Sunday, 31 May 2015

Minnowburn Visit

Warden's office

I paid a visit to the National Trust's Minnowburn this afternoon.

This has to be one of the most captivating woodlands and meadows in the city of Belfast.

Porch at warden's office

I motored up, firstly, to the warden's office and allotments which, I'm glad to say, flourish.

Flamin' Norah

I encountered Flamin' Norah: She's hot!


Tomasz's patch thrives, with abundant strawberry plants.

Noble strawberry leaves

Thence I drove along the narrow, winding road (full of potholes, Roads Agency) to the main car-park.

The sun was shining so I made a beeline for Piccolo Mondo, which serves fresh pizza, coffee, and other beverages.


They told me that their restored Citroën van is forty-one years old, almost as old as self (!).

Inside, it has a genuine wood-burning pizza oven.

I was very tempted to have a slice of pizza (slices cost about £2), though settled for a cup of their jolly fine coffee instead.


Malone House

There's an admirable prospect of Malone House from Minnowburn's Rose Garden at the top of the hill.

1st Baron Beresford

LORD CHARLES BERESFORD WAS A MAJOR LANDOWNER IN COUNTY CAVAN, WITH 8,817 ACRES

ADMIRAL LORD CHARLES WILLIAM DE LA POER BERESFORD, Baron Beresford, GCB, GCVO, was born in 1846 at Philipstown, County Offaly.

He was the second son of John, 4th Marquess of Waterford, and brother of John, 5th Marquess.

Lord Charles married, in 1878, Mina, daughter of Richard Gardner, at London.

He was educated at Bayford School, and Mr Foster's School, Stubbington, Hampshire.


His distinguished career is very well documented already.

Admiral Beresford was elevated to the peerage as BARON BERESFORD, of Metemmeh and Curraghmore, County Waterford, in 1916.

Lord Beresford died three years later, in 1919, when the barony became extinct.


He died at Langwell, Berriedale, Caithness, aged 73.

After a State funeral at St Paul's Cathedral,  Lord Beresford was buried at Putney Vale Cemetery in south London.


The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Lord John George de la Poer Beresford (1773-1862), Lord Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland, possessing great wealth, was known for his considerable largesse.

His patronage extended largely to Trinity College, Dublin; to the College of Saint Columba; and he restored Armagh Cathedral, at a cost of £30,000.

Furthermore, His Grace augmented the salaries of his clergy.

The bust of this distinguished prelate stands in the private chapel at Curraghmore, County Waterford.

He is interred in Armagh Cathedral.

The Archbishop bequeathed his County Cavan estate to Lord Charles Beresford.

Learmount Castle in County Londonderry, belonged to the same family through marriage.

First published in May, 2013. Beresford arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Meenglass House

THE VISCOUNTS LIFFORD OWNED 11,000 ACRES OF LAND IN COUNTY DONEGAL

THE RT HON JAMES HEWITT (1709-89), having attained great eminence at the English bar, and filled successively the offices of King's First Sergeant and judge of the Court of King's Bench, was appointed, in 1767, LORD HIGH CHANCELLOR OF IRELAND, and elevated to the peerage, in 1768, as Baron Lifford, of Lifford, County Donegal.

His lordship was advanced to a viscountcy, in 1781, as VISCOUNT LIFFORD.

He married firstly, in 1749,  Mary, only daughter and co-heiress of the Ven Dr Rice Williams, Archdeacon of Carmarthen, and had issue,
JAMES, his heir;
William Williams;
Joseph, a judge;
John, in holy orders.
His lordship wedded secondly, Ambrosia, daughter of the Rev Charles Bayley, of Knavestock, in Essex, and by that lady had, George, Ambrosia, and Elizabeth, all who died unmarried.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES, 2nd Viscount (1751-1830), Dean of Armagh, who wedded firstly, in 1776, Henrietta Judith, eldest daughter of Arthur, 1st Viscount Harberton, but by that lady had no issue.

