Monday, 20 September 2021

Kilwaughter Castle

9,770 ACRES 

PATRICK AGNEW, of Kilwaughter Castle, said to be a kinsman of the Agnew Baronets, of Lochnaw, Wigtownshire, a collector of rents in County Antrim, married Janet Shaw, and had a son,

JOHN AGNEW, who wedded his cousin, Eleanor Shaw, and had a son,

PATRICK AGNEW, who married and purchased the remaining lands at Kilwaughter which, until 1660, were owned by the Agnews of Lochnaw:
Sir Patrick Agnew, 1st Baronet, 8th Hereditary Sheriff of Lochnaw, father of Colonel Alexander Agnew, of Whitehills, who, with Andrew his brother, afterwards 9th Sheriff, was frequently in Ulster.
Mr Agnew, High Sheriff of Antrim, 1669, was succeeded by his son,

PATRICK AGNEW, who married and had issue,
PATRICK, of whom we treat;
Margaret, m James Crawford;
Jean, m Robert Blair, of Blairmount;
Helen, m James Stewart.
Mr Agnew died in 1724, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

PATRICK AGNEW, who wedded Martha Houston (or Houseton), of Craig, County Antrim, and had issue,
WILLIAM, of whom we treat;
James (?);
Patrick (?);
Henry, m Grace Harries, and left issue;
Hugh (?).
The eldest son,

WILLIAM AGNEW, married his cousin, Margaret Stewart, of Killymoon Castle, Cookstown, County Tyrone, and had issue,
James, died unmarried;
William, died unmarried;
MARIA, of whom we treat;
Jane, m Henry Shaw, afterwards of Ballygally.
Mr Agnew's elder daughter,

MARIA AGNEW, wedded firstly, James Ross; and secondly, Valentine Jones, by whom she had issue (with a daughter, Margaret), a son,

EDWARD JONES-AGNEW (1767-1834), MP for Antrim County, 1792-96, who succeeded his grandfather and assumed the additional surname of AGNEW.

He married Eleanor Galbraith, and and issue,
Maria, m T C Simon.
Edward Jones-Agnew was succeeded by his only son,

WILLIAM AGNEW (1824-91), who died unmarried, and was succeeded in the Kilwaughter estate by his niece,

AUGUSTA, COUNTESS BALZANI (1847-95), only child of T C Simon and Maria (Agnew) Simon.

The Countess died in 1895, leaving two daughters,
Gendoluni, Madame Valensin;

KILWAUGHTER CASTLE lies about three miles in a westerly direction from Larne in County Antrim.

The original tower-house was four storeys high with turrets, built for the Agnew family, tax collectors for JAMES VI.

The present building incorporates a Scottish style plantation house of ca 1622, built by Patrick Agnew, whose sister-in-law lived at Ballygalley Castle, which is near by.

Between 1803-07 the present Georgian castle was built for Edward Jones Agnew by John Nash in his "romantic castle" style.

There is a wide, round tower at one corner; and a polygonal tower at another.

The castle incorporates the substantial remains of a 17th century tower house.

The exact date and origin of the tower house is uncertain, though when it first became exposed due to dereliction in the 1950s it was identified as being of T-plan, four storeys in height, in Scottish style.

There are corbelled bartizan turrets at the four main corners, originally with narrow slit windows which were later enlarged.

The process of remodelling begun by Nash continued for some years, until at least 1830, when the oriel window on the east front was added.

Entrance Porch, Shipley-Bringhurst-Hargraves Collection, University of Delaware, Newark, USA

The chief architect was recorded in 1840 as John Nash, but Millar and Nelson of Belfast were seemingly also employed as architects.

Old photographs show that the Nash remodelling originally had elaborate Gothic-style timber tracery in all main windows on the south and east fronts.

The single-storey block on the south front was inserted between the original 17th century castle and the square end tower at some stage between 1832 and 1857.

