Sunday, 19 July 2020

Killymoon Castle

Stewart of Ballymenagh

Early in the reign of JAMES VI and I,

JAMES STEWART (1595-1679) moved from Scotland, and purchasing Cookstown, County Tyrone, and the adjacent lands from Dr Allen Cooke, settled himself at Ballymenagh; while his brother, Andrew Stewart (ancestor of Sir John Stewart, of Athenree, created a baronet, 1803), settled at Gortigal in the same county.

He married Barbara Lindsey, of Leith, and dying at Derryloran, County Tyrone, left a son,

WILLIAM STEWART (1625-1706), who moved to Killymoon, County Tyrone, which his father had purchased in 1634, and wedded Margaret, eldest daughter of John Shaw, of Ballygally, County Antrim, by whom he had issue,
Henry, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1711;
John, drowned in the river Killymoon whilst yet a boy;
Margaret; Mary.
The eldest son,

JAMES STEWART (1665-1726), of Killymoon, married, in 1709, Helen, daughter of Patrick Agnew, of Kilwaughter, County Antrim, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
Margaret, m William Agnew, of Kilwaughter.
The eldest son,

WILLIAM STEWART (1710-97), of Killymoon and Ballymenagh, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1738, MP for County Tyrone, 1747-68, espoused, in 1740, Eleanor, eldest daughter of Sir Henry King Bt, of Rockingham, and had issue,
JAMES, of Killymoon, MP;
HENRY, of whom presently;
Edward, of London;
Isabella; Frances.
William Stewart (Image: the National Trust)

The eldest son,

JAMES STEWART (1742-1821), of Killymoon, MP for County Tyrone, 1768, married, in 1774, Elizabeth, daughter and eventually co-heir (with Lady Ponsonby, wife of 1st Lord Ponsonby, and Mrs Staples, wife of the Rt Hon John Staples, of Lissan) of Richard, 3rd Viscount Molesworth, had, with other issue,
WILLIAM (1780-1850), at whose death Killymoon was sold;
Louisa, m H J Clements MP, of Ashfield Lodge.
James Stewart (Image: Ulster Museum)

James Stewart was Colonel of the Strabane Volunteers, 1780, Captain, Cookstown Cavalry, 1796, and served in the Newmills Yeomanry. 1802.

KILLYMOON CASTLE, Cookstown, County Tyrone, was built in 1802-3 for Colonel James Stewart MP, to the designs of John Nash.

Colonel Stewart's family had held the property since 1634.

He had obtained plans for a new house incorporating parts of the old one, which had been destroyed by fire ca 1800, from the Dublin architect, Robert Woodgate; however, in 1802 he was replaced by Nash.

Nash exhibited two drawings for his scheme at the Royal Academy in 1802.

Killymoon was Nash's first castle in Ireland, and reputedly cost £80,000 to build (about £7.4 million today).

It was described in the Irish Penny Journal of 1841 as "one of the most aristocratic residences in the province of Ulster", with state apartments consisting of "a breakfast-parlour, dining room, ante-room and drawing-room, all of which are of noble proportions and their woodwork of polished oak".
When sold in the 1880s the details of the sale referred to the demesne being almost entirely surrounded by a wall of 10 to 12 feet in height, the demesne being entered by four lodges and avenues, containing two stone quarries, a huge quarry and kiln, a gravel pit, labourers' cottages, and two ornamental cottages; a walled garden and kitchen gardens, with lawns and ornamental shrubberies; vineries, peach and fig houses; a conservatory, stove, mushroom and forcing houses, potting sheds, tool houses, two excellent gardeners' dwelling houses, and an ice house.
This park was clearly approved of by Sir Joseph Paxton, who wrote:
I have visited most of the celebrated country seats in the Kingdom and a very large number on the continent, and I have never seen one - for the extent of it - more compact, more perfect in itself, or where the highest natural beauties have been more aided by refined taste and judgment, than Killymoon.
This demesne was, in 1922, nevertheless, decimated and sold off in lots, mostly for its timber.

Part of it is now used as a golf course.

The gate lodges and the two gardeners' houses no longer stand; the conservatory is ruinous; though substantial 18th century outbuildings, for farm use, and an 18th century saw mill remain intact, close to the castle.

Colonel James Stewart was an absentee client for Nash and much of the supervision of the new castle fell to his wife.

She is known, through surviving correspondence, to have been discussing the design of two cottages with Nash as late as 1805.

For his part, Colonel Stewart is notorious for having 'lost' his new castle in a night's gambling, but the next day the winner, the Prince Regent (later GEORGE IV), told him he could keep his "little cabin" in Ireland.

In 1850 the property was sold, following the decease of William Stewart, who was a bachelor, and was bought by the Moutray family.

The present owner's family bought it at the break-up of the estate in 1922.


TODAY'S CASTLE has a romantic silhouette in a splendid location above the Ballinderry River with a back-drop of sweeping woodland and parkland.

The principal front is dominated by an almost central battlemented, machicolated round tower and turret; at one end, an octagonal tower with similar features; and at the other end the profile of the square tower in the adjoining front, the base of which is arched to form a porte-cochére.

The latter tower has slender, octagonal corner turrets with cupolas.

