Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Ross of Bladensburg

THE ROSSES OWNED 640 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY DOWN

ROBERT ROSS, of Rostrevor, derived from SIR DAVID ROSS, was commissioner of Ulster under JAMES I, High Sheriff of County Down, 1709, MP for Killyleagh, 1715-27, and Newry, 1727, until his decease in December, 1750.

Mr Ross married firstly, Anne, eldest daughter and co-heir of Robert King MP, of Lissenhall, Swords, and had issue,
ROBERT, his heir;
Hamill;
Mary; Anne.
He wedded secondly, Jane _____, and had further issue.

The eldest son,

ROBERT ROSS, of Rostrevor and Dublin, MP for Carlingford, 1723, 1727, 1761 and 1768, Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1748-9, High Sheriff of County Down, 1771, had issue by his first wife,
Robert, Colonel in the army, b 1728; d unm;
DAVID, of whom hereafter;
Anne, b 1732.
The younger son,

MAJOR DAVID ROSS (1729-), espoused Elizabeth, half-sister of James, Earl of Charlemont, and daughter of Thomas Adderley, of Innishannon, and had issue,
THOMAS, his heir;
Robert of Bladensburg, father of DAVID ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG;
James, Lieutenant RN, drowned at sea;
Mary, m Rev Dr Blacker.
The eldest son,

THE REV THOMAS ROSS, of Rostrevor, County Down, wedded, in 1796, Maria O'Brien, granddaughter of Sir Edward O'Brien Bt, of Dromoland Castle, County Clare, and had issue,
DAVID ROBERT, his heir;
Edward, m Anne, dau. of Rt Hon TP Courtenay, niece to Earl of Devon;
Charlotte.
The Rev Dr Ross died in 1818, and was succeeded by his elder son,

DAVID ROBERT ROSS JP DL (1797-1851), of Rostrevor, High Sheriff of County Down, 1837, MP for Belfast, 1842-47, Governor of Tobago, 1851, married, in 1819, Harriet Anne, daughter of the Rt Rev the Hon Edmund Knox, Lord Bishop of Limerick, by his wife, Charlotte, sister of Sir Thomas Hesketh Bt, of Rufford Hall, Lancashire, and had issue,
THOMAS, Royal Navy;
David;
Edmund;
Robert;
Edward Charles (Sir), CSI;
Jessie; Harriet Adele.
Following his decease, in 1851, the part of Mr Ross's Rostrevor property was purchased by his cousin,

DAVID ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG JP (1804-66), of Rostrevor, who married firstly, in 1838, Mary Anne Sarah, only daughter of William Drummond Delap, and had issue, a daughter,
KATHLEEN ELIZABETH, m, 1861, Colonel F J Oldfield, Political Agent at Kolapore.
Mr Ross-of-Bladensburg wedded secondly, in 1843, Harriet Margaretta Skeffington, sister of John, 10th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard, KP, and had issue,
ROBERT SKEFFINGTON (Rev), SJ, his heir;
JOHN FOSTER GEORGE (Sir), heir to his brother;
Edmund James Thomas;
Harriett Margaret.
Mr Ross-of-Bladensburg was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV ROBERT SKEFFINGTON ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG, SJ, of Rostrevor, Captain, South Down Militia, who died in 1892, and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR JOHN FOSTER GEORGE ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG KCB KCVO JP DL, of Rostrevor (1848-1925), who espoused, in 1870, Blanche Amelia, youngest daughter of John, 10th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard, KP, though the marriage was without issue.

Sir John was Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, Lieutenant-Colonel, Coldstream Guards, ADC to the Earl Spencer when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ADC to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

He served in the Soudan Campaign, 1885, and was Secretary to the Duke of Norfolk's mission to the Holy See, 1889, and to Sir Lintorn Simmons' mission to the Holy See, 1890.

*****

Major-General Robert Ross served with the highest distinction in the Peninsular War.

He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the army sent against the United States, and after a short career of uninterrupted success, during which he achieved the victory of BLADENSBURG, and possessed himself of the American capital, fell in 1814, whilst advancing to attack the enemy's position near Baltimore.

On his widow and his descendants was conferred by The Prince Regent, in 1816, the honorary distinction "of Bladensburg", to be added to the family name, and an augmentation of arms.