On Edward Jones Agnew's death in 1834, ownership passed to his granddaughter who married her music teacher, an Italian count called Balzani.

The Music Room, Shipley-Bringhurst-Hargraves Collection, University of Delaware, Newark, USA

On the death of Count Ugo Balzani in 1916, the property passed to his daughters, Madame Valensin, of Florence, and her sister, Signorina Nora Balzani, of Rome.

At the outbreak of the 2nd World War in 1939, the sisters being resident in Italy, Kilwaughter Castle was declared "enemy holding" by the Custodian of Enemy Property and was transformed into an army camp.

Various British regiments were based there and finally it became an American Transit Camp.

It was occupied by military forces until 1945 and thereafter abandoned.

In 1951 it was bought by E H McConnell (Metals) Ltd of Belfast, who purchased it in order to recover lead, woodwork, slates and other fittings.

Subsequently it was left to decay.

At present the castle ruin is part of a farm.

The roof (part of which was originally sheathed with mere sand and tar) has collapsed, as have the floors.

Kilwaughter's parkland is early 19th century, possibly the work of the landscape gardener, John Sutherland; and provided a setting for the now-ruinous house.

The Ordnance Survey Memoirs of 1835 noted that the date "1566" was inscribed on a piece of iron on an oak door existing at that time; and it is known that the site had a Norman origin, because the remains of a motte exist nearby.

The 18th century house was set in a formal landscape, with a straight approach avenue aligned on the front door.

The parkland of ca 1810 has had its extensive shelter belts depleted and many parkland tress have been lost.

The artificial lake, created as a result of massive damming, is in danger of silting up.

The walled garden, in separate ownership from the greater part of the park, is partly cultivated.

There is an ice house near the lake.

The main entrance gates were designed by Nash ca 1807, but the lodge, ca 1835, is possibly by Millar and Nelson; a picturesque cottage with barge-boards and latticed windows.

First published in March, 2010.


Anonymous said...

The Italian connection sounds intriguing! Not beyond restoration yet, by any means.

Anonymous said...

I think it really could. I know this sounds vaguely Communist, but when people have houses like this on their land sitting in ruins, they should be confiscated and put in the hands of people (read 'me') who would happily live there!


Anonymous said...

haha, yes that's more like it!

You'd be surprised how quickly this house could be back in use once a roof is put on and window glass fitted. A few fires in the grate would soon dry it out!


DJ said...

I would love to see the Kilwaughter Castle restored! My ancestor, Robert Glasgow, leased land from William Agnew in 1738 and also was a ruling elder at the Old Kilwaughter and Larne Presbyterian church, where William Agnew attended. One mystery that I would like to have settled is the date for Kilwaughter Castle. According to the Ordnance Survey for Larne and Island Magee, Vol. 10, page 109, referring to Kilwaughter Castle, "It is not precisely known when it was originally built, but it is supposed it was in the year 1662 from the circumstance of that date being inscribed on a metal plate formerly over the kitchen door."

Yet on page 117 in the same volume it is stated, "The oldest part of the castle is in the rear . The supposed date of its origin is marked in indented characters, nearly illegible, on an old piece of iron on a very old oak door covered with nails, in the rear of the castle." [Drawing showing iron with nail marks and letters 1566] and nailed to the door.

I wonder how we can reconcile and explain these two varying accounts of the dates. Do you suppose they both are incorrect, and that the actual date is 1622, with the first date being a typo, and the second date being a misreading? 1566 certainly seems too early to me. I believe that Kilwaughter and Ballygally Castle are pretty much the same age.

The year 1622 is consistent with the year Patrick Agnew acquired the Ballykeel property, according to my records.

Do you have any thoughts about the discrepancies in the Ordnance Memoirs?

DJ said...

I agree: 17th century for sure. The plaque was, after all, "nearly illegible."

Yes, it IS confusing, since Agnews had been in County Antrim dating from who-knows-when before other Agnews acquired Kilwaughter in the 1600s.

