Saturday, 29 February 2020

Lower Crescent, Belfast

Lower Crescent looking towards Botanic Avenue and Cameron Street

Lower Crescent and Upper Crescent, both in the University quarter of south Belfast, have always inspired me, even since childhood.

Lower Crescent, which runs from 4, University Road to Botanic Avenue, is to the north of Upper Crescent.

Upper Crescent runs from 28, University Road to Crescent Gardens.

Number 5 for sale in 2014

The sale of much of Lord Donegall's Belfast estate in the early to mid-19th century freed large areas of land around the town for development.

The lands to the south, along the Malone Ridge, were particularly attractive to developers and fostered the construction of many fine late Georgian-style terraces from the mid 1830s onwards, a trend accelerated by the establishment of Queen's College (now Queen's University) in the area, in the later 1840s.

These grand, new terraces were occupied by the city's professional and business classes, vacating their former residences in the town centre, which, in turn, were gradually turned into shops and offices.

Upper Crescent was perhaps regarded as the grandest terrace development undertaken to the south of Belfast, an elegantly curving row of three-storey town-houses in a late Regency style, built in 1846 by the timber merchant Robert Corry.

Dr Paul Larmour has suggested that Sir Charles Lanyon may have been consulted about the design.

Corry himself undertook the building work and took up residence at 16 Upper Crescent.

For the first few years of its existence, this row was known as Corry's Crescent.

To the immediate north of Upper Crescent, where Crescent Church now stands, there was a large lawn which Corry used as a garden.

Shortly after this garden was laid out, however, Corry had it ploughed up and used for the cultivation of vegetables for relief of local workers suffering as a result of the famine.

To the north of this garden ran an old water course; to the east, some smaller gardens (belonging to other occupants of Upper Crescent); and further to the east and to the north-east ran Albion Lane.

In 1852, Robert Corry built another terrace to the north of his garden and just south of the old water course.

This new development, Lower Crescent, was much in the same vein as that to the south, and was occupied by the same mix of professionals and businessmen; though, by as early as 1860, the ground floors of some of the properties were used as offices.

In the late 1860s, a railway line was laid to the immediate north of Lower Crescent (along the line of the old water course).
In 1873, the large sandstone building, (originally Ladies Collegiate, later Victoria College), was added to the west end of the terrace, with two houses added to the east end by the end of the decade, the most easterly of which, Rivoli House, originally contained a dance academy run by a Frederick Brouneau.
The new railway line cut across Albion Lane and presaged the laying out of a new, broader thoroughfare, to be named Botanic Avenue.

Upper Crescent also witnessed further building in the 1860s and 70s, with two large William Hastings-designed properties erected to the west end in 1869, one of which, Crescent House (latterly a bank) also fronted on to University Road.

In 1878-79, two further houses were added to this end, on the ground between those of 1869.

In 1885-7, the large Presbyterian church (the present Crescent Church) was erected to plans by the Glasgow architect, John Bennie Wilson, on the west side of Robert Corry's former garden, with a two-storey terrace, the present Crescent Gardens, built on the site of smaller garden plots to the east end, in 1898.

During the first half of the 20th century, most of the properties of Upper and Lower Crescent, as well as Crescent Gardens, remained private dwellings.

However, by 1960 many were given over to business use; others divided into flats, with the former Rivoli House, (later called Dreenagh House), becoming a hotel.

This trend continued, and by the beginning of the 21st century none were occupied as private dwellings.

In the mid 1990s, three of the 1860-70 houses at the west end of Upper Crescent were demolished and a modern office block built in their place; whilst in 2000 the railway cutting to the south of Lower Crescent was built over, in preparation for a new development.

