Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Chief Secretary's Lodge

THE CHIEF SECRETARY'S LODGE (Deerfield), Phoenix Park, Dublin, was originally built by Sir John Blaquiere, 1st Baron de Blaquiere, and became the Chief Secretary for Ireland's official residence in the late 18th century.

The Chief Secretary for Ireland, a position analogous to Prime Minister, had his office within Dublin Castle.

The office was abrogated when Éire (as it was then called) seceded from the United Kingdom in 1922.

It is now the official residence of the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland.

Colonel John Blaquiere came to Ireland as Chief Secretary to the Viceroy, Lord Harcourt, in 1772.

Standard of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland

Like Viceregal Lodge (Áras an Uachtaráin) across the road (former residence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), the Chief Secretary's Lodge, or Deerfield as it is now called, is surrounded by its own sixty-acre park, with wonderful views of the Dublin mountains.

The Lodge, which cost £8,000 to build, comprises two storeys with two projecting bowed ends facing southwards.

There were two principal reception rooms.

A commodious staircase hall is bedecked with American flags and presidential portraits.

The brilliant white porte-cochère admits visitors under a large bust of President Lincoln.

The architect of the Lodge, with its immaculate walled gardens, fruit trees and glass-houses, is unknown.

In 1784, the house was acquired by HM Government as an official residence for the Chief Secretary for Ireland, analogous with the office of prime minister.

Illustrious occupants have included the Hon Sir Arthur Wellesley (1st Duke of Wellington), Lord Castlereagh, Sir Robert Peel and Lord Randolph Churchill.

Sir Winston Churchill, as a small boy, roamed the gardens and woods and took great delight in riding up and down the paths in his donkey and cart.

In 1927, the United States sent its first envoy, Fred Sterling, to the newly-formed Irish Free State.

Mrs Sterling noticed the empty house whilst walking in Phoenix Park, told her husband she'd found the ideal residence for him, and Deerfield has remained a part of American soil ever since.

First published in September, 2011.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Ardress Transformation

Ardress House in County Armagh was built about 1680 as a plain, two-storey farmhouse, one room deep.

Between then and ca 1810 the house was extended and evolved in four stages into a substantial gentleman's country house.

The façade of the garden front, which faces south, shows three of the principal building stages: the dining-room wing to the left of about 1810; the drawing-room gable in the middle of ca 1780; and the original right-hand gable of ca 1680 with its elegant, curved wall screen added about 1810.

The National Trust heritage directory remarks:-
"The south façade of the house clearly shows the three main building phases: the right gable belongs to the 17th century, the left gable to the 18th century and the Dining Room wing to the 19th century."

"The second George Ensor transformed this potentially ugly side view into an elegant garden front by incorporating the hotch-potch of extensions into a five-bay facade."

"At either end he added curved walls which reach out gracefully on to the lawn, the right neatly joining and concealing the screen wall of the front façade."

"Four female heads have been placed in the niches of the screen walls."

"They are known as The Four Seasons although they were probably not intended to be allegories."

"Spring, on the extreme left, is signed by Christopher Hewetson (1739-99); the other sculptors are unknown."

As can be seen from the black-and-white photograph, the façade was rather ugly in appearance before its remarkable transformation by the National Trust.

The various stages were quite obvious and discrete in appearance; the curved wall to the right was obscured by a lean-to glass-house.

Today the garden front has been completely transformed by a much-needed facelift.

Lime render and white paint gives it a uniform appearance.

First published in May, 2016.

Monday, 28 June 2021

The Argory: Coach Yard

Prospect of the Coach Yard from the Porte-Cochère

Yesterday (Sunday, 27th June, 2021) I spent a lovely day at The Argory in County Armagh.

It's only just in County Armagh, because the River Blackwater, which naturally divides counties Armagh and Tyrone, runs past it.

I was waiting patiently at the main entrance when the gates were opened at 11am.

Since we are all gradually recovering from the ghastly pandemic, The Argory is slowly returning to a degree of normality: the tearoom serves beverages, scones, cakes, and snacks; the shop seems to have closed down indefinitely; and house tours are unguided, and only on the ground floor.

