Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Seymour Hill


The family of CHARLEY, or CHORLEY, passing over from the north of England, settled in Ulster during the 17th century, at first in Belfast, where they were owners of house property for two hundred years; and afterwards at Finaghy, County Antrim, where

JOHN CHARLEY (c1659-1743), of Belfast, left a son,

RALPH CHARLEY (1674-1756), of Finaghy House, County Antrim, who wedded Elizabeth Hill, and had an only child,

JOHN CHARLEY (1711-93), of Finaghy House, who married Mary, daughter of John Ussher, and had issue,

Matthew, died unmarried;
JOHN, of whom hereafter;
Hill, died unmarried;
Jane, died unmarried.
The eldest surviving son,

JOHN CHARLEY (1744-1812), of Finaghy House, married, in 1783, Anne Jane, daughter of Richard Wolfenden, of Harmony Hill, County Down, and had issue,
John, of Finaghy House (1784-1844), dsp;
Matthew, of Finaghy House and Woodbourne;
WILLIAM, of whom we treat.
The third son,

WILLIAM CHARLEY (1790-1838), of Seymour Hill, Dunmurry, married, in 1817, Isabella, eldest daughter of William Hunter JP, of Dunmurry, and had issue,
JOHN, of Seymour Hill;
WILLIAM, succeeded his brother;
Edward, of Conway House;
Mary; Anne Jane; Eliza; Isabella; Emily.
The eldest son,

JOHN CHARLEY (1818-43), of Seymour Hill, died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother, 

WILLIAM CHARLEY JP DL (1826-90), of Seymour Hill, who wedded, in 1856, Ellen Anna Matilda, daughter of Edward Johnson JP, of Ballymacash, near Lisburn, and granddaughter of Rev Philip Johnson, and had issue,

William (1857-1904), dsp;
EDWARD JOHNSON, of Seymour Hill;
John George Stewart;
Thomas Henry FitzWilliam;
HAROLD RICHARD, of whom hereafter;
Ellen Frances Isabella; Elizabeth Mary Florence;
Emily Constance Jane; Wilhelmina Maud Isabel.
Mr Charley was succeeded by his third son,

EDWARD JOHNSON CHARLEY JP (1859-1932), of Seymour Hill, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1913, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

ARTHUR FREDERICK CHARLEY JP (1870-1944), of Seymour Hill and Mossvale, who wedded, in 1917, Clare, daughter of Patrick Burgess Fenn, by whom he had no issue.

Mr Charley was succeeded by his brother,

COLONEL HAROLD RICHARD CHARLEY CBE DL (1875-1956), of Warren House and Seymour Hill, County Antrim, and The Trees, Helen's Bay, County Down, who married, in 1923, Phyllis, daughter of Robert Samuel Hunter, and had issue,
Maureen June (1926-54).
Colonel Charley's only son,

COLONEL WILLIAM ROBERT (Robin) HUNTER CHARLEY OBE (b 1924), of Craigavad, County Down, married, in 1960, Catherine Janet, daughter of William Sinclair Kingan, and had issue,
Catherine June, b 1961;
Elizabeth Jane, b 1962;
Jane Mary Isabella, b 1968.

SEYMOUR HILL HOUSE, Dunmurry, Belfast, was built ca 1790 by the son of Archibald Johnston, Robert Allen Johnston, who owned the Seymour Hill estate (which, by 1813, comprised 89 acres and included a bleaching green, mill, yard and a mill dam at the Derriaghy Burn).

Seymour was the Marquess of Hertford's family surname, and at the time Mr Charley owned 400 acres of land surrounding the house.

However, the house does not appear captioned as "Seymour Hill House" until 1858.

William Charley bought the estate in 1822 and quickly invested capital to improve the bleach works.

Mr Charley had also purchased and remodelled the Dunmurry and Mossvale Bleach Greens two years previously in 1820, and subsequently transferred his business to Seymour Hill.

The house itself by this stage was in a ruinous state, but by 1825 Charley expended almost £5,000 in remodelling and reconstructing the house, having engaged the architect, John McHenry.

It is thought that much of the detailing found on the building, such as the heavily vermiculated double quoins, was added as a result of the improvements.

By 1865, the additional buildings included a steward's house, a coachman's house and a gate lodge, suggesting that the family's linen business was flourishing.

William Charley was chairman of J&W Charley & Co, linen merchants, whose high quality work received several commissions from the Royal family.

He was also a founding member of the Northern Banking Company.

The Charley family continued to occupy Seymour Hill House throughout the 1800s, developing their linen business and bleaching techniques, eventually coming ownership of several bleach greens in the area.

They were credited with introducing the use of chlorine into the bleaching process.

The last of the Charley family to occupy Seymour Hill House was Captain Arthur Frederick Charley who, in 1944, met his death during an accident felling trees in the grounds.
Arthur's nephew, Colonel William Robert Hunter Charley, desired to pursue a military career rather the linen industry, which subsequently lead to the Charley business merging with Barbour Linen Thread Ltd; and the sale of Seymour Hill and the surrounding grounds to the Northern Ireland Housing Trust.
The once extensive kitchens, wine cellars, servants hall, dining rooms, morning rooms, bedrooms and library were converted into six apartments.

By this stage the house was losing much of its internal character.

Following further vandalising and extensive fire damage in 1986, a local account describes the house as being an empty shell with no roof.

In 1990, the house was transferred to the then named BIH housing association, which invited Colonel Robin Charley to open the fully-restored house providing six new one-person flats.


SEYMOUR HILL stands on a hill with a wide view of the Lagan Valley.

The Charley estate on both sides of the River Lagan in counties Antrim and Down once comprised over 400 acres.

They were tenants of the Marquess of Hertford, who owned all the land from Dunmurry to the southern shore of Lough Neagh.