1 LOWER CRESCENT:
occupied by Frederick Gee, commission merchant. Gee appears to have remained there until at least 1882, though a Charles McDowell is listed by 1877. By 1899, it was in the hands of neighbouring Victoria College. When the Victoria College building changed hands to become the Crescent Arts Centre in 1978, this property remained associated with it, becoming The Octagon Gallery. It is largely used as a store by the Arts Centre.
2 LOWER CRESCENT:
One of the eleven houses which made up the original 1852 section of Lower Crescent. In 1858, it was occupied by John Savage, flax merchant. John Corry (a relative of the abovementioned Robert Corry) is listed as resident in 1862; Mrs Cuppage in 1877; and Mrs McDowell in the 1890-1900. The property came into possession of Victoria College at some time between 1910-20 and remained as such until that institution left Lower Crescent in the 1970s; however, for much of this period, it appears to have been leased to various businesses and private tenants. In the 1980s, it became a health centre (which appears to have been integrated with its neighbour, number 3); then a stationery shop; and later, offices.
3 LOWER CRESCENT:
In 1858, was listed as vacant, but was occupied by Henry Smith in 1860; the Rev John Moore in 1861; and William Moffat, 1877. In the 1890s and early 1900s, it was occupied by Mrs Margaret Byers, ounder of Victoria College. It was still in possession of Victoria College for some years after Mrs Byers' decease in 1912, but was either sold or leased out by the school by 1930, for by this date it had become a private dwelling once again. The property remained a dwelling house until the 1970s.
4 LOWER CRESCENT:
Thomas Hanlon, of Messrs George McTear & Company, Steam Packet Agents, Donegall Quay; Miss Jane Vance, by 1860. Miss Vance was followed a few years later by Dr Peter Redfern, who remained there until ca 1915. The property appears to remained a private dwelling until the 1950s, when it was divided into flats. It remained as such until the early 1980s, when the flats were converted to offices. The return is recorded as two storey in the valuation of 1860. The decoration to the second floor landing (which matches that to the first floor) suggests that it may have been raised a storey not long after this date.
5-6 LOWER CRESCENT:
Number 5 was occupied by Mrs Andrews; Henry Dickson resided at number 6. By 1860, number 5 was occupied by Aylward Connor, with its ground floor used as offices. Connor appears to have remained there until the late 1870s, when the property became home to Colonel Audain. Number 6 passed to Mrs Charnock in 1870, with both she and the Audain family occupying both houses until 1910 at least. Both buildings appear to have remained private dwellings until the 1970s, but by 1980 number 6 was an office. In the late 1980s, number 5 was coverted to a bar and night club, The Fly. In the late 1990s, this bar was greatly expanded, when its owners acquired number 6 and added a large extension to the rear of the newly-created single property.
7 LOWER CRESCENT:
Robert Cassidy, a solicitor, who, (by 1860 at least) used the ground floor as an office. In 1870,  James Campbell is listed as resident; Henry F Thomas in 1877; Samuel Alexander in 1882; and Mrs Orr in 1910. The property appears to have been divided into flats in the 1960s, but had become an office (once again) by 1980.
8 LOWER CRESCENT:
Tobias Porter, Belfast Flour Mills Manager, who appears to have remained there until at least 1882. In 1899, Mrs Lyons is recorded as resident; with Miss Lyons in occupation from about 1910-40s. From the mid 1950s until the late 1970s, this property and number 9 served as the canteen for Victoria College. No doubt much of the internal changes to both buildings date from this period. The building has housed various offices from the late 1970s onwards.
9 LOWER CRESCENT:
Samuel Delacherois, gentleman. In 1860, it was occupied by a John K McCausland, who appears to have remained there until at least 1882. The next occupant was Miss Vance, who was followed by Mrs Jackson about 1915. In the 1940s, the property came into the possession of Victoria College; and in the following decade became, (along with neighbouring number 8), the college's canteen. After the departure of Victoria College from Lower Crescent in the late 1970s, the property was converted to offices.
10 LOWER CRESCENT:
And its neighbour to the east (11) were used as offices for the Ordnance Survey, but by 1860, number 10 was a private dwelling once again, occupied by Robert W Corry. Corry was followed in 1862 by John Arnold, who remained there until the mid 1880s at least. In 1899, Mrs McKnight is listed as resident; Miss Warner in 1910; Mr T Kernaghan, linen merchant, in 1920. By 1940, the property appears to have been divided into two flats. In 1960, three flats are recorded, with four in 1970. These fluctuating divisions of the property appear to have changed again in the later 1970s, when the first floor became amalgamated with the first floors of numbers 8 and 9 to form a large office suite.
11 LOWER CRESCENT:
Was, by 1860, occupied by Charles Gaussen, who was followed in 1861 by Henry Cuppage, who remained there until at least 1882. In 1899, William Pedlow, District Inspector, National Schools, Belfast South, is listed as resident; then David Wright, bottle merchant and representative of the Chilean Nitrate Committee; T  Kernaghan in 1920; and Mr S E Fitchie, wholesale stationer, in 1930. By 1940, the property became a nursing home; then a guest house in 1951; but reverted to a private residence from the late 1950s to the 1970s. By 1980, the property was converted to offices.
12 LOWER CRESCENT:
Built in 1877-78 to designs by architect William Hastings, who had also worked on the larger property to the east (13) two years earlier. The building was originally occupied by William J Morrison, with William Campbell in residence in 1899. Campbell remained there until some time between 1910-20. Miss Gardener occupyed the house in 1921. In 1930, a journalist named Alex Riddle and Professor Ivor Arnold are recorded as residents; with three occupants listed in 1940, two in 1951 and three in the 1960s and 1970s. Clearly the property must have been split into flats ca 1930. In the late 1980s, the building was converted to a restaurant, linked with the neighbouring hotel (13), with hotel rooms to the upper floors. In the late 1990s, the restaurant was converted to a public bar. 
Sources: Henderson's Belfast Directory; Belfast & Province of Ulster Directory; ST Carleton, The Growth of South Belfast (QUB MA thesis, 1967); John Caughey, Seize Then The Hour: A history of James P Corry & Compnay (Belfast, 1974), pp.28-29; David Evans, Historic buildings of Queen's University (revised edition, 1980); Alison Jordan: Margaret Byers, Pioneer of Women's Education (QUB Institute of Irish Studies).

First published in March, 2014.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Westport House

THE MARQUESSES OF SLIGO WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY MAYO, WITH 114,881 ACRES

This is a junior branch of the noble house of BROWNE, Barons Kilmaine, which is supposed to have sprung from a common ancestor with the extinct Brownes, Viscounts Montagu; though some suggest that the family sprang more immediately from the Brownes of Betchworth Castle, Surrey.

WILLIAM BROWNE, of The Neale, County Mayo, whose will is upon record in Dublin, was father of

RICHARD BROWNE, head of an independent company in the service of ELIZABETH I.

On the division of Connaught into counties by Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy of Ireland, 1565, Captain Browne fixed his abode at The Neale, County Mayo, of which county he was appointed first High Sheriff.

He fell in the act of quelling a riot in his official capacity, and was succeeded by his son,

JOSIAS BROWNE (c1579-1634), of The Neale, who was succeeded by his son,

JOHN BROWNE, who was created a baronet in 1636, designated of The Neale, County Mayo.

Sir John married Mary, daughter of Sir Dominick Browne, Knight, of Galway, and had issue,
George, ancestor of the Barons Kilmaine;
JOHN, of whom presently;
Dominick.
Sir John's second son, 

JOHN BROWNE (1638-1711), a colonel in the service of JAMES II, and one of the capitulators of Limerick, where (being originally bred a lawyer) he had a principal hand in drawing up the celebrated articles of capitulation.

By his second wife Maud, daughter of Theobald, 3rd Viscount Bourke, he had two sons and three daughters: Bridget, Lady Athenry; Elizabeth; and Elizabeth.

Colonel Browne was succeeded by his elder son, 

PETER BROWNE, who wedded Mary, daughter of the Rt Hon Denis Daly, one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland.

He died in 1722, and was succeeded by his son,

JOHN BROWNE (1709-76), MP for Castlebar, 1744-60, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1760, in the dignity of Baron Mount Eagle, of Westport, County Mayo.

His lordship was advanced to a viscountcy, in 1768, as Viscount Westport; and further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1771, as Earl of Altamont.

He wedded, in 1729,  Anne, daughter of Sir Arthur Gore Bt, and sister of Arthur, 1st Earl of Arran, and had issue,
PETER, his successor;
Arthur, colonel in the army;
James;
Henry;
John;
Anne.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

PETER, 2nd Earl, who married, in 1752, Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of Chief Justice Kelly, of the island of Jamaica, and had issue,
JOHN DENIS;
Denis, a privy counsellor;
Anne; Elizabeth; Charlotte.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son, 

JOHN DENIS, 3rd Earl (1756-1809), KP, who wedded, in 1787, the Lady Louisa Catharine Howe, youngest daughter and co-heiress of Admiral the Earl Howe, by whom he had an only son, HOWE PETER.

His lordship was created, in 1800, MARQUESS OF SLIGO.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son Christopher Ulick Browne, styled Earl of Altamont.
The 6th Marquess was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Mayo, from 1914 until 1922.



WESTPORT HOUSE, near Castebar, County Mayo, ancestral seat of the Marquesses of Sligo, is located west of the Shannon and is one of Ireland's most historic country houses open to the public.

It was designed by the famous architects Richard Cassels and James Wyatt in the 18th century.

