Friday, 25 June 2021

Geashill Castle

29,722 ACRES

The original surname of this ancient family is said to have been TILTON, assumed from their residence at Tilton, Leicestershire; and the alteration is supposed to have taken place in 1256, when that abode was abandoned for Digby, Lincolnshire.

Almost two centuries later we find

SIR EVERARD DIGBY, filling the office of High Sheriff of Rutland, 1460, and representing that county in Parliament.

Sir Everard fell at the battle of Towton, 1461, fighting under the banner of the unfortunate HENRY VI.

He married Jaquetta, daughter and co-heir of Sir John Ellis, of Devon, and left (with one daughter), seven sons, of whom the eldest were,
SIMON, of whom hereafter;
The second son,

SIR SIMON DIGBY, Knight, of Coleshill, Warwickshire, having contributed mainly, with his six valiant brothers, to the Earl of Richmond's success at Bosworth, was rewarded, after the accession of HENRY VII, with large grants of lands and lucrative public employments.

Sir Simon wedded Alice, daughter and heir of John Walleys, of East Radston, Devon; and dying in 1519, was succeeded by his elder son,

REGINALD DIGBY, of Coleshill, who espoused Anne, daughter and co-heir of John Danvers, of Calthorpe, Oxfordshire, and was succeeded by his son,

JOHN DIGBY, who married Anne, eldest daughter of Sir George Throckmorton, and was succeeded by his son,

GEORGE DIGBY (1550-87), of Coleshill, MP for Warwickshire, 1572-84, who wedded Abigail, daughter of Sir Anthony Heveningham, of Ketteringham, Norfolk, and had, with other issue,
ROBERT, his successor;
John, created EARL OF BRISTOL;
The son and heir,

SIR ROBERT DIGBY (1574-1618), MP for Warwickshire, 1601, who received that honour from Robert, Earl of Essex, at Dublin, 1596, represented the borough of Athy in parliament, 1613, and was called to the privy council.

He espoused Lettice, daughter and heir of Gerald, Lord Offaly, and granddaughter of Gerald, 11th Earl of Kildare, and had issue,
ROBERT, his heir;
Essex (Rt Rev), Lord Bishop of Dromore;
This Lettice was created Baroness Offaly for life, and brought into the Digby family the barony of Geashill, in the King's County.

Sir Robert was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT DIGBY (c1599-1642), who was elevated to the peerage, in 1620, in the dignity of BARON DIGBY, of Geashill, King's County.

His lordship espoused the Lady Sarah Boyle, daughter of Richard, 1st Earl of Cork, and was succeeded, in 1642, by his son,

KILDARE, 2nd Baron, whose two elder sons,
ROBERT, 3rd Baron;
SIMON, 4th Baron;
Both brothers succeeded in turn to the barony, and dying without issue, a younger brother,

WILLIAM, 5th Baron (1661-1752), who married the Lady Jane Noel, daughter of Edward, 1st Earl of Gainsborough, and had issue (with eight daughters), four sons, viz.
John (c1687-1746);
Robert (c1692-1726);
Edward (c1693-1746), father of
EDWARD, 6th Baron;
His lordship was succeeded by his grandson,

EDWARD, 6th Baron (1730-57), who died unmarried, when the honours devolved upon his brother,

HENRY, 7th Baron (1731-93), who was created a peer of Great Britain, in 1765, as Baron Digby; and was advanced, in 1790, to the dignities of Viscount Coleshill and EARL DIGBY. 

His lordship married firstly, in 1763, Elizabeth, daughter of the Hon Charles Fielding, but by that lady had no surviving issue; and secondly, Mary, daughter and heir of John Knowler, of Canterbury, by whom he had,
EDWARD, his successor;
Robert, in holy orders;
Charlotte Maria; Elizabeth Theresa.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

EDWARD, 2nd Earl (1773-1856), who died unmarried, when the earldom expired and the barony reverted to his cousin,

EDWARD ST VINCENT, 9th Baron (1809-89), who wedded, in 1837, the Lady Theresa Anna Maria Fox-Strangways, daughter of Henry, 2nd Earl of Ilchester, and had issue,
EDWARD HENRY TRAFALGAR, his successor;Almarus Kenelm;Everard Charles;Gerald FitzMaurice;Mary-Theresa; Victoria Alexandrina; Leonora Caroline.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, the Hon Edward St Vincent Kenelm Digby (b 1985).

GEASHILL, County Offaly, was developed by the Digbys as a planned estate village.

In 1887 Samuel Lewis described the village as containing 87 mostly thatched houses arranged around a triangular green.

Fairs were held on the 1st May, the 6th October and December, the latter being one of the largest pig markets in Ireland.

The 9th Baron carried out extensive improvements in the 1860s and 1870s, and many of the current buildings around the triangular green date from this time.

The Kings County Directory recorded that Lord Digby had "converted the village of Geashill into what it now is, one of the neatest, cleanest and best kept in Ireland."

At the Paris Exhibition of 1867, Lord Digby was awarded the bronze medal for models of the village he was building.

He was awarded the gold medal for three years by the Royal Agricultural Society, for improving the greatest number of cottages in the best manner in the province of Leinster.