The beautiful grounds are fully open, however; so I took the opportunity to walk round the perimeter of the estate, along the river bank, to Bond's Bridge.

At the coach yard I sat outside in the sunshine, below the porte-cochère, and enjoyed a salted caramel caffè latte.

The National Trust heritage records apprise us that the stable yard or coach yard lies immediately east of the domestic yard.

"Brownlees’ drawing is a proposal and includes a large complex of additional spaces to the east, or behind, what remains today, his main block of stable and double coach house."

"This building now sports an iron and glass port-cochère dating probably from the 1880s."

"The difference now is that the building that connects the stable to the main gate and, rather than storage, it is now a harness room."

"The south side of the Coach Yard was to have been open in both Williamson's and Brownlees’ designs."

"The ordnance survey maps show that it was not until the late 19th century that the present coach house and open sheds were constructed, perhaps at the same time as the port-cochère as part of a general improvement of the yard."

Of interest today are "drawings and instructions left on the wall by the American army billeted at The Argory during the early 1940s."

"The west end of the Coach Yard is now occupied by the Dairy; this must have been built as part of the late-19th century improvement campaign."

"It is possible that the function of dairy was carried out in the fold yard until this time; once it was shifted the loose boxes would have replaced it."

"Creating the dairy meant that the Coach Yard and the Flagged Yard were separated by a substantial building rather than a wall as before."

Belfast in 1836: I



DONEGALL PLACE, now full of shops, was, half-a-century ago, a quiet street of private houses.

Some of them had gardens and trees in the rear, and there was quite a grove at the corner of the square where Robinson & Cleaver now have their establishment.

The residents were either merchants of the town, or country gentlemen who came to Belfast for society in winter, as fashionable people now go to London for the season.

At the beginning of this century the country had hardly settled after the Insurrection, and distant journeys were tedious and costly.

My father, Samuel Hyde Batt, has been a week in coming from England, and my Uncle William, when in Trinity College, used to ride to Dublin, with a groom behind carrying his luggage.

There was good local society, and people were hospitable.

My mother was often taken in a sedan chair to spend the evening at some neighbour's, and we gave parties in return; when, after dinner, I, as a child, was admitted to the drawing-room to be petted by the ladies, and allowed to stand by their whist-tables.

There were four members of our family domiciled in Donegall Place.

My father, Samuel Hyde Batt, lived at No. 6 (now Cuming Bros.'), where I was born.

His brother, Narcissus, lived where the Royal Hotel is now till his new house at Purdysburn was finished.

Thomas, afterwards of Rathmullan, lived at No. 4 (now Hogg's).

Thomas Greg Batt, son of Narcissus, was a director in the Belfast Bank.

The Rev William Batt lived near Fountain Street, where he died, long after the rest were gone.

Our house had belonged to my grandfather, Captain Batt, who came from County Wexford in 1760.
The other inhabitants were Hugh Montgomery, of Benvarden and Ballydrain (a director in the Northern Bank); James Orr, of the Northern Bank ; William Clark JP, father of the late director of the Belfast Bank; James Douglas, of Mount Ida; Sir Stephen May, Mrs May, John and William Sinclaire, Henry J Tomb; Captain Elsemere, RN; Henry William Shaw; James Crawford, wine merchant; John S Ferguson and Thomas F Ferguson, linen merchants; and Dr John MacDonnell, one of the MacDonnells of the Glens of Antrim, whose bust is in the Museum.
He was a great friend of my mother's.

His library, and the skeleton in it, inspired me with awe.

The Nelson Club was next door to us before it removed to Donegall Square.

Thomas L Stewart resided in the Castle, at the corner of Castle Place - a plain mansion with a walled garden in front, now removed.

Though our premises behind reached to Callender Street, there was not much playground for me, so I used to take the air in the dull walk round the Linen Hall, or in Maclean's fields, then rural enough.

The old paper-mill near the Gas Works in Cromac Street, with its dam and little waterfall, was a pleasant object for a walk, the Owen-na-varra, or Blackstaff, being then comparatively unpolluted.

