Sunday, 15 December 2019

Waterford Palace

THE sees of Waterford and Lismore were united in 1536.

The bishopric of Lismore had been founded in the beginning of the 7th century; but that of Waterford was not founded until about the close of the 11th century by the Ostmen of Waterford, soon after their conversion to Christianity.

During the prelacy of Thomas le Reve, who succeeded in 1363, the sees of Lismore and Waterford were consolidated by Pope URBAN V, and this union, which had been long contemplated and frequently attempted without success, was confirmed by EDWARD III.

Hugh Gore, who was consecrated Bishop of the united sees in 1666, expended large sums in repairing and beautifying the cathedral, and bequeathed £300 for bells for the churches of Lismore and Clonmel, and £1,200 for the erection and endowment of an almshouse for ten clergymen's widows, to each of whom he assigned £10 per annum.

Nathaniel Foy, who was appointed Bishop in 1691, greatly improved the episcopal palace, and bequeathed funds for the erection and endowment of a school for 50 children, afterwards extended to 75, and for the improvement of the estates, the surplus funds to be applied to clothing and apprenticing the scholars.

The two sees continued to be held together till the decease of Bishop Bourke, when both were annexed to the archiepiscopal province of Cashel, and the temporalities became vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

This very small diocese is confined to the eastern part of County Waterford, and does not extend above 13 miles in length and 9 in breadth.

But the diocese of Lismore is 38 miles long and about 37 broad, including the greatest part of County Waterford and a considerable portion of Tipperary.


THE PALACE, WATERFORD, County Waterford, is reputed to be one of the largest and finest episcopal residences in Ireland.

Building began in 1741 by Bishop Este, to the design of Richard Castle.

The garden front, facing the Mall, comprises three storeys.


The rusticated ground floor serves as a basement.

Its centre breaks forward with three arches which form the base of the pedimented Doric centrepiece above, which incorporates three windows.

The centre of the top storey features a circular niche between two windows.


Bishop Este died in 1745, before the palace was completed.

It ceased to function as an episcopal residence in 1919, following the retirement of Bishop O'Hara.

Thereafter it was occupied by the Bishop Foy boarding school until 1967.

It served as municipal offices for Waterford City Council till 2010.

The former episcopal palace is now a museum.

First published in November, 2015.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

The Firewood Poem

The Firewood Poem, written by Lady Congreve, is thought to have been published in The Times newspaper on the 2nd March, 1930:

Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,

Chestnut's only good they say,
If for logs 'tis laid away.

Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;

But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold.

Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,

It is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.

Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E'en the very flames are cold

But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,

Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom.

Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter's cold

But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.

Friday, 13 December 2019

James Ussher DD

A voluminous pedigree of this family, and all the various branches, compiled by Sir William Betham, Ulster King-of-Arms, commences with

ARLAND USSHER, Bailiff of Dublin, 1460-2, Mayor of Dublin, 1469-71, who married firstly, Alsone Taylor, by whom he had a daughter, Margaret, and an only son, Thomas.

He wedded secondly, Anne Berford, and had further issue,
JOHN, of whom we treat;
Robert, dsp;
Philip, dsp;
Christopher, ancestor of USSHER OF EASTWELL.
The eldest son,

JOHN USSHER, Sheriff of Dublin, 1524, espoused, in 1485, Johanna, daughter of William Foster, of Killeigh, and had issue,
Arland;
THOMAS, of whom hereafter.
The younger son,

THOMAS USSHER, married Margery, daughter of Henry Geydon, and had issue,
John;
Henry (Most Rev), Lord Archbishop of Armagh;
ARLAND, of whom hereafter;
Christopher;
Rose; Ales; Katherine.
The third son,

ARLAND USSHER (c1552-98), wedded Margaret, daughter of James Stanihurst, and had issue,
JAMES, his heir;
Ambrose;
Sarah; Ellinor; Margaret; Mabel; Anne.
The eldest son,

THE MOST REV AND RT HON DR JAMES USSHER (1581-1656), Lord Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, espoused, in 1614, Phœbe, daughter of the Rev Luke Challoner, and had issue, an only child, ELIZABETH (1620-93).

At the age of 13 James Ussher entered the newly founded Trinity College in Dublin and had a distinguished academic career.

He was ordained by his uncle, Dr Henry Ussher (Archbishop of Armagh), in 1602.

Dr James Ussher,  Photo Credit: The National Trust

During the Irish rebellion of 1641 most of Archbishop Ussher's property was destroyed.

His Grace later lived in London and Oxford, and with his only daughter Elizabeth (wife of Sir Timothy Tyrrell) in Wales.

For a short time, while the Dean of Westminster was imprisoned in the Tower of London, Dr Ussher used the Deanery at Westminster.

He attended the funeral of CHARLES I at Oxford, but later also found favour with Cromwell.

Oliver Cromwell, in fact, ordered his burial in the Chapel of St Paul in Westminster Abbey, and paid the funeral expenses.

It is thought that this was the only occasion at which the Anglican funeral service was read in the Abbey during the Commonwealth period.

The present Irish marble gravestone in the Abbey, with brass lettering, was erected until 1904, and the Latin inscription was written by Dr Gwynn (Regius Professor at Trinity College) and others.

It can be translated thus:
In pious memory of JAMES USSHER who was born in Dublin in 1581, entered among the first students of Trinity College, promoted to the archiepiscopal see of Armagh, 
Primate of all Ireland, the hundredth heir of St Patrick the apostle of Ireland, historian, critic, theologian, most learned among the holy, most holy among the learned, 
Exiled from his own in this city of Westminster, he fell asleep in Christ in 1656. 
He was expelled from his sacred see and country by those same seditions which went on to grant him burial in this church among the most honoured. 
This stone was placed by George Salmon, Provost of the same college, 1904.
Ussher's coat-of-arms appears at the base of the stone, surmounted by a mitre.

This shows the arms of the See of Armagh impaling Ussher (azure, a chevron ermine between three batons, or).

1st Earl of Gosford

THE EARLS OF GOSFORD WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY ARMAGH, WITH 12,177 ACRES

The founder of this noble family in Ulster,

ARCHIBALD ACHESON (1583-1634), descended from a good family in Scotland, was seated at Gosford, Haddingtonshire, previous to his settlement in the Province, where we find him in 1610.

Sir Archibald Acheson

In the following year he had passed patent for a large proportion of land in County Armagh, and at the same time his younger brother, Henry, passed patent for a smaller proportion in the said county, which lands he afterwards assigned to Sir Archibald.

This Henry Acheson returned to Scotland and there died unmarried.

Sir Archibald was "so steady and zealous a friend" of the protestant interest in Ulster that seven years after he obtained this grant (according to the survey made by Nicholas Pynnar) he had 203 men upon his estate capable of bearing arms.

