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.

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When the Charter was rescinded in 1832, the property was most likely given back to the Kildare estate.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

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.


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

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


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,
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,
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 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.

Westport House


This is a junior branch of the noble house of BROWNE, Barons Kilmaine, which is supposed to have sprung from a common ancestor with the extinct Brownes, Viscounts Montagu, in England.

WILLIAM BROWNE, of The Neale, County Mayo, was father of

RICHARD BROWNE, captain of an independent company in the reign of ELIZABETH I, and first High Sheriff of County Mayo.

This gentleman was succeeded by his son,

JOHN BROWNE, captain of an independant company, in the time of ELIZABETH I, and the first high sheriff of Mayo.

By his own account, he was "the first Englishman that in the memory of man settled himself to dwell in the county of Mayo."

Mr Browne married Anne, daughter of Nicholas Cardiffe; and dying in 1589, was succeeded by his only son,

JOSIAS BROWNE (c1579-1634), of The Neale, who was succeeded by his son,

JOHN BROWNE, who was created a baronet in 1632.

Sir John married Mary, daughter of Sir Dominick Browne, Knight, of Galway, by whom he had
George, his heir and ancestor of the Barons Kilmaine;
JOHN, of whom presently;
Sir John's second son, 

JOHN BROWNEa colonel in King James's service, and one of the capitulators of Limerick, where (being originally bred a lawyer) he had a principal hand in drawing up the celebrated articles of capitulation.

By his second wife Maud, daughter of Theobald, 3rd Viscount Bourke, he had two sons and three daughters: Bridget, Lady Athenry; Elizabeth; and Elizabeth.

He died in 1705, and was succeeded by his elder son, 

PETER BROWNE, who wedded Mary, daughter of the Rt Hon Denis Daly, one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas in Ireland, and was succeeded by his son,

JOHN BROWNE (1709-76), MP for Castlebar, who was elevated to the peerage, in 1760, by the title of Baron Monteagle, of Westport, County Mayo.

Lord Monteagle was advanced to a viscountcy, as Viscount Westport, in 1768; and further advanced to the dignity of an earldom, as Earl of Altamont, in 1771.

He wedded, in 1729,  Anne, daughter of Sir Arthur Gore Bt, and sister of Arthur, 1st Earl of Arran, and had issue,
PETER, his successor;
Arthur, colonel in the army;
The 1st Earl died in 1776, and was succeeded by his eldest son,

PETER, 2nd Earl, who married, in 1752, Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of Chief Justice Kelly, of the island of Jamaica, and had issue,
Denis, a privy counsellor;
Anne; Elizabeth; Charlotte.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son, 

JOHN DENIS, 3rd Earl, KP (1756-1809), who wedded, in 1787, the Lady Louisa Catharine Howe, youngest daughter and co-heiress of Admiral the Earl Howe, by whom he had an only son, HOWE PETER.

His lordship was created MARQUESS OF SLIGO, in 1800.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son Christopher Ulick Browne, styled Earl of Altamont.
The 6th Marquess was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Mayo, from 1914 until 1922.

WESTPORT HOUSE, near Castebar, County Mayo, ancestral seat of the Marquesses of Sligo, is located west of the Shannon and is one of Ireland's most historic country houses open to the public.

It was designed by the famous architects Richard Cassels and James Wyatt in the 18th century.

Westport House enjoys a superb parkland setting with lake, terraces, wonderful gardens and magnificent views overlooking Clew Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, Achill, Clare Island and Ireland’s holy mountain Croagh Patrick. 

It was built and is still privately owned by Lord Sligo, a direct descendant of the 16th century Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley.

During the 1500s, Grace O’Malley was a famous Pirate and “Queen of Connaught”.

After her death, a report stated that for forty years she was the stay of all rebellions in the West.

She was chief of the O’Malley Clan and ruled the seas around Mayo.

