Saturday, 12 September 2020

Ballymenoch Demesne

BALLYMENOCH HOUSE, a Georgian mansion, became the residence of Sir Daniel and Lady Dixon when he purchased it in 1863.

It was situated on the outskirts of Holywood, County Down (Ballymenoch Park is a municipal park).

Mr Dixon received the honour of knighthood in 1892, and was created a baronet in 1903:-

WHITEHALL, September 7, 1903.

The King has been pleased to direct the preparation of Warrants under His Majesty's Royal Sign Manual, authorising Letters Patent to be passed under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom, of Great Britain and Ireland, conferring the dignity of a Baronet of the said United Kingdom upon each of the under-mentioned Gentlemen, and the heirs male of their respective bodies lawfully begotten :—

The Right Honourable Sir Daniel Dixon, of Ballymenoch in the Parish of Holywood, in the County of Down, Knight, Lord Mayor of Belfast.

Sir Daniel's younger son, Herbert, was elevated to the peerage in 1939, in the dignity of BARON GLENTORAN, of Ballyalloly, County Down.

Ballymenoch House (above) and its grounds originally extended down to the sea, close to the present Sea Park.

I have been unable to find the origin of the painting or engraving above, if any readers can be of assistance.

The grounds were bisected by the main Bangor Road.

The house itself was of two storeys with tripartite windows, bow fronts, portico and urns on the balustrade; numerous chimneys, too.

It dated from the late 18th century.

There were two charming lodges, locally known as "ink-wells" owing to their shape.

One of them was knocked down in the 1930s; the other in 1971.

It would appear that the first owners, in 1783, were called Hamilton; then the Holmes'; closely followed, in 1802, by Cunningham Gregg, a prosperous Belfast merchant from Macedon in County Antrim.

The Gregg family sold Ballymenoch to Daniel Dixon in 1863, who also bought the demesne and part of the coastline from Holywood pier to Clanbrassil in the 1880s.

In 1876, Thomas Gregg owned 492 acres at Ballymenoch and London, which provides us with an indication of the size of the demesne.

On the 3rd July, 1914, seven years after Sir Daniel's death, Ballymenoch House was burnt to the ground by the suffragettes.

Lady Dixon had been away from home for several months, leaving the house in the care of John Nevin and Robert Wilson, two caretakers.

The Belfast Newsletter reported at the time:-
Ballymenoch House, one of the largest and most stately mansions in Ulster, was totally gutted by fire yesterday - between five and six o'clock yesterday morning it was discovered that the building was on fire. 
Although the brigade remained on the scene until half-past three yesterday afternoon, they were unable to do any effective work after the water supply failed; and when they left, the whole of the roof collapsed. 
About four o'clock, when the fire seemed to have spent itself, huge sheets of flame commenced to shoot up from the cellars, and burnt fiercely until everything of a combustible nature had been destroyed. 
No explanation can be given for the origin of the fire, but two copies of The Suffragette, the organ of the militant women, were found in the grounds, and on the windows of the conservatory, which are painted white, the words 'Votes for Women' had been written.
The Eventide Home, its successor, was erected in a slightly different position by the industrialist, Sir Samuel Kelly.

First published in August, 2010.


John McConkey said...

My great grand-uncle Henry Magill lived in - and presumably owned - Ballymenoch House during the period 1900-1910. Henry was a sailing and steamship captain employed by the Lord Line of Belfast and frequently sailed to North America. A family story that his wife would watch departures and arrivals of his ship from the house fits with the depiction you show of a house with a "widow's walk". Henry died in 1910 and his funeral was attended by a Thomas Dixon who was a principal of the Lord Line (Daniel's son?). Do you know if the deeds to Ballymenoch have survived?

Anonymous said...

A photo of Ballymenoch House after its 1913 fire -