In 1612, he obtained another grant from JAMES I of a small proportion of land in County Cavan containing 1,000 acres.

Mr Acheson was created a baronet in 1628, designated of Market Hill, County Armagh.

In 1630 Sir Archibald obtained, in conjunction with Pierce and Walter Crosbie, a territory in Nova Scotia, Canada, called Bonovia [sic].

He was also Solicitor-General, a Senator of Justice, and many years Secretary of State for Scotland, which latter office he continued to fill until his decease in 1634.

He died at Letterkenny, County Donegal, at his nephew's house, Sir William Semple, Knight.

Sir Archibald was succeeded in the title and estates by his eldest son,

SIR PATRICK ACHESON, 2nd Baronet, at whose decease without issue, in 1638, the title devolved upon his half-brother,

SIR GEORGE ACHESON (1629-85), 3rd Baronet, who was succeeded by his only son,

SIR NICHOLAS ACHESON, 4th Baronet (c1655-1701), MP for County Armagh, 1695-9, who wedded, in 1676, Anne Taylor, and had issue,
ARTHUR, his successor;
Alexander;
Nichola Anne.
Sir Nicholas was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR ARTHUR ACHESON, 5th Baronet (1688-1749),  High Sheriff of County Armagh, MP for Mullingar, 1727-48, who wedded, in 1715, Anne, daughter of the Rt Hon Philip Savage, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland, and had issue,
Nicholas;
Philip;
ARCHIBALD, his successor;
Nichola; Anne.
Sir Arthur was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

SIR ARCHIBALD ACHESON, 6th Baronet (1718-90), who was elevated to the peerage, in 1776, in the dignity of Baron Gosford, of Market Hill, County Armagh; and advanced to a viscountcy, 1785, as Viscount Gosford.

His lordship married, in 1740, Mary, youngest daughter of John Richardson, of Rich Hill, County Armagh, and had issue,
ARTHUR, his successor;
Anna Maria; Nicolas; Julia Henrietta;
Lucinda; Mary.
Sir Archibald was succeeded by his eldest son,

ARTHUR, 2nd Viscount (c1745-1807), who was advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1806, as EARL OF GOSFORD.

Arthur, 1st Earl of Gosford

His lordship espoused, in 1774, Millicent, daughter of Lieutenant-General Edward Pole, and had issue,
ARCHIBALD, his successor;
Edward, CB, lieutenant-colonel in the army;
Olivia, m Brigadier R B Sparrow, of Brampton Park;
Mary, m Lieutenant-General Lord William Bentinck GCB;
Millicent, m Rev J H Barber MA.
 His lordship was succeeded by his only son,

ARCHIBALD, 2nd Earl (1776-1849), GCB, PC.
The heir presumptive is the present holder's first cousin Nicholas Hope Carter Acheson (b 1947).

He is the eldest son of the Hon Patrick Bernard Victor Montagu Acheson (1915–2005), second son of the 5th Earl.


GOSFORD FOREST PARK, near Markethill, County Armagh, is one of the most beautiful demesnes in Northern Ireland.

There are woodland and forest walks; the walled garden; and a caravan and camping site within the park.



Gosford Castle is one of the largest houses in Northern Ireland.

The estate was sold to the NI Government shortly after the 2nd world war. 

The mansion was restored between 2006-8 and has been divided into a number of apartments.

The Gosford Papers are deposited at PRONI.

First published November, 2009. Gosford arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Ballynatray House

THE SMYTHS OWNED 7,124 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY WATERFORD

The ancient and influential family of SMYTH was settled in Ireland for more than three and a half centuries, intermarrying with the houses of England, and always maintaining a distinguished position amongst its great landed proprietors.

Sir Richard Smyth appears to have been established there before the beginning of the 17th century: for an indenture, dated 1602, made between Sir Walter Raleigh and Richard Boyle, Clerk of the Council in Munster, and recorded in the Rolls' Office, Dublin, for the sale by Sir Walter, to the said Richard, of certain lands in counties Cork and Waterford.

Sir Richard Smyth, of Ballynatray, was appointed by the deed a trustee, in conjunction with Edmund Colthurst and Edmund Coppinger.

SIR RICHARD SMYTH, Knight, of Ballynatray, County Waterford, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1613, and Rathcogan, County Cork, who flourished in the reign of ELIZABETH I, married Mary, daughter of Roger Boyle, of Preston, Kent, and sister of RICHARD BOYLE, the first and Great Earl of Cork, and had issue,
PERCY (Sir), his heir;
Catherine; Dorothy; Alice.
Sir Richard commanded as captain in the defeat and expulsion of the Spaniards at Castle Ny Parke, Kinsale, County Cork.

He was succeeded by his son,

SIR PERCY SMYTH, Knight, of Ballynatray, distinguished for his loyalty and courage in the rebellion of 1641.

He raised 100 men to assist Sir William St Leger, Lord President of Munster, and obtained at the same time, with Lord Broghill and Captain Brodrick, his commission as Captain of Foot.

Captain Smyth was knighted in 1629, and was military governor of Youghal, 1645.

Sir Percy married firstly, Mary, daughter of Robert Meade, of Broghill, and had issue, two daughters, Mabella and Joan; and secondly, in 1635, Isabella, daughter of Arthur Ussher, by Isabella his wife, daughter of the Most Rev Dr Adam Loftus, Lord Archbishop of Dublin and Lord High Chancellor of Ireland, and had issue,
Boyle, MP for Tallow;
Percy;
William, his heir;
RICHARD, of whom we treat;
John;
Margaret; Elizabeth; Isabella; Maria; Catherine.
The fourth son,

RICHARD SMYTH, of Ballynatray, wedded firstly, Susanna, daughter of John Gore, of Clonrone, County Clare, who dsp.

He espoused secondly, Alice, daughter of Richard Grice, of Ballycullane, County Limerick, and had (with a daughter, Isabella) a son,

GRICE SMYTH, of Ballynatray, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1710, who married Gertrude, daughter of William Taylor, of Burton, County Cork, and had issue, RICHARD, his heir, and Deborah.

Mr Smyth died intestate in 1724, and was succeeded by his son and heir,

RICHARD SMYTH (1706-68), of Ballynatray, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1739, who wedded firstly, in 1764, Jane, daughter and co-heir of George Rogers, of Cork, and by her had one daughter, Gertrude.

