Saturday, 30 November 2019

The Musgrave Connection

  Norwood Tower © 2011 Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland

It was assumed in 1934 that Norwood Tower, Strandtown, Belfast, or its dower house, Clonaver, would pass to Oscar Henderson when Miss Florence Elizabeth Henderson, his aunt, died.

However, she bequeathed both, together with a majority holding in Belfast News Letter shares, to Sir Christopher Musgrave, Bart, OBE, a distant cousin.

This was a bitter blow to Oscar, a distinguished naval officer, and his family.

They could do nothing about the houses, though they did succeed in buying back the News-Letter shares.
Commander Oscar Henderson DSO CVO CBE RN (1891-1969) served in a destroyer during the 1st World War. He was second in command of HMS Iris at the famous Battle of Zeebrugge, in 1918, when a British force blocked the Mole by sinking a ship across the entrance.

Commander Henderson took command when the ship's captain was killed. He was awarded the DSO for his part in this epic.

He became Comptroller and Private Secretary to the 3rd Duke of Abercorn, 1st Governor of Northern Ireland; and was awarded a CVO and CBE for his services. 

Commander Henderson was the father of Bill and Brum Henderson.

Since the James Henderson (b 1797) was Maria Barker's (née Henderson) father; and the aforesaid James Henderson was Florence Elizabeth Henderson's grandfather; it seems reasonable to conclude that James Henderson was Sir Christopher Musgrave's great-grandfather.

Therefore, Sir Christopher Musgrave was Florence Elizabeth Henderson's first cousin twice removed.

Miss Henderson bequeathed Norwood Tower to Sir Christopher Musgrave, whose grandmother was Maria Henderson:
Henderson, Florence Elizabeth of Norwood Tower Strandtown Belfast spinster died 24 March 1934 Probate Belfast 22 February to sir Christopher Norman Musgrave baronet and John Johnson solicitor. Effects £11027 11s [£615,000 in today's money].

Maria Barker (née Henderson) was, therefore, Florence Elizabeth Henderson's aunt, since James Henderson (Maria's father) was Florence's grandfather.

Maria Henderson (1839-1905) was the tenth child of James Henderson (1797-1863) and Anne Peacock, and she was born on the 26th December, 1839.

Maria lived with her brother, James Alexander Henderson, at Norwood Tower and she taught his younger children (most likely including Florence, the youngest).

This was where she met her future husband, Frank Const Barker. 
Frank Barker was one of James Alexander Henderson's business friends. All the Barker family used the middle name Const after a Mr Const of Piccadilly, London. Mr Const was a wealthy business friend of Frank's father, Richard Barker, and when he died he left the family a large sum of money.

Maria Henderson and Frank Barker were married on the 15th September, 1862, and lived at Sorrento House, Dalkey, County Dublin.

They had eight children, of whom their third child was Kathleen Const Barker who married James Musgrave and had four children.

The first child was (Sir) Christopher Norman Musgrave, later 6th Baronet (1892-1956).

First published in May, 2011.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Ulster: A Journey

Serendipity is "the gift for finding valuable objects of art etc by chance", according to my trusty Nuttall's dictionary.

In this case, it was a modest, second-hand paperback book: Ulster: A Journey Through The Six Counties, by Robin Bryans.

We were staying at a hotel in Puerto Pollensa, Majorca, in 2004.

In the residents' lounge there was a shelf containing magazines and books which other residents weren't taking home with them, and I discovered this wonderful little paperback.

Its origin was the Norfolk County Library, of all places!

It was dated the 10th January, 1992, and stamped "Withdrawn For Sale, 30p".

This isn't  really a guidebook: it's an anecdotal travel book, the author's personal and intimate journey through some exceptionally interesting parts of the Province.

Bryans had a wonderful way with words, to the extent that much of his prose sounds poetic in its composition, if that's not a contradiction in itself.

It was first published in 1964, though this edition was dated 1989.

First published in March, 2010.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Mount Talbot House


RICHARD TALBOT (c1520-77), of Templeogue, County Dublin, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in Ireland, eldest son of William Talbot, the youngest son of Thomas Talbot, Lord of Malahide, married Alice, daughter of John Burnell, of Balgriffin, was father of

JOHN TALBOT, of Templeogue, whose will was proved in 1584; father of

ROBERT TALBOT, of Templeogue, who wedded Eleanor, daughter of Sir Henry Colley, of Castle Carbury, and had two sons,
John, of Templeogue, dsp 1627;
HENRY, his successor.
Mr Talbot died in 1616, and was succeeded by his younger son,

SIR HENRY TALBOT, Knight, of Templeogue, who espoused Margaret, daughter of Sir William Talbot Bt, of Carton, County Kildare, and sister of Richard, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, and had issue,
WILLIAM, succeeded his brother;
Elizabeth; Bridget; Mary; Alice; Ellen; Barbara.
The elder son,

JAMES TALBOT, of Templeogue, and Mount Talbot, County Roscommon, Colonel in JAMES II's army, was killed at the battle of Aughrim, 1691.

He married Bridget, daughter of Francis, 17th Baron Athenry, and had two daughters,
Mary, m John, 9th Earl of Clanricarde;
Bridget, m Valentine Browne (ancestor of the Marquess of Sligo).
Mr Talbot died without male issue, and was succeeded by his brother,

WILLIAM TALBOT (-1692), of Mount Talbot, who wedded Lucy, widow of George Holmes, daughter and co-heir of William Hamilton, of Liscloony, King's County, by whom he had a son,

HENRY TALBOT (-1729), of Mount Talbot, High Sheriff of County Roscommon, 1713, who married Isabella Forward, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
John (Rev).
The elder son,

WILLIAM TALBOT (-1787), of Mount Talbot, High Sheriff of County Roscommon, 1753, wedded, in 1739, Sarah, widow of John Southwell, and daughter of the Rt Hon Henry Rose MP, and had issue,
Henry Rose, dvp 1759;
WILLIAM JOHN, succeeded his brother;
Bridget; Jane.
The younger son,

WILLIAM JOHN TALBOT (-1787), of Mount Talbot, wedded firstly, in 1765, Elizabeth Margaret, daughter of George Rose, of Moyvane, County Limerick, and had a daughter,
Jane, m in 1786 Sir Edmund Stanley.
He espoused secondly, in 1775, the Lady Jane Crosbie, daughter of William, 1st Earl of Glandore, and had further issue,
William, dsp 1851;
JOHN, of whom presently;
The second son,

THE REV JOHN TALBOT, assumed, in 1816, the name and arms of CROSBIE in pursuance of the will of his uncle, John, last Earl of Glandore.

He married, in 1811, Jane, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Lloyd, of Beechmount, County Limerick, and had issue,
JOHN, of Mount Talbot;
Anne; Diana.
The Rev John Talbot-Crosbie died in 1818, and was succeeded by his second son,

JOHN TALBOT JP DL (1818-95), of Mount Talbot, High Sheriff of County Roscommon, 1857, formerly of the 35th Regiment, who assumed, in 1851, the name and arms of TALBOT instead of CROSBIE.