Westport House enjoys a superb parkland setting with lake, terraces, wonderful gardens and magnificent views overlooking Clew Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, Achill, Clare Island and Ireland’s holy mountain Croagh Patrick. 

It was built and is still privately owned by Lord Sligo, a direct descendant of the 16th century Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley.

During the 1500s, Grace O’Malley was a famous Pirate and “Queen of Connaught”.

After her death, a report stated that for forty years she was the stay of all rebellions in the West.

She was chief of the O’Malley Clan and ruled the seas around Mayo.

Grace O’Malley had several castles in the West of Ireland and it was on the foundations of one of these that Westport House was actually built.

There is still an area of her original Castle in the basement of the House (now known as the Dungeons) which is on view to the visitors.

A bronze statue of Grace O’Malley by artist Michael Cooper is situated on the Westport House grounds.


The original house was built by Colonel John Browne, a Jacobite, who was at the siege of Limerick, and his wife Maud Bourke.

Maud Bourke was Grace O’Malley’s great-granddaughter.

The House then had no lake or dam, and the tide rose and fell against the walls.

The east front of the House as it is today was built in 1730 by Colonel John Browne’s grandson, 1st Earl of Altamont, who hired the famous German architect Richard Cassels.

It is built with the finest limestone taken from the quarry south of the estate farmyard and was executed by local craftsmen. 

Richard Cassels also designed Carton, Hazelwood, Russborough and Leinster House.

Westport House was completed by James Wyatt, who also laid out the town of Westport. 

On the south face of the House is the date 1778 and inside many of the ceilings, cornices and fireplaces are examples of his finest work.

The Large Dining room is perhaps the finest remaining example of his work.

The doors are mahogany, brought back from the family estates in Jamaica. 

There are still a number of original James Wyatt drawings on show, together with some of his son’s, Benjamin Wyatt, who also did some work in the House.

There are several architecturally stunning rooms on show, complete with original contents, most of which have a long association with Ireland and are of particular interest.
Among the pictures are portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds of the 1st Earl of Altamont; the Rt Hon Denis Browne, brother of the 1st Marquess and a member of Grattan’s Parliament, by Beechy; Howe Peter, 2nd Marquess, who spent four months in jail for bribing seamen in time of war, to bring his ship, full of antiquities from Greece to Westport.
The 2nd Marquess was a friend of GEORGE IV and the poet Byron.

There is also a portrait of Admiral of the Fleet the Earl Howe, father of the 1st Marchioness of Sligo, by John Singleton Copley.

Other Artworks include a magnificent collection of landscapes painted in the locality by James Arthur O’Connor.

Other artists such as Chalon, Barret, Gibson, Opie, Brooks and Lavery are part of the collection.

There is also a collection of waxwork figures by Gems Display Figures, which are a tribute to the literary, arts and music achievements of the West of Ireland.

Other original items on show in Westport House, of particular interest, include a fine collection of old English and Irish silver, including 18th century Irish ‘potato’ or dish rings, Waterford glass, a library with many old Irish books.

A Mayo Legion Flag was brought to Ireland by General Humbert when he invaded the country in 1798 and has ever since been at Westport House, which was occupied by his troops.

Westport House was opened to the public for the first time in 1960 and since then has welcomed over four million visitors.

Westport House and grounds were sold in 2017 to a local business family, committed to investing and maintaining the current facilities which are a major tourist attraction.

Mayo County Council has acquired forty acres of the estate which are expected to be retained in their current form as part of the setting for the house.

First published in June, 2011.  Sligo arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

County of Antrim

A maritime county in the extreme north-east of Ulster, bounded on the north by the Atlantic Ocean; on the east by the North Channel; on the south-east and south by County Down; and, on the west by counties Tyrone and Londonderry.

Its boundary over all the south-east and south, excepting five miles adjacent to Lough Neagh (the largest lake in the British Isles), is formed by Belfast Lough and the River Lagan; and, over all the west, excepting seven miles adjacent to the ocean, is formed by Lough Neagh and Lough Beg, and the River Bann.

The county is thus clearly insulated between a sweep of the sea and an alternate chain and line of fresh water.

Its greatest length, from Bengore Head (near the Giant's Causeway) on the north to Spencer's Bridge on the south, is about 42 miles.

Its greatest breadth, from The Gobbins on the east to Toome on the west is about 24 miles.

Trostan, at 1,808 feet, is the highest mountain.

The county's area is approximately 745,000 acres.

First published in January, 2018.  Select bibliography ~ Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland. 1841. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

The Cullintraw Acquisition

SELECTIVE ACQUISITIONS IN NORTHERN IRELAND

PROPERTY: Cullintraw, Ballydrain, County Down

DATE: 1994

EXTENT: 13.91 acres

DONOR: Joan Morrow

This site is a field adjacent to the northern shores of Strangford Lough.

Photo Credit: Craig McCoy

The soil is relatively low in nutrients and there are some interesting damp flushes throughout the field, so there is great potential for increasing its biodiversity value.

The National Trust's goal is to increase the numbers of wild flowers in the grassland and hope that it might attract some breeding waders in the summer.

It is felt, however, that there are too many rushes, and the Trust been trying to reduce the amount of this plant.

Click on image to enlarge

Several years ago the field was grazed with traditional breeds of livestock such as Dexter and Galloway cattle, and Konik ponies.

These tough animals thrive on rough ground like this and their grazing helps to improve the species composition of the grassland.

They will even nibble at the rushes when they are young and tender and they have been doing a great job at reducing them.
First published in January, 2015.

Isle O'Valla House

Garden Front in 2013

ISLE O'VALLA HOUSE is located to the south of the village of Strangford, County Down.

It lies within the townland of Cloghy, on the coastal Ardglass Road.

This is a tall, austere Georgian house with three bays, three storeys, quoins and a large fanlight above the front door.

Southern elevation in 2013

This property was originally built as a Charter School ca 1817.
Irish Charter Schools were operated by The Incorporated Society in Dublin for Promoting Protestant Schools in Ireland. The Charter Schools admitted only Roman Catholics, under the condition that they be educated as Protestants. 
The first Charter School in Strangford was established some time after 1746, with a grant of £500 (about £86,000 in value today) from the Earl of Kildare (either the 1st Duke of Leinster or his father).
The Dowager Countess of Kildare later donated 22 acres of land for the School.

The Charter School was rebuilt in 1817 at a reputed cost of £4,000, the equivalent of £267,000 in 2010.

Eastern elevation in 2013

When the Charter was rescinded in 1832, the property was most likely given back to the Kildare estate.

It was leased to the Rev Samuel Livingstone, who began his own school for local children.