Mr Smyth espoused secondly, in 1756, Penelope, daughter of John Bateman, of Oak Park, County Kerry, and had issue,
RICHARD, his heir;
GRICE, heir to his brother;
John;
Rowland;
Elizabeth; Penelope.
Mr Smyth was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD SMYTH, of Ballynatray, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1793, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

GRICE SMYTH (1762-1816), of Ballynatray, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1803, who wedded, in 1795, Mary Brodrick, daughter and co-heir of Henry Mitchell, of Mitchell's Fort, County Cork, and had issue,
RICHARD, his heir;
Henry Mitchell, ancestor of SMYTH of Castle Widenham;
Grice Blakeney (Rev);
Rowland;
John Rowland (Sir), KCB, General in the Army;
Ellen; Penelope; Gertrude.
Mr Smyth was succeeded by his eldest son,

RICHARD SMYTH JP DL (1796-1858), of Ballynatray, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1821, who married, in 1821, Harriet, daughter of Hayes, 2nd Viscount Doneraile, by Charlotte his wife, sister of the 1st Earl of Bandon, and had an only surviving child, CHARLOTTE MARY.

Mr Smyth was succeeded by his daughter,

MISS CHARLOTTE MARY SMYTH, of Ballynatray, who wedded, in 1848, Charles William, 5th EARL MOUNT CASHELL, who assumed, in 1858, the additional name and arms of SMYTH, and was High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1862.

Her ladyship died in 1892, having had issue,
Richard Charles More (1859-88), dvm;
HARRIETTE GERTRUDE ISABELLA, her successor;
Helena Anna Mary; Charlotte Adelaide Louisa Riversdale.
The Countess Mount Cashell, having no surviving male issue, was succeeded by her elder daughter.

The 5th Earl died in 1898, when the Moore Park estates passed to his eldest daughter,

THE LADY HARRIETTE GERTRUDE ISABELLA MOORE (1849-1904), of Ballynatray, and Moore Park, Kilworth, County Cork, who married, in 1872, Colonel John Henry Graham Holroyd-Smyth CMG JP DL, High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1902, and had issue,
ROWLAND HENRY TYSSEN;
Charles Edward Ridley;
William Baker;
Isabelle Charlotte Sophie Wilmot; Helena Anne Mary Moore;
Gwendoline Harriette; Sophia Beryl Sheila; Penelope Victoria Minna.
The eldest son,

ROWLAND HENRY TYSSEN HOLROYD-SMYTH DL (1874-1959), married, in 1902, Alice Isabelle, youngest daughter of Chambré Brabazon Ponsonby, of Kilcooley Abbey, and had issue,
John Rowland Chambré, b 1903;
Henry Horace Digby, b 1905;
Bryan Hubert Holroyd, b 1908;
Mary Lavender, b 1910.

BALLYNATRAY HOUSE, near Youghal, County Cork, stands on the River Blackwater, County Waterford.

It was granted to Sir Richard Smyth, brother-in-law to the Great Earl of Cork, in the early 17th century.

His son’s "castellated residence" was largely destroyed in the rebellion of 1641, and his successor built a larger, Dutch-gabled dwelling in the 1690s.


In 1795 this was incorporated into a very large Palladian house, built by Grice Smyth to the designs of Alexander Dean, of Cork.

The house is eleven bays long and five bays wide, with two storeys over a basement and a ballustraded parapet, originally decorated with elaborate urns.

The river façade has a pedimented breakfront, while the three central bays of the entrance front are deeply recessed and filled by with a long, single-storey porch.


The interior was clearly built for entertaining on the grandest scale.

There is a sumptuous suite of interconnecting rooms, all with stupendous views; wide, double mahogany doors and some fine early 19th century plasterwork.

The hall has a frieze of bull’s heads (the Smyth crest) and the billiards-room an imaginative cornice of billiards balls and cues.

The Hall

Originally, the bedroom floor had a curious curvilinear corridor but this has since been altered.

In 1843, Charlotte Smyth married the 5th Earl Mount Cashell.

Her son predeceased her, as did her young grandson, Lord Kilworth, so the estate passed to her daughter, the wife of Colonel Holroyd, who assumed the name and arms of SMYTH.

In 1969 their grandson, Horace Holroyd-Smyth, bequeathed Ballynatray to his cousins, the Ponsonby family of Kilcooley Abbey, who sold the house to Serge and Henriette Boissevain in the late 1990s.

They subsequently carried out a major restoration programme and today Ballynatray is the home of Henry Gwyn-Jones.

The situation, on a double bend of the river which gives the impression of a very large lake, is unrivalled.

Steep, oak-covered hills slope downwards on all sides while the ruins of Molana Abbey nestle amongst the trees on the riverbank.

These contain the classical Coade stone ‘tomb’ of Raymond Le Gros, one of Strongbow’s knights, and a statue of the abbey’s founder, St Molanside.

Select bibliography: Irish Historic Houses Association. First published in November, 2017.

1st Earl Cairns

THE EARLDOM OF CAIRNS WAS CREATED IN 1878 FOR HUGH McCALMONT, 1ST BARON CAIRNS, STATESMAN AND LORD CHANCELLOR

THE RT HON SIR HUGH McCALMONT CAIRNS (1819-85), second son of William Cairns, of Cultra, County Down,
MP for Belfast, 1852-66; Solicitor-General, 1858-9; Attorney-General, 1866; a Lord Justice of Appeal, 1866-68; Lord High Chancellor, 1868 and 1874-80.
Sir Hugh was elevated to peerage, in 1867, in the dignity of Baron Cairns, of Garmoyle, County Antrim.

His lordship was further advanced, in 1878, to the dignities of Viscount Garmoyle and EARL CAIRNS.

He married, in 1856, Mary Harriet, eldest daughter of John McNeill, of Parkmount, Belfast, and his wife, Charlotte Lavinia (daughter of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Dallas GCB), and by her had issue,
Hugh, died in infancy;
ARTHUR WILLIAM, 2nd Earl;
HERBERT JOHN, 3rd Earl;
WILFRED DALLAS, 4th Earl;
Douglas Halyburton;
Lilias Charlotte; Kathleen Mary.
His lordship was succeeded by his second son,

ARTHUR WILLIAM, 2nd Earl (1861-90), who wedded, in 1887, Olivia Elizabeth, OBE, daughter of Alexander Augustus Berens, by whom he had issue, a daughter, LADY LOUISE ROSEMARY KATHLEEN VIRGINIA CAIRNS.

