Friday, 26 June 2015

Middleton Park

THE FAMILY OF BOYD-ROCHFORT WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY WESTMEATH, WITH 16,397 ACRES

THE REV JAMES BOYD (1725-75), Rector of Erris, County Mayo, married, in 1752, Mary, daughter of Abraham Martin and widow of Arthur Vernon, and left an only son,

ABRAHAM BOYD (1760-1822), barrister-at-law and King's Counsel, who wedded firstly, in 1786, Catherine Shuttleworth, widow of John Davies, by whom he had one child, Helena.

He espoused secondly, in 1815, Jane, Countess of Belvedere, daughter and eventually sole heiress of the Rev James Mackay, and by her left at his decease an only son,

GEORGE AUGUSTUS ROCHFORT-BOYD JP DL (1817-87), of Middleton Park, County Westmeath, High Sheriff, 1843, who wedded, in 1843, Sarah Jane, eldest daughter of George Woods, of Milverton Hall, by Sarah his wife, daughter of Hans Hamilton, of Abbotstown, for many years MP for County Dublin.

He had issue by her,
ROCHFORT HAMILTON, his heir;
George, died in infancy;
Charles Augustus, CMG;
George Warren Woods;
Francis;
Alice Jane; Edith Sarah Hamilton; Florence.
Mr Rochfort-Boyd inherited from his mother, the Countess of Belvedere, a great portion of the Rochfort estates situated in County Westmeath, and assumed the surname and arms of ROCHFORT by royal licence in 1867.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROCHFORT HAMILTON BOYD-ROCHFORT JP (1844-91), of Middleton Park, who married, in 1875, Florence Louisa, daughter of Richard Hemming, of Bentley Manor and Foxlidiate, Worcestershire, and had issue,
GEORGE ARTHUR, his heir;
Harold;
Cecil Charles (Sir), KCVO;
Ethel Victoria; Alice Eleanor;
Winifred Florence; Muriel.
Major Boyd-Rochfort assumed the surname of ROCHFORT in 1888, on succeeding to the Rochfort estates left by his grandmother, Jane, Countess of Belvedere.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE ARTHUR BOYD-ROCHFORT VC (1880-1940), of Middleton Park, who married, in 1901, Olivia Ellis, daughter of Christopher Ussher, of Eastwell, County Galway.


MIDDLETON PARK HOUSE, near Mullingar, County Westmeath, was built by George Boyd-Rochfort in 1850.

He commissioned George Papworth, Architect and President of the Royal Academy, to design and oversee the building of the House. Drawings of part of the interior were exhibited by Mr Papworth during the Royal Hibernian Annual Exhibition of 1850.

Only the very best craftsmen and materials were used in the building and it is a testimony to those craftsmen and materials that Middleton Park House has stood the test of time since then.

It is a fine example of late Georgian architecture favouring the classic Georgian style over the Gothic style evident in other houses of that era.
 

Acclaimed features of the House are its under-floor heating system, stone bifurcated staircase leading to the Gallery Landing and three-storey high atrium lantern located in the Main Hall.

Middleton Park House also boasts one of a few Richard Turner Conservatories to be found in Ireland.

The House and estate remained in the Boyd-Rochfort family until the early 1960s when it was sold.

Since then it has seen many owners, the most colourful of whom was Barney Curly who famously raffled the House in 1986.

In quite a state of disrepair when acquired by its current owners, it took a lot of time, effort and care to attention to bring it back to life, bringing in specialist professionals to ensure that the original aesthetic and atmosphere remained.

Built between 1840 and 1850, it is unusual in that context, as the Irish famine not only reduced the peasant farmers of Ireland to penury and starvation; it also destroyed the economic basis of the large landed estates held by the old Anglo-Irish aristocracy, as rents could not be paid.

It replaced an older house on the site, which was demolished.

The name Middleton comes from a previous owner of the estate, Mr George Middleton Berry, who subsequently lived in Ballingal House.

