Monday, 6 April 2020

Crawfordsburn Park


ANDREW CRAWFORD, of Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, one of fifty Scottish undertakers of the plantation, was granted 1,000 acres of land in County Tyrone.

Although he sold this property within ten years, many of the kinsmen he brought over from Scotland remained.

In 1625, Crawford, as a tenant of Sir James Hamilton, was in possession of a mill and lands in County Down.

His descendant,

WILLIAM CRAWFORD, purchased the estate of Crawfordsburn, County Down, from Henry, 2nd Earl of Clanbrassil, about 1670, and was succeeded therein by his son,

JOHN CRAWFORD, of Crawfordsburn, who married Jane, daughter of Crawford, of Rocksavage, County Antrim, and was father of

JAMES CRAWFORD, of Crawfordsburn, who wedded Mabel, daughter of Hugh Johnston, of Rademon, County Down, and heiress of Arthur Johnston (1721-1814), of Rademon, MP for Killyleagh, 1769-76, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Anne, m James, 1st Earl of Caledon;
Mary, m David Gordon, of Florida Manor.
Mr Crawford died in 1777, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN CRAWFORD JP (1745-1827), of Crawfordsburn, married, in 1774, Mary, daughter of John Kennedy, of Cultra, County Down, and had issue,
Arthur Johnston, MP, of Rademon, dvp unmarried;
MABEL FRIDESWIDE, of whom hereafter.
The only daughter,

MABEL FRIDESWIDE CRAWFORD (1785-1844), of Crawfordsburn, eventually sole heiress, espoused, in 1805, WILLIAM SHARMAN, who took the additional surname and arms of CRAWFORD, and had issue,
John, his heir;
ARTHUR JOHNSTON, successor to his brother;
James, of Rademon House, MP;
Maria; Arminella; Mabel; Eleanor Frideswide.
William Sharman-Crawford assumed the latter surname in 1827, in addition to his paternal one of SHARMAN, in compliance with the will of John Crawford.

He was the eldest son of William Sharman, of Moira Castle, County Down, by Arminella his wife, daughter of Hill Wilson, of Purdysburn, County Down.

William Sharman-Crawford (1781-1861), Photo Credit: Ulster Museum

Mr Sharman-Crawford died at Crawfordsburn and was buried in the family vault at Kilmore, County Down, where there is a monumental inscription.

A great stone obelisk was erected in his memory on a hill at Rademon Estate, near Crossgar, County Down.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN SHARMAN-CRAWFORD JP DL (1809-84), of Crawfordsburn, Major, North Down Militia, High Sheriff of County Down, 1839, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother,

ARTHUR JOHNSTON SHARMAN-CRAWFORD JP DL (1811-91), of Crawfordsburn, High Sheriff of County Down, 1888, Barrister, Director, Belfast Banking Company, who married, in 1846, Louisa Alicia, daughter of William Crawford, of Lakelands, County Cork, and had issue,
William Henry;
Arthur Johnston (1850-62);
ROBERT GORDON, of Crawfordsburn;
Arthur Frederick;
Mary Elizabeth; Louisa Mabel; Alice Aimée.
Mr Sharman-Crawford was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

THE RT HON ROBERT GORDON SHARMAN-CRAWFORD JP DL (1853-1934), of Crawfordsburn, High Sheriff of County Down, 1895, Colonel Commanding, 3rd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, 15th Hussars, 16th Lancers, who wedded, in 1882, Annie Helen, eldest daughter of Ernest Arbouin, of Brighton, and had issue,
TERENCE (1892-1913), d unmHelen Mary.


JOHN SHARMAN, of Grange, County Antrim (elder brother of Captain William Sharman, MP for Randalstown 1749-60, who married, in 1740, Anne, daughter of John O'Neill, of Shane's Castle), had issue, two sons and three daughters,
WILLIAM, of whom hereafter;
Letitia; Anne; Sarah.
The eldest son,

WILLIAM SHARMAN (1731-1803), of Moira Castle, County Down, Barrister, Colonel, the Union Volunteers, MP for Lisburn, 1783, married, in 1773, Arminella, daughter of Hill Wilson, of Purdysburn, County Down, and had issue,
WILLIAM, assumed surname of CRAWFORD, as stated above;
John Hill;
Eleanor, m, in 1884, Hill Wilson, of Rosebrook, Co Antrim.
Crawfordsburn House

CRAWFORDSBURN HOUSE, near Bangor, County Down, was built in 1906 to designs by Vincent Craig, at an estimated cost of £20,000 (about £2.2 million in today's money).

The Irish Builder publication in 1904 invited tenders for the
...erection of a new house at Crawfordsburn Co Down for Colonel Sharman Crawford D.L....This will do away with the rather historic, if excessively ugly old mansion on the shores, at the entrance of Belfast Lough.
The present house replaced an earlier "excessively ugly" building (below) of ca 1820, situated to the west, which itself replaced a house of about 1780.

The Irish Builder was surely suffering from an unfortunate dose of myopia or sycophancy, or had not seen the prosaic Edwardian pile before its Georgian predecessor was demolished.

Crawfordsburn House ca 1820-1905, prior to demolition. Click to enlarge.

The first occupant of the new house was the Rt Hon Robert Gordon Sharman-Crawford.

