Sunday, 1 February 2015

1st Viscount Craigavon


JAMES CRAIG was born near Strandtown on the outskirts of east Belfast, the son of James Craig (1828–1900) a wealthy distiller.

The Craig family came to Ulster in 1608 and lived at Ballyvester, near Donaghadee; and, at a later time, at Ballyvester House itself.

Craig entered the firm of Dunville & Company, whiskey distillers, as a clerk, aged 40. He subsequently became a millionaire and partner in the firm.

His career is already well documented on the Internet.

The Craigavon Papers are held at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

The supporters of the Craigavon coat-of-arms depict a constable of the Ulster Special constabulary, his hands resting on a rifle, on the left; and a private soldier of the Royal Ulster Rifles, armed and accoutred, to the right.

The 1st Viscount is buried at the Stormont Estate. The titles are currently held by the 3rd Viscount, born in 1940.
CRAIGAVON HOUSE, Strandtown, Belfast, was the seat of the Craig family.

Its main entrance was on the Holywood Road, close to where the Mormon church is today.

The grounds extended to twenty acres. 

Craigavon House was built in 1870. 

It is a two-storey Victorian dwelling with a front of two bays on either side of a central bow.

There are round-headed windows in the lower storey, with camber-headed windows above.

A pavilion with pedimented portico forms the entrance front of the house, joined to the main block by an orangery.

The Craigavon crest, a lion rampant, adorns the front of the orangery in the form of carved stone-work.

There were two gate lodges, one on the Holywood Road where William Cowan, a gardener, lived ca 1900, since demolished; and the other on Circular Road, home to James Clements, coachman.

From Holywood Road the drive ran parallel to the Circular Road, on a steep incline.

The Circular Road lodge is in good condition.

The Craigs' closest neighbours would have been the Mitchells at Marmont House.

Of the big houses on Circular Road, only Craigavon and Marmont (Mitchell House School) remain. 


Craigavon House is owned and run by the Somme Association, a charity which cares for elderly war veterans.

Sadly, the future of Craigavon House remains uncertain.

Sir Edward Carson declared the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant from its steps.

It was later signed by more than 47,000 men and women on 28 September, 1912, who pledged themselves to defend the Protestant heritage in the province.

Residents of the Somme Hospital, a nursing home for veterans, moved out of the main building to a new block some time ago, but an historical society which occupies the rear of the building, is now moving into the house itself. 

The Somme association hopes to attract other tenants which would help with running costs of the building, because they are reluctant to sell it.


The Craig family also owned a maritime residence called Tyrella House.

Tyrella House, between Ardglass and Newcastle, County Down, was bought by the 1st Viscount's father. 

In the study of Tyrella there is a stained-glass window of the Craig Crest.

Here is a link to one of the 1st Viscount's brothers, Vincent, who was an architect:

He designed The Royal Ulster Yacht Club. 

Another brother, Charles Craig, was also a politician. 

Tyrella House was sold to the present family in the 1940s.

I think the last member of the Craig family to live there was Clarence, another brother of the 1st Viscount (who had seven brothers and one sister).

The early 19th century house, with a conservatory, is placed near the sea.

Lewis describes the site in 1837 as  ‘… a richly planted demesne of 200 acres …’ 

The house is protected by mature shelter trees.

There is a folly fort on a hill top to the north- east of the house. 

An early 20th century Japanese garden to the south of the house has ‘Spider Lodge’, a summer- house; a Japanese summer-house; overgrown rockeries; water features and exotic planting.

This area fell into decline after the 2nd World War.

The walled garden is cultivated round a house, built there in 1987.

There are glasshouses and a potting shed.

Other noted features are the entrance gates and screen pre-1835; gate lodge pre-1835; a smithy, which looks like a gate lodge. 

Tyrella House is featured in Hidden Ireland as a guesthouse.

The 1st Viscount is buried at the Stormont Estate.

The title is currently held by the 3rd Viscount, born in 1940.

First published in May, 2010.

Greg Mausoleum

I paid a visit to Knockbreda cemetery in January, 2013. 

There are many interesting mausolea and grave-stones there, including that of the Greg family.

The Gregs were prosperous Belfast merchants in the 18th century. 

John Greg, a blacksmith, removed from Scotland to Belfast to forge (unintended pun!) a successful career as a butcher and provision merchant.

His son Thomas opened a shop in North Street, where he sold a wide range of goods.

Ultimately, Thomas Greg made his fortune in the West Indies campaign, applying to the Crown for the right to become a privateer.

