Tuesday, 30 August 2016

1st Marquess of Bute


This noble family claims direct descent from the royal and unfortunate house of STUART.

SIR JOHN STUART, "The Black Stewart", natural son of ROBERT II of Scotland, obtained from his father a grant of lands in the Isle of Bute, with the heritable sheriffdom of Bute, Arran, etc, subsequently confirmed by charter of ROBERT III, dated 1400.

He wedded Jean, daughter of Sir John Sympil, of Eliotstoun. The great-grandson of this marriage,

NINIAN STUART, having succeeded his father in the sheriffdom of Bute, obtained, in 1498, a new grant of the hereditary custody of Rothesay Castle, with a salary of eighty marks yearly out of the Lordship of Bute.

He died in 1509, and was succeeded by his son,

JAMES STUART, who was installed in his estate and heritable constabulary of Rothesay Castle in 1509.

The grandson of this James,

SIR JAMES STUART, knight, of Bute, married Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of Robert Hepburn, of Foord, by whom he acquired the estate of Foord, with several other lands in Haddingtonshire, and was succeeded by his son,

SIR JOHN STUART, of Bute, who was created a baronet in 1627; and adhering to the royal cause during the civil wars, suffered considerably both by fines and sequestration.

Sir John wedded Grizel, daughter of Sir Dugald Campbell, of Auchinbreck, and had, with other issue, his eldest son and successor,

SIR DUGALD STUART, 2nd Baronet, who married, in 1658, Elizabeth, daughter John Ruthven, of Dunglass, and granddaughter, maternally, of Alexander, 1st Earl of Leven, by whom he had (besides daughters), two sons, of whom the elder,

THE RT HON SIR JAMES STUART, 3rd Baronet, who, being of the privy council to ANNE, and one of the commissioners appointed to treat of a union with England, in 1702, which did not then take effect, was elevated to the peerage, in the following year, by the titles of Earl of Bute, Viscount Kingarth, and Lord Mount Stuart, Cumra, and Inchmarnock, to himself and his heirs male whatever.

In 1706, his lordship opposed the union with all his might; and when he discovered that a majority of parliament was in favour of the measure, withdrew from the house, and retired to his country seat.

His lordship, dying in 1710, was succeeded by the only son of his first marriage,

JAMES, 2nd Earl; who, after the demise of his maternal uncle, and much litigation, succeeded to the estate of Rosehaugh.

His lordship espoused Anne, daughter of Archibald, 1st Duke of Argyll; and dying in 1723, this nobleman was succeeded by his elder son,

JOHN, 3rd Earl, KG (1713-92), who married Mary, only daughter of Edward Wortley-Montagu, of Wortley, Yorkshire, and great-granddaughter of Edward, 1st Earl of Sandwich.

Her ladyship was created, in 1761, Baroness Mount Stuart, with remainder to her male issue by the Earl of Bute.

His lordship was a minister of the crown from 1737, when he was made a lord of the police, until his resignation of the high office of 1st Lord of the Treasury, in 1763.

He died in 1792, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN, 4th Earl (1744-1814), who had succeeded upon the demise of his mother, in 1794, to the barony of Mount Stuart, having been previously (1776) created Baron Cardiff, of Cardiff Castle.

His lordship was further advanced, as Viscount Mountjoy, in the Isle of Wight; Earl of Windsor; and to the dignity of a marquessate, as MARQUESS OF BUTE, in 1796.

This nobleman espoused firstly, in 1766, the Hon Charlotte Jane Hickman-Windsor, eldest daughter and co-heir of Herbert, 2nd and last Viscount Windsor, of the kingdom of Ireland.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, John Bryson Crichton-Stuart, styled Earl of Dumfries.


SIR ROBERT CRICHTON, of Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire, probably descended from a son of Alexander Crichton, of Crichton, Edinburgh, 1296, signalized himself at Lochmaben, against the Duke of Albany and the Earl of Douglas, when they made an incursion into Scotland, in 1484.

This Sir Robert was created a peer of parliament, by the title of Lord Crichton of Sanquhar, 1488.

From his lordship descended lineally

WILLIAM, 7th Lord, who was advanced to a viscountcy, as Viscount of Ayr, and Lord Sanquhar, in 1622; and further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, as EARL OF DUMFRIES, in 1633.

DUMFRIES HOUSE, near Cumnock, Ayrshire, was built in 1760 for William Crichton-Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries.

The 5th Earl's antecedent, William Crichton, 7th Lord Crichton of Sanquhar and 1st Earl of Dumfries, purchased the estate in 1635 from the Crawford family.

The 5th Earl died died eight years after the House had been completed, when the estates passed to his nephew, Patrick McDouall (1726-1803), 6th Earl.

The 6th Earl's only daughter and heir, Lady Elizabeth McDouall-Crichton, wedded John, Lord Mount Stuart, eldest son of John 1st Marquess of Bute.

John, 2nd Marquess of Bute, was the eldest son of this marriage, which combined the estates and titles of the Crichtons and Stuarts.

Dumfries House, Palladian in style, is noted as being one of the few such houses with much of its original 18th-century furniture still present, including specially commissioned Thomas Chippendale pieces.

The house and estate is now owned in charitable trust by the The Great Steward of Scotland's Dumfries House Trust, who maintain it as a visitor attraction and hospitality and wedding venue.