He espoused secondly, in 1781, Alicia, eldest daughter of the Ven John Oliver, Archdeacon of Ardagh, and had issue,
JAMES, his successor;
John Pratt, in holy orders.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES, 3rd Viscount (1783-1855), who married, in 1809, Mary Anne Maria, 8th daughter of Cornwallis, 1st Viscount Hawarden, and had issue,
JAMES, his successor;
John James;
Alicia Anne; Susan; Anne Georgiana.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

JAMES, 4th Viscount (1811-87), DL, who espoused, in 1835, the Lady Mary Acheson, eldest daughter of Archibald, 2nd Earl of Gosford, and had numerous issue, including
JAMES WILFRED, his successor;
Evelyn John;
Archibald Robert, succeeded his brother;
Mary Anne.
ARCHIBALD ROBERT,  6th Viscount (1844-1925), was a captain in the Royal Navy.

His son,

EVELYN JAMES (1880-1954), 7th Viscount, DSO, fought in both the Second Boer War and the First World War.

He was succeeded by his cousin,

ALAN WILLIAM WINGFIELD, 8th Viscount, who was the son of the Hon George Wyldbore Hewitt, 7th son of the 4th Viscount.

As of 2010 the titles are held by his son, Edward James Wingfield, 9th Viscount (b 1949).


MEENGLASS HOUSE, sometimes spelt Meenglas, near Stranorlar, County Donegal, was a Victorian house in a simple Tudor-Revival style with steep roofs and gables; mullioned windows, relatively small for the size of the house.

It had a three-sided bow; and a dormer window with tracery; a slender, square turret at the junction of the main block and service wing, with a sprocketed pyramidal roof.

The 1st Viscount resided at Santry House, Dublin, for a period.

First published in May, 2013.   Lifford arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Glengarriff Castle

THE WHITES WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY CORK, WITH 16,175 ACRES


The family of WHITE claimed to derive its descent from a brother of the Rt Rev John White, Bishop of Winchester, in 1557.

The immediate ancestor of this noble family came to Ireland during the English civil war which commenced in 1641.

This brother's descendant in the fourth degree, 

RICHARD WHITE, of Bantry, County Cork, son of Richard White, of Bantry, married, in 1734, Martha, daughter of the Very Rev Rowland Davies, of Dawston, County Cork, Dean of Cork and Ross, and had issue,
SIMON, his heir;
Margaret, m Richard, Viscount Longueville.
The only son,

SIMON WHITE, of Bantry, wedded, in 1760, Frances Jane, daughter of Richard Hedges Eyre, of Mount Hedges, County Cork, by Helena his wife, daughter of Thomas Herbert, of Muckross Abbey, County Kerry, and dsp, having had issue,
RICHARD, of whom presently;
Simon;
Hamilton;
Helen; Martha; Frances.
The eldest son,

RICHARD, 1ST EARL OF BANTRY and Viscount Berehaven (1767-1851), espoused, in 1799, the Lady Margaret Anne Hare, daughter of William, 1st Earl of Listowel, and had issue,
Richard, 2nd Earl;
William Henry Hare, 3rd Earl;
SIMON, of whom we treat;
Robert Hedges;
Mary.
The third son,

COLONEL SIMON WHITEwedded, in 1801, Sarah, daughter of John Newenham, of Maryborough, and had issue,
ROBERT HEDGES EYRE, his heir;
Edward Richard;
Fanny Rosa Maria; Harriet.
Colonel White died in 1838, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

ROBERT HEDGES EYRE WHITE (1809-), of Glengarriff Castle, County Cork, who married, in 1834, Charlotte Mary, only daughter and heir of Thomas Dorman, of Raffeen House, County Cork, and had issue,

ROBERT HEDGES EYRE WHITE (1836-), of Raffeen House, who espoused, in 1860, Mary Anne d'Esterre, daughter of John Roberts, of Ardmore, County Waterford, and had issue,
Robert Hedges Eyre, b 1862;
Simon, b 1863;
Edward, b 1869;
Anna Mary; Frances Dorothy.

GLENGARRIFF CASTLE, County Cork, is a partially castellated house overlooking Glengarriff harbour.

It has a long, two-storey range with shallow, curved bows and ogee-headed windows.

At one end there is a square tower; the other end having a considerably loftier, battlemented round tower.

The round tower joins the main block to a battlemented wing at an obtuse angle to its end.