The Digbys built Geashill Castle near the medieval tower house of the O'Dempseys, and afterwards of the Kildare FitzGeralds, who were also Barons of Offaly.

This dwelling passed to the Digbys through marriage of Sir Robert Digby to the heiress of the 11th Earl of Kildare.

The house was of seven bays with a recessed, three-bay centre, a high plain roof parapet and a lower wing at one side.

It was burnt in 1922.

Seats ~ Coleshill, Warwickshire; Sherborne Castle, Dorset; Geashill, County Offaly.

If any readers possess better photographs of Geashill Castle, I'd greatly appreciate it.

First published in January, 2012. 

1st Earl of Stair

82,666 ACRES

The name of Dalrymple (which is local, and assumed from the barony of Dalrymple, Ayrshire), occurs in Scottish records as early as the 14th century.

acquired, in 1450, the lands of Stair-Montgomery, in Ayrshire, with his wife, Agnes Kennedy, an heiress, and was succeeded by his son,

WILLIAM DALRYMPLE, of Stair, who married Marion, daughter of Sir John Chalmers, of Gadgirth, in the same county.

This lady was one of the Lollards of Kyle, summoned, in 1494, before the king's council on account of their heretical doctrines; but JAMES IV, King of Scotland, treating the charge with contempt, the accused were dismissed.

The great-grandson of this William and Marion,

JOHN DALRYMPLE, of Stair, was one of the first that openly professed the reformed doctrines, and joined the earls of Lennox and Glencairn, in 1544, against the Earl of Arran.

He wedded Isabel, daughter of Thomas Kennedy, of Bargany, by his wife, the Lady Agnes Montgomery, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Eglinton; and was succeeded by his son,

JAMES DALRYMPLE, of Stair, whose great-grandson,

JAMES DALRYMPLE (1619-95), of Stair, having been bred to the bar, was appointed, in 1657, by Cromwell, at the recommendation of General Monck, a Lord of Session, and was confirmed therein by CHARLES II, who created him a baronet in 1664.

In 1671, Sir James became president of the court of Session, from which he was removed in 1681, and obliged the next year to retire into Holland.

Returning with the Prince of Orange in 1688, he was restored to the presidency after the Revolution, and elevated to the peerage, in 1690, in the dignity of Baron Glenluce and Stranraer, and Viscount of Stair.

He espoused Margaret, eldest daughter of James Ross, of Balneil, and had issue,
JOHN, his successor;
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN, 2nd Viscount (1648-1707); who was created, in 1703, Baron Newliston, Glenluce, and Stranraer, Viscount of Dalrymple, and EARL OF STAIR, with remainder, failing his own male issue, to the heirs male of his father.

His lordship, who was Lord Justice Clerk, and afterwards Lord Advocate and Secretary of State, has obtained unenviable notoriety by the part he took in the massacre of Glencoe.

He married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir John Dundas, of Newliston, Linlithgowshire, and had issue,
JOHN, his successor;
George, of Dalmahoy, ancestor of the 7th Earl.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN, 2nd Earl (1673-1747), KT, a military officer of high rank and renown, and a participator in the victories of the Duke of Marlborough.

His lordship served as brigadier at the battle of Oudenarde in 1708, and was bearer of the despatches announcing the victory to England.

He subsequently attained the rank of field-marshal, and was appointed commander of the forces on the Rhine, with which he served as second-in-command under GEORGE II, in the battle of Dettingen; and afterwards of Her Majesty's forces in England.

In 1715, Lord Stair went to France in a diplomatic capacity, and after the death of LOUIS XIV, was constituted ambassador extraordinary to that court.

The object of his embassy was of the utmost importance, and his manner of executing it the most brilliant and spirited.

His lordship wedded Eleanor, widow of James, Viscount Primrose, and daughter of James, 2nd Earl of Loudoun, but had no issue.

In consequence of the marriage of his next brother and heir presumptive with a peeress, Lord Stair surrendered, in 1707, all the honours to the Crown, and obtained a new charter, containing, in default of male issue, a reversionary clause in favour of any one of the male descendants of the first Viscount whom his lordship should name; in conformity with which his lordship executed a deed immediately prior to his decease, in 1747, appointing his nephew John, the son of his second brother, George, his successor.

But that nomination was contested by the Hon James Dalrymple, second son of the Hon William Dalrymple, and the Countess of Dumfries; and the House of Lords deciding in his favour, in 1748, he succeeded as

JAMES, 3rd Earl; but dying without issue, in 1760, the honours reverted to his elder brother,

WILLIAM, as 4th Earl (1699-1768), KT; who had inherited the earldom of Dumfries at the decease of his mother Penelope, Countess of Dumfries.

He espoused Anne, daughter of William Duff, of Crosbie; but dying in 1768, without issue, the earldom of Dumfries passed into the right line, and the honours of the house of Stair reverted to his cousin,

JOHN, 5th Earl (1720-89); the personage who had been already defeated  under his uncle's nomination, but had then succeeded to his uncle's fortune without dispute.

His lordship married a daughter of George Middleton, a banker in London; and dying in 1789, was succeeded by his only son,

JOHN, 6th Earl (1749-1821), one of the representative lords; British ambassador to the court of Prussia.