A large walled garden and grounds were maintained by a head gardener and five or six under-gardeners.

Between the house and the walled garden there were lawns with landscaped trees and shrubs.

Near the rock garden was the dogs' cemetery, all with their individual headstones.

Every day the head of the family would walk across the paddock field to the factory of J & W Charley & Company, which was hidden from the house by a line of trees.

Here he supervised the finishing and production of the finest Ulster Linen.

It was of a particularly high quality and for many years the usual gifts from Northern Ireland to any member of the Royal Family when they married were linen sheets from J & W Charley, specially embroidered with the relevant royal cypher.

Within the grounds of Seymour Hill was a lake and a waterfall leading into a fish ponds.

The River Derriaghy flowed under the main Belfast-Lisburn road into the lake and then was divided into two mill races to work the factory water wheels.

The top stream was known locally as 'Little Harry' because baby Harold Charley's (1875-1956) pram once ran away down the drive and ended up upside down in the river!

He was none the worse for the experience, it is said.

During the 2nd World War the laundry in the upper yard was occupied by up to 100 women and children evacuated from the centre of Belfast during the air raid blitzes of 1941-42. 

I am grateful to Lisburn Historical Society as a source of reference for this article.  First published in February, 2011.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Belle Isle: III



Miss McDougal arrived at Belle Isle from her home in Lockerbie, Scotland, when she was a very young woman in the 1920s.

She came to Belle Isle to work under the direction of her aunt, an earlier Miss McDougal, who was the housekeeper at Belle Isle in the halcyon days between the great wars.

At that time a full complement of servants were on hand to ensure the smooth running of the castle.

Miss Ellen McDougal joined the brigade as a humble scullery maid.

By the time of my arrival on the scene in 1948, the indoor servants had reduced to three and been transformed with changing times from servants into domestic help!

These were Minnie Cathcart, my mother Pearl Brown and Miss Ellen McDougal. 

By the early 1950s Miss McDougal, known to all as ‘Dougie’, was a very accomplished cook, keeper of the kitchens and chief bottle washer!

I don’t know when she gained full charge of culinary activity but she was firmly in control from my earliest memories and remained so up until almost the end of the 1960s.

The Dougie  of my childhood was approaching fifty years of age: slight of stature, her grey hair firmly held within the confines of a hairnet and usually dressed in a lengthy ‘wrap around’ floral pinafore. 

A pair of steel rimmed glasses were perched on her sharp nose but could not hide the bright gleam in her all seeing eyes.

Dougie worked tirelessly from early morning till late at night all day, every day (she did have the odd half day off but grumbled about it).

It was not that she was put upon but just that it was her kitchen and she loved being in it.

She did all this for the princely sum of £5.00 per month, but did live in, all found!

Dougie was of the old school; she knew her place and wanted everyone else to know theirs.

She had immense respect for Mr Henry Archdale Porter, ‘The Master’, and he often popped his head round the kitchen door for a cheery word with Ellen. 

I remember him being slightly ill at ease in her presence, her clear devotion somewhat unsettling him but he was very fond of her and valued her highly.

It was prudent to be ill at ease with Dougie.

For while she had a solid heart of gold there was also a fierce temper, easily lost.

It did not matter who you were, if you were in the firing line heaven help you! 

A tirade of abuse was common and she was not averse to throwing the odd implement or chasing the offender with her rolling pin!

It did not matter if you were Mr Porter or Mrs Leigh attired in her finest new London creation or a naughty little boy like me! 

When the temper was up - flee, "scarper" quickly! Stand on your dignity at your peril!

On one memorable occasion I boldly rode my tricycle into the kitchen and pedalled as fast as I could round and round the central table.

Dougie was making pastry at one end of the table and gave chase with a threatening fist raised and shrieking at the top of her voice “he’s a little bugger that’s what he is, wait till I get my hands on you.” 

I was always playing pranks on Dougie but her bark was worse than her bite as far as my sister Audrey and I were concerned.

She loved us with a passion.

She had no family of her own and made us hers.

She was a great help to our mother by looking after us while she was at work elsewhere in the castle during the day.

Wary we were, but everyone adored her.

She had been there forever, as far as most people were concerned and could have given any of today’s television chefs and celebrity cooks a run for their money. 

An earlier cook at Belle Isle had trained her in basic skills but she had a natural talent.

It was astonishing to watch her ‘throw’ ingredients together without weighing scales or any apparent measures.   

The most wonderful, cakes, breads and puddings would result, even soufflés!

 She could turn out any entree or concoction to a very high standard.

The most amazing smells wafted from the Aga, oxtail, Jugged Hare, Partridge and the best rice pudding ever made!

All manner of braises and ragouts would bubble away in huge cooking pots on the Aga hobs.

An old metal Nabisco Frears biscuit tin was permanently lodged at the back of the Aga hotplate filled with meringues the like of which I have never seen anywhere.

Golden and tasting of honey. 

Dougie could always rise to the occasion and dinner in the evening was eagerly anticipated.

Whenever a special occasion or party event took place the food was of exceptional standard, beautifully cooked, presented with style and garnished to perfection. 

All this in the days before cooking became a national obsession and even pre- Elizabeth David.

Of course as a boy this all this seemed absolutely normal, it was not till later when out in the world I appreciated just how good Miss McDougal was.

Dougie’s kitchen was the central room in a complex of rooms. 

A cavernous room with two large windows.

One to the west and one facing the southern front of the castle.

The south facing kitchen block is recessed and not in line with the main block, which houses what were then, the Dining, Drawing and Morning Rooms. 

The south facing kitchen window was placed high up in the wall.

Presumably so that in the former days of elegance to which the castle belonged, ladies and gentlemen strolling in the formal gardens at the front of the castle did not have their view sullied by ‘scullery maids a scrubbing’ behind the kitchen window.

