Sunday 3 December 2023

Cloyne Palace

THE bishopric of CLOYNE was established in the 6th century.

It was united to Cork for almost two hundred years.

This diocese lies entirely within County Cork, extending east and west nearly 63 miles in length, by a breadth of 29.

CLOYNE PALACE, County Cork, was built in 1718 for the Right Rev Charles Crow, Lord Bishop of Cloyne, 1702-26.

The last Bishop to reside at the palace was the Right Rev Dr John Mortimer Brinkley, who died in 1835.

The see of Cloyne subsequently became united with that of Cork and Ross.

The former episcopal residence is irregular in plan and elevation, having been altered by several Bishops.

It underwent a number of alterations and additions over several hundred years, giving it today a unique appearance with a multiplicity of roofs.

The remarkable west elevation, used as the front, conceals a notable double-height single-storey space.

It retains many notable early features, including timber sliding sash windows.

There are outbuildings, gates, and a gate lodge, which provide added interest and context.

The palace and demesne were leased by the Church of Ireland, in 1836, to Mr H Allen.

First published in October, 2015.

Saturday 2 December 2023

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, OBE, 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 1 December 2023

Foyle Park


JAMES DAVIDSON (1809-81), of EGLINTON, County Londonderry, and of Murlingden, Brechin, Angus, married Margaret Jane Walker, daughter of Minchin Lloyd, of Summerhill, Moville, and had issue,
Charles John Lloyd, of Eglinton; his heir;
JAMES WILLIAM, of whom we treat;
Margaret Jane (1863-1948).
The younger son,

JAMES WILLIAM DAVIDSON (1860-93), of Foyle Park, County Londonderry, wedded, in 1893, Phœbe Franklin, and had issue,

JAMES DAVIDSON, of Foyle Park.

Foyle Park House (Image: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society)

FOYLE PARK HOUSE, near Eglinton, County Londonderry, is a Georgian residence built ca 1810, comprising two storeys of varying heights.

The house was originally called Grocers’ Hall.

It was built by David Babington, lessee of the Grocers’ Company estate in the county.

The Rev George Vaughan Sampson (1763-1827), remarked at the time:
"The mansion of Grocers’ Hall is worthy of those in honour of whom it has been named. The value and efficacy of resident and patriotic gentry can no where be better exemplified." 
The Worshipful Company of Grocers did not renew the lease and, in 1820, David Babington received £7,000 in compensation (equivalent to about £700,000 today) for Foyle Park, including the house.

The house was subsequently inhabited by the agent of the Grocers’ Company; officers of the Ordnance Survey; Fallowlea Literary School.

Fallowlea Literary School was apparently affiliated with the Templemoyle Agricultural School, located near by, and took school boarders.

Foyle Park House (Image: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society)

George Ross leased Foyle Park from the Grocers’ Company in 1858; and, in the 1860s-80s, the house was inhabited by several occupants.

James Davidson acquired Foyle Park, then a farm comprising 500 acres, and a large house with 26 rooms, in 1858, as the dowry of his wife Margaret.

Foyle Park remained in the Davidson family until 1925, when it was sold to Henry Whiteside.

By 1968 the house was completely derelict when it was bought and restored by Kenneth Davidson.

The Davidsons sold Foyle Park in 2011.

The armorial bearings of the Grocers’ Company and Babingtons were thereafter removed from the gate-lodge at Foyle Park and erected on a wall beside the market house in Eglinton.

First published in December, 2021.

County Armagh Rivers


THE two principal rivers are the Blackwater and the Bann, which chiefly flow along the north-eastern and north-western boundaries of the county, the former discharging itself into the western side of Lough Neagh, and the latter into the southern part of the same lough, at the Bannfoot ferry.

The Newry River, after flowing through a narrow valley between the counties of Down and Armagh, empties itself into Carlingford Bay, below Newry.

The Callan joins the Blackwater below Charlemont: the Cusher falls into the Bann at its junction with the Newry canal; and the Camlough, flowing from the lake of the same name, discharges itself into the Newry River.

This last named river, during its short course of five miles, supplies numerous bleach-works, and corn, flour, and flax mills: its falls are so rapid that the tail race of the higher mill forms the head water of the next lower.

