Thursday, 4 November 2021

Purdysburn House


This family, stated to have been originally from Cornwall, was founded in Ireland by

SAMUEL BATT, of New Ross, a merchant, who acquired considerable property in County Wexford.

He died intestate, leaving, by Alice his wife (who took out administration, 1702), a son,

SAMUEL BATT, of New Ross, whose will was proved in 1716.

He left, by Deborah his wife, five sons,
THOMAS, of whom hereafter;
Narcissus, dsp;
The eldest son,

THOMAS BATT, of Ozier Hill, County Wexford, married, in 1713, Jane, daughter of Thomas Devereux, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SAMUEL BATT, father of Major Thomas Batt, Royal Fencible American Regiment, who was killed in the American war, when the property devolved upon his youngest brother,

ROBERT BATT (1728-83), of Ozier Hill, Captain, 18th Royal Irish Regiment, who wedded, in 1765, Hannah, daughter of Samuel Hyde, of Belfast, and had issue,
NARCISSUS, his heir;
Thomas, of Rathmullan, County Donegal.
Captain Batt was succeeded by his eldest son,

NARCISSUS BATT (1761-1840), of Purdysburn, County Down, and Ozier Hill, High Sheriff of Belfast, 1835, who wedded, in 1793, Margaret, daughter of Thomas Greg, and had issue,
ROBERT, his heir;
Elizabeth; Mary. 
Mr Batt was a founder of the Belfast Bank, and kept a town residence, DONEGALL HOUSE (later the Royal Hotel), in Belfast.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT BATT JP DL (1795-1864), of Purdysburn and Ozier Hill, who married, in 1841, Charlotte, daughter of Samuel Wood, and had issue (with four daughters),

ROBERT NARCISSUS BATT JP DL (1844-91), of Purdysburn, who married, in 1866, Marion Emily, eldest daughter of Sir Edward Samuel Walker, of Berry Hill, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and had issue,

EVELEEN MAY BATT, born in 1867.

Robert Narcissus Batt is reputed to have fallen down the stairs at Purdysburn to his death in 1891, leaving his wife and two daughters, all of whom died before the end of the century.

Thus the Batts of Purdysburn died out though there is said to be another branch of the family in Dublin.


THE REV NARCISSUS BATT wrote of his family,

[from Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Second Series, Vol. II, No. 2, January 1896]

DONEGALL PLACE, now full of shops, was, half-a-century ago [1840s], a quiet street of private houses. Some of them had gardens and trees in the rere, and there was quite a grove at the corner of the square where Robinson & Cleaver now have their establishment.

The residents were either merchants of the town, or country gentlemen who came to Belfast for society in winter, as fashionable people now go to London for the season.

At the beginning of this century the country had hardly settled after the Insurrection, and distant journeys were tedious and costly.

My father, Samuel Hyde Batt, has been a week in coming from England, and my Uncle William, when in Trinity College, used to ride to Dublin, with a groom behind carrying his luggage...

...There were four members of our family domiciled in Donegall Place. My father, Samuel Hyde Batt, lived at No. 6 (now Cuming Bros.'), where I was born. His brother, Narcissus, lived where the Royal Hotel is now till his new house at Purdysburn was finished.

Thomas, afterwards of Rathmullan, lived at No. 4. Thomas Greg Batt, son of Narcissus, was a director in the Belfast Bank.

The Rev William Batt lived near Fountain Street, where he died, long after the rest were gone. Our house had belonged to my grandfather, Captain Batt, who came from County Wexford in 1760.

The other inhabitants were,
Hugh Montgomery, of Benvarden and Ballydrain (a director in the Northern Bank); James Orr, of the Northern Bank ; William Clark, J.P., father of the late director of the Belfast Bank; James Douglas, of Mount Ida; Sir Stephen May, Mrs. May, John and William Sinclaire, Henry J. Tomb; Captain Elsemere, R.N.; Henry William Shaw; James Crawford, wine merchant; John S. Ferguson and Thomas F. Ferguson, linen merchants; and Dr. John MacDonnell, one of the MacDonnells of the Glens of Antrim, whose bust is in the Museum. ...The cotton-spinning industry did not flourish in Ireland, nor did calico-printing, which my father attempted at Hydepark (so called after my mother, Anne Hyde). The firm was Batt, Ewing & Co.
The Batt mausoleum at Drumbo Parish Church reads:
To the memory of Robert Batt, son of Thomas Batt of Ozior Hill in the County of Wexford, who died on the 26th of October 1783 aged 55 years. He was for several years a captain in the 18th Royal Irish Regiment and married in 1765 Hannah daughter of Samuel Hyde Esquire who died on the 24th of April 1816 aged 79 years.

