THE MANOR OF FLORIDA WAS GRANTED BY KING CHARLES I, WITH MANORIAL RIGHTS AND ROYALTIES
This family, a branch of the ancient and ennobled line of the same name in Scotland, is stated to have gone from Berwickshire to Ulster during the period of the civil wars in Scotland.
Following the destruction of the family papers, the lineage cannot be traced accurately.
Nevertheless, it is known that many years after the period of the Scottish settlement, General Lord Adam Gordon, 4th son of Alexander, 2nd Duke of Gordon, during a visit to Ulster, resided with his cousin, John Gordon, of Florida Manor, in County Down.
At a subsequent epoch, in 1783, the intercourse was renewed upon the occasion of some members of the Gordon family visiting Scotland, when they were received with much kindness by Alexander, 4th Duke of Gordon, who fully recognized the relationship.
The representative of the Ulster branch, at the close of the 17th century,
ROBERT GORDON, of Ballintaggart, County Down, married, in 1689, a daughter of George Ross, of Portabo, and sister of Robert Ross, of Rostrevor, in the same county, ancestor of General Ross, who fell at the battle of Bladensburg, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;Mr Gordon died in 1720, and was succeeded by his elder son,
JOHN GORDON (1690-1771), of Ballintaggart, who wedded, in 1720, his cousin Jane, daughter of Hugh Hamilton, of Ballytrenagh, and by her had issue,
ROBERT, his heir;Mr Gordon espoused secondly, Grace, daughter of Thomas Knox, of Dungannon, County Tyrone, and had by her,
Jane, m David Johnston.
Thomas Knox;Mr Gordon left his estate at Ballintaggart to Thomas Knox Gordon, his eldest son by his second marriage.
His eldest son by his first wife,
ROBERT GORDON (1722-93), of Florida Manor, married, in 1755, Alice, widow of Thomas Whyte, and only daughter of James Arbuckle and his wife Anne, daughter of John Crawford, and niece and heir-at-law of David Crawford, of Florida Manor, and had issue,
JOHN CRAWFORD, his heir;Mr Gordon was succeeded by his eldest son,
David, of Delamont, successor to his brother;
Alexander, of Castle Place, Belfast; father of ROBERT FRANCIS GORDON;
JOHN CRAWFORD GORDON JP (1757-97), of Florida Manor, captain, 50th Regiment, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother, DAVID, of Delamont. This
DAVID GORDON JP DL (1759-1837), of Florida Manor and Delamont, High Sheriff of County Down, 1812, married, in 1789, Mary, youngest daughter of James Crawford, of Crawfordsburn, and sister of Anne, 1st Countess of Caledon, by whom he had issue,
ROBERT, his heir to Florida Manor;Mr Gordon was succeeded by his son,
JAMES CRAWFORD, succeeded to Delamont;
ROBERT GORDON JP DL, (1791-1864), of Florida Manor, High Sheriff, 1833, and for Tyrone, 1843, who wedded, in 1825, Mary, daughter of William Crawford, of Lakelands, County Cork.
This gentleman dsp in 1864, and was succeeded by his brother,
THE REV JAMES CRAWFORD GORDON (1796-1867), of Florida Manor and Delamont House, Precentor of Down Cathedral, 1828-41, who espoused Geraldine, daughter of James Penrose, of Woodhill, County Cork.
He dsp 1867, and was succeeded by his cousin,
ROBERT FRANCIS GORDON JP DL (1802-83), of Florida Manor and Delamont House, High Sheriff, 1873, who dsp and was succeeded at Delamont by his nephew ALEXANDER HAMILTON MILLER HAVEN, and at Florida Manor by his nephew,
ALEXANDER FREDERICK ST JOHN GORDON JP (1852-86), of Florida Manor; who dsp 1886, and was succeeded by his cousin,
ALEXANDER MILLER HAVEN GORDON JP DL (1842-1910), of Florida Manor and Delamont, who wedded, in 1881, Ada Austen, eldest daughter of John Edward Eyre, Governor of Jamaica, of The Grange, Staple Aston, Oxfordshire, and had issue,
ALEXANDER ROBERT GISBORNE, his heir;
John de la Hay;
Ivy Dorothy Catherine; Margerie Frances; Honor; Marion Alice.