When the School closed, Isle O'Valla House became the residence of Captain the Hon Somerset Ward JP, fifth son of the 3rd Viscount Bangor.

In 1910, Isle O'Valla was acquired by the family of McCausland, of Downpatrick, hoteliers.

Frank McCausland lived and farmed at Isle O'Valla House.

Following Mr McCausland's death, the property was bought by a family called Lowe.

Isle O'Valla House has been derelict and virtually ruinous for many years and, to my knowledge, has remained uninhabited for several decades.

Its future remains uncertain.

First published in July, 2011.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Beardiville House

THE LECKYS OWNED 1,492 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY ANTRIM


This family is of Scottish extraction, and settled, it is stated, in County Londonderry, in the 17th century.

ALEXANDER LECKIE OF THAT ILK (1599-1643), a laird from Stirlingshire, owing to various troubles of that period, had to take refuge in Ulster where he spent the years 1633-40.

He wedded Grizel, daughter of Sir John Murray of Polmais; and dying in 1643, he was succeeded by his younger son, 

CAPTAIN ALEXANDER LECKY (c1631-c1717), who, like his father, removed to Ulster and settled at Londonderry.

He was High Sheriff of Londonderry, 1677, and Mayor, 1691 and 1695.

Captain Lecky took a considerable part in the siege of Londonderry, being captain of one of the six companies raised for the protection of the city; but on his refusal to accept the Test Act of 1704, he had to relinquish his office of alderman of the city and all his other offices.

His younger son, 

HENRY LECKY (1689-1761), of Agivey, County Londonderry, married, in 1715, Mary, daughter of Randal McColIum, of Lemnalary, Glenarm, County Antrim, and had a son,

HUGH LECKY, of Agivey, who married, in 1765, Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev John Gage, of Rathlin, County Antrim, and had issue,
JOHN GAGE, his heir;
Hugh, father of HUGH;
Mary; Anne.
Mr Lecky died in 1796, and was succeeded by his elder son,

JOHN GAGE LECKY (1773-1819), of Agivey and Bushmills, who wedded, in 1818, Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev Oliver McCausland; though died without issue, when he was succeeded by his nephew,

HUGH LECKY (1804-81), of Beardiville, County Antrim, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1835, who espoused, in 1837, Matilda, daughter of George Hutchinson, of Ballymoney, County Antrim, and had issue,
HUGH, his heir;
George;
John Gage;
Harry;
Elizabeth.
Mr Lecky was succeeded by his eldest son, 

HUGH LECKY JP (1845-1918), of Beardiville, who married, in 1876, Rebecca Mary, daughter of Robert Crookshank, of Glenmanus House, Portrush, and had issue,
HUGH, his heir;
Robert;
Randall and
James, twins;
Olivia.
Mr Lecky was succeeded by his eldest son,

CAPTAIN HUGH LECKY DL (1880-1962), High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1930, who wedded, in 1905, Annie Margaret, daughter of Anthony Traill, though the marriage was without issue.


BEARDIVILLE HOUSE is situated at Cloyfin, between Coleraine and Bushmills, County Antrim.

This is a mid-18th century house originally inhabited by the Macnaghtens of Dundarave.

It comprises two storeys over a basement, with five bays.

The central bay breaks forward.

There is a porch with Tuscan-style columns, which were added afterwards.

The drawing-room was in the single-storey 19th century wing.

There is a simple pedimented archway at the demesne's entrance, flanked by single-storey lodges. Diocletian windows are partly blocked up.


The demesne was established in the 17th century and the present house dates from around 1710-12.

The property had been leased by Francis Macnaghten from the Earl of Antrim in 1709 and the house, with its steep, hipped roof (which once had dormers), has an armorial plaque over the main door bearing the date 1715.




An earlier survey by Thomas Roe of the demesne in 1712 shows ‘house, orchard, garding, stead and meadow or moss’.

There is part of a shelter belt of trees on the west side, which is most necessary in this area of the county, but a continuation along the road to the south has gone.

Two clumps of trees in parkland to the south of the house, and other trees near the house, remain from late 18th or early 19th century planting.

There is a walled garden, set out as an ornamental garden for a dwelling that is occupied.

The building may have originally been an apple store.

The area south of the walled garden was formally an orchard.

There is a pond fed from a spring, mature shrubs, herbaceous border, lawns, a tennis court and wall plants in the walled garden.

It appears that improvements in landscaping took place in the early 19th century, as a winding avenue through parkland was emphasised through the addition of a new gate lodge on the south side.


This is maintained as a folly.

It was built ca 1810 in basalt rubble, with two rooms and a joining arch, possibly by Richard Elsam.

Another matching pair of lodges, ca 1790 at the north entrance, probably flanked the original entrance and are now derelict.

The property passed hands in 1845 to Hugh Lecky, whose son, also Hugh, went to live in the Apple House in the walled garden just before the start of the 2nd World War.

Beardiville House remained empty until sold in 1965.

It has subsequently been restored.

First published in August, 2011.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Ravensdale Park

THE BARONS CLERMONT WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY LOUTH, WITH 20,369 ACRES

This family deduces its pedigree from common ancestors with the EARLS FORTESCUE, viz. remotely, Sir Richard le Forte, a Norman knight, in the train of WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR; and, more remotely, Lord Chief Justice Fortescue.

The first of its members that settled in Ireland,

SIR FAITHFUL FORTESCUE (c1581-1666), Knight, removed to that kingdom early in the reign of JAMES I, and commanded an infantry regiment there.

Sir Faithful obtained large possessions in Ireland, amongst which was Dromiskin Castle, County Louth.

He wedded Anne, daughter of Garret, 1st Viscount Moore, of Drogheda, and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

SIR THOMAS FORTESCUE (c1620-1710), Knight, Governor of Carrickfergus Castle, who espoused firstly, Sydney, daughter of Colonel William Kinsmill; and secondly, Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel Ferdinand Carey, and had issue,
WILLIAM;
Chichester.
Sir Thomas was succeeded by his grandson,

THOMAS FORTESCUE (1683-1769), MP for Dundalk, 1727-60, who married Elizabeth, daughter of James Hamilton, and sister of James, 1st Earl of Clanbrassil, and had issue,
James, father of WILLIAM, 2nd VISCOUNT CLERMONT;
WILLIAM HENRY, of whom hereafter;
Margaret; Charlotte.
Mr Fortescue's younger son,

THE RT HON WILLIAM HENRY FORTESCUE (1722-1806), MP for County Louth, 1745-60, Monaghan, 1761-70, was sworn of the Privy Council, 1764, and appointed Postmaster-General.

Mr Fortescue was elevated to the peerage, in 1770, in the dignity of Baron Clermont, of Clermont, County louth.