For his conspicuous gallantry, leadership, and heroism, General Ross was awarded three Gold Medals, the Peninsula Gold Medal, a Sword of Honour, and he received the thanks of Parliament.

He married, in 1803, Elizabeth Catherine, eldest daughter of William Glassock.


The Ross Monument, a large obelisk in the General’s native village of Rostrevor, County Down, was restored in 2008.

With uninterrupted views of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains, the monument is situated almost on the exact spot where General Ross had planned to build his retirement home, had he returned safely from his expedition to America in 1814.

Writing of Carlingford Lough and Rostrevor, the famous English nineteenth century writer, William Makepeace Thackeray, wrote,
"were such a bay lying upon English shores, it would be a world's wonder; or if on the Mediterranean or Baltic, English travellers would flock to it". 
Aware of Ross's importance as a figure in world history, Newry and Mourne District Council provided seed funding to assist the Rostrevor-based historian, Dr John McCavitt, with his research into the career of the General.

Besides playing a pivotal role when British forces inflicted a morale-boosting first ever victory over Napoleon's 'invincibles' at the Battle of Maida (1806), Ross later carved out a highly distinguished career during the Peninsular War in Europe.

As the bicentennial of the War of 1812 approaches, it is also hoped that a deeper understanding of the nature and impact of Ross's brief career in the USA is realised.

Thus, besides the Battle of Bladensburg and the burning of the public buildings in Washington, it is also recognised that the manner in which Ross met his death at Baltimore in September, 1814, contributed in no small measure to inspiring the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner.

The ties that bind Rostrevor to this pivotal period in American history are remarkable.

There is some evidence that there were plans afoot to send an American privateer to burn Rostrevor in revenge for Ross's attack on Washington.

The inscription on the Obelisk in Rostrevor reads as follows:-
MAJOR-GENERAL ROBERT ROSS

SERVED WITH DISTINCTION IN HOLLAND, EGYPT, ITALY, SPAIN, AND FRANCE.

CONQUERED IN AMERICA, AND FELL VICTORIOUS AT BALTIMORE. BORN 1766, HILDEN 1799, ALEXANDRIA 1804, MAIDA 1806, CORUNNA 1809,
VITTORIA 1813, ORTHO 1813, PYRENEES 1813, BLADENSBURG 1814, BALTIMORE 1814.

THE OFFICERS OF A GRATEFUL ARMY WHICH, UNDER THE COMMAND OF THE LAMENTED MAJOR-GENERAL ROBERT ROSS,
ATTACKED AND DISPERSED THE AMERICAN FORCES AT BLADENSBURG ON THE 24TH AUGUST, 1814,
AND ON THE SAME DAY VICTORIOUSLY ENTERED WASHINGTON, THE CAPITAL OF THE UNITED STATES,
INSCRIBED UPON THIS TABLET THEIR ADMIRATION FOR HIS PROFESSIONAL SKILL,
AND THEIR ESTEEM FOR HIS AMIABLE PRIVATE CHARACTER.

HIS WELL-EARNED FAME IS ALSO RECORDED BY THE MONUMENT ERECTED AT HIS GRAVE AT HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA,
BY THE ARMY IN THAT COMMAND, BY THAT WHICH HIS MOURNING OFFICERS OF THE 20TH FOOT RAISED IN HIS PARISH CHURCH AT ROSTREVOR;
AND THAT PLACED IN ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL, AS THE LAST TRIBUTE OF A NATION'S PRAISE, BY HIS COUNTRY.
THE STARS AND STRIPES

Neither Ross nor his immediate descendants were knighted or received a title of nobility.

However, his descendants were given an augmentation of honour to the Ross armorial bearings (namely, a second crest in which an arm is seen grasping the American Flag on a broken staff) and the family name was changed to the Victory Title ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG which was granted to his widow.

In honour of Washington DC's history, there is also a portrait of General Ross in the Capitol's rotunda.

 Rostrevor House.  Photo Credit: Anneka Temminck © 2011

The Rostrevor demesne was very modest in size, comprising about 640 acres in 1870.

The park and garden setting of this early Tudor-Revival house (1835-37) was the focus of one of the most important tree and shrub collections of late Victorian and Edwardian Ireland. 

