Monday, 23 January 2017

BH Memoirs: V

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN MATTHEW BLAKISTON-HOUSTON DL (1898-1984), OF BELTRIM CASTLE, COUNTY TYRONE, AND RODDENS, COUNTY DOWN, WAS BORN AT ORANGEFIELD HOUSE, BELFAST


HE SERVED IN THE FIRST AND SECOND WORLD WARS; WAS AIDE-DE-CAMP TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF AUSTRALIA, 1929-30; HIGH SHERIFF OF COUNTY DOWN, 1944; DEPUTY LIEUTENANT OF COUNTY DOWN, 1946; HIGH SHERIFF OF COUNTY TYRONE, 1954


After a little leave at home I rejoined the 11th Hussars at Tidworth.

In the spring I got engaged to be married to Lettice Stobart, daughter of Harry Stobart of Yorkshire.

I had applied for the adjutancy of the Yorkshire Dragoons but was turned down on the grounds that I was a bachelor.

I had wanted to be in Yorkshire to see Lattice but I could not very well give this reason to the Colonel of the Yorkshire Dragoons!

We were married in July, 1931.

Then I was appointed Adjutant of the Cheshire Yeomanry and was to take over on 1st November, 1931.

After we were married we spent a fortnight in Norway and as it was not worth setting up a house for three months we started living in the Everleigh Hotel near Tadworth.

The rooms were small and the roofs were low and I kept bumping my head, so we decided to pitch a camp on Salisbury Plain and live in it.

We borrowed a large marquee from the Quartermaster and five bell tents.

We engaged an ex-naval chef and I had my soldier servant.

We had a map reference for a postal address but actually we were only 500 yards from Trevor Smail’s house.

George Paul spent a few weeks with us as a guest and during manoeuvres we had visitors from far and wide.

My mother-in-law came and spent a few days with us.

Then we moved up to Eccleston at the Duke of Westminster’s [Eaton Hall] gate and we lived there for the next four years.

Mary and Anne were both born there.

I worked hard with the Cheshire Yeomanry and enjoyed the work with these enthusiastic yeomen.

The men were particularly keen.

We hunted with both the Cheshire and Sir Watkin Wynn’s hounds but mostly with the latter.

I did a bit more flying while at Chester and obtained my “A” certificate but I was never a good pilot.

During the time I was at Chester my father died at Roddens.

After this I had to cross over to Ireland for a three day visit each month to attend to the farms and the estate.

First published in January, 2015.  Extracts by kind permission of RP Blakiston-Houston OBE JP DL

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Cunningham Baronetcy

THE CUNNINGHAM BARONETCY, OF CROOKEDSTONE, KILLEAD, COUNTY ANTRIM, WAS CREATED IN 1963 FOR SAMUEL KNOX CUNNINGHAM


KNOX CUNNINGHAM QC (1909-76) was a well-known Ulster Unionist politician, barrister and business man.

He was born in 1909 and educated at RBAI, Fettes College, Edinburgh, and at Clare College, Cambridge, where he was heavy-weight boxing champion.

Sir Knox was engaged in business in Northern Ireland between 1931-37; called to the Bar of Middle Temple, 1939; and the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland, 1942.

He later became a QC.

During the 2nd World War, Sir Knox served with the Scots Guards, and in 1943 and 1945 he unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary seat of West Belfast.

In 1955 he contested and won the parliamentary seat of South Antrim, a seat which he held until his retirement in 1970.

Cunningham's fame rests chiefly on his distinguished parliamentary career.

Between 1958-59 he was PPS to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury; and between 1959-63 held his most important and influential position as PPS to the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan.  

This was a unique position for an Ulster Unionist and for four years Sir Knox worked in the centre of power at Westminster.

It was in Mr Macmillan’s 1963 resignation honours list that Knox Cunningham was awarded with a baronetcy for his distinguished services to the Prime Minister.
When the Labour Party came to power under Harold Wilson in 1964, Sir Knox pressed and probed with innumerable questions and interventions in debates and he had many verbal clashes with Harold Wilson himself in the House of Commons.
For three years Sir Knox was a member of the United Kingdom Parliamentary Delegation to the Council of Europe and Western European Union at Strasbourg where he put Ulster’s case to the Europeans.


Sir Knox was on the right wing of Ulster Unionism and was a powerful critic of Terence O’Neill’s political reforms in Northern Ireland.

Sir Knox died without issue in 1976, when the title became extinct.



FERNHILL HOUSE was built in the 1860s by John Smith, a wealthy Belfast butter merchant.

