Sunday, 31 July 2016

Blue Trail Walk

Today is a Jazz in the Garden day at Mount Stewart, the National Trust's beautiful property on the Ards Peninsula, County Down.

However, my purpose was to walk the brand new Blue Trail.

This new trail doesn't officially open until next Wednesday, I gather, though visitors are being treated to a preview.

The trail passes a field of barley and a derelict cottage with a rusty corugated iron roof.

I searched for the ruins of an ancient church in a field close to the Glen, though all I could find were several large stones.

The trail meanders through lovely woodland till it joins the Red Trail at a junction which leads to The Folly, where I lunched this afternoon.

I sat on a wooden chair in the folly, had a beaker of tea, and ate my fresh fruit.

Thence I walked along the track, past a wild-flower meadow with cornflowers, past the old piggery, and back to my car.

Close of Drumbanagher

RICHARD CLOSE, the first of the family who settled in Ireland, was the younger son of a respectable house in Yorkshire, and held a commission in the Army.

He was sent from England, in the reign of CHARLES I, into that kingdom, where he remained after the termination of the civil wars, and became one of the lords of the soil, as we find him having four townlands in County Monaghan during the time of CHARLES II.

After the Restoration he fixed himself at Lisnagarvey, near Lisburn, County Antrim, where a Protestant colony had been located under the protection of Lord Conway.

There he lived and died, leaving a son and heir,

RICHARD CLOSE, who inherited the County Monaghan estates.

Mr Close married Mary, sister of Samuel Waring, of Waringstown, MP for Hillsborough, and received from that gentleman a grant of lands contiguous to Waringstown, on which he built a good house and resided.

He considerably enlarged the family estate by purchasing a tract of land on the River Bann, between Rathfriland and Castlewellan, County Down, and after the disturbances in 1688, which obliged him to leave his home and join the Protestants, then united at Lisburn, under Lord Conway and Sir Arthur Rawdon.

He returned (subsequently to the battle of the Boyne) having suffered great losses during the harassing conflicts of the times.

Mr Close left at his decease (with three daughters, the eldest married to the Very Rev John Welsh, Dean of Connor) five sons,
RICHARD, his heir;
SAMUEL, of whom presently;
Henry, of Waringstown;
John, an army captain, killed in Gibraltar;
The eldest son,

RICHARD CLOSE, wedded, in 1708, Rose, daughter of Roger Hall, of Narrow Water, County Down, and had issue, now extinct.

The second son,

THE REV SAMUEL CLOSE (1683-1742), Rector of Donaghenry, Stewartstown, County Tyrone, espoused Catherine, daughter of Captain James Butler, of Bramblestown, County Kilkenny, by Margaret, Lady Maxwell, of Elm Park, County Armagh (widow of Sir Robert Maxwell, 1st Baronet, of Orchardtoun, and of Ballycastle, and daughter and heiress of Henry Maxwell, of Elm Park, who was the son of James Maxwell, third son of the Very Rev Robert Maxwell, Dean of Armagh, and had issue,
MAXWELL, his heir;
Margaret; Mary; Catherine; Elizabeth.
Mr Close was succeeded by his son and heir,

MAXWELL CLOSE (c1722-93), High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1780, who succeeded his grandmother, Lady Maxwell (d 1758), in the possession of Elm Park, and the lands settled upon him.

He married, in 1748, Mary, eldest daughter of  Captain Robert Maxwell, of Fellows Hall, County Armagh (brother of John, 1st Baron Farnham), and had issue,
SAMUEL, his heir;
Robert, died unmarried;
Barry (Sir), 1st Baronet, major-general;
Farnham, died in Guadaloupe;
Grace; Catherine; Margaret; Mary; Elizabeth.
Mr Close was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV SAMUEL CLOSE (1749-1817), of Elm Park, Rector of Keady, County Armagh, and of Drakestown, County Meath, who wedded, in 1782, Deborah, daughter of the Very Rev Arthur Champagn√©, Dean of Clonmacnoise (son of Major Josias Champagn√©, by the Lady Jane Forbes his wife, daughter of Arthur, 2nd Earl of Granard), and had four sons and three daughters,
MAXWELL, his heir;
Robert, Major, East India Company;
Henry Samuel, m Jane, daughter of the Rev Holt Waring;
John Forbes (Rev), Rector of Kilkeel;
Mary; Jane; Harriet.
Mr Close was succeeded by his eldest son,

MAXWELL CLOSE JP DL (1783-1867), of Drumbanagher, County Armagh, High Sheriff, 1818, Colonel in the army, who married, in 1820, Anna Elizabeth, sister of Charles, 1st Baron Lurgan, and had issue, 
Barry, b 1833.
Mr Close was succeeded by his elder son,

MAXWELL CHARLES CLOSE JP DL (1827-1903), of Drumbanagher, High Sheriff, 1854, MP for County Armagh, 1857-64 and 1874-85, who married, in 1852, Catherine Deborah Agnes, daughter of Henry Samuel Close, of Newtown Park, County Dublin, and had issue,
Henry Samuel (1864-1944);
Edith; Emily Beatrice; Mary Geraldine;
Flora Lucy; Kate Violet; Grace Wilmina;
Alice Evelyn.
Mr Close was succeeded by his eldest son,

MAJOR MAXWELL ARCHIBALD CLOSE JP DL (1853-1935), of Drumbanagher, and Drum Manor, County Tyrone, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1908, who wedded, in 1891, the Lady Muriel Albany Stuart-Richardson, daughter of 5th Earl Castle Stewart, and had issue,
Archibald Maxwell, b 1903;
Lilias Augusta Muriel; Agatha Katharine Rose.
The eldest son,

MAXWELL STUART CLOSE (1892-1946), of Drumbanagher, wedded, in 1915, Alexandra, daughter of M W C Cramer-Roberts DL, of Sallymount, County Kildare, and had issue,
Rosemary Muriel Victoria; Viola Anne; Hazel.

