Monday, 27 April 2020

Rose-Cleland of Rathgael


The family of CLELAND (formerly spelt Kneland) was of great antiquity in Scotland.

Their coat-of-arms, tradition states, was acquired by their being hereditary foresters to the ancient Earls of Douglas.

JAMES CLELAND, of that Ilk, in Lanarkshire, ancestor of the Clelands of that Ilk and of several other families of the same surname, joined his cousin Sir William Wallace in 1296 for the relief of his country against the English, along with a considerable number of noblemen and gentlemen.

He was present at, and assisted Sir William Wallace in most of his exploits, particularly in capturing Thomas of Longueville, commonly called The Red Rover.

After the death of Sir William Wallace he firmly supported the cause of ROBERT THE BRUCE, and for his loyalty and good services that king gave him several lands in the barony of Calder, West Lothian.

WILLIAM CLELAND, of that Ilk, was fifth in descent from the above James Cleland, and in the reign of JAMES III, King of Scotland, about 1462, married Jean Somerville.

His son and successor,

ALEXANDER CLELAND, of that Ilk, was killed in 1513 at the battle of Flodden, along with his cousin, William Cleland, of Faskine, fighting valiantly in defence of their Scottish King, JAMES IV.

To a charter of 1498, there was appended a seal of this Alexander, upon which was a hare, leaping, with a hunting horn about his neck.

The lineal descendant of this gentleman,

JOHN CLELAND, of Whithorn, Wigtownshire, was appointed factor to James, 5th Earl of Galloway, and in 1731, wedded Margaret Murdoch, only child of the Provost of Whithorn.

He died in 1747, having had issue,
William, died in infancy;
JAMES, of whom hereafter;
Katharine; AGNES; Margaret.
The second daughter,

AGNES CLELAND (1740-75), espoused firstly, in 1766, Lieutenant Richard Rose, of the East India Company's European Regiment, by whom she had an only child, JAMES DOWSETT ROSE, who afterwards assumed the additional surname of CLELAND.

She married secondly, in 1774, William Nicholson, of Balloo House, though the marriage was without issue.

John Cleland's son and successor,

JAMES CLELAND, of Newtownards, County Down, wedded, in 1770, Sarah, only child of Captain Patrick Baird, though the marriage was without issue.

He died in 1777, when the his estate reverted to his nephew,

JAMES DOWSETT ROSE-CLELAND JP DL (1767-1852), of Rathgill, County Down, High Sheriff of County Down, 1805, who succeeded to his father's property in 1768, and to that of his paternal grandfather, Richard Rose, of Abingdon, Berkshire, in 1784.

In compliance of the testamentary injunction of his cousin, Patrick Cleland, of Ballymagee, he assumed the additional surname and arms of CLELAND (his mother's name).

He espoused firstly, in 1790, Sarah, only child of William Eaton Andrews, of London, and had issue,
William Nicholson, died in infancy;
Elizabeth Hawkins.
Mr Rose-Cleland married secondly, in 1832, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of William Nicholson Steele-Nicholson, of Balloo House, and had issue,
JAMES BLACKWOOD, heir to his father;
RICHARD, successor to his brother;
Edward Allen, b 1840;
Henry Somerville, b 1843;
Agnes Elizabeth; Isabel Hamilton;
Margaret Sabina, m Arthur Wellington Garner, of Garnerville.
Mr Rose-Cleland commanded the Newtownards Yeomen Infantry at the battle of Saintfield, 1798; and three months' later raised the Rathgael Yeomen Infantry, and received repeated thanks from the Government for his services.

He presided at the contested election for County Down between Robert, Viscount Castlereagh (later 2nd Marquess of Londonderry), and Colonel the Hon John Meade, which lasted 21 days.

Mr Rose-Cleland was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES BLACKWOOD ROSE-CLELAND (1835-56), of Rathgael House, who died at Constantinople, and was succeeded by his brother,

RICHARD ROSE-CLELAND (1836-92), of Rathgael House, who married, in 1861, Elizabeth Wilhelmina, daughter of Robert Kennedy, of Lisburn, County Antrim, and had issue,
James Dowsett, b 1862;
Robert Kennedy, b 1863;
Richard, died in infancy;
Charles Arthur, b 1876;
Elizabeth Helen Louisa; Mary Isabella Eveline; Edith Adelaide;
Maude Ethel; Florence May; Alice Gertrude; Catherine Mabel; Harriet Ella.
Rathgael was inherited by the youngest son and the seven youngest daughters.

Rathgael House

Rathgill, or Rathgael House, dating from the 18th century, was originally the nucleus of a farm comprising 88 acres on the northern part of Clandeboye estate.

The house was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Rathgael Training School.

A lake was created by the Cleland family in the late 1800s for fishing, and some of the planting surrounding it dates from that period.

A new housing development, known as Helen's Wood, has been created on land close to the location of Rathgael House.

First published in April, 2016.


Anonymous said...

Have you thought of covering Kilcooley Abbey, Co Tipperary? VC

Anonymous said...

Have you an original copy of the picture of Rath Gael House? We have returned from Ireland, after searching Bangor Museum and Abbey for clues to this history. Rath Gael was demolished and a youth corrective centre now stands in its place. Had it been kept in the family a few more years it would have been heritage listed. said...

My mother is a direct decedent of this family. She lived there
we have a oil painting of Maude on a horse with hunting dogs.

Desmond said...

I am a descendant of the Rose Cleland family and my memoirs are about to be published in September 2017 in London. There is a section
on the Rose Cleland family.

John Lowry said...

I too am a descendant of the Rose-Cleland family. I have a floor plan drawing of Rathgael House (drawn by my cousin Eveline Ritchie who visited there as a child). I also have a series of photos outside of the house, showing the house from several angles. Other pictures include my father, Desmond H D Lowry, and his cousins in a boat on the lake that was on the property. If anyone has an interest in these pictures, I have them scanned. I can be contacted at

Unknown said...


The reason it was demolished, I am told, was a result of a long-standing feud between the Clelands and the Faulkners resulting from a Faulkner being disinvited from a hunt.