Thursday, 13 May 2021

Torrens of Edenmore


JAMES TORRENS JP (1816-1884), of Edenmore, County Antrim, second son of JOHN TORRENS, of Clough (or Clogh), County Antrim, married, in 1848, Sarah Hughes (daughter of Samuel Gelston JP, of Rosstulla, County Antrim, and Eliza his wife, daughter of Thomas Hughes, and had issue,
Thomas Hughes (1851-1928), of Edenmore, DL, High Sheriff, 1903.
The elder son,

JOHN TORRENS JP (1849-1908), of Rosstulla, wedded, in 1876, Florence, daughter of Robert Stewart Lepper JP, of Trainfield House, Belfast, and had issue,
JAMES ROBERT, his heir;
Florence Muriel (1881-93);
EILEEN, of whom hereafter.
Mr Torrens's only son,

JAMES ROBERT TORRENS (1877-1921), Captain, 4th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, espoused, in 1902, Enid Maude (whom he divorced in 1908), daughter of the Hon William Forster, Agent-General of New South Wales, and had issue, JOHN BASIL HUGHES TORRENS (1902-).

 John Torrens's younger daughter,

EILEEN TORRENS (1886-1983), married, in 1911, Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Frederick Spence (1880-1937), Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment), who changed his name by deed poll, in 1928, to TORRENS-SPENCE, and had issue,
John Cecil (1913-91);
Kenneth Brian, b 1919.
Click to Enlarge

The second son,

FREDERICK MICHAEL ALEXANDER TORRENS-SPENCE DSO DFC AFC (1914-2001), Captain, Royal Navy, of Drumcullen House, near Downpatrick, County Down, High Sheriff of County Armagh, 1979, had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, Ulster Defence Regiment, and Ulster Special Constabulary.

Captain Torrens-Spence succeeded SIR NORMAN STRONGE as Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh (1981-89) following Sir Norman's heinous murder with his son, James, at Tynan Abbey (my father and I attended their funeral in Tynan parish church).

He married, in 1944, Rachel Nora, eldest daughter of Edward Stanley Clarke, of Ballyauglis Lodge, County Antrim, and had issue,
Edward John, b 1953;
Alexander Thomas, b 1954;
Joanna Jane, b 1945.


WILLIAM SPENCE married Sarah ______ and had with other issue,
BENJAMIN, of whom presently;
George; Mary; Ann.
The seventh child,

BENJAMIN SPENCE, of Bramley, Leeds, Yorkshire, born in 1766, married, and had with other issue,
JOHN, of whom presently;
The eldest son,

MAJOR JOHN SPENCE, 86th Foot, served in the Peninsular War, 1810-14, born in 1795, wedded Honoria, daughter of ____________, of Limerick, and had issue, a son,

CAPTAIN SAMUEL SPENCE (1816-57), 28th Foot, served in Crimean War, 1854-56, who married, in 1841, Charlotte, daughter of ___________, of Dublin, and died on active service, 1857, leaving issue,
WILLIAM ALEXANDER, of whom hereafter;
Sarah Julia; Margaret.
The younger son,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL WILLIAM ALEXANDER SPENCE (1843-1900), espoused, in 1875, Margaret, daughter of the Rev Benjamin Dowding, and was killed in action, 1900, leaving,
HERBERT FREDERICK, of whom presently.
The youngest son,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL HERBERT FREDERICK SPENCE (1880-1937), of Rosstulla, Whiteabbey, County Antrim (see above).


EDENMORE HOUSE, Whiteabbey, County Antrim, was built in the Italianate style ca 1865 for James Torrens (1796-1884), a prosperous solicitor and land agent for the Donegall and Shaftesbury estates in Ireland.

The mansion was likely designed for Mr Torrens by the architects Lanyon, Lynn & Lanyon.

There were two gate lodges, long since demolished.

It remained the Torrens residence for 63 years years, until the death of James Torrens's son, Thomas Hughes Torrens (1851-1928).

Following his decease, Edenmore became the quarters of Edenmore Veterinary Hospital under the patronage of the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In 1950, the house and demesne were adapted as RAF Edenmore, a base for No. 67 NI Reserve Group and No. 3502 (Ulster) Fighter Control Group.


Edenmore operated as a hotel from 1963 until the mid-1980s.

Its principal function rooms were called Eden, Torrens and Shaftesbury.

Subsequently Edenmore became a care home.

It was demolished in 2016 for a housing development.

DRUMCULLEN HOUSE, Ballydugan, near Downpatrick, County Down, was a part of the ancient Demesne of Down.

Through the Middle Ages the demesne, including the townland of Hollymount, was owned by the Downpatrick Benedictine Abbey.

During the Reformation, the land was seized by HENRY VIII and granted to Gerald, Earl of Kildare.

The ownership of the land passed through several hands to LADY CROMWELL, who married the Rt Hon Edward Southwell MP, Secretary of State for Ireland.

In 1695, Lady Cromwell leased Hollymount Demesne to MAJOR-GENERAL NICHOLAS PRICE.

Mrs Mary Delany stayed at Hollymount House in the summer of 1745, sketched the house and wrote a romantic description of it and the surrounding woodlands.

From the Prices, the property passed by marriage and inheritance, in 1779, to Francis Savage and then, when he died in 1723, to his widow, the Lady Harriet Butler.

Lady Harriet later married MATHEW FORDE, of Seaforde.

Her ladyship greatly enlarged Hollymount House, building a new Georgian-style wing in front of the old house, now ruinous.

In 1838, Lady Harriet sponsored the construction of Hollymount Church; and in 1841 arranged for the construction of a new house on her estate, Drumcullen, as a residence for the rector of the new church.

In 1853, she enlarged the house after a design by Charles Lanyon for herself and her nephew, the Rev Pierce Butler, Rector of Hollymount, 1852-56.

Later residents of Drumcullen House included the Rev F H Hall, William Russell, a solicitor in Downpatrick and Portaferry, the Whitesides and the Galways, from whom Captain Torrens-Spence bought the property ca 1948.

The estate comprises 113 acres including the house, garden, farmyard and woodland.

103 acres have been let on a con-acre basis to the same tenants for about 20 years.

There are farm buildings, including stables and three Dutch barns (recently re-roofed).

Drumcullen House was sold (in 2016) to Noel Killen, following the death in 2017 of Mrs Rachel Torrens-Spence.

9, Wellington Place, Belfast

9, WELLINGTON PLACE, BELFAST, a red-brick Georgian townhouse of four storeys, was built ca 1830.

The premises were purchased outright in 1860 by Richard Davison and James Torrens, who were recorded as occupants in that year.

Davison and Torrens were solicitors who established an office at 9, Wellington Place, but also had a branch at 65, Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin.

Davison and Torrens continued to operate from their Wellington Place offices until the 1920s.

They also conducted business as estate agents and principally administered the estate of the Earl of Shaftesbury.

In 1910, Thomas Hughes Torrens was recorded as Lord Shaftesbury's agent.

The solicitors continued to operate from the address in 1918; however, by that time the firm had changed its name to Torrens & Bristow, when John Bristow took over as partner from Davison.

Mr Torrens still operated as Lord Shaftesbury’s agent at this time.

Torrens & Bristow had vacated the building ca 1924.

First published in May, 2017.

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