Middleton Park House was designed by George Papworth to be a technical wonder of its age.

It had its own gas-house where coal was converted to gas to fuel the house boilers, and an extraordinary heating system buried in its walls, which circulated heated air.

It utilised the most modern materials of the time including cast iron beams for structural supports in the vaulted basement, instead of the usual timber.

Although built well into the Victorian era, it was created in a classical Georgian style, as opposed to the prevailing Victorian Gothic.

It has one of only six turner conservatories left in Ireland. Richard Turner also built Kew Gardens In London and the Botanic Gardens in Dublin.

Its entrance hall and sweeping stone, cantilevered bifurcated staircase is regarded as one of the finest of its kind in Ireland, and was famously described as “suitable for Citizen Kane” in Burke's Country Houses.

Middleton Park House was built for George Boyd-Rochfort, whose wife was the eldest daughter of the last Earl of Belvedere. The Rochforts owned vast estates in excess of 25,000 acres.

GEORGE III stood as godfather to one of them, and they were high-ranking members of the peerage.

Mr Boyd was granted permission to change his name to Rochfort-Boyd in 1867 by a petition to the House of Lords.

Although the behaviour of George Boyd-Rochfort was questionable during the Irish famine, being cited by the House of Lords for his actions, his successors are remembered today as having been good, progressive landlords.

The various land acts and subsequently the Irish land commission reduced the estates to a fraction (470 acres) of what they were.

A noted stud was established on the estate and it was the venue for point-to-points, and a starting or finishing point for the Westmeath Hunt.

The Westmeath Hunt Ball was also held at Middleton for many years, as well as hare coursing.

The estate was a large employer in the area. A great many valuable horses were bred here, including Airborne, Winner of the Derby in 1946.

One of the Rochforts (Sir Cecil) also became the royal horse trainer for both KING GEORGE VI and our current sovereign, ELIZABETH II.


*****

THE FAMILY sold the House in the late 1950s, when many of the contents were auctioned, including a Persian rug, now said to be worth in the region of $15m.

A German family bought the estate, which was sold again in the 1960s to the O’Callaghans who, in turn, sold it to Barney Curley, who famously raffled Middleton Park in 1986.

Subsequent owners broke up the estate up into many smaller parcels. The stud farm ceased to operate around this time as well.

Many of the original fixtures and fittings in the house were sold or removed at this time.

The house, having lost its land, and now existing on only 26 acres, went through a series of owners.

It was, at this stage, in need of major restoration as the roof had deteriorated badly with serous water damage evident throughout the house.

It also lacked modern wiring, plumbing and heating.

The sheer scale of the great mansion, at over 36,000 sq feet, made it impractical as a family home for anybody but the seriously rich.

The current owners purchased it in December 2004. They set about converting it into a Country House Hotel and planning permission was obtained for this.

The immediate requirement was to repair the roof and make it watertight.

Investigations revealed that the roof in the wing and most of the floors were completely beyond repair, as the roof trusses were rotten and some had been cut in a manner that left the roof liable to collapse.

The Turner conservatory had lost its original glass and the metal work was seriously corroded.

The timber supporting beams in the spectacular entrance hall had also rotted and it was in danger of falling in.

These all had to be replaced also.

A specialist iron working firm from Germany was brought in to repair the conservatory and some new castings to replace those corroded beyond use were sourced in the UK.

Specialist roofers from Austria replaced the wing roof structure. Bangor Blue slates were used.

The external render on the house had failed and had to be removed and replaced using, as originally, lime plaster.

New Roman cement decorative reveals also had to be cast.

The decorative plasterwork inside the house had to be extensively repaired. Extensive fire protection works were undertaken.

Three generations of old plumbing and electrics, often surface mounted, were removed and the house completely rewired and re-plumbed.

A new waste treatment plant was installed.

A specialist engineering firm designed the new heating system which includes underfloor heating in the basement to minimise the visual impact of radiators and some elements of the original system are used to duct hot air into the hall.