His lordship was created, in 1776, BARON and VISCOUNT CLERMONT, with remainder to his brother, the Rt Hon James Fortescue, of Ravensdale Park, County Louth, MP for that county.

His lordship was further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1777, as EARL OF CLERMONT, but without the reversionary grant.

He was installed as a Knight Founder of the Order of St Patrick (KP) in 1795.

His lordship espoused Frances, eldest daughter of Colonel John Murray, County Monaghan; but dying without issue, in 1806, the earldom expired, while the other honours devolved, according to the limitation, upon his nephew,

WILLIAM CHARLES FORTESCUE, 2nd Viscount (1764-1829), only surviving son of his deceased brother, mentioned above, by Mary Henrietta, eldest daughter of Thomas Orby Hunter, of Crowland Abbey, Lincolnshire.

His lordship died at Ravensdale Park, County Louth, unmarried, when the viscountcy expired.

The title was revived, however, in 1852, when his kinsman,  

THOMAS FORTESCUE, was created BARON CLERMONT (2nd & 3rd creation).


RAVENSDALE PARK, near Dundalk, County Louth, was a large, rather austere, early Victorian house built of granite with a plain, irregular aspect.

A lofty Italianate campanile with an open belvedere atop dominated the mansion.

Ravensdale was built for Thomas Fortescue, 1st Baron Clermont, the architect being Thomas Duff of Newry.


It was partly two and partly three storeys, though mainly the same height, with an eaved roof.

The garden front was remarkably long, being ten bays.

There was another front of five bays with a domed octagon at one corner.


Ravensdale became the home of Lord Clermont's younger brother and successor, the politician Chichester Fortescue, 1st and last Lord Carlingford (who married the famous Frances, Countess Waldegrave).

It was sold to Sir Daniel Dixon Bt, father of 1st Lord Glentoran; then sold again to Lord Arran.

Ravendale was sold, yet again, in 1920, and was burnt shortly afterwards.

Much of the former estate is now a forest park; while the Ravensdale Equestrian and Trekking Centre operates from the demesne.

Ravensdale Forest is part of the former demesne.

First Published in May, 2011.   Clermont arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Upper Crescent, Belfast

Upper Crescent in 2014

Lower Crescent and Upper Crescent, both in the University Quarter of south Belfast, have inspired me since childhood.

Lower Crescent, which runs from 4 University Road to Botanic Avenue, is to the north of the Upper Crescent; whereas Upper Crescent runs from 28 University Road to Crescent Gardens.

Most of the 2nd Marquess of Donegall's Belfast estate was sold in the early to mid-19th century, thereby freeing large areas of land around the town for development.

The lands to the south, along the Malone Ridge, were particularly attractive to developers, and fostered the construction of many fine late Georgian-style terraces from the mid 1830s onwards, a trend accelerated by the establishment of the prestigious Queen's College (Queen's University) in the area, in the later 1840s.

13-15 Upper Crescent in 2014

These new, grand terraces were occupied by the city's professional and business classes, who vacated their older residences in the centre of the town (like College Square North); which, in turn, eventually became shops and offices.

Upper Crescent was perhaps the grandest terrace development undertaken in south Belfast.

This was an elegantly curving row of three-storey dwellings in a late Regency style, built in 1846 by the timber merchant Robert Corry.

It has been suggested that the celebrated Belfast architect Sir Charles Lanyon may have been involved in the design of the crescents.

Corry himself undertook the building work and took up residence at 16 Upper Crescent.

For the first few years of its existence it was known as Corry's Crescent.


To the immediate north of Upper Crescent, where Crescent Church now stands, there was a large, grassed area which formed part of Mr Corry's gardens.

Shortly after this plot was laid out, however, Corry had it ploughed up and used for the cultivation of vegetables (for the relief of local workers suffering as a result of the famine).

To the north of this garden ran an old water course; to the east, some smaller gardens (belonging to other residents of Upper Crescent); and further to the east and to the north-east, Albion Lane.

In 1852, Robert Corry built another terrace to the north of his garden and just south of the old water course.

This new development, called Lower Crescent, was much in the same vein as that to the south and was occupied by the same mix of professional and business men; though, by as early as 1860, the ground floors of some of the properties were utilized as offices.

In the late 1860s, a railway line was laid to the immediate north of Lower Crescent (along the line of the old water course).
In 1873, the large sandstone building, (originally Ladies Collegiate, later Victoria College), was added to the west end of the terrace, with two houses added to the east end by the end of the decade, the most easterly of which, Rivoli House, originally contained a dance academy run by a Frederick Brouneau.
The railway line cut across Albion Lane and presaged the laying out of a new, broader thoroughfare, to be named Botanic Avenue.

Upper Crescent was further extended in the 1860s and 70s, with two large William Hastings-designed properties erected to the west end in 1869, one of which, Crescent House (latterly a bank) also fronted on to University Road.

In 1878-79, two further houses were added at this end.

In 1885-7, a large Presbyterian church (the present Crescent Church) was erected to plans by the Glasgow architect, John Bennie Wilson, on the west side of Robert Corry's former garden, with a two-storey terrace, the present Crescent Gardens, built on the site of smaller garden plots to the east end in 1898.

During the first half of the 20th century, most of the properties of Upper and Lower Crescent, as well as Crescent Gardens, remained private residences.

By 1960, however, many had become businesses; while others were divided into flats, and Rivoli House (later Dreenagh House) became a hotel.

This trend continued and by the beginning of the 21st century none of the properties were occupied as private dwellings.

In the mid 1990s, three of the 1860-70 houses at the west end of Upper Crescent were demolished and a modern office block was built in their place.

In 2000, the railway cutting to the south of Lower Crescent was built over in preparation for a new development.