I have read just about everything I can get my hands on, but I still have yet to learn when Kilwaughter Castle was originally built, but my guess is that it was either built circa 1625 and renovated or added to in 1662, or simply it was built in 1662.

According to the Down survey, in 1641 John Agnew was 3/4 proprietor of Kilwaughter. Who was the other fourth? Sir Patrick, who was leasing lands there?

We know Captain John Agnew married the daughter of Patrick Shaw of Ballygally. These two men were described as "mates" defending their countrymen during the Irish Rebellion of 1941, but where did Captain John Agnew live? A "Captain Agnew" was commanding troops in Larne.

According to the Journal of Archaeology, "The old castle at Kilwaughter, on the site of which the present modern castle has been built, was originally of the same form of structure, and probably of much the same size, as the castle on which the Shaws built at Ballygally." But is it the same age?

It is interesting that in the 1659 Pender's census there is no "titulado" (person holding title to the land) listed for "Killvowghter." In the list of "places" in the parish, in the place called "Killvowghter," no English or Scotts yet lived, and only 6 native Irish. This supports the idea that the castle was not built until 1662.

Too bad there is not a better history of the Kilwaughter castle; for instance, no records of it being used as a fortification during the 1641 Rebellion like the Ballygally castle was used.

It would be nice to have it all sorted out!

Unknown said...

What can be done, it is such a wonderful castle and location....what can be done to save it from compelte ruin?

Anonymous said...

I live on the Castlehill road and my view is across the field to the castle. I have lived here for 10 years and have watched the castle and the old cemetaryfalling into more neglect each year. My husbands family are from Kilwaughter. His grandmother remembers going to Sunday school parties in the ground and watching the little princess comming out of the gothic window to join them.

George Dorrian said...

Hi, I have just come across this blog, I am currently researching the history of Kilwaughter Castle around WW2, esp. around 1940/41 when the 148th independant recon. corps was stationed there. Anyone with photos, stories or leads for this period would be very gratefully received. Kind Regards, George Dorrian. said...

I am a direct descendant of John Agnew and Eleanor Shaw through Jane Agnew who married William Martin, had a daughter Jane Agnew Martin who married Francis Shaw Mahon (my great grandfather 3x's removed).

For the past few years I have been trying to link the lineage through documentation but have been unsuccessful. Can anyone help. It seems through other research this particular Jane A. Martin of Altilevelly married an Ogilive. I cannot find this in our Mahon lineage information. Does anybody know?

I do know they are buried at the "Old Ralloo Cemetary". Francis S Mahon, Jane A Martin Mahon, and William Martin. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Kind Regards,
Frances Mahon

Unknown said...

My name is Cristina Guicciardi Cattaneo. I am a great-great-great niece of August Simon countess Balzani who inherited the castle in the nineteen century. She married my grandfather’s uncle Ugo Balzani, a renowned historian who worked both in Italy and in Great Britain.
In Rome there is a street entitled to him, Via Ugo Balzani.
I was so lucky to meet their daughter Nora Balzani, who died at the age of 97 in 1975. She was my grandfather’s first cousin. Nora was a remarkable woman. She joined prince Scipione Borghese and journalist Luigi Barzini in Peking , the destination of the Paris – Peking motor race in 1907.
Later she actively cooperated with the Italian Red Cross and the Italian heritage institution Italia Nostra.
Her sister Guandalina, m. Valensin, had a daughter, Giorgia Valensin, who worked with Nato Headquarters in Naples, was fluent in several languages, and even translated Chinese poems into Italian. She died earlier than her aunt Nora.
Nora didn’t have the means to maintain and look after the castle, which was eventually sold by the last heirs.
Here’s a picture of Nora, taken py a princess Borchese in 1907:
My mother was Gabriella Balzani, daughter of Corrado, son of Ulisse, brother of Ugo, husband of Augusta Simon.

Unknown said...