The kitchen had two huge tables.

One in the centre under an old blackened gas fitting where the preparation of food was carried out.

The home-made gas supply had been a product of a bygone period and no longer functional.

The fitting was used now to hang sticky papers to catch flies! 

The other table under the high window was where the household dined in the evening and where the workforce dined at other times.

This included some of the men who worked on the home farm who came in for luncheon and tea, except during hay-making when tea was taken out to the field in large enamel jugs and generous wicker baskets.

The huge Aga commanded one wall almost in its entirety.

The west facing window wall had floor to ceiling wooden dressers atop of wider cupboards.

The dressers filled the entire wall and framed the window.

These fixtures were painted a dirty brown colour and some of the shelves were of scrubbed pine.

The dressers were filled with large gleaming copper domed covers for meat serving dishes and an assortment of porcelain. 

I never saw any of the copper covers used, they belonged to another era but they sparkled and gleamed in the oil lamps glow reflecting in what I now know were rare and valuable plates.

To the rear of this kitchen was a scullery with an assortment of sinks and I remember a mechanical ‘separator’ that Miss McDougal filled with milk to make butter?

Beyond this were some pantries and at least one of these had wire mesh in the windows and not glass.

This was before refrigerators arrived in Belle Isle. 

In a covered outhouse adjoining this (now demolished) game was hung to season. Pheasants, Hares and other birds.

This was a source of consternation to my father, Esmond.

He used to say that they hung there till they were rotten and stinking and that they were crawling with maggots! 

He could not understand how they could then be eaten! 

The Belle Isle folk used to laugh at him and try to educate his palate:
“Come now Esmond, you shot it and should be rewarded, now do try some, it is delicious! “ – “No thank you madam, I will take your word for it!” Gales of laughter. “We really will have to see what we can do with you!” “No fear of that madam!”
One last memory of the old kitchen at this time is of my sister Audrey and I climbing up onto the cupboards from a chair and standing in the large west window recess as small children.

The window sill was wide and deep and there were curtains that could be drawn by a cord. 

We would sing and recite and I suppose we thought we were most entertaining. 

Everyone was amused and indulgent (on most occasions!) but with reflection they were being kind we must have been an awful nuisance!

Finally at the end of the day Miss McDougal would trundle up the steep scrubbed wooden back stairs to her room. 

This was fitted with a large brass bed and an assortment of unmatched Victorian furniture. 

There was a real fire with logs burning in the winter and some shabby black curtains a remnant of the blackout in the war at the windows.

My father, mother and we children shared a set of rooms with Dougie for many years and on occasion as small children we would sleep with her in her big bed if our parents were away. 

This happened rarely but was an adventure!

We would open a sleepy eye as Dougie came into the room and watch her divest herself of her glasses, hairnet, footwear and finally her outer garments.

In the flickering firelight she was revealed in her bed attire.  

An all in one garment with leggings attached of quite course material that covered her from top to almost the ground known as ‘combinations’.

A fierce garment of immense fascination to us. ... And so to bed....Clean combinations and another day tomorrow....

Dougie lived out her life at Belle Isle. 

When she became old and infirm they created a beautiful bedroom for her on the ground floor and put in a ramp for a wheelchair.

Her final days were spent in the county hospital. 

She is buried along with the Belle Isle household of her era and rests beside Mr Henry Archdale Porter, Mrs and Miss Brunt and Mrs Leigh.

They are all together on the grassy bank at the top of the gentle slope behind Derrybrusk Church. 

There was no distinction in death. She had become part of the Belle Isle family. 

She was a lovely lady. The salt of the earth. A rare character.

I cannot do her justice.

I knew her all my life and yet I did not really know her.

I wish I had spent more time with her."

The photograph above is of Miss Ellen McDougal; Julian Brown's mother Pearl Brown; his sister Audrey; and Julian himself, as small children. A rare day out for Miss McDougal.

First Published in 2010.



HUGH MONTGOMERY was settled at Derrybrusk, County Fermanagh, by his kinsman, the Rt Rev Dr George Montgomery, Lord Bishop of Clogher, about 1618.

He had a son,

THE REV NICHOLAS MONTGOMERY (c1615-c1705), of Derrybrusk, Laureate of Glasgow University, 1634, Lieutenant in Sir James Montgomery's Regiment, and afterwards Rector of Carrickmacross.

He left issue, with two younger sons, Robert, of Derrybrusk, Captain in the army, and Andrew, who succeeded his father as Rector of Carrickmacross, and a daughter, Catherine, who married Captain Alexander Acheson, an elder son,

HUGH MONTGOMERY JP (1651-1723), of Derrygonnelly, Captain of Horse under WILLIAM III, who married Katherine, daughter and heir of Richard Dunbar, of Derrygonnelly (by his wife, Anna Catherina, daughter of Lars Grubbe Stjernfelt, a cousin of King Gustavus Adolphus, of Sweden, and widow of Ludovic Hamilton, Baron of Dalserf, in Sweden), and great-granddaughter of Sir John Dunbar, Knight, of the same place, and had issue,
HUGH, of whom we treat;
Richard, of Monea, Co Fermanagh;
Sarah; Anne; Jane; Margaret; Sidney.
Mr Montgomery's eldest son,

COLONEL NICHOLAS MONTGOMERY (1690-1763), of Derrygonnelly, married firstly, Angel, daughter and heir of William Archdall, of Castle Archdale, County Fermanagh, and assumed the surname of ARCHDALL.

By his first wife he had issue, an only son, Mervyn, MP, of Castle Archdale.

Colonel Montgomery wedded secondly, Sarah, daughter of ______ Spurling, of London, and had further issue,
Catherine; Sarah; Augusta; Elizabeth.

