Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Crom Castle


This family is said to descend from a branch of the Creightons or Crichtons, Viscounts Frendraught, in Scotland, which title ceased with Lewis, the 5th Viscount, about 1690.

JOHN CREIGHTON, of Crum [sic] Castle, County Fermanagh, settled in County Fermanagh during the 17th century.

This John married Mary, daughter of Sir Gerald Irvine, of Castle Irvine, and was succeeded by his son,

ABRAHAM CREIGHTON, MP for County Fermanagh, who commanded a regiment of foot at Aughrim, in 1692.

Colonel Creighton married Mary, daughter of the Rt Rev James Spotiswood, Lord Bishop of Clogher, and was succeeded by his only surviving son,

celebrated for his gallant defence, in 1689, of the family seat of Crom Castle, against a large body of the royal army (JAMES II's).
Having repulsed the assailants, young Creighton made a sally, at the instant that a corps of Enniskilleners was approaching to the relief of the castle, which movement placed the besiegers between two fires, and caused dreadful slaughter.

The enemy attempting to accomplish his retreat across an arm of Lough Erne, near Crom Castle, that spot became the scene of such carnage, that it bore the name of the "Bloody Pass".
This gentleman represented Enniskillen in parliament, and attaining the rank of major-general in the army, was appointed governor of the royal hospital of Kilmainham. 
He wedded, in 1700, Catherine, second daughter of Richard Southwell, of Castle Mattress, County Limerick, and sister of 1st Lord Southwell.

Dying in 1728, he was succeeded by his only son,

, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1768, as Baron Erne, of Crom Castle.

This nobleman espoused Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Lord Chief Justice Rogerson, of the court of King's Bench, by whom he had issue, his elder surviving son,

JOHN, 2nd Baron, who was created Viscount Erne, in 1781; and advanced to the dignity of an earldom, as EARL OF ERNE, in 1789.

His lordship wedded firstly, in 1761, Catherine, 2nd daughter of the Rt Rev Robert Howard DD, Lord Bishop of Elphin, and sister of the Viscount Wicklow.

This nobleman espoused secondly, in 1776, Lady Mary Hervey, eldest daughter of the Rt Hon and Rt Rev Frederick Augustus [Hervey], Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry, and had an only daughter, Lady Elizabeth Caroline Mary Crichton, who wedded James Archibald, Lord Wharncliffe.

Abraham Creighton, 2nd Earl (1765–1842)
John Crichton, 3rd Earl (1802–85)
John Henry Crichton, 4th Earl (1839–1914)
Henry William Crichton, Viscount Crichton (1872–1914)
Hon George David Hugh Crichton (1904–1904)
John Henry George Crichton, 5th Earl (1907–40)
Henry George Victor John Crichton, 6th Earl (b 1937).
The heir apparent is the present holder's only son John Henry Michael Ninian Crichton, styled Viscount Crichton (b. 1971).

CROM CASTLE, near Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh, is one of the the finest estates in County Fermanagh and Northern Ireland.

The Castle stands in a commanding position, with the entrance front to the east, the south front looks out towards the deer-park and Old Castle; while the west front (above) has the prospect of the boat-house and Inisherk Island.

I do admit to a prejudice here: My fondness for Crom cannot be overstated.

Books have been written about Crom. It used to be a thriving community, virtually self-contained, complete with its own post-office; stable-yard; school-house; church; riding school; turf-house and saw-mill; petrol pump; court-yard; and staff accommodation.

The old farm-yard has been transformed into visitor accommodation with a visitor centre, exhibition, tea-room, jetty and more besides.

There is the Crichton Tower, too, a stone folly built as a Famine relief project ca 1847 to serve as an observatory.

The demesne is situated in a heavily wooded lough shore and island setting, the nearest village being Newtownbutler.

The estate was established in the 17th century and the ruins of the original Plantation castle - built about 1611 and destroyed by fire in 1764 - are still accessible on the shores of Upper Lough Erne, surrounded by vestiges of a formal garden; and near to a pair of venerable old yew trees.

The formal garden resembles a garden that would have graced the old castle; but is, in fact, a later garden, made when a plan was laid out in the early 19th century for the present mansion of 1831, by Edward Blore.

It was what I have termed one of the Big Five in the county; though the total income from all the Erne estates, reaching far beyond County Fermanagh, generated £23,850 per annum by 1883 with an overall acreage of 40,365.

In today's terms, that would equate to an annual income of £1.1 million.

The mansion is on an elevated site and is surrounded by mature trees; with vistas cut through the planting to the lough,  buildings used as "eye-catchers" in the distance, including the old Castle.

The Castle combines Baronial and Tudor-Revival elements.

The entrance front has a gabled projection with a corbelled oriel at each end, though they're not totally similar; while the tall, battlemented entrance tower, incorporating a porte-cochére, is not central but to one side, against the left-hand gable.

