Friday, 31 August 2012

R L McCartney QC

I was getting a few groceries today - you know the sort of thing, gin, tonic-water, a few bananas - when, to my delight, I encountered the distinguished barrister, R L McCartney QC.

I grinned broadly, shook his hand and enquired as to his health, though I must say he looked well.

He intimated that he was enjoying his retirement.

Marble Hill House


This branch of the Burkes claims to be a scion from the house of Clanricarde; but more immediately connected with the Lords Brittas.

THOMAS BURKE, of Gortenacuppogue (now Marble Hill), died at an advanced age, in 1714.

During the civil wars, in the time of CHARLES I, and subsequently in the revolution of 1688, his predecessors and himself lost a considerable portion of their lands; but he still preserved the estate upon which he resided, and became the seat of the Burke baronets.

He married into the family of Tully, great landed proprietors in County Galway, and owners of the Garbally estate, in the possession of the Earl of Clancarty. The son of this Thomas,

JOHN BURKE, having married and acquired the estate of Killoran, died aged 80 and was succeeded by his son,

THOMAS BURKE ESQ, of Marble Hill, who raised an infantry regiment at his own expense during the Napoleonic wars; and was created a baronet in 1797. The 1st Baronet died in 1813.

The 2nd and 3rd Baronets both sat as MPs for County Galway.

The 5th Baronet served as High Sheriff of County Galway in 1883.

The 7th Baronet was a Deputy Lieutenant of County Galway.

Three other members of the family may also be mentioned:

1  Charles Granby Burke (1814-98), 2nd son of 2nd Baronet; Master of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland, 1852-82.

2   James Henry Burke (1816-82), 3rd son of the 2nd Baronet, major-general, Bombay Engineers; his son,

3  James Henry Thomas Joseph FitzGerald Burke (1853-1902), captain, Royal Navy.

Marble Hill House, near Loughrea, County Galway, was built ca 1775 for John Burke, and enlarged after 1813 by Sir John Burke, 2nd Baronet.

It was an exceptional country house prior to its destruction by fire in 1921.

Architectural quality and refinement are apparent in the design and detailing. The masonry was executed by skilled craftsmen, as is apparent in the detailing of the door-case.

It forms part of a group of demesne-related structures that includes the gate lodge, outbuildings, walled garden and ice-house.

The ivy-covered roofless ruin of the house, three-bay, three-storey, over a raised basement. It has a canted entrance bay to front (east) elevation, and two-storey return to rear.

Four-bay side elevations, with bowed bay to north side elevation, and with rear two bays of south projecting; moulded cornice; rubble limestone walls, with evidence of weather-slating to the west gable wall.

Square-headed window openings with stone sills and red brick surrounds; square-headed entrance doorway within pedimented carved limestone door-case, having channelled pilasters with plinths and moulded capitals.

Wrought-iron railings to entrance avenue.

The well designed range of outbuildings originally served the adjacent Marble Hill House.

The high-quality stonework suggests that it was a significant part of the former demesne and was possibly by the same architect responsible for the house. Some original sash windows and gates survive.

Marble Hill estate once incorporated a weigh station, forge and smokehouse that are no longer standing.

The ruin of the original house is an ivy-covered shell beside the remains of a courtyard which included a pigeon loft, carriage house, abattoir and worker accommodation.

The mansion house was equipped with running water and flushing toilets, which was the state of the art at the time.

The house also had a central heating system based on technology developed in Roman times, still visible today.

When the estate was in full operation, it had a full complement of blacksmiths, carpenters, painters, gardeners, an engineer, and a catholic priest who said mass in a specially-built private chapel in the house every morning.

Several generations of Burkes were raised at Marble Hill until the family departed in 1922 for their house in London due to the political climate in Ireland.

Several of the Burke gentry throughout the generations served at Westminster and government bodies up to the late 1800s, Ted Burke being the last to serve in political office.

At this point they concentrated solely on the land. The downfall of the Burke family began at this point as the only source of income for the once wealthy family was now rates paid by tenants.

By the early 1900s the estate was in decline and in severe financial difficulties. Burnt down in 1922 by the local IRA, the house burned for 4 days and 4 nights.

The only thing that remained was a complete window which had been bricked up in the blue room. The blue room was a child’s nursery.

After the tragic death of a young infant, the window was sealed as the residents believed the house to be haunted. It was locked and never opened until the house burned down.

Like most landowners, the Burkes were known to sympathise with HM Government, and Thomas Burke helped raise a military regiment, the Connaught Rangers, in 1793 to support England in its war with France.

Although the Burkes had already left for England, the house was burned during the time known as “The Troubles”.

Over the following years the estate was divided among tenants and families.

The original farmyard and store buildings were given to the estate’s herd (an unofficial vet who cured animal illnesses with natural remedies).

Some of the buildings in the courtyard were knocked and the stone sold by the land commission.

The main house itself was completely destroyed, but the servant’s quarters and gardens were intact, including a glasshouse that was operational until the 1970s.

The Rafferty family resided here until the 1990s. Kate Rafferty, the Burkes' former housekeeper, purchased the remaining estate, operating it as a guest-house for many years.

After her death, the house passed to her son and fell into disrepair. With no heirs, the ruin was eventually sold to a developer, whose plans have been halted by the current recession in 2012.

Man O' War

Intrepid swimmers in Ulster beware! I have read that the Portugese Man O' War was been spotted in waters off the Irish Republic.

I swam at Portballintrae, County Antrim, a few weeks ago.

The men-of-war, which look like jellyfish, can cause severe pain and in rare cases,can be fatal.

There is a risk that they may drift into Northern Ireland.

Portuguese men of war are about 30cm long and 13cm wide and it has tentacles that can reach 50m in length.

It is not a true jellyfish, but a floating colony of closely-related hydrozoans that normally live at the surface of the open ocean.

The colony floats from the bottom of an air-filled float, and has many long thin tentacles hanging below that it uses to catch fish.

A sting may lead to an allergic reaction. There can also be serious effects, including fever, shock, and interference with heart and lung function. Stings may also cause death, although this is extremely rare.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Hamilton Pumphouse

I was in Belfast city centre today, undertaking research on the Hayes, Style and Musgrave baronets.

These gentry were all major landowners in County Donegal during the Victorian era.

I've been in touch with the company BTW Shiells about Queen's Arcade in Belfast. They run it. I'm keen to write about the arcade's history since it opened in 1910. I was tempted to pop in to their GHQ in May Street, though resisted the urge.

At Sawers, College Street, two pretty girls dressed in period attire were offering samples of special cheese and white wine to patrons; so, never one to be behind in the race to the food trough, young Belmont made a bee-line for 'em and flirted a little, into the bargain.

One of them informed me that the Lord Mayor had visited the new premises earlier.

The restoration of SS Nomadic and the Hamilton dock is progressing well. I took a photograph (top) of what presumably is the pump-house beside the dock.

4th Baron O'Neill

The Rev William Chichester succeeded to the estates of his cousin William, 3rd Viscount O'Neill, in 1855, and assumed by royal license the surname of O'Neill in lieu of Chichester in order to inherit the lands of his cousin, despite not being descended in the male line from an O'Neill.
The Chichesters trace their lineage to the name O'Neill through Mary Chichester, daughter of Henry O'Neill, of Shane's Castle.
The Rev William, 1st Baron O'Neill, was the patrilineal great-great-great-grandson of John Chichester, younger brother of Arthur Chichester, 2nd Earl of Donegall.

