Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Glenmachan Tower

SIR THOMAS McCLURE, BARONET, OWNED 1,095 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY DOWN

GLENMACHAN TOWER, Belfast, is an Italianate two-storey mansion of 1862 with a three-storey attached tower at the north end.

This property is not to be confused with Glenmachan House, former seat of the Ewart Baronets.

It has a large, rounded, arch doorway with surround and keystone, and chamfered quoins.

The top storey of the tower is octagonal and topped with decorative cast-iron railings.


The entrance front comprises eight bays.

It faces southwards and consists of a bay to the west end, a three-stage tower immediately adjacent; then a recessed bay east of the tower, a projecting gabled bay and four bays to the east.

A round-arched door opens to the porch, having a replacement glazed, timber-panelled door opening with in-filled panel above, opening onto three stone steps.  


Larmour believed that the house was "the most splendid of a series built in the area to the designs of Thomas Jackson".

It is believed that Glenmachan Tower was originally constructed for Sir Thomas McClure Bt.


Although it is clear that it was erected on land owned by Sir Thomas, it is noted that he did not live at the property, but instead resided at Belmont House (now the site of Campbell College) from at least the 1850s.


The Dublin Builder states that Glenmachan Tower was constructed in 1862 to a design by the Belfast-based architect, Thomas Jackson.

Prior to undertaking work in the Sydenham area, Jackson had been responsible for the early-19th century suburban development of north Belfast.

Between the 1860s and 1870s Jackson designed a number of suburban villas and mansions in East Belfast including Glenmachan Tower, Craigavon House, Glenmachan House, and Lismachan House.

The Dublin Builder notes that John Lowry of Great George's Street was contracted to build Glenmachan Tower.

For the masonry of the building Jackson employed locally-quarried Scrabo Sandstone.

The first occupant of Glenmachan Tower is said to have been Thomas Jackson himself, who resided there until ca 1865, when Robert W Gordon was recorded as the occupant.

Robert Gordon, of Gordon & Co., a flax and tow-spinning manufacturer based on the Falls Road, leased the house from Sir Thomas McClure from at least 1865 until vacating the property in 1870.

In that year Glenmachan Tower was occupied by James Kennedy, who only briefly resided there until 1877.

The Shillington family, who continued to live at Glenmachan Tower until the 1960s, first came into possession of the house in 1877.

John Johnston Shillington was a local magistrate and linen merchant who owned the firm  John J Shillington & Co., based in west Belfast.

Following Mr Shillington's death in 1898, Glenmachan Tower passed to his son John Courtenay Shillington.

In 1900, the Belfast Revaluation recorded that Glenmachan Tower had cost an estimated £5,855 to construct.

The valuer included a detailed ground plan of Shillington's dwelling.

When compared with the current layout of the building, it is evident that the plan has not been altered since the early-20th century (apart from the addition of the two-storey north-east extension block in 1992).

Thomas Courtenay Shillington continued to reside at Glenmachan Tower until his death in 1963.

Having been utilised as a private residence for over a century, Glenmachan Tower was converted into a licensed hotel known as the Glenmachan Tower Hotel, in 1968.

The building was listed in 1979.

The hotel and grounds were purchased in 1985 by Strandtown Church of God, which converted Glenmachan Tower's stable block into a youth hall and constructed a two-storey church hall to the east side of the stable block by 1986.

The mansion-house was used by the church for wedding receptions and social functions, but by 1990 the building had been converted into a private nursing home with the construction of the two-storey modern extension in 1992.

The renamed Glenmachan Church of God opened a new 800-seat sanctuary to the east side of Glenmachan Tower in 2008.

First published in January, 2015.

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