I have written about Drumbanagher House here.

First published in April, 2012. 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Ward Baronetcy


WE FIND in the roll of Battle Abbey that the family of WARD attended WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR into England, where, after some centuries, it appeared in three respectable branches; of which the Wards of Capesthorne, Cheshire.

For several centuries, having possessed many extensive lordships, descended the family of WARD, of Bangor, in the person of

BERNARD WARD, who married a daughter of the ancient family of Leigh, of High Leigh, in Cheshire, and settled in Ulster about 1570.

This Bernard acquired the lands known as Carrickshannagh from the Earl of Kildare, and renamed it CASTLE WARD.

His son and heir,

NICHOLAS WARD, wedded Joan, daughter of Ralph Leycester MP, of Toft Hall, Cheshire, pre-1584.

By his wife he had four sons and several daughters (Eleanor wedded Thomas Russell, of Lecale), namely,
Bernard, ancestor of the Viscounts Bangor;
ROBERT, of whom we treat;
Thomas, colonel in the army; died at battle of Worcester;
Mr Ward's second son,

ROBERT WARD (1610-91), High Sheriff of County Down, 1661 and 1667, espoused Mary, daughter of the Most Rev Dr Henry Leslie, Lord Bishop of Meath, before 1661.

Mr Ward received the honour of knighthood in 1670, and was created a baronet in 1682, denominated of Killough, County Down, for his loyal service to CHARLES II.

He survived his only son, CHARLES, who left no issue by his wife Catherine, a daughter of Sir John Temple.

The baronetcy expired in 1691.

Old Castle Ward

THE VILLAGE of Killough, County Down, was established by Michael Ward, of Castleward, father of the 1st Viscount Bangor and a Justice of the King's Bench.

From Norman times the Russell family, who were Roman Catholics, had held the Manor of Killough, but they had been deprived of it after the rising of 1641. 

Sir Robert Ward was granted the manor of Killough in 1672.

At Ballysallagh, a townland 2½ miles south-east of Downpatrick, 401 acres of land owned by the Earl of Ardglass, in 1669, were leased to Sir Robert.

St John's Point, a townland on southern most tip in Lecale district, northern-most point of Dundrum Bay, 290 acres, site of an ancient holy well & ancient church & graveyard (St John's) which was attached to Inch Abbey, was acquired by Sir Robert in 1670, then sold to James Cummins. 

First published in February, 2011.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Hatley Manor


JAMES WHYTE (son of Mark Whyte, by Elizabeth his wife, daughter of John Edwards, of Old Court, County Wicklow), married firstly, in 1783, Gertrude, daughter of James Gee, grandson of William Gee, of Bishop Burton, and had issue,
JAMES, his heir;
Robert, who took the name of Moyser.
He wedded secondly, the daughter of Sir Thomas Hildyard, and had a daughter, ANN CATHERINE, who succeeded to the Hildyard estates.

Mr Whyte died in 1807, and was succeeded by his son,

JAMES WHYTE, of Pilton House, Barnstaple, Devon, who married, in 1805, Frances Honoria, daughter of the Rt Hon John Beresford, brother of 1st Marquess of Waterford.

He died in 1852, leaving issue,
JOHN JAMES, his heir;
James Richard (Rev);
Robert Charles;
Mark Beresford;
William Thomas;
Selina Catherine Harriet; Frances Honoria;
Mary; Barbara Henrietta.
The eldest son,

JOHN JAMES WHYTE JP DL (1806-89), of Newtown Manor, County Leitrim, Lieutenant-Colonel, 7th Hussars, espoused, in 1842, Mary Ann Jesse, daughter of Charles Dieudonn√© de Montenach, and had issue,
Theodore William;
Marie Elizabeth Frances Medora; Marie Gertrude;
Emma Frances Honoria; Florence Alma Julia.
Mr Whyte was succeeded by his eldest son,

CHARLES CECIL BERESFORD WHYTE JP DL (1845-1923), of Newtown Manor and Hatley Manor, High Sheriff, 1877, who married, in 1874, Petronella Hallberg, daughter of Herr Magnus Hallberg Riksdagsman, of Sweden, an by her (who succeeded to the estates of Charles Manners St George JP DL and Madame Ingri Christina St George, in counties Leitrim and Roscommon), had issue,
John Theodore Marcus;
Maryanne Christina de Montenach St George;
Ingri Melesina Beatrice Gertrude;
Mona Selina Petronella;
Chisogona Constantia Barbara Beresford;
Florence Holda Medora; Lucile Theodora Gwendoline;
Ebba Harline d'Iberville Le Moyne;
Edith Estelle Ermyntrude le Poer.
The eldest son,

CECIL HARMAN BALDWIN ST GEORGE WHYTE (1881-), Lieutenant, 5th Battalion, the Connaught Rangers.

HATLEY MANOR, near Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim, built about 1830, became the seat of the Whytes through marriage.

In the manner of Castle Ward House, it has a split personality: The entrance front is Italianate; the garden front, Gothic.

The house faces across a forecourt to the main street of Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim.

The Gothic front overlooks the demesne, which leads to the river.

Hatley was originally a seat of the St George family, of Hatley St George, Cambridgeshire.

The last St George to live there is interred in an elaborate Victorian-Classical mausoleum in the grounds.

The estate passed the widow of Cecil Whyte by inheritance.

It was purchased by a bank, though is now privately owned.

First published in June, 2012.

Beech Hill House


CORNET JOHN KENNEDY (1615-80), of Ballymagowan, near Clogher, County Tyrone, descended from James Kennedy, seventh son of Gilbert, 2nd Earl of Cassilis, went to Ulster in 1641 with the Scottish Army and acquired considerable church lands near Clogher.

He married Janet, daughter of Thomas Stewart, of Galston, and had issue,
HORACE, his heir;
James, of Ballymagowan.
The elder son,

CAPTAIN HORACE KENNEDY (1648-1714), settled at Londonderry, 1667.