Both the House and the gardens are listed as significant aspects of Scottish heritage.

The estate and an earlier house was originally called Leifnorris, owned by the Crawfords of Loudoun.

The present house was built in the 1750s for William Dalrymple, 5th Earl of Dumfries, by John and Robert Adam.

Having been inherited by the 2nd Marquess of Bute in 1814, it remained in his family until 7th Marquess decided to sell it due to the cost of upkeep.
Due to its significance and the risk of the furniture collection being distributed and auctioned, after three years of uncertainty, in 2007 the estate and its entire contents was purchased for £45m for the country by a consortium headed by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Duke of Rothesay, including a £20m loan from the Prince's charitable trust.
The intention was to renovate the estate to become self-sufficient, both to preserve it and regenerate the local economy.

As well as donors and sponsorship, funding is also intended to come from constructing the nearby housing development of Knockroon, a planned community along the lines of the Prince's similar venture, Poundbury in Dorset.

The house duly re-opened in 2008, equipped for public tours.

Since then various other parts of the estate have been re-opened for various uses, to provide both education and employment, as well as funding the trust's running costs.

The Marquesses of Bute owned a further 29,279 acres of land in Bute, 21,402 acres in Glamorganshire, and 20,157 acres in Wigtownshire.

Seat ~ Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute.

Former seats ~ Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire; Cardiff Castle, Glamorganshire; Dumfries House, Ayrshire.

First published in April, 2014.  Bute arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Castle Ward Walk

The Sunken Garden and Castle Ward House

I spent a glorious afternoon on Sunday, 28th August, 2016, at Castle Ward estate, County Down, a property of the National Trust.

I arrived just before noon and, parking the two-seater in the main car-park, stretched the legs on a circuitous route round the outside perimeter of the courtyard.

When I reached the stableyard the shop was open, so I spent some time browsing.

They have a very good selection of books and other National Trust merchandise at this property.

I purchased a small book called How To Read Buildings: A crash course in Architecture, by Carol Davidson Cragoe.

The café had just opened, so I ordered the fresh vegetable soup and a slice of brown bread, and brought it outside to the sunny courtyard which, by the way, has free wifi.

After lunch I tightened up the laces on my walking shoes and ventured forth, along the estate's Downpatrick Avenue, towards Downpatrick gate lodge.

I think this used to be the main entrance, if the rather grand, elaborate gates are anything to go by.

The little lodge boasts the armorial bearings of the Viscounts Bangor on its gable wall.

The crest, a man's head adorned with feathers, is missing. A little hole where it had been attached to is visible.

Thence I passed the gates and continued along the avenue, past the Mallard Plantation, until I came to a gate.

This townland is known as Tullyratty.

I walked along a narrow track or trail, passing many plump, ripe, wild blackberries and, would you believe it, raspberries.

I indulged in several of the juicier ones and advanced along the path.

It leads through woodland and emerges, eventually, in a clearing at the former gamekeeper's cottage, now called The Bunkhouse, I think.

Former gamekeeper's cottage

Revisiting Castle Ward is always nostalgic for me, since we spent twenty-five summers at the caravan park at the edge of the demesne closest to Strangford.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Horse Island Day

I have spent most of the day working with five other volunteers at land owned by the National Trust beside Horse Island.

Horse Island is about two miles south of Kirkubbin on the Ards Peninsula, County Down.

The townland is called Rowreagh.

Horse Island is almost equidistant from Kircubbin and the Saltwater Brig bar and restaurant.

We spent the day picking two trailer-loads of ragwort.

This weed is relatively easy to uproot manually, though it can be stubborn on dry land.

One needs to persist for a few years and therafter most of it is eradicated.

We basked in the lovely sunshine at lunchtime, and I had cheese-and-onion sandwiches today.

The blackberries are early this year. I helped myself to quite a number of ripe ones.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Mote Park


The founder of this family in Ireland was

JOHN CROFTON (1540-1610), of Mote, County Roscommon (descended from the Croftons, of Crofton, Cumberland), Auditor-General in the reign of ELIZABETH I, who accompanied the Earl of Essex into Ireland and obtained large grants of land in the counties of Roscommon and Leitrim.

He wedded Jane, sister of Sir Henry Duke, of Castle Jordan, County Meath, and had issue,
EDWARD, his heir;
HENRY, ancestor of Sir M G Crofton Bt, of Mohill House;
Sarah; Joan; Anne.
The eldest son,

EDWARD CROFTON, of Mote, County Roscommon, wedded Elizabeth, daughter of Captain Robert Mostyn, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
Thomas, ancestor of Crofton of Longford House, County Sligo;
The eldest son,

GEORGE CROFTON, MP for Askeaton, 1639, married Elizabeth, second daughter of Sir Francis Berkeley, MP for County Limerick, and had issue,
EDWARD, of whom we treat;
Mary; Sarah.
Mr Crofton, who erected the castle of The Mote, 1639, was succeeded by his youngest son,

EDWARD CROFTON (1624-75), of Mote, who espoused firstly, in 1647, Mary, daughter of Sir James Ware; and secondly, Susanna Clifford, by whom he had issue, an only child, EDWARD.

Mr Crofton was created a baronet in 1661, denominated of The Mote, County Roscommon.

