Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Hillsborough Castle


This family, of Norman extraction, was originally called de la Montagne.

In the reign of EDWARD III, its members were styled Hill, alias DE LA MONTAGNE; but in succeeding ages they were known by the name of HILL only. 

SIR MOYSES HILL (c1554-1630), Knight, descended from the family of Hill, of Devonshire, two members of which were judges of England in the beginning of the 15th century, went over to Ulster, as a military officer, with the Earl of Essex, in 1573, to suppress O'Neill's rebellion.

Sir Moyses was subsequently nominated governor of Olderfleet Castle, an important fortress at the period, as it protected Larne harbour from the invasion of the Scots.

He represented County Antrim in parliament in 1613, and having distinguished himself during a long life, both as a soldier and as a magistrate, died in 1630, and was succeeded by his elder son, PETER HILL; but we pass to his younger son, ARTHUR HILL, who eventually inherited the estates, upon the demise of Peter's only son, Francis Hill, of Hill Hall, without male issue.

The said

RT HON ARTHUR HILL (c1601-63), Constable of Hillsborough Fort, County Down, was colonel of a regiment in the service of CHARLES I, and he sat in Parliament under the usurpation of CROMWELL, as well as after the Restoration, when he was sworn of the Privy Council.

Colonel Hill married firstly, Anne, daughter of Sir Richard Bolton, LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND, by whom he had, with other issue, Moses, who wedded his cousin Anne, eldest daughter of Francis Hill, of Hill Hall, and left three daughters.

He espoused secondly, Mary, daughter of Sir William Parsons, one of the Lords Justices of Ireland, and had three other sons and a daughter; the eldest of whom,

THE RT HON WILLIAM HILL, MP for Ballyshannon, 1661, succeeded to the estates at the decease of his half-brother, Moses, without male issue.

Mr Hill, a member of the Privy Council to CHARLES II and JAMES II, married firstly, Eleanor, daughter of the Most Rev Michael Boyle, Lord Archbishop of Armagh, LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND, by whom he had an only son, MICHAEL.

Mr Hill wedded secondly, Mary, eldest daughter of Sir Marcus Trevor, who was created Viscount Dungannon, 1662, for his signal gallantry in wounding OLIVER CROMWELL at Marston Moor, and had two other sons.

He died ca 1693, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE RT HON MICHAEL HILL (1672-99), of Hillsborough, Privy Counsellor, MP for Saltash, Hillsborough, 1695-9, Lord-Lieutenant of County Down, who espoused Anne, daughter and heir of Sir John Trevor, of Brynkinalt, Denbighshire, Master of the Rolls in England, and First Lord Commissioner of the Great Seal, and had two sons,
TREVOR, his heir;
Arthur, cr 1st Viscount Dungannon.
Mr Hill was succeeded by his elder son,

THE RT HON TREVOR HILL (1693-1742), of Hillsborough, MP for Hillsborough, 1713-14, County Down, 1715-17, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1717, in the dignities of Baron Hill, of Kilwarlin, and Viscount Hillsborough, both in County Down.

His lordship married Mary, eldest daughter and co-heir of Anthony Rowe, of Muswell Hill, Middlesex; and dying in 1742, left (with a daughter, Anne, wedded to John, 1st Earl of Moira), an only son, his successor,

WILLS (1718-93), 2nd Viscount; created, in 1751, Viscount Kilwarlin and Earl of Hillsborough, with remainder, in default of male issue, to his uncle Arthur Hill; and enrolled amongst the peers of Great Britain, in 1756, as Baron Harwich, in Essex.

His lordship was advanced to an English viscountcy and earldom, in 1772, in the dignities of Viscount Fairford and Earl of Hillsborough.

Lord Hillsborough was further advanced, in 1789, to the dignity of a marquessate, as MARQUESS OF DOWNSHIRE.

His lordship was a Privy Counsellor, and, in 1763, he was constituted First Commissioner of Trade and Plantations; in 1776, appointed Joint Postmaster-General; and in 1768, nominated Secretary of State for the Colonies, which post he resigned in 1772.

In 1779, he was re-appointed Secretary of State, and became one of the leaders of the administration which had to bear the unpopularity of the American war.

His lordship was Registrar of the High Court of Chancery in Ireland.

He married firstly, in 1747, the Lady Margaretta FitzGerald, daughter of Robert, 19th Earl of Kildare, and sister of James, 1st Duke of Leinster, and had surviving issue,
ARTHUR, his successor;
Mary Amelia; Charlotte.
His lordship wedded secondly, Mary, 1st Baroness Stawell, daughter and heir of Edward, 4th Baron Stawell, and widow of the Rt Hon Henry Legge, son of the 1st Earl of Dartmouth, by whom he had no issue.