The second son,

HUGH MONTGOMERY, of Derrygonnelly, wedded Elizabeth, daughter of the Ven William Armar, Archdeacon of Connor (by Martha his wife, daughter of Captain William Leslie, of Prospect), and sister of Colonel Margetson Armar (1700-73), of Castle Coole, County Fermanagh, and was father of Hugh Montgomery, of Castle Hume.

Mr Montgomery died before 1760, leaving a son,

HUGH MONTGOMERY (1739-97), of Castle Hume, who espoused, in 1778, Mary, daughter of Sir Archibald Acheson, afterwards 1st Viscount Gosford, and had issue,
HUGH, his heir;
Archibald Armar;
Mary Millicent.
Mr Montgomery was succeeded by his eldest son,

HUGH MONTGOMERY (1779-1838), of Blessingbourne, Captain, 18th Dragoons, Lieutenant-Colonel, Fermanagh Militia, who married, in 1821, Maria Dolores Plink, of Malaga, Spain, and had an only son,

HUGH RALPH SEVERIN MONTGOMERY (1821-44), of Blessingbourne, who wedded, in 1843, Maria, daughter of Philipp Emanuel von Fellenberg, of Hofwyl, Switzerland, sometime Landmann of the Republic of Bern, and had issue, a son and heir, 

THE RT HON HUGH DE FELLENBERG MONTGOMERY JP DL (1844-1924), of Blessingbourne, High Sheriff of County Fermanagh, 1871, Tyrone, 1888, Captain, Fermanagh Militia, who espoused, in 1870, Mary Sophia Juliana, youngest daughter of the Hon and Rev John Charles Maude, Rector of Enniskillen, and had issue,
HUGH MAUDE DE FELLENBERG, his heir;Archibald Armar (Sir), Field-Marshal;Geoffrey Cornwallis;Francis Trevilian;(Charles) Hubert (Sir);Maurice William de Fellenberg;Walter Ashley;Ralph Noel Vernon;Mary Millicent.
Mr Montgomery was succeeded by his eldest son,

MAJOR-GENERAL HUGH MAUDE DE FELLENBERG MONTGOMERY CB CMG (1870-1954), of Blessingbourne, who married, in 1894, Mary, second daughter of Edmund Langton, and Mrs Massingberd, of Gunby, Lincolnshire, and had issue,

Hugh Edmund Langton (1895-1971);
PETER STEPHEN, of whom hereafter;
Mary Langton; Elizabeth; Anne.
The younger son,

PETER STEPHEN MONTGOMERY JP DL (1909-88), of Blessingbourne, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of County Tyrone, died unmarried.

BLESSINGBOURNE, near Fivemiletown, County Tyrone, is an Elizabethan-Revival style manor house built between 1870-74.

It comprises two storeys and an attic storey.

The windows are multi-gabled and mullioned, with carved, round chimney stacks. 

Located just north of Fivemiletown in County Tyrone, much of the estate was in the neighbouring county of Fermanagh.
Blessingbourne passed to the Montgomery family through marriage to the Armor family early in the 18th century.

This is a Regency period demesne, created for a modest dwelling of 1810, referred to as, ‘a romantic thatched cottage’ built as a bachelor pad for Hugh Montgomery. 

When the family left County Fermanagh their former seat was Derrygonnelly Castle, which was burnt in the late 18th century. 

Hugh Montgomery, known as ‘Colonel Eclipse’, married in 1821 and travelled abroad, needing the cottage only for very occasional visits.

The present house is considerably more substantial.

It is a large restrained Elizabethan style manor-house designed by F Pepys Cockerell and built between 1870-74 for Hugh de Fellenberg Montgomery, grandson of Hugh.
Its grey stone elevations overlook a natural lough, Lough Fadda and is surrounded by a present-day garden around former sunken lawns, Fastigate yews and a gravel terrace, vestiges of the garden made for the present house.
A planted area and lawns on the south east side, which leads to the lough, is now a grazing field.

Views were opened up in the 1960s.

There is also a late 19th century rhododendron walk.

There are fine mature woodland and parkland trees.

A walk through the woods goes round the lake; a lake walk, via a rockery. 

There is public access in the woods and the Ulster Wildlife Trust undertakes some management here. 

This wood dates from the time of the present house.

The boat house and summer house have gone.

The part-walled garden is partly cultivated and dates from the time of the first dwelling. 

The Gardener’s House was replaced by a bungalow in the 1970s.

There is a delightful little Tudor-style gate lodge, built ca 1845 by Hugh Ralph Severin Montgomery after he succeeded to the property in 1838.

Major-General Hugh Montgomery's brother was Field-Marshal Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd.

Peter Montgomery, former president of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, stylishly redecorated much of the interior at Blessingbourne.

In December, 2007, the Daily Telegraph published an obituary of Hugh (Montgomery) Massingberd: 

". . . He was born Hugh John Montgomery at Cookham Dean, in Berkshire, on December 30, 1946. His father was in the Colonial Service and later worked for the BBC; his mother was a "Leftward-leaning schoolmistress". 

His remoter background, however, was distinctly grand, even if it promised a great deal more than it delivered.The Montgomerys, seated at Blessingbourne in Co Tyrone, were a Protestant Ascendancy family, albeit exceptionally conscious of the need to right the wrongs suffered by Roman Catholics. 

In his youth Hugh stayed at the Montgomerys' pseudo-Elizabethan (actually 1870) pile in the full expectation that one day it would be his. There was a strong military tradition in the family. Hugh's paternal grandfather was Major-General Hugh Montgomery, while his great-uncle, the major-general's younger brother, ended his career as Field Marshal Sir Archibald Montgomery-Massingberd, Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1933 to 1936  

. . As a teenager, Hugh seemed to add substance to his dreams when he went to stay with his Uncle Peter at Blessingbourne. Peter Montgomery was something of a figure in Ulster, to such a degree that his homosexuality, at that date unknown to Hugh, did not prevent him from becoming Vice-Lord Lieutenant of Tyrone

... It was, therefore, a shattering blow to be told in his mid-teens that a cousin who intended to be a farmer would inherit Blessingbourne. This youth, it was judged, would be better qualified than Hugh to return the estate to order after years of benign neglect under Peter Montgomery".