The Castle was built in the 1790s by Colonel Simon White, brother of the 1st Earl of Bantry.

It was built in the Gothic style, with a panoramic view of Glengarriff Bay.

The woodlands of the estate encompass a wide variety of trees including Oak, Beech, Japanese Red Cedar, European Larch, Chilean Pine and a variety of shrub and flora species.

Wildlife to be seen include red squirrel, sika deer, seals, fox and pine marten.

Over the years, Glengarriff has extended hospitality to royalty, artists and writers, such as Thackeray, Synge and Yeats; and, when living in the area, George Bernard Shaw is said to have written his play St Joan here.


The actress Maureen O'Hara, who starred with John Wayne in The Quiet Man, for many years kept a holiday home adjacent to Glengarriff Castle.

The castle operated as a resort until the late 1970s, but has since become derelict.

First published in May, 2013.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Isle O'Valla House

Garden Front in 2013

ISLE O'VALLA HOUSE is located to the south of the village of Strangford, County Down.

It lies within the townland of Cloghy, on the coastal Ardglass Road.

This is a tall, austere Georgian house with three bays, three storeys, quoins and a large fanlight above the front door.

Southern elevation in 2013

This property was originally built as a Charter School ca 1817.
Irish Charter Schools were operated by The Incorporated Society in Dublin for Promoting Protestant Schools in Ireland. The Charter Schools admitted only Roman Catholics, under the condition that they be educated as Protestants. 
The first Charter School in Strangford was established some time after 1746, with a grant of £500 (about £86,000 in value today) from the Earl of Kildare (either the 1st Duke of Leinster or his father).
The Dowager Countess of Kildare later donated 22 acres of land for the School.

The Charter School was rebuilt in 1817 at a reputed cost of £4,000, the equivalent of £267,000 in 2010.

Eastern elevation in 2013

When the Charter was rescinded in 1832, the property was most likely given back to the Kildare estate.

It was leased to the Rev Samuel Livingstone, who began his own school for local children.

When the School closed, Isle O'Valla House became the residence of Captain the Hon Somerset Ward JP, fifth son of the 3rd Viscount Bangor.

In 1910, Isle O'Valla was acquired by the family of McCausland, of Downpatrick, hoteliers.

Frank McCausland lived and farmed at Isle O'Valla House.

Following Mr McCausland's death, the property was bought by a family called Lowe.

Isle O'Valla House has been derelict and virtually ruinous for many years and, to my knowledge, has remained uninhabited for several decades.

Its future remains uncertain.

First published in July, 2011.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Skipper Street, Belfast

Merchant Hotel

Skipper Street, Belfast, runs from Waring Street to High Street.

This is one of the the oldest streets in Belfast, where the River Farset used to flow openly along High Street itself (it still does, though it's culverted).

High Street ca 1830

The street was thus named because skippers of sailing vessels lodged here.

This street is mentioned as far back as 1685; it was, however, significantly affected by the 1941 blitz.

In 1974, The Albert Inn stood at 3 Skipper Street; then it changed its name to the Blackthorn Bar.

The buildings are now all relatively recent since many, if not most, were destroyed by bombing during the 2nd World War.

The most notable premises today are The Merchant Hotel - formerly the Ulster Bank head office - which now runs along the entire left-hand side of the street (the even numbers).

The Spaniard Bar  is at number three and Jackson Sports is located at the corner of Skipper Street and High Street.

First published in July, 2009.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Riverside Landscape

A section at river Conn's Water: May, 2015

Work is continuing along the river-bank beside Mersey Street Bridge, as part of the Connswater Greenway Project.

The section above is at King George V Playing-Field and The Oval football ground.

It runs from the bridge to Victoria Park.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Royal Visitors


The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall have begun a two-day visit to Northern Ireland.

Their Royal Highnesses will visit St Patrick's church, Donegall Street, Belfast, where they shall meet a cross-section of parishioners and clergy.

Later TRH will visit east Belfast, including Ballyhackamore.

Their Royal Highnesses will have private audiences with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland at Hillsborough Castle, County Down.

A Lidl Bit of Chocolate


Lidl are running a major television advertizing campaign on the Mainland. I know, because I watch ITV's London region.

