Friday, 4 March 2016

Springhill House

THE FAMILY OF LENOX-CONYNGHAM OWNED 943 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY LONDONDERRY

COLONEL WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM, of Ayrshire, was settled in the townland of Ballydrum, in which Springhill is situated, in 1609.
Springhill was conveyed by the Salters' Company to the Conyngham family  in 1657. 
The property indenture was between Colonel Cunningham and Henry Finch, an alderman of Londonderry, arranging "the town, village, hamlet, place, baliboe or parcel of land called Ballydrum [Springhill] in the parish of Ardtra [Ardtrae]" - 350 acres in all, for the sum of £200. 
The family of LENOX was settled in Londonderry during the reign of JAMES I.
Colonel Cunningham's son,

WILLIAM CONYNGHAM, known as "Good Will", espoused Ann, daughter of Arthur Upton, of Castle Norton (later Castle Upton), County Antrim, by his wife Dorothy, daughter of Colonel Michael Beresford, of Coleraine.
He was obliged, in a marriage document or settlement, "to build a convenient house of lime and stone, two stories high ... with necessary office houses ..." etc for his bride.
William "Good Will" Conyngham died in 1721, and was succeeded by his nephew,

GEORGE BUTLE CONYNGHAM, of Spring Hill, married, in 1721, Anne, daughter of Dr Upton Peacocke, of Cultra, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
DAVID, successor to his brother;
John, died unmarried, 1775;
Anne, m in 1745, Clotworthy Lenox, of Londonderry; mother of GEORGE.
Mr Conyngham died in 1765, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM CONYNGHAM (1723-84), of Spring Hill.

In early life, he entered the Army, and served with great distinction with his regiment, the Black Horse, on the Continent, but on the death of his father he returned.

He wedded, in 1775, Jane, only daughter of James Hamilton, of Brown Hall, County Donegal, and widow of John Hamilton, of Castlefin, in the same county.

Mr Conyngham, who sat in parliament for the borough of Dundalk, died without issue in 1784, and was succeeded by his brother,

DAVID CONYNGHAM, who also dsp, when, according to the will of WILLIAM CONYNGHAM, the estates devolved upon his nephew,

GEORGE LENOX (1752-1816), of Spring Hill, who adopted the surname of CONYNGHAM.

He espoused firstly, in 1779, Jane, eldest daughter of Jane Conyngham, by her first marriage with John Hamilton, of Castlefin, and by her had an only son,
WILLIAM LENOX, of whom hereafter.
Mr Lenox-Conyngham wedded secondly, in 1794, Olivia, fourth daughter of William Irvine, of Castle Irvine, County Fermanagh, and by her had issue,
George, chief clerk in the Foreign Secretary's Office;
Sophia, m the Hon A G Stuart, of Co Tyrone;
Anna, m C A Nicholson, of Balrath, Co Meath;
Harriett; Eliza.
The only son by the first marriage,

WILLIAM LENOX-CONYNGHAM JP DL (1792-1858), of Spring Hill, High Sheriff of Londonderry, 1828, and of Tyrone, 1818, espoused, in 1817, Charlotte Melosina, daughter of the Rt Hon John Staples, of Lissan, and by her had issue,
WILLIAM FITZWILLIAM (Sir), his heir;
John Staples Molesworth, 1831-51;
Harriett Rebecca Frances;
Jane Hamilton;
Charlotte Melosina.
The eldest son,

SIR WILLIAM FITZWILLIAM LENOX-CONYNGHAM KCB JP DL (1824-1906), of Spring Hill, High Sheriff, 1859, and of Tyrone, 1868, Hon. Col. of the Londonderry Militia, Knight Commander, Order of the Bath, 1881, married, in 1856, Laura Calvert, daughter of George Arbuthnot, of Elderslie, Surrey, and had issue,
WILLIAM ARBUTHNOT, his heir;
George Hugh;
John Staples Molesworth;
Arthur Beresford;
George Ponsonby;
Edward Fraser;
Hubert Maxwell;
Elizabeth Mary; Charlotte Melosina;
Laura Eleanor; Harriet Alice Katherine.
Sir William was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM ARBUTHNOT LENOX-CONYNGHAM OBE JP DL (1857-1938), of Spring Hill, High Sheriff, 1909, major, Worcestershire Regiment, served in S. Africa, 1900-01, who married, in 1899, Mina Ethel, younger daughter and co-heir of James Corry Jones Lowry DL, of Rockdale, County Tyrone, and had issue,
WILLIAM LOWRY, his heir;
James Desmond, b 1905;
Wilhelmina Diana, b 1902.
The elder son,

