Thursday, 19 January 2017

Prehen House

 THE KNOX FAMILY OWNED 3,641 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY LONDONDERRY

This appeared to be the direct representative line of the ancient and extended family of KNOX, the founder of that name.

ADAMUS, son of Uchtred, obtained from the High Steward, during the time of ALEXANDER II, King of Scots, 1214-49, grants of the lands of Knock, Ranfurly, Crieff Castle, Craigend, etc, in Renfrewshire.

The descendants of ADAMUS assumed the name of Knox, derived, according to Patronymina Britannica, from the lands of Knocks or Knox, Knock being Gaelic for round-topped hill.

For many generations they were seated at Ranfurly Castle, the ruins of which lie between Glasgow and Greenock.

THE RT REV ANDREW KNOX (1559-1633), second son of John Knox, of Ranfurly, Renfrewshire, was consecrated Lord Bishop of the Isles, 1605, and Lord Bishop of Raphoe, 1610.

The Bishop had a grant of the monastery and lands of Rathmullen, County Donegal, in 1614.

He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Ralph Bingley, Knight, of Rosguill, County Donegal, and had issue,
Thomas (Rt Rev), Bishop of the Isles, 1622;
ANDREW, of whom hereafter;
John, in holy orders;
Claud, in holy orders;
James.
His lordship's second son,

ANDREW KNOX, of Rathmullen, County Donegal, wedded Rebecca, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Galbraith, of Dowish, County Londonderry, and had issue,
ANDREW, his heir;
Robert.
Mr Knox was succeeded by his elder son,

ANDREW KNOX, Major in the besieged army of Londonderry, attainted by the parliament of JAMES II, in 1689.

By Mary his wife he left a son and successor,

GEORGE KNOX, of Rathmullen, and of Moneymore, County Donegal, who espoused Mary Wray, and had two sons, ANDREW, his heir, and a younger son (from whom descended Letitia, daughter of the Rev George Knox, Rector of Strabane, mother of General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence and John, 1st Baron Lawrence, Viceroy of India, 1864).

The eldest son,

ANDREW KNOX, of Rathmullen and Moneymore, 27 years MP for County Donegal, and Colonel in the army, married, in 1738, Honoria, daughter and heiress of Andrew Tomkins, of Prehen, County Londonderry, and had (with a daughter, Mary Ann, shot by John Macnaghten in 1760) a son, his heir,

GEORGE KNOX, of Prehen, who wedded, in 1760, Jane, daughter of Thomas Mahon, of Strokestown, County Roscommon, and sister of Maurice, 1st Lord Hartland, and had issue,
ANDREW, his heir;
Thomas, in holy orders;
Maurice;
Alexander;
Mary Anne.
Mr Knox was succeeded by his eldest son,

ANDREW KNOX (1761-1840), of Prehen, Colonel of the Donegal Militia, MP in the Irish parliament at the Union.

He wedded, in 1790, Mary, daughter of Dominick McCausland, of Daisy Hill (Drenagh), County Londonderry, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
Dominick;
Andrew, in holy orders;
Marcus, captain RN;
Thomas;
Jane; Honoria; Mary; Caroline; Benjamina.
Mr Knox was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE KNOX JP DL (c1789-1848), of Prehen, Captain, 2nd Dragoon Guards, who espoused, in 1827, Anna Maria, daughter of Robert Johnstone, of Magheramena Castle, County Fermanagh, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
Letitia Mary;
Harriett.
Captain Knox was succeeded by his only son,

GEORGE KNOX JP DL (1832-1910), of Prehen, High Sheriff of County Donegal, 1862, Lieutenant-Colonel, Londonderry Artillery, who wedded Rose Virginie Grimm, of Neuch√Ętel, Switzerland, and had issue,
EUGENIE, of whom we treat;
Augusta Georgina.
The elder daughter,

EUGENIE KNOX, wedded Ludwig Otto von Scheffler PhD, and had issue,
GEORGE CARL OTTO LOUIS;
Manon;
Virginie.
Their only son,

GEORGE CARL OTTO LOUIS VON SCHEFFLER-KNOX (1884-1966), inherited Prehen in 1910.


PREHEN HOUSE, County Londonderry, is a noble mid-18th century mansion, perhaps the finest early Georgian country house in Northern Ireland.

It was probably designed by Michael Priestly.

Prehan comprises two storeys over a basement of brick vaulting; of rubble, with ashlar dressings.

The entrance front has a pedimented breakfront centre, including acroteria.

The upper storey has four bays; while the lower storey has one bay on either side of the centre.

The front windows boast fine rusticated surrounds with keystones.

There is a lofty roof with a high parapet.


The rear of the house is U-shaped.

*****

Prehen means "place of the crows" in Gaelic; and during the 17th century the banks of the River Foyle in this vicinity were still thickly wooded.

The townland of Prehen, part of civil parish of Clondermot, and barony of Tirkeeran, was acquired as part of Goldsmiths' Proportion in 1614.

Thomas Raven's map of the Proportion, made in 1619, shows the townland clearly with a house located close to the water, south-west of the present mansion.

This building, evidently a single storey gable-ended dwelling, occupied by one William Taylor, was destroyed in the 1641 Rebellion.

The property was acquired in 1664 by Alderman Alexander Tomkins and his wife Margaret, daughter of Alderman Thomas Moncreiffe.

Tomkins was Mayor of Londonderry at the time of the siege in 1689, and there is a memorial dedicated to "Tomkins of Prehen" in St Columb's Cathedral, erected in 1678.

His house at Prehen, which was probably built in the 1660s, must have stood on the site of the present building.

Alderman Tomkins' son George served as MP for the city from 1715-39 and lived at Prehen.

It can confidently be deduced that the present house was built in the early 1740s.

It is therefore most likely to have been built by Colonel Andrew Knox, who, in 1738, married Honoria, daughter and heiress of Andrew Tomkins of Prehen.

*****

George Carl Otto Von Scheffler, born in 1884, was appointed a Page to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenbach and later Governor of the Royal pages at the Emperor's Court in Berlin, where he was honoured with the title of Baron.

He inherited Prehen from his grandfather aged only 26, but a condition of the inheritance was that he add the surname KNOX to his own for the term of his natural life, and that he become a British Citizen within two years of the testator's decease.

The inheritance was contested in court, which Baron Von Scheffler-Knox won, and he subsequently settled at Prehen.

Unfortunately, the 1st World War broke out in 1914 and Baron Von Scheffler-Knox was declared an enemy alien.

Consequently, the house and lands of Prehen were sequestered by the government and later placed on the open market under the Enemy Property Act.

The Baron died in 1966.

During the 1920s, the demesne was sold off in lots, and the house was subsequently subdivided into flats.

The once fine woodlands, for which Prehen was well known, were sold in 1927 to the McGregors, timber merchants (Londonderry), who thereafter felled many of the trees.

The felling caused controversy at the time and a portion of these woodlands were saved - the area now known as Prehen Wood.

Prehen Wood (18.48 acres) was purchased in 2003 by The Woodland Trust with support from the Prehen Historical and Environment Society.

During the 2nd World War the house was requisitioned by the army for troop accommodation.

Eventually, the mansion, its outbuildings, and some of the surviving parkland were acquired by in 1971 in the name of Julia Peck, granddaughter of Winifred Knox.

The house, then in an very poor state of repair, was subsequently restored by her parents, Carola and the late Julian Peck, who moved here from Rathbeale Hall, County Dublin, in 1974.

Mr Peck died in 2001 and Prehen now belongs to his son, Colin Peck, who has opened the house to the public.

First published in January, 2015.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Sadly Mr Colin Peck died today 19th August 2015