Grace O’Malley had several castles in the West of Ireland and it was on the foundations of one of these that Westport House was actually built.

There is still an area of her original Castle in the basement of the House (now known as the Dungeons) which is on view to the visitors.

A bronze statue of Grace O’Malley by artist Michael Cooper is situated on the Westport House grounds.

The original house was built by Colonel John Browne, a Jacobite, who was at the siege of Limerick, and his wife Maud Bourke.

Maud Bourke was Grace O’Malley’s great-granddaughter.

The House then had no lake or dam, and the tide rose and fell against the walls.

The east front of the House as it is today was built in 1730 by Colonel John Browne’s grandson, 1st Earl of Altamont, who hired the famous German architect Richard Cassels.

It is built with the finest limestone taken from the quarry south of the estate farmyard and was executed by local craftsmen. 

Richard Cassels also designed Carton, Hazelwood, Russborough and Leinster House.

Westport House was completed by James Wyatt, who also laid out the town of Westport. 

On the south face of the House is the date 1778 and inside many of the ceilings, cornices and fireplaces are examples of his finest work.

The Large Dining room is perhaps the finest remaining example of his work.

The doors are mahogany, brought back from the family estates in Jamaica. 

There are still a number of original James Wyatt drawings on show, together with some of his son’s, Benjamin Wyatt, who also did some work in the House.

There are several architecturally stunning rooms on show, complete with original contents, most of which have a long association with Ireland and are of particular interest.
Among the pictures are portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds of the 1st Earl of Altamont; the Rt Hon Denis Browne, brother of the 1st Marquess and a member of Grattan’s Parliament, by Beechy; Howe Peter, 2nd Marquess, who spent four months in jail for bribing seamen in time of war, to bring his ship, full of antiquities from Greece to Westport.
The 2nd Marquess was a friend of GEORGE IV and the poet Byron.

There is also a portrait of Admiral of the Fleet the Earl Howe, father of the 1st Marchioness of Sligo, by John Singleton Copley.

Other Artworks include a magnificent collection of landscapes painted in the locality by James Arthur O’Connor.

Other artists such as Chalon, Barret, Gibson, Opie, Brooks and Lavery are part of the collection.

There is also a collection of waxwork figures by Gems Display Figures, which are a tribute to the literary, arts and music achievements of the West of Ireland.

Other original items on show in Westport House, of particular interest, include a fine collection of old English and Irish silver, including 18th century Irish ‘potato’ or dish rings, Waterford glass, a library with many old Irish books.

A Mayo Legion Flag was brought to Ireland by General Humbert when he invaded the country in 1798 and has ever since been at Westport House, which was occupied by his troops.

Westport House was opened to the public for the first time in 1960 and since then has welcomed over four million visitors.

First published in June, 2011.  Sligo arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

9-15 Bedford Street, Belfast

Windsor House ca 2015

MARCUS PATTON OBE, in his invaluable historical gazetteer of central Belfast, describes numbers 9-15 Bedford Street thus:
In 1852 a new stone warehouse had been built on this site for Messrs Robert and John Workman, linen and muslin manufacturers, by Charles Lanyon. One of the first developments in the street, this was four storeys high with channelled ground and first floors, central first floor balcony, arched tops to third-floor windows, outer bays set slightly forward, and chimneys rising above deep eaves.

The Workmans' warehouse was demolished in the early 1970s and construction began on Windsor House.

Windsor House remains the tallest commercial office building in Northern Ireland (after the Obel Tower), measuring approximately 262 feet in height.

The Bedford Street frontage of the main block is relatively narrow, though the building extends backwards along Franklin Street for a considerable distance.

In 2015 it comprised approximately 122,500 square feet, set over ground and twenty-two upper floors.

Most of the floors extend to about 5,300 square feet.

The building incorporated a double-deck car park at ground and first-floor levels, with 96 car-parking spaces accessed via James Street South.