WILLIAM LOWRY LENOX-CONYNGHAM JP (1903-57), of Spring Hill, captain, Royal Artillery, Lord-Lieutenant of County Londonderry, 1940-57, county commandant, Ulster Special Constabulary, died unmarried and was succeeded by his brother,

JAMES DESMOND LENOX-CONYNGHAM OBE JP DL (1905-71).
William Arbuthnot Lenox-Conyngham died in 1938 and the estate passed to his elder son, Captain William Lowry Lenox-Conyngham, who led the local Home Guard during the 2nd World War as a result of being invalided out of the National Defence Corps in 1940.
Realising that the finances of the family were now in terminal decline and recognising that neither he, nor his brother, had any children to carry on the line, Mr Lenox-Conyngham entered into negotiations with the National Trust in 1956 with a view to handing over the house.
This had followed a chance meeting with Nancy, Countess of Enniskillen, who had presented Florence Court to the Trust the previous year. In the event, he signed his will bequeathing the house and estate to the National Trust only three days before his death in 1957. 


LINEAGE OF LENOX
The family of LENOX settled in Londonderry during the reign of JAMES I.

JAMES LENOX, who distinguished himself during the siege of Londonderry, sat in parliament for that city from 1703-13.

He died in 1723, and was father of

JOHN LENOX, of the city of Londonderry, who wedded, at Castle Upton, in 1707, Rebecca Upton, and had issue three sons.

The second son,

CLOTWORTHY LENOX, of the city of Londonderry, wedded, in 1745, Anne, daughter of George Conyngham, of Spring Hill, and by her had, with other issue, a son,

GEORGE, successor to his uncle, William Conyngham, and father of WILLIAM LENOX-CONYNGHAM.


SPRINGHILL HOUSE, near Moneymore, County Londonderry, is a fine demesne for the well preserved house of ca 1680, acquired by the National Trust in 1957.

William Conynghan, who had land in Counties Armagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, purchased 350 acres in the townland of Ballindrum in 1666.

His son, "Good Will" Conyngham, built the first house at Springhill, which remains the core of the present house,
a convenient dwelling house of lime and stone, two stories high, with necessary office houses, gardens and orchards.
Tree-ring dating of the attic roof timbers suggest a date of ca 1697, and the detached wings forming the forecourt date from the same decade.

This late 17th century house comprised seven bays, one room deep, with the spiral stair and the two detached wings forming the forecourt.

Colonel William Conyngham inherited the property in 1765 and renovated the house, creating the gun-room, providing the decoration in the hall.

He added the wings with the canted bays, that to the south-west being a new dining room; and probably added the new grand staircase.

In 1788, George Lenox-Conyngham inherited the estate.

His son added the present dining-room in 1820; while the former dining-room became the present drawing-room.

The fireplace in the new dining-room, said to have been imported by the Earl Bishop (a friend of the family and who visited and stayed at Springhill), must have been in another room of the house before its present position; or else it was purchased later.

The Ordnance Survey Memoirs describe Springhill when William Lenox-Conyngham was in residence:-
The house, which is rather low and old fashioned in its appearance, is said to have been built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, though it bears no characteristic of the architecture of that age. It is two storey and from each end a wing extends forwards forming three sides of a sort of court ….. the ornamental and pleasure grounds are extensive and well laid out, as is also the garden. The house was built in 1658 by Colonel William Conyngham, the wings about the year 1780”.
There are notable mature trees, including some said to have survived from the ancient forests of the area. Sampson wrote in 1802 of the
… finest trees in this county (Londonderry) … sweet chestnuts, yews, silver firs, stone pines, balm of Gilead, firs, beech, oak, ash, with many other varieties of forest trees and shrubs, have arrived on this favourite spot on the highest state of beauty, size and station.
Straight avenues reflect the formal layout typical of parks of the 17th century.


The south-eastern beech avenue is shown on the map of 1722.

It was felled in the 1970s and replanted as a beech walk in 1984.

It leads gently uphill to a tower, which was possibly a windmill stump transformed into a garden folly in 1791.

The north-east front comprised orchards at that time and now there are lawns.

There is a deep shelter belt on the west side of the demesne.

Former outbuildings near the house have been used as a series of ‘walled gardens’ and have been prettily planted up since the 1970s.

The wall of the barn to the north-west supports a Macartney rose, the original plant of which was said to have been planted by the 1st Earl Macartney, having been brought by him from China in the late 18th century.

The traditional walled garden, dating from the late 18th century, appears to be used as allotments today.

A note in a NT pamphlet describes its usage as a traditional fruit, vegetable and flower garden, the layout of which was altered in the 20th century to take glasshouses and fruit trees.

There are two gate lodges: one of ca 1790 and a later one of ca 1845.

First published in February, 2012.

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