He was succeeded by his son and successor,

THE RT HON SIR EDWARD CROFTON, 2nd Baronet (c1662-1729), MP for Boyle, 1695-9, County Roscommon, 1703-27, who married, in 1684, Katherine, daughter of Sir Oliver St George Bt, and had issue,
Oliver, father of the 5th Baronet;
EDWARD, of whom hereafter
Sir Edward's younger son,

SIR EDWARD CROFTON, 3rd Baronet (1687-1739), MP for Roscommon Borough, 1713-39, wedded, in 1711, Mary, daughter of Anthony Nixon, and had issue,
EDWARD, his successor;
CATHERINE, m Marcus Lowther.
Sir Edward was succeeded by his son and successor,

SIR EDWARD CROFTON, 4th Baronet (1713-45), MP for County Roscommon, 1713-45, who espoused, in 1741, Martha, daughter of Joseph Damer; though he was killed in action at Tournai, France, when the title reverted to his cousin,

SIR OLIVER CROFTON, 5th Baronet (1710-80), who married, in 1737, Abigail Jackson Buckley, though the marriage was without issue.

The baronetcy therefore expired, when his sister and heiress,

CATHERINE CROFTON, became representative of the family.

This lady married, in 1743, Marcus Lowther (second son of George Lowther MP, descended from a common ancestor with the Earls of Lonsdale), who assumed the name of CROFTON, and being created a baronet in 1758, denominated of The Mote, County Roscommon, became 

SIR MARCUS LOWTHER-CROFTON, 1st Baronet, MP for Roscommon Borough, 1761-8, Ratoath, 1769-76, who had issue,
EDWARD, his successor;
John Frederick Lowther;
William Henry;
Catherine; Sophia Jane.
Sir Marcus died in 1784, and was succeeded by his eldest son, 

SIR EDWARD CROFTON, 2nd Baronet (1748-97), MP for Roscommon, 1775-97, Colonel, Roscommon Militia, who married, in 1767, Anne, only daughter and heiress of Thomas Croker, and had issue,
EDWARD, his successor;
Henry Thomas Marcus (Rev);
George Alfred, Captain RN;
William Gorges, Captain, Coldstream Guards; k/a 1814;
Caroline; Louisa; Frances; Harriet; Augusta.
Sir Edward died in 1797 and his widow, 

ANNE, LADY CROFTON (1751-1817), was elevated to the peerage (an honour for Sir Edward, had he lived), in 1797, as BARONESS CROFTON, of Mote, County Roscommon.

Her ladyship was succeeded by her grandson,

EDWARD, 2nd Baron Crofton, eldest son of 

THE HON SIR EDWARD CROFTON, 3rd Baronet, the successor of his father in 1797.

This gentleman married the Lady Charlotte Stewart, fifth daughter of John, 6th Earl of Galloway KT, and had issue,
EDWARD, his successor;
William, 1814-38;
Susanna Anne; Charlotte; Frances; Sophia; Frederica.
Sir Edward died in 1816, and was succeeded by his son, 

EDWARD, 2nd Baron (1806-69), who succeeded at the demise of his grandmother to the barony,
known as Sir Edward Crofton, 4th Baronet, from 1816 to 1817, who was an Anglo-Irish Conservative politician; was elected an Irish Representative Peer in 1840, and served in the Conservative administrations of Lord Derby and Benjamin Disraeli as a Lord-in-Waiting in 1852, from 1858-59 and from 1866-68. 
a Gentleman of the Bedchamber to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1867-68; State Steward to the Lord Lieutenant 1880; Gentleman in Waiting to the Lord Lieutenant 1886-92; a Representative Peer for Ireland (Conservative) 1873-1912.
GUY PATRICK GILBERT, 7th Baron (1951-2007), Lieutenant-Colonel, Defence Attaché to the British Embassy in Angola.

MOTE PARK HOUSE, Ballymurray, County Roscommon, was built by the Crofton family in the later half of the 18th century, preceding the Castle of Mote erected by the family in 1620.

It was clearly an imposing house and reflected the influence of neo-classicism prevalent at the time.

This style emphasized for the first time a sense of permanence and security among the gentry and nobility in Ireland.

The house was the most impressive of its type built in County Roscommon, the others of this period being located at Runnamoat near Ballymoe, and Sandford House in Castlerea.

The house was originally an irregular two-storey-over-basement house, which the architect Richard Morrison more than doubled in size by adding six bays and an extra storey.

It had a deep hall with a screen of columns, beyond which a door flanked by niches led into an oval library in the bow on the garden front.

These gardens contained many fine architectural features, some of which are still intact.

Perhaps the most splendid surviving feature is the original entrance gate consisting of a Doric triumphal arch surmounted by a lion with screen walls linking it to a pair of identical lodges.

It has been suggested that this was designed by James Gandon, although others have pointed out that while this certainly is feasible, certain elements, most notably the head and keystone of the arch, appear to be of a later date and have a provincial character.

It is worth mentioning at this stage the work of Augusta Crofton: She was a renowned amateur photographer and appointed OBE in 1920.

From the mid-19th century, as with so many other estates, things started to go downhill for the fortunes of the Croftons and their home.

It should be noted at the outset that the Croftons, while not among the best examples of improving landlords, did keep their rents low and endeavoured to help their tenants as much as possible.