This nobleman died without issue, when the honours reverted to his cousin,

JOHN WILLIAM HENRY, 7th Earl (1784-1840), descendant of George, of Dalmahoy, youngest son of the 1st Earl.

His lordship wedded, in 1808, Laura, youngest daughter of John Manners (grandson of John, 2nd Duke of Rutland), of Grantham Grange, by Louisa his wife, late Countess of Dysart, which marriage was dissolved in 1809, in consequence of a prior contract in 1804, with Johanna, daughter of Charles Gordon, deemed a valid marriage by the laws of Scotland when it took place.

The latter marriage was, however, annulled in June, 1820.

Lord Stair died in Paris sp; and was succeeded by his kinsman,

SIR JOHN HAMILTON DALRYMPLE, 5th Baronet (1771-1853), KT, as 8th Earl.

His lordship, a general in the army, Knight of the Thistle, and Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, was created a Baron of the United Kingdom, in 1841, in the dignity of Baron Oxenfoord, of Cousland, in the county of Edinburgh, with remainder to his brother,

NORTH HAMILTON, 9th Earl (1776-1864), who espoused firstly, in 1817, Margaret, daughter of James Penny, of Arrad, Lancashire, and had issue,
JOHN HAMILTON, his successor;
Elizabeth Hamilton; Anne; Agnes; Margaret.
He married secondly, in 1831, Martha Willett, daughter of Colonel George Dalrymple, and had further issue, a son,
George Grey.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN HAMILTON, 10th Earl (1819-1903), KT, 
John Hamilton, 10th Earl (1819–1903);
John Hew North Gustav Henry, 11th Earl (1848–1914);
John James, 12th Earl (1879–1961);
John Aymer, 13th Earl (1906–1996);
John David James, 14th Earl (born 1961).
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, John James Thomas Dalrymple, styled Viscount Dalrymple (born 2008).

Seats ~ Lochinch Castle, Castle Kennedy, Wigtownshire; Oxenfoord Castle, Edinburgh; Bargany, Girvan, Ayrshire.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Blayney Castle


SIR EDWARD BLAYNEY (1570-1629), Knight, a native of Wales, said to be descended from Cadwallader, King of Cambria and a younger son of the Prince of Wales, had been employed from his youth in the armies of ELIZABETH I.

He accompanied Robert, Earl of Essex, as Colonel, into Ireland, 1598, where he obtained both wealth and renown in the subsequent wars.

Sir Edward, Governor of Monaghan, was granted the thirty-two townlands of Ballynalurgan and in 1611 he obtained the termon of Muckno as well.

Blayney built a castle, around which a Planter village soon began to develop.

This was the origin of the present town of Castleblayney.

Sir Edward married Anne, second daughter of the Most Rev Dr Adam Loftus, Lord Archbishop of Dublin, CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND, by whom he had, with six daughters, two sons,
HENRY (Sir), his successor;
ARTHUR (Sir), of Castle Shane.
Sir Edward was elevated to the peerage by JAMES I, in 1621, in the dignity of BARON BLAYNEY, of Monaghan.

His lordship was succeeded by his elder son,

HENRY, 2nd Baron, who wedded, in 1623, Jane, daughter of Gerald, Viscount Drogheda, by whom he had two surviving sons and five daughters.

His lordship, who was a military man, was slain at the battle of Benburb, County Tyrone, 1646, and was succeeded by his elder son,

EDWARD, 3rd Baron (c1625-69), who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother, 

RICHARD, 4th Baron (c1625-70), who was high in favour with CROMWELL, and had been appointed, in 1656, the usurper's custos-rotulorum of County Monaghan, and escheator of County Tyrone.

His lordship espoused firstly, in 1653, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Mr Alderman Vincent, of Dublin, MP, by whom he had several children; and secondly, Jane, daughter of John Malloch.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

HENRY VINCENT, 5th Baron, who wedded Margaret Moore, eldest sister of John, 1st Lord Tullamore, by whom he had an only surviving child, Elinor.

His lordship fled Castleblayney at the outbreak of the Williamite wars and was chosen as commander-in-chief of the Protestant forces raised to defend Monaghan and Armagh against JAMES II, who transmitted it to his brother, 

WILLIAM, 6th Baron, who married, in 1686, Mary, eldest daughter of William, 1st Viscount Charlemont, and dying in 1705, was succeeded by his only surviving son, 

CADWALLADER, 7th Baron (1693-1732), who married Mary, daughter of the Hon John Tucket, and niece of Charles, Duke of Shrewsbury, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and had issue.

His lordship espoused secondly, Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir Alexander Cairnes Bt, of Monaghan.

His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE VERY REV CHARLES TALBOT, 8th Baron (1714-61), Dean of Killaloe, at whose decease, without surviving issue, the title devolved upon his brother, 

CADWALLADER, 9th Baron (1720-75), who married, in 1767, Sophia, daughter of Thomas Tipping, of Beaulieu, and had issue,
CADWALLADER DAVIS, his successor;
ANDREW THOMAS, succeeded his brother;
Sophia; Mary.
His lordship, a lieutenant-general in the army, was succeeded by his elder son,

CADWALLADER DAVIS, 10th Baron (1769-84); at whose decease, unmarried, the title reverted to his brother,

ANDREW THOMAS, 11th Baron (1770-1834), a lieutenant-general in the army, who wedded, in 1796, Mabella, eldest daughter of James, 1st Earl of Caledon, and had issue,
CADWALLADER DAVIS, his successor;
Anne; Charlotte Sophia.
His lordship was succeeded by his son,

CADWALLADER DAVIS, 12th Baron (1802-74), MP for County Monaghan, 1830-34, at whose decease, unmarried, the title expired.