1 UPPER CRESCENT:
Originally named Crescent House, was built in 1869 to designs by William Hastings. Its original resident was Dr Wilberforce Arnold, whose family remained there until the early 1900s. The next occupant was Dr John Campbell, who was followed by a Dr William Campbell (presumably his son). Both Campbells (and possibly Dr Arnold before them) appear have used the University Road section of the property as a surgery. In the 1970s, the building was acquired by Queen's University and served as the University's Institute of Professional Legal Studies. In 2001-02 the property was converted to a branch of the Bank of Ireland (and practically rebuilt in the process), with half of the first floor and all of the second floor converted to offices, linked to the large modern office block to the east.
7 UPPER CRESCENT:
Built in 1849, occupied by Robert Workman, who remained there until the mid-1850s, when he was followed by John Coates, secretary of the County Antrim Grand Jury. By 1860, the building was in the hands of a John P Corry, a relative of the builder of the Crescent, Robert Corry. At this stage (according to valuation records), the ground floor was used as offices. James P Corry remained in residence until 1877, when he was succeeded by MrWilliam Dobbin. John Morrow, of the Ayr Steamship Company, is listed as the householder in 1899 and 1910; with P T Crymble in 1920. In the later 1920s, the property was acquired by a Miss Wallace, who remained there until the 1970s; and for part of this time used the premises as a nursing home. Thereafter the property was converted to offices. The current occupant acquired the building in 1983.
8 UPPER CRESCENT:
Occupied, in 1849, by a merchant named Edward Tucker, who was followed by the Rev William Patterson (Professor of Mathematics, Queen's College) in the early 1850s; Peter Keegan, wine merchant, in the later 1850s; James Glass from ca 1860-77; and then Mrs Shillington. In the 1899 directory, Robert Workman, Junior, is listed as the occupant; William Harper in 1910; Joseph Walsh, 1915-40s; then H M Hamilton; and Herbert Kearney. In the 1970s the property was converted to offices.
9 UPPER CRESCENT:
Mrs Grueber; followed in the mid 1850s by Professor Charles McDowell, who remained there until the early 1880s. In the 1899 and 1910 directories, a W H Ward (of the Ulster Damask & Linen Company) is listed as the occupant; with a Robert Robinson in 1920-30. By 1951, the property had become converted to offices, occupied firstly by the Forestry Division of the NI Department of Agriculture, and then by a firm of quantity surveyors.
10 UPPER CRESCENT:
Mrs Murdock in 1849; followed in the 1850s by James Green and then James P Corry (a relative of the above mentioned Robert). Corry was succeeded by Jane Vance, who remained there until the later 1870s. The next resident was Alexander Taylor; with a solicitor, J S Mahon, listed in the 1899 and 1910 directories. About 1918, the property was acquired by a family named Matthews, who remained there until the 1950s, when the building was converted into offices (financiers, then a travel agent).
11 UPPER CRESCENT:
James Greene, (1st clerk, Custom House); followed by Mrs Herdman; and, by 1860, William McNeill; and, by the late 1870s, James Festu. By 1899, the building was home to William Yates; then, pre-1920, the Rev William Beatty; and then T Bell, who remained there from the mid 1920s to the 1960s. By 1970 the property had been converted to an office.
12 UPPER CRESCENT:
Between 1849-1910/20, the house was occupied by Robert Boag, of Albion Clothing Company, possibly the same person, though likely a father and son. By 1920, it had become The Crescent Private Nursing Home, but had reverted to an conventional dwelling again by 1930, with Miss Mabel Simms in residence. Miss Simms remained there until at least 1960, but by 1970 the building had been converted to an office.
13 UPPER CRESCENT:
William Brown, of Day, Bottomley & Company, who, in the 1850s, leased the house to Mrs Esther Orr, who remained there until about 1880. The next occupant was James Hyndman; followed in the early 1900s by Mrs Cron. Mr E Matthews and his family remained there from the 1920s until the 1960s. By 1970, the house was being used by a group of elocution teachers, but appears to have reverted to a private dwelling in the late 1970s. The property appears to have become offices from the mid 1980s.
14 UPPER CRESCENT:
Mrs Dickey; Henry Smith, linen manufacturer, by 1852; and Jane Millford by 1860. The Rev W S Darley became resident in the later 1870s; with Mrs Thompson listed in the 1899 directory; William Galloway (damask designer) in 1920; and the Rev R H White in 1930. In the 1950s, this building and its two neighbours to the east (nos.15 & 16) served as the Ulster Nature Cure Clinic. In the 1960s all three were acquired by Queen's University and converted to student residences. It was probably at this point that the major internal changes to the buildings were carried out; however, it's not improbable that the earlier presence of the Ulster Nature Cure Clinic probably entailed some alterations, perhaps the creation of doorways between the formerly separate properties.
15 UPPER CRESCENT:
Robert Cassidy, solicitor, who remained here until about 1853, when he moved to the newly-built Lower Crescent; followed by the Rev Robert Wilson, whose family in turn were followed by Mr John Downing. By 1899, Mrs Manley was in residence; and by 1920 a "druggist" named John Clarke; Mrs Rankin, by 1930. A decade later the property served as a nursing home. In the 1950s, this building and its two neighbours to each side (nos.14 and 16) were the Ulster Nature Cure Clinic.
Sources: Henderson's Belfast Directory; Belfast & Province of Ulster Directory; ST Carleton, The Growth of South Belfast (QUB MA thesis, 1967); John Caughey, Seize Then The Hour: A history of James P Corry & Compnay (Belfast, 1974), pp.28-29; David Evans, Historic buildings of Queen's University (revised edition, 1980); Alison Jordan: Margaret Byers, Pioneer of Women's Education (QUB Institute of Irish Studies).

First published in March, 2014.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Strand Hotel Invoice

Click to enlarge

I found an invoice among several documents in a drawer recently at home.

The Strand Hotel, Portstewart, County Londonderry, was located at the end of the road where the resort's famous strand beach is.

It was established in 1932.

Strand Hotel, Portstewart

The Director in 1958 was Mrs A L S McGrath.

Golf, tennis and fishing we’re as popular as they remain today.

It's perhaps notable that the invoice contains columns for

  • Servants' Board
  • Morning Tea
  • Baths
  • Fires
  • High Tea
  • Supper
  • Phone & [Tele]grams

Friday, 21 February 2020

Clandeboye House Guest

Photo credit: Katybird
CELIA LYTTELON, IN A DAILY TELEGRAPH ARTICLE, SPENT SOME TIME WITH LADY DUFFERIN AT HER COUNTRY SEAT, CLANDEBOYE, COUNTY DOWN


CLANDEBOYE, County Down, home to the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, is filled with memorabilia collected by the 1st Marquess, a 19th-century diplomat, and provides a dramatic glimpse into his life.

As you pass between the cannons that flank its gates, Clandeboye seems to rise over the mist on the lake like a Chinese watercolour.

This romantic early-Georgian mansion and its 2,000-acre estate in County Down, Northern Ireland, is home to Lindy, the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, and is sustained by a series of enterprises.

'We are free of foundations and trusts,’ Lady Dufferin says proudly.

Helping to keep the estate self-sufficient is its golf course, the Ava art gallery, a banqueting hall used for weddings, a classical music festival and Clandeboye’s own brand of yogurt, courtesy of the estate’s award-winning herd of Holstein and Jersey cows.


The settlement dates from the 17th century, but the building we see today was built in the early 1800s by Robert Woodgate (formerly an engineer to Sir John Soane), who was commissioned by the politician Sir James Blackwood, 2nd Baron Dufferin and Clandeboye.

