Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Old Dundonald

A Postcard of Dundonald taken about 1907

After breakfast this morning I cycled to Dundonald, County Down, formerly a village on the eastern outskirts of Belfast.

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland, dated 1814-45, describes Dundonald thus:
A parish in the barony of Lower Castlereagh. The surface is gently hilly, consists of excellent land, and is traversed by the roads from Comber and Newtownards to Belfast. 
The principal residences are Dunlady, Rosepark, Bessmount, Summerfield, Rockfield, Unicarval, and Camperdown. 
The village of Dundonald is the site of two places of worship and a large bleaching-green. 
About a mile from the village stands a remarkable monument called the Kempe Stone, resembling a Cromlech, yet so far unique as to seem sepulchral. 
This parish is a rectory, and a separate benefice, in the diocese of Down. Patron, the Rev John Cleland.
The approach to Dundonald from Belfast is dominated by the Ulster Hospital; though a little further along the main road stands the Norman motte, surrounded today by a peaceful and quiet park.

I climbed the steep steps to the top of this motte, said to be one of the largest of its kind in Ulster, and admired the spectacular view.

Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020

Immediately below the motte stand the impressive Cleland Mausoleum, the old and new parish churches, and the Presbyterian church.

The Mausoleum, said to be one of the tallest in Northern Ireland, was erected in 1842 by Elizabeth (Eliza) Cleland in memory of her beloved husband, Samuel Jackson Cleland (1808-42), of Storm Mount.

Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020

Eliza's desire was that her husband's memorial could be seen from Storm Mount, as the house was called until Stormont Castle was built in 1858.

The considerable wealth of the Clelands was manifested in this massive monument, which cost £2,000 to build in 1842 (equivalent to about £228,000 in 2019).

It dominates the graveyard, standing at a corner, several paces from the old derelict parish church of St Elizabeth.

This great mausoleum has no door. Its exterior is accessible by a gate, though there is no obvious means of entry to the building itself.

On closer examination I think there are steps leading down to its basement, though the ground has been concreted over.

How many Clelands are interred here, and when was the last burial?

St Elizabeth's Parish Church, de-consecrated in 1967 

I'm interested to know more about the history of the old church, though I was informed that the new church (several yards away from it) was built about 1965, and the old church was used as a church hall until it was de-consecrated on the 26th July, 1967.

Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020

A diamond-shaped stone on the tower bears the three dates of the churches built and rebuilt on this site, 1624, 1771 and 1838.

The adjacent Presbyterian church dates from about 1840.

From St Elizabeth's Church I rode along the Newtownards Road to Dunlady Road, where Dunlady House still stands, considerably altered today.

The original country house of five bays with quoins is recognizable.

Dunlady House. Image: Timothy Ferres, 2020

One of the chimneys seems to have gone.

Dunlady House might be the oldest building in Dundonald today.

Its original occupants were probably the Hamiltons, though it was acquired by the Lamberts at the very beginning of the 18th century.

George Lambert was High Sheriff of County Down in 1720; followed by Robert Lambert in 1727.

Richard, 2nd Earl Annesley (1745-1824) married, in 1771, Anne, only daughter and heiress of Robert Lambert, of Dunlady, County Down.

If any readers are interested in learning more about the history of Dundonald, I suggest 'The Most Unpretending Of Places', written by Peter Carr, first published in 1987.

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