Friday 12 January 2024

Benburb Manor


This is a scion of the Bruces of Stenhouse, a suburb of Edinburgh, springing from

SIR ALEXANDER BRUCE, of Airth, Stirlingshire, who wedded Janet, daughter of Alexander, 5th Lord Livingston, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
Robert, of Kinnaird;
John (Sir), of Kincavil;
Alexander (Sir), of Bangour;
Robert, of Garvel;
Marion; another daughter.
Sir Alexander died in 1600, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM BRUCE, who wedded Jean, daughter of John, 5th Lord Fleming, and sister to John, Earl of Wigtown, and had issue,
John, his heir, male line extinct;
William (Sir), of Stenhouse; cr a baronet;
PATRICK, of whom we treat.
The youngest and third surviving son,

PATRICK BRUCE, had the estate of Newton and Bothkenner, and espoused, in 1627, Janet, daughter of John Jackson, a merchant in Edinburgh, and had issue,
Patrick, dsp;
William, his heir;
MICHAEL, of whom we treat.
The youngest son,

THE REV MICHAEL BRUCE (1635-93), settled as a presbyterian minister at Killinchy, County Down, but was driven, with other ministers, thence into Scotland by Colonel Venables and the parliamentarians, for his fidelity to the King.

He returned to Killinchy, however, in 1669, after undergoing great hardships, and a long imprisonment in England and Scotland.

The Rev Michael Bruce married Jean, daughter of Robert Bruce, of Kinnaird (and sister of Colonel Robert Bruce, of Kinnaird, and of the Life Guards of CHARLES I, who died of wounds received at Worcester); he suffered much persecution of religious grounds; and had issue,
JAMES, his heir;
He was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV JAMES BRUCE (c1660-1730), Minister of Killyleagh, County Down, who espoused, in 1685, Margaret, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel James Traill, of Tolychin, County Down, and had issue,
MICHAEL, his heir;
Patrick (Rev), Minister of Killyleagh; ancestor of THE BRUCE BARONETS;
Mary; Eleanor; Magdalen.
The eldest son,

THE REV MICHAEL BRUCE (1686-1735), Minister of Holywood, County Down, married, in 1716, Mary Ker, and had issue,
The second, but eldest surviving son,

THE REV SAMUEL BRUCE (1722-67), Minister of Wood Street Presbyterian Church, Dublin, married, in 1751, Rose, daughter of Robert Rainey, of Magherafelt, County Londonderry, and had issue,
Michael, drowned at Carrickfergus, 1779;
WILLIAM, of whom presently;
Elizabeth; Mary; Eleanor.
The eldest surviving son,

THE REV WILLIAM BRUCE (1757-1841), Minister of First Presbyterian Church, Belfast (whose portrait hangs in the Linenhall Library, Belfast), wedded Susannah, daughter of Robert Hutton, and had issue,
SAMUEL, his heir;
William (Rev), Minister of 1st Presbyterian Church, Belfast;
Eliza; Emily; Maria; Susannah.
The eldest son,

SAMUEL BRUCE (1789-1845), of Thorndale, County Antrim, wedded Annette, daughter of James Ferguson, of White Park, County Antrim, and had issue,
William Robert, of Rockford, County Dublin;
JAMES, of whom we treat;
Samuel, of Norton Hall, Campden, Gloucestershire.
The second son,

JAMES BRUCE JP DL (1835-1917), of Benburb, County Tyrone, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1886, married, in 1877, Mary, daughter of Dr William Thompson, of Lisburn, and widow of George Mitchell, though the marriage was without issue.

Mrs Bruce dsp 1893.

Benburb Manor (NLI, R French/Lawrence Collection)

THE MANOR HOUSE, Benburb, lies between Armagh and Dungannon in County Tyrone.

It was built in 1888-90, to the designs of the architect William Henry Lynn, for James Bruce, a Belfast businessman who had bought the Benburb estate from the Viscount Powerscourt a few years previously.

In order to make way for the new house Bruce had to demolish many of the dwellings on the south side of the village’s main street, including Benburb House, a large residence previously occupied by a Mr Brush, Lord Powerscourt's agent.

The new dwelling (which is generally similar in style to other Lynn compositions of this period, such as Riddel Hall and Campbell College), was constructed by the Belfast firm of James Henry & Sons.

Benburb Manor (NLI, Robert French/Lawrence Collection)

James Bruce died childless in 1917 and the manor house and remaining lands (307 acres in all) were sold to a consortium of three men, Robert Pollock and James Cooper of Enniskillen and James Smith of Liverpool.

Soon Cooper sold out to Pollock and Smith to William Todd, who was in partnership with Robert Boyd.

They then bought out Pollock’s share and planned to turn the house into a hotel, but by 1935 Todd was declared bankrupt and much of the outlying, remaining lands were sold.

The building appears to have remained vacant until the beginning of the 2nd World War, when it was requisitioned by the War Office for use as a military hospital.

When the war ended Boyd put the estate up for sale, and in 1946 it was acquired for by the Catholic Parish of Clonfeacle for £12,000.

Local clergy originally intended the building to be used as an orphanage or a collegiate, but in 1949 they sold it (for £26,000) to an American branch of The Servite Fathers.

The Order retains the property to this day.

In the 1950s the large great hall extension was added to the west end of the house, on the site of a large conservatory or greenhouse.

The south wing of the stable yard was rebuilt at this time, too.

James Bruce built a new police station in the village, the Post Office and a number of houses, one of which is the present Church of Ireland rectory.


In the 1980s the Servites decided to release the buildings, which had been used by the students, for use by the wider community.

A new community group, the Benburb Centre, was established in 1985.

The Benburb Centre is a registered charity and has become a company limited by guarantee.

It is managed by a voluntary Board, composed of representatives of both communities.

Benburb was originally a Plantation period demesne incorporating a 17th century bawn set on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Blackwater River.

It had been built from 1611 on the site of an earlier castle by Sir Richard Wingfield, 1st Viscount Powerscourt.


William Haldane (1858-1929) was the head gardener at the Manor for about thirty years.

While waiting for a house to be prepared for him in the village, he lived for a short while in the cottage within the walls of the manor-house.

The village house was a substantial three-storey affair, now demolished, more in keeping with the landscape gardener/architect that he was, though the term was not in common parlance at  the time.

William's youngest son was born in Benburb in 1910 (the last of eleven children) and remembers walking with Mr Bruce in the greenhouses and being given a peach to eat.

His trademark was Golden Yew, which he is said to have planted in prominent positions in every garden he developed, with one over the family grave in St Mark's parish church, Armagh.


The main estates of the Wingfields, Viscounts Powerscourt, were based on the lands granted to Richard, 1st Viscount of the 1st creation.

As part of the plantation of Ulster he received 2,000 acres in County Tyrone, including the Benburb estate.

The demesne features mature trees and lawns; a hermitage; pinetum; walled garden and glasshouses disused across the road.

Gate lodges: east lodge, 1887, also by Lynn; and West Lodge.

First published in January, 2012.

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