Saturday, 7 December 2019

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 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.


Unknown said...

John Herlihy sold in 2005. He sadly died today

Phyllis Bryce Ely said...

Is the hotel still operating?