Thursday, 9 November 2017

Keppel Association Tour

THE KEPPEL ASSOCIATION was founded in 2003. Its Honorary Life Member is Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall. The Earl of Albemarle and Viscount Bury are Presidents.

Members of the Keppel Association visited Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland from the 8th-12th May, 2017.

The Association was surprised to discover many Keppel connections and relationships within the Province and even more so south of the border.

The idea of arranging an Irish tour for the membership of the Association stemmed originally from a generous offer by the Lady Rose and Peter Lauritzen to entertain a group of members at Mount Stewart, County Down, former seat of the Marquess of Londonderry.

Mount Stewart was bequeathed to Lady Rose's father, Lord Bury, and her mother, the Lady Mairi Bury (née Vane-Tempest-Stewart) and consequently became a Keppel seat.

As soon as the National Trust completed their work of restoration of Mount Stewart House (which lasted for over three years), the Association started to plan a tour, the centrepiece of which would be a complete day spent visiting the house and gardens; with another day spent driving into the Irish Republic, to the Battle of the Boyne site where it is believed that Arnold Joost van Keppel, 1st Earl of Albemarle, KG, already highly favoured by WILLIAM III, played a role.

The group assembled at the Londonderry Arms Hotel in Carnlough, County Antrim, which was to be their base for the next four days.

The next morning they set forth to Glenarm Castle, County Antrim, seat of the McDonnells, Earls of Antrim, where they met Patricia Mackean, who lives in Northern Ireland, and her sister, Diana von Halle, two members of the group who described themselves as the "day girls" because they did not stay with the rest of the group at the Londonderry Arms hotel, nor for the whole tour.

The members were then conducted by the family butler round Glenarm Castle, which also has connections with the Vane-Tempest family through the marriage in 1799 of Anne, Countess of Antrim in her own right, to Sir Harry Vane-Tempest, father of Frances Anne, Marchioness of Londonderry.

Afterwards the group toured the enormous and immaculately maintained 18th century walled garden with its abundant tulip beds., many of which were in full bloom.

After a light lunch in the tearoom, located in the former mushroom-house, the members drove to the Giant's Causeway, where they made a brief stop at Dunluce Castle, a former seat of the Earls of Antrim.

The following day, the group set out on the long drive to the battle of the Boyne site, stopping en route at Castle Ward, ancestral seat of the Viscounts Bangor, where they were hospitably received by the National Trust caretaker, Andrea Hutton.

1st Countess of Albemarle, by Sir Godfrey Kneller. © National Trust, Mount Stewart

Thence the group continued their journey to the Boyne, where John Villiers gave a short talk on the background to the Glorious Revolution and the battle; and Charles Villiers gave an account of his recent researches into the history of the Irish properties owned by the Keppel family in the 18th and 19th centuries.


At the visitor centre the members met up again with the two "day girls" and admired an excellent exhibition comprising the weapons used at the battle and models of the principal characters involved.

On the return journey back to base the group drove to Slane Castle, County Meath, seat of the Marquess Conyngham, though, unfortunately, the main entrance was obstructed by building works and, as a consequence, the house was closed by the time they arrived.


The whole of the third day of the tour was devoted to Mount Stewart, which was, as intended, the climax of the Keppel Association's visit to Northern Ireland.

The group was first taken on an extended tour of the magnificent reception rooms, guided by Peter Lauritzen; his impressive knowledge of the history of the Londonderry family and the unimpeachable scholarship and ready wit that imbued everything he had to say about every picture, piece of furniture and objet d'art in every room made the tour a splendid example of learning worn lightly.

The Keppel Association group with their hosts outside the garden front of Mount Stewart

After a delicious luncheon served in Rose and Peter's private apartments (during which many of the group spilled out into the Italian Garden), they were taken on a tour of all the gardens by the head gardener, Neil Porteous, who proved to be as erudite and entertaining a horticulturalist and dendrologist as Peter was a historian and art historian.

This memorably enjoyable day was ended at the Londonderry Arms Hotel, where a copious, farewell dinner had been prepared.

On the final day in Northern Ireland, after a photo-call in front of the hotel, the members departed for Belfast, where they visited the Ulster Museum.

Through the good offices of William Montgomery, of Greyabbey House, the group was met by the chief curator, Kim Mawhinney.

The members admired a dozen or so pieces of Williamite glassware from the museum's collection (not on public display presently).

So ended a tour that, although the connection with the Keppels was somewhat tenuous, if not non-existent, had enough intrinsic interest to keep all the members of the Keppel Association group fully engaged; and it was greatly enhanced by the superb weather enjoyed throughout and the warm hospitality which was shown everywhere the group went.

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