The site had to be cut out of the rock-face.

It comprises two storeys, a mixture of Classical and Italian Renaissance style, with a fine Greek-style portico.

In 1898, Fernhill was acquired by Samuel Cunningham, a member of a leading family involved in the grain and tobacco trade.

The Cunninghams owned about 133 acres of land in the Shankill and Ballygomartin areas of Belfast.

Cunningham was a stockbroker, chairman of the Northern Whig and a leading member of the Ulster Unionist Council and the Ulster Provisional Government from 1911 onwards.

The original Ulster Volunteer Force of 1912-14 drilled in these grounds before the 1st World War.

The stables at Fernhill were always stocked with the finest race horses: Tipperary Tim was winner of the 1928 Grand National.

In October, 1994, the Loyalist ceasefire was proclaimed at Fernhill House.


THE GLENCAIRN ESTATE originally covered more than 100 acres of land at the bottom of Divis Mountain.

It included four houses - Glencairn and Fernhill, which stood on either side of a sloping valley, Glendivis, situated between the Ballygomartin River and Glencairn Road (just beyond the present entrance to the park), and Four Winds, located further along the Glencairn Road.

The largest houses, Glencairn and Fernhill, were also served by modest mid-19th century gate lodges.

In 1899, Samuel Cummingham moved into Fernhill House, which had great views of Belfast, the Mourne Mountains and even the family's home country of Scotland.

The Cunningham family eventually moved to Glencairn House and lived on the estate for most of the 20th century.

Glencairn and Fernhill Houses were surrounded by extensive lawns, gravel pathways, mature trees, formal gardens, vegetable plots, a croquet lawn, shrub borders and a rock garden.

An ancient rath or fort, around 120 feet in diameter with ramparts and a surrounding trench, was located behind Fernhill House.

The trench was filled in and used as a ring for training horses while the Cunninghams lived on the estate.

Both Glencairn and Fernhill Houses were damaged during World War II: When Colonel Cunningham returned home after the war, he found Glencairn House empty and abandoned and his family living in part of Fernhill House.

The estate was eventually acquired by the Belfast Corporation (now the council) in 1962 and re-opened as a public park. 


BY THE LATE 18th and early 19th century, the Cunninghams had clearly established themselves as merchants and businessmen.

Samuel’s brothers John, William, James, Thomas, Josias and Barber, were all directly involved in business and commerce.

John Cunningham (of Glenwood, a house which is roughly in the same location as the present day Glenwood Primary School) and Thomas Cunningham were partners in the firm of J & T Cunningham at Mill Street, Belfast.

James Cunningham was a grain merchant; William was a merchant at Belfast; Josias and Barber (the youngest brothers) were partners in a firm of wholesale tobacco importers based at Rosemary Street, Belfast.

Barber Cunningham, a tobacco merchant, was the father of Sir Josias Cunningham DL, one of the most well-known members of this family.

Sir Josias firmly established the family’s fortunes.

First Published in June, 2010.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Brackenber Dinner

Last night (Friday, 20th January, 2017) I attended the annual reunion dinner of the Old Brackenbrian Association at the Ulster Reform Club, Belfast.

Brackenber House, my old prep school, was at Cleaver Avenue in Belfast.

I was at Brackenber from about 1971 till 1973 or 74.

Our dinner last night was in the former billiards-room on the top floor.


The Reform Club is undoubtedly one of Belfast's most venerated institutions: heavy oak panelling; thick, opulent carpets; vaulted ceilings; decent plasterwork; leather armchairs.

This is the last remaining Victorian gentlemen's club in the city, though of course it's open to both genders now.


The Club used to have accommodation for members, though I think this ceased in the 1970s.

There were about 58 of us there last night, a good turnout given that the old school was demolished perhaps thirty years ago.

As usual the company was most enjoyable.

It's always great to see Johnny Knox there (he endeavoured to teach me French at Campbell) and Jeff Dudgeon, MBE.

I have never been disappointed yet by the dinners at the Reform Club, and last night was certainly no exception.


We had Gateau of Walter's Cured Salmon, Tomato & Prawns served with home-made horseradish mayonnaise and freshly-baked wheaten-bread.

Incidentally, for the benefit of readers, Walter Ewing is from the celebrated Ewing's fishmongers.

The main course was slow-braised daube of beef with a selection of fresh market vegetables.

Pudding, home-made apple pie with cinnamon cream.

All very traditional and appropriate for the occasion.