The estate was eventually inherited by Captain Robert Lowry, a great-great grandson of Colonel Hugh Montgomery. 

I recall Captain Lowry voluntarily "skippering" the Duke of Westminster's motor yacht, Trasna, on loan to the National Trust ca 1988 at Crom estate:
The Grosvenors, Dukes of Westminster,  had a beautiful, classic, wooden motor yacht which they used to keep at Ely Lodge. It was called Trasna; it was the finest vessel I'd ever seen on Lough Erne. It was about fifty feet in length and held sixteen persons in comfort. Trasna sported a magnificent kind of figurehead on her bow: a golden sheaf, or bundle, of wheat (or corn). The vessel was acquired by the National Trust for a short period before acquisition by the Duke of Abercorn for Belle Isle. 
Colleen and Nicholas Lowry today operate luxury self-catering apartments on the estate.

First published in December, 2009.

Monday, 15 October 2018

1st Earl of Rosebery


This family derives its surname from the lands of Primrose, in Fife.

DUNCAN PRIMROSE, who was seated at Culross, Perthshire, in the reign of QUEEN MARY, married Janet, daughter of Main, of Arthurhouse, and had two sons,
GILBERT, principal surgeon to JAMES I and MARY;
ARCHIBALD, of whom we treat.
The second son,

ARCHIBALD PRIMROSE, was employed by the abbott of Culross in settling the rate of the feu-duty to be paid by the vassals of that abbey, and in managing the revenues thereof.

He married Margaret, daughter of Bleu, of Castlehill, and had two sons, the younger of whom,

JAMES PRIMROSE, a lawyer of eminence, was appointed, by JAMES I, in 1602, Clerk of the Privy Council, in which post he officiated for nearly forty years.

He wedded firstly, Miss Sibylla Miller, and had seven children, of whom Alison, the eldest daughter, married, in 1609, George Heriot, the celebrated court jeweller.

Mr Primrose married secondly, Catherine, daughter of Richard Lawson, of Boghall, by whom he had twelve more children; and dying in 1641, was succeeded by the eldest son of his last marriage,

ARCHIBALD PRIMROSE (1616-79), who was appointed clerk of the Privy Council by CHARLES I, and created a baronet in 1651.

Sir Archibald remained faithfully attached to his royal master during the civil wars, and was constituted, after the Restoration (1661), a Lord of Session and Lord Register, when he assumed the honorary title of Lord Carrington.

He married firstly, Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of Sir James Keith, of Benholm, and granddaughter of George, 5th Earl Marischal.

Sir Archibald had acquired considerable landed property by purchase, particularly the noble barony of Barnbougle and Dalmeny, which he bought, in 1662, from John, 4th Earl of Haddington.

This gentleman had issue by his first wife,
James, pre-deceased him;
William (Sir), 2nd Baronet;
Gilbert, Major-General in the Army;
Catherine; Margaret.
Sir Archibald wedded secondly, Agnes, daughter of Sir William Gray, of Pittendrum, and had further issue,
ARCHIBALD, of whom hereafter;
Grizel; another daughter.
Sir Archibald's youngest son,

ARCHIBALD (1664-1723), one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to Prince George of Denmark, MP for Edinburgh, 1695, was elevated to the peerage, in 1700, in the dignity of Baron Primrose and Dalmeny and Viscount Rosebery.

His lordship was further created, in 1703, Lord Dalmeny and Primrose, Viscount of Inverkeithing, and EARL OF ROSEBERY.

He wedded, about 1690, Dorothy Cressy, and had issue,
JAMES, his successor;
Margaret; Mary.
His lordship was succeeded by his only son,

JAMES, 2nd Earl,
The heir apparent is the present holder's son Harry Ronald Neil Primrose, styled Lord Dalmeny (b 1967).

DALMENY HOUSE, South Queensferry, is the seat of the Earls of Rosebery.

It is set in parkland overlooking the Firth of Forth, just west of Edinburgh.

When Dalmeny House was completed in 1817, it marked a great departure in Scottish architecture.

Its Tudor-Gothic style, with its highly-decorated chimneys and crenellations, looked back toward fanciful 16th-century English mansions, such as Hampton Court.

The house was designed by a University friend of the 4th Earl of Rosebery, William Wilkins, who would go on to design the National Gallery in London and much of King's College, Cambridge - parts of which closely resemble Dalmeny.

With its Gothic Great Hall and corridor, its large, formal regency apartments and its sweeping views across the Firth of Forth, it is a house which combines comfort and romanticism, and which produced many imitations throughout Scotland.

Most of the principal rooms are in the Regency style, with the exception of the hammer-beam roof of the hall.

The house contains many paintings and items of furniture from both the Rosebery and Rothschild collections, as a result of the 5th Earl's 1878 marriage to Hannah, daughter and heir of Meyer de Rothschild.

Much of the French furniture and porcelain came from the family's English mansion, Mentmore, Buckinghamshire, following the latter's sale in 1977.

Dalmeny also holds one of the United Kingdom's largest collections of Napoleonic memorabilia.

The house stands in a large wooded park and enjoys views across the Firth of Forth.

A public path runs along the shore, from Queensferry in the west, to Cramond in the east, although a passenger ferry across the River Almond that used to connect the path to the village of Cramond has not operated since 2000.

There is still a traditional agricultural estate of tenanted farms.

First published in December, 2013.   Rosebery arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

The Staples Baronets


This family settled in Ulster during the reign of JAMES I.