The latter two were both nephews of ArthurChichester, 1st Earl of Donegall, and grandsons of Edward Chichester, 1st Viscount Chichester

The Rt Hon Raymond Arthur Clanaboy [O'Neill], Baron O'Neill, KCVO, TD, JP, heads a most distinguished family, in historical and dynastic terms.

I have written about the house of O'Neill here.

Lord O'Neill has many interests, not least of which remains his stewardship of the family seat, Shane's Castle.

Shane's Castle now extends to about 3,000 acres.

Lord O'Neill was appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order following his relinquishment as Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim in 2008.

Lord O'Neill has, like his father, had a military background. His father, the 3rd Baron, was killed in action in 1944; so Lord O'Neill succeeded to the title when he was only 11 years old.


His other main interests include conservation, transport history and tourism. He held the office of chairman of the National Trust in NI for many years; and the NI Tourist Board too.

His passion is railways, particularly trains. I recall the Shane's Castle railway, which ran through the demesne, and visited it as a child.

Lord O'Neill was the stepson of Ian Fleming, the James Bond creator.

His uncle Terence, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, was a former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

He has three sons: the Hon Shane O'Neill, his heir; the Hon Tyrone O'Neill; and the Hon Rory O'Neill.

The Shane's Castle estate is one of the largest and finest private demesnes in Northern Ireland, extending to some 3,000 acres.

It lies in a particularly scenic, not to say strategic, position on the northeast shore of Lough Neagh, between Antrim and Randalstown. Part of the Estate is a nature reserve.

The O'Neill family has had a hapless history with regard to the fate of their houses: the first Shane's Castle dated from the early 1600s and was utterly destroyed by an accidental fire in 1816.

The family moved to a small house adjoining the stables.

This house was replaced in 1865 by a larger, Gothic Victorian castle which, tragically, was burnt by the IRA in 1922 (as was the nearby Antrim Castle).

Its ruin was subsequently cleared away, and for the next 40 or so years the family lived once again in the stables.

Then, in the sixties, a new house was built for the present Lord O'Neill at the opposite corner of the stables to where the Victorian castle stood. It is classical, well-proportioned, with a handsome fanlighted doorway.

First published in July, 2008. Arms of 1st Earl O'Neill courtesy of European Heraldry.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Burlington Sale

For those readers who aspire to be, or already are, hoteliers, The Burlington Hotel, Dublin, which changed hands for £228 million at the height of the property boom, is up for sale for a fraction of that price.

I haven't stayed in the Burlington since the early 1980s.

The four-star Burlington, one of Europe's biggest city centre hotels, was bought in 2007 by a consortium backed by Bernard McNamara from the Jurys Doyle hotel group for one of the highest prices for land in Dublin ever.

McNamara has since become one of the biggest casualties of the property crash.

The hotel, with 501 bedrooms and conference and banqueting facilities on a 3.8 acre site in the south of Dublin, is the second-biggest hotel in Ireland after Citywest in County Dublin.

Known as the 'Burlo' in Dublin, it was placed in receivership by Lloyds Banking Group in February along with two other hotels, which all continue to trade as normal. The Burlington is now back on the market for €65m-75m.

CBRE Hotels is handling the sale on behalf of Paul McCann of Grant Thornton, who was appointed receiver by Lloyds-owned Bank of Scotland (Ireland), one of McNamara's main lenders.

McNamara owes the bank about €200m.

The Burlington is expected to attract interest from the investment partners of international hotel chains such as the Sheraton, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Crowne Plaza.

The landmark hotel, which opened in 1972 and briefly closed in January, 2008, is expected to change hands before Christmas, 2012.

Paul Collins of CBRE Hotels said the strong recovery of the Dublin hotel market had been "quite remarkable" since late 2010.

He added the Burlington "should appeal to many international hotel investors and the opportunity to acquire Ireland's most successful and best known hotel, is undoubtedly going to generate strong worldwide interest". 

This weekend the hotel is expected to accommodate almost 1,000 overnight guests for the US college football game between Notre Dame and Navy, an event which is bringing 35,000 American tourists to Dublin.

The hotel is estimated to have made profits of €5m-6m last year, with a large chunk coming from the conference space and banqueting hall, which can host 2,000 guests.

The room occupancy rate is running at about 70-75%.

The €65m-75m guide price equates to about €130,000-150,000 a room.

Hawthorne Lunch

I dashed over to Belfast's Boucher Road in the two-seater today, a spur-of-the-moment decision.

Nipping in to Lakeland, the kitchenware store, I was quick to notice free samples of Australian flavoured licorice. Scoffing a tiny sample, I favoured it and bagged a 500g bag.

It is made by a company called Ricci, and imported into the UK by Lakeland.

A new washing-up brush was needed, too, so I picked one up in the shop.

As regular readers will be aware, Timothy Belmont finds it extremely hard to resist the Hawthorne Restaurant at Fulton's.

Incidentally, the assistant in Lakeland apprised me that Fulton's will be closing down eventually. It has recently been hoped that a buyer might be found.

Having studied the fare on display behind the glass counter, I chose the Savoury Mince Tart, accompanied by a side salad and a good helping of coleslaw.

I invariably pour their delicious mustard dressing over the salad, as those eagle-eyed readers might discern from the photograph.

The tart was sublime. The old nose-bag was working overtime. If this place does close down, I shall greatly miss my trips to the Hawthorne.

After lunch, I passed Isaac Agnew's Mercedes showroom and admired the vehicular metal therein.

Portglenone House


JOHN ALEXANDER, of Eredy, County Donegal, in 1610, (lands he rented from Sir James Cunninghame of Glengarnock, Ayrshire, who had acquired them on condition that he did not 'alienate the premises to no mere Irishman or any other person unless he or they first take the Oath of Supremacy'), was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE REV ANDREW (John) ALEXANDER DD, of Eredy, a Presbyterian minister, who married Dorothea, daughter of Rev James Caulfeild. Dying ca 1641, his only child,

CAPTAIN ANDREW ALEXANDER, married twice. In 1666 he was granted the lands of Ballyclose, near Limavady, by Sir Thomas Phillips, Governor of Culmore Fort. In 1689 he was attainted by JAMES II's parliament in Dublin. His 2nd son,

JOHN ALEXANDER, married and died in 1747. His 2nd son,

NATHANIEL ALEXANDER (1689-1761), married Elizabeth, daughter of William McClintock. He was an alderman of Londonderry in 1755. His 4th son,

ROBERT ALEXANDER, (1722-90)  married Anne, daughter of Henry McCullogh, in 1759.

This gentleman lived at Boom Hall, County Londonderry (so named because of its proximity to where the boom was placed during the siege). His eldest son,

THE RT REV AND RT HON NATHANIEL ALEXANDER DD (1760-1840), of Portglenone House; nephew of James, 1st Earl of Caledon; married Anne, daughter of the Rt Hon Richard Jackson MP, of Coleraine, in 1785.

This divine was Lord Bishop of Meath. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge.

Bishop Alexander, a privy counsellor, lived at Portglenone House, County Antrim, which he built, and took up residence there. His 2nd son,

THE VEN ROBERT ALEXANDER DD (1788-1840), Archdeacon of Down; married, firstly, Catherine, daughter of Rt Hon John Staples and Hon Henrietta Molesworth, in 1813.

Dr Alexander married, secondly, Hester Helena, daughter of Colonel Alexander McManus, in 1837. There were no children of the second marriage. His eldest son,

NATHANIEL ALEXANDER MP for County Antrim (1815-53), extended Portglenone House. He had issue, two sons,

ROBERT JACKSON ALEXANDER JP DL, of Portglenone House, (1843-84), High Sheriff of County Londonderry, 1870; and of County Antrim, 1875.