In comparison with other similar ads, theirs are quite impressive, focusing on the virtues of Quality and Value.

They play with the name, too, by talking about "a Lidl bit of Greece", and so on.

I have to say that I pop into my local Lidl fairly regularly.

I use all the supermarkets, depending on where I happen to be. Belmont embraces Democracy (!).

They sell a plain chocolate called Bellarom. Is it manufactured in Germany?

The one I buy comprises 74% cocoa.

It is excellent; to the extent that I personally find it hard to tell the difference between it and Lindt's 70% bar which, I think, costs about £1.79 or thereabouts.

Certainly until now the Lindt 70% has been my preferred choice.

The Bellarom cost me 79p for one 100g bar.

McCutcheon's Field

Groomsport from McCutcheon's Field

I spent yesterday with other National Trust volunteers at a place known as McCutcheon's Field.

This comprises several acres of coastline at Brigg's Rocks and close to Sandeel Bay, in north County Down.



There's a holiday park here called Windsor Caravan Park.

The field is close to Groomsport.

We were gathering old gorse cuttings and burning them.


Squill

We've been clearing gorse here for a few years. It will be impossible to eradicate it completely, because it's so abundant (gorse is beautiful at this time of the year anyway).

However, some clearance encourages lovely wild flowers to blossom, including squill.

I had banana sandwiches today, made with my favourite granary wholemeal bread and Ulster butter.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Shortcross Event


I was invited to Shortcross Gin's Signature Serve event last night in Belfast.

I have mentioned Shortcross Gin on a number of occasions on this blog and extolled its outstanding virtues; especially since it is distilled in County Down at the Rademon estate.


The cocktail party took place at Sixty6 cocktail bar, 68 High Street (formerly the executive offices of a bank).

As we entered we were offered champagne cocktails just inside the door.

This club retains the feel of an old directors' boardroom or dining-room, with plasterwork ceilings, fireplaces and so on.


Sixty6 is spread throughout the first, second, and even third floors of the building.

When I entered the room on the first floor it was busy already. I managed to start chatting to a pretty girl who was seated at the side of the room; and there we remained for quite some time.


Fiona and David, the proprietors of Shortcross Gin, were perfect hosts and introduced me to quite a few guests.


During the evening trays of sumptuous canapés were offered to us: the Belmont nose-bag quivered with joy.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and I'd merely wish to express my gratitude and appreciation to Fiona and David for such a delightful evening.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Lough Cutra Castle

WILLIAM SMYTH, of Rossdale, Yorkshire, passed over into Ulster in the reign of CHARLES I, and settling at Dundrum, County Down, became ancestor of the family which we are treating, and of the Smyths of Drumcree, Gaybrook, etc.

His son,

WILLIAM SMYTH, of Dundrum, married Mary, daughter of Thomas Dewdall, and by her had two sons, viz.
THOMAS, his heir;
James.
The elder son,

THE RT REV THOMAS SMYTH (1650-1725), was, for his great piety and learning, at the recommendation of Dr Tennison, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, promoted to the see of Limerick in 1696.

The Bishop married Dorothea, daughter of the Rt Rev Ulysses Burgh, Lord Bishop of Ardagh; and dying in 1725, left issue,
William (Very Rev), Dean of Ardfert, dsp;
CHARLES, of whom presently;
John;
Michael;
Henry;
Thomas;
George;
Arthur;
Edward;
James;
Mary; Dorothea; Elizabeth.
The second and eldest surviving son,

CHARLES SMYTH, who succeeded to the estates of his father, represented the city of Limerick in parliament for 45 years.

He espoused Elizabeth, sister and heir of Sir Thomas Prendergast, last baronet of that name, and widow of John Dixon Haman.

He died in 1784, leaving issue,
Thomas, MP, dsp;
JOHN PRENDERGAST, of whom we treat;
Charles Lennox;
Juliana, mother of CHARLES, 2nd Viscount.
The second son,

JOHN PRENDERGAST-SMYTH, was elevated to the peerage, in 1810, as Baron Kiltarton, with remainder to his nephew, Charles Vereker, the son of his sister Juliana.

