Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Danesfort House


JOHN BARBOUR (1755-1823), Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Paisley, 1811, married and was father of

WILLIAM BARBOUR JP (1798-1825), of Hilden, Lisburn, County Antrim, who wedded Elizabeth Kennedy, of Grove Green, Lisburn, and was father of

JOHN DOUGHERTY BARBOUR JP DL (1823-1901), of Conway, Dunmurry, County Antrim, Hilden, Leamington, Warwickshire, and Wrentnall, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, who espoused, in 1864, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of John Milne, of Trinity Grove, Edinburgh.

His brother,

 Photo credit: Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum

(1830-78), above, built Danesfort House, Belfast.

The village of Hilden, near Lisburn, owed its fame to the linen thread works of Messrs Barbour. In 1784, Mr John Barbour, of Paisley, who frequently visited Ulster in connection with linen yarns, decided to take up his residence there.

He established himself at The Plantation, where he erected mills. He instructed the young women of the neighbourhood in the art of linen thread making, and carried on a successful business for many years.

He died in 1823, and was succeeded by his two sons, John and William, who eventually separated, John remaining at The Plantation and William removing to Hilden.

The second John Barbour died in 1831, and his brother William then purchased the whole plant, which he brought to his own works at Hilden, where the business was known as William Barbour & Sons, Ltd.

William Barbour died leaving seven sons and several daughters. The sons who took the most active interest in the linen thread business were: John D, Robert, Samuel and Thomas.

Robert extended the operations of the firm to America, where a most prosperous business has been established.

John D Barbour devoted his energies to the business at Hilden, and became a prominent figure in political and civil life, marrying the daughter of John Milne JP, of Edinburgh, and had three sons: Frank Barbour, John Milne Barbour and Harold Adrian Barbour, all of whom became directors. 

I have written about the Barbour baronetcy here.

DANESFORT HOUSE, Malone Road, Belfast, has been described by Mark Bence-Jones as "one of the finest High-Victorian mansions in Ireland".

Danesfort was built in 1864 for Samuel Barbour to the designs of William J Barre.

The late Sir Charles Brett colourfully described the house as "a sort of a French-Italian-English ch√Ęteau".

It is dominated by a lofty and most elaborate tower with a mansard roof, resting on an arcade of what Sir Charles called "square cabbagey columns", constituting a porte-cochere.

Danesfort was inherited by Margaret, daughter of Samuel Barbour and wife of Mr Charles Duffin.

Inside there is a fine, arcaded, balustraded stairway in the entrance hall, with some rooms grouped around it.

The Italianate interior is replete with marble fireplaces, elaborate gilt frames to full-height mirrors, arcaded walls, and plasterwork cornices.

One ceiling rose has a radial arrangement of short, stumpy, foliated columns; a trademark, perhaps, of Barre's taste for the High Victorian Gothic.

DANESFORT HOUSE  was built on what had previously been known as 'Pleasure-House Hill', seemingly on the site of an old rath or fort.

During the process of excavating the ground for the building, several funerary urns and some sixteen or so hatchets were found.

They were subsequently mounted and exhibited in cabinets in the library by the first owner of the house.

When Samuel Barbour died in 1878, Danesfort was left to his widow in trust for their daughter.

She married Charles Duffin in 1883 and the property remained in the Duffin name until the 1940s, when it was bought by Gallaher Limited, who subsequently sold it to the Electricity Board for Northern Ireland for use as an administrative centre.

After some years of neglect and subsequent decay, following the building of a large office block near by, a major and timely restoration of Danesfort was undertaken by Northern Ireland Electricity in 1984-87.

Danesfort is now the office of the United States Consul-General in Belfast.

First published in December, 2012.

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