Thursday, 21 September 2017

Lissanoure Castle

THE EARL MACARTNEY WAS A MAJOR LANDOWNER IN COUNTY ANTRIM, WITH 12,532 ACRES

Of the Auchinleck branch of the ancient Scottish family of Macartney, MacCartney, or MacCarthy, was 

GEORGE MACARTNEY, who married, in 1522, Margaret, daughter of Godfrey MacCullogh, of Gatehouse of Fleet, Kirkcudbright.

His son,

PATRICK MacCARTNEY, married the daughter of John McLellan, and had an eldest son,

BARTHOLOMEW MacCARTNEY, of Auchinleck, Kirkcudbright, who wedded, in 1587, Mary, only daughter of John Stewart, of Auchinleck, and had a son,

BARTHOLOMEW MacCARTNEY, who espoused Catherine, daughter of George Maxwell, and dvp leaving a son,

GEORGE MACARTNEY (1626-91), a Captain of Horse, born at Auchinleck, who removed to Ulster, 1649, and settled in County Antrim, where he acquired a large estate, and represented Belfast in parliament.

Mr Macartney was Sovereign of Belfast (mayor), 1662-3.

In 1678 he served as High Sheriff; and in 1688 he proclaimed WILLIAM & MARY at Belfast, for which he was soon after obliged to flee to England, and was attainted by JAMES I's parliament held at Dublin in 1689.

He was restored on the settlement of the Kingdom.

Mr Macartney married firstly Jane, daughter of Sir Quintin Calderwood, and had issue (with three daughters, two of whom died unmarried),
James (1651-1727);
Arthur, father of George, MP for Belfast, 1721;
John;
Bartholomew;
George;
St Quinton.
He married secondly, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Stephen Butler, and had issue (with a son, Chichester, dsp),

GEORGE MACARTNEY (1671-1757), who married firstly, in 1700, Letitia, daughter and co-heir of Sir Charles Porter, LORD CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND; and secondly, Elizabeth Dobbin.

He was MP for Belfast for 54 years; called to the Bar, 1700; High Sheriff, County Antrim; Deputy Governor and Colonel of a regiment of Militia Dragoons.

Mr Macartney left issue by his first wife (with a son, Charles, dsp, and a son, Hugh), a son,

GEORGE MACARTNEY, who married, in 1732, Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev John Winder, and had issue,
GEORGE, his heir;
Letitia, m Godfrey Echlin;
Elizabeth, m John Blaquiere.
Mr Macartney's son,

THE RT HON SIR GEORGE MACARTNEY KB (1737-1806), of Lissanoure, County Antrim, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, and of the most ancient and royal order of the White Eagle of Poland; one of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council; Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the Empress of Russia; born in 1737.

Sir George was elevated to the peerage, in 1770, as Baron Macartney; and advanced to the dignity of an earldom, 1792, as EARL MACARTNEY, and Viscount Macartney of Dervock.

His lordship married the Lady Jane Stewart, second daughter of John, Earl of Bute.
He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and, having entered the civil service, was sent as an envoy to Russia. Macartney was Chief Secretary of Ireland from 1769-72 and, in 1775, was appointed Governor of Grenada. Lord Macartney was taken prisoner by the French in 1779 in Grenada; Knight Companion (KB) of the Order of the Bath, 1768; Governor of Madras, 1781-5.

In 1772, Lord Macartney headed the first diplomatic mission to China.

After a mission to King Louis XVIII at Verona in 1795-6, he went out as Governor to the Cape, but returned due to ill-health in 1798.

Lord Macartney died without issue in 1806, when the earldom became extinct.

The Glens of Antrim Historical Society has written a history of the Macartney family.

Lord Macartney died without issue in 1800, when his titles became extinct.

His ancestral seat was Lissanoure Castle, County Antrim.

LISSANOURE CASTLE lies roughly between Ballymoney and Ballymena, in the heart of County Antrim, at Loughguile.

It is of great historical importance, as the former seat of the 1st and last Earl Macartney. 

The entry for Lissanoure is given thus:
Macartney held property both in Scotland and Ireland. His principal Irish property was situated at Lisanoure, parish of Loughguile, Co. Antrim. A considerable number of unbound letters dating from 1774 to 1826, relate to Lisanoure Castle and demesne and the neighbouring district.