His lordship was advanced to a viscountcy, in 1816, as VISCOUNT GORT.

The 1st Viscount died a bachelor, 1817, when the family honours devolved upon his nephew,

CHARLES, 2nd Viscount, PC (1768-1842), Constable of the City of Limerick, Colonel of its Militia, and Privy Counsellor.

His lordship married firstly, in 1789, Jane, widow of William Stamer, and had issue,
JOHN PRENDERGAST, his heir;
Juliana; Georgiana.
He wedded secondly, in 1810, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of John Palliser, by whom he had a son,
Charles, born in 1818.
His eldest son,

JOHN PRENDERGAST, 3rd Viscount (1790-1865), sold the family seat, Lough Cutra Castle.



LOUGH CUTRA CASTLE, once known as Loughcooter Castle, is near Gort in County Galway.

It was designed by John Nash and is located in a romantic setting above a lough.

The Castle was built from 1811 for the 2nd Viscount Gort, who had an admiration for East Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight and stipulated that his new home should be similar in design.

Lough Cutra Castle is battlemented with machiolations.


The 3rd Viscount suffered ruinous financial losses as a result of the Irish famine, since he refused to collect any rents and donated large sums to charity.

Consequently, Lough Cutra was sold by the Encumbered Estates Court in 1851.

The Gort family subsequently moved to the Isle of Wight, where they, somewhat ironically, acquired East Cowes Castle.

Lough Cutra was purchased in 1854 by Field-Marshal the Viscount Gough, who added a wing and clock-tower two years later.

During the Victorian era, the estate comprised 6,628 acres.

Interestingly, Lord Gough commissioned wallpaper by Cole & Son for a design featuring Union Flags and coronets.

The Castle was sold by the Gough family later in the 19th century and remained empty for many years; until it was bought back post-1945 by the 7th Viscount Gort for his great-niece, Elizabeth Sidney.

Thereafter the Castle was sold again and is now privately owned.

Gort arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Florence Court Visitor Centre

The new visitor centre is opening at Florence Court estate, County Fermanagh, is opening this summer, 2015.

Florence Court is a property of the National Trust and was the ancestral seat of the Earls of Enniskillen.

The new centre will be adjacent to the Walled Garden and shall be the entrance point for all visitors to the estate and forest park.

It was funded by the Northern Ireland Forest Service, which handed over the management of the forest park to the Trust recently.

In April, 2014, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visited Florence Court.
In an effort to increase the visitor experience at Florence Court, and bring further economic benefit to the area, TRH were briefed about a new partnership between the National Trust and the Forest Service, which will result in the creation of a new Visitor Centre facility, which it is hoped will provide visitors with a seamless experience at Florence Court.
TRH were invited to view the proposed plans for the new Visitors’ Centre.

*****

THE SUMMER-HOUSE at the top of the Pleasure Gardens, near the mansion-house, was sadly destroyed by arson in 2014.

However, the great news is that it is to be rebuilt by the two brothers who erected it in 1993.

This charming little gazebo would not have been possible without the assistance of generous donations from supporters and Members' Associations throughout the Province.

So far, more than £3,500 has been raised for the #RebuildOurSummerHouse campaign, led by The Impartial Reporter newspaper.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Lough Fea House

THE FAMILY OF SHIRLEY WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY MONAGHAN, WITH 26,386 ACRES

This branch of the noble and ancient family of SHIRLEY is descended from SEWALLIS, whose residence at the time of the Conquest, was at Ettington, in Warwickshire.

His descendant, James of Ettington, first assumed the name of SHIRLEY during the reign of HENRY III. 

THE RT HON SIR ROBERT SHIRLEY, Knight, 1st EARL FERRERS (1650-1717), married secondly, in 1699, Selina, daughter of George Finch.