The Caledon estate in County Tyrone is just a few fields away from that of the Leslies in Glaslough, County Monaghan, and the Earls of Caledon themselves owned some land in County Monaghan.

Because of the family connection between the lst and 2nd Earls and the 11th Lord Blayney, who was their son-in-law and brother-in-law respectively, the correspondence between Blayney and the two earls yields a lot of information about his military and political careers; for example, the siege of Alexandria and as a prisoner of war in Napoleonic France.

During Blayney's long incarceration, the 2nd Earl of Caledon looked after his financial, domestic, and political affairs, thus being drawn into the Monaghan sphere.

This brought political figures such as Dawson and Leslie beating a path to Caledon's door, because during this period he was the representative of Blayney and 'the Blayney interest'.

On his return, Blayney was given a seat in parliament for Caledon's infamous 'rotten borough' of Old Sarum, Wiltshire. Later, he attempted to get Caledon to use his influence with the Government to get him elected an Irish Representative Peer.

This yields a very illuminating and often pained correspondence between the two men.
The Blayney/Hope Papers are deposited at PRONI.

HOPE CASTLE, Castleblayney, County Monaghan, formerly known as Blayney Castle after the plantation castle nearby (from which the town gets its name), has had many owners and uses over the years.

Originally a three storey, five bay Georgian block, the house received many embellishments during the Victorian era including scrolled cresting on the roof parapets and at one stage an ornamental cast iron and glass porch canopy.

In 1853, Cadwaller, 12th and last Lord Blayney, sold the Castle and estate to Henry Thomas Hope from Deepdene in Surrey, a former MP at Westminster.

Thereafter the Castle was renamed Hope Castle, as it still called.

Hope gave the Georgian Castle with its splendid prospect a Victorian makeover that the present building retains, externally at least.

After his death in 1862, Hope's wife Anne inherited the estate.

Soon after 1887, the Castle and demesne fell to the next heir, a grandson of Hope: Lord Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton-Hope, famous for having sold the renowned family heirloom, the Hope Diamond.

From 1900 until 1904, the Castle became the residence of Field-Marshal HRH The Duke of Connaught,  Commander-in-Chief, Ireland.

After 1916, Lord Henry no longer resided in the Castle nor in Ireland.

On becoming 8th Duke of Newcastle in 1928, he later sold both the Castle and the estate, which was broken up and used in part for local political patronage.

In 1919-21, the Castle was used as a barracks by the British Army.

Some time afterwards it functioned as a hospital; and from 1943-74, it was occupied by Franciscan nuns who also managed an adjacent guest house.

After some years of neglect, the Castle has been used for catering and hotel purposes set in what is now a Leisure Park with golf course.

In October 2010, the Castle was burnt down in an arson attack.

The building has suffered greatly during its lifetime – after being an convent, it remained empty for many years and was taken over the the local County Council who demolished the 19th century additions to the garden and main fronts and renovated the building.

Its most interesting internal feature – a Soanesque top-lit upper stair landing, was destroyed during the building’s phase of dereliction.

The estate still has a good stable-yard and cast-iron gateway with matching gatehouses.

First published in July, 2012.    Blayney arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Ormiston House


ORMISTON HOUSE, Belfast, was built in 1867 to designs by David Bryce of Edinburgh for James Combe, a Scots-born iron-founder and linen manufacturer (Combe Barbour).

Falls Foundry, North Howard Street, Belfast

This is a Scottish-Baronial style mansion house with crow-stepped gables, a bartizan turret and gargoyles.

There is a central three-storey tower-house with two-storey wings on each side; a pitched slate roof; pedimented dormers; and a decorated, pedimented doorway.

Two gate lodges still stand at the Belmont and Hawthornden roads.

There were probably lodges at the Wandsworth and Upper Newtownards roads, too.

The illustration above depicts the visit of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the 5th Earl Spencer, to Ormiston; His Excellency's carriage passing the triumphal arch at one of the gate lodges.

The Belmont Road gate lodge, still standing, is at the junction of the aptly-named Pirrie Road, possibly the shortest road in Belfast.

Lord Lieutenant's Carriage passing Belmont Road Lodge

This is rather an extravagant little lodge, with crow-stepped gables, and emblems of the three kingdoms at the apexes, viz. sculpted rose, shamrock and thistle.

Belmont Road Gate Lodge in 2019

In 1876, the grounds comprising 62 acres were bounded by Belmont Road, Wandsworth Road, Upper Newtownards Road, and Hawthornden Road.
The Falls Foundry was one of the main foundries in Belfast. It was set up in 1845 by Combe, to supply equipment for the railways, which were expanding at the time. By the 1850s the firm had moved into the textile machinery business and was making carding machinery for long staple flax fibres. 