Here lies the body of Narcissus Batt, of Purdysburn, Esquire, who died on the 27th January 1840 in the 79th year of his age. He was the oldest son of Robert Batt of Ozier Hill in County of Wexford here is also placed the body of Margaret his wife daughter of Thomas Gregg Esquire who died on the 29th September.

Here also lies the body of Elizabeth Batt daughter of Narcissus Batt of Purdysburn Esq. who died on the 27th March 1854 aged 52 years. Here is also placed the body of Robert Batt Esq. of Purdysburn born 23rd June 1795 died 27th July 1864.
NARCISSUS BATT, along with his partners David Gordon, John Houston and Hugh Crawford, founded the Belfast Bank (now the Northern Bank).

This bank originally began business at a private house on the corner of Callender Street, Belfast, almost directly opposite the White Linen Hall, in 1808.

PURDYSBURN HOUSE, Newtownbreda, County Down, was built ca 1825 after a design by Hopper, in the Tudor-Gothic style.

Sadly it was demolished ca 1965.

The Northern Ireland Heritage Gardens Trust has written a very good historical article about the demesne and gardens here.

The Purdysburn estate had belonged to the Hill-Wilson family and was, at one time, the residence of the Lord Bishop of Down.

Eastern elevation

In 1812, it became the property of the Batt family, who built large additions to the house.

When two of the Batt daughters were to inherit the estate they both decided they did not want to live there, so Narcissus Batt decided that his property was to go to the Hospital Commissioners.

The commissioners then decided that Purdysburn should be opened as an asylum for the “lunatic poor”.

The opening took place in 1895.

The part of the estate nearest the River Lagan was later used for a new hospital.

Part of the demesne was occupied with the extensive buildings of the Infectious Diseases Hospital, which were in what was once known as the "Fort Field," where there was a very perfect old fort, with trees planted at regular intervals round the moat.

In the centre of the fort,
...there is a most curious tree, said to be about eight hundred years old. Perhaps the fort may be opened at some future time; and it would doubtless well repay the trouble of excavation to find a souterrain and unexpected treasure still securely hidden under the ancient holy tree which has guarded the secret for so many long years.
The grounds belonging to Purdysburn were stated to have been more beautiful and picturesque than in any other place about Belfast.

The pleasure grounds were laid out in the form of a Union Flag, and the design was carried out with all the borders planted with the colours red, white and blue.

The wonderful yew-tree hedges were apparently unequalled in Northern Ireland.

Robert Narcissus Batt (1844-91), who succeeded to the estate on the death of his father in 1864, was a “hearty and genial sportsman” who kept “stud race-horses and … had many successes at race courses both in England and at the Maze and Downpatrick.”

He married Charlotte Wood in 1841; was father of 4 daughters & High Sheriff, 1846; donated land free to build Ballymaghery Catholic church in Clonduff parish, 1850; deputy lieutenant of County Down, 1852; a magistrate in 1852 & 1862.

Batt leased a mountain of 31 acres in Stang in 1863 from Lord Downshire; owned Ballynanny, Ballyaughian, Leitrim & Ballymaghery townlands in 1863, of Purdysburn.

At the time of the insurrection of 1641, the four townlands of Clonduff-Leitrim, Ballymaghery, Ballyaughian and Ballynanny were held by Lady Mary Crosby.

At her death, these four passed into the hands of the Waring family and were held until 1834, when the Rev Holt Waring sold his interest to Narcissus Batt for £33,000.

Finally, in 1912, Mrs Essel, grand-daughter of Batt, disposed of the Batt Estate to tenants under the land purchase act.

Batt’s Wall in the Mourne Mountains was built by Narcissus Batt, who had bought the Leitrim Estate in 1834.

The wall was probably constructed during the famine years, and remains in remarkable condition considering that it was built some eighty years before the Mourne Wall itself was completed.

It joins the Mourne Wall at the top of Slieve Muck.

Leitrim Lodge was also built by Batt for use as a hunting lodge ca 1834.

The Batts also owned Rathmullan House - now a hotel - in County Donegal.

The hotel's website states that
Rathmullan House was built around 1820 ... The house and estate was sold in 1837 to Thomas Batt, a member of a prominent Belfast family, founders of the Belfast Bank. 
First published in May, 2010.

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