Wednesday, 26 February 2020

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When the Charter was rescinded in 1832, the property was most likely given back to the Kildare estate.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


Anonymous said...

very interesting post - I have often admired this house and assumed it was unoccupied, though the farm behind it seems to be a working one. The question is - why are the historic houses of NI allowed to go to rack and ruin? Is there no (enforcable) mechanism to ensure their protection and upkeep?

Anonymous said...

when was it last lived in do you know tim. I know that someone from the ards area owns it now and that a local farmer rents the land and yard

Anonymous said...

The question is - why are the historic houses of NI allowed to go to rack and ruin?

Why indeed, particularly given the connection with Jane Austen (Somerset Ward was married to Norah Hill, a great-niece of hers)!

Anonymous said...

I was just about to mention the Jane Austen connection as well. Sophia Hillan's 2011 book (May, Lou & Cass: Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland) is a great read and mentions Isle O'Valla. It also includes a photograph of it in its current state.

Unknown said...

Fascinating. I have seen this house on several occasions but didn't know about the Jane Austen connections. Given the frenzy her name seems to inspire, anyone local interested in securing the building's future should get on to some of the seemingly-innumerable JA websites and plead its cause.

Anne Williams said...

My grandfather Godfrey John Mulholland was born at Isle O Valla in 1892, even though his mother Norah (née Ward) lived at Ballywater with her husband Henry Mulholland. Captain Somerset Ward and his wife Norah (née Hill) lived there at the time and were presumably her parents. Since Norah Hill was Jane Austen's great niece, I have now discovered I am related to Jane Austen - wow! Such a shame it is a ruin, looks like a beautiful house.

Martin Davis said...

The Sandys Ombersley archive includes an unpublished journal by Norah's brother, ABGS Hill, 1875-89. Though it is no great work of literature, Hill lived at the beginning of this period near to Norah, and so it does contain many references to Isle O'Valla, as well as to his father, Lord George Hill, the husband of both Cassandra and (later) Louisa Knight, Jane's nieces. See generally

Jim McAdam said...

We visited this house today. It is in a ruinous state but we didn't stay long as access from a busy road is awkward and we don't like blocking an active farmer's lane. It is sad to see such a historic building in this state. We are especially interested in the Jane Austen connection in this part of the country. Geraldine and Jim McAdam, visiting from our home on the Ards Peninsula.

amaryp said...

Thank you for your blog post. Frank McCausland was my Great-great-uncle and it is very interesting to see how the house is doing — I had previously only seen photographs of when the family occupied it and those pictures are around a hundred years old now.