The fact that the estate was well managed is evident from many volumes of rentals of the estate dating from 1834-1893, along with family records held at Roscommon Library.

Rents received, expenditure on wages, bills, details of land improvements and summaries of yearly rental statistics for each denomination are clearly recorded.

The problem of absenteeism was largely irrelevant to the Crofton estate during this period as it was administered by competent land agents.

Despite the Land Acts, tenants made no effort to purchase their land.

Arrears of rent increased with arrears accounting for over 30% of total rent received by the 1890s.

Clearly the house itself was also falling into disrepair.

The 3rd Baron died in 1912 and was interred in the family vault at Killmaine.

In many respects he had become disillusioned with life on the estate long before his death, showing little interest in his Irish properties.

Instead he preferred, among other roles, that of representative peer at Westminister.

As he was a bachelor, his titles passed to his nephew Arthur Edward, 4th Baron.

Although the 4th Baron took a practical interest in his inheritance, the last of the Land Acts meant most of the estate was sold piecemeal in the early 20th century.

Ownership of what was left passed to his children and then to his grandson Edward Blaise, 5th Baron, to whom the title eventually passed.

The 5th Baron was the last of the Croftons to reside at Mote, but moved to England in the 1940s.

A sign that the final demise of the big house was forthcoming is evidenced by the public auction of October 1947.

It occasioned quite a large public interest as evidenced by a photograph taken of the house on the morning of the auction.

The 1950s and early 1960s saw the final nail driven in the big house's coffin with the Irish Land Commission demolishing the house completely.

Much of the beautiful woods surrounding the house were also felled, and replaced with newer mixed conifer species.

The remaining land was divided into several properties for families transferred from the nearby congested districts.

Now, instead of the big house, many smaller farm houses lay scattered over what was once the Crofton estate.

Mote Park still attracts many visitors however, marketed now as a heritage walkway, almost ten miles in length and taking in whatever original features still remaining intact.

The house was demolished in the 1960s.

Roscommon Golf Club occupies part of the original Mote Park demesne.

First published in July, 2012.   Crofton arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Ballylin House


This family, and that of Sir Gilbert King Bt, of Charlestown, is one and the same, descended from

THE RT REV EDWARD KING (1577-1639), born at Stukeley, Huntingdonshire, elected Fellow of Trinity College Dublin, 1593, two years after its foundation, and consecrated Lord Bishop of Elphin, 1611.

Bishop King was buried in Elphin, where he built a castle and acquired landed property in the neighbourhood.

His lordship married twice, and left sons and daughters, among them JOHN KING, of Boyle, County Roscommon, whose daughter, Anne, wedded Dominick French, of Dungar, or French Park, County Roscommon, and

JAMES KING (1610-87), of Charlestown, County Roscommon, High Sheriff of County Roscommon, 1657, MP for County Roscommon, 1657, who espoused Judith, daughter of Gilbert Rawson, and had issue,
Elizabeth; Martha; Susanna.
Mr King was succeeded by his younger son,

GILBERT KING JP MP (1658-1721), of Charlestown, High Sheriff of County Leitrim, 1717, who married Mary, daughter of Dominick French, of French Park, and granddaughter of John King, of Boyle, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Oliver (Rev).
Mr King was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN KING, of Charlestown, High Sheriff of County Sligo, 1711, County Leitrim, 1728, MP for Jamestown, 1721, who wedded firstly, in 1706, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Shaw, of Newford, County Galway, and had issue,
He married secondly, in 1721, Rebecca, daughter of John Digby, and grandson of Essex Digby, Lord Bishop of Dromore, who was son of Sir Robert Digby and Lettice, 1st Baroness Offaly, and had issue,
Mr King died ca 1737, and was succeeded by his son,

JOHN KING, of Fermoyle, County Longford, the first of the family to live at Ballylin, who espoused firstly, in 1748, Alice, daughter of Ross Mahon, of Castlegar, County Galway; and secondly, Frances Digby.

He died in 1778, and was succeeded by

THE REV HENRY KING (1799-1857), of Ballylin, Ferbane, King's County, who succeeded to Ballylin at the decease of his maternal uncle.

He married, in 1821, Harriett, youngest daughter of John Lloyd, of Gloster, King's County, for many years MP for that county, and sister of the Countess of Rosse, and had issue,
JOHN GILBERT, his heir;
Harriett, mother of HENRY LOUIS MAHON;
Mary, m 5th Viscount Bangor; accidentally killed.
The Rev Henry King was succeeded by his son,

JOHN GILBERT KING JP DL (1822-1901), of Ballylin, High Sheriff of King's County, 1852, MP for King's County, 1865-8, who died unmarried and was succeeded by his nephew,

HENRY LOUIS MAHON JP DL (1860-1922), of Ballylin, High Sheriff of King's County, 1903, eldest son of Ross Mahon, of Ladywell, by Harriett his wife, daughter of the Rev Henry King, of Ballylin.

He assumed, by royal licence, the name and arms of KING in lieu of his patronymic, MAHON.

Mr King wedded, in 1904, Winifred Harriette, only surviving daughter of William Somerset Ward, of Dublin, and had issue,
Harriet Mary, b 1906;
Winifred Alice, b 1909.
He was succeeded by his son,

GILBERT MAHON KING, a major in the army, whose last known address was at Mullingar, County Westmeath.

