Monday, 2 August 2021

The Downshire Estates

Arms of Wills, 1st Marquess of Downshire,
created Baron Harwich in 1756

During the Victorian era the Downshire estates were vast.

The Hills, Earls of Hillsborough and MARQUESSES OF DOWNSHIRE, had become the largest landowners in County Down.

Arthur, the 6th Marquess, owned 78,051 acres of land in County Down, 15,766 acres in County Wicklow, 13,679 in the King's County, 5,787 in County Antrim, 5,287 in Berkshire, 1,338 in County Kildare, and 281 acres in Suffolk.

This amounted to a grand total of 120,189 acres of land in the realm.

Lord Downshire administered his estates from Hillsborough, County Down.


An article in the Ulster Journal of Archæology, third series, volume twelve, dated 1949, written by E R R Green, explains that

"The wealth of the Hill family was not founded on confiscation, like that of most of the 18th century Irish aristocracy, but on successful land speculation and fortunate marriages."

"SIR MOYSES HILL ... along with HUGH MONTGOMERY and JAMES HAMILTON ... built his fortunes on the ruin of Conn O'Neill of Castlereagh, the last native ruler of South Clandeboy."

"As early as 23 September, 1607, Conn conveyed Castlereagh and some other townlands lying around it to Hill, and in 1616 he granted a further very large tract to Sir Moyses and Sir James Hamilton."

"In 1608, the Corporation of Carrickfergus granted him lands in the liberties of the town."

"He also leased lands from SIR ARTHUR CHICHESTER at Malone, near Belfast, where he built a palisaded fort, the first Hillsborough. He died in 1630."

"His second son, Arthur, was active in buying and leasing land from the Magennises of Kilwarlin ..."

"Before the 1641 rebellion Arthur Hill was building up a considerable estate not only around Cromlyn, later to become his capital with the name of Hillsborough, but also further afield in Upper Iveagh around Carquillan, the later Hilltown."

"Arthur Hill was wise enough to serve Parliament and was rewarded by the grant of over 2,000 acres of land in Kilwarlin, erected, along with his other lands, into the manors of Hillsborough and Growle [Growell] by the Protectorate in 1657."

"Arthur's son, Moyses, married the daughter of his cousin, Francis Hill, of Hillhall, and so united the Castlereagh and Kilwarlin estates."

"All the children of this marriage died unmarried and his half-brother, William, inherited the estate."

"William's first wife, Eleanor Boyle, daughter of the Archbishop of Armagh, brought him the BLESSINGTON estate; and his second wife, Mary Trevor, brought him the third part of Sir Marmaduke Whitechurch's estate at LOUGHBRICKLAND, County Down."

"A townland exempted from King James I's grant of the Lordship of Newry was purchased at the end of the seventeenth century."

"The growth of the linen trade in the 18th century brought great prosperity to the west Down estates of the Hills."

"Banbridge, which passed into their hands in 1748, when Richard White sold Lord Hillsborough four townlands there ..."

"Wills Hill (1718-93) was a prominent figure in the world of his day, being President of the Board of Trade from 1763-5 and again in 1768, and Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1768 until his resignation in 1772."

"The wealth which enabled him to cut to fine a figure in politics was not stinted on his estates."

"He built the beautiful parish church at Hillsborough in 1773, the mansion, and most of the village."

"He became Earl of Hillsborough in 1751, and Marquis of Downshire in 1789."

"Arthur, the 2nd Marquis (1753-1801), married Mary Sandys, an heiress, who brought him East Hampstead Park in Berkshire, DUNDRUM in County Down, and Edenderry in King's County."

"Mary Sandys inherited these Irish properties from her grandmother, sister of the ... Viscount Blundell who had died in 1756."

"The house of Downshire had now reached its fullest expansion ..."

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