There are many legends about the house locally most notably that both Napoleon and  T E Lawrence (of Arabia) were conceived here (clearly not true in the case of Napoleon, as the house was not built until 1840 and he had died in 1821!).

The link that Lawrence of Arabia has to the house is that his father was married to one of Mr Boyd-Rochfort’s daughters - Edith - but who also had five illegitimate sons by Miss Sarah Lawrence his children’s Governess.

One of these was T E Lawrence of Arabia. It is not recorded where he was actually conceived, but he was born in Wales.

Many of the original drawings of the house were lost in the destruction of the RAI archive in 1916, but an extensive file is held by the Irish National Architectural archive in Merrion Square in Dublin, and some of the estate papers and deeds are held by the National Library of Ireland.

First published in July, 2011.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Curraghmore

THE MARQUESSES OF WATERFORD WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY WATERFORD, WITH 39,883 ACRES


The surname of BERESFORD was assumed from Beresford, in the parish of Alstonefield, Staffordshire, of which manor

JOHN DE BERESFORD  was possessed in 1087, during the reign of WILLIAM II, and was succeeded therein by his son,

HUGH DE BERESFORD, from whom lineally descended

JOHN BERESFORD, Lord of Beresford and Enson, who married Elizabeth, daughter of William Basset, of Blore, Staffordshire, and had, with other issue,
JOHN, his heir;
THOMAS.
Mr Beresford died in 1475, and was succeeded at Beresford by his eldest son; while the second,

THOMAS BERESFORD,
seated himself at Newton Grange, Derbyshire, where he was resident in the reigns of HENRY VI and EDWARD IV; the former of whom he served in his French wars, and according to tradition, mustered a troop of horse at Chesterfield, consisting alone of his sons, and his own and their attendants. 
Mr Beresford wedded Agnes, daughter and heiress of Robert Hassal, of Arclid, Cheshire, by whom he had sixteen sons and five daughters, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Aden; but we pass to the seventh,
HUMPHREY BERESFORD, who eventually became of Newton Grange.

This gentleman espoused Margery, daughter of Edmond Berdesey, or Beresley,  and was succeeded by his second son (the eldest having left a daughter only at his decease),

GEORGE BERESFORD, whose eldest son,

MICHAEL BERESFORD,  was an officer in the Court of Wards, and was seated at Oxford, and The Squerries, in Kent.

This gentleman, who was living in 1574, married Rose, daughter of John Knevitt, and had seven sons and four daughters; of whom

TRISTRAM BERESFORD, the third son,
going into Ulster in the reign of JAMES I, as manager of the Corporation of London, known by the name of the Society of the New Plantation in Ulster, settled at Coleraine, County Londonderry, and was succeeded by his elder son,
SIR TRISTRAM BERESFORD, who was created a baronet in 1665.

He married firstly, Anne, eldest daughter of John Rowley, of Castleroe, County Londonderry, by whom he had one son, RANDAL, his heir, and two daughters; and secondly, Sarah Sackville, and had three sons and three daughters, viz.
Tristram;
Michael;
Sackville;
Susanna; Sarah; Anne.
Sir Tristram died in 1673, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR RANDAL BERESFORD (c1636-81), 2nd Baronet, MP, who married Catherine, younger daughter of Francis, Viscount Valentia, and niece, maternally, of Philip, 1st Earl of Chesterfield; and dying in 1681, left issue,
TRISTRAM, his heir;
Jane; Catherine.
Sir Randal was succeeded by his eldest surviving son,

SIR TRISTRAM BERESFORD (1669-1701)3rd Baronet.

This gentleman commanded a foot regiment against King JAMES II, and was attainted by the parliament of that monarch.

