredagh graveyard surrounds the vault.The original graveyard is believed to be medieval,dating back to 1422.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim, do you know what the boundaries of the estate were when it stood at over 6000 acres?
John Greer

Timothy Belmont said...

Hi John,

The Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland has historic maps online which date from 1829 or so. You could have a look at them, though most of my acreages date from about 1870.


Unknown said...

Fascinating read. I know the area well, and have been studying Griffiths maps from the late 19th century - focusing on this area. I am trying to figure out what the small brick building below the motte was used for and if it was part of the estate services or other. I would expect there are some undiscovered remains of buildings within the forest area. Regards, Daniel

Anonymous said...

Daniel, the small brick building below the motte was an ice house, covering a brick lined deep pit which was filled with ice in the winter and used for storing meat. It is still there but inaccessible. When I was a boy at the end of the war it was wide open and I almost fell into this pit. The whole grounds were a play ground for us then, although we were always being chased by the military who occupied the house. We thought they would shoot us. Under the car park there are still cellars, accessible from the slope to the North. I recall there was an orchard just below the graveyard and below the orchard a walled garden, some of which is still visible. The graveyard, in which was the ancient Breda church, was still being used until after the war. Two of the last interments were Michael and Elizabeth Taylor just inside the gate when another Elizabeth Taylor was a new young film star. That gate is now locked by the golf club. Jack Smith.