Although not maintained as a garden for some decades, many rare trees survive in these grounds, which are attractively located on the southern spur of the Mourne Mountains, overlooking Carlingford Lough. 


Rostrevor demesne has 18th century origins.

The original house, called Carrickbawn, was built by the Maguires and was known locally as ‘Topsy-Turvy’, because of the ‘unusual manner in which it had been built’. 

It was acquired by Major David Ross in the late 18th century, and in 1809 passed to his famous second son, Major-General Robert Ross (1766-1814), who is commemorated by the nearby obelisk built in 1826. 

After the Major General's death in the American war in 1814, the property passed to his widow, Elizabeth Catherine Ross, while their descendants were granted the hereditary distinction 'of Bladensburg' in his honour by the Prince Regent. 

With a generous government pension, Mrs Ross was able to considerably expand the parkland planting; in 1820 for example, she is known to have put down some 30 acres of larch, oak and Scotch Fir. 

In 1835 the old Maguire house was demolished and the present Tudor-Revival mansion, one of the earliest examples of this style in Ulster, was erected in its place.

It was most probably designed for Mrs Ross by the Dublin based architect William Deane Butler (d 1857). 

After the death of General Ross's widow in 1845, the property passed to their eldest son, David Ross-of-Bladensburg.

He made little impact on the demesne, spending long periods on the continent, while his eldest son, Robert, who inherited Rostrevor House in 1866, decided to leave Ireland in the early 1870s and become a Jesuit and later a priest. 

Consequently, management of the property passed to his younger brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg KCB KCVO (1848-1925), who eventually inherited the place in 1892. 

The famous tree and shrub collection at Rostrevor was begun by Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg in the 1870s, though he was not able to take up full time residence in Ireland until 1882, when he was assigned as a member of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland's staff. 

His plantings were largely confined to the slopes to the north-east, east and south of the house, covering an area of about fifty acres.
His collection of 'hardy, half-hardy and very tender shrubs, trees and to a lesser extent, herbaceous plants, became one of the best known in Ireland, if not the United Kingdom', and in 1911 a comprehensive catalogue of the 'Trees and Shrubs grown in the Grounds of Rostrevor House' was published [University Press, Ponsonby and Gibbs]. 
This lists about 2500 plants, many of great rarity, and these numbers were to increase so considerably in subsequent years that in 1919 an article in Irish Gardening was able to state that the garden had 'the largest collection of plants growing in the open in the whole country'. 

Not surprisingly, the garden was described in numerous Edwardian journals and books, while Sir John himself contributed many lengthy articles on plants growing in his gardens, mostly published in the monthly journal Irish Gardening.

Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg had no male heirs and, after his death in 1925, the gardens went into decline. 

After standing empty for a number of years, the house was acquired in 1950 by a missionary order, the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, who established it as an inter-denominational retreat house and novitiate. 

In the 1960s they added a large extension to the north side of the house, but in 1998, due principally to insurance considerations, the house's role as a centre for retreat had to be curtailed, while at the same time the sisters decided to share the old house with a small Benedictine community. 

It is believed that, as of 2011, Rostrevor House belonged to Ballyedmond Estates.

While many trees and shrubs disappeared from Rostrevor in the 1930s and subsequent decades, many evidently dying because of livestock grazing, there are still many rare and important plants in the grounds.
Most of these lie in the area south of the house and on the hillside above the house and drive. Some of the trees include a fine Nothofagus soalndri (70ft); a Nothofagus dombeyi (80ft), a Macedonian Pine (Pinus peuce- 90ft), Chilean Laurel (Laurela Serrata), Cupressus cashmiriana (30ft), a remarkably tall Pittosporum bicolor, an outstanding kowhai (Sophora tetraptera), a Sophora tetraptera (30ft), a Zelkovo carpinifolia and many others. 
First published in June, 2011.  

2 comments :

Demetrius said...

The Deputy to Robert Ross of Bladensburg was Sir Arthur Brooke, Colonel of the 44th, who had the job of winding up the expedition. A niece of his became Countess of Antrim in 1855, see your item on Glenarm etc. and comments.

James said...

The house is currently for sale https://www.propertypal.com/rostrevor-house-greenpark-road-rostrevor/477044

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