The windows are pointed, grouped together under segmental hood mouldings, which Nash and his ilk regarded as being Saxon.

There is good interior planning with square, circular and octagonal rooms fitted together.

The hall has a double staircase and is lit by a Gothic lantern on a plaster, fan-vaulted ceiling.

The Library is in the form of a Gothic chapel, with stained-glass windows.

Extensive stables, out-houses and labourers cottages were built on the demesne, and on completion of the residential quarters Colonel Stewart had the 585 acres of the Killymoon demesne enclosed by a wall 10 to 12 feet high.

Entrance to the demesne was by way of four stone lodges and avenues at various points along the boundary wall.

The Killymoon estate remained the property of the Stewart family for six generations; however, their extravagant lifestyle caused the Stewart family to fall on hard times, especially during the years of the Irish famine.

The Killymoon estate was sold in 1852 for £100,000.

In 1857, the castle had again been sold to the Cooper family; and, in 1865, Colonel Bolton, an English gentleman, purchased the castle.

A mere ten years later, Mervyn Stuart Thomas Moutray JP,  became the owner of Killymoon Castle until 1916, when Gerald Macura bought the castle and town of Cookstown for almost £100,000.

By 1918, Macura was also in financial difficulties and was compelled to sell off his assets.

Hence, in 1922, John Coulter bought the castle and grounds for the merely £100.

Today the castle remains the home of the Coulter family.

In addition, situated on what was previously some of the castle’s estate lands, is an 18-hole golf course.
Shortly before embarking on his long parliamentary career, the young James Stewart did the Grand Tour in Europe. A splendid portrait of him (now in the Ulster Museum) was painted in Italy some time in 1767 by Pompeo Batoni.
Stewart succeeded his father as one of the MPs for County Tyrone in 1768, retaining the seat continuously and without a contest for the next thirty-two years in Dublin and a further twelve after 1800 at Westminster. 
The Stewart of Killymoon Papers are held at the Public Record Office of NI.

From Killymoon Castle there are views across the parkland, where few trees remain.

The grounds were possibly designed by W S Gilpin for the present house.

Grass terraces to the south of the house descend to the river and are enlivened by yew trees.

Rowan quotes Paxton,
I have visited most of the celebrated country seats in the kingdom and a very large number on the continent, and I have never seen one – for the extent of it - more compact, more perfect in itself, or where the highest natural beauties have been more aided by refined taste and judgement, than Killymoon.
Unfortunately the demesne is not as it once was: Ornamental garden buildings are lost; the vistas are over bare farmland to distant woods.

Extensive walled gardens, with some glass, are partially kept up.

The gardener’s house is ruinous; 18th century offices that pre-date the present house are extensive; one of three gate lodges survives; the northern part of the estate is now a golf course.

First published in November, 2010. 


Nick Stewart said...

Interesting post Tim. I have only one memory of Killymoon as a child, which turned into one of those incidents that remains as one of those "do you remember that time when" episodes that become firmly embedded in family folklore! I went there with my parents to a "do", I think it was probably an Old Inniskilling party. Without boring you with the details, it involved copious amounts of whiskey, the call of nature, and a small slope! Nick

Anonymous said...

From what I could see it looked a bit tired; full of inappropriate furniture, poorly decorated and the good-sized rooms being closed off. At least it's still inhabited though.


Des Allen said...

I'm a relative of the Coulter family. We visied the Castle in October 2013 and were very impressed by the way my relatives have worked hard to retain the main Castle building in its original format. This has been a private home for years and the cost of maintenance is very high...NO support funding available!
So I now inform the writer of the anon. comment to be aware of this....the resident family have tried hard to retain the original decor and there are one or two pieces of original furniture remaining.....over 200 years old.
Des Allen, Karlskoga, SWEDEN

Russell said...

There is a lovely view of Killymoon's setting from Tullyhogue fort. When I was a cub reporter on the local paper back in the 1960s, we used to use the castle as a backdrop for showband promotional photographs. Rather generously, the Coulter family never chased us off.

Unknown said...

They keep the doors closed because there's a spirit of a women who fell asleep in front of the fire then went on fire and died the door was closed after that and remains closed to this day also the grounds at night are haunted rumoured it's the spirit of the wee boy that drowned in the lake

kathleen Robinson said...

I visited Killymoon Castle in 2017 as part of a group from Brigh Church,they were most welcoming and we enjoyed Afternoon Tea and a tour of the castle curtesy of Dorothy. Killymoon Castle is a credit to the Coulter Family. I have fond memories of the Castle, Golf course and Ballinderry River from my Childhood and remember the Gate Lodge on the Killymoon Road entrance. Beautiful!!!

Bob said...

Hi, there comment at the beginning that Willaim Stewart came from Scotland and settle in Ballymenagh. The old OS Maps of this townland (north-east corner of Cookstown) show ruins of Ballymenagh Castle - is there any more information on this Castle?

Unknown said...

Hello all. I believe I am a descendent of this family line from James Stewart of Edinburg, to William, then James, then William, Henry, then John, Joseph Howard, James Madison, Hiram, Charles, then Buster my grandfather. I found this information to be very informative. Does anyone know anything about James Stewart of Edinburg's parents? I thank you so much for any information you can give or direction as I try to research my family history