LIEUTENANT JOHN STAPLES ALEXANDER JP DL RN, of Portglenone House (1844-1901).

A cousin of the above,

MAJOR ROBERT CHRISTOPHER ALEXANDER JP DL, of Portglenone House, (1900-68), son of Robert Arthur Moloney Alexander, succeeded to the estate.

Major Alexander married Laura Ina Madeline, daughter of Edward Fraser Lenox-Conyngham, in 1933; was educated at Eton and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst; High Sheriff in 1938.

He fought during the Second World War in the Irish Guards. Major Alexander died without issue.

Portglenone House comprises a square, late-Georgian block of three storeys over a basement. It was built in 1823 by the Rt Rev Nathaniel Alexander.

The house has a three-bay front, the central bay being recessed. There is a fine classical hall, with a screen of columns separating it from the corridor and stairs.

The columns, subtle mushroom pink marble, have stone capitals of Adam's "Dioclesian" order. They were originally at Ballyscullion, along with some the the house's chimney-pieces.

In 1850, a wing was added by Nathaniel Alexander MP, containing a new staircase lit by a stained-glass dome. The entrance front was also given a large porch and Ionic porte-cochere.

The main rooms were enhanced with cornices and heavy moulded door-cases in the form of aedicules.

Portglenone House was sold by Major Alexander in 1948 and is now part of Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey, run as a guest-house.

"The guest house provides for those who wish to make private retreats, and can cater for groups who seek to make days of recollection.  As such, it does not function as a B&B, nor as a half-board hotel.  Guests are encouraged to enter into the silence and solitude which characterize the monastic life in this place, and to take the opportunity for spiritual renewal which is offered."

Portglenone House is set in parkland by the River Bann. An earlier house in the vicinity is recorded.

The present house is now part of the Abbey, which also has further buildings added from 1962 in the grounds. This includes the Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey ,which was built in 1948 to the designs of Patrick Murray.

Part of the gardens are private for the monks (the walled garden); parts are ornamental grounds for the Abbey; and parts are cultivated for organic vegetables.

There are mature trees in the remnants of former parkland, an ice house, the Bishop’s Well and two 19th century gate lodges.

Within the walls, part of the demesne is administered by DANI as a forest, which was planted from the 1950s. There is public access and paths are laid out.

In a glade in the forest there is a commemorative plot to Augustine Henry, who was reputedly born nearby.

It was laid out in 1969 with examples of some of the plants that he discovered or introduced from the far east.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Bangor Castle


THE HON ROBERT WARD, born in 1754, was a younger son of Bernard, 1st Viscount Bangor.

He married, firstly, Sophia Frances, daughter of Richard Chapel Whaley, in 1782; and secondly, Louisa Jane, daughter of Rev Abraham Symes, in 1797.

He was a colonel in the South Down Militia. His eldest son and heir,

MICHAEL EDWARD WARD ESQ, (1789-1815) married Lady Matilda, daughter of Robert, 1st Marquess of Londonderry and Lady Frances Pratt, in 1815; Minister Plenipotentiary to Dresden. His only son,

ROBERT EDWARD WARD JP DL (1818-1904), of Bangor Castle, married Harriette, daughter of the Rev and Hon Henry Ward and Anne Mahon, in 1857; lieutenant in the 10th Hussars. His only child,

MATILDA CATHERINE MAUDE WARD (1858-1914), born at 29 Half Moon Street, Piccadilly, London; married John George Barry Bingham, 5th Baron Clanmorris, in 1878, at Bangor, County Down.

Lord Clanmorris died at Bangor Castle in November, 1916, aged 64. Lady Clanmorris died at Bangor Castle in February, 1941, aged 82.

BANGOR CASTLE, County Down, was built in 1847 for Robert Edward Ward.

It has mullioned windows, oriels crested with strap-work, and steep gables with finials. At one end there is a battlemented tower with a pyramidal-roofed clock turret; and partly curved quoins.

The grounds are an important, designed landscape with early 17th century origins. The old demesne contained a succession of manorial houses, all on different sites, and each associated with different landscape phases.

The first and earliest house, a gable-ended two storey block, was built by Sir James Hamilton, 1st Viscount Claneboye, ca 1615 and is depicted on Raven’s 1625 Clandeboye Estate map, complete with its associated formal gardens.

This house lay immediately south-east of the present mansion and traces of its associated gardens can still be traced in the park on the east side; these incorporate a number of surviving contemporary yews, including the stump of ‘Schomberg’s Tree’.

These gardens were described by Harris in 1744 in his "The Ancient & Present State of the County of Down" as being 
‘filled with noble evergreens of a great size, cut in various shapes, among which is an evergreen oak, which, though it grows as a shrub in most other places here is a tall tree, and of considerable girth’.

Loudon, writing in 1844, noted that in 1835 there was a large mulberry tree here, probably also of early date.

The house started to fall into decay by at least the 1720s. It was still present in 1752, when Pococke described it as
‘very indifferent’ and noted that in the grounds ‘the spruce fir, the ilex, bays, hollies & other evergreens , planted at first chiefly in the flower garden are grown to be very fine forest trees’.

Luckombe considered it a ‘low moderate structure’ in 1779; but in the 1790s it had been replaced by a ‘very elegant house’, located on a new site just north of the present mansion.

Built by Michael Edward Ward (1789-1832), son of Robert Ward and grandson of 1st Viscount Bangor, this new house (second mansion) was in the Gothic style with a square plan and narrow east wing; and with detached offices further east down-slope.

This building and its surrounding contemporary landscape park are depicted in an engraving dated 1832 in Proctor’s "Belfast Scenery in Thirty Views"; this shows that the house had crenellated parapets, with a mixture of pointed and square-headed windows with hood mouldings and octagonal corner turrets, the main entrance apparently lying on the north side.

The mansion was flanked by park lawns dotted with clumps and isolated trees, all enclosed with screens, belts and woodlands, the whole boasting fine views over Belfast Lough.

In 1847-52 an Elizabethan-Revival style house, the third and present mansion, of Ayrshire sandstone, was built to designs of the prolific Scottish architect William Burn for Robert Edward Ward (1818-1904).

His father’s Gothic mansion, which lay a short distance to the north, was demolished in 1853 once the new house had been completed.

The new house was flanked by formal, terraced gardens with balustrades, especially on the north side; and these at one time boasted colourful parterres in the fashion of the age.

An adjacent stable block, which is incorporated into the house, but built in a more serious medieval style, may be the work of Anthony Salvin, the great English architect.

This stable range is now home of the heritage centre.

Salvin may have also been responsible for the Home Farm buildings (ca 1850-2) and both the Abbey Street Gate Lodge (c.1852) and the Castle Street Gate Lodge (c.1852).

Contemporary with these is the walled garden, lying on high ground a short distance west of the Home Farm building: it has a rectangular plan and its high enclosing walls are built in Bangor clay brick (save only the outside of the north wall).

The garden is subdivided by an east-west wall into two areas; a vinery lay on the south- facing wall in the north sector, but most of the glass-houses' ranges lay in the north sector, including peach houses.

Until recent years this area was used by the Council for propagation. There was a fernery on the north outside wall of the garden; presently this is breeze-blocked to prevent vandals gaining access (accessible from the potting shed).

