Monday, 10 May 2021

Cairncastle Lodge

9,770 ACRES

CAPTAIN WILLIAM AGNEW (1747-1828), of KILWAUGHTER, County Antrim, said to be a lineal descendant of the Agnews of Lochnaw, Wigtownshire, was succeeded by his son,

JAMES AGNEW (1794-1880), of Kilwaughter, County Antrim, and Fisherwick, Doagh, in the same county, who married, in 1832, Catherine Hamilton, and had issue, with a daughter, Harriett, two sons, William and Charles, who both predeceased him.

Mr Agnew inherited the Kilwaughter estate in 1834, when he proceeded to build Cairncastle Lodge, Carnfunnock, ca 1839.

The coastal road was constructed about this period.

Mr Agnew, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1839, died at his home in Highbury Grove, London, in 1880.

Owing to impecunious circumstances, Mr Agnew was obliged to sell his estate, in 1865, to

JAMES CHAINE (1841-1885), son of James Chaine, of Ballycraigy, County Antrim, who was born at Muckamore into a prosperous family in the linen industry.

Mr Chaine, MP for Antrim, 1874-85, married, in 1864, Henrietta de Salis Creery, of Newcastle, County Down, and had two sons,
WILLIAM (1864-1937), of Cairncastle Lodge;
JAMES (1867-1910).
For a short time the family lived in the Chaine’s ancestral home, Ballycraigy Manor.

The Chaine family owned 5,110 acres of land in County Antrim during the 19th century.

A year after his marriage, James purchased Cairncastle Lodge, Carnfunnock, (above) and adjacent lands from James Agnew, at a cost of £12,800 (£1.4 million in 2012).

He also bought Larne harbour (including the lands of Curran and Drumalis) for £20,000 from the Agnew family, in 1866.

Chaine bought when the future of Larne Harbour was in doubt and annual income was only £50 (Larne Times, 8 August 1896).

He invested heavily, improving greatly its primitive quays and facilities, promoting Larne as a port and re-establishing the Larne-Stranraer passenger service in 1872.

A mail route was established in 1875 and a trans-Atlantic service between Glasgow, Larne and New York began in 1873.

Using the renowned State Line vessels, this service continued until December, 1889, and many emigrants left for a new life in America.

In 1878, the railway was extended to the harbour and, to provide travellers with accommodation, he opened the Olderfleet Hotel.

During the construction of Larne Harbour, the Chaine family enlarged their summer residence, Cairncastle Lodge, to incorporate eleven bedrooms, a drawing-room, dining-room, morning-room, halls, coach-yard etc.

The house was approached by two avenues on the landward side of the Coast Road.

The current entrance to Carnfunnock Country Park was originally the back entrance for servants and deliveries to Cairncastle Lodge.

The former main entrance, for the owners and guests, is now the sealed-off laneway leading from the Coast Road to the Activity Centre.

There were four small lodges for employees connected to the estate: Two on the Coast Road; one being at the back entrance; the other on the shore side of the road, opposite the front entrance.

These are now in private ownership.

The land steward's house, together with the farm buildings, was a short distance from the Lodge and was called Home Farm.

The fourth lodge is now gone.

In 1874, James Chaine was elected as Conservative MP for Antrim, and his last official engagement was to entertain the Prince of Wales (later EDWARD VII) and Princess Alexandra, on their royal visit to Northern Ireland.

Sadly, when bidding the royal couple farewell, he caught a chill which developed into pneumonia and, within a week, he died aged 44 in his own hotel, the Olderfleet.

At the time of his death, his residence was Ballycraigy and his estate amounted to £63,000, part of which stemmed from the sale of the majority of his mills, bleach greens and watercourses in Muckamore to the York Street Flax Spinning Company Ltd.

His dying wish was to be buried in the moat near Waterloo House, in the townland of Curran and Drumalis, with the ground to be consecrated by the Church of Ireland, and for it to be an enclosed family burial ground. This can still be found at Bankheads/Town Park.

As a mark of respect, the townspeople of Larne raised funds by public subscription to build the Chaine Memorial Tower in 1887/88.

The Commissioners of Irish Lights converted the tower into a lighthouse in 1899.

In his will James Chaine left his eldest son, William, the businesses, but requested he first finish his education at Marlborough and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he obtained a Master of Arts.

William was also given the responsibility of looking after his mother in whichever of the Chaine residences they preferred.

They chose Cairncastle Lodge.

William was to give his brother James £20,000 within ten years of his fathers death, and if Larne Harbour proved successful, a further £10,000.

James enjoyed travel and lived a gentleman’s life, never taking any prominent part in the businesses.

At the close of his university career, William returned to Larne to manage the family estate.

Like his father, William became a director of the old Northern Counties Railway Company and, in succession, a member of the Northern Counties Committee.

Amongst his many business interests, William was a director of the York Street Flax Spinning Company; a member of the Board of Superintendents of the Belfast Bank; a Director of the Shamrock Shipping Company; Larne Harbour; and the owner and chairman of Messrs Frederick King & Company.

As the senior magistrate in the district, he often sat at Larne Petty Sessions and served also as High Sheriff of County Antrim; being afterwards appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for the county.

For some years he represented Larne on Antrim County Council.

In politics he was President of East Antrim Unionist Association.

His modesty however made him refuse any honours in connection with his political work.

A devoted member of the Church of Ireland, he gave valuable service to the parish of Cairncastle as churchwarden and honorary treasurer.

He also supported the parish of Larne and Inver.

In 1913, a militia, known as the Ulster Volunteer Force, was established to oppose Home Rule.

As commandant of the Larne Battalion, Chaine was the driving force behind organisation of the corps and enlistment in Larne.

His interest in ex-servicemen and the dependents of those who had fallen in the 1st World War was unbounded and he sat as Chairman of the British Legion’s Old Pension Committee, dealing with the chaotic conditions during the aftermath of the war.

William Chaine donated a piece of bog ground north of his family’s private burying-place at Waterloo to create a public park.

Chaine Park was offcially opened in 1929 by William Chaine as the first pleasure ground under the control of the Urban Council.

William Chaine died in Smiley Cottage Hospital in 1937, leaving no wife or children, but a personal estate valued at £375,867.

His passing marked the end of a family which had played a large part in County Antrim affairs for nearly 70 years.

He bequeathed to each of his servants two months wages for each year of service.

He also bequeathed monies to the Protestant Orphan Society and the Church of Ireland, with the remaining £200,000 left to his cousin, Augustus Alexander Nickson, who changed his name to Chaine by deed poll in 1938.

Cairncastle Lodge was subsequently sold to Sir Thomas Dixon in January, 1938.

Though William Chaine travelled extensively, he was never so happy as when in residence at Cairncastle Lodge, where he spent nearly the whole of his adult life and amongst his friends and neighbours there and in Larne he quietly and unostentatiously lived a life of well-doing.

Paying close a mention to the affairs of his estate, he yet found time to interest himself in the affairs of others, to their great advantage (Larne Times, 8 May 1937).

First published in April, 2013.

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