Sir Tristram wedded, in 1687, Nichola Sophia, youngest daughter and co-heiress of  Hugh Hamilton, 1st Viscount Glenawly, and by her had issue,
MARCUS, his heir;
Susanna Catherina;
Arabella Maria;
Jane;
Aramintha.
Sir Tristram was succeeded by his son,

SIR MARCUS BERESFORD, 4th Baronet (1694-1763), who espoused, in 1717, Catherine, BARONESS LE POER, daughter and heiress of James, 3rd Earl of Tyrone, and in consequence of that alliance, was advanced to the peerage, in 1720, as Baron Beresford and Viscount Tyrone.

His lordship was further advanced advanced to an earldom, as EARL OF TYRONE, in 1746.

The 1st Earl had surviving issue,
GEORGE DE LA POER, his successor;
John;
William (Most Rev), created BARON DECIES;
Anne; Jane; Catherine; Aramantha; Frances Maria; Elizabeth.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE, 2nd Earl (1735-1800), KP, who married, in 1769, Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of Henry Monck, of Charleville, and Lady Isabella Bentinck, daughter of Henry, 1st Duke of Portland, by whom he had issue,
GEORGE DE LA POER, his successor;
John George (Most Rev), Lord Archbishop of Armagh;
George Thomas (Rt Hon), Lt-Gen, GCH;
Isabella Anne; Catherine; Anne; Elizabeth Louisa.
Lord Tyrone inherited the ancient Barony of de la Poer at the decease of his mother in 1769.

His lordship was enrolled amongst the peers of Great Britain, in 1786, as Baron Tyrone; and created MARQUESS OF WATERFORD, in 1789.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

HENRY, 2nd Marquess (1772-1826), who wedded, in 1805, Susanna, only daughter and heiress of George, 2nd Earl of Tyrconnell, by whom he had issue,
HENRY, his successor;
William;
John;
James;
Sarah Elizabeth.
His lordship, who was a Knight of St Patrick, a Privy Counsellor in Ireland, Governor of County Waterford, and Colonel of the Waterford Militia, was succeeded by his eldest son,

HENRY, 3rd Marquess.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, Richard John de la Poer Beresford, styled Earl of Tyrone, a polo professional who is known as Richard Le Poer.
*****

The Waterfords were a Patrick family, four members of whom were Knights of the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick.


CURRAGHMORE, near Portlaw, County Waterford, is the ancestral seat of the 9th and present Marquess of Waterford.

Some 2,500 acres of formal gardens, woodland and grazing fields make this one of the largest private demesnes in Ireland and one of the finest places to visit.

A Sitka Spruce planted on the estate in the 1830s is among the tallest tree in Ireland and stands guard over King John's Bridge.

Built in 1205, this stone-arched structure, spanning the Clodagh River, is the oldest bridge in Ireland.

Twelve miles of famine relief boundary wall and four sturdy wrought iron gates surround the estate.

Gnarled pink chestnut trees line the approach to the big house and original castle tower.

St Hubert's stag with crucifix between its antlers - genuine horns on the de la Poer family emblem - gazes across the large Courtyard from atop the old castle.

Today, the formal gardens surrounding Curraghmore House are open for the public to visit on Thursday afternoons from 2pm to 5pm between Easter and mid-October.

Group tours of the main reception rooms of Curraghmore House can be arranged by prior appointment.


This tour takes in some of the finest Neo-Classical rooms in Ireland which feature the magnificent plaster work of James Wyatt and grisaille panels by Peter de Gree.

Curraghmore, near Portlaw, meaning great bog, is the last of four castles built by the de la Poer family after their arrival in Ireland in 1167.

The Castle walls are about 12 feet thick and within one, a tight spiral stairway connects the lower ground floor with the roof above.


Of the many curious and interesting features of Curraghmore, the most striking is the courtyard front of the house, where the original castle is encased in a spectacular Victorian mansion with flanking Georgian ranges.

The combination of architectural features from several periods around the ancient core of the original castle produces a most striking composition; "immediately recognizable and undeniably moving", as it was described by Country Life magazine.

In more than 800 years the property has passed through the female line only once, and that was prior to Catherine de la Poer marrying Sir Marcus Beresford Bt in 1715, when she was a mere teenager.