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL THE RT HON SIR ALEXANDER ROBERT GISBORNE GORDON GBE DSO (1882-1967), of Delamont, who married, in 1914, his first cousin, Alice Mary Dorothea, daughter of Robert Francis Gordon, in a childless marriage.
Delamont was held in trust by his niece, Patricia Lillas, for her son, Archibald Arundel Pugh, who assumed the additional surname of GORDON by deed poll in 1968.
When they took up residence at Delamont in 1968, they had the house altered and modernised by the architect Arthur Jury.
They pulled down the remaining buildings around the back yard and connected the house to water mains and electricity.
To keep maintenance costs down, they ceased using the front avenue and approached the house via the back.
The farm and land were let and, when their son came into his inheritance he, too, continued to let the land.
In 1978, Mr Gordon-Pugh applied for, and obtained, outline planning permission for a hotel, marina and associated development along the shore, together with additional approval for a leisure park and golf course over the rest of the estate.
The proposals were not implemented though the house was, for a period, used as a restaurant and hired out for private parties and functions.
Delamont was sold by Mr Gordon-Pugh in 1985.
Its front has a central, polygonal bow, raised above the skyline to provide the effect of a tower flanked by two narrow oriels and topped by dormer gables.
There is a rather irregular, gabled side elevation, notably longer than the front. A slender, polygonal turret with cupola is at the back of the house.
By the late 16th, early 17th centuries, much of County Down had been acquired by Scottish and English Landlords such as the Hamiltons and Montgomerys.
They, in turn, settled the area with tenant farmers, Scots in the north east and English in the rest; while the native Irish were relegated to the less fertile areas.
These early settlers were required to build fortified dwelling houses or bawns and, in the Thomas Raven maps of 1625, there appears a substantial one-and-a-half storey stone house with a wall around it on approximately the same site as the present Delamont House.
This house was approached by a long, tree-lined avenue, which does not correspond with the line of the present avenue.
The house was also on a hilltop, appearing to lie surrounded by a deer-park.
The land at the time was in the ownership of Lord Claneboye, so his tenants must have been quite prosperous farmers to have afforded such a large house.
This early Victorian period saw most of the major developments and improvements to the estate.
In 1841, the Rev James Crawford substantially extended the farm buildings and planted a second avenue to service the farm, orchard and walled garden.
A second gate lodge was built and is known as the “Gardners Cottage” [sic]. He also improved the main entrance to the estate.
Much of the planting of Delamont was carried out in the years between David Gordon’s death and 1859, most notably Kinnegar Wood and the two wooded hilltops, the “Corbally Planting” and the “Ringwood Planting”.
Gibbs Island was also planted and the wooded area round the house extended.
It would appear that the form of the present house also dates form this period.
The formal terraced gardens were laid out at the same time and provide an integral link between the house and the landscape beyond, carefully leading the eye down through the various levels and making full use of the superb natural setting.
The main terrace directly in front of the house was gravelled, with the others kept as lawn.
The flower beds at the front of house and to the side would have been planted with seasonal bedding plants. There was formerly a rose garden.
The demesne was considerably larger than at the present day, extending west of the Downpatrick Road and Island Road and, in Griffiths Valuation of 1863, the Rev James Crawford Gordon held the land in the townland of Tullykin as well as Mullagh.
He also held the right of collecting and taking seaweed from the shore.
The Rev James died in 1867 and, having no children, the estates of Florida Manor and Delamont passed to his first cousin, Robert Francis Gordon DL JP (1802-83), son of Alexander Gordon and Dorothea Gisborne.
He apparently altered the house in 1875. He remained unmarried.
On his death in 1883, the two estates were divided: Florida Manor was left to one nephew, Alexander Frederick St John Gordon (1852-86); and Delamont to another nephew, Alexander Hamilton Miller Haven Gordon (1842-1910).
However, the nephew who inherited Florida Manor died without issue and so Florida passed back to Alexander Hamilton Miller Haven Gordon. Thus the two estates were again united in the Gordon family.