First published in January, 2013.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Ballynegall House


This is a branch of SMYTH of Gaybrook, springing more immediately from SMYTH of Drumcree. 

only son of Thomas Smyth, of Drumcree, by his third wife, Martha (daughter of the Ven Francis Hutchinson, Archdeacon of Down and Connor), served as High Sheriff 1792, being then described as of "Smythboro" or Coole.
Mr Smyth married, in 1796, Abilgail, daughter of John Hamilton, of Belfast; and dying in 1830, left issue by her,
THOMAS, his heir;
Francis, captain RN;
John Stewart;
Edward, d 1857;
Arthur (Dr);
Hamilton, barrister (1813-59);
Anna; Emily.
The eldest son, 

THE REV THOMAS SMYTH (1796-1874), wedded, in 1832, Mary Anne, daughter of Adam Tate Gibbons, of East India Company, and niece of James Gibbons, of Ballynegall; and by her left issue,
THOMAS JAMES, his heir;
James Gibbons, major in the army;
William Adam, major in the army;
Albert Edward, major in the army;
Elizabeth Abigail Mary Amelia;
Mary Anne; Louisa Anna.
His eldest son, 

THOMAS JAMES SMYTH JP DL (1833-), of Ballynegall, married, in 1864, Bessie, fourth daughter of Edward Anketell Jones, of Adelaide Crescent, Brighton.
High Sheriff, 1858; captain, Westmeath Rifles; succeeded to the property at the decease of James William Middleton Berry, in 1855.
Captain Smyth left issue,
Ellinor Marion Hawkesworth;
Maud Emily Abigail Hawkesworth.
His only son,

THOMAS GIBBONS HAWKESWORTH SMYTH (1865-) of Ballynegall, wedded, in 1895, Constance, younger daughter of Harry Corbyn Levinge, of Knockdrin Castle, Mullingar; and by her had issue,

BALLYNEGALL HOUSE, near Mullingar, County Westmeath, is said to have been one of the greatest architectural losses in the county.

The designs for this elegant and refined Regency house have been traditionally attributed to Francis Johnston, one of the foremost architects of his day and a man with an international reputation.

The quality of the original design is still apparent, despite its derelict and overgrown appearance.

The house was originally constructed for James Gibbons at the enormous cost of £30,000, and was reputedly built using the fabric of an existing castle on site, known as Castle Reynell after the previous owners of the estate.

Ballynagall remained in the Gibbons Family until 1846, when ownership passed on to Mr James W M Berry.

In 1855, ownership later passed on to the Smyth family through marriage.

There is a fascinating article here, written by one of the last of the Smyths to live at Ballynegall.

The house was abandoned in the early 1960s and all remaining internal fittings and fixtures were removed at this time.

The original Ionic portico was also removed in the 1960s and now stands at Straffan House, County Kildare.

The remains of a very fine iron conservatory, which has been attributed to Richard Turner (1798-1881), is itself a great loss to the heritage of the county.

Ballynagall House stands in picturesque, mature parkland.

The remains of the house form the centrepiece of one of the best collections of demesne-related structures in County Westmeath, along with the stable block to the north-west and the gate lodge and St Mary's church to the south-east.

First published in February, 2013.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Palace Barracks, Holywood

PALACE BARRACKS, Holywood, County Down, was constructed between 1894 and 1898 by various contractors and was probably designed by the War Office Architects department, London.

The officers' mess bears the date 1899.

The building was reputedly completed in two phases: the contractors for Phase One being Lowry of Belfast, and for Phase Two, Campbell, also of Belfast.

From the mid-1880s, the Army established the Kinnegar camp at Holywood, County Down, as a training ground for regiments stationed in Belfast.

The camp could accommodate more than 400 personnel under canvas.

The Bishop's Palace in Holywood, Ardtullagh, formerly the official residence of the Lord Bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore, fell vacant on the succession of Bishop Reeves in 1886, who resided at Dunmurry.

Attempts were made to sell the Palace and grounds but these proved fruitless until, in 1890, an offer of £1,000 from the War Office was accepted.

By 1891 the palace and grounds were being used for training by the Royal Irish Rifles.

In 1893, work began on officers' quarters; and in 1894, the construction of barracks.

The barracks were almost completed in 1896 and the old palace had been demolished.

Four blocks which comprised accommodation for the men were already finished.