Together with her husband, it was she who carried out much of the remodelling of the house and grounds and it was Catherine, Lady Beresford, who created the unique Shell-house herself.

The quality of the craftsmanship employed on the developments on Curraghmore through the ages, has secured the House's reputation as one of the most important country houses in Ireland.

In the late 18th century, the 2nd Earl, afterwards 1st Marquess of Waterford, secured the famous architect James Wyatt to design the next phase of modernisation of Curraghmore.

Here he created a series of rooms, with decoration considered by many to be among his most successful.

After Wyatt's Georgian developments, work at Curraghmore in the 19th century concentrated on the gardens and the Victorian refacing to the front of the house.

Formal parterre, tiered lawns, lake, arboretum and kitchen gardens were all developed during this time and survive to today.

At this time some of Ireland's most remarkable surviving trees were planted in the estate's arboretum.

Today these trees frame miles of beautiful river walks.

Developments in the gardens are still under-way and a Japanese garden has been laid out by the present Lady Waterford.

The present day Beresfords are country people by tradition.

Farming, hunting, breeding hounds and horses and an active social calendar continues as it did centuries ago.

Weekly game-shooting parties are held every season (November through to January); and in spring, calves, foals and lambs can be seen in abundance on Curraghmore's verdant fields.

Polo is still played on the estate in summer.

Throughout Ireland's turbulent history, this family have never been 'absentee landlords' and they still provide diverse employment for a number of local people.

Change comes slowly to Curraghmore - table linen, cutlery and dishes from the early 19th century are still in use.

Other former seat ~ Ford Castle, Northumberland.

I am grateful to Lord Waterford for the information provided from Curraghmore's website.

First published in July, 2011.  Waterford arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Balrath Bury House

THE NICHOLSONS WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY MEATH, WITH 7,693 ACRES

This family came originally from Yorkshire.

GILBERT NICHOLSON, of Bare and Poulton, of Lyndall, in Lonsdale, and of Baton and Easterton, in Westmorland, married Grace, daughter and co-heir of Gyles Curwen, of Poulton Hall, and had issue,
FRANCIS, dvp leaving a son, HUMPHRY;
Giles;
Grace.
Gilbert Nicholson died in 1605, and was succeeded by his grandson,

HUMPHRY NICHOLSON, who was father of

GILBERT NICHOLSON (1620-1709), formerly of Poulton, Lancashire, and of the city of Dublin,
Lieutenant in the royal army before 1649, and one of the Forty-nine Officers, whose arrears of pay were paid up after the Restoration, "for service done by them to His Majesty, or to his royal father, as commissioners in the wars of Ireland, before the 5th day of June, 1649." 
By the Act of Settlement he received grants of land in County Monaghan, which he sold, and bought Balrath Bury in 1669. 
He afterwards resided in Dublin, and died, in 1709, aged 89. He and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Thomas Worsopp, Knight, are buried in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and on their tomb-stone appear the arms and crest still used by the family.
The issue of the marriage were,
Christopher;
THOMAS, of whom presently;
John.
The second, but eldest surviving son,

THOMAS NICHOLSON, of Balrath Bury, born in 1662, inherited Balrath Bury in 1709.

In 1692, he was a commissioner for County Meath, during the reign of WILLIAM & MARY, and High Sheriff, 1704.

He married firstly, in 1691, Mary, daughter of John Beauchamp, and had, with other issue, a daughter, Anne, whose daughter, Margaret, was second wife of Sir Richard Steele Bt, of Hampstead.

He wedded secondly, in 1700, Elizabeth, daughter and co-heir of John Wood, of Garclony, and had issue,
CHRISTOPHER, of whom we treat;
John; Thomas; Gilbert.
He espoused thirdly, Rose, widow of Simeon Pepper, of Ballygarth, by whom he had no issue.