Incorporating elements of an earlier building, Woodgate created two wings at right angles to each other.

About 50 years later, it became home to Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, the 5th Baron and 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava (Lindy is the widow of the last Marquess, Sheridan; the title is now extinct).

The great-grandson of the playwright Richard Sheridan, Frederick travelled widely as Governor-General of Canada and then Viceroy of India, and put his own stamp on Clandeboye.

Like many of his generation he was a passionate collector, and the interior at Clandeboye (sometimes known by its original name, Bally­leidy) is a reflection of the countries he served.

The breadth of this passion is evident the moment one enters Clandeboye through its Doric portico.


In the outer hall the walls are decorated with symmetrical displays of weaponry: daggers, pistols and cutlasses presented to the 1st Marquess.

In the pistachio-green Long Gallery there are more surprises.

The grand staircase is flanked by a pair of narwhal tusks and on either side lie two ornate daybeds.

These belonged to King Tibor of Burma.

Frederick bought them when the contents of the palace at Mandalay were auctioned off after he annexed Upper Burma. 

Upstairs the names of the bedrooms recall the many places that he served as a diplomat: France, St Petersburg, Canada, Rome.

France is the most exquisite, decorated in neoclassical gilt motifs copied from a Pompeiian fresco.

The mythological Europa and the bull are pictured on the bed head.

The gilt empire furniture complements the theme.

The house was designed to take maximum advantage of the light: the south-facing corner of the L-shaped layout is made up of 16 bay windows.

Frederick also had a mania for glass roofing and skylights.

The Simla corridor on the upper floor – named after the hill station in India where the British went on holiday – illuminated by oculi, small hemispherical skylights.

'Clandeboye needs constant attention,’ Lady Dufferin, a successful artist who works using her maiden name, Lindy Guinness, says.

On the day I visited, the Rev Ian Paisley was scheduled to come and see a portrait she had painted of him.

'The studio is somewhere I feel safe,’ she says.

Several chiaroscuro black-and-white gouaches in the studio, destined for a show in Paris, are studies of light in the rooms at Clandeboye – a subject she returns to often.

Outside is a walled garden with its thousands of saplings.

It has been planted over the past 25 years by Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland, which has brought Protestant and Catholic communities together to work in tandem.

Deeper in the woods is Helen’s Tower, a turreted folly with views over the rolling parkland, immortalised in Tennyson’s poem of the same name.

Commissioned by Frederick and completed in 1861, it was designed by the Scottish architect William Burn, its name in honour of Dufferin’s mother.

Lady Dufferin and her late husband, who died in 1988, have worked tirelessly to restore Clandeboye to its former glory and have created a lasting memorial to Frederick’s unique vision.

It has been a major project, and the work continues.

'This is a real, living estate with no dead hand of institutional discipline,’ she says. 'I look upon Clandeboye as a gift.’
  
First published in November, 2011.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

The Heygate Baronets

THE HEYGATE BARONETCY WAS CREATED IN 1831 FOR WILLIAM HEYGATE, LORD MAYOR OF LONDON, 1822-23

This is a branch of the ancient family of HEYGATE, seated in the counties of Essex and Suffolk.

THOMAS HEYGATE, of Hayes, in Middlesex, was provost-marshal-general of the army in 1557 which, in alliance with the Spaniards, besieged St Quentin (held by the French), and was subsequently provost-marshal in Scotland.

He married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Stonor, of Stonor; and dying in 1576, was succeeded by his eldest son,

THOMAS HEYGATE, of Hayes, Justice of the Peace for Middlesex, Provost-Marshal-General under the Earl of Essex, at the capture of Cadiz, 1596, who wedded Margery, daughter of Ralph Skipwith, of Parkbury, Hertfordshire, and had surviving issue,
Thomas, of Hayes, barrister;
RALPH, of whom presently;
Anne;
Katherine, m R Tyrwhitt, Master of Buck-hounds to CHARLES I;
Letitia, m Dr P Heylin, Prebendary of Westminster.
The second son,

RALPH HEYGATE, settled in London, and married twice; but had issue by his second wife only.

His elder son,

NICHOLAS HEYGATE, who was one of the court of Assistants of Merchant Taylors' Company, and a collector of curious books and writings, who espoused Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Cotton, of Loughton, by whom he had an only surviving child,

ROBERT HEYGATE, of Husband's Bosworth, Leicestershire, who wedded Anne, daughter of John Freeman, and left at his decease, in 1736, an only surviving son,

NICHOLAS HEYGATE (1705-44), of West Haddon, Northamptonshire, espoused Mary Anne, daughter of John Cooke, of Hill Morton, Warwickshire, and had issue,
Robert;
John;
Thomas, father of
THOMAS HEYGATE;
Robert, of West Haddon;
Charles;
JAMES, of whom we treat;
Anne; Elizabeth Catherine Frances; Mary; Elizabeth.
Mr Heygate's youngest son,

JAMES HEYGATE (1747-1833), of Aldermanbury in the city of London, banker, and of Hackney, Middlesex, and Southend, Essex, married, in 1781, Sarah, second daughter of Samuel Unwin, of Sutton, Nottinghamshire, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his successor;
James, of Hampstead Heath;
Elizabeth Anne.
Mr Heygate was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM HEYGATE (1782-1844), of Chatham Place, Blackfriars, London, and Holwood, Kent, who wedded, in 1821, Isabella, fourth daughter of Edward Longdon Mackmurdo, of Upper Clapton, Middlesex, and had issue,
FREDERICK WILLIAM, his heir;
William Unwin;
Edward Nicholas;
Robert Henry John.
Mr Heygate, an alderman of the City of London, having served the office of Lord Mayor in 1822, was created a baronet in 1831, designated of Southend, Essex.

Sir William was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR FREDERICK WILLIAM HEYGATE, 2nd Baronet (1822-94), DL, baptized at the Mansion House during the mayoralty of his father and in the presence of His Royal Highness The Duke of York, who stood sponsor, and at whose wish the baronetcy was conferred. 

Sir Frederick, MP for County Londonderry, 1859-74,  married Marianne Gage in 1851, thus acquiring an estate at Bellarena in County Londonderry.