Captain Kennedy was sheriff during the Siege; was attainted by JAMES II's parliament; and twice, by act of Parliament, appointed a commissioner for Poll Tax for the county.

He wedded Katherine, daughter of Captain Gervais Squire, of Donoughmore, Commissioner for the Peace in County Londonderry, 1677, and had issue, an eldest son,

GERVAIS KENNEDY (1675-1721), who espoused Jane, daughter of William Maxwell, of County Tyrone, and left to the guardianship of his wife's aunt, Mrs Tomkins, of Prehen, two daughters and one son,

WILLIAM KENNEDY (1713-83), who married Easter, daughter and heir of George Crookshank, and had issue,
Maxwell Kennedy (Rev), dsp 1782;
John Pitt (Rev), Rector of Donagh;
The second son,

GEORGE CROOKSHANK KENNEDY (1752-1819), assumed by sign manual the name of SKIPTON in 1801, and succeeded his cousin and brother-in-law in the Beechhill estate.

Mr Kennedy-Skipton, a deputy governor of County Londonderry, married Sarah, third daughter of Conolly McCausland, of Fruit Hill, and had issue (with five daughters),
CONOLLY McCAUSLAND (1778-1854), dsp;
GEORGE, his successor;
The third son,

DR GEORGE KENNEDY-SKIPTON (1782-1847), married firstly, in 1814, Mary, daughter of the Rev Henry Stacy DD, and had issue (with two daughters),
George Henry (1815-47);
HENRY STACY, his heir;
Thomas Kennedy (1820-24);
Conolly (1822-23);
Daniel Pitt.
The eldest surviving son,

HENRY STACY KENNEDY-SKIPTON, of Beechhill, married Elizabeth, daughter of C Stewart, and had issue,

DR ALEXANDER KENNEDY-SKIPTON, of the Casino, the fifth son, who married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of James McCrea, of Londonderry, by Frances, his wife, daughter of William Law, of Dunmore.

Dr Skipton died in 1858, leaving two sons, the younger of whom,

GEORGE ALEXANDER KENNEDY-SKIPTON JP, of the Casino, County Londonderry, was High Sheriff in 1863.

He sold Beech Hill in 1875 and died a bachelor in 1906.


The family of SKIPTON appears to have been of knightly rank, and numerous and flourishing during the reigns of JOHN, HENRY III and THE EDWARDS.

It was possessed of manors in the counties of Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, and Huntingdonshire.

THOMAS SKIPTON, the head of the Skiptons of the last-named county, was living in the reign of HENRY VIII, and had three sons; the eldest inherited the estate, and left a son, Richard, of Cambridge, 1626.

The second son,

 purchased, about 1617, the lands of Ballyshasky, of the Ballymullins, now Learmount and others, in County Londonderry.

He built a mansion house on the first named, and was murdered by the O'Cahans in 1624; and left, with two daughters, a son and heir,

CAPTAIN THOMAS SKIPTON, who styled himself, in his will, "of Skipton Hall".

This gentleman married Charity, daughter of Sir Thomas Staples Bt, of Lissan, and died in 1685, leaving two sons and a daughter.

The second son,

GEORGE SKIPTON, married Mary, co-heiress of Sir Alexander Staples, knight, and left a son, Staples Skipton, who bequeathed his estate of Faughanvale to the Skipton Hall family.

The eldest son,

 (1642-1704), attainted by JAMES II's parliament, married Jane, daughter of Edward Cary, of Dungiven, by Sarah, his wife, daughter of Sir Tristram Beresford Bt.

Captain Skipton was succeeded by his eldest son,

 who served with Lord Peterborough in Spain, wedded Eleanor, daughter of Colonel John Forward, of Castle Forward, and aunt to Alice Forward (created, in 1793, Countess of Wicklow).

He built, in 1728, the present residence (the name of which he changed to Beech Hill), within a few yards of the site of the house erected in 1622.

Captain Skipton died in 1739, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV ALEXANDER SKIPTON, rector successively of Magilligan and Bovagh, espoused Isabella, daughter of Gervais Kennedy, of Londonderry, and died in 1793, having had but one son,

THOMAS SKIPTON, who married Elizabeth, second daughter of Conolly McCausland, of Fruit Hill, by the heiress of the Gages of Alagilligan.

He died without male issue in 1802, bequeathing his estate to his cousin and brother-in-law,

GEORGE CROOKSHANK KENNEDY, who assumed by sign manual the name of SKIPTON.

The first house to stand on the richly-wooded Ardmore site was built in 1622 and was known as Ballyshaskey.

It was commissioned by Alexander Skipton, who was killed in a land ownership dispute with a local family.

His son, Captain Thomas Skipton, took up residence in 1638.

However, in a period of rebellion three years later, Thomas and his wife Charity were forced to flee under cover of darkness, narrowly escaping with their lives. Their home was burned to the ground.

Seemingly undeterred by these disasters, in 1661 Captain Skipton built a new house which he called Skipton Hall.

It stood on the opposite side of the brook to the original building.

The family remained there until the siege of Derry, when a retreating army reduced Skipton Hall to ashes. 

Thomas’s son and heir, Captain Alexander Skipton, continued to live on the estate, in an out-house, until his death in 1704.

Captain Thomas Skipton built the present mansion house in 1739 and, because of the large number of surrounding trees, named it Beechhill.

Two generations later, Thomas Skipton added a wing stretching out towards the brook and made some significant changes to the gardens.

When he died the estate passed on to his cousin, George Crookshank Kennedy, who immediately changed his name to Kennedy-Skipton and continued a programme of improvements.

He planted a substantial number of new trees and much  improved the layout and appearance of the grounds which he believed  would give people much pleasure.

An impressive porch was added to the  front of the house and also the big room that is situated over it and which is known as The Library.

A change in ownership came in 1872, when Beech Hill was bought by the  wealthy Nicholsons of Newbuildings.