The Belfast Newsletter described the scheme, which was pioneering in its day,
In all there will be nine blocks, constructed to quarter one regiment of infantry. Each block will afford accommodation for 84 men and two unmarried sergeants. A recreation establishment of the newest type is in course of construction which will contain lecture-room, coffee-room, billiards-room, and a canteen, with separate accommodation for corporals.
The usual cook-houses, baths, and workshops, which appear to be very numerous, are in the course of erection. A sergeants' mess establishment and guardhouses are being erected near the site of the central lodge of the old palace. The commanding officer's quarters is a separate building and is situated at the south-west angle of the grounds.
The officers' quarters will accommodate twenty-seven officers, with mess establishment ... a hospital is almost completed, with a medical officer's residence adjoining, which is the first time in this part of the country that accommodation for a medical staff has been constructed in conjunction with a military hospital.
There is also in course of construction quartermaster's and warrant officers' quarters and there will also be erected several blocks of buildings for the accommodation of married men. These houses will be erected at the north end of the park, along the side of the road known locally as Jackson's Road.
The buildings are lighted throughout with gas, supplied by the Holywood Gas Company Limited. The water is supplied by the Belfast Water Commissioners. The sanitary arrangements are perfect. Nothing has been left undone for the comfort and health of the men, who seem well pleased with their new quarters".
The records of a parliamentary debate in 1907, in which improving the accommodation at Holywood barracks was discussed, noted that,
"There is much more difficulty in recruiting in Ireland than in any other part of the UK and therefore it is important to make the barracks in Ireland as attractive as possible".
Palace Barracks has been the Regimental Headquarters of the Royal Irish Regiment since 2008 and the home base of several squadrons of the 152 (Ulster) Transport Regiment (Volunteers).

The Cunningham Baronetcy


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

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

He was engaged in business in Northern Ireland between 1931-37; was called to the Bar of Middle Temple in 1939; the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland, in 1942. He later became a QC.

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

In 1955, Cunningham 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 he held his most important and influential position as PPS to the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan.  

In 1963, he was created a baronet.

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 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.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Cullintraw Acquisition


PROPERTY: Cullintraw, Ballydrain, County Down

DATE: 1994

EXTENT: 13.91 acres

DONOR: Joan Morrow

Richhill Castle

Richardson of Rossfad & Rich Hill


The family of RICHARDSON is descended from

WILLIAM RICHARDSON, stated in 1647 to be descended from the ancient family of RICHARDSON of Pershore, Worcestershire.

His second son,

MAJOR EDWARD RICHARDSON, of Legacorry, alias Rich Hill, County Armagh,
MP for that county in 1661, High Sheriff in 1665,
was in service with The King's troops in Ireland, under colonels Mount and Castle, in 1642 and following years.

He wedded Anne, only child and heir of Francis Sacheverell, of Legacorry, and Dorothy his wife (daughter and co-heir of Sir John Blennerhassett, knight, chief baron of the Irish Exchequer).
Mr Francis Sacheverell was son of Francis Sacheverell, of Rearsby, Leicestershire, who had a grant of Legacorry during the reign of JAMES I.
By Anne his wife Major Richardson (who died in 1690) had issue,
William, of Legacorry (1656-1727), dsp;
JOHN, of whom presently.
The younger son,

JOHN RICHARDSON (1663-c1744), of Legacorry, alias Rich Hill, an officer in the army, espoused, in 1707-8, Anne, daughter of William Beckett, Prime Sergeant-at-Law, and by her had issue,
WILLIAM, of Richhill, MP;
HENRY, colonel, of whom hereafter;
Hester, m Rev J Lowry, of Pomeroy;
Mary, m Archibald, 1st Lord Gosford.
Mr Richardson's second son,

lieutenant-colonel, 29th Regiment, entered the army as a cornet in the 8th Horse, Ligonier's, 1743,
wedded firstly, Catherine, eldest daughter of Samuel Perry, of County Tyrone, which lady died dsp in 1765.

He married secondly, in 1766, Jane, daughter and co-heir of Guy Carleton, of Rossfad, County Fermanagh.

Colonel Richardson died about 1794, having by her had issue a son,

JOHN RICHARDSON (1768-1841), of Rossfad, major in the Tyrone Militia, who wedded, in 1807, Angel, daughter of Mervyn Archdall MP, of Castle Archdale, leaving by her an only son, 

HENRY MERVYN RICHARDSON DL (1808-82), of Rossfad, County Fermanagh, who espoused, in 1834, Mary Jane, widow of John Johnston, of Crocknacrieve, County Fermanagh, and second daughter of Dr Charles Ovenden, of Enniskillen, and Mayfield, Sussex, having by her had issue,
Charles William Henry (1840-88);
Jane Angel, died unm 1902;
Angel Catherine Charlotte, died unm 1906;
Emilie Margaret;
Henrietta Martha Mervyn, m Charles R Barton, of The Waterfoot.
Mr Richardson succeeded on the death of his cousin Louisa, Mrs Bacon, in 1881, to two-thirds of the Rich Hill estate.