He was succeeded by his son,

ARTHUR, 2nd Marquess (1753-1801), who wedded, in 1786, Mary, daughter of the Hon Martin Sandys, and his wife Mary, daughter of William Trumbull, of Easthampstead Park, Berkshire, and had issue,
ARTHUR BLUNDELL, his successor;
Arthur Moyses William, 2nd Baron Sandys;
Arthur Marcus Cecil, 3rd Baron Sandys;
Arthur Augustus Edwin;
George Augusta;
Charlotte; Mary.
His lordship died in 1801, and Lady Downshire having subsequently succeeded to the estates of her uncle Edwin, Baron Sandys, was created Baroness Sandys, with remainder to her second and younger sons successively.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

The heir apparent is the present holder's son, Edmund Robin Arthur Hill, styled Earl of Hillsborough.

The Downshire Papers are deposited at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

In 1870, Lord Downshire owned 2,070 acres in County Antrim, 3,717 acres in the vicinity of Carrickfergus, 73,602 acres of County Down, 1,338 in County Kildare, 101 in County Kilkenny, 13,679 in the King's County, 15,766 in County Wicklow, and 5,000 acres at Easthampstead Park in Berkshire.

These estates generated an income of £80,000 per annum, or £3.6 million in today's money.

The Downshires also maintained a grand residence in London, Downshire House (above) at 24 Belgrave Square, now part of the Spanish embassy, it is thought.

HILLSBOROUGH CASTLE, County Down, has been described by the late Sir Charles Brett as, "by far the largest and grandest house in north County Down."

It was, for 150 years, the home of the Marquesses of Downshire and has provided accommodation for royalty, ministers and high-level dignitaries from home and abroad, as well as being a venue for less formal occasions, such as charitable events.

Moyses Hill obtained extensive estates through conquest of Irish chieftains and built a fortified house at Hill Hall in the early 1600s.

His younger son, Arthur Hill, was the first of the family to live at Hillsborough and reconstructed Hillsborough Fort which had been destroyed in the 1641 rebellion.

The village of Hillsborough was given borough status after the restoration in 1660 and had a corporation and the right to elect two MPs to the Irish parliament.

The village subsequently became the residence of the Hill family, who increased in prominence and prosperity, Trevor Hill being elevated to the peerage as Baron Hill and Viscount Hillsborough in 1717.

In the late 17th century Trevor Hill built a house close to the terrace of the present Castle.

No drawings or plans survive, but Harris described it as "a noble large house built within the area of a regular fortification."

This house was burnt down in an accidental fire in the late 1730s.

Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire (1718-93), built a mansion house to the south-east of the present house, the remains of which are still present.

It is evident from Mrs Delaney’s observations of 1758 that Lord Hillsborough had in mind the construction of a new mansion at that time, but an estate map of 1771 shows only a schematic representation of a terrace of houses on the western side of the square.

The 1st Marquess was Secretary of State for the Colonies during the American independence struggle, and Hillsborough was visited by Benjamin Franklin in January, 1772.

Unfortunately Franklin and Hill disliked each other, Hill being unable to countenance American independence.

GEORGE III later blamed Lord Hillsborough for the loss of America.

Arthur, 2nd Marquess (1753-1801), was able to make additions and alterations to the house due to the wealth of his heiress wife and again engaged Brettingham, who added a library to the south-east of the original house, and then a thirteen-bay south front ca 1795.

An estate map of about 1800 shows the house with its new south front, and the wing to the north that was present on the 1780 map, now gone.

The 3rd Marquess (1788-1845), oversaw further changes to the estate.

The main road to Moira ran across the south front of the house at this time and it is clear that by 1810, Lord Hillsborough was planning to re-route the road in order to enhance the appearance of his new house.

Lord Downshire presided over alterations and additions to the house by Thomas Duff in the late 1820s and by William Sands, who was resident in the town during the works and for the remainder of his life, in the 1840s.

Plans made by Henry Murray in 1833 and 1839, showing that between these two dates the library was extended and given a giant portico.

William Sands, working with his relative James Sands, made several changes to the house and demesne in the 1840s, giving the house much of the appearance that it assumes today.

The south front was extended to the east and a large Ionic portico added.

In order to achieve symmetry, a single bay was demolished to the west.

In 1846, the Parliamentary Gazetteer set out both what were perceived to be the shortcomings of the house at this time, and its charm:-
“Criticism has remarked that the...beauty of the town would have been greater if...the mansion, with its picturesque home-view, had been removed a little farther from the public road. 
Yet whatever may be said about the demesne, the town acquires an almost aristocratic air from the proximity of the mansion and seems as if caressed between the lawn and the park.”
In 1867 it was recorded that a new billiards-room had been added to the mansion house, a two-storey room of cut stone measuring approximately 20' x 17'.

The 5th and 6th Marquesses tenuous connections with Hillsborough, preferring to live elsewhere.

During the last quarter of the 19th century, Lord Arthur Hill, younger brother of the 5th Marquess, lived at the Castle, managing the estates and representing County Down in parliament.

The 6th Marquess (1871-1918), who succeeded to the title in 1874 while still a small child, was easily the largest landowner in Ulster at the end of the 19th century.

However, at the beginning of the 20th century, his estates began to be sold off under the Land Acts.

Given the huge reduction in Lord Downshire's tenanted holdings in County Down, Lord Arthur retired to his London residence.

As a consequence of this, the house was let to Sir Thomas Dixon, son of Sir Daniel Dixon, a former Lord Mayor of Belfast.

