Thursday, 7 January 2021

Drumbanagher House

9,087 ACRES

RICHARD CLOSE, the first of the family who settled in Ulster, was the younger son of a respectable Yorkshire family then residing at Easby, near Richmond, Yorkshire, and held a commission in the Army, sent from England, in the reign of CHARLES I, 1640.

He acquired property in County Monaghan, but after the Restoration fixed himself at Lisnagarvey (Lisburn), County Antrim.

There he lived and died, leaving a son and heir,

RICHARD CLOSE, who inherited the County Monaghan estates.

He married Mary, sister of Samuel Waring, of Waringstown, MP for Hillsborough, 1703-27, and had issue (with three daughters, the eldest married to the Very Rev John Welsh, Dean of Connor),
SAMUEL, of whom presently;
Henry, of Waringstown;
John, an army captain, killed in Gibraltar;
The eldest son,

RICHARD CLOSE, married, in 1708, daughter of Roger Hall, of Narrow Water, County Down, and had issue, now extinct.

The second son,

THE REV SAMUEL CLOSE (1683-1742), Rector of Donaghenry, Stewartstown, County Tyrone, espoused Catherine, daughter of Captain James Butler, of Bramblestown, County Kilkenny, by Margaret, Lady Maxwell, of Elm Park, County Armagh (widow of Sir Robert Maxwell, 1st Baronet, of Orchardtoun and Ballycastle, and daughter and heiress of Henry Maxwell, of Mullatinny, and had issue,
MAXWELL, of whom presently;
Margaret; Mary; Catherine; Elizabeth.
The son and successor,

MAXWELL CLOSE, succeeded his grandmother, Lady Maxwell (d 1758) in the possession of Elm Park, and the lands settled upon him.

Mr Close, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1780, married, in 1748, Mary, eldest daughter of Captain Robert Maxwell, of Fellows Hall, County Armagh, brother of John, 1st Baron Farnham, and had issue,
SAMUEL, his heir;
Robert, died unmarried;
Barry, 1st Baronet, Major-General in the army;
Farnham, died in Guadaloupe;
Grace; Catherine; Margaret; Mary; Elizabeth.
Mr Close died in 1793, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV SAMUEL CLOSE (1749-1817), of Elm Park, Rector of Keady, County Armagh, and Drakestown, County Meath, who espoused, in 1782, Deborah, third daughter of the Very Rev Arthur Champagné, Dean of Clonmacnoise (son of Major Josias Champagné, by the Lady Jane Forbes his wife, daughter of Arthur, 2nd Earl of Granard), and had issue,
MAXWELL, his heir;
Robert, Major, East India Company;
Henry Samuel, m Jane, daughter of Rev Holt Waring;
John Forbes (Rev), Rector of Kilkeel, Co Down;
Mary; Jane; Harriet.
The Rev S Close was succeeded by his son,

COLONEL MAXWELL CLOSE JP DL (1783-1867), of Drumbanagher, County Armagh, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1818, who married, in 1820,  Anna Elizabeth, sister of Charles, 1st Baron Lurgan, and had issue,
Barry, b 1833.
Colonel Close was succeeded by his elder son,

MAXWELL CHARLES CLOSE (1827-1903), of Drumbanagher, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1854, MP for County Armagh, 1864-85, who wedded, in 1852, Catherine Deborah Agnes, daughter of Henry Samuel Close, of Newtown Park, County Dublin, and had issue,
Henry Samuel (1864-1944);
Edith; Emily Beatrice; Mary Geraldine; Flora Lucy; Kate Violet; Grace Wilmena; Alice Evelyn.
Mr Close was succeeded by his eldest son,

MAXWELL ARCHIBALD CLOSE JP DL (1853-1935), of Drumbanagher, County Armagh, and Drum Manor, County Tyrone, Major, 13th Hussars, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1908, who espoused, in 1891, the Lady Muriel Albany Stuart-Richardson, daughter of the 5th Earl Castle Stewart, and had issue,
Archibald Maxwell, b 1903;
Lilias Augusta Muriel; Agatha Catherine Rose.
Major Close was succeeded by his eldest son,

MAXWELL STUART CLOSE (1892-1946), of Drumbanagher, who wedded, in 1915, Alexandra, daughter of M W C Cramer-Roberts DL, of Sallymount, County Kildare, and had issue,
Rosemary Muriel Victoria; Viola Anne; Hazel.

