Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Antrim Castle

THE VISCOUNTS MASSEREENE AND FERRARD WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY ANTRIM, WITH 11,778 ACRES

SIR JOHN CLOTWORTHY was a very eminent person in the reign of CHARLES I.
He was so instrumental in forwarding the restoration of CHARLES II that he was immediately on that event, in 1660, created Baron Lough Neagh and VISCOUNT MASSEREENE, with remainder, on failure of male issue, to his son-in-law, Sir John Skeffington, husband of his only daughter Mary.
Further information about the Clotworthy family and their origins can be obtained here.

Lord Massereene died in 1665 and was suceeded by his son-in-law,

SIR JOHN SKEFFINGTON, 2nd Viscount, descended from a family which had been seated at the village of Skeffington, Lancashire, since the reign of EDWARD I.

He died in 1695 and was succeeded by his son,

CLOTWORTHY, 3rd Viscount (1660-1714), who married and had issue, his eldest son,

CLOTWORTHY, 4th Viscount, who wedded, in 1713, Lady Catherine Chichester, eldest daughter of Arthur, 4th Earl of Donegall. His eldest son,

CLOTWORTHY, 5th Viscount (1715-57), was, in 1756, advanced to an earldom as EARL OF MASSEREENE.

The 1st Earl wedded, in 1738, Anne, eldest daughter of the Very Rev Richard Daniel, Dean of Down, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

CLOTWORTHY, 2nd Earl (1743-1805), who married though having no male issue, the family honours devolved upon his brother,

HENRY, 3rd Earl, Governor of the city of Cork, who died unmarried in 1811, and was succeeded by his only surviving brother,

CHICHESTER, 4th Earl, who, in 1780, wedded Lady Harriet Jocelyn, eldest daughter of Robert, 1st Earl of Roden, and by her had issue,

HARRIET, VISCOUNTESS MASSEREENE.
The 4th Earl died in 1816, when the earldom expired; but the viscountcy of Massereene and barony of Lough Neagh devolved upon his only daughter and sole heiress,
HARRIET, VISCOUNTESS MASSEREENE, who married, in 1810, Thomas Henry, Viscount Ferrard, by whom she had issue,

JOHN, VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD (1812-63).
The heir apparent is the present holder's son the Hon. Charles Clotworthy Whyte-Melville Foster Skeffington (born 1973).
Sir John Clotworthy took his title from the half barony of Massereene in County Antrim, where he established his estates.

In 1668, the Massereenes owned about 45,000 acres in Ireland; however, by 1701, the land appears to have shrunk to 10,000 acres; and, by 1713, the County Antrim estates comprised 8,178 acres.

Land acquisiton through marriage etc meant that the land-holdings amounted to 11,778 acres in 1887.

In the 1600s the Massereenes possessed the lucrative fishing rights to Lough Neagh by means of a 99-year lease and they were also accorded the honour, Captains of Lough Neagh, for a period.

The Chichesters, Earls of Belfast, were Admirals of Lough Neagh.

Historical records also tell us that Lord Massereene had the right to maintain a “fighting fleet” on the Lough.

The 12th Viscount Massereene and Ferrard DSO, was the last of the Skeffingtons to live at Antrim Castle:
The 12th Viscount was educated at Winchester and Sandhurst; commissioned into the 17th Lancers in 1895; saw action throughout the South African War, 1899-1902; was wounded, mentioned in dispatches and awarded the DSO; and retired as a brevet major in 1907.

Lord Massereene became a TA major in the North Irish Horse later in that year. He later served in the early years of the First World War and is said to have found Lawrence of Arabia 'impossible'. In 1905 he married and succeeded to the title.
He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for County Antrim. Although his father-in-law was a Liberal MP and Home Ruler, Lord Massereene was a staunch Conservative and Unionist. Notwithstanding his position as a DL for County Antrim, he is supposed to have sat in his chauffeur-driven car, looking on with approval, as guns were run into Larne Harbour in 1912!
He was HM Lord Lieutenant for County Antrim from 1916-38. From 1921-29 he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and a member of the Northern Ireland Senate.

ANTRIM CASTLE, County Antrim, stood at the side of the River Sixmilewater beside the town of Antrim.

It was originally built in 1613 by Sir Hugh Clotworthy and enlarged in 1662 by his son, the 1st Viscount Massereene.


The Castle was rebuilt in 1813 as a three-storey Georgian-Gothic castellated mansion, faced in Roman cement of an agreeable orange colour.

The original doorway, most elaborate and ornate and complete with Ionic pilasters, heraldry and a head of CHARLES I became a central feature of the new 4-bay entrance front, with a long, adjoining front of 180 feet with 11 bays; mullioned oriels and a tall, octagonal turret were added in 1887 when the Castle was again enlarged.


The image of the Castle above was taken in 1921, just before the disastrous fire.

Clicking on the images shall provide considerable detail.


The demesne boasts a remarkable 17th century formal garden and parterre with a long canal bordered with tall hedges; and another canal at right angles to it making a “T” shape.

There are abundant old trees, masses of yew and walls of rose-coloured brick.

An ancient motte stands beside the ruinous Castle.