The third, but, eventually, eldest surviving son of his second marriage,

THE HON GEORGE SHIRLEY (1705-87), of Ettington Park, Warwickshire, a captain in the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, wedded Mary, daughter of Humphrey Sturt, and had two sons and two daughters, viz.
GEORGE, his successor;
EVELYN, succeeded his brother;
Selina; Margaret.
He was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE SHIRLEY, of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, County Monaghan,, who espoused Phillis Byam, daughter of Charlton Wollaston, and had issue,
EVELYN JOHN;
Charles;
William;
James;
Horatio;
Arthur George Sewallis;
Selina; Mary; Frances; Emily Harriet.
Mr Shirley was succeeded by his eldest son, 

EVELYN JOHN SHIRLEY (1788-1856), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea, who wedded, in 1810, Eliza, daughter of Arthur Stanhope, cousin to the Earl of Chesterfield; sometime MP for County Monaghan and South Warwickshire; a Trustee of Rugby School.

He had issue,
EVELYN PHILIP;
Arthur;
Sewallis;
George Edward;
Walter Devereux;
Selina; Louisa.
His eldest son, 

EVELYN PHILIP SHIRLEY DL (1812-82), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea; MP for South Warwickshire and County Monaghan.

His only son,

SEWALLIS EVELYN SHIRLEY JP DL (1844-1904), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea; MP for County Monaghan, 1868-80; High Sheriff of Warwickshire, 1884.

His only son,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL EVELYN CHARLES SHIRLEY JP DL (1889-1956), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea; High Sheriff of County Monaghan, 1914; Major, the Warwickshire Yeomanry; Lieutenant-Colonel, the General Staff.

His only son,

MAJOR JOHN EVELYN SHIRLEY (1922-2009), of Ettington Park and Lough Fea; educated at Eton; fought in the 2nd World War; retired from the military in 1955, with the rank of major, late of the King's Royal Rifle Corps.

He lived in 2003 at Ormly Hall, Ramsey, Isle of Man. His issue,
Philip Evelyn Shirley, b 1955;
Emily Margaret Shirley, b 1957;
Hugh Sewallis Shirley, b 1961.



The Shirley estate is based at Lough Fea, near Carrickmacross in County Monaghan.

It had an area of some 40 square miles, in the western half of the barony of Farney, County Monaghan, in the period 1576-1960.

The Shirley Papers are deposited at PRONI.

The Shirley Association has written a history of Lough Fea.

The Shirleys were semi-absentee landlords. Their main seat was Ettington Park in Warwickshire.

Evelyn Philip Shirley visited Lough Fea several times a year.

The estate was formerly in the ownership of the Earl of Essex, though underwent the first of several partitions: It passed in two halves to Essex's co-heirs, the Marquess of Hertford and Sir Robert Shirley.

Sir Robert himself died in 1656, imprisoned in the Tower of London for supporting the Royalist cause in the English Civil War.

His son and heir was Sir Seymour Shirley, on whose death in 1667 the estate and the rest of the family inheritance passed in turn to his second and only surviving son, Sir Robert Shirley.

Sir Robert entered the House of Lords in 1677, as Baron Ferrers of Chartley, and in 1711 was further ennobled as 1st Earl Ferrers and Viscount Tamworth.

This last title related to the family seat of Ettington in Warwickshire.

About 1750, the Shirleys built a house near Carrickmacross for their occasional visits.

It was not until 1826 that Robert's grandson, Evelyn John Shirley, laid the foundations of a mansion house worthy of the family and estate, near the banks of Lough Fea.



LOUGH FEA is a very large and unusual Tudor-Gothic house by Thomas Rickman, the English architect and architectural writer who invented the terms "Early English", "decorated" and "perpendicular" to describe the different periods of Gothic architecture.

Unlike most houses of its period and style, Lough Fea has no battlements and few gables, but a solid parapet which conceals much of the roof.

There are also hardly any projecting bows or oriels, but rather small, mullioned windows under hood mouldings; so that the elevations, of pinkish-grey ashlar, have a solid effect.

There are several slender, square turrets with sprocketed, pyramidal roofs; also a polygonal lantern and a small tower and polygonal turret at the end of one wing; but no major tower; so that he house seems low and wide-spreading.

The entrance front, facing the lough, is flanked on one side by the chapel and on the other by a great hall, which together form a three-sided court.

The interior is of great complexity, with many corridors and ante-rooms.

There is a hall divided by a stone arcade, its walls hung with an early 19th-century wallpaper.