His lordship died without male issue and was succeeded by his next brother,

HERBERT JOHN, 3rd Earl (1863-1905), who died unmarried and was succeeded by his brother,

WILFRED DALLAS, 4th Earl, CMG, DL (1865-1946), who espoused, in 1894, Olive, daughter of John Patteson Cobbold MP, and by her had issue,
HUGH WILFRED JOHN, DSO; killed in action;
DAVID CHARLES, 5th Earl;
Hester Margaret; Ursula Helen; Sheila Mary; Catherine Olive.
His lordship was succeeded by his younger son,

DAVID CHARLES, 5th Earl, GCVO, DL (1909-89), who married, in 1936, Barbara Jeanne Harrisson, daughter of Sydney Harrisson Burgess, of Cheshire, and by her had issue,
SIMON DALLAS, his heir;
Andrew David;
Elizabeth Olive.
The 5th Earl was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIMON DALLAS, 6th Earl, CVO, CBE, born in 1939, who wedded, in 1964, Amanda Mary, daughter of Major Edgar FitzGerald Heathcoat-Amory, of Yorkshire, and by her had issue,
SEBASTIAN FREDERICK, styled Viscount Garmoyle;
(David) Patrick;
Alistair Benedict.
*****

MY STORY of the noble family of Cairns commences at the ancestral seat of the Marquesses of Downshire, Hillsborough Castle, in County Down.

During the first years of the 18th century, Ulster became a harbour of refuge for a number of Scottish refugees who arrived in the years immediately following "The Fifteen".

The major Jacobite Risings were called the Jacobite Rebellions by the ruling governments. The "First Jacobite Rebellion" and "Second Jacobite Rebellion" were known respectively as "The Fifteen" and "The Forty-Five", after the years in which they occurred (1715 and 1745).

It is likely that the Cairns family arrived in Ulster about this period.

Among the records at Lord Downshire's seat, Hillsborough Castle, County Down - most likely now held at PRONI - were the registers of leases and the rent rolls of the Kilwarlin estate.

One lease of three lives, dated 1716, was granted to William Cairns.

It is probable that William Cairns was a younger son of William Cairns of Kipp, who died in 1711.

The lease to William Cairns of 1716 was of the lands of Magheraconluce, near Annahilt, County Down. He died prior to 1735, when his widow appears as the tenant, and he left several sons, who became tenants of farms in the neighbourhood.

His successor was his son William, probably the eldest, who had issue,

1.  JOHN (1732-94), who died unmarried at Parkmount, Belfast;

2.  HUGH (1735-1808, who died at Parkmount; By his will he left several legacies to his "kinsmen at Annahilt", and £600 to each of his six sisters. He left Parkmount, which he acquired shortly after the death of William Gregg in 1782, to his half-brother Nathan, whose mother had been a daughter of Mr Gregg.

He states in his will that "most of my property consists of money lent out at interest on security", from which it appears that he was one of Belfast's early private bankers, some of whom eventually amalgamated, thus founding what became known as the Northern and Ulster banks.

3.  WILLIAM, born in 1737. The name William Cairns continues to appear as holder of the Magheraconluce property subsequent to his father's removal to Belfast after his second marriage.

4.  Margaret, Sarah, Colville, Ellen, Jean and Mary, who all died without issue.

William Cairns, of Magheraconluce, married, secondly, about 1758, Agnes, daughter and heiress of William Gregg of Parkmount, Belfast.

This estate seems to have passed to Mr Gregg from the representatives of Thomas Lutford, who had a lease for three lives, renewable for ever, from the Marquesses of Donegall in 1769.

Some time after his marriage with Agnes Gregg, William Cairns appears to have moved with his family to Parkmount, or to a house at Carnmoney.

His father died in 1775 and the widow, Agnes Gregg, surviving him and dying in 1785. Both are interred at Carnmoney churchyard.

By his second marriage William Cairns had issue,

NATHAN CAIRNS (1759-1819), who became a merchant at Dublin, and died at Parkmount, leaving issue,

WILLIAM CAIRNS, of Parkmount, born 1789, who entered the army and became a captain in the 47th Regiment. He married, when only 17, Rosanna, daughter of Hugh Johnston, a merchant of Belfast.

During his father's lifetime he lived at Rushpark, near Carrickfergus, and also had a house in Belfast, which stood in the grounds now occupied by the Robinson & Cleaver Building, Donegall Square North. 
After his father's death, he moved to Parkmount, which he shortly afterwards sold to John McNeill, a banker in Belfast. Parkmount, on the Shore Road, was in 1666 a lodge or occasional residence of Lord Donegall, and it afterwards passed into possession of Ludfords, Cairns, and McNeills. John McNeill's son notably sold Parkmount to Sir Robert Anderson Bt. 
When William Cairns sold Parkmount, he eventually lived at Cultra in County Down, possibly to Dalchoolin House. He married secondly, Matilda, and died at Cultra in 1844.

William Cairns (through two marriages) raised three exceptionally talented sons:-
The Rt Hon Hugh McCalmont [Cairns], Earl Cairns, of Garmoyle County Antrim, was born at Cultra, educated at Belfast Academy and Trinity College, Dublin.

Lord Cairns married, in 1856, Mary Harriet, eldest daughter of John McNeill, of Parkmount, Belfast,by whom he had five sons and two daughters.

His father at first intended that he should take holy orders, but his own inclination, backed by the advice of his tutor, the Rev George Wheeler, decided to permit his son to enter the legal profession.

Lord Cairns and his family left Ulster.

The Cairnes family, since the Reformation, were all originally Presbyterian.

The 1st Earl's great-grandfather, or some of his family at least, seem to have conformed to the Established Church shortly after their removal to Parkmount.

Certainly John and his father William subscribed to the Vicar of Carnmoney as early as 1775.

First published in February, 2011.  Cairns arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Tynan Abbey


TYNAN ABBEY, County Armagh, was built in 1750 and enlarged in the Tudor-Gothic style around 1820-30.


It had an imposing two-storey entrance front, battlemented and pinnacled; a battlemented central tower and doorway too, with pointed Gothic windows.

Photo Credit: Stuart Blakely

The Rt Hon Sir Norman Stronge, 8th Baronet, MC JP, and his only son, James, were murdered by the IRA in the Abbey, which was burnt to the ground in 1981.

I have written about the Stronge Baronets elsewhere on this blog.

Photo Credit: Stuart Blakely

Originally the estate extended to some 8,000 acres. 

The late Douglas Deane OBE recalled the 8th Baronet's passion for wildlife at Tynan:
He went to live and farm at Tynan Abbey in 1928 and always his interest was in wild things; often he told me about the wildfowl which visited the lake in winter; the groups of Bewick swans; the flocks of white-fronted geese...

...he showed me an incubating woodcock, hidden in a pool of brown leaves by the edge of the main drive at Tynan and told me that his gamekeeper had seen a woodcock carry one of its young, held between its legs, from an open patch in the woods in to cover; and many times had watched a woodcock feed its young in the same fashion as pigeons.

Every year Sir Norman would invite me to Tynan to see the azaleas in colour and the seas of bluebells in the woods and always there was talk of butterflies, painted ladies, peacock and the rest. Sir Norman was the envy of his friends, being an excellent shot.