The external walls were of a mosaic-covered, prefabricated concrete cladding with a steel and reinforced concrete structure.

A concrete mineral felt-finished flat rood covered the building, capped with a communications mast.

It is served by five high-speed lifts from the foyer.

Windsor House was purchased in 2015 by the Hastings Hotels group.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Glyde Court


JOHN FOSTER (1665-1747), of Dunleer, County Louth, Mayor of Dunleer, married, in 1704, Elizabeth, youngest daughter of William Fortescue, of Newrath, County Louth, and had issue,
Anthony (1705-79), ancestor of Lord Oriel;
THOMAS, of whom presently;
John William, MP, of Dunleer;
Margaret; Alice; Charlotte.
The second son,

THE REV DR THOMAS FOSTER (1709-84), Rector of Dunleer, wedded, in 1740, Dorothy, daughter of William Burgh, of Birt, County Kildare, and had issue, an only child,

JOHN THOMAS FOSTER (1747-96), of Dunleer, MP for Dunleer, 1776-83, who espoused, in 1776, the Lady Elizabeth Hervey, daughter of Frederick, 4th Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry, and had issue,
Frederick Thomas, born 1777;
AUGUSTUS JOHN, of whom hereafter;
His younger son, 

THE RT HON SIR AUGUSTUS JOHN FOSTER GCH (1780-1848), of Stonehouse, County Louth, married, in 1815, Albina Jane, daughter of the Hon George Vere Hobart.

Mr Foster was knighted 1825 for his diplomatic services (which were not particularly distinguished, since his manners were not conciliating) and created a baronet in 1831.

The influence of his stepfather William, 5th Duke of Devonshire, was exercised at the instance of his mother, the Duke's second wife.

The 1st Baronet, who committed suicide, was succeeded by his eldest son,

SIR FREDERICK GEORGE FOSTER, 2nd Baronet (1816-1857), who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his next brother,

THE REV SIR CAVENDISH HERVEY FOSTER, 3rd Baronet (1817-1890), who married, in 1844, Isabella Todd.

Their elder son was Major John Frederick Foster (1847-1890).

His heir,

SIR AUGUSTUS VERE FOSTER, 4th Baronet (1873-1947), married Charlotte Philippa Marion Ffolkes.

The baronetcy became extinct in 1947.

GLYDE COURT, near Tallanstown, County Louth, was a late 18th century house with a long elevation, remodelled in the 19th century in Jacobean style.

The long elevation had curvilinear gables and two curved bows.

The main entrance was at one end of the house, where there was a shorter front with two gabled projections joined by an arcaded cloister.

The last baronet to live at the Court, Sir Augustus, features in a rather romantic Edwardian family portrait by Sir William Orpen KBE, on display at the National Gallery of Ireland.

First published in April, 2013.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Cairnburn: 1903

Norwood Tower

I have just come from the magnificent new City Hall being built in Donegall Square, Belfast.

The old Linen Hall has been razed to the ground and the new edifice is taking shape very nicely indeed.

The coronation of our new King, Edward VII, has taken place. Old Queen Victoria rests in peace.

I've taken a Hansom cab to an up-and-coming area near Belfast known as Strandtown.

I'm visiting the Ewarts at their fine home, Glenmachan.

Glenmachan House

The cab driver is taking me via a semi-circular road to a junction with Cairnburn Road, and I alight there in order that I may stroll the rest of the way.

These country roads are narrow: another cab passed us as it turned up the drive of Norwood Tower, the Hendersons' rambling Tudor-Revival mansion, and my cab-driver had to slow right down to avoid it!

Norwood Tower has two gate-lodges, each about a quarter of a mile apart.

The first lodge we passed on this circular road was a little beyond the entrance to Clonaver House, the Hendersons' former dower house, which now belongs to James Girdwood; while the second lodge was almost opposite Ardvarna House.

The Henderson grounds are extensive and extend to the top of Circular Road.

