Monday, 28 September 2015

The Ewart Baronets


WILLIAM EWART JP (1817-89), son of Alderman William Ewart, of Glenbank House, Belfast, married Isabella Kelso, daughter of Lavens Mathewson, in 1840.
The Ewart family originally lived at Annahilt, near Hillsborough in County Down. The 1st Baronet's father, William Ewart (1789-1873), moved to Glenbank at Ligoniel and became an alderman of Belfast.

In 1716, Thomas Ewart was granted twenty acres for a lease of a farm in the townland of Carnreagh, Annahilt, near Hillsborough. Part of his agricultural activity involved the production of damask, which the then Linen Board encouraged.

The lease was renewed to his son Thomas in 1746; the latter's son William was more ambitious and sometime around 1790 set up his own concern at Ballymacarrett, then a village, now a suburb of Belfast, though he co-operated with the Hillsborough concern.

His business flourished, and he had agents outside Ulster. He took his son, also William, into business with him and as William Ewart & Son set up an office and warehouse in Rosemary Street, Belfast, in 1814.
They were incorporated as William Ewart & Son in 1883.

Mr Ewart was created a baronet in 1887.
He was President of the Irish Linen Trade and Flax Supply Associations; Mayor of Belfast, 1859-60; representative for the NI linen trade negotiating French Treaty in 1864; Conservative MP for Belfast, 1878-89.
His eldest son,

SIR WILLIAM QUARTUS EWART JP DL (1844-1919), 2nd Baronet,
Knight of Grace, Order of St John of Jerusalem; graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a MA; head of William Ewart & Son; Deputy Lieutenant of Belfast; Justice of the Peace, County Down; High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1897.
His eldest son,

SIR ROBERT HEARD EWART (1879-1939), 3rd Baronet, also a Director of the family business, died unmarried and without issue, when the baronetcy devolved upon his cousin,

SIR LAVENS MATHEWSON ALGERNON EWART (1885-1939), 4th Baronet, who also died at a relatively young age, unmarried and without issue. His cousin,

SIR TALBOT EWART (1878-1959), 5th Baronet, married and
graduated from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A., with a Bachelor of Arts; though he, too, died without issue, when the title devolved upon another cousin,

SIR WILLIAM IVAN CECIL EWART (1919-95), 6th Baronet, DSC,
Educated at Radley College; fought in 2nd World War, where he became a PoW; Lieutenant, Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Coastal Forces; awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, 1945; chairman, William Ewart & Sons, 1968-73; chairman, Ewart Northern Ltd, 1973-77; High Sheriff of County Antrim, 1976.
William Ewart Properties Ltd still exists as a business, though it is thought that the Ewarts no longer hold directorships.

SIR WILLIAM MICHAEL EWART (b 1953), 7th and present Baronet, was educated at Radley and, in 2003, resided at Hill House, Hillsborough, County Down.

The Ewart head office was at what has become known as the Ewart Building, formerly Bedford Street Weaving Factory, at 17 Bedford Street, opposite the Ulster Hall.

The tall, red-brick warehouses and weaving sheds at the rear have since been demolished. Ewart's bought the building in 1876.

They also ran mills at Crumlin Road; Ligoniel; Ballysillan; and Matier Street, all in Belfast.

During Victorian times, Ewart's was the largest manufacturer of linen in the world.

The principal seat of the Ewart family was Glenmachan House (below), which was set in its own grounds off the Old Holywood Road in east Belfast.

Glenmachan House in the 1970s.

It is thought that the land at Glenmachan was sold by Sir Thomas McClure to the prominent Belfast architect of the time, Thomas Jackson, who proceeded to build Glenmachan House as his own residence; though sold it to Sir William Ewart some time thereafter.

Glenmachan was a relatively large house with stabling and a conservatory.

About 1894 a fire broke out in the stables. The hay loft was seriously damaged, according to a local newspaper.

The grounds extended to 33 acres in 1876.

Glenmachan remained in ownership of the Ewart family till about 1976.

Thereafter, it became neglected and derelict, the sweeping lawns reverting to fields.

Despite some strong local opposition, the old house and grounds were finally sold to a developer ca 1990, demolished and turned into a new housing development.

Glenmachan House is not to be confused with Glenmachan Tower, further along the road and formerly the Shillingtons' residence.

Glenbank House (ca 1875) used to be the Ewarts' family home.

It was situated at Ligoniel Road in Belfast. Glenbank was purchased from Robert Thompson by Lavens M Ewart.

Ca 1920 the house and grounds were presented to Belfast Corporation for use as a public park.

The Henderson (Belfast Newsletter/UTV) and Ewart families are related through marriage, Primrose Henderson's mother being Gundreda Ewart.

The Hendersons, whose residence was Norwood Tower (52 acres), would certainly have known the Ewarts, because the families all worshipped at St Mark's parish church.