BALLYLIN HOUSE, Ferbane, County Offaly, was a two-storey, early 19th century villa designed by Richard Morrison.

It had a three-bay entrance front, with a side elevation with one bay on either side of a central curved bow.

Ballylin was demolished in the 1940s.

First published in July, 2014.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Ducal Tribute

22 DECEMBER 1951 - 9 AUGUST 2016


"Gerald Cavendish [Grosvenor], 6th Duke of Westminster KG CB CVO OBE TD CD DL led a full life.

He was a passionate country man, committed soldier, an excellent shot, a true entrepreneur and, importantly, he went out of his way to be courteous and humorous with all people, regardless of status or wealth.

Distinctly down-to-earth, the Duke of Westminster was rarely seen without a Diet Coke and a cigarette (later electric).

Not much of a sleeper, one might expect emails from him at any hour of the night and an average week would see him up and down from home in Chester to London and all over the world to visit soldiers, businesses, charities and rural estates while representing and promoting numerous organisations.

His birth in Northern Ireland in December, 1951, was a celebrated occasion (his father being the last direct male descendant of the 1st Duke of Westminster).

In his own words “his childhood was idyllic” growing up with two sisters Leonora and Jane.

His parents, whilst loving and attentive, had both played their part in the Second World War and like many aristocratic families at that time had little idea of how to bring up children.

However the children were not materially spoiled or over-cosseted by their parents.

They employed a tyrannical nanny, who took any opportunity with Gerald not “to spare the rod”.

Despite this, Gerald and his sisters enjoyed much happiness and freedom playing in the islands of Lough Erne.

It was here that he learned to fish and to shoot at his father’s side.

Gerald’s father served as Member of Parliament for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and spent a good deal of time during Gerald’s early childhood at the House of Commons.

During these frequent absences Gerald was taken under the wing of the estate gamekeeper, Wesley Scott, with whom a deep friendship grew and this countryman’s earthy wisdom and knowledge was imparted to Gerald at an early age.

An empathy with country folk and a deep understanding and love of the natural world shaped his views thereafter.

This idyll was rudely interrupted at the age of eight when he was sent to boarding school for which he was little prepared.

He was schooled at Sunningdale and then Harrow.

It served to teach him that if you are happy and placed in a sympathetic environment you will learn.

Unfortunately, his time at school was not happy.

Speaking with a “broad Irish” accent he did not settle easily and his unhappiness at school was in direct proportion to his lack of achievement in the classroom, where he found little of relevance, other than History and English.

Ironically, and despite the unflattering remarks on his school reports, by the end of his life he had accumulated seven honorary degrees, which reflected the time and patronage he gave to education in the North West of England.

He was a natural sportsman and as a youth excelled on the football pitch with an ability to strike the ball equally well with either foot, but was discouraged to pursue this further by his father.

He was also a good cricketer, but his abiding love was for country sports and he was acknowledged to be one of the finest shots in the country.

When Gerald was 16 a Daily Mail reporter visited his school.

The 4th Duke had died and the title was passed to his brother Robert, Gerald’s father.

This meant that Gerald inherited the courtesy title “Earl Grosvenor”.

It was the first he had heard of it and immediately rang his father asking what it was all about.

The reply was “Ah yes, we need to talk about that!”

It was a double blow for Gerald who adored his uncle, but also realised that his life was to change forever.

On leaving Harrow he went travelling with his good friend Johnny Hesketh.

Gerald’s parents had always kept their children’s feet firmly on the ground.

When Gerald and Johnny were in Iran, Gerald found a carpet he particularly liked.

He sent a telegram to his father “Found exquisite carpet, send money” – his father replied – “Wrap carpet round head, have both examined”.

On his return he started training for his impending role within the Grosvenor Estate, and he threw himself into learning everything he could about the property business and the intricacies of the Grosvenor Estate.

He travelled in Canada, America, New Zealand and Australia, where, in 1975, he bought a 10,500 acre Estate in New South Wales known as Bull’s Run and learnt to manage land and run a farm of his own.

In 1978, Gerald married Natalia Phillips, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Phillips and Gina, grand-daughter of Sir Julius Wernher.

Gerald and ‘Tally’ were married at Tally’s family home, Luton Hoo, and they spent their honeymoon at Bull’s Run in Australia.

Their marriage represented the dawn of a new era in the history of the Grosvenor family – a modern family with Tally at its very heart.

Gerald inherited the dukedom from his father in 1979.

The property crash of the early 1970s and the heavy mortgaging of the London Estate to pay death duties had left the business in dire straits.

Along with the 120 hectare London Estate that came into the Grosvenor family in the 17th century, Gerald inherited the heavy burden of responsibility, which was to breathe life and purpose back into the Grosvenor Estate.

He also inherited two inestimable qualities from his father, a sense of duty and a keen appreciation of what was right and fair.

These two qualities stood him in good stead in his business dealings over the years.

He wisely surrounded himself with excellent people who worked closely together to encourage his involvement in the business and to support him in the role of Chairman, but it was his own youth and enthusiasm that provided the impetus to drive the Grosvenor Estate forward to become one of the largest and most entrepreneurial privately owned international property companies in the world.