He espoused firstly, in 1845, Marianne, eldest daughter of Marcus McCausland, of Fruit Hill (otherwise Drenagh), County Londonderry, and had an only daughter,
Marianne Jane Theodosia.
Mr Talbot married secondly, in 1858, Gertrude Caroline, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Bayly, of Ballyarthur, County Wicklow, by whom he had a son,

CAPTAIN WILLIAM JOHN TALBOT JP DL (1859-1923), of Mount Talbot, High Sheriff of County Roscommon, 1886, Armagh, 1903, who wedded, in 1897, Julia Elizabeth Mary, only child of Sir Capel Molyneux Bt DL, of Castle Dillon, County Armagh, though the marriage was without male issue.

Captain Talbot was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Roscommon, from 1917 until 1922.

MOUNT TALBOT HOUSE, near Athleague, County Roscommon, today lies in ruins.

It was built ca 1750 in the Palladian style, with wings constructed at an angle to the main block, joined by curved arcades.

The arcades, which were open, were embellished with urn finials on the parapets.

The central block was changed, about 1820, into a castellated Gothic, Tudor-Revival edifice.

The main block now had a huge square tower at one end with a pair of pinnacles or miniature turrets; and a third castlellated turret at the other end.

Whereas the garden front boasted a three-bay projection with pointed windows and Gothic pinnacles.

A grand Triumphal kind of arch with rusticated piers still remains at the former main entrance to the demesne.

The Talbot family's great ancestral home was maliciously burnt in 1922.

William John Talbot and his wife probably never returned.

Mr Talbot, the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Roscommon, died in London one year later.

Mount Talbot Church

THE charming little church at Mount Talbot, which contains the family mausoleum, was erected by the Talbots in 1766.

It has been described as "a plain, neat, Gothic building, erected in 1766 at an expense of £415, a gift from the Board of First Fruits."

Its last service took place in 1965, it is thought.

First published in December, 2017.

2nd Earl of Gosford



THE HON ARCHIBALD ACHESON (1776-1849), second son of Arthur, 1st Earl of Gosford, was born at Markethill, County Armagh.

Having been educated at Christ Church, Oxford, Acheson was MP for CountyArmagh between 1798-1807.

When he became heir to his father, the 1st Earl, he was styled Viscount Acheson.

Lord Acheson succeeded as 2nd Earl in 1807 and held high office:
    • Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh, 1831-49;
    • Privy Counsellor, 1834;
    • Captain Yeoman of the Guards, 1834-35;
    • Governor-General of Canada, 1835-37;
    • Vice-Admiral of Ulster;
    • Knight Grand Cross, Order of the Bath (GCB), 1838.
      Lord Gosford's most notable appointment, however, was as Governor-General of Canada.

      This appointment took effect in 1835, when he was Governor-in-Chief of British North America; he was also selected because the ministers hoped that he might be able to apply in Lower Canada the techniques of conciliation that he had employed so successfully in Ireland.

      Following acceptance of the appointment in 1835, Lord Gosford was created Baron Worlingham.

      As a civilian, unlike his predecessors, Gosford was not appointed commander of the forces in the Canadas, but he was given unusually extensive authority over the lieutenant-governors of the neighbouring colonies, who were sent copies of his instructions.

      Gosford assumed control of the government of Lower Canada in 1835.

      Since his predecessor, Lord Aylmer, had become identified with the English, or Constitutionalist, party, Gosford kept his distance from Aylmer until the latter’s departure the following month.

      Subsequently he held a series of lavish dinner parties and balls, at which he established a reputation as a bon vivant and showered his attentions on the leading members of the Patriote party and their wives.

      Gosford was neither the good-natured incompetent nor the “vile hypocrite” that his critics proclaimed.

      He hoped to create in Lower Canada an alliance of moderate politicians from both parties and to hold the balance of power as the Whig administration did in the Kingdom of Ireland between Catholics and Protestants.

      Whig policy there was to distribute patronage to Catholics and liberal Protestants in order to remedy an historic imbalance in the higher levels of the administration. Gosford pursued the same goal.

      He increased appointments of French Canadians to the judiciary and the magistracy, insisted that a chief justice and a commissioner of crown lands should be chosen from among them, and gave them a majority on the Executive Council and a virtual majority on the Legislative Council.

      He substantially increased their numbers holding offices of emolument.

      Moreover, he refused to allow multiple office-holding, to condone nepotism, or to appoint to prominent positions persons known to be antipathetic to them.

      In 1838, Gosford learned that his resignation had been accepted.

      Back in the United Kingdom, he was given a vote of thanks by the Whig ministry and appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Civil Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (GCB) in 1838.

      He did not lose interest in Canada.

      On the appointment of Lord Durham as Governor, he commented that “a more judicious choice could not have been made.”

      He wrote to Lord Durham that the majority of French Canadians had not participated in the rebellion and warned against the English party.

      As Durham’s ethnocentrism became more pronounced, Gosford criticised him bitterly for appointing to office several outspoken opponents of French Canadians.

      Indeed, Gosford blamed the second rebellion, in the autumn of 1838, on Durham’s stupidity, and he was equally critical of Colborne and “those savage Volunteers.”

      During the 1840s his interests again focused on Ireland, where he split with O’Connell over the issue of repeal.

      In his declining years he devoted his primary attention to his estates.

      Gosford had left Lower Canada little loved either by the British minority or by the Patriotes.

      HM  Government ignored his advice and followed the recommendations of Durham, who declared that Gosford was “utterly ignorant . . . of all that was passing around him.”

      Nevertheless, Gosford had shown considerable administrative ability, more political sensitivity than his predecessors, and greater tolerance than his immediate successors.

      His sincerity is unquestionable.

      He probably did as much to limit the severity of the rebellion as it was possible to do, and if Lord Durham had followed his advice, the second rebellion might have been considerably less bloody.

      That Lord Gosford failed to achieve his goals is self-evident; that he ever had a reasonable chance of success is doubtful.

      Town residence ~ 22 Mansfield Street, London.

      First published in December, 2011. 

      Wednesday, 27 November 2019

      Birr Castle


      This noble family, of English origin, was brought into Ireland towards the close of ELIZABETH I's reign.

      Its members have, at different periods, filled the highest political employments in the state; have taken distinguished parts in the senate; have become eminent upon the Bench and at the Bar; and have twice been enrolled amongst the baronetage of the kingdom, and twice elevated to the peerage.

      WILLIAM PARSONS, of Norfolk, father of Lady Poynings (wife of Richard, Lord Poynings), and mother of Sir Edward Poynings KG (1459-1521), was grandfather (it is presumed) of

      WILLIAM PARSONS (1570-1650), who settled in Ireland about the close of ELIZABETH I's reign; and being a commissioner of plantations, obtained very considerable territorial grants from the Crown.