At this time, the estate comprised 1,169 acres.

The Nicholsons made a number of internal changes to the house during their tenancy but, in general, it remained  their simple family home.

In 1942, the United States Marines occupied Beech Hill.

They had been sent to protect Londonderry’s war-time military installations.

In 1989, Beech Hill was bought by present owners, Patricia (Patsy) O’Kane, MBE, and her brother, Seamus Donnelly.

They undertook two years of refurbishment.

Beech Hill Country House opened for the first time in 1991. 

In 1998, the former US President, Bill Clinton, arrived.

By 2000, Beech Hill had become so popular that twenty-two bedrooms were inadequate, hence a new wing created ten more rooms and suites.

In 2011, restoration work costing almost £500,000 was completed.

It included new sash windows, extensive re-roofing and external and interior redecoration.

Atkinson wrote of Beech Hill in 1833:
‘… full grown timber, richly planted glen, an excellent garden, walled in and in full bearing, and sanded walks for the accommodation of the passenger through its richly
wooded lawns …’
The house is still surrounded by mature trees, with a lime and beech avenue and woodland walks. The raised portion to the north-west of the house.

The shape of the demesne has changed little: There are terraced lawns near the house and a series of ponds on descending ground, controlled by sluices.

Overflow car parks are amongst trees.

First published in July, 2012.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Gloucesters in Ulster

Wednesday, 27th July, 2016.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester attended the Clogher Valley Show, Augher, County Tyrone, and were received by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of County Tyrone, Mr Robert Scott OBE.

Their Royal Highnesses visited Enniskillen Airport, County Fermanagh, and were received by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, the Viscount Brookeborough.

Cleland of Stormont Castle


This is a County Down family, claiming descent from James Cleland of that ilk, Lanarkshire.

THE REV JOHN CLELAND (1755-1834), sometime prebendary of Armagh, Rector of Newtownards 1789-1809, became tutor to the young Lord Castlereagh and subsequently acted as agent for the Londonderry estates.
John Cleland was a student at the Rev William Neilson's Classical Academy in Rademon, County Down. A murder attempt occurred against him in 1796; he passed on information against the United Irishmen in 1797; agent for Marquess of Londonderry, 1824; bought land in Killeen & Ballymiscaw, 1830.
He married, in 1805, Esther, daughter and co-heiress of Samuel Jackson, of Stormont, by his wife Margaret Vateau, only child and heiress of Paul Peter Isaac Vateau, the descendant of a French Huguenot family, and had issue,
Robert Stewart;
Sarah Frances.
Mr Cleland was succeeded by his elder son,

SAMUEL JACKSON CLELAND (1808-42), who wedded, in 1834, Eliza, daughter of James Joyce, of Thornhill, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
James Vance;
Robert Stewart;
Samuel Frederick Stewart;
Mr Cleland was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN CLELAND JP DL (1836-93), of Stormont Castle, Dundonald, County Down, High Sheriff of County Down, 1866, who wedded, in 1859, Therese Maria, only daughter of Captain Thomas Leyland, of Haggerston Castle, Northumberland, and Hyde Park House, London, and had issue,
Andrew Leyland Hillyar, b 1868;
Florence Rachel Therese Laura, b 1894.
Mr Cleland was succeeded by his eldest son, 

ARTHUR CHARLES STEWART CLELAND (1865-1924), of Stormont Castle; sometime Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion, Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment, who married, in 1890, Mabel Sophia, only daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel H T D'Aguilar, Grenadier Guards.

Mr Cleland died at Field Green, Hawkhurst, Kent.

STORMONT CASTLE, Dundonald, County Down, is a Scottish-Baronial mansion of 1858, built by the Belfast architect Thomas Turner. 

This mansion replaced the original castle.

The entrance front is three storeys high and eight bays wide, with a two-storey canted bay window.

Remaining windows have square-topped sashes, with bartizan turrets at either end.

There is a tall tower at the eastern end, with a large door surround and balustrade on top, turrets on tower corners, crow-stepped castellation, and three rounded arch windows at top.

Gryphons brandish shields at either side of the main staircase

Cleland arms

The Castle's lofty tower is reminiscent of The Prince Consort's Tower at Balmoral Castle.

John Cleland's grandson began extending the Georgian house after 1842, though work did not begin on the new Castle (above) till 1858.

It was at "Storm Mount" that, ca 1830, Cleland created what was described as "a plain house": A mid or late Georgian house of a traditional type, it was in the form of a plain rectangle with a central projection to the south, presumably for the entrance. 

Associated plantings were very modest; there was a small fringed meadow at the front and an orchard on the hillside to the north west.  

A directory entry of 1837 referred (probably inaccurately) to the house as 'Storemont'; and, by 1864, the "Parliament Gazetteer" still did not rank it amongst the principal residences of the area. 

In those days the most substantial such residence was Rose Park, a name still in use in the residential area (and indeed in Rosepark House, a Government building occupied by the Exchequer and Audit Department and by part of the Department of Finance and Personnel).

It was in the course of removing Rose Park, in the process of consolidating Cleland's holdings, that his son Samuel Jackson Cleland was killed by the collapse of a wall in 1842.

In 1858, the Cleland family commissioned the local architect Thomas Turner to convert the existing plain dwelling into a flamboyant baronial castle.

To what extent the original house survives is not clear. Conventional wisdom, supported by some map evidence, is that the symmetrical five-bay block facing south is the "baronialised" shell of the Georgian dwelling.

To this, Turner added the entrance tower to the east.

The whole image and particularly the outline of the building was given a baronial character with turrets, battlements, bartizans with conical caps, iron cresting and weather vanes. 

The Cleland monogram was used on the shields held by the snarling stone gryphons which still guard the main entrance to the Castle.

The 1850s also saw extensive development of the demesne which was extended to the main Upper Newtownards Road, with the old lodge for Rose Park becoming the lodge for the remodelled baronial Stormont.