His openness coupled with a natural charm endeared him to many.

Laughter was never far away in any conversation and many were the times when a joke relieved the tension at a difficult meeting or in an awkward situation.

Like many of his forebears he was an accomplished soldier.

In April, 1992, he took Command of his regiment the Queen’s Own Yeomanry based in Newcastle.

He thought this to be the pinnacle of his Army career, instead it served to fan the flames of his future ambitions in the Army, not for himself, but for the volunteer soldier and the public’s recognition of their contribution.

In 2004, Gerald was made the Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff for Reserve Forces and Cadets.

This put him in charge of Ministry of Defence policy for the reservists and cadets of all three armed forces.

Having started his military life as a trooper thirty-five years before, he was now promoted to Major-General – making him the first reservist ‘two star’ since the 1930s.

The combination of his rank and his posting within the MoD enabled him to achieve much on behalf of the Reserve Forces during a period that saw a sea-change in their culture: reservists were now expected and wanted to serve on operations.

Not since the Second World War had such numbers been mobilised, firstly to Iraq and then increasingly to Afghanistan.

The first decade of the twenty-first century saw the Territorial Army assume an exceptionally high profile.

It moved from being a force of last resort to become the reserve of choice in support of regular army operations.

Much of this was due to Major-General the Duke of Westminster.

As the role of reservists became more and more critical, so did Gerald’s influence on policy within the MoD.

Never a man to do things by half, he gave evidence to the Public Accounts Committee in June, 2006, worked a five-day week at his desk in Whitehall and utilised almost every weekend in the year to conduct visits to reservists in training or on ceremonial events.

He also maintained a thorough knowledge of what was happening on operations, visiting the Balkans and Iraq many times throughout his tenure and travelling to Kabul and Kandahar during the critical planning phase for the intensification of operations in Helmand.

He also made trips to Bosnia, Albania, Kuwait, Estonia, Malta and Oman. Despite his punishing programme – often visiting several units in a weekend – he would not allow any of his expenses to be a cost to the taxpayer.

When his term as Head of Reserve Forces came to an end in 2007 he re-focussed his attention on the Grosvenor Estate.

No stone was left unturned.

He started his quest to perfect each of his rural estates in terms of conservation and productivity.

He met staff from each of the businesses and estates and asked them for their thoughts.

Collating the information he went about putting in place the systems and procedures to make all staff feel a part of the organisation as a whole.

He promoted the importance of the rural estates and the communities which they supported and gave the non-property businesses the confidence to excel.

This was interrupted in 2011 when he was, once again, “called up”, taking the new appointment of Deputy Commander Land Forces at a crucial time for the Territorial Army as the MoD published the Future Reserves 2020 Commission’s (FR20) Report.

It was a time of huge cultural change for the Army and General Westminster was at the heart of it.

He was able to make a unique contribution as one who had more experience of Reserve forces than anyone else in Defence.

His appointment was key to providing an experienced perspective in generating the appropriate reserve forces, re-establishing commitment, introducing a reinvigorated recruiting campaign and directing staff effort across the whole Army.

His commitment set an example for others to follow.

He more than held his own amongst Generals but was equally at home talking with the most junior trooper on the tank park.

Soldiers, sailors and airmen of all ranks knew how much he was doing for them and appreciated his commitment and support.

When the Duke left the Reserve Army after over 40 years of service he was very moved by what he had seen in Iraq and Afghanistan and particularly by the very heavy price many young people in uniform had paid for serving the nation.

He wanted to do something for them and this quickly turned into the idea of continuing the success of the clinical rehabilitation at Headley Court which was created in 1947 – by simply creating a 21st century version of it on a new site in the middle of England.

Along the way, the Secretary of State for Defence asked him if he would at the same time 'do something for the nation' – essentially by sharing Defence's renowned expertise in this field – which Gerald agreed to.

One thing led to another, and by 2011 there was strong support pan-Government for his idea and the concept of the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre was born.

Typically, he made the founding gift of £50 million.

Other major donors have followed his lead so that his creation is now a year into construction and will open in 2018.

This year the rehabilitation opportunities for the nation stemming from the construction of the Defence establishment are being seriously examined with Government – and the Grosvenor legacy here could be even greater than he ever imagined.

It is very poignant that he will not see his remarkable initiative turn into a very significant legacy for those who are seriously injured.

Many in uniform will hope that the earth lies lightly on this soldier's bones.

His military experience was reflected in Gerald’s approach to the Grosvenor Estate, where his loyalty to his staff, whether a senior executive or a young gamekeeper, was unprecedented and all knew that the Duke would be there to support them when the going got tough.

He was a great believer in investing in people; he would present long-service awards, attend retirement parties, speak at staff open days and have lunch with small groups of staff on a regular basis.

Gerald, the countryman, had a natural affinity with the countryside.

In 1992 he published a report entitled “The Problems in Rural Areas” highlighting the difficulties being experienced in remote and isolated rural communities.

In recent years he lobbied to get “Broadband” access for isolated communities, something he knew to be a commercial and educational lifeline.

He was a man of duty.

He was loyal, unforgiving, decisive, stubborn, a fearsome opponent, prejudiced, opinionated and a brilliant strategist.

He was a contradiction.

He was brave, and yet wild horses could not drag him to the dentist.