He would often finish a day's shooting with close to 200 pigeons...his cousin, Sir Basil Brooke [1st Viscount Brookeborough], had the edge on him and always seemed to finish the day with more.
First published in September, 2013. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

The King Baronetcy

THE KING BARONETCY, OF CORRARD, COUNTY FERMANAGH, WAS CREATED IN 1821 FOR ABRAHAM BRADLEY KING, LORD MAYOR OF DUBLIN AND ROYAL STATIONER

JAMES KING, of Corrard, Gola, and other townlands in County Fermanagh, living in 1674 (descended from a family seated at Barra, Aberdeenshire, married Nichola, daughter of ______ Johnston, of County Fermanagh, and had (with other issue),
Robert, MP for Lifford, 1698-9, 1709-11;
John, of Gola, father of JAMES, of whom hereafter;
Charles, of County Donegal;
Thomas;
David.
James King's grandson,

JAMES KING (-1798), of Corrard, and Dublin, Captain, Belleisle Yeomanry Cavalry, wedded, in 1763, Elizabeth, daughter and eventually sole heir of Abraham Bradley, printer and stationer, of Dublin, and had issue,
James;
ABRAHAM BRADLEY, of whom we treat;
Hulton Smyth;
Joseph.
Mr King's second son,

ABRAHAM BRADLEY KING (1774-1838), of Corrard, and Bloomsbury, County Dublin, was elected Alderman of the City of Dublin in 1805, and chosen Lord Mayor in 1813; and a second time, in 1821, when he had the honour of receiving, in his official capacity, GEORGE IV.

In commemoration of the occasion of that monarch's visiting the metropolis of His Majesty's Irish dominions, the chief magistrate was created a BARONET in 1821, designated of Corrard, County Fermanagh.

Sir Abraham inherited, from his maternal grandfather, the patent office of King's Stationer in Ireland, which he surrendered to the Crown in 1830 and was granted by Parliament a pension of £2,500 (£213,000 in today's money) for life.

He was also deputy grand master of the Orange Order, and printed revised rules for that body.

On the issue of publicly celebrating WILLIAM III's birthday he took the side of the government in 1821 and banned public ceremonies.

When his prohibition was disobeyed by a dissident group of tailors, he resigned from the Orange Order.

As Lord Mayor in 1821, he joined with the catholic Lord Fingall at a public dinner in Morrison’s hotel to demonstrate unity and amity for the royal visit of GEORGE IV.

In the following year he resisted the passage of resolutions, in the merchant’s guild of Dublin Corporation, for repeal of the act of union.

King was popular in municipal circles for the lavishness of his public functions and for his personal defence of the right of Dublin Corporation to present petitions at the bar of the house of commons.

In 1829, his mode of conducting business as king’s stationer came under government scrutiny. It became clear that King was in the habit of offering money gifts in lieu of stationery to members of the vice-regal household.

He was forced to resign his patent in 1830, and refused compensation.

In Ireland, even his political opponents believed that he had been treated shabbily and there was much sympathy for him when he was declared a bankrupt in 1831.

Daniel O’Connell MP vigorously championed Sir Abraham's case in parliament, and in 1832 secured him a measure of compensation.

This was augmented, in 1836, by a life pension of £2,500 per annum, voted by parliament.

Sir Abraham was an active member of the Dublin Society during 1802-15, and in the latter year was paid £170 12s. 2d. by the Society for stationery supplies.

Between 1803-15, he proposed or seconded nine candidates for membership of the Society, including Captain John D’Esterre, killed in a duel with Daniel O’Connell in 1815.

King’s stationery business was conducted from offices at 36 Dame Street, and he was also a committee member of the Atlas Assurance Company.

His Dublin residence was Bloomsbury, and he had a country seat at Corrard, County Fermanagh.

Sir Abraham married, in 1793, Anne, daughter of Plato Oulton, and had issue,
JAMES WALKER, his successor;
Abraham;
Anne, Elizabeth; Mary; Jane; Sarah; Harriett.
His eldest son,

THE REV SIR JAMES WALKER KING, 2nd Baronet (1796-1874), Vicar of Rathmore and Kilteel, County Kildare, Chaplain to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (Lord Anglesey), wedded, in 1834, his first cousin, Anne Sophia Smyth, eldest daughter of Hulton Smyth King, formerly a commissioner of the customs.

His son and heir,

SIR CHARLES SIMEON KING, 3rd Baronet (1840-1921), lived at Corrard (below), Swerford Park, Oxfordshire, and The Highlands House, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.

The baronetcy expired on the death of Sir Charles in 1921, who edited "A great Archbishop of Dublin, William King, DD 1650-1729: His autobiography, family, and a selection from his correspondence." (1906, Longman Green).

Corrard

The King family were certainly in possession of Gola Abbey as far back as the late 17th century.

John King of Gola, took part in the defence of Enniskillen in 1689, and his name also appears in the list of signatories to the address to WILLIAM & MARY written in that town in 1690.

He died between 1720 and 1726 and his son James took possession of the estate.

James King was appointed Sheriff of Fermanagh in 1728 and presented the communion plate to Derryvullan Church.

He died in 1756 and Gola passed to his eldest son also called James, who married Elizabeth Coote of Limerick (a cousin of his) but died childless in London in 1823.

In 1815 Gola was purchased by Sir Abraham Bradley King Bt, another cousin.

It passed after his death to his son Sir Charles Simeon King Bt.

Although Sir Charles listed Gola as his address, he moved into the rebuilt house at Corrard nearby.

His new lands included a small island called Inishbeg.

During the 19th century Sir Charles sold Gola Abbey.

The evidence from the King family indicates that they lived in the priory as far back as 1689 and had remained in residence until Sir Charles moved to Corrard.

The Kings were resident in Gola Abbey at the time of the siege of Enniskillen and were still there in the time that Thomas Burke was writing in 1772; the restoration happened in 1660.

It is possible that the house was abandoned for some years, as the Kings had renovated Corrard as early as 1825.

Archdall’s account indicates that there were three friars living there in 1756 but the records indicate clearly that the Kings were firmly in possession of the old priory at that stage. 

First published in November, 2010.

Tullymore Lodge

TULLYMORE LODGE, near Broughshane, County Antrim, was a two-storey, late Georgian house of pre-1832.

It was built by the 1st Earl O'Neill as a hunting-lodge.

The demesne comprised 160 acres.

It had a five-bay front with three-sided end bows; a three-bay projecting porch with a Wyatt window in the centre.

The roof was eaved and the chimneys were grouped together in a long stack.

Do I count thirteen?

It was said to be built of cut stone, plain, though handsome; situated in the midst of the demesne, well ornamented by elms and oak trees, some of which attained a considerable size.