In 1933, a valuer described the building as
a well built modern mansion occupying attractive site on shore of Lough. Built about 30 years ago cost £20,000 + extras also large sums spent on cottages and offices. Well planned house with good approach by drives from both C’burn and Helen’s Bay Roads. 
Extensive lawns, ornamental gardens, kitchen garden (walled in), conservatories and well built offices (none of which are used for agricultural purposes) including garages, carriage and coach ho, stabling for hunters &c. Ho[use] and offices have been well maintained and are in good general condition. 
Own water supply pumped from wells to service tank. Central heating. Lighting from own acetylene gas plant. Drainage to septic tank. House and offices are now somewhat larger than required by occupier.
The accommodation at this time comprised, on the ground floor, an outer hall and porch, a lounge hall, 6 rooms, two cloak rooms (lavatory and basins), a safe room, butler’s pantry, butler’s room and safe, brushing room, lavatory and cloakrooms, servant’s hall, housekeeper’s room, store room, flower room, kitchen, scullery larder, boots and lavatory, dairy, wood stores and coal hole.

On the first floor there was a boudoir, minstrels gallery, 10 principal bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3 lavatories, a house maids’ pantry, linen room and sewing-room.

On the second floor there were 8 principal bedrooms, six maids’ rooms, three bathrooms, and two lavatories.

A wine cellar, store and safe were in the basement and cottages for the coachman and gardener in the grounds.

An estate agent’s pamphlet of this period describes the house as having a thoroughly modern interior with 9 reception rooms, 25 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms.

It was thought that the house might have been be used as a private residence, ‘a Country Club, Hotel or Central Headquarters for a Holiday Camp’.

In 1935, that the house was let to W J Stewart, after Crawford’s death.

William John Stewart, MP for South Belfast, 1929-46, was head of the building firm, Stewart & Partners, which built the parliament buildings at Stormont in 1932.

Colonel Crawford’s representatives were obliged to spend ‘over £1,250’ on improvements before the house could be let, including the installation of electric light and extra bathrooms with improved fittings.

Crawfordsburn House was sold in 1948 to the Northern Ireland Tuberculosis Authority.

A nurses home, recreation and school room were to the site in the same year.

In 1959, the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority took over, using the house as a geriatric hospital.

In the early 1980s it passed into private ownership; and in 2000, was redeveloped to designs by MacRae Hanlon Spence Partnership, who converted the building into thirty-eight apartments with an additional twenty-two apartments in a new courtyard development.


SUBSEQUENTLY a great deal of planting was undertaken, so that today the area is well wooded.

There is extensive woodland and glen-side planting, shelter belts and two fine, twisting approach avenues.

An ornamental garden, known as Mrs Crawford’s Garden was added in the 1880s.

A rockery and pond remain, with some now outsize plants, but it is not maintained.

The walled garden is part used for a tree nursery and not otherwise cultivated. The gardens were probably at their peak at the turn of the century.

Banim says, in 1892, it had,
luxuriant growth of tree … masses of crimson rhododendrons lend rich colour.
Robinson commented in the Garden Annual and Almanac in 1908 and the head gardener, John Whytock, had a regular column in Irish Gardening at that period.

Since the 1970s replanting for the country park has improved the site.

There is a waterfall, numerous bridges, including a stone viaduct by Lanyon and modern buildings and landscaping associated with the park.

The ‘Crawfordsburn Fern’ was discovered here. It is thought to be extinct.

The gates lodges are notable and are all listed: Burn Lodge, of ca 1812, is thought to be by Nash for the first house; Helen’s Bay Lodge of ca 1870; and Home Farm Lodge of ca 1900.


Crawfordsburn’s heyday, like many of Ulster's stately homes, was during the 18th and 19th centuries.

It was then that much of the estate was planted, including the coastal headlands (with Scots Pine, Beech, Beach, Sycamore and Elm) and the Glen (many exotic trees Monterey Cypress, Red Cedar, Californian Redwood as well as Rhodendrons, Beach and Laurel.

Crawfordsburn is now a Country Park.

Crawfordsburn House has been converted into opulent apartments and re-named Crawford House, Sharman Estate.

First published in July, 2010.


it support in rochdale said...

Good ,

Anonymous said...

The Old Crawford House looks very well now that it has been converted into apartments but I think the newly added courtyard development has been built far too high and is badly out of character.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous- I greatly agree regarding the courtyard development. While I wish the house had been turned into a museum in regards to such a remarkable man as Sharman Crawford, who unfortunately is not as well known as he should be, I can understand why it was not. However it is a disgrace that money was not invested into restoring the courtyard, and gardens. Charges could have been made for public entry, and a part of the(nice) history of Ulster could have been brought back to life. If this had been done it may in some ways have envied Mount Stewart gardens.

Anonymous said...

Yes I also Agree with the other comments that the courtyard development looks a total shabby mess. It looks totally out of character and it is far too high.

Personally I think the developers R&A (Now MAR Properties) were only thinking of maximum profits with the courtyard development as they clearly did not care about character

Anonymous said...

Lots of pop stars, too, living there!

Unknown said...

The garden known as Mrs crawfords garden had a heart shaped pond in it and was built as a loving gesture from her husband.

Someone renovated Recently and It's now been filled in and a plastic dinosaur put in its place. That's progress maybe?

Unknown said...

Worked here when it was a hospital