Thankyou Tim for putting up a very clear lineage of the Agnews of Kilwaughter.
My name is Elizabeth Agnew and I live in Australia. I am descended from a Matthew Agnew who joined the 18th Royal Irish Regiment in the mid 1800's, fought in the Maori wars and then came to Australia. As the British army were retiring from the colony around 1860's, Matthew became one of the first officers in the voluntary constabulary in Sydney, NSW. He later became known as Sergeant Agnew. (I have not been able to find out who Matthew's parents were yet). I went to Ireland in 2000 and was drawn by co-incidence to Kilwaughter Castle. It was a derelict ruin and although tempted to explore something that called to me, I was too shy to ask if I could have a look around the inside. Needless to say, I have been haunted by that intial meeting with the castle and would love to see it restored. If prints were available for purchase I would very happily purchase one. I will visit again. With many thanks Liz

Unknown said...

Also they say Önly six degrees of separation""before you meet someone you know or someone to whom you're related! I was looking at the website "Your place or mine" only to discover some very familiar surnames. My sister Michelle married an Ivan Cooke!!! in 1989. Seems the Cookes were also part of Kilwaughter's history as are the Agnews. Cheers Liz

James Burns said...

Hi, my name is James Burns. I am a member of the Ballymena branch of: NIFHS.
Northern Ireland Family History Society. I recently became involved with the current owners of Kilwaughter castle. A Website has been set up by a young lad who lives in the area, SAVE KILWAUGHTER CASTLE. This is supported on Facebook by volunteers in the area. the current owner is a MRS Anne McFarland and lives in Australia. She has been here to see to her elderly father and is returning home shortly. just yesterday Anne and her husband myself and some volunteers were pulling Nettles from the walled garden a clear up. work has been undertaken to clear the cemetery. There are problems with clearing the ground around the castle as we have to take into account the farmers land and access. Please feel free to join the facebook chat. regards, James. 24/08/2015

Anne Ferguson said...

Invitation: Kilwaughter Castle Local Heritage Exhibition
Larne Museum & Arts Centre Mon 5th - Mon 12th October 2015 (also open Saturday 10th October)
Talk by Janice Holmes (Open University) Mon 12th October at 7pm Places are limited and must be booked in advance

Please see Facebook: Save Kilwaughter Castle and Graveyard for more Information, Thank you, Anne Ferguson

Deborah Hetherington said...

went to find this place last sun. now I am fascinated by it. It must be restored
Deborah Hetherington. Carrickfergus

Robert Wade said...

My wife's maternal family are descended from the Smiths and Jones of Belfast. Valentine Jones, who secondly married Maria Ross nee Agnew, had a daughter from his first marriage named Jane, who married John Galt Smith (1). John G Smith had a grandson named Edward Jones Agnew Smith in recognition of the links between these families. EJA Smith emigrated to Australia in 1840 and he was my wife's great great grandfather. The John Galt Smith (6), who leased Kilwaughter in the 1890s was a great grandson of the John Galt Smith (1)(who married Jane Jones). His widow spent the First World War at Kilwaughter and at the end of the lease took much of the furniture and portraits to her home in Delaware (see Rockwood Mansion, Delaware).

Unknown said...

Talk on 'The Agnews' by Rev Dr John Nelson at Kilwaughter Village Hall on Wednesday 27 April at 7.30 pm.
Doors will be open from 7pm for tea and coffee. A great opportunity to meet and chat about the history of the place and the people, Anne Ferguson

Anonymous said...

Further reading links for Kilwaughter Castle -

Unknown said...

Hi My name is Estelle Shaw and I believe I am a descendant of John Shaw of Greenock, Scotland, (builder of Ballygaly castle in Ireland in 1625), whom married Isabella Brisbane of Ayshire and whose daughter Janet married a Patrick Agnew (of Lochnaw descent) and builder of Kilwaughter Castle in Ireland.
I am interested in anything to do with the lowland Shaws of Scotland..