On these walks I used often to see some young men who subsequently made a figure in the world, as Hugh McCalmont Cairns, George A  C May, subsequently Chief-Justice, and Thomas O'Hagan, afterwards Lord Chancellor.

My generation of Belfast boys was not so distinguished, though Canon Tomb and Rev Alexander Orr, both from our street, were respected clergymen.

Some of my early companions were unfortunate: three boys, of good family, while yet young, destroyed themselves.

I was too delicate for school, and only attended the Academy in Donegall Street for a short time.

It was a dingy edifice at the corner of Academy Street, but the masters were of the clever Bryce family.

One of my tutors was James Rea, a brother of the famous attorney, John Rea, a most amiable man, who died young.

Our house was rather gloomy, but the front windows commanded a good view of whatever was going on.

An old negro organ-grinder, with his dancing dogs, interested me.

Sometimes a party of Orangemen from Sandy Row encountered the Hercules Street butchers, and stones flew about.

Dr Tennent's mansion was the only large house in Hercules Street.

Lord Arthur Chichester and Emerson Tennent, son-in-law to Dr Tennent, were once chaired through Donegall Place, and I was sorry that the handsome chairs, with their gilt canopies and rose-coloured silk hangings, were torn in pieces by the crowd after the procession.

Beards were uncommon 60 years ago, and the mob showed their disapproval of Lord Belfast's venturing to wear one, calling him "Beardie" when he was a candidate for Parliament in 1837.

The cholera cart in 1834 is a more dismal remembrance.

It went through our street draped in black, with a bell to warn people to bring out their dead.

There was a great panic, and people were afraid of being buried alive, as it was necessary to remove the infectious corpses speedily.

Still our servant's mother was duly "waked" when she died of cholera.

My mother made the daughter change her dress when she came home, and the clothes were burnt.

The houses of decent working people in the middle of Belfast were by no means uncomfortable, though there were bad slums about Ann Street.

The best houses, however, had cesspools, and sanitary arrangements were deficient.

Some of the little docks near the end of High Street were very foul, yet I liked to walk on the quays, which were not yet encumbered with sheds, but open to the breeze from the lough.

I saw a fine ship, the Hindoo, launched near the present Harbour Office.

The steamers Chieftain and Eclipse were comparatively small, but their smoke-stacks had iron ornaments, like crowns, on the top.

I once left at night for Dublin by steamer, and in the morning found the vessel stuck in the mud where the Queen's Island is now.

Before the present improvements in the Port of Belfast, the navigable channel wound like a serpent through the muddy estuary of the Lagan, still crossed in my time by the Long Bridge.

It was our custom to spend a month or two in summer at the seaside.

Holywood was then the popular resort.

The old baths were where the stream falls into the sea near the old Parish Church.

The bathing-box was on piles a long way out, and another wooden pier led to the little channel where boats were moored.

Beyond Holywood all was rural and woodland.

The Carrickfergus side was agreeable too, but not so near Belfast.

I remember being shown the "suicide's grave" in the salt marsh at Ringan's Point, beside what is now the entrance to Fortwilliam Park, on the shore side of the road; and a public-house (Peggy Barclay's) by the wayside rejoiced in the sign of the "Mill for grinding old people young."

The picture represented men and women hobbling on crutches into the hopper of the mill and dancing out merrily below.

I must have been greatly struck with this painting, as I remember it so well, and I sometimes wish now I could find out that mill.

There are still a few of the older-fashioned style of buildings remaining in Belfast, though mostly disguised with stucco - even in High Street some old shops remain by the side of the lofty modern erections, and some of them bear the old names, like that of Patterson, recently removed from the corner of Bridge Street, the evidence of a long-established business.

The oldest houses are those at the corner of Skipper Street, and those next Forster Green's.

The latter was where the Biggers had long resided, and next to them lived a family called Quinn, where, in earlier times, Lord Castlereagh lodged.

NOTES: 1. Narcissus Batt was Founder of the Belfast Bank; 2. Narcissus and Thomas were members of the Corporation for preserving and improving the port and harbour of Belfast.

First published in November, 2011.