The eldest son,

CHRISTOPHER NICHOLSON, of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff of Meath in 1735, espoused firstly, in 1723, Elinor, only daughter of Simeon Pepper, of Ballygarth, by Rose his wife, daughter of the Hon Oliver Lambart, of Plainstown, and granddaughter of Charles, 1st Earl of Cavan, and had issue,
JOHN, his heir;
Thomas;
George;
Christopher;
Hampden;
Rose; Christian; Emilia.
He wedded secondly, in 1751, Mary, daughter of Oliver Lambart, of Plainstown, by whom he had no issue.

His eldest son,

JOHN NICHOLSON (1724-82), of Balrath Bury, Captain, Coldstream Guards, wedded, in 1766, Anna Maria, daughter of Sir Samuel Armytage Bt, of Kirklees, Yorkshire, widow of Thomas Carter, of Shaen, and had issue,
CHRISTOPHER ARMYTAGE, his heir;
John.
He was succeeded by his elder son,

CHRISTOPHER ARMYTAGE NICHOLSON JP DL (1768-1849), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff, 1791, who married firstly, in 1796, Catharine, daughter of the Most Rev William Newcombe, Lord Archbishop of Armagh, by Anna Maria his wife, daughter and co-heir of Edward Smyth, of Callow Hill, County Fermanagh, second son of the Ven James Smyth, Archdeacon of Meath, and had issue,
JOHN ARMYTAGE, his heir;
Christopher Hampden;
William (Rev);
Gilbert Thomas, JP;
Anna Maria.
He wedded secondly, in 1826, Anna, daughter of George Lenox-Conyngham, of Springhill, County Londonderry, by Olivia his wife, daughter of William Irvine, of Castle Irvine, County Fermanagh, and had issue,
Armytage Lenox, JP;
Olivia; Sophia Elizabeth.
Mr Nicholson was succeeded by his eldest son,

JOHN ARMYTAGE NICHOLSON JP DL (1798-1872), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff of Meath, 1827, who married, in 1824, Elizabeth Rebecca, daughter of the Rt Rev and Rt Hon Nathaniel Alexander, Lord Bishop of Meath (nephew of James, 1st Earl of Caledon), by Anne his wife, daughter and heir of the Rt Hon Sir Richard Jackson, of Forkhill, by Anne his wife, sister of John, 1st Viscount O'Neill, and had issue,
CHRISTOPHER ARMYTAGE, his heir;
Nathaniel Alexander;
John Hampden (Rev);
William Newcome;
Gilbert de Poulton;
Katharine; Anne.
Mr Nicholson was succeeded by his eldest son,

CHRISTOPHER ARMYTAGE NICHOLSON JP DL (1825-87), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff, 1856, who espoused, in 1858, Frances Augusta, eldest daughter of the Hon Augustus Henry MacDonald Moreton, and had issue,
GILBERT MORETON, died unmarried;
JOHN HAMPDEN, succeeded his brother;
Mary Jane; Elizabeth Katharine; Emilia Olivia.
His only surviving son,

JOHN HAMPDEN NICHOLSON JP (1871-1935), of Balrath Bury, High Sheriff, 1895, married, in 1894, Florence Isabel, third daughter of Thomas Rothwell, of Rockfield, Kells, and had issue,
CHRISTOPHER HAMPDEN;
John Armytage;
Joyce Frances.
His elder son,

CAPTAIN CHRISTOPHER HAMPDEN NICHOLSON (1903-), of Balrath Bury, married Stephanie Adelaide Edwards in 1928.

His only son,

JOHN WARREN NICHOLSON, born in 1931, inherited Balrath House in the 1960s.

Photo credit: New York Social Diary

BALRATH BURY HOUSE, near Kells, County Meath, is a two-storey, pedimented, 18th century house.

It has seven bays with a curved bow at either end of the front.

Three more bays were added to the right; and seven more bays with another pediment plus two further bays to the left side.

Photo credit: New York Social Diary

Today, the front extends to nineteen bays and two bows.

The mansion suffered damage during the 2nd World War, having been used by the military.