The name of the firm was later changed to Combe, Barbour and Combe and, in 1900, became a part of Fairbairn Lawson Combe Barbour Ltd. For a period from about 1880 to the end of the first world war, the Falls foundry also made large steam engines as part of their service to mill owners.

Although they occasionally tried to diversify by making specialist machinery for other trades, the firm was best known as a major manufacturer of spinning and twisting frames until 1955, when the parent company ceased business in Belfast. 
The school photograph below was taken outside Ormiston about 1973 and, indeed, features the young Timothy William.

Spotted me yet?

Click to Enlarge

The property was sold to the shipbuilder Sir Edward Harland Bt ca 1880, who remained there until 1887, when it was acquired by his business partner William, later 1st Viscount Pirrie.

I think the Pirries would only have used Ormiston for a part of the year, because they owned a number of other homes, including Downshire House in London.

Downshire House, Belgrave Square

Ormiston must have been used a lot for entertaining visitors, senior executives having ships built and others.

Pirrie, who later became the Chairman at Harland & Wolff, retained the house until his death in 1924; however, by this stage the property was partly owned by the shipyard itself and between 1911-20, it appears to have been used to house various company directors, among them George Cuming who is recorded as resident there in 1918. 
Shortly after Lord Pirrie's death Harland & Wolff came into sole ownership of the property, selling it in 1928 to Campbell College, which remained there until the mid-1970s.

Since then the property has served as government offices, but is presently vacant.

The stable block appears to have originally consisted of the U-shaped building centred around the small courtyard.

This block was undoubtedly built at the same time as the main house (1865-67); however, as the valuation records give no indication of the original extent of the property, and as no original plans appear to have survived, we cannot be completely certain of this.

The small hipped roof extension to the eastern side of the stables was added some time before 1901, as it shown on a map of that year, as are the garden sheds and large walled garden to the south.

The latter, which included a large glass house is of uncertain date also; however the appearance of both the sheds and the extension suggests that both were added ca 1880s-90s, possibly by Lord Pirrie, who extended the house itself in 1896-97 (when he was Lord Mayor of Belfast) and made changes to the grounds, creating, amongst other features, a nine-hole golf course.
During the mid to late 20th century, much of the southern half of Ormiston's grounds was sold off for housing development with the walled garden and glass house were demolished in the process.

The garden sheds survived and were utilised by Campbell College as changing rooms serving a swimming pool (installed by the school some distance to the south of the house itself), with the stables converted to quarters for the groundsman and stores.

A Valuation Notebook of 1903 still exists which includes an entry, dated 1903, showing the changes believed to have been made by Lord Pirrie in 1896-97, including the large timber-built ballroom to the rear of the house and some additional glass-houses to the south-east of the formal garden.

The garden and the stable extension are all shown, suggesting both were added prior to 1896.

Ormiston has recently been restored to its former glory by its new owner Pete Boyle, proprietor of Argento Jewellers.

First published in July, 2010.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

3 St James's Square


ST JAMES'S SQUARE, London, remains one of the finest addresses in the metropolis.

In the 18th century, seven dukes and three earls had town houses here.

Number Three, St James's Square, London, was, from 1762-99, the town-house of the 1st Marquess of Donegall, who bought it from Henry, 2nd Viscount Palmerston, in 1770 for £12,000 (£1.6m in today's money).

This town-house was perhaps altered during Lord Donegall's ownership, but there is no documentary evidence of this.

It became vacant in 1772.

If an alteration was made in that year it may have been carried out by 'Capability' Brown, who was at that time building Lord Donegall's country seat in Staffordshire, Fisherwick Park.

Lord Donegall enjoyed an annual income from his 250,000 acre estates of £48,000 in 1797 (£4.5m today).

St James's Square in 1753

Following the 1st Marquess's decease in 1799, the house descended to his younger son, LORD SPENCER CHICHESTER, who evidently determined to dispose of it.

In 1800, the house was surveyed by John Soane on behalf of Philip, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, for whose father he had worked at Wimpole in 1791–3.

A plan was made and Soane reported that the premises were extensive and substantial, with 'very large and low' back rooms.

He suggested that the 'common staircase', being 'steep and confined', should be altered; and that, as there was room for further building, dressing-rooms should be added to the library and to the chamber over it.

Soane thought the house was worth £11,500 as it stood, though a purchaser might have to go to £12,500; and that needful repairs and additions would cost a further £3,500.

From 1801, Lord Hardwicke appeared as the ratepayer for Number 3, though his purchase of the house was delayed, perhaps by his appointment, in 1801, as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

The purchase was, in the end, made for only £10,500.

The present building (above) is a 1930s office-block.

The 3rd Marquess's town residence was at 25 Grosvenor Square from 1857 until 1883.

First published in March, 2010.  Donegall arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Skipper Street, Belfast

Merchant Hotel

Skipper Street, Belfast, runs from Waring Street to High Street.

This is one of the the oldest streets in Belfast, where the River Farset used to flow openly along High Street itself (it still does, though it's culverted).

High Street ca 1830

The street was thus named because skippers of sailing vessels lodged here.