THOMAS STAPLES, of Lissan, the founder of the family in the Province, originated from Bristol ca 1610 as part of the plantation of Ulster.
This Thomas settled at Moneymore, County Londonderry (then being constructed as part of the terms of the plantation grant to the Worshipful Company of Drapers, which had been granted large swathes of the new county in 1611). His stone house is marked in a map of 1635 as in the centre of Moneymore, beside the Market Cross.
Mr Staples was created a baronet by CHARLES I in 1628, denominated of Lissan, County Tyrone.

About the same date, he purchased several leases, including the lands of the town of Cookstown, and 180 acres at what is now the Lissan demesne.

It is thought that a dwelling existed on the estate at this time along with an Iron Forge which was used to smelt the iron deposits found across the estate.

Mainly as a result of the existence of the forge, the dwelling house survived the Rebellion of 1641.

Sir Thomas married, ca 1620, Charity, daughter and heir of Sir Baptist Jones, of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, and had issue,
BAPTIST, 2nd Baronet;
ALEXANDER, 3rd Baronet;
ROBERT, 4th Baronet;
Charity; Elizabeth.
Sir Thomas died in 1653, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR BAPTIST STAPLES, 2nd Baronet (1625-72), who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR ALEXANDER STAPLES, 3rd Baronet, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1661, MP for Strabane, 1661-65, who espoused Elizabeth Conyngham, by whom he had no male issue.

Sir Alexander was succeeded by his brother,

SIR ROBERT STAPLES, 4th Baronet (1643-1714), MP for Dungannon, 1692, MP for Clogher, 1695, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1703, who wedded, 1681/2, Mary, daughter of the Most Rev John Vesey, Lord Archbishop of Tuam, and had issue,
JOHN, 5th Baronet;
ALEXANDER, 6th Baronet;
Thomas (Rev), Rector of Derryloran; father of JOHN, MP;
Jane; Ann; Rebecca; Mary.
The present Lissan House substantially owes its existence to Sir Thomas's third son Sir Robert, 4th Baronet.

Having married another heiress in the person of Mary Vesey, he improved the estate, building mills and enlarging the iron forge as well as substantially constructing the present house (incorporating large parts of the pre-existing dwelling) ca 1680.

He also created the walled garden which survives today.

The main feature of his house was the gargantuan oak staircase which still (following a reconstruction due to collapse in 1895) dominates the hall today.

Thomas Ashe, writing his report to the Archbishop of Armagh, from whom the land was originally leased, said, in 1703,
"Robert Staples has built a very good stone house; the rooms are noble, lofty and large. There is a very handsome staircase which leads to chambers above with a large parlour and dining room. The house is well-shingled and stands near a small tenement with four pretty rooms. He has built a handsome stable, large barns and a turf house all well shingled."
Sir Robert died in 1714, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR JOHN STAPLES, 5th Baronet (1684-1730), who wedded Mary Goslin, by whom he had no male issue, and was succeeded by his younger brother,

SIR ALEXANDER STAPLES, 6th Baronet (1693-1742), who married, in 1735, Abigail, daughter of Thomas Townley, and had issue, an only child,

SIR ROBERT STAPLES, 7th Baronet (1740-1816), who married firstly, in 1761, Alicia, daughter of Rev Thomas Staples, by whom he had one daughter, Sarah.

He espoused secondly, Mary, daughter of Sir William Barker Bt, and had issue,
ROBERT, his successor;
Anna Maria.
He married thirdly, in 1776, Jane Vesey, daughter of John, 1st Baron Knapton, and sister of the Viscount de Vesci, and had issue,
Elizabeth Selina;
Sir Robert was succeeded by his only son, 

SIR ROBERT STAPLES, 8th Baronet (1772-1832).
By the time of the 7th and 8th Baronets in the mid-18th century, the main branch of the family had moved to Castle Durrow in County Kilkenny. Lissan House was let to a minor branch of the family under The Rt Hon John Staples KC MP, first cousin of the 8th Baronet.
John Staples was a talented lawyer and was the last speaker in the Irish House of Commons before its dissolution in 1801. He went on two grand tours of Italy and Greece, furnishing Lissan with a fine collection of books, paintings and marbles.
His second wife was Henrietta, younger daughter of the Viscount Molesworth, one of the Duke of Marlborough's generals during the war of the Spanish Succession.
Sir Robert died without legitimate issue, as a result of which the Castle Durrow property was bequeathed to his eldest (illegitimate) son, whilst Lissan passed to the Rt Hon John Staples' eldest son,

SIR THOMAS STAPLES, 9th Baronet (1775-1865), QC, who espoused, in 1813, Catherine, daughter of the Rev John Hawkins, but had no issue.

Sir Thomas was a notable lawyer and was appointed Queen's Advocate in Ireland in 1845.

He married Catherine, another heiress, a partnership which made them one of the wealthiest families in Ireland.

Sir Thomas purchased the largest town house on Merrion Square in Dublin and made several notable additions to Lissan House, most notably the large ballroom (or music room), built to take advantage of views of the water gardens.

As a prosperous Dublin barrister, he was able to indulge himself in making Lissan a more fashionable house than it had ever been before, his most obvious contribution being to add the single-storey ballroom to the right-hand side of the entrance front.

In the main block of the house, he created Regency interiors in what is now the dining-room and the library, although only that in the dining-room survives.

Externally, he built out a porch (with two front columns answered by two pilasters either side of the Tuscan columns in the door-case, and a triglyph frieze), and altered the roof-line with the effect that the roof was disguised behind a parapet.

This latter change provided a loft to the house, and meant that the top windows were no longer overshadowed by the roof. 

No expense was spared on the construction of this addition, which was fitted with an early central heating system, was double glazed and which had sprung floorboards to aid dancing.