Sunday, 27 June 2021

St Anne's Church, Belfast

The old parish church of St Anne, so named after the wife of the 5th Earl and 1st Marquess of Donegall, once stood on the site of the present Cathedral in Donegall Street, Belfast.

The Brown Linen Hall, of 1754, originally stood on this site.

It was demolished twenty years later to make way for St Anne's parish church.

The Belfast News Letter reported at the time that,
"On Saturday last, the Church of this town [in High Street] was thrown down, and on the Monday following the foundations of a new one were begun to be sunk."
The said Church was the old Corporation Church in High Street, where St George's now stands.

The new parish church, at Donegall Street, was funded by the town's landlord, Lord Donegall.

The architect was Francis Hiorne, of Warwick, assisted by the Belfast architect, Roger Mulholland.

St Anne's stood in a recess on the east side of Donegall Street.

Nave of St Anne's Parish Church looking towards the Apse (Image: Robert John Welch, 1899)

It was constructed of brick, with a wooden tower and a cupola made of copper.

Its front was adorned with a handsome Doric portico and attic balustrade.

The tower was of two stages, and in the Ionic order; and its cupola had Corinthian ornaments, surmounted by a spiral termination.

While the church was being built the congregation had the use of the Second Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street.

The Rights and parish silver of the old Corporation church were duly transferred to St Anne's.

In 1775, the bell of St Anne’s Church was donated by the Charitable Society for the church it had intended to build as part of its proposed Poorhouse and Hospital.

St Anne's Church: Nave & Pulpit from the Apse (Image: Robert John Welch)

In the event, the church was not built, but the bell was placed prominently in the new premises and used into the 20th century.

In 1776, St Anne’s Church was consecrated.

An entry in the Henry Joy: Historical Collection for Sunday, October 27th, reported that,
“The elegant new Church erected here by the Earl of Donegall was consecrated by the Bishop of Down and Connor” - Dr Traill.
In 1778, John Wesley preached in St Anne’s.

The old parish church of St Anne continued in use until the 31st December, 1903, while the nave of the new cathedral was built around it.

The old church was thereafter demolished.

First published in July, 2013.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Island Taggart



ISLAND TAGGART, Strangford Lough, County Down, is a property of the National Trust.

It lies between Ringdufferin, directly to its north, and Killyleagh, the nearest village, to the south.

The island is situated at the townlands of Rathcunningham and Moymore.

Taggart is one mile long and a quarter of a mile wide at its widest point, a total area of about 85 acres, acquired in 1984 from Patrick and Kathleen Mackie.

Click to Enlarge

Its length and the height of its two drumlins make it particularly attractive in the southern half of Strangford Lough.

From the higher points there is a fine prospect of varying habitats: from the eastern side, the main body of the lough with its marine life, sea-birds and the landscape of the Ards Peninsula; while, to the west, the sheltered mud-flats and salt-marshes with their population of waders and waterfowl.


The range of habitat types and abundant cover provided by pasture-land, scrub, hedgerows, marsh, foreshore and woodland ensure that the island is exceptionally attractive to wildlife.

A wide variety of butterflies and insects are to be found on the island; and the areas of scrub, with hawthorn, elderberry and brambles, provide excellent feeding for small birds on both the insect life and the fruit.

It is an important wintering ground for chaffinches, linnets, skylarks, stonechats and reed buntings.

There have been two large badger sets occupied on the island; and there is evidence of foxes.

Otters frequent the northern tip.

Porpoises can sometimes be seen feeding close to its eastern shore.


The mudflats to the west of the island provide good feeding for curlew, redshank, oystercatcher, knot, dunlin and turnstone; greenshank and ringed plovers have also been seen.

Terns and black-headed gulls are almost always to be seen around the shore; and, in the winter, there are abundant razorbills, guillemots, cormorants and, occasionally, great northern divers.


On the southern tip of the island there is an open circular stone kiln thought to have been used for burning kelp to produce potash for agricultural purposes.

Close to the north-eastern bay is a second, larger kiln which is very well preserved with a stone corbelled roof.

At least two wells on the island are built of stone with interesting features which make them worthy of restoration.