Although he was not able to visit the place very often, Macartney had much work done in improving its amenities. In addition, he helped the inhabitants of Dervock by giving them long leases, building dwelling houses and a market-house, and establishing a linen market there.
Old Lissanoure Castle is now a ruin in a private estate which contains Guile Lake.


The Anglo-Norman, Sir Philip Savage, built a castle here in the 14th century; rebuilt by Lord Macartney about 1787 and dismantled in the early 19th century.

The entrance to the courtyard remains, in the form of a Tudor archway.

The Castle extended around four sides of a sizeable, rectangular courtyard.

It was built in various stages from ca 1770 onwards by Lord Macartney.

It was of two storeys, with a front of five bays between two, three-sided bows.

Inside the two bows were an octagonal drawing-room and dining-room; and between them were two other reception rooms on either side of a hall, behind which was a commodious double staircase in a projection jutting out at the rear into the courtyard.

At right-angles to the front, two long ranges ran back on either side of the courtyard, containing offices and stables; with windows only facing the courtyard, the outer walls battlemented and blank.

The fourth side of the courtyard also had a blank wall, with an archway in its centre.

The ranges facing the courtyard had pointed, Georgian-Gothic windows and dormer-gables.

Following Lord Macartney's death in 1806, Lissanoure was inherited by his great-nephew, George Hume, who assumed the surname of Macartney; and who began rebuilding the house from 1829 onwards.

He pulled down the old castle at one corner; erected a Tudor archway leading into the courtyard, surmounted by an octagonal, battlemented belfry and spire.

He began work on the front of the house in about 1847, having already built himself "an elegant cottage in the later English style, richly embellished" by the side of the lake.

A great ball was scheduled as a “house-warmer” for the night of 5th October, 1847.

At noon on that day it occurred to one of the men organising the move that there was gunpowder in an old vault underneath the castle and it would be a good idea to have a look at it.

When one of the casts was opened, the butler was asked to take the son and heir out of the room for safety, and as he closed the door, the draught blew some gunpowder into the fire and this produced eventually a huge explosion which blew up the castle and killed Mrs Macartney.

From then on the family lived at the cottage and the castle remained in ruins, with only the yard intact.

The estate was sold to the Mackies of Belfast, industrialists, but had already been requisitioned by the Army as a training base for British and American troops in the 2nd World War.

There was also a German prisoner-of-war camp at Lissanoure and the Mackies did not get full possession until the war was over in 1945.

It was used by the Mackies for entertainment of overseas visitors and as a winter shooting lodge; and not regularly inhabited till 1976.

Nowadays the estate is owned and run by Peter and Emily Mackie, with farming and forestry at its core.

They have continued the restoration work at the Castle and gardens; and the estate is now also available for weddings, corporate functions, conferences, shows and other private events.

The house sits in lawns, with a view of the lake and crannog.

The Castle was the centre of a contemporary landscape park laid out within the undulating site and surrounding Lough Guile.

This was created under the direction of Lord Macartney, and he is remembered in ‘Macartney’s Walks’.

As a widely travelled ambassador, this park was laid out by Macartney with sophistication.

Lough Guile was joined to Five Islands Lough by two canals; considerable drainage schemes were undertaken; the islands were planted up, bridges built and boats were used on the waterways.

Shrubberies graced the Castle; tree-lined gravel paths provided walks.

The parkland had clumps and plantations, much of which survive.

Dramatic shelter-belts run along ridges on the tops of hills.

The walled garden has a restored glasshouse backing on to the garden house. It is not cultivated.

The centre of the demesne was altered in the late 19th century and is maintained from that stand-point today.

Extensive tree-planting continues and former walks have been re-established.

Of three gate lodges, two remain: one of ca 1830 by J B Keane; and one at the south entrance of ca 1860.

Loughguile Parish Church contains interesting memorials to the Macartney family.

The Ulster History Circle has a good article here; as has the glens of Antrim Historical Society, which has published a fascinating account of the Macartneys of Lissanoure, by S Alex Blair.

First published in March, 2010.   Macartney arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

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