It is said that they own fifty acres.

The gate lodges are both battlemented, while the house, set in a landscaped park, is dominated by a lofty, castellated tower.

Passing Norwood, I notice a gardener working in the grounds with a scythe; and a paddock with a number of horses grazing.

On the left-hand side of the road, the first gate-lodge belongs to Ardnagreena House, home to the solicitor, Charles Black; and further along, we pass Ballymisert House's gate lodge.

Ballymisert, I am told, belongs to the tea merchant, Masterson.

My cab reaches the top of the hill, and we veer left as we pass yet another gate lodge for Garranard House which belongs to William Patterson, who is the proprietor of a flourishing ironmongery business.

At last I have arrived at the junction with Cairnburn Road. I pay the cabbie a few shillings - daylight robbery! - and begin my stroll.

There are fields to the right; Glenfurlough House to the left, where James Taylor, the linen merchant, lives.

A few minutes' walk further along, I pass the red-brick labourers' cottages which belong to Glenfurlough.

These workers' cottages are beside a steep decline, where there is a pretty glen.

I cross the old bridge, surrounded by woodland and the song of birds.

From here the lane ascends and cuts through more woodland.

At the top of the road, there is a cross-roads, where the old Holywood Road traverses Cairnburn Road.

I pause and observe: the woodland and the roads are so narrow with no traffic at all, except one solitary horse and cart.

I catch a glimpse of some workers' cottages on the other side of the Holywood Road.

Immediately ahead is my destination: Glenmachan, seat of my friends, the Ewarts.

First published in December, 2009.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Castle Forbes


The surname of Forbes is said to be a corruption of Forebeast, which was originally assumed by the founder of the family in Scotland, to commemorate the achievement of having destroyed a ferocious bear, which had infested the country.

SIR ARTHUR FORBES (c1590-1632), Knight, directly descended from the Hon Patrick Forbes, of Corse, third son of the 2nd Lord Forbes, of Scotland, by Egidia, his wife, daughter of William Keith, Earl Marischal of the same kingdom, settled in Ireland, 1620, and was made, by patent dated at Dublin, 1622, a free denizen of that kingdom. 

In 1628, Sir Arthur was created a baronet; and having, by petition to the King, made discovery that several royal fishings in the province of Ulster belonged to the Crown, an inquiry was thereupon instituted, and Sir Arthur eventually rewarded by a grant of such proportion of the said fisheries as he thought proper to demand, besides the sum of £300 from the first profits of the remainder. 

He had previously obtained extensive territorial possessions from the Crown, particularly a grant of sundry lands in County Longford, in all 1,266 acres, which were erected into the manor of Castle Forbes, with the usual manorial privileges.

Sir Arthur wedded Jane Lowther, and falling in a duel at Hamburg, in 1632, where he had accompanied his regiment (he was lieutenant-colonel in the army) to assist Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, was succeeded by his eldest son,

THE RT HON SIR ARTHUR FORBES, 2nd Baronet (1623-95), who zealously espoused the royal cause in Scotland, and was rewarded, after the Restoration, by being sworn of the Privy Council in Ireland, and appointed marshal of the army in that kingdom.

In 1671, Sir Arthur was constituted one of the Lords Justices of Ireland, and again in 1675, when he was elevated to the peerage, as Baron Clanehugh and Viscount Granard.

In 1684, his lordship was appointed Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Foot in Ireland, and Lieutenant-General in the army, and in the same year was advanced to the dignity of an earldom, as EARL OF GRANARD.

He married Catherine, daughter of Sir Robert Newcomen Bt, by whom he had five sons and a daughter, Catherine, wedded to Arthur, 3rd Earl of Donegall.

His lordship died in 1695, he was succeeded by his eldest son,

ARTHUR, 2nd Earl (c1656-1734), who wedded, in 1678, Mary, eldest daughter of Sir George Rawdon Bt, of Moira, County Down, and had three sons and two daughters.

