Thursday, 3 March 2016

Finnebrogue House

THE PERCEVAL-MAXWELLS OWNED 8,469 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY DOWN

GEORGE PERCEVAL (1635-75) was the youngest son of Sir Philip Perceval, Knight, the distinguished statesman (great-grandfather of John, 1st Earl of Egmont), by Catherine Usher his wife, daughter of Arthur Usher and granddaughter of Sir William Usher, Clerk of the Council and Registrar of the Prerogative Court, Dublin.

He married Mary, daughter and heir of William Crofton, of Temple House, County Sligo, and by her had issue,
Philip, of Temple House, his heir;
WILLIAM, of whom we treat;
Charles;
Catherine.
Mr Perceval was drowned near Holyhead, on his voyage to England, with the 2nd Earl of Meath and other persons of distinction.

His second son,

THE VERY REV WILLIAM PERCEVAL (1671-1734), Archdeacon of Cashel and Dean of Emly, wedded, in 1708, Catherine, daughter of Henry Prittie, of Silvermines, County Tipperary.

By his wife he left issue,
Kene (Rev), Vicar of Powerscourt & Castle Knock;
WILLIAMof whom presently;
Charles (Rev), Rector of Mitchelstown;
Catherine.
The second son,

WILLIAM PERCEVAL (1711-84), barrister-at-law, wedded firstly, in 1838, Elizabeth, daughter of John Croker, of Dublin. She dsp 1739.

He married secondly, in 1748, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Ward, and by her had issue,
Charles (Rev);
William;
ROBERTof whom we treat.
The youngest son,

ROBERT PERCEVAL (1756-1839), Physician-General to HM Forces in Ireland during Lord Talbot's viceroyalty, and professor of chemistry at Trinity College, Dublin, espoused, in 1785, Anne, eldest daughter of John Brereton, of Rathgilbert.

He had issue by his wife an only child,

THE REV WILLIAM PERCEVAL (1787-1880), of Kilmore Hill, County Waterford, and Annefield, County Dublin.

Mr Perceval wedded, in 1809, Anne, eldest daughter of John Waring Maxwell, of Finnebrogue, County Down, descended from a younger son of the Very Rev Robert Maxwell, Dean of Armagh, from whose eldest son, Robert, springs the noble house of FARNHAM.

He died in 1880, having by her had issue,
ROBERT, of Finnebrogue & Groomsport;
John Maxwell, CB (1814-1900), of Dillon House, Downpatrick; a general in the army;
Richard, of Kilmore Hill, Waterford;
Spencer;
William;
Charles Frederick;
Anne Sarah; Maria Dorothea; Caroline; Madelina.
Mr Perceval's eldest son,

ROBERT PERCEVAL-MAXWELL JP DL (1813-1905), of Finnebrogue and Groomsport House, and Moore Hill, County Waterford, wedded, in 1839, Helena Anne, daughter of William Moore, of Moore Hall, County Waterford, son of the Hon William Moore, second brother of the 1st Earl Mount Cashell, and by her had issue,
JOHN WILLIAM, his heir;
William John, of Moore Hill, Tallow;
Robert;
Stephen Richard Nassau;
Henry Spencer;
Mary Elizabeth; Madelina Dorothea;
Helena Anne; Harriette Louisa;
ISABELLA MARIA, of Groomsport House;
ANNA CAROLINE, of Groomsport House;
Alicia Catherine.
He was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN WILLIAM PERCEVAL-MAXWELL (1840-75), of Tyrella House, County Down, High Sheriff of County Down, 1873, who married, in 1868, Selina Frances Imogene, eldest daughter of David Stewart Ker, of Montalto, County Down.

He dvp 1875, leaving issue,
ROBERT DAVID, his successor;
Anna Violet Madelina (1875-1902).
Mr Robert Perceval-Maxwell was succeeded at his decease by his grandson,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL THE RT HON ROBERT DAVID PERCEVAL-MAXWELL DSO JP DL (1870-1932), of Finnebrogue and Groomsport House, who espoused, in 1895, Edith Grace, daughter of Dr Henry Haswell Head, and by her had issue,
JOHN ROBERT, his heir;
Richard Henry;
Patrick Edward;
Brian Stephen David.
Colonel Perceval-Maxwell was succeeded by his eldest son,

MAJOR JOHN ROBERT PERCEVAL-MAXWELL DL (1896-1963), of Finnebrogue,
a farmer, breeder of Shorthorns and Herefords, and an active figure in the political and cultural life of Northern Ireland. He was a member of both the NI House of Commons and Senate; and from 1945-49 was Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce. He was also a founder member of the NI Regional Committee of the National Trust in 1936 and for a time the NI Government nominee on the Council of the NT in London; DL of County Down in 1935; High Sheriff, 1937.

