Tuesday 25 June 2024

Benvarden House


This family claims to be a branch of the great Scottish house of MONTGOMERY. 

of Glenarm, County Antrim, born in 1711, married, in 1742, Isabella Stewart, and was father of

HUGH MONTGOMERY (1743-1832), of Glenarm, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1804, who wedded, in 1785, Margaret, daughter of John Allen, of Kilmandil, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Hugh (1794-1867), of BALLYDRAIN, Co Antrim;
Alexander, of Potter's Wall, Co Antrim;
Thomas, JP, of Birch Hill, Co Antrim;
Barbara; Isabella; Marion; Victoria.
Mr Montgomery was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN MONTGOMERY JP DL (1790-1876), of Benvarden, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1819, who married, in 1819, Jane, daughter of SIR ANDREW FERGUSON Bt, and had surviving issue,
ROBERT JAMES, his heir;
Barbara Anne; Isabella Dorothea.
Mr Montgomery was succeeded by his only son,

ROBERT JAMES MONTGOMERY JP DL (1829-93), of Benvarden, and Potter's Walls, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1867 and 1870, Captain, 5th Dragoon Guards, who espoused, in 1864, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert James White, of WHITE HALL, County Antrim, and had issue,
Francis James;
Janet Maude; Elizabeth Barbara Isabel.
Mr Montgomery was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN ALEXANDER MONTGOMERY JP DL (1866-1928), of Benvarden and Potter's Walls, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1910, Major, Royal Irish Rifles, who married, in 1900, Elizabeth Ferguson, daughter of the Rev Canon Edward Newland, Rector of Buncrana, and had issue,
JOHN ALEXANDER JAMES, b 1904, High Sheriff, 1936;
Elizabeth Barbara Ethne; Isabel Frances Ellen.

John Montgomery, later of Benvarden, County Antrim, was president of the Belfast chamber of commerce, 1802-03, and founder, 1809, of Montgomery's Bank, aforementioned precursor of the Northern Bank.


The Montgomerys resided at 4-6, Donegall Place, Belfast.


Hugh Montgomery (1794-1867), who purchased Ballydrain House, Dunmurry (now Malone Golf Club), was the second son of Hugh Montgomery and he, too, was involved with the Northern Bank, being a director for 43 years.

He and his wife, Emily Ferguson, had six sons and one daughter.

After his death, in 1867, the Ballydrain estate became the property of his second son, John Ferguson Montgomery, the eldest son, Hugh, having been killed at the Charge of the Light Brigade, Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

BENVARDEN HOUSE, near Ballymoney, County Antrim, was established in the late 17th century on the River Bush.

The house was improved and enlarged in the late 18th century and remains largely unaltered.

Benvarden, originally the seat of the MACNAGHTENS, is a two-storey, 18th century house with a central curved bow in each of its two fronts, one containing the entrance hall.

Hugh Montgomery purchased Benvarden in 1798, having returned from Virginia, USA.

He enlarged the house ca 1805, by adding two wings with three-sided bows of the same height as the 18th century block, but with higher ground-floor ceilings.

These additions included a ballroom/drawing-room and a dining-room.

At the same time or later, a service wing with a curved bow was added at one end, prolonging the façade still further.

In the mid-19th century an Italianate porch with flanking corridors was added on the entrance front and another service wing was built.

Also in the 19th century, the astragals were removed from the windows.

There is an elegant semi-circular, cantilevered stair with an oval light in the hall; good plasterwork; and a rhomboidal stable courtyard with a pedimented archway crowned by a wooden lantern.

The grounds are fully maintained. Lawns sweep to the river and to the cast-iron Victorian bridge of ca 1870 (restored in 2010).

A mid-19th century oval pond near the river is surrounded with yews and rhododendrons.

New tree-planting reinforces mature shelter planting, most necessary as the site is exposed to wind.

There is a substantial belt on the north, east and west sides of the walled garden.

This walled garden is cultivated with herbaceous borders, a rose garden, a parterre garden, glass-house sites utilized ornamentally, vegetables and soft fruit.

There is a good account of the ‘… large walled garden and an orchard, well stocked and very productive …’, in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of 1832.

The gardens are still kept to a high order but the design and planting have been altered from the traditional to a more convenient (though no less attractive) contemporary layout.

One ca 1830 gate lodge remains, in good order, at the north-east gate.

The Montgomery family still live at their ancestral home today.

The estate now comprises ca 600 acres. 

Benvarden Garden is open to the public.

Part of the demesne, to the north-east, was formerly a safari (lion) park and has now reverted to the estate.

First published in December, 2010.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is a less attractive house anywhere in Ulster? Awful windows. Very plain rendering. Still, it looks watertight. The view from it is no doubt a lot better than the view of it. VC

Anonymous said...

No mention of the famous court case Montgomery v Montgomery which resulted in the Benvarden lot losing Ballydrain!

Anonymous said...

Clearly the first commentator has not read the article in the Irish Arts Review of Summer '12 - a Regency idyll etc etc. Perhaps he/she should go while the gardens are open (June-Aug) and have a look.

Anonymous said...

Re. 'I wonder if there is a less attractive house anywhere in Ulster?'.
A. Oh, lots and lots. How long have you got? (Shall we include those new-build 'neo-classical' monstrosities?). Dearie me...

Re. 'Perhaps he/she should go while the gardens are open (June-Aug) and have a look'.
A. Or not...

Church Mouse

Anonymous said...

There is 200 acres left of the estate, has a nice walled garden
nice place to visit in the summer time.

Anonymous said...

Visited Benvarden during European Heritage Open Weekend. What a treat to get into the house which is lived in by the Montgomery family and see around the various rooms that they make use of daily. Great to be able to see inside such a fine home and all the beautiful décor and furniture.

Andrew said...

The same could be said for a lot of us VC. But we may not all be watertight for ever.