There are stone-carvings on the south and east fronts of the Castle.

Inside there is a series of heraldic stained-glass panels in the bay window at the foot of the staircase, one of which commemorates the marriage of the 1st Earl to Lady Mary Hervey, daughter of the Earl Bishop of Derry and a sister of Lady Elizabeth Hervey (Duchess of Devonshire).
The hall and staircase at Crom Castle are among Edward Blore's finest surviving interiors: Classical in form, the staircase was given a late-Perpendicular veneer by the arcades at top and bottom - the latter rather in the feeling of a chantry chapel - while the cathedral atmosphere was enhanced by the encapsulation tiles of the floor and the armorial stained glass windows.
Although the other rooms have been greatly altered since Blore's day, Crom remains one of the most impressive Victorian houses in Northern Ireland.

The adjoining garden front is symmetrical, dominated by a very tall central tower with slender octagonal turrets. On either side of it is a gable and oriel.

The landscaping scheme was planned by the eminent landscaper, W Gilpin, in 1838 and is one of the very few sites designed by a named English employee, at a time when English landscape design was pre-eminent.

Crom survives as an outstanding landscape park in the Picturesque style. The natural features of lough and islands are embellished with trees, bridges and buildings.

The formal garden, with its parterre, is long gone. The parterre was at the west front and has since, I believe, been turned to lawn.
Parterres were a common feature of large country houses: Florence Court used to have one immediately to its rear; while Castle Ward had what was known as the Windsor Garden, a parterre in the sunken garden within its walled garden.
These features were relatively easy to maintain, since a small army of gardeners was employed for the purpose!

The house is set in wonderful surroundings, affording fine views.

There are some very fine trees, including a number of a great age both in the woodland and in the parkland, which includes a small Deer Park.

Victorian bedding schemes at the house, known from contemporary photographs, have been grassed over, but the conservatory of 1851 remains.

The walled garden survives, with glasshouses and bothies. It is not planted up and the buildings are presently disused. The many attractive demesne buildings are in good repair and are listed.

The stables are used as offices and the farm is a Visitors Centre, with holiday accommodation. I visited the Castle about thirty years ago and can vouch for its substantial size.

There used to be an indoor swimming-pool, though this has been taken away and, it is thought, turned into accommodation in the west wing.

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

The 4th Earl's time at Crom coincided with the Land Acts and the Land Courts.

The latter appreciably reduced the rents payable to the landlord in most of the land cases which were brought judicially before it, with the result that land purchase, when it came, was calculated on the basis of these new and lower 'judicial' rents.

Terence Reeves-Smyth writes:
... The large bulk of the Erne estates were sold by the 4th Earl between 1904 and 1909 under the ... Land Act of 1903. ... By April 1908 ..., [most] of the Fermanagh estates had been sold to their tenants for £240,440. Only 49 holdings remained unsold, valued at £12,770. ...
When the amounts already received for the Sligo and Donegal estates are added - £25,000 and £83,427 respectively, both sold in October 1905 - the grand total comes to £348,867, or £20 million at 2010 values.

Mr Reeves-Smyth does not mention Mayo, part of which was still unsold in 1912.

It also looks as if a further ca £70,000 remained to be realised, post-1908, out of the Donegal estate, and a further £26,000 out of the Sligo.

The Dublin estate, being entirely urban, was unaffected by the Land Acts.

The 5th Earl, for a time, served as lieutenant in the Royal Horse Guards, his father's old regiment.

Soon after the outbreak of war in 1939, he raised the North Irish Horse, which was based in Enniskillen between November 1939 and February 1940.

In 1940, Lord Erne was killed near Dunkirk, and the castle and the demesne passed into the control of trustees whose most immediate problem was to protect the castle and demesne from the depredations of, firstly, British and then American forces, for whose use it was requisitioned at the beginning of the 2nd World War.

Terence Reeves-Smyth writes:
... From 1940 ... to 1958, the castle and demesne were controlled by a board of trustees. During the war the demesne actually made a profit, but the trustees throughout this period were considering leasing or selling the property to the Ministry of Agriculture. During the war and later in the 1950s the trustees undertook a number of tree fellings in the demesne woods to raise capital for the estate.

When the 6th and present Earl inherited in 1958, he attempted to create a dairy farm out of the farm lands, and later a toy factory in the farm yard, but neither enterprise was totally successful. Eventually part of the demesne was sold to the Department of the Environment in 1980 and subsequently, in 1987, the National Trust acquired the rest of the demesne, in part as a gift, while the castle itself has been retained by Lord Erne...
The Crom Estate is now held inalienably by the National Trust, including crucial rights to islands in, and parts of, Upper Lough Erne.