      In 1602, he succeeded Sir Geoffrey Fenton, as Surveyor-General of Ireland; in 1610, he obtained a pension of £30 per annum for life.

      In 1611, he was joined with his brother, Lawrence, in the supervisorship of the crown lands, with a fee of £60 per annum for life.

      In 1620, presenting to JAMES I, in person, surveys of escheated estates, in his capacity of surveyor-general, he received the honour of knighthood, and was created a baronet, denominated of Bellamont, in the same year.

      Sir William represented the county of Wicklow in parliament in 1639, and was nominated Lord Justice with Lord Dillon in 1640; but that nobleman being soon removed, he was re-sworn with Sir John Borlace, Master of the Ordnance.

      He continued in the government until 1643, when he was removed, charged with treason, and committed to prison, with Sir Adam Loftus and others.

      Sir William died in Westminster, and was succeeded by his grandson,

      SIR WILLIAM PARSONS, 2nd Baronet, of Bellamont, County Dublin (only son of Richard Parsons by his first wife, Lettice, eldest daughter of Sir Adam Loftus, and granddaughter maternally of Walter Vaughan).

      This gentleman married Catherine, eldest daughter of Arthur, Viscount Ranelagh; and dying in 1658, was succeeded by his only surviving son,

      SIR RICHARD PARSONS, 3rd Baronet, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1681, in the dignities of Baron Oxmantown and Viscount Rosse, with remainder to the male issue of his great-grandfather.

      His lordship wedded firstly, Anne Walsingham; secondly, Catherine, daughter of George, Lord Chandos, both of whom died issueless; and thirdly, in 1685, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Sir George Hamilton, and niece of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, by whom he two sons and three daughters.

      He died in 1702, and was succeeded by his elder son,

      RICHARD, 2nd Viscount (1702-41), who was created, 1718, EARL OF ROSSE.

      His lordship married, in 1715, Mary, eldest daughter of Lord William Paulet, brother of Charles, 2nd Duke of Bolton, by whom he had two sons and a daughter; and was succeeded by his elder son,

      RICHARD, 2nd Earl; at whose decease, in 1764, without issue, all the honours expired, and the representation of the family devolved upon Sir William Parsons, 4th Baronet, of Birr Castle, MP for the King's County; who married and had issue,

      LAURENCE, 3rd Earl, born in 1758,
      The heir apparent is the present holder's son Lawrence Patrick Parsons, styled Lord Oxmantown.

      The 7th and present Earl is a descendant of the 1st Baronet.

      Lord and Lady Rosse live at Birr Castle.
      During the period 1979-2007, Lord and Lady Rosse facilitated many decades of research by Dr Anthony Malcomson, former director of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, and latterly sponsored by the Irish Manuscripts Commission, to enable the production, for the first time, of a comprehensive calendar of the Rosse Papers in 2008.
      The archive is held in the Muniment Room of Birr Castle.

      The Calendar is of inestimable value for researchers delving into the history of the Parsons family, including English settlement of the Irish midlands in the 17th century; the Williamite wars; early Irish nationalism; the Royal Navy in the 18th century; 19th century science and astronomy; and the fate of the landed gentry in the early 20th century.

      BIRR CASTLE demesne, and the historic town of Birr, County Offaly, lie in the centre of Ireland.

      The Castle is private, though the famous gardens of the demesne are open every day.

      The demesne includes Ireland's Historic Science Centre whose galleries show what Ireland's leading historic scientists have contributed to astronomy photography, engineering and the art of gardening.

      Birr Castle’s most spectacular high ceilinged rooms are its tapestried hall, its great Gothic music saloon overlooking the river, its yellow drawing room and long red dining room.

      Other features inside include a unique staircase of the 1660s, an early panelled bedroom and dungeons.

      Surrounding the castle is Ireland’s largest heritage garden with rivers, waterfalls, a fountain and lake with a Canadian log cabin, cloisters with urns and statuary.

      Beyond that a riverbank wilderness and native woods; a Georgian country house in its own park; even a romantic ruined manor court.

      Birr Castle was built on medieval foundations in the 1620s. It has been redeveloped many times over the years with more recent parts of the castle dating to the 19th century.

      As such the castle has many stylistic perspectives. The façade of the castle is Gothic.

      The reception rooms are high ceilinged and date mainly from the early 19th century with a spectacular Gothic ‘saloon’ or drawing room overlooking the River Camcor.

      There is a medieval basement and dungeons beneath the Castle as well as battlements along the roof.

      The 100 acre demesne has a huge variety of rare and beautiful trees and plants from all over the world. Some highlights include: The Camcor and Little Brosna Rivers and the Lake.

      The Fernery with a waterfall, streams and fountain.

      The formal gardens feature the hornbeam cloisters, Bavarian urns and decorative seats.

      The walled gardens feature Box Hedges that are over 350 years old.
      They are also, according to The Guinness Book of Records, the tallest hedges in the world. Other features include: Orchards, bridges, arboretum, outdoor grass stage (teatre Verde), herbaceous borders, lakeside log cabin, Georgian mansion and derelict manor court and stable muse, bog land, country cottages, moat, drawbridge.
      A main feature of the demesne is the "Great Telescope" of the 3rd Earl, an astronomical telescope with a 72" reflector.

      When completed in 1845, it was the largest telescope on earth, and capable of capturing more light and seeing further into space than any telescope had done before.

      It was dismantled in 1914, but was restored by the state in the 1990s as an Irish scientific icon.

      There is a long history of photography at the castle. Mary Rosse (1813-85) was the earliest acclaimed female photographer in world.

      Her dark room, in which she developed her own photos, is still preserved in the castle exactly as she left it in the 1890s.

      Lord Snowdon, who was, as Anthony Armstrong-Jones, partly brought up at Birr, returned to it as a setting for Viyella and other catalogues in the 1980s.

      The gardens are host to wedding photography most weekends in the summer.

      First published in June, 2011.  Rosse arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

      Freemen of Belfast: 1900-10



      3  The Most Hon Frederick Temple Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, KP GCB GCSI GCMG GCIE PC ~ 1900

      4  The Most Hon Charles Marquess of Londonderry, KG GCVO PC JP DL ~ 1900

      5  Sir George Stuart White VC GCB OM GCSI GCMG GCIE GCVO ~ 1900

      6  The Right Hon Frederick Sleigh Earl Roberts VC KG KP GCB OM GCSI GCIE PC ~ 1900

      7  The Right Hon Sir Daniel Dixon Bt JP DL ~ 1904

      8  The Right Hon Margaret Montgomery Viscountess Pirrie ~ 1904

      9  Sir Donald Currie GCMG ~ 1906

      10  The Right Hon Anthony Earl of Shaftesbury KP GCVO CBE PC ~ 1908

      11  Sir Robert Hart Bt GCMG ~ 1908

      12  Andrew Carnegie Esq ~ 1910

      13 The Right Hon Sir John Newell Jordan GCMG GCIE KCB  ~ 1910

      First published in August, 2012.