In the area between the walled garden and the house there is an arboretum, begun in the 1840s and stocked with specimens brought by members of the family serving in various parts of the British Empire.

These trees are protected by older mature parkland trees.

Mitchell, in A Field Guide to the Trees of Britain and Northern Europe, 1974, remarks on the fine Monterey Pines and Blue-gums here.

Elsewhere older parkland trees survive. This grassed area south of the house contains a small rockery, family memorials and paths, including ‘My Lady’s Walk’.

Following the death of Lady Clanmorris (Robert Edward’s daughter and heiress in 1941), the property was sold to Bangor Borough Council.

Bangor Castle became the Town Hall in 1952 and the grounds opened to the public as Castle Park.

It is a vast house, with simulated battlements and a crenellated tower with clock and flagstaff, from which could be flown a standard when the family were in residence.

The castle, with its thirty-five bedrooms, huge saloon, entrance halls, with drawing room, library, study, servants' quarters and stables, cost all of £9,000 (almost £1 million in 2011).

Over the main staircase, a vast, stained-glass window pictured the ancestry of the Wards stretching back to EDWARD III.

When Bangor Borough Council acquired the castle and grounds, the music saloon became the council chamber.

For further reading, the Ward Papers are deposited at the PRONI.

The first Council meeting was held there almost exactly 100 years after the building - now known as the town hall - was first completed.

The successor to Bangor Borough Council, North Down Borough Council, now sits at the Castle.

Situated in Castle Park, the gardens have won many awards for their outstanding blooms.

Ward Park was leased from the Ward family as a public park from 1909. It was designed by Cheal’s Nurseries, who won a competition to plan the layout. It is formal and includes a First World War Memorial. 

The Walled Garden has opened to the general public after major restoration by the council's Parks Department.

First published in February, 2011.

Milverton Hall


JOHN WOODS, of Yorkshire ancestry, who went to Ireland on military service at the time of the Revolution, had issue,

THOMAS WOODS, of Dunshaughlin, County Meath, and of the city of Dublin. His descendant,

GEORGE WOODS JP, of Milverton Hall, County Dublin, was High Sheriff, 1821-22. His only suviving son,

HANS HAMILTON WOODS JP DL, of Whitestown House, and of Milverton Hall, High Sheriff of Dublin, 1854, was succeeded by his son, 

EDWARD HAMILTON WOODS JP DL, High Sheriff of Dublin (1883-1910); late lieutenant, Royal Meath Militia.

When Edward Hamilton Woods died in 1910, the estate passed to Edward George Woods and his wife Senta.
George Woods was evidently very eligible as far as Hans Hamilton was concerned. Not only did he give him a daughter in marriage, but he also gave him the lease to Milverton Estate 'for lives renewable forever'. 
George Woods died at Milverton in 1879, aged 90. His son, Hans Hamilton Woods, only outlived his father by a year and his grandson, Edward Hamilton Woods, succeeded.

The Woods estates were at their largest in 1880, comprising some 30,000 acres in Dublin, Meath and Kildare.

Edward brought forward plans to rebuild Milverton Hall and decided to knock the old house and build a new one on the site. The new, Italianate Milverton Hall was built in two years, to the designs of the architect, Rawson Carroll, and cost over £16,000.

A very impressive house was built and the Woods family continued to live there until the 1950s.

The Wentges family then came to Milverton through marriage, and they have managed the estate for the past 40 years. The Wentges built a modern dwelling in the 1960s.

When Edward Woods died, death duties ensued with a tax bill. Robert and Rosemary Wentges were faced with difficult times and decisions; and, in the interests of saving the estate, they knocked down the old house in 1961, building the present home on the same site.

From then on the family, including Michael Wentges, have expended considerable effort in maintaining the demesne, planting twelve acres of woodland and forming a new lake for a wildlife habitat.

The planting began in 1961 and has carried on in such idyllic locations as Shady lane Wood, Foxes Hole Wood, Sophie’s Wood, Grange, Rosemary’s Wood, Balcunnin, Hill of Ardla and Hannah’s Wood.

The present family attachment at Milverton spans three centuries, a quite remarkable feat when one considers the likes of the estates at Ardgillan and Newbridge House, as well as Malahide, which have long since been taken over by local councils.

However, the very nature of the people behind Milverton House suggests their love of the place will never die and their hold on it will always remain in some form.

MILVERTON HALL, near Skerries, County Dublin, was a 19th century house in the Italianate-French Chateau style, of two storeys over a basement and with a dormered attic in the mansard roof.

The entrance front had three centre bays recessed between one-bay projections; a deep, single-storey, balustraded Doric portico; five-bay side elevation.

Milverton's history is closely associated with the Priory of St Patrick at Holmpatrick until its dissolution in 1537. The monastic estate, including Milverton, became the property of HENRY VIII and was sold on to Mr John Parker.

The next ownership record we have is that of Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam of Baggotrath and Merrion, and next Mr James Fullerton, who in 1608 sold it to Donough O'Brien, Earl of Thomond.

The land was leased then to a captain Nicholas Coddington and was held by him at the time of the1659 census.

It remained in the Coddington family until 1721 when the Earl of Thomond sold the estate to Hans Hamilton.

This estate has been maintained and managed very well by all the owners. Over the years thousands of trees have been planted. There are three small lakes on the land, wetlands, wildlife habitats and an equestrian centre.

Part of the farm at Ardla has been given over to the local council and a new graveyard developed there to supplement the ancient Holmpatrick cemetery.

The present demesne comprises some 437 acres, and there has been a planning proposal to develop two golf courses, a golf club house, tennis academy, putting and practice ranges, a hotel comprising 250 bedroom and suites; and 50 houses.

As of today, Milverton demesne retains many of the features of an old demesne landscape: gate lodges at entry points, mature trees as shelter belts, woodland belts within the demesne to act as cover and shelter, a historic core containing ornamental tree species which suggests the remains of ornamental gardens.

In addition, the site included the remains of an early church site and graveyard, which are listed as a recorded monument.

Together with the adjoining Ardgillan Demesne, Milverton and its woodland forms a substantial block of mature trees when viewed from Skerries and the coast.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Visitor Numbers

Visitor numbers have reached 900,000 since the blog began in December, 2007.

It is expected that the number of hits shall exceed one million by the end of 2012.

The Rawdon Baronetcy


The illustrious family of Rawdon deduced its pedigree from Paulinus de Rawdon, to whom William the Conqueror granted considerable estates.

This Paulyn, or Paulinus, commanded a band of archers in the Norman invading army, and derived his surname of Rawdon, from the lands of that denomination, near Leeds, which constituted a portion of the royal grant.

From this successful soldier lineally sprang, 19th in descent, through a line of eminent ancestors,

GEORGE RAWDON ESQ, who settled in Ireland, and took an active part as a military commander during the rebellion of 1641, in that kingdom; and subsequently, until his decease, in 1684, in the general affairs of Ireland.
This gentleman married the Hon Dorothy Conway, daughter of 2nd Viscount Conway, in 1654 and they lived at Moira, County Down.

He was the only son and heir of Francis Rawdon, of Rawdon Hill, near Leeds in Yorkshire. Rawdon went to Court about the end of the reign of JAMES I and became private secretary to Lord Conway, Secretary of State.

After Lord Conway's death, Rawdon was attached to his son, 2nd Viscount Conway, who had large estates in County Down. 

George Rawdon became his secretary (or agent) and frequently visited the Lisburn area. He commanded a company of soldiers, and sat in the Irish Parliament of 1639 as MP for Belfast.