The Perceval-Maxwell Papers are held at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.


FINNEBROGUE HOUSE, near Downpatrick, County Down, dates from at least the early 17th century and occupies a beautiful situation in undulating drumlin country by the meandering shores of Strangford Lough.

It was known to be in the possession of the Maxwell family in 1635, though the present house, an H-plan block, is basically late-17th century in date, with a central, winged range projecting at the front and back.


The house is of two storeys over a basement, with an attic storey in the side and rear elevations.

The entrance front is of five bays, with two additional bays at the end of each wing.

The upper storey of the central range is treated as a piano nobile, with higher windows than those below.

Following a fire in 1795, this house was subject to a comprehensive restoration by Dorothea Maxwell.

The original high-pitched roof was replaced by a roof that was lower, though still high by late 18th century standards; late-Georgian sash windows were inserted. Some of the internal partition walls are of peat or turf.

The surrounding parkland was the focus of an extensive late 17th century and early 18th century geometric designed landscape.

Typically, this layout was focused upon the house, which stands on an elevated position, with a north-south axis view to Down Cathedral and Inch Parish Church.

A series of symmetrical enclosures, comprising courts, gardens and orchards, would have surrounded the building, including an entrance court on the north side.

Straight tree-lined avenues were aligned on the house while the demesne included regularly disposed 'fair plantations', mentioned in 1744 by Walter Harris in The Ancient and Present State of County Down.

Relics of these early formal features include the ‘Fairy Gates’ (ca 1680), which may not be in situ, and presently lie on the south side of the demesne.

The formal geometric layout was replaced by the present ‘naturalistic’ landscape park in the late 18th century by Colonel John Maxwell, of Falkland, and John Waring Maxwell.

The landscape designer has not yet been established.

New surrounding shelter belts and screens were planted, the woodlands considerably extended, an expansive 27 acre lake was dug and carefully disposed clumps and isolated tree specimens were added to the open meadows.

Main gate lodge

The old, straight, tree-lined avenues were swept away and, in their place, a new sinuous drive was laid down to approach the house from the south-east; its gate lodge was built in the 1880s by Fennell.

Additional plantings were added to the parkland in early Victorian times while, at this time, the demesne was also lavishly developed as a model farm.

The parkland has traditionally had tree cover on the north and west sides to protect it from the prevailing winds.

The ornamental and productive gardens lie to the north of the house, while the Pleasure Garden immediately behind the house had lawns, a summer house and some exotic planting.

The gardens fell into disrepair in the latter part of the 20th century. By then, most of the land beyond the gardens was in separate ownership.

The walled garden has a date stone, ‘John Waring Maxwell, Esq, 20 February 1802’; it is not cultivated and the glasshouses have gone.

A gardener’s house, bothy and offices remain. An outer walled garden had modern glasshouses.

The demesne and the buildings within are under separate ownership.

Finnebrogue House has been reputedly the oldest inhabited house in Northern Ireland.

The estate, bordered by the Quoile river and Strangford Lough, also included the ruins of the 12th-century Cistercian Abbey of Inch.

It was let in perpetuity to Henry Maxwell by Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Ardglass, in 1628.

But this must have been in recognition of an assignment to Maxwell of an earlier 'deed of feoffment' [sic] forever granted in 1606 by Lord Ardglass's father, Edward Lord Cromwell, to a Londoner who at some point between 1606 and 1628 had transferred his interest to Maxwell.

It is uncertain whether there was a house on the site at this time, or when the original house was built; but the Maxwells do not seem to have taken up residence there until the late 17th century.
The Maxwell estates in County Down at the time of Maxwell's death in 1869 comprised, according to Catharine Wilson, 8,469 statute acres, including the Groomsport or barony of Ards estate, consisting of Ballycroghan, Ballygrainey, Balloo, Ballyholme, Ballymaconnell, Ballymagee, Gransha and Groomsport, with some urban property in nearby Bangor.
Finnebrogue, Catharine Wilson states, was, at this time,
... surrounded by 1300 acres of wooded demesne ... . Groomsport House in the coastal village of Groomsport ... [had been] built as a jointure house for Mrs Waring Maxwell, but was largely used as a summer home by the Maxwells [after her death in 1842]. ...
Groomsport House

Henry Maxwell's great-grandson, John Waring Maxwell of Finnebrogue, built Groomsport House, a Tudor-Revival finialed and turreted stone villa, at a cost of about £6,000 in 1849.


Maxwell was MP for Downpatrick. He also built the parish church in Groomsport in 1842, which was designed by the famous Belfast architect, Charles Lanyon. 

In 1869 the Maxwell income from their estates was £13,881, or £1.2 million in today's money.

First published in July, 2010.

1 comment :

Gareth Russell said...

Fantastic post. I've linked to it. I enjoyed it very much.