The room was decorated in a striking oriental scheme of scarlet and black and was decorated with vastly expensive hand-painted Chinese wallpaper originally purchased by Sir Thomas' sister Grace, Marchioness of Ormonde, for Kilkenny Castle.

Small portions of this wallpaper survive today, touched up by the last owner, Mrs Hazel Dolling.

Sir Thomas died childless in 1865, as a result of which the title and estate were inherited by the Rev John Molesworth Staples' eldest son Nathaniel, 10th Baronet.

However, Sir Thomas left the contents of Lissan House as well as the entire family fortune to his wife Catherine.

Unfortunately Catherine, Lady Staples, disliked Sir Nathaniel to such an extent that on her death both the fortune and furniture were bequeathed to her god-daughter, Mary Banks.

Thus the estate began a process of swift financial decline. 

SIR NATHANIEL ALEXANDER STAPLES, 10th Baronet (1817-99), JP DL, married, in 1844, Elizabeth, daughter of Captain James Head, and had issue,
JOHN MOLESWORTH, 11th Baronet;
James Head (1849-1917);
ROBERT PONSONBY, 12th Baronet;
Cecilia; another daughter.
Sir Nathaniel was a civil servant in India and during his absence on the subcontinent several members of the wider Staples family began to remove the remaining contents of the house.

The Rt Hon John Staples' third youngest daughter Charlotte had married William Lenox-Conyngham of Springhill in 1824.

During the 1860s and 70s, she and her eldest son, Sir William Lenox-Conyngham, systematically removed the entire contents of the Lissan library along with the best paintings in the house, including a portrait of the Rt Hon John Staples by Batoni. All of these can still be found at Springhill today.

When Sir Nathaniel eventually settled at Lissan during the 1880s, despite his straightened financial circumstances, he added a substantial porte-cochere to the front of the house and purchased the clock tower from the market-house in Magherafelt which he added to the West end of the house.

At the age of 55, Sir Nathaniel evicted Elizabeth, Lady Staples, from the house and lived out his remaining years in the scandalous company of a young clairvoyant, Mary Potter, who was originally from Cookstown.

By the time of his death in 1899, the family were all but financially ruined.

Sir Nathaniel was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR JOHN MOLESWORTH STAPLES (1847-1933), 11th Baronet, who was declared "insane" and spent the entire duration of his baronetcy in an asylum in England until his death in 1933.

As a result of this, the estate was first occupied by the second eldest son of the family, James Head Staples, who had originally settled at Braemar, Scotland.

He and his wife built a creamery, took in boarders, and Mrs Staples taught cookery and lace-making so that local girls would have some training to enable them to find work in Cookstown.

He also fitted a second-hand water turbine on the Lissan Water in 1902, which supplied the house with its sole source of electricity until 2007 (and which is still in full working order today).

The estate remained, however, in terminal decline.

When James Head Staples died in 1911, the house was left temporarily unoccupied until his eccentric younger brother,

SIR (ROBERT) PONSONBY STAPLES, 12th Baronet (1853-1943), who wedded, in 1883, Ada Louise, daughter of H Stammers, and had issue,
Violet Hope; Beatrice Joyce Head; Nora Lettice Mary.
Sir Ponsonby was persuaded to leave London and settle at Lissan in 1912.

Sir Ponsonby was an exceptionally talented artist.

He had gone to the Catholic University of Leuven to study architecture at the age of twelve before moving to Dresden to study fine art.

When he returned to London during the 1880s he quickly became one of the most famous portrait artists of his day.

He exhibited his first picture at the Royal Academy aged 21.

Sir Ponsonby was also an infamous socialite and member of the Café Royal set.

He was a friend and favourite of King Edward VII.

His most famous attribute was his refusal to wear shoes.

He believed that the earth exuded natural electricity which was beneficial to the health and thus shunned the wearing of shoes and listing his principal occupation as "barefoot walking" in the 1926 Who's Who.

Today his paintings are hugely valuable but, whilst existing at the centre of the social scene in fin de siecle London, his work did not make him a wealthy man.

After settling at Lissan, his finances evaporated and he was known to often ask the postman for a loan or to pawn his own paintings in order to raise funds.

A great sale was held during his tenure which lasted two full days and which saw the remaining pictures and fine furnishings sold off, many to the Lenox-Conyngham family at Springhill where they remain today.

By 1943, the estate, stripped of its furnishings and largely sold off, was virtually bankrupt.

Sir Ponsonby was succeeded by his son,

SIR ROBERT GEORGE ALEXANDER STAPLES, 13th Baronet (1894-1970), who married, in 1922, Vera Lilian, daughter of John Jenkins, and had issue, two daughters,
Elizabeth Hope.
Sir Robert was educated at Campbell College, Belfast, and Trinity College Dublin; fought in the First World War; Lieutenant, Royal Army Service Corps; was a director of Peter Marsh & Sons (Northern Ireland) in 1961.

He discovered that he could no longer afford to live at Lissan.

Sir Robert consequently employed Harry Dolling as estate manager and settled in England, where he could find suitable employment.

Mr Dolling divided Lissan House into apartments and, from 1943 until the late 1960s, the house was home to over a hundred people living in self-contained flats and tenements carved out of the once elegant public rooms and bedrooms.

The remaining contents of value were sent to be stored temporarily at Springhill, where they were mixed with the Lenox-Conynghams' own property and were presented mistakenly to the National Trust along with Springhill in 1957.

Sir Robert feared that he would be the last of the Staples to live at Lissan. He had only two daughters as issue.

The younger, Elizabeth, had settled with her own family in England; whilst the elder, Hazel, (following a spell in the WRNS) had settled into a life on the seas with the Cunard Line as purser on the Queen Mary and Caronia.

Neither had any interest in the now crumbling, run-down and bankrupt estate.

However, the 13th Baronet's death in 1970, the elder daughter Hazel visited Lissan with her mother and met the agent, Mr Dolling.

