The family of HOUSTON is believed to have fixed its abode in Ulster during the 17th century as a result of the Scottish plantations (of Protestant settlers), soldiers under CROMWELL who stayed, and, later, persecuted the Covenanters. They settled mainly in the counties of Antrim, Londonderry, Armagh, and Down.WILLIAM HOUSTON wedded, in 1732, Elizabeth, daughter of Joshua McGeough, of Drumsill, County Armagh, and had (with two other sons and a daughter, all of whom died unmarried) an eldest son,
THOMAS HOUSTON, who married, in 1765, Mary, daughter of John Holmes (c1773-1825), merchant and banker of Belfast.
John Holmes was a founding member of the Belfast Bank. Known as the ‘Bank of the Four Johns’, it soon was doing decent business in the town. Indeed, such was the extent of their success that other merchants in the town set up a rival partnership.
Holmes was sent by the Belfast Charitable Society to London to negotiate with Lord Donegall, for rights to water for the Poor House and to discover whether elm, lead or iron pipes would be best to use in Belfast’s new water system.Mr Houston died in 1771, leaving a son,
JOHN HOLMES HOUSTON (c1767-1843), of Orangefield, County Down, who espoused, in 1792, his cousin Eliza, daughter of John Holmes, of Belfast.
There is an elaborate memorial to John Holmes Houston at the First Presbyterian Church, Rosemary Street, Belfast.
His eldest and last surviving daughter,
MARY ISABELLA HOUSTON, espoused, in 1827, Richard Bayly Blakiston, Royal Artillery, afterwards BLAKISTON-HOUSTON, of Orangefield and Roddens, County Down, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;Mr Blakiston was the fifth son of Sir Matthew Blakiston Bt.
Richard Matthew, d 1847;
Charles William, 1836-61;
Anne; Eliza Houston.
On the death of his father-in-law, in 1843, he assumed the surname of HOUSTON, in addition to his patronymic, BLAKISTON.
His eldest son,
JOHN BLAKISTON-HOUSTON JP DL (1829-1920), of Orangefield and Roddens, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of County Down, High Sheriff of County Down, 1860, MP for North Down, 1898, married, in 1859, Marian, second daughter of Richard Streatfeild, of The Rocks, Sussex, and had issue,
RICHARD, his heir;His eldest son,
Charles, MP for Belfast Dock, 1929-33;
John (1881-1959), major-general;
Mary Charlotte; Annie Marian; Dora; Mabel; Isabel; Ethel; Hilda.
RICHARD BLAKISTON-HOUSTON JP DL (1864-1933), of Orangefield and Roddens, wedded, in 1897, Lilian Agnes, daughter of George Jardine Kidston, and had issue,
JOHN MATTHEW;His eldest son,
Elizabeth Agnes, 1911-56.
JOHN MATTHEW BLAKISTON-HOUSTON DL (1898-1984), of Beltrim Castle, County Tyrone, Lieutenant-Colonel, 11th Hussars, High Sheriff of County Down, 1944, wedded, in 1931, Lettice Arden, daughter of Henry Gervas Stobart.
Colonel Blakiston-Houston was brought up at Orangefield House and lived there or at the other family homes of Finlaystone Langbank, Renfrewshire, and Roddens, near Ballywalter, County Down.
He was in 1st World War from 1916, and left the army in 1934 after his grandfather died. It's thought that he no longer inhabited Orangefield after that date, and the house was sold in a dilapidated state, with the freehold retained, which itself was sold, it is thought, in the early 1960s.By his wife he had issue,
RICHARD PATRICK;Colonel Blakiston-Houston's only son,
Mary Bridget; Anne; Prudence; Elizabeth; Patience.
RICHARD PATRICK BLAKISTON-HOUSTON OBE JP DL (1948-), of Beltrim Castle and Roddens, married, in 1988, Lucinda Mary Lavinia, daughter of Lieutenant-Commander Theodore Bernard Peregrine Hubbard RN, by his wife, the Lady Miriam Fitzalan-Howard, and granddaughter of the 3rd Baron Howard of Glossop MBE, and had issue,
Jack Peregrine, b 1989;I have written about the Bateson family and Belvoir House here.
Christopher George, b 1991;
Letitia Sadhbh Miriam, b 1993;
Felicia Grace Miriam, b 1994;
Harry Charles, b 1996;
Michael Peter, b 1998.
|Orangefield House, 1902, by the Lady Mabel Annesley. PRONI © 2011|
|1903 map of Orangefield House|
The north wing extended to the stable-yard.
|Parkland to the west; glasshouses and walled gardens to the east|
After lengthy negotiations, they bought part of the site in 1938 for £20,000 (roughly £1 million in today's money).
Much of the demesne developed ca 1938 as the Orby housing estate (named after the 1909 Derby winner); most of the remainder acquired in the 1950s for schools and playing-fields.
|Site of the home farm at River Knock in 2013|
Development work was put on hold due to the 2nd World War and plans for the park were only drawn up in 1947.
Original ideas included football, hockey and cricket pitches, a polo pitch, a bowling green, a quoits and marbles pitch, a cycle track and pitch and putt course, tennis courts, pavilions and store buildings.
Mr R H Blakiston-Houston tells me that the polo ground was only built over about 2002; and was located at Orangefield Crescent, having been previously let to Glentoran Football Club as a practice ground.
There is an interesting account of the wildlife in the old estate grounds in the 1950s. It talks of wrens, kestrels, redwings, tree creepers, fieldfares, sand martins, corncrakes, snipe, a heron “waiting for its breakfast to swim along”. And kingfishers:- ‘suddenly a flash of brilliant blue darts down the river, could he be nest-site hunting?" Hard to believe if you see that river now, though a trusted friend swears he spotted a kingfisher there in the early 1980s!
Building work commenced in the mid 50s in what was the garden of the big house.
|Home Farm, 1903|
Th farm was lately managed by the Buller family (now of Scarva) prior to the land being developed in the 1930s.
No trace of the once-thriving farm exists today. Its site is now playing-fields.
|Site of Orangefield House at Houston Park in 2013|
The main entrance was to the north-west: a pair a gate lodges at the Knock River.
They began at what is now Orangefield Lane. Today there is no trace of them at all.
|2013: Former main entrance, where twin lodges once stood|
There were four lodges at one time, to the north, south, east and west.
It's probable that Orangefield was given its name by the family of De Beers, Huguenots who once lived in the area.
Their estate in Europe was called Orangefield.
I know little of the original 18th century Orangefield House.
The Bateson family were certainly living at Orangefield in 1779.
Between 1809-18, Sir Robert Bateson acquired Belvoir Park, a large mansion and estate at Newtownbreda, within close proximity to Orangefield.
Orangefield's new owner became Hugh Crawford, whose family resided there until about 1837, when it was purchased by the wealthy banker John Holmes Houston.
The original house was demolished about 1857 to make way for the Victorian mansion.
First published in August, 2011; revised 2015. Photograph of Orangefield House by kind permission of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.