When the Irish Rebellion broke out on 23rd October, 1641, Rawdon was in London; but he lost no time in coming to the post of duty. He travelled at once to Scotland, and crossed to Bangor, reaching Lisburn on the 27th November. 

The account of his visit to Lisburn at this critical time is fully recorded in a most interesting and vivid contemporary note in the old Vestry Book of Lisburn Cathedral.

The towns of Moira and Ballynahinch were founded by Rawdon. He was married in 1639 to Ursula, daughter of Sir Francis Stafford, and widow of Francis Hill, Esq., of Hillhall, by whom he had no surviving issue.

After her death he married, in 1654, Dorothy, eldest daughter of Edward, Viscount Conway. She died in 1676. There was an only son of this marriage, Sir Arthur Rawdon, who was buried beside his father in the vault.

Rawdon was created a baronet in 1655, being denominated, of Moira, in the County of Down. He died in 1684 and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,  

SIR ARTHUR RAWDON, (1662-95), 2nd Baronet, MP for County Down. He was a distinguished soldier, like his father, and a leader of the "Loyalists of Ulster" and fought against the army of JAMES II. Sir Arthur was in Londonderry during the siege, but as he was dangerously ill he had to leave the town by the advice of his doctor. His only son, 

SIR JOHN RAWDON, (1720-93), 3rd Baronet, was also MP for County Down. He married Dorothy, daughter of Sir Richard Levinge Bt, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons (she, after his death, married the Most Rev Charles Cobbe, Lord Archbishop of Dublin).

Sir John was elevated to the peerage in 1750, as Baron Rawdon, of Moira, County Down; and further ennobled as EARL OF MOIRA in 1762. 

He was married thrice: 1st to Lady Helena, daughter of the Earl of Egmont; secondly to the Hon Anna, daughter of Viscount Hillsborough; and thirdly, to Lady Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Huntingdon. His eldest son,  

THE MOST HON FRANCIS EDWARD [RAWDON-HASTINGS] (1754-1826), 4th Baronet, was further advanced, to a marquessate, as MARQUESS OF HASTINGS KG PC

Lord Hastings was styled the Hon Francis Rawdon from birth until 1762; and as Lord Rawdon between 1762-83; and 2nd Earl of Moira between 1793-1816. 

The 1st Marquess was a distinguished soldier and scholar; and Governor-General of India; a Fellow of the Royal Society; fought in the American war; and was present at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

All of these subsidiary titles, including the Baronetcy, became extinct following the death of the 4th Marquess and 8th Baronet, in 1868. 

First published in March, 2011. Hastings arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

House of Dobbs



This family was established in Ulster by  

JOHN DOBBS, who accompanied Sir Henry Dockwra to the province in 1596, and was subsequently his deputy as Treasurer for Ulster.

This gentleman married, in 1603, Margaret, only child of John Dalway, of Ballyhill, and by her had two sons, Foulk, who was lost, with his father, in returning from England; and

HERCULES DOBBS, who succeeded to his father's property. He married Magdalen West, of Ballydugan, County Down, and left an only son,

RICHARD DOBBS, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1664. This gentleman left his estate to his younger son,

RICHARD DOBBS, of Castletown, born 1660, who married and was succeeded by his heir,

ARTHUR DOBBS, born 1689, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1720, and for many years MP for Carrickfergus.


Mr Dobbs, who was appointed Engineer and Surveyor-General of Ireland, by Sir Robert Walpole, was, 1753, sent out as Governor of North Carolina, where he acquired large possessions, including 400,000 acres in the colony. 

It is, perhaps, a matter of some curiosity that Arthur Dobbs was not elevated to the peerage or, indeed, the baronetage, for his services. 

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

CONWAY RICHARD DOBBS, of Castle Dobbs, MP  for Carrickfergus, and High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1752. Mr Dobbs died in 1811 and was succeeded by his heir,

RICHARD DOBBS, of Castle Dobbs. His eldest son,

CONWAY RICHARD DOBBS JP DL, born in 1796, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1841; MP for Carrickfergus, 1832. He married and was succeeded by his heir,

MONTAGU WILLIAM EDWARD DOBBS JP DL MA, of Castle Dobbs, born in 1844. High Sheriff for County Kildare, 1871, and for County Antrim, 1888. Barrister. Following his decease in 1906, Mr Dobbs was succeeded by his cousin,

ARCHIBALD EDWARD DOBBS JP MA, of Castle Dobbs, born in 1838, High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1909; barrister. His eldest son,

ARTHUR FREDERICK DOBBS DL BA, born in 1876; lieutenant, Harwich Division, Royal Engineers Militia; captain, Antrim Royal Garrison Artillery; major, Howitzer Battery. He fought in the First World War, where he was mentioned in despatches. High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1921;  Member of the NI Senate, 1929-33 and 1937.

Mr Dobbs was succeeded by his only son,

SIR RICHARD ARTHUR FREDERICK DOBBS KCVO JP BA, educated at Eton; fought in the Second World War; temporary captain, the Irish Guards (Supp Reserve); was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1947 entitled to practice as a barrister.

Sir Richard (right) was a judge of the Circuit Court, 1951-55, Midland Circuit; Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, 1959-94; subsequently appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

He had five children:-

1  Richard Francis Andrew Dobbs, b 1955; married Lady Jane Alexander, sister of 7th Earl of Caledon, 1990; divorced in 1999 and had issue, three daughters.   

2  Nigel Christopher Dobbs b 1957; High Sheriff of County Antrim, 2009.

3  Matthew Frederick Dobbs b 1959; Fund Manager, Shroders, 2012.

4  Sophia Carola Dobbs b 1965

5  Nicholas Arthur Montagu Dobbs b 1973; Director, Wealth Management, Cazenove Capital, 2012.


In 1610, John Dobbs built a "fair" castle at Kilroot,, two miles north of Carrickfergus, called Castle Dobbs, where he also built a stone bawn. The castle was built upon "Ensign Dalway's land."

This castle was still standing, though ruinous, in Richard Dobbs' time (grandson of aforesaid John Dobbs), 1683.

The present mansion was built for Arthur Dobbs, Governor of North Carolina and possessor of 400,000 acres in that state.


It is a large, Palladian-style seven-bay, two-storey house with a high basement. The two wings consist of five bays, two storeys, and are linked to the main block by pairs of lunette windows.

The garden front boasts thirty-three windows, though has no doors or french windows at all.


The entrance front, beyond which runs the River Kilroot below a steep bank, has a remarkable double staircase of red stone, leading to a veranda, with Ionic columns, and the main door of the house.

Despite its elegance and grandeur, Castle Dobbs, old Castle Dobbs and the demesne remain very much a private estate, little known though of considerable importance in County Antrim and, indeed, Northern Ireland.

The extent of the estate is estimated to be five or six hundred acres. The River Kilroot, which runs though the park, is a major feature. There is a pheasantry.

The image above shows the side elevation of the house from the garden front. The persons are unknown to me.

Commander Richard Conway Dobbs MP RN inherited an estate comprising 7,921 acres in County Kildare, thought to be Donadea, through his daughter Alicia's marriage to Sir Gerald Aylmer Bt.