If its sale or lease to the Ministry of Agriculture had gone ahead, its "... great wealth of wildlife would have completely vanished under a monoculture of spruce" (Reeves-Smyth), and Crom Castle "may have been turned into a hotel or perhaps even demolished."

Under the present 6th Earl, many changes have been made and continue to be made to render the castle suitable for present-day living.

Lord Erne's aunt, the late Dowager Duchess of Abercorn GCVO, was Mistress of the Robes to HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

His late father, the 5th Earl, was a Page of Honour to HM King George V 1921-4, and a Lord-in-Waiting to HM King George VI 1936-9.

The present Lord Erne (b 1937) has been HM Lord-Lieutenant of County Fermanagh since 1986.

The West Wing at Crom Castle is available to rent, further details being available here.

The opening of the West Wing as holiday accommodation marks a new departure for Crom Castle which, as the family home, remains closed to the general public.

Erne arms courtesy of European Heraldry.  I am grateful to Lord Erne and Mr Noel Johnston for use of the photographs.   First published in January, 2010.

Belfast City ~ London City

I'm pleased that the airline Flybe is to offer flights from London City Airport after signing a five-year deal.

The airline will offer services to and from Belfast City, Edinburgh, Inverness, Exeter, and Dublin.

Flights are due to begin on the 27th October, 2014, and Flybe estimates the routes will carry about 500,000 passengers a year:
"Today's announcement is a significant landmark in the re-birth of Flybe," said the airline's chief executive, Saad Hammad. "We are delighted to re-enter the London market at London's most convenient airport."
London City Airport DLR station is a station on the Docklands Light Railway which serves London City Airport. It opened on the 2nd December 2005.

Trains run westbound to Bank in the City of London and eastbound to Woolwich Arsenal. The station is located in Travelcard Zone 3.

New KGs

THE QUEEN has been graciously pleased to make the following appointments to the Most Noble Order of the Garter:-

The Right Honourable Mervyn Allister [King], Baron King of Lothbury, KG, GBE, to be a Knight Companion;

The Right Honourable Elizabeth Lydia [Manningham-Buller], Baroness Manningham-Buller, LG, DCB, to be a Lady Companion.

One vacancy remains within the Order.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Jamaica Inn

How remarkable. I thoroughly enjoyed the BBC's first episode of Jamaica Inn last night.

Within five or ten minutes, I found it difficult to pick up parts of the speech.

This necessitated turning on subtitles.

I wondered whether it was just me, or if I ought to consider a hearing test.

The Daily Telegraph reports today that the BBC adaptation of Jamaica Inn suffered from “sound issues”, the corporation has admitted after hundreds of viewers complained they were unable to make out the mumbled dialogue.

The three-part Daphne du Maurier drama starring Jessica Brown Findlay began on BBC One last night.

When the Lord Hall of Birkenhead, CBE, was appointed as director-general of the BBC, he singled out poor sound quality as one area he was determined to tackle:
“I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old man, but I also think muttering is something we could have a look at. Actors' muttering can be testing – you find you have missed a line. You have to remember that you have an audience."
Jamaica Inn drew an audience of 6.1 million, but the BBC’s online messageboard was filled with complaints from disgruntled viewers.

The negative reception from viewers will be a huge disappointment to the BBC, which had marked Jamaica Inn as one of 2014's flagship period dramas. 

Killeen Castle


This noble family was of Danish origin, but its settlement in Ireland is so remote that nothing certain can be ascertained as to the precise period.

So early as the 11th century, we find

JOHN PLUNKETT, of Beaulieu, County Meath, the constant residence of the elder branch of his descendants.

The successor at Beaulieu, at the beginning of the 13th century,

JOHN PLUNKETT, living at the time of HENRY III, had two sons,
John, ancestor of the Lords Louth;
RICHARD, of whom hereafter.
RICHARD PLUNKETT, of Rathregan, County Meath, who, with his son and heir, RICHARD PLUNKETT, by royal writs of parliamentary summons, was summoned to, and sat in, the parliaments and council of 1374.

The younger Richard Plunkett was father of

This gentleman, as a recompense for the services he had rendered in the wars of Ireland, and as an indemnity for the expenses he had incurred, had a grant of a sum of money from HENRY VI, in 1426; before which time he was sheriff of Meath; and in 1432, was deputy to Sir Thomas Stanley, knight, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
About 1426, this gentleman was created Baron Killeen.

Dying in 1445, his lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,


The titles became extinct on the death of the 12th Earl.

KILLEEN CASTLE, near Dunsany, County Meath, is said originally to have been a Norman fortification, built for the de Lacy magnates, and held from 1172 by the Cusack family, beginning with Geoffrey de Cusack.

The castle was then held from 1399 by successors by marriage (to Lady Joan de Cusack), the Plunketts.

Killeen Castle was originally built by Geoffrey de Cusack around 1181. The date is carved above the doorway.