I happened to be seated beside Paul Bew (Lord Bew) and Ben Lowry of the Newsletter newspaper.


Our speaker was Mike Brown, MVO, the Commissioner of London Transport.

I had a good chat with him afterwards.

We are all indebted to the unsung organizers of the annual dinner, including Gordon Harvey and Robert Curran.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Castle Gore

THE EARLS OF ARRAN WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY MAYO, WITH 29,644 ACRES


This family deduces from

GERARD GORE (c1516-1607), citizen, Merchant Taylor, and alderman of the city of London at the close of the 16th century, who married Helen, daughter of Ralph Davenant, of Davenant Land, Essex.

He died at the advanced age of 91, having had eight sons, of whom,
RICHARD, the eldest, MP for London, d leaving 7 daughters;
JOHN (Sir), 4th son, Lord Mayor of London, 1624;
PAUL (Sir), of whom presently.
The youngest son,

SIR PAUL GORE (1567-1629), captain of a troop of horse, went over to Ireland with his regiment in the reign of ELIZABETH I, and obtaining large grants of land, which he condensed into a manor, designated Manor Gore, settled there.

Captain Gore wedded Isabella, daughter of Francis Wickliffe, and niece of Thomas, Earl of Strafford, and had issue,
RALPH, ancestor of the extinct house of Gore, Earls of Ross;
ARTHUR, of whom we treat.
Sir Paul's second son,

ARTHUR GORE (c1640-97), of Newtown, County Mayo, was created a baronet in 1662.

He wedded Eleanor, daughter of Sir George St George Bt, of Carrick, County Leitrim, and had (with seven daughters) four sons, viz.
PAUL, predeceased his father;
Arthur;
William, of Woodford, MP for Co Leitrim;
George, an eminent lawyer.
Sir Arthur was succeeded by his grandson (son of Paul), 

SIR ARTHUR GORE, 2nd Baronet, MP for County Longford, 1727, who married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Maurice Annesley, of Little Rath, County Kildare, and had four sons and three daughters,
ARTHUR, his heir;
Paul Annesley;
William;
George;
Anne; Eleanor; Elizabeth.
Sir Arthur died in 1741, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR ARTHUR GORE, 3rd Baronet (1703-73), who was created, in 1758, Baron Saunders, of Deeps, County Wexford; and Viscount Sudley, of Castle Gore.

His lordship was advanced to an earldom, in 1762, as EARL OF ARRAN, of the Arran Islands, County Galway.

He espoused Jane, heiress of Richard Saunders, of Saunders Court, and relict of William Worth.


6th Earl of Arran KP (1868-1958)

ARTHUR CHARLES JOCELYN CHARLES [GORE], 6th Earl, KP, PC; Knight of St Patrick, 1909; Privy Counsellor, 1917; Lord-Lieutenant of County Donegal, 1917-20.

The 6th Earl is pictured above, wearing the robe, sash and insignia of the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick. 

Address to 6th Earl and Countess of Arran on their marriage

"We, the Tenants on your Lordship's Mayo Estate, and their friends, have heard with the utmost pleasure of your Marriage, and in meeting assembled, unanimously and with sincere and cordial feelings have passed the following resolution ..."

The Earls of Arran were a "Patrick family", the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th Earls all having been appointed to the Order of St Patrick. 

The present Earl and Countess of Arran live at Castle Hill House, near Barnstaple, Devon.



CASTLE GORE, or Deel Castle, near Crossmolina, County Mayo, is a 16th century tower house of the Bourkes.

It is close to the northern end of Lough Conn.

After Colonel Thomas Bourke had fought on the side of JAMES II in the Williamite War, the property was forfeited and given to the Gore family, afterwards Earls of Arran, who renamed it Castle Gore.

The tower-house had a large 18th century wing with a handsome rusticated doorway added to it, possibly incorporating a 17th century range.


They also acquired the manor of Belleek from the O'Haras, Barons Tyrawley, and owned estates in County Donegal.

The castle along with other lands was leased to James Cuff, Lord Tyrawley, towards the end of the 18th century; occupied by the Cuffs' steward for part of the 19th century.

James Cuff, Lord Tyrawley, built a house beside the Old Bourke Castle in 1791.

The house was burnt in 1922, when the Arrans removed to England. It was not rebuilt.

The old castle, which was still intact in the early 20th century, is now a ruin.

The Earls of Arran had a London home at The Pavilion, Hans Place.

First published in October, 2012.   Arran arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

The Countess of Wessex

THE COUNTESS OF WESSEX is 52 today.

