Monday, 20 February 2017

Holyhill House

THE SINCLAIRS OWNED 2,152 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY TYRONE


THE REV JOHN SINCLAIR, son of James Sinclair of the Caithness family, was the first of the family who settled at Holyhill, County Tyrone.

He was appointed Rector of Leckpatrick, 1665-6.

Mr Sinclair was succeeded by JOHN, his son, father of JOHN, whose son,

WILLIAM SINCLAIR, who died before his father, married Isabella, daughter of Thomas Young, of Lough Eske, County Donegal, and had issue,
JAMES, his heir;
Thomas;
Rebecca.
The eldest son,

JAMES SINCLAIR DL (1772-1865), of Holyhill, wedded, in 1805, Dorothea, daughter and heir of the Rev Samuel Law, and had issue,
WILLIAM, his heir;
James;
Alexander Montgomery;
Mary; Dorothea; Marion; Rebecca; Ann; Isabella; Caroline Elizabeth.
Mr Sinclair was succeeded by his eldest son,

WILLIAM SINCLAIR JP DL (1810-96), of Holyhill, County Tyrone, and Drumbeg, County Donegal, High Sheriff of County Tyrone, 1854, Barrister, who espoused, in 1830, Sarah, daughter of James Cranborne Strode, and had issue,
JAMES MONTGOMERY, his heir;
William Frederic;
William Frederic;
Donald Brooke;
Alfred Law, Lt-Col, DSO;
Jemima Sarah; Dorothea Mary.
Mr Sinclair was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES MONTGOMERY SINCLAIR JP (1841-99), of Holyhill and Bonnyglen, Inver, County Donegal, High Sheriff of County Donegal, 1899, who married, in 1868, Mary Everina, youngest daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh Barton, of The Waterfoot, County Fermanagh, and had issue,
WILLIAM HUGH MONTGOMERY, his heir;
Everina Mary Caroline; Rosabel.
Mr Sinclair was succeeded by his only son,

WILLIAM HUGH MONTGOMERY SINCLAIR (1868-1930), of Holyhill and Bonnyglen, Called to the Irish Bar, 1897; Vice-Consul at Manilla, 1900-02; at Boston, 1902-4; Buenos Aires, 1904-7; Emden, 1907-9; Consul for the States of Bahia and Sergipe, 1909.

Mr Sinclair married, in 1924, Elizabeth Elliot (Bessie) Hayes, of Philadelphia, USA, though had no issue.


HOLYHILL HOUSE, near Strabane, County Tyrone, is a plain, three-storey, five-bay Georgian house.

The demesne and house, located in the townland of Hollyhill and the parish of Leckpatrick, date from the late 17th century.

Holyhill House, whitewashed, three-storey with five bays, seems be ca 1736, when William Starratt surveyed of the estate.

It was originally attached in front of an earlier house, which was removed in the early 19th century and replaced with the present building.

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William Hugh Montgomery Sinclar served from 1900 in the consular service in Manilla, Boston and Buenos Aires, during which time his mother sold off most of the estate to its tenants between 1904-05 under the terms of the 1903 Land Act.

William Sinclair married the American heiress Elizabeth Elliott Hayes.

Upon her death in 1957, the estate was left to a distant Sinclair relation, Major-General Sir Allan Adair Bt, who sold many of the heirlooms and burned a lot of the estate records.

Sir Allan sold the property in 1983 to Hamilton Thompson, a Strabane pharmacist.


During the Plantation of Ulster, the lands were held by the 1st Earl of Abercorn, who granted them sometime before 1611 to his younger brother, Sir George Hamilton, of Greenlaw, who built a timber house that year.

A document of ca 1680 records that
“Ballyburny alias Holihill” belonged to “James Hamilton Esq. a Minor Sonne to Sir George Hamilton ye Elder” before 1641 and was distributed to Sir George Hamilton afterwards. 
This first house was burned in 1641, and at some time thereafter the property was granted to the family’s agent in the Strabane barony, David Maghee, whose son, Captain George Magee, sold the house to the Rev John Sinclair, who came to Ulster from Caithness and was instituted in the parish of Leckpatrick (in which Holyhill is located), in 1665-66, and to Camus, 1668”.
The residence purchased was rebuilt after 1641, either by James Hamilton or one of his immediate descendants.

The Rev John Sinclair purchased Holyhill with incomes from two parishes: his 1703 memorial re-erected in Leckpatrick Parish Church lauds his staunch defence of the established church and persecution of dissenters.

The Abercorn Papers contain numerous letters about and between Lord Abercorn and Mr Sinclair going back as early as 1749.

In 1756, Lord Abercorn wrote to his agent, Nathaniel Nisbitt,
“When you chance to see Mr Sinclair of Hollyhill, tell him I have not the counterpart of his deed of Holyhill; and that I therefore desire he will give me a copy of it. If he seems to think his title called in question, you may say you know of no such thing, but that you believe I am desirous of having my privileges ascertained.”
On his retirement in 1757, Nisbitt recommended to Abercorn that Sinclair take his place as he was “a rough honest man.

With income as an Abercorn agent, John expanded his demesne in the late 1760s.

He was succeeded at Holyhill by son George, who had been apprenticed to a linen merchant.

George Sinclair died in Limerick between 1803-04, with his body being buried in the old parish graveyard in 1804.

George was succeeded by his nephew, James, who later served as JP in counties Donegal and Tyrone, and took part in parliamentary inquiries in the 1830s and 1840s, including the Devon Commission and the inquiry into the Orange Order, which he held in very low regard, and spoke in favour of Catholic Emancipation at a public meeting of “the nobility, gentry, clergy and freeholders of the County of Tyrone”.

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The house is set in a maintained ornamental garden with herbaceous borders and lawns.

A water garden was added in the 1970s.

There are mature trees beyond, in what was described by Young in 1909 as a, ‘… richly wooded park.’

These form a shelter belt round this fine parkland, together with and stands of woodland.

The walled garden is partly cultivated and retains glasshouses.

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