There is a large and handsome library, the famous library of EP Shirley, son of the builder of the house.

The chapel is on the scale of a sizeable church, with two pulpits and a gallery.

The clou of the house is, however, the great hall: vast and baronial, with a lofty hammer-beam roof, a minstrels' gallery and an arcade at first-floor level.

It was added after the rest of the house was completed.

According to the story, Mr Shirley and Lord Rossmore vied with one another as to which of them could build the bigger room.

Lord Rossmore enlarged his drawing room at Rossmore Park five times, but in the end Mr Shirley won the contest by building his great hall.

The garden front of the house faces along a vista to an immense Celtic cross. The demesne is noted for its magnificent woodlands.

At the end of the 19th century the estate comprised 26,386 acres, but these lands had to be sold due to the Irish Land Acts before the First World War.

The estate now has less than 1,000 acres of grass and woodland.

After the sale of the land, which had been rented to tenants, large mansions such as Lough Fea became white elephants with little revenue coming in.



In 1904, when Major Shirley’s grandfather died, his father moved from his Ettington Park home in Warwickshire to Carrickmacross, County Monaghan.

Between 1904 and 1977, Major Shirley’s father and his family lived there permanently.

There was a serious fire at the house in 1966, which did quite a lot of damage.

In 1977, the family moved to the Isle of Man and thus reverted to its 19th Century role of absenteeism; though because Major Shirley and his sons were brought up on the estate they have a great love of the place and they do their best to keep the main parts of the building waterproof.

First published in June, 2011.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Bay Tree


I met my aunt and cousin this morning in Holywood, County Down, at The Bay Tree café and restaurant.

I'm still fond of this captivating establishment in the town.

One of my cousins has been in Northern Ireland for the weekend and I took the opportunity of catching up with her.


The others had cappuccino coffee with the renowned cinnamon scones, while I opted for fine wholemeal toast, served with home-made marmalade and Ulster butter.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Ardgillan Castle

THE TAYLORS WERE MAJOR LANDOWNERS IN COUNTY MEATH, WITH 9,000 ACRES


THE REV AND HON HENRY EDWARD TAYLOUR (1768-1852), fourth son of Thomas, 1st Earl of Bective KP, married, in 1807, Marianne, eldest daughter of Colonel the Hon Richard St Leger, and had issue,
THOMAS EDWARD, his heir;
Richard Chambré Hayes (Sir), GCB, General in the army;
Marianne Jane; Louisa Catherine.
The eldest son,

THE RT HON THOMAS EDWARD TAYLOR JP DL MP (1811-83), of Ardgillan Castle, County Dublin, MP for County Dublin, 1841-83, Lieutenant-Colonel, Royal Meath Militia, 1847-74, Honorary Colonel.


Colonel Taylor, who was a Lord of the Treasury 1858-59, and Joint Secretary of the Treasury 1866-68, was appointed in the last-named year Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and again in 1874-80.

He married, in 1862, Louisa Harrington, second daughter of the Rev and Hon Hugh Francis Tollemache, Rector of Harrington, Northamptonshire, and had issue,
EDWARD RICHARD, of whom we treat;
Basil Reginald Hamilton, Lieutenant RN;
Cecil Cornelia Marianne St Leger; Beatrix Virginia Louisa Tollemache (twins).
Colonel Taylor died at his sister's house, 15 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin, and was buried in the family vault at Balbriggan, County Dublin.

He was succeeded by his eldest son,

EDWARD RICHARD TAYLOR JP DL (1863-1938), of Ardgillan Castle, Captain, Grenadier Guards, who espoused, in 1935, Ada, daughter of William Howe Bodley, in 1935, though the marriage was without issue.


ARDGILLAN CASTLE, near Balbriggan, County Dublin, is set in the 200-acre Ardgillan demesne.

Featuring castellated embellishments, the building overlooks Barnageera Beach, the Irish Sea and Dublin (Balbriggan).

The castle consists of two storeys over a basement, which extends under the south lawns.

When occupied, the ground and first floors were the living accommodation; while the west and east wings were servants quarters and estate offices.

The basement was the service floor, the kitchen and stores.

The castle has now been restored and the ground floor rooms and kitchens are open to visitors for guided tours.