Her Royal Highness's full style is as follows,
Her Royal Highness The Princess Edward Antony Richard Louis, Countess of Wessex, Viscountess Severn.

HRH received the Royal Family Order of QUEEN ELIZABETH II in 2004.

She was appointed Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) in 2010.

The badge of the Royal Victorian Order features on The Countess of Wessex's armorial bearings.

When the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne, The Countess of Wessex shall become Baroness Greenwich, Countess of Merioneth and Duchess of Edinburgh.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

BH Memoirs: IV

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN MATTHEW BLAKISTON-HOUSTON DL (1898-1984), OF BELTRIM CASTLE, COUNTY TYRONE, AND RODDENS, COUNTY DOWN, WAS BORN AT ORANGEFIELD HOUSE, NEAR BELFAST
 
HE SERVED IN THE FIRST AND SECOND WORLD WARS; WAS AIDE-DE-CAMP TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF AUSTRALIA, 1929-30; HIGH SHERIFF OF COUNTY DOWN, 1944; DEPUTY LIEUTENANT OF COUNTY DOWN, 1946; HIGH SHERIFF OF COUNTY TYRONE, 1954


In 1929, I was offered the post of the ADC [Aide-de-Camp] to Lord Stonehaven, the Governor-General of Australia.

After a certain amount of misgivings at first, I accepted and thus commenced one of the happiest and most interesting periods of my service.

The trip out took us six weeks but time went quickly.

Geoffrey Millar, 11th Hussars, who is an Australian, came out with me on the P&O “Multan.”

When we got to Port Said I thought I would like to go down to see my old friends in Cairo and the Royals who were then stationed there.

The Captain kindly arranged that I should join the ship again on a pilot boat in the middle of Lake Timash in the Suez Canal.

Geoffrey came with me to Cairo and after a night there we went off to Ismaïlia to wait for our ship.

While waiting I found the officers of a naval sloop which was lying there was holding a regatta and the Commander offered to allow me to sail the Captain’s longboat (or whatever it is called) in the race.

I had a sailor with me but he knew even less about sailing than I did.

After becoming becalmed I think we finished a good last but got back just in time to join our ship again.

HRH Prince Henry [Duke of Gloucester] was on board another P&O on his way to bestow the Order of the Garter or some such decoration on the Emperor of Japan.

When we arrived at Colombo, HRH and his party were there and we watched him play in a game of polo.

We also found time to motor up to Kandi, the hill station above Colombo and saw something of that lovely island.

We touched at Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne, and I reported for duty at Admiralty House, Sydney, in March, 1929.

I found the atmosphere at Government House most strained and unhappy.

Ken Nicholl was Military Secretary and there were two ADCs, David Nicholl, a gunner subaltern, and Ronald Leggett, RN, whom I was to succeed.

Ken Nicholl was exceptionally rude to Lady Stonehaven and to my mind very disloyal to His Excellency as well.

Ken Nicholl had made up his mind that Lady Stonehaven should have no private friends as it might cause jealousy, and seemed to have persuaded His Excellency to back him up in this policy.

I made friends at once with Lady Stonehaven, played tennis with her, and took her for walks.

Lord Stonehaven was a very active and conscientious Governor-General.

He was, perhaps, rather guarded and appeared to be on his dignity in his dealings with the Australians.

I think this was largely the fault of his staff.

He was intensely fond of travelling and we travelled thousands of miles by car, train, air and ship during my 18 months with him.

My first assignment was to accompany him to New England.

Here we stayed for the Inverell Carnival Week.

There were agricultural shows or Polo Tournaments every day and dances every night.

I’ve never before seen so many really lovely girls together.

Thanks to the generosity of an old Mr Ronald McKie, and Gordon and Douglas Munro I was mounted to play with them in one of the Polo Tournaments.

I was not long off the boat and was not in hard condition.

The Australians play polo in a saddle with a “roller” which I found rubbed my knees.

At that time everyone played in snaffles.

A few months later a team from India came out and defeated all their best teams.

After this the Australians schooled their ponies to play in double bridles and the saddler in Sydney
told me he did an enormous trade in bits.

David Nicholl was also keen on polo and we decided that as one of us had always got to be in attendance on HE we would get no polo unless we made him play too.

David was commissioned to buy him a couple of ponies and from then on we ran a Government House team.

From time to time we had different people to make the fourth player but while we were in Melbourne we often had that good sportsman “Bran” Davidson, who I had known well in Egypt.

HE told me afterwards that this polo changed his whole outlook on life.

