Friday, 19 December 2014

Conlig House

Little Clandeboye or Conlig House, near Bangor, County Down, was built ca 1855 in the Neo-Tudor style.

The architect is unknown, though Lord Dufferin commissioned Benjamin Ferrey in the mid-1850s for various projects on his Clandeboye estate.

Conlig House, however, can be dated originally to ca 1830 and was very similar in style to Glencraig House (now altered) which dates from the same period.

The architect may have been William Burn, who was later consulted by Lord Dufferin with regard to the remodelling of Clandeboye House in the 1840s.

J A K Dean, in his excellent gazetteer, The Gate Lodges of Ulster, states that Conlig House was once a dower house for the Blackwood family.

It had north and south wings, a projection and seven cellars.

By 1850, Conlig House was the residence of Captain William Pirrie, the Belfast ship-owner and harbour commissioner.

His son, James Alexander Pirrie, emigrated in 1844 to Canada, where he entered the timber shipping trade.

When James Pirrie died, his widow took her son William back to Ulster to live at Conlig with his grandfather.
William Pirrie (1st Viscount Pirrie) was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (Inst) from 1858-62, and then became an apprentice at Harland and Wolff. He was married to Eliza Morrison, who came from Conlig and was part of the wider family of the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.
James Pirrie subsequently sold Conlig House to Lord Dufferin.

Little Clandeboye, as it became known, was unoccupied for a period until it was let to Hugh Creighton, who was about to be married, from 1863 until at least 1871.

Creighton took the house for a rent of £100 a year.

The valuer noted in 1880 that the house was still vacant, but by 1882 Richard T Hamilton was in residence.

James Fagan occupied the house from 1894; and JT Barrett from 1901.

A number of occupiers followed: SJ McLean (1904); Thomas O Dickson (1909); Walter Barbour (1915); Lord Dufferin (1926); George McCracken (1927); and Walter John Dyer (1929).
James Bernard Fagan (1873-1933) was an actor, theatre manager and playwright, who had recently made his acting debut when he lived at Little Clandeboye. A letter survives written by him at Little Clandeboye to Lord Dufferin in which he thanks him for an introduction and promises to send him two one-act plays he had written.
After several years working as an actor, Fagan embarked on a career as a dramatist, a number of his plays being filmed in the early days of the cinema. In 1917 he began a third career as a producer, ultimately taking over management of the Royal Court theatre in London.
In 1923 he opened the Oxford Playhouse and continued to stage notable productions in London and New York, spending increasing amounts of time in Hollywood where several of his plays were filmed and where he died in 1933.
Little Clandeboye became a mental hospital in the 1930s before eventually falling into disuse, and was a "romantic ruin" for many years before being demolished.


A symmetrical single-storey two-bay gate lodge with extension, built ca 1855, is located at the former entrance to Little Clandeboye.

The lodge is robustly detailed, echoing the style of the main house.  

It was renovated in the late 20th century; however, the scale, proportion and detailing structure have survived.

Although the original gates have been replaced, the alcoved gate screen remains.

The lodge is now of significance as the only remaining structure of the Little Clandeboye demesne, connected to the Sinclair and Pirrie families, who were central to the development of Conlig village.

The Argory Acquisition


PROPERTY: The Argory, Moy, County Armagh

DATE: 1979

EXTENT: 280.92 acres

DONOR: Hoare Trustees and W A N MacGeogh-Bond Esq


PROPERTY: Derrygally Farm

DATE: 1979

EXTENT: 77.1 acres

DONOR: Hoare Trustees and W A N MacGeough-Bond Esq

Thursday, 18 December 2014


I was in central Belfast briefly this morning.

I visited the Central Library in Royal Avenue, one of Belfast's finer buildings. I invariably admire the domed ceiling with its intricate plasterwork on the first floor.

Today I was obtaining an image of Lord Pirrie's armorial bearings as a viscount, and his lineage.

A lovely lady approached me as I was leaving and introduced herself. Lord Belmont has achieved notoriety at last!

I passed the Great West Front of Belfast Cathedral, where the Dean's annual "sit-out" takes place at this time of year.

I spoke briefly to a lady canon (possibly the Rev Canon Denise Acheson, Canon Treasurer) beside the celebrated barrel.

The Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Right Rev Harold Miller, appeared on the steps, dressed informally in his v-neck jumper. 

1st Viscount Pirrie



WILLIAM PIRRIE, of Conlig House, married Elizabeth, daughter of William Morrison, and Letitia, his wife, daughter of Robert Miller, of Conlig, and Elizabeth, his wife, daughter of Thomas Leach, of Rathgael, who died in 1756.

He left issue, three sons and four daughters, of whom his second son,

JAMES ALEXANDER PIRRIE, of Little Clandeboye, County Down, wedded Eliza, daughter of Alexander Montgomery, of Dundesert, County Antrim.

He died in 1849, leaving, with a daughter, Eliza (who espoused, in 1870, the Rt Hon Thomas Andrews), an only son,

 WILLIAM JAMES PIRRIE, born at Quebec, Canada.
W J Pirrie's grandfather, Captain William Pirrie, of Conlig, County Down, was the son of a tenant farmer from Auchenmalg, Wigtownshire. Captain Pirrie was a trader in the Mediterranean Sea during the Napoleonic Wars; and was instrumental in the drainage of Belfast Lough. 

    • Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Belfast, 1896
    • Privy Counsellor (I), 1897
    • High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1898
    • Created Baron Pirrie, 1906
    • Comptroller of the Household to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1907-13
    • Knight of the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick, 1908
    • HM Lord-Lieutenant of the City of Belfast, 1911-24
    • Privy Counsellor (UK), 1918
    • Northern Ireland Senator, 1921
    • Advanced to a viscountcy, as Viscount Pirrie, 1924

    Lord and Lady Pirrie's principal residence in Northern Ireland was Ormiston House.

    Their London home was Downshire House (below) at 24 Belgrave Square.

    It was at Downshire House that plans for the Titanic and her sister ships were born over dinner between Lord Pirrie of Harland and Wolff and Joseph Bruce Ismay of the White Star Line.

    Here is the entry in the London Gazette of 12th July, 1921:

    To be a Viscount: The Rt. Hon. Sir William James, Baron Pirrie, K.P., LL.D., D.L. For valuable services to the Government in connection with ship-construction during the war. Charitable work in connection with the Royal Victoria and other hospitals.

    Lord Pirrie died on 6th June 1924, aged 77, from pneumonia while voyaging off Cuba, without issue, when the titles became extinct.
    First published in May, 2010.

    Wednesday, 17 December 2014

    Passport Application

    Commendation to Her Majesty's Passport Office.

    I delivered an application for a new passport to their Belfast branch in Victoria Street exactly one week ago.

    When I arrived home this afternoon, it had been delivered.

    Annual Party

    We all gathered at the old schoolhouse, Mount Stewart estate, County Down, this morning.

    There were at least a dozen of us, National Trust Strangford Lough Group staff and volunteers.

    During the morning we worked in and around the back yard and garden of the schoolhouse.

    I managed to get two sacks of logs.

    The main purpose of the day, however, was the annual Christmas party lunch, a very informal affair.

    We all contributed to it: Tomasz brought home-made wild mushroom soup.

    Phil provided his game pie.

    Others brought sausage rolls, vol-au-vents, quiche, bread; Pavlova, chocolate cake, Christmas cake, and more.

    I've written about the schoolhouse before. It's an historic building, some two centuries old.

    Jenkinstown House

    Bellew arms


    The immediate ancestor of this family,

    JOHN BRYAN, was a younger brother of James Bryan, of Bawnmore, and son of John Bryan, of Bawnmore (whose father, Lewis Bryan, had a grant from Thomas, Earl of Ormonde, of Whitewalls, alias Bawnmore, County Kilkenny, and died in 1568).

    He married Anna, daughter and heir of Henry Stains, of Jenkinstown, County Kilkenny, and left a son,

    JAMES BRYAN, of Jenkinstown, 1673-4, who was father of

    PIERCE BRYAN, of Jenkinstown, whose will was proved in 1777.

    He wedded Jane, daughter of George Aylmer, of Lyons, County Kildare, and had issue,

    JAMES BRYAN, of Jenkinstown, born in 1719, who died unmarried in 1805 and was succeeded by his nephew,

    GEORGE BRYAN, of Jenkinstown, born in 1770, who wedded, in 1794, Maria Louisa, Comtesse de Rutaut. His eldest son,

    GEORGE BRYAN, of Jenkinstown, born in 1796, wedded and left issue, a surviving daughter,

    AUGUSTA MARGARET GWENDOLINE BRYAN, who married, in 1853, Edward Joseph, 2nd Lord Bellew.

    His second surviving son,

    GEORGE LEOPOLD BELLEW BRYAN, of Jenkinstown, died in 1848 and was succeeded by his only son,

    GEORGE LEOPOLD BRYAN JP DL, of Jenkinstown, MP for County Kilkenny; high sheriff, 1852; born in 1828.

    This gentleman married, in 1849, Lady Elizabeth Georgina Conyngham, daughter of the 2nd Marquess Conyngham KP.

    Dying without male issue, he was succeeded by his nephew,

    GEORGE LEOPOLD BELLEW-BRYAN JP DL, 4TH BARON BELLEW (1857-1935), of Jenkinstown, County Kilkenny, who assumed the surname of BRYAN in lieu of BELLEW, by royal licence dated 1880;
    major, 10th Royal Hussars, and served with them throughout the Afghan campaign, for which he received medal and clasp; Lord-Lieutenant of Louth, 1898-1911.
    Lady Bellew moved in 1935: first to Kilcreene, then to Butler House on Patrick Street, Kilkenny, on an annuity of £500 a year.

    She died in 1973 aged 88 years and was buried at St Kieran’s cemetery.

    JENKINSTOWN HOUSE, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny, was an early 19th century house in "pasteboard Gothic", following the traditional Palladian plan of a centre block joined to wings by  single-storey links.

    The house was built for Major George Bryan to the design of William Robertson.

    There is a two-storey centre block; a two-storey projecting porch crowned with a battlemented gable and pinnacles; two-storey end towers with quatrefoil windows.

    Later in the 19th century, one of the wings was re-built with corbelled bartizans; and the centre block was demolished apart from one of its walls.

    The 4th Lord Bellew lived in one wing of the house; his staff in the other.

    Alas, by the 1930s, the house had become somewhat dilapidated.

    First published in December, 2012.