He was both intolerant and open-minded, a loner and the best company, self-indulgent and hugely generous; he could be boastful about small things and unassuming about magnificent things.

He would not accept weakness of any kind, particularly in himself, even when suffering with depression he refused to see a doctor and decided to “heal himself”.

He hated the tags “environmentalist” and “philanthropist” believing that caring was a better word and particularly hated those who endeavoured to protect his good name and would thwart their efforts at every turn.

Like many who had to grow up too quickly he maintained a childlike quality, a smutty sense of humour, and a great sense of the ridiculous.

He never lost his love of the outdoors – a countryman at heart he was never more content than when he was on the grouse moor with a shotgun in hand.

He is survived by his wife Tally, their four children, Tamara, Edwina, Hugh and Viola; grandchildren, Jake, Louis, Zia, Wolf, Isla and Orla.

He is succeeded by his son Hugh, who becomes the 7th Duke of Westminster and leaves him a well-ordered Grosvenor Estate."

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Darnley Estate


JOHN BLIGH, a Citizen of London, the founder of this noble family, was employed as agent of the adventurers for the forfeited estates by the rebellion of 1641, and in that capacity arrived in Ireland during the usurpation of Cromwell, when he became an adventurer himself to a large extent.

Mr Bligh was returned for Athboy in the first parliament after the restoration.

He married Catherine, sister of the Rt Rev William Fuller, Lord Bishop of Lincoln, and dying in 1666, was succeeded by his only son,

THE RT HON THOMAS BLIGH (1654-1710), of Rathmore, County Meath, MP for Rathboy, 1692-3, County Meath, 1695-1710, and of the Privy Council to QUEEN ANNE, who wedded Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel James Naper, of Loughcrew, in the same county, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN BLIGH (1687-1728), MP for Trim, 1709-13, Athboy, 1713-21, who espoused, in 1713, the Lady Theodosia Hyde, then only daughter and heir of Edward, 3rd Earl of Clarendon, by Catherine, Baroness Clifton, and had issue,
EDWARD, his successor;
JOHN, succeeded his brother;
Mary; Anne; Theodosia.
Mr Bligh was elevated to the peerage, in 1721, in the dignity of Baron Clifton, of Rathmore, and Viscount Darnley.

His lordship was further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1725, as EARL OF DARNLEY.

He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

EDWARD, 2nd Earl (1715-47), who had previously inherited the English barony of CLIFTON on the decease of his mother, 1722.

His lordship died unmarried, and the honours devolved upon his brother,

JOHN, 3rd Earl (1719-81), who espoused, in 1766, Mary, daughter and heir of John Stoyte, of Street, County Westmeath, barrister, and had issue,
JOHN, his successor;
Edward, General in the army;
Mary; Theodosia; Catherine.
His lordship was succeeded by his elder son,

JOHN, 4th Earl (1767-1831), who married, in 1791, Elizabeth, thgird daughter of the Rt Hon William Brownlow, of Lurgan, County Armagh, and had issue,
EDWARD, his successor;
John Duncan;
Mary; Elizabeth.
This nobleman presented, in 1829, a petition to the King, claiming the dukedom of LENNOX, as heir of line of Charles, 6th Duke of Lennox and 4th Duke of Richmond, at whose death, in 1672, CHARLES II was served His Grace's heir.

As His Majesty's (legitimate) issue became extinct in 1807, with His Eminence the Cardinal Duke of York, and as that personage was the last heir male of the STUARTS, the Earl of Darnley put forward his claim as heir general, being descended from Catherine, sister of the 6th Duke.

The petition was referred to the House of Lords, but their lordships came to no decision about it.

His lordship was succeeded by his elder son,

EDWARD, 5th Earl (1795-1835), who wedded, in 1825, Emma Jane, daughter of Sir Henry Parnell Bt, and had issue,
JOHN, his successor;
Edward Vesey;
another son;
Elizabeth Caroline; a daughter.
His lordship, Lord-Lieutenant of County Meath, was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN, 6th Earl (1827-96), Hereditary High Steward of Gravesend and Milton.
The heir apparent is the present holder's only son, Ivo Donald Bligh, styled Lord Clifton (b 1968).

Darnley Estate Office

During the 1641 Rebellion, the town of Athboy, County Meath, was captured by Owen Roe O'Neill.

With Cromwell and the collapse of the Rebellion, much of the land ownership passed to adventurers from England.

In 1694, the town's 'lands and commons' and several other denominations of land were erected into a manor and granted to Thomas Bligh, MP for Athboy, who had earlier purchased almost 3,000 acres in the area of Athboy.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Darnleys planned and carried out the development of Athboy, giving it the form which prevails today.

It was not until 1909, under the 1903 Wyndham Act, that Francis Walter, 8th Earl, auctioned the town of Athboy.

The Darnley estate office was finally closed in 1948.

Today the erstwhile Darnley estate office on the main street is the Darnley Lodge Hotel.

Cobham Hall

Former Seats - Cobham Hall, near Gravesend, Kent; Rathmore, County Meath.

Former town residence ~ 46 Berkeley Square, W1

First published in July, 2012.   Darnley arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

6th Duke of Westminster, 1951-2016


The Most Noble Gerald Cavendish Duke of Westminster, KG CB CVO OBE TD DL, had strong, tangible and affectionate connections with Northern Ireland.