This street is mentioned as far back as 1685; it was, however, significantly affected by the 1941 blitz.

In 1974, The Albert Inn stood at 3 Skipper Street; then it changed its name to the Blackthorn Bar.

High Street

The buildings are now all relatively recent since many, if not most, were destroyed by bombing during the 2nd World War.

The most notable premises today are the Merchant Hotel - formerly the Ulster Bank head office - which now runs along the entire left-hand side of the street (the even numbers).

The Spaniard bar is situated at number three and Jackson Sports is located at the corner of Skipper Street and High Street.

First published in July, 2009.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Balrath Bury House


This family came originally from Yorkshire.

GILBERT NICHOLSON, of Bare and Poulton, Lyndall, in Lonsdale, and of Baton and Easterton, Westmorland, married Grace, daughter and co-heir of Gyles Curwen, of Poulton Hall, and had issue,
FRANCIS, dvp leaving a son, HUMPHRY;
Mr Nicholson died in 1605, and was succeeded by his grandson,

HUMPHRY NICHOLSON, who was father of

GILBERT NICHOLSON (1620-1709), formerly of Poulton, Lancashire, and of the city of Dublin, Lieutenant in the royal army before 1649, and one of the Forty-nine Officers, whose arrears of pay were paid up after the Restoration, "for service done by them to His Majesty, or to his royal father, as commissioners in the wars of Ireland, before the 5th day of June, 1649." 

By the Act of Settlement Mr Nicholson received grants of land in County Monaghan, which he sold, and bought Balrath Bury in 1669.

He afterwards resided in Dublin.

Mr Nicholson and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Thomas Worsopp, Knight, are buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and on their tombstone appear the arms and crest still used by the family.

The issue of the marriage were,
THOMAS, of whom presently;
The second, but eldest surviving son,

THOMAS NICHOLSON, of Balrath Bury, born in 1662, inherited Balrath Bury in 1709.

In 1692, he was a commissioner for County Meath, during the reign of WILLIAM & MARY, and High Sheriff, 1704.

Mr Nicholson married firstly, in 1691, Mary, daughter of John Beauchamp, and had, with other issue, a daughter, Anne, whose daughter, Margaret, was second wife of Sir Richard Steele Bt, of Hampstead.

He wedded secondly, in 1700, Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of John Wood, of Garclony, and had issue,
CHRISTOPHER, his heir;
Mr Nicholson espoused thirdly, Rose, widow of Simeon Pepper, of Ballygarth, by whom he had no issue.

The eldest son,

CHRISTOPHER NICHOLSON, of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff of County Meath, 1735, espoused firstly, in 1723, Elinor, only daughter of Simeon Pepper, of Ballygarth, by Rose his wife, daughter of the Hon Oliver Lambart, of Plainstown, and granddaughter of Charles, 1st Earl of Cavan, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Rose; Christian; Emilia.
He wedded secondly, in 1751, Mary, daughter of Oliver Lambart, of Plainstown, by whom he had no issue.

His eldest son,

JOHN NICHOLSON (1724-82), of Balrath Bury, Captain, Coldstream Guards, wedded, in 1766, Anna Maria, daughter of Sir Samuel Armytage Bt, of Kirklees, Yorkshire, widow of Thomas Carter, of Shaen, and had issue,
He was succeeded by his elder son,

CHRISTOPHER ARMYTAGE NICHOLSON JP DL (1768-1849), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff of County Meath, 1791, who married firstly, in 1796, Catharine, daughter of the Most Rev William Newcombe, Lord Archbishop of Armagh, by Anna Maria his wife, daughter and co-heir of Edward Smyth, of Callow Hill, County Fermanagh, second son of the Ven. James Smyth, Archdeacon of Meath, and had issue,
JOHN ARMYTAGE, his heir;
Christopher Hampden;
William (Rev);
Gilbert Thomas, JP;
Anna Maria.
He wedded secondly, in 1826, Anna, daughter of George Lenox-Conyngham, of Springhill, County Londonderry, by Olivia his wife, daughter of William Irvine, of Castle Irvine, County Fermanagh, and had issue,
Armytage Lenox;
Olivia; Sophia Elizabeth.
Mr Nicholson was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN ARMYTAGE NICHOLSON JP DL (1798-1872), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff of County Meath, 1827, who married, in 1824, Elizabeth Rebecca, daughter of the Rt Rev and Rt Hon Nathaniel Alexander, Lord Bishop of Meath (nephew of James, 1st Earl of Caledon), by Anne his wife, daughter and heir of the Rt Hon Sir Richard Jackson, of Forkhill, by Anne his wife, sister of John, 1st Viscount O'Neill, and had issue,
Nathaniel Alexander;
John Hampden (Rev);
William Newcome;
Gilbert de Poulton;
Katharine; Anne.
Mr Nicholson was succeeded by his eldest son,

CHRISTOPHER ARMYTAGE NICHOLSON JP DL (1825-87), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff of County Meath, 1856, who espoused, in 1858, Frances Augusta, eldest daughter of the Hon Augustus Henry MacDonald Moreton, and had issue,
GILBERT MORETON, died unmarried;
JOHN HAMPDEN, succeeded his brother;
Mary Jane; Elizabeth Katharine; Emilia Olivia.
The only surviving son,

JOHN HAMPDEN NICHOLSON JP (1871-1935), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff of County Meath, 1895, married, in 1894, Florence Isabel, third daughter of Thomas Rothwell, of Rockfield, Kells, and had issue,
John Armytage;
Joyce Frances.
His elder son,

CAPTAIN CHRISTOPHER HAMPDEN NICHOLSON (1903-), of Balrath Bury, married, in 1928, Stephanie Adelaide Edwards, and had issue,
JOHN WARREN, his heir;
Virginia Rose.
His only son,

JOHN WARREN NICHOLSON, born in 1931, inherited Balrath House in the 1960s.

