Thursday, 24 December 2015

Stuart Hall Album

I am indebted to those who send me old pictures of Northern Ireland's proud heritage.

Stuart Hall is a good example.

It gives me great pleasure to post these old images.

The Earls Castle Stewart were the second-greatest landowners in County Tyrone, with 32,615 acres in the 1870s.

Lord and Lady Castle Stewart still live at the estate. 
Stuart Hall was built about 1760.


It was originally a three-storey Georgian block with a pillared porch, joined to an old tower-house by a 19th century Gothic wing.

The top two storeys of the main block were later removed, giving it the appearance of a Georgian bungalow.

The mansion house was burnt by the IRA in July, 1972, and subsequently demolished.


A bungalow was built on the site in 1987.

Stuart Hall was actually larger than it appeared from the entrance front, due to high basement or storey to the rear.
Paul Wood has kindly sent me some old photographs taken by his grandfather, William Homewood, who used to travel with the family to Ireland and Scotland.

His grandmother told him that the people (in the photos) were very kind.

It is thought that the gamekeeper's wife was the housekeeper.
They are ca 1919-22. Paul Wood's mother was brought up at Old Lodge on the estate.

I'm afraid I don't know the names of the gamekeeper and his wife.
I have written at length about Stuart Hall near Stewartstown in County Tyrone.
First published in November, 2010.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

6th Earl of Erne (1937-2015)

I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of the Right Honourable Henry George Victor John Earl of Erne KCVO today.

Lord Erne was a true friend of Northern Ireland, particularly his beloved Couny Fermanagh and Crom.

He shall be sorely missed.

I convey my sincere condolences to Lord Erne's family.

Ormiston Restoration


I met an old school pal for breakfast at S D Bell's this morning.

I fancied the scrambled eggs and granary toast, which were tip-top.

Major restoration work is progressing today, 23rd December, 2015, at Ormiston, in east Belfast.


Ormiston was the former residence of Sir Edward Harland Bt; and the Viscount Pirrie.


The Hawthornden Road lodge of ca 1867 has a new slate roof and awaits further renovation.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Tesco Vintage Port

I happened to be at a massive Tesco store near me this morning at nine o'clock and bagged a bot of their finest vintage port, viz. the 1997 Vinho Do Porto, by Symington Family Estates.

Christopher Bellew, on his fine new blog, has apprised us - not to add tipped us off - about this.

It currently costs £16.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Connswater Progress

February, 2015

In February, 2015, I photographed the river Conn's Water at Holywood Arches health centre, Belfast, where the river is culverted for a short distance.

December, 2015

Today I revisited the same location and, as we can see, the Connswater Greenway scheme is progressing well.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Belvoir House

West front

I am grateful to the Northern Ireland Forestry Service for providing me with photographs of Belvoir House, Newtownbreda, Belfast, which enables me to share my passion and fascination of Belvoir with others.
BELVOIR HOUSE was a large, three storey, mid-18th century mansion set in a demesne of 6,348 acres in 1876.

The top storey was treated as an attic, above the cornice.

It had a seven-bay front and a three-bay break-front centre with four giant Doric pilasters supporting a pediment, flanked by two oculi.

East front

There was a curved bow on the eastern side elevation.

At the apex of the pediment the Bateson baronets' coat-of-arms was prominently displayed, their crest being a bat's wing; and their motto Nocte Volamus.

The great mansion boasted an impressive staircase hall and the stairs had a cast-iron balustrade.

The original owners of Belvoir were the Hill-Trevors, Viscounts Dungannon, who, in turn, sold the estate to the Batesons, Barons Deramore.
Lord Dungannon's seat at Belvoir was probably the largest and grandest private dwelling in Belfast, and remained thus until its deplorable demolition. The only other possible contenders would have been Lord Donegall's Tudor-Revival pile at Ormeau Park; or Orangefield, residence of the Houston family of bankers.
Belvoir House was demolished on the 18th February, 1961, by the NI Forest Service.

The site is now the main car park.

Today the forest park extends to 185 acres.

Belvoir House was considered a candidate for the new Parliament of Northern Ireland as a possible seat of Government before the Stormont Estate was chosen.

Belvoir was also contemplated by HM Government as the official residence of the new Governor of Northern Ireland (Hillsborough Castle, or Government House as it became known, was chosen instead). 
                         
The two governments felt that the surrounding demesne and parkland was too extensive at the time.

The picture at the very top shows the west entrance front, which was opposite the present stable-yard where the RSPB has its office.

The west side of the house was long, so the actual door entrance would have been beyond the stables (the rear courtyard buildings and the conservatory attached to the House, at ground floor level, cannot be seen in the picture).