The castle fell into disrepair in the late 17th century, was leased out, and was not restored until around 1779, when parts of the demesne were landscaped and some of the estate features were added.

Significant reworking was carried out from 1803-13 under the supervision of Francis Johnston, and in 1841, much of the castle was demolished and rebuilt (using much existing material) by the 9th Earl of Fingall, in the style of a small Windsor Castle.

The two towers added have the dates 1181 and 1841 inscribed, and at the time of completion, it was claimed that Killeen had 365 windows.

The 12th and last Earl sold Killeen Castle and Estate, in 1951, to Sir Victor Sassoon. Lord Fingall remained as manager of the stud farm established near the castle.

In 1953, Lord and Lady Fingall moved to a contemporary house built in the grounds, and most of the house contents were sold.

Sassoon died in 1961 and his heirs sold the estate on in 1963, to the French art dealer and racehorse owner, Daniel Wildenstein.

Lord Fingall moved from the estate to Corballis on the Dunsany estate, then The Commons. He died in 1984 and is buried at Dunsany Church.

In 1978, the castle and estate were sold to the advertiser Basil Brindley, who continued the stud farm operation.

In 1981, the castle was burnt out in an arson attack, being left abandoned for many years.

The lands and buildings were sold again in 1989, to Christopher Slattery.

In 1997, Snowbury Ltd purchased the castle and its grounds, with a vision to create the estate that exists today.

Fingall arms courtesy of European Heraldry.    First published in April, 2012.

Herdman of Sion House

Herdman of Sion House
The first of the family to arrive in Ulster, in 1688, was Captain Herdman, of Herdmanston, Ayrshire, who fought with WILLIAM III at the battle of the Boyne and settled at Glenavy, County Antrim.
The immediate antecedents of the three Herdman brothers had owned Millfield Tannery, Belfast, which the eldest brother, James, inherited from his father.  His brother John went into  partnership with the Mulhollands in 1833, after turning round their business into profit in the Winetavern Street Flax-spinning mill in Belfast.
The Herdman brothers (James, John and George), in partnership with Andrew and Sinclair Mulholland and Robert Lyons, decided to purchase an unfinished flax-spinning mill in County Tyrone, from the 2nd Marquess of Abercorn. However, they couldn’t get the land they needed on a long enough lease. Their choice fell on Sion (or Seein, meaning a Fairy Mound), near Strabane,  adjacent to the River Mourne.
JAMES HERDMAN (1809-1901), of Bath, Somerset, and of Strabane, County Tyrone, a grand-nephew of Sir James Emerson-Tennent Bt, married, in 1840, Elizabeth, daughter of William Suffern, of Belfast, and left issue,

EMERSON TENNENT HERDMAN JP DL (1842-1918), of Sion House; High Sheriff, 1890; married, in 1864, Frances Alice, daughter of Dr Francis John West, of Omagh, and left issue,
JOHN CLAUDIUS, of whom we treat;
Adelia Maud;
Elizabeth Alice;
Frances Evelyn;
Olive Mary (the Red House, Strabane), born 1871; wedded, in 1895, her first cousin, Sir Emerson Crawford Herdman KBE.
The eldest son,

CAPTAIN JOHN CLAUDIUS HERDMAN OBE DL (1876-1964), of Sion House, High Sheriff 1912; late 4th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers; wedded, in 1901, Maud Harriet, MBE, JP, daughter of Major-General Alexander Clark-Kennedy, of Camus, Strabane, and had issue,
EMERSON TENNENT REX, OBE, High Sheriff of Tyrone, 1943; Director, Herdman's Ltd;
Captain Herdman's second son,

COMMANDER CLAUDIUS ALEXANDER HERDMAN DL RN, of Sion Mills, wedded Maud Harriet, daughter of Major-General Alexander Clark-Kennedy, and had issue,

CELIA MARY HERDMAN, born in 1943, who married Brigadier John Gordon Goddard de Poulton Ferguson, in 1968; and had issue,


SION HOUSE, Sion Mills, County Tyrone, is an Elizabethan-Revival mansion built in 1840, rebuilt in 1883 in half-timbered style, by Emerson T Herdman.

His brother-in-law, William Unsworth, of Petersfield, Hampshire, was the architect.

Sion House was sold in 1966.

The gate-house, also Elizabethan-Revival in character, is virtually a replica of Stokesay Castle's gate-house in Shropshire.

Monday, 21 April 2014

At Home

Unfortunately it's been hard to keep up to date with the usual postings since Good Friday. We have been staying at my aunt's holiday home in Portballintrae, County Antrim.

The only internet access we've been able to use has been that at the Bayview Hotel in the village.

We had a lovely time, dining at Tartine-Distiller's Arms, the Bayview Hotel and 55 Degrees North restaurant in Portrush.

Friends invited us for coffee and pavlova this morning at their holiday home in the village.