His lordship was succeeded by his only surviving son,

GEORGE, 3rd Earl (1685-1765), who had been called to the House of Lords in the lifetime of his father, as Lord Forbes.

His lordship was a naval officer of great eminence and rank, and at the time of his decease, was senior admiral of the Royal Navy.

In 1733, he was appointed envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the court of Muscovy; and upon his recall, in 1734, was highly complimented by the Empress.

He espoused, in 1709, Mary, eldest daughter of Sir William Stewart, 1st Viscount Mountjoy, of that family (now extinct), and widow of Phineas Preston, of Ardsallagh, County Meath, and had issue,
GEORGE, his successor;
John, Admiral of the Fleet;
His lordship was succeeded by his elder son, 

GEORGE, 4th Earl (1710-69), Lieutenant-General in the Army, Colonel, 29th Regiment of Foot, who wedded, in 1736, Letitia, daughter of Arthur Davys, and was succeeded at his decease, in 1769, by his only son,

GEORGE, 5th Earl (1740-80), who married firstly, in 1759, Dorothea, second daughter of Sir Nicholas Bayley Bt, and sister of Henry, 1st Earl of Uxbridge, by whom he had one surviving son, GEORGE, his successor.

His lordship espoused secondly, in 1766, Georgiana Augusta, eldest daughter of Augustus, 4th Earl of Berkeley, and had issue,
Georgiana Anne; Augusta; Louisa Georgiana; Elizabeth.
His lordship was succeeded by his eldest son,

GEORGE, 6th Earl (1760-1837), who was created a peer of the United Kingdom, as Baron Granard, of Castle Donington, Leicestershire.

He wedded, in 1779, Selina Frances, fourth daughter of John, 1st Earl of Moira, and had issue,
Francis Reginald;
Hastings Brudenell;
Elizabeth Maria Theresa; Adelaide Dorothea; Caroline Selina.
His lordship was a general in the army, and Clerk of the Crown and Hanaper in Ireland.
The heir apparent is the present holder's son, Jonathan Peter Hastings Forbes, styled Viscount Forbes (b 1981).
The ancestral family seat of the Earls of Granard is Castle Forbes, near Newtown Forbes, County Longford.

It remains in the ownership of the family (as of 2008).

The 8th Earl was the last Lord-Lieutenant of County Longford, from 1916 until 1922.

CASTLE FORBES, near Newtownforbes, County Longford, is a 19th century castle of random ashlar, built about 1830.

It replaced an earlier house destroyed by fire.

It has two storeys over a high basement, with two adjoining fronts dominated by a lofty, round corner tower.

The house is prolonged by a low service wing and a gateway to the yard in the French style, with a high roof and conical-roofed turret and bartizan added about 1870.

Castle Forbes has heavy battlements and machiolations; lancet windows separated by stone mullions; and a few Early English tracery windows.

There are also corbelled stone balconies with pierced balustrades.

The Castle remains the private home of the Forbes family, Earls of Granard.

The village of Newtownforbes takes its name from the Forbes family, having resided in the region since 1691.

The village church, built in the late 17th century, is one of the few Regency buildings of its type in the county.

Castle Forbes has its entrance in the centre of the village.

The Forbes family changed the name of the village from Lisbrack to Newtownforbes ca 1750.

There is no public access to the Castle or grounds, which are strictly private.

Although Newtownforbes geographically has always been in the shadow of Castle Forbes, it cannot be regarded as an estate village.

There are only a few houses in the centre of the village, near the main entrance to the estate, which were built by the estate owners for the workers on the estate.

They were some of the first houses in the county to have flush toilets.

The present occupant is the Lady Georgina Forbes, although she lives in France (as of 1990) and uses the castle occasionally during the year.

Lady Georgina is an accomplished horse breeder and owner.

First published in May, 2011.  Granard arms courtesy of European Heraldry.