It was subsequently reduced in size, in 1942, to the original block.

Balrath Bury is now in the American-Colonial style.

The principal rooms are on either side of a large hall, with a bifurcating staircase.

There is a long, Georgian, pedimented stable block.

It is thought that the most recent owners have been Frank and Carol Mallon.

First published in June, 2013.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Caledon Estate Fête

Shortly after breakfast this morning I got my stuff together, started the two-seater, and drove to the Earl of Caledon's splendid estate in County Tyrone.

My first stop, however, was in the village of Caledon itself, a place of considerable character and charm.

Successive Earls have stamped their mark on the village.


There is a water fountain dedicated to the 4th Earl, KP, on the main street.

I stopped opposite a little café called Café Rose, where I had a beaker of tea.

Afterwards I took a stroll along the village. The Caledon Arms Hotel is, sadly, closed down.

Alexander House, Main Street

It's a pity that such a pretty village cannot sustain a good inn or guest-house.

The main entrance to Caledon Estate is just outside the village, through a very grand entrance gate and lodges. It is unmistakable, especially since there are gleaming, gilded earl's coronets attached to the railings.

The drive must easily be a mile in length.


Caledon Park is one of the finest private estates in Northern Ireland, undoubtedly.

The garden fête today was in aid of the local parish church.

Caledon crest outside the portico porch

I arrived early. However,  when I departed in the afternoon, there were hundreds of cars parked in fields within the 3,000 acre estate.

The atmosphere was most agreeable. Lord and Lady Caledon were outside the house in the grounds.

I chatted briefly with Lady Caledon about an item for sale, viz. a pair of black and gold mini skis, presumably for children, which were emblazoned with the Bentley Motors motif.


The Lord-Lieutenant's official flag flew from the Castle's flag-pole.

Prospect from the garden front

At about twelve forty-five I was taken on a guided walk of the arboretum, yew-tree garden, stables and the grounds within the immediate vicinity of the Castle.


There were lots of displays on the lawns outside the Castle, including stalls in marquees, military displays, and police dog-handler demonstrations.

Stables

Of course there was no shortage of nosh, either. I could not resist the hog-roast stall.


For a fiver, you received a generous helping of roasted hog, baby roast potatoes, apple sauce, and stuffing.

Former head gardener's cottage

The fête was officially opened by Captain Dame Mary Peters CH DBE RNR, erstwhile Lord-Lieutenant of Belfast (obviously acquainted with Lord Caledon, KCVO, Lord-Lieutenant of County Armagh).


I left at about three-thirty.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Glenarm Castle Tour

GLENARM CASTLE IS THE ANCESTRAL SEAT OF THE EARLS OF ANTRIM

I was in my element during the weekend: Barons Court, County Tyrone, on Saturday; and  Glenarm Castle, County Antrim, yesterday.

Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce (Lord Dunluce is heir to the earldom) have done a splendid job of restoring and rejuvenating their lovely home beside the historic village of Glenarm.

Glenarm Castle estate remains sizeable, comprising about 1,300 acres.

Antrim arms

I arrived in Glenarm  at about eleven forty-five, just in time for the first guided tour of the Castle.

George, the butler, and Elaine, the housekeeper, were on hand to guide us through the principal rooms.

East elevation

The present Castle seems to date from 1756, although there have been many additions and alterations since then.

Out tour began in the hall, which rises two storeys.

There are a number of family portraits here, including one of Louisa, wife of the 5th Earl and niece of the 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister from 1830-34.

A fine serving-table, dating from 1750, stands below the portrait of Anne, Countess of Antrim in her own right.

The splendidly ethereal ceiling was painted by Angela (née Sykes), Countess of Antrim (1911-84).

Garden front

OUR NEXT stop was the drawing-room.

The late Angela, Lady Antrim, painted scenes from La Fontaine's Fables round the ceiling in the 1950s.

Many ancestral portraits hang here, and four 18th century landscape paintings of the family's two castles, Dunluce and Glenarm.