The Clelands finally left in 1893, preferring to live elsewhere, and the demesne was let out. 

At some stage Stormont Castle was rented by Charles E Allen JP, a director of the shipbuilding firm of Workman and Clark Limited. 

On his departure from Belfast, the Castle became vacant and, in April, 1921, both it and the surrounding land were offered at auction, but withdrawn when no bid higher than £15,000 was obtained.

Later in 1921, however, it was acquired, with 235 acres of land, as a site for the Parliament Buildings of the new Northern Ireland state. 

On September 20th, that Parliament resolved that 
Stormont Castle demesne shall be the place where the new Parliament House and Ministerial Buildings shall be erected, and as the place to be determined as the seat of the Government of Northern Ireland as and when suitable provision has been made therefore. 
While there was initial uncertainty about the use to be made of Stormont Castle itself, it was later decided that it should become the official residence of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. 

Sir James Craig (later 1st Viscount Craigavon) lived there until 1940, when he moved out to make more room for officials engaged in War work.

Lord Craigavon was succeeded in office by Mr J Andrews and thereafter by Sir Basil Brooke Bt (later 1st Viscount Brookeborough).

While both had offices in the Castle, no Prime Minister resided there with any regularity between 1940 to 1969.

On the arrival in office of Captain Terence O'Neill in 1963, substantial reinstatement and improvement works were carried out.

These included the removal of an ugly glass entrance canopy and the restoration of the old ballroom as an improved Cabinet Room.

In those days the Prime Minister occupied what became the Secretary of State's office, with the Secretary of the Cabinet using the other major front room on the ground floor.

Captain O'Neill (afterwards Baron O'Neill of the Maine), Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, resided, when in Belfast, at nearby Stormont House, originally built as a residence for the Speakers of the NI House of Commons.

His successor, Major James Chichester-Clark (later Baron Moyola), had premises on the first floor converted into a self-contained flat and regularly stayed there.

Since 1974, when Northern Ireland reverted to direct rule from Westminster, the Castle became the administrative headquarters for successive Secretaries of State.

Today, Stormont Castle serves as the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers.

Although Stormont Castle is a house of the 1850s, the grounds date from the time of a former house of 1830. There are a few mature trees from that era.

There is a fine restored glasshouse with 'bothies' on the back (ca 1857).

Formal bedding in the vicinity of the glasshouse and immediately to the west of the Castle was recorded, in its original form, in R Welch’s photographs of 1894 but have now gone. 

The demesne was purchased over the period 1921-78 for the Parliament Buildings and now amounts to about 400 acres.

First published in April, 2012.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Barr Hall Bay

I spent the morning with a number of other National Trust Strangford Lough volunteers at a field beside Barr Hall Bay today.

Bar Hall Bay is located near the southern tip of the Ards Peninsula in County Down.

We were cutting Dock and Ragwort.

I spotted a bee nest (top) and if you look closely you'll see two bees emerging or hovering at the entrance.

Rathdaire House


The family of ADAIR were originally from Scotland and settled in Ireland about 1690, at the time of the battle of the Boyne.  

THOMAS ADAIRE, son of Archibald Adaire, married Mary Hamilton, and settled in the Queen's County (Laois). His son,

ARCHIBALD ADAIRE, married and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN ADAIR, of Rath, Queen's County, High Sheriff, 1782.

Mr Adair died in 1809, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE ADAIR JP DL (1784-1873), of Rath, High Sheriff, 1822, who married Elizabeth, second daughter of the Very Rev Thomas Trench, Dean of Kildare (brother of the 1st Lord Ashtown), and had an only son,

JOHN GEORGE ADAIR JP DL (1823-85), of Rathdaire, Queen's County, and of Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal, High Sheriff, 1867, High Sheriff of Donegal, 1874.
George and his son John George, better known as Jack, built a "state of the art" farmyard at Belgrove in 1851. To justify their investment they ejected their tenants from the best land in Ballyaddan, Rathroinsin, Belgrove, etc., expecting to run the land more efficiently in a larger unit, rather than depending on what they could extract from their tenants.
Jack himself acquired more land in Tipperary, Kildare, and Donegal, and also a large ranch in Texas called the JA Ranch. He died in 1885 on his way home from the States, aged 62 years. Thanks to Dr. Bob Spiegelman of New York we have learned a great deal more about the JA Ranch and Jack's connections with it, as well as Glenveagh in Donegal. When the Irish Land Commission acquired the Estate in 1935 they divided it among some of the Estate employees and enlarged many of the small farms in the area.
The farmyard was divided between four families, and four of the farm buildings were converted into dwellings. Later on three of the families moved elsewhere or changed from farming. As the other families left the Murphy family bought out the rest of the yard. Michael Murphy Sr. was yard-man on the estate when he was a youth and he got a quarter of the farmyard in the 1935 division; he survived to see his family own the whole farmyard eventually.
Mr Adair married Cornelia, daughter of General J S Wadsworth, US Army, in 1867, and died without issue.

Former seats - Rathdaire, Monasterevin, County Laois; Glenveagh Castle, County Donegal.

RATHDAIRE HOUSE, or Bellegrove, was a two-storey over basement Italianate house of ca 1835, with the entrance bay to the centre having full-height flanking bows.

It was burnt in 1887 and is now in ruins with the basement filled-in.

The fittings are now gone; the interior ruinous.

The house is set back from road in its own grounds, now in use as a tillage field.

Stable complex, pair of detached gate lodges, gateway and site of former winter garden to site.

First published in June, 2012.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Gloucesters in Fermanagh

Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester have arrived in Northern Ireland for a two-day visit to counties Fermanagh and Tyrone.

This afternoon TRH visited Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, to mark Four Centuries of Service to Education, and were received by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh (the Viscount Brookeborough).