The Newtownhamilton River is joined by the Tara, and flows into Dundalk Bay, into which also the Flurry, and the Fane, empty themselves.

The total number of main and branch streams is 18, and the combined lengths of all are 165 miles.

The mouths of those which flow into Lough Neagh have a fine kind of salmon trout, frequently 30lb in weight: the common trout is abundant and large, as are also pike, eels, bream, and roach.

AN inland navigation along the border of the counties of Armagh and Down, from Newry to Lough Neagh, by the aid of the Bann and the Newry River, was the first line of canal executed in Ireland.

Commencing at the tideway at Fathom, it proceeds to Newry, and admits vessels drawing 9 or 10 feet of water, having at each end a sea lock.

From Newry to the point where the Bann is navigable, a distance of 15 miles, is a canal for barges of from 40 to 60 tons, chiefly fed from Loughbrickland to Lough Shark, County Down.

The River Bann, from its junction with the canal to Lough Neagh, a distance of 11½ miles, completes the navigation, opening a communication with Belfast by the Lagan canal, and with the Tyrone collieries by the Coalisland or Blackwater canal.

The canal from Lough Erne to Lough Neagh, now in progress, enters this county near Tynan, and passes by Caledon, Blackwatertown, and Charlemont to its junction with the River Blackwater above Verner's Bridge, and finally with Lough Neagh.

Thursday 30 November 2023

Blarney Castle


JOHN COLTHURST, of Ballyanly, County Cork (great-grandson of Christopher Colthurst, murdered near Macroom, in 1641, son of Colonel John Colthurst, who was murdered by the rebels, 1607), High Sheriff of County Cork, 1725, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Nicholas Purdon, Knight, and  had two sons,
NICHOLAS, his heir;
JOHN, successor to his brother.
The elder son,

COLONEL NICHOLAS COLTHURST (1676-1754), of Ballyanly, High Sheriff of County Cork, 1736, espoused Penelope, second daughter of Sir John Topham, Knight, of Dublin, one of the Masters in Chancery, and had (with two daughters), an only son, Topham, who died under age.

Colonel Colthurst was succeeded by his brother,

JOHN COLTHURST (1678-1756), of Ardrum, MP for Tallow, 1734-56, High Sheriff of County Cork, 1738, wedded firstly, Alice, daughter of James Conway; and secondly, Mahetabel, daughter of William Wallis.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN CONWAY COLTHURST (c1720-75), MP for Doneraile, 1751-60, Youghal, 1761-8, Castlemartyr, 1768-75, who wedded, in 1741, the Lady Charlotte FitzMaurice, daughter of Thomas, 1st Earl of Kerry, by whom he had five sons.

Mr Colthurst was created a baronet in 1774, designated of Ardrum, County Cork.

Sir John was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR JOHN CONWAY COLTHURST, 2nd Baronet (c1743-87), who was killed in a duel with Dominick Trant; and dying unmarried, the title devolved upon his brother,

SIR NICHOLAS COLTHURST, 3rd Baronet,  High Sheriff of County Cork, 1788, who wedded Harriet, second daughter of the Rt Hon David La Touche,  and had issue,
Elizabeth; Catherine.
Sir Nicholas died in 1795, and was succeeded by his only son,

SIR NICHOLAS CONWAY COLTURST, 4th Baronet (1789-1829), Colonel, Cork Militia, MP for Cork, 1812-29, who espoused, in 1819, Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel George Vesey, and had, with other issue,
GEORGE CONWAY, his successor;
Charles Vesey.
Sir Nicholas was succeeded by his elder son,

SIR GEORGE CONWAY COLTHURST, 5th Baronet (1824-78), JP DL MP, High Sheriff of County Cork, 1850, who married, in 1846, Louisa Jane, daughter of St John George Jefferyes, and had issue,
GEORGE ST JOHN, his successor;
Alice Conway; Louisa Julia.
Sir George was succeeded by his son,

SIR GEORGE ST JOHN COLTHURST, 6th Baronet (1850-1925), JP DL, who wedded, in 1881, Edith Jane Thomasina, daughter of Captain Jonas Morris, and had issue,
GEORGE OLIVER, his successor;
RICHARD ST JOHN JEFFERYES, succeeded his brother as 8th Baronet;
Edith Dorothy.
Sir George was succeeded by his elder son,

