Monday, 14 December 2020

Cultra Manor

This branch of the noble house of AILSA left Ayrshire in 1668, and settled in County Down, at Cultra, where they remained.

DR HUGH KENNEDY (c1628-c1685), of Ballycultra, County Down, married Mary, daughter of Arthur Upton.

Dr Kennedy, a distinguished medical practitioner in Belfast during the 17th century, was physician to the 1st Earl of Donegall, who bequeathed him "£50 sterling a year (about £10,500 today) for four years, to commence within a year of my death".

He was succeeded by his son,

JOHN KENNEDY, who wedded Martha, daughter of William Stewart, of Ballylawn, County Donegal, and aunt of Robert, 1st Earl of Londonderry.

Dr Kennedy purchased the estate of Cultra from the Earl of Clanbrassil in 1671.

He was succeeded by his son,

HUGH KENNEDY, of Cultra, who espoused, in 1741, Mabel, daughter of John Curtis, of Dublin, and had issue,

JOHN, of whom presently;
Mary, m 1774, J Crawford, of Crawfordsburn.
Mr Kennedy was succeeded by his only son, 

JOHN KENNEDY, of Cultra, High Sheriff of County Down, 1769, who wedded Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev Henry Cole (brother of 1st Baron Mount Florence) by Mary his wife, daughter of Sir Arthur Brooke Bt, by whom he had, with other issue,

HUGH, his heir;
Henry, died in India;
John, of Dunbrody, Co Wexford;
Arthur, Colonel in the army.
Mr Kennedy, who, after the death of the 8th Earl of Cassilis, was a claimant for the title, was succeeded by his eldest son, 

HUGH KENNEDY JP (1775-1852), of Cultra, who married firstly, in 1800, Grace Dorothea, only child of Thomas Hughes, and granddaughter of Sir Edward Newenham MP; and had issue,

John Hughes, d 1839;
Thomas Henry, d 1864;
Arthur Edward (Sir), GCMG, CB;
William Hugh, Captain RN;
George Augustus;
Elizabeth; Frances; Grace; Frances Matilda; Emily Jane.
He wedded secondly, in 1824, Sophia, daughter of William John Lowe, by Sophia his wife, daughter of Richard, 4th Viscount Boyne, and had further issue,
Sophia; Georgina; Edith; Florence; Augusta.
Mr Kennedy was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT STEWART KENNEDY (1807-54), of Cultra, 
who married, in 1849, Anne Catherine, only daughter of Edward Michael Ward (grandson of 1st Viscount Bangor), of Bangor Castle, County Down, by his wife, the Lady Matilda Stewart (daughter of Robert, 1st Marquess of Londonderry), and had issue,
ROBERT JOHN, his heir;
Edward Henry (1854-57);
Grace Emily (1850-1938), d unmarried.
Mr Kennedy's elder son and heir,

SIR ROBERT JOHN KENNEDY KCMG JP DL, of Cultra (1851-1936), Sir Robert married, in 1883, Bertha Jane Ward, daughter of Henry William, 5th Viscount Bangor, and had issue,

Mary Grace Enid, 1884;
Bertha Catherine Maud, 1885;
Matilda Kathleen, 1888;
Lucy Emily Harriette, 1893-1969. 
Sir Robert was educated at Harrow; graduated from Oxford, 1874; was attaché at Madrid, 1874-76; Secretary at Constantinople, 1877-79; and Secretary at St Petersburg, 1879-81; Chargé d'Affaires in Bulgaria, 1882-84; Chargé d'Affaires in Roumania, 1886-88; Secretary of Legation to Persia, 1888-93; Knight of Justice, Order of St. John of Jerusalem (K.J.St.J.); HM Ambassador Extraordinary to Uruguay, 1906-12; Knight Commander, Order of St Michael and St George, 1913; lieutenant, Royal North Down Militia; Minister Resident at Cettinjé, Montenegro; Fellow, Royal Geographical Society; Governor, Campbell College.

CULTRA MANOR, Craigavad, County Down, was built to replace a Tudor-Revival residence called Cultra House, a large, plain mansion with a central bow and a battlemented parapet.