TRH were greeted by the Rt Hon Arlene Foster MLA, First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Weir MLA, Minister for Education, the Right Rev John McDowell, Lord Bishop of Clogher, and Neil Morton OBE MA, Headmaster of Portora.

Their Royal Highnesses later visited Waterways Ireland, 2 Sligo Road, Enniskillen.

The Duke of Gloucester afterwards presented The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service to Ballinamallard United Football Club, 70 Enniskillen Road, Ballinamallard, Enniskillen.

The Duchess of Gloucester officially opened the Sensory Garden at Killadeas Day Care Centre, Lackaghboy Road, Lackaghboy, Enniskillen, and was received by Mr Roland Eadie (Deputy Lieutenant of County Fermanagh).

where they were greeted by the Rt Hon Arlene Foster MLA, First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Weir MLA, Minister for Education, the Right Rev John McDowell, Lord Bishop of Clogher, and Neil Morton OBE MA, Headmaster of Portora.

The Magill Baronetcy


WILLIAM JOHNSTON, son of Richard Johnston, wedded Susanna, daughter of John Magill, of Gill Hall, County Down, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Mary, m John Hawkins;
The son and heir,

JOHN JOHNSTON, of Gill Hall, who assumed, in consequence, the surname and arms of MAGILL, and was created a baronet, 1680.

Sir John, MP for Hillsborough, 1692-93, and for Downpatrick, 1695-99, married firstly, in 1677, Elizabeth Mary, daughter of William Hawkins; and secondly, in 1683, Arabella Susannah, daughter of Hugh Hamilton, 1st Viscount Glenawly.

Sir John died without surviving issue in 1701, when the title expired.

The estates, however, devolved, in accordance with the will of the original testator, John Magill, upon the baronet's nephew and heir,

ROBERT HAWKINS (1704-45), of Gill Hall, MP for County Down, grandson of his sister Mary, who assumed the additional surname of MAGILL.

He espoused firstly, in 1728, Rachael, eldest daughter of Clotworthy, 3rd Viscount Massereene and widow of Randal, 4th Earl of Antrim, and by her had an only son, JOHN (1729-36).

Mr Hawkins-Magill wedded secondly, in 1742, the Lady Ann Bligh, daughter of John, 1st Earl of Darnley, and had issue an only daughter and heiress,

THEODOSIA  HAWKINS-MAGILL (1743-1817), who married, in 1765, John, 1st Earl of Clanwilliam. 

In the 1650s, during Cromwellian land confiscation and the subsequent plantation era following the Irish rebellion of 1641, Captain John Magill acquired land in the Tullylish area and founded Gilford, the name of the village being derived from Magill’s Ford.

Gill Hall

Gilford dates from the mid-17th century when the Magill family, after whom it was called, acquired the land. The Magills were of Scottish origin. 

Before the Rebellion of 1641 Captain Magill, whose name appears in the list of officers of the Cromwellian Army, obtained half the townland of Ballynagarrick from Art Og Maginnis for £150.

At the end of the war Captain Magill acquired an extensive estate at Gilford, comprising the townlands of Loughans, Drumarin, Drummillar, Mullabrack, Ballymacanallen and half of Ballynagarrick. 

Furthermore, he owned land in Donacloney and Dromore; and it was here, in his Gill Hall estate, that the family seal was placed. 

Robin Knowles once unearthed a manuscript in a library in Northern Ireland concerning Sir John Magill,
In 1674, Magill held a grand pheasant shoot on his estate which had been stocked with nine hundred birds obtained by natural hatch and from eggs hatched under broody hens. He invited sixty-four guns - a nobleman and a commoner from each of the Kingdom of Ireland's thirty-two counties - to shoot and they bagged three hundred pheasants in a day. 
First published in February, 2011

Monday, 25 July 2016

Belfast Castle: III


THE VIEW from the gardens and the castle was, perhaps, unsurpassed for the beauty of its quiet landscape.

The fertile valley through which the Lagan wended its seaward course, had as a background the hills of Castlereagh [Grey Castle] with the old residence of Con O'Neill occupying a prominent position on the summit; while the slopes of the Holywood hills were visible across the twenty-one arches of the Long Bridge.

The Cromac wood, at that time the undergrowth of the primeval forest, lay to the south, skirting the west bank of the Lagan and extending westward as far as the present Shaftesbury Square.

The River Blackstaff meandered in its zig-zag course from the Great Bridge of Belfast, alias Brickhill Bridge, alias Saltwater Bridge, to its outlet at the south of the Long Bridge and, in its course, supplying fresh water to the Castle fish pond, situated at the present Arthur Square.

To the west rose the Black Mountain, a basaltic range of hills, one of which is still known as the Squire's Hill, converted into a deer park by the Lord Deputy, a district now known as Oldpark, with the grazing ground covered with sites for residential dwellings.

To the north arose the clear outline of Ben Madigan, with its streaks of limestone glistening in the sunshine, and the contour of its summit bearing a striking resemblance to the profile of Napoleon Bonaparte

The trees of the new deer park, so-called to distinguish it from the old park, sloped in an easterly direction from the Cave Hill to the shores of the Belfast Lough, terminating at Parkmount.

Early on Sunday morning, 25th April, 1708, the Castle was reduced to a mass of smouldering ruins and there perished in the flames the three youngest daughters, Lady Jane, Lady Frances and Lady Henrietta Chichester.

The daughter of the Vicar, the Rev Mr Barklie, and a servant maid, Catherine Douglas; and a maid, Mary Teggart, escaped from the devouring flames.

The cause of the fire is said to have been due to the carelessness of a servant who lit a wood fire in a room recently washed, and took no precautions to watch for sparks.

All the goods were also destroyed before the men of the town cold get in within the walls to help; and these walls were 12 feet high.

Such is the account, written by a prominent Belfast resident at the time of the occurrence.

A considerable quantity of silver plate and objets d'art were apparently rescued from the Castle.