I have endeavoured to obtain colour images of Castle Dobbs though my requests were declined. 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

1st Duke of Abercorn


This is the senior male branch of the house of HAMILTON, represented in the female line by Dukes of Hamilton and Brandon.
This illustrious and far-spreading family may vye with, if not excel, any other in Europe, for antiquity and dignity.
The house of HAMILTON is said to be descended from Sir William de Hamilton, one of the younger sons of Robert de Beaumont, 3rd Earl of Leicester, which Sir William's son,

having expressed himself at the court of EDWARD II in admiration of King ROBERT THE BRUCE, received a blow from John de Spencer, which led, the following day, to an encounter, wherein Spencer fell; and Hamilton sought security in Scotland, about 1323.

Being closely pursued, however, in his flight, he and his servant changed clothes with two woodcutters, and taking their saws, were in the act of cutting through an oak-tree when his pursuers passed by.

Perceiving his servant notice them, Sir Gilbert hastily cried out to him, "Through" ; which word, with the oak, and saw through it, he took for his crest, in commemoration of his deliverance.
This detail is, however, liable to many objections: Sir William Dugdale, in his account of the Earls of Leicester, is totally silent as to the descent of the Hamiltons from Robert, 3rd Earl.

That nobleman, according to Sir William Dugdale, had three sons,
ROBERT, 4th Earl of Leicester;
ROGER, Bishop of St Andrew's, and Chancellor of Scotland;
WILLIAM, a leper, founder of the hospital of St Leonard, Leicester.
That this last William predeceased his eldest brother without issue is evident from the circumstance of the great inheritance of the Earls of Leicester devolving, on the decease of the 4th Earl, in 1204, upon his sisters; and Simon de Montfort, the husband of the eldest, having, in her right, the title of Earl of Leicester.

WILLIAM DE HAMILTON occurs frequently in Thomas Rymer's "Fœdera" from 1274 to 1306, being employed by EDWARD I in various negotiations and transactions of importance.

He was appointed Dean of York in 1298, and High Chancellor of England, 1305.

This is the first of the name noticed in the "Fœdera". It appears somewhat earlier, however, in Scotland; GILBERT DE HAMILTON being on record in the chartulary of Paisley in 1272.

The younger son of this Gilbert, John, was ancestor of the Earls of Haddington; the elder,

SIR WALTER DE HAMILTON, swore fealty to EDWARD I in 1292 and 1294.
Attaching himself to King Robert, he had divers grants of lands, amongst others, the barony of Kinneil and Cadzow (now Hamilton), in the sheriffdom of Lanark.
From this Sir Walter lineally descended

DAVID, one of the persons who took the oath of allegiance to EDWARD I, in 1292. From this gentleman descended

SIR JAMES HAMILTON, of Cadzow, created Lord Hamilton, in 1445; and succeeded, in 1479, by his only son,

JAMES, 2nd Lord, who was advanced to an earldom, in 1503, as Earl of Arran, and was succeeded, in 1529, by his only son,

JAMES, 2nd Earl.
This nobleman having been declared by the parliament of Scotland, in 1543, heir-presumptive to the crown of that kingdom, was, in consequence thereof, appointed tutor to Queen Mary, and governor of the realm during Her Majesty's minority. In five years afterwards, his lordship was invested with the French Order of Saint Michael; and created, by HENRY II of France, DUKE OF CHÂTELLERAULT, in Poitou.
His Grace married Lady Margaret Douglas, eldest daughter of James, 3rd Earl of Morton), and died in 1575. His third son,

being amongst the most zealous partisans of MARY, Queen of Scots, obtained, as the reward of his fidelity, from Her Majesty's son, JAMES VI, in 1587, a grant of the whole barony of Paisley, with the dignity of Baron Paisley. 
His lordship married Margaret, only daughter of George, Lord Seton, and had four sons and one daughter, namely, 
I. JAMES (1575-1618), master of Paisley, who was created, in 1603, Baron Abercorn, with remainder to his heirs male, and assigns whatever; and advanced, in 1606, to the EARLDOM OF ABERCORN, with the minor dignities of Baron Hamilton, Mountcastell and Kilpatrick, attached. His lordship was subsequently called by summons to the house of Peers in Ireland, in the same rank of earl; and by the same title; and having obtained a large grant of land in the barony of Strabane in that kingdom, erected there a strong castle, with a schoolhouse and church, and founded a town of about 80 houses. He wedded Marion, eldest daughter of Thomas, 6th Lord Boyd, and dying in 1617, left issue,
1. JAMES, 2nd Earl, of whom presently;
2. CLAUD, 2nd Baron Hamilton of Strabane, who succeeded to the Irish estates, and, on the resignation of his brother, Lord Abercorn, was created, in 1634, Lord Hamilton, Baron of Strabane. His lordship married, in 1632, Lady Jane Gordon, 4th daughter of George, 1st Marquess of Huntly; and dying in 1638 left (with a daughter) two sons,
James, who succeeded as Lord Strabane, and joined Sir Phelim O'Neill against the Parliamentarians, but was unfortunately drowned in 1655. His lordship died a Roman Catholic;
George, 5th Lord Strabane, who wedded Elizabeth, daughter of Christopher Fagan, of Feltrim, County Dublin, and left, with other issue,
CLAUD, Lord Strabane, of whom hereafter, as 4TH EARL OF ABERCORN.
3. WILLIAM (Sir), dsp;
4. GEORGE, of Donalong, County Tyrone, and of Nenagh, County Tipperary, a faithful adherent of THE CHARLESES, who was rewarded with a baronetcy, in 1660. Sir George espoused Mary, 3rd daughter of Walter, Viscount Thurles, by whom he had six sons and three daughters; of the former was Anthony, the celebrated Count Hamilton, author of the Memoirs of Gramont; and the eldest of the latter was the beautiful and accomplished ELIZABETH HAMILTON, who married Philibert, Count of Gramont. Sir George's eldest son, JAMES, was a colonel in the army, and died of a wound in 1673; leaving three sons, of whom the eldest, JAMES, succeeded as 6th Earl;
5. ALEXANDER (Sir), settled in Austria, and was created a count of the Empire;
6. ANNE, married Hugh, 5th Lord Semple;
7. MARGARET, wedded Sir William Cuninghame;
8. LUCY was contracted by her father to Randal, Lord Dunluce, afterwards Marquess of Antrim; but that nobleman refusing to abide by the contract, his father, the Earl of Antrim, was obliged to pay the Earl of Abercorn £3,000 as compensation: the lady remained unmarried.
II. CLAUD (Sir), gentleman of The King's privy chamber, from whom lineally descended Lieutenant-General Sir John James Hamilton Bt, of Woodbrook;
III. GEORGE (Sir), of Greenlaw and Rosscrea, in Ireland, whose only daughter, Margaret, wedded Sir Archibald Acheson Bt, of Gosford, Haddingtonshire, a Lord of Session, and Secretary of State for Scotland, ancestor of the Earls of Gosford;
IV. FREDERICK, who signallized himself under the banner of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden; was Gentleman-in-Ordinary to JAMES, and to CHARLES I; and obtained large grants of lands in Ireland. He wedded Sidney, daughter and heiress of the Rt Hon Sir John Vaughan, Governor of Londonderry, and had issue.
Lord Paisley died in 1621, and was succeeded by his grandson,

JAMES (c1604-c1670), 2nd Earl and 2nd Baron Paisley.
This nobleman had been previously advanced to the peerage, in 1617, by the title of Lord Hamilton of Strabane, which honour, upon his lordship's petition to CHARLES I, was transferred to his next brother, the Hon Claud Hamilton. Lord Abercorn was excommunicated, by the general commisssion of the Church of Scotland, in 1649, as a Roman Catholic, and ordered to depart the Kingdom.
He married Catherine, daughter and heiress of Gervais, Lord Clifton, of Leighton Bromswold, relict of Esme, Duke of Richmond and Lennox, and had issue,
JAMES, Lord Paisley, who predeceased him, leaving an only daughter, CATHERINE, married firstly to William Lenthal; and secondly, to Charles, 5th Earl of Abercorn;
William, an officer in the army, killed in the wars in Germany, and dsp;
GEORGE, his successor.
His Lordship was succeeded at his decease by his only surviving son,