His Grace's father Robert, the 5th Duke, lived at Ely Lodge in County Fermanagh.

His mother Viola was Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh.
In February, 2014, The Prince of Wales, through The Prince’s Countryside Fund, announced that £50,000 would be donated from its emergency fund to help farmers and rural communities in Somerset. The Duke of Westminster generously confirmed he would personally match the funding and donate an additional £50,000 taking the total available to £100,000.
Gerald Grosvenor was born at Omagh, County Tyrone, on the 22nd December, 1951.

He had the following honours:
  • Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
    Companion of the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath
  • Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
  • Officer of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire 
His Grace was awarded the Territorial Decoration, having served as a major-general in the TA; and was a Deputy Lieutenant of Cheshire.

The Duke spent his childhood at Ely Lodge Estate, an idyllic demesne in County Fermanagh on the edge of Lower Lough Erne, surrounded by forest and woodland.

He was styled Gerald, Earl Grosvenor, between 1967-79.

The Westminster family had an absolutely beautiful, classic, wooden motor yacht which they kept at Ely Lodge, called Trasna.

It was the finest vessel I'd ever seen on Lough Erne, being about fifty feet in length and it held sixteen persons comfortably.

Trasna sported a splendid mascot on her bow: a golden sheaf of wheat (or corn).

When the present 6th Duke moved permanently to his family seat at Eaton Hall in Cheshire, Trasna was acquired by the National Trust briefly; whilst moored at the boat-house on Crom Estate. I've sailed on her several times.

Trasna now belongs to the Duke of Abercorn and is based at Belle Isle, County Fermanagh.

First published October, 2009.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Invitation Concert

Illustration by Marcus Patton OBE

THE ULSTER HALL, Bedford Street, Belfast, was built in 1862 in the Classical style.

The 4th Baron Dunleath (who died ahead of his time in 1993) was a passionate supporter of the Hall and occasionally played the organ there.

I have fond memories of Henry Dunleath.

The Ulster Hall was sold to Belfast City Council in 1902.

In 1959, a new shield was erected, depicting the red hand of Ulster.

Ulster arms prior to present representation

This shield is displayed at the very top of the building.

In 1862 this splendid building was one of the biggest concert halls in the British Isles, with a capacity of 2,000.

The Hall was almost filled to capacity last night for a concert produced by BBC Radio 3.

By the way, if you think the orchestra looks slightly sparse in the photographs, this is because some pieces did not require the full ensemble; so various sections took leave of absence for awhile (!).

The conductor and pianist was Howard Shelley OBE.

We were treated to a selection of absolutely lovely pieces by Bridge, Sterndale Bennett, Sir Hamilton Harty, and Sir Hubert Parry Bt.

I wasn't aware that Hubert Parry had been created a baronet in 1902.

Howard Shelley conducted the Ulster Orchestra and also played the piano in Sterndale Bennett's marvellous Piano Concerto Number One in D Minor, doing it all with great aplomb and authority.

The orchestra's principal oboist - a familiar face to regular patrons - was Christopher Blake, who was the soloist for Parry's Symphony Number Three in C Major.

Incidentally, Christopher is a keen and passionate gardener during his spare time, particularly for subtropical palms, ferns, bamboos and succulents.

The programme lasted for about two hours.

As I left the Hall and walked up Bedford Street I noticed that demolition work has begun on a section of the ground floor of Windsor House, which is being transformed by the Hastings family, hoteliers, into the Grand Central Hotel.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Order of St Patrick


Established in 1783, it was an order of knighthood and the letters KP followed the recipient's title.

Originally founded as a gesture of goodwill towards the kingdom of Ireland, it was made available to Irish peers who had rendered distinguished services, and to those who could not be admitted to the Order of the Garter (limited to 24).

The Order of St Patrick was restricted to 22 knights.

The insignia was particularly decorative: a sash riband was worn over the left shoulder, light blue in colour, with an oval pierced badge suspended from it.

This consisted of a shamrock with three crowns on its leaves (representing the kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland), the shamrock being placed on a cross of St Patrick.

The centre was surrounded by an oval which bore the legend QUIS SEPARABIT - who shall separate - and the date, MDCCLXXXIII.

The gold and enamel collar chain consisted of alternate roses and harps.

The breast star was of silver with a representation of the sash badge in the centre.

The mantle was also light blue satin with the star of the Order embroidered thereon.

The badge and plume of the Irish Guards are based on the Order's star and light blue colour.

The Order was discontinued following the secession of the Irish Republic from the United Kingdom in 1922.

The last non-royal recipient was the 3rd Duke of Abercorn KG KP PC in 1922.

The last surviving recipient of the Patrick was His late Royal Highness The Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, who died in 1974.

The last appointment to the Order was for His Royal Highness The Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George, Duke of York (later GEORGE VI), conferred on St Patrick's Day, 1936.

The Rev Professor Peter Galloway, OBE, JP, has written a book about the Order, entitled The Most Illustrious Order: The Order of Saint Patrick and its Knights, by Unicorn Press.

As Professor Galloway concluded, 
Perhaps a day may come when the Order of St Patrick could be revived but, until a new, appropriate and acceptable constituency can be discerned, this seems unlikely in the foreseeable future.
First published in July, 2008.