The famous author, C S Lewis, was a second cousin of the Ewarts and often visited Glenmachan.

The 1st baronet contributed towards the building of St Mark's parish church, Dundela.

First published December, 2009.


Anonymous said...

Thomas McClure's house was Belmont, which was the Campbell College site I think. It is quite possible the Glenmachan land came from him, as you suggest.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Tim,
This is great stuff, and I really appreciate your research on this topic. I am still intruiged as to why Glenmachan House was left empty and allowed to decay. Another related (and far bigger) question is why so much of NI's architectual heritage has been neglected or even demolished - a lack of appreciation coupled with poor enforcement of rather feeble conservation laws is my slightly jaundiced take on it.
ps I'm not really trying to suggest topics for your blog!

Anonymous said...

Glenmachan is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to "big houses" in Ulster being left empty. Usually it came down to (in my empirical experience) an inability to pay the rates, heat the rooms, cope with dry rot/damp, roof repairs, &c! The government, of course, couldn't possibly help.

Glenmachan, however, doesn't look so big as for rates to be a factor; perhaps it was only left empty after the Ewarts sold it? In my time of knowing Ivan E. he was at Hillsborough.


Sandy said...

Sir Ivan Ewart Bt. was my Godfather. A lovely man, despite having lost an eye in action in the Channel in an E-boat he spend his later years incarcerated in Colditz. He lent me his house in Hillsborough when I started work. Many happy memories.

Not really related to your post though!

Sandy said...

He threw his heart and soul into it. He was away in Africa for extended periods and lent me Hill House as I was working in Lisburn. Quite a bachelor pad! I remember skiing down Main Street one winter's evening!!

William Ealdwood said...

C.S. Lewis wrote this in his autobiographical work Surprised by Joy:

Less than a mile from our home stood the largest house I then knew, which I will here call Mountbracken, and there lived Sir W. E. Lady E. was my mother's first cousin and perhaps my mother's dearest friend, and it was no doubt for my mother's sake that she took upon herself the heroic work of civilising my brother and me.

We had a standing invitation to lunch at Mountbracken whenever we were at home; to this, almost entirely, we owe it that we did not grow up savages. The debt is not only to Lady E. ("Cousin Mary") but to her whole family; walks, motor-drives (in those days an exciting novelty), picnics, and invitations to the theatre were showered on us, year after year, with a kindness which our rawness, our noise, and our unpunctuality never seemed to weary.

We were at home there almost as much as in our own house, but with this great difference, that a certain standard of manners had to be kept up. Whatever I know (it is not much) of courtesy and savoir faire I learned at Mountbracken.

Sir W. ("Cousin Quartus") was the eldest of several brothers who owned between them one of the most important industrial concerns in Belfast. He belonged in fact to just that class and generation of which the modern man gets his impressions through Galsworthy's Forsytes. Unless Cousin Quartus was very untrue to type (as he may well have been) that impression is grossly unjust. No one less like a Galsworthian character ever existed. He was gracious, childlike, deeply and religiously humble, and abounding in charity. No man could feel more fully his responsibility to dependants. He had a good deal of boyish gaiety about him; at the same time I always felt that the conception of duty dominated his life. His stately figure, his grey beard, and his strikingly handsome profile make up one of the most venerable images in my memory.

Physical beauty was indeed common to most of the family. Cousin Mary was the very type of the beautiful old lady, with her silver hair and her sweet Southern Irish voice; foreigners must be warned that this resembles what they call a "brogue" about as little as the speech of a Highland gentleman resembles the jargon of the Glasgow slums.

But it was the three daughters whom we knew best. All three were "grown up" but in fact much nearer to us in age than any other grown-ups we knew, and all three were strikingly handsome. H., the eldest and the gravest, was a Juno, a dark queen who at certain moments looked like a Jewess. K. was more like a Valkyrie (though all, I think, were good horse-women) with her father's profile. There was in her face something of the delicate fierceness of a thoroughbred horse, an indignant fineness of nostril, the possibility of an excellent disdain. She had what the vanity of my own sex calls a "masculine" honesty; no man ever was a truer friend. As for the youngest, G., I can only say that she was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, perfect in shape and colour and voice and every movement--but who can describe beauty?

The reader may smile at this as the far-off echo of a precocious calf-love, but he will be wrong. There are beauties so unambiguous that they need no lens of that kind to reveal them; they are visible even to the careless and objective eyes of a child.

In some ways Mountbracken was like our Father's house. There too we found the attics, the indoor silences, the endless bookshelves. In the early days, when we were still only a quarter tamed, we often neglected our hostesses and rummaged on our own; it was there that I found Lubbock's Ants, Bees and Wasps. But it was also very different. Life there was more spacious and considered than with us, glided like a barge where ours bumped like a cart.