Within the year the pair were married and both settled at Lissan, returning the house to a single dwelling for the occupation of themselves and Hazel's mother Vera, Lady Staples.

Whilst Hazel inherited the house and estate from her father, the baronetcy passed to Sir Jack Staples and from him to his cousin and, in swift succession, to his two brothers, the present being the 17th Baronet, Sir Richard Staples.

Both inherited the title at advanced ages and neither have any male heirs.

As a result, a search was instigated by Debrett's in the 1990s seeking the next Staples baronet and a ten year genetic research programme started in 2002 which it was hoped would locate the next Baronet.

Three candidates, Garth Staples and Gerald Staples of Nova Scotia, Canada and David Staples of the USA, have been identified as within a sufficient genetic distance according to family tree, all of whom are descended from Matthew Staples.

It is believed that Matthew Staples was in the company of Governor Cornwallis as a military blacksmith at Halifax in 1749 although the link with the Lissan family tree remains elusive and no one candidate has yet proved their claim.

SIR JOHN RICHARD STAPLES, 14th Baronet (1906-89), married, in 1933, Sybel, daughter of Dr Charles Henry Wade.

His cousin,

SIR THOMAS STAPLES, 15th Baronet (1905-97), married, in 1952, Frances Ann Irvine.

He died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR GERALD JAMES ARLAND STAPLES, 16th Baronet (1909-99), who married, in 1951, Henrietta Owen, daughter of Percival Arland Ussher.

He, too, died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother,

SIR RICHARD MOLESWORTH STAPLES, 17th Baronet (1914-2013), who married, in 1954, Marjorie Charlotte Jefcoate.

He was educated at St Andrew's College, Dublin; fought in the Second World War, in Burma; was with the Royal Air Force, 1940-52; was with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, 1952-59.

The title, one of the oldest in the baronetage, is now considered to be in abeyance.

Hazel Dolling (neé Staples), elder daughter of the 13th Baronet, has written an account of the Staples family history.

The Staples Papers are deposited at PRONI. First published in May, 2011.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Belle Isle: II

Porter Arms

I often visited Miss Tiggy Brunt and Captain Hermon at Necarne Castle (the gardener's house) in the 1970s, when they took up residence there after Mr H A Porter's death.

There are pictures of that period too.

Everyone at Belle Isle, Necarne and (in the summer) Mullaghmore was kind and incredibly generous to all of the Brown family!

Even Captain Hermon mellowed as we grew up.

Mr Henry Archdale Porter (Mastie!) is the man in the hat, with my father and me.

This picture was taken at Mullaghmore, near Classiebawn Castle, in the early 1950s.

The Belle Isle household used to decamp to Mullaghmore every summer, and the Brown family were frequent Sunday guests.

Indeed Captain Hermon was a first rate shot and I recall him at the Belle Isle Shoot.

I was a beater on a couple of occasions as a lad, a dangerous occupation.

My father, Esmond, was a keen shooter too, and often Captain Hermon and my father shot together.

First published in February, 2010. 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Tyrone DLs


Mr Robert Scott OBE, Lord-Lieutenant of County Tyrone, has been pleased to appoint
Mr Charles Gregory PARKE
County Tyrone 
Mr Peter David WATERSON
County Tyrone
To be Deputy Lieutenants of the County, his Commission bearing date 5th day of October, 2018.

Robert Scott

Lord Lieutenant of the County

Friday, 12 October 2018

Belle Isle: I

Ross arms

By the 1950s, the Belle Isle Castle household had abandoned the elegant Georgian bay-windowed formal dining-room, except for special occasions.

Dinner was taken in the original old kitchen, which was part of a suite of sculleries, pantries and store rooms on the west side of the castle, whose windows looked out onto the road to the West Island. 

The repast was still conducted in some style: A huge, white damask tablecloth was spread on one of the wooden kitchen tables; and this was laid with the Belle Isle silver, beautiful salts, Georgian cutlery and antique silver napkin rings.

Mr Henry Porter sat at one end of the table; and, on most evenings, Mr Dick Hermon, of Necarne Castle, sat at the other.

Mrs Mary Brunt and her daughters Vida Leigh and Hilda Brunt (Tiggy) sat at the sides of the table, as did any guests (Mr Hermon often stayed at Belle Isle: he had his own room, the blue dressing room, and he had been married to Mr Porter’s sister.

Miss Tiggy would have been be in charge of ‘service’ and was assisted by the Belle Isle cook, Miss Ellen McDougal (of whom more another time); and often my mother, Pearl Brown, helped as well.

On one occasion my sister Audrey, who was about four, and myself, aged nine, were sitting near the Aga watching. Seen, but not heard!

Miss McDougal was the most wonderful cook: she could produce anything.

However, on the occasion in question, the main course was roast swan – don’t know where it came from or the legalities of it!

Notwithstanding Miss McDougal's skills, the ‘old bird’ was very tough: Mr Hermon chewed manfully but dislodged a tooth in the attempt!

Out came the meat and the tooth. 

Audrey and I got fits of the giggles, which was unfortunate because, while the household generally were very fond of us, Mr Hermon was not. 

He did not take to children.

Our mother had to remove us speedily!

This was one of my father Esmond’s favourite stories.

He was an excellent mimic, and Mr Hermon’s predicament was recounted many times.

Miss Lavinia Baird moved the kitchens to what had been the Servants Hall in the 1970s (now Hamilton wing?); and I understand that the kitchen has been moved again, into what was the old Housekeeper's Room in the main body of the castle. 

The photograph shows Mrs Brunt; her daughter, Mrs Vida Leigh; and Julian as an infant on the steps of the french windows into the Drawing Room at Belle Isle Castle in 1949.
First published in February, 2012.    Ross arms courtesy of European Heraldry.