Photo credit: New York Social Diary

BALRATH BURY HOUSE, near Kells, County Meath, is a two-storey, pedimented, 18th century house.

It has seven bays with a curved bow at either end of the front.

Three more bays were added to the right; and seven more bays with another pediment plus two further bays to the left side.

Photo credit: New York Social Diary

Today, the front extends to nineteen bays and two bows.

The mansion suffered damage during the 2nd World War, having been used by the army.

It was subsequently reduced in size, in 1942, to the original block.

Balrath Bury is now in the American-Colonial style.

The principal rooms are on either side of a large hall, with a bifurcating staircase.

There is a long, Georgian, pedimented stable block.

It is thought that the most recent owners have been Frank and Carol Mallon.

First published in June, 2013.

The Earls Cairns: I


The disastrous ending to the insurrection of the elder Pretender in 1715 was the ultimate cause of momentous changes in the circumstances of a vast number of Scottish families.

In many cases, where the family sentiment was clearly in sympathy with one side or the other, the head of the family, imbued with the caution characteristic of the race, refrained from taking active part with either side.

Where the owner of an estate kept rigidly aloof from joining either side, his property was fairly safe whichever side won.

This commendable spirit of caution, however, was no hindrance to the cadets of families joining whichever side they desired without incriminating their chiefs.

Whatever happened the individual cadet only could be held responsible.

When the insurrection was over and the day of reckoning came, many a younger son of the old Scottish families deemed it wiser to be out of Scotland.

In Ulster, where the people had little sympathy with the rising, the consequences of rebellion were not pursued to such an extent as was the case in Scotland.

Hence the Province became a harbour of refuge for a number of Scottish refugees.

Several families, now well known in Northern Ireland, descend from Scottish settlers who arrived in the years immediately following the uprising.

Among the Records at Hillsborough Castle, County Down, are the registers of leases and the rent rolls of the Kilwarlin estate.

Among the leases granted at this period is one for three lives to William Cairns, dated May, 1716.

It seems plausible he was one of the many who fled to Ulster from Scotland ca 1716 in order to escape the consequences of the rebellion.

We have been unable to ascertain with certainty to which of the Galloway Cairns' he belonged, but there are indications suggesting that he was a younger son of William Cairns, of Kipp, who died in 1711.

He certainly was a contemporary of the two sons of this William whose names are recorded.

The Christian names Hugh and William, so frequently encountered in the succeeding generations of the Kipp family prior to 1715, reappear with equal frequency among the descendants of this William Cairns.

In fact, the name Hugh in the Cairns family seems to have been almost entirely confined to the Kipp branch.

WILLIAM CAIRNS, a cadet of Cairnes, of Orchardton, obtained from the Marquess of Downshire a lease of the lands of Magheraconluce, County Down, in 1716.

His son,

WILLIAM CAIRNS, of Magheraconluce, left issue by his first wife, who died in 1754, with six daughters, who dsp, three sons,
John, of Parkmount, 1732-94;
Hugh, of Parkmount and Belfast, banker, 1735-1808;
William, of Magheraconluce, b 1737.
He wedded secondly, Agnes, daughter of William Gregg, of Parkmount, and died in 1775, having by her had issue,
NATHAN, ancestor of the Earls Cairns.
The second son,

Hugh Cairns, left several legacies in his will to his "kinsmen at Annahilt," and £600 to each of his six sisters.

He left Parkmount, which he acquired shortly after the death of William Gregg in 1782, to his half-brother Nathan, whose mother had been a daughter of Mr Gregg.

Mr Cairns stated in his will that "most of my property consists of money lent out at interest on security," from which it appears that he was one of Belfast's early private bankers, some of whom eventually amalgamated, thus founding what are now known as the Belfast, the Northern, and the Ulster Banks. 

William Cairns' third son, William, continued to appear as holder of the Magheraconluce property subsequent to his father's removal to Belfast after his second marriage.

It appears that he remained as tenant, and that Hugh Cairns' "kinsmen at Annahilt", to whom he left money, namely, William and Robert Cairns, were the sons of this William, and therefore nephews of Hugh.

Both appear as fathers of children baptised, in the Annahilt Register, one of the children being called Nathan, evidently after his grand-uncle.

The youngest son,

NATHAN CAIRNS, of Dublin, and Parkmount, merchant, born in 1759, of whom hereafter.

Parkmount House

Parkmount seems to have passed to Mr Gregg from the representatives of Thomas Lutford, who had a lease for three lives, renewable for ever, from the Marquesses of Donegall, in 1769. 