First published in July, 2012.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Scarvagh House


This branch of the ancient Milesian house of REILLY, PRINCES OF EAST BREFFNY, discontinued the prefix 'O'.

TURLOGH O'REILLY, youngest son of Edmund O'Reilly, of Kilnacroft, Prince of East Breffny, had two children,
The elder,

BRIAN O'REILLY, had two sons, viz.
JOHN, of Belfast;
Miles, an army captain.
The former was father of

MILES O'REILLY, of Lurgan, County Armagh (1661-1735), who wedded Jane Ackens, and had issue,
John, dsp;
James, dsp;
Mr Reilly was succeeded by his youngest son,

JOHN REILLY, of Scarvagh, County Down, who espoused, in 1738, Lucy, daughter of Francis Savage, of Ardkeen, County Down, and was father of

JOHN REILLY, of Scarvagh (1745-1804), Chief Commissioner of Public Accounts, MP for Blessington, High Sheriff of County Down, 1776, and of County Armagh, 1786.

This gentleman married, in 1773, Jane, daughter and co-heir of Colonel William Lushington, of Sittingbourne, Kent, and had issue,
William Edmond;
James miles;
Jane Hester;
Mr Reilly was succeeded by his son,

JOHN LUSHINGTON REILLY (1775-1840), of Scarvagh, High Sheriff of County Down, 1810, who wedded, in 1807, Louisa, second daughter of Gustavus Handcock Temple, of Watertown, County Westmeath, and had issue,
JOHN TEMPLE, of whom we treat;
Gustavus Handcock, an army officer, 1813-41;
Robert lushington, captain, East India Company;

William Charles, 1819-45;
Charles Myles Townsend;
Isabella Elizabeth; Jane Lushington;

Louisa Mary; Gertrude Harriet; Mary Amelia;
Frances Lucy; Charlotte Moore.
Mr Reilly was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN TEMPLE REILLY JP DL (1812-1903), of Scarvagh, High Sheriff, 1845, who wedded, in 1865, Elizabeth, daughter of James O'Hara, of Lenaboy, County Galway, by his wife Anne, daughter of the Most Rev and Hon Power le Poer Trench, Lord Archbishop of Tuam, and had issue,
John Temple Miles, 1867-68;
John Temple James, died in infancy;
Anne Elizabeth.
GUSTAVUS MILES O'HARA REILLY, of Scarvagh House, 1869-1909.

SCARVAGH HOUSE, Scarva, County Down, was built in the early to mid-18th century and has undergone several phases of addition and renovation since that time.

The House is associated with the Reilly family, founders of Scarva village and original hosts of the annual Scarva "Sham Fight", commemorating the battle of the Boyne.

It comprises two storeys with two-storey wings extending forwards, thus forming a three-sided entrance court.

The present house is thought to have been built ca 1717 by Myles Reilly, originally intended as offices (a house was to be erected in front).

The house was altered in the mid-19th century by John Temple Reilly.

The elevations are plain, excepting a two-storey Jacobean-style porch with a curvilinear gable in the centre range, flanked by two oriels and dormer gables.

The wings terminate with square, battlemented towers.

The porch is of golden stone; the remainder of the house rendered.

The entrance gates and gate lodge at the Scarva end of the property were added between 1834-60, together with a long entrance driveway leading to the house.


A local legend states that, in recognition of his services to the Williamite army in the 1690s, Reilly was given as much land as he could walk and plant with acorns in a day.

Harris wrote in 1744,
North-west of Loughbrickland about two miles is a house and good improvements of Mr John Reilly, standing pleasantly on a rising ground near the new canal and Scarvagh Bridge...Mr Reilly has a view of forming a village near this bridge where coal-yards and store houses are preparing and for this end has obtained a patent for fairs and markets.
There is a salt-works carried on in partnership between Mr Reilly, Mr Cherry and Mr Steers of Liverpool, the latter of whom has the salt rock on his own land and sends the same by water carriage to Scarvagh.
Scarva village had been established by the Reillys by 1746.

John Lushington Reilly is thought to have been responsible for much of the present appearance of Scarvagh House.
The Archaeological Survey of County Down, which carries a plan of additions and alterations to Scarvagh House, suggests that Lushington Reilly built two double-height wings onto the original main block in the early nineteenth century forming a forecourt to the original house.
Interior alterations in a Gothic-Revival style were carried out within the main block and an extension was added to the north west. Between 1834-60, the south facade of the main block was remodelled in a Jacobean style and internal decoration in contemporary style took place.
Dimensions are given for the house, including the new porch, four two-storey outbuildings, one single-storey outbuilding and gate houses.

The 1901 census lists the occupant as
John Temple Reilly JP, DL, who lives with his Galway wife, his daughter, sister, niece and three servants, a cook, a housemaid and a kitchen maid. The house has sixteen rooms, twenty outbuildings and is of the first class.
Subsequent occupiers were Sir John Tuthing [sic], 1905; and Henry Thomson MP, 1906.

In 1911, Mr Thomson was living in the house with his wife, a nurse and three servants.

Henry Thomson died in 1916 while still resident at Scarvagh House, and the house was taken over by a relative, possibly a son, Henry B Thomson, in 1926.

Scarvagh House was acquired by Alfred Buller before the 2nd World War, and Mr Buller was happy to continue opening the grounds each year for the Sham Fight.

William Buller, of Scarva, is a well-known racing driver.

The most recent historic map dating from 1960s/70s shows that numerous outbuildings have been added to the site in the vicinity of the main house.

Other recent work has included the refurbishment of the east and west wings for rental purposes.

A strong tradition exists that WILLIAM III camped under a tree that later became enclosed by Scarva demesne, on his way to the Boyne in 1659; and due, in part, to this association, Scarva demesne has become the scene of the annual Sham Fight, a mock reconstruction of the battle of the Boyne that takes place on the 13th July every year.

The Sham Fight forms the centrepiece of a Royal Black Preceptory parade, when the villagers of Scarva are joined by tens of thousands of visitors from Ulster and elsewhere.