Tea-rooms are located off the main reception area and serving light snacks are open in conjunction with the Castle opening times.

Upstairs, the former bedrooms are used for classes and exhibitions including a permanent and unique exhibition of the "Down Survey" colour maps and text.

Ardgillan demesne is a popular local park, with a mix of woodlands and large grass open spaces.

The park contains a walled herb garden, rose garden, Victorian conservatory, tea rooms and an ice house.

A children's playground was added in 2006.

Ardgillan Castle provides guided tours and hosts exhibitions throughout the years.

A new Holistic Centre is set in the former Gardener's House in the corner of the Rose Garden.

The previous owner of the land was Robert Usher, a wine merchant from Tallaght.
When the Very Rev Robert Taylor bought the land it was quite a wooded area, so he employed some out of service soldiers from Bangor, County Down, and paid them one penny and a meal per day, as well as bed every night. They also received a tot of Bushmills whiskey, which was brought in for 2/2 a gallon.
The Castle was built by the Very Rev Robert Taylor in 1738.

The Very Rev Robert Taylor, Dean of Clonfert, was born in 1689 in Cheshire.

In 1714, having studied Holy Orders at Trinity College Dublin, he was appointed Archdeacon of Kilmacduagh in the Province of Tuam.

In 1722, he was appointed Precentor of Clonfert, where his brother-in-law Dr Fitzgerald was Dean.

By 1726 he was appointed Dean of Clonfert, only to resign within months.

Robert Taylor died unmarried in 1744 and Ardgillan, together with its estate, became the property of his eldest brother Sir Thomas Taylor, 2nd Baronet.

Ardgillan remained in the Taylor family until 1962, when the estate was sold to Heinrich Potts, of Westphalia, Germany.

In 1982, the estate was sold to Fingal County Council, which renovated the house.

It was officially opened to the public in 1992.

First published in April, 2013.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Et In Arcadia Ego


I cycled into town on the trusty two-wheeler this morning.

Having parked the bike at Donegall Place, I ambled over to Bedford Street in order to have a look at Windsor House.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the scenario, Windsor House is the tallest building (with the Obel Tower) in Northern Ireland.

Its main entrance is in Bedford Street and it is bounded by James Street South and Franklin Street.

Thence I made a beeline for the splendid Linenhall Library in Donegall Square North, where I unearthed a 1960s street directory.

Windsor House seems to have been named after the Windsor Building Company, which had its offices at the corner of Franklin Street.


A street directory of 1860, however, lists John Workman & Son.

Interestingly, Bedford Street ran from Howard Street to "Old Lisburn Road" in those days.

Mr Workman's residence was Edgcumbe House, Strandtown. 

En route to the two-wheeler, I made my stately (!) way along Queen's Arcade, where my attention was drawn to the brand new Good Food & Wine Company, which has a charming food hall, tea-house and brew bar.


The tea-room is upstairs, directly overlooking Lunn's jewellery shop.

I gather that the directors of the Good Food & Wine Company ~ Nicholas Lestas and Michelle McNicholl-Lestas ~ have been in business for over fourteen years.


Much of this work has involved the development of the Food Sector in Northern Ireland.

The Good Food & Wine Company was established in January, 2012.
Michelle McNicholl-Lestas, Bsc (Hons), MBA, AMCIPS, MIMC, is a company director for both The Good Food & Wine Company and Lestas Consulting. Michelle is a successful entrepreneur and business owner, having successfully grown her business from scratch.
She is currently a member of the NI Council for The Prince's Trust and author of a number of published articles on current affairs in Northern Ireland for established business journals and newspapers, and is also an appointed Mentor, non-executive director and Interim Manager with InvestNI.

Nicholas Lestas, (BSc (Hon), MBA, Diploma in Marketing is also a company director for both The Good Food & Wine Company and Lestas Consulting.

He has a strong business ethos, spanning over 30 years, and a keen interest in local food development.
In 2004, the President of Cyprus bestowed the position of Honorary Commissioner for Cyprus in Northern Ireland to Nicholas, a permanent position geared to facilitating stronger economic and political links between the Republic of Cyprus and Northern Ireland.