At some period after his marriage to Agnes Gregg, William Cairns seems to have moved with his family to Parkmount, or to a house in Carnmoney. 

After the termination of the Parkmount lease, Hugh Cairns obtained the renewal forever thereof. 

His father died in 1775, the widow Agnes Gregg surviving him, and dying in 1785.

Both are interred at Carnmoney church-yard. 

First published in February, 2011.   Cairns arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Monday, 21 June 2021

Belleek Manor


JAMES KNOX (1774-1818), third son of Francis Knox, of Rappa Castle, County Mayo, was called to the bar, 1797, and returned by the borough of Taghmon to the last Irish Parliament, 1797-1800.

He settled at Broadlands Park in County Mayo, became a magistrate, 1803, and deputy governor of that county.

In 1813, Mr Knox assumed, in compliance with the will of his maternal grandfather, Annesley Gore, the surname and arms of GORE in addition to those of KNOX.

He married, in 1800, the Lady Maria Louisa Gore, eldest daughter of ARTHUR, 2ND EARL OF ARRAN, by Anna, his second wife, daughter of the Rev Boleyn Knight, of Ottley, Yorkshire, and had issue,
Henry William;
George Edward;
Anna Maria; Louisa Maria; Eleanor Adelaide; Charlotte Catharine.
Mr Knox-Gore, Ranger of the Curragh of Kildare, was succeeded by his eldest son,

FRANCIS ARTHUR KNOX-GORE JP (1803-73), of Belleek Abbey, Lieutenant-Colonel, North Mayo Militia, who wedded, in 1829, Sarah, daughter of Charles Nesbitt Knox, of Castle Lacken, and had issue,
CHARLES JAMES, his successor;
Jane Louisa; Matilda.
Colonel Knox-Gore, Lord-Lieutenant of County Sligo, 1831-68, succeeded to the estates of his great-grandfather, Annesley Gore, brother of the 1ST EARL OF ARRAN, on the demise, in 1821, of the Rt Hon Henry King, who had a life interest in the property.

He was created a baronet in 1868, designated of Belleek Manor.

Sir Francis was succeeded by his son,

SIR CHARLES JAMES KNOX-GORE, 2nd Baronet (1831-90), of Belleek Manor.

The baronetcy expired following the decease of the 2nd Baronet.

BELLEEK MANOR (now Belleek Castle hotel), Ballina, County Mayo, is a large Tudor-Gothic mansion built about 1825 for Francis Knox-Gore, later 1st Baronet.

It has a symmetrical front with three stepped gables flanked by slender, polygonal, battlemented turrets and pinnacles.

There are oriels at the sides; and the central porch is surmounted by a twin corbelled oriel.


The mansion and its parkland are described by the NIAH thus:-

A COUNTRY HOUSE erected for Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Francis Arthur Knox-Gore (1803-73), first Baronet; widely accepted as a particularly important component of the early nineteenth-century domestic built heritage of County Mayo with the architectural value of the composition, 'a noble mansion in the later English style of architecture' (Lewis 1837 II, 189);

confirmed by such attributes as the deliberate alignment maximising on panoramic vistas overlooking manicured lawns and the broad River Moy; 
the symmetrical frontage centred on a Tudoresque door-case showing pretty Georgian Gothic glazing patterns; 
the construction in a deep grey limestone offset by sheer dressings not only demonstrating good quality workmanship, but also compounding a ponderous monochrome palette; 
the diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a graduated visual effect with the principal "apartments" defined by handsome bay windows;

and the elongated pinnacles embellishing a multi-gabled roof-line: meanwhile, although traditionally attributed to John Benjamin Keane of Mabbot Street [James Joyce Street], Dublin, strong comparisons with the contemporary Coolbawn House (1823-39), County Wexford, put forward Frederick Darley, Junior (1798-1872), as an equally likely design source. 
Having been well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior where contemporary joinery; 
and decorative plasterwork enrichments, all highlight the considerable artistic potential of the composition. 
Furthermore, an adjoining stable complex; the nearby Knox-Gore monument; and an eye-catching gate house, all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a much depleted estate having historic connections with the Knox-Gore family, including Sir Charles James Knox-Gore, 2nd Baronet; 
and the succeeding Saunders-Knox-Gore family, including Major-General William Boyd Saunders-Knox-Gore (née Saunders) (1827-1902); 
and Matilda Saunders-Knox-Gore (née Knox-Gore) (1833-1912); Lieutenant-Colonel William Arthur Gore Saunders-Knox-Gore JP DL (née Saunders) (1854-1925); and Lieutenant-Colonel William Arthur Cecil Saunders-Knox-Gore JP DL (née Saunders) (1888-1975).

THE KNOX-GORES continued to live at Belleek Manor until the 1940s.

Marshall Doran, a merchant navy officer and an avid collector of fossils and medieval armour, acquired the run down property in 1961.

He proceeded to restore the house and opened it as a hotel in 1970.

Some of the rooms are in 19th century style, whilst most of the interior design has a medieval and nautical theme.

Today the Belleek Castle Hotel is owned by the Mayo Trust and managed by Marshall’s son, Paul Doran, and Ms Maya Nikolaeva.

First published in March, 2016.