At the extreme north-eastern tip of the island there are two "fairy thorns" enclosed in a low ring of stones.

In the past, Island Taggart was intensively farmed, though vegetation has now become more varied and there exists an important field system south of the farmstead with a valuable copse of oak, beech, ash, Scots pine, sycamore, elm and alder trees.


The principal farmstead with its stone-built, slate-roofed, single-storey derelict farmhouse with its farm buildings (a store; cow byre; calf-boxes; and hay-store) are all stone-built, partly slate.

An old well is located just to the side of the sunken lane which runs from the east shore up to the farm.

There is an old orchard behind the farmhouse.

Island Taggart is one of the largest islands on Strangford Lough.

Visitors are welcome.

There are good anchorages off the eastern shore and at the north-west corner of the island, depending on the weather, although care on a falling tide is advisable.

Old farm buildings give a good indication of life on the island and, indeed, it was used by Little Bird Films to make December Bride, a story by Sam Hanna Bell about County Down folk at the turn of the 19th century.

Thick hedges full of bird life, relatively unspoiled meadows full of wild flowers, and small marshes bright with Yellow Flag iris and orchids make this a lovely island to visit, whilst in high summer it is full of butterflies including large numbers of Common Blues and Small Coppers.

Simmy Island (Lady Hastings) lies at Island Taggart's north-western tip; while the Dunnyneill Islands are to the south-east.

Dodd's Island, a little one-acre islet, lies between Island Taggart and the mainland.

One small, ruinous cottage is at the northern tip of the island; two other cottages, which are within fifty yards of each other, lie at the eastern side of the island about two-thirds of the way up from the southern tip; and the main farm sits at the top of the hill in the middle of the island.

The main farm, with farm-house, outbuildings directly opposite, farm-yard, walls and pillars with "bap" toppings, an old orchard, a stone well, privy and other features, is substantial enough and could conceivably be restored at some future date.

A lane ran from this farmstead down the hill, past the well (marked on the map), to the eastern shore and still exists today.

Two further wells served the cottages to the north of the island.


There is a comment on the island in 1821:
Taggart Isle is attached to the parish of Killyleagh and contains 3 houses and 23 inhabitants.
This figure seems to have been at the time when the number of islanders was at its peak.

The island was attached to the Parish of Killyleagh in the barony of Dufferin.

The owners were Lord Dufferin and Claneboye and Catherine A Hamilton.

    • 1841: 9 males, 6 females, 2 houses occupied
    • 1851: 4 males, 2 females, 1 house occupied
    • 1861: 3 males, 2 females, 1 house occupied
    • 1871: 3 males, 3 females, 1 house occupied
    • 1881: 3 males, 4 females, 1 house occupied
    • 1891: 3 males, 6 females, 1 house occupied
    • 1901: 2 males, 2 females, 1 house occupied
    • 1911: 2 males, 1 female, 1 house occupied
    • 1926: 1 male, 1 female, 1 house occupied

      The census and will records of Island Taggart record several families, all of whom were Presbyterian farmers:

        • Samuel Bishop, son of James and Margaret, died on the 7th August, 1855 aged 67
        • Grace Bishop, possibly Samuel's sister or wife, died on the 12th March, 1877
        • Thomas Morrow died on the 15th July, 1898 and probate was granted to his widow, Bridgetta. He left £440 7s 6d (£43,000 in today's money)
        • The 1901 Census recorded Bridgetta Morrow, 67, Head of Family; Samuel Morrow, 34, son; May Morrow, 25, daughter; and Samuel McDonald, 23, servant
        • the 1911 Census recorded Bridgetta Morrow, 80; Samuel Morrow, 45; and a new servant, John Fitzsimmons, aged 35
          In the spring of 1966, East Down Yacht Club purchased lands from James (Jimmy) Nelson's father and thereafter established the sailing club which hadn't existed prior to this.

          Mr David (Davey) Calvert was the last resident on Island Taggart, and he left the island in 1967.

          First published in December, 2010.

          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 (Image: Deborah Stene, 2022)

          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.

          Geashill (Image: Deborah Stene, 2022)

          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.

          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.