The mock battle, played out over 30 minutes, ends when the green standard of JAMES II is cornered and lowered by the red-shirted Williamite soldiers.


THE HOUSE lies on a south-facing ridge, with excellent views to Lough Shark and distant hills beyond.

The demesne contains mature avenue, parkland and woodland trees.

There are well-maintained ornamental gardens at the house.

The walled garden was latterly an orchard but is no longer cultivated.

There are grand gate pillars at the village entrance, and a lodge built ca 1870 at the North Gate.

First published in July, 2014.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Belfast Castle: II



"In the foreground is the Farset River, flowing down High Street, with Chads' Bridge opposite the Market House.

The small houses to the extreme right, or west, are on the site of the present Bank Buildings, where Castle Street terminated as a continuation of High Street.

The Castle had a north-easterly aspect, and opposite the entrance gates, on the east side of the Corn Market, was the Market-House with its square tower, on the first floor of which, above the market stalls, was the room in which the burgesses met at their assembly meetings.

The house adjoining on the east side of the corn market was the Castle brew-house, wherein the cider was brewed from the apples gathered in the orchards.

On the west side of the Corn market, and opposite the brew-house, was the house containing the pleasure boats in the barge-yard, from which in a south-east direction was the castle wharf, joining "The New Cutt River" at the sluice, and entering the Lagan on the south side of the Long Bridge.

High Street, Belfast, in the 16th Century

The garden path in front of the barge-yard, running in a south-west direction, was the Long Walk, extending the entire length of the Pleasure Garden.

The Pigeon House was the small house with the pointed roof.

Proceeding from the Pigeon House, past the back of the Castle are the stables, with their five dormer windows, having a carriage entrance from Castle Street.

The Ash Walk, as it appears in Phillips' Map of 1685, did not extend the whole length of the gardens.

It seems, however, to have been extended, at a later date, as in a lease, bearing the date 14th June, 1717, its measurement is given as 530 feet from Castle Street in a southerly direction.

According to that measurement, it formed the western boundary of the Castle gardens, and was probably planted with ash trees as a shelter to the fruit gardens from the prevailing westerly winds.

Its frontage to Castle Street was 250 feet, so that we can fix its area as three acres.

To the east of the Ash Walk was Robin's Orchard, having a frontage to Castle Street; and the garden situated between Robin's Orchard and the Castle was the Melon Garden.

The small building, with an entrance through the Melon Garden, was originally the Coach House.

First published in July, 2012.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Batt of Purdysburn

This family, originally from Cornwall, was founded in Ireland by SAMUEL BATT, of New Ross, merchant, who acquired considerable property in County Wexford.

He died intestate, leaving by Alice, his wife, who took out administration to him in 1702, a son,

SAMUEL BATT, of New Ross, merchant, whose will was proved in 1716.

He left by Deborah, his wife, five sons,
THOMAS, of whom hereafter;
Narcissus (Rev), dsp;
Samuel, of Rathneddin;
Joseph, of Grange;
Benjamin, of New Ross.
The eldest son,

THOMAS BATT (-1741), of Ozier Hill, County Wexford, married, in 1713, Jane, daughter of Thomas Devereux, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SAMUEL BATT (1734-65), father of Major Thomas Batt, who was killed in the American war, when the property devolved upon his youngest brother,

ROBERT BATT (1728-83), of Ozier Hill, Captain,18th Regiment, who married, in 1765,  Hannah, daughter of Samuel Hyde, and had issue,
NARCISSUS, his heir;
Thomas, of Rathmullan.
The eldest son,

NARCISSUS BATT (1761-1840), of Purdysburn, County Down, and Ozier Hill, espoused, in 1793, Margaret, daughter of Thomas Greg, and had issue,
ROBERT, his heir;
Elizabeth; Mary.
Mr Batt was a founder of the Belfast Bank and lived at Donegall Square North, in Donegall House, later the Royal Hotel.

Purdysburn House

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT BATT JP DL (1795-1864), of Purdysburn and Ozier Hill, who married, in 1841, Charlotte, daughter of Samuel Wood, and had issue,
four daughters.
Mr Batt was succeeded by his son,

ROBERT NARCISSUS BATT JP DL (1844-91), of Purdysburn, who wedded,, in 1866, Marion Emily, eldest daughter of Sir Edward Samuel Walker, of Berry Hill, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and had issue, a daughter,

EVELYN MAY BATT, born in 1867.


THOMAS BATT, of Rathmullan, County Donegal, married firstly, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Waddell, of Island Deny, County Down, and by her had issue,
THOMAS, of whom presently;
Elizabeth, m Caesar George Otway.
He married secondly, Sarah, daughter of Samuel Lyle, of The Oaks.

Mr Batt died in 1857, and was succeeded by his only son,

THOMAS BATT JP DL (1816-97), of Rathmullan, High Sheriff, 1844, who married, in 1852, Charlotte, daughter of the Ven Edmond Hesketh Dalrymple Knox, Archdeacon of Killaloe, and had issue,
THOMAS EDMOND, of whom we treat;
Alfred Acheson, b 1856;
Edmond Hesketh (1857-82);
Arthur Robert (1859-91);
CHARLES LYONS, jointly of Rathmullan;
Gerard Otway, b 1862;
Robert Devereux, b 1863;
Octavius, b 1865;
Frederick Shelley (1869-76);
Agnes Charlotte, m 1877, Archibald H Duthie (dsp 1883);
ALICE ELIZABETH, jointly of Rathmullan;
MABEL MACKENZIE, jointly of Rathmullan.
COLONEL THOMAS EDMOND BATT JP (1854-1908), of Rathmullan House, Lieutenant-Colonel and Honorary Colonel commanding Donegal Artillery, was succeeded jointly by his brother and sisters, Charles, Alice, and Mabel, as above mentioned.

I have written about the Batt Estate here.

First published in April, 2012.