His eldest son,

SIR FREDERICK GAGE HEYGATE, 3rd Baronet (1854-1940), JP DL, of Bellarena, married, in 1888, Flora, daughter of John Walter.
Sir Frederick, Major, Mid-Ulster Artillery, barrister, lived at Bellarena, County Londonderry, and was Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Londonderry, 1887-88.
His cousin,

SIR JOHN EDWARD NOURSE HEYGATE, 4th Baronet (1903-76), of Bellarena, married firstly, Evelyn Florence Margaret Winifred Gardner, daughter of Herbert, 1st and last Baron Burghclere of Walden, in 1930; and secondly, in 1936, Gwyneth Eliot, daughter of John Eliot Howard Lloyd; and thirdly, in 1951, Dora Luz, daughter of John Harvey.
He is chiefly remembered for his liaison in 1929 with Evelyn Gardner while she was married to Evelyn Waugh. Heygate and Gardner subsequently married, then divorced. He is portrayed as "John Beaver" in Waugh's A Handful of Dust.
Photo Credit: BRIAN McELHERRON

By the 1970s, the 4th Baronet was living alone in Bellarena (above) when, in 1976, he took his own life by shooting himself.

Sir George Lloyd Heygate was the 5th Baronet (1936-91).

Sir Richard John Gage Heygate (b 1940) is the 6th and present Baronet.

It is thought that the Heygate family lives in London today.

First published in October, 2010.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Altinaghree Castle

THE OGILBYS OWNED 7,050 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY TYRONE

WILLIAM OBILBY JP (1808-73), of Altinaghree Castle, Donemana, County Tyrone, reputed to be a scion of OGILBY OF ARDNARGLE AND PELLIPAR, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1873, married, in 1851, Adelaide Charlotte, daughter of the Hon and Rev Charles Douglas (brother of George Sholto, 17th Earl of Morton), by his first wife, the Lady Isabella Gore, daughter of Arthur Saunders, 2nd Earl of Arran, and had issue,
CLAUD WILLIAM LESLIE, his heir;JAMES DOUGLAS, succeeded his brother;
William Charles (1855-6);
Adelaide Charlotte; Isabella Caroline; Beatrice Emma Elizabeth; Louisa; Edith Sophia.
Mr Ogilby was succeeded by his eldest son,

CLAUD WILLIAM LESLIE OGILBY (1851-94), who wedded, in 1875, Bessie Henrietta, daughter of Captain William Grant Douglas, in a childless marriage.

Mr Ogilby was succeeded by his brother,

JAMES DOUGLAS OGILBY (1853-1925), who espoused, in 1884, Mary Jane Jameson (d 1894) at Donagheady parish church, County Tyrone, though the marriage was without issue.


ALTINAGHREE CASTLE, near Donemana, County Tyrone, was built by William Ogilby ca 1860, though abandoned about thirty years later.

Despite its short existence, nevertheless, it was associated with two significant figures in natural history, and survives in the folk memory of the locality.

A house first appears on the location about 1853, captioned ‘Liscloon House’.

By the third edition, this has been replaced by a different structure, captioned ‘Altinaghree Castle’, surrounded by a wall.

‘Liscloon Cottages’ and a ‘Lodge’ are also shown nearby.

On the fourth edition the castle is shown in ruins.



Aidan Devlin has produced an interesting video clip of the mansion.

Buildings listed include stables, a garden house, stables, granary, cow house, steaming house and piggery.

In 1861, Annual Revisions note, ‘This house is throwing down. Mr Ogilby is building a very fine new house, value when completed’.

William Ogilby married Adelaide Charlotte Douglas, daughter of the Rev Charles Douglas of Earls Gift in 1851.

He died in 1873, not long after completing Altinaghree Castle, when it then passed to his son Claude William Leslie Ogilby who is listed as the occupier in 1876.

Claude also married a Douglas, Bessie Henrietta, daughter of Captain William Grant Douglas, in 1875.

However, from 1888, when the house is listed as ‘vacant’ and leased from the Trustees of Claude W Ogilby, the building deteriorates and decreases in value.

In 1889, when the house is first described as a castle.

In 1892 it was described as ‘dilapidated’ and the value is reduced to £5.

Samuel Eaton becomes the lessor in 1905.

A note of 1909 reads, ‘floors and windows gone, a ruin’; and in 1910 it is deleted from the record altogether, although the gate lodge continues to be occupied.

The Strabane Weekly News of 4th January, 1975, reports on some of the local stories surrounding the castle, which was built entirely of cut stone and surrounded by a wall of the same type.

The stones were brought by horse and cart from Dungiven, County Londonderry.

Stonecutters from the Barons Court Estate were employed at the castle.

Masons were paid one shilling per day, and labourers, 10d.

According to the Natural Stone Database, the stones used are local Dalriadan schist and Barony Glen sandstone.

When finished, its banqueting room was said to be unequalled throughout the county.

Ogilby was known locally simply as a successful farmer and proprietor who entertained on a lavish scale, bringing in cooks from Belfast and Dublin for his banquets, although it is not clear whether it is the older or the younger Ogilby that is remembered in this way.

The Ogilby’s second son, James, is remembered locally as falling in love with a factory girl that he met when returning from a hunt meeting at Donemana.

Folklore has it that, following his family’s opposition to their marriage, James vanished from the area in 1875.

He returned, however, seven years later, in 1882, to marry his sweetheart who had waited for him.

The older son, Claude, died at the early age of 43, but apparently left the house six years before his death.

The fact that his affairs were in the hands of trustees suggests that he was bankrupt.

A contemporary newspaper article implies that the upkeep of a large castle had perhaps proved overwhelming, following Gladstone’s land reforms.

Hugh Dixon writes that the castle
Would have been regarded as wildly unfashionable by many contemporaries. 
It looks more like the sort of castellated factory which Pugin derides than the naturally planned, colourfully designed country houses then in vogue under Ruskin’s influence. 
It is no surprise to me that it had a very short active life – dinner at 3pm was definitely a very late hangover from Georgian times.


Jeremy Williams writes that
The architect responsible is unrecorded, but there are many parallels with the Londonderry Apprentice Boys’ Hall of 1873 by J. G. Ferguson before bomb damage—the same segmental mullioned windows and shallow oriels, Ferguson is more admired today for his industrial architecture, and, despite its appellation, Altnachree is more castellated mill than castle.
It is referred to as a castle for the first time in 1872, a year before Claud William Ogilvy’s inheritance at the age of twenty-three.

Entered through a porte-cochere on the side along the axis of the central corridor, with the three main rooms strung out along the garden front.

Main staircase set into triple-arched composition, but taking up the minimum of space, all like an office block.

Four-storeyed towers in the centre of each front; three floors elsewhere.

Today only a shell survives in a denuded park.

The mansion was said to be splendidly appointed and had a banqueting room.

It is constructed from cut stone.

Altinaghree was abandoned in 1885, a mere twenty years after its construction.

It cannot be listed because it is roofless.

First published in February, 2014.