We stayed up on one occasion with Alan Currie for a polo week in the Eastern District of Victoria.

I still have a Cup we won there at the Caramut Tournament.

The Governor-General had three homes in those days and he divided his time between them.

They were Admiralty House, Sydney; Government House, Canberra; and Government House, Melbourne.

David and I liked Canberra best. The new capital of Canberra.

HE, David, and I used to go up to the Brindabella River in the snowy mountains to fish.

We stayed in a hut up there belonging to John Joceland. HE was very keen fisherman.

The river was as clear as crystal and ran through one of the loveliest bit of mountain scenery in Australia.

It was all up-stream fishing and we used to catch very good baskets of rainbow trout.

Later on I started a small “bobbery” pack of hounds at Canberra.

I was given hounds by both the Findon Harriers, and the Melbourne Hunt.

We usually hunted hare. The country was not ideal; it was mostly fenced with barbed wire and we had to gallop for the gates.

One day I remember running a hare down into Canberra, and checking opposite the Parliament House, just as all the government clerks and officials were going home from their offices.

There was an Irish policeman on duty at the crossroads when we checked.

He left his point and with his hat held high cheered us unto the line of our hare.

HE’s two daughters, Ariel and Ava, aged 13 and 11, used to come out to their ponies.

First published in January, 2015.  Extracts reproduced by kind permission of RP Blakiston-Houston OBE JP DL.

Prehen House

 THE KNOX FAMILY OWNED 3,641 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY LONDONDERRY

This appeared to be the direct representative line of the ancient and extended family of KNOX, the founder of that name.

ADAMUS, son of Uchtred, obtained from the High Steward, during the time of ALEXANDER II, King of Scots, 1214-49, grants of the lands of Knock, Ranfurly, Crieff Castle, Craigend, etc, in Renfrewshire.

The descendants of ADAMUS assumed the name of Knox, derived, according to Patronymina Britannica, from the lands of Knocks or Knox, Knock being Gaelic for round-topped hill.

For many generations they were seated at Ranfurly Castle, the ruins of which lie between Glasgow and Greenock.

THE RT REV ANDREW KNOX (1559-1633), second son of John Knox, of Ranfurly, Renfrewshire, was consecrated Lord Bishop of the Isles, 1605, and Lord Bishop of Raphoe, 1610.

The Bishop had a grant of the monastery and lands of Rathmullen, County Donegal, in 1614.

He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Ralph Bingley, Knight, of Rosguill, County Donegal, and had issue,
Thomas (Rt Rev), Bishop of the Isles, 1622;
ANDREW, of whom hereafter;
John, in holy orders;
Claud, in holy orders;
James.
His lordship's second son,

ANDREW KNOX, of Rathmullen, County Donegal, wedded Rebecca, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Galbraith, of Dowish, County Londonderry, and had issue,
ANDREW, his heir;
Robert.
Mr Knox was succeeded by his elder son,

ANDREW KNOX, Major in the besieged army of Londonderry, attainted by the parliament of JAMES II, in 1689.

By Mary his wife he left a son and successor,

GEORGE KNOX, of Rathmullen, and of Moneymore, County Donegal, who espoused Mary Wray, and had two sons, ANDREW, his heir, and a younger son (from whom descended Letitia, daughter of the Rev George Knox, Rector of Strabane, mother of General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence and John, 1st Baron Lawrence, Viceroy of India, 1864).

The eldest son,

ANDREW KNOX, of Rathmullen and Moneymore, 27 years MP for County Donegal, and Colonel in the army, married, in 1738, Honoria, daughter and heiress of Andrew Tomkins, of Prehen, County Londonderry, and had (with a daughter, Mary Ann, shot by John Macnaghten in 1760) a son, his heir,

GEORGE KNOX, of Prehen, who wedded, in 1760, Jane, daughter of Thomas Mahon, of Strokestown, County Roscommon, and sister of Maurice, 1st Lord Hartland, and had issue,
ANDREW, his heir;
Thomas, in holy orders;
Maurice;
Alexander;
Mary Anne.
Mr Knox was succeeded by his eldest son,

ANDREW KNOX (1761-1840), of Prehen, Colonel of the Donegal Militia, MP in the Irish parliament at the Union.

