Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Somerset House

THE RICHARDSONS WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY LONDONDERRY, WITH 18,159 ACRES


At the beginning of the 17th century the Richardsons were an influential family of Edinburgh burgesses, of whom

ALEXANDER RICHARDSON left his native Scotland for Ulster.

In 1617, he acquired the estate of Craigbank, County Tyrone, and built Drum Manor (or Manor Richardson as it was known).

Mr Richardson married Grizel, sister of James Stewart, of Ballymenagh, County Tyrone, and had a son,

SIR WILLIAM RICHARDSON (1615-73), High Sheriff of Tyrone, 1662, who wedded Mary, daughter of the Rev Archibald Erskine, of Favour Royal, about 1645.

William and Mary Richardson began living at Augher castle. Later, as Sir William Richardson, he gained notoriety as the magistrate who kept a supply of Shillelaghs for the settlements of legal disputes.

Sir William was succeeded by nephew,

WILLIAM RICHARDSON, of Somerset, who espoused Mary, daughter of Sir Francis Eyles Bt.

Mr Richardson obtained a lease from his brother Alexander of the townland of Tullyreavy, where he built his residence, Somerset. 

William Richardson

Mr Richardson, who was appointed agent of the Irish Society of London in 1729, was a friend of Dean Swift, to whom he used to send salmon from the Somerset fishery on the River Bann.

He represented Augher until after the session of 1753.

His second son, 

THE VERY REV JOHN RICHARDSON JP (1669-1747), born in County Tyrone, Dean of Kilmacduagh, 1730-47, Rector of Armagh (Belturbet), County Cavan, 1709-47.

His eldest son,


THE REV JOHN RICHARDSON, Rector of Ballyscullion, 1741-61, married Barbara, daughter of Anthony Weaver, of Morville, Shropshire.

Early painting of Somerset

His fourth son, 

HENRY RICHARDSON (1749-86), born in Magherafelt, died at Somerset, near Coleraine, County Londonderry.

Henry Richardson

His third son, 

THE REV THOMAS RUMBOLD RICHARDSON (1780-1837), of Somerset, Rector of Camus-juxta-Bann, married his first cousin, Hatton Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev Gardiner Young, of Culdaff.

The Young of Culdaff Papers are deposited at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

His only son,

HENRY EWAN RICHARDSON JP DL (1811-49), of Somerset, High Sheriff of County Londonderry, 1842, wedded, in 1839, the Lady Emily Frances Kerr, sister of Mark, 5th Earl of Antrim, and youngest daughter of Vice-Admiral Lord Mark Kerr by his wife Charlotte, Countess of Antrim, youngest daughter of Randal William McDonnell, 6th Earl of Antrim.

His only son,

THOMAS RUMBOLD RICHARDSON (1839-68), of Somerset, married, in 1863, Edith, daughter of Frederick Paul Harford, of Down Place, Windsor, Berkshire.

He died without issue, when the Somerset estate reverted to his four aunts. 

BARBARA MARIA RICHARDSON (1820-1916), of Somerset, daughter of the Rev T R Richardson, married the Rev Thomas Henry Torrens (son of the Ven John Torrens).
The Rev Thomas's sister, Elizabeth Grace Torrens, married, in 1858, the Rev William Chichester, afterwards 1st Baron O'Neill.
Their only son,

JOHN ARTHUR WELLESLEY O'NEILL TORRENS JP DL (1856-1936), of Somerset, County Londonderry, and Cleggan Lodge, County Antrim, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of County Londonderry, High Sheriff, 1898, Major, Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons).

The Richardsons had considerable influence in the county for almost three centuries. A collection of memorial tablets mounted on the nave north wall of Macosquin parish church records their existence and also their descendants, the Torrens family.

In the 17th century, those lands given to the Merchant Taylors' Company, which became the Parish of Camus and Macosquin, were in turn sold to the Richardson family, in 1727.
Somerset House in the 19th century

SOMERSET ESTATE, comprising 18,159 acres, was purchased for the sum of £7,424.

The Richardsons were, in fact, the second-largest landowners in the county. second only to the Bruce Baronets, of Downhill.

J A K Dean, in his Gate Lodges of Ulster, states that Somerset House was established in 1732 and enlarged in 1822.

This Georgian manor house was a villa deriving from those of Sir Richard Morrison.

It comprised two storeys, with a three bay, bow-ended front, and a three-sided bow in the centre, incorporating the entrance door.



Somerset was beside the River Bann, outside Coleraine.

It built for the Richardsons and passed, through marriage, to the Torrens family by the late 1800s.

Major Torrens finally sold Somerset to James Stuart, of Ballyhivistock, in 1914.

Mrs Torrens and her sister in the grounds of Somerset

His mother also "lived in later years at Somerset, after the death of their brother Henry Ewan Richardson in 1849 and the dividing up of the property" (Amy Young). 

The house was demolished in the early 1980s and the land was developed for housing and a retail park. 


It is believed to have been used as the social club for the Monsanto factory for many years before becoming derelict.


The farm/stables were renovated and turned into apartments.

Apart from a few remains of the old stone walls, tenuous evidence remains of there having been a country estate on the site.


Somerset Forest now forms part of the original estate.

First published in November, 2012.  Bottom four photographs of Somerset, taken in the 1980s, courtesy of Chris Clements. All other images courtesy of the Lord Rathcavan DL.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Can just remember going there as a child - probably early 50s, rather a sad house by then. And then Monsanto came in. Legendary 'parties' when people were said to have wheeled away as much drink as they could fit into a pram - or anything else!