The motte was transformed into a magnificent 'viewing mount' in the early 18th century with a corkscrew path lined on the outside with a yew hedge.

Lord and Lady Massereene and their family were hosting a grand ball in Antrim Castle when it was burnt by an IRA gang on the 28th October, 1922.

It is thought that one of the servants was an Irish Republican sympathizer; provided information to the gang; and left the Castle having packed his bags.

Many items of historical importance were destroyed in the fire; but the presence of mind of Lord Massereene and his staff, and the length of time which it takes for a very large house to be consumed by a fire, saved much that would otherwise have been lost.

The daughter of the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Charles D'Arcy, who was staying at the time, jumped out of a window to save herself.

A 900-piece dinner service of Foster provenance was thrown from the drawing-room windows into the Sixmilewater river; however, very little of it survived intact.

A great deal of furniture, some of it large, was rescued.

More would have been rescued, except that the townspeople of Antrim, who turned out in large numbers to help, thought that the most important thing to be saved was the billiards table!

Thirty men managed to get it out of the castle.
Among the major survivals were the family portraits. A comparison with the portraits itemised by C.H. O'Neill in 1860 and those surviving in family possession today, suggests a rescue operation of astonishing success (although it has to be remembered that many portraits and other important pieces were probably in the London town house in 1922, or with the Dowager Lady Massereene at her house in Hampshire).
The 13th Viscount , who was a small boy at the time, recalled the blaze vividly.

He remembered being trapped with his mother in a light well from which they narrowly escaped, and being told by her that they were going to die there.

He particularly remembered the nursery cat with its fur on fire. I wonder if it survived.

Following the fire, Lord Massereene went to live in the nearby dower house, Skeffington Lodge (which subsequently became the Deer Park Hotel). Further losses of family treasures – this time by sale, not by fire – now followed.

The family considered building a two-storey, Neo-Tudor house on the site of Antrim Castle but nothing came of this.

Apparently no insurance compensation was paid, because arson could not be proved.

The ruin of the great mansion was finally removed about 1970.

After the Second World War, Skeffington Lodge was abandoned; the Antrim Castle stable block was converted for use as a family residence, and was re-named Clotworthy House.

It was let for about ten years following the death of Lord Massereene in 1956. Clotworthy was then acquired by Antrim Borough Council, and was converted for use as an Arts Centre in 1992.

The gardens are of great importance as they retain, in reasonable condition, features from the 17th century.

Whereas, at other sites in Ulster, later fashions dictated alterations in garden layout, at Antrim the formal style typical of European gardens of the 17th century remained little changed throughout successive generations.

The gardens are listed, naming the Long pond and Round Pond.

A great deal of the latter was wooded; became a deer park; and was set out in the early 19th century in clumps and shelter plantations in the landscape manner, but no longer survives in that form.

A fine stone bridge, the Deer Park Bridge, spans the river at a shallow point and formed a link between the demesne and the rest of the estate.

The Anglo-Norman motte adjacent to the house was made into a garden feature, with a yew-lined spiral walk leading to the top, from which views of the grounds, the town of Antrim and the river could (and can still) be enjoyed.

The castle and the motte were enclosed within a bawn and protected by artillery bastions, which were utilized for gardens from the 18th century.

The formal canals, linked by a small cascade and lined with clipped lime and hornbeam hedges, are the main attraction.

The wooded Wilderness is interspersed with straight paths that lead to vistas outside the demesne, which added to the impression that the area it covers is larger than it is.

Unfortunately most of the vistas have now been blocked.

A round pond is a feature in the wilderness. A small former parterre garden is now the family memorial ground.

A larger parterre was reconstructed in the 1990s and now forms a considerable ornamental area planted in the manner of a 17th century garden, including plants that were known to have been grown at that time.

The model for the layout comes from Castle Coole in County Fermanagh. This area is bounded by a fine clipped lime hedge and a venerable yew hedge.

Use of the site as an army camp in the last world war possibly accounts for the paucity of fine mature trees.

Other sections have suffered; the kitchen and ornamental Terrace Garden were destroyed in the 1960s, when a road was laid through part of the area.

The main gate lodge from the town, the Barbican Gate, was possibly built in 1818 to the designs of John Bowden and has been separated from the site by the intrusion of the road.

An underpass now connects the lodge entrance to the grounds.

Another gate lodge, at the farm and stables entrance on the Randalstown Road, has been demolished.

The stable block, built in the 1840s and now known as Clotworthy House, is used as an arts centre.

It replaced an earlier stable block immediately to the east of the house and assumed the name ‘House’ when the family went to live in it some time after the fire at the castle.

The estate and gardens are now owned by Antrim Borough Council and are open all the time for public access.

The 14th and present Viscount formerly lived with his family at Chilham Castle in Kent till it, too, was sold in 1996.

First Published in March, 2010.  Massereene arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

2 comments :

Sandy said...

Fascinating account of a family of whom I knew little or nothing. Must go and have a gander!
Oh, and in the next life I wish for my mullions to be orieled. Please.

Timothy Belmont said...

If you have the time have a look at the Masereene Papers on proni's website. Extensive.

"Jock" Massereene was great pals with Alan Clark MP.

Craig is enjoying himself in the Bahamas, lucky devil!