He wedded, in 1790, Mary, daughter of Dominick McCausland, of Daisy Hill (Drenagh), County Londonderry, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
Dominick;
Andrew, in holy orders;
Marcus, captain RN;
Thomas;
Jane; Honoria; Mary; Caroline; Benjamina.
Mr Knox was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE KNOX JP DL (c1789-1848), of Prehen, Captain, 2nd Dragoon Guards, who espoused, in 1827, Anna Maria, daughter of Robert Johnstone, of Magheramena Castle, County Fermanagh, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
Letitia Mary;
Harriett.
Captain Knox was succeeded by his only son,

GEORGE KNOX JP DL (1832-1910), of Prehen, High Sheriff of County Donegal, 1862, Lieutenant-Colonel, Londonderry Artillery, who wedded Rose Virginie Grimm, of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, and had issue,
EUGENIE, of whom we treat;
Augusta Georgina.
The elder daughter,

EUGENIE KNOX, wedded Ludwig Otto von Scheffler PhD, and had issue,
GEORGE CARL OTTO LOUIS;
Manon;
Virginie.
Their only son,

GEORGE CARL OTTO LOUIS VON SCHEFFLER-KNOX (1884-1966), inherited Prehen in 1910.


PREHEN HOUSE, County Londonderry, is a noble mid-18th century mansion, perhaps the finest early Georgian country house in Northern Ireland.

It was probably designed by Michael Priestly.

Prehan comprises two storeys over a basement of brick vaulting; of rubble, with ashlar dressings.

The entrance front has a pedimented breakfront centre, including acroteria.

The upper storey has four bays; while the lower storey has one bay on either side of the centre.

The front windows boast fine rusticated surrounds with keystones.

There is a lofty roof with a high parapet.


The rear of the house is U-shaped.

*****

Prehen means "place of the crows" in Gaelic; and during the 17th century the banks of the River Foyle in this vicinity were still thickly wooded.

The townland of Prehen, part of civil parish of Clondermot, and barony of Tirkeeran, was acquired as part of Goldsmiths' Proportion in 1614.

Thomas Raven's map of the Proportion, made in 1619, shows the townland clearly with a house located close to the water, south-west of the present mansion.

This building, evidently a single storey gable-ended dwelling, occupied by one William Taylor, was destroyed in the 1641 Rebellion.

The property was acquired in 1664 by Alderman Alexander Tomkins and his wife Margaret, daughter of Alderman Thomas Moncreiffe.

Tomkins was Mayor of Londonderry at the time of the siege in 1689, and there is a memorial dedicated to "Tomkins of Prehen" in St Columb's Cathedral, erected in 1678.

His house at Prehen, which was probably built in the 1660s, must have stood on the site of the present building.

Alderman Tomkins' son George served as MP for the city from 1715-39 and lived at Prehen.

It can confidently be deduced that the present house was built in the early 1740s.

It is therefore most likely to have been built by Colonel Andrew Knox, who, in 1738, married Honoria, daughter and heiress of Andrew Tomkins of Prehen.

*****

George Carl Otto Von Scheffler, born in 1884, was appointed a Page to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenbach and later Governor of the Royal pages at the Emperor's Court in Berlin, where he was honoured with the title of Baron.

He inherited Prehen from his grandfather aged only 26, but a condition of the inheritance was that he add the surname KNOX to his own for the term of his natural life, and that he become a British Citizen within two years of the testator's decease.

The inheritance was contested in court, which Baron Von Scheffler-Knox won, and he subsequently settled at Prehen.

Unfortunately, the 1st World War broke out in 1914 and Baron Von Scheffler-Knox was declared an enemy alien.

Consequently, the house and lands of Prehen were sequestered by the government and later placed on the open market under the Enemy Property Act.

The Baron died in 1966.

During the 1920s, the demesne was sold off in lots, and the house was subsequently subdivided into flats.

The once fine woodlands, for which Prehen was well known, were sold in 1927 to the McGregors, timber merchants (Londonderry), who thereafter felled many of the trees.

The felling caused controversy at the time and a portion of these woodlands were saved - the area now known as Prehen Wood.

Prehen Wood (18.48 acres) was purchased in 2003 by The Woodland Trust with support from the Prehen Historical and Environment Society.

During the 2nd World War the house was requisitioned by the army for troop accommodation.

Eventually, the mansion, its outbuildings, and some of the surviving parkland were acquired by in 1971 in the name of Julia Peck, granddaughter of Winifred Knox.

The house, then in an very poor state of repair, was subsequently restored by her parents, Carola and the late Julian Peck, who moved here from Rathbeale Hall, County Dublin, in 1974.

Mr Peck died in 2001 and Prehen now belongs to his son, Colin Peck, who has opened the house to the public.

First published in January, 2015.