This late Victorian period at Delamont was when the Long Avenue was planted, as it does not appear on the 1856 Estate Map, but it features on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1903. Alexander Gordon appears to have taken an active interest in his estate, and his obituary in 1910 describes him as a man
naturally attracted to the necessity for cultivating the soil in an agricultural country like Ireland. He was foremost in promoting any effort to introduce modern improvements and was himself an extensive farmer, both at Delamont and Florida Manor.The Delamont estate is now run as a country park for the use of the general public.
Up until the time of the 2nd World War, the estate seems to have flourished: Sir Alexander's land steward, Mr Carlisle, developed the farm and improved the land; fruit and vegetables from the walled garden were sold; and Mr Moreland, who was employed as gardener in the 1920s, remembers half an acre devoted purely to rhubarb.
At that time, the estate employed five indoor servants plus a chauffeur, whose duties included carrying drinking water twice a day from a well by Kinnegar Wood up the hill to the house.
Eventually water was pumped up the hill and stored in a reservoir built on top of the rath.
Delamont appears to have been quite self-sufficient in those days, even generating its own electricity.
Sir Alexander made alterations to the house at the rear, by demolishing some of the sixteen servants' rooms which were no longer needed.
He also altered the porch ca 1938.
Whether Delamont was actually purchased by the Gordons or acquired by marriage is unclear, but their other estate in County Down, Florida Manor at Killinchy, was acquired through the fortuitous marriage or Robert Gordon to Alice Arbuckle in 1755, who was niece and heiress-in-law to David Crawford of Florida Manor.
It is thought that their son, David Gordon (1759-1837), first came into Delamont in 1793.
David Gordon purchased Delamont for £8,360 in 1793 (about £1 million in today's money) from Lord Northland and Matthew Forde, who were acting as executors for Mrs Margery Delahay.
Thomas Delahay acquired the property from Lord Limerick in 1733 for £1,117.
He had married in 1721, Margery, the sister of the Rt Hon Thomas Knox MP and predeceased her in 1747. The name "Delamont" obviously derives from the surname.
Unlike his father and grandfather, who were wine and general merchants, David Gordon entered the legal profession and also established the banking house of Gordon and Company in 1808, which later became the Belfast Banking Company.
He married Mary Crawford, of Crawfordsburn, in 1789 who was, by all accounts, a very wealthy lady.
The Delamont demesne dates from the 17th century. Raven’s picture map of 1625 shows a straight avenue leading to a previous house apparently on top of a drumlin, with mature trees and deer.
The present house was built in the mid-19th century on high ground with extensive views over Strangford Lough.
The ground undulates and the site is very attractive.
There are fine parkland trees, woodland belts and stone enclosed clumps on the hill tops.
The tree-lined ‘Long Walk’ was laid out post-1860 and has recently been shortened by a road-widening scheme. There is a narrow ornamental garden at the house which is not kept up and the conservatories are gone.
To the south of the house there is an enclosure, which has been adapted as a garden feature with encircling, tree-lined walks.
There are farm buildings of 1841, a walled garden and walled orchard. The walled garden is cultivated as a nursery.
There are two gate lodges built ca 1855. Delamont Country Park owned by Down District Council and is open to the public, as is the nursery garden.
Delamont House is itself privately owned by the Belfast Education & Library Board.
FLORIDA MANOR comprised the townlands of Ballybunden, Drumreagh and part of the townland of Kilmood.
In 1791, the estate was described as containing 1,300 acres of arable land and 400 acres of bog and it was let for £1,000 per annum.
In 1867, when Robert Francis Gordon took possession of the Florida Manor estate, it was valued at £4,634.
However, the bulk of Florida Manor, including the townlands of Ballygraffan, Ballyminstragh, Kilmood, Lisbarnet, Raffrey, Ravara and Tullynagee, formed part of the Londonderry Estates.
There is very little information relating directly to Florida Manor, though it is possible to draw together some information about the building of the house or, at least, to establish an approximate date of when the house was completed.
A bill of complaint declares that, when John Crawford Gordon died in 1797, his brother, David, succeeded to the estate which included the mansion-house called Florida Manor and demesne.
Moreover, a survey of 1794 for the Florida demesne of John Crawford recorded that it comprised just over 100 acres.
A memorandum of agreement between Robert Gordon and Hugh Agnew, a brick-maker, for 'fifty thousand bricks or any greater number...' is dated 1775.
First published in July, 2010.