The Lodge had "some good paintings", and the gardens being well laid out and extensive.

It was initially inhabited by the Hon John Bruce Richard O'Neill, later 3rd Viscount O'Neill, MP for County Antrim, 1802-41, younger brother of the 1st Earl:

JOHN BRUCE RICHARD (1780-1855), 3rd Viscount,
In 1802, O'Neill was elected MP for Antrim. He held the seat until 1841, when he inherited the viscountcy from his brother Charles, 1st and last Earl O'Neill. The 3rd Viscount died in 1855, when his titles became extinct. He was succeeded by his 2nd cousin twice removed, the Rev William Chichester, prebend of Christ Church, Dublin, who changed his name to O’Neill and was created Baron O’Neill [UK] in 1868.
Tullymore passed to the Hon Edward O'Neill (1839-1928), later 2nd Baron O'Neill.

Thereafter the Lodge became the home of the 2nd Baron's sister, the Hon Anne O'Neill (1848-1934), only daughter of the 1st Baron, who moved there ca 1883 with her brother, Major the Hon Robert Torrens O'Neill.

First published in November, 2013.   I am indebted to Henry Skeath, without whose assistance this article might not have materialized.

Monday, 9 December 2019

James Spottiswood DD

Arms of Dr John Spottiswoode
Archbishop of St Andrews
THE RT REV DR JAMES SPOTTISWOOD, LORD BISHOP OF CLOGHER, 1621-45

The surname of SPOTTISWOOD was assumed by the proprietors of the lands and barony of Spottiswood, in the parish of Gordon, Berwickshire, as soon as surnames became hereditary in Scotland.

The immediate ancestor of the family was

ROBERT DE SPOTTISWOOD, Lord of Spottiswood, who was born in the reign of ALEXANDER III, King of Scotland, and died in that of ROBERT THE BRUCE, leaving a son and heir,

JOHN SPOTTISWOOD, of that ilk, living in the reign of DAVID II, King of Scotland, whose son and heir,

ROBERT SPOTTISWOOD, of that ilk, married a daughter of the ancient family of Lichton, of Ulishaven, Forfarshire, sister of the celebrated Dr Henry de Lichton, first Bishop of Moray, and was father of

HENRY SPOTTISWOOD, of that ilk, who died in the end of the reign of JAMES II, of Scotland, leaving a son and successor,

JAMES SPOTTISWOOD, of that ilk, a staunch loyalist and firm adherent to the interest of JAMES III, for which he was forfeited, but reinstated subsequently, by JAMES IV; soon afterwards he died, leaving by his wife a son and heir,

WILLIAM SPOTTISWOOD, of Spottiswood, who fell at Flodden, in 1513, with JAMES IV.

He had married Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Hop Pringle, and had issue (with a daughter and a son, Hugh), two elder sons,
David, his heir;
JOHN, of whom we treat.
The younger son,

JOHN SPOTTISWOOD (1510-85), DD, a man of great learning and piety, espoused Beatrix, daughter of Patrick Crichton, of Lugton and Gilmerton, and had issue (with a daughter), two sons,
John, his heir;
JAMES, of whom hereafter.
Dr Spottiswood's younger son,

THE RT REV DR JAMES SPOTTISWOOD (1567-1645), Lord Bishop of Clogher, was born at Calder in Scotland on the 7th September, 1567.

He was admitted to the University of Glasgow in 1579, and in 1581 entered royal service.

He travelled with JAMES VI, King of Scotland, on his voyage to meet his wife, Anne of Denmark, and in 1598 acted as secretary to ambassadors to Denmark and Germany.

After JAMES VI became also JAMES I of England, Spottiswood was ordained in the Church of England, 1603, and became Rector of Wells in Norfolk.

Dr Spottiswood remained there until 1616, when he was involved in a visitation of the University of St Andrews, from where he graduated Doctor of Divinity.

In 1621 Spottiswood accepted the bishopric of Clogher in Ulster, but fled to England when the Irish rebellion broke out in 1641.

He died at Westminster in 1645, and was buried in St Benedict's chapel in Westminster Abbey on the 31 March.

No record survives of his grave or of any inscription which may once have been on it.

Spottiswood had married before his ordination and left a son, Sir Henry Spottiswood, and a daughter Mary.

The latter married Abraham Crichtonancestor of the Earls of Erne.

Mooresfort House

THE MOORES, OF MOORESFORT, WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY TIPPERARY, WITH 10,199 ACRES

CHARLES MOORE JP (1804-69), MP for Tipperary, 1865-9, son of Arthur Moore, of Crookedstone, County Antrim, by Mary O'Hara his wife, purchased Mooresfort, County Tipperary.

He married, in 1835, Marian Elizabeth, daughter of John Story, and had issue,
Charles Henry O'Hara, deceased; 
ARTHUR JOHN, of Mooresfort;
Marian Edith;
Helena Blanche, a nun;
Laura Mary, m  G A Vaughan, nephew of 3rd Earl of Lisburne.
Mr Moore's younger son, 

COUNT ARTHUR JOHN MOORE JP DL (1849-1904), of Mooresfort, MP for Clonmel, 1874-85, Londonderry, 1899-1900, High Sheriff of County Tipperary, 1877, wedded, in 1877, Mary Lucy, daughter of Sir Charles Clifford, 1st Baronet, of Hatherton Hall, Staffordshire, and had issue,
Arthur Joseph Clifford, 1878-1900;
CHARLES JOSEPH HENRY O'HARA, his heir;
Edith Mary.
Mr Moore, Commander of the Order of St Gregory, Chamberlain to Pope LEO XIII, was created a Count by His Holiness in 1879.

His younger son,

CHARLES JOSEPH HENRY O'HARA MOORE MC JP (1880-1965), of Mooresfort, and Aherlow Castle, Captain, Irish Guards, married, in 1917, the Lady Dorothie Mary Evelyn Feilding MM, daughter of 9th Earl of Denbigh.


MOORESFORT HOUSE, near Lattin, County Tipperary, was built in 1725 as a three-storey block.

The house was remodelled in the 1850s by Charles Moore MP, converting the house to a two-storey building in order to have higher rooms.

The Italianate remodelling of the house included the addition of an ornate portico and pediment to the front elevation and canted-bay windows flanked by classically influenced pilasters giving the building an overall Victorian character.

The decorative stained glass window is due to the addition of a chapel designed by George Ashlin also added about this time.

The house retains notable interior features including timber shutters and graceful plasterwork to the drawing room depicting musical instruments.

The extensive ranges of outbuildings adjoining the house are still used to serve a working farm, and contribute positively to the over all setting of the house.