His eldest son,

Colonel, 3rd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, and of County Fermanagh, 1888, 
married, in 1880, Mildred Harriet, third daughter of Gartside Tipping, of Rossferry, County Fermanagh, and of Bolton-le-Moors, Lancashire, and had issue,
HENRY SACHEVERELL CARLETON, lt, Rifle Brigade, b 1883;
Guy Carleton, b 1885;
Jane Mary; Mildred Cicely Carleton.

RICHHILL CASTLE, County Armagh, was built between 1664-90 by Major Edward Richardson MP.

It comprises two storeys, with a gabled attic in a high-pitched roof.

The house is U-shaped, the entrance front having projecting wings which form a three-sided court.

The centre range has five bays, with one bay at the end of each wing.

There are pedimented Dutch-style gables at the ends of the wings.

Chimney-stacks are lofty and prominent.

The doorway boasts Doric columns, pediment and entablature. 

The Castle stands on the site of an earlier dwelling erected by Francis Sacheverall, a planter from Rossbye, Leicestershire, in 1611.
In 1610, Sacheverall had received two portions of land, 1,000 acres each, called Mullalelish and Legacorry, and decided to live on the latter. He declared himself to be worth £300 a year and brought over three masons, a carpenter, a smithy, nine labourers, two women, four horses and a cart. Before his death in 1649, Sacheverall had sold the Mullalelish portion to Sir William Alexander, a Scottish speculator who was later honoured with the earldom of Stirling.
Francis Sacheverall's son and heir, also called Francis, and his wife, Dorothy, had an only daughter, Anne, who married Major Edward Richardson in 1654.

Through this marriage, Legacorry became the property of the Richardson family and the present castle was built.

Louisa Richardson married Edward Bacon, High Sheriff of Armagh and, as she had no family, the estate passed to the Rossfad branch of the Richardsons after her death in 1881.

In the early part of this century the castle was the residence of Major Robert Gordon Berry.

There are some stories surrounding him involving secret passages, skeletons and a grave in the castle grounds.

After the establishment of the Government of Northern Ireland in 1920, the castle became the property of the NI Education Authority.

During the 1930s it was occupied by Sam Hewitt, whose main claim to fame was the invention of an egg-washing machine.


The elaborate gates of Richhill Castle were constructed by the Thornberry Brothers of Armagh in 1745. 

They were 18-20 feet high and topped with the Richardson coat-of-arms.

In 1936, the gates were removed by night to Hillsborough Castle, then the residence of the Governor of Northern Ireland, which was being renovated after a fire in 1934.

In spite of a storm of protest from local councillors and villagers, the gates were never returned.

The Richardson family crest (above) adorns the top of the gates.

Villagers are seeking the return of the gates to the Castle.

According to villagers, the gates were taken from Richhill in the late 1930s as part of the 2nd World War effort, when gates and railings all over the UK were seized by the Government to melt down and turn into guns and tanks to fight the Nazis.

But the former Richhill Castle gates, considered too ornate to waste on Hitler, were stashed away during the hostilities. They turned up in Hillsborough to adorn the castle at the top of the town's main street.

Clamours for the gates' return built up a head of steam during 2009, but the death of Gordon Lyttle, the incumbent of Richhill Castle, held things back:

Dr Alan Turtle, chairman of the Richhill Improvements Association:

"But now that the seemingly impossible has happened with the political agreement. It would seem appropriate to give us back our gates.

We are in the process of spending £747,000 donated by the Heritage Lottery Fund on a major scheme in Richhill, and the least the government can do is give us back the gates that were taken, supposedly temporarily, but seem to have a permanent home at Hillsborough.

It's our long-term ambition to buy the castle and turn it into a hotel and conference centre, so we'll be stepping up the gates campaign."
Ca 1681-82, permission was granted for Major Edward Richardson to hold a Saturday market and three fairs per annum.

The fairs were held on Shrove Tuesday, St Swithin's Day and St Francis's Day. New orchards were being planted at this time and houses were springing up along the road sides.
A market-house was built in the Square by William Richardson in 1753, which became a very important centre of the brown linen trade where, in 1804, sales averaged at least £500 per week, despite rival markets in both Armagh and Portadown.
The construction of a new road from Armagh to Belfast, which by-passed Richhill, triggered the decline of the weekly market and the three fairs; thus the market-house was converted into the present parish church in 1837.

It is interesting to note that, in a census in 1814, Richhill had 161 dwellings, six more than Portadown.

Occupations included hand-loom weaving, straw plate-making, shuttle-making, wood-turning and spade-making.

By 1835, the three Misses Richardson, who now owned the estate - and were described as excellent landlords - had built many new country schools on the estate, Mulladry and Derryhale being two examples.

First published in August, 2010.