Sir Thomas lived at Hillsborough Castle from 1910-19, when he purchased Wilmont, near Dunmurry.

In 1922, the Castle was purchased by the Ministry of Works in London as a residence for the His Excellency the Governor of Northern Ireland.

Following three years of preparation, the 3rd Duke of Abercorn took up residence at the new Government House in 1925.

It would seem that the Ministry of Works in London (as the Department of the Environment) retained responsibility for upkeep of the fabric of the building until 1990, when ownership passed to the Northern Ireland Office.

Following a fire in 1934, the house was refurbished internally and the gatescreen (from Richhill Castle) was added to the market square entrance.

The 3rd Duke of Abercorn was succeeded as Governor by the Earl Granville, the Lord Wakehurst, the Lord Erskine of Rerrick, and the Lord Grey of Naunton.

The office of Governor was abolished when direct rule was introduced in 1972.

In 1987, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Tom King MP, set up a committee to advise on ‘the structure, decoration, furnishing and maintenance of Hillsborough Castle and the planting and maintenance of its grounds’.

It was felt that the 1930s refurbishment of the house had not been entirely successful and the committee concluded that the house should reflect ‘the appearance and atmosphere of an Irish Country Mansion’ while being decorated in a manner befitting its ceremonial purposes.

John O’Connell of Dublin was appointed as architect and interior design consultant and the refurbishment was completed in 1993.

Since 2014, Hillsborough Castle has been managed by Historic Royal Palaces.

The Downshires also had a holiday home, Murlough House, near Dundrum, in the same county.

Lord Downshire sold Hillsborough Castle to the Government about 1921, I think, and Murlough remained with the family till the 1940s or 50s.

There are references to the building of demesne walls around the "Large Park" at Hillsborough in 1668.

This was the site of a former house and surrounding ornamental grounds, now much altered.

 It contains a lake, parkland, an artillery fort, mature trees and forest planting.

The Small Park, on the west side of the village of Hillsborough, is the site of the present house of ca 1797.

This area was totally enclosed by walls during the 1840s, after the main road to Moira was re-routed away from the house.

The property has had the advantage of being in the hands of one family until the 1920s, when it was acquired by HMG.

Atkinson, in 1823, observed that the Hills paid more
‘… attention to the profitable results of a good estate, than to the fanciful decorations of a picturesque landscape.’
Yet handsome lakes were created in both Parks and early 19th century maps show extensive walks, rides and tree- planting.

The Small Park is described in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of 1837 as, 
‘… beautifully wooded and the walks tastefully laid out. The garden is extensive, in it are green houses, hot houses and a pinery.’ 
The ‘garden’ referred to is the walled garden, which was cultivated until the 1970s.

It is now grassed but retains a summer house.

After the enclosure of the Small Park it was further enhanced in the vicinity of the present house.

Terracing was added to the south front, the Yew Walk going west towards Lady Alice’s Temple and the Lime Walk with north-south orientation leading to a pinetum belonging to the late 19th century improvements.

There are some notable plants, including a very large Rhododendron arboretum hybrid, which is in the Guinness Book of Records.

An impressive feature is the Downshire Monument of 1848.

Following the departure of the Downshire family, the Large Park, of almost 1,000 acres, was divided for use by the Department of Agriculture for NI, half for farming and half for forestry.

The latter part (northern) is open to the public and both areas have been developed as such for the last seventy years.

The Small Park has been used by the former Governors of Northern Ireland and latterly by Secretaries of State.

Some have had an interest and impact on the gardens, such as Lord and Lady Wakehurst, who developed a glen on the west side and Lady Granville, who created a Rose Garden.

The cast-iron gates from Richhill House at the main entrance to the Castle, are a feature.

Other buildings of note are:- Lodge and Guard House; Ice House; and Garden Store.

Boundary walls and gates in the "Small Park" are included with the house.

The house and grounds of the Small Park are private, used by the Royal Family and as the official residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; and sometimes open for official functions.

There is public access to the northern half of the Large Park.

The Most Honourable Arthur Francis Nicholas Wills [Hill] is the 9th and present Marquess of Downshire, Earl of Hillsborough, Viscount Kilwarlin, Viscount Fairford, Baron Hill of Kilwarlin and Baron Harwich.

Lord and Lady Downshire live with their family at Clifton Castle, near Ripon in Yorkshire.

In 2005, when Royal Ascot re-located to York race-course, the Daily Telegraph published this about the Castle:
"Clifton Castle, a Georgian country house in Masham belonging to the Marquess and Marchioness of Downshire - or Nick and Janey to guests - has seven bedrooms and sleeps 14. It costs £40,000."
That was for one week, incidentally.
*Select bibliography: NI Department of the Environment Historic Buidlings Section; Downshire arms courtesy of European Heraldry.  First published in July, 2010.

1 comment :

Mark Maxwell said...

The Hill family retained ownership of Murlough House much later than the 1950s. Lord Downshire retained still lived there when I was a boy and I was born at the end of the sixties. Indeed I can remember him passing the time of day with my cousins and I in what must have been the early 1980s.