AHERLOW CASTLE, near Bansha, County Tipperary, was also a seat of Arthur Moore MP.

This small castle stands in the Glen of Aherlow.

It has a polygonal tower with loops at one end; a square tower at the other.

Former town residences ~ 64 Prince's Gate, London; 10 Grafton Street, Dublin.

First published in August, 2013.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Clarisford Palace

THE diocese of Killaloe was founded early in the 6th century.

In the 12th century it was incorporated with the ancient bishopric of Roscrea founded in 620.

In 1752, the See of Kilfenora, which had been established about the 12th century, was united to it; and although very small in extent and value, had continued separate until the Restoration, when it was first annexed to the archbishopric of Tuam.

That union continued 81 years, till 1741, when Ardagh being annexed to Tuam, this bishopric was given in commendam to the Lord Bishop of Clonfert.

THE diocese of Killaloe stretches about 100 miles in length, through the counties of Clare and Tipperary, into the King's County, and includes also a small part of the Queen's County, Galway, and Limerick.

It varies in breadth from 9 to 32 miles.

Kilfenora is confined to the baronies of Burren and Corcomroe, and extends only 23 miles by 11.

THE PALACE, Killaloe, County Clare, is a late 18th century block comprising three storeys over a basement.

The demesne is beside the River Shannon outside the town.

It was built between 1774-78 by the Right Rev Robert Fowler, Lord Bishop of Killaloe and Kilfenora, 1771-79.


The palace has a five-bay front and a triple window above the porch; a Doric doorcase with pedimented porch on two columns.

There are steps with iron railings leading up to the hall door.

The side elevation comprises three bays.


The demesne includes a walled garden, outbuildings, and an entrance lodge.

It remained in use as an episcopal palace until 1977.

The last Bishop to reside at Clarisford was the Right Rev Edwin Owen, Lord Bishop of Killaloe and Clonfert, 1972-76.

Thereafter the see was united with the diocese of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe.

Clarisford Park is now privately owned.

First published in October, 2015.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

The Portaferry Hotel

THE PORTAFERRY HOTEL is a substantial, long, relatively plain, two-storey block located at the corner of the Strand and Castle Street in Portaferry, County Down.

The Ards Peninsula and Strangford Lough are amongst the most picturesque parts of Northern Ireland.

This building, amalgamated and much altered, formerly comprised separate properties, one of which is probably pre-1834.

A large section to the south-east was the site of two smaller houses, which were demolished in 1991 when the hotel was extended.

To the rear there are large modern extensions.

The facade is rendered and painted.

The roof of the main section is mainly gabled, though is hipped on the corner.

The roof is covered in Bangor blue slates, with three plain, rendered chimney stacks to the southern elevation, with matching pots.

A Small cast-iron skylight is in the middle of the roof to the south elevation.

Two Buildings seen to the left now form the Hotel

This building was built in stages and represents the amalgamation of a number of properties and the demolition of others.

Eventually the remainder of the property on the south, or strand side incorporated the site now covered by the present hotel as well as land and buildings to the rear.

During the early 19th century, however, the lease was sub-divided, with the buildings to the rear becoming Maxwell's Distillery (later a corn mill and by 1860s, falling into dereliction) and a tan yard, run by William Warnock.

The rest of the section to the corner formed one large property, with a separate house next to it further along The Strand.

In 1835, the larger property to the corner was in the possession of Hugh Boden and included a two-storey dwelling house with extensive single storey outbuildings.

The dwelling further along The Strand (also two-storey) was the home of Eliza Lyttle.


In 1860, Edward Bryce had obtained a lease of the large corner property, as well as the house beyond; and for most of the next two decades ran a spirit grocer's on the corner, whilst sub-letting the two houses beyond.

In 1880, Mr Bryce sold the lease to Henry McGrath, an auctioneer and leading figure in Portaferry's social, cultural and political life.

The property remained in the McGrath family until 1933, when the lease was bought by William Lyons, who sold it three years later to a local businessman, William McMullan.

With many other business interests already, McMullan sub-let the spirit grocer's to a Mrs Corbett and her daughter, Miss Thompson, who decided to open a hotel on the site.

Thus, during the late 1930s, the spirit grocer's and the buildings to Castle Street were converted and a door opened from the hotel to the house on The Strand (likely Hugh Boden's residence in 1835).

In 1947, the lease was acquired by a Mrs Wolson, who had been in the hospitality trade for some time, and who extended the business, taking in the whole of the former house.

When Mrs Wolson retired she sold the hotel to Brian Waddell of Waddell Media in Holywood.

He was in partnership with a boat builder from Bangor by the name of Palmer.

They sold to John Herlihy, former manager of the ill-fated Russell Court Hotel on the Lisburn Road, Belfast, who improved and extended the Portaferry Hotel to the greatest degree.

Adjoining houses, numbers eight and nine, were acquired and demolished, and the hotel was extended on to this site, extensively renovating the entire building in the process.

Mr Herlihy was in the right place at the right time, as the Northern Ireland Office used the premises extensively.

When John Herlihy retired in 2005, he sold the hotel to a hospitality group who also owned the Hillside Bar in Hillsborough.

Their intention was to turn the Portaferry Hotel into apartments, but were prevented when they went bankrupt in the recession of 2008.

Bill Wolsey bought out the group's assets from the Ulster Bank, and owner-managed it for several years before leasing it to an American couple.

After a year, they experienced financial difficulties and disappeared - probably to the United States.

Bill Wolsey's Beannchor Group then leased it out (2016) to the Arthurs family - local butchers and businessmen.

Since then the hotel has thrived under local ownership.

I am particularly grateful to Richard Graham, a former manager at the hotel, for additional information.

First published in June, 2014.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Montalto House

SIR JOHN RAWDON (1720-93), 4th Baronet, 1st Baron Rawdon and later 1st Earl of Moira, established the Montalto estate.

The market town of Ballynahinch in County Down, like Moira, was laid out by the Rawdon family in the first half of the 17th century.

The Montalto Estate is located on the edge of Ballynahinch.

East Entrance Front

MONTALTO HOUSE, described by Sir Charles Brett as "a mansion of the utmost interest and with features of considerable importance..." was constructed around the mid-1750s, when Lord Moira moved there and made it his home.

The name Montalto derives from the Italian for High Mountain, and in the original construction, Italian plasterers were employed.

From the grounds the Mourne Mountains can clearly be seen.

The house has had a history of alterations and extensions and it was during the 19th Century that a ballroom and service wing were added by the grandson of the original owner.

In 1953 the 6th Earl of Clanwilliam demolished the ballroom section to the south-west and the service wing to the rear.

In 1979 the 6th Earl sold the estate to a consortium of businessmen who used the house for conferences and the land for forestry and farming.