SIR GEORGE OLIVER COLTHURST, 7th Baronet (1882-1951), who died unmarried, when the title devolved upon his brother,

SIR RICHARD ST JOHN JEFFERYES COLTHURST, 8th Baronet (1887-1955), High Sheriff of County Dublin, 1920-21,
Sir Richard St John Jefferyes Colthurst, 8th Baronet (1887–1955);
Sir Richard la Touche Colthurst, 9th Baronet (1928–2003);
Sir Charles St John Colthurst, 10th Baronet (b 1955);

BLARNEY CASTLE, Blarney, County Cork, is an unusually large tower-house of 1446 which incorporates the famous Blarney Stone, high up beneath the battlements.

The 4th Earl of Clancarty had supported JAMES II, with the result that his forfeited estate was granted to the Hollow Swords Company at the end of the Williamite wars.

In 1704 the Mayor of Cork, Sir James St John Jefferyes, purchased the estate and built a new house attached to the original castle.

This was greatly enlarged by his descendants and developed into large Georgian Gothic building with a central bow, rows of lancet windows and pinnacled battlements.

In 1820 this house was destroyed by fire and not rebuilt, though its remains can still be seen today.

In 1846 Louisa Jane, the Jefferyes heiress, married a neighbour, Sir George Colthurst, of Ardrum near Inniscarra.

He was a man of property, with another large estate at Ballyvourney near the border with County Kerry, along with Lucan House in County Dublin.

He also inherited Blarney on his father-in-law’s death.

When her first children died, Lady Colthurst demanded a new house at Blarney on an elevated site.

This was built in the Scots Baronial style, to the designs of Sir Thomas Lanyon of Belfast who, rather surprisingly, incorporated a number of classical details from Ardrum into the design.

Their high quality shows that this must have been an important building.

BLARNEY HOUSE is typical of its type, with pinnacles, crow-stepped gables and a profusion of turrets with conical roofs.

The interior has a double height inner hall, lit from above, a pair of interconnecting drawing rooms and a massive oak staircase.

The style varies from faux Jacobean to Adam Revival, and the rooms have tall plate-glass windows which overlook the lake.

Nearby, the Jefferyes family created the unique Rock Close, an early 18th century druidic garden layout of large rocks, boulders and yew trees; with dolmens, a stone circle and a druid’s altar.

Today Blarney House is the home of Sir Charles Colthurst, 10th Baronet.

In 2009, Sir Charles donated the family papers of the Colthurst family to the Cork City and County Archives, adding to a previous legal collection relating to this family already in the Archives.

Other former residences ~ Ardrum, Inniscarra; Glenmervyn, Glanmire, Co Cork.

First published in November, 2011.

County Antrim Rivers


THE two largest rivers are the Lagan and the Bann, both of which rise in County Down: at Belfast the Lagan spreads into the wide estuary called the Bay of Belfast, or Belfast Lough, and above it, with the aid of several cuts, has been made navigable to Lisburn, forming part of the navigation [canal] between Belfast and Lough Neagh: the Bann flows through Lough Neagh and Lough Beg, and continues its course to Coleraine, below which it falls into the sea.

Most of the rivers strictly belonging to the county in the mountains on the coast, and owing to the rapidity and shortness of their currents, are unnavigable.

The Bush runs westward from the mountains of Lissanoure to Benvarden, and then northward to the sea at Portballintrae: the Maine [or Main] flows southward into Lough Neagh, and has three copious tributaries, the Ravel, the Braid, and the Glenwherry: the Six Mile Water also falls into Lough Neagh, at Antrim; and the Crumlin and Glenavy rivers at Sandy Bay.

The rapidity of these and the smaller rivers renders their banks peculiarly advantageous sites for bleach greens, cotton mills, and flour and corn mills, of which the last are especially numerous.

The only artificial line of navigation is the Lagan Canal: its construction was powerfully aided by the noble family of Chichester, and the expense amounted to £62,000 [about £10 million in 2023], raised by debentures.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

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 ..."

First published in August, 2021.