GEORGE, 3rd Earl (c1636-c1680), who died unmarried and was succeeded by his cousin (revert to Claud, 2nd son of James, Master of Paisley, 1st Earl of Abercorn),

CLAUD, Lord Strabane, as 4th Earl (c1659-c1691).
This nobleman, attending King JAMES II, after the revolution, from France, was sworn of the Privy Council upon his arrival in Dublin. His lordship, on the discomfiture of his royal master at the Boyne, having embarked for France, lost his life in the voyage. In 1691 he had been outlawed, and forfeited the estate and title of STRABANE; but the Earldom of Abercorn devolved upon his brother,
CHARLES, 5th Earl,
who, the late Earl's attainder having been reversed, succeeded likewise to the restored title and estate of STRABANE; but, leaving no issue at his decease in 1701, the honours and estates devolved upon his kinsman (revert to Sir George Hamilton Bt, of Donalong, 4th son of James, 1st Earl of Abercorn),
JAMES, 6th Earl (c1661-1734),
who had declined assuming the title of Baronet at the decease of his grandfather, in 1769, but was known as "Captain Hamilton". This gentleman was in the military service and confidence of King JAMES II; but, espousing the cause of WILLIAM III, took a distinguished part at the siege of Londonderry against his royal master.
Succeeding to the earldom of Abercorn, his lordship, in virtue thereof, took his seat, in 1706, as a member of the Scottish parliament. Ireland was, however, the usual place of his residence; and of that realm, in 1701, he was created Baron Mountcastle and Viscount Strabane.
He espoused, in 1686, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Robert Reading Bt, of Dublin, by whom he had issue nine sons and four daughters.

His lordship died about 1734, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES, 7th Earl (1685-1744), who married, in 1711, Anne, eldest daughter of  Colonel John Plumer, of Blakesware, Hertfordshire, and had, with one daughter, six sons, of whom,
JAMES, became 8th Earl;
John, m Harriet, daughter of the Rt Hon James Craggs, secretary of state, and had a son, JOHN JAMES, who inherited as 9th Earl;
George, canon of Windsor, who married and had numerous issue;
His lordship died in 1744, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES, 8th Earl (1712-89), who died a bachelor, in 1789, when the family honours devolved upon his nephew,

JOHN JAMES, 9th Earl (1756-1818), KG, who was created, in 1790, Marquess of Abercorn, and subsequently installed a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

His lordship wedded firstly, in 1799, Catherine, daughter of Sir Joseph Copley, of Sprotborough, Yorkshire, by whom he had, with other children,
JAMES, Viscount Hamilton, who died in 1814, leaving issue by Harriet, daughter of the Hon John Douglas, and granddaughter of James, 14th Earl of Morton, JAMES, who inherited the honours from his grandfather and became 2nd Marquess and 1st Duke; Claud, b 1813; Harriet, m to Capt Hamilton RN.
Catherine Elizabeth, m to George, Earl of Aberdeen.
Her ladyship dying in 1791,
Lord Abercorn espoused, in 1792, his cousin Cecil, 8th daughter of the Hon George Hamilton, from whom he was divorced, in 1799: By this marriage he had an only child, Lady Cecil Frances Hamilton, who wedded, in 1816, William, 3rd Earl of Wicklow.
Lord Abercorn married thirdly, in 1810, Lady Anne Jane Gore, daughter of the nd Earl of Arran, in 1800.

His lordship died in 1818, and was succeeded by his grandson,

JAMES, 2nd Marquess (1811-85), KG, who was created DUKE OF ABERCORN, in 1868.

My information about the Abercorn family and estates comes from several sources, including the Abercorn Papers at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland; and the NI Environment Agency. Despite the length of this article, it has, nevertheless, been greatly condensed.

The best documented Abercorn property outside Tyrone and Donegal is the Dublin town-house on the corner of York Street and Stephen's Green which was held by lease from the Dean and Chapter of St Patrick's, and was brought into the family through the 6th Earl's marriage in 1684.


The Priory, Stanmore, Middlesex, was another property of the Dukes of Abercorn.

In 1852-1854, this was sold (for over £90,000) by the 2nd Marquess, afterwards 1st Duke, in order to pay off his debts and, it was said, after some deliberation over whether Baronscourt should be sold instead.

Most of the title deed material relating to the Middlesex estate passed to the purchaser, Sir John Kelk.


Hampden House, in Green Street, London, became the town house of the Abercorn family in 1869.

In 1868, at the time the dukedom of Abercorn was created, the rental income of the estates had been restored to its 1818 level, standing at nearly £40,000 a year.

By the mid-1850s, the 1st Duke had spent nearly £30,000 buying church lands and other property in the vicinity of Baronscourt, and at least £20,000 more on improving and planting them.

During the financial crisis which beset him at that time, and which obliged him to sell The Priory, outlying townlands in his inherited fee simple estate in Tyrone and Donegal with a rental of over £2,000 a year were sold for £51,000.

Both the composition and character of the estate changed greatly during this period.


The Abercorns were never extensive landowners in England: The Priory estate, for example, which was probably the largest English property they ever owned, produced a mere £2,750 of income per annum in 1840.

In 1797, the 1st Marquess described the Priory as "a large house, [run] at great expense, without what deserves the name of property around it".

Yet, from at least the late 17th century, when the 5th Earl was in possession of a property in Oxfordshire, the Abercorns were never without an English base.

Indeed, during the period 1868-1918, three of the 1st Duke's sons sat in parliament for English constituencies.

The 7th and 8th Earls maintained town houses, first in Cavendish Square and then (by 1763) in Grosvenor Square, as well as Witham Place, to which the 8th Earl added a wing in the 1740s.

The 1st Marquess sold Witham, but retained his uncle's town house, and greatly extended his own house and estate at Stanmore.

Ironically, the proximate reason for the 1st Duke's having to sell The Priory in 1852-1854, was an over-ambitious attempt to extend his English base by spending nearly £100,000 (which he did not possess) on buying the estate of Dale Park, near Arundel, Sussex.

Both before and after the sale of The Priory, the 1st Duke kept up a succession of London town houses:
Dudley House (Park Lane);
Chesterfield House (Audley Street);
Hampden House (Green Street), from 1869 till 1st World War.

BARONSCOURT, near Newtownstewart, County Tyrone, is one of the greatest country houses in Northern Ireland and, indeed, further afield.

It has been in continuous use as the ancestral seat of the Hamiltons, Earls and Dukes of Abercorn, since 1780.

It affords the finest quality in detailing and craftsmanship.

Baronscourt has been associated with a number of distinguished architects and has undergone at least three periods of extensive remodelling since its construction.
It was originally designed by George Steuart; subsequently enlarged by Sir John Soane, in 1790; and again by William Vitruvius Morrison, ca 1830; taking on its current appearance only ca 1945, when the house was reduced in size by Sir Albert Richardson.
As a result, the house has quite a complex plan, especially at the north side, where rooms are on a number of levels.

It is neo-classical in style, faced in ashlar sandstone; generally two-storey over a basement; with formal gardens to the front and south; and entrance elevation with a huge portico and asymmetrical pavilions to the north.