      Tuesday, 26 November 2019

      Lough Fea House


      This is a branch of the noble and ancient family of Shirley, EARLS FERRERS, springing from

      SIR ROBERT SHIRLEY, Knight, first EARL FERRERS (1650-1717), who married firstly, Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Lawrence Washington, of Garsdon, Wiltshire; and secondly, in 1699, Selina, daughter of George Finch.

      The third, but, eventually, eldest surviving son of his second marriage,

      THE HON GEORGE SHIRLEY (1705-87), of Ettington Park, Warwickshire, Captain, 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, wedded Mary, daughter of Humphrey Sturt, and had issue,
      GEORGE, his successor;
      EVELYN, succeeded his brother;
      Selina; Margaret.
      Mr Shirley was succeeded by his eldest son,

      GEORGE SHIRLEY, of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, County Monaghan, who espoused Phillis Byam, daughter of Charlton Wollaston, and had issue,
      Arthur George Sewallis;
      Selina; Mary; Frances; Emily Harriet.
      Mr Shirley was succeeded by his eldest son, 

      EVELYN JOHN SHIRLEY (1788-1856), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, who wedded, in 1810, Eliza, daughter of Arthur Stanhope, cousin to the Earl of Chesterfield, MP for County Monaghan, 1826-31, and South Warwickshire, 1836-49, and had issue,
      George Edward;
      Walter Devereux;
      Selina; Louisa.
      His eldest son, 

      EVELYN PHILIP SHIRLEY DL (1812-82), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, MP for South Warwickshire, 1853-65, County Monaghan, 1841-7, had issue,

      SEWALLIS EVELYN SHIRLEY JP DL (1844-1904), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, MP for County Monaghan, 1868-80, High Sheriff of Warwickshire, 1884, who had issue,

      EVELYN CHARLES SHIRLEY JP DL (1889-1956), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea; High Sheriff of County Monaghan, 1914, Major, Warwickshire Yeomanry, Lieutenant-Colonel, General Staff, whose only son,

      JOHN EVELYN SHIRLEY (1922-2009), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, Major, King's Royal Rifle Corps.

      He lived in 2003 at Ormly Hall, Ramsey, Isle of Man.

      Major Shirley had issue,
      Philip Evelyn Shirley, b 1955;
      Emily Margaret Shirley, b 1957;
      Hugh Sewallis Shirley, b 1961.

      The Shirley estate is based at Lough Fea, near Carrickmacross in County Monaghan.

      It had an area of some 40 square miles, in the western half of the barony of Farney, County Monaghan, in the period 1576-1960.

      The Shirley Papers are deposited at PRONI.

      The Shirley Association has written a history of Lough Fea.

      The Shirleys were semi-absentee landlords. Their main seat was Ettington Park in Warwickshire.

      Evelyn Philip Shirley visited Lough Fea several times a year.

      The estate was formerly in the ownership of the Earl of Essex, though underwent the first of several partitions: It passed in two halves to Essex's co-heirs, the Marquess of Hertford and Sir Robert Shirley.

      Sir Robert himself died in 1656, imprisoned in the Tower of London for supporting the Royalist cause in the English Civil War.

      His son and heir was Sir Seymour Shirley, on whose death in 1667 the estate and the rest of the family inheritance passed in turn to his second and only surviving son, Sir Robert Shirley.

      Sir Robert entered the House of Lords in 1677, as Baron Ferrers of Chartley, and in 1711 was further ennobled as 1st Earl Ferrers and Viscount Tamworth.

      This last title related to the family seat of Ettington in Warwickshire.

      About 1750, the Shirleys built a house near Carrickmacross for their occasional visits.

      It was not until 1826 that Robert's grandson, Evelyn John Shirley, laid the foundations of a mansion house worthy of the family and estate, near the banks of Lough Fea.

      LOUGH FEA is a very large and unusual Tudor-Gothic house by Thomas Rickman, the English architect and architectural writer who invented the terms "Early English", "decorated" and "perpendicular" to describe the different periods of Gothic architecture.

      Unlike most houses of its period and style, Lough Fea has no battlements and few gables, but a solid parapet which conceals much of the roof.

      There are also hardly any projecting bows or oriels, but rather small, mullioned windows under hood mouldings; so that the elevations, of pinkish-grey ashlar, have a solid effect.

      There are several slender, square turrets with sprocketed, pyramidal roofs; also a polygonal lantern and a small tower and polygonal turret at the end of one wing; but no major tower; so that he house seems low and wide-spreading.

      The entrance front, facing the lough, is flanked on one side by the chapel and on the other by a great hall, which together form a three-sided court.

      The interior is of great complexity, with many corridors and ante-rooms.

      There is a hall divided by a stone arcade, its walls hung with an early 19th-century wallpaper.

      There is a large and handsome library, the famous library of EP Shirley, son of the builder of the house.

      The chapel is on the scale of a sizeable church, with two pulpits and a gallery.

      The clou of the house is, however, the great hall: vast and baronial, with a lofty hammer-beam roof, a minstrels' gallery and an arcade at first-floor level.

      It was added after the rest of the house was completed.

      According to the story, Mr Shirley and Lord Rossmore vied with one another as to which of them could build the bigger room.

      Lord Rossmore enlarged his drawing room at Rossmore Park five times, but in the end Mr Shirley won the contest by building his great hall.

      The garden front of the house faces along a vista to an immense Celtic cross.

      The demesne is noted for its magnificent woodlands.

      At the end of the 19th century the estate comprised 26,386 acres, but these lands had to be sold due to the Irish Land Acts before the First World War.

      The estate now has less than 1,000 acres of grass and woodland.

      After the sale of the land, which had been rented to tenants, large mansions such as Lough Fea became white elephants with little revenue coming in.

      In 1904, when Major Shirley’s grandfather died, his father moved from his Ettington Park home in Warwickshire to Carrickmacross, County Monaghan.

      Between 1904 and 1977, Major Shirley’s father and his family lived there permanently.

      There was a serious fire at the house in 1966, which did quite a lot of damage.

      In 1977, the family moved to the Isle of Man and thus reverted to its 19th Century role of absenteeism; though because Major Shirley and his sons were brought up on the estate they have a great love of the place and they do their best to keep the main parts of the building waterproof.

      First published in June, 2011.

      1st Duke of Warwick

      Arms of Richard, 13th Earl of Warwick

      Amongst the most eminent Norman families in the train of WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR was that of BEAUCHAMP, and amongst those that shared most liberally in the spoils of the Conquest.

      HUGH DE BEAUCHAMP, the companion in arms of the victorious Norman, who obtained grants to a very great extent from his triumphant chief, as he appears, at the general survey, to be possessed of large estates in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, was the founder of this illustrious house in England.

      This Hugh had issue,
      WALTER, of whom we treat;
      The third son,

      WALTER DE BEAUCHAMP, of Elmley Castle, Gloucestershire, having married Emeline, daughter and heiress of Urse d'Abetot, Constable of the castle of Worcester and Hereditary Sheriff of Worcestershire, was invested with that office by HENRY I, and obtained a grant from the same monarch of all the lands belonging to Roger of Worcester, with a confirmation of certain lands given to him by Alice, widow of his father-in-law, the said Urse.