A number of personal family photographs stand on the grand piano.


THE DINING-ROOM is spacious and elegant, containing two full-length portraits of the 5th and 6th Earls.

Randal, 6th Earl and 2nd Marquess of Antrim, KB, (1749-91), wears the robes of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

The dining-table was laid for six today, though can be considerably enlarged, I gather, to accommodate twelve.

Crockery is monogrammed with the Antrim cipher.

We were apprised that the open fire is seldom lit here because its draught is somewhat less than satisfactory.


THE BLUE ROOM was originally the billiards-room.

There are quite a few equine paintings on the wall, drawn for the 5th Earl, a passionate horseman who kept a stud in the estate.

The 5th Earl is said to have been an avid gambler (hardly surprising given his fondness for the Turf) who squandered much of his money.


Like Barons Court in County Tyrone, Glenarm Castle flourishes today thanks to Lord and Lady Dunluce's love and passion for this historic, ancestral, family home; its magnificent gardens; the wooden Obelisk hand-crafted by Corin Giles; the beautiful cascade and fountains; the herb garden; and the yew circle.


THE BARBICAN gate lodge, available to rent, is built into the estate wall at the end of an old stone bridge spanning the river Glenarm.

It was commissioned in 1823 by Edmund Phelps, the second husband of Anne, Countess of Antrim (in her own right), who inherited the estate when her father, the 6th Earl, died without male issue.

The architect William Vitruvius Morrison built it using local, coursed, rubble basalt and red ashlar sandstone dressings.

This gate lodge has a narrow turret staircase which leads onto a roof terrace overlooking the surrounding countryside.

*****

BEFORE I conclude this article, I wish to mention the Castle tea-room.


I lunched here yesterday and enjoyed a hearty bowl of home-made sweet potato and parsnip soup, with a fresh bread roll and butter.


It was delicious. I complimented the staff and accordingly bade them Farewell.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Barons Court Tour


Our tour of Barons Court House began in the front hall, where Lord Anthony Hamilton, the Duke of Abercorn's brother, greeted us.

The House dates as far back as 1790 and has adapted itself admirably throughout many generations of the family.

When you enter this large hall, the splendid ceiling catches the eye with its elaborate Italian plasterwork.

It was used by the 4th Duke and Duchess, the present Duke's parents, as a living-room.

This hall has six doors leading from it into other reception rooms.

There is an exquisite portrait of Emma Hamilton (no relation) by Sir Thomas Lawrence.


THENCE we moved in to the rotunda with its glorious coffered ceiling.

I gather that this was once a music-room; though today it is used for formal dinners or even meetings.

Yesterday there were four sizeable portfolios of drawings by Sir Edwin Landseer laid on the table.


THE LONG GALLERY is about thirty yards in length.

It faces what is now the garden front of the House; however this was originally the entrance to Barons Court.

This is a bright and spacious room.

Its considerable size makes it ideal for family celebrations, parties and even christenings.

This room contains fine furnishings and paintings, including a commode with the cipher of Marie Antionette.


THE BROWN LIBRARY, leading from the long gallery, is a family room which makes skilful use of subdued and quiet red and brown colours.


OUR next part of the tour took us to the lofty and spacious staircase hall.

It's not hard to miss the massive painting by Jordaens, quite aptly entitled Soldiers Carousing (!).

I've been told that this room can be used for shooting parties and children's parties.

An antique pianola sits directly under the staircase.


THE last room we visited was what is today known as the Family Room.

It used to be the large dining-room, though, with the sage advice of the celebrated interior designer, David Hicks, the room has been "compartmentalised" into different areas and dark green free-standing units.

At one end there is a kitchen; while there is a space at the other end with drinks cabinet and CD player and so on.


BARONS COURT remains essentially a family home and it is delightful that the Duke and Duchess open its doors occasionally for everyone to enjoy and admire.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

New KCVO

Star, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order

His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales has been appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) by Her Majesty The Queen.

Monday, 1 June 2015