Thursday, 26 May 2016

Sir Charles Lanyon

SIR CHARLES LANYON OWNED 1,951 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY ANTRIM


CHARLES LANYON JP DL (1813–1889), son of John Jenkinson Lanyon, of Eastbourne, East Sussex, married Elizabeth Helen, daughter of Jacob Owen, of Portsmouth; they had issue, ten children, including, 
JOHN (1839-1900);
WILLIAM OWEN, of whom hereafter;
Louis Mortimer, 1846-1919; m Laura, daughter of CV Phillips;
Herbert Owen, 1850-1919; m Amelia, daughter of J Hind.
Sir Charles's second surviving son,

COLONEL SIR WILLIAM OWEN LANYON KCMG CB (1842-1887), Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George, Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

 *****

Photo credit: Queen's University of Belfast

Sir Charles Lanyon designed the famous Antrim coast road between Larne and Portrush.

He also designed and erected many bridges in the county, including the Ormeau Bridge (1860–63) over the River Lagan in Belfast.

Sir Charles laid out the Belfast and Ballymena railway lines, and its extensions to Cookstown and Portrush; was engineer of the Belfast, Holywood and Bangor Railway; and the Carrickfergus and Larne line.

He was the principal architect of some of Belfast's best-known buildings, including the Queen's College, now University (1846-9); the old Court-House (1848-50); Crumlin Road Gaol (1843-5); and the Custom House (1854-7).

His palm house at the Botanic Gardens, Belfast, built in two phases between 1840-52, is notably one of the earliest examples of curvilinear iron and glass.

Much of Lanyon's work was carried out in private practice, in which he was assisted by two partners: W H Lynn; and latterly his eldest son John, from 1860.

Lanyon resigned the county surveyorship in 1860, and then retired from practice completely following the breakup of his firm in 1872, to devote his energies to public life, in which he was already involved.

In 1862, he served the office of Mayor of Belfast; and was, in 1866, MP for Belfast.

He was one of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, a Deputy Lieutenant, and a magistrate.

In 1862, Sir Charles was elected President of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, and held office until 1868, when he received the honour of Knighthood, which was conferred by His Grace the Duke of Abercorn, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

In 1876, he served as High Sheriff of County Antrim.

Sir Charles died, after a protracted illness, at his residence, The Abbey, in 1889, and was buried at Knockbreda cemetery, near Belfast.


THE ABBEY, Whiteabbey, County Antrim, was designed by Charles Lanyon for Richard Davison MP (1796-1869), on the site of Demyat, a gentleman’s cottage on the site inhabited by Samuel Gibson Getty (1817-77).

Abbey House is an imposing two-storey, multi-bay, Italianate stucco house built ca 1855, to designs by Sir Charles Lanyon, as a private residence for a client, though shortly afterwards becoming his own home and reflecting his personal taste.

Despite the degradation of its setting and years of neglect, the house remains a handsome edifice, with ornate stucco detailing and the Italianate styling typical of Lanyon’s work.

Internally, while the house has undergone some remodelling for use as an administrative block, its plan from and detailing survive, although suffering serious decay.

It is said that Abbey House is an important structure, historically and architecturally, of robust character, especially given its association with Lanyon.

The Abbey takes its name from the ancient monastery which originally stood in a field near by.

The abbey was built by the Cistercian religious order (Trappist Monks) ca 1250, but was damaged by the army of Edward the Bruce in 1315.

The ruins of the White Abbey survived for centuries but today there are no visible remains.

The present Victorian house is ‘L’ shaped in plan, with an additional rectangular building located to the north-west.

In 1832, the the site was occupied by a smaller, though fairly substantial, dwelling occupied by Mrs Matthews.

At that time the description detailed a ballroom, stable, scullery and dairy and a square tower.

The Abbey, inhabited by Richard Davison, was described thus:-
'…a very superior first class house built 12 years ago… Cemented and stone finished with stone quoins and dressings…very [finely] situated and close to Whiteabbey Station’.
The gate lodge was  '…very neat & well finished’.

Also listed in the entry for The Abbey was a cow-house, stables with a bell [tower attraction], and a green house.

Documents of 1862-64 list the occupier as Charles Lanyon.

Following Lanyon’s death in 1889, The Abbey remained vacant for about six years.

Records show that the leasehold has transferred to Granville Hotels Company, although the freehold was still owned by the Lanyon family.

In 1906, the house was described as ‘auxiliary workhouses, gate lodges and land’.

The ownership was revised from Guardians of Belfast Union to Belfast Corporation in 1916, and the property was described as ‘auxiliary workhouse, gate lodges, office, hospital for consumptives and land’.

In 1913 this entry was crossed out with the exception of the gate lodges, and "electric power house" was inserted, indicating a change of use.

Abbey House was listed as a "municipal sanatorium, gate lodges, electric power, house, office and land" about 1935, with the occupier stated as being Belfast Corporation (City Council).

© Stephen Barnes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
The private treatment centre became Whiteabbey Sanatorium during the 1st World War, and became Whiteabbey Hospital in the 1930s.

Admittedly I haven't visited Whiteabbey Hospital - or whatever it's called today - though it seems to have been spoiled by hideous painting.

Its future is uncertain.

First published in May, 2014.

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