DRUMBANAGHER HOUSE, near Poyntzpass, County Armagh, was a large Italianate mansion, designed by W Playfair of Edinburgh.

Colonel Maxwell Close had purchased the Drumbanagher estate from the Moores (of Mellifont) in 1818 and, about ten years later, began building the early Victorian mansion, which was complete about 1837.

It comprised a two-storey centre block, with higher three-storey wings set at right-angles to it, projecting beyond it both at the entrance and garden fronts.

Garden Front

The space between the entrance front wings was filled by a massive, arched port-cochère.

The walled 400-acre demesne lies in undulating land.

At the core of the park was Drumbanagher house, in the early 18th century belonging to the Rev Samuel Close; then to his son, Maxwell Close (died 1793); grandson, the Rev Samuel Close (died 1817); and great-grandson, Charles Maxwell Close.

It was the latter who commissioned William Playfair to build a notable Italianate house in 1829.

This was completed in 1837 and consisting of a two-storey central block with two three-storey wings built at right angles – all built of Scottish sandstone at enormous cost.

At the time of its completion Lewis in the Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, observed the ‘… extensive and richly planted demesne’, which had accompanied the earlier house.

It is of note that, in 1820, Maxwell Close had married the daughter of Charles Brownlow of Lurgan, where Playfair was later also to work the house and demesne were occupied by troops (British and then American) during the war, which probably contributed to the house’s demise in 1951, when it was demolished, save for a massive cut-stone port-cochère.

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph in 1962, the then owner said;

"No mortal could have afforded to keep the castle going. So I had it demolished. Death duties, upkeep and financial difficulties meant I just had to get rid of it...It was perfectly sound and in good order when it was demolished...Now it looks like a nuclear bomb hit it." 

Today, all that remains of the house is the arched porte-cochère, which Sir Charles Brett described as "resembling a Roman Arc de Triomphe".


A modern family residence was subsequently built on the lawn in front of the porte-cochère.

The gardens, once of note, have gone.

Gertrude Jekyll was said to have designed bedding plans for the flower garden.

There are family water-colours of the gardens in their heyday.

Mature parkland and shelter trees remain amongst forest planting.

Large exotics emerge above the canopy.

The present house was built in the 1950s.

There is a disused walled garden.

The farm buildings are listed.

Two gate lodges for the earlier house have gone but one remains, possibly by Playfair.

The Drumbanagher Shoot is well-known in Northern Ireland.

First published in November, 2009.


Anonymous said...

Nice article. Sad that the great house is gone. I've stood beneath the arch, it's quite mammoth.

Regarding the link with photo., my elder brother was at Elm Park prep, by my time it was closed, so I went to Mourne Grange.

Unknown said...

Enjoyed the article. My husband's 2 times great grandfather was born on Major Close's estate here so found this interesting.

Anonymous said...

That wonderful Irish writer William Trevor has a very funny chapter about his time as a junior master at Elm Park in its dying days, in his book called - I think but could be wrong - Memoirs.

Unknown said...

My Great Grandmother was Agatha Close and raised in the estate. I am looking to visit in June so it's interesting to see all of the history… Looking forward to visiting.

Anonymous said...

There are great pictures of the house taken in its heyday located in Poyntzpass Historical Society Journals

Leslie said...

Hi - My cousin Joan Close still lives there on the property as do her children with their family. I visited in June and it is just beautiful there.

sweetyonion said...

I am leighann close..I live in new York..visiting ireland,can I still see the place

Leslie said...

Joan Close (nee Stephens) was married to Maxwell Close-not sure when he died, and had three children. Two girls and a boy (also Max). Joan passed away just this 6/13/2020.... The rest of the family still live there on the estate. Joan is my dad's first cousin.. I visited there to see the family who I am very close to. Fantastic people.

Tugs Girl said...

Recently I purchased what I believe is a vintage/antique sampler (it's not dated) that appears to have been stitched by a Margaret McCartney. Margaret follows her stitched name with "Drumbanagher School". Is there any history of a school being on or near this estate?

Andrew B said...

I believe my great grandparents were employed at the castle and subsequently married each other. One as a gardener, one as a cook. Their surname(s)were Cole, and/or Fisher. A supportive article for my research. Thank you.

Unknown said...

A most informative article.
My great-great grandfather, James Browne, was married to Anne Browne (nee Rushton) and he was game-keeper on the estate in the 1880's.