North front

The picture immediately above shows the garden front with its portico, facing northwards towards the motte and the formal gardens below.

The Irish Aesthete has written about the house and posted several good images.

Ben Simon has published A Treasured Landscape: The Heritage Of Belvoir Park.

First published in May, 2009.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Skillin's Wood


I spent the morning at Skillin's Wood, near Greyabbey, County Down, this morning.

I met Tomasz and other National Trust volunteers at the Mount Stewart schoolhouse, where we gathered the equipment and drove the mile or two to the wood.


Skillin's Wood overlooks the village of Greyabbey on the inside; and Mid Island to its west.


There were fourteen of us today.


Our task was to construct a wattle fence bird "lookout" at the shoreline.

We finished at about one o'clock, motored back to the schoolhouse, and all congregated for the annual Christmas party.


Sausage-rolls, cocktail sausages, chicken, quiche, chilli con carne, soup, more nibbles, a Yule log, chocolate cake, crisps and much more bore down on the table.

I think Maureen made the Yule-log and Christmas cake - sumptuous, Maureen; thank you!


One of the long-term volunteers, Sebastian, was leaving, so we presented him with two wildlife books and a card.

Monday, 14 December 2015

The Cranberry Sauce


Cranberry Sauce was made today at Belmont GHQ.

Having obtained the requisite main ingredient, caster sugar is dissolved with some water in a saucepan.


The juice of a clementine and its finely-grated zest is added; and a glass of port.

Thereafter the berries are added and the mixture is simmered for ten or fifteen minutes, until the desired consistency is reached.


The sauce will be refrigerated till required.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Killynether Woods

I haven't been to Killynether Woods since January, 2014.

Killynether, near Newtownards, County Down, has been a property of the National Trust since 1937, when it was bequeathed by Miss J H Weir.


It comprises 42 acres.

Today we were coppicing hazel, as we usually do.


There must have been about ten of us today.

We lunched under a birch tree; and, for a change (!) I munched on chicken and sweetcorn sandwiches.

Most of of spent five hours coppicing and gathering the branches, which will be used for fencing.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Man about Town

I ventured into central Belfast this morning.

The little grey cells have been chugging away, considering a special gift for my godmother.

Having alighted at Donegall Square North, opposite City Hall, my eyes were drawn to Molton Brown, supplier of toiletries to the royal household.

Their GHQ seems to be at Shaftesbury Avenue in London.

My mission has come to a happy conclusion, having been served by lovely Catherine in the said shop.

As it happens, I wasn't aware that they received a royal warrant in 2013.

Thereafter I darkened the threshold of possibly the longest established optometrists in Belfast, Petticrew's, of Cornmarket, established in 1887.

I was warmly greeted by Andrew Petticrew, who happened to observe my overcoat.

I was wearing a traditional olive covert overcoat, which I bought in 2001.

Andrew remarked that he owned a very similar one.

Andrew Petticrew is one of the most amicable optometrists you're likely to encounter in Belfast.

In fact, I was there to look at reading glasses and I was given a complimentary pair, despite offering to pay.

If you are reading this, Andrew, may I convey my sincere gratitude? They were put to good use within five minutes.

Belfast has its annual Christmas Market in the grounds of City Hall, so I had a brief look before going home.

Mourne Seafood Bar's Lobster Burger
I have to confess that the Mourne Seafood Bar's Lobster Burger sounded tempting at £7.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Spanish State Visit

His Majesty the King of Spain, FELIPE VI, accompanied by Queen Letizia, has accepted an invitation from Her Majesty The Queen to pay a state visit to the United Kingdom from the 8th until the 10th March, 2016.

Their Majesties will stay at Windsor Castle.

The last State Visit from Spain was by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in 1986.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh paid a State Visit to Spain in 1988.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

December Bride's Domain

Simmy Island from Island Taggart

Sam Hanna Bell, MBE,  the celebrated Ulster-Scot novelist and playwright, was brought up at Strangford Lough, County Down, a part of the Province that I know fairly well.

In 1951, he wrote the acclaimed December Bride, a story based in the vicinity of the lough about a servant girl and her relationship with two brothers in conservative Ulster.

Sadly, he died just before the said book's film première.

The 1991 movie was shot in and around Island Taggart, at the derelict farmstead on the top of the island.

Yesterday I was on the beloved 85-acre island again, with eleven other volunteers.

It has been owned by the National Trust since 1985, when it was the property of Paddy Mackie.


I shan't bore you with the details of what we were doing (gorse!), though I shall post a few photographs.