The front of the manor house has projecting pedimented ends, joined by a balustraded Ionic parapet; the right hand projecting forth as a porch. 

There is a long, two-storey service wing, joined to the main block by a link.

The present mansion house is first shown on an ordnance survey map of 1919-31 on a previously vacant site.

The coastal areas of Cultra had, by this time, been reasonably heavily developed, and building further inland allowed Sir Robert Kennedy to benefit from a very large landscaped plot on which he could site one of the last substantial mansions to be built in the area.

The Irish Builder of 1902 announced that,

Mr Hunter, Scottish Provident Buildings, Belfast ... is also engaged on quantities for a new manor house on the Cultra Estate of R J Kennedy, Esq, DL, CMG, near Belfast. The approximate cost is £10,000 and tenders will be taken by limited competition only. The design is a fine one, and executed in blackstone with red sandstone dressings, the architectural treatment being a free Ionic. Messrs Graeme, Watt and Tulloch are the architects.
The stone used was local greywacke with Locharbriggs sandstone dressings.

Sir Robert retired in 1912 to Cultra Manor, which he had built in 1902.

The Kennedy family's former residence was Cultra House, which had passed out of their ownership in the 1870s.

Sir Robert's wife Bertha, the Hon Lady Kennedy,  became the

"perfect British Embassy wife" and was "the outstanding Ulster adventuress of the Edwardian age and the first European woman to enter Khorasan and Afghanistan".
At the time the house was described thus:

Fine position on high ground, good views of lough, surrounded by plantations and charming glen with waterfall. Land immediately facing main entrance now planted temporarily with turnips but this is to be sown down to grass for lawn. Plantations laid out with pleasure walks.

Carriage drive metalled with material from quarry adjoining, which being impregnated with sulphur is impervious to weeds and renders upkeep approximately nil. Well appointed house with a minimum of offices. Acetylene gas lighting, own plant. Private water supply with oil engine pump. Septic tank with overflow to river.
Sir Robert and Lady Kennedy died within a few months of each other in 1936, leaving their four daughters to inherit the estate.

After the 2nd World War, the family found the maintenance of the mansion increasingly overwhelming and, ca 1952, a smaller Neo-Georgian house was built for them in the (136 acre) grounds.

The manor house and pleasure gardens were sold in 1961 to the Ulster Folk Museum, and a conversion of the building was undertaken by Robert McKinstry in association with Ian Campbell.

This consisted of re-allocating the main rooms as exhibition areas, the servants' quarters as workshops and library and extending the garages for use as an administration block.

The museum opened to visitors in 1964. 


The demesne created for the house of 1902-04, which lies in an elevated position, commands fine views of Belfast Lough.

Hills behind the shelter-belt trees protect the house from the westerly winds.

There are two planted glens running on the east and west side of the house, with walks and bridges.

The lawns to the north of the house descend to a rockery, which is not maintained, neither is the once-famous rose garden.

The site is now landscaped for the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the house is presently no longer the centre-piece. 

Kennedy family items, such as the graveyard and the pets' graveyard, have been absorbed into the subsequent development.

However, the Museum has benefited from the mature trees and sweeping carriage drive flanked by flowering shrubs since 136 acres were purchased in 1961.

The gate lodge is dated 1905.

In 2010, ca £3 million was being spent on a complete refurbishment of Cultra Manor, transforming the building into a leading venue for public programming and corporate hire.

Former town residence of Sir R Kennedy ~ 4 Onslow Crescent, London.

First published in February, 2011; revised 2014.


Anonymous said...

One wonders how much the demesne would be sold for to-day!


Anonymous said...

Sadly the museum has departed from its original ideals and is now in danger of descending into the realm of a theme park... a lot less weight given by the powers that be to it being a repository of knowledge. I believe they don't even have an agricultural historian now !

Unknown said...

Hi, are there any descendants of Sir Robert Kennedy alive today?

Demetrius said...

Sir Arthur Brooke was the brother in law of one of my forebears. She in turn was born of a clergy family who were descended from The Rev. Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Down and Dromore who had previously been Chaplain in Ordinary to King Charles I.

Andrew said...

I believe the youngest daughter was Lady Hall Hall, but not sure if she had children.