In January, 1985, an extensive fire resulted in the demolition of the north wing, the rear apartments and part of the rear of the south wing.

The damage caused - contained in the east wing and the rear apartments - was so severe that this part of the house had to be demolished.

The present owners appointed Hobart & Heron to restore the house as a private residence.

Major works were undertaken and this included the rebuilding of the east wing.

The house is now fully reinstated to its former Italianate glory with all details of both internal and external adornment.

Original plastered ceilings, the work of Robert West of Dublin, carried out in 1758, still remain to this day and have also been restored.

Of the original two-storey house, only the small sitting-room (called the Lady's sitting-room) remains largely unaltered; while the imposing long gallery could once have been the original entrance hall.

The sitting-room ceiling contains plasterwork of exceptional quality.

Amidst the fiddle-shaped arabesques there are birds modelled in high relief, a squirrel and bunches of grapes.

At one end of the room is a triple niche, the side arches framing plaster scallop-shells, the central one containing a curious stucco relief of a fox driving a cockerel harnessed into an oval curricle.

The 2nd Earl of Moira, afterwards 1st Marquess of Hastings, who distinguished himself as a soldier in the American War of Independence and was subsequently Governor-General of India, sold Montalto in 1802 to David Ker.

Ker enlarged the house by undertaking what must have been an exceedingly difficult operation: he excavated the rock under the two-storey house and round the foundations, thus forming a new, lower ground floor, the structure supported by many arches and pillars.

Consequently, the new ground floor was much higher than any basement would be and the operation made the mansion fully three-storey.

Close to the front of the mansion, and overlooking the ornamental lake, there is a substantial mound said to have been built with the spoil from the excavation of the under-storey of the house, which contains a peculiar grotto or bath-house.

The entrance front is of two bays on either side of a three-sided bow; the front also having end-bows.

There is a shallow Doric porch at the foot of the central bow, the original portico having been removed during the Irish famine because neighbouring paupers caused inconvenience to the Ker family by taking shelter under it.

The right-hand side of the house is of ten bays, plus the end bow of the front.

The original ground floor is now the piano nobile.

In the ground floor of 1837 there is an imposing entrance hall with eight paired Doric columns, flanked by a library and dining-room.

A double staircase leads up to the piano nobile, where there is a long gallery running the entire width of the house, which could have been the original entrance hall.

Montalto was bought ca 1912 by the 5th Earl of Clanwilliam, whose bride refused to live at Gill Hall, the family seat a few miles to the west, on account of a regrettable infestation of ghosts.

The demesne is largely walled with 17th century origins.

It extends to roughly 470 acres today though in 1872 the estate comprised 20,544 acres.

As Lord Moira was a noted botanist, planter and improver, it is likely that Montalto once boasted many exotic specimens dating from his time.

In 1770, he expended £30,000 (£4.08 million in 2010) in planting over 100,000 timber trees between that date and his death in 1793.

There are good stands of mature trees on the undulating site.

The Battle of Ballynahinch in 1798 was fought within the demesne, which suffered damage in the conflict.

It is said that many thousands of forest trees were uprooted or broken in the ‘Big Wind’ of 1839.

There is no walled garden at Montalto, but there was a productive area enclosed by a beech hedge and an orchard.

Some of this still survives.

There is a lake with an artificial shape of a fish, which can be glimpsed across the lawns from the house.

A 1960s eye-catcher gate and clumps of flowering shrubs lie beyond.

An arboretum was added to the south-west of the house, beyond a hillock which contains the spoil from the basement of the house when it was dug out.

The arboretum is small but has a good representation of exotic trees from all over the temperate world. There was a summer house in this area.

The ‘Ladies Garden’ is on the north-east of the house.

Since the property had been acquired by Lord Clanwilliam in 1912, it became somewhat neglected in the second half of the 20th century.

It was sold in 1979 and became part of a business partnership which replanted the demesne in 1986-89.

The house has been in private hands since 1995.

Main Entrance

Other listed buildings on the property include the 1830s schoolhouse; the 1840s farm complex; the Spa Gate Lodge ca 1825, possibly Morrison; West Gate Lodge, pre-1834; and the Ballynahinch Gate Screen, 1870.

The Town Lodge is demolished and several grand designs exist for un-executed gate lodges and screens.


The mansion has been available as accommodation since March, 2010.

It has eight double bedrooms, a chef and concierge.



Circa 1840 one in every twenty acres in County Down belonged to the Ker family of Portavo, and they owned a further 6,000 acres in County Antrim.

The Kers were amongst Ireland's thirty wealthiest families.

David Stewart Ker continued from 1844 as an ideal and successful landlord, but the burning down of Portavo House in the same year led to his removal to his Montalto estate at Ballynahinch.

However, expenditure on relief work and the loss of rents during the Irish famine meant borrowing and sales of the library and 'Old Master' paintings.

David was returned as one of the Conservative MPs for County Down in the violent election of 1852, but at great financial cost to himself.

As a Liberal, he lost the 1857 election to the Conservative candidates.

His estate debts then exceeded a quarter of a million pounds, and his personal extravagance quickly disposed of the annual balance of about £6,500 available to him out of an estimated income of £31,600, once all outgoings had been paid.

He began selling off land in the Landed Estates Court in 1863.

By 1867 the estate debts had risen to £371,000 and David had taken to drink.

To add to his woes, his second wife and his 23-year old second son, Charley, ran off together in 1871 (Charlie committed suicide five years later).

In 1872, he was declared bankrupt, and management of the estates was placed in the hands of trustees, while he himself was pensioned off and his eldest son succeeded to the heavily encumbered estates.

Downpatrick had to be sold off in 1873 to one of the trustees, John Mulholland.

The surviving estates were in reality now run for the benefit of the creditors rather than the Kers (nevertheless, a modest replacement house was finally built at Portavo in 1885.)

In 1886, the current Ker incumbent of Montalto, the incorrigibly spendthrift Richard, ardent huntsman and womaniser, was receiving only £910 out of a gross income of £17,490.

In spite of the supreme efforts of his trustees and of his solicitor, William Wallace, he too ended up in the bankruptcy courts in 1898 at the age of forty-seven.

The agricultural part of the entire Ker estate was sold off in 1911 under the Wyndham Land Act and Montalto itself went to the Earl of Clanwilliam in 1912.

The house in the demesne at Portavo was to be the final Ulster home of the Kers.

However, by the 1970s the rejuvenated trust fund had been exhausted, and the overdraft had again risen to £80,000.

Home farm, demesne, house and its furnishings were sold off in 1980, and the resident Ker moved to Wiltshire, only to lose everything as a Lloyd's 'name' in 1992. 

First published in June, 2010. Hastings arms courtesy of European Heraldry.