Internal refurbishment by David Hicks ca 1970 is also notable.

The main house is complemented by the lower level garage block, a detatched store and an ornate gate screen to the south.

Baronscourt is beautifully situated in an extensive demesne with formal gardens, parkland, woodland, and three loughs.

It is overlooked by the stableyard to east and has numerous ancillary structures, including a two earlier ducal residences, an 18th century classical villa, and a 17th century plantation house.

The mansion house and wider demesne are of considerable architectural, historical and significance.

DURING the plantation of Ulster, extensive lands in County Tyrone were granted to the 1st Earl of Abercorn, in 1611, by JAMES I.

Baronscourt was included and was part of the manor of Derrygoon.

The demesne lies in the townland of Barons Court, within the parish of Ardstraw, about 2½ miles south-west of Newtownstewart.

The present mansion house was originally constructed ca 1780; remodelled and extended ca 1790; and again ca 1835 and ca 1945.

The Abercorn family originally had their residence in what is now the Agent's House.

Baronscourt House was built on its present site ca 1780.

Correspondence shows that the building was complete by 1781; plans were already underway to convert the earlier house; and to carry out other improvements in the demesne.

The 8th Earl employed George Steuart as his architect.

(Sir) John Soane was employed by the 1st Marquess to remodel the house during 1791-92.

Alterations included enlarging and remodelling the house and reorienting, to create a north-facing front.

Building accounts show that these changes cost the 1st Marquess at least £14,500, or £1.8 million today.

In 1793, James Hamilton described the change as
completely metamorphosed, both as to house and grounds, as scarcely to bear a single trace of resemblance to the former appearance of either.
In 1796, an accidental fire at the house gutted the main block of Soane's building, causing the loss of distinctive features.

Robert Woodgate, already at Baronscourt overseeing work for Soane, was put in charge of reconstruction between 1797-98.

Additional changes were subsequently made in 1810 by Mr Turner.

In the 1830s, considerable improvements and alterations were made to the house.

Around this time, the 2nd Marquess asked William Farrell and William Vitruvius Morrison to produce plans for remodelling. Morrison's plans were chosen.

His father, Richard Morrison, took over after his death in 1838. Remodelling cost almost £20,000 (£1.8 million today).

The house was further enlarged and a massive, pedimented port-cochere was added.

The house was given a rich neo-classical interior and a formal garden was added at this time.

The Morrisons contributed largely to the interior of Baronscourt: Greek Ionic columns, the Rotunda, and a large dining room with scagliola pilasters, were amongst the additions.

Richard Morrison's own contribution is the Palladian-Revival ceiling in the library, in 1839.

The house was subject to another fire ca 1940.

It is said that, thereafter, Sir Albert Richardson made some changes for the 3rd Duke ca 1945, including the demolition of two substantial wings.

David Hicks was commissioned to remodel the interior between 1975-6.

Woodland planting began here in 1746, when the 8th Earl sent a gardener here called James Broomfield to put down trees, and in 1751, on the opposite side of Lough Fanny, the deer park established and stocked with deer from England.

This was planted by Broomfield with clumps of lime, beech and laburnum. Extensive large-scale landscaping took place at Baronscourt in 1770s and 1780s as a setting for the new Steuart designed house.

Much of this work was supervised by Thomas Hudson, then the head gardener [discharged 1790].

When Daniel Beauford came here in 1786 he commented upon the ‘magnificent seat’ and ‘the great number of fine oaks and three long narrow lakes which ornament this place and give it an air of great grandeur’.

The park with its extensive plantations, enclosing all three lakes, covered about 900 acres by the early 19th century.

In the 1840s, following the remodelling of the house by the Morrisons, the park was considerably enlarged and extensively re-designed, almost certainly to designs of the famous landscape gardener James Frazer.

The Lough Fanny deer park was also enlarged to occupy the whole area between the lake and the public road skirting the demesne; at this time the deer was landscaped to form an integral part of the landscape park.

In consequence to this development, the view across the lough to the rising ground of the Deer Park is now decorated with a great number of splendid mature parkland trees.

In the decades following the Morrison improvements a number of garden embellishments were added near the house itself.

In the late 1840s or early 1850s an enormous ramped Italian parterre terraced garden was added to the lake or west front, with a parterre designed by W. Broderick Thomas.

It is believed that thirteen gardeners alone were needed to tend this parterre, which was cleared in 1913 and replaced for many years with rather unsatisfactory island beds; eventually these, too,were removed and now only some stone balustrading survives.

On the south side of the house a terraced garden was made by the Dublin gardener Ninian Niven in 1876 for the 1st Duke, after his second term as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1874-6).

This garden was formed on three terraces with terracotta balustrading and urns and a semi-circle of yew-hedges on the lowest terrace.

It was here that the pale peachy orange Potentilla ‘Sophie’s Blush’ was discovered. In the early 1990s this was restored and herbaceous borders replanted in the middle terrace.

Northwest of the house an avenue of alternating Monkey Puzzles and Lawson Cypress ‘Erecta viridis’ was planted in the 1860s, some reaching over 100 feet tall when they were removed in the 1980s.

To the west of this was a woodland garden with a shelter of Scots Pine.

The area was planted with Japanese maples and later; in the 1920 and 1930s, rhododendrons were placed here.

In the 1890s, the 2nd Duke created a bog garden for his wife, Mary Anna.

It was made astride a small stream between Lough Fanny and Lough Mary; bamboo inevitably took over much of this area in later years.

The 2nd Duke also added the stable block in 1889-90 to a design of the Belfast architect Joseph Bell.

Around this time a second deer park was made at Baronscourt on the hills east of the demesne; it was created in imitation of Scottish Deer Parks of the time and was used mainly to stock Red Deer.

It remained in use until the 1920s.

The whole of Baronscourt is a fully maintained domestic and working demesne. Farmland and acres of mixed woods are managed.

There are large traces of commercial forest, composed mainly of larch, white fir, western hemlock, Scots Pine and some popular, much of which was the product of the extensive planting by the 4th Duke, who had a passion for forestry and introduced Nothofagus as a crop, using seed from Chile.

Lying in unexpected places within some of the plantations are found old magnolias and walnuts, planted by the 3rd Duke as ‘surprise trees’.

The walled garden is used by Baronscourt Nurseries.

The demesne includes many subsidiary buildings, notably the highly picturesque ‘Rock Cottage’ of c.1832, designed by Peter Frederick Robinson and located at the Largybeg Gate.

Other gate lodges by Robinson, who was probably recommended by Soane, includes the picturesque Church Lodge or ‘Devine’s Gate’ (1835) and the Newtownstewart Gate Lodge, the latter being an adoption from Robinson’s book Designs for Lodges and Park Entrances (1833).

Another lodge, ‘Moore’s Lodge’ of ca 1780 has been demolished and may have been the work of John Soane.

Richard Morrison ca 1837 drew plans for three entrances and accompanying lodges, but none were executed.

The demesne church lying above Lough Mary was consecrated in 1858; its grounds contain a large Celtic cross, 1885, designed by Dublin architect Walter Glynn Doolin (1819-1900) and restored in 2005.

In recent years a log-built Russian style house, designed by Richard Pierce, has been built as a retreat in the park south of the House.

The Abercorn family owns the Belle Isle estate in County Fermanagh, run by the Duke's younger son, Lord Nicholas Hamilton.

 Abercorn arms courtesy of European Heraldry.   First published in December, 2009.