      Walter de Beauchamp was succeeded by his son,

      WILLIAM DE BEAUCHAMP (c1105-70), who, for his zeal in the cause of the Empress Matilda, was dispossessed of Worcester Castle by KING STEPHEN, to which, and all his other honours and estates, however, he was restored by HENRY II; and in that monarch's reign, besides the sheriffdom of Worcestershire, which he enjoyed by inheritance, he was Sheriff of Warwickshire, Sheriff of Gloucestershire, and Sheriff of Herefordshire.

      He espoused Maud, daughter of William de Braose, and was succeeded at his decease by his son,

      WILLIAM DE BEAUCHAMP, who married Joanne, daughter of Sir Thomas Walerie; and dying before the thirteenth year of KING JOHN's reign, was succeeded by his son,

      WALTER DE BEAUCHAMP, Governor of Hanley Castle, Worcestershire.

      The family line carried on uninterruptedly to

      WILLIAM DE BEAUCHAMP (1237-98), who inherited not only the feudal Elmley from his father, but had previously derived from his mother the Earldom of Warwick (originally possessed by the Newburghs) and the Barony of Hanslape.

      This eminent nobleman, a distinguished captain in the Welsh and Scottish wars of EDWARD I, wedded Maud, daughter and co-heiress of Richard FitzJohn, and had surviving issue,
      GUY, his successor;
      Isabella; Maud; Margaret; Anne; Amy.
      William de Beauchamp, 9th Earl of Warwick, was succeeded by his son,

      GUY, 10th Earl (c1272-1315), so called in memory of his celebrated predecessor, the Saxon, Guy, Earl of Warwick.

      This nobleman acquired high military renown in the martial reign of EDWARD I, distinguishing himself at the battle of Falkirk, for which he was rewarded with extensive grants of lands in Scotland.

      He married Alice, daughter of Ralph de Toeni, of Flamsted, Hertfordshire, and had issue,
      THOMAS, his successor;
      Maud; Emma; Isabella; Elizabeth; Lucia.
      His lordship died at Warwick Castle, and was succeeded by his son, but two years of age,

      THOMAS, 11th Earl (c1313-69), KG, who sustained, in the brilliant reign of EDWARD III, the high military renown of his illustrious progenitor, and became distinguished in arms almost from his boyhood.

      He wedded Katherine, daughter of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, and had issue,
      THOMAS, his successor;
      Maud; Philippa; Alice; Joan; Isabel; Margaret; Agnes; Juliana; Katherine.
      The 11th Earl, one of the original Knights of the Garter, was succeeded by his eldest son,

      THOMAS, 12th Earl (1338-1401), KG, one of the principal opponents of RICHARD II, who espoused Margaret, daughter of William, 3rd Baron Ferrers of Groby, and had issue,
      RICHARD, his successor;
      Katherine; Margaret; Katherine; Elizabeth.
      His lordship was succeeded by his only son,

      RICHARD, 13th Earl (1382-1439), KG, who married firstly, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas, 5th Lord Berkeley, and had issue, three daughters,
      Margaret; Eleanor; Elizabeth.
      He wedded secondly, Isabel, daughter and eventually heiress of Thomas, 1st Earl of Gloucester, and had issue,
      HENRY, his successor;
      His lordship was succeeded by his only son,

      HENRY, 14th Earl (1425-46), KG, who, before he had completed his nineteenth year, tendered his services for the defence of the Duchy of Aquitaine, was created, in 1444, PREMIER EARL OF ENGLAND; and his lordship obtained, at the same time, permission for himself and his heirs to wear a golden coronet in the presence of the King and elsewhere.

      Soon afterwards, in 1445, he was advanced to the dignity of a dukedom, as DUKE OF WARWICK, with precedence immediately after the Duke of Norfolk, and before the Duke of Buckingham; which extraordinary mark of royal favour so displeased the latter nobleman that an Act of Parliament was subsequently passed to appease his jealousy, declaring that the two dukes should take place of each other alternately year about, but with precedency of the first year to the Duke of Warwick.

      After which His Grace had a grant in reversion of the death of the Duke of Gloucester, of the Channel Islands for the annual rent of a rose; also the Hundred and Manor of Bristol, and all the royal castles and manors in the Forest of Dean.

      His Grace was crowned, by the King himself, KING OF THE ISLE OF WIGHT.

      The 1st Duke married, in the lifetime of his father, but when ten years old and then styled Lord Despencer, Cecily, daughter of Richard Richard Nevill, jure uxoris 5th Earl of Salisbury, by whom he had an only daughter, ANNE.

      His Grace died aged 22, when the Dukedom (and the male line of this branch of the Beauchamps) expired, but his other honours devolved upon his daughter,

      ANNE, 15th Countess of Warwick (1443-48), then but two years old, who was committed to the guardianship first of Queen Margaret, and afterwards of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk.

      Anne dying, however, a few years later, the honours of the illustrious house of BEAUCHAMP reverted to the young Countess's aunt,

      ANNE, 16th Countess of Warwick (1426-92), wife of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury; and her husband was subsequently created EARL OF WARWICK, the celebrated Kingmaker.

      Ancestral seat ~ Warwick Castle, Warwickshire. Town House ~ 32 St James's Square.

      First published in October, 2017.

      Monday, 25 November 2019

      7th Bishop of Down & Dromore

      The House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland has approved the appointment of the Venerable David Alexander McClay, Archdeacon of Down, as Bishop-designate in succession to the Right Reverend Harold Miller, who announced his decision to retire on the 20th June, 2019.

      David was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and was ordained in 1988.

      He was appointed to the curacy of Magheralin, and thereafter was incumbent of Kilkeel and Willowfield.

      In December, 2016, David was appointed to the archdeaconry of Down.

      His appointment as Bishop-designate of the United Dioceses of Down and Dromore was confirmed on the 4th November, 2019.

      Freemen of Belfast: 1898-99


      Elected and admitted by the Council of the City of Belfast under the municipal privilege (Ireland) Act, 1875:-

      1898 The Right Hon William James, Viscount Pirrie KP PC

      1899 Thomas Henry Ismay, Esq

      First published in July, 2012.

      1st Earl of Mar and Kellie


      This is a branch of the noble family of Erskine, Earls of Mar, springing from

      THE RT HON SIR ALEXANDER ERSKINE OF GOGAR, Knight, third son of John, 5th Lord Erskine and 16th Earl of Mar de jure, by the Lady Margaret Campbell, daughter of Archibald, 2nd Earl of Argyll.

      The house of Erskine, Earls and Countesses of Mar, is one of the most ancient families in the Scottish peerage; so old, indeed, that the date of the creation of its honours is lost in its antiquity.

      This Alexander was sworn, in 1578, of His Majesty's privy council, nominated Governor of Edinburgh Castle, and constituted Vice-Chamberlain of Scotland.

      He married Margaret, daughter of Lord Home, by whom he had three sons and three daughters.

      The eldest son, Sir Alexander, fell at the surprise of Stirling Castle, in 1578, and the second,

      SIR THOMAS ERSKINE, born in the same year with JAMES I, and educated with that monarch, having accompanied His Majesty to England, was created, in 1606, Baron Dirletoun and Viscount Fenton (the first viscountcy of Scotland).

      His lordship was advanced to the dignity of an earldom, in 1619, as EARL OF KELLIE, installed a Knight of the Garter, and sworn of the privy councils of England and Scotland.

      He married Anne, daughter of Sir Gilbert Ogilvie, of Powrie, by whom he had a daughter, and a son, Alexander, Viscount Fenton, who wedded the Lady Anne Seton, daughter of Alexander, 1st Earl of Dunfermline, by whom he left three sons:
      ALEXANDER, 3rd Earl;
      THOMAS, the eldest.
      THOMAS succeeded his grandfather in 1639, and dying unmarried in 1643, the family honours devolved upon his brother,

      ALEXANDER, 3rd Earl, who was succeeded, in 1657, by his only son,

      ALEXANDER, 4th Earl, who was also succeeded (in 1710) by an only son,

      ALEXANDER, 5th Earl, who married twice and was succeeded, on his demise in 1756, by his eldest son,

      THOMAS, 6th Earl, who died unmarried, in 1781, when the family honours devolved upon his brother,

      ARCHIBALD, 7th Earl, who died, unmarried, in 1797, when the peerage reverted to his kinsman,

      SIR CHARLES ERSKINE, Baronet, of Cambo, the direct descendant of Charles Erskine (who was created a baronet in 1666), youngest son of Alexander, Viscount Fenton, eldest son of Thomas, 1st Earl of Kellie.

      His lordship dying unmarried in 1799, the family honours reverted to his uncle,

      THOMAS, 9th Earl.
      The heir presumptive is Lord Mar's brother, the Hon Alexander David Erskine, Master of Mar (b. 1952). It is known that the lineage survived in the Erskine-Kellies, with the current heir Andrew Erskine (b. 1998) estimated as the 17th Earl of Mar and 19th Earl of Kellie.

      CAMBO HOUSE, near Kingsbarns, in Fife, was built between 1879-84, to designs by the architects Wardrop & Reid.
      The estate of Cambo was granted to Robert de Newenham by a charter of King William the Lion. His descendents took the name "de Cambhou", and had settled in Fife by the early 14th century. In 1599, the estate was granted to Thomas Myretoun.
      In 1668, Sir Charles Erskine Bt (d. 1677), the Lord Lyon King of Arms and brother of the 3rd Earl of Kellie, purchased the property from the creditors of Patrick Merton.

      The estate passed through the Erskine family to the 5th Earl of Kellie, who forfeited his lands after supporting the Jacobite rising of 1745.

      In 1759, Cambo was sold to the Charteris family, who bought it for their son who was studying at St Andrews University.

      Thomas Erskine, 9th Earl of Kellie, bought the estate back in the 1790s.

      A successful merchant in Sweden, he invested heavily in improving the estate, building the picturesque Georgian estate farms, and carrying out extensive land drainage.

      The 9th Earl commissioned the architect Robert Balfour to remodel the house in 1795.

      His descendents continued the improvement of the estate through the 19th century, laying out ornamental gardens, with a series of early cast iron bridges.
      The old house comprised a tower house with numerous additions, including a first-floor conservatory. It was destroyed by fire in 1878, after a staff party when the Erskine family was away.
      The present house was built on the same site between 1879-84, to designs by the architects Wardrop & Reid.

      The house is operated as self-catering and bed & breakfast accommodation, while the walled garden and woodland gardens are open to the public year-round.

      The estate woodlands have a significant collection of snowdrops, including over 300 varieties of Galanthus species.

      The estate was awarded National Collection status by the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens.

      Kingsbarns Golf Links was laid out in 2000 to designs by American golf course architects Kyle Phillips and Mark Parsinen.

      The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, an annual pro-am golf tournament, is played in October at Kingsbarns, St Andrews Old Course, and Carnoustie.

      ERSKINE HOUSE, Glasgow,  was designed by Sir Robert Smirke, the architect of the British Museum.

      During the 1st World War it became the Princess Louise Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers.

      It is now the Mar Hall Hotel, its name recalling the estate’s former ownership by the Earl of Mar.
      During the early 18th century, the Mar estate and old Erskine House came into the ownership of the Lords Blantyre. In 1828 Major General Robert W Stuart, the 11th Lord Blantyre and a distinguished veteran of the Wellington’s Peninsular campaigns during the Napoleonic Wars, commissioned the present house.
      His architect, Sir Robert Smirke (1781-1867) was still engaged in designing the British Museum.

      That, however, is a very classical design whereas Erskine House is more Gothic with touches of Tudor, in the small turrets and pointed arches in the principal windows and entrance porch.

      The stone was quarried locally. Sir Charles Barry produced designs for the gardens.

      The house was completed only in 1845.

      The final cost was £50,000, about £2.5m today.

      When the Blantyre line became extinct in 1900, the house was left derelict but in 1916 it re-opened as the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital of Limbless Sailors and Soldiers.

      In recent years £15m has been invested in the refurbishment of the house and the restoration of its many original features as the Mar Hall Hotel.

      First published in November, 2013.   Kellie arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

      Sunday, 24 November 2019

      Belfast IMAX

      A giant of the cinema world arrived in Northern Ireland in 2001, and opened its doors on the banks of the River Lagan, at Queen's Quay.

      The £1.5 million (equivalent to about £2.4 million in 2018) IMAX screen at Belfast's Odyssey Pavilion was higher than four double-decker buses.

      Its projector was the size of a small car.

      It was the biggest cinema screen in Ulster.

      A local entrepreneur, Peter Curistan, who brought the large screen to the Province, said at the time:
      "The experience is immersive and you do really feel that you are part of the action. I'm very proud to bring it to Odyssey. 
      I'm very proud to bring it to Northern Ireland and I think we really have something of truly European standard."
      The first film to open at the centre was Everest.

      The chief projectionist at the centre stated that the staff had to undergo weeks of training to get to grips with the new technology:
      "It's very, very hi tech actually. We would have three computers to manage the system. 
      The soundtrack is put onto disc into a hard drive, so you have to synchronise the film with the soundtrack which is very, very important. 
      It's a totally different concept to what normal film would use."
      Alas, the Belfast IMAX closed down in September, 2007.

      Mr Curistan was declared bankrupt in 2013.

      I enjoyed the experience and went to quite a few movies there.

      It's a shame that it remains closed.

      First published in April, 2014.

      Ardbraccan House

      SEVERAL small bishoprics gradually coalesced into one See, which received the name of Meath, at the end of the 12th century.

      In 1568, the bishopric of Clonmacnoise was incorporated with it by act of parliament.

      It extends from the sea to the River Shannon, over part of six counties, viz. Meath, Westmeath, King's County (Offaly), Cavan, Longford, and Kildare.

      From east to west it extends 80 miles; and in breadth, about 25 at a medium.

      The Lord Bishop of Meath traditionally took precedence next to the four archbishops (Armagh, Dublin, Cashel, Tuam), and has been styled Most Reverend.

      The other bishops, excepting only the Lord Bishop of Kildare, took precedence according to the date of their consecration.

      Entrance Front

      ARDBRACCAN HOUSE, near Navan, County Meath, is a large Palladian mansion house which served from the 1770s until 1885 as the seat of the Lord Bishop of Meath.

      By the Middle Ages a large Tudor house, containing its own church, known as St. Mary's, stood on the site.

      Bishop Evans left money for the building of a new residence here early in the 18th century.

      His successor, Bishop Downes, came here with Dean Swift to lay out the new ground; though it was not until 1734 that Bishop Price (1678-1752) decided to replace the decaying mansion with a new Georgian residence.

      Initially the two wings of the house were built, before the main four-bay two-storey block of the house was completed in the 1770s by Bishop Maxwell.

      It was partly designed by the acclaimed 18th-century German architect Richard Castle (also known as Richard Cassels).

      Garden Front

      When the two two-storey, five-bay wings had been completed, Bishop Price was translated to the archbishopric of Cashel.

      For the following thirty years, succeeding bishops did nothing about building the centre block, but resided in one of the wings, using the other for guests.

      It wasn't till the early 1770s that Bishop Maxwell, a younger son of the 1st Baron Farnham, decided to complete the house.

      This prelate boasted that he would erect a palace so grand that no scholar or tutor would dare inhabit it.

      The centre block, which was eventually begun in 1776, took a number of years to complete.

      It comprises two storeys and seven bays, with an Ionic doorcase.

      This block complements the wings with curved sweeps and niches.

      The garden front has a three-bay central breakfront.

      The interior plasterwork is Neo-Classical in style.

      Bishop Alexander carried out more elaborate renovations to the outbuildings in the 1820s and 1830s.

      THE disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1871 fatally weakened the economic survival of the bishops' estate, which was left totally reliant on the small local Church of Ireland community.

      In 1885, the Church of Ireland sold the estate and house.

      The bishop moved to a smaller mansion nearby (until 1958, when it was sold to a Catholic religious institute, the Holy Ghost Fathers).

      Ardbraccan House was bought by Hugh Law, the son of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland and remained in the ownership of his descendants until sold by Colonel Owen Foster in 1985 to Tara Mines who used it as a guest residence for visiting businessmen.

      In the late 1990s, Ardbraccan once again changed hands.

      The new owners invested large sums to restore the mansion house.

      First published in October, 2015.

      Saturday, 23 November 2019

      Wooster Advice

      From Right Ho, Jeeves, written in 1934 by Sir PG Wodehouse.

      Bertie Wooster hailed the spiking of Gussie Fink-Nottle's orange-juice with gin:-

      " just shows, what any member of Parliament will tell you, that if you want real oratory, the preliminary noggin is essential. Unless pie-eyed, you cannot hope to grip."

      Friday, 22 November 2019

      Ross of Bladensburg


      ROBERT ROSS, of Rostrevor, County Down, derived from SIR DAVID ROSS, was commissioner of Ulster under JAMES I, High Sheriff of County Down, 1709, MP for Killyleagh, 1715-27, Newry, 1727, until his decease in December, 1750, married firstly, Anne, eldest daughter and co-heir of Robert King MP, of Lissenhall, Swords, and had issue,
      ROBERT, his heir;
      Mary; Anne.
      He wedded secondly, Jane _____, and had further issue.

      The eldest son,

      ROBERT ROSS, of Rostrevor and Dublin, MP for Carlingford, 1723, 1727, 1761 and 1768, Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1748-9, High Sheriff of County Down, 1771, had issue by his first wife,
      Robert, Colonel in the army, b 1728; d unm;
      DAVID, of whom hereafter;
      Anne, b 1732.
      The younger son,

      MAJOR DAVID ROSS (1729-), espoused Elizabeth, half-sister of James, Earl of Charlemont, and daughter of Thomas Adderley, of Innishannon, and had issue,
      THOMAS, his heir;
      Robert of Bladensburg, father of DAVID ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG;
      James, Lieutenant RN, drowned at sea;
      Mary, m Rev Dr Blacker.
      The eldest son,

      THE REV THOMAS ROSS, of Rostrevor, County Down, wedded, in 1796, Maria O'Brien, granddaughter of Sir Edward O'Brien Bt, of Dromoland Castle, County Clare, and had issue,
      DAVID ROBERT, his heir;
      Edward, m Anne, dau. of Rt Hon TP Courtenay, niece to Earl of Devon;
      The Rev Dr Ross died in 1818, and was succeeded by his elder son,

      DAVID ROBERT ROSS JP DL (1797-1851), of Rostrevor, High Sheriff of County Down, 1837, MP for Belfast, 1842-47, Governor of Tobago, 1851, married, in 1819, Harriet Anne, daughter of the Rt Rev the Hon Edmund Knox, Lord Bishop of Limerick, by his wife, Charlotte, sister of Sir Thomas Hesketh Bt, of Rufford Hall, Lancashire, and had issue,
      THOMAS, Royal Navy;
      Edward Charles (Sir), CSI;
      Jessie; Harriet Adele.
      Following his decease, in 1851, the part of Mr Ross's Rostrevor property was purchased by his cousin,

      DAVID ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG JP (1804-66), of Rostrevor, who married firstly, in 1838, Mary Anne Sarah, only daughter of William Drummond Delap, and had issue, a daughter,
      KATHLEEN ELIZABETH, m, 1861, Colonel F J Oldfield, Political Agent at Kolapore.
      Mr Ross-of-Bladensburg wedded secondly, in 1843, Harriet Margaretta Skeffington, sister of John, 10th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard, KP, and had issue,
      ROBERT SKEFFINGTON (Rev), SJ, his heir;
      JOHN FOSTER GEORGE (Sir), heir to his brother;
      Edmund James Thomas;
      Harriett Margaret.
      Mr Ross-of-Bladensburg was succeeded by his eldest son,

      THE REV ROBERT SKEFFINGTON ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG, SJ, of Rostrevor, Captain, South Down Militia, who died in 1892, and was succeeded by his brother,

      SIR JOHN FOSTER GEORGE ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG KCB KCVO JP DL, of Rostrevor (1848-1925), who espoused, in 1870, Blanche Amelia, youngest daughter of John, 10th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard, KP, though the marriage was without issue.

      Sir John was Chief Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, Lieutenant-Colonel, Coldstream Guards, ADC to the Earl Spencer when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ADC to the Earl of Carnarvon when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

      He served in the Soudan Campaign, 1885, and was Secretary to the Duke of Norfolk's mission to the Holy See, 1889, and to Sir Lintorn Simmons' mission to the Holy See, 1890.


      Major-General Robert Ross served with the highest distinction in the Peninsular War.

      He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the army sent against the United States, and after a short career of uninterrupted success, during which he achieved the victory of BLADENSBURG, and possessed himself of the American capital, fell in 1814, whilst advancing to attack the enemy's position near Baltimore.

      On his widow and his descendants was conferred by The Prince Regent, in 1816, the honorary distinction "of Bladensburg", to be added to the family name, and an augmentation of arms.

      For his conspicuous gallantry, leadership, and heroism, General Ross was awarded three Gold Medals, the Peninsula Gold Medal, a Sword of Honour, and he received the thanks of Parliament.

      He married, in 1803, Elizabeth Catherine, eldest daughter of William Glassock.

      The Ross Monument, a large obelisk in the General’s native village of Rostrevor, County Down, was restored in 2008.

      With uninterrupted views of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne Mountains, the monument is situated almost on the exact spot where General Ross had planned to build his retirement home, had he returned safely from his expedition to America in 1814.

      Writing of Carlingford Lough and Rostrevor, the famous English nineteenth century writer, William Makepeace Thackeray, wrote,
      "were such a bay lying upon English shores, it would be a world's wonder; or if on the Mediterranean or Baltic, English travellers would flock to it". 
      Aware of Ross's importance as a figure in world history, Newry and Mourne District Council provided seed funding to assist the Rostrevor-based historian, Dr John McCavitt, with his research into the career of the General.

      Besides playing a pivotal role when British forces inflicted a morale-boosting first ever victory over Napoleon's 'invincibles' at the Battle of Maida (1806), Ross later carved out a highly distinguished career during the Peninsular War in Europe.

      As the bicentennial of the War of 1812 approaches, it is also hoped that a deeper understanding of the nature and impact of Ross's brief career in the USA is realised.

      Thus, besides the Battle of Bladensburg and the burning of the public buildings in Washington, it is also recognised that the manner in which Ross met his death at Baltimore in September, 1814, contributed in no small measure to inspiring the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner.

      The ties that bind Rostrevor to this pivotal period in American history are remarkable.

      There is some evidence that there were plans afoot to send an American privateer to burn Rostrevor in revenge for Ross's attack on Washington.

      The inscription on the Obelisk in Rostrevor reads as follows:-




      Ross Monument in St Paul!s Cathedral


      Neither Ross nor his immediate descendants were knighted or received a title of nobility.

      However, his descendants were given an augmentation of honour to the Ross armorial bearings (namely, a second crest in which an arm is seen grasping the American Flag on a broken staff) and the family name was changed to the Victory Title ROSS-OF-BLADENSBURG which was granted to his widow.

      In honour of Washington DC's history, there is also a portrait of General Ross in the Capitol's rotunda.

      The Rostrevor demesne was very modest in size, comprising about 640 acres in 1870.

      The park and garden setting of this early Tudor-Revival house (1835-37) was the focus of one of the most important tree and shrub collections of late Victorian and Edwardian Ireland. 

      Although not maintained as a garden for some decades, many rare trees survive in these grounds, which are attractively located on the southern spur of the Mourne Mountains, overlooking Carlingford Lough. 

      Rostrevor demesne has 18th century origins.

      The original house, called Carrickbawn, was built by the Maguires and was known locally as ‘Topsy-Turvy’, because of the ‘unusual manner in which it had been built’. 

      It was acquired by Major David Ross in the late 18th century, and in 1809 passed to his famous second son, Major-General Robert Ross (1766-1814), who is commemorated by the nearby obelisk built in 1826. 

      After the Major-General's death in the American war in 1814, the property passed to his widow, Elizabeth Catherine Ross, while their descendants were granted the hereditary distinction 'of Bladensburg' in his honour by the Prince Regent. 

      With a generous government pension, Mrs Ross was able to considerably expand the parkland planting; in 1820 for example, she is known to have put down some 30 acres of larch, oak and Scotch Fir. 

      In 1835 the old Maguire house was demolished and the present Tudor-Revival mansion, one of the earliest examples of this style in Ulster, was erected in its place.

      It was most probably designed for Mrs Ross by the Dublin based architect William Deane Butler (d 1857). 

      After the death of General Ross's widow in 1845, the property passed to their eldest son, David Ross-of-Bladensburg.

      He made little impact on the demesne, spending long periods on the continent, while his eldest son, Robert, who inherited Rostrevor House in 1866, decided to leave Ireland in the early 1870s and become a Jesuit and later a priest. 

      Consequently, management of the property passed to his younger brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg KCB KCVO (1848-1925), who eventually inherited the place in 1892. 

      The famous tree and shrub collection at Rostrevor was begun by Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg in the 1870s, though he was not able to take up full time residence in Ireland until 1882, when he was assigned as a member of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland's staff. 

      His plantings were largely confined to the slopes to the north-east, east and south of the house, covering an area of about fifty acres.
      His collection of 'hardy, half-hardy and very tender shrubs, trees and to a lesser extent, herbaceous plants, became one of the best known in Ireland, if not the United Kingdom', and in 1911 a comprehensive catalogue of the 'Trees and Shrubs grown in the Grounds of Rostrevor House' was published [University Press, Ponsonby and Gibbs]. 
      This lists about 2500 plants, many of great rarity, and these numbers were to increase so considerably in subsequent years that in 1919 an article in Irish Gardening was able to state that the garden had 'the largest collection of plants growing in the open in the whole country'. 

      Not surprisingly, the garden was described in numerous Edwardian journals and books, while Sir John himself contributed many lengthy articles on plants growing in his gardens, mostly published in the monthly journal Irish Gardening.

      Sir John Ross-of-Bladensburg had no male heirs and, after his death in 1925, the gardens went into decline. 

      After standing empty for a number of years, the house was acquired in 1950 by a missionary order, the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, who established it as an inter-denominational retreat house and novitiate. 

      In the 1960s they added a large extension to the north side of the house, but in 1998, due principally to insurance considerations, the house's role as a centre for retreat had to be curtailed, while at the same time the sisters decided to share the old house with a small Benedictine community. 

      It is believed that, as of 2011, Rostrevor House belonged to Ballyedmond Estates.

      While many trees and shrubs disappeared from Rostrevor in the 1930s and subsequent decades, many evidently dying because of livestock grazing, there are still many rare and important plants in the grounds.
      Most of these lie in the area south of the house and on the hillside above the house and drive. Some of the trees include a fine Nothofagus soalndri (70ft); a Nothofagus dombeyi (80ft), a Macedonian Pine (Pinus peuce- 90ft), Chilean Laurel (Laurela Serrata), Cupressus cashmiriana (30ft), a remarkably tall Pittosporum bicolor, an outstanding kowhai (Sophora tetraptera), a